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1. Sospiri’s Jenny Forsyth on voice and song

Throughout the month, we’ve been examining the myriad aspects of the human voice. But who better to discuss it than a singer herself? We asked Jenny Forsyth, member of the Sospiri choir in Oxford, what it takes to be part of a successful choir.

Which vocal part do you sing in the choir?

I sing soprano – usually first soprano if the parts split, but I’ll sing second if I need to.

For how long have you been singing?

I started singing in the training choir of the Farnham Youth Choir, in Surrey, when I was seven. Then I moved up through the junior choir when I was about 10 years old and then auditioned and moved up to the main performance choir at the age of 12 and stayed with them until I was 18. After this I studied for a Bachelors in Music, then did a Masters degree in Choral Studies (Conducting).

What first made you want to join a choir?

I had recently started having piano lessons and my dad, a musician himself, thought it would be good for my musical education to join a choir. We went to a concert given by the Farnham Youth Choir and after that I was hooked!

What is your favourite piece or song to perform?

That’s a really difficult question – there is so much great music around! I enjoy singing Renaissance music so I might choose Taverner’s Dum Transsiset. I also love Byrd’s Ne Irascaris Domine and Bogoroditse Devo from Rachmaninoff’s Vespers.

I also sing with an ensemble called the Lacock Scholars, and we sing a lot of plainsong chant, a lot of which is just so beautiful. Reading from historical notation – neumes – can give you so much musical information through such simple notation; it’s really exciting!

I’ve recently recorded an album of new commissions for the centenary of World War I with a choir from Oxford called Sospiri, directed by Chris Watson. The disk is called A Multitude of Voices and all the commissions are settings of war poems and texts. The composers were asked to look outside the poetical canon and consider texts by women, neglected poets and writers in languages other than English. I love all the music on the disk and it’s a thrilling feeling to be the first choir ever to sing a work. I really love Standing as I do before God by Cecilia McDowall and Three Songs of Remembrance by David Bednall. Two completely different works but both incredibly moving to perform.

However I think my all-time favourite has to be Las Amarillas by Stephen Hatfield – an arrangement of Mexican playground songs. It’s in Spanish and has some complicated cross rhythms, clapping, and other body percussion. It’s a hard piece to learn but when it comes together it just clicks into place and is one of the most rewarding pieces of music!

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Photo by Jenny Forsyth

How do you keep your voice in peak condition?

These are the five things I find really help me. (Though a busy schedule means the early nights are often a little elusive!)

  1. Keeping hydrated. It is vital to drink enough water to keep your whole system hydrated (ie., the internal hydration of the entire body that keeps the skin, eyes, and all other mucosal tissue healthy), and to make sure the vocal chords themselves are hydrated. When you drink water the water doesn’t actually touch the vocal chords so I find the best way to keep them hydrated is to steam, either over a bowl of hot water or with a purpose-built steam inhaler. The topical, or surface, hydration is the moisture level that keeps the epithelial surface of the vocal folds slippery enough to vibrate. Steaming is incredibly good for a tired voice!
  2. I’m not sure what the science behind this is but I find eating an apple just before I sing makes my voice feel more flexible and resonant.
  3. Hot drinks. A warm tea or coffee helps to relax my voice when it’s feeling a bit tired.
  4. Regular singing lessons. Having regular singing lessons with a teacher who is up to date on research into singing techniques is crucial to keeping your voice in peak condition. Often you won’t notice the development of bad habits, which could potentially be damaging to your voice, but your singing teacher will be able to correct you and keep you in check.
  5. Keeping physically fit and getting early nights. Singing is a really physical activity. When you’ve been working hard in a rehearsal or lesson you can end up feeling physically exhausted. Even though singers usually make singing look easy, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with lots of different sets of muscles working incredibly hard to support their sound. It’s essential to keep your body fit and well-rested to allow you to create the music you want to without damaging your voice.

Do you play any other musical instruments?

When I was younger I played the piano, flute and violin but I had to give up piano and flute as I didn’t have enough time to do enough practice to make my lessons worthwhile. I continued playing violin and took up viola in my gap year and then at university studied violin as my first study instrument for my first two years before swapping to voice in my final year.

Do you have a favourite place to perform?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all around the world with the Farnham Youth Choir, with tours around Europe and trips to both China and Australia. So, even before I decided to take my singing more seriously, I had had the chance to sing in some of the best venues in the world. It’s hard to choose a favourite as some venues lend themselves better to certain types of repertoire. Anywhere with a nice acoustic where you can hear both what you are singing and what others around you are singing is lovely. It can be very disconcerting to feel as though you’re singing completely by yourself when you know you’re in a choir of 20! I’m currently doing a lot of singing with the Lacock Scholars at Saint Cuthbert’s Church, Earl’s Court, so I think that’s my favourite at the moment. Having said that, I would absolutely love to sing at the building where I work as a music administrator – Westminster Cathedral! It’s got the most glorious acoustics and is absolutely stunning.

What is the most rewarding thing about being in a choir?

There are so many great things about singing in a choir. You get a sense of working as part of a team, which you rarely get to the same extent outside of choral singing. I think this is because your voice is so personal to you can find yourself feeling quite vulnerable. I sometimes think that to sing well you have to take that vulnerability and use it; to really put yourself ‘out there’ to give the music a sense of vitality. You have to really trust your fellow singers. You have to know that when you come in on a loud entry (or a quiet one, for that matter!) that you won’t be left high and dry singing on your own.

What’s the most challenging thing about singing in a choir?

I think this is similar to the things that are rewarding about being part of a choir. That sense of vulnerability can be unnerving and can sow seeds of doubt in your mind. “Do I sound ok? Is the audience enjoying the performance? Was that what the conductor wanted?” But you have to put some of these thoughts out of your mind and focus on the job in hand. If you’ve been rehearsing the repertoire for a long time you can sometimes find your mind wandering, and then you’re singing on autopilot. So it can be a challenge to keep trying to find new and interesting things in the music itself.

