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1. Struggling

I find myself struggling to make marks that satisfy me. I'm finding it very hard to slow down and practice, but it's what I need to be doing.

Not-so-Little Red. #gouachandink

A photo posted by Lisa Firke (@lisafirkecreative) on

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2. Matt Lewis Helps at an Acting Class at Grammar School at Leeds

Matthew Lewis took a trip back to his hometown to work with students in an acting class at Grammar School at Leeds. He and his brother, Anthony, to help judge a competition at the school. Matt expressed a lot of praise at the talent of the students, saying that the experience was exciting for him and he was impressed by the work and creativity of the participants. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported:

The pair visited the Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) to host workshops and teach pupils about preparing for television and stage auditions.

“It has been really nice to get back up to Leeds. We were both really impressed with the standard of work and creativity. TV and film is such a different discipline and it was nice to try and break that down and see how the students handled it and they all did really well. There is so much stuff that I know now, that I just had to pick up along the way. So we try and teach the stuff that we would have found useful when we started out.”

The performing arts school was launched in Leeds last year by his brother Anthony, 31, at the Yorkshire College of Music. It follows on from the success of Totally Lit College in London, and is aimed at 11 to 19-year-olds.

Artistic director Anthony is also an actor and has starred in Emmerdale, The Syndicate and Torchwood and has more than 20 years’ experience in the business.

He said: “It was fantastic for GSAL to invite Matthew and myself. After years working, it’s great to pass on some of our knowledge to the next potential batch of young actors. The students all really took on board the advice and we had some great feedback. It all went really well.”

“The purpose of the workshops was to look at a different style of acting to the theatrical work that the students were familiar with.

“Using mine and Matthew’s experiences working over the years, we explained the main differences between working to a large audience and then playing to a camera, which is a far more intimate experience.

“We also discussed the practical side of working as an actor.”

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3. Thursday Review: THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma

Summary: Happy book birthday—two days ago—to Nova Ren Suma's latest YA offering, The Walls Around Us! This title shares a lot with Imaginary Girls, most noticeably the atmosphere of strangeness and the slow unfolding of past and present events;... Read the rest of this post

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4. Book Release and Publishers Weekly

Exciting news!  "All My Stripes" has been released by Magination Press!  You can purchase the book through my store on my website, or through any bookseller.

 Also, Publisher's Weekly has announced by next picture book from Magination Press, "Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf."  I'm working on the final art for this title right now, and am excited for its release in spring 2016!  In the meantime, check out this sneak peak at the character art!  I had a lot of fun designing Red's outfits!


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5. Fish Fingers and Custard


A sketch of the 11th Doctor, because I finally worked my way through all the David Tennant  (SOB! WAIL!) episodes of "Dr Who."

Geronimo!

