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1. An Author's Comfort Zone...

Note: The following post was originally published on the Writer’s Fun Zone blog, a site designed to help writers succeed and improve their author platform. When you have time, I urge you to check out this fantastic resource.

This post could have also been dubbed ‘Balance 101 for Authors’. About sixteen months ago the first novel in my middle-grade/YA time travel series hit the cyber bookshelves. There was so much to do, and it felt like there wasn’t enough time to do everything. I needed a time portal just to get all my marketing and promoting put in place. This included getting a website up and running, ordering promotional giveaways, setting up blog hops, writing blog posts, and joining the appropriate social media networks. The lists seemed endless, and when the date finally arrived for my book release, I was wearing my shoulders as earrings.

Needless to say, by the end of my first book blog tour, I was exhausted, spent, and bent out of shape. Even my eyelids ached.

What I learned from that whole experience last year is that authors need to learn to structure their writing life, or their writing will take a nose dive. We need to learn to create balance so that the task of being a writer plus a marketer plus a promoter doesn’t wear us down. So, how do we do this when so much is expected of a writer nowadays?

Start with finding your comfort zone. Find your personal comfort level with promotion or marketing, do that and do no more. That’s it. Do it. Or you’ll get burned. If you don’t heed my advice, then sure as shooting, negativity will leach into your writing. And that’s the last thing a writer wants!

Need help finding your comfort zone? Go to the dollar store and buy a timer. It will be one of the most important investments (and cheapest) as a writer you will make. For less than two dollars you can purchase a piece of sanity to help you organize your writing life and keep you in your zone. Set your timer to check emails. Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Then do the same for Facebook and Twitter. But keep in mind which activity will help you as an author in the long run. Apply the 80/20 rule. Write (produce) for 80%, promote and market for only 20%. After all—social networking is a marketing strategy—as long as you treat it as such. Then, once you have laid the timer law down, set it for how long you want to sit and just write, with no interruptions (unless the dog really needs to pee).

So, stop pushing the zone. Relax. Let go. Breathe.

That doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t learn or try new things. By all means learn and try. Get your hands dirty if you must. But don’t burst a vein in your brain doing it. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you collapse into a quivering mass of writer goo. As writers, we must protect our work—and ourselves. It takes time to build an on-line (and off-line) marketing presence in this new publishing world. Learn this, cut yourself some slack, and prosper.

Thank you for reading my blog. How do you find balance as a writer? Love to hear your voices…

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2. 5 Important Ways to Use Symbolism in Your Story

So many elements go into a truly good book. When we turn that final page with a satisfying sigh, it’s often hard to identify just what made it a success. But many times, symbolism is one of the things that ties the whole work together. Done sloppily, it’s heavy-handed and forced, and turns the reader off. And when it’s done well, symbolism is one of those elements that the reader doesn’t notice; they just recognize that everything worked. It’s an important element, but really hard to do well. That’s why I’m glad to have K.M. Weiland here today. Symbolism is just one element that she tightens the focus on in her latest release: Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. I had the pleasure of reading this arc, and it was so incredibly interesting, seeing a classic analyzed to see what made it a success. It frankly would have scared the poo out of me, being the one to pick apart such an iconic, well-known novel, but Katie totally nailed it. So rather than blather on, I’ll just turn things over to the expert ;).

Symbolism can sometimes be a tough concept for authors to get their heads around. How do we come up with the right symbols in the first place? What should they be symbolic of? And how do we incorporate them into our stories without making them so obvious we lose all their symbolic value?

Symbolism offers one of the richest opportunities for writers to deepen their themes, past just the conscious appreciation of the readers and right into their emotional and subconscious cores. That’s a lot of power right there. And we’d be crazy to leave it on the table.

V8374c_JaneEyre.inddCharlotte Brontë’s classic masterpiece Jane Eyre (which I analyze in-depth in my book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic) is a wealth of symbolism. You want to know how to do it right? All you have to do is learn at Brontë’s feet. Following are five methods of symbolism she used to enhance every aspect of her story—and which you can use too!

Symbolism Type #1: Small Details

You can include symbolism in even the smallest of your story’s details. The colors your characters wear. The movies they watch. The pictures they use to decorate their apartments. All of these details offer the opportunity for symbolic resonance.

In the first chapter of Brontë’s story, Jane Eyre is reading a book called Bewick’s History of British Birds, which features significantly bleak and desolate descriptions of the English landscape. On the surface, these descriptions have no connection to Jane’s world—except that, of course, they do. Brontë could just as easily have given Jane a cheery romance to read. Instead, she used the bleak descriptions to symbolize Jane’s bleak life as an orphan living with her cruel aunt.

Symbolism Type #2: Motifs

A motif is a repeated design. In a story, a motif is an element repeated throughout the narrative, often to obvious effect. Sometimes, however, it will be used in a less conspicuous way that infiltrates the readers’ subconscious with a web of symbolic cohesion.

The concept of orphanhood is prominent throughout Jane Eyre, most notably in the main character’s own status as a loveless orphan. Indeed, the concept of love and what people have to do to earn it is central to the entire story. Brontë reinforces the obvious aspects of this motif time and again throughout the story. Consider just a few examples:

  • Early on, a servant sings a song about an orphan girl.
  • Adele, the child Jane is hired to look after, is ostensibly an orphan.
  • When Jane encounters the Rivers family, late in the story, she discovers they are newly orphaned themselves, after the death of their father.

Brontë never draws attention to the motif by directly comparing these examples to Jane’s own orphaned state. Rather, she simply allows their presence in the story to reinforce the overall effect.

Symbolism Type #3: Metaphors

Motifs can also be metaphors. Indeed, some of the best symbols in literature are visual metaphors for thematic elements. You may choose to use fire to represent a character with a hot temper. Running water may become a symbol for purification. Illness might represent sin or corruption.

The main metaphoric motif in Jane Eyre is that of birds as symbols for captivity and freedom. Brontë uses the bird metaphor throughout the story to symbolize the relativity of every character and setting in relation to this fundamental theme. Small, plain birds such as sparrows represent Jane. Birds of prey refer to Rochester. And Thornfield—Rochester’s prison and Jane’s sanctuary—is frequently described in terms of a bird’s cage.

Often, strong metaphoric language will emerge naturally while writing a story. In the rewriting, see if you can identify any recurring motifs that crop up. Can you strengthen them to better represent your theme? Try to figure out ways to use different aspects of the same motif to describe varying characters.

Symbolism Type #4: Universal Symbols

Some symbols are ingrained so deeply in our social psyche that they are used in practically every story. The power of these symbols lies in the fact that they will already have been accepted deep into your readers’ subconscious minds. (Their potential weakness, of course, is that their very prevalence can make them seem like clichés.)

Weather is a particularly good example. Thunderstorms are often used as the background for a character’s defeat—or as a contrast to a seeming victory. When Jane accepts Rochester’s proposal, the lightning that strikes a tree in the garden isn’t just a random happening. It’s a portent of the dark revelations that will soon sunder their love.

Symbolism Type #5: Hidden Symbolism

Some types of symbolism will be so deeply buried within your story that your readers may not recognize them at all. Obviously, the value of hidden symbolism is significantly less than that of other types. After all, what good is something if the reader never notices it?