Also, personality differences between members of the choir or singers and conductors can cause friction. It’s important to strike the right balance so that everyone’s time is used effectively. The dynamic between a conductor and their choir is important in creating a finely tuned machine, and it is different with each conductor and each choir. Sometimes in a small ensemble a “Choirocracy” can work with the singers being able to give opinions but it can make rehearsals tedious and in a choral society of over a hundred singers it would be a nightmare.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about joining a choir?

Do it! I think singing in a choir as I grew up really helped my confidence; I used to be very shy but the responsibility my youth choir gave me really brought me out of myself. You get a great feeling of achievement when singing in a choir. I don’t think that changes whether you’re an amateur singing for fun or in a church choir once a week or whether you’re a professional doing it to make a living. I’ve recently spent time working with an “Office Choir”. All of the members work in the same building for large banking corporation, and they meet up once a week for a rehearsal and perform a couple of concerts a year. It’s great because people who wouldn’t usually talk to each other are engaging over a common interest. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re a CEO, secretary, manager, or an intern; you’re all in the same boat when learning a new piece of music! They all say the same thing: they look forward to Wednesdays now because of their lunchtime rehearsals, and they find themselves feeling a lot more invigorated when they return to their desks afterwards.

Lastly, singing in a choir is a great way to make new friends. Some of my closest friends are people I met at choir aged 7!

Header image credit: St John’s College Chapel by Ed Webster, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

The post Sospiri’s Jenny Forsyth on voice and song appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. NCTE Book Awards

NCTE announced its book awards this week.  I love both of the lists.  I've always loved the Orbis Pictus Award. I've watched it for years and have discovered so many amazing nonfiction books through this award and list each year. This year, I had read many books on the award list, but have several that I'll add to my TBR stack.  

This year, I was part of the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children committee. It is an honor to be part of this committee during its first years. I never had the opportunity to study under Charlotte Huck at Ohio State but I feel that I learned from her through her writing and through others I knew who knew her. What a legacy! And I so love the premise of the new Charlotte Huck Award.  From the NCTE website, "The award commemorates the work of educator Charlotte Huck and her focus on the importance of bringing books and children together in significant ways. " It goes on to discuss the criteria--below is the first bullet.
  • Fiction for children that has the potential to transform children’s lives
    • Fiction that invites compassion, imagination, and wonder
    • Fiction that connects children to their own humanity and offers them a rich experience with the power to influence their lives
    • Fiction that stretches children’s thinking, feelings, and imagination
Isn't this what children's literature is all about? Isn't this what matters?

The experience I had on the committee, learning from so many amazing people, thinking about this award was incredible. Definitely a great way to start 2015. If you have not seen the award list, you can find it here.

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3. Are the mysterious cycles of sunspots dangerous for us?

Galileo and some of his contemporaries left careful records of their telescopic observations of sunspots – dark patches on the surface of the sun, the largest of which can be larger than the whole earth. Then in 1844 a German apothecary reported the unexpected discovery that the number of sunspots seen on the sun waxes and wanes with a period of about 11 years.

Initially nobody considered sunspots as anything more than an odd curiosity. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, scientists started gathering more and more data that sunspots affect us in strange ways that seemed to defy all known laws of physics. In 1859 Richard Carrington, while watching a sunspot, accidentally saw a powerful explosion above it, which was followed a few hours later by a geomagnetic storm – a sudden change in the earth’s magnetic field. Such explosions – known as solar flares – occur more often around the peak of the sunspot cycle when there are many sunspots. One of the benign effects of a large flare is the beautiful aurora seen around the earth’s poles. However, flares can have other disastrous consequences. A large flare in 1989 caused a major electrical blackout in Quebec affecting six million people.

Interestingly, Carrington’s flare of 1859, the first flare observed by any human being, has remained the most powerful flare so far observed by anybody. It is estimated that this flare was three times as powerful as the 1989 flare that caused the Quebec blackout. The world was technologically a much less developed place in 1859. If a flare of the same strength as Carrington’s 1859 flare unleashes its full fury on the earth today, it will simply cause havoc – disrupting electrical networks, radio transmission, high-altitude air flights and satellites, various communication channels – with damages running into many billions of dollars.

There are two natural cycles – the day-night cycle and the cycle of seasons – around which many human activities are organized. As our society becomes technologically more advanced, the 11-year cycle of sunspots is emerging as the third most important cycle affecting our lives, although we have been aware of its existence for less than two centuries. We have more solar disturbances when this cycle is at its peak. For about a century after its discovery, the 11-year sunspot cycle was a complete mystery to scientists. Nobody had any clue as to why the sun has spots and why spots have this cycle of 11 years.

A first breakthrough came in 1908 when Hale found that sunspots are regions of strong magnetic field – about 5000 times stronger than the magnetic field around the earth’s magnetic poles. Incidentally, this was the first discovery of a magnetic field in an astronomical object and was eventually to revolutionize astronomy, with subsequent discoveries that nearly all astronomical objects have magnetic fields.  Hale’s discovery also made it clear that the 11-year sunspot cycle is the sun’s magnetic cycle.

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Sunspot 1-20-11, by Jason Major. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Matter inside the sun exists in the plasma state – often called the fourth state of matter – in which electrons break out of atoms. Major developments in plasma physics within the last few decades at last enabled us to systematically address the questions of why sunspots exist and what causes their 11-year cycle. In 1955 Eugene Parker theoretically proposed a plasma process known as the dynamo process capable of generating magnetic fields within astronomical objects. Parker also came up with the first theoretical model of the 11-year cycle. It is only within the last 10 years or so that it has been possible to build sufficiently realistic and detailed theoretical dynamo models of the 11-year sunspot cycle.

