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1. Author Top 5 with Julia Durango


Today we welcome Julia Durango to YABC! Julia's new book, The Leveller, is a fast-paced story that launches readers and characters into a vitural-reality gaming world! We can't wait to read it! But until then, Julia is sharing a little bit about her, the book, and the top five reasons why she loves video games. 



Meet Julia.


When Julia Durango is not daydreaming or thinking up new stories, she’s probably eating french fries and dancing like no one’s watching (and really hoping no one is).


Now meet Julia's book, The Leveller.

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, a virtual-reality gaming world, thanks to Julia Durango's cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance, constant twists, and a vivid, multidimensional journey through a tricked-out virtual city will keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she's a bounty hunter in a virtual-reality gaming world—and she's frequently hired by irritated parents to pull kids out of the mazelike MEEP universe.

But when the game's billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn't some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he's left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn's not hiding—he's being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they've encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?


Knowing all of that, it's clear that Julia loves video games. So here are her top five reasons as to why she loves them so much!



1.) Interactive storytelling

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Maybe not, but they were the bomb back when I was a young reader. I loved being able to participate in a story and actually determine the outcome by my choices…I loved being aplayer. Video games are visual versions of those books, only (dare I say it?) so much COOLER.

Yeah, I said it.




2.) Escape from reality

Real world got you down? Need to work off a little steam? Do your horrid aunt and uncle keep you locked up and lonely? Fire up a video game, find your happy place, and forget your worries for a while.




3.) Mad skills


Current research suggests that playing video games can increase cognitive functions like spatial navigation, memory, reasoning, and problem-solving skills among others. All that while you’re having fun? Um, more please.




4.) Virtual reality, people!

It’s coming, and faster than you might think. While the interface isn’t quite as sleek as Nixy’s titanium ear stud/transmission device in The Leveller, this Oculus Rift headset looks like a good time and then some. Sign me up.




5.) Fun with friends

Who says video games are anti-social? These days you can trade laser blasts and barbed quips with friends across the galaxy! Nothing says love like having your BFF’s back when battling baddies. (Just ask Nixy.)



We'd like to thank Julia for showing us her love for video games! And here is another BIG thanks for the following giveaway of The Leveller!




The Leveller

  1. by: Julia Durango

  2. Release Date: June 23, 2015 





Three winners will receive a copy of The Leveller! US addresses only.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, Julia has a question for entrants. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries: If you could live inside any video game, which one would it be?


*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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2. My Brother's Secret (2015)

My Brother's Secret. Dan Smith. 2015. Scholastic. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Karl Friedmann loves to play war games, and can't wait to join the Hitler Youth. But after his father's death, he begins to question the rightness of the war, and the rightness of the Nazi party. This change of heart isn't immediate, it's more of a journey as he observes what the war has done to his family, to his friends, to his neighborhood. Two people definitely make an impact on him: his older brother, who does have a secret, and his new best friend, a girl around his own age.

My Brother's Secret is an intense read with plenty of action and drama.

I definitely found it a compelling read--a quick one too! It was action-packed until the very end. I was almost sure there was no way they could resolve it with so few pages left, and, in a way, it did feel rushed. But still. Quite a read.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Library of Congress Reveals Letters About Literature Winners

library of congress logoHave you ever written a letter to one of your favorite authors?

More than 50,000 young readers (grades 4 through 12) participated in the Library of Congress’ Letters About Literature program. Each participant was tasked with writing a letter to an author (living or deceased) about how one of their books affected them.

According to the press release, this “initiative is a reading-promotion program of the Center for the Book, with the goal of instilling a lifelong love of reading in the nation’s youth.” Below, we’ve posted the full list of winners and honors.

Level 1 (Grades 4 to 6)

National Prize: Gerel Sanzhikov of New Jersey’s letter focused on The Running Dream by Wendell Van Draanen.

National Honor Award: Chelsea Brown of Virginia’s letter focused on Shades of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney.

Level 2 (Grades 7 to 8)

National Prize: Gabriel Ferris of Maine’s letter focused on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

National Honor Award (three-way tie): Emmy Goyette of New Hampshire’s letter focused on Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Jonathan Hoff of New Jersey’s letter focused on Maus by Art Spiegelman.

Julianna Gorman of Maryland’s letter focused on Night by Elie Wiesel.

