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Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.
For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a “best guess” about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn’t been able to use it before last week. It’s limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.
One word on technique: I had better success when I photographed and cropped around a leaf beforehand, and you will need a “true white” background — the reverse side of an index card works fine. The app converts your image into an “x ray” of the leaf, queries the database and returns with a series of options, all of which contain Leafsnaps as well as more holistic images of matching plants.
Using the apps involves creating an account in Leafsnap’s user-driven botanical database to track your scanning and positive identifications. Inside the app, you’re creating your own log book, marking each species with a swipe, with a geographic distribution as well.
The process of collecting and marking specimens can be addictive; even your most tender-hearted teen will respect the do-no-harm approach to nature the app represents. Within the database, the specimens link to the Encyclopedia of Life, another ambitious, crowd-sourced online project, and there’s an integrated program designed to improve your recognition skills.
It only occurred to me after the fact that leafsnap enables a twenty-first century manifestation of the very nineteenth century impulse for classification among amateur botanists. For contrast, you can see a digitized version of Emily Dickinson’s old school herbarium here.
Leafsnap offers a fun, mobile way to involve the natural world in your summer STEM programming. And while the geographic scope of the database might seem to limit its utility, I’ve found that it works just fine beyond the specified region.
My Country ‘Tis of Thee: Matching Subject to Style
Author Claire Rudolf Murphy
Writing my new book My Country ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Tells the Story of Civil Rights taught me a craft lesson that I am working to replicate again in other nonfiction projects, matching subject to style. When writing for young readers, it is a great challenge how to share one’s research in a style that connects with their lives and brings clarity and enjoyment to new, complex subjects. Stephen J. Pyne’s wonderful nonfiction craft book Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction discusses the importance of identifying a vision for one’s book and that finding the right style and structure to carry it out.
For many years I had been conducting research on civil rights activists throughout American history. I wanted to tell this larger story that began when the colonists first began protesting against the English taxes and continues today in areas like immigration and gay rights. But that is a great deal of material to cover in one book. As Pyne says, “If you’re lucky you have an epiphany (on what structure to use.) But if unlucky, your manuscript crawls and sprawls and never comes together.”
For many years I had been researching people of color and women who had fought for equal rights throughout our country’s history. I wanted to write a collection of stories about them. But editors kept saying the profiles were too dense, not riveting enough and wouldn’t connect enough with younger readers. For several years my project sprawled every which way, growing more unwieldy every week, with new activists and events I had uncovered, but no structure to carry the load.
Until I was knee deep into research on the women’s suffrage movement for my 2011 book Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage. I ran across suffrage verses set to the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Like many protest movements, the suffragists had written verses to well known tunes to support their cause and sing at meetings and rallies. I’ve long known that music can convince and connect with people in a way that words alone cannot.
When I found their verse (that ended up in Marching With Aunt Susan,) something clicked in me. I had that epiphany Pyne talks about. I wondered - did other movements use this same song to promote their cause? Some quick research uncovered several examples. I found more and more, until I found my climax with Martin Luther King, Jr. quoting the song in his “I Have a Dream” speech and the resolution of Aretha Franklin singing the song at President Obama’s first inauguration.
I knew immediately that all my years of research had brought me to this place where I could put this history together for young readers in a format that would connect with them in an inventive way because they already knew the melody. Everybody does. I knew immediately that I had finally discovered the structure I needed, possibly the best structure I’ve ever used in a nonfiction book.And it brought double pleasure because it also tied into my love of music. Because I had done all that research for so many years it allowed me to realize how this song truly did represent the history of civil rights in our country. I wouldn’t have realized how important these verses were if I didn’t already understand the power and depth and breadth of protest throughout our country’s two hundred plus years. Most of my research doesn’t appear in the book, but it holds up, gives gravitas to the verses I feature, even if the reader doesn’t fully understand it. They get it. And Bryan Collier’s stunning illustrations bring these protest verses to life in a new way, too, for readers to pore over.
I am delighted that I end the book with the line: “Now it’s your turn. Write a verse for a cause you believe in.” Because this invitation to young readers has become the focus of my promotion as I help launch this book. With the support of my publisher, I have started a contest, inviting students across the country to submit new verses. I have books and posters to send to the winners.
Second graders in Spokane wrote this verse:
Schools should be bully-free,
Full of our honesty,
Friends should be kind.
Include us in your game,
Please treat us all the same,
Stop calling us those names,
Friends should be kind.
