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<<October 2016>>
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1. Murphy's Ghost

I was not surprised at the shuffling of feet beyond the high wooden fence. It was Halloween night and I was working my first shift as night watchman in the old lumber company where my grandfather had worked for thirty years. They say, at the end, the owner would send a car for old Tom to take him, in comfort, the two miles each way he had walked for so long. There were children and parents walking the streets outside the yard, sometimes explosions of firecrackers in the distance. It was an old lumber yard, a throwback to the glory days of Bytown when timber was king. I walked around the perimeter wooden fence, checked that the big doors to the yard and garage were locked, wandered into the little kitchen for a cup of tea. I knew that drinking too much caffeine on graveyard shifts could have disastrous consequences when the lack of sleep eventually caught up to you, but this was my first shift, Halloween night and tea didn’t seem as dangerous as coffee. I wasn’t one to be superstitious and all the leprechauns and little people and faeries of Irish folklore weren’t foremost in my thoughts except when I remembered my mother who was born in Galway and believed in it all. I had bad dreams about the freezecat but that’s another story. There were three mugs set out in the kitchen at the back of the office. I dropped a teabag into one, plugged in the kettle and checked that day’s Sun girl. The knocking at the office door sounded normal. Maybe some of the trick or treaters outside had seen the kitchen light. I walked through the dark office. As I reached for the doorknob I heard the words “No need for that” I couldn’t believe my eyes when a man walked right through the door and shook my outstretched hand. “Tom, Tom Wheeler, your grandfather, and you’ll know Murphy” To my astonishment another figure stepped through the closed door and shook the hand which my grandfather had just squeezed. I felt it. I know they both squeezed my hand. I recognized my grandfather by pictures I’d seen. He had a large head, a bald pate and a perpetual smile. My irreverent friends would have called him “wingnut” because of his large ears, but not to his face. Murphy’s theory was the reason I was here in the first place. His theory of gambling on sporting events hit a few rough spots when I tried it after his death. Or maybe I didn’t get the full gist of it. Whatever happened, I lost my shirt over those bets and was forced to take this job. The last time I’d seen Murphy he was sitting up in his casket with my coffee cup in his hands and a brawl going on all around him. They made their way through the office to the kitchen where my grandfather refilled the kettle and washed out an old teapot. He made tea while Murphy and I sat down at the table. I wasn’t sure what to do about it and the manners of these two ghosts, for that is what they must be, were impeccable. “I thought we came here to decide” said Murphy, filling his pipe. “Yes, we can decide tonight, all right. Tonight’ll be the night we’ll decide” Tom said as he set the pot down on the table to steep and pulled up a chair. He too filled his pipe. “You didn’t follow through on the system I told you about just before I died” Murphy said to me. “What do you mean?” I piped up. “A team usually loses at home the first game after a road trip. That’s part of it. There were a few more tricks of the trade which you failed to employ when you made those bets. You would have bet the opposite and cleaned up if you had” Murphy lined up the sugar and milk near his cup just behind the spoon. “Hm” I grunted. Tom poured tea into our cups and spoke to Murphy as he added his sugar. “I think three” Murphy took his time, measured his sugar carefully with his spoon, added milk and stirred the combination vigorously. “After a lot of thought, I have to conclude that the answer is two” A long silence broken only by the sounds of tea drinking and the unwrapping of a package of biscuits Tom had produced. Peak Freans. “Maybe, if they were doing a proper Irish jig. But even then, with the footwork, you’d have to hope they were once Irish in order not to step on each other’s toes.” “See, three is the superior number” Tom answered,” being half again what your number two is It could be easily done by three angels dancing a Highland fling on the head of a pin” My grandfather’s father was a stonemason from Putney but his wife was a Ross from the Highlands and he defended the northern clan at every opportunity. “We’re not talking about a needle here” Murphy proclaimed. “The thick end with the eye in it. Only Irish angels could dance on the head of a pin and there’d only be room for two of them” Tom disappeared for a moment behind a cloud of grey smoke from his pipe. Anger showed on his countenance when he reappeared. “Three Scottish angels could do it” Before I knew what was happening they had jumped up and were circling the table, Murphy with a large shillelagh, Tom with a battle axe. I sat still and watched. Murphy swung a vicious two hander which caught Tom in the neck. His head was clearly separated from his shoulders but just popped up and landed back in its spot. It was facing the wrong way, but Tom adjusted it and caught Murphy on the side at hip level thereby cutting him in two with the axe. Murphy separated in the middle but his upper body, after popping up, returned to the bottom half at the waist. I could hear laboured breathing as they sparred and clashed but no more than the sounds of two old men exerting themselves. Finally, they put aside their weapons, drank tea, smoked their pipes and resumed the debate. “Two is a balanced number, equal on both sides of its duality” Murphy declared out loud. “Well, we could add them together to equal five or put them side by side and come up with thirty two” offered agreeable Tom. One of his brothers had been an accountant. “Ihirty two would be a little crowded on the head of a pin” Murphy observed. Both disappeared behind clouds of grey smoke as they contemplated the problem with newly fired pipes. “The angels would have to step lively all right” Tom observed. “Thirty two Scottish angels could do a Highland Reel on the head of a pin” he declared. “Mind you, they’d need eight circles for the teams of four” “Hm” responded Murphy. “I could see putting them side by side and coming up with twenty three” I was wondering if they would again arise to resume hostilities but all they did was wash and dry the cups together like an old married couple. I could hear them mumbling to each other as they stood at the sink with their backs to me. My disbelief was in a suspended state. Except that it wasn’t a trick in my head. They sat down at the table again and looked across the office to the front door. The knock on the front door came after a long minute of waiting. I made to rise but Tom put up his hand to stop me and Murphy said “Shh” The door never opened but four little men carried a log fire with a bubbling pot slung above it through the office to where we were sitting in the kitchen. Behind them a mad cackle blended with the whooshing sound of a wild wind and a dark figure flew through the wall, did two circuits of the office and landed deftly behind the pot. My mouth was hanging open when I looked at my grandfather and Murphy. Both nodded and smiled at the woman in front of us. “Hello, Zelda” they said. “Boys” the woman spoke while her appearance changed like fluid before my eyes. First she was an old hag, then a beautiful maiden, then an ancient crone with a wart on her nose and finally she settled on a plump milkmaid who peered curiously into the pot. “This is Steve, Tom’s grandson and an old friend of mine” Murphy spoke up. “He’s on the other side, is he?” she stirred the bubbling broth with great concentration. “Yes, he’s still there” Murphy nodded agreeably “But not for much longer” This conversation troubled me. “And how’s tricks and treats tonight then, Zelda?” Tom inquired. Zelda turned into a smartly dressed businesswoman while she surveyed the pot and the four little men. Were they elves or goblins or gnomes? I didn’t know and no one was telling. “It used to be better in the old days” she said “You can’t scare anybody any more. Then there’s all the white witches. Dogooders I call them. I mean you can be spooky without being evil” She joined Murphy and Tom in puffing on a pipe. With all four of the little men smoking their pipes as well, we disappeared for a moment until the cloud moved on. There was no smoke from the fire under the pot though, I will say that. As if on a prearranged signal, the little men picked up the fire and pot, waited till Zelda stepped out of the way, carried it through the office and the closed front door. Zelda watched them go, an ever changing expression on her ever changing face. “Goodbye, boys. I sensed you were in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by to say hello. See you round” She did a high speed circuit of the darkened office, one second mounting her broom, the next a black blur, the next gone through the wall. After this display my grandfather produced a pint of single malt Highland whiskey and Murphy found a pint of Black Bush in his pocket. The tea mugs were used to share the shots. “Tell you what” said Murphy “We’ll meet next Halloween night here and decide for good” “Agreed” said Tom “Next Halloween night. That long enough for you?” “Oh yes. By that time there won’t be any doubt. I’ll know by then” “Same here” said Tom. They stood and proferred their hands. Each squeezed my outstretched one. As I followed them across the office, Tom said “Halloween night is over here now. But it’s just starting west of here” They waved goodbye and walked through the door. I opened it and watched them walk to the outer fence. They turned to me. “I’ll say hello to your Dad” Tom spoke in a loud voice. “And don’t bet on anything more than five to one” Murphy shouted They turned west and walked through the fence. Up in the sky, silhouetted against the full moon, Zelda flew by on her broomstick. I walked back to the kitchen to turn out the lights. I felt that glorious buzz which just the right amount of good whiskey produces. It was time to do my rounds and make sure nothing strange was happening in the yard that Halloween night.

