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1. Violent. Fierce, Proud: Reviewing Lidia Yuknavitch's THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN

Lidia Yuknavitch is fearless—a trait I typically admire. Her new book opens with an exquisite scene and then slowly peels away to fractions. My reflections on it all are here, in the New York Journal of Books.

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2. Suffer the Children

A fellow writer wants to know more about something I've written, something centering on a child's body at the center of the storm of war. She asks, "Why bring violence and sexuality so close to the body of a child?" Her eyes blur and magnify when she says it. I can hear the flutter of [...]

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3. What do writers do when they are not writing...

Hi Readers! I am working on a new manuscript and I am excited to finish it so that you can all read it I was asked a great question by a young lady today. She asked me "What do writers do when they aren't writing?" I felt like it was most appropriate to answer it publicly. I write often. It is my core job and also a very big passion. I love that being a writer allows me to sign books at stores, libraries and programs. When I am not writing...here are a few things that I am doing. 1.) I have a counseling practice and I listen and help people who want to make a change in their lives. 2.) I go to schools and other locations and read my books and give talks. 3.) I contribute to magazines, radio stations, etc. and answer questions about self-esteem, diversity and anti-bullying. I could add a lot more but as you can see my schedule gets pretty full. I will add a 4th past-time...I give back. I am involved in many charitable programs and organizations and I lend support, expertise, money and time to help people who need it. Our time is valuable so think about what you can do while you might have some time off in the summer or on one of your upcoming breaks. Can you give back? Take on a new hobby? You might even decide to start writing. -read something great

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4. Rhys Ifans visits School he is Patron Of, Hosts Q&A

Rhys Ifans plays many ostensibly “quirky” characters, and is best known to us as Xenophilius Lovegood. Like many other Harry Potter actors, Rhys Ifans works to be apart of the community of which he is from, and give back in anyway he possibly can. Originally from northern Wales, Ifans has become patron of a school near where he grew up.Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn in Denbigh, the school that Ifans is patron of, is the regional center for autism education. Of its importance to him, Ifans said thatYsgol Plas Brondyffryn feels like “home.” On a recent visit to Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn, Ifans hosted a Q&A about his acting career, and spoke to The Daily Post about his work there. The Daily Post reports:

The Ruthin-born actor was treated to an impromptu performance of the song from Oliver! by youngsters at Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn, the regional centre for autism education in North Wales of which he is a patron.

Ifans, who has appeared in blockbusters such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Amazing Spiderman, responded with applause and said: “That was great guys. When are we going on tour?”

He spoke of his rise to fame and the pros and cons of life in the spotlight during a question and answer session which followed.

“They (the staff) very kindly invited me to be patron. I thought it was just a great opportunity.

“I have many friends with children who suffer with varying degrees of autism, so I am familiar with the condition.

“My friend’s kids who are autistic, I am so very, very fond of them. They’re just such amazing kids on every level.

“Given that there was an establishment like this doing such great work on my doorstep, it made sense to get involved as much as I can.

“For all my success, being able to give up my time and energy to support this beats any award you can ever be given.”

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5. Malala Yousafzai Launches the #BooksNotBullets Hashtag

Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai has launched the #BooksNotBullets social media hashtag. In honor of her eighteenth birthday, she hopes that world leaders will consider redirecting eight days’ worth of military spending for educational pursuits.

According to the Malala Fund Blog, this act would raise $39 billion which could “provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet.” To promote this agenda, Malala hopes to inspire followers to post a photo of themselves holding one of their favorite books and a statement on why they prefer “books not bullets.”

Malala herself kicked things off on Instagram with a picture of herself and a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Author James Patterson joined in by sharing the following message on Facebook: “Peter Pan inspires me to this day. That’s the power of books and education.” Click here to watch a video that showcases Malala’s 2015 Oslo Education Summit address.

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6. David Hackett Fischer Wins Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing

David Hackett Fischer  (GalleyCat)David Hackett Fischer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has won the 2015 Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. Fischer will also receive $100,000 in prize money.

Here’s more from the press release: “Author of 15 major publications on topics ranging from the American Revolution to the logic of historical thought, Fischer received the American Enterprise Institute’s Irving Kristol Award in 2006 for his ‘pivotal role in reviving popular and academic interest in American history and its lessons for the present.’ Among his notable works are bestsellers and award-winners like Washington’s Crossing (Oxford University Press, 2004), a National Book Award finalist and 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for history; Paul Revere’s Ride (Oxford, 1994), a 1996 Boston Globe Top 10 Book of the Year; Champlain’s Dream (Simon & Schuster/Knopf Canada, 2008), an internationally acclaimed biography published in English and French; and Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford, 1989), a groundbreaking study of the roots of essential American traits—a second volume of which is now in progress.”