A 5th/6th grade class wrote this one:
My country ‘tis of thee
So sad the poverty
God keep them in your sight
Help us relieve their plight
Shelter them for the night
New hope is found
My hope is that teachers will grab onto this way to teach history and music and use it as a writing activity in class. New verses can be submitted on my web site and musical recordings of the verses can be found there too.
Let freedom ring!
Thanks so much, Claire, for writing this insightful and inspirational post for The Fourth Musketeer's readers.
Each summer a group of high school students come to Hollins to scout it out for their potential university. We call them the "Hollins Girls" and they stay for about a week and drop into some of our classes. Some of us give them talks. I had the pleasure of sharing A BIRD ON WATER STREET with the group, and I do mean pleasure. These are bright girls, the top of their classes. They are attentive, engaged, and ask great questions. I love speaking to this group and hope to every year! Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Mystery Question #10 "Though the Alps are wondrous, you know I have no great love for them," spouted Max as he wandered about the room reorganizing as he went. Max and Morris had been talking idly about skiers, remembering the last time they had gone skiing and the events that had ensued afterwards. "One of the lesser known perils is that it can be difficult to keep the precise time." "You mean you get distracted?" popped in Morris as he dabbled on his computer. "Not a bit," Max retorted. "Both our watches are scrupulously accurate, they need to be in out line of work. But if I were to go and spend a period of time up in the Alps, making sure to keep my watch at a healthy room temperature at all times, when I returned here our watches would show a noticeable difference. Despite the fact that the accuracy of my watch should not have suffered one iota from the experience. Can you account for it?"
"It's the difference in air pressure," Max informed Morris. "Higher up, the air is thinner. Makes it harder to breathe, but it also means that the air gives less resistance to the watch spring. This makes it run faster."
Here I am painting at the Platte Clove Community in Elka Park, New York. Actually these folks were very respectful and asked smart, observant questions.
Here's another dimension of this issue. If we as artists expect to have the right to look at strangers and draw them in the public sphere, we also have to yield to the right of people around us to watch us paint or draw. Like it or not, artists working in public become a form of entertainment that curious spectators feel entitled to watch. Drawing or painting is a form of magic that no one can resist.
Anyone who has sketched outside have heard some of these same questions, and probably a lot more (Please tell me in the comments).
These questions unnerve a lot of would-be sketchers, who often feel that they're being judged, or they irritate painters who need to fully concentrate on a difficult step. It eventually wears me out if the comments are too repetitive or inane.
I've gotten plenty of weird comments. A landowner once shouted from his monster truck: "Makin' money off my tree?" A lawyer who owned a property said, "Don't fall into the water and drown. That would be actionable."
Another time I had to jettison a good spot because I realized it was the unloading zone for busload after busload of bored tourists.
Magnolia is a hard book to rate. For the most part, I really enjoyed this Shakespeare inspired YA romance. It’s Romeo and Juliet in reverse. Jemma and Ryder have been at odds ever since the 8th grade, when a misunderstanding drives them apart. Too bad their families keep pushing them together! Nothing would make their parents more happy than if they became a couple, and their mothers have been doing everything in their power to make that happen. From the time they were babies, they have shared cribs, vacations, and countless meals, but Jemma’s had enough. While once Ryder lit up her world, his cruel words have driven them apart, and Jemma can’t wait to get away from tiny Magnolia Branch so she doesn’t have to deal with him anymore.
Second chance at love is my favorite trope, so I was looking forward to reading this. After overhearing Ryder talking to his friends about her, Jemma’s young heart is crushed. While she has developed a huge crush on him, she thinks that he’s only being nice to her to please his over-controlling mom. She’s done everything in her power to avoid him for the last four years, but she seethes with anger every time she sees him. Worse, they usually end up arguing about the stupidest things, which makes her even more upset.
In her senior year, Jemma has big dreams for the future. She has a secret plan; she wants to attend film school in NYC, far away from her family and friends. And far away from Ryder. When her sister, Nan, is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, her dreams are derailed. Her parents have to fly to Houston with her sister for her treatment, leaving Jemma alone and confused. Frightened for the well-being of her one daughter, her mother refuses to even discuss letting Jemma apply to a school as far away as NYC. Worried and resigned that Nan’s future is more important than hers, Jemma waits at home, alone, for word of her sister’s progress.