Until about half a century ago, scientists believed that our solar system basically consisted of empty space around the sun through which planets were moving. The sun is surrounded by a million-degree hot corona – much hotter than the sun’s surface with a temperature of ‘only’ about 6000 K. Eugene Parker, in another of his seminal papers in 1958, showed that this corona will drive a wind of hot plasma from the sun – the solar wind – to blow through the entire solar system.  Since the earth is immersed in this solar wind – and not surrounded by empty space as suspected earlier – the sun can affect the earth in complicated ways. Magnetic fields created by the dynamo process inside the sun can float up above the sun’s surface, producing beautiful magnetic arcades. By applying the basic principles of plasma physics, scientists have figured out that violent explosions can occur within these arcades, hurling huge chunks of plasma from the sun that can be carried to the earth by the solar wind.

The 11-year sunspot cycle is only approximately cyclic. Some cycles are stronger and some are weaker. Some are slightly longer than 11 years and some are shorter.  During the seventeenth century, several sunspot cycles went missing and sunspots were not seen for about 70 years. There is evidence that Europe went through an unusually cold spell during this epoch. Was this a coincidence or did the missing sunspots have something to do with the cold climate? There is increasing evidence that sunspots affect the earth’s climate, though we do not yet understand how this happens.

Can we predict the strength of a sunspot cycle before its onset? The sunspot minimum around 2006–2009 was the first sunspot minimum when sufficiently sophisticated theoretical dynamo models of the sunspot cycle existed and whether these models could predict the upcoming cycle correctly became a challenge for these young theoretical models. We are now at the peak of the present sunspot cycle and its strength agrees remarkably with what my students and I predicted in 2007 from our dynamo model. This is the first such successful prediction from a theoretical model in the history of our subject. But is it merely a lucky accident that our prediction has been successful this time? If our methodology is used to predict more sunspot cycles in the future, will this success be repeated?

Headline image credit: A spectacular coronal mass ejection, by Steve Jurvetson. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The post Are the mysterious cycles of sunspots dangerous for us? appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. merely players

Speak Easy Mag is a (fairly) new online journal, and they’re awesome, and they just published a personal essay I wrote last summer about acting and theater, but/and/also the ephemeral nature of everything, of which theater is just an amplified microcosm. We have our exits and our entrances. It goes on, until it doesn't. Things are there. Until they're not.

(perfect gorgeous illustration by Rachel Wheeler)

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5. Hey Mum, I did it


A dream came true yesterday. An ambition. I sold a story to Black Static, a magazine I've been trying to get into since before it existed (those who've been around the small press for a while will remember its previous incarnation The Third Alternative). At a rough estimate it took me about eighteen years. Hopefully it won't take me more than a decade to sell another story to them.*
The Drop of Light and the Rise of Dark is my first completed story this year.

In extra good news. Damien Angelica Walters also had a story accepted there yesterday.



*Resists sending another story to Andy today.




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6. Agent Danielle Burby of HSG on Women with Swords and More

Danielle graduated from Hamilton College with honors and a double major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  Before finding her home at HSG, she interned at Writers House, Clarion Books, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Dunow Carlson and Lerner, John Wiley and Sons, and SquareOne Publishers (along with stints as a waitress and a farmers’ market vendor).

Her passion lies in YA, Women’s Fiction, and mysteries. She gravitates toward stories with a strong voice and particularly enjoys complex female characters, narratives that explore social issues, and coming-of-age stories. Genres that appeal to her include contemporary YA, medieval fantasy, historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and upmarket Women’s Fiction. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it.

Danielle was involved in way too many singing groups in college and is always up for karaoke. She also enjoys both tea and coffee, managing to defy the naysayers who claim they’re an either-or thing. She is, however, distinctly a chocolate person. You can follow her on twitter at @danielleburby.



1. What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?
Growing up, a favorite author of mine was Tamora Pierce and I would love love love to represent a similar author. The best Tamora Pierce series is, in my opinion, the Protector of the Small quartet. Kristin Cashore is another author I adore--Graceling is my favorite of her novels. Medieval-style fantasy with a female protagonist is definitely a weakness of mine--give her a sword and a heroic quest and I melt. Another novel that evokes real nostalgia for me is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Yes, there's a definite theme here. I'm also an enormous Jane Austen fan. I love her witty and cutting insights into human nature, as well as her brilliant characters. I'm also a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I will read anything and everything that she writes because her voice is just so incredibly magnetic and she infuses real depth into the most simple things. An adult author I cannot stop reading is Liane Moriarty because she is so clever, her characters are brilliant, and her writing makes me laugh. Recent favorites include The Cuckoos Calling, We Were Liars, The Husband's Secret, Lies We Tell Ourselves, Before I Fall,  Brown Girl Dreaming, Big Little Lies, All Our Yesterdays, and Fangirl. My favorite author of all time is Virginia Woolf. I'm definitely a girl's girl when it comes to my taste in literature.  
2. What are some things you love to see in a query?

When I'm reading queries, I immediately sit up and take notice when the introduction shows that an author has done her or his research and is reaching out to me for a specific reason. I like to know why someone thinks we'd make a good fit. A snappy and compelling description of the book is also a must! When authors ask for advice on how to write that section of a query letter, I always recommend taking a look at the jacket copy of published novels and using that technique as a model. If that section of the query letter is done well, it can give me a sense of the author's voice, in addition to a feel for the plot, characters, and atmosphere. That said, I don't want to see a full synopsis! One or two paragraphs about the project should give me the information that I need.
3. Are you an editorial agent?