Fischer will accept this award at a gala event which will be held at the Hilton Chicago on November 7. Some of the past winners include Sir Max Hastings, Allan Millett, and Tim O’Brien.

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7. Illustration Friday: Sharp



Well.  That's going to hurt.

I originally doodled this thinking about a sharp dive into something wonderful.  My younger daughter suggested stars, so stars it was.  But then it slowly dawned on me, after I had drawn about 70 stars, that those things are rather pointy.  And sharp.  But then my older daughter suggested that perhaps those are cooked pasta stars, the tiny ones that go into soups.  Yes!  Pasta stars!  Nice save.

Speaking of diving into things, I am going to dive into something of my own.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting and learning more about Heather Von St. James.  The more I read, the more I became inspired.

In 2005, just three months after giving birth to her daughter and at the age of 36, Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.  Without treatment, she had just 15 months to live.  I can't even pretend to know the level of heartbreak and fear she must have felt then.  As a child, Heather liked to wear her father's jacket, which was crusted with drywall dust, essentially wrapping herself in asbestos.  The effects of high asbestos exposure can take decades to manifest, lying in wait.  And when they appeared in Heather, things looked dire.  She underwent a very risky surgery which, thankfully, was successful.  Now, ten years since her diagnosis, she is a cancer research advocate and blogger, bringing awareness to the need for funding and research and helping those battling cancers of their own.  She is a survivor, she is a warrior, and she is awesome!

Heather introduced me to All or Nothing Day, which is coming up on July 26 and which embodies how she strives to live her life since her diagnosis.  All or Nothing Day is about devoting time to live life to the fullest, to be bold, and to push yourself to do things that you've always wanted to do.  So this year, for All or Nothing Day, I have decided to truly put effort into a project I started about five years ago.  As bucket lists go, mine is pretty short.  All the important things, I have and do everyday.  I'm lucky.  But one thing that has been nagging at me is the desire to create a picture book loosely based on the antics and adventures of my daughters.  I'd like them to have something to look back on when they are older that brings back the memories and giggles of a childhood well spent.  I've been working on it in bits and pieces without any cohesiveness.  A few of the images I've even posted for Illustration Friday.  But I'd really like to dive back into it this year and really try to finish it.  I'm hoping that a public declaration, even if it's to the few who visit this blog, will spur me on.

Wish me luck.

July 26.  All or Nothing.  What will you do this year?

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8. The Fault in Our Stars: Dramatic Structure

The dramatic structure of The Fault in Our Stars

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9. Motherhood

If it's one thing I've learned in twenty-four years of parenting- it's let them figure it out for themselves. Shoving scripture and unwanted advice down your teenage/adult child's throat is only going to make them want to do exactly the opposite of what you say. Yes, it's good parenting to give them guidance and boundaries. Ultimately, though, what they do with their lives is between them and God.
They learn a tremendous amount more from observing the behaviors and screw ups of others than they do a speech for every question they ask. If we gently show them what the Word says, we have gained a victory because the Word does not return void.
That, and that alone is my hope.
I would rather my children chase righteousness than riches. Blessings from the Lord are much more fulfilling than toys (of any size). This morning was a wonderful reminder of that.
My blessings will come through the generosity of my heart, not from my husband's bank account. My heart has been blessed today. Thank You, Lord.

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10. Return Of The Gods & The Cross-Earths Caper

Parts 1 & 2 Of The "Invasion Earth" Trilogy


The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes

Terry Hooper-Scharf
A4
Paperback, 
Black & White
331 Pages
Price: £20.00
It begins slowly with Earth’s heroes going about their daily tasks –fighting a giant robot controlled by a mad scientist’s brain , attackers both human and mystical -even alien high priests of some mysterious cult and their zombie followers and, of course, a ghost and a young genius lost in time. 
 
Pretty mundane. But there is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon and strange orange spheres chase some of Earth’s heroes who vanish into thin air –are they dead?
 
 Then black, impenetrable domes cover cities world-wide. 
  
Alien invasion of Earth! 
 
A war between the Dark Old Gods and the pantheons that followed! 
  
Warriors from Earth’s past having to battle each day and whether they die or not they are back the next day!
 
 And no one suspects the driving force behind the events that could cause destruction and chaos throughout the multiverse —assaulted on all fronts can Earth’s defenders succeed or will they fail...is this truly the end?

