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1. Giveaway: Wanted Series by Erin Johnson (US Only)

About the Books


WANTED: Grace and the Guiltless (Book 1)

by Erin Johnson

Release Date: August 1, 2014

As the first book in the new young-adult series Wanted, Grace and the Guiltless is an edge-of-your-seat, gripping thrill ride. Set in the Wild West, the book piggybacks on the success of the strong female character in “True Grit,” and presents Grace Milton, a character whose once-peaceful life on a horse ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona, is shattered in one devastating night.

Her family is brutally murdered by the notorious Guiltless Gang, leaving Grace the only survivor. Trekking into the wilderness on her stallion, Grace falls ill from the elements. A young man named Joe saves her life by taking her to an Apache camp where she learns about their way of life and begins to fall for Joe. When Grace encounters one of the Guiltless Gang, her strength will be tested. Can she survive as a bounty hunter, or will she fall into darkness again? This Western revenge epic will captivate teen readers with its ruthless spirit of suspense and adventure and a powerful central romance.



WANTED: Her Cold Revenge (Book 2)     

by Erin Johnson

Release Date: August 1, 2015

The second book in the gripping Wanted series, this Western revenge epic is a must-read for teen readers who are fans of relentless action, wild horses and heart-wrenching romance.

Grace Milton has only one goal: bring to justice the Guiltless Gang, the outlaws who slaughtered her parents and siblings. That’s why she had to abandoned Joe and her Apache friends. She couldn’t afford any distractions. Now, she’s on her own making her living in Arizona as one of the only female bounty hunters in the Wild West, despite the doubts and protests of others. But when Joe shows up in town, Grace is torn. Feelings she thought she had left behind are rekindled, and the passion threatens to pull her away from her mission. But soon rumors surface that two members of the Guiltless Gang are nearby, planning a daring train robbery, and now Grace is faced with an impossible choice. Will she stay with Joe and forget her vendetta, or risk everything – her love, her life – to fulfill her all-consuming need for vengeance?

To learn more about these books and see our reviews, go HERE and HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Erin_Johnson.jpgAbout the Author

Erin Johnson grew up watching classic western movies with her father, which fueled her lifelong love of horseback riding. She's always dreamed of being a fierce-talking cowgirl, but writing about one seemed like the next best thing. She loves to travel, paint, ride motorcycles and teach, and lives in North Carolina.

Learn more Publisher Facebook | Publisher Twitter | Book 1 on Goodreads | Order the Book | Book 2 on Goodreads | Order the Book | Wattpad

Giveaway Details

4 winners will each receive a finished copy of GRACE AND THE GUILTLESS & HER COLD REVENGE. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What is Grace Milton’s chosen career?

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2. Pete The Cat's Train Trip (2015)

Pete The Cat's Train Trip (I Can Read) James Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pete the Cat is going to visit his grandma. He gets to ride on a train. Pete's mom buys three tickets. She gives one to Pete and one to his brother, Bob.

Premise/plot: Pete and his family (his mom and his brother) are on their way to visit Grandma. They are traveling by train, of course. Will Pete have a great time on the train?!

My thoughts: I do love Pete the Cat!!! And train books are always in demand it seems! So the combination should prove appealing. I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps not as much as Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons or Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes. This book does not have a song like the earliest Pete the Cat books. But Pete is a lovable character that I still adore.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Annecy 2015: Thoughts From a First-Time Attendee

Observations and tips from a first-time attendee of the world's largest animation festival.

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4. Giveaway: Paperweight by Meg Haston (US Only)


by Meg Haston
Release Date: July 7, 2015


About the Book

In the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss.

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert. Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at meal time, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she's worked so hard to avoid. Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh's death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life.

Paperweight follows Stevie's journey as she struggles not only with this life-threatening eating disorder, but with the question of whether she can ever find absolution for the mistakes of her past…and whether she truly deserves to.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

Pre-order Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

b2ap3_thumbnail_MegHaston_by-Carolyn-Roberts.jpgAbout the Author

Meg Haston is the author of How to Rock Braces and Glasses and How to Rock Best Friends and Frenemies. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, where she writes and works as a counselor in an independent school. Paperweight is her first young adult novel.

Learn more Twitter | Goodreads





Guest Post

Top Five Ways to Survive a Tough Time

In my novel PAPERWEIGHT, Stevie’s eating disorder requires intensive treatment. While not everyone experiences the struggle of eating disorders or mental illness, we all go through difficult times. Here are my top five ways to survive a tough time.

1.    Take a look in the (metaphorical) mirror.

Moving through a difficult time means having to take a long, hard, look at yourself—and the situation you want to change. Get honest about what you’re struggling with. This is so much harder than it sounds, but it’s a crucial first step. If you can’t get real, things can’t get better.


2.    Decide what you want to (and can) change.

Once you’ve gotten real with yourself, decide what you want to change. What do you want for yourself? How to do you want things to be different? Set small, realistic goals and you’ll see your situation start to change.


3.    Get by with a little help from your friends.

Make sure to lean on your friends. Having strong friendships makes it easier to get through the hard stuff, because you don’t have to carry the burden alone. Just make sure you’re leaning on people you can trust.


4.    Treat yourself.

When you’re having a hard time, make sure to take time for fun. Do something to take your mind off of your problems. In short, Treat Yo Self.


5.    Know when to ask for help.

Sometimes, all of the above isn’t enough, and you need a little something extra to make it through. That might be counseling, or it might be another kind of support. There’s no shame in asking for what you need, so speak up.


Giveaway Details

3 winners will each receive a copy of PAPERWEIGHT. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What do you think of the cover & synopsis?

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5. Airboy #2 criticized by GLAAD for transphobic storyline

When creators James Robinson and Greg Hinkle showed me a copy of the first issue of Airboy back at NYCC last year, my jaw dropped. A fourth-wall breaking 8 1/2 storyline about two creators bringing back a Golden Age hero while engaging in all sorts of drug taking, alcohol abusing and balls-out (and shown) sexual experimentation…yep something to cause comment. While the first issue got some buzz going, the second issue, which went on sale this week, has unfortunately ignited a firestorm over a storyline that many have condemned as transphobic.

In the issue, Robinson and Hinkle (who are the stars of the comic) are out on a bender and take Airboy to a bar populated by many trans women. Robinson’s character uses the t-word many times, and then Robinson and Airboy go into bathroom stalls for oral sex with the trans women. Robinson has no regrets for drunken bathroom sex, but the old timey, naive Airboy is angered and confused when he finds out that that lady was no lady.