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We have picked a subgenre, developed external scenes that affect the story world, antagonist scenes where the hero and evil face off, and interpersonal scenes where friends and foes help and hinder.

Internal Conflict scenes are where the protagonist debates his belief in ghosts or wrestles with his depression over the death of his mother. 

The scientist wonders if he should finally ask his co-researcher out for a date.

He struggles with whatever force is driving him to kill the monster or prove that aliens are out there. 

These scenes are sometimes missing in the horror story, unless it is psychological horror. Personal stakes and character change enrich any story.

Whatever his internal struggle is, it should make solving the overall story problem difficult, if not impossible.

For more information on the Horror genre, visit http://www.horror.org.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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3. Weak Words

Avoid these five words to make your writing stronger.


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4. Concerning Plot and Characters

Question: I'm creating a story that revolves around the political relations of two fictional countries. In the story, a powerful figure (the antagonist)

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5. दिवाली पटाखे – पटाखों से होने वाले नुकसान

दिवाली पटाखे – पटाखों से होने वाले नुकसान- दीवाली है तो पटाखे  है पटाखें है तो  पर्यावरण को नुकसान है पर ये ईको फ्रेंडली पटाखें हैं इनसे नुकसान नही होगा बल्कि दोस्ती और बढेगी दिवाली पटाखे – पटाखों से होने वाले नुकसान बेशक कुछ पटाखे प्रदूषण फैला सकते हैं पर ये पटाखे दोस्ती और मित्रता […]

The post दिवाली पटाखे – पटाखों से होने वाले नुकसान appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 270 - 10.27.16

#inktober "dozen" prompt... So in this case we defer to the more regional popularity of the "12s". Growing up in Anchorage, the Seattle Seahawks were definitely the team of choice - back in the Steve Largent days of yore. The fandom of the 12's is a more modern thing for sure, but I'm fairly certain that most Alaskan' polar bears are rooting' for the Hawks.

