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1. Steakhouse Step-by-Step

Here's a step-by-step watercolor sequence. I'm standing on the corner of 24th and Main in Bryan, Texas, looking east across the railroad tracks to the Longhorn Steakhouse. 

The watercolor sketchbook is held up to standing height by a pochade easel on a fully extended tripod.

I'm attracted to the tight grouping of telephone poles and the gray light. The lay-in is drawn with a blue water-soluble colored pencil, which will partially dissolve. Note the eye level or vanishing point is below the level of the tracks.

I wet the entire sky, covering it with some overall warm color, then the light gray cloud shadows, and as it starts to dry up, the distant blue sky. Then I cover the big planes of the shadow, leaving a few white accents.

 The poles and small details go in with Payne's gray and a round brush.

The whole painting takes an hour and a half. I shot some video, too, so I'll edit that and upload it next week.

Now...off to paint in Austin!
------
Materials:
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges

72- Minute Instructional Video: "Watercolor in the Wild"
More info about the HD download at Sellfy (Paypal) or Gumroad (credit cards)

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2. Flat Can Paintings!

If you live in the Nashville area you can see some of my flat can paintings at the Art and Invention Gallery in East Nashville. This is a friendly gallery that is fun to visit. I learned that some of the artwork and furniture that you see on the ABC TV series Nashville is from this gallery. Check it out!

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3. Hooray! All the Way to 10 K!!!!

All right, we know we said we weren't going to write again about our pageview stats.  But if you will look over there—just to the right underneath the "translate" button—you will notice that we have over ten thousand (that's 10,000) pageviews on our counter.  We were so excited when we watched that number click over (Santa, too: none of his other elves have a blog and he is VERY proud of us) that we had an extra-special Elf Celebration. Usually we only have these on Christmas day, as any of you know who have read our stories, Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf and Bizzy, the Worrywart Elf.  But here's a reminder:

When Santa flies home every year in his sleigh
He throws us a party on each Christmas Day.
We feast and we frolic. (It’s kind of a perk
To celebrate ending our annual work.)
For after each elf belly finally is full,
We pull on our parkas and mittens of wool
Then, joining our hands in an elfentine ring
Which circles the Arctic, we dance and we sing.
Our finale is fireworks which fill the night sky
With curtains of color that shimmer so high!








































If you look very, very carefully, you might be able to spot us in the circle of dancing elves. (We invited some non-Izzies to celebrate with us.)

Thank you, thank you, Dear Readers, for helping us reach this milestone!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (♥)

Bizzy, Blizzy, Dizzy, Fizzy, Frizzy, Quizzy, Tizzy, Whizzy (and H.I.E. Deedy)


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4. The Excitement Is Building!!!










Of course, it would not be an event if Black Tower Comics wasn't there!

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5. We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo Campaign

Shared by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Be part of the solution!

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6. New Website

Ladies and gentlemen, my revamped, redesigned and renewed website: www.wardjenkins.com. ENJOY!

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7. Diverse? More Multicultural Than I Look

My life is busy and FULL!
My many hats include children’s book author & publisher, reading & play advocate, reading activist who is committed to diversity in children’s books. I am also co-founder of a very important event call Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/2015) which is now approaching it’s second year. Co-founder Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom is raising children in a 1/4 Japanese-American, 1/4 Chinese-American and 1/2 Korean American home. At first glance, my multicultural roots are not obvious, but I can assure you they are there.
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On any given day, you may hear as many as six different languages spoken in my home.
My life and household has been diverse and multicultural for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of parents who emigrated from Sweden, I have been immersed in Nordic culture since childhood. As a child I attended German/English schools and as an adult I continued learning even more languages for a grand total of six (English, Swedish, French, Arabic, German, Japanese, plus working knowledge in a few others.)
I am also a wife to a Lebanese/Muslim man and am raising Lebanese-American children post 9/11. I may look like an All-American girl, but my multicultural roots run deep and I have been committed to raising my children as global citizens since the day they were born.  As a family we speak Arabic, French, and English in our home and travel often to give our children exposure to people and various cultures on the globe.
Literacy has played a huge roll in my family. We are a family of avid book readers, however it has been very difficult to find books that have characters who are like my children, global citizens with a diverse and varied background.
Other tidbits of information about my life includes the fact that I am passionate about making kid’s books come alive on my website Jump into a Book where we creating moments for adults and children to share together while bringing the books they’re reading to life. I am the author of The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden, The Ultimate Guide To Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and most recently A Year in The Secret Garden. In fact, the hard cover of this book was just delivered this week and to say I am giddy with glee is an understatement! You can view more details about my latest book here and I’d live if you connected with me!
A Year in the Secret garden