If this all sounds like typical bro-comedy…it is. And it’s also old and tired. And gross and possibly dangerous. Emma Houxbois was the first to criticize the storyline at the LGBTQ site The Rainbow Hub and was the first of many to call out the disconnect between Image’s rainbow twitter icon and ongoing public call for diversity and this transphobic storyline:

I mean, really. Image Comics has a rainbow background on their Twitter account right now. The day before they’re set to release a comic where one of their writers himself is drawn mercilessly and repeatedly using a transmisogynist slur, degrading trans women by portraying us both as sex objects and a carnival sideshow to be gawked at, and then topping it off by completely ungendering us. To what end? To use us as a symbol of the fall of western civilization to drive Airboy into a furious rage? To give Robinson the world weary asshole street cred he’s so desperate to peddle as an excuse for not having anything interesting to say? There’s no voice, no agency, no humanity to any of the trans women in this comic. Just an open mouth to fuck or a penis to gawk at. Robinson and Hinkle have clearly proven themselves to be worth about as much of my time as a pair of used condoms floating in a toilet. It’s a distraction to target and shame hacks like them who stoop to this level for a cheap thrill

The outrage spread from there. If your’e telling yourself this is just another tempest in a teapot, I think (the much missedfrom these pages) Laura Sneddon has a must read post that addresses many of the defenses of the issue, starting with the one that Robinson and Hinkle are portrayed in anything but a favorable light in the book:

First up, the characters of James and Greg are portrayed as complete assholes. A pair of idiots who stumble from one drug to the next with their dicks hanging out, literally.

In many works of fiction, asshole characters requires asshole behaviour. But in the case of Airboy this is not merely asshole behaviour, instead it is harmful behaviour. Trans folk are one of the most oppressed communities in our society today – and not only do they have to deal with hateful behaviour from cis people, but also from their LGB allies.

Not only do they have to deal with hate but the very real threat of violence and murder. I made the error of thinking that asshole characters excuse asshole behaviour and but that simply does not apply to transmisogynistic slurs/tropes. I  apologise for my wilful idiocy, and thank those that called me out. I don’t ever want to recommend something hurtful! Comics that hurt people, that perpetuate damaging tropes, should not be acceptable in this day and age. Thinking that it’s part of the characterisation or context presumes that everyone reading the comic is cis or that folk who are reminded of the fear they feel daily should just get over it. That slur is still all too commonly used (recently by John Barrowman for example) and nobody should have to deal with that in a comic.

If you have any doubts that this story is truly offensive and dangerous, even GLAAD took time to explain why and denounce it:

This trope is particularly dangerous, as trans women are often violently assaulted by men who feel they’ve been “deceived.” In the past six months, nine transgender women have been murdered in the United States.

Robinson’s previous work on Starman and Earth 2 has included multi-dimensional gay male characters. In fact, both received GLAAD Media Award nominations for Outstanding Comic Book. Not to mention that Image Comics is currently publishing at least two books with interesting trans characters: Wicked + Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, and Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard.

It is disappointing that Robinson would create such a transphobic scene when he’s been an ally on gay issues. And even more disappointing that Image Comics would damage its own reputation for publishing strong trans characters by allowing this scene to appear in this issue.

“It’s shocking in 2015 that a publisher would allow this type of transphobic scene to be associated with its brand,” said Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Programs, Transgender Media. “Robinson and Hinkle repeat the outdated, stereotypical attitudes toward transgender women that the rest of America is quickly leaving behind.”

The Mary Sue has TWO articles about Airboy up, including one by trans writer Marcy Cook that explains why this is dangerous:

Defending this comic as cool or a great story is an act of willful blindness, the constant abuse that trans people receive from media and from society is killing us. With a 41% suicide rate this is the literal truth. I’m sick of being a punching bag, of having to explain why things are bad all the time, of trotting out that suicide statistic. And I’m utterly sick of cisgender guys saying ‘Oh this isn’t bad, I don’t see what the fuss is about.’ You can go to Twitter now and see leading comic creators saying exactly that. This lack of empathy and an attitude of ‘I’m alright so you should be’ is wrong. It’s really sad to see it coming from comic professionals.

And Nick Hanover at Loser City decries the tired nature of the tropes:

Removing quality from the equation altogether, is Airboy’s “boys will be boys” story something that is in danger of disappearing from culture? Judd Apatow’s empire of films by and for man children behaving badly doesn’t seem to be hurting for sales, and Two and a Half Men remains one of the most successful television series in history. You don’t have to look very hard to find works like Airboy, but you would have to look much harder to find a comic or, hell, a work in any medium that treats trans culture fairly.

I reached out to Robinson for comment and he has yet to reply, however, he is working on one:

MEANWHILE, the most radical reaction of all came from another Beat comrade, Brett Schenker, who organized an action at Graphic Policy called for the book to bepulled from the shelves because of the transphobic elements that reinforce prejudice:

This is not a call for censorship. James Robinson and Greg Hinkle have a right to create whatever they’d like, and we have as much of a right to show our disdain for that. Speech doesn’t mean protection from consequences. Image has the right to exercise their speech and pull the comic, and actually show they believe in the words and beliefs they claim they uphold.

The Rainbow Hub also tweeted about the dangers:

So that’s where we’re at right now. Do I believe that Airboy #2 presents a tired, unnecessary storyline? I sure do. The idea of the old out of touch guy who has sex with a trans woman and then freaks out is right out of the aging sitcom playbook. This may have been a storyline that people once thought was edgy, but we’re in the midst of a huge consciousness raising about trans people, gender fluidity, and in general the non binary nature of sexual roles. Greater social acceptance for trans people is definitely a civil rights movement that’s growing quickly.

And it comes in the face of very troubling statistics for both murder and suicide of trans women, especially women of color. I am very sad to say that I am personally acquainted with this terrible toll. So the “recall” of Airboy #2 could be something like a recall for a faulty airbag…ignorance can kill in this case.

All that said, as a baby boomer, my hackles go up at any call for the removal of public art. We don’t know if violent media causes violence, but the media does reinforce dangerous beliefs and prejudice and these ideas need to be identified and called out. I personally don’t think Airboy #2 is hate speech —it’s more planned self loathing than anything—and Robinson’s character is actually fond of the woman he had sex with:
So there is a bit more nuance than the previous stories might indicate and suggest the intent was not as harmful as the execution….but, once again, this does not outweigh the unfortunate transphobic elements of the story and the dangerous nature of these tropes.

