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1. Reread #48 A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens. 1843. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

MARLEY WAS DEAD, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

 I have watched A Christmas Carol more times than I've read it, and I've read it two or three times at least. The story is oh-so-familiar; the phrasing is oh-so-familiar. It's a book that has an old-friend feel even if you haven't read it dozens of times. There are scenes and descriptions that just feel incredibly right and familiar. For example,
Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
and
“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug!”
“Nephew!” returned the uncle sternly, “keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.” “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!” “There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Other details, I've found, are less memorable perhaps.
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?” “It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.” From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children, wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “O Man! look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. “Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!” “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge. “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?” The bell struck Twelve.
I don't recall thinking much of the two children Ignorance and Want, of thinking about what message Dickens was sending. But when I was reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Standiford stressed their significance. (Standiford called A Christmas Carol, "a bald-faced parable that underscores Dickens's enduring themes: the deleterious effects of ignorance and want.") Why had I not noticed them before? I can only suppose that I've been rushing through the text looking for what was familiar and beloved, not really considering the book as a whole.

I like A Christmas Carol. I don't love, love, love it. I have found it to be a Christ-less Christmas story. A book that doesn't really focus on the Savior--newborn babe or risen Savior--so much as it focuses on humanity improving and changing and saving themselves. The message to Scrooge isn't, you're a bad man; you need a Savior; consider your eternal soul. The message is whether that even Scrooge, as horrible as he was, can change; he can change the way he lives; he can become a good man, a great man. He can avoid after-life horrors by changing his behavior. That isn't a Christian message.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Publishing Jobs: Amazon, Skyhorse Publishing, Penguin Random House

This week, Amazon is hiring an associate publisher, a senior account executive for CPG and a content marketing manager of books, toys and activities for Quidsi. Meanwhile, Skyhorse Publishing is seeking a copyeditor/proofreader and Penguin Random House is on the hunt for a digital archivist. Get the scoop on these openings below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

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Find more great publishing jobs on the GalleyCat job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented GalleyCat pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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3. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig



This is a picture book which has a message, but is written in such a way that it doesn't feel preachy. Brian, a young elementary school boy is quiet; so quiet he's invisible. Other children and the teacher ignore him when teams are chosen or hands are raised. He draws when his classmates read or play board games. Things change for Brian when a new boy joins the class. The new boy Justin, appears to be a different ethnicity than the other classmates and is looked upon strangely at first. Being outsiders, Justin and Brian make friends and soon a third friend is included. Toward the end of the book, the three boys work on a project together that cements their friendship. Patrice Barton's illustrations show Brian faintly in the beginning and gain some color when he makes friends. At the end of the book, there's a reference page with further reading for children and adults about friendship and introversion.

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4. Hanukkah Books that are Actually for Jewish kids

Hanukkah's coming! And here begins my annual hunt for a Hanukkah book that's written for Jewish children. See, many, many Hanukkah books are actually written for non-Jews, to explain this crazy holiday. Jewish children don't need to be told what a menorah or latke is. They know. They want stories about crazy Hanukkah hijinks and there just aren't that many. (Also, you really don't need *that* many books about the miracle of the oil.) Here are a few of my favorites:

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote

As the Hanukkah party guest list keeps growing, Rachel's mom keeps sending her next door to borrow more latke ingredients, chairs, and other necessary items. Rachel keeps inviting Mrs. Greenberg to come to the party, but she just won't come! How can Rachel help spread the Hanukkah joy?

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Giora Carmi

I love this hilarious tale about a Bubba who thinks she's inviting the rabbi in to eat her latkes, only to discover she's fed them all to a hungry bear! (Sadly out-of-print)

The Ugly Menorah written and illustrated by Marissa Moss

Rachel doesn't understand why her grandmother insists on using her ugly, old menorah. But then grandma tells her how, when she and Rachels recently-passed grandpa were first married, they didn't have money to buy a menorah and so grandpa made the old, ugly, one. (Also sadly out-of-print)

Biscuit's Hanukkah by Alissa Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories

Mostly because I get excited to find a series character who's obligatory holiday book is about Hanukkah, not Christmas.



Which ones would you add?





Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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5. The Beat Podcasts! More to Come: Comics Trends We’re Thankful For

logo pod more to come 1400 300x300 The Beat Podcasts! More to Come: Comics Trends Were Thankful ForBrought to you by Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast, the More to Come crew discuss what we’re thankful for in comics this year, including the manga resurgence, greater diversity, digital sales, favorite books and much more on PW Comics World’s More To Come. PW Comics World’s More To Come.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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6. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, by Caroline Jayne Church | Book Review

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, by Caroline Jayne Church, is a delightful board book that takes a childhood favorite nursery rhyme and sets it with beautiful illustrations of children around the world.