I am incredibly hands-on when it comes to editing my client's manuscripts to get them ready for submission. Editors expect increasingly high-quality and polished projects--especially from debut authors--so I believe it is an essential part of my job to help my clients edit manuscripts on the big picture level (plot, character development, pacing, etc.). I'll never send out a submission until the author and I both feel confident that the manuscript is as strong as we can make it. After the project sells, I keep an eye on the editorial process, but let the author and editor work things out unless I'm needed. Editing is actually one of my favorite parts of the job and is the best way for me to get a sense of my clients, both as artists and of their long-term career goals, which helps me to advise them. The editing process also helps me learn about what kind of communication each individual client needs from me.
4. What do you like to do for fun?
I like to spend time in nature--hiking is a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing theater and taking advantage of NYC specific things like Shake Shack and walking around Central Park. I'm always looking for new recipes to cook. I go to coffee shops with friends as often as I can. One of my favorite ways to relax is to spend hours teaching myself songs on my keyboard, but I have to be pretty sure that nobody will hear me! 

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7. Happy Puzzle Day!

The word is out...

Our next installment in The Poetry Friday Anthology series will be published in March! And to whet your appetite for The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, here is the poem for January 29 (today!):

And here are the Take 5! activities that accompany this poem:
Sample puzzle from National Geographic.com/games
1. Hold up a single piece from a (jigsaw) puzzle and ask children to guess what it is from. Then read this poem aloud slowly.
2. Invite everyone to join in on the final line (“a puzzling scene”) while you read the poem aloud again.
3. Just for fun, work together to complete an online jigsaw puzzle. One source: NationalGeographic.com/games/photo-puzzle-jigsaw/
4. Pair this poem with this picture book: Hide-and-Seek Science: Animal Camouflage (Holiday House, 2013) by Emma Stevenson, and guide children in finding the hidden animals within each ecosystem to celebrate National Puzzle Day.
5. For another poem about 100 things, look for the poem “My 100th Day Collection” by Betsy Franco (mid-January to mid-February, pages 38-39) and for riddle and puzzle poems, check out Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! by Stephanie Calmenson (HarperCollins, 2005).

In a nutshell, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations offers:
  • 156 new, unpublished poems by 115 poets
  • poems tied to holidays, celebrations, historic events, and wacky occasions across the calendar year
  • all the poems in both English and Spanish
  • Take 5! activities for sharing every poem with children
  • every poem paired with a picture book to read aloud for a story time or lesson plan
  • skill connections (for CCSS, TEKS, and NCSS)
  • poems appropriate for children preK-5 (and beyond)

Pre-order your copy today here. And for more info go here.


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8. Book Review: ‘Anime Fan Communities’ by Sandra Annett

I regret starting this review on a negative note, but it should be said that "Anime Fan Communities" is not the most accurately-titled book. Author Sandra Annett takes international anime fandom as her starting point, but she ends up engaging with a much wider range of topics.

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9. Half Past Winter, by Ginger Nielson | Book Review

Half Past Winter is an adorable tale of two bear cubs and their adventure to find winter’s first snow. They grow impatient in their den when no snow comes and decide to explore until they find snow.

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10. Guest Post and Giveaway: Rachel Lacey, Author of For Keeps

I was able to chat with Rachel Lacey, and she answered the question below.  Check out her response, and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

TJ is planning the perfect dinner date to woo Merry – What are the Top 5 items on the menu?

Ooh, great question! There is a scene in FOR KEEPS where TJ plans to woo Merry with a romantic home-cooked meal, but it never quite happens. Here’s my chance to decide what was on the menu that night…

1. Merry spends more time taking care of others than herself, so TJ would want to make this dinner really special for her. He’d start them off with some strawberries and other fruit to dip. Strawberries are an aphrodisiac, and they’re just fun to feed to each other :)

2. Of course they’d need a glass (or two) of champagne to go with the fruit.

3. Merry’s not big on health food – especially not on a night like this – so he’d skip the salad and serve a baked brie in puff pastry instead.

4. For the entree, he’d grill steak and lobster tails. TJ’s not much of a chef, but he knows his way around a grill, and this would be sure to fill them up after a long day on the farm. He might even make a joke about the lobsters being crawfish just to make her laugh (you’ll have to read FOR KEEPS to find out why!) :)

5. Merry loves chocolate, so after stuffing themselves on surf and turf, TJ would finish off the night with a nice, light chocolate mousse.

 

About FOR KEEPS:

A SUMMER FLING . . . OR SOMETHING MORE?

Merry Atwater would do just about anything to save her dog rescue – even if it means working with the most stubborn man on the planet. It’s hard to avoid the sparks that fly with TJ Jameson, the ruggedly sexy cowboy in charge of the children’s camp where she’s just taken an animal therapy job. But commitment is not Merry’s style, and TJ clearly wants more than just a roll in the hay. TJ Jameson isn’t looking for anything complicated-just a peaceful life on his family’s ranch with a wife and kids. “No-strings” Merry Atwater doesn’t fit that bill, no matter how irresistible she is. But when he sees how Merry gets through to his autistic nephew and the other kids at Camp Blue Sky, TJ’s a goner. If he doesn’t give in to the now, he might just lose his shot at forever . . .

About Rachel Lacey:

Rachel Lacey lives in North Carolina, with her husband, son, and their own rescued pup. She volunteers her spare time with Carolina Boxer Rescue and truly has a passion for helping our furry friends. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her local Heart of Carolina RWA chapter.

Rachel’s SM:

@rachelslacey

www.rachellacey.com

http://facebook.com/RachelLaceyAuthor

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8150779.Rachel_Lacey?from_search=true

Buy Links:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1xkN5pc

BAM – http://bit.ly/17E21Kv

B&N – http://bit.ly/1AWAKPw

IndieBound – http://bit.ly/1AWAH6a

GooglePlay – http://bit.ly/1u3e1JX

iTunes – http://bit.ly/1u27ViN

Kobo – http://bit.ly/1CeOF0t


 

Excerpt:

His expression heated until his eyes practically burned her.