And you know what, most importantly of all, as a cis woman, my opinion on this doesn’t really matter. It’s not my call to make. And the people who do matter have spoken.

After the Graphic Policy piece went up, people on twitter were using the words boycott, pull and ban interchangeably. They all mean different things, peeps. I PERSONALLY don’t support censorship of non hate speech, but if people want to boycott this book or Image Comics, they should. And we should all promote more education about trans issues and more talking about the POSITIVE treatment of trans people in comics. And more being kind to each other in general.

I’ll update this post when Robinson’s statement is released.

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6. Big dim hero to the rescue

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7. Picture Book Secrets

Here are some suggestions (no magic secrets, unfortunately) about how to write picture books.


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8. Giveaway: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (US Only)

The Star Side of Bird Hill

by Naomi Jackson
Release Date: 6/30/15


About the Book

Summer, 1989: Sixteen-year-old Dionne Braithwaite and her younger sister Phaedra have just arrived in Bird Hill in Barbados. Sent from Brooklyn by their mother after she can no longer care from them, the sisters move into the home of their grandmother, Hyacinth, who has “Why worry?” in blue script above the front steps. Together, in Naomi Jackson’s lyrical debut novel THE STAR SIDE OF BIRD HILL (Penguin Press; on sale June 30, 2015), these three characters form an unforgettable matriarchal family buoyed by love and community and tested by heartbreak and betrayal.
Dionne, “sixteen going on a bitter, if beautiful, forty-five” and exasperated with her new setting, spends the summer in search of love, defying her grandmother’s rules, and wanting to return to Brooklyn. Ten-year-old Phaedra, who observes far more than anyone realizes, adjusts more readily and explores Bird Hill, where the family has lived for generations. And Hyacinth, a woman more than capable of standing upright in the face of the most difficult things, cares for them with equal parts patience and tough love.
Phaedra accompanies Hyacinth on her jobs as a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah and learns about the life her grandmother has built—and survived—over the decades. Though far away in Brooklyn, the girls’ mother remains a vivid presence on the island, and slowly Dionne and Phaedra uncover stories of her spirited, complicated life there and why she left, vowing to never return. Jackson’s tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved, or the Barbados of their family.
Jackson was born and raised in Brooklyn by West Indian parents and is the recipient of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction. Growing up, she spent her summers in Barbados and Antigua, and her real-life experiences there imbue Bird Hill with a vibrancy that is completely transporting. Jackson’s love for her characters, too, radiates off the page, as she explores issues of family, adolescence, mental illness, sexual awakening, and straddling cultures. Dionne, Phaedra, and Hyacinth will stay in your heart and mind long after turning the final page.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_naomi.jpgAbout the Author

NAOMI JACKSON was born and raised in Brooklyn by West Indian parents. She studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was awarded the Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction to complete her first novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill. Jackson traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an MA in creative writing from the University of Cape Town. Jackson is a graduate of Williams College, and her work has appeared in literary journals and magazines in the United States and abroad.

Learn more Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway Details

5 winners will receive a copy of the finished book. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What do you think of the cover & synopsis?

*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

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9. Giveaway: Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Brambles (US & Canada Only)

Becoming Darkness

by Lindsay Brambles

Release Date: October 1, 2015



About the Book

Becoming Darkness is a dark, action-filled tale set in an alternate twenty-first century in which Hitler won World War II, our modern technologies never evolved, and the Nazis’ terrifying reign still continues.

A genre mash up of alternate history, dystopian, mystery, romance and gothic fiction, this story of a young woman coming into her own in a world of secrets, betrayals and conspiracies will appeal to readers looking for a fresh hybrid to sweep them away.

Like everyone else living in Haven, 17-year-old Sophie Harkness is an Immune in a world ruled by vampires. She is a carrier of the genetic mutation that protects her from the virus Hitler unleashed upon the world more than half a century ago. That virus wiped out most of humanity and turned 200 million people into vampires. After her best friend is brutally murdered and several attempts are made on her own life, Sophie becomes determined to find answers to what seems to be a conspiracy running generations deep. And when she questions the peace treaty that keeps her small community protected, Sophie begins to discover terrible truths about herself and what it means to be human in a world ruled by darkness.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

About the Author

Lindsay Brambles was born in Ottawa, Canada, and spent a large part of his childhood and youth living and traveling overseas in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, and Tanzania. Although he occasionally attended traditional schools, most of his education was gained through correspondence courses and the life experience of living amidst other cultures. As a child in Iran, Lindsay produced a weekly newspaper, which kindled what would become a lifelong interest in writing. In 1989, he won first prize in the Pine Cone II Science Fiction Convention writing contest for his novella Zero-Option. He has worked in a variety of fields, from construction to childcare while pursuing a vocation as an artist and writer. Lindsay is currently hard at work on several new projects, including the next book in the Becoming Darkness trilogy. www.lindsaybrambles.com/ or on Twitter at @LBrambles.

Learn more Publisher Facebook | Publisher Twitter | Goodreads | Author Twitter | Publisher Pinterest

Giveaway Details

4 winners will each receive an advanced reader copy of BECOMING DARKNESS. US and Canada only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: Where does Sophie Harkness live?

*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

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10. Giveaway: Siren's Fury by Mary Weber (US Only)

Siren’s Fury

by Mary Weber

Release Date: June 2, 2015


About the Book

“I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it’s no use. The curse I’ve spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to control—no longer exists.”

Nym risked her life to save Faelen, her homeland, from a losing war, only to discover that the shapeshifter Draewulf has stolen everything she holds dear. But when the repulsive monster robs Nym of her storm-summoning abilities as well, the beautiful Elemental realizes her war is only just beginning.

Now powerless to control the elements that once emboldened her, Nym stows away on an airship traveling to the metallic kingdom of Bron. She must stop Draewulf. But the horrors he’s brought to life and the secrets of Bron are more than Nym bargained for. Then the disturbing Lord Myles tempts her with new powers that could destroy the monster, and Nym must decide whether she can compromise in the name of good even if it costs her very soul.
As she navigates the stark industrial cityscape of Bron, Nym is faced with an impossible choice: change the future with one slice of a blade . . . or sacrifice the entire kingdom for the one thing her heart just can’t let go.