For example, Rochester’s horse is named Mesrour. Very few readers will catch the significance of this: Mesrour is the name of the executioner in Arabian Nights.

Why name the horse this at all? Why not Blackie? Or even O Beauteous One? For starters, both of the latter names would have been a poor use of our Symbolism Type #1. “Mesrour,” even without explanation, enhances the already dark and mysterious tone of the novel. And for those readers who do catch the obscure reference, the symbolism will only be that much stronger.

Symbolism is a delicate dance. But authors can’t afford to overlook it. When choreographed correctly, it can spell the difference between a three-star novel and a five-star novel. Just ask Jane!

K.M. WeilandK.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

The post 5 Important Ways to Use Symbolism in Your Story appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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3. Guest Post: Ally Blake, Author of Resisting the Musician and Giveaway

Ally Blake stopped by this morning to answer a question for us.  Check out her answer and then enter the giveaway below!

WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULDN’T LORI KEEP IN HER PURSE?

AN IPOD. Lori’s a workaholic; mighty ambitious and super-focused on her career so the only music she finds time to listen to are the CDs her driver’s daughters make him listen to in the car. Funny, because – although she doesn’t know it yet – she is about to fall for one of the biggest rock stars in the world!

FLATS. High heels only for our girl. And why not? Lori’s the CEO of a haute couture shoe brand; wouldn’t you take advantage?!

TISSUES. Lori’s pretty tough. Had to be after her father left, leaving her to look after her little sister when her mother fell apart. Emotions are dangerous things and now her heart is for pumping blood, nothing more.

A LITTLE BLACK BOOK. Lori likes her men clean, neat, well-off and not at all needy. She likes it ever better if they last as long as a good steak dinner…no more. Which is why when she finds herself looking forward to her guitar lessons with big, scruffy, languorous rocker Dash Mills she’s set completely off her game.

MOMENTOS FROM HOME. Lori isn’t the least bit sentimental. She’s well aware that the events of her past made her the never-say-die go-getter she is today, but that doesn’t mean she needs a daily reminder. Pressing forward is her motto. Though since meeting Dash, and watching how he enjoys the simple things in life she’s beginning to wonder if she’s played it all wrong…

Resisting the Musician

Ally Blake

Bridal shoe company owner Lori Hanover is in way over her head. First, her designer sister has fallen head over heels for the rock star fiancé of a client – talk about bad PR! Now her business is falling apart.  Lori’s only hope in saving her company is making the world believe it was true love, even if she’s not so sure herself.  Her best bet? A song.  For this she turns to the most frustrating musical recluse in America, Dash Mills, a man who could pass for Thor’s sexier brother. And even though this former rock superstar agrees to help, it comes at a price…

When Lori agrees to Dash’s terms, he thinks she’s the one in for a challenge. But the more time he spends with this spitfire bombshell, the more tempted he is to play her—in more ways than one. But Dash left behind the rock and roll life for a reason.  And seductive as Lori may be, if she drags him back into that world, this time he won’t forgive himself…or her.

Buy Links: Goodreads *Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Entangled

Entangled Ignite:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndulgenceBooks

Twitter: @IndulgenceBooks  Steals and Deals

BIO: Australian writer Ally Blake is a redhead, a footy fan, a devotee of the language of Aaron Sorkin; she is addicted to stationery and M&Ms and weak in the face of Italians and fire-fighters and a firm believer in love, luck, and fairies. She is also a best-selling author with more than twenty-five fun, flirty romance novels under her belt with over three million copies of her books sold worldwide. For Ally’s take on life, writing, and other fancy stuff, head to www.allyblake.com.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

EXCERPT from RESISTING THE MUSICIAN:

“What compelled you to ignore the ‘No Trespassing Or My Vicious Dogs will Eat Your Liver For Brunch’ sign?” asked Dash.

In sentences three words and less his voice was riveting.  Longer it was rich and smooth, with a hint of an accent Lori couldn’t pick.

“The sign lied,” Lori prevaricated, as if she didn’t have a million things she ought to be doing with her time other than standing in this doorway in the middle of nowhere falling into the slumberous dark eyes of a hulking stranger.

His wide mouth flickered up at one corner.  She would have bet a mint the guy was well aware how a smile like that would play with any female within range.

“If you want liver-eaters for dogs,” she said, standing taller to negate the urge to fan herself, “they need discipline.”

One meaty shoulder lifted into a shrug.  “Never been that keen on the stuff myself.”

“Liver?”

“Discipline.”

He touched the side of his nose and she wondered how many times it had been broken.  And how big the other guys must have been.

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The post Guest Post: Ally Blake, Author of Resisting the Musician and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Bats in the Band

Now THIS is how you throw a book launch party!

Holy cow!

I have the good fortune to be in a critique group with the uber talented Brian Lies.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but trust me, this was an AMAZING event for the launch of the glorious Bats in the Band.



The event was coordinated with the South Shore Music Conservatory, who provided amazing musical performances to enhance Brian's reading of the book.



Brian MADE the bats on the car, y'all!







Brian had a giant version of the book to read from. He thinks of everything!




Brian's talented and beautiful daughter


Brian signing books (a lot of them!)


Critique group - Love these gals (and guy)!!!

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5. Spotlight and Giveaway: Secret Love by Christine Warner


Enter to Win
$10.00 Amazon or B&N eGift Card





Saranac, Michigan 1955

Lizzie Tarleton has always done things her own way—including the time at the tender age of thirteen when she confessed to her brother’s best friend she loved him. But now she’s a new teacher at the local high school, and independent enough to know that you can’t force love. She’ll find love when the time is right—even though her parents are adamant the time is now. The only downfall to her idyllic life is the fact that her childhood crush—who broke her heart—is now her boss. If only she could stop daydreaming about him.

Wayne Whitmore grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and worked hard to get where he’s at in life. Even though he enjoys being principal at the small town high school, he dreams of coaching baseball. When his best friend asks him to watch over his little sister at her new job at Wayne’s school, he agrees. What he doesn’t count on is how she’s grown from the pig tailed kid who told him she loved him, to the woman who breaks his concentration with her beauty and smile. Unable to get over his fascination, and afraid he’ll ruin his friend’s trust, Wayne applies for his dream job—one that will take him far away.

One night while decorating the school gymnasium for an upcoming sock hop, Lizzie and Wayne find themselves alone. They share a kiss and Lizzie realizes her childhood crush for Wayne has never died. Wayne decides he doesn’t want to let Lizzie get away.

Can they come to terms with their secret love and then overcome the other secrets they are hiding in order to get what they each want? Or is their timing for love still off?




 


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She blinked away the heat of tears forming at the back of her eyes. Their conversation had grown too serious. She needed to lighten things up a bit. “Remember when we used to play ‘What if?’”
He laughed. “What if Lizzie wore a dress?”

“Either she was going to church, or her mom was having a ladies’ social.” Lizzie giggled. “Ricky hated that game.”

“He’d get so mad when you’d start it.” He made the final cut on a small snowflake and added it to the pile before him.

“What if Wayne couldn’t throw his famous curve ball?”

