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<<May 2015>>
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1. Plein-Air Painting in the 1920s

A silent black-and-white film from the 1920s (Link to YouTube) turned up in the basement of an art club.

At 2:03, it shows a group of well dressed men painting outdoors, using a variety of easels that were typical of the time.
Thanks, Stuart Fullerton and Robert Horvath.

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2. XM Studios Halt X-Men and Fantastic Four Statues

Well, I've hinted at the strange things going on in comics and how things are spiralling downward but this came...unexpectedly:

Singapore based XM Studios specialise in very high quality statues such as the Incredible Hulk.  They put in a LOT of detail that regular figure companies never do. And, yes, far too expensive for a poor sod like me to own one!

They really are beautiful pieces of art as you'll see in these video clips!

"Folks, it's been a sad day for us... due to reasons we aren't at liberty to disclose, we have been asked to put a hard stop to all X-Men characters for now.

That means Cable can't be released, and neither can the awesome Sentinel Diorama which we've all been so looking forward to.

Still, we continue to have faith that this isn't an indefinite red light forever and you can have our promise we will be back to producing these dream pieces once the coast is clear - no matter how long it takes!"

A fan then suggested: " This really sucks. Maybe replace with a galactus avengers diorama"

And XM Studios reponse was:

 "No Fantastic 4 too... same issue"

This is what fans were getting excited about and, of course, Disney (formerly Marvel) do not like the idea of a company making money from a disputed "property".

Have you seen the Work In Progress Witchblade statue!!!

And this...I'm drooling!

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3. A Touch of Stardust (2015)

A Touch of Stardust. Kate Alcott. 2015. Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust. Julie Crawford is the heroine who provides readers with a behind the scenes glimpse into the filming of Gone With The Wind. The setting, of course, is Hollywood in 1939. Julie, soon after we meet her, becomes a personal assistant and friend of actress Carole Lombard, the girlfriend of Clark Gable. So readers get a behind the scenes glimpse of this couple as well--their public and private lives. Julie is dating Andy, David Selznick's assistant. The book is about all the changes and transitions in her life: her move to California, her new job, her dreams of being a screen writer, her love life, the connections she's making, the relationships she's building, etc. A little bit about everything. She oh-so-conveniently is on the set during major scenes of the movie. Not that I minded, but, Julie is always in the right place to get the best story it seems!

One thing I did like about the novel was the context--or perhaps contrast is the better word. The world is at war, horrible things are happening in Europe, and the disinterestedness of America is highlighted. Andy, who is Jewish, is very concerned about what's going on, and what it means, and he's worried about his family--his grandparents especially--still in Germany. Serious things are happening, and, that is contrasted by the superficiality and gossipy nature of Hollywood.

I liked this one. I'm not sure I loved it. But it tempted me. Should I consider rereading Gone With the Wind this year?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. McKenna Jordon Joins Minotaur Books Team

St. Martin's Press McKenna Jordan, the owner of the Murder By the Book store, has been brought on as an outside publishing consultant at the St. Martin’s Press imprint, Minotaur Books.

Jordan, whose shop is based in Houston, will continue to work as a bookseller in addition to performing the duties required of her in this newly created position. She will report to editorial director Kelley Ragland.

Jordan had this statement in the press release: “I am so very excited to be working with Andrew, Kelley and the rest of the staff at Minotaur Books! After years of hand-selling their titles on the front lines at Murder By The Book, I hope to be able to bring a unique, first-hand insight about how best to market and promote Minotaur titles to all consumers.”

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5. Flogometer for Fran—are you compelled to turn the page?

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

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

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

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

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

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

Download a free PDF copy here.

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

A First-page Checklist

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

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

Also, if you think about it, the same checklist should apply to the page where you introduce an antagonist.

Fran sends a revised first chapter of Low Flying Dirtbags. An earlier version was submitted here. The remainder is after the break.

Please vote. It helps the writer.

Daggett woke screaming. He felt like thousands of fire ants were crawling along the length of his body… biting and gnawing on his flesh! He screamed again and shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He slowly opened his eyes, trying to focus. He realized he was naked and strapped to a metal table. He felt the cold metal on his back. He screamed again as the pain exploded throughout his body. He could feel the beat of his pulse like a hammer banging into an open wound. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He willed himself to wrestle down the panic and told himself not to struggle knowing it would only intensify his burning agony.

Dim light filtered through a small grimy window set high on the wall above his head. He smelled mold and mildew. It was quiet as a graveyard except for the sound of water slowly dripping.

"Help me!" He howled. His throat was sore. He needed water.

No answer, in agony he hoarsely screamed again, "Please, someone, help me!" He coughed and tried to wet his lips. Hearing the water trickle made his thirst worse.

Daggett caught movement from the corner of his eye and turned his head too quickly. The room spun, and his stomach threatened to spew. He gulped and forced himself to calm down. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. God, the pain was almost unbearable. (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Fran's first page?

My feeling about this opening is that it tries too hard, that it piles the torment on until this reader wished the narrative would get on with the story. There’s a bit of overwriting, and the use of filters gets in the way of the narrative delivering a strong impact. The length of the suffering also kept a really strong story-question line from being on the first page. You’ll see at the end of the notes.