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

About the Author

Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives.   
In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. 

Learn more Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Giveaway Details


2 winners will each receive 1 small set of Jamberry Nail wraps good for one mani and 1 copy of Siren’s Fury. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: If you lost your Elemental power (power to control weather), what superpower would you want to replace them?

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11. Giveaway: Alive by Chandler Baker (US Only)


by Chandler Baker

Release Date: June 9, 2015



About the Book

Stella Cross's heart is poisoned. After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred with strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone's radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi can barely stand to be apart.

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

After all, the heart never lies...does it?

To learn more about this book and see our review, go HERE.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Chandler-author-photo.jpgAbout the Author

Chandler Baker got her start ghostwriting novels for teens and tweens before turning to her own stories. She grew up in Florida, went to college in Pennsylvania, and studied law in Texas where she now lives with her husband. Although she loves spinning tales with a touch of horror, she is a much bigger scaredy-cat than her stories would lead you to believe. You can visit her online atwww.chandlerbaker.com.

Learn more Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Youtube


Giveaway Details

One winner will receive a copy of ALIVE. US only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: What do you think of the cover & synopsis?

*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

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12. Marvel’s Black Panther: We Know Who Is Definitely Not Directing

By Victor Van Scoit


We may know Marvel’s movie slate well into 2018, but there’s still some unknowns when it comes to their directors. While fans are waiting for confirmation on exactly who those directors will be, any information to minimize rumors can help quell the frenzy. Sometimes it’s just as significant to know exactly who that director won’t be.

Ava DuVernay (Selma) confirmed in an interview with Essence today that she will not be directing Marvel’s Black Panther. Apparently Ava did meet with Marvel executives to discuss the opportunity, so there was merit to the earlier rumors of her directing the property to feature actor Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up).

“I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther,” she added. “I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.”

“I loved meeting Chadwick and writers and all the Marvel execs,” said DuVernay. “In the end, it comes down to story and perspective. And we just didn’t see eye to eye. Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later.”

Seems like positive feelings on the part of Ava DuVernay regarding the experience. Kudos to her for peering far down the road and avoiding  a situation where Marvel needs to push their continuity agenda vs the director’s vision. That difference of ideas isn’t a new thing, what with Joss Whedon’s recent comments regarding Avengers: Age of Ultron, and directors exiting previous projects (Patty Jenkins on Thor 2, Edgar Wright on Ant-Man).  The MCU’s ever expanding continuity may end up creating more of these differences in vision, and influencing other directing prospects when it comes to not only Black Panther, but other MCU opportunities.

Abraham Riesman’s article over at Vulture, The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheros Foreverprovides a little morsel that’s food for thought. Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics influenced the MCU we know today, but it had its own continuity issues as it grew in popularity.

If a new reader tried to digest an issue of an Ultimate comic in 2011, she’d run into the exact problem Ultimate Marvel was designed to combat: confusing continuity. Wait, why was Mr. Fantastic evil? What had happened four years ago in Ultimatum? Remind me how Dr. Doom died? As [Jonathan] Hickman put it: “I think maybe the lesson might be that continuity eventually swallows everything.” (Incidentally, now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is 11 movies deep, this is becoming a concern for Marvel Studios. It remains to be seen how Marvel’s movie producers might learn from the pitfalls of the Ultimate world.)

As for Ava DuVernay she still wishes Marvel all the best. Let’s hope that Marvel is also able to get the best (director).

“I love the character of Black Panther, the nation of Wakanda and all that that could be visually. I wish them well and will be first in line to see it.”


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13. Summer House with Swimming Pool

Creepy and disturbing, Koch's Summer House with Swimming Pool is the story of one family and their unraveling one summer. Staying with an insufferable actor at his summer home, Dr. Marc Schlosser's vacation choice for his family is a dire one. As things begin to degrade and then worsen to disaster, Dr. Schlosser begins to think [...]

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14. Flamingo

Trying some new things

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15. Jiggety jig

Oh, guys, I have GOT to get caught up. Here I’ve been back from the Deep Valley Homecoming since TUESDAY and haven’t written about it. And now Comic-Con is peering around the corner in the most alarming way! Next week! Good heavens! Or O di immortales, I should say—not yet having mentally emerged from Betsy-Tacy land.

I had such a wonderful time visiting the houses and connecting with members of the B-T crowd. (The Crowd, capital C, you say if you’ve read the books.) I thoroughly enjoyed the children’s author panel on Sunday, answering questions with fellow writers Pat Bauer and Eileen Beha; and my talk about the Betsy-Tacy publishing history went very well. Plus I got to hear the inestimable Kathy Baxter speak—she’s captivating.

This is how I feel whenever I'm with Kathy. Photo by Margaret Berns.

This is how I feel whenever I’m with Kathy. Photo by Margaret Berns in 2010.

Of course I had to reread as many of the Tomes as possible before and during the trip. Began with the high-school books this time around and made it through Betsy’s Wedding. Actually, I read Wedding twice—I always skip ahead to it straight from Betsy and Joe. I read Betsy and the Great World on the plane ride home and then tore through Betsy’s Wedding a second time that evening, happily back in my own bed.

I swear my children gained multiple inches during the three nights I was away.

Our author panel made the front page of the Minnesota Free Press:


I have yet to see a panel photo of myself in which I’m not making a goofy face. And if you tied my hands I’m not sure I could speak…

Discussing our writing processes at Deep Valley Homecoming. Photo swiped from Nancy Piccone, with thanks!

Discussing our writing processes at Deep Valley Homecoming. Photo swiped from Nancy Piccione, with thanks!

I’m not doing justice to the Homecoming with this hasty post—I so enjoyed all the other talks and made some wonderful new friends. And on my first evening in Mankato, of course I had to walk all over town past Betsy and Tacy’s bench and Tib’s chocolate-colored house and Carney’s sleeping porch and Lincoln Park and the Carnegie Library, trying not to make a whole nother series of goofy faces. I am 100% fangirl at heart.

Major props to Julie Schrader and the rest of the organizers for hosting a perfectly marvelous event.

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16. TOLJA! Tokyopop is back with publishing plans


As I noted a few weeks back, Tokyopop, the company that came in changed comics and then crashed and burned, suspending publication for the most part back in 2011, is coming back as announced on a panel at Anime Expo with plans to begin publishing again in 2016″ announced by founder Stu Levy.