“The school trophy case would be one trophy short. What if Lizzie wasn’t teaching here?”

She pouted. “She’d be sad. I have no idea what I’d be doing if I hadn’t found a job here. What does Lizzie have to do to show Wayne she thanks him?” She winked, enjoying their fun.

He cleared his throat. “What if Wayne said Lizzie owed him a kiss?”

Her belly trembled. What if?

“What if he stole one?” His voice lowered and he leaned in.

“Why don’t you find out?” she whispered.


 
 
 


Christine Warner is living her dream in Michigan along with her family, one laptop, and a much loved assortment of furry friends.

Besides laughing and a good dose of humor, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, writing, but no arithmetic. A confessed people watcher, she finds inspiration for her stories in everyday activities. She loves to read and write about strong heroes, and determined, sometimes sassy, heroines.

A girl gone wild, at least where social media is concerned, she enjoys meeting other avid readers and writers on facebook, twitter and her website at christine-warner.com.



 

 
 
 
 

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Secret Love by Christine Warner appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Jonathan Gottschall on stories

       An interesting conversation (monologue ?) by Jonathan Gottschall at Edge on The Way We Live Our Lives in Stories, arguing that: "We live in stories all day long", and that most aspects of that haven't really been studied and considered very closely or well.

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7. World Hepatitis Day: reason to celebrate

By Paul Sax


After years of intense basic and clinical research, hepatitis C is now curable for the vast majority of the millions of people who have it. The major barrier is access (diagnosis, getting care, and paying for it), because the scientific problem has been solved.

Not only that — but the situation will soon get even better.

For those who haven’t followed this medical miracle closely, here’s a Spark Notes version to bring you up to speed:

Pre-1989: Many blood transfusion recipients, injection drug users, and people with hemophilia have a form of chronic hepatitis, but they test negative for hepatitis A or B. Their infection is cleverly called “non-A, non-B hepatitis,” kind of a placeholder for a future discovery.

1989: A government-industry collaboration discovers the virus that causes “NANB hepatitis” (as it is sometimes further abbreviated). Good thing for that placeholder, because the new virus is called “hepatitis C”, abbreviated “HCV.” A few years later, a reasonably accurate blood test arrives, helping protect the blood supply and also giving us a much better sense of the natural history of HCV (generally slow but progressive liver disease), and finding a vast number of people infected, most of them unaware of it.

1990s: Remarkably, interferon therapy alone sometimes cures hepatitis C. That’s right, cures it. Unlike HIV and hepatitis B, HCV has no phase where it’s integrated into the host genome, so clearance of the virus completely occurs, provided the host and treatment factors are right. That’s the good news, but the rest, not so much: cure rates are terrible (generally <10% for genotype 1, the most common form in the United States), interferon has to be injected three times a week, and, perhaps worst of all, side effects are legion — fatigue, fever, muscle aches, anorexia, depression, irritability — and tend to worsen over the year or so of required therapy.

Late 1990s: Ribavirin — a mysterious antiviral whose mechanism of action still remains unclear — is added to interferon treatment, boosting cure rates up to 30-40% for genotype 1, 70% or higher for genotypes 2 and 3. Cause for celebration? Usually not, for several reasons: ribavirin has its own tricky side effects (hemolytic anemia, for one, and severe teratogenicity), so treatment is even more difficult than with interferon alone. Furthermore, the viral kinetics of successful treatment remain poorly defined, and hence patients are often given months of toxic therapy before it is ultimately stopped for “futility”.

Early 2000s: Attaching polyethylene glycol (PEG) to interferon greatly slows its clearance, so injections are now required only once a week. These “pegylated” forms of interferon plus ribavirin increase cure rates a bit further, as the reduced frequency of injections markedly improves adherence. (They also engender one of the best trade names ever for a drug – what marketing genius thought of Pegasys?) Side effects, alas, are no better. “I feel like I’m slowly killing myself,” says one of my patients, memorably, as he abandons treatment after 36 weeks of fatigue, snapping at his wife and co-workers, and general misery because his blood tests still show a bit of detectable virus – with no guarantee that continuing on to week 48 will cure him.

2011: The first “directly acting antivirals” (DAAs) are approved, the HCV protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir. For patients completing treatment with these drugs — again, in addition to interferon and ribavirin — cure rates for genotype 1 reach 70-80%. Certainly a big improvement, yes, but a few major caveats: first, though the treatment can sometimes (but not always) be shortened to 24 weeks with these three rather than two drugs, interferon and ribavirin side effects remain extremely problematic, with some of them (in particular the cytopenias) made even worse. Second, these first-generation protease inhibitors have their own set of nasty toxicities (anemia, rashes, taste disturbance, diarrhea, pain with defecation — another memorable patient quote: “I feel like I’m shitting glass shards.”) Third, both drugs have a high pill burden and, with telaprevir, stringent food requirements, making adherence extremely challenging.

World Hepatitis Day

Given the limitations of interferon (pegylated or not), ribavirin, telaprevir and boceprevir, it’s not surprising that many clinicians and patients decide it’s best to wait for better treatments to come. In fact, the cure rates from clinical trials are huge overestimates of the proportions actually cured in clinical practice, since there is intense clinician and patient self-selection about who should launch into these tough treatments. Meanwhile, research is proceeding rapidly (competition in this field is a good thing) to find other anti-HCV drugs, and several promising early clinical trials results are presented at academic meetings.

The practical culmination of this research finally arrives in late 2013 with the approval of first simeprevir — another protease inhibitor, only given as just one pill a day and with very few side effects — and, a few weeks later, sofosbuvir. The first HCV nucleotide polymerase inhibitor, sofosbuvir is also one pill a day, is highly potent, has few side effects or drug interactions, and is so effective it can help you get a better deal on your car insurance. (That last part was made up, but for the price — $1000 a pill — sofosbuvir better be pretty good.)

Simeprevir and sofosbuvir have been studied together in the COSMOS study and the bottom line is that more than 90% of genotype 1 patients are cured with 12 weeks of therapy. Some of the patients in COSMOS received no ribavirin, and most importantly none received interferon. It’s a small study, yes, and so we can’t take that response rate as applicable to everyone – some very difficult to treat individuals have already failed “SIM-SOF,” as the combination is being called by the HCV cognoscenti. But both in the clinical trial and thus far in clinical practice, this two-pill, once-daily regimen has shockingly few side effects.

So what’s next? How can this happy state of affairs get even better? Within the next 12 months, we’ll have a combination pill that gives HCV treatment as one pill a day. Some patients will be cured in 8 rather than 12 weeks. Other options (here and here) will arrive that have the same astounding cure rates – because a greater than 90% response is the price of entry into this HCV treatment arena. It’s hoped (and expected by many) that these expanded options will bring the cost of HCV therapy down, because that’s the way markets are supposed to work.

More than 90% cured. Sure beats the 9% rate from the interferon-only days.

And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate World Hepatitis Day.

Paul Edward Sax, MD is Clinical Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. He is the editor-in-chief of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s new peer-reviewed, open access journal, Open Forum Infectious Diseases (OFID).

