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1. Stacey Dash Lands Deal With Regnery Publishing

Stacey DashActress Stacey Dash (pictured, via) has signed a book deal with Regnery Publishing. Foundry Literary + Media agent Chris Park negotiated the terms of the contract on Dash’s behalf.

According to the press release, the idea for this project came from a 2012 post on Dash’s Twitter account. With this infamous tweet, she “‘came out’ as a conservative.”

Immediately after making this public confession, Dash received quite a bit of criticism for her political leanings. With There Goes My Social Life, Dash will talk about “how she became a conservative, sharing incredible stories of her rough upbringing in the South Bronx and her tumultuous Hollywood career to movingly illustrate her strong opinions about the value of a good education, the importance of family, the inanity of political correctness, and the power of personal responsibility.”

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2. Share Book Samples Online With iAuthor

Sharing book excerpts online is a great way to connect with readers, especially if you are a lesser known author.

London-based startup iAuthor has a tool to help authors and publishers share excerpts. iAuthor is a site for book discovery where readers can search for potential books to read based on genre or keyword themes. Authors can share samples of their work on the site and make it sharable, so that readers can embed the excerpt around the Internet. Using the iAuthor dashboard, authors and publishers can track audience engagement with the text online to see how many people have read the passage and shared it and so forth.

The book sample includes retail links, so if a reader wants more, they can simply click through to the book retailer and buy the book.

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3. Book Review: The Selection By Keira Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a

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4. The Best Translated Book Award Winners Will Be Unveiled at BEA 2015

BEA_2010_primary_logoThe winners of the 8th annual “Best Translated Book Award” will be revealed at this year’s BookExpo America (BEA) conference. This award honors works in translation that were released for the first time in the year 2014.

The winning titles will be selected from a diverse pool of more than 580 fiction and poetry books. They were originally published by 194 companies which are based in 73 different countries.

Here’s more from the press release: “Over the past few years, underwriting from Amazon.com has made it possible for the winning authors and translators to receive $5,000 in cash prizes, making this the largest award for literature in translation in the United States. Inaugurated in 2008, the award is conferred by Three Percent, the online literary magazine of Open Letter Books, which is the book translation press of the University of Rochester.”

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5. Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek's Mr Spock, dies at 83


US actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, his family has said.

His son, Adam, said he died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Friday morning.
Nimoy had a long career as both an actor and director.

However he was best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan character in both the TV franchise and series of films.

Last year, the actor revealed he was suffering from chronic lung disease, despite stopping smoking more than 20 years ago.

It was reported earlier this week he had been taken to hospital on 19 February after suffering from chest pains.

He later tweeted: "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory."

He signed off with "LLAP" - a reference to his character's famous catchphrase, "Live long and prosper". It was to be his final tweet.
Nimoy tweet 
Tempus fugit

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6. 29,000+ Harry Potter Fans Deem Severus Snape to be a Hero

Potions Master Severus Snape

BuzzFeed conducted a poll asking its readers to vote on this question: “Is Snape Actually A Hero?” More than 29,000 fans cast their votes as “yes.”

Arguably, the most enigmatic character in the Harry Potter universe is Professor Severus Snape. Many would actually describe him as an anti-hero.

What’s your opinion about the famed potions master? Click here to watch a fan-made video about the character’s life story.

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7. Diversity and the Maker Movement

As the Maker Movement gains momentum across the country in schools and libraries, YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force is encouraging organizers to think about ways to expand the scope of maker programs to broaden their appeal to all kids. Making isn’t just about robots and Legos, and it’s not just for the “nerdy” boy. In fact there are many developments and initiatives that are changing the definition of makers and making that we want to highlight. From Black Girls Code, to Google’s Made with Code, and a number of other new projects (http://girlswhocode.com/, https://wecancodeit.org/), we are seeing a concerted effort to help girls and children of color envision a future for themselves in the tech world.

Another important direction for the maker movement is to step away from the robots and find opportunities to include maker activities that tap into a broader range of cultures and traditions. A research group at MIT called High Low Tech is a wonderful source of information about this topic and offers tutorials for some amazing and unique projects. We take particular inspiration from Leah Buechley, a designer, engineer, and educator who likes to create tools and programs that mix together cutting edge technology with traditional art forms (her inventions include the Lilypad Arduino).

If you’re brainstorming about how to incorporate the maker movement into your library programming, we ask that you take the time to explore some of these resources and find ways to appeal to kids who may not think technology is for them.


Submitted by Elizabeth Bast and Angelique Kopa, YALSA Cultural Competence Task Force

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9. Canção de Estrada – de Wilson Teixeira

Artes soltas para compor 
o clipe animado de 
"Canção de Estrada", 
de Wilson Teixeira.