While everyone is out of town, the worst hurricane since Katrina barrels down on Mississippi. This was my favorite part of the book, because the author captured the intensity of the storm so vividly. Howling winds, pelleting rains, surging floods – you name it, and Jemma and Ryder had to face these terrible threats alone. The whole storm sequence was engrossing and I couldn’t put the book down. Jemma and Ryder are forced to put their differences aside and work together to make it through the storm. They arrive at a truce, and maybe something more, until life returns back to normal in the aftermath of the hurricane. Then they are at odds again, but for entirely different reasons.
This is where the story fell ever so slightly off the rails for me, but I don’t want to go into detail because it’s a pretty major spoiler. Suffice it to say, this latest roadblock to true love seemed very contrived and I just didn’t buy into the tragedy. And, to be honest, it’s kind of hard to beat the tension and fear of eminent death brought on by the hurricane, so anything that happened after it blew itself out of town was kind of anticlimactic.
Review copy provided by publisher
Jemma and Ryder are far from friends—until a storm stirs up their passion in this contemporary southern romance from New York Times bestselling author Kristi Cook.
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, The Cafferty and Marsden families are practically royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when the families finally have a baby boy and girl at the same time, the perfect opportunity seems to have arrived.
Except Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen—oh, and also? They hate each other. Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would prefer it if stubborn-headed Jemma didn’t exist. And their communication is not exactly effective: even a casual hello turns into a yelling match. But when a violent Mississippi storm ravages through Magnolia Branch, it unearths feelings Jemma and Ryder didn’t know they had. And the line between love and hate just might be thin enough to cross…
Blurb: Aside from the normal changes in her life, college junior, Elle Richards, can always count on her friendship with Tristan. The longing for him to love her back is something she keeps well hidden, even from herself. No matter how many miles apart they are, regular phone calls and texts keep them close…until the day everything changes.
Wide Receiver Tristan Daniels has a good thing going. Much to his, and every single woman’s surprise, he’s in a committed relationship. The possibility of going pro looks more than promising…until his spur of the moment transfer to a rival college is approved. Now, Tristan will be forced to be in the presence of the woman he’s secretly loved for as long as he can remember. Elle.
Being away from one another was enough to keep Tristan and Elle distracted, but angst, confusion, and troubled secrets launches them into a breathless, heart pumping story you won’t want to miss!
Recommended for mature audiences 18+
Born and currently residing in Midland, Texas, Angela shuffles three busy children (not including her husband) all over the place. She works in a busy pediatric doctor’s office as a nurse during the day, and writes at night. She is addicted to coffee——who isn’t? And firmly believes chocolate can fix all——especially chocolate ice cream. She laughs a lot, often at herself and is willing to try anything once (she thinks). When Angela isn’t rushing kids around, working or writing, she’s reading. Other than life experience, Angela turns to a wide variety of music to help spark her creative juices. She loves to dance and sing, though her kids often beg her not to.
Today's Wednesday Writing Workout comes to us courtesy of the talented Sherry Shahan. Sherry and I first met virtually, when she joined the New Year/New Novel (NYNN) Yahoo group I started back in 2009. I love the photo she sent for today's post--it personifies her willingness to do the tough research sometimes required for the stories she writes. As she says on her website, she has:
"ridden on horseback into Africa’s Maasailand, hiked through a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, shivered inside a dogsled for the first part of the famed 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, rode-the-foam on a long-board in Hawaii, and spun around dance floors in Havana, Cuba."
Her new young adult novel Skin and Bones (A. Whitman) is a quirky story set in an eating disorder unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character “Bones” is a male teen with anorexia. He falls desperately in love with an aspiring ballerina who becomes his next deadly addiction.
The novel was inspired by a short story Sherry wrote years ago, “Iris and Jim.” It appeared in print eight times worldwide. Her agent kept encouraging her to expand “Iris and Jim” into a novel. Easy for her to say!
* * *
Wednesday Writing Workout
Tell It Sideways
by Sherry Shahan
During the first draft of Skin and Bones I stumbled over a number of unexpected obstacles. How could I give a character an idiosyncratic tone without sounding flippant? Eating disorders are serious, and in too many instances, life-threatening.
Sometimes I sprinkled facts into farcical narration. Other times statistics emerged through dialogue between prominent characters—either in an argument or by using humor. Either way, creating quirky characters felt more organic when their traits were slipped in sideways instead of straight on.
There are endless ways to introduce a character, such as telling the reader about personality:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point." — Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People."