THE CROSS EARTHS CAPER

 Terry Hooper-Scharf
Paperback, 
Black & White
107 Pages 
A4 
Price: £12.00
Following the events on Neo Olympus and the Boarman invasion of Earth, many heroes and crime-fighters have withdrawn from activity. 
 
 Some are trying to recover from injuries while others are fighting the mental scars left by the events. 
 
 As heroes from other parallels who helped during the events return home, members of the Special Globe Guard are shocked at the sudden appearance of Zom of the Zodiac. 
 
Very soon, a group of heroes find a quick rescue mission turn sour as they become lost between parallel Earths and threats. Sometimes one Earth just is not enough. 
  
The complete story published in issues 7-10 of Black Tower Adventure now in...one handy dandy book!

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11. Free Video Training Series on School Visits

Group of Elementary Pupils In ClassroomFor those of you who write children’s books and are interested in school visits, here’s some great news!

I ran a survey several months ago asking you to tell me your biggest question (or fear) about school visits. So many of you responded and shared your concerns and questions, that I’ve decided to provide a FREE Video Training Series that will answer your most burning questions.

The topics will be:

VIDEO #1: 10 Tips for a Successful School Visit (these ten tips will provide you with a solid foundation for doing school visits)

VIDEO #2: Things That Can (and Do) Go Wrong – and How to Deal With Them (we’re always afraid of the unknown, with this video I’m looking to make you more prepared!)

VIDEO #3: Answers to Your Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions (certain questions came up in your submissions again and again – I will answer these critical questions in order to make you feel more confident going into the classroom.)

Click here to sign up for the free training…. but do it quickly. The videos expire on July 14th! Once you sign up, you will soon receive an email giving you access to the first video!

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12. Punctuation and Rhythm

The different punctuation marks can be used to speed up or slow down the pace of your readers, adding rhythm to your story.

http://www.teachingauthors.com/2015/06/for-love-of-comma.html

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13. Somewhere over the Rainbow

It was a wonderful time to be in San Francisco. Libraries, a cultural embodiment of inclusion and acceptance, happily shared in the celebrations honoring equality. In this past year, with our focus on diversity in all its aspects, materials, services and our own ranks, it was particularly fitting that we would be at the center of this latest piece of good news. Rainbows were everywhere.

I am struck again and again by the passion of our members. Library work is more a calling than a profession and in this digital age, our work is more vital and less understood. In my presidential year, I was particularly gratified that children’s librarians are embracing their role in helping families determine how and what media to use to help children learn and thrive. The leadership discussion of the ALSC white paper on media mentors was a highlight of the conference for me. The awards ceremonies are always grand and I am always impressed with our members desire to discover the best of the best of what is published for children each year.

My president’s program, MORE TO THE CORE, focused on the premise that excellent informational books are created, loved and read with the same alacrity of our most loved fiction. Words and images combined to ignite imagination and inspiration continue to move the next generation to greater empathy and understanding of our world. We heard from both a creator, award winning illustrator and author Melissa Sweet and practitioner, RIF’s Judy Cheatham. Both speakers’ passion for great literature for children was evident and affirming.

Great books are at the root of children’s ability to understand and empathize with others. That ability gives us hope and moves us all forward to the better world we imagine. This June in San Francisco we were there as we moved a little closer together. I like to think there is a great children’s book waiting somewhere in the imagination of some child that will describe this time for others to remember, imagine and understand.

The post Somewhere over the Rainbow appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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14. Cuba’s Animation Industry Filled With Challenges and Promise

Driven by enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, artists want to grow Cuba's underdeveloped animation industry.

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15. Margaret Atwood to Create Cartoons For a Comics Anthology

Margaret AtwoodAward-winning author Margaret Atwood has become well-known for writing novels, short stories, and children’s books. Now, she will also add “comics artist” to her résumé.

Atwood has agreed to produce artwork for an anthology called The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. According to the Kickstarter page for this book, she “will be contributing her own drawn cartoons detailing her personal experiences as a young woman, created specifically for this project.”

Publisher Hope Nicholson describes this book as a collection of dating and love stories from both the fans and creatives behind video games, comic books, and science-fiction works. To date, this crowdfunding campaign has received more than $60,000 in donations; the initial fundraising goal was set at around $30,000. (via Entertainment Weekly)

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16. ‘Adventure Time,’ ‘Uncle Grandpa’ Among Cartoon Network Renewals

Five Cartoon Network shows have earned season renewals.