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6. Murphy's Wake

It was the last time I would go to Finn, I swore to myself as I searched for him in the Elmdale Tavern. He was around one of the regular spots. I needed to see him fast. At the Carleton Tavern I found Finn with a quart and money coming out of every pocket. I sat down with him, ordered a pint. It was still early in the day. I hit Finn up for fifty bucks to pay Murphy. Finn charged a fee for even handing you the loan. It cost sixty to borrow fifty for a week, but it would be worth it. Finn copied phone numbers and odds as he readied himself for a busy day ahead. Sunday, of course, was his big day because of the NFL betting. This was Saturday when college football and pro baseball took most gamblers’ attention. I finished my pint, said goodbye to Finn, caught Murphy at the Prescott Tavern, gave him a lift to Mary’s. Murphy and Mary had been engaged for twenty years. He still visited her little flower shop every morning. We stopped so he could pick a bouquet of flowers for her in a city park. Murphy didn’t believe in paying for flowers. When they were in season, he helped himself. It was a bone of contention between them. Murphy believed that flowers were given to man by the good Lord, shouldn’t be bought and sold. Mary believed that people gladly paid for the little ray of sunshine they purchased with a nice bouquet of flowers. Murphy had a friend named Calhoun in Montreal who could, for a price, buy a block of tickets in a provincial lottery which would produce winners. All I had to do was give fifty dollars to Murphy. I didn’t follow the whole scam back to the actual score, but I questioned Murphy enough to know that it felt like a winner. He assured me that fifty dollars would produce five thousand for me. Added to some others and passed through the right hands, it would yield twice as much, for him. This guy, Calhoun, had an in, was sharing the wealth. Murphy did it for me out of the kindness of his heart and good business sense. He didn’t have to include me, but he saw me as a good luck charm. I dropped Murphy off, went home to a weekend of sports on t.v. and too much beer. It didn’t cheer me up, to hear, on Monday morning, that Murphy had died on the weekend from a heart attack. I drove to Mary’s which was above her flower shop. It isn’t decent and polite to speak ill of the deceased, but getting lottery tickets was another matter. He always wore the same suit, his best, for giving and taking payments, more taking than giving, it always seemed with Murphy as he did his weekend rounds, careful not to exceed his booze limit. The lottery tickets had to be in his suit. Mary was in her shop with a short, dark, Scottish lawyer named Jack Scullion. She introduced us without mentioning if the man even knew Murphy. I listened with polite sadness, shook my head regretfully. Mary described Murphy’s last moments. It seemed that he died in her arms. Just after they had named a date. They had been engaged now for twenty years, so they were celebrating the twentieth year by marriage. She was as good as his wife anyway, Mary said. I agreed and inquired about Murphy’s “effects” as diplomatically as possible. Perhaps it was a little too vaguely phrased. Mary didn’t respond. Jack Scullion walked around the shop like he was looking for something suspicious. He kept an ear cocked in our direction though. He was trying to figure out who I was, where I fit in. Margaret, Murphy’s sister, appeared with her husband, Ralph, a used car lot owner. It was safe to say that the vultures were circling. I managed to find out that Murphy would be dressed in his best suit tomorrow at Ralph’s showroom. They were having the wake there. Ralph told me, in confidence, that it was his idea. It seemed a bit greedy for Ralph to take advantage of the crowd of potential customers which would gather to send Murphy off, but I wasn’t one to judge. There didn’t seem to be much of a chance of getting at Murphy’s suit pockets until the next day so I drove home and waited. I joined the line of people entering Ralph’s showroom. The place had a western theme, the staff were dressed as cowboys and cowgirls. They wore black armbands while Ralph himself was resplendent in a black western suit with tie and boots to match. He had probably considered wearing his black, ten gallon Stetson, but decided against it in case of misinterpretation by the mourners. There was a good mixture at Murphy’s wake. A crowd of children were the offspring of Murphy’s family. The older ones were Murphy’s cousins, uncles and aunts. When Murphy had mentioned his family at poker games or at the end of late night pub crawls, he gave the impression that he was the black sheep. His own opinion was that the family disliked him because they were jealous of his money and freedom. The people grew noisier as the booze flowed freely. Their presence was welcome. I needed as much attention diverted as possible while I sought the tickets. Most of the sniffling and crying came from Mary and Margaret. As I shuffled along toward them in the line, I could hear Margaret declaring that Murphy looked like himself. Mary’s voice rose over Margaret’s, in grief stricken tones, to tell someone that her brother had called to extend his condolences. He added that it was nice to think about old Murphy finally laying quiet with his big yap shut. People in the line who heard it at first looked puzzled, then made clucking noises. They agreed that it was a down to earth, honest assessment of the deceased, rest his soul. I eyed the coffin, snuck a peek at Murphy within. He did look like himself, I will say that. The dark, pinstriped suit, Murphy’s best, with the vest done up, decorated his body. His face was pinker than normal, but I only saw him in bars or restaurants so maybe this was what he really looked like. He had his hands folded peacefully over his pot belly and, all in all, looked like he had just exhaled and forgotten to inhale. There was no doubt about it, the life had gone out of Murphy. I could smell the gin on Margaret when she hugged me and the rye on Mary’s breath as she looked at me with red rimmed eyes and running mascara I managed to nod sadly and escape her while giving Murphy another quick, visual