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7. Review of the Day: Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet

grandmotherfish1Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution
By Jonathan Tweet
Illustrated by Karen Lewis
Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan)
ISBN: 978-1250113238
Ages 3-6
On shelves now

Travel back with me through the Earth’s history, back into the farthest reaches of time when the sand we walk today was still rock and the oceans of an entirely salination. Back back back we go to, oh about 13 years ago, I’d say. I was a library grad student, and had just come to the shocking realization that the children’s literature class I’d taken on a lark might actually yield a career of some sort. We were learning the finer points of book reviewing (hat tip to K.T. Horning’s From Cover to Cover there) and to hone our skills each of us was handed a brand new children’s book, ready for review. I was handed Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. It was good, so I came up with some kind of a review. It was, now that I think about it, the very first children’s book review I ever wrote (talk about evolution). And I remember at the time thinking (A) How great it was to read a picture book on the topic and (B) That with my limited knowledge of the field there were probably loads and loads of books out there about evolution for small children. Fun Fact: There aren’t. Actually, in the thirteen years between then and now I’ve not seen a single evolution themed picture book come out since the Peters/Stringer collaboration. Until now. Because apparently two years before I ran across Our Family Tree author Jonathan Tweet was trying to figure out why there were so few books on the subject on the market. It took him a while, but he finally got his thoughts in order and wrote this book. Worth the wait and possibly the only book we may need on the subject. For a while, anyway.

Let’s start with a fish. We’ll call her Grandmother Fish and she lived “a long, long, long, long, long time ago.” She did familiar fishy things like “wiggle” and “chomp”. And then she had ancestors and they turned out to be everything from sharks to ray-finned fish to reptiles. That’s when you meet Grandmother Reptile, who lived “a long, long, long, long time ago.” From reptiles we get to mammals. From mammals to apes. And from apes to humans. And with each successive iteration, they carry with them the traits of their previous forms. Remember how Grandmother Fish could wiggle and chomp? Well, so can every subsequent ancestor, with some additional features as well. The final image in the book shows a wide range of humans and they can do the things mentioned in the book before. Backmatter includes a more complex evolutionary family tree, a note on how to use this book, a portion “Explaining Concepts of Evolution”, a guide “to the Grandmothers, Their Actions, and Their Grandchildren for your own information to help you explain evolution to your child”, and finally a portion on “Correcting Common Errors” (useful for both adults and kids).

grandmotherfish1What are the forbidden topics of children’s literature? Which is to say, what are the topics that could be rendered appropriate for kids but for one reason or another never see the light of day? I can think of a couple off the top of my head, an evolution might be one of them. To say that it’s controversial in this, the 21st century, is a bit odd, but we live in odd times. No doubt the book’s creators have already received their own fair share of hate mail from folks who believe this content is inappropriate for their children. I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that it ended up on ALA’s Most Challenged list of books in the future. Yet, as I mentioned before, finding ANY book on this subject, particularly on the young end of the scale, is near impossible. I am pleased that this book is filling such a huge gap in our library collections. Now if someone would just do something for the 7-12 year olds . . .

When you are simplifying a topic for children, one of the first things you need to figure out from the get-go is how young you want to go. Are you aiming your book at savvy 6-year-olds or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 3-year-olds? In the case of Grandmother Fish the back-story to the book is that creator Jonathan Tweet was inspired to write it when he couldn’t find a book for his daughter on evolution. We will have to assume that his daughter was on the young end of things since the final product is very clearly geared towards the interactive picture book crowd. Readers are encouraged to wiggle, crawl, breathe, etc. and the words proved capable of interesting both my 2-year-old son and my 5-year-old daughter. One would not know from this book that the author hadn’t penned picture books for kids before. The gentle repetition and clincher of a conclusion suggest otherwise.

One problem with turning evolution into picture book fare is the danger of confusing the kids (of any age, really). If you play it that our ancestors were monkeys, then some folks might take you seriously. That’s where the branching of the tree becomes so interesting. Tweet and Lewis try hard to make it clear that though we might call a critter “grandmother” it’s not literally that kind of a thing. The problem is that because the text is so simple, it really does say that each creature had “many kinds of grandchildren.” Explaining to kids that this is a metaphor and not literal . . . well, good luck with that. You may find yourself leaning heavily on the “Correcting Common Errors” page at the end of the book, which aims to correct common misconceptions. There you will find gentle corrections to false statements like “We started as fish” or “Evolution progresses to the human form” or “We descended from one fish or pair of fish, or one early human or pair of early humans.” Of these Common Errors, my favorite was “Evolution only adds traits” since it was followed by the intriguing corrective, “Evolution also take traits away. Whales can’t crawl even though they’re descended from mammals that could.” Let’s talk about the bone structure of the dolphin’s flipper sometime, shall we? The accompanying “Explaining Concepts of Evolution” does a nice job of helping adults break down ideas like “Natural Selection” and “Artificial Selection” and “Descent with Modification” into concepts for young kids. Backmatter-wise, I’d give the book an A+. In terms of the story itself, however, I’m going with a B. After all, it’s not like every parent and educator that reads this book to kids is even going to get to the backmatter. I understand the decisions that led them to say that each “Grandmother” had “grandchildren” but surely there was another way of phrasing it.