Daggett woke screaming. He felt to pain like thousands of fire ants were crawling along the length of his body, biting and gnawing on his flesh.! He screamed again and shivered. He was cold. He tried to lift a hand to his mouth but discovered he couldn't move his arms or legs. He slowly opened his eyes, trying to focus. He realized he was naked and strapped to a metal table. He felt the cold metal on his back. He screamed again as the pain exploded throughout his body. He could feel the beat of his His pulse beat like a hammer banging into an open wound. He closed watery eyes as the fear rose. He willed himself to wrestle down the panic and told himself not to struggle, knowing it would only intensify his burning agony. Several uses of “filters” diminish the reader’s ability to get into the character’s experience (though I’m not sure I want to get much deeper into this one). Filters include: he felt, he realized, he discovered . . . This opening paragraph could be crisper IMO, as the edits suggest.

Dim light filtered through a small grimy window set high on the wall above his head. He smelled mold and mildew. It was quiet as a graveyard except for the sound of water slowly dripping.

"Help me!" He howled. His throat was sore. He needed water.

No answer, in agony he hoarsely screamed again, "Please, someone, help me!" He coughed and tried to wet his lips. Hearing the water trickle made his thirst worse.

Daggett caught movement from the corner of his eye and turned his head too quickly. The room spun, and his stomach threatened to spew. He gulped and forced himself to calm down. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. God, the pain was almost unbearable. (snip) I cut the above material because we’ve got it, no need to keep torturing the reader with terrible things. More than that, cutting this lets the following sentence appear on the first page and raises the story questions to a compelling level:

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

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



It would be so easy to surrender.

A soft chuckle snaked through the gloom.

"Please, help me!" he pled while sobbing in agony.

He heard the clip-clop of hard-soled shoes on concrete. Overhead florescent bulbs clicked on, flooding the room with light and forcing him to wince from the burning glare. Carefully he cracked his lids allowing the light to leak into his pupils. When his eyes finally focused on his captor, he saw nothing but a pair of blue eyes looking at him with curiosity, draped in a loose-fitting, long sleeved, blue hospital gown. Its face, obscured by a surgical mask and cap covering its brows and hair made it impossible to distinguish any feature or tell if it was male or female. Its hands encased in surgical gloves. Height average.

"Do I know you?" Daggett whispered painfully as he struggled to swallow.

"Doesn't matter," the voice whispered back.

The lightness of his tormentor's voice told Daggett his monster was truly enjoying this moment. It chuckled again and said, "We are far from anyone who might hear your screams of agony or your pleas for help." His tormentor whispered.

Daggett started to tremble. He couldn't control it. The panic returned and the adrenaline flowed as he desperately struggled to free himself.

"Where am I?" He stuttered with a painful rasp.

"This is where I do some of my best work, my art." The willowy whisper continued.

"What kind of art?"

"Body art… Just look at yourself."

The whisperer's gloved hands came up holding a long-bladed straight razor with a bloody blade and a small portable table torch. Daggett winced and cried out as he realized why his legs burned and his arms had long, deep cuts and blistered, seared skin. His face burned too.

"You're demented." Daggett whispered.

The blue eyes blazed with anger as the voice whispered. "To each his own."

"Please don't do this to me."

"Too late now."

"It's never too late. I won't tell anyone."

"Shhh," it whispered. "I'm going to make the pain go away. This won't take long." The killer lowered the flame from the portable torch to the inside of one thigh.

Daggett screamed as the pain raced through his body. He embraced it. The pain was proof of life. Without the pain, he feared he'd be lost.

"I want to live." Daggett sobbed in agony.

Gently, his tormentor smoothed it's fingertips over his forehead. "Shhh…we can't do that." The gentle touch set off an explosion of tremors. His body shook uncontrollably. His eyes widened in horror as he watched the lit portable torch held over his genitals. He felt heat then searing pain as he screamed in horror while the smell of scorched flesh reached his nostrils. His tormentor gleefully whispered, "My blade might accidently slide… like this… and slice right through your manhood. Oops! Look what you've made me do, Daggett!"

The pain was agonizing. Daggett's scream brought a glazed look of delight to his tormentor. Daggett tasted blood as he bit through his tongue trying to halt his screams, knowing they encouraged his tormentor. The monster stared at him as if he was some kind of lab experiment that required evaluation while performing a preordained response.

A camera magically appeared, snapping photos of Daggett's reaction. "Almost done. It won't be long now. Too bad… So sad." The monster whispered while dragging the sharp blade over the tender flesh of Daggett's neck.

Again, the pain was sudden and searing. Daggett inhaled to scream, but his lungs refused to respond. He tried to pull in another breath… Nothing! He was unable to inhale. Panic exploded as he directed his energy inward towards his lungs.

Breathe! Air!

A gurgling sound rose in his chest as the air already in his lungs seeped out through the wound. More blood began to pool around his shoulders. He struggled to cling to his final hold on life, convulsing in agony.

The killer kept smoothing its fingers through his hair. "Don't fight this. Fighting only makes it worse. It won't be much longer, it'll be over, and I'll return you to the world of the living. Another work of art, completed."

Daggett's vision blurred. His lungs and body burned as he realized who his tormentor was. His eyes widened in horror as he tried to breathe.

 "So pretty, I think you are my best work yet, Daggett." Delight danced in its blue eyes as it realized Daggett had put the puzzle pieces together. How fun!