The post Diverse? More Multicultural Than I Look appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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8. R.I.P. California Water

RIP California water ©Sparky Firepants

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9. Word count

Even though this is a writing blog, let’s do some math.

Fifty K words for the NaNo November works out to 1667 words a day, about 12,500 a week. The daily count means almost 7 pages of double-spaced text.

I’m in trouble. 

The method I’ve been regular with is a daily timed writing session, with no regard to word count. If I had to guess, I couldn’t. I’ll write on the story, then type notes to myself or scribble them in a notebook. I’m sure it wouldn’t be near a thousand, probably less than 500.

With NaNoWriMo looming, there have been some articles floating around on how to ramp up word count. Then I Googled for other ideas.

Jessica Strawser, in a recent Writer’s Digest article, initiated this query. Juggling work and toddlers, she says it is about finding ways to write in between the times she actually sits uninterrupted at her laptop. One thing she does is use a voice recording app on her smart phone to record ideas that randomly floats into her head.  Scene snippets, dialog, plot ideas, etc., can even be recorded with a hands free device on the drive home from work. Sometime during the day, she emails herself notes about the next scene so she doesn’t go into it cold when she sits to write.

Other articles list things like establishing a writing routine and never vary from that schedule. Some swear by writing in the morning, others must wait until the kiddies fall asleep at night. 

There is the Pomodoro Technique (Google it) in which you set a timer for 25 minutes and work interruption free, then take a 5 minute break, the repeat.

Most writing on the subject confirm Stawser’s idea of having a notion of what you will write about before you sit to type. Rachel Aaron devotes the first 5 minutes to jotting down a quick description of the scene she’s going to write. Aaron claims she has gone from two to ten thousand words a day with her three-tier approach. The first and most important is the knowledge phase. She always spends 5 minutes, never less, sometimes more, writing a stripped down version of the scene; no details, she simply notes what she will write when the time comes to actually write it. This step alone increased her daily 5K. 

Aaron took two other steps to increase her writing. She noted the time and places she was most efficient and built her writing time around those periods. Lastly, she says enthusiasm ups word count. The fun scenes fly by faster than the boring scenes that work up to it. Which leads to, if it’s dull for you to write, what expectations do you have of your reader? 

I am not doing the Rachel Aaron justice with this quick recap. The whole article can be reached following the link below and is pretentiously titled “How I Went From 2,000 Words a Day To 10,000 Words A Day.” 

I’m not sure I’m ready to jump in at that pace. I’d settle for 1667 words. 


(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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10. Poems for Halloween Plus

We’re breaking weather records for warm days here in Texas with the temperature hitting 90 degree today. Ugh. We’re all ready for cooler Fall weather here, especially with Halloween and November right around the corner. So, to get in the spirit, I thought I’d share a list of poems about superstitions, beliefs, luck, magic, dreams, and nightmares from my book, The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. I’ve even updated the list to add a few recent titles. Enjoy!