Or by detailing a character’s appearance:
"The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist ." —Raymond Carver "A Small, Good Thing"
The art of creating fully realized characters is often a challenge to new writers of fiction. As a longtime teacher I’ve noticed:
1.)Writers who use short cuts, such a clichés, which produce cardboard or stereotypical characters.
2.)Writers who stubbornly pattern the main character after themselves in a way that’s unrealistic.
3.)Writers who are so involved in working out a complicated plot that their characters don’t receive enough attention.
In Skin and Bones I let readers get to know my characters though humorous dialogue. This technique works best when characters have opposing viewpoints.
Consider the following scene. (Note: Lard is a compulsive over-eater; Bones is anorexic.)
“I’ll never buy food shot up with hormones when I own a restaurant,” Lard said. “Chicken nuggets sound healthy enough, but they have more than three dozen ingredients—not a lot of chicken in a nugget.”
Bones put on rubber gloves in case he’d have to touch something with calories. “Can’t we talk about something else?”
“That’s the wrong attitude, man. Don’t you want to get over this shit?”
“Not at this particular moment, since it’s almost lunch and my jaw still hurts from breakfast.”
Lard shook his head. “I’m glad I don’t live inside your skin.”
“It’d be a little crowded.”
Exercise #1: Choose a scene from a work-in-progress where a new character is introduced. (Or choose one from an existing novel.) Write a paragraph about the character without using physical descriptions. Repeat for a secondary character.
Exercise #2: Give each character a strong opinion about a subject. Do Nice Girls Really Finish Last? Should Fried Food Come With a Warning? Make sure your characters have opposing positions. Next, write a paragraph from each person’s viewpoint.
Exercise #3: Using the differing viewpoints, compose a scene with humorous dialogue. Try not to be funny just for humor’s sake. See if you can weave in a piece
of factual information (Lard’s stats. about Chicken Nuggets), along with a unique character trait (Bones wearing gloves to keep from absorbing calories through his skin.)
I hope these exercises help you think about characterization in a less conventional way. Thanks for letting me stop by! Sherry www.SherryShahan.com
Thank you, Sherry, for this terrificWednesday Writing Workout! Readers, if you give these exercises a try, do let us know how they work for you.
Using Bookends to Overcome Procrastination
Guest post by Mary Jo Guglielmo
'If and When' were planted, and Nothing grew.
~ProverbProcrastination………….who me? I know how to get things done; I also know how to procrastinate.
As a writer, sometimes procrastination has to do with feeling lost in a project, other times it’s about not being satisfied with a draft. Personally, I'm pretty
There are few pleasures in bookmaking greater than that moment when you're paginating a picture book text, and suddenly it all clicks.
I have no idea how others do it, but I make a 40 page Word document (so I can include ends—hence the “[pasted down endsheet]” tag shown above). Then, I dump in the manuscript and work backward from the key spreads and page turns.
I find the manuscript’s dramatic high points really reveal themselves in this process, especially when you put in the page turns.
And sometimes, like the one I worked on last night, the thing just calls for one of my favorite parts:
Now I get six months or so of anticipating what the illustrator will do with this blank space. Delicious.
This is Vaunda Micheaux Nelson picture book, by the way. To be illustrated by the marvelous Elizabeth Zunon and designed by @carkneetoe. It’s becoming very clear in my imagination. You’re going to love it.
Title: Age Called Blue Genre: Drama, Romance, Yaoi Artist: Est Em Publisher: Tokyo Mangasha (JP), DMG (EN) Translation: DMG Original Release Date: April 4, 2014 Free Preview: >>HERE<< Relationships can be just as painful as they can be beneficial. In Est Em’s one-shot Age Called Blue, we are shown various romantic relationships which all lead to the ... Read more
On 27 July 1919, a black boy swam across an invisible line in the water. “By common consent and custom,” an imaginary line extending out across Lake Michigan from Chicago’s 29th Street separated the area where blacks were permitted to swim from where whites swam. Seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams crossed that line. He may have strayed across it by accident or may have challenged it on purpose. We do not know his motives because the whites on the beach reacted by throwing stones and Eugene Williams drowned. Police at the beach arrested black bystanders, infuriating other blacks so much that one black man shot at the police, who returned fire, shooting into the crowd of blacks. The violence spread from there. Over the next week, in the middle of that hot summer of 1919, 38 people died, 537 were hospitalized, and approximately 1,000 were left homeless. White and black Chicagoans fought over access to beaches, parks, streetcars, and especially residential space. The burning of houses, during this riot, inflamed passions almost as much as the killing of people. It took a rainstorm and the state militia to end the violence in July 1919, which nevertheless simmered just below the surface, erupting in smaller clashes between blacks and whites throughout the next four decades, especially every May, during Chicago’s traditional moving season.