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7. Istanbul-Tbilisi

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8. 'Who Are African Books For ?'

       In The New York Times Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani wonders Who Are African Books For ? noting/claiming that: "Success for an African writer still depends on the West".
       She has a point, of sorts -- African (meaning, as too often in these types of stories: sub-Saharan: northern Africa tends inexplicably (or perhaps due to some rather ugly explanations ...) to be treated as an entirely separate entity ...) infrastructures complicate achievement of any sort of 'domestic' success.
       Nevertheless, this looking-for-validation abroad -- common though it is, almost everywhere else, too, not just 'Africa' -- is a pernicious, ugly thing. 'Success', surely, is a more complicated matter -- and I suggest there's considerably more of it on the continent, and beyond it, than she allows for (or is willing to acknowledge as 'success').
       I point only to two prominent examples of alternative successes, of sorts: much-admired-hereabouts Ayi Kwei Armah (Two Thousand Seasons), who abandoned Western 'success' but seems to be doing just fine with Per Ankh; and the offerings available through the wonderful African Books Collective (hardly, for the most part, titles 'successful' abroad, but at least readily available -- a foundation that can and should be mined by interested readers).
       As with literature from everywhere else in the world, I don't cover nearly enough from Africa at the complete review; still, I think even the very limited selection under review at least points to a bit of a world just beyond 'Western' notions of success and acceptance.

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9. Thankfully Reading Day 2

I managed to avoid the turkey coma. I set out to eat until I was full and I did exactly that. No stuffed feeling! We ate dinner with friends and ended up eating in 3 waves, because of all the food! Roasted turkey and sides first, smoked turkey and smoked mac and cheese second, and dessert third, including this ridiculous Mile-High Apple Pie topped with caramel and pecans. Yes.


That was easily the best apple pie I have ever consumed. My friend said it was a Paula Deen recipe, so if you're interested in recreating that amazing deliciousness, I'm sure you could Google it!

On the reading side of things, I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday! We didn't head to our friend's home until 4:30, so all morning and E's nap time were spent occasionally fitting in 10 or so pages and when we got home and the little one was off to bed, I sat for a couple hours and sped through The Book of Strange New Things. Almost done with that one and it's 500 pages! Hoping to finish that and maybe 2 more of the course of this long weekend. 


For today's update, Jenn asked us to answer the question "what book are we most thankful for this year?" I didn't even have to think about my answer, as it's the one book that brought back my love of reading this fall. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. 

I had too much on my plate, signing up for event after event and though most of these things were fun and I had a great time while I was out, it definitely took away my reading time and often left me exhausted. I didn't have time to read, because I wasn't ever home and when I was home, I just wanted to sleep. The Best Yes spoke truth into my life and made me realize that I was craving the ability to slow down and return to the quieter life I loved... and how to be ok with saying no. 

I have started slowly taking myself out of obligations that were making me exhausted and that I felt like I absolutely had to do and sticking with the things I truly love. My dinner club and book club are sticking around, but the second book club and my Bunco group had to go. I've taken leave from the bookstore, so I'm no longer working on weekends, and amazingly my reading numbers have gone up and I'm just happier. So, thank you Lysa Terkeurst, you changed my year. 

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10. Prize: Большая книга

       Yes, they've announced the winner of Russia's prestigious but ridiculously named Большая книга -- 'big book' -- literary award, with Zakhar Prilepin's Обитель taking the prize; see also the overview of the results at the indispensable Lizok's Bookshelf (though she hasn't finished the prize-winner yet -- I'm curious to hear what she has to say about it).
       Now Alexandra Guzeva has a Q & A with Prilepin at Russia Beyond the Headlines -- worth a look. Several of his works have been translated into English (I should get around to reviewing one or another at some point) -- and: "According to my agent, there is very serious interest in The Cloister in the United States".

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11.

Advanced copy arrived! 

Very excited for the March release. 






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12. End of blog.

Due to lack on interest I will no longer be posting my work here. Instead it will only be shown on my facebook page. 

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13. Precautions

It’s good to take precautions
When you’re going on a trip –
Umbrella, bug spray, meds will ease
Your mind when in your grip.

Yet even if you’re more prepared
Than someone would advise,
There always is the chance that you’ll
Encounter a surprise.

For who can really tell you what
The future has in store?
And health or weather may act up
In ways not seen before.

So pack your suitcase to the brim
In full anticipation
That all your efforts cannot
Guarantee a smooth vacation.