once over. Jack Scullion hovered in the background, watching everyone, especially me. There was plenty of drink and some sandwiches which the ladies had made. I helped myself to the food, found the coffee. It would take a clear head, whatever I did. Ralph was giving a sales pitch to a couple beside a beat up old clunker which looked like it had recently been retired from delivering pizza. He made the mistake of leaning a little too hard on the front bumper when he pushed it to demonstrate the shocks. The bumper fell off, barely missing his cowboy boots. Ralph never lost a beat. He made a note to see the mechanic about “bodywork problems”, kicked the offending bumper under the car. The pile of sawdust beneath it was turning black, absorbing oil. Jack Scullion approached me with a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other. He had jet black hair, scars on his nose and around his eyes. He bore all the signs of a fighter feeling no pain. He stood spread legged in front of me and asked if I was in Murphy’s will. When I told him I didn’t think so, he seemed to relax. As much as a short, Glaswegian lawyer can relax. His shifty eyes wondered how I could benefit from Murphy’s death. He turned and stood by my side with a wide stance. He gestured alternately with the beer and the smoke while he surveyed the room. “Ach, it’s a right shower here, just noo, Jimmy” I nodded, but I didn’t really know what he meant. He didn’t notice, went on with his monologue, sometimes addressing the room, sometimes confiding to me. “Aye, they’re aw here noo. The vultures’re here. Look at em circlin, look at yersels, ach. See em? They’re after his money. The poor old boy isn’t even cauld yet. See em? They’re a right shower a bastards” No doubt, like most of his race, the Scottish lawyer was a little crazy and extremely violent. Rather than point out that he, too, was in attendance for strictly financial reasons, I managed to escape back to Margaret and Mary. I was getting desperate. Mary and Margaret had been absorbing the alcohol at a rapid rate. They had run out of tears. Their mutual hostility emerged with each drink. I addressed them with an eye on the coffin. “Well, ladies, it must be tense waiting for the will to be read. To see who gets what of Murphy’s. I understand that Mary here was just about to tie the knot with poor Murphy” Margaret frowned and produced many heretofore unseen lines in her face. “Hah” She blurted out with a laugh. “Tie the knot. He’s been engaged to her for twenty years” Mary reacted with bug eyed indignation. Her truthfulness about Murphy’s last moments was being questioned. “We were like man and wife. He didn’t spend time with his other family” she said before she found another glass of rye. Ralph had finished his pitch, but had no takers. He threw regretful glances at the bumper as he approached us, beer in hand. “Anyone got a few words to say?” he asked with a kindly smile. “Ha. Family’s family. It’s his blood in my veins” Margaret asserted. Jack Scullion had joined us. He had a fresh beer, stood spread legged with shoulders back. It was as though he was bracing himself on a heaving deck. “The will overrides everything” said Mary pugnaciously in Margaret’s direction. This hostility caught Jack’s attention, it was right up his alley. He looked around for an opponent, saw Ralph about to speak. I sidled toward the casket as Ralph began what he thought was sort of a eulogy for Murphy, but which he never finished. He never really got it started. Mary took offence at the look which Margaret gave her, hit the dead man’s sister with her purse. Jack saw his opportunity, gave Ralph a Glaswegian handshake which could be heard all over the showroom. There was evidence of Jack’s nutting ability the next day in the taverns; quite a few black eyes and bandaids sported by the mourners who clashed with him He made up for his lack of height by jumping straight at the other man’s face, applying the head, around the hairline, into whatever features were available. With Ralph sitting in a pool of the blood which was spouting from his nose, the women shrieking as they rolled around in front of him, I made it to the casket. Jack was taking on all comers. He seemed to be enjoying himself. I searched Murphy’s vest and trouser pockets with one hand, the other still holding my coffee cup. I was about to try his jacket when the lights went out. It wasn’t dark, but it turned everything in the showroom shadowy. The struggling figures in the brawl were being joined by others, the children shooed to the office. Maybe it was one of them who was responsible for the half light. I checked one side of Murphy’s jacket pockets and found nothing. The noise of fighting and breaking glass became louder. I tried the other pocket, felt cardboard. I pulled the lottery tickets out of Murphy’s pocket, squinted at them. They were the right ones. I was saying a prayer of thanks to my dead chum and the good Lord when I dropped the tickets. They slid down on the other side of Murphy. I panicked for a moment. Placing my cup between Murphy’s folded hands, I used one of my hands to shift his weight, the other to feel for the tickets. I grasped them just as a bottle crashed against the casket and a sliding body took my feet out from under me. Ralph had provided a fold out table from the lunch room upon which to place Murphy’s casket. As my weight shifted, the casket slid off the table. Murphy sat up with my coffee cup in his hands. Crawling toward the door, tickets in my hand, I glanced back. Murphy’s sudden rise from the prone to the sitting position, had caused a pause in the fighting. I heard various opinions of this phenomenon. “It’s a sign” The words “miracle” and “resurrection”were mentioned several times.. When I joined Finn, the next day, at the Carleton Tavern and paid him back, cheerfully, he gave me a curious look. He was totalling up the weekend’s action over a quart, asked me if I’d been to Murphy’s funeral after the donnybrook at his wake. I confirmed that I’d attended the burial. It was a sad and solemn affair for all involved including Murphy’s family and everyone’s legal representatives. We drank a memorial toast to Murphy that day before I bought everyone a round and placed a few bets.