Seja bem-vindo para ver os estudos de "Seresteiro".

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10. dark skies

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11. Society of Illustartors Hosts Exhibit On ‘Little Nemo’ Comic Strip

Litte Nemo BOok CoverThe Society of Illustrators will host the “Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream” exhibit.

This program honors the work of the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strip creator, Winsor McCay. The closing date has been scheduled for March 28th.

According to the organization’s website, this art show is “based on Locust Moon Press’ anthology Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, many of the world’s finest cartoonists pay tribute to the master and his masterpiece by creating 118 new ‘Little Nemo’ strips, following their own voices down paths lit by McCay. Contributors to the exhibit include Paul Pope, Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, Yuko Shimizu, Jim Rugg, Ronald Winberly, Andrea Tsurumi, Raul Gonzalez III, and more!” Click here to see samples from the book.

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12. J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography Released

Thinking of doing a PhD on Harry Potter? Bloomsbury Academic has just released the text you’ll need for your studies.

J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013 by Philip Errington is a complete bibliographic text on Rowling’s writing. It includes: “details of each edition of all her books, pamphlets and original contributions to published works, there is detailed information on the publishing history of her work, including fascinating extracts from correspondence.”

“As someone who respects comprehensive research, I am in awe of the level of detail and amount of time Philip Errington has dedicated to this slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling bibliography,” Rowling commented on the book in a statement.

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13. Planning for Tweens

Like many of you, I’m feverishly planning for summer reading. My complete schedule is due at the end of this week and even here in the Deep South, everything has been thrown off by ice and snow and power outages and missed deadlines…as crazy as Summer Reading is in a public library, I’m definitely looking forward to summer.

My library isn’t large enough to have separate programming for tweens in the summer, so I encourage rising 6-12th graders to come to my teen programming. Which means I’ve had kids as young as 11 at teen programming. This can work. This is good for socialization and some of your kids will really enjoy it. Fun mentor-type relationships have sprung up among my group. You just have to remember a few things.

  • Adult Supervision. I’ve never had any issues at teen programming among the actual teens, but y’all, there is a big age gap between 11 and 18 and we have to be responsible around that. Make sure your programs are staffed properly. Safety first.
  • Participation, not humiliation. Try not to plan any programs that call anyone out specifically, but do encourage participation. Last year I talked about my photobooth program, which was well-attended and wildly popular. Kids were able to participate without feeling like I’m going to call on them at school.
  • Casual forever. My tween/teen programming is MUUUUCH less structured than my kids programming. Part of this is numbers: I’m never going to get 100 kids at a teen program. But part of that is that junior high and high school kids have their lives structured down to every single second and having a place where they can come make a craft or watch a movie without having to ask permission to use the restroom.
  • Have fun with them.  My main problem in the summer is that while I’m trying to do multiple programs a week, I forget to sit down and actually enjoy myself. The teen and tween programs are an ideal place to do this, as they ARE less structured and require less of me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I try and take this hour every week during the summer to relax and have a chat with my kids. I love it.

Good luck on those summer plans, fellow public librarians! You can do it!

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 6 years.

The post Planning for Tweens appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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14. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair (the cover reveal)

With enormous thanks to the Temple University Press team—Micah Kleit, Ann-Marie Anderson, Gary Kramer, Joan Vidal, Sara Cohen, Kate Nichols, Debby Smith, and Director Mary Rose Muccie—I share a first look at the cover art for Love: A Philadelphia Affair, my collection of Philadelphia-themed essays and photography, due out from the Press later this summer.

Southwest Philadelphia, Fairmount, Woodlands Cemetery, Wissahickon Creek, Old City, Memorial Hall, City Hall Tower, Locust Walk, South Philadelphia Sports Complex, Wayne Art Center, The Martha Street Hatchatory, Port Richmond, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Water Works, 30th Street Station, Stone Harbor, Glenside, New Hope, Mural Arts, Eastern State, Bush Hill, Chanticleer Garden, Hawk Mountain, The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, The Schuylkill Banks, DanceSport Academy, Beach Haven, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Reading Terminal Market, Wilmington, DE, Stone Harbor, the Poconos, Hawk Mountain, Lancaster, PA—my memories of and reflections on these and other elements of this region have all been collected here, along with my black and white photography.

This book owes a huge debt to Kevin Ferris and Avery Rome of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who invited me to write, idiosyncratically and happily, for their pages.

I thank Amy Rennert, who ushered this project through all those terms I'd never understand on my own.

The Temple team has worked enormously hard to get the book out in time for the Pope's visit to our city; copies will be available by then. It will be here and near during the Democratic Convention. And it will serve as a companion book to Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, another Temple University production.