grandmotherfish3This isn’t the first crowd-sourced picture book I’ve ever seen, but it may be one of the most successful. The reason is partly because of the subject matter, partly because of the writing, and mostly because of the art. Bad art sinks even the most well-intentioned of picture books out there. Now I don’t know the back-story behind why Tweet paired with illustrator Karen Lewis on this book, but I hope he counts his lucky stars every day for her participation. First and foremost, he got an illustrator who had done books for children before (Arturo and the Navidad Birds probably being her best known). Second, her combination of watercolors and digital art really causes the pages to pop. The colors in particular are remarkably vibrant. It’s a pleasure to watch them, whether close up for one-on-one readings, or from a distance for groups. Whether on her own or with Tweet’s collaboration, her clear depictions of the evolutionary “tree” is nice and fun. Plus, it’s nice to see some early humans who aren’t your stereotypical white cavemen with clubs, for once.

I look at this book and I wonder what its future holds. Will a fair number of public school libraries purchase it? They should. Will parents like Mr. Tweet be able to find it when they wander aimlessly into bookstores and libraries? One can hope. And is it any good? It is. But you only have my word on that one. Still, if great grand numbers of perfect strangers can band together to bring a book to life on a topic crying out for representation on our children’s shelves, you’ve gotta figure the author and illustrator are doing something right. A book that meets and then exceeds expectations, tackling a tricky subject, in a divisive era of our history, to the betterment of all. Not too shabby for a fish.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:


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8. 2 Maler der Stille

Willy Mulot

Willi Mulot (1889- 1982) besuchte die Düsseldorfer Akademie und war Schüler des Landschaftsmalers Eugen Dücker. Er lebte in Wiesbaden, malte vorwiegend Bildnisse, Landschaften, zumeist menschenleer, und Stillleben. Außerdem war er als Illustrator tätig.

In seiner Rückbesinnung auf das Sichtbare stand er der Neuen Sachlichkeit nahe. Er vermied jedoch sozialkritische Bildthemen. Seine Ortsansichten und Landschaftsausschnitte wirken unspektakulär und strahlen bisweilen eine magische Ruhe aus. (Quelle:Kunstantiquariat Friedrich Piesk)

Landschaft mit Heugaben, um 1928

Diese Beschreibung trifft auch durchaus auf den zweiten Maler zu: Georg Altheim 1865 - 1928

Weite Landschaft bei Darmstadt - Öl/Lwd., sign. u. r. und dat. 1922 / 55 X 88 cm.

Georg Altheim, Bruder von Wilhelm Altheim (1871 - 1914) wurde 1865 in Groß-Gerau geboren und lebte überwiegend in Darmstadt. Auch seine Bilder sind reine Landschaftsdarstellungen, oft mit niedrigem Horizont, damit der Himmel mit seinen Wolken richtig zur Geltung kommt.

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9. First Book Concierge Services: A Helping Hand For Large Orders

We know how hard our members work for the kids they serve, their schools or programs, and their communities. The First Book Network strives every day to put high-quality, diverse books into the hands of kids in need — books that might encourage a reluctant reader, reveal distant worlds, or open eager minds to new ideas. Books help reinforce students’ interests and celebrate their strengths.

truckload_box_webThe Concierge Services team at First Book is here to help members who need a larger quantity of books. For events large and small, we provide the kind of high-touch, hands-on service that relieves you of the burden of logistics and allows every child you serve to find a book they love.

We are available to work with educators and program leaders to create a book list or collection that will fit your program’s needs and reflect the diversity of the population you serve. As experts in children’s books — with backgrounds in children’s literacy, education, and publishing — our team can guide you through the process.

If you are:

  • Planning a book fair
  • Building classroom libraries
  • Sending home books as part of an after-school/summer program
  • Creating a shared reading experience, or
  • Distributing school supplies or basic needs items

We can provide you with a range of book choices for any age group, create an affordable package, and track the order right to your doorstep.conciergeeeee

Over the next few months, the First Book blog will highlight some of the work Concierge Services has done to connect kids in need with stories and characters that they love. We are here to make things a little easier — to equip you with the resources you need to do the essential work of changing your students’ lives.


If you serve children in low-income communities and need a large quantity of books or resources at the best possible price, reach out to First Book’s Concierge Services at concierge@firstbook.org or call the Member Services Team at 866.732.3669 and ask for Concierge Services.

The post First Book Concierge Services: A Helping Hand For Large Orders appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Finishing a Project

I finished a project in quilting,
A rare and surprising success.
I’m proud of this feat
But it never would meet
All the standards I’d need to impress.

My stitches are rather uneven.
One side and the other don’t match,
But I made it with care
And you cannot compare
What you’d buy to what I sewed from scratch.

It’s a gift to sweet Hadley* from Nana
And I hope that someday she will know
That each pull of the thread
Can be easily read
As a message that I love her so.

*my 14 month-old granddaughter

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11. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 269 - 10.26.16

The pace of change is "slow" and for this #inktober2016 prompt I will only say that we should speed it up! Advocate for change. The time is now -- if not already too late -- to effectively address the impact of climate change and carbon outputs on a warming world.