Family leaving damaged home after 1919 Chicago race riot by Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Negro in Chicago: The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot (1922). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The 1910s were the first decade of the Great Migration, a decade when 70,000 blacks had moved to Chicago, more than doubling the existing black population. This was also a decade when the lines of Chicago’s residential apartheid were hardening. Historically, Chicago’s blacks found homes in industrial suburbs such as Maywood and Chicago Heights, domestic service hubs such as Evanston and Glencoe, rustic owner-built suburbs such as Robbins and Dixmoor, and some recently-annexed suburban space such as Morgan Park and Lilydale. Increasingly, though, blacks were confined to a narrow four-block strip around State Street on Chicago’s South Side known as the Black Belt. Half of Chicago’s blacks lived there in 1900, while 90% of Chicago’s blacks lived there by 1930.
The Black Belt was a crowded space where two or three families often squeezed into one-room apartments, landlords neglected to repair rotting floors or hinge-less doors, schools eventually ran on shifts so that each child was educated for only half a day, and the police tolerated gamblers and brothels. It was so unhealthy that Richard Wright called it “our death sentence without a trial.” Blacks who tried to move beyond the Black Belt were met with vandalism, arson, and bomb-throwers, including 24 bombs thrown in the first half of 1919 alone.
Earlier, some Chicago neighborhoods had welcomed black homeowners, but after the First World War there was an increasingly widespread belief that blacks hurt property values. Chicago realtor L. M. Smith and his Kenwood and Hyde Park Property Owners Association spread the notion that any black moving into a neighborhood was akin to a thief, robbing that street of its property values. By the 1920s, Chicago Realtors prohibited members from introducing any new racial group into a neighborhood and encouraged the spread of restrictive covenants, legally barring blacks while also consolidating ideas of whiteness. As late as 1945, two Chicago sociologists reported that, while “English, German, Scotch, Irish, and Scandinavian have little adverse effect on property values[,] Northern Italians are considered less desirable, followed by Bohemians and Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks, and Russian Jews of the Lower class. Southern Italians, along with Negroes and Mexicans, are at the bottom of the scale.” As historians of race recognize, many European immigrants were considered not quite white before 1950. Those immigrants eventually joined the alliance of groups considered white partly because realtors, mortgage lenders, and housing economists established a bright line between the property values of “whites” and those of blacks.
The lines established in 1919 have lingered. As late as 1990, among Chicago’s suburban blacks, almost half of them lived in the same fourteen suburbs that blacks had lived in before 1920: they had not gained access to newer spaces. It was black neighborhoods that suffered disproportionately from urban renewal and the construction of tall-tower public housing in the twentieth century, further reinforcing the overlaps between race and space in Chicago. Many whites inherit property whose value has increased because of the racist real-estate policies founded after the violence of 1919. Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently used the history of Chicago’s property market to publicize “The Case for Reparations,” after generations of denying blacks access to homeowner equity.
It is worth remembering the events of 95 years ago, when Eugene Williams and 37 other people died, as Chicagoans clashed in the streets over emerging ideas of racialized property values.
If I were not already a fan of A.R. Silverberry’s from Wyndano’s Cloak, I now would be after the exhilarating adventure of The Stream. Silverberry’s masterful storytelling technique will have you hooked from the onset. So much so for me, I was unable to concentrate on anything else until the end.
The courage and fortitude of Wend from childhood to manhood will melt your heart. Life lessons are learned along the way for those open to all the glory the universe has to offer and for those who choose to live in darkness their lives are bound for a different path. The Stream is a spell-bounding fantasy and imaginative world the reader will embrace from the first sentence and will not be able to let go off until long after the conclusion.
About A. R. Silverberry:
A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel.
EXTRA, EXTRA…not only is A.R. Silverberry an accomplished novelist he writes about pertinent topics. Tomorrow he visits Write What Inspires You! with his guest post… "COPPA for Authors." I promise, it's worth the revisit!