The company is seeking to license “hidden gems that are not yet noticed” from small or independent publishers.

In addition, Tokyopop plans to publish art books and collectors editions, and will consider light novels.

The company’s once-ambitious media plans continue with 20 properties—including Knockouts and Riding Shotgun— in development and a series of vidoes on the Tokyopop YouTube channel. Other plans include an anime review series on YouTube, “Pop Comics” a sharing app for iOS and Android for community sharing of comics.

This move was met with a mix of curiosity and hostility online which you can see developing in this ANN comment thread. While some former fans hoped for Tokyopop to finish series that were left hanging in 2011, others recalled the past sins of the company and vowed never to give Levy another penny.

If you’re wondering about the sins—which I covered in detail over the years—a tweet from Darryl Ayo sums it up:

One of the more interesting things about Tokyopop’s new plans is that when users upload their own comics to the “Pop Comics” app “Users keep the copyright and 100% creative control of their uploaded works.” according to ANN. This was not always the case with Tokyopop, and much of the animus towards the company stems from their publishing history of signing up a lot of original creations by very young creators and refusing to give them the rights back, despite being long OOP (although the rights CAN be purchased back.) Among those creators: Brandon Graham, Becky Cloonan, Felipe Smith, Amy Reeder, Svetlana Chmakova, Rivkah la Fille….yeah kinda a pretty good lineup of people. Most of them don’t even like talking about their Tokyopop experiences any more but a few do:

You can read our past coverage of the company as it happened here. And Brigid Alverson has her own summation post right here. But I’d like to list a few contemporaneous accounts for those who want to revisit history via blog posts.

Tokyopop: Hey, dude, totally bad contract!
Tokyopop: the other side
Yet more on Tokyopop
Tokyopop letter to creators
Yet MORE Tokyopop stuff
Platinum and Tokyopop drama continues
Mystery solved: why would anyone sign that Tokyopop Manga Pilot Program contract?
Pavia updates Tokyopop
More on KING CITY’s move
Tokyopop follow-up: Is Stuart Levy the Charlie Sheen of comics?
Tokyopop updates: Who owns what
Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’
Can creators really get their books back from Tokyopop?
Plus, Becky Cloonan on never being able to finish her East Coast Rising book.
The first blog post of 2011, or How Cannonball Joe Quelled the Suffocating Death

There’s lot more if you Google around (god people were so loose lipped back in the day! In this day of FB and Twitter no one says anything!). This is not to say that Tokyopop might not come back with a new resolve and a business plan that’s 2015-ready. But at the very least some acknowledgement of past mistakes and a pledge to do things differently would be a great way to get a fresh start.

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17. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

cover artWhen I began reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua, I did something I usually don’t do. I posted how great the book is and how everyone needed to, right then and there, request a copy from the library or buy one of their own. Now that I have actually finished it, I still stand by that assertion.

The book is a graphic novel like no other I have read (which is more than some and less than a good many). Sure the stories are told with great black and white drawings, some of them very detailed like the visual explanation in the appendix of how the Analytical Engine would have worked if it were ever built. Wait, appendix? A graphic novel with an appendix? Yup. And that is just one way this book is different. It also has footnotes and endnotes. In fact, the graphic part of it is almost beside the point. To be sure, the graphics tell a story, but the real action, where all the fun and humor is, is in the footnotes and endnotes. Crazy!

Padua has clearly done extensive research, she even got a scholarly slam dunk by finding a letter in an obscure archive somewhere that settled a dispute about just how much Ada Lovelace had to do with Babbage and maths and the Analytical Engine and computer programming (a lot!). Booyah! And Padua clearly enjoys her subjects as well, expressing great knowledge and affection for them and all their quirks and foibles.

Since Lovelace died when was 36 and the Analytical Engine was never built, Padua takes liberties with the story, moving the pair to a pocket universe in which Ada lives and the Engine is built. Still, she remains true to certain biographical events, even quoting them directly at times in the stories. When she veers far off course there is a handy footnote to tell us so.

I say stories because that is what these are, short stories in graphic form. So we have a story about the Person from Porlock, one in which Lovelace and Babbage meet Queen Victoria and give her a demonstration of the Analytical Engine. Except the Engine crashes, (even when computers were only theoretical there were provisions for what to do when they crashed) and Ada runs off to fix it and save the day while Babbage bores the Queen with stories about how great he is. The Queen, not understanding why the Engine is a useful thing is losing interest until Lovelace’s programming produces a picture of a cat. Heh. Cats and computers belong together apparently. We meet George Boole whose Boolean logic will be familiar to both computer geeks and librarians. And there are often hilarious run-ins with many other famous personages.

One that a good many of you will be familiar with is George Eliot. She and Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Carlyle and others are summoned for a “mandatory spell-check” of their most recent manuscripts. Lovelace really did theorize that the Analytical Engine should be able to analyze symbols as well as crunch numbers. Eliot’s manuscript gets fed into the Engine but it being her only copy she immediately changes her mind. Thus follows a long pursuit through the workings of the Engine to try and get the manuscript back. But horror of horrors, the Engine uses “destructive analysis” and the manuscript gets ripped to shreds! And then it crashes the Engine. The huge joke at the end of this is that there had been a tussle at the beginning and Eliot and Carlyle got their manuscripts mixed up and it is actually Carlyle’s manuscript on the history of the French Revolution that is destroyed. In real life Carlyle’s manuscript was indeed destroyed. He had given it to his friend John Stewart Mill to read. The only copy. Mill left it sitting out and the servants thought it was waste paper and used it for starting fires. Oops. Carlyle had to rewrite the who book, but personally, from what I have actually read about the incident in other places, it was probably for the best because the rewrite by accounts was better than the original. Still, Carlyle was devastated and I don’t remember if he and Mill continued to be friends afterwards.

Anyway, this is a right fun book. Babbage and Lovelace were real characters even before they were fictionalized in a pocket universe. If you would like a taste of the book including a few stories that didn’t make it in, there is a website! The Science Museum of London also built Babbage’s Difference Engine, the precursor to the Analytical Engine, in 1991 and because of the magic of the internet, you can watch a video demonstration:

Is that thing ever loud!