Poetry Books about Superstitions, Beliefs, Luck, Magic, Dreams, and Nightmares

Many works of poetry promote a sense of wonder. These titles focus especially on the world of superstitions, beliefs, luck, magic, dreams and nightmares-- all interpreted in a variety of ways.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 2005. Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para Sonar Juntos. New York: Lee & Low.
Berry, James. 1991. Isn’t My Name Magical?:  Sister and Brother Poems. New York:  Simon & Schuster.
Clayton, Dallas. 2012. Make Magic! Do Good! Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Corcoran, Jill. Ed. 2012. Dare to Dream… Change the World. San Diego, CA: Kane Miller.
Cushman, Doug. 2012. Pigmares. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Cyrus, Kurt. 2013. Your Skeleton is Showing: Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under. Ill. by Crab Scrambly. New York: Disney/Hyperion.
Denton, Graham. 2006. Silly Superstitions. London: Macmillan Children's Books.
Field, Edward. 1998. Magic Words: Poems. San Diego, CA: Gulliver Books/Harcourt Brace.
Grimes, Nikki. 2000. Shoe Magic. New York: Orchard.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2009. Sky Magic. Ill. by Mariusz Stawarski. New York: Dutton.
Hughes, Langston. (75th anniversary edition) 2007. The Dream Keeper (and seven additional poems). New York: Knopf.
Kennedy, X.J. 1989. Ghastlies, Goops, & Pincushions: Nonsense Verse. New York: McElderry.
Larios, Julie. 2008. Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Lewis, J. Patrick and Yolen, Jane. 2012. Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. Ill. by Jeffrey Timmins. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Mado, Michio. 1998. The Magic Pocket. New York: McElderry.
Medina, Jane. 2004. The Dream on Blanca’s Wall. Honesdale, PA: Boyd’s Mill Press.
Prelutsky, Jack. 1976/1993. Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. New York: Greenwillow. Reprinted, New York: Mulberry Books.
Schertle, Alice. 1999. A Lucky Thing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
Schwartz, Alvin. 1992. And the Green Grass Grew All Around: Folk Poetry from Everyone. New York: HarperCollins.
Sidman, Joyce. 2013. What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Whipple, Laura. Ed. 1996. Eric Carle’s Dragons, Dragons. New York: Philomel.
Winters, Ben H. 2013. Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night. Penguin/Price Stern Sloan.
Wong, Janet S. 1994. Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2003. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Wong, Janet S. 2000. Night Garden:  Poems from the World of Dreams. New York:  Margaret K. McElderry
Yolen, Jane. 1996. Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.

And for a list of specifically Halloween-themed poetry books, check out my previous post about Halloween poems here.
And if you know of any additional titles for me to add, please let me know!

Image credits: policemag.com;superstitionsof.com;gigabiting.com;melikedesign.com

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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11. Lessons from the heart: listening after Ebola

Like many this past week, our attention has been fixated on the media coverage of the Ebola outbreak: images of experts showing off the proper way to put on and take off protective gloves to avoid exposure to the virus; political pundits quarrelling over the appropriateness of travel restrictions; reassuring press conferences by the director of the Centers for Disease Control. It is an event that has received immediate and intense attention and generated compelling journalism, for sure, but does it really give us an emotional understanding of the impact of the event?

What is it like for a mother or a father to watch their child die and not to be able to touch them? What happens within a community that has experienced a major outbreak? Are people brought closer through a shared suffering or are the bonds that held the community together forever broken? There are infinite questions that we could ask of the human heart in the midst or the aftermath of such an event. Oral history with its emphasis on empathy is an effective method of asking these questions.

Hopefully the epidemic will be contained, but by the time it is, it is likely that the public’s appetite for more analysis on the outbreak will have been satiated. Journalists will be compelled to move onto the new topic of the day. Oral historians, however, can — and should — linger on this event.

For oral historians, who have increasingly worked in the aftermath of crisis over the past decade, the motivation to document is fueled by both a humanitarian impulse to respond to crisis and a scholar’s desire to inquire and understand. Times of widespread crisis have an elusive complexity which defies any attempt at meta-narrative. Aspiring to get at a comprehensive picture and the countless ways in which the epidemic is impacting so many seems unfeasible. For many researchers, the most profound way to begin is to try to appreciate how this crisis manifests itself for an individual, for a family, or for a community is oral history.