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RIP my beautiful beast.

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13. Inktober Day 27: Ogre

Ogre. Day 27 of #Inktober2016.

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14. 2017 Animated Short Oscar Contenders: A Record Number of Films Are Competing

We look at the top contenders in this year's Oscar race for best animated short.

The post 2017 Animated Short Oscar Contenders: A Record Number of Films Are Competing appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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15. Ghost Book Launch!

Ghost Book illustratus

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Ghost – a chilling new collection of short stories from a team of writers and illustrators with roots at Pixar, Disney and Paramount. Through word of mouth and cryptic Facebook updates, I have been tracking the book’s progress and this week I was excited to finally get my hands on a copy.

Produced by Illustratus, Ghost marks the studio’s first foray into publishing. If the book is indicative of future releases, then they are off to a very good start. Sizing in at 9.25” x 12”, this mighty tome (or should I say tomb?) contains 13 hair-raising vignettes told through the voice of a reclusive groundskeeper. In each tale, the author meticulously summons the spirit of campfire nights of a youthful past through vivid storytelling that is equally engaging as it is terrifying. Interacting with and shaping the words are a series of dense and haunting visuals. Employing snow-bleached landscapes, speckled textures and muted tones, the images take on an ephemeral and otherworldly quality. The end result is aesthetically stunning and will serve as a worthy benchmark for a new generation of ghost stories.

Ghost is available for pre-orders today, with books shipping out as early as November 1st. In addition, you can pick up a copy at a special book launch, art auction and Halloween party this weekend in LA. Included in the auction will be original art works by Pete Docter, Sanjay Patel, Chris Sasaki, Jeff Turley, Daniela Strijleva, Albert Lozano and many others. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.


Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Ghost Book illustratus

Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Ghost Book illustratus

Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Ghost Book


Also worth viewing:
Making of WALL-E Picture Book
Sanjay Patel Interview
Round Robin

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16. Toon Thursday: Writer Nightmares Redux

I've been sitting on this idea for a while (too busy to 'toon--very sad) but here's the second installment of Writer Nightmares. More to come! This one is loosely based on reality--my own and others'. I know many a writer who has lost a critical... Read the rest of this post

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17. Flash Sale of the Year

What to do when your drawers and portfolios are overflowing with original paintings?
You have a flash sale of course! 

Friday October 28th
9am - 9pm CST
All original paintings and drawings on www.sarabillustration.com will be hugely marked down!

There's a new chapter in my life coming, and I am pretty certain I will be inspired to make much of it through drawing and painting. I have also been wanting to play with working larger, which will require more room!

So in celebration of the arrival of our son Jaxon (and the crisp cool holiday season! My favorite!), I am holding this ultra rare sale, marking my original art for almost half the price! This is a great way, I hope, for those of you who have been wanting an original piece but haven't been able to afford it, are able to find something that resonates with you and is within your reach.


All of the paintings available demonstrate my progression as an illustrator...

I have original paintings from ten years back when I was still inking my lines with microns because I feared loosing my lines and didn't like getting graphite all over my hand.

All the way through to the most recent, finished just a couple weeks ago. No inked lines but instead using erasable gray pencil, showing more confidence in my values, and creating far more inviting atmospheres that help tell the story.

Each step in the process is vital for the following step. Without experimenting and playing, I would not be where I am today as an illustrator.
"Moon Dance"

Most of my work is small for those little areas of the house that need some magic.

It is very well known that I prefer to work small, usually smaller than 8x10. I enjoy the challenge and quite possibly have always been interested in the miniature (LOVE dollhouses and all things small). Most of the larger works I create are requested commissions, but there will be a range of sizes available at the sale.

From a few of the smallest....
"Lime Pixie" 3 x 2.5 inches

The many in the middle...
"July" 8 x 10 inches

To a couple of the largest....
"Wisdom" 12 x 16 inches

I know each piece has a soul mate, created just for them.

I pray that some of these pieces will find their match tomorrow. It's bittersweet to let go of your creative works. I am always so blessed to see how the work inspires and deeply touches those who purchase it, but then also sad to see them go. Each piece has a story for me, what inspired the imagery and why I created it...yet when I see them sitting in my studio I see a bird caged, waiting to be free and serve as inspiration for another.

I hope tomorrow, on my website http://www.sarabillustration.com/paintings, browsing through the galleries, you find that special piece made just for you. ♥︎

Browse the Galleries, then let me know if any of them speak to you in the comments below.

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18. Scary Stories

We hop straight from the Quaker Craft Fair to Scary Stories around the Fire!!!  So much hopping.  Check out our Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's newsletter about Saturday night's event at Jordan UCC, 1837 Church Road, Allentown, PA 18102.  They have a nice big fire circle in their Peace Garden.

Dress warmly.  Bring a donation of non-perishable food for Second Harvest Food Bank or the Pennsylvania Avenue Interfaith Food Pantry. (You get $3 off the admission price if you donate.)  Bring blankets.  There are benches around the circle.

Here's a link to MORE information about this stellar (hopefully) event.  If it rains,...please check The Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's website before heading out.