The official catalog copy, as penned by the great publicist, Gary Kramer:

From the best-selling author of Flow, comes a love letter to the Philadelphia region, its places, and people


A Philadelphia Affair

Beth Kephart

Philadelphia has been at the heart of many of award-winning author Beth Kephart’s books, but none more so than the affectionate collection, Love. This volume of personal essays and photographs celebrate the intersection of memory and place. Kephart writes lovingly, reflectively, about what Philadelphia means to her. She muses about her meanderings on SEPTA trains, spending hours among the armor in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and taking shelter at Independence Mall during a downpour.

In Love, Kephart shares her love of Reading Terminal Market at Thanksgiving, “This abundant, bristling market is, in November, the most unlonesome place around.” She waxes poetically about the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, the mustard in a Salumeria sandwich, and the coins slipped between the lips of Philbert the pig.

Kephart also extends her journeys to the suburbs of Glenside and Ardmore, and beyond, to Lancaster County, PA, Stone Harbor, NJ, and Wilmington, DE. What emerges is a valentine to the City of Brotherly Love and its environs. In Love, Philadelphia is “More than its icons, bigger than its tagline.”

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of 20 books, including Going Over, Handling the Truth, Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, and Ghosts in the Garden. She has been nominated for a National Book Award, has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and has won the national Speakeasy Poetry Prize. Kephart writes a monthly column on the intersection of memory and place for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune. She teaches memoir at the University of Pennsylvania and blogs daily at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com

Philadelphia Region/General Interest/Urban Studies


112 pages, 39 halftones, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2”

Cloth ISBN 978-1-4399-1315-4 $24.50

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15. Featured Author at the Smyrna Library!

I am honored to be the March featured author for the Smyrna Public Library (Georgia) as they host "Dust, Drought & Dreams Gone Dry" - a national traveling exhibit commemorating the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s and similar environmental devastation. CLICK HERE to read my interview about A BIRD ON WATER STREET.

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16. Mysterious Bright Spots Shine on Dwarf Planet Ceres -More Nuclear Attacks In Space?

Two interesting news reports.
An image of Ceres taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows that the brightest spot on the dwarf planet has a dimmer companion.
An image of Ceres taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows that the brightest spot on the dwarf planet has a dimmer companion.
 Mike Balls, AV Chronicle  26 February, 2015

In light of the reported dark green skies over Canada and Russia recently and the growing conspiracy theories not to mention the increasing number of UFO sightings and mystery drones spotted over France since last October this latest news has fuelled more peculation.

Professor Peter Sidebotham from the European Space Agency Deep Space Project told a recent news conference in Lucerne: "There can be little doubt that there have been recent nuclear explosions on the surface of Mars"  and at a hurried meeting of the Deep Space Project, Sidebotham told a reporter for CNN: "I think we have visitors to our solar system and they are not friendly"  (CNN News 23 January, 2015.

There is now a statement from Professor John Chance of the Lucerne Deep Observation Agency that similar explosions have been seen on other planetary bodies in the solar system including Ceres and that these explosions are clearly seen on NASA photographs. 

Both NASA and the European Space Agency have denied observing large artificial objects moving near to Mars.   Asked about the claims of the two scientists both agencies released replies worded exactly the same: "We cannot comment at this moment."

__________________________________ and  ____________________________________

NASA's Dawn spacecraft will have plenty of mysteries to investigate when it begins orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres next month, as the probe's latest photos attest.

Dawn's most recent images of Ceres, taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) away, show an abundance of craters on the dwarf planet, as well as numerous bright spots that have scientists baffled.

"As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser," Dawn principal investigator Chris Russell of UCLA said in a statement. "We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled."

The new photos, which have a resolution of 4.9 miles (7.8 km) per pixel, are the sharpest ever taken of Ceres, NASA officials said.

A large, flickering white spot was also visible in photos Dawn took of Ceres last month.

"We can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery," Dawn mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com via email at the time

Dawn could clear up the mystery soon. The probe is scheduled to enter orbit around the 590-mile-wide (950 km) Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, on the night of March 5. Dawn will start studying Ceres in earnest six weeks after that; the probe is scheduled to work its way down to its first science orbit on April 23.

The $466 million Dawn mission launched in September 2007 to study the asteroid belt's two biggest denizens — the protoplanet Vesta, which is 330 miles (530 km) wide, and Ceres. Dawn orbited Vesta from July 2011 through September 2012, when it departed for Ceres.

Dawn's observations of these two planetary building blocks should help scientists better understand the solar system's early days, NASA officials said.

Dawn is scheduled to study Ceres from a variety of orbits through June 2016, when the probe's mission will come to an end.

This is a The Green Skies promotion NOT reality

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17. For a long time

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18. Sharing time at Storywraps.....