Level 3 (Grades 9 to 12)

National Prize: Aidan Kingwell of Illinois’ letter focused on the Mary Oliver poem \"When Death Comes.\"

National Honor Award (tied between two participants): Lisa Le of the District of Columbia’s focused on The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

Hannah DesChamp of Oregon’s letter focused on the Pablo Neruda poem \"I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You.\"

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4. Mark Zuckerberg Reveals Latest Book Club Pick

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed his latest pick for his book club, A Year of Books. His selection: The Player of Games by Iain Banks.

The Facebook founder posted his choice to his Facebook page. “This is a change of pace from all the recent social science books. Instead, it’s a science fiction book about an advanced civilization with AI and a vibrant culture,” he wrote. “In other news, my pile of books to read is growing faster than I can get through it while running a large company.”

Previous choices have included: Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; and Hank Paulson‘s Dealing With China.


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5. Rick Moody Inks Deal With Henry Holt

Henry-Holt-130Writer Rick Moody has signed a deal to write a new memoir. Henry Holt, an imprint at Macmillan, will publish The Long Accomplishment in 2017.

With this book, Moody will offer month-by-month details on the first year of marriage shared between himself and his second wife Laurel Nakadate. Executive editor Barbara Jones negotiated the deal with literary agent Melanie Jackson.

Here’s more from the press release: “Moody’s most intimate book to date, The Long Accomplishment begins at the happy start of Moody’s second marriage and follows him and his new wife through a sudden, yearlong storm of troubles. Although Moody worries that his past bad behaviors have somehow brought these trials – including serious illness, abruptly aging and infirm parents, a child custody battle, the deaths of close friends, and a calamitous home invasion – upon the family he loves, with humor, wit, and heartrending insight, he discovers that love is a sturdy boat, indeed the only boat, that can carry us across.”

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6. I made a Writing Assignment Checklist for you (and it’s as cheap as the Query Tracker one!)

Trying to make a decisionA couple weeks ago I created a Query Writing Checklist, and it flew off the virtual shelves!

Then, while on a road trip (I do my best thinking while driving), I was like—Duh, Linda! Now writers will need a checklist to use when they’re working on a writing assignment! (You know, the assignment they got using the query checklist.)

Whether you’re writing for a magazine, a website, or a paying blog—there’s so much to think about and remember when you’re working on an assignment:

  • Did I get a contract…and did I sign it and send it back?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • What was it the client wanted from me, again? Did she want a sidebar?
  • Who am I interviewing?
  • Oh man, what was that source’s email address?
  • Did I include a source list with my assignment?
  • When did I follow up with the interviewee?
  • Did I remember to proof the article?
  • Is each fact in the article backed up by an outside source?
  • Did I write a compelling lede? A great kicker?
  • Did I remember to thank the client?

So I did it…I created a fillable PDF Writing Assignment Checklist that covers:

Stage 1: Assignment Details
Stage 2: Sources & Research
Stage 3: Proofing the Article
Stage 4: Turning in the Assignment & Onward

Wherever possible, I also included links to websites and blog posts that will deepen your understanding of that particular element—from finding expert sources to creating a source list to writing an amazing kicker.

The Writing Assignment Checklist is a fillable checklist, meaning you can fill in the blanks and check off action items right on your computer.

Download the checklist and create a duplicate copy for each query idea…you can use the Writing Assignment Checklist over and over!

And even better—you can get this helpful checklist for just $1.49. I know…super cheap, right?

If you’d like a copy of a checklist that will help you track assignments and turn out great articles (and blog posts, and case studies…)–here’s where you can get it.

(And if you missed the Query Tracker Worksheet, that’s here!)



P.S. If you get the checklist, please download it to your hard drive and make duplicates before you start filling it out. That way you’ll have enough checklists for all your pitches, and will be able to save and print them. (Do not open and fill out the PDF in your browser or you will not be able to save and print!)

P.P.S. Did you know Carol Tice’s and my new e-course Escape the Content Mills is on sale this week? Sale ends Sunday…check it out here!

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7. Upcoming Nonfiction Titles Discovered at ALA

Louise and I have returned from the West Coast after attending the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco. One of the best parts of attending ALA is having opportunities to talk with authors, illustrators, editors and publicists about books that are on the horizon. A highlight was listening to Melissa Sweet talk about her art, and she showed us some photos of collages

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8. Patalosh and Exploring the Grand Canyon

Orion explores the Grand Canyon in North America.