If you are looking for something fun, geeky, madcap and sometimes just plain silly, you can’t go wrong with The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, George Eliot, madcap adventures, Thomas Carlyle

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18. Library Loot: First Trip in July

New Loot:
  • A Duty to The Dead by Charles Todd
  • An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd
  • The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part II by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Lays of Beleriand by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • Wish You Well by David Baldacci 
  • Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Leftover Loot:
  • Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper
  • Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
  • Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Book of Lost Tales, volume 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis
  • The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  •  Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Perfidia by James Ellroy
  • Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
  • Mr. Brown Can Moon! Can You? by Dr. Seuss
  •  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Miles from Nowhere by Amy Clipston
  • Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
          Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Flogometer for Emily—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Welcome. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins engaging the reader with the character
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The character desires something.
  • The character does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Emily sends a first chapter of Serenity, a dystopian story. The remainder is after the break.

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.

T h e  F a M i l y

Las Vegas, 2037

Politicians voted to open the first Red Light District, later referred to as the Glass District. This was the Families’ dream come true. As more and more cities capitalized on the concept, the Family branch known as the Syndicate took advantage of the system and opened the first Museum to entice wealthier clients. Stocks soared overnight, but the beast had only begun to salivate. Recruiters soon swept into schools, into malls, into neighborhoods in order to monopolize the most successful corporate-driven commodity of all time: girls.

S e r e n I t y 

I felt colder than the first time my father took me to the Glass District.

“Serenity, you must open your eyes,” he’d told me as another plump drop of rain bit my cheek, feeling more like a speck of gravel. I wiped it away, but more took its place.

I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to look at the girls in the glass cages, half-starved, clothed in rags, kneeling prostrate. But I’d started to bleed, and my mother spoke to me about what happens to girls when they ‘grow up’. So, my father decided it was time to show me the world outside all the hotels and empty, abandoned manors where we’d lived a throughout the years. He said I needed to see it for myself. Even if I understood why they kept me hidden from (snip)

Were you compelled to turn the page?

For the most part, the writing is strong and the voice likeable, so far so good. Things started to get interesting for me when we learned about the girls in the glass cages. If it were me, I would ditch the “FaMily” opening setup chunk and start with the real scene. The opening page has two goals: engagement with a character and creating intrigue as you see recommended in my checklist (see Donald Maass’s recent post on Writer Unboxed). This paragraph may contribute to intrigue, but it’s divorced from a character.

The SerenIty scene needs to be set and its relationship to the flashback made clear. The flashback does imply jeopardy for the narrator, and that’s good. However, when we get out of the flashback the narrative isn’t totally clear as to what’s going on in the now of the story and its relationship to the flashback, and then we slip into another flashback to deliver more backstory. The elements are good, but they put off the moment the story takes off. Even then, considering what’s happening in the now of the story (immortality treatments), it’s not clear to me what the problem is for the narrator. I guess that follows, but I think it should be on the first page, not the second chapter.

As it is, the ending of the chapter, which would otherwise be suspenseful and a page-turner, it isn't because we know from what goes before that she seems okay, receiving immortality treatments. Notes:

T h e  F a M i l y

Las Vegas, 2037

Politicians voted to open the first Red Light District, later referred to as the Glass District. This was the Families’ dream come true. As more and more cities capitalized on the concept, the Family branch known as the Syndicate took advantage of the system and opened the first Museum to entice wealthier clients. Stocks soared overnight, but the beast had only begun to salivate. Recruiters soon swept into schools, into malls, into neighborhoods in order to monopolize the most successful corporate-driven commodity of all time: girls. while chilling, it’s still an info dump. Try to weave this into the story after you engage me with the character. Check out the opening pages of “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” so see how involvement with the character comes first and then the unique nature of the world is woven in. A handy tool is the Kindle store on Amazon where you can read the opening online for free.

S e r e n I t y 

I felt colder than the first time my father took me to the Glass District. Need to set the scene here. While the tense does change in the next paragraph, it’s not an obvious change, and the scene shifts to wherever she is as she thinks this—and that lacks a transition to keep the flashback and the now of the story separate.

“Serenity, you must open your eyes,” he’d told me as another plump drop of rain bit my cheek, feeling more like a speck of gravel. I wiped it away, but more took its place. The contradictory imagery took me out of the story—I don’t understand why a “plump drop” of rain can bite, why it would feel like gravel. If there’s a skin-condition reason, include that so it makes sense.

I didn’t want to open my eyes. I didn’t want to look at the girls in the glass cages, half-starved, clothed in rags, kneeling prostrate. But I’d started to bleed, and my mother spoke to me about what happens to girls when they ‘grow up’. So, my father decided it was time to show me the world outside all the hotels and empty, abandoned manors where we’d lived a throughout the years. He said I needed to see it for myself. Even if I understood why they kept me hidden from (snip) In looking at the definition of “prostrate,” I’m not sure I buy the idea of “kneeling prostrate” as prostrate mostly has to do with being stretched out with face on the ground. I don’t usually like flashbacks, but this is gripping material and, if it supports what’s happening in the now, then use it. But, as with the aforementioned "Hunger Games" and "Divergent," I'd rather be engaged with the character in the now of the story.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Emily



. . . the world, why I couldn’t attend school or meet others my age, why I couldn’t go anywhere without Skylar, it was different seeing it first-hand.

When I saw a girl up close, I retched right there on the sidewalk just before my skin turned raw. Just like it did now.

 Despite my skin that screamed from the needles boring into my arms, my paralyzed body left me no chance to fight. Instead, I crawled through webs of mental fluff threatening to send me back underneath this disinfectant Wonderland. Somewhere inside the chink of fluff, I was aware of several things at once...


“She’s coming to.”

They sounded suppressed. Like cotton candy suffocated vocal chords. 

“Not for long.” 

I teetered just on the edge of the rabbit hole. Naked, all I could do was observe from the gap in the fabric armor across my mind while nurses in blanched, sterilized outfits hovered over me. The image of a glass cage flickered in and out of my mind like a whimpering candle flame, and a fog-like fear engulfed me.

Not the Glass District.

Another needle gave birth to a tear that rolled out of its eye bed and tumbled down the floor of my cheek as I considered another option. Then, I caught the telltale hum of the machine beneath me just before a glow of lights above me began to move. With purpose, they flowed across my entire body, their warmth rippling across my skin like golden waves. And then I understood. This was part of the Immortal Treatment.