Open Forum Infectious Diseases provides a global forum for the rapid publication of clinical, translational, and basic research findings in a fully open access, online journal environment. The journal reflects the broad diversity of the field of infectious diseases, and focuses on the intersection of biomedical science and clinical practice, with a particular emphasis on knowledge that holds the potential to improve patient care in populations around the world.

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Image: World Hepatitis Day logo via World Hepatitis Alliance.

The post World Hepatitis Day: reason to celebrate appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Celebrate the Fruits of Summer With…Fruit!

I love all the fresh fruit that’s available this time of year.  Every trip to the grocery or farmer’s market is an olfactory and visual delight as summer fruits abound.  Why not take advantage of the color and variety and make your own fruit salad to have as a snack or for a refreshing dessert at the next barbeque.

For my fruit salad, I used peaches, kiwi, cherries, and blueberries.  You can add grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple or raspberries.  Think multi-colored and you’re sure to have a winning combination.  You can sprinkle unsweetened coconut on top or even some homemade granola if you want to add some crunch.   Don’t be afraid to try new combinations.   fruit saladIt’s all delicious!


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9. How to Write a Book Series: 3 Crucial Decisions


The ALIENS have landed!

"amusing. . .engaging, accessible," says Publisher's Weekly


To write a series of books, my biggest tip is to plan ahead. You may get by with writing one book on the fly—plenty of people do that. But for a series to hang together, to have cohesion and coherence, planning is essential. Here are three decisions you should make early in the planning process.

Decision #1: What type of series will you write?

Strategies for a series vary widely. For THE HUNGER GAMES, the story is really one large story broken down into several books. Or, to say it another way, there is a narrative arc that spans the whole series. Yes, each book has a narrative arc and ends on a satisfying note; however, we read the next book because we want to know what happens in the overall series arc. Jim Butcher’s ALERA CODEX is another series with an overall series arc; it was fun to hang out in this world for a long time.

On the other hand, series such as Agatha Christie mysteries (in fact, many mystery series fall into this category) are stand-alone books. What continues from one book to the next is the characters, the setting and milieu, and the general voice and tone of the stories. Once a reader gets to know a character, s/he wants to spend more time with that character. These readers just want to hang out with a friend, your character. A sub-category is the series of standalone books that adds a final chapter to set up the next book in the series and leaves you with a cliff-hanger.

I distinctly remember when I first read Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter series about Mars. Each story is a standalone novel, but he hooked me hard. I started reading at noon on a Saturday and found myself hotfooting it to the bookstore at 4:30 pm because they closed at 5 pm and I had to have the second book to read immediately.

Rarer is the series that crosses genres. This type series begins with one genre, but moves into other genres as the lives of the characters progress. For example, a romance might continue with a mystery for the second book. And the third might move into a supernatural genre. These are rarer because one reason a reader sticks with a series is that they know what they are getting. It will be this type of a story, told in this sort of way and will involve these characters.

On the other hand, some series unabashedly cross genres but they do it for every book. Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series is a combination of mythology and action/thriller with a dose of mystery.

Notice that this decision centers on the plot of the stories in the series. Will you plot each separately, or will there be an overall plot?

Decision #2: Characters

Besides plot, you should make decisions about characters, and as with plot, you have choices. One choice is an ensemble cast that will carry over from book to book. Here, you have Percy Jackson, his friends and his family as constants. Each book introduces new characters, of course, but there is a core that stays the same.

Another option is to have just one character remain the same. Agatha Christie had Hercule Poirot traveling around and the only constant was the gumshoe and his skills.

Whether you choose one character or an ensemble, you can add or subtract as you go along. But the characters must be integral to the story’s plot.

In developing series characters, think about cohesion and coherence.

Cohesion: Elements of the story stick together, giving cohesion. For example, if one alien in the family can use telekinesis (moving objects with your mind), then that possibility should exist for all members of the family. Of course, some might not have the power, or it may develop slowly for a child, but the possibility should exist.

Coherence: Elements of a story are consistent from book to book. If Kell’s eyes are silvery in book one, they are silvery in books two, three and four.

Decision #3: How long do you want the series to continue?

Many easy readers series go on forever. Think of THE BERENSTAIN BEARS, who continue their adventures and lives throughout multiple volumes. For this type series, the story possibilities are endless. Or think of a TV series, where the situation set up is rich with possibilities. I Love Lucy ran for years and years on the premise of a slightly crazy wife of a musician.

On the other hand, some series have a finite life span. For stories with a narrative arc that spans a series, the life span is built into the plot. However even for these, there can be spin-offs into related series. Think of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and Heroes of Olympia series. The A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy and John Gurney had a built-in limit of 26 books.

The Buddy Files Series, Book 1, by Dori Hillestad Butler

The Buddy Files Series, Book 1, by Dori Hillestad Butler

Sometimes, the length of a series depends on the publisher and the early success of the series titles. When Dori Hillestad Butler’s first book in The Buddy Files series, THE CASE OF THE LOST BOY, won the 2011 Edgar Award for the best juvenile mystery of the year, the publisher contracted for more.

For Sara Pennypacker, author of the CLEMENTINE series of short chapter books, the answer of series length depended on something else. In a presentation about writing, she said that she had to ask herself what she wanted to say to third graders. She came up with eight things. Pennypacker focused on the themes of each book (friendship, telling the truth, etc) and found that eight was the natural stopping place for her. Of course, she reserves the right to many more, if other themes present themselves. But she deliberately stepped away from doing a Christmas book, a Halloween book, a 4th of July book, a fall book, a back-to-school book and so on and so forth.

9781629440217-Perfect-PB-CS.inddMy books, THE ALIENS, INC. SERIES, just released in August, 2014, is about an alien family that is shipwrecked on Earth and must figure out how to make a living. It’s been interesting developing these stories and thinking about these three issues.

They accidentally fall into party planning and each book features a different type of party or event put on by Aliens, Inc, the family’s company. KELL, THE ALIEN, the lead-off story, is about a birthday party and of course, it is an alien party. Can the aliens pull off an alien party? The second is about a Friends of Police parade, entitled, KELL AND THE HORSE APPLE PARADE. Book 3, KELL AND THE GIANTS, explored the world of tall and how to keep a giant secret.

Can you tell just from the description some of the decisions I made? There isn’t an overall series arc. Rather, the characters, setting and milieu are set up and there could be endless stories in the series. However, like Butler’s dog mystery series, I am starting with four books and their success will determine future titles. There is a main character who is surrounded by friends and family and, of course, a villainess. These characters weave through the stories and provide cohesion and coherence.

Plan ahead and your series will be stronger. For those who accidentally fall into a series, it will be harder to sustain coherence. You may realize in book three that it sure would be nice if your character had to wear glasses. Yes, you can add it—but you run the danger of it being obviously done for the story itself. So, in my series, early readers have questioned things like the art teacher who is from Australia.

They ask, “Does it matter that she is from Australia?”

“Not yet,” I answer. I just know that I have seeded these early manuscripts with possibilities. If the series goes to books 5-8, I will have hooks to draw upon. So, while I haven’t plotted those books, I have still allowed room for them.

Resource: Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas by Karen S. Wiesner (Writer’s Digest Books)

Want to write a series? What is your favorite series and how will your stories compare?

