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1. Q&A and Giveaway: Dragon Storm by Katie MacAlister

Katie MacAlister dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions! Be sure to enter the giveaway, too!

Do you have any favorite book boyfriends of your own?

Oh, mercy, just line my books up and start reading off the hero names. I’ve said before that I write books for myself first, and that’s absolutely true. I love all of my heroes, and it’s only because publishers won’t let me write all the heroines as me that I bother with writing those dishy men females who are worthy of them.

Outside of my books, I was one of those girls who grew up with the hots for Sherlock Holmes. As an adult, I’ve been quite fond of several of Georgette Heyer heroes, particularly those who give in to their senses of humor (Sir Tristram from Talisman Ring, and Freddy Standen from Cotillion).

What are five books on your night stand/bookshelf?

This is going to be a very disappointing answer, I fear. Right now on my nightstand are Sol y Viento (a Spanish textbook), Art: A Brief History by Marilyn Stokstad (an art history textbook), History of Italian Renaissance Art by Frederick Hartt and David Wilkins, Introduction to Forensic Science by Richard Saferson, and Step Aside, Popsm a Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton.

What’s your favorite quote or scene from your book?

I think the scene where Gary meets Jim is one of my faves. Especially since Gary is showing off, and Jim is instantly jealous of Gary’s toys.

If your couple’s relationship had a theme song, what would it be?

Roar by Katy Perry. The need to rise above people who want to put you down is pertinent to both hero and heroine. Plus I can see them both singing it loudly.

Tell us about the cover process. Is this what you had in mind?

I’m lucky in that my publishers have excellent art departments who take a few bits of scattered ideas that I pry out of my brain, and turn them into gorgeous covers, usually involving lick-worthy men. And this cover is no different. It’s not a bad thing to find yourself stroking a book cover, is it?

Where do you find inspiration for you writing? Do you use real people/places as a foundation?

I’ve always told myself stories, so writing is really just an extension of that. My inspiration is my muse, who I picture as a bon-bon eating diva who reclines of fainting couches a lot, waving a languid hand whenever she wants something, and basically ruling me with threats of going away on vacation if I attempt to work her too hard.  I seldom use real people in my books, since the people in my head are much more flawed and thus suitable for me to torment, but I do use as many real locations as I possibly can. I rely heavily on past trips to Europe as the source of many locations, and those I haven’t visited I usually research by finding people who live there, and haunting online webcams, and photo galleries.

Do you have any hobbies or activities that you enjoy outside of writing?

When my arthritic hands let me, I like to spin wool into yarn, knit, and