She nibbled her bottom lip. “I should, uh, I should go.”

“It’s late,” he said, his voice like gravel. It tickled all her sweet spots.

She stared at his hands, those big calloused fingers. Damn, but she wanted to feel them on her skin. Like, now.

“Really late.” She took a step, but her feet accidentally carried her toward T.J., not the door.

He sucked in an audible breath, his eyes scorching hers. “I thought you were going.”

“So did I.” But fuck it. If she was going to be in his house in the middle of the night in her underwear, she might as well give him a kiss goodnight.

She’d never been known for her self-control, after all.

He watched her, not moving a muscle, as if he’d become rooted to the floor.

She put her palms on his biceps and pressed her lips to his. Just a quick kiss to test the waters, because they did have to work together for the next month.

His scent wrapped around her, filled her lungs, and stole her sanity. She lingered for a moment, her lips on his, so soft, so warm. Just enough to make her want more. So much more.

Her body pulsed with it.

She was about to pull back and tell him goodnight when his arms slid around her waist, securing her against the firm column of his body, and oh God, she was a goner.

“What was that?” he whispered against her lips.

She slid her hands up to encircle his neck. “A goodnight kiss.”

“And why would you do something like that?” His voice vibrated through her.

“Because I wanted to.” Their bodies were pressed together, and though he hadn’t kissed her back, he wanted to. She felt the evidence pressed against her belly.

“Bad idea,” he growled, his lips still touching hers, teasing, tempting.

“Oh, yeah?” She could hardly breathe. Every nerve tingled with awareness, desperate for his touch, his kiss. More. More of everything.

Her heart throbbed in her chest.

T.J.’s eyes smoldered into hers, his pupils blown with lust. His body vibrated with tension, his arms like steel bands around her. “Yeah.”

“Then send me home.” She wiggled in his arms, pressing into his erection, tempting him, willing him to kiss her back. Just for tonight.

She needed to be kissed. She needed to feel.

And he could make her…

His lips crushed hers, taking her so suddenly, so thoroughly, that she didn’t have time to draw a breath. She heard herself groan, felt the desire inside her explode into something so completely out of control it almost frightened her.

Her back slammed into the wall, and her legs wrapped around his waist. His tongue plunged into her mouth, gliding against hers in a rhythm so perfect she shuddered in his arms. He lifted her hips, grinding himself against her until her eyes rolled back in her head, and…

Holy shit, holy shit.

She must have lost her mind. Her body burned, quaked, shook for him, and he felt so fucking good. He tasted like sin, sweet and sexy, like leather and cowboy boots, and…

Holy shit.

She needed more. She needed everything. She needed him buried deep inside her, groaning her name as he drove her over the edge, as he came inside her, and…

Holy shit.

This was completely out of control.

“Holy shit.” The words came from T.J.’s lips, not her own, as he tore his mouth from hers and speared her with his gaze. He panted for breath, his body coiled against hers, so hard, so ready. She felt every inch of him still pressed between her legs, right where her body burned hottest for him. “What the hell was that?”

She laughed. “If you don’t know, then you’re more out of practice than I am.”

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The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Rachel Lacey, Author of For Keeps appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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11. My tweets

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12. Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of the (Australian) Victorian Premier's Literary Awards: Alan Atkinson's The Europeans in Australia: Volume Three: Nation was both the non-fiction category winner, as well as the Victorian Prize for Literature (i.e. overall/grand prize) winner; see, for example, The Australian's report, Alan Atkinson main winner at Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.

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13. STATIONERY - lisa deighan

Designer Lisa Deighan has recently added a selection of  A5 notebooks to her Etsy shop. There are fifteen designs in total and they are all made in England and 100% recycled.

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14. Signing books

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15. 'Why translate ?'

       It's an old piece ("first published in Books from Finland 1/1982") but now available online -- and always an interesting question: translator Herbert Lomas (e.g. Arto Paasilinna's The Year of the Hare) tries to explain: Why translate ?
       Among the questions he tries to answer: "Why this lack of interest ?" (in literature in translation) -- a situation that has perhaps improved since (there seems more intense interest -- even if not yet exactly a widespread one).

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16. Candice Ransom's LOOKING FOR HOME - a trespassing journey


Fellow Hollins professor, prolific author, and dear friend Candice Ransom has achieved a new and somewhat unexpected (to her) achievement... Longwood University has established a collection of her photos in their Greenwood Library's Digital Commons website. The reason being, Candice has an unusual hobby - taking photos of abandoned places, which usually requires a bit of trespassing to accomplish. The results are gorgeous - she's a natural photographer. And she wrote a lovely essay to accompany her photos. I adore her work and I know you will too, so GO HAVE A LOOK! And CLICK HERE to read more about how this all came to pass on her blog, Under the Honeysuckle Vine. (It's delightful reading.)

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17. FABRICS - minted

After hearing from Kimberly Hall about Minted fabrics I wondered what other designs they might have to offer and picked out a few P&P choices to showcase. Above is a cute design from Phrosné Ras and below stylish leaves by Oscar and Emma. You can see over 400 designs online here.  Above and below : Hannah cloud Above : Erika Firm and below : Cheer up Press. Below : five designs by

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18. Where I'll be this winter/spring, and some good news about Linc and George Washington

So far, 2015 has been all about writing for me. It's been nice to hibernate a little, especially with all the snowfall we're having here in Colorado.

But I do like to get out every once in a while. And I hope to see you at one of these events, if you find yourself in Colorado!

Here's where I'll be:


I’ll be at the SCBWI table, sharing all the great things SCBWI has to offer!
 
I’m hosting a free workshop for local writers on how to plot a novel using plot points.
 
Presenting a workshop on reaching reluctant MG and YA readers 

Faculty member, presenting workshops on writing MG, plotting, and author platform building.
 