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19. The Dark Talent

The Dark Talent (Alcatraz #5) Brandon Sanderson. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: So there I was, standing in my chambers on the day before the world ended, facing my greatest adversary to date. The royal wardrobe coordinator.

Premise/plot: The Dark Talent is the fifth book in the Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson. Alcatraz Smedry, the self-confessed coward, is the hero of this one. Alcatraz and his team (including his grandfather, Leavenworth, and his Uncle Kaz, not to mention his MOTHER,) are heading to the Hushlands, to the Highbrary (aka Library of Congress) for a final stand. Readers will finally come full circle: So there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians. But what makes for an amusing first sentence in the first book makes for a devastating scene in the fifth and final book.

My thoughts: I'm really torn with this one. I do not want to spoil the book in any way. But it's like pushing through the last chapters of Gone With the Wind after Bonnie's death. You don't want to leave it unfinished. You don't want to be a coward and have to put the book in the freezer. But you almost dread turning the pages because you know what's coming. Because, let's face it, you've either read the book a dozen times or seen the movie a dozen times. You know that FOG is coming closer and closer and closer. The question is not will Rhett leave Scarlett, but, will you--the reader--pull it together enough to be there with Scarlett when the end comes.

Last books in series carry a lot of weight. For better or worse. They can set in stone your thoughts about the series as a whole, about characters, even authors. (I have to admit that I lost my faith in Stephenie Meyer as a writer after reading Breaking Dawn.) I wouldn't go so far as to say I think less of the series after reading this book. That would be too melodramatic of a response. But I can easily say that this one is not my favorite of the five. There is a sadness in this one--almost cover to cover--that humor can't displace.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Odd or common name?

Question: I've been wondering for a while--with a fantasy in which there's a different world from ours, would it be better to have common or odd names?

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21. Author Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith on Writing, Speculative Fiction, Community & Growing Into Herself

Wherein Belle and I discuss books and gender empowerment.
By Ambelin Kwaymullina
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The fourth of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia.  

Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.

Don't miss Ambelin on Ethics, the Writing Process & Own Voices or an Interview with Ambelin on Justice, Hope & Her Creative Family. See also Cynthia on Why Kayla, Not Eartha & Other Stuff I Think About.

Spoiler alert for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

As a spec fic writer, I’ve so often been told that it's "unusual" or even "strange" for an Indigenous person to be writing in this genre. Why do you write speculative fiction? Do you think there’s advantages to the genre that aren’t found in other genres?

Yes, the industry must move past the tendency to put creatives in genre boxes as well as to underestimate Native authors and authors of color.

We are not here to exclusively write books about landmark historical events with obvious social studies tie-ins. We can rock those stories, but we can also do so much more and do it spectacularly.

For example, Ambelin, can you get Joseph Bruchac's dystopian YA novels Killer of Enemies and Trail of the Dead (Tu Books) in Australia?

If not, you may want to look into ordering online for international delivery. (Or check out the e-novella, Rose Eagle--should be an easy download.)

As for me, I take the advice we so often give to beginning writers. I write what I know. I write what I love to read. I saw “Star Wars: A New Hope” (before it was called "A New Hope") 384 times in the theater. Of course I write speculative fiction.

My Tantalize-Feral universe is genre bending, incorporating elements of Gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, suspense, humor, and science fiction.

The fantastical offers writers the ability to speak to our real world at a slant. At that slant, you can—ironically enough—hit the real-world themes harder.

Let’s say I wrote a realistic novel about a teenage girl who gets involved with an older guy who plies her with red wine, takes over her family’s business, socially segregates her, kidnaps her, imprisons her, assaults her, frames her best friend for murder and kills her best friend's dog. Yes, his dog. Overkill? (Possibly. I'm still getting distraught reader mail about the dog.)

On the other hand, if he’s a vampire, the reader is far more likely to buy into the story. (And, thankfully, I had the discretion to subvert genre expectations and make it a girl-empowerment story.) With spec fic, we can dig deeper into the theme without seeming heavy handed.

Earlier, Ambelin, you mention using a dystopian context to convey the societal consequence of historical social injustice. I did much the same, albeit within a different construct and a contemporary focus.

That said, I also write realistic fiction. My current YA novel in progress is contemporary realism. I’ve also published three realistic books--Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (all HarperCollins)—and several realistic short stories.

My latest realistic short fiction, "All's Well," appeared as a chapter in Shaun David Hutchinson's Violent Ends (Simon Pulse, 2015), which is centered on a school shooting.

Coming up, I'll have a poem written as a child featured in "Dreams to Write" in Our Story Begins: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum, 2017). I do a little creative nonfiction, too. Basically, I have either great range or a complete lack of focus.

You put time and effort into promoting the work of other writers. Why is this important to you?

When I decided to write full-time rather than practice law (or work as a journalist), it was more of a heart decision than a head decision.

You mentioned that you came to both the law and writing to seek justice. I came to writing for young readers out of a personal appreciation for the good that books can do for kids. Out of a love of Story.

I arrived as a one-time child whose mother took her on every-Saturday-morning trips to the public library.

As a one-time tween who took refuge from bullies in the school library, who found comfort in the books when the Queen Bee chased away her friends.