Community time here on Storywraps today.  Just sharing with you and thanking you for dropping by, visiting me, and saying hi.


BookBub...what's that you ask?

Last year, Random House decided to give away Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Codefor free for one week. But millions of readers, including avid Brown fans, were not aware of the week-long giveaway.
Many of the readers who did take advantage of the promotion were using BookBub. BookBub is a daily email service that alerts readers to limited time promotions of free or deeply discounted ebooks across a variety of platforms. BookBub notified nearly 1 million readers of the free Da Vinci Code deal last spring.
“It’s the Groupon of books,” Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks, told The New York Times about deal sites like BookBub. “For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.”
Why did Random House give away a national bestselling ebook that usually retails for $9.99? The promotion was very deliberate, with the goal of hooking new readers on Brown’s thrillers and drumming up interest in his new book, Inferno. In fact, the ebook included the prologue and first chapter of Inferno.
Publishers and authors also run free or discounted ebooks to hook readers on a series, or build a following for a new author.
“It makes it almost irresistible,” Liz Perl, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president explained to the The New York Times. “We’re lowering the bar for you to sample somebody new.”
In order to get the word out on these promotions, publishers and authors feature their deals on sites like BookBub. BookBub is unique in that it does not list every single free ebook on the market. Instead, BookBub’s expert editorial team selectively curates only the best ebooks to be featured in their email and on their website.
In most cases, the deals can be purchased for any ereading device, including Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo and Android. Additionally, BookBub allows readers to select which genres they would like to receive, so each email is matched to subscriber preferences. With millions of readers already using BookBub’s service, this type of promotional concept seems to be resonating with both publishers and readers alike.
To find out more about the service, go to www.bookbub.com.
                                                      source -The Book Insider    
Check it out at http://thebookinsider.com (news,tips, and deals for book lovers)

Unwrapping a cool deal for you...

Mandy Harper, one of the meanest girls ever, viciously ruled the school. She decided who was in and who was out. At least until Kayla Littlebe started standing up to her. 

But one day Mandy found out she might need glasses. Would she still be able to rule the school or would her new glasses help her see the error of her ways?

Teddy O'Malley is offering this book free from Amazon Friday and Saturday so be sure to download yours now.

Unwrapping something exciting FYI...

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19. Sherlock Holmes vs. EE

Click strip to enlarge.

Evil Editor Strips Again. Available at the EE Bookstore.

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20. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week - February 27, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between February 27 and March 6 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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21. Open Letter to AJ Preller, GM of the San Diego Padres


The name AJ Preller been in the news quite a bit lately, ever since he was named General Manager of the San Diego Padres. I’ve gotten a kick out of that, since AJ Preller was also my father’s name. Doing a bit of research, I learned that both of our families lived in Long Island. I thought about and decided, why not? So I sent him this letter:




Dear AJ Preller,

I’m writing because I think we may have a connection. Don’t worry, I’m not seeking anything (I’m a diehard Mets fan). We both love baseball and we might be related.

Fred W. Preller

Fred W. Preller

My family, like yours, came from Long Island. My father’s name was Alan Jay Preller. His father was Fred W. Preller, from Queens Village, NY, where he was a NY State Assemblyman for 22 years. He briefly ascended to Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. I think if there’s a gossamer-thread connection between us, it might be there, since it’s my understanding that Fred was part of a large family. In later life, Grandpa had a summer place in Smithtown, Long Island. I don’t know; I’m not a student of family ancestry. The first time I saw a color television was in Grandpa’s Queens Village home. He was watching the Yankees and the grass was sooo green.


Through his political work, Grandpa even had a baseball field named after him –- Preller Fields (later named the “Padavan-Preller Complex” sometime after Grandpa passed away) -– which is on Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, NY. Photo, above.

paperback-cover-six-innings-203x300Anyway, I’m a children’s book author and my deep love for the game led me to write this book, SIX INNINGS, an ALA Notable, which I now send along to you.

As you know, Preller is not a common name here in the United States – though it pops up in Argentina and South Africa, curiously. I always get a kick out of reading my father’s name -– your name -– in the sports pages. AJ Preller! My long-lost cuz!

Carry on and good luck with your Padres. I think you’ve done a great job so far, similar to what Omar Minaya accomplished in his first year with the Mets, seeking to make a moribund franchise newly relevant.

Good luck, my best, and play ball!

James Preller

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22. Booktrope Rethinks Publishing

Digital startup Booktrope is trying to bring together the best of both worlds in publishing: the structure of traditional publishing with the high royalty rates of self-publishing tools.

The company is aimed at small publishers and indie authors who want to collaborate on a book and then share the income the project generates. The company’s site fosters a community of authors, editors, designers and marketing people. The idea is that these creative people can join forces and bring their skills to the table to help develop books. A good editor and a good book designer can really improve the quality of a manuscript that an author brings to the table.