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14. Station Eleven

Thanksgiving laziness came upon me early. No not laziness exactly because I have managed to finish two books I was in the middle of and get to the halfway mark of another book I had not even begun until Wednesday and that I need to finish by Sunday so I can return it to the library Monday. Plus there has been a couple inches of snow to shovel and the coldest Thanksgiving in 29 years to eat my way through. And Waldo and Dickens have been piling on top of me and oh, the mean looks they shoot at me should I dare to move! But enough excuses, let’s get to one of those books I finished reading.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel has been getting lots of buzz in the U.S. and in blogland. As a post-apocalypse novel it falls into the genre of science fiction which made it the first science fiction novel to make it to the shortlist of the National Book Awards. It didn’t win, but that’s ok.

To say that Station Eleven is a post-apocalypse novel will likely give you some immediate assumptions. While civilization as we know it has come to an end due to a global epidemic of a highly contagious and fast acting strain of swine flu that kills around 90% of the world’s population, this is no doom and gloom story. It is not The Road or Oryx and Crake or Mad Max. It is a more hopeful book than that and in some ways feels truer because of it, though it could only be wishful thinking on my part.

The focus of the book is on the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel in a horse-drawn caravan along a fairly regular route on the coast of Lake Michigan in what used to be the state of Michigan. On the lead caravan is painted a quote from Star Trek Voyager: “Because survival is insufficient.” It is the Symphony’s motto and it keeps them going through the worst of times. Along with the music, the actors perform Shakespeare plays. Early on they had tried to perform other plays but everywhere they went people preferred Shakespeare so now that is all they do. The world, however, is not completely safe. The Symphony travels armed, with scouts fore and aft, and sets guards around their camp in the evenings.

The book begins in an undated present with the famous actor Arthur Leander playing Lear on stage in Toronto. In the second half of the play he collapses and dies on stage from a heart attack. There were three young girls in the play acting as hallucinatory visions of Lear’s daughters are children. One of those girls, Kirsten aged eight, had befriended Arthur. She survives the flu epidemic and ends up with the Symphony. Much of the post-flu story belongs to Kirsten, but other stories are woven in as well.

Pre-flu, the story belongs mostly to Arthur Leander, his acting career, his three wives, his best friend Clark. It is Arthur and the lives he touched that spin out the story both pre and post flu. The book moves back and forth in time between Arthur pre-epidemic and Kirsten twenty years after the epidemic as well as a couple other characters that flesh things out and add additional angles and dimensions. The transitions are beautifully fluid and nearly seamless. The plotting intricate and detailed. A story like this could so easily feel forced and fake as the author directs all the various elements to fit together no matter what, but there was hardly a clunker to be found.

I loved that the story makes some wonderful observations and asks some interesting questions. Since it is now twenty years after the epidemic there are an interesting mix of people, older adults who remember everything that has been lost, adults who were children at the time like Kirsten who have fading memories of electricity and cars and flying in airplanes but didn’t know quite enough of the world to feel that they had lost so very much. And now there are children who have been born in the aftermath, who know nothing of what the world was except from the stories the adults tell and from pictures in books. At one point someone questions whether they should even teach the children about what the world was like before. His young daughter is upset and angry upon learning that lifespans were so much longer before due to all the medical technology and medicines available and is devastated by the unfairness of it all.

There are terrifying moments of watching the world come to an end. Jeevan and his brother Frank are holed up in Frank’s Toronto apartment. Jeevan, getting a tip from a doctor friend at the hospital just as the flu hit Toronto, had time to buy shopping carts full of supplies and haul them to his brother’s high rise building and from the windows they watch the world fall apart:

On silent afternoons in his brother’s apartment, Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. no one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no on removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.

The title of the book comes from the title of a comic book in the story, Station Eleven. Station Eleven is a space station designed as a planet. The station/planet has been badly damaged from a wormhole and the inhabitants of the station are fighting to survive and find a way to get back home. This comic plays an important role in the novel but it doesn’t become completely clear until the end.

As scary and realistic as the book’s premise is, this is not a depressing dystopian kind of book. Bad things happen in it but it ends on a hopeful note. If you are not a general fan of science fiction or post-apocalyptic novels this one is different enough that you just might enjoy it. And if you are a fan of this sort of book, well, it’s a real treat and a breath of fresh air in what is generally a genre composed of a pile-up of horrors.

For a bit of background on the book from the author, be sure to read her short interview with the National Book Foundation.


Filed under: Books, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: Emily St. John Mandel

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15. How to Survive NaNoWriMo

How to Survive NaNoWriMo


So anyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo is probably sleepless and angst-ridden right now. It's the end of the 50,000 word stretch, and I'm sure most of you are itching at the palms to rest your fingers. Fear not, fellow writers! Here I will share with you a few ways to survive NaNoWriMo with your writer's brain in one piece: 

1. Lots of Sleep 


Yes, writing takes up most of your time and carries on far into the night, (because come on, our characters never take a break, do they?). But getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night can help you to focus when you're writing, and better you're dialogue. 