Best wishes, Donna M. McDine Multi Award-winning Children's Author
Connect with Donna McDine on Google+ A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
I’m excited to be part of Shana Galen’s pre-pub tour for Love and Let Spy. I have an exclusive excerpt from the book, as well as two giveaways for you to enter. Check out the other excerpts by following the entire tour!
As soon as they stepped into the supper room, the noise from the ball dimmed. Jane’s head throbbed in relief. What she would not give for a night of quiet and a good book on ancient weapons or deadly poisons. Out of habit, Jane scanned the room, taking quick note of her surroundings. Several tables had been laid with delicacies of every sort—-cold meats and thick sauces, glossy fruits, savory breads, and sumptuous sweets. The hot dishes would be set out right before the call to supper, but Jane would have been quite happy with the cold dishes alone. She thought she’d eaten a piece of cheese at some point this afternoon, but that might have been yesterday. She’d spent the better part of the day at the Barbican’s offices, and there was never anything to eat there.
“Now, Jane,” her aunt turned to her and whispered hurriedly, looking back at the door as she did so. Who was she expecting? “I want you to be polite.”
“I am always polite.”
“Yes, but sometimes you are polite in such a way as to actually be insulting. The person to whom you are speaking might not notice, but I do.” Her aunt’s large hazel eyes fastened on Jane’s face and held. Jane did not look away. Instead, she studied her aunt’s handsome features—-her glossy auburn hair, her high forehead, her pointed nose, and her firm mouth. She was barely forty, several years younger than her husband, and she had obviously been a beauty in her day. She was still a beautiful woman, intelligent as well. Jane felt a little sorry for her, because like most women of her station, there was little for her to do but sip tea, gossip, and marry off her sons and daughters.
But Lord and Lady Melbourne had no sons or daughters. That was a shame, because her aunt would have been a wonderful mother. She had taken in the broken daughter of her husband’s brother and raised her with affection and kindness. And even though Jane had been young when she’d come to live with her aunt and uncle, she had never thought of them as mother and father. There was a distance between them, a formality.
Lady Melbourne peered at the door again, and Jane followed her gaze. “Who is it I am to meet?”
“A Mr. Dominic Griffyn. His mother is the Marchioness of Edgeberry.”
Edgeberry… Jane had an image of a passel of attractive young men, all with blond hair and brown eyes. They might have been her brothers for all the resemblance they shared.
Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde…
A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she’s one of the Crown’s most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn’t know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love…until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He’s exactly the kind of man she’s not looking for. And he’s dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies.
He’s an improper gentleman who needs a wife…
Tall, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it’s clear that there’s more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.
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.
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
My first book is self published. The publisher I used call themselves a subsidy publisher. They have an acquisitions department, are very selective about the books they choose, and accept submissions without an agent. I had read about the near impossibility of getting noticed by an agent and published by a traditional publisher in multiple articles and blogs. So their claims to be an innovative publisher changing the publishing market were intriguing. While I was deciding the best career path to follow, I sent my manuscript to them. They loved it, and gave me the hard sell to publish with them. It seemed too easy, so I asked a lot of questions. Because they are one of the largest publishing companies, they assured me they could give me more options and exposure than a traditional publisher. Of course, they couldn't predict sales or give statistics, but I understood there's no crystal ball in this business. Since then I have realized, marketing my book was completely my responsibility, noone gets rejected by this publisher, and everyone in the industry considers my book self published.
I've sold close to 900 books from personal book sales, book club discussions, and in the marketplace. That's small scale, but not bad for self publishing. Just not big enough to get attention from anyone in the traditional publishing world. From your blog it seems self publishing is a negative mark against me for future traditional publishing? It's impossible to know if agents are passing because they aren't interested in my second novel or because of my previous publishing faux pas. I just don't want to waste my time. If the vast majority of agents will pass on me, even if they really love my next novel, should I even send query letters to agents? Should I just self publish on my own, use the platform I've already started to build and sidestep all the rejection?
You don't have to mention your previous run in with the brutal reality of a company earning money by selling snake oil to writers. You query as you normally would. You simply don't say "this is my first novel."
Agents are passing because they aren't enticed by your novel. You must have missed the day when I mentioned that agents are mostly rapacious sharks who will eat their siblings to get ahead in this world, and if we think a book will help us make money we are going to pounce on it like it was a seal in a salty sea.
Since I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not sure I would be able to write these “gleanings.” But the questions have been many, and I could answer some of them ahead of time.