0 Comments on Patalosh and Exploring the Grand Canyon as of 7/1/2015 1:00:00 PM
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9. Best Books of June 2015

June 2015: 8 books and scripts read

Recommended for adults and older teens
Tin Men by Christopher Golden

Recommended for ages 14 and up
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Recommended for ages 8 and up
A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
BSC Graphix #1: Kristy's Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

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10. Joy's latest interview (link)

Here's my latest interview (just posted): http://juliesbookreview.blogspot.com/

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11. Maggie to Join the Fireworks at La Crosse River Vault

Fireworks will light up the sky this 4th of July and so will the pole-vaulters at the 6th Annual River Vault competition in La Crosse, Wis. Thousands of spectators are expected to watch some 65 athletes from all over the … Continue reading

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12. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Little Red Riding Hood

retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman


Did you know that the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” was a special favorite of Ms. Hyman’s? And, she apparently, if biography tales can always be believed, spent a whole year wearing a red cape as a homage to this heroine in red.

I love stories that give you a personal window into what motivates and influences a picture book author’s art.

And Trina Schart Hyman, winner of a Cal- decott for this particular book, and a Caldecott in 1985 for her “St. George and the Dragon” is both a wondrous artist and teller of tales. Thank goodness, we can discover and rediscover essential classics like this one with young readers of picture books. When we introduce narratives and art like hers to them, it certainly sets the bar quite high as we show them in that genre, what is great vs what is merely mediocre.

Mediocre can be okay – at times. Like food, a steady diet of the essentials is what will make the body strong. And equally so, a diet of the essentials of the canon of great children’s literature is the best way to feed the mind and imagination of children. The fluff of treats and sweets is also palatable and easy going down, but does it satisfy as well? Maybe, but I think not. Something to ponder.

I love borders in picture books. They add dimension, and sometimes depth to what lies within. And Ms. Hyman here, like the notable Jan Brett, has brought borders with rusticity that play perfectly to the story of the red caped girl.

Here, Red Riding Hood has a name. It’s Elisabeth and the red cape is a birthday gift from grandmother.

The wolf here is pretty cagey, as per usual, making polite conversation, all the while plying Red Riding Hood with queries about her destination.  

I love Ms. Schart Hyman’s pose of the wolf and Red Riding Hood in the wood with shafts of quiet light descending on the wolf as if to expose his evil intent. Heh Heh!

He is wolfishly wily and craven as he springs out of bed in grandmother’s garb!

But, thank goodness for the noble huntsman that Ms. Schart Hyman has clad in buckskin a la Davy Crockett! Charming!

If you’re looking for one version of this tale as old as time, this is the version to introduce to your young reader.

Red Riding Hood is as sweet as a Hummel figurine and the story with its detailed and muted illustrations, lends a cheery warmth to a red caped girl that knows her way around a wolf!

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13. Meet the IF Team: Andy Yates


Hi Illustration Friday community!

So many people play a role in keeping this site updated with inspiration to fuel your creativity, and we’d like to take a moment to highlight one of them today: Andy Yates.

You may be familiar with Andy’s incredibly popular Comics Illustrator of the Week Series (here’s the latest installment). We are so grateful that he helps us round out our content with comic art while giving much deserved attention to the artists involved.

Andy is a freelance illustrator, and animator. In 2013, he received his BS in Media Arts & Animation from the Art Institute of California – Orange County, and has worked creating 2d assets for the casual games industry, as well as working on various independent animation/illustration projects.

He spends his free-time consuming a plethora of good, and bad(but, oh so good..) TV, comics, movies, Cheez-its, Skittles, beer, and the occasional couch pretzel, after removing any hair of course. He writes about comics, and interviews the artists behind them on his website comicstavern.com. You can learn more about Andy, and see his art on his tumblr: plumdill.tumblr.com.

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14. Scholastic Creates a Captain Underpants Song Video

Tra-la-laa! The team at Scholastic have created a video showcasing the Captain Underpants Song.

The video embedded above features George Beard, Harold Hutchins, and the superhero alter ego of Mr. Krupp—what do you think? Click here to watch Dav Pilkey talk about how reading gives you super powers while drawing both Super Diaper Baby and Captain Underpants.

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15. GrammoWriMO!

What’s a GrammoWriMo?