2. Eat Regularly 


Of course, when you're writing you don't want to stop. But brain food is writing food! If you eat regularly while you're writing, instead of forgetting, you may find you have more energy to finish that last chapter. 

3. Read


Read as much as you can in your down time. Reading in between writing spurts can help inspire you and spark your imagination, not to mention help the words flow freely from your brain to your screen. 

4. Channel Your Character


Sometimes all you need to create that perfect character is to spend a few moments channeling them. Take a breath and ask yourself, "how would he/she react to this" without thinking too hard about it. Whatever pops into your head may be the truth. 


5. Set your Space

Set your writing space up every time you sit down at your computer. Whether that means good-smelling candles, pretty curtains, or calming music, everything around you helps to relax you and further your writing. 


And there it is! A few quick (hopefully helpful) tips to surviving this last week of NaNoWriMo! So kick back, relax, and let the words flow.

Best and happy writing,

-Ashley Dawson 

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16. Illustrator Saturday – Gregory Manchess

I have been trying to share Gregory Manchess’s art for most of this year. He is a very talented artist, but a very busy artist. He exhibits all over the world, teaches workshops, lectures at universities, plus everyone is trying to bang down his door for a little piece of his genius talent. I gave up on getting the answers to my too many interview questions and showing him off without the interview. But there is a lot of meat to this post with a lot of tips for illustrators, so take a look and don’t miss the link to his two hour “How to” video.

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Creating a moment that communicates emotionally with the viewer is the essence of Gregory Manchess’ artwork. A native of Kentucky, he spent two years as a studio illustrator with Hellman Design Associates before striking out on his own in 1979.

He combined his love for fine art and science fiction and began his freelance career painting for OMNI magazine. His versatility and broad range of interests allowed him to crossover to mainstream illustration. There he was able to expand his client work to include covers for Time, Atlantic Monthly, spreads for Playboy, Omni, Newsweek, and Smithsonian, and numerous book covers.

Manchess’ interest in history and his excellent figure work has made his paintings a favorite choice of the National Geographic Society on many occasions, including an expedition down the Fond du Lac river in Canada for the 1996 article David Thomson: The Man Who Measured Canada.

Widely awarded within the industry, Manchess exhibits frequently at the Society of Illustrators in New York. His peers at the Society presented him with their highest honor, the coveted Hamilton King Award in 1999, and a year later, the Stephan Dohanos Award.

Manchess’ work has also been recognized in the children’s book market. His latest children’s book illustrations narrate the story Cheyenne Medicine Hat about wild mustangs. A lavishly illustrated limited edition of Robt. E. Howard CONAN stories with over 60 paintings, is due out in 2010. He has recently finished 10 murals for a traveling exhibition on the Pirate ship, Whydah, for the Nat’l Geographic Society. His painting of the Oregon coast was used for the 2009 Oregon Statehood Stamp by the USPS.

Gregory is included in Walt Reed’s latest edition of “The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000.” He lectures frequently at universities and colleges nationwide and gives workshops in painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, MA.

Here are a few pictures showing Gregory’s process:

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Thumbnail sketch for layout.

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Character sketches

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Sketches for the wolves

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Cleaned up sketch

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Sketching in more detail.

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Adding Shadows

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Adding foreground characters

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Continuing to develop sketch.

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Final Sketch

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Final Painting done in oil.

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This is the final cover for LORD OF CHAOS published by Tor.

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Gregory’s artist rep is Richard Solomon located in NYC. http://www.richardsolomon.com/

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You can view a two hour video of Gregory’s painting process available as a download from http://Conceptart.org

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One of Gregory’s many murals. Must have been fun to see it on the top of a NYC building.

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ABOVE and BELOW: Gregory’s illustrations have been in National Geographic Magazine.

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Gregory also was chosen to do a few postal stamps.

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The Society of Illustrators exhibited 50 of Gregory’s illustrations in 2013.

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ELEVEN GREGORY TIPS:

Value range.
I start with darks first, to get the deep shadows laid in. Obvious places: nostrils, eyelids and eyebrows, mouth line. Next, I’ll put in broader, but slightly lighter shadow shapes like under the nose, under the eye sockets, under the bottom lip, chin, deep cheek bones, hair. I place the boldest shapes to establish deeper values, then work my way up through the darker values of color to the lighter values placed on top.

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3_36_3C

Avoid highlights.
Until the last bits of painting, I avoid the highlights as long as I can. Two reasons. One, I need to work my way up, so putting them in too soon will defeat that effort. Two, I leave something fun for the last. I delay gratification as long as I can. The best part of painting in oils occurs within the last few layers and strokes.