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17. ‘The Story of Ebola’ by Yoni Goodman

A short animation for Global Health Media Project about the dangers of Ebola.

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18. Looking Up


Theresa Brandon, www.theresabrandon.com


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19. Cover Revealed for New Johanna Basford Coloring Book

Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford (Galleycat)

Artist Johanna Basford has unveiled the cover for Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Coloring Book. We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think?

According to the press release, some of the images being featured in this adult coloring book include “exotic fish, curious octopi, and delicately penned seahorses.” Penguin Random House has scheduled the publication date for October 27.

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20. Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman

Frankie and Joely are best friends. They love each other like no one else can. But when a summer break in the country brings fresh distractions, simmering jealousies and festering secrets, can their friendship survive? 

It’s the holidays and, together, Frankie and Joely board a train and escape the city and their mums for a week of freedom. But when Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, it soon becomes clear that something other than the heat is getting under their skin. As the temperature rises and the annual New Years’ Eve party looms closer, local boy Rory stirs things up even more and secrets start to blister. Suddenly the girls’ summer getaway is not panning out how either of them imagined. Will they still be ‘Frankie and Joely’ by the end of their holiday?

I love novels about female friendship and rural Australia and hot summers, and Frankie and Joely has all of these things. The stifling heat and the dusty middle-of-nowhere town are depicted beautifully. The story is told using third-person omniscient - predominantly from the perspectives of Frankie and Joely, but also offering Mack's, Thommo's and Rory's viewpoints. This is a style of narration that is really difficult to get right, and at times, as POV changed from paragraph to paragraph, I felt at a remove from the characters. The stark differences in how Frankie and Joely view each other and themselves make their perspectives the most compelling - had the story instead been told by only one or the other, so much of the exploration of their friendship would be missing, and it wouldn't be as rich or as nuanced a story. I am always fascinated with the awful characters in stories, so more of Rory's point of view and his particular background and motivations would have been terrific; similarly, Mack and Thommo aren't POV characters for particularly much of the story, and I feel they could've contributed more.

Joely's aunt and uncle are the most sympathetic characters of the novel - there's a scene where the aunt makes scones with Joely which is one of the loveliest in the novel (and made me really want to make and eat scones. Which I might do after I finish writing this). Frankie's desire to be accepted, and her love and care for her off-the-rails mum makes her far more likeable than Joely, whose childishness is at times grating. That said, they are fifteen-year-old characters and, knowing actual fifteen-year-olds (and having been fifteen myself), they're very realistically depicted. I think the pettiness and melodramas and general complexities of intense teenage friendship are well-drawn. The girls communicate poorly and behave like idiots and treat each other badly, despite how important the friendship is to both of them, because they're both dealing with their own issues: trying to deal with family and boy dramas and attempting to work out who they are and who they want to be.

It's an easy, enjoyable contemporary Aussie YA read, which I think will appeal most to younger teenaged readers who can identify with Frankie and Joely and the intensities and difficulties of their friendship. If you liked Kate Gordon's Writing Clementine, I reckon you'll like this one, too (and vice versa).

Frankie and Joely on the publisher's website

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21. First Look: ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip’ Trailer

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are going on a road trip…

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22. Audiobook Review: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

From Goodreads:
Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society.
Writing
Beautifully written, but I feel like some of the quality was lost in an audio recording.  I've read many reviews about the poetry here, but it's particularly hard for me to appreciate poetry when I'm not seeing it on the page.  That said, I did find the book to be well-composed, utilizing a unique voice to bring up the small scale and large scale racial aggressions seen and experienced in day to day life, both personally and from the media.

Entertainment Value
This one flew by - only a little bit over two hours on audio - so I'm assuming that it would also be a quick read in print.  It really packs a punch though.  I think it's so important right now for people of all races to be listening to each other's stories.  You can hear a lecture on racism or read an article about it, but what's really going to make a difference in the way you see the world is hearing a person's story - how they feel when certain phrases are used, how media reactions affect their day to day lives, etc.  This book completely fit that bill for me.  It gave me a glimpse into the casual racism that, being white and privileged, I'd most likely never pick up on.

Narration
The narrator does a great job, but I found myself getting lost a few times, particularly during portions that are more poetic in format.  I think I would have enjoyed this more if I read it in print and will be making an effort to find a print copy.