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7. come and get some LOVE


(With thanks to Temple University Press, and special thanks to Ann-Marie Anderson)

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8. What the Healthcare System Taught Me About Persuasive Writing

Frustrated? Write about it!

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9. owl, birds, tree, flowers....

turner's initial pantings
©the enchanted easel 2015
oh, and some initials too. ;)

{these three custom paintings are on the easel this week....and,  just about DONE! if you would like something special created for your little one, please contact me through my website and i will surely accommodate you. i "heart" custom work.}

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10. Dynamite teams with bundling site Groupees

groupees
Bundling, unboxing…so many ways to get cool stuff these days. And here’s another one, Groupees, which offers a pay-what-you-want bundling service. And they’ve just teamed with Dynamite to offer a bundle of digital titles, with multiple tiers and special art prizes—and a portion of the proceeds benefit the CBLDF! So it’s  a win all around. The offer is live now at the Groupees site. Details on all below:
Legenderry01-02-03Dynamite Entertainment is proud to announce that Groupees LLC, a unique media and charity bundling site, will host – for the first time ever – a ten day comic book bundle promotion that allows fans and curious newcomers to purchase over 75 digital Dynamite comics and graphic novels with “Pay What You Want” purchasing power.  A portion of proceeds will be contributed to one of the industry’s most important charitable organizations, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The bundle promotion will run from Thursday, March 26, through the afternoon of Monday, April 6, on the website Groupees.com.
Through the Groupees program, customers can purchase a bundle of digital comic book and graphic novels for a price they decide.  The first tier of exciting digital content is unlocked with the dollar minimum investment, but consumers can double their take by reaching the $5.00 second tier. Dynamite offers a highly desirable batch of comics at the third tier for a $10.00 minimum investment, including the bestselling Dynamite Art of Alex Ross art book.
Legenderry01-08For those who support the “Pay What You Want” initiative with considerable support, Dynamite will reward the top ten consumers with special prizes.  The Top Prize will see the contributor illustrated on the cover of an upcoming Dynamite comic book, alongside the title character and the cover will be drawn by super star artist Jae Lee!  The winner will also receive 100 copies of the comic AND the original art.  The second, third and fourth-highest contributors will be illustrated as characters on one interior page of a Dynamite comic book, while the fifth through tenth-highest contributors will receive a hand-drawn illustration of their favorite Dynamite character again by super-star artist Jae Lee.  Additionally, top-secret Group Bonuses will be unlocked for all consumers to enjoy when the overall orders reach certain thresholds.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Dynamite Entertainment to offer this First Edition Dynamite Groupees Comic Bundle,” said Thomas Brooke, Groupees Founder and CEO. “Dynamite has an exceptional catalogue of titles and is offering fans in this promotion an amazing deal on some truly exceptional books including the likes of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. As we expand into this category of media, we look forward to continuing to work with Dynamite to offer literary fans of all types curated, great deals during our online social events that connect fans and artists.”
The $1.00 Minimum Tier features superhero action, pulp intrigue, Victorian mystery, tough-talkin’ private eyes, and mind-blowing swords-and-sorcery, courtesy of some of the comic industry’s brightest stars: Gail Simone (Batgirl), Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash), Jim Krueger (Earth X), David Liss (Black Panther), and more!  This accessible bundle includes:
• Project Superpowers (Vol. 1) #0 – #7
• Dawn/Vampirella #1
• The Spider #1 – #6
• Chaos! #1 – #6
• Shaft #1
• Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives #1 – #5
• Red Sonja (Vol. 2) #1 – #6
• Altered States: Red Sonja
Legenderry01-Cov-BenitezThe $5.00 Minimum Tier features 48 comics written by the mainstream’s most beloved authors and movie directors, like George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Warren Ellis (Iron Man, Red), Garth Ennis (Punisher), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), and Nancy A. Collins (Sunglasses After Dark).  Also, the Fox cartoon sensation Bob’s Burgers, gaming powerhouse Pathfinder, and rock ‘n roll icon Alice Cooper round out the package, making it worth the additional investment.
• A Game of Thrones #1
• Vampirella: Feary Tales #1 – #2
• Warren Ellis’ Project Superpowers: Blackcross #1
• Garth Ennis’ Jennifer Blood #1 – #3
• Alice Cooper #1 – #3
• Bob’s Burgers #1 – #2
• Army of Darkness (Vol. 3) #1 – #5
• Purgatori #1 – #4
• Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet #1  – #10
• Django/Zorro #1 – #2
• Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Storm Front (Vol. 1) #1 – #4
• Pathfinder #1 – #6
• Cryptozoic Man #1 – #4
• Blood Queen Annual 2014
Finally, the $10.00 Minimum Tier features 17 comic books by Bill Willingham (Fables), Jim Starlin (the creator of Thanos from Marvel’s The Avengers), and Tom Clancy (the video game Splinter Cell), as well as the bestselling Dynamite Art of Alex Ross, a 328-page retrospective of the influential painter’s cover artwork and character designs on such characters as Vampirella, Green Hornet, The Bionic Man, the Kirbyverse, Black Terror, and more.
 