When the project is complete, Brooktrope has the tools to publish the book in print or as an eBook directly to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There are no fees. Booktrope takes 30 percent and the team of creators keep 70 percent of the royalties.

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23. Poetry Friday: Breaghy by George William Russell (A.E.)

When twilight flutters the mountains over,
The faery lights from the earth unfold:
And over the caves enchanted hover
The giant heroes and gods of old.
The bird of æther its flaming pinions
Waves over earth the whole night long:
The stars drop down in their blue dominions
To hymn together their choral song.
The child of earth in his heart grows burning,
Mad for the night and the deep unknown;
His alien flame in a dream returning
Seats itself on the ancient throne.
When twilight over the mountains fluttered,
And night with its starry millions came,
I too had dreams: the songs I have uttered
Come from this heart that was touched by the flame.

- Breaghy by George William Russell (A.E.)

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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24. Flogometer for Christopher—are you compelled to turn the page?

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

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

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

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

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

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

Download a free PDF copy here.

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

A First-page Checklist

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

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

Christopher sends a revision of the first chapter of an untitled YA fantasy. The remainder of the chapter is after the break.

The front door crashed open, waking me up way before it was time to get ready for my morning lessons.

“Bring him in,” my mother yelled from outside.

Footfalls rushed into the house and from the handful of hurried voices, I only recognized two: my mother’s and Daylan’s. My parents had been above ground defending two supply shipments from Tormelin. The villages waiting for these supplies had already lost their first wagons of goods to thieves. A group calling themselves the Underground claimed responsibility for the thefts and my parents had gone personally to make sure the supplies safely reached their destinations.

I sat up, listening for my father’s voice, but I couldn’t hear him amongst the others. Since my father didn’t send his generals to defend the shipments, I knew the Underground was a bigger threat than they were telling me.

I still couldn’t hear him. Something was wrong. Footsteps raced past my door toward my parents’ bedchamber. Guessing he’d been attacked, I jumped out of bed. My clothes from yesterday were still on the floor. I threw them on and ran out.

My mother wrenched her chamber doors open and two people I’d never seen carried my father into the room. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving.

Were you compelled to turn Christopher's first page?

This opening cooks up good story questions with a good voice. I’m going to turn the page, but first a few notes—I think the narrative could be a little crisper. We do, however, get a good deal of information woven in with what’s happening in an economical way. Caution, Christopher—there are typos and errors in the chapter such as “firs” instead of “furs” and “you’re” instead of “your” that should not have been sent out.

The front door crashed open, waking me up way before it was time to get ready for my morning lessons.

“Bring him in,” my mother yelled from outside.

Footfalls rushed into the house and, from the handful of the hurried voices, I only recognized two: my mother’s and Daylan’s. My parents had been above ground defending two supply shipments from Tormelin. The villages waiting for these supplies them had already lost their first wagons of goods to thieves. A group calling themselves the Underground claimed responsibility for the thefts and my parents had gone personally to make sure the supplies safely reached their destinations.

I sat up, listening listened for my father’s voice, but I couldn’t hear him amongst the others. Since he my father didn’t send hadn’t sent his generals to defend the shipments, I knew the Underground was a bigger threat than they were telling me.

I still couldn’t hear him. Something was wrong. Footsteps raced past my door toward my parents’ bedchamber. Guessing he’d been attacked, I jumped out of bed. My clothes from yesterday were still on the floor--I threw them on and ran out. You’re doing a little “telling” here (something was wrong). You don’t have to include speculation and getting out of bed, just stay with the action and show the reader that something is wrong—he clearly thinks that or he wouldn’t dress and run out the door.

My mother wrenched her chamber doors open and two people I’d never seen carried my father into the room. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. Good strong hook. Trimming the above will allow more of the action on the first page.

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


“What’s wrong?” I said racing toward my mother. I scanned my father for wounds, blood on his clothes—any clue that would tell what happened—but I couldn’t find anything. My mother held her hand out in front of me and I stopped.

“Sarella,” she said behind her back to the two carrying my father, “please, lay him on the bed. Daylan,” she called toward the front door, “bring all of the healers in Al’Shar. I don’t care about their reputations, just get them here now!”

So my father was still alive. If she wanted the healers, he was probably poisoned, and if she wanted them all, it must have been bad. I wanted to push past her, but watched and waited.

Daylan bowed and disappeared.

My mother walked into the bedroom and I followed while the two rushed my father into the bed. The woman was tall and muscular like my mother, except she had dark skin like my father and me; her hair was twisted into long, coarse braids. The man had a dark olive complexion, he wasn’t as tall, and had a shaved head. I ran over to pull the firs away. When they laid him on the bed, I covered him.