Double Vision trilogy books will be available at the bookstore at all events. Hope to see you there!

And to add a bit of good news: Double Vision: Code Name 711 will be out in paperback on February 10th!

Just in time for Presidents Day (since the book features George Washington), very cool...

To celebrate, there's a giveaway of signed copies over at Goodreads (see nifty gadget to the right). Or be wild and crazy with seven bucks, and buy yourself a copy at your favorite bookstore, or straight from the awesome people at Harper Children's. I love paperbacks, don't you?
 
 
 

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19. 'Revisiting Raja Rao's fiction'

       Kanishk Tharoor's piece on 'Revisiting Raja Rao's fiction', India As Metaphysic ?, is now finally freely accessible at The Caravan.
       The focus is on the recently republished by Penguin India titles -- with Tharoor not equally enthusiastic about all of them: "How to describe the monumental tedium of The Serpent and the Rope ?" he wonders ..... Read the rest of this post

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20. Agent question: Is she just not that in to me?




I’m a historian with several academic books on my CV; I also write for some well-known mainstream magazines and blogs. A couple of years ago, I was contacted by an agent who had seen my journalism and was interested in representing me if I ever wanted to do a more commercial nonfiction book (which I did).

At the time, she was new to agenting but had solid publishing credentials and worked for a reputable agency. We met and chatted, and a few months later I sent her a query and sample pages based on some new research. She liked the project and made useful suggestions, but ultimately felt the subject was too specialized to appeal to a mainstream publisher.

I should point out that it took weeks if not months for her to respond to my emails about the project, which were by no means frequent or pushy. But we kept in touch and a few months ago I sent her a second, much more commercial idea which she seemed really excited about.

Again, we went back and forth (sloooowly) for a couple of months with her giving feedback on sample pages and me fine-tuning, and finally she said she wanted to represent it and I should send her a formal proposal, which I did.

No response. I sent a follow-up email after two weeks, to confirm that she received the proposal and ask if she had any suggestions for improvements, or if perhaps she was having second thoughts about its mainstream appeal.

Again, crickets. Now it’s been a month and I still haven’t heard anything.

Is this normal, or is she just not that into me?

Having spent two years building a friendly relationship with a real live agent, I don’t want to burn that bridge, but I'm passionate about this project and I would like to move on and query other agents if this is going nowhere.


If you had asked me this question even just a year ago, I would have said something like "hang in there, agents are often behind, her lack of reply doesn't mean lack of interest."

However. 

In the last three months I've had three specific instances of agents basically dropping the ball and leaving clients (let alone queriers) high and dry.

I posted about one agent who was essentially forced out of a job which is not quite what you're talking about here, and there are two other instances where I'd helped writers connect with agents other than me, and had those agents drop the ball.

Now my advice is this: you're not running your railroad on Agent Time. If she's dawdling, you start querying. She has not offered you a contract, and you have not agreed to work with her. It's not only fair to query other agents, it's smart.

I've gotten off the rails with clients before, and I will again. It's part of the time management problem of balancing the important with the urgent. However, when I'm wooing a client to work with me, I'm generally trying to put my best foot forward and NOT behind too much. And I've learned (which this agent clearly has not) that keeping queriers informed is the ONLY way to assauge their fears while their work is under consideration.  I tell queriers who have full manuscripts with me that they can check in any time they need to.  And I do reply. It's often "haven't gotten to it yet, but I'm not dead, and I am working."

Query widely. Just because you've spent some time talking to this one agent does NOT mean she's the right agent for you.




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21. No Tomorrow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vivant Denon's small eighteenth century classic (in Lydia Davis' translation), No Tomorrow, which New York Review Books brought out a couple of years ago.

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22. Catalogging Consortium

Lots of great titles from lots of great small press publishers in the 2015 Consortium catalog - here are the ones that caught my eye with some catalog copy to describe them:

Three Kinds of Motion: Kerouac, Pollock and the Making of the American Highways by Riley Hanick (Sarabande Books). In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim commissioned a mural from Jackson Pollock to hang in the entryway of her Manhattan townhouse. It was the largest Pollock canvas she would ever own, and four years later she gave it to a small Midwestern institution with no place to put it. When the original scroll of On the Road goes on tour across the country, it lands at the same Iowa museum housing Peggy's Pollock, revitalizing Riley Hanick's adolescent fascination with the author. Alongside these two narrative threads, Hanick revisits Dwight D. Eisenhower's quest to build America's first interstate highway system. When catastrophic rains flood the Iowa highways with their famous allure and history of conquest, they also threaten the museum and its precious mural. In Three Kinds of Motion, his razor-sharp, funny, and intensely vulnerable book-length essay, Hanick moves deftly between his three subjects. He delivers a story with breathtaking ingenuity.

The Shark That Walks on Land....and Other Strange But True Tales of Mysterious Sea Creatures by Michael Bright (Biteback Publishing). When you dive into the sea, do you ever wonder what's down there, beneath you, poised to take an inquisitive bite? Author of Jaws Peter Benchley and film director Steven Spielberg certainly did, for below the waves lies a world we neither see nor understand; an alien world where we are but the briefest of visitors. The Shark that Walks on Land uncovers tales of ancient and modern mariners, with stories of sea serpents, mermaids and mermen, sea dragons, and the true identity of the legendary Kraken. But this book contains more than just a medley of maritime myths and mysteries for marine biologists; it celebrates wonderful discoveries by blending the unknown and the familiar in an entertaining miscellany of facts, figures, and anecdotes about the myriad creatures that inhabit the oceans. Along the way we meet the giants, the most dangerous, the oddballs, and the record breakers; and the shark that really does walk on land!

Enormous Smallness: The Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess, Illus by Kris Di Giacomo (Enchanted Lion Books). Here E.E.'s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings's most wonderful poems, integrating them seamlessly into the story to give the reader the music of his voice and a spirited, sensitive introduction to his poetry.