• Dynamite Art of Alex Ross
• Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure #1 – #7
• Dreadstar #1 – #6
• Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Echoes #1 – #4
Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, says, “Groupees has a unique and incredible mechanism to engage fans and bring content to a new audience, as well as reward any fans of our existing audience who wish to take advantage of this promotion.  They’ve built a model that stands out and can help grow the fan base for comics, which in turn can bring more readers to the industry, and that is extremely exciting.  With comics being if not the only, one of the only forms of print that has grown side by side with digital, we’re proud to be working with Thomas and his team to create more awareness of comics to their audience, who in turn will come into our industry and many of whom will then become ongoing readers.”
Part of the proceeds from the first-ever Dynamite Groupees Bundle will contribute to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers.

 

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11. Museum Week

 If you've followed my work in the past, you may know that a favourite subject matter of mine is collections. I've drawn collections of keys, badges, matchboxes, pens, buttons and souvenirs to name but a few. I've drawn souvenirs of all kinds, like in the drawing above, which comes from an entire sketchbook of collection drawings. Well, recently I've been commissioned by Greater Manchester Museum Group to create four drawings based on their collections from four of their museums.
I'm so thrilled about getting this gig. I've always wanted to draw museums' collections. I used to dream that I'd get a job cataloguing them all. It would be my perfect job, but unfortunately photography happened and then computers and so the call for museum collection illustrators and cataloguers waned. But, anyway, now I have the opportunity. My problem is how do you make just one drawing from each museum?
Well, firstly we narrowed it down by choosing the four museums from Greater Manchester's 21 venues. The first was Stockport's Hat Works Museum which is the building in the picture above. I already knew of, and love, this place. In fact we did a sketchcrawl there just a few weeks ago. It contains everything you need to know about hat making and the most amazing hats. But, not only do I get to visit the museums, but I also got the opportunity of looking through their archives and storage. This has been such a privilege, rooting through the stores, holding history (and antique top hats) in my hands.
 The second collection I'll be drawing is the Egyptology collection from Bolton Museum. They have an impressive collection of  Egyptology artefacts. Unfortunately, I didn't get the best photos from that trip but I did get a sketch of a dinosaur before I left the building!
 My third collection is from the natural History collections of Oldham Museum. I spent the best few hours with the curator, down in the cellar archives, surrounded by so many treasures of nature, whilst being educated on bugs and butterflies and birds nest. Actually, that too has been another joy and privilege of this whole experience, learning about, not just Natural History, the social history of this region and about the collectors. Learning from passionate people.
Again, I managed to sneak some sketching in before leaving the building. Well, what else do you do when waiting for the rain to stop?
 Today was my final visit and final collection. For that I went to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment to view their medal collections. I wasn't quite prepared by how touching an experience that would be. I shed a tear or two reading the heart breaking stories of the soldiers who lost their lives.
So, that's what I'm working on right now. My drawings were commissioned by the Museum Group for a new online shop they are building, which is coming soon. Very soon. Which reminds me, I don't have time to sit here blogging, I've got (a lot of) work to do.....
 
Oh, and unbeknownst to me, and quite coincidentally, this is actually Museum Week 2015. So Happy #MuseumWeek one and all. Go visit a museum because museums are great places. 

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12. lastnightsreading: Donna Tartt at Congregation Beth Elohim,...



lastnightsreading:

Donna Tartt at Congregation Beth Elohim, 10/29/13

Maud reminded me of this advice today. It remains excellent!