Blackness leaked into the edges of Daggett's vision, and as the seconds counted down, his constricting pupils seeped out more light, leaving only darkness behind.

Daggett couldn't scream. Daggett couldn't point a finger. The darkness won.


Daggett's killer stared lustfully at his empty shell. The killing was such a treat, a well-deserved reward. The fact that Daggett recognized his killer, at the end, was even better. It was always enjoyable to bring the narcissistic, know-it-alls down a peg.

As the killer gazed at Daggett's remains, there was no remorse, just a feeling of being unfulfilled. Daggett's killer was tired of living in the shadows, tired of hiding behind someone's protection, weary of denying it's true self. It was anxious to up the ante. Wanting the cops to know what it could do. It wanted to be feared and to be that terrifying bedtime story the kids told each other when they needed to feel dread.

The killer thought about the cops running around in circles like rabid dogs trying to figure out which end was up. They'd growl and foam at the mouth, but in the end they'd find nothing but their own tails. The notion that the detectives assigned would have another unsolved case – another blot on their records – had some appeal. In fact, the killer gained great pleasure from the mere thought. Later, the killer would add Daggett's pictures to the ever-growing album. The stories the album provided were something to reminisce about while sitting in a cozy chair, in front of a warm fire, on a cold winter's night.

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6. First Day Jitters

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7. Return Of The Gods & The Cross-Earths Caper Parts 1 & 2 Of The "Invasion Earth" Trilogy

The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes

Terry Hooper-Scharf
Black & White
331 Pages
Price: £20.00
It begins slowly with Earth’s heroes going about their daily tasks –fighting a giant robot controlled by a mad scientist’s brain , attackers both human and mystical -even alien high priests of some mysterious cult and their zombie followers and, of course, a ghost and a young genius lost in time. 
Pretty mundane. But there is a huge alien Mother-ship near the Moon and strange orange spheres chase some of Earth’s heroes who vanish into thin air –are they dead?
 Then black, impenetrable domes cover cities world-wide. 
Alien invasion of Earth! 
A war between the Dark Old Gods and the pantheons that followed! 
Warriors from Earth’s past having to battle each day and whether they die or not they are back the next day!
 And no one suspects the driving force behind the events that could cause destruction and chaos throughout the multiverse —assaulted on all fronts can Earth’s defenders succeed or will they fail...is this truly the end?


 Terry Hooper-Scharf
Black & White
107 Pages 
Price: £12.00
Following the events on Neo Olympus and the Boarman invasion of Earth, many heroes and crime-fighters have withdrawn from activity. 
Some are trying to recover from injuries while others are fighting the mental scars left by the events. 
As heroes from other parallels who helped during the events return home, members of the Special Globe Guard are shocked at the sudden appearance of Zom of the Zodiac. 
Very soon, a group of heroes find a quick rescue mission turn sour as they become lost between parallel Earths and threats. Sometimes one Earth just is not enough. 
The complete story published in issues 7-10 of Black Tower Adventure now in...one handy dandy book!

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8. Cinebook The 9th Art: Lucky Luke 52 - The Beautiful Province


Lucky Luke 52 - The Beautiful Province
Authors: Gerra & Achdé
Age: 8 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages

ISBN: 9781849182492
Price: £6.99 inc. VAT

Publication: April 2015

While taking part in a rodeo in Wisconsin, Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper meet Mario Bombardier, a Quebecois cowboy, and his mare the beautiful Province. It’s love at first sight for the two horses, and after the inevitable separation, Jolly Jumper can’t stop moping. Eventually Luke decides to head to Quebec in order to arrange a reunion – and discovers the merry atmosphere of the Nouvelle France: mounted police, bar fights, poutine, traditional French songs ... and an unscrupulous, wealthy banker...

After 52 albums I cannot seriously think of anything new to write.  From being very -very- cold to Lucky Luke, I just never actually thought much about a humorous western comic.  However, as the years (!) have rolled on since volume 1 he has grown on me.  Never ever thought he would but he has.

I can appreciate the slap-stick humour and plots as well as the vizual gags and I can also appreciate that this series is one of those attracting more younger readers to comics rather than the rather had-its-day Bean or Dandy, or whichever is still dragging itself out each week.

Above all, for Cinbebook the 9th Art and the man who started it all, Olivier Cadic, this is a graphic legacy for a few generations to come.  One day people will immediately think "Cinebook" when asked about British comics -its legacy will be that important.

For now see just how Lucky Luke, the epitome of the cool Western hero, gets on in Quebec!


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9. Vermeer’s Music Lesson travels to the Netherlands in 2016

Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer. An exhibition from the British Royal Collection
29 September 2016 – 8 January 2017
The Muaritshuis, The Hague

from the Mauritshuis website:
A royal visit from Great Britain: in the autumn of 2016, the Mauritshuis will exhibit a selection of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings from the British Royal Collection. The selection contains representations of daily life as depicted by painters of the Dutch Golden Age, and offers an exceptional chance to see over twenty masterpieces from the Royal Collection, the largest loan to a Dutch museum to date. The Royal Collection, held in trust by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, contains unique highlights from the oeuvres of famous painters such as Gerard ter Borch, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, and Jan Steen. The highlight of the exhibition is The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer.