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10. The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, 255 pp, RL 5

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman combines time-travel fantasy and historical fiction in an different way that makes for an interesting read. Sherman begins her novel introducing us to the thirteen-year-old Sophie Martineau and the very different world of 1960s Louisiana. Sophie's mama is a Fairchild of Oak River, which was once a great sugar cane plantation. Now, the remains of the

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11. Picture Book Monday with a review of Boris and the Wrong Shadow

We tend to take shadows for granted, until there is a hot day and we can't find a single shadow where we can get some respite from the heat. Shadows are important, which is what Boris the Siamese cat learns in today's picture book. They should not be taken for granted, and one should never, ever, lose them or let them wander off.

Boris and the Wrong ShadowBoris and the wrong shadow
Leigh Hodgkinson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tiger Tales, 2009, 978-1-58925-082-6
One day Boris the Siamese cat wakes up after having a delightful dream. The delicious aftereffects of his dream are soon replaced by a distinct feeling that something is amiss. When Boris gets up he soon sees what is wrong. Instead of having a cat-shaped shadow, he now has a mouse-shaped shadow. Now, some cats would freak out if they saw their shadow acting up, but Boris decides not to let such a “silly thing,” bother him. Instead, he goes outside to enjoy the day.
   Unfortunately, the animals in the garden don’t have such a sanguine attitude to cats with mouse shadows, and Boris is laughed at, squeaked at, and ignored. Try as he might, Boris cannot help feeling rather depressed about his situation, and then he sees something that pulls him out of his unhappy state. Boris sees his shadow going by and he sets off in hot pursuit.
   In this delightful picture book we meet Boris, a cat whose shadow has been shadow-napped. Or so it would seem. Though Boris is understandably upset about his shadow problem, the experience teaches him something about what it is like to be a small, defenseless creature that other animals don’t take seriously. Maybe it was a good thing that this whole shadow conundrum took place.

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12. What Were Girls Like?

I am JulietThree recent YA historical fiction novels by Australian women (all published by HarperCollins/ABC Books) inhabit times when girls had to bend to the influence of men and were comparatively powerless.

The Raven’s Wing is Frances Watts’s first novel for teens. It is set in Ancient Rome where fifteen year-old Claudia is strategically offered in marriage several times. Making an alliance which can best help her family is paramount. Primarily a romance, the book addresses Claudia’s growing awareness of human rights (here through the fate of slaves) which interferes with her sense of duty and makes her a much more interesting character than the docile cipher she is expected to be.

I am Juliet by Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French, is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. French’s Juliet is a fleshed-out focal character. Superficially she shares some of Claudia’s privileged lifestyle features: attended by maids who wash and dress her and apply her makeup; elaborate meals; and protection behind high walls. Medicinal and other herbs and plants are a feature of their times; and Juliet and Claudia both face imminent arranged marriage, but are aware of a dark man in shadows. Their stories, also, contain a story within a story.

Jackie French has reinterpreted Shakespeare previously – in her excellent Macbeth and Son which grapples with the nature of truth. She has also addressed the role of women in history, perhaps most notably in A Rose for the ANZAC Boys

Ratcatcher's Daughter Issy, the thirteen-year-old protagonist of Pamela Rushby’s The Ratcatcher’s Daughter, doesn’t share Claudia and Juliet’s privileged backgrounds. Set in a well-drawn Brisbane of 1900, Issy’s father is a ratcatcher during the bubonic plague. Issy is offered a scholarship to become a teacher but her family refuse it due to lack of money. The issue of the poor’s inability to take up opportunities that the rich assume is reiterated throughout the novel.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter and I am Juliet include background notes about the historical period and other points of interest.

 These three books unite in their exploration of girls who are prepared to defy tradition to control their own lives, where possible, in spite of general lack of female empowerment. I hope that this really was possible and is not just a revisionist interpretation.

It is interesting that this crop of YA historical novels has appeared now. Are these authors finding a story-niche or reflecting current concern? Although surely girls today, particularly in a country such as Australia, are more fortunate in their freedom and choice. The Raven's Wing

 

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13. Batman Day at the Library-or How to Plan a Program in Three Days


Batman loves the library


Part of being a librarian means the ability to be flexible and spontaneous. When I got to work on Wednesday (which was Batman Day) I was told that we had been getting calls about a Batman Day at the Library celebration we were hosting on Saturday. Turns out we were advertised on the DC Comics Blog as a location hosting a Batman celebration on Saturday. (I think this occurred when I requested some promotional Batman items, but I'm not exactly sure) All I know is that we were given three days to plan an unexpected program. Luckily, I work with an amazing team (and a wonderfully nerdy team!) of people so we threw together an amazing program.

Planning a program in just a few days took a lot of brainstorming and Batman research. But I'm amazingly lucky to work with a great group of people who all jumped on board and helped out. Everyone took on a task, worked together, and created a pretty incredible program that was a lot of fun. We tried to keep the activities simple and fun and stuck to a lot of basics like trivia, games, and crafts.

Here's what we did:

-Screenings of Batman The Animated Series. According to my husband, who is a big Batman fan, this series is the best of the animated series and might be the best incarnation of Batman on screen, so we knew it would be a hit as part of our party. 

-Bat Trivia. I found several quizzes on Sporcle.com that I adapted for our Batman trivia. I made sure to have some that were easy (name the characters) to hard (who said it-Batman or Shakespeare?)

-Scavenger Hunt-my amazing staff pulled together to create some amazing scavenger hunts around the library (and these sneakily taught our kids all about the library!) One scavenger hunt included riddles from the Riddler that needed to be solved. The riddles were clues to the locations of the question marks around the library. The other scavenger hunt was a hunt down the villains around the library. We printed off pictures of the characters and hung them around the library for the kids to find.

-Bat Villain shooting gallery. My awesome staff put this together as well and created a shooting gallery using nerf guns, styrofoam blocks, and pictures of various bat villains. This was recycled from our Star Wars program and worked well with Batman too. It was a huge hit and the kids loved it. It was also fun for the younger kids who couldn't do the scavenger hunt or trivia.

-Batarang Toss-Using the diecut machine, we cut out dies and my staff created black and yellow boxes for the kids to toss bats into. Another good activity for the younger kids.
-Build Gotham City-I couldn't have done this without my staff who again, pulled together to cover wooden blocks in black paper to create Gotham City building blocks. This was another option for the younger kids.

-Batman Cubee crafts-printed off from the Cubee Craft website

-A Batman Fan Discussion-my husband led this discussion for teens and adults about all things Batman-the best actor to portray Batman, best Bat Villain, best movie/TV Show, thoughts on the upcoming movie and Gotham TV Show, and various Batman theories. 

-Lots of freebies and goodies! Thanks to our local comic book store and Random House, we were able to give away lots of great posters, Batman masks, buttons, tattoos, and comics. 

Why yes, I actually get paid to dress up and pose with Batman! My job is awesome!

And of course, the highlight of the program was having Batman at the library! I am very lucky that I was able to meet our local Batman. We have the most amazing guy in town that dresses up as Batman and makes appearances and I was able to book him for the morning to come take photos with the kids. It was a huge hit and the kids were in awe of him. The best was seeing the kids dressed up and being amazed that their favorite superhero was right in front of them! And I got to promote the library to Batman which was pretty awesome!