Every November, thousands of writers hammer out words in an epic event called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Writers “win” by completing a 50,000 word novel draft in just 30 days. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. To date, over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

But not everyone can manage 50,000 words in a month. That’s one reason why Grammarly, the company behind the popular automated proofreader, created GrammoWriMo in 2013. People around the world use Grammarly software to refine their writing, so the company leveraged their status as a global resource to unite hundreds of writers from dozens of countries and cultures to craft a novel together.

In the first ever GrammoWriMo, about 300 writers collaborated on a group novel they submitted as a part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Not only did they have to weave the voices of hundreds of different writers into one story, but they had just one month to complete the draft. The GrammoWriMo contributors embraced the challenge. The results? A well-written, cohesive novel, The Lonely Wish-Giver, follows the journey of a girl with the unique job of fulfilling wishes. In 2014, 500 new GrammoWriMo participants submitted their contributions. The resulting novel, Frozen by Fire, weaves the perspectives of multiple characters living in the Italian town of Pompeii in 79 C.E. during the time of the disastrous Mount Vesuvius eruption. Both are available as ebooks on Amazon.com, with proceeds benefitting charities.

Putting Grammarly’s Automated Proofreader to the Test

Each year, Grammarly puts their software to the test proofreading the GrammoWriMo draft. In 2014, they analyzed the results, uncovered the most common errors writers made, and summarized them in this infographic.

Grammowrimo five writing mistakes

Grammarly found that writers of all levels tended to misuse commas, which was the number one error. Incorrect capitalization came in a close second, followed by wordiness, and missing determiners such as “a,” “an,” and “the.” 

Why do talented wordsmiths make these pesky gaffes? Fiction writers often set grammar rules aside when they’re trying to stay in the creative flow. Add deadlines and you’ve got a writer who may not have time for the meticulous editing a manuscript requires. Grammarly provides writers with a “second set of eyes” to guide them through the proofreading process after all that fast-and-furious drafting is complete.

You’re the Writer

No program can replace a human editor making artistic and stylistic choices. Grammarly shines when helping the writer sort out the finer details—where to place that comma or how to tighten up a wordy sentence, for example. Whenever it detects an error, it provides an explanation card to guide the writer toward a conscious decision about what to edit and what to leave alone. Removing some of the obstacles to good writing frees the writer to move beyond nit-picking errors to focusing on the bigger picture of style and content. Give it a whirl on your next draft and see for yourself!

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16. A New Rick Riordan Book!! #ReadRiordan

My dearest Percy Jackson fanatics. We have news!!  There's a new Rick Riordan eBook!! And it's interactive! And customizable!  Are you ready? Here it is!  NEW ORIGINAL RICK RIORDAN E-BOOKTitle: The Demigods of Olympus: An Interactive AdventurePrice: $8.99 / $7.99 On-Sale: July 14, 2015  Your quest begins! Use your demigod skills in this interactive and customizable adventure story

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17. A Love the Earth Booklist: Preserve,Restore, Reuse {Giveaway}

Welcome to the next installment of my Book-Jumper Summer Reading Series! This is my way of inspiring parents who are looking for creative ways to keep their kids reading this summer. All of our protagonists are girls or women and most of our showcased authors are women as well. I will be offering up a combination of themed weeks, great novels, booklist giveaways, and blog post recaps so be sure and stop by to discover more wonderful ways have A Book-jumper Summer while Exploring Our World and Beyond!

Bookjumper Summer Reading

This week we’ve been celebrating the planet we live on, Earth. On Earth Day I created a very fun booklist which honors amazing people preserving and restoring areas on our planet as well as others reusing items to accomplish great feats.

earth day book list

Every library should have these inspiring stories from Wangari Mathai who planted an entire forest saving her country, to William Kamkwamba who created a windmill to end a drought in his town, to Isatou Ceesay who started with just one plastic bag. On this list you’ll also find entertaining chapter books with a environmentalist theme to them as well. Each person can contribute something.

One of the more amazing things about this booklist is that we’re giving it away. Have a look below and get inspired.

A Love the Earth Booklist

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prevot, Illustrated by Aurelia Fronty

earth day booklist

Wangari Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts to lead women in a nonviolent struggle to bring peace and democracy to Africa through its reforestation. Her organization planted over thirty million trees in thirty years. This beautiful picture book tells the story of an amazing woman and an inspiring idea.
A book for young readers. It involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, and pint-sized owls. A hilarious Floridian adventure!