Dr. Joel Montgomery, Team Lead for CDC’s Ebola Response Team in Liberia, adjusts a colleague’s [personal protective equipment] before entering the Ebola treatment unit.  Photograph by Athalia Christie. Public domain via Flickr.
Dr. Joel Montgomery, Team Lead for CDC’s Ebola Response Team in Liberia, adjusts a colleague’s protective equipment before entering the Ebola treatment unit. CDC Global. Photograph by Athalia Christie. Public domain via Flickr.

Doing oral history in West Africa in the aftermath of the epidemic will present unique challenges for interviewers. Navigating the emotional and political resonance of the Ebola outbreak will require caution, compassion, and courage, as well as flexibility in the application of oral history best practices. The outcome of this work, however, can offer insight into how the individual human heart and mind respond to the terror of an epidemic, and how an individual’s responses to fear and grief impact their communities.

The personal perspective oral history provides has so often been left out of our analysis of crisis. We are left with dry academic reports often composed by responding agencies trained to exclude emotion from their analysis. But without this emotion, without this individual perspective, we don’t understand crisis and the impact it has on those who are left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and communities. Oral history provides a means for the people most affected by crisis or disaster to be recorded, archived, and shared, to put them, not the devastation, at the center of the story. It is an effort that often runs counter to our collective response to emergency and, for that reason alone, it offers meaningful and enduring outcomes.

Featured image: Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, where the Ebola virus samples are tested. June 2014. By Leasmhar. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Lessons from the heart: listening after Ebola appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Feedback Request


A revision of the query featured in Face-Lift 1227 is waiting for your reaction in the comments there.

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13. Becoming Truly Inspired

Question: I've loved writing for as long as I've loved reading. Over the years I've trying to think of what I truly want to do in life, it always comes

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14. My tweets

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15. Well....

It has been said that I have gone "curiously quiet" following the BCZF earlier this month.  Well, I hadn't noticed unless, of course, the enquiry was in regard to my promised post mortem of the event?

Well, I think I've made it clear what I felt about what happened at the event? It certainly has meant that I no longer actively promote Small Press events in the UK.  I would rather not go into any of this.

Am I going to Comica?  No. I'm not even going to go near that topic.

I am hoping that the November event in Bristol will be good.  At the moment one more stinging experience and, yes, my previously "on hold" plans to leave the UK behind and concentrate on Europe will go ahead.

Finland, France, Germany and Spain have all given me positive reviews and feedback whereas the UK reviewers basically did not.  Those that said they would review my books got them and that was it.

That's enough for now.

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16. Bugs in my Hair - a book review



Got the itch?  Could be head lice?..... oh my.....


Fun pics to make you smile on your Saturday morning.















Today's featured book:




Title:  Bugs in my Hair
Author/Illustrator:  David Shannon
Ages:  4-7

How fun are these?










What's it all about?

This fun, quirky and educational book shines a light on a subject that often hides in the shadows and is wrapped in humiliation and shame.  What topic is that you ask?  Head Lice.  

Yep, as a former teacher I have spotted those creepy, crawly, little critters, had my sighting confirmed by the school nurse, and then proceeded to send home that dreaded letter that causes fear and trepidation in parents.  They discover that there is pediculosis (a louse infestation) alive and well in their child's classroom!  Lice have been around for thousands of years and terms like "lousy", "nit-picking", and "going over things with a fine-tooth comb" are part of every day vocabulary.  

David Shannon's book is hilarious and his illustrations are picture-perfect. They are big, bold, colourful, imaginative, and very witty.  He takes you through the process of delousing and the reaction of both the humans and the bugs as finally those pesky and determined creatures are all exterminated.  Whew!  What a battle was waged to rid that head of those unwanted tenants. 