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Vary forms.
Hair is a bold shape, not individual hairs. I study folds and constantly vary them. Repeating the same folds will kill a painting as dead as an assassin’s shot through a pillow. I don’t think about the object I’m painting. I separate myself from the subject and only paint the form. I won’t ‘follow’ the form either. I cut my strokes across the surface of the forms. This adds dimension and lets objects feel sculptured.

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New painters: Avoid primary colors.
Ultramarine Blue. It’s deadly. It’ll make mud faster than 35 school kids running for the bus. And no, Cadmium Yellow Light is not a miracle color. Get over it. Using it straight from the tube does not show how brilliant one is at mixing paint. Same is true for Ultramarine. New painters seem to think they are phenomenal because they used Ultramarine Blue straight from the dang tube. They step back and declare, ‘look at me, The Genius. I have explained the essence of pure painting by opening a paint tube and using yellow next to blue. Admire me.’

Using primary colors as a statement of painting brilliance screams ‘AMATEUR.’

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Amount of pigment.
I trained to know just how much pigment is on the end of my brush. No matter how large or small, my awareness of the amount is paramount to good layers, good coverage, good overall effect in any painting.

I studied calligraphy. It taught me how to make letterforms with a brush or pen. Knowing the amount of ink held on an instrument for calligraphy is critical to achieve a skilled work.

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Brush angle.
Calligraphy also taught me how to angle a pen or brush. Making letterforms is a key factor in learning to paint. I know many great painters who also started by copying letter shapes, making signs, copying comics (bang! zoom! pow!). They learned to handle the brush and at what angle AT ALL TIMES.

The angle of the brush helps lay down the right amount of pigment, at the right angle, in the right direction, with the right pressure to achieve a free and confident stroke.

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Brush angle.
Calligraphy also taught me how to angle a pen or brush. Making letterforms is a key factor in learning to paint. I know many great painters who also started by copying letter shapes, making signs, copying comics (bang! zoom! pow!). They learned to handle the brush and at what angle AT ALL TIMES.

The angle of the brush helps lay down the right amount of pigment, at the right angle, in the right direction, with the right pressure to achieve a free and confident stroke.

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Brush size.
I start with the largest brush for as long as I can and work my way down to the smaller brushes. Many times, as I near the end of a painting, or even slightly before, I switch back and forth. It’s a good, general idea to keep things from getting too focused too early.

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Stroke speed.
Painting fast and loose comes the same way as anything else: with time. I painted very slowly in the beginning, placing my strokes deliberately, to look as if they were painted fast. Once down, it’s usually hard to tell the speed the stroke was laid. Over the years, I built up speed through confidence. It’s just plain ol’ experience. And LOADS of training.

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Patient strokes.
I don’t judge my strokes too quickly. I lay it down, and press on. I come back to that area after a bit to judge whether it was the correct feeling, size, color, etc. I don’t lay one down, hate it, and take it off. Or worse, try to keep changing it.

At this point in my career, I lay strokes down that don’t make sense, but I let them sit. I find that they are just fine once I come back to judge them in context, against other strokes that are adding to the whole piece. Judging too early destroys spontaneity.

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Scale.
I decide how I want the paint to feel once a piece is finished. I scale the brush size to fit the scale of the painting. If it’s a small painting in a magazine, I have to decide how clearly the strokes will be seen and what feeling they project to a reader.

If it’s a large painting and I want it to feel loose, I have to decide on the size that feels best. Paint it too large with small brushes, and when it comes down in reproduction, it can look too detailed. Too small with large brushes, and the piece can look too loose, too unfocused.

New painters can make the mistake of painting too small with too large of a brush and vice versa.

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Below is Gregory explaining his thought processes for Jake and the Other Girl.

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There’s another way to make successful thumbnails that can lead to a final sketch.

Get right to the research first. Instead of exploring small thumbnails on the page, searching for the right image design, there are times where I know that the assignment demands a clearer knowledge of the setting before an idea takes hold.

I read this short story for Tor.com, a follow-up for a previous story, “Dress Your Marines in White,” by Emmy Laybourne. I toyed with a short-lived idea that might connect with my illustration for the first story, based on a set of men’s arms.

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But I had a clearer idea that I needed to know & show the environment for the piece. The mood needed to be established instantly. The story is post-apocalyptic. I quickly rejected that early approach after researching, at length, war-torn cities, destroyed cities, hurricane, tornado, and earthquake damaged city streets. There is only a brief scene where the main character is outdoors, but it gives the tale a sense of place and I wanted the reader to feel that.