We decorated the room with diecut bats and I cut out a skyline of Gotham City from a tri-fold science board that I had painted black with yellow windows. One of my amazing co-workers created a Bat Signal using a projector and Powerpoint that we projected onto the ceiling. I also used print outs of a Bat Signal on the floor to lead patrons down the concourse and around the corner to where the event was and where Batman was located for photos. Seeing a video of a previous Batman appearance, I made sure to have a barricade up to keep a line for photos going smoothly. 

We promoted the program through our media channels, distributed fliers to local comic book stores, promoted in on library Facebook pages (and got coverage on Batman's page too!) as well as being advertised on our area visitor's bereau blog and on DC Comics blogs. For putting together a three day program, all of my staff and awesome co-workers came together wonderfully and helped spread the word. We ended up having over 100 people at the event, which was pretty impressive for doing something on such short notice! 

Overall the program was incredibly well attended and well received. We had plenty of activities, but if we did it again, I would like to book a larger room, since we were in our smaller Story Hour Room. This way everything could be more spread out. All the activities ran themselves really well so staff didn't have to do much but mingle, restock supplies and hand out prizes. 

It was a great success and I can't wait to host another Batman Day at the Library!




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14. An Intro to The Art of Revision: Part 2

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Kat Zhang

Kat ZhangSo, a couple of weeks ago, I posted “An Intro to The Art of Revision,” and promised more to come. Here’s the more to come ;) (which will, in time, be followed by yet another “more to come,” I’m sure)

Again, I start with a disclaimer about how revision (and writing, in general) is different for everyone, yadda yadda yadda, and how you should totally ignore me if the following doesn’t appeal to you.

Last time, I focused on how you should see your first draft as malleable, and how you’re using it to figure out What Is My Story About (and What Is My Story NOT About). Here’s a little more explanation on that.

At the heart of every story, there is Want and there is Conflict. Your characters are driven to action because they want something. The rest of the story exists because there’s conflict that prevents your characters from just getting what they want. This Want and Conflict (which can then split into many Wants and Conflicts) can differ wildly in complexity and subtly from story to story.

You can think about it this way (and I’m generalizing/stereotyping here): a summer blockbuster action movie is gonna have a pretty simple main Want and Conflict—Villain wants to destroy the world (mwauhaha!); Hero wants to save it. An “art-house” indie film might have something less outwardly dramatic: young woman wants to get into college and escape her little town; her emotionally needy mother wants her to stay.

But either way, there’s always a main Want and Conflict. Many times, there are sub-Wants and Conflicts as well (Hero in action movie also wants to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend, who doesn’t understand why he’s always off saving the world and not watching police procedurals with her; she threatens to break up with him if he keeps skipping date night). But the main thing in your revision is to make sure that your main character(s)’s major Want and Conflict are established as early as possible, and as clearly as possible. Without this, readers find it much harder to care. After all, this juxtaposition of “want” and “conflict” is your book’s plot.

This is what people are talking about when they say beginner writers often start a book “too early” in the story. If your story is about a boy whose sister gets kidnapped and he has to go after her, it’s an issue if the girl doesn’t actually get kidnapped until chapter 10. You might protest that the first 10 chapters are necessary to explain why the girl would get kidnapped, and to develop the characters, and the setting, and so on. Yes, those things are important, but not as important as kick-starting your plot.

I’ll wrap up here for today. Go check your WIPs! Are you setting up “Want” and “Conflict” as early as possible?

Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional–the former allows for better souvenirs, but the latter allows for dragons, so it’s a tough pick. Her novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a girl struggling to survive in an alternate universe where people are born with two souls, and one is doomed to disappear. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published by HarperCollins in September of 2012.  Book 2, ONCE WE WERE, released September 2013, and Book 3, ECHOES OF US, will come out September 16, 2014. You can learn all about Kat at her site, or listen to her ramblings on twitter.

 

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15. Novella Review:

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’m a huge Kelly Hunter fan, so when this novella popped up at Amazon for .99, I grabbed it with no hesitation.  Didn’t even read the blurb.  I just had to have it.  I am so glad that I hit the Buy button, because this is a fun, slightly angsty read.  And guess what?  The heroine is a costume designer and a co-player, and most of the story takes place at a gaming convention.  Talk about pushing all of my geek buttons!

Eli is still mourning the loss of his girlfriend, five years after her death.  He has cut himself off from almost everyone but his family.  His only joy comes  on Friday, during his weekly online gaming session with Fuzzy aka Zoey, another hardcore gamer.  She is a take no prisoners kind of girl, and Eli has developed a fondness for her over the two years they’ve been gaming together.  When his brothers plot to have them meet in real life, at a local gaming convention, he isn’t happy at first.  He’s down right put out.  His social life is just fine, thank you very much.  He’s reluctant to step outside of his comfort zone, but he doesn’t want to hurt Zoey’s feelings, either, so he agrees to go.

Zoey is delighted when Eli asks her to go to the convention with him.  She doesn’t know that the text she received is from his brother, but it probably wouldn’t have slowed her down if she had known.  That’s what I enjoyed so much about this fun novella.  Zoey is vivacious and full of life, while Eli has been avoiding life for the past five years.  Zoey loves people, she loves making everyone feel special, and she has to be in the thick of the action.  Sitting on the sidelines is not for her.  Jumping into new situations with both feet and never a backwards glance is how she’s wired, while Eli is much more reserved and cautious.  The push and pull between them was engaging, and it was nice to see the heroine take charge for a change.

If I have one quibble, it was with the potential relationship deal breaker, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  While it was the one thing that would have sent Eli packing, it came out of left field.  Other than that, this is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon.

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchase from Amazon

From Amazon:

They were on the honeymoon of a lifetime. Pity it wasn’t theirs.

Eli Jackson has just married the woman of his dreams. Sure, it was part of an online role-playing game and not exactly real, but he totally dominated the wedding battle that followed and his lady wife was very impressed.

Eli never imagined that his brothers would bestow on them a real-world honeymoon package at one of the Gold Coast’s premier hotels. He never figured on costume designer Zoey Daniels being such fun. Together they’re dynamite, but Eli’s not looking for a real relationship and Zoey lives only for the day.
Besides, no one falls in love this fast. Do they?

The post Novella Review: appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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16. Zimbabwe International Book Fair

       The Zimbabwe International Book Fair apparently runs 30 July through 2 August, with a theme of 'Indigenous Languages, Literature, Art and Knowledge Systems of Africa' (certainly a worthy one -- and one hopes some word gets out beyond Zimbabwe ...). There's an 'Indaba Conference' leading into it, 28-29 July; see the schedule at Writers International Network Zimbabwe.
       In The Herald Stanley Mushava argues that with ZIBF @ 31: Time for inclusivity, with all sorts of suggestions, criticism (both constructive as well as merely critical), and a good bit of enthusiasm -- as, for example, in suggesting:

ZIBF must be a national buzzword just like the agricultural show and the trade fair, to some extent, because books are the engine that drives development.
       Some, of course, is just wishful thinking:
More outlets must come aboard to stimulate and sustain the reading culture of the country. Bookshops must be frequented at least half as much as fast food outlets to mitigate the cultural malnutrition which threatens the country.
       He does have a point about the lack of a proper web-presence for much of the industry (and ZIBF as well ...) -- colorfully suggesting:
Now that the communication protocols governing the reception of art have vastly changed over the years, committing your work to a publisher who does not operate a website, blog or social network account is as wise as fastening your book on the tail of a crocodile.
       I'm not sure anyone ever put it that way, but he does have a point.