Goodbye forever you nasty varmints making me itch and wiggle and scratch.  But wait?  What is that?  Oh no........a repeat performance is in order because first time around was not enough to wipe those pesky critters out once and for all and send them packing to find a new host to live on.  

I highly recommend this book and in sharing it with your child you can discuss that head lice are not taboo because millions of kids have them and adults too.  By following some simple rules and with proper treatment they can be "cured."  I like the back of the book where the huge warning label shouts:  " Warning: This book will make you ITCHY!" And you know what?   It does. 


About the author:




In the world of David Shannon books, anything can happen. Ducks can ride bikes and kids can get rainbow stripes instead of chicken pox. But not all of Shannon's books are pure fiction. For his 1999 Caldecott Honor book, No, David!, Shannon reached back into his own mischievous childhood for material. In all of his work, Shannon likes to keep the colors bright, the illustrations bold, and the stories entertaining. "I try to have fun when I'm making a book," he says. "I feel like if I have fun, that's going to come across. And whoever reads it is going to have fun, too."

His Life

David Shannon made his first book when he was only five. On orange paper, he drew pictures of himself doing the things that got him into trouble: sneaking into the cookie jar, jumping on the bed, and making too much noise. The only two words in the book were "No" and "David" — two words that he heard often and knew how to spell.
As a young boy, David also liked to draw pirates, baseball players, battle scenes, and characters from books. He pursued his artistic interests at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. After graduating with a degree in fine arts, Shannon moved to New York City, where he worked for ten years as an editorial illustrator for adults. His work appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Time.
When David Shannon first agreed to illustrate a children's book, he thought it would be a fun, one-time diversion. But after How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have? was published in 1992, editors sent him more and more manuscripts to illustrate. Eventually, Shannon began to write and illustrate his own stories, including the popular titles No, David!Duck on a Bike, and A Bad Case of Stripes.
David Shannon lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and their young daughter, Emma, who enjoys reading her dad's books, inspiring new ones, and making books of her own.



Book Review Rating:  9 (Close to perfection!)

Read on and read always!  Have a lice...oops...nice day!

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17. Draw! by Raul Colon



This is a wordless picture book which is full of adventure. A boy drawing in his bed imagines himself on a safari and soon he is on the savannah with the animals. He has lunch with the zebras, rides on an elephant, shares his bread with monkeys and is chased by rhinos. Finally he draws himself back to his room, sketching his way across the savannah. At the end, he's at school showing his art to his classmates. To help differentiate between  the imagined scenes and the "actual" scenes, Mr. Colon uses different techniques: colored pencil for the imagined and ink/watercolor for the realistic scenes. As with most kids, the imagined world is more lush and vivid than the real one.

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18. Meet David Shannon

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19. Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2014: Status Update


When I saw this challenge back in December I decideed to enroll in it. The other day I went back and re-read the rules and realized that I could include books I added in 2014 as well. To, I've updated my lists with everything that is in my TBR pilesit was one I was glad to take. I decided to go for the Gold challenge (50 Books). 

To read the reviews for the books I've conquered so far, please visit here. Occasionally, I don't post reviews to my blog but I do post them to Amazon, LibraryThing, Smashwords, Shelfari and Goodreads.

2013 Netgalley TBR list:
  1. Dead Sexy Dragon
  2. Expecting a Bolton Baby
  3. Vampires Need Not...Apply
  4. Mistress of the Solstice
  5. A Shimmer of Angels
  6. Awakening the Warriors
  7. Broken Forest
  8. Compliance
  9. Dark Wolf Running
  10. Dead Beautiful
  11. Defy
  12. Dragonwitch
  13. Dream Girl
  14. Echo Prophecy
  15. Endless
  16. Escaping Reality
  17. External Forces
  18. Forbidden to Love
  19. Hereafter
  20. Hero's Lot, The - Patrick W. Carr
  21. King Hall
  22. Mage Fire - C. Aubrey Hall
  23. Mind Bond
  24. Night Creatures
  25. Rebels Divided
  26. Rival
  27. Runes (book one) - Ednah Walters
  28. Safe in His Arms
  29. Scrap - Emory Sharplin
  30. Sekret
  31. Shadow Allegiance
  32. She Is Not Invisible
  33. Spirit - Brigid Kemmerer
  34. Stargazing from Nowhere
  35. The Bane - Keary Taylor
  36. The Dominant - Tara Sue Me
  37. The Naturals
  38. The Silver Chain
  39. The Trials of the Core
  40. The Waking Dreamer
  41. Tin Star
  42. Turned
  43. Unspoken
  44. Will in Scarlet - Matthew Cody
  45. Winds of Purgatory
  46. A December Bride
  47. A January Bride
  48. A February Bride
  49. Elfin