These sort of treatments were reserved for only one type of candidate: I was Museum worthy. So it finally happened. I would become more than long skirts covering my ankles and sleeves loose as rivers. More than white skin that sunlight never so much as tickled. Maybe flower petals and vines crawling over my skin like a spider web. Maybe feathers strung together like chords of music on my body. How much had they done to me already? Detoxified my body? Smoothed all its lines? Intensified my natural hair color? Promoted collagen growth?

Fuzziness overwhelmed me again, and I sunk, became a shipwreck in depth and darkness before one last option impregnated my thoughts: The Temple.

Not the Temple.

Not the Temple.

Not the Temple.

No, I would never become like my mother.

Just before the hospital, just before the hotel hallway, Sky and I talked about our mother…

He’d towered over me even more than usual with his six foot five stance after I’d flopped down on the bed, hiking up one of the many long skirts I wore that covered my curves. Curves in all the right places according to my brother but in reality ‒ curves in all the wrong places. Curves that could never see the light of day.

I leaned back on my hands and glanced out the window, watching the sunlight turn my silvery hair to shimmery latticework, warming one side of my body all the way to my hips. “Shouldn’t Mom and Dad be back by now?” I asked my brother.

Sky grunted, and the muscles in his neck tensed as he responded, “Typical.”

Long ago, I’d memorized this familiar body language that he only played when we talked about our parents. He didn’t act much different when they were home either. I excused it as some late adolescence.

“Where do you think we’ll go tomorrow?” I wondered just as Sky braced his arm against the wall next to the window, muscles along that arm not bothering to hide. The sun welcomed him, sewing its rays into his tan skin. We were polar opposites that way. I took after Mom − more, petite magnolia tree limbs, birch-white skin, fairy white curls.

“Who knows with Kerrick and Serafina?”

I bit my lower lip, considering whether or not to ask him for the umpteenth time why he called them that. Instead, I groaned when he pulled the drapes, and my hair returned to the color of dull lace. I was cold again.

“I wasn’t done looking at the city,” I complained and threw out the suggestion, “Why don’t you go flirt with the front desk girl? Bet if you just show her one of your sugar-coated smiles, she’ll upgrade us to a higher room.”

“No higher rooms, Serenity,” warned Sky before cocking his head to me while a ringlet of his hair, a lighter shade of his eyes, coddled his cheekbone. “You know the rules. We don’t attract attention. You need to stay out of line of sight.”

Always out of line of sight.

Always moving. It was a constant process. Most of the time, I never complained. With the Temple never giving up its search for my mother and I, discretion wasn’t just advised; it was required. My parents always smuggled me in when it was busiest. By day, we worried about recruiters. By night, we worried about smugglers. For some reason, my parents never bothered to just leave Sky and I holed up in one of their country cabins or seaside condos even though they were so paranoid about my safety. It made more sense to me since those places were much more isolated than venturing into the cities. If my mother wanted to hide from the Temple Director so much, then why did she and my father always return to the Capital? Why bring me with them? They always wanted me close, but their secrets kept me at arm’s length while Sky wore me closer than the hairs on his arms. Except for the past couple of years, he seemed to wear me closer but looked past me like I was a stranger.

We were like paper flowers in the attic. With no sunlight to help us grow, we held on to each other for warmth as cold dust blanketed us. Maybe we were more intense than most siblings, but our lives were always tethered up in nothing but each other.

“Maybe...” I bit down on my lower lip, suddenly a little serious as I considered whether or not to add the last part, but my words catapulted before I could catch them, “maybe we’ll be near a Museum.” My thoughts were like water balloons. The slightest thing could make them pop. No way to hold them together or prevent them from spilling their words. 

Sky groaned and fell back on the bed like we’d gone over this a hundred times already, which was accurate. He folded his hands behind his head while I eased onto my belly to face him. “Again with the Museum! Museums are just as bad as the Temple, Ser.”

“But parents groom their daughters specifically for Museums. More girls would rather go to a Museum these days than become actresses.”

Sky rubbed his eyes and repeated the same words to me that he always had. “I won’t deny the Museums are nicer than the Glass Districts or Carousel Blocks or most of the levels of the Temple. Thousands of orphan girls tend to go to the District because they’re cheap, but Museum girls still aren’t what you think they are. They are designed to look and act that way, some from birth. All those exhibits are is an act. You should know that better than anyone.”

Because of Mom.

Sky understood I needed the reminder, so he didn’t pay me any mind when I turned onto my side and reached for the nightstand drawer to withdraw the photograph inside. It was the one picture my mother had from her time in the Temple. Except this wasn’t my mother. This was the Unicorn. With her face as serene as a snowflake on glass and body composed like a pool pausing just before a pebble disturbs its surface, my mother was all white beauty. Hair straightened and decorated to resemble a mane, true silver flecks on her painted white cheeks, diamond bridle around her neck, and the crowning horn stamped in the middle of her forehead – all of it echoed a lost time. A time when my mother became a ghost to the Unicorn.

Just like girls became something else in the Museums whether the Rose in the Garden Museum or the Peacock in the Menagerie or the Gazelle in the Safari Museum. The possibilities were endless.

Sensing Sky’s presence hovering over me, I peeked back to see him eye the photograph and press his full lips together so much they looked starved. Something he did when he was angry. So I slipped the photograph back inside the drawer again, watched as he settled some.

I wrung my hands together as another balloon inside my head popped. “What if I were ever−”

Every one of Sky’s muscles went rigid, veins almost leaping off his skin. “I won’t let that happen, Ser.”

“Play devil’s advocate with me, Sky. What if?”

Heaving a sigh, Sky lowered himself to the bed next to me and nudged my shoulder, encouraging me, “If you were to go to a Museum, Serenity, then God help them. Because if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s this: you are the polar opposite of your namesake.”

I tossed my head back with a chuckle. “Can’t argue with that,” I agreed just before chucking a pillow in his face and scrambling off the bed as he retaliated.

Sky used to let me win, but when I complained it wasn’t challenging enough, he stopped a couple years ago. Since then, I’d had plenty of practice. Sure, I took a cheap shot now and then, but girls get to use whatever advantage they have. So, when I beamed Sky for the third time in the head, he threw up his hands in surrender, pillow tumbling to the floor.

“You give, Skylar Lace?” I addressed him, my pillow primed and ready if he tried a sneak attack.

“I give, your pillow-ship.” 