I gathered abandoned cars, some parked, some wrecked, some neglected. I used the status of the cars to reflect the status of the story. I researched shots of broken buildings, street scenes, and abandoned towns. I put all of these images up on my computer and freehanded a large scale thumbnail as the main sketch.

With that much information, I only needed to hit it one time. Most times, you have to create your own luck.

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But the challenge after getting the idea was to pull it off. It must read fast and it must feel factual. Rendering cars is not so fun, but discovering and simplifying their shapes to read quickly was very gratifying. But I had to show more than just shiny cars parked. I wanted some to feel like they had just been abandoned, while others had been there for some time.Again, getting the value correct meant the difference here. Capturing that feeling meant I had to forget what it felt like, and pay more attention to exactly what it looked like. By doing that, I managed to capture the feeling of a dust covered car.

Not so intuitive. I had to study and mix the difference in value range to get shiny vs dusty. I wasn’t surprised to find out how much I learned from this painting about simplifying detail.

Manchess_Jake&theOtherGirl FIN detail

As painters, we must sometimes compartmentalize our feelings to actually capture those same feelings in the image. We start with the impression of feeling, reverse-engineer it methodically through observation and application that then re-communicates the feeling we were after originally. Using contrast was another way of projecting that feeling. I decided to have someone leave a cryptic message on the windshield, like a “wash me” note. The difference between the soft values of the dusty windshield and the crisp, hand drawn letters brought this across. To get that affect, I had to pay attention to exactly what value would be revealed if someone had haphazardly wiped away some dirt.

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I could’ve added that passage after the oil was dry, but instead, I painted it digitally. This allowed me to give the art director, Irene Gallo, the choice to keep it or not.

This is yet another way in which digital is informing my analog painting development.

Click this link to read Gregory’s Ten Things About Painting in Oils: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2013/03/10-things-about-painting-in-oils.html

You can find Gregory Manchess on his website http://www.manchess.com and his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gregory-Manchess-Art/180916225410035

I would love to hear what you think about Gregory’s illustrations. Maybe you have taken a class with him or got to see his illustrations when he exhibited in NYC or for that matter in one of the many places he has exhibited around the world.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

 


Filed under: Advice, How to, illustrating, Illustrator Sites, Illustrator's Saturday Tagged: Gregory Manchess, Illustrated USPS Stamps, NYC MURAL, Smithsonian, Time Magazine

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17. Star Wars cross-hilt lightsaber quickly captures the imagination of people with nothing better to do

m4tzadqea67z4mrb47ln Star Wars cross hilt lightsaber quickly captures the imagination of people with nothing better to do
With nothing else to do but digest turkey and fight crowds, the internerd has quickly turned, just as we knew it would, to the “Claymore” lightsabre in the new Star Wars: TFA trailer. This lightsaber not only has a blade, but two mini lightsabers coming out of each hilt, reminiscent of the real universe blade the Claymore, a giant sword that had little swords as hilts. The “Claymore saber” would seem to be highly…cumbersome to use as you would be in eminent danger of stabbing yourself with your own hilt at all times. But…it looks cool, so what.

The weapon quickly meme’d out:

Buzzfeed has a poll about it.

And so on. Personally, we think whoever made the sword just decided to make a tricked out, lowrider lightsaber, damn the practicalities, becuae that’s what you do.

BTW for the shot by shot speculation and spoilters, io9 has a good breakdown. And for all your spoiler/leak needs, Star Wars Underworld. I’m not going to be one of those people who hangs on every leak and makes baby JJ Abrams cry, so read at your own risk.

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18. THREE WISE SAYINGS


Life is a mirror of your consistent thoughts.
- Napoleon Hill

Practice hope. As hopefulness becomes a habit,
you can achieve a permanently happy spirit.
- Norman Vincent Peale


Plant the seed of desire in your mind and it forms a nucleus
with power to attract to itself everything needed for its fulfillment.
- Robert Collier
 

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19. A 24-Hour Bookshore Thrives in Asia

esliteThe Eslite, a 24-hour bookshop based in Asia, “has more night owl visitors than most Western bookstores could dream of during their daytime hours.”

The Eslite Group has designed its stores to cater not only to bibliophiles, but also to people who appreciate fashion, home styling, and restaurants. The company owns 42 stores in Taiwan and 1 store in Hong Kong; the executives plan to open new locations in China.

According to CNN, the organization “reported revenue of around $425 million in 2013, with books accounting for some 40 percent of sales, according to company spokesman Timothy Wang. Sales are expected to increase by almost eight percent this year.” What do you think?