Once my father was under the furs, I could see him breathe. He started moaning and my mother led us out of the room and closed the door.

“Sarella and Trian, we’re forever in your debt,” she said, hugging them both before taking my hand. “I meant what I said about living in Al’Shar. If you wish, you’re family is welcome.”

The two looked at each other, nodding in unison. “We’re sorry about your husband,” Sarella said, “and we don’t mean to be so happy at a time like this, but we gratefully accept your offer. We only have one daughter,” she looked at me and smiled, “the same age as your son. Thank you.”

The two bowed before my mother and me. I watched quietly, wanting them to leave so my mother could explain what happened.

“I’ll have our Blood-Guard escort you home to collect your daughter. Don’t bring anything that isn’t personal; everything you could possibly want is provided in Al’Shar. By the time you return your home will be ready.”

“Galtoria, thank you,” Sarella said, kissing her on the cheek.

“Thank you,” Trian repeated, shaking my mother’s hand and then mine. 

“Your daughter will have the same lessons as my son,” my mother said, squeezing my shoulder. She’ll train alongside him and the children of the oldest, most powerful families in the Kraelmar kingdom. You saved your king and are one of us now. Welcome.” My mother gave them a slight bow, “I would speak to my son alone, and then I’ll send for the guard to take you above ground.”

The two bowed once more and left.

“Fenon,” my mother said wrapping her arm around my shoulder, “come with me.”

We returned to my parents’ bedchamber, a room much larger than anything they’d ever needed—to the left was their bed, large enough to sleep four, was surrounded by tall, wooden posts, and loosely wrapped around those posts was a large draping of white, crystal-silk, the softest fabric in our kingdom. It’s glittering weave hung loosely and at the ends, tassels of sparkling gems glittered on the floor. The rest of the room was sparsely filled for its size: wooden dressers, one for each of them, and a few sitting chairs and sofas never used in my time. Sweat beaded on my father’s head and my mother hurried to the doorway at the back of the chamber, leading to a washroom. I grabbed two the chairs and hurried them over to my father’s bedside while my mother came out with a bowl of cool water and a rag. We sat. She rested the bowl on the bed next to him and placed her hand on his forehead.

“He’s burning up,” she said.

“What happened?”

Holding the side of his face with one hand, she squeezed the rag and laid it across his brow. “After getting the wagons safely to Grem and Fedrin,” she said, “your father and I met up with our warriors in Holdingar to reassign them before returning to Al’Shar. On our way home, with only a few guards, we were attacked. Your father and I had to split up because strategically, we’re not to be in the same place during a battle. Your father raced after a group of the Underground deep into the forest and when he caught up with them, but there were more waiting. It was a trap,” My mother gently wiped his sweat away before dipping the rag back into the water. She smiled briefly. “You know your father. They didn’t stand a chance against him.”

I did know my father. When he was a few years older than me he took the Rite of Ghem’Rel, a rite everyone in my bloodline takes at the age of thirteen to determine what special trait they’d inherited. When my father passed the rite, he discovered he had hearing more sensitive than any human in these lands. My father sword trains by fighting a small army of our best warriors all at once. He uses his Rite-ability to hear every sword swing, footstep, and breath of a warrior that comes near. He always knew what was going on around him whether he could see it or not. A handful of thieves wouldn’t stand a chance against him. “If they didn’t attack him, how did he get sick?” I asked.

“It was the blight that poisoned your father,” she said. “Until now we thought it only diseased plants, but we were wrong about a lot of things. This blight hasn’t died off on its own as Nordan and The Council predicted. In fact it has spread well beyond the cursed wood of the Velryn and is now sickening the forests outside of Holdingar. During his fight with the Underground, your father touched the blight and succumbed to its poison. Sarella said that although he writhed in terrible pain, he stayed conscious long enough to hold off his attackers until she and Trian found him. Because of your father’s bravery,” she clasped her hand with my father’s, raising it and resting the back of his hand against her cheek, “we were able to capture a few members of the Underground, but your father’s sickness,” she sighed heavily, setting his hand on top of the furs, “was the sacrifice he paid.”

The blight was described to me as a shiny, tar-like ooze that seeped out from the Velryn Forest—a cursed place where evil creatures roamed the twisted branches and spidery brush, where those who walked in never came out—no one dared to go near that forest. Until my father, I hadn’t heard of anyone touching the blight or anything that came from the Velryn. “There’s no cure is there?” I asked my mother. 

She shook her head as my father mumbled incoherently, stirring in a poisoned dream. She dipped the rag in the water and blotted the sweat off of his arms. “If I’d had known this was a blight to humans as well, I’d have taken the army and burned the Velryn Forest to the ground myself, Nordan and his Council be damned.”