2014 Netgalley TBR List

  1. The Millionaire Affair
  2. Sheikh's Scandal
  3. The Billion Dollar Bachelor
  4. Only With You
  5. Alex + Ada volume 1
  6. Waking up Pregnant
  7. Wrecked
  8. Catch Me When I Fall
  9. A Secret Colton Baby
  10. Black Rook
  11. Blind Faith
  12. Blood Orange Soda
  13. Clipped Wings
  14. Darkness
  15. Dark Wolf Returning
  16. Desired
  17. Divided
  18. Don't Judge a Lizard by His Scales
  19. Dragon Defender
  20. Fire Heart
  21. Forbidden
  22. Freed
  23. Lingering Echoes
  24. Longing
  25. Love's Paradox
  26. One is Enough
  27. On Her Watch
  28. Outshine
  29. Raytara - Judgement of the Stars
  30. Shadow Heart
  31. Star Trek: Khan
  32. Stitching Snow
  33. Street Fighter Origins: Akuma
  34. Tales from OZ
  35. The Circle
  36. The Fifth Vertex
  37. The Mark of the Dragonfly
  38. The One
  39. The Professional
  40. The Thirteenth Tower
  41. We are the Goldens
  42. Worth the Fall

Books that have been completed and/or reviewed
15/50 goal
35 to reach goal
  1. The Millionaire Affair
  2. Sheikh's Scandal
  3. The Billion Dollar Bachelor
  4. Only With You
  5. Dead Sexy Dragon
  6. A December Bride
  7. A January Bride
  8. A February Bride
  9. Expecting a Bolton Baby
  10. Vampires Need Not...Apply
  11. Dark Wolf Running
  12. Awakening the Warriors
  13. Dead Beautiful
  14. Mind Bond
  15. Sheikh's Scandal

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20. Guest Post for Elf Killers by Carol Marrs Phipps


RRBC MEMBER OF THE MONTH

OCTOBER, 2014
Carol Marrs Phipps
CAROL MARRS PHIPPS is a teacher turned author. She was born in Missouri, grew up in Illinois and lives on their farm in Illinois with her husband, her menagerie, a parrot, a raven, two cockatiels and her Siberian Forest cats. The books she has written with her husband, Tom Phipps include, Elf Killers which takes place a millennium before the books of the Heart of the Staff series: Good SisterBad Sister, The Collector WitchStone Heart, The Burgeoning andThe Reaper Witch, with the final book, Doom, to be released at the end of 2014. All their books are available as eBook or paperback.
Carol taught with her husband on various Native American Reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, where they learned a great deal from their students, the very first fans of their writing. Not long after they married, she discovered to her joy that he also loved to write. They have been writing together full-time ever since.

Elf Killers by Carol Marrs Phipps

Carol is one of those uber-supportive members here at Rave Reviews Book Club!  She is very deserving of this award and she will also receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card!  Please support ourMEMBER OF THE MONTH by picking up a copy of either of her books listed below, if you can, supporting her on Social Media and by all means, tweet, re-tweet and share this page thru the month of October in honor of her.
CONGRATULATIONS, Carol on being our October, 2014 MEMBER OF THE MONTH!!!

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21. From one story to a completely different story.