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10. स्कूल जाने का जुनून

aman pgaman pg2

पुस्तक “पाठक मंच न्यूज बुलेटिन”(नेशनल बुक ट्रस्ट से प्रकाशित) अंक- मई “खेल खेल में “नामक लेख में सिरसा के अमन मिढ्ढा से बातचीत…
सिरसा में रहने वाले अमन ने एक मिसाल कायम की है. दसवीं क्लास में पढने वाले अमन ने लगातार पांच साल में एक बार भी स्कूल से छुट्टी नही ली.शत प्रतिशत उपस्थिती …है ना हैरानी वाली बात .. इस बेमिसाल उपलब्धि के लिए सेंट जेवियर्स स्कूल ने अमन को प्रशस्ति पत्र देकर सम्मानित किया. अमन उन बच्चों के लिए प्रेरणा है जो स्कूल जाने के नाम से कतराते हैं और बहाना बना कर स्कूल बंक करते हैं. अमन ने हर क्लास मे प्रथम स्थान प्राप्त किया है. हम सभी को अमन से सीख लेनी चाहिए. खुशी इस बात की भी है कि अब अमन के छोटे भाई नमन ने भी भाई की कदमो पर चलना शुरु कर दिया है.
बहुत बहुत शुभ कामनाएं अमन, नमन और परिवार में उनके मम्मी पापा और दादा जी को जिन्होने बच्चों को हमेशा उत्साहित किया…

The post स्कूल जाने का जुनून appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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11. Cover Revealed for New Cindy Pon Book

Cindy Pon Book (GalleyCat)

The cover has been unveiled for Cindy Pon’s forthcoming book, Serpentine. We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think?

According to the publisher’s Tumblr page, the story was “inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.” The publication date has been set for September 8th.

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12. First Day Jitters - a bookwrap


Written by Julie Danneberg

Illustrated by Judy Love

Unwrapping some illustrations for you...

My take on the book...

     This is such a fun book because everyone on the planet can relate: a parent, a student, a teacher or a principal understands those emotions completely.  The first day of school is exciting but also scary. Everyone finds it hard to sleep the night before and they try to imagine what that first day will look in their head all night long.  Will the teacher be nice?  Will the kids accept me and be my friends?  Will I miss my bus or horrors even forget my lunch? Is what I chose to wear the right thing?  Is my backpack stuffed and ready to go?  And on and on and on....... All these things swirl around in your head in over an over again as you anticipate that alarm going off any minute and your first day calling you forth.  

      Sarah Jane does not want to get up and head off to school her first day and pulls her covers back over her head and refuses to budge.  She finally is lured from her hideaway and encouraged to eat a piece of toast, grab her lunch pail and head off into the wonderful world of first day jitters. She still does not want to go and slumps down in the car en route and tries to disappear once again. 

     She is met by the principal of the school and escorted to her classroom where a gaggle of students are anxiously awaiting her arrival.  How will she be received?  Will her jitters overcome her?  This book is humorous and witty.  The illustrations are just fantastic, full of detail, emotion and action.  Suspense is created as the reader turns each page because the true identity of Sarah Jane is not fully disclosed, not until the very end of the book.  The twist of the story will bring a great laugh to readers of all ages.  

     I used this book when teaching in every grade, from Kindergarten right up to grades 7 and 8 and each time the kids enjoyed it immensely and we all had a great laugh because the characters portrayed in the book was....us!!  Highly recommended.

About the author....

"As a kid, when I daydreamed or played at being grown-up, I never imagined myself as a writer. Instead I dreamed of being a famous girl reporter, a secret agent, and a teacher."

With an imagination like that, it's hard to believe that Colorado native Julie Danneberg never considered a career as a writer.

After graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Julie became a teacher. In her classroom, she read many children's books, and witnessed the profound impact a good book can have on a child. "I was motivated to try and write books like the ones I enjoy reading."

When Julie became a mother, she began to seriously consider a career in writing. During weekly trips to the library with her children, she found herself enjoying the picture books as much as they did. "The funny thing is that my kids eventually graduated from the children's section of the library and I never did!"

Writing children's books was the perfect medium for blending Julie's many interests--working with kids, being home with her family, being creative, and being her own boss. She even fulfilled her childhood dreams of becoming the intrepid reporter and world-class secret agent through her research, writing and character development in her books.

Julie earned great success with First Day Jitters--the funny and engaging story of Sarah Jane Hartwell's first day at a new school. The surprise ending charms and delights readers time and again. Teachers and students alike love these stories and they are perennial favorites for back-to-school. Julie lives with her husband and two children in Denver. She teaches at a local middle school where she garners ideas for her books. When she's not writing, Julie enjoys reading, quilting, gardening, and spending time with her family.

About the illustrator...