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17. Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner for MMGM



Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner (Sept 2013, Walker Childrens, for ages 10 to 14)

Source: purchased from B&N

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Four kids . . . 

Two weeks in the Florida Everglades . . . 

One top-secret science experiment that could change them and the world as they know it . . . 

Meet Quentin, a middle-school football star from Chicago; Sarah, a hockey player from Upstate New York; Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest; and Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.

The four have little in common except the head injuries that landed them in an elite brain-science center in the wild swamps of Florida. It’s known as the best clinic in the world and promises to return their lives to normal, but as days pass, the kids begin to notice strange side effects and unexplained changes


Why I recommend it: Wake Up Missing is a fascinating combination of futuristic science and old-fashioned adventure and mystery in the Florida swamps. The way the author managed to stir in traumatic brain injuries, a one-eyed alligator, a man who collects butterflies, and four kids from diverse backgrounds (and then season it all with a dash of political intrigue) makes for one remarkable dish. As an adult reader, I found the doctor's experiments a little far-fetched, but I could see my ten-year-old self eating this up. 

You might recognize Kate Messner as the author of the Marty McGuire series of younger chapter books (yay! I love Marty McGuire!), and from Capture the Flag and other novels.

Have you read Wake Up Missing? What did you think? And if you haven't read it, what recent mystery/adventure would you recommend?


Kate Messner's website

Follow Kate on Twitter


For other MMGM posts, see Shannon's links.

(Speaking of missing... I'll be missing from the blogging world for the next few weeks. I'll be back on Monday, August 18th. Hoping to finish a much-needed revision on my latest novel.)

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18. Transitions in Time

The landscape of time can be a ticklish beast, particularly when writing. We live our lives in a linear fashion, always moving forward, never backwards or sideways. Our characters often live their lives linearly as well. In fact, books themselves must be read in a front to back fashion where chapter one leads to chapter two and so on. Yet time – or story time – is more malleable in a novel than it is in real life. Engaging a reader in the whole history of a world and character requires flashbacks, summarization of memories, and whole scenes that make us time travelers. Or as my favorite time traveler Doctor Who would say:

As authors, the question is how do we deal with all this wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff without disorienting our reader? Jumping around in time is a luxury we can explore, but walking blindly into a flashback, without any cues to the reader, will break the fictive dream and draw attention to itself. It will commit the cardinal sin of writing, which is to remind the reader that they are reading.

One of the best ways to transition a reader in time is through the careful crafting of language. Words are our tools and used craftily, that can lull a reader through an invisible portal from one time space to another.

Let’s look at four techniques to help a reader flawlessly transition through story time.

mango1) Word Repetition

Create transitions through the repetition of sounds, syllables, objects, and words. In the excerpt from The House on Mango Street below, the repetition of the words know and because are used as a portal from one time period to the next. The words move us from the present day story space to a new location in Mexico, and then back again.

“I have never seen my Papa cry and I don’t know what to do. I know he will have to go away, that he will take a plane to Mexico, all the uncles and aunts will be there, and they will have a black-and-white photo take in front of the tomb … because this is how they send the dead away in that country. Because I am the oldest, my father has told me first and now it is my turn to tell the others.”

2) Sentence and Phrase Repetition

Create transitions through the repetition of phrases, images, and sentence structure.

In this second example from The House on Mango Street, the repetition of a sentence structure creates a rhythm and punctuation to the paragraph. It is the repeating words along with the repeating rhythm that transitions the reader from impression to impression.

In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine … It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings … songs like sobbing. It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine.” (The House on Mango Street)

humanbraincloud_shot13) Word Association

Remember being a kid and playing the word association game? The mind likes to make connections through visual images evoked by single words. You can also use this technique to create transitions in time and space.

The word association game begins with hair in the example below. It then riffs off of imagery to transition from hair to bread, thus moving the reader into a memory.

“But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly … sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you… is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell  when she makes room for you on her side of the bed … the rain outside falling and Papa snoring.”  (The House on Mango Street)

wordUp-44) Question and Answer

You can also use a question to transition the reader from one time to the next. The question creates curiosity in the reader’s mind and the answer works as a transition into the new time space.

“No address. No Name. Nothing in his pockets. Ain’t it a shame. Only Marin can’t explain why it mattered … but what difference does it make? He wasn’t anything to her. He wasn’t her boyfriend … Just another brazer who didn’t speak English. Just another wetback … How does she explain it?  She met him at a dance. Geraldo in his shiny shirt and green pants…” (The House on Mango Street)

There are a lot ways to transition between time and space in a story. In later posts we can discuss things like: cause and effect, causality link-chains, or pause button violations. For now, focus on the magic of phrasing and how your words can makes a transition seem inevitable, natural, and invisible.

See these time transition techniques (and more) in practice by reading and studying these awesome stories:

  • How to Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
  • The House on Mango Street by Sanda Cicneros
  • Small Damages by Beth Kephart

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19. Games & Books & Q&A: J. Anderson Coats

Wicked and the JustNext among the children’s/YA authors that I’m featuring in the Games & Books & Q&A series is J. Anderson Coats. J. is the author of the YA novel The Wicked and the Just (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), set amid the English occupation of medieval Wales. Published in 2012, the book was ranked among the year’s best YA fiction by both Kirkus Reviews and the Young Adult Library Services Association.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

JAC: Playing Nintendo was a way to hang out with my older brother and develop a common vocabulary. The better I got, the more he treated me like a peer instead of a pest. We bonded over Karnov and Contra.

CB: What games did you play the most when you were a kid? What did you love about them?

JAC: I played a lot of Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3, and hours and hours of Dragon Warrior II. Dragon Warrior was a quest game, and you had to travel around talking to people and gathering items and interpreting clues. It reminded me of reading a great story, only you got to participate.

J Anderson CoatsCB: What role do games play in your life today?

JAC: Games are a big part of how I connect with my teenage son. He doesn’t want to do things like bake cookies anymore, but he’s usually up for a game of Civilization V. And I’ve been known to play Civ V or Medieval Total War when I’m stuck on a scene or a plot point in a book I’m working on. It’s good for morale to succeed at something, even if it’s razing your opponent’s city to the ground.

***

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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20. Does pain have a history?

It’s easy to assume that we know what pain is. We’ve all experienced pain, from scraped knees and toothaches to migraines and heart attacks. When people suffer around us, or we witness a loved one in pain, we can also begin to ‘feel’ with them. But is this the end of the story?