That said, I remember shying away from any book with a hint of Native content in the title, on the cover. A self-protective instinct.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton Mifflin, 1958) was my favorite book as a child, but it never occurred to me to crack open her novel Sign of the Beaver (1983). Think about that.

By the time I was eight or nine years old, as an avid reader, I'd learned that I never wanted to open a book with an American Indian on the cover (or any hint of Native content), even if it was by the author of my favorite novel.

Still, the landscape has improved since my childhood. Yesterday, I talked about writing as an outsider and highlighted examples of that done well. But I want to emphasize how deeply heartened I am by the growing presence and success of Native writers like Eric Gansworth, Tim Tingle, Richard Van Camp, Arigon Starr, and Jenny Kay Dupuis (to name a few). And we have new voices on the horizon like Traci Sorell and Kevin Noble Maillard. This is such an exciting time!

While we have far to go, I’ve seen progress and felt the pride in community that comes with it. 

Books are where I belong. Story is what has always helped me make sense of the world and find my place in it. And my place in it is informed by media and the law--a longing for justice bolstered by the education and tools to help achieve it.

I want to do what I can to ensure that children’s-YA literature welcomes all kids in a positive, nurturing way. That's not just about me. It's about what we do as a community of book creators, publishers, gatekeepers, booksellers, child care givers... The team effort.

Light a candle. If that doesn't work, light a bonfire.

How did I get here? By the standards of the time, I entered children's-YA publishing as a very young author.

This was the late 1990s, and I was in my late twenties/early thirties. It's different now. Debut authors younger than I was then are no longer unusual. But back then, editors weren't taking many chances on new voices. There weren't as many younger voices writing either. (Hello, Potter effect.)

Almost everybody I knew was at least 15 years older and had much more experience. People frequently commented to me that I was their children's age.

And I was perpetually starstruck.

I got to meet the writers I'd read growing up--
Paula Danziger, E.L. Konigsburg, and Jane Yolen (who was so nice to me). Judy Blume encouraged me at my first SCBWI national conference in LA.

(Of late, I see Katherine Paterson all the time at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Actually working up the courage to speak to her is still a work in progress.)

My inner fourteen-year-old was--still is--spinning over the moon.

What I did have to offer the community was enthusiasm, a commitment to what then was called "multiculturalism," and a background in journalism. I embraced the possibilities of the Web and began signal boosting in a big way.

Now, I've been in the business nearly 20 years and am finishing my fifteenth book. Though I still have much to learn, I'm honored to share what I do know, especially with Austin and Texas authors, my VCFA family, new voices, diverse voices and of course Native writers and illustrators.

Along the way, I keep believing, signal boosting, mentoring, teaching, writing and cheerleading.

Spreading the word that good books matter.

Does law influence your storytelling in any way?

Definitely. Law gives me an analytical skill-set that is priceless for plotting and world building. If you look, for example, at the Feral trilogy, the legal status of shape-shifters plays a significant role in the story construct.

By that, I don’t mean that my characters are citing case law or pontificating on legal history but rather that the socio-political-legal structure in which they struggle has been thought out and fully integrated.

On a more obvious level, I’ve written lawyer characters—Cousin Elizabeth from Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) and, in my current work in progress, the protagonist’s mother is a law student.

When I write Native stories in particular, that heightened awareness comes into play because of the role of law in our nations’ histories and its ongoing importance to our survival today and beyond.

You’ve written that you felt compelled to write for young readers in the wake of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Why for young readers rather than adults?

Yes, I shifted my career focus to writing for kids after the attack on the Murrah Building. Remember what you said about young readers and hope?

Ambelin's guest post & interview
I feel that hope, too. That faith. I believe in it enough to invest my life’s work.

It’s not that I don’t think adults can grow and change. Of course we can.

But when I close my eyes and imagine a world of heroes, most of the faces I see are those of elders and the young.

Maybe that's because I was raised close to my grandparents, my great aunties and uncles. They faced Indian boarding school, the Great Depression, the second World War.

My first heroes were my elders, starting from the time the were young. Their influence is defining.

What’s the story you’re proudest of, and why? 

I want to say that I don’t process my books and shorts in terms of pride, but only moments ago I was telling you about the pride I feel in the progress we’ve made in children’s-YA literature.

So, okay, I’ll close my eyes and keep typing and resist the urge to edit afterward.

Here goes:

I’m most proud of my novel in progress, tentatively titled "How to End a Date" (Candlewick, fall 2017), by which I mean I’m proud of the protagonist.

How she navigates, less and more successfully, all the crap that’s routinely tossed at Native teens and, for that matter, at girls on a day-to-day basis and how she takes refuge in her sense of humor and her loving family and her community and, most of all, how she fights, true to her heart, even when her biggest obstacle is herself.

And since it's loosely based on my own adolescence, I guess I have to say that I'm finally proud of my own inner teen.

So there, Cindy Lou. I believe in you.

Cynsational Notes

Author Interview: Joseph Bruchac on Killer of Enemies from Lee & Low. Peek: "...what really helped me begin to develop this story was the combination of seeing the ways in which building technology into people has become more and more of a reality and the idea that then came to me about how those modified people would be affected if electricity (including circuits implanted into human bodies) suddenly stopped working."