Question: When you write one short story do you stick with that one story or can you make another completely different after that one? Answer: You are

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22. Dori Hillestad Butler's HAUNTED LIBRARY series - Guest Post and Giveaway!

PERFECT for Halloween is the third installment in the HAUNTED LIBRARY series by Dori Hillestad Butler. She is visiting today to tell us the story behind the book...


      We all have that teacher in our past, don’t we? The one who made a difference…and started us down the path toward who we are today.
      Mr. Hartshorn was that teacher for me. He was my sixth grade English teacher. I wish I could say I was one of his best students, but I wasn’t. I was just your average “B” student.
      I was quiet and shy in sixth grade. And a little bit scared of Mr. Hartshorn. I was scared of him because he told it like it was. And because he made us give speeches.
      Let me be clear. We didn’t just have to get up in front of the class to give these speeches. There was a stage at the back of Mr. Hartshorn’s classroom. We had to go up ON THE STAGE, where there were bright lights and a podium, and give our speeches from there.
      Did I mention I was quiet and shy?
      I was also short. I was so short I couldn’t see over the podium. So I had to stand beside the podium…which was worse than hiding—I mean, standing behind it because then everyone could see my hands shaking as I read my speech.
      I didn’t do very well on any of my speeches. And I was in danger of getting far worse than a B in Mr. Hartshorn’s class that quarter, so I went to see him after school. I asked him if he’d give me extra credit if I wrote a novel for him. I don’t know what possessed me to ask him that. I’d never written a novel before. But I certainly wasn’t going to give another SPEECH for extra credit! What else could I do? I knew I had to do more than just write a short story or two to bring up my grade.
      He said, “You write the novel and we’ll see.”
      I worked on my novel every single day after school. I don’t remember how many pages the original hand-written version was, but the typed version was 42 pages. My mother typed it for me, which was nice considering it was about a girl whose mother dies!
     I felt really good about it when I turned it in. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it! I’d written a whole novel (42 pages!). Just like real authors did. And I sooo wanted to be a real author when I grew up.
      I watched Mr. Hartshorn read my novel at his desk. It took him several days. At first I enjoyed watching him. But then I got worried. What if my novel wasn’t very good? When I was in fourth grade, a chorus teacher told me I couldn’t sing. I was devastated because I loved to sing, and I had no idea I had no talent for singing until that teacher told me. So now I was afraid Mr. Hartshorn was going to tell me I had no talent for writing, either.
      He didn’t say much when he returned my novel to me. Or maybe I just don’t remember what he said. But I’ve hung onto the note he stapled to the inside cover all these years:

     That note meant far more to me than all the extra credit in the world. If Mr. Hartshorn thought my story was “interesting, and basically very well written,” then it was. And maybe, just maybe, I really could be an author when I grew up.
      I kept writing because of that note.
      But Mr. Hartshorn’s influence doesn’t end there. I had him again for seventh grade English. We had a drama unit in seventh grade, and the play was “I Remember Mama.” While going up on the stage to give speeches in sixth grade was one of my most traumatic school experiences ever, I wasn’t nervous about being in the play. I wanted to be in “I Remember Mama.” And I wanted to play Katrin. Not because it was a lead role, but because Katrin was a writer.
      I didn’t expect to actually get the part. [See: quiet and shy] But Mr. Hartshorn did indeed cast me as Katrin!
      I don’t remember much about the performance itself (I’m sure I was fabulous! Haha!), but after it was over, I remember telling Mr. Hartshorn my secret: that I wanted to be a writer just like Katrin.
      He said, “Then you have to keep writing. You can’t give up when you get rejection letters. Katrin never gave up.”
      I never gave up, either, Mr. Hartshorn. I didn’t know it at the time, but you gave me the secret to becoming a writer when I was in seventh grade: Keep writing and never give up!
      The Ghost Backstage is book 3 in my new Haunted Library series. The Haunted Library is about a ghost boy and a “solid” girl who work together to solve ghostly mysteries. In this book, Claire is in the school play…and there’s a ghost wreaking havoc backstage. I didn’t have to think very hard about what to name the drama teacher.
      I never described Mr. Hartshorn in my text, but the very talented Aurore Damant drew him almost EXACTLY the way I remember the real Mr. Hartshorn. (He’s not wearing his glasses in this picture, but trust me: he had them!)