Autumn: its etymology
Our correspondent wonders whether the Latin word from which English, via French, has autumn, could be identified with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the word autumnus, which was both an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to increase.” This verb’s perfect participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, though not implausible, looks like a tribute to folk etymology. A more serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic aud-ags “blessed” (in the related languages, also “rich”). But, more probably, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The main argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom little is known besides the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an old woman, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may be a Latinized form of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly possible, even though some sources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, add “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the setting sun, so that his connection with autumn is remote at best. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Ancient Rome. Everything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus must needs remain unknown. In my opinion, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out little promise.
Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)
The origin of so long
I received an interesting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so long:
“It seems the kind of expression that should have derived from some fuller social nicety, such as I regret that it will be so longbefore we meet again or the like, but no one has proposed a clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden appearance in the early nineteenth century; there are only a handful of sightings before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (including the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer an antedating to the OED citations: so, good bye, so long in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105; available on Google Books). Given the lack of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from another language. Does this seem reasonable to you?”
Mr. Nance was kind enough to append two articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of which I had in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I found and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is especially detailed. My database contains only one more tiny comment on solong by Frank Penny: “About twenty years ago I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and should be written so along or so ’long, meaning that the person using the expression must go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group sohome does turn up in the Diary more than once, but no citation I could find looks like a formula. Perhaps Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so long looks like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a popular phrase should have remained dormant in texts for almost two centuries.
Be that as it may, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formula of this type probably arose in civil conversation. The numerous attempts to find a foreign source for it carry little conviction. Norwegian does have an almost identical phrase, but, since its antecedents are unknown, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite turn of speech by old etymologists) that so long is indeed a curtailed version of a once more comprehensible parting formula, unless it belongs with the likes of forauld lang sine. It may have been brought to the New World from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.
“Heavy rain” in languages other than English
Once I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I mentioned many German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.
Ukraine and Baltic place names
The comment on this matter was welcome. In my response, I preferred not to talk about the things alien to me, but I wondered whether the Latvian place name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I said cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The question, as I understand, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And yes, of course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an exact counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i; in Ukrainian, I think, the first a is stressed. The same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (feminine).
Slough, sloo, and the rest
Many thanks to those who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also received a question about the history of slew. The past tense of slay (Old Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a long vowel), and this form developed like scoh “shoe,” though the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The fact that slew and shoe have such dissimilar written forms is due to the vagaries of English spelling. One can think of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, consider Bruin and ruin, which look deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for good measure. A mild spelling reform looks like a good idea, doesn’t it?
The pronunciation of February
In one of the letters I received, the writer expresses her indignation that some people insist on sounding the first r in February. Everybody, she asserts, says Febyooary. In such matters, everybody is a dangerous word (as we will also see from the next item). All of us tend to think that what we say is the only correct norm. Words with the succession r…r tend to lose one of them. Yet library is more often pronounced with both, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has changed its form many times. Thus, long ago feverer (from Old French) became feverel (possibly under the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However powerful the phonetic forces may have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of great importance was also the fact that the names of the months often occur in enumeration. Without the first r, January and February rhyme. A similar situation is well-known from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is equally common on both sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as standard throughout the English-speaking world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).
Who versus whom
Discussion of these pronouns lost all interest long ago, because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to old days. Yet I am not sure that what I said about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and should (or only can) it be who in both cases? Despite the rebuke, I believe that even in Modern American English the woman who wevisited won’t suffer if who is replaced with whom. But, unlike my opponent, I admit that tastes differ.
Another question I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather long story, and I decided to devote a special post to it in the foreseeable future.
Without conflict, there is no story. As you develop a plot, it’s helpful to think about what is the worst thing that could happen and then figure out if you can make that even worse?
The absolute worst thing–the thing your character fears most of all–MUST happen in the climax of the story. That’s good plotting and storytelling. Building up to that point, you should have a series of conflicts that deepen, that reach out into every aspect of your character’s life, that affects friends, family, or even the survival of the planet or the human species. The series should have a logical progression from bad to worse to worst.
Up the stakes. On way to escalate the conflict is to up the stakes by answering the “So-What?” question. This bad thing is going to happen. So what? Who cares? Who will it affect? How badly will it affect them? When the answer is that the worst thing will affect the most people, you have the stakes well in hand.