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20. LEGO Mindstorms for Tweens (Or How I Had to Give Myself a Crash Course in Robotics)

Mindstorms Robot 2.5At my library, LEGOs are perpetually popular. We host a LEGO Contest at least once a year with a continual level of success. Also at my library, we are currently focusing on new technology initiatives to enhance our programming. Thus, my idea to combine the two and try a LEGO Mindstorms program was born.

As I had never used LEGO Mindstorms before, I did a ton of research well in advance. I put a call out on several listservs for help and ideas, and received a plethora of valuable insight. Then, I asked my IT department to order a Mindstorms EV3 kit to try out to see if it would be doable for us. I worked closely with one of our IT technicians to tentatively make a plan: he would familiarize himself with the robots, be there to troubleshoot, and help with more advanced questions; and I would learn the very basics and come up with the program outline.

We ended up DSC00589purchasing 6 LEGO Mindstorms EV3 core kits to use and downloaded the free software from the Mindstorms website. (Note: You can purchase a site license from the LEGO Education site to get the Teacher’s Edition of the software. It’s much more expensive, but it’s supposed to come with lesson plans and such already done for you.) One day, about a month before the program, I went up to the IT office to work on the outline when I received the news: the IT technician I had been working with was leaving the next week for another job! This meant I was on my own and needed to be good enough to not only use the robots, but also teach the tweens how to use them.

I borrowed one of the robots and set to work giving myself a crash course in LEGO Mindstorms. I found The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book by Laurens Valk to be extremely helpful. I decided to break the program up into three 1-hour sessions and a final 2 hour session that would meet weekly after school. I opened up the program to tweens in grades 4 to 7 and geared it towards those with no programming or robotics experience. You can find a detailed outline of each of the sessions here, but this is basically how I broke down my program:DSC00595

Day 1: I wanted to give the tweens a good foundation for programming/coding language which would help them with the LEGO Mindstorms software, so for the entire first day we worked with the Hour of Code website. The nice thing about it was that the programming blocks on code.org looked almost identical to the programming blocks from the Mindstorms software. We went though the first hour of code together, but since I anticipated that some tweens would work faster than others, I told them where to stop (which was before the next video) and gave them extra mazes to complete if they finished early.

Day 2: I introduced the tweens to the LEGO Mindstorms software, the parts of the robot, and the steering blocks. Then I gave them some challenges to try based on what we learned, which you can find in my outline. (Note: To save time for this program, we pre-built the robots for them. We chose the Track3r bot with the claw arm as pictured at the top of this post.)

Day 3: We went over the rest of the action blocks (display, brick status, and sound) and the flow blocks. Then I gave them some more challenges based on what they learned that day, which you can find in my outline. We didn’t bother learning any of the other more complicated blocks since this was a beginner class, but I encouraged them to play around with these blocks if they felt comfortable.DSC00599

Day 4: I began with a very brief overview and asked if they had any questions. Then I gave them some time to just play around and experiment with programming their robots. With about an hour left, I gave them one final challenge using the mission pad mat that comes with the Mindstorms kit.

Here are some videos of the neat things they programmed the robots to do:

What I Learned:

  • The tweens had the most fun when they had free reign to experiment and play.
  • The final challenge that I gave them seemed to be too difficult and they got frustrated and just didn’t try. Next time I would either make up an easier version of that challenge or just forget it altogether.
  • Because we only had 6 kits, we put the tweens in groups of 2 and 3. This seemed to be a good number per kit.
  • I didn’t end up needing the full 2 hours for the last session day, so the next time I might just host four 1-hour sessions.

Tips:

  • I realize that these robot kits are expensive and not every library has the funds to purchase multiple kits. One of the suggestions from the listserv was to work with your school’s robotics team to see if they would lend you kits and/or work with you to run the classes.
  • I was the only adult in the room with 16 tweens most of the time. For one of the sessions, I had the help of an older teen who had been on his school’s robotics team. It made all the difference when it came time for the tweens to complete their challenges. If you can have a second person in the room, especially if it’s someone who has advanced robotics experience, you’ll be much less overwhelmed.
  • For any challenge you give the tweens, have an answer key ready in case they get truly stumped so you can give them hints. I made up answers to my challenges, which you can find here and here. They helped me immensely, though please note that they aren’t the only possible answers and I am still not a robotics expert by any means.
  • I also tried this as a standalone 2 hour program. I geared it towards kids in grades 4 to 7 who had a basic understanding of programming or Mindstorms. I ended up getting a mix of beginners and non-beginners. The outline of this session was 30 minutes of software and robot overview followed by 90 minutes of challenges. Because I wasn’t sure about the experience level of this group, I gave them options for each challenge: an easy option and a more challenging one (make your robot move in a square or make your robot move in a triangle). This worked out really well!
  • If you don’t want to use the mission pad that comes with the kits, you can also download and create your own challenge maps here.