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13. finding Trekkie Monster


I'm delighted to get to stay on another semester at Fairfield University! This time to design the puppets for their spring production of Avenue Q, and teach a puppet building class to get them made. This has been one of the most challenging projects I've attempted, but the crew of 9 students are an incredible, dedicated and resilient team. 

I built a new version of Trekkie monster, inspired by the student actor playing him in our show, and based on the Project Puppet Borsa pattern, adapted. Here are some photos of me figuring him out, I'm too tired to add commentary yet. 
























































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14.

The Kickstarter site is up!  Please visit the post at the book's site for more information and to see an image of the cover!: https://thesolsticedance.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/the-kickstarter-site-is-live/

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15. Neil Gaiman Praised Terry Pratchett for Going Public

Author Neil Gaiman had a huge amount of respect for how his friend, the late  Terry Pratchett responded to a diagnosis with early onset rear brain alzheimer’s in 2007.

In a recent discussion about Pratchett with author Michael Chabon, Gaiman said: “He did something huge and noble, which was after his diagnosis, he went public and he went loud. He risked being trivialized.”

Here is an excerpt from the discussion:

Terry was someone who fought for years to get people to understand that funny and serious are not opposites. The opposite of funny is not funny. You can absolutely be funny and serious at the same time and Terry was.

So here is somebody who has fought to be taken seriously and to make people realize that you can write a serious novel set in a fantasy context on the back of elephants on the back a giant turtle floating through space and it can still be a real novel and he’s got there. He’s won the Carnegie Medal. He’s got serious critical attention and now he risks losing it, but he did. He announced it to the world and he used it to an opportunity to start the dialog.

(Via Electric Literature).

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16. In the Cockpit

In the cockpit, in the air,
The pilot’s in control,
The safety of the passengers
His most important goal.

His second in command is there
In case he needs assistance,
No matter what the weather,
Destination or the distance.

When traveling, I never think
About the cockpit crew.
I just assume that they will do
What they’re supposed to do.

But hearing of this deadly crash
And what has been surmised
May stir up much more panic
Than can likely be disguised.

When buckled in our seats, though,
We’ve no choice but to adjust
And presume those in the cockpit
Are deserving of our trust.

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17. Artist of the Day: Peter Millard

Discover the work of Peter Millard, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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18. New Pintrest!

I posted a week or so ago with a list of all the best places you can find me on social media.  I decided after thinking about it to go ahead and devote a Pintrest page to books only.  So from now on, if you're looking for me on Pintrest, you can find me at:


I'd love to follow your bookish boards as well - if we're not already friends, let's make it happen!

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19. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson Won’t Return For Fifty Shades Sequels

Fifty Shades TrilogyActors Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson may be set to return for adaptations of Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, but guess who won’t be coming back? Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson has made a formal announcement about her future with this film series.

Despite the great box office success of the first movie, the director will not return to helm the next two film adaptations. For some, this may not be surprising considering the tense working relationship shared between Taylor-Johnson and writer E.L. James. According to The Huffington Post, “the Fifty Shades of Grey author clashed with Taylor-Johnson during production, a battle that was detailed throughout the film’s press tour earlier this year.”

In a statement shared with Deadline.com, Taylor-Johnson explained: “Directing Fifty Shades Of Grey has been an intense and incredible journey for which I am hugely grateful. I have Universal to thank for that. I forged close and lasting relationships with the cast, producers and crew and most especially, with Dakota and Jamie. While I will not be returning to direct the sequels, I wish nothing but success to whosoever takes on the exciting challenges of films two and three.” (via TheWrap.com)

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20. Social Media Etiquette

What not to do when using social media.


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21. Little Town on the Prairie

Little Town on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1941. 374 pages. [Source: Library]

 I enjoyed rereading Little Town on the Prairie. Is it completely perfect in every way? Probably not. (The idea of Pa joining in a minstrel show performance still doesn't sit well with me. Just like I don't like the dialogue of the Native American in The Long Winter--when he warns them of the winter ahead. But other than that, I don't have any real issue with the book). In this book:

  • The family moves back to their homestead for the summer and fall
  • The Ingalls get a cat AFTER Pa's hair is "cut" by mice in the night!
  • Laura gets a job assisting a seamstress
  • Laura and Carrie and Pa go to a fourth of July celebration; lemonade is involved
  • Blackbirds come and threaten numerous crops; some of the corn is saved and will be dried for winter consumption
  • Mary goes away to college
  • The family moves back to the town for the winter
  • Laura and Carrie attend school
  • Nellie Oleson is one of the 'country' girls attending school
  • Nellie becomes teacher's pet; the new teacher is Eliza Jane Wilder
  • Laura gets her first ride behind Almanzo's horses (she's running late for school, she had to order name cards)
  • A Literary Society (of sorts) is formed in town for the winter
  • The book actually covers TWO winters in town, but, we barely learn anything about the spring/summer/and fall in between the winters.
  • Laura attends several revival meetings and Almanzo asks to see her home each night!
  • Almanzo hints that he wants to take her sledding.
  • Laura gets her teaching certificate
Plenty of lovely things happen. I love the progression of the series. This book just makes me smile as I'm reading it. I often forget just how much I like this one since I love, love, love THE LONG WINTER, and I always associate These Happy Golden Years with having THE romance. I don't give this one enough credit for being OH-SO-GOOD.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip



There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 


An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance
 

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule
http://www.wattpad.com/story/29486760-irresistible-mistake-new-adult-romantic-suspense


Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 
 

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23. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Babs Tarr

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Babs Tarr is a core member of the new Batgirl creative team that has been making waves, lately, with their new interpretation of the character, and fresh, modern approach to superhero mythology. She works as the interior artist on the book, while artist Cameron Stewart provides story breakdowns, and cover art. Babs Tarr has drawn a number of dynamic comic book covers herself, like this week’s variant cover to another trailblazing book, Gotham Academy.

Babs Tarr is an accomplished painter, video game concept artist, and all around versatile freelance illustrator. Her many clients include Hasbro, Disney, DC Comics, Boom! Comics, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Boston Globe. Tarr received her BFA in Illustration from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD.

You can catch up with Babs Tarr’s convention schedule, and more artwork on her website here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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24. Almost. There.

Still frantically reading and working on reviews for other venues but I thought I’d pop in and say hi because I miss you all even though it has only been two days. Seems silly, but there it is.

I have a couple links to share because links can be fun!

I first saw the article about someone photocopying their cat at a Wisconsin university library in my library news feed. It linked to an article about it at Time Magazine. Time linked to the original news story from the Badger Herald (Wisconsin’s mascot is Bucky Badger). The photos are hilarious. But now it turns out no one has actually been bringing their cat to the library and photocopying it. The copies found around the library were photocopies of photocopies that students were leaving trying to inject some levity and stress relief during midterms. Is it bad of me to say I am disappointed there wasn’t actually cat smuggling and copying going on?

Few things are as entertaining as an author insulting another author. After Pepys saw Midsummer Night’s Dream he wrote in his diary that it was “the most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.” Stephen King said of Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, “The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.” Ouch. More at the link.

Ever wonder what the English spoken by Shakespeare really sounded like? Or Chaucer? What about the English in Beowulf? And how might King Arthur have sounded? The curious can find out here. I can recognize Shakespeare as still being English, Chaucer, only a few words. After Chaucer no one is speaking any kind of recognizable English but it sure does sound pretty.

Finally, my geeky science fiction heart is absolutely thrilled that the Large Hadron Collider is going to be used next week for an experiment to try and discover a parallel universe. Scientists have no specific parallel universe in mind, any one will do, they are just trying to prove they exist at the moment. How totally awesome is that?


Filed under: Links

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25. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Bandits Peak

[As an experiment last fall, I invited self-publishers to submit their best new titles for review. About a dozen heeded the call, and I am reviewing their books in this space.]

bandits_peak_500x800-210Bandits Peak; by Chris Eboch. Pig River Press, 2015. 173pp. ISBN 0-978-0692346006. Paper ed. $9.99

Jesse is out for a wander in the wilderness he loves near his small Washington State town when he comes across some strangers, two men and a pretty young woman. Fifteen-year-old Jesse’s insta-crush on the slightly-older Maria is believable and touching, and gives the subsequent boy-detective plot some emotional resonance. That the strangers are Up to No Good will be instantly apparent to readers, but an unrealistic degree of naivete on Jesse’s part, and the unrealistic lengths the story goes to in reinforcing that cluelessness, make the novel less credible than it needs to be. But what keeps it grounded–so to speak–are the wilderness-survival details (tracking, fire-making, fishing) that are Jesse’s best weapons for getting these varmints behind bars where they belong.   R.S.

 

[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.]

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