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

One plastic bag

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

Boy who harnessed the wind

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows how, even in a desperate situation, one boy’s brilliant idea can light up the world. Complete with photographs, illustrations, and an epilogue that will bring readers up to date on William’s story, this is the perfect edition to read and share with the whole family.

SeedFolks by Paul Fleishman

earth day booklist

A vacant lot looks like no place for a garden. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise.

Heroes of the Environment by Harriet Rohmer

This inspiring book presents the true stories of 12 people from across North America who have done great things for the environment. Heroes include a teenage girl who figured out how to remove an industrial pollutant from the Ohio River, a Mexican superstar wrestler who works to protect turtles and whales, and a teenage boy from Rhode Island who helped his community and his state develop effective e-waste recycling programs. Plenty of photographs and illustrations bring each compelling story vividly to life.

earth day booklist

John Muir: My Life with Nature by Joseph Comell

earth day booklist

Written mostly in the words of Muir, it brims with his spirit and adventures. The text was selected and retold by naturalist Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children, who is well known for his inspiring nature games. The result is a book with an aliveness, a presence of goodness, adventure, enthusiasm, and sensitive love of each animal and plant that will give young adults an experience of a true champion of nature. It is a book that expands your sense of hope, adventure, and awareness. Adults will be just as fond of this book as young readers. Cornell includes numerous explore more activities that help the reader to understand and appreciate the many wonderful qualities of Muir.

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

Earth day booklist

This “vividly imagined and well-written novel” (Booklist, starred review) tells a gripping story about a boy from Scotland and a girl from West Africa who join together to save a migrating Osprey—and end up saving each other.

When Callum spots crazy Iona McNair on his family’s sprawling property, she’s catching a fish with her bare hands. She won’t share the fish, but does share something else: a secret. She’s discovered a rare endangered bird, an Osprey, and it’s clear to both her and Callum that if anyone finds out about the bird, it, and its species, is likely doomed. Poachers, egg thieves, and wild weather are just some of the threats, so Iona and Callum vow to keep track of the bird and check her migratory progress using the code a preservationist tagged on her ankle, no matter what.
But when one of them can no longer keep the promise, it’s up to the other to do it for them both. No matter what. Set against the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and West Africa, this is a story of unlikely friendships, the wonders of the wild—and the everyday leaps of faith that set our souls to flight.

Earth Booklist Giveaway


ONE winner will receive one copy of each of the books above. Giveaway begins July 1,2015

  • Prizing & samples  courtesy of Authors of the above books
  • Giveaway open to US addresses only
  • ONE lucky winner will win one copy of each of the above books.
  • Residents of USA only please.
  • Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • One entry per household.
  • Staff and family members of Audrey Press are not eligible.
  • Grand Prize winner has 48 hours to claim prize
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on July 13th, 2015

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post A Love the Earth Booklist: Preserve,Restore, Reuse {Giveaway} appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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18. Flogometer for Georgia—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 connecting 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.

Georgia sends a first chapter of The Phantom Maker and the Maze. The remainder is after the break.

Please vote and comment. It helps the writer.

Tate stared at the dead children and wondered why he didn’t feel more. Sweat, on the cusp of dripping, clung maddeningly to the end of his nose while the vieclift thrusters rattled his sticky leather seat. Storm air seeped through its grille and clung to him like hot breath.

His trainee gulped air and rapped his foot against the floor mat. Tate watched his swollen eyes hold the blue faces pressed against the tinted windows.

With a growl from under Tate’s push broom mustache, the trainee stopped. 

The vieclift dropped to the ground and its cabin door swung up. A dead boy rolled and grazed the shoe of the trainee. He whimpered and looked to Tate.

“They’re clean.” Tate said. “You won’t catch the Eidolon.”

“Sorry. It’s habit.”

Together they pulled the boy out and laid his body on the broken sidewalk.

The trainee scanned the cement block alley, a shaky hand on his shock-shooter.

“Relax,” Tate grunted. “After seven years, people are so used to seeing bodies—they don’t look. Come on, do your share.”

The trainee nodded and helped prop the boy against the alley wall. “If they’re clean,” the trainee said, “why’d you take their eyes?”

Tate felt blood rush to his ears. “I don’t take anything. Got it? Don’t ask questions. We (snip)

Were you compelled to turn the page?

I had mixed feelings about this opening. There’s much to attract a science-fiction reader such as myself—a unique world, the story questions raised by the presence of dead children, the lack of emotion on the protagonist, and the reference to taking the eyes.