Other Helpful Links:

Beyond Legos: Coding for Kids (ALSC Blog)
Build Better Robots with LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 (The Digital Shift)
Tinker Group
Getting Giggles
Robotics for the Rest of Us (YALSA Blog)

Have you hosted a LEGO Mindstorms program at your library? If so, any other tips/tricks?

Kim Castle-Alberts is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is also a Youth Services/Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, or at kim.alberts@hudson.lib.oh.us. 

All photos are courtesy of the Hudson Librar & Historical Society.

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21. Another Farewell To Book Club...

Yesterday, I said goodbye to another lot of Year 10 book clubbers. Natasha, Karyn and Jenny were the loyallest members, who turned up to pretty much every meeting between Year 7 and 10, and I gave each of them a gift voucher for Dymock's bookshop. But there were plenty more. Some had joined us only this year. One, Hayden, who had been a member briefly in Year 7, returned this year, bringing his friend Mark, a lad who endeared himself to me in Year 8 when he recognised a quote I made from Monty Python. Mark is a keen reader, though this year he was mostly absorbed in the Game Of Thrones series of fat books, so had little time for much else.  I never did get him started on Terry Pratchett, a pity, because he would have enjoyed Discworld.

Hayden is, in fact, the only one of them who appears in that picture with Marianne De Pierres, because the others in his class were stuck in a maths test. Safa and Meka joined us this year and read manuscripts for Allen and Unwin. 

 Nusaiba was another veteran, though not as much as some of the others. She did come to Reading Matters and several meetings this year.

Lula joined us last year and came with us to the Reading Matters conference. Emily, who had been with us since Year 7, more or less dropped out last year, but still wandered in and out. I missed Emily, but the club was for their benefit, not mine. 

Braydon was in and out, but had also been with us for a long time.

We all had a lot of fun together. They chose books, came on excursions, read manuscripts for Allen and Unwin, met writers who visited us. Last year, Emily read The First Third by Will Kostakis, loved it and made her boyfriend a bit jealous when the author visited. Well, Will is young and good looking. :-) I said, "Don't worry, he's going back to Sydney," and the boyfriend snarled," Thank God!" But it was the book she loved. In the novel, the boy's very Greek grandma dies, which devastated Emily, but the author's grandmother, who inspired the one in the novel, is alive and well; she rang while Will was chatting with book club and he handed the phone to Emily.

Natasha was very sad yesterday, almost in tears when I handed her one of the laminated certificates I made for all my Year 10 book clubbers. After the graduation ceremony she gave me a hug and had her mum take a picture of us together. I have promised to see what I can do about having her attend Alice Pung's talk next year.

I think I'm almost in tears myself.That's the thing about being a teacher. You have to say goodbye so soon!

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22. Prize: Jan Michalski

       They've announced -- in their usual subdued way (it's almost like they don't want anyone to know ...) -- that Ворошиловград (or the French translation, La Route du Donbass) by Ukrainian author Сергій Жадан (Serhiy Jadan, for French purposes; generally transliterated as Serhiy Zhadan into English) has been awarded the 2014 Jan Michalski prize for literature (which went to the great Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's The Colonel last year -- so, yeah, to be taken seriously, and not just because of the SF50,000 payday).
       It hasn't been translated into English, but see for example the Suhrkamp foreign rights information page (or the Éditions Noir sur Blanc publicity page for the French edition).
       I've actually read several of the Zhadan titles -- Suhrkamp has translated quite a few into German -- though not this one; the only one of his books available in English to date is Depeche Mode; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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23. Ferguson Public Library Receives $175K in Donations

Many other orgs closing. But we will stay open to serve people of #Ferguson as long as safe for patrons & staff, up to 8p. Love each other.

— Ferguson Library (@fergusonlibrary) November 24, 2014

The American people have been very vocal in responding to the Ferguson incident. As the unrest continues, several local businesses have closed but the Ferguson Public Library has remained open.

In recognition of the library’s commitment to the community, more than 7,000 people have sent in monetary gifts. Overall, this institution has received more than $175,000 in donations.

Here’s more from NPR: “For community leaders and business owners, the library has become a place to convene…With the donations this week, Bonner plans to purchase more ‘healing kits’ for children to check out. The kits include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that they can keep.” Follow this link to take a video tour of the library. (via BookRiot)

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24. Prize: DSC Prize shortlist

       They've announced the five-title shortlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. (Since it's a prize for 'South Asian Literature', the announcement was, of course, made: "at the historic London School of Economics and Political Science" .....)
       RThe winner of the US$50,000 prize will be announced 22 January.

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25. My new favorite book

Adorable and so funny (for both kids and adults).


DORY FANTASMAGORY


review copy from Penguin



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