Native American Children's Literature Recommended Reading List from First Nations Development Institute. See also American Indians in Children's Literature.

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22. Friday Feature: Into the Fire Halloween Sale

To help celebrate Halloween, Into the Fire is only $.99 today through October 31st!

Grab your copy today!

In one month’s time, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die and be reborn from her own ashes…

Her life of secrecy has never been easy. She’s watched her younger brother, Jeremy, burn and rise again in a coming-of-age process called rebirth. And just like her brother, when her time comes, she won’t remember anything from her first life other than she’s a Phoenix—a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical Phoenix bird.

The last thing she needs to worry about is falling for the new guy in town—Logan Schmidt.

Cara is drawn to Logan in a way she can’t explain, but she’s not exactly complaining. Everything is perfect…except it’s not. Once she’s reborn, she’ll forget Logan. And to make things worse, a Phoenix Hunter is on the loose, and Cara’s involvement with Logan is bringing out her Phoenix qualities—the very qualities that will draw the Hunter right to her.

Desperate times call for desperate measures…

Afraid of hurting Logan, Cara breaks it off for good. But her attraction to him runs deeper than a typical high school crush. She wants him—needs him. And if he proves willing to stay by her side, their love might destroy them both.

Can Cara hide from the Phoenix Hunters long enough to survive her rebirth? And if so, will it mean a new beginning with Logan—or the beginning of the end?

*Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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23. Harts Pass No. 320

Happy almost Halloween! This nightmarishly embarrassing election season is almost over... PLEASE get out and VOTE!

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24. One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You off to Sleep

Guess what came in the mail a couple of days ago? A copy of a great new poetry anthology titled One Minute Till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep. The poems were selected by former Children's Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt and the illustrations were done by Christoph Niemann. The anthology includes more than one hundred selections--many by some of our most respected children's poets, including Nikki Grimes, Jack Prelutsky, Ron Koertge, Lee Bennett Hopkins, J. Patrick Lewis, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Marilyn Singer, Mary Ann Hoberman, Julie Larios, X. J. Kennedy, Pat Mora, Nancy Willard, Jane Yolen, Janet Wong, Joyce Sidman...and Kenn Nesbitt. There are so many other poets whose works are included that I just can't list them all!

I am so happy to tell you that one of my poems is included in this wonderful book—which has already garnered three starred reviews!

* "These pithy poetic observations and Niemann's engaging illustrations prove at once antidote and anodyne for the sleep-averse child demanding just one more....A dreamy collection of bedtime poems and witty illustrations that's anything but sleepy."Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "With a broad range of voices and sentiments, the collection delivers poems to meet any mood."Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Exuberant for the most part (with some serious musings to lend ballast) and in perfect harmony with its cartoonish, color-washed illustrations, this sleepy-time volume is just the thing for the rhyme-loving child who has graduated from Mother Goose."School Library Journal, starred review

One Minute till Bedtime is due for release on November 1, 2016. 
It would make an excellent holiday gift for parents of young children...and for kids who love poetry. I'm planning to order several more copies to give as baby and Christmas presents.

NOTE: Not all the poems in this anthology are about bedtime. They touch on various and sundry topics. Titles of some of the poems: A Hard Rain, The Dandelion, Our Kittens, Skateboard Girl, The Tadpole Bowl, A Visit to the Forest, Me and My Feet, and Armadillo.

The poems are divided into six sections--each of which begins with a poem by Nesbitt.

The first poem in One Minute till Bedtime is Whew!, Nesbitt's list poem in which a child tells us all the things he/she has to before being able to enjoy reading a book.

Here is how the poems ends:

my gramps and grammas.
Changed into 
my soft pajamas.
Fluffed the pillows.
Got my Ted.
Said my prayers.
Climbed in bed.
All that's done;
at last I'm freed.
it's time to read.

And here is my contribution to One Minute till Bedtime:

Chirping in the dark, their song
In the still air. A
Chorus of summer night strummers in concert with
Entertaining warm evenings with
Symphony of wings.


Linda has the Poetry Friday Roundup at TeacherDance.


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25. i've seen that road before

This is one of my favourite recent drawings (or urban sketches as they now have to be called). I made this at the end of a long day. I thought I was all drawn out, but I found a window seat in a café directly across the road from this lovely pink building.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how much my work has changed and in the comments somebody (another Andrea) said "There's a certain element to your style - organicness (? if that's even a word) which does link it all (old and new work) together." I liked hearing that. From the very beginning, and all of the drawings that I made came from an authentic place, and even though I wouldn't want to - couldn't even - draw in that way anymore, it still is very much part of me and my work. I wouldn't want to deny it or try to erase it. So it pleases me to know that others can see that link. I do. 
I think then, and now, I was always trying to achieve the same thing; I've always been trying to make the drawings that I would have loved as a kid. The kind of drawing that would have made the young me want to draw. That's always my in my mind. Well maybe not my mind, I'm not consciously thinking about it, but that aim is somewhere inside me. I think that this drawing is a favourite of mine because, I reckon, the young me would have loved it.

Somebody also recently said to me "there is no such thing as art it's all nostalgia". It's quite a bold and perhaps controversial statement. It's something I've thought about a lot since hearing it. I think I agree. 

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