But I ended up an almost because of narrative issues, primarily clarity and overwriting. That said, I encourage Georgia to keep at it, there’s an interesting story here. Lots of notes:

Tate stared at the dead children and wondered why he didn’t feel more. Sweat, on the cusp of dripping, clung maddeningly to the end of his nose while the The vieclift’s thrusters rattled his sticky leather seat as they hovered in the alley. Storm air seeped through its grille and clung to him like hot breath. While the dead children raises a strong story question right away, all the attention to the weather isn’t paid off in the chapter—it doesn’t affect the story. So why have it? To focus a bunch of words on how the sweat is about to drip from his nose foretells overwriting ahead, and I’m leery of that.

I think the feeling aspect could be stronger. What does not feeling "more" mean? It suggests that he feels something, but what? Why not simply: wondered why he didn't feel anything. Or, a little deeper: wondered why he didn't feel anything more than hollow and numb.

While it is not incorrect to use an odd word such as “vieclift” in this way—in fact, I encourage weaving in the features of a world rather that just stating them—couldn’t the word relate more to what we might think of as a vehicle? In this case, it seems like it’s a hovercraft of some sort. Help the reader see understand this with how you label things.

Later it’s revealed that it is raining, but that is not clear at all with this scene-setting. “Storm air” doesn’t communicate rain. Again, the heat and the rain do not affect the story, so why use up words to describe it? If you want it hot and rainy just for mood, just put it out there: Tate stared through the rain at the dead children and wondered why he didn’t feel more. But the rain still isn’t needed.

His trainee gulped air and rapped his foot against the floor mat. Tate watched his swollen eyes hold the blue faces pressed against the tinted windows. For me, trying a little too hard on “unique” description with the notion of eyes holding faces against windows. Clearly his eyes aren’t doing that, but that’s what the sentence says. A clarity issue.

With a growl from under Tate’s push broom mustache, the trainee stopped. I first wondered “stopped what?” until a second reading. It seems the stoppage refers to him rapping his foot, but the previous sentence refers to his swollen eyes and the faces against the windows, and it doesn’t make sense to try to stop that. A clarity issue. More than that, the trainee doesn’t stop with a growl from under a mustache—this is a clarity/meaning problem with the use of the “with” construction. And the growl comes from under a mustache?

BTW, for me “push-broom mustache” is a couple of things—a point of view slip as Tate wouldn’t be thinking about the appearance of his mustache, and the choice of description is so unusual that it takes this reader out of the story. Besides, the nature of the mustache doesn’t seem to affect the story in any way, so why this micro detail? As for the sentence, it needs to be cleaned up. Keep it simple: Tate growled, and the trainee stopped.

The vieclift dropped to the ground and its cabin door swung up. A dead boy rolled inside and grazed the trainee’s shoe of the trainee. He whimpered and looked to Tate. Did it really drop to the ground? Seems like the driver would want it to settle or lower, not drop, which could damage it. The dead boy rolled where? Into the vehicle? Not clear.

“They’re clean.” Tate said. “You won’t catch the Eidolon.”

“Sorry. It’s habit.”

Together they pulled the boy out and laid his body on the broken sidewalk. Pulled him out of where?

The trainee scanned the cement block alley, a shaky hand on his shock-shooter.

“Relax,” Tate grunted. “After seven years, people are so used to seeing bodies thatthey don’t look. Come on, do your share.” “grunted” isn’t, IMO, a legitimate dialogue tag. Try actually grunting a word and see if it works for you. You can put a period after the “Relax” and it becomes a legitimate bit of description. I don’t think the em dash punctuation works here, either.

The trainee nodded and helped prop the boy against the alley wall. “If they’re clean,” the trainee said, “why’d you take their eyes?” Raises a terrific story question.

Tate felt blood rush to his ears. “I don’t take anything. Got it? Don’t ask questions. We (snip)

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 Georgia



. . . have a lot of stops to . . .”

A whisper of a melody made Tate pause.

“What’s wrong?” The trainee listened, “It’s just the orphans giving the ‘all clear.’”

Another vieclift turned down the alley, rain running off its slopes.

“Close the cabin door!” Tate bellowed.

His partner froze.

Growling, Tate slammed the door himself. He smacked the back of his junior’s head, “Stay calm. Get your shock-shooter ready.”

The vieclift revved and charged them.

“Fire!” Tate drew his shock-shooter and jumped back.