Although I knew my mother didn’t like Nordan and The Council, I’d never heard her speak out against them like that before. I was in the Hall of Thrones with my parents the day Nordan came to warn us about the blight. It was the first time I’d met him: a short, older man with piercing green eyes and frosted blond hair that looked as if it could turn white at any moment. He told us that nothing like this had ever survived outside of the Velryn before. At that time it hadn’t spread to our outermost farmlands. I remember my mother telling him to burn any diseased plants and the Velryn along with it. She wanted to act swift before the blight had a chance to root itself into our lands. Nordan politely dismissed my mother’s suggestion, telling us The Council believed that the blight would die out on its own.  When he spoke however, he only looked at my father and me. He wasn’t outright rude to my mother, but his ignoring her made me uncomfortable. When he’d look at me, I would turn my head to watch her, hoping he would notice and address her as well. He didn’t. I was curious what had happened between the two of them, but finding a way to heal my father was more important at the moment.

“So what are we going to do now? Is he going to die?” I said.

“Just because The Council says there’s no cure doesn’t mean there isn’t one,” my mother said, trying to reassure me. “We just have to find it.”

I didn’t have much hope though. It was The Council’s responsibility to make sure we had enough food and other supplies in our lands, and that included medicines—everything. If they didn’t have a cure for our king, who would?

 “I won’t leave your father’s side until every healer in Al’Shar has had their chance to cure him. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go above ground and find it myself. Fenon, look at me,” for the first time she moved away from my father and grabbed my hands, hers were still hot from attending to my father. “I will find his cure.”

I watched my father’s chest rise and fall as he struggled to breathe, a hypnotic movement somewhere between survival and nightmares. I was with him right before he and my mother went above ground. We were in the Emril Caverns. It was just the two of us and we were sparring in the pool beneath the only waterfall in Al’Shar. Waist deep in water, we drew our swords and fought while he told me the great legends of humans fighting for their freedom against Wood Witches. His eyes were so deep and excited; he always smiled when he told those stories. Of course neither one of us believed them, but they made what could have been tedious sparring lessons, fun. The times I’d spent in those caverns with him were the best of my life.

My father erupted into a fit of sleeping cough, waking me out of my daydream. Now, all I could see of my father’s eyes were white slits beneath trembling lids. What if he never woke up? What if this was the way I’d remember him from now on? Sniffing, I looked away, wiping my nose on my shoulder.  

I caught my mother watching me and I tried to toughen up, but my eyes burned red from the tears that gave me away.

She set the rag down and reached for my hand. “It’s not time to worry yet,” she said, “We don’t know enough about the blight or its poison. Your father could wake up and be fine tomorrow.”

I nodded, afraid that if I said anything I’d cry. I knew she was trying to keep me hopeful, but she was wrong.There was a lot to worry about. For example, why did the Underground go after my father? What did they want if they left the supplies alone? And the biggest question on my mind: why hadn’t she already told me what they wanted. There was one thing about my mother I could always depend on: like all Kraelmar warriors, she respected acts of strength and bravery. If I could show her that I was strong, that I could handle my father lying there with the possibility of never waking up, she would tell me what she knew. “If my father dies,” I said, forcing myself not to choke on the words, “then I’ll be the last of my line. I need to know what’s going on with the Underground. Why did they attack him instead of stealing the supplies?”

My mother’s face turned grey and ashen. She looked away and I knew there was something she didn’t want me to know.

“Fenon, our ability to divert food and supplies across our lands is what keeps the peace and it’s what makes us so powerful. If a blizzard destroyed the food supplies in the northern lands, we could easily send them grain and livestock from the South. Until now, we’ve been able to keep everyone in our kingdom fed and satiated because of our supply system. Of course not everyone is happy with it, but there’s no such thing as a perfect system.”

My father started moaning and struggling again; he was sweating so much my mother took the firs off. I got up and grabbed a lightly woven sheet from a wooden shelf. I helped her drape it over him. His sweat soaked it almost instantly and I had to replace it with another. He quieted and my mother grabbed a fresh rag and bowl of water. We both sat down. This time she placed the soaked rag over his lips, hoping he would drink. His mouth remained closed.

I watched my father twisting and turning beneath the sheet as if he were fighting for his life. That’s when I began to understand the complexity and danger of this disease. “If this blight spreads throughout the lands,” I said watching him with focused eyes, “we’ll lose our ability to divert food. Everyone will starve, or end up like...” I couldn’t finish saying the words.

She set the bowl on the bed, and turned, moving closer toward me. “When your father and I first heard about the Underground, we thought they were nothing more than a common group of unorganized thieves. But they’re not. They’re using the blight to create fear throughout the kingdom and are using that fear to recruit our people to their cause.”