In keeping with the epigraph of the book -- "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," Matthew Burgess's narrative emphasizes the bravery it takes to follow one's own vision and the encouragement E.E. received to do just that.


Mischief and Malice
by Berthe Amos (Lizzie Skurnick Books).
Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the eve of World War II, Mischief and Malice is a brand new work from an iconic figure in young adult literature. Following the death of her Aunt Eveline, fourteen-year old Addie; who we first met in Berthe Amoss's classic Secret Lives; is now living with her Aunt Tooise, Uncle Henry, and her longtime rival cousin, Sandra Lee. A new family has just moved into Addie's former house, including a young girl who is just Addie's age. Meanwhile, Louis, the father of Tom, Addie's lifelong neighbor and best friend, suddenly returns after having disappeared when Tom was a baby. Between school dances, organizing a Christmas play, fretting about her hair, and a blossoming romance with Tom, Addie stumbles upon a mystery buried in the Great Catch All, an ancient giant armoire filled with heirlooms of her family's past, which holds a devastating secret that could destroy Louis and Tom's lives. Once again, Berthe Amoss has created an indelible portrait of a young girl coming of age in prewar New Orleans.

The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing Company). Avicenna Crowe's mother is missing.

The police suspect foul play. Joanne is an astrologer, predicting strangers' futures from their star charts. Maybe one of her clients had a bad reading?

But Avicenna has inherited the gift. Armed with Joanne's journal, she begins her own investigation that leads into the city's dark underworld. The clock is ticking, and as each clue unravels Avicenna finds her life ever more in danger.


The Keeper's Daughter
by Jean-Francois Caron, Translated by Don Wilson (Talonbooks)
. Young Dorothea is appointed by the tourist bureau to direct a documentary film re-enacting life at a lighthouse off Quebec's North Shore in the 1940s and '50s. To obtain material for the film, she is advised to interview an old woman, Rose Brouillard, the daughter of a fisherman who grew up on a nearby island in the St. Lawrence. Rose is finally tracked down in Montreal. She is now old: her memory and grasp of reality are hazy; nevertheless she tells her story and takes Dorothea back to scenes from her childhood. We see fishermen on the docks with their nets, hard-at-work villagers with shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbow, leafy gardens and tree-lined streets, all recreated from Rose's failing memory. The problem is that many of these scenes are invented, not real. Does that matter? Or are the stories we tell more important?

(This one is listed as "Finding Rose" in the catalog but "The Keeper's Daughter" at the publisher and online booksellers - not sure what it really is, though.)

Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan compiled & translated by Farzana Marie (Holy Cow! Press). A groundbreaking collection of poetry by eight contemporary Afghan women poets in English translation en face with the original Persian Dari text. These poets live in Herat, the ancient epicenter of literature and the arts.


The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (Gallic Books). Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner.

The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet.

Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

The Little Free Library Book by Margret Aldrich (Coffee House Press). Take a book. Return a book." In 2009, Todd Bol built the first Little Free Library as a memorial to his mom. Five years later, this simple idea to promote literacy and encourage community has become a movement. Little Free Libraries; freestanding front-yard book exchanges; now number twenty thousand in seventy countries. The Little Free Library Book tells the history of these charming libraries, gathers quirky and poignant firsthand stories from owners, provides a resource guide for how to best use your Little Free Library, and delights readers with color images of the most creative and inspired LFLs around.

Fanny Says by Nickole Brown (BOA Editions, Ltd). In this "unleashed love song" to her late grandmother, Nickole Brown brings her brassy, bawdy, tough-as-new-rope grandmother to life. With hair teased to Jesus, glued-on false eyelashes, and a white Cadillac Eldorado with atomic-red leather seats, Fanny isn't your typical granny in a rocking chair. Instead, think of a character that looks a lot like Eva Gabor in Green Acres, but tinted with a shadow of Sylvia Plath.

Chernobyl Strawberries by Vesna Goldsworthy (Wilmington Square Books). How would you make sense of your life if you thought it might end tomorrow? In this captivating and best-selling memoir, Vesna Goldsworthy tells the story of herself, her family, and her early life in her lost country. There follows marriage, a move to England, and a successful media and academic career, then a cancer diagnosis and its unresolved consequences. A profoundly moving, comic, and original account by a stunning literary talent.

The Surfacing by Cormac James (Bellevue Literary Press). Far from civilization, on the hunt for Sir John Franklins recently lost Northwest Passage expedition, Lieutenant Morgan and his crew find themselves trapped in ever-hardening Arctic ice that threatens to break apart their ship. When Morgan realizes that a stowaway will give birth to his child in the frozen wilderness, he finds new clarity and courage to lead his men across a bleak expanse as shifting, stubborn, and treacherous as human nature itself.

Well Fed, Flat Broke by Emily Wright (Arsenal Pulp Press). This collection of 120 recipes ranges from the simple (perfect scrambled eggs, rice and lentils) to the sublime (Orecchiette with White Beans and Sausage, Mustard-fried Chicken). Chapters are organized by ingredient so that you can easily build a meal from what you have on hand. Well Fed, Flat Broke has flavours to please every palette including Thai, Dutch, Indonesian, and Latin American-inspired recipes such as Kimchi Pancakes, Salvadoran Roast Chicken, and Pantry Kedgeree, reflecting a diverse array of affordable ingredients and products in grocery stores, markets, and delis.

Emily is a working mother and wife who lives with a picky toddler in one of Canada's most expensive cities. She offers readers real-talk about food, strategic shopping tips, sound advice for picky eaters, and suggestions on how to build a well-stocked, yet inexpensive pantry. Cooking every night can be challenging for busy families who are short on time and lean in budget; Emily includes plenty of one-pot dishes to keep everyone healthy, full, and happy.