His partner fumbled his weapon and the vieclift hit him, knocking him flat against the pavement.

Wide-eyed, Tate aimed his weapon at the vieclift’s window.

“Your new man was slowing you down.” A slick voice called through the vieclift’s speakers. “He didn’t even shoot at me. He wasn’t suited.”

Tate startled and lowered his weapon. “We weren’t expecting you Sir.” Tate’s eyes fell to his motionless trainee.

“Regardless, you weren’t ready.” The man spat. “Daylight’s too soon. You’ll have to throw out the rest later. He’s dead, isn’t he?”

Tate bent and checked the trainee’s pulse, the heat and whirr of the thrusters brisling his cheek. “Dead,” Tate yelled. His fingers lingered on the warm neck.

“Add him to the pile.” The engine roared and Tate rolled out of the way as the man sped off into the thinning rain.

Adrenaline shook Tate as he lifted the body into the vehicle. How long could he hope to keep this up? His eyes locked on the recruit. This was not just a body. Tate had known him a week. “Come on!” He grit his teeth.

But he felt—disappointment.

Tate looked at the trainee’s face; he had been so anxious over the dead children. With a tug on the trainee’s arm, Tate slipped off his jacket and pulled it over his own shoulders. It was still warm.

Feet scuffed the pavement. Tate looked up. A girl—head low but eyes on him, was padding softly past in the cross street. How long had she been watching?

He cocked his weapon.

The low light outlined her ribs through her thin, wet shirt. Tate had been there once.

Then he felt it: it was as if a hand squeezed his heart. Regret choked his will. His head rocked back and a sigh of relief escaped his lips. Tate holstered his shock-shooter and ducked into the vieclift, the girl forgotten before he had even lifted off the ground.

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19. Gay America is Free E-Book of the Day

To celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to honor gay marriage, Gay America: The Road to Gay Marriage and LGBT Rights from The Associated Press is today’s free e-book of the day.

The book explores the history of the gay rights movement in the U.S. through the work of Associated Press reporters and photographers. Check it out:

The United States has become a more colorful nation. The push to legalize gay marriage has grown out of a drastic shift in the country’s acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. From Stonewall to the Supreme Court, the struggle for equality has had many hurdles to overcome and many heroes to lead the way. Discover how far the gay community has come in its fight.

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20. Magic of Disney Animation, R.I.P.

Disney is tearing down one of its last symbolic ties to the craft of hand-drawn animation.

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21. Eleven Madison Park

Hello and Happy July 1st! Oh my gosh, the weather so far in NY has been delish! Let's hope it stays like this throughout July and August.

This month over at WLTI, we decided to create some fun recipes for the TDAC website. I chose one that my hubby introduced to me that is from the Eleven Madison Park restaurant in the city, the Eleven Madison Park Pistachio, Coconut & Cherry Granola. Doesn't the name alone sound amazing!? Anyway, I like granola, but this recipe takes it to a whole new level -- we can't seem to get enough of it lately. Enjoy!

Please click on the illustrated recipe to enlarge

Here's picture of the most recent batch that we made. The recipe it says to bake it for 30 - 40 minutes, we like it pretty toasty so we usually leave it in for the full 40.


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22. Cover Unveiled for New Grace Jones Memoir

Grace Jones Memoir (GalleyCat)

A cover has been unveiled for the Grace Jones memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. Paul Morley served as the co-writer for this project.

We’ve embedded the full image for the jacket design above—what do you think? Gallery Books, an imprint at Simon & Schuster, has scheduled the publication date for September 29th. (via The Hollywood Reporter)

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23. Librarian of Progress – it’s time

Librarian of PROgress. Let's start the conversation.

Librarian of PROgress. Let’s start the conversation.

People have been asking me, and they may be asking you, about the job opening for Librarian of Congress. I put together this little one-page website to give people a run down of the important issues as I see them. #nextloc

1 Comments on Librarian of Progress – it’s time, last added: 7/1/2015
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24. Oya: Rise Of The Orishas