She paused for a moment, turning to attend to my father again, but he seemed to be cooling off, calming down. “When we fought against the Underground,” she continued, “I saw some of their weapons. They weren’t just fashioned bows and arrows, or spears made from sharpened rocks and metal. Some of them had Kraelmar swords. They knew when we’d be in Holdingar and they knew that if they attacked the supplies of important cities, cities where families of the Council lived, your father would come to protect those cities personally.Fenon,” she said, grabbing my hands and staring right into my eyes. In that brief moment I forgot my father was in the room. “The Underground wasn’t after the supplies. They wanted to draw your father out of Al’Shar so they could kill him. I’m certain they have spies in Tormelin and maybe even Trel’Nor. They’re not a bunch of disgruntled people using the blight to try and get more supplies. They’re well organized, have Kraelmar warriors joined to their cause, and live in small factions in the forests and even high in the Storgekull Mountains. They’re after the Royal Line and they’re trying to destroy the kingdom. What we don’t know is why.”

I stared at her, my mouth agape. If they were after my line, not only were they trying to kill my father, they wanted me dead too. I felt my chest turn to ice as if my heart had been covered by cold steel. I looked at my father; was this the Underground’s first attempt? Did he really successfully fight them off or was it their intention to poison him with the blight all along? They almost succeeded by the look of him: eyes closed, barely breathing now except for his once in a while gasps.

My mother must have seen the worry on my face. “Right now both you and your father are safe. If the Underground had spies in Al’Shar, they wouldn’t have tried drawing your father to Holdingar, they would have gone after him here. Daylan and the Blood-Guard are from families sworn to die for the Royal Line—It’s a bond more sacred than loyalty. They are trained to protect you wherever you go, and they know about the Underground. You and your father are safer in Al’Shar than the Council members are in Trel’Nor.”        

I could tell my mother thought she was reassuring me, but with the Blood-Guard shadowing me all the time, how was I supposed to know who was guarding me and who was trying to kill me? There were more things spinning through my mind than I could handle: My father dying and if he did, what would that mean? Not only would I grow up without him, I’d be expected to become him at the age of thirteen. Would I have to take the Rite of Ghem’Rel? It was the responsibility of the Royal Line to administer the Rite. If my father died, I’d have no one to test me. Would that mean I was no longer the next leader? What if I never figured out what my Rite-Ability was? Some of my ancestors knew their ability before they even took the Rite, so the test didn’t matter for them, but I was already ten years old and I had no clue what I was good at.

And what would happen if I did pass and become the next king? I would be expected to lead a starving and blight-sickened kingdom where an Underground force was trying to kill me just like they tried to, and maybe succeeded, in killing my father? All of a sudden the room felt like it was getting smaller. The ceiling was slowly moving down, the walls were closing in on me. I started breathing faster and faster but couldn’t get enough air. The room was stale and moist, full of sick. “I have to go,” I told my mother. “I’ll be in the Emril.” I jumped up, unable to look at either of them. Right now I couldn’t be in this house of sickness.

Without protest from my mother, I ran out and didn’t stop until I heard the echoing crash of water from the falls in the Emril caverns. I sat at the bank, threw my shoes off and stuck my feet in the cool water. Elbows resting on my thighs and hands cupping my chin, I watched the endless ripples as they tumbled into my shins on their way toward the bank.

I lied back, my feet still in the water. How was I supposed to think about life without my father? What kind of life would that be for me? I stared up at the stalactite ceiling, with a slit of blue light in the center, my only porthole to the outside world. I tried to numb my racing mind by listening to the falls and watching as the small piece of sky turned gold, to purple, and finally black. I tried imagining what it would be like, actually laying on a field of green grass and seeing nothing above me but the sky. Although I couldn’t go above ground, we studied it in our lessons. The sky seemed a lot like a vast ocean, spanning into an endless beyond—nothing but blue, and when the sun went down, both sky and water turned black. The thought of something so open, so reflective, was scary, like I’d fall into it and lose myself, drowning into a vast nothing. It wasn’t until I saw a single star shine through the mouth above that I finally stood up and walked home.

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25. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e February 27th 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Overcoming Your Distractions (Rachel Kent)

Becoming a Student of Your Own Creative Process (Dan Blank)

Could You Benefit From a Website Redesign? (Chris Jane)

Writer Productivity Tip: Healthy Competition (Rochelle Deans)

Two Video Tutorials on Nailing Your Concept (Larry Brooks)

The Dark Side of Digital (Dario Ciriello)

Wrules to Liv By (Dani Greer)

When You’re Missing the Mark (Rachelle Gardner)

Multitasking is Death to Creative Writing (Michael McDonagh)

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue (Susan DeFreitas)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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