      I didn’t have to think very hard about who to dedicate this book to, either (click the image to see it larger in a new window, if you can't read it small):
      I’ve reread that novel as an adult. It’s NOT interesting. Nor is it particularly well written. Even when you take into account I was a sixth grader, it’s average writing at best. I know that. But Mr. Hartshorn made me FEEL like my novel was interesting and well written. He gave me confidence at a time I desperately needed some.
      I’ve thought of Mr. Hartshorn often over the years. Without his influence, I may not be an author today. Success as an author has very little to do with talent. It’s all about putting in the time (“Keep writing!” Mr. Hartshorn said) and never giving up. Maybe that’s true of anything in life?
      By the way, Mr. Hartshorn, if you’re reading this…I actually LIKE to give speeches now! Who’d have thought?

Read the first two books in the series!

GIVEAWAY!
     Penguin has kindly agreed to give away one free copy of THE GHOST BACKSTAGE - the 3rd installment in THE HAUNTED LIBRARY series! Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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23. This Weekend: See ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’ In These Cities

See Isao Takahata's Oscar-contending "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" in the following theaters this weekend.

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24. Froodle by Antoinette Portis


Froodle is a funny book, with lots of silly words for kids to say aloud. The story begins with a normal neighborhood filled with animals making normal sounds, bark, coo, cheep etc. Then a little brown sparrow decides to say something besides peep. Soon all the birds except for crow are saying weird things. Crow is not amused. Finally, he comes around and says, "Wuppy!" then the cats and dogs join in. It's verbal mayhem! Lots of puns (which will amuse the adults), simple pictures and fun words keep the story going in this book about a not-so-normal neighborhood.

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25. Chicken by Chicken: Shaken to the Core

Hi folks,

I'm continuing the series of Chicken by Chicken. This week I'm writing about being shaken to the core. Have you ever had a period a time when you are working, and you are just not feeling IT? What is IT? IT is a sense of assurance that you will find your way, a deep internal knowledge that your work will reach others, and some kind of genetic thing that you are meant to do what you are doing. This feeling of IT has been with me for decades. I think that Socrates called this his divine something that guided him along his path. This divine something never told him what to do, but nudged him this way and that to find the sweet spots that would rocket him forward along the river of destiny.

So this IT feeling has left me.

I don't know exactly when. A few months back, I think. You can see it in my recent blogs. I'm digging into the bedrock to hold on. I want the feeling back, but I don't know how to make it return. I'm living my own little Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1. Meaningless. Meaningless. But I'm fighting back with there is a time and season for everything under heaven. There is a season to dig up the ground. And here I am digging. What have I found so far? Long walks lift me up. I think. I sing. I watch butterflies. It's good for the soul. Kind thoughts also help. I try to think of what I would tell someone that is the same place I am. Then I say those things to myself. I listen to Burl Ives songs. Here is a link.  I say my prayers. I keep on working, even though it is slow going. I do little artist things. Go to lectures. Hang out with other artists. Find ways to be helpful.

I'm shaken to the core, but I am confident that what can't be shaken will remain. I'm holding to that right now. I have a deep desire to do more as an artist, to jump up to something more profound, but I didn't see this piece of the journey ahead. I have no idea where to jump. I'm whispering hourly, "Heart find your way."

Every little soul will shine. We all go through deep waters. Rise up! Don't give up. I will be back next week.

For doodles this month I'm featuring doodles from my ebook Halloween project: Chicken Take Over Halloween.   This one is "Robot Chickens."



A quote for your pocket. 

Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.
― Franz Kafka

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