When did you start illustrating books?
I started doing educational illustrating in 1976. The first book I illustrated, Leapin’ Lizzie, was published in 1985.
At what point did you develop a passion for drawing when you were a child?
I was pretty young. When most kids started drawing, I was drawing more than most. I even thought I wanted to be a book illustrator when I was little. I was in second grade at the time, about 7 or 8 years old.
What aspects of your personal life inspire you most as an artist?
I have a passion for fabric and textiles—the colors of fabrics really excite me. If I go into a fabric store, the colors can really inspire me. As a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, I almost went into fashion design, but I felt like I was back in high school taking home economics classes. Fashion design was too superficial—it didn’t feel like real art. I was just designing clothing according to the market’s fads and it felt too commercial.
I love theater too! I have done some set deisgn and costuming, mostly in high school and college. I did some theater work recently for my children’s performances. I think working on costuming is similar to illustrating books. In both cases, you are designing and creating a character’s visual appearance.
I also really like gardening! I love the textures of different plants, and the way the leaves overlap. Making flower arrangements and arranging plants in my garden inspires me to draw. While I was working on my first book, Leapin’ Lizzie, I went to the woods and photographed things so that my illustrations could be more lifelike and botanically correct.
What were your most memorable experiences in researching & illustrating Gobble, Quack, Moon? Special people? Special places?
I grew up on a farm, so I went back there and took rolls of pictures of the fields and machinery. I got together with my roommate from college who sculpts cows, goats, and other animals. She helped me find videos of all the dances mentioned in the book.
I would stop the car in middle of road when I found a good squished can that could be part of the animals’ scrap rocket they flew to the moon. I got books out of the library about rockets. I would also spend time with my choral director’s husband who was sick with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Every day, I would work on the sketches for Gobble, Quack, Moon, and I would show him how the illustrations were progressing.
Have there ever been tough times when you’ve felt discouraged or uninspired? Have such obstacles ever made you rethink your career path? If so, what keeps you going in such times?
Artists get illustrator’s block just like authors can get writer’s block. In every single book, there is at least one two-page spread that’s a problem. Always when you finish a book, you feel like there were things you could have done better. Sometimes after I do lots of book illustrating, I get burnt out. It’s during those times that working on theater productions helps me become re-energized. However, I think I did make the right choice in being an illustrator—I really find it fulfilling.
I would also love to do more figure and classical drawing. In order to get refueled and get ideas for my next illustrating job, I like to go to art museums and/or galleries. These cultural outings recharge my creative juices and get me inspired for my next book. I usually illustrate one to two children’s books each year.
Your home business and art studio, called "The Artery," is where you work on your illustrations. How would you describe your hometown, its surroundings and the view from The Artery’s window?
I live in Belmont, Massachusetts—a fairly rural suburb of Boston. Belmont is the home to 36,000 residents. Behind my house, you can see wetlands and conservation land. I watch the beautiful New England seasons as they change and the leaves change colors. My studio is on the third floor of my house. It has one window that looks out onto a dead-end street where I hardly ever see cars. There is a mockingbird that starts singing at 4:30am on the dot, and sometimes I can hear him in my studio when I’m working late.
What other products do you illustrate in addition to children’s books? How often are you working on children’s books and how much time do you spend on other projects?
I illustrate books three-quarters of the time and the rest of my illustrating work is for educational materials. I illustrate ESL (English as a Second Language) and math workbooks. I also draw posters and craft books for Rockport Publishing.
Working as an illustrator is a nice lifestyle because I can make my own hours. Both my sons want to go into art as their careers, so I must be doing a good job!

Read on and read always!

Its's a wrap.

Contact me at storywrapsblog@gmail.com

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13. App of the Week: Last Voyage

lastvoyageTitle: Last Voyage
Cost: $1.99; currently on sale for $0.99
Platform: iOS 7.0 or later

Last Voyage, by Semidome Inc., is an abstract puzzle game inspired by science fiction movies. It features hypnotic, minimalist graphics that often consist of simple geometric shapes; but also more cinematic scenes that pay homage to icons like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black, white, and red are the dominant colors throughout, with occasional surprise appearances by blue and green. The pulsing, 40-minute original soundtrack adds immensely to the experience.

astral Told in five chapters that can be played individually, or moved through in order, it has been compared to other cinematic games such as Monument Valley and Lost Sounds. While Last Voyage doesn't present a traditional narrative, the idea that you are embarking on a mind-bending journey through the depths of space is strong and ever-present. Each player is free to imagine their own reason for the journey, and their own interpretation for each chapter.

chaptersThe game chapters alternate between puzzle challenges and challenges that test the speed and accuracy of your thumbs. The puzzles in Chapter1: Astral and Chapter 3: Mind are presented with no instructions; half of the fun was in figuring out the key to solving each one. I thought that these might not be much fun once I knew what I needed to do to solve them, but revisiting Astral a few days later, I discovered that several were just as challenging the second time around. Getting through some of the harder ones in half the time as before was also somewhat gratifying.

voidThe other chapters, the ones that require quick thumbs, offer minimal instructions. Even with these, however, it took a long time for me to pass Chapter 2: Void. First I had to train my thumbs to swipe in the right direction. After failing many, many times in the early stages of the game; I found that timing became even more important during the later stages. I had to fail many more times before finally making it all the way through. The soundtrack helped to keep my going, though. During this chapter, it sounded to me like the perfect accompaniment for plunging through a wormhole, and I really wanted to see what lay on the other side.

This is a game that I would enthusiastically recommend to all young fans of puzzle games, science fiction, electronic music and any gamers with a big imagination.

Have a suggestion for a featured App of the Week? Let us know. And don't forget to check out more great apps in our archive.

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14. Preparing the Pool

So. I can’t remember if I told you guys that our rental house has a pool.

Well. It does.