African Superhero Short Film ‘Oya: Rise Of The Orishas’ Debuts Online

Oya Rise of the Orishas Nigerian super hero movie by  Nosa Igbinedion
It’s been almost two years since we first reported on Nigerian writer, director and producer Nosa Igbinedion‘s superhero film Oya: Rise of the Orishas, which reimagines the Orishas (folkloric deities of West African origin with mythical powers) as a band of crusaders fighting against evil forces. Since then, Igbinedion’s short film has scored its creator the Rising Talent Award at the 2015 Screen Nation Awards in London and enjoyed successful screenings at festivals in Nigeria, Brazil, the US and across Europe.
Igbinedion’s production company Igodo Films recently shared Oya: Rise of The Orishas in full online. They also revealed that the Oya project has been adapted for the silver screen with principal photography on the feature-length film version scheduled to begin later this year in Brazil. The London-based filmmaker shared in a recent interview that he made the short film in order to prove that there is a market for sci-fi films revolving around African characters and storylines. In this regard, Oya joins Ethiopian post-apocalyptic flick Crumbs in forging a path for future film projects from the continent within the realm of speculative fiction. In addition to the full-length project, Oya‘s creators have also confirmed plans for a comic book adaptation of the film, which is currently available for pre-order.

Watch the 12-minute short film below starring Ethosheia Hylton as Oya, Prince Shoyelu, Jayde Stedford, Quincy Okpokpor, Luiana Bonfim and Orwi Imanuel Ameh. Keep up with future developments on Oya: Rise Of The Orishas on Facebook and Twitter

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25. Finding Camp Half Blood and More!


Contributed by Kayla King, Blog Manager and Staff Reviewer


I still can't believe it has been ten years since Percy Jackson found his way into the hearts of readers. With the help of Disney-Hyperion, I get to discover the magic of Camp Half Blood all over again and now I'm sharing the magic and more with all of you!


For the next few months, I will continue to celebrate Rick Riordian and the amazing world he's shared with us over the past decade. Do you love Percy Jackson as much as I do?! Let me know in the comments on our last Percy post HERE and you could win the giveaway! Share your favorite Percy Jackson memory or other Camp Half Blood stories with #ReadRiordan and #YABC on social media! 


Monday, I came home to a monster package outside my door, one fit for an Olympian! 


And when I saw this lovely #ReadRiordan sticker, I knew it had to be my "Presents from Percy!"




I now feel completey prepared to go out out and find Camp Half Blood for myself! It all started with the pins to remind me of my journey ahead, one that has already been ten years in the making since the first book made its debut.


Next I found my disposable Percy-themed camera to document my travels to Camp Half Blood. Then came the headphones in order to play the sound of ocean waves. And of course I couldn't be without my Percy Jackson water bottle or dehydration would settle in all too quick.


When I found my complete set of the Percy Jackson series, I couldn't wait to use them as maps to find my way back to Camp Half Blood again. The set included in my "Presents from Percy," is the same set Disney-Hyperion has provided to YABC for our giveaway. You can find more information by heading back to our first Percy Jackson post HERE!


Now with my Percy Jackson backpack, I can load up all of my gear! But there is one last thing I know I need to really find Camp Half Blood...


My Camp Half Blood sweatshirt of course! So with that, I think I am ready to embark on my journey and rediscover all of the magic that the Percy Jackson series has to offer me all over again. So what about you? Are you going to find your way back to Camp Half Blood this summer? Or will you be traveling there for your first time? Let me know in the comments below!


But for now, I have a little more Percy news to share with all of you fantastic readers!




Title: The Demigods of Olympus: An Interactive Adventure

Price: $8.99/$7.99

On-Sale: July 14, 2015 

Description: Your quest begins! Use your demigod skills in this interactive and customizable adventure story written by New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan. Combining four short stories, The Two-Headed Guidance Counselor, The Library of Deadly Weapons, My Demon Satyr Tea Party, and My Personal Zombie Apocalypse, your choices will have consequences in this first interactive demigod adventure. 





Catch a sneak peek of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer available online at ReadRiordan.com!




Don’t forget to pre-order Percy Jackson’s GREEK HEROES, the companion to the national best seller Percy Jackson’s GREEK GODS available on Percy Jackson’s birthday, August 18, 2015.

Title: Greek Heroes

On-Sale: August 18, 2015

Description: Who cut off Medusa's head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes.

Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I've had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I'm going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan's legions of devoted fans--and for anyone who needs a hero.

So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you've got arrows in your quiver. We're going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we'll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let's do this.


Don't forget to head back to our first Percy post HERE for a chance to win your very own boxed set of the Percy Jackson series!


And stay tuned for more Percy Jackson posts as we celebrate the last decade and embark on the years to come with Percy and all our friends from Camp Half Blood!





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