Up the emotions. However, even for stories with the fate of the world in the balance are boring if the reader doesn’t care. This means you must provide a wide range of emotions for your characters from the most ardent love to the deepest sorrow. How can I make my character laugh? What would wrench his/her heart? What is the deepest emotion possible in your story? Create that emotional impact. Then take it one level deeper.
Sacrifice. Characters who stupidly volunteer for kitchen duty aren’t sympathetic; they are stupid. However, a reluctant hero who only volunteers to save a loved one–that creates empathy. In HUNGER GAMES, Katniss volunteers to join the Hunger Games so that her younger sister won’t have to. This willingness to sacrifice herself for a loved one elevates here–and the ensuing conflict to new heights.
Jeopardy. When a character is in jeopardy–danger is looming and drawing nearer by the second–readers are on the edge of their seats. Violence, just for the sake of violence, does little to create the emotions needed. Instead, a character must be in danger and must stay in danger for a long time. When I first watched the movie, ALIEN, my stomach hurt because I was so scared. That’s jeopardy. The aliens were coming–and the movie drew out that suspense and jeopardy forever!
I have the worst memory ever. Seriously. I’m bad with names, faces, and if I don’t put an event onto my calendar immediately there’s a good chance I’ll be home watching Netflix when I get your “Where are you?” text. That said, I am pretty obsessed with memories. (The ones I remember, at least.) I love taking photos, keeping movie tickets, that sort of stuff. (Wow, just realized I’m still 13-year-old Adam. I’m okay with this.) The recent trailer for THE MAZE RUNNER film (crazy good, right?) got me thinking about one of my favorite devices in fiction: The Amnesia Effect.
Who doesn’t love a good do-over? (Spoiler: Tons of characters, actually.) If there’s ever a good reason to absolutely disorient your reader/viewer, it should be because the protagonist has absolutely zero clue what’s going on, sometimes not even their own name. So I wanted to dig into the (altered, damaged, etc.) minds of some of my favorite amnesiacs.
THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner What’s forgotten? Our hero in this action-packed trilogy is Thomas and the only bit of history he remembers is his name. Why it works: Thomas, along with a group of other teenage boys, has a blank slate in a village they call The Glade. The answers to who wiped their memories exist in this maze that not only shifts every night, but is inhabited by terrifying creatures known as Grievers. The trilogy is a compelling puzzle and you get this sense that Thomas may be better off not solving it entirely. Good stuff!
MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC by Gabrielle Zevin What’s forgotten? Naomi has forgotten the past four years of her life after hitting her head on some steps. Why it works: I’m sure plenty of people would love to forget high school, but not like this. Imagine having all your current relationships wound back to where they were four years ago, if they even existed back then. That’s what Naomi is suffering through and her frustration throughout the novel hits the reader hard. The accident is a terrible thing – duh, Adam – but it’s also a perfect opportunity for second chances at past missteps. Silver linings, guys, silver linings!
FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos What’s forgotten? Much like Thomas from THE MAZE RUNNER, Miranda doesn’t know who she is with the added bonus of not knowing she has the power to incite mass panic. Until she accidentally uses it. Why it works: In this award-winning series, Miranda North is a member in a quartet of teenage amnesiacs trained to be secret weapons. When reading the first book I was constantly torn as to who to trust because Miranda is just in such a vulnerable position for easy manipulation. And the stakes are high because, again, she sort of has this awesome superpower that can bring armies down to their knees. And that twist at the end, ah! Unforgettable.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (screenplay) by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry What’s forgotten? Clementine has forgotten her boyfriend, main character Joel, with a memory erasure procedure. Why it works: First off, not a book, I know, I know, but come on, this movie is glorious. When I was in the early stages of my book, I pitched it to a coworker and he said, “Oh, like ETERNAL SUNSHINE?” And I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I watched it and my life has been 10x better ever since. Pretty sure 99% of the people who have had their hearts broken wished – at least for a little bit – they could just erase the heartbreaker from memory. (Hell, I bet you wish you could even remove them from existence, but that’s a whole other extreme.) This movie speaks to that part of us while also showing how those experiences make us who we are today. Except not in a cheesy way. In an awesome way.
What are some of your favorite books and films that make good use of The Amnesia Effect?
Adam was born and raised in the Bronx where he wrote fan-fiction in between competitive online gaming and napping. He was a children’s bookseller and a marketing assistant at the literary development company, Paper Lantern Lit. He currently reviews children’s and young adult novels for Shelf Awareness. He is tall for no reason.