Kevin has spent countless hours on this pool. (Notice I did not say ME and Kevin have spent countless hours on this pool. I have not lifted one finger on this project. Two reasons: 1. I have no idea how to help but more importantly, 2. I’m lazy).

It did not look like this when we bought it. It was dirty filthy and had disgusting sludge in the bottom. Kevin and Roy sucked/shoveled out the sludge and used the pressure washer on it. Kevin and Roy found a pressure washer at a yard sale, (they have both been scouring yard sales lately and it’s been AMAZING the kind of stuff they have been finding! Pretty much everything that Roy has been needing for his house. I truly believe God has been providing for Roy because he wouldn’t have been able to afford these items otherwise. GOD IS SO GOOD!), and Roy used that (for days – he loves the pressure washer) on the concrete around the pool, the slide and the diving board along with the interior of the pool (removing the old paint).

Kevin and Roy then painted the interior of the pool and Kevin has been working on making sure the pool will hold water. Which, has been touch and go. His current headache – something to do with some valve, blahblahblahblah, will have to dig, blahblahblahblah. Honestly, valve and dig were the only two words I heard. lol

Kevin said he’s going to have to do his first digging since working on the pool.

I’ll be honest. This stupid pool has been my biggest concern since purchasing this rental house. It’s an ongoing project that will always cost us money to upkeep and maintain. And when we bought the house from the previous owner, he told us he had a pool company come out and give him a bid on how much it would cost to fix up the pool and make it usable again. He quoted thousands of dollars. So when Kevin said he was going to get the pool up and running by this summer, dollar signs began to flash before my eyes.


However. Once again, my husband has surprised me with his resourcefulness. He has watched countless YouTube videos, (what did we do before YouTube??) about how to fix the pool and dog gone it, he’s gotten it to the shape you see above. Roy has “helped”, though not really. He “helps” but standing by and watching – Kevin is really the one who can take credit for this feat.

The weather has been cool and rainy thus far. Kevin said the pool water is a cool 60-some odd degrees right now, too cold to go swimming, but he fully plans on using the pool as soon as it warms up and I’m quite confident he will have fixed this latest problem when that times comes, too.

Notice I said HE plans on using the pool. I will stick my feet in the pool and soak up some sunshine. My swimsuit days are OVER. Thank God.

(I can already feel my resolve weakening after watching Kevin dive in. Dang it!)

Filed under: Rental House Woes

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15. Hamelin NEWSLETTER del 27/5/2015


Grande successo per la festa finale dell’undicesima edizione di Xanadu, che si è tenuta venerdì scorso al Teatro Duse con più di 700 ragazzi presenti, e ospiti d’eccezione Melvin Burgess e Gianni Biondillo.
Qui i libri vincitori di quest’anno per le medie e le superiori.
Sul sito si trovano anche le foto della festa, i messaggi dagli autori e i consigli degli ospiti sulle storie imperdibili a sedici anni.

Il 28 maggio 2015, alle 19 presso la Biblioteca Cantonale di Bellinzona nella sala conferenze si terrà il primo appuntamento del ciclo di formazione sugli albi illustrati "Ad occhi aperti". Il corso, promosso da Bibliomedia Svizzera italiana e Istituto svizzero Media e Ragazzi vuole sviluppare una riflessione sull’albo illustrato e sperimentare nuovi percorsi pedagogici.
Il primo incontro sarà incentrato su una presentazione delle ultime uscite e tendenze editoriali. I prossimi appuntamenti si concentreranno sulla divulgazione scientifica, sulle forme del comico e sui percorsi sull’identità nell'albo.

Mercoledì 3 giugno Nicola Galli Laforest terrà a Piove di Sacco presso il Centro d'Arte e Cultura un incontro di formazione e aggiornamento sulla letteratura per ragazzi dal titolo Dove va la narrativa young adults? Generi, tendenze e autori imprescindibili. È il secondo appuntamento organizzato dalle Biblioteche della Saccisica e del Conselvano e del Bibliopride.

Anche grazie al tuo contributo potremo portare avanti le nostre attività.
Nella tua dichiarazione dei redditi, scrivi il nostro codice fiscale: 92047890378
Grazie per il sostegno!

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16. Cinebook The 9th Art: Valerian & Laureline 09 - Châtelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia

Valerian & Laureline 09 - Châtelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia
 Authors: Mézières & Christin
Age: 12 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages
ISBN: 9781849182447
Price: £6.99 inc. VAT

Publication: March 2015

Our two spatio-temporal agents are on a new mission, but this time the duo is split up. While Laureline flies solo from planet to planet, on the trail of arms dealers and forbidden technologies, Valerian is on 20th century Earth, teamed up with the eccentric Mr Albert. And he, too, is hunting down technologies incompatible with the era. What is the link between the two cases, separated as they are by centuries and light-years?

It's been a real joy seeing these albums in English.  I love the art and some of the really weird stuff Mezieres drew.  And the stories are great.  This is one I have not seen before -if it wasn't published in English or German I never saw it.  There is very much "almost" a feel of Alphaville here* while Valerian is in the past, but still telepathically in contact with Laureline in the future.

I ****** love this.

Just how does someone from the future go about his business in the past without drawing too much attention to himself?  If fact, should such a person allow himself to be picked up by a mysterious blond in a car?  I think we may well find out in the next album -Brooklyn Line, Terminus Cosmos.