Overall
I don't think anyone of any political persuasion would deny that the last year has been a difficult one for our country in terms of race relations.  And as I mentioned above, I think the key to combating racism (or gender inequality or sexual orientation or religious differences or any other) is to sit down and listen to what a person on the other side has to say about their own experiences.  Hearing "this hurts me because" or "this makes me furious because" from another human being will always make more of an impact than hearing a list of arbitrary reasons.  I think that Rankine does an excellent job here of using various forms of literature, from essay to poetry, to convey her personal story.  I highly recommend this book to everyone - it's so important to do the hard work and think the hard thoughts that will help us make a difference in the ways we relate to each other.

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23. Six Steps to Nail Your Plot, Motivation, Character, and Story Opening plus AN EMBER IN THE ASHES Giveaway

I was reading an interview with NYT Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen over on Novel Rocket, yesterday, and she mentioned that her favorite piece of writing advice is to focus on the character's predicament. I love, love, love that, because it actually addresses four different aspects of your WIP.

In one fell swoop, you can nail the core of your character, the movement of your story, the place you start it, and how you tell it.

Here's how.

  1. Start by putting yourself in your character's head. What's her problem? What no-win predicament does she find herself in? Journal this, just as a rough paragraph or two or three, writing as if she is screaming at someone for putting her in that situation. Let it all loose. Imagine the confrontation, all the emotion, the frustration, the desire to move forward and fix something.
  2. Examine that thing that she has to fix and establish the consequences if she fails. Brainstorm why she wants to fix it and jot it down your on one page in a notebook, note software program, or on a Scrivener entry. Why does she need to fix the problem? Why does she have no choice to act to change that situation? 
  3. What is your character willing or forced to give up to fix her predicament? Add a second page to your notes. Write down what is most important to your character. Explore what defines her view of herself, and how this predicament effects that. What wound from her past or weakness of character is going to make it harder for her to repair the problem? What unexpected strengths can she find along the way that will help her?
  4. Now build your plot like dominos. Once you have a pretty good grasp on the predicament itself, it's relatively easy to make a timeline of how the problem, the person who created that problem (or personifies it) and your character intersect. You can build your plot as if it's inevitable: this happened, your character reacted, because your character reacted, this other thing happened, and so on. One thing leads directly to another.
  5. Next, taking into consideration who your character is, find the place in the timeline, or right before what you've jotted down, where the problem first rears its head. This could be something that your character did that set the problem in motion, or something coming in from outside to shake things up, but there has to be a change. This is where you're going to begin your story, on the day that is different, with the first domino. Write down what that incident is.
  6. Finally, put everything together to set up the story. Your opening has to show the inciting incident, suggest the story problem, and jump start the action, but you also want to foreshadow your character's strength and the weakness that is going to hold her back. You want to give us a hint of the personal lesson she will have to learn in order to get out of the predicament she's facing.
That's it. When you look at it from the standpoint of the character's predicament, every aspect of the story comes together. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, and regardless of whether you're writing a fantasy or sci fi novel, a romance, a contemporary, or virtually anything else, these six simple steps will help you get enough information to structure it in a way that will let it feel like it's writing itself. 

Happy writing!

This Week's Giveaway



An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
Hardcover
Razorbill
Released 4/28/2015

I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Purchase An Ember in the Ashes at Amazon
Purchase An Ember in the Ashes at IndieBound
View An Ember in the Ashes on Goodreads

More Giveaways

I have exciting news! Want to know the title for the final book in the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy? Head on over to Elizziebooks.com. Liz has my first ever video about Compulsion and the title, plus a great new giveaway. There are two additional places to win a necklace and T-Shirt, and you might even find a Persuasion teaser along the way. : )





There's also a grand prize, and you'll be automatically entered to win it when you enter any of the three T-shirt giveaways. But if you'd like even more chances to win, keep an eye out here, and on my Facebook page. I'll be posting a separate Rafflecopter in a little while!



And finally, don't forget. There's a new Compulsion for Reading bag of books this month!


What About You?

Have you wrestled with this kind of an approach to writing your story? Are you a plotter or a pantser, and is this too much or too little planning for you?

As a reader, do you like stories where the plot feels inevitable? Can you think of an example of a book that read like the characters never had any choice but to do what they did?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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24. Love Stage!! Review

Title: Love Stage!! Genre: Yaoi, Romance Publisher: Viz/Sublime (US), Kadokawa Shoten (JP) Artist/Writer: Taishi Zaoi, Eiki Eiki Serialized in: Asuka Ciel Original Release Date: May 12, 2015 Due to his discreet personality and otaku-like features, people usually don’t give Izumi Sena a second glance on the busy streets of Tokyo. But things would have been ... Read more

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25. Butterfly and Friends!

Bryan Ballinger - www.bryanballinger.com 

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