I tossed my pillow onto the bed and gave him a mock bow before walking across the room to grab a glass. Suppressing a groan at the empty ice bucket, I set the glass back down and picked up the bucket, heading for the door.

“Serenity,” Sky’s commanding voice caught my attention. “Recruiters are out. You shouldn’t−”

“It’s just down the hall. I’ll be fine, Sky. You know they never scout these floors.” Clients weren’t wealthy enough on the lower floors. The wealthier the client, the healthier the girl, and the more likelihood of recruiting for a Museum instead of a Glass District.

 “You come right back,” Sky reminded me.

“I will.”

My world made sense when it was just Sky and me and no thinking about Museums, Glass Districts, Carousels, Graphicker Studios, or the Temple’s penthouse. They didn’t even call it prostitution anymore. Prostitution was slavery wrapped in a bow, but it existed in different forms. With the world gorging itself on bodies, it had to look neater. Just a paraded reality. And most girls chased the parade. Even my mother fell down the Rabbit Hole.

I wasn’t so naïve as to think I was above my mother, but I did have my advantages. I had more fight in me. My mother wasn’t much of a fighter. She just endured. Pity she didn’t fight that hard for me. Whenever she and my father came home, I pretended like I didn’t resent them for only seeing me once or twice a month. Or for moving us around from place to place watching the world from hotel glass. Ever since I turned sixteen, it was harder and harder to keep up appearances.

After filling up the ice bucket, I sampled a little more on my trifle of freedom outside our stagnant hotel room. I lingered. Too long. Just as I stepped out of the ice room, I heard voices coming from the end of the hall. Rushing back into the ice room, I closed the door, hoping they hadn’t seen me because I recognized them as smugglers. Some smugglers were independent, but others were commissioned by certain Museums or the Temple. These smugglers had one thing in common to set them apart: black gloves. Family smugglers.

In hindsight, I should’ve insisted Sky come with me. Or at least had some sort of weapon. All I had was a bucket of ice. I held my breath when they approached the door, heard their casual chuckles, voices goading me.

“Come out, come out wherever you are.”

“You want to play hide and seek?”

I rocked on the balls of my feet, and just as they opened the door, I launched the ice bucket directly into their faces. Cubes catapulted in the air as I pushed through the gap of their bodies, but another one took their place and became a wall that I crashed against before losing my balance and tumbling to the ground. Parting my curls, I stared up at the smuggler with his eyes like elevators scaling the floors of my body.

“Not bad,” he muttered just before I felt the electrical surge jolting through my system from the back of my neck. I passed out on the hotel floor.

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20. Grammar Editing Software

Question: Is there a free link or software I can use that helps editing my grammar for my writing? Answer: Plenty of websites and companies offer grammar

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21. Artist of the Day: Kelsey Borch

Discover the art of Kelsey Borch, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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22. James Patterson to Give Away $1.75 Million to School Libraries

James Patterson 200 (GalleyCat)Back in March 2015, James Patterson (pictured, via) and the Scholastic Reading Club established a partnership to help school libraries. Initially, Patterson vowed to give away $1.25 million.

Since this announcement was made, over 28,000 applications were sent in vying for these funding grants. In consideration of all these requests, Patterson has decided to increase his donation amount to $1.75 million. So far, $500,000 has been handed out to 127 different schools.

Here’s more from the press release: “Scholastic Reading Club will match each dollar with bonus points that allow teachers to buy materials, including books, for their classrooms…With the school library initiative, Patterson’s mandate was to make the application process as simple as possible for librarians. The online application poses a single question: ‘What would your school library do with $1,000 to $10,000?'”

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23. Company on the Way

The house is spic and span;
The food is all prepared,
The table set and primed
For good times to be shared.

The only thing to do
Is wait 'til they arrive.
They're somewhere on the road
In the middle of their drive.

The weather gods have smiled;
So far it's looking great.
You might as well relax -
Your guests will like be late.

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24. Comics Friday: Mike's Place by Jack Baxter and Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People by Matthew Diffee

From Goodreads:
There's a rule at Mike's Place: never, ever talk politics or religion. At this blues bar on the Tel Aviv beachfront, an international cast of characters mingles with the locals, and everyone is welcome to grab a beer and forget the conflict outside. At least, that's the story Jack and Joshua want to tell in their documentary. 
But less than a month after they begin filming, Mike's Place is the target of a deadly suicide bombing. Jack, Joshua, and the Mike's Place family survive the only way they know how-by keeping the camera rolling. 
Written by filmmakers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Koren Shadmi, Mike's Place chronicles the true story of an infamous terrorist attack in painstaking detail. Rarely has the slow build to tragedy, and the rebirth that follows, been captured with such a compassionate and unflinching eye.
This one is a must-read if you enjoy graphic non-fiction.  It would also make a great transition book for those who are fans of graphic novels but don't normally gravitate towards books about history or current events.  What I enjoyed most is that this is a story about the people who populate Mike's Place and their relationships before and after a terrorist attack.  It doesn't get into the politics of conflict in the Middle East.  At its heart it's a personal account of private lives that are affected by politics, but doesn't make a judgment or statement about those politics.  I'm now on the lookout for the documentary that the story is based on, Blues by the Beach.

 From Goodreads:
This collection contains Diffee’s funniest drawings and writings from the past decade as well as all-new cartoons and sketches organized into categories that will appeal to smart attractive people in all walks of life, based on profession and circumstance: smart attractive Medical Professionals, sharp and good-looking Old People; beautiful geniuses in Prison; brainy handsome Lumberjacks; and more. Are you an alluring well-read utensil user? Well, there’s a chapter just for you!

If you’re a fan of Demetri Martin and Jack Handey, or if you happen to be George Clooney or Natalie Portman, Hand Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People will leave you laughing your smart attractive ass off.
And on a totally different note, I also enjoyed this collection of cartoons from a prominent New Yorker cartoonist.  I liked Diffee's sense of humor and enjoyed it, but I wasn't just blown away.  I think it's pretty normal for me to only really "get" about three quarters of the jokes you find in the New Yorker, and the same could be said for this book.  Some parts just didn't resonate and I felt like I needed the joke explained.  But the jokes that I got were quite entertaining.  It wasn't a laugh out loud book for me, but it was worth the short time it took to read and made for great diversionary reading.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with copies of these books to review.

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25. Animation Artists’ Union Reaches Agreement for 3-Year Deal with Studios

How smooth were negotiations? They began Monday and finished Wednesday.

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