And Laureline's solo mission just might get a little more dangerous.

This is great comic book reading and, I really hope, another big success for Cinebook!

As I feel it my duty to educate now and then: * Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville: A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution) is a 1965 film starring Eddie Constantine as Peter Cheyney's private eye Lemmy Caution ("Only my mother ever got away with calling me 'Lemuel'!"


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17. Pay it Forward to Linda Mims

Welcome Linda Mims! Pay it Forward Day!

Writer-Blogger over at -Motivational Speaker-Retired Diva! My tweets briefly reflect my opinions. Join me at BOOMACIOUS! 

What is a Boomacious Woman? by Linda Mims

About Boomacious:

Who is the Boomacious woman! It’s a woman who is so fabulously happy to transition into the second phase of her life that even God is excited for her. A Boomacious woman embraces her age, weight, marital status, and any perceived shortcomings and never allows them to stop her show. She doesn’t care what people think, or what they do. She has learned to live and let live. That is Boomacious!
“Boomacious”, the blog, is dedicated to this woman!
Boomacious women lead businesses! Are entrepreneurs! Care for elderly parents! Process decisions daily about housing, food, clothing, automobiles, investments, etc. for multi-generational families.
A Boomacious woman is spirited, adventurous, and stylish! She remembers the woman she was in the 70’s, but now she’s ready to share her knowledge with generations Y and X. “Boomacious”, the blog, inspires Baby Boomer Women to redefine themselves and it identifies trends that will allow these women to embrace the second phase of their lives.
Join us as we explore literature, lifestyles, entertainment, technology, and travel for all ages. We’re 
not stuck on numbers. If it feels good, and you can still do it—go for it!
We’re eager to hear from you! Send all correspondence to lyn@boomacious.com.
Stay healthy! Stay stylish! Stay inspired!
Join her on her blog and learn about other authors, their books, and Linda's views about life and being fabulous.

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18. Monthly etymology gleaning for May 2015

In the United States everything is planned very long in advance, while in Europe one can sometimes read about a conference that will be held a mere three months later. By that time all the travel money available to an American academic will have been spent a millennium ago. In the United States, we have visions rather than short-range plans.

The post Monthly etymology gleaning for May 2015 appeared first on OUPblog.

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19. Tanith Lee Has Died

Tanith Lee, an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, has died. She was 67 years old.

The British author wrote more than 90 books and 300 short stories, as well as poems, four several radio plays, and television episodes. Lee’s publisher Tor revealed the sad news on their website yesterday. Here is more about Lee’s life from Tor:

Born in 1947 to two professional dancers, Lee grew up with a love of weird fiction, sci-fi, and Shakespeare. Struggling with then-undiagnosed dyslexia, Lee was unable to read until the age of 8, when her father taught her. Thereafter, she made up for lost time, publishing her first vignette at the age of 21. She worked various jobs as file clerk and assistant librarian as she sent out her work. Her first published novels were children’s fantasies The Dragon Hoard and Animal Castle, published by Macmillan in 1971 and 1972.

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20. Francis Lawrence to Direct The Odyssey Movies

Francis Lawrence (GalleyCat)Lionsgate plans to create an adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Variety.com reports that the movie studio intends to shoot at least two parts. Three members of the team behind The Hunger Game film franchise have come on board for this project.

Francis Lawrence (pictured, via) will take the helm as the director. Peter Craig will write the screenplay. Nina Jacobson will serve as a producer.

Here’s more from Deadline.com: “Lionsgate has put this on a fast track. The plan is to begin production early next year, right after the filmmakers complete promotion of Mockingjay – Part 2, which will be released November 20. Motion Picture Group co-president Erik Feig is overseeing this with exec production veep Jim Miller and development director James Myers. The project took root when Feig pitched it to Lawrence in Paris while they worked on the Hunger Games finale.” Click here to download a free digital copy of The Odyssey.

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21. Schweinburg

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22. New Neil Hilborn Poetry Video Goes Viral

Writer Neil Hilborn became an internet sensation for his poem, OCD. The video embedded above showcases Hilborn reciting a new piece called Joey.

Thus far, the video has drawn more than 30,000 views on YouTube. “Joey” can be found in Hilborn’s new book Our Numbered Days; the full collection features 45 poems.

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23. Dan Gurney's Sons Drive His Cars at Indy

My cousin Dan Gurney was mighty proud last Sunday when his four sons took some laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four of his creations. (link to YouTube)

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24. Guest Post and Give Away on Natalie Aguirre's "Literary Rambles"

I'm excited to have a guest post and a giveaway of my new book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, on Natalie Aguirre's wonderful blogLiterary Rambles. You can read the post and maybe win your free copy HEREPlease visit her site and check it out.

Here's a teaser of the book, a trailer a friend made for me:


And at Natalie's blog, you'll find a wealth of information on agents and other authors.

Have you ever made a trailer for one of your books?

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25. Taiwan Trip Diary, Days 5 and 6

Into the mountains!

I've been sick--flu, cold, allergies, whatever you want to call it, but instead of blogging I've been stuck in bed reading (and finishing) Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet for the last couple of  weeks. My particular copy of The Quartet contained all four volumes in one door-stopper of a monstrosity, and my shoulders and wrists are suffering the consequences, LOL! Anyway, I'm much better now, have moved on to some lighter reading, and am ready to continue sharing my Taiwan trip, Days 5 and 6.

So . . . by Day 5 I had devised a sketching routine for my bus rides. I decided to divide some of my sketchbook pages into grids of six and then whenever we stopped at the traffic lights, or just slowed down, I would draw as quickly as possible in one or more of the squares. Some of the drawings are a bit esoteric, for instance:

At other times, however, the scenery was so consistent I was able to use a full page and go for some color, such as when we were following the coast:

They're funny little drawings, I know, but they mean a lot to me--and I now have some good references for larger work later this summer.

Other than drawing, the main focus for Day 5 was the National Center for Traditional Arts, and perhaps one of my favorite places on the tour. The idea behind the winding streets and specialty shops is to give visitors a sense of "old world" Taiwan while demonstrating how the various items for sale from puppets to paintbrushes are made. I found it utterly charming and ended up buying incense (complete with history lesson and a chance to sniff a wide variety of sandalwood shavings); preserved kumquats; dried "squid" cheese (a stringy cheese snack guaranteed to have not harmed any squids); and my most extravagant purchase to date: handmade lampwork glass beads for yet more jewelry-making. (I’m going to have to open my own shop at this rate.)

At lunch, served in a building that had once been an old kiln, one of our group members asked an interesting question: What have you learned about yourself so far? At first I seemed to have so many answers I couldn’t concentrate on just one, so I think I said something inane, like, “A lot!” But later that afternoon I wanted to examine the question in more depth. Here’s my reply straight and unedited from my journal: 

“I’ve learned that I don’t need to go on my dream-vacation to Japan. This trip is enough and even better. For years I thought I was “Japanese” in spirit. Now, after this trip, that no longer rings true. I have learned that I am more complex: for instance, in the Palace Museum I read that everything in Chinese culture and life holds meaning and symbolism. And it all has to add up and create the ultimate state of harmony. I have learned that I want that too. And that I want to use my five senses in my art and writing much, much more than I have in the past. I guess I've learned I am hungry for life. I want to keep learning."

Time Travel!

After lunch my quest for more "art and life" came to vivid life when I got caught up in a street theater performance—letting me believe I had been transported to another world and  century.

Then it was back on the bus for our next destination: our hotel and such a steep drive into the mountains we had to be calmed (i.e., distracted) by watching a spectacular movie on Taiwan's geographical wonders. Refreshments for the ride were what our guide referred to as “donkey tongue cookies.” Although I think something may have been lost in translation, they were very good, about ten inches of pastry filled with cinnamon, and I suppose they do look like donkey tongues (not that I'm any kind of expert on the subject).

And then . . . we arrived at our hotel, a wonderland of a resort owned and managed by the local Aborigines. I had NO idea we would be staying here (or anywhere like it, for that matter):

Magical morning.

My "10-minute" version of our cabin.

The dining room--great for early morning
journaling and sketching.

Using our hotel as "base camp,"  Day 6 took us hiking into the marbled cliffs of the Taroko Gorge:

Helmets were compulsory in this section--not, in my opinion, to protect us from the falling rocks, but because of the narrow walkway along the highway where buses, cars, and scooters whizzed, I mean whizzed by. Add to that my general fatigue from reaching the halfway point of our journey, and it's a miracle I didn't fall over the edge or in front of a speeding Porsche.

Taroko Gorge also provided my first monkey sighting in the village where we had lunch, followed by cold beers in a scenic garden setting while waiting for a few of our more-adventurous explorers to return. 

Beer finished, it was onto the bus and off to  a marble factory where we were able to take a peek into the high-security jade jewelry vaults. These star-fire gems (there is no other way to describe them) were unlike any pieces of jade I'd ever seen before--highly lustrous in shades of green, blue, and lilac, quite expensive, and guarded by uniformed girls straight out of a James Bond film. And, boy, did they keep their eyes out for sticky fingers. Once we'd had our look-see the cases closed with a bang, bang, bang and we were quickly ushered into the next room. Very quickly.

Marble chunks perfect for home or garden!

Back on the bus we had a lovely surprise waiting for us: our bus driver had bought us all porcelain pendant necklaces while we were admiring the jade. Mine was a miniature Blue Willow plate on a deep blue cord which I wore for the remainder of the trip. (It's currently on display in my writing room as part of my "Taiwan Memories" grouping.)

Necklaces in place, we then set out for another Aborigine village, this time with a lively dance show followed by a "hot pot" cook-your-own-dinner restaurant. As was often the case, I was given my own special vegetarian items to cook, starting with this amazing lotus flower:

A small lotus bud placed in  boiling soup water turned into . . . a 
genuine Kodak moment.
(And yes, I drew it in my sketchbook too.)

Highlight of the Day: Our Luxurious Leader Hotel. We were lucky enough to stay two nights in this beautiful setting and I don't think I'll ever forget a single moment. 

P.S. The dialogue in the video is in Chinese, but I thought that would provide an accurate example of what it was like to be there, rarely able to understand a single word anyone said! One difference between the video and our own stay is that the the grounds are shown to be more crowded than they were for us, but otherwise it's exactly the same. I even recognize some of the staff and  performers. So please turn on the sound, sit back, and enjoy.

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