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23. DESIGNER - anisa makhoul

Anisa Makhoul graduated from the  Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a degree in Printmaking and went on to form her own clothing label, Makool. During the next 10 years Anisa had her own shop in Portland Oregon where she designed and screen printed clothing and fabric. She also designed for multiple celebrities. After taking time out to have a baby Anisa moved to Amsterdam where she

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24. Kin selection, group selection and altruism: a controversy without end?

I recall a dinner conversation at a symposium in Paris that I organized in 2010, where a number of eminent evolutionary biologists, economists and philosophers were present. One of the economists asked the biologists why it was that whenever the topic of “group selection” was brought up, a ferocious argument always seemed to ensue. The biologists pondered the question. Three hours later the conversation was still stuck on group selection, and a ferocious argument was underway.

Group selection refers to the idea that natural selection sometimes acts on whole groups of organisms, favoring some groups over others, leading to the evolution of traits that are group-advantageous. This contrasts with the traditional ‘individualist’ view which holds that Darwinian selection usually occurs at the individual level, favoring some individual organisms over others, and leading to the evolution of traits that benefit individuals themselves. Thus, for example, the polar bear’s white coat is an adaptation that evolved to benefit individual polar bears, not the groups to which they belong.

The debate over group selection has raged for a long time in biology. Darwin himself primarily invoked selection at the individual level, for he was convinced that most features of the plants and animals he studied had evolved to benefit the individual plant or animal. But he did briefly toy with group selection in his discussion of social insect colonies, which often function as highly cohesive units, and also in his discussion of how self-sacrificial (‘altruistic’) behaviours might have evolved in early hominids.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the group selection hypothesis was heavily critiqued by authors such as G.C. Williams, John Maynard Smith, and Richard Dawkins. They argued that group selection was an inherently weak evolutionary mechanism, and not needed to explain the data anyway. Examples of altruism, in which an individual performs an action that is costly to itself but benefits others (e.g. fighting an intruder), are better explained by kin selection, they argued. Kin selection arises because relatives share genes. A gene which causes an individual to behave altruistically towards its relatives will often be favoured by natural selection—since these relatives have a better than random chance of also carrying the gene. This simple piece of logic tallies with the fact that empirically, altruistic behaviours in nature tend to be kin-directed.

Strangely, the group selection controversy seems to re-emerge anew every generation. Most recently, Harvard’s E.O. Wilson, the “father of sociobiology” and a world-expert on ant colonies, has argued that “multi-level selection”—essentially a modern version of group selection—is the best way to understand social evolution. In his earlier work, Wilson was a staunch defender of kin selection, but no longer; he has recently penned sharp critiques of the reigning kin selection orthodoxy, both alone and in a 2010 Nature article co-authored with Martin Nowak and Corina Tarnita. Wilson’s volte-face has led him to clash swords with Richard Dawkins, who says that Wilson is “just wrong” about kin selection and that his most recent book contains “pervasive theoretical errors.” Both parties point to eminent scientists who support their view.

What explains the persistence of the controversy over group and kin selection? Usually in science, one expects to see controversies resolved by the accumulation of empirical data. That is how the “scientific method” is meant to work, and often does. But the group selection controversy does not seem amenable to a straightforward empirical resolution; indeed, it is unclear whether there are any empirical disagreements at all between the opposing parties. Partly for this reason, the controversy has sometimes been dismissed as “semantic,” but this is too quick. There have been semantic disagreements, in particular over what constitutes a “group,” but this is not the whole story. For underlying the debate are deep issues to do with causality, a notoriously problematic concept, and one which quickly lands one in philosophical hot water.

All parties agree that differential group success is common in nature. Dawkins uses the example of red squirrels being outcompeted by grey squirrels. However, as he intuitively notes, this is not a case of genuine group selection, as the success of one group and the decline of another was a side-effect of individual level selection. More generally, there may be a correlation between some group feature and the group’s biological success (or “fitness”); but like any correlation, this need not mean that the former has a direct causal impact on the latter. But how are we to distinguish, even in theory, between cases where the group feature does causally influence the group’s success, so “real” group selection occurs, and cases where the correlation between group feature and group success is “caused from below”? This distinction is crucial; however it cannot even be expressed in terms of the standard formalisms that biologists use to describe the evolutionary process, as these are statistical not causal. The distinction is related to the more general question of how to understand causality in hierarchical systems that has long troubled philosophers of science.

Recently, a number of authors have argued that the opposition between kin and multi-level (or group) selection is misconceived, on the grounds that the two are actually equivalent—a suggestion first broached by W.D. Hamilton as early as 1975. Proponents of this view argue that kin and multi-level selection are simply alternative mathematical frameworks for describing a single evolutionary process, so the choice between them is one of convention not empirical fact. This view has much to recommend it, and offers a potential way out of the Wilson/Dawkins impasse (for it implies that they are both wrong). However, the equivalence in question is a formal equivalence only. A correct expression for evolutionary change can usually be derived using either the kin or multi-level selection frameworks, but it does not follow that they constitute equally good causal descriptions of the evolutionary process.

This suggests that the persistence of the group selection controversy can in part be attributed to the mismatch between the scientific explanations that evolutionary biologists want to give, which are causal, and the formalisms they use to describe evolution, which are usually statistical. To make progress, it is essential to attend carefully to the subtleties of the relation between statistics and causality.

Image Credit: “Selection from Birds and Animals of the United States,” via the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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25. DESIGNER - kimberly ellen hall

Kimberly Ellen Hall is the designer behind the studio label Nottene (pronounced [nuh-ten-uh]) which a Norwegian word that means nuts. Kimberly studied Textiles at Central St Martins in London, but is now based in Philadelphia. Her clients have included Anthology Magazine, and the Denver Art Museum. Kimberly's latest design is Koselis Glasses which she has made available as a fabric through

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