In the three videos below Joanna Bourke, author of The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers, talks about her fascination with pain from a historical perspective. She argues that the ways in which people respond to what they describe as ‘painful’ have changed drastically since the eighteenth century, moving from a belief that it served a specific (and positive) function to seeing pain as an unremitting evil to be ‘fought’. She also looks at the interesting attitudes towards women and pain relief, and how they still exist today.

On the history of pain

Click here to view the embedded video.

How have our attitudes to pain changed?

Click here to view the embedded video.

On women and pain relief

Click here to view the embedded video.

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the prize-winning author of nine books, including histories of modern warfare, military medicine, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, and rape. Her book An Intimate History of Killing (1999) won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, and ‘Eyewitness’. She is also a frequent contributor to TV and radio shows, and a regular newspaper correspondent. Her latest book is The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers.

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21. MMGM Links (7/28/14)

So...my brain is dead. Comic Con killed it. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was also SO MUCH FUN. But yeah. 5 days of crowds and noise and general sensory overload? I've got brain leaking out of my ears.

So I'm going to try to put together the MMGM links, but it's highly possible there will be errors. And if there are, SORRY, but please don't email me asking me to fix them. I have so much to catch up on, I won't have time to revise this post.

Okay, here goes...

- Alex at Randomly Reading is cheering for BETTER NATE THAN EVER. Click HERE to see why. 
- Natalie Aguirre is interviewing author Julie Mary Gibson and GIVING AWAY an ARC of COPPER MAGIC. Click HERE for details. 
- Jessica at Books for Serendipity is riveted by MIRROR MAZE. Click HERE to read her review.  
- Katie at Storytime Secrets is featuring the first two books in THE CHARMED LIFE series. Click HERE to see what she thought. 
- Suzanne Warr is highlighting AIRMAN. Click HERE to see what she thought.   
- Rcubed has been swept away with HALF UPON A TIME . Click HERE to read her review.  
- Andrea Mack has been carried away by A HUNDRED HORSES . Click HERE to see why.
- Reader Noir is loving STILL LIFE. Click HERE to read her feature. 
- The B.O.B. has a list of books to help you get in the swing of things for school starting. Click HERE to see what they are.   
- Jenni Enzor is singing praises for the THE SECRET LIFE OF A DAISY. Click HERE to see why. 
- Greg Pattridge is chasing THE SPY CATCHERS OF MAPLE HILL.  Click HERE to see why. 
- Michael Gettel Gilmarten is is ALSO singing praises for THE SECRET LIFE OF A DAISY. Click HERE for his take. 
- Mark Baker is championing THE 101 DALMATIONS. Click HERE to see what he thought.  
- Rosi Hollinbeck is reviewing--and GIVING AWAY--COUSINS AND ROBBERS: TALES OF BLACK JACK JETTY. Click HERE for details. 
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Jennifer Rumberger always has an awesome MMGM feature on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.



If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me. 

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22. The Truth About Alice, by Jennifer Mathieu | Book Review

An entirely authentic portrayal of the damage and scandal that a little lie can do when it goes from mouth to mouth, The Truth About Alice is a can’t-stop-turning-the-pages read that will have you wanting to know just what really went down that summer.

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23. Summer Time

The best part of summer is having time. Time for reading, time for vacation, time for kayaking, time for baking, time for redesigning the website. I’ve been doing all of these things. You’ll see the website redesign soon, but I have to say, my family is definitely more appreciative of the baked treats I’ve been […]

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24. Press Release Fun: A Conference on Censorship and a Call for Proposals

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Call for Proposals

Outlawed: The Naked Truth About Censored Literature for Young People
Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature
Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno
April 10-12, 2015

While most people are familiar with attempts to censor children’s and young adult literature, the problem of censorship continues to provoke many who believe that children and adolescents benefit from considering diverse viewpoints and cultural experiences. In recent years, many examples of children’s and young adult literature—including The Perks of Being a WallflowerAnd Tango Makes Three, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—have been challenged in schools and libraries. This conference seeks to explore the ways in which censorship affects young readers whose parents, teachers, and civic leaders attempt to navigate thorny terrains of identity in a world in which information circulates more freely than ever before.

This conference will be hosted by the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, one of North America’s leading resources for the study of children’s and young adult literature. The growing collection of 60,000 books, periodicals, manuscripts, original art, and papers of authors and illustrators has an international and multicultural emphasis. The Center also houses one of the largest collections of LGBT+ literature for children and young adults in the United States.

Scholars, librarians, teachers, writers, and illustrators are invited to submit proposals for formal presentations, roundtable discussions, and workshops. Presentations may highlight creative work, community engagement, pedagogy, or scholarship. Sessions will last 75 minutes (15–20 min. per presenter).Proposals for individual presentations should be 250-300 words, while proposals for entire sessions should be no more than 500 words. Please include two- to three-sentence biographies for each participant and indicate any audio-visual/media needs.

Possible topics for proposals include, but are not limited to:
· Suppressed or silenced histories
· International contexts for censorship
· Technology and/or digital literacies
· Fan fiction as a response to banned young adult texts
· The use of social media to intervene when books are challenged
· History of censorship and banned book lists
· LGBT+ literature
· Bibliotherapy and censorship
· Recent attempts to ban books based on cultural empowerment movements
· Multiculturalism and diversity
· Sex and censorship
· Self-censorship
· Creating curriculum that supports the use of banned books
· “Artivism” and subtext in illustrations
· Graphic novels, novels in verse, and experimentation with form
· Libraries (school/community/archives) and closed reference cases
· Publishing or Pre-Censorship
· Schools (K-12, public/private)
· Religion, spirituality, and mysticism in banned books
· Authorial politics and the reception of young adult literature
· Recommended age ratings for books

Submission deadline for proposals (both individual and panel) is November 26, 2014. Submit electronically to kgodfrey@csufresno.edu, Dr. Kathleen Godfrey, English Department, Fresno State.

For more information please check out the conference’s website at www.outlawed2015.com

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25. Did You Know? A Fun New Informational Book Series


Last week, we went on an annual trip to IKEA and Joseph Beth Bookstore.  It is a fun way to get our heads back into school and to pick up some new books.  This year, I discovered a new informational book series for young readers-the Did You Know? series by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hanna Eliot. It will be perfect for 3rd grade and I think younger and older students would like it too.

The first book I read was Hippos Can't Swim: and other fun facts (Did You Know?).  Kids LOVE facts. Isolated facts that are just fun to know.  I worry a bit about this because so many kids read nonfiction and just collect facts without going further.  This series of books is full of facts. I usually avoid books like that as there are enough out there. But this series is different.  The facts are more than just a sentence fact. They are embedded in an explanation and connected to other facts in ways that build some understanding.  For kids who are used to reading facts only, this is a great series to push them a little bit and to see how facts fit into bigger ideas and understandings.

These are great books for kids who need a bit of support reading nonfiction. I can see using them as read alouds or in small groups. But I think for all kids, these will be great reads for independent reading and kids will be able to read them cover to cover. The illustrations are fun with adorable animals doing crazy things everywhere. I think these illustrations will be great for kids who avoid nonfiction because they have a limited definition of what it can be.  These don't look like your typical nonfiction book.

Right now, I think there are 3 books in the series. But 4 more are due out over the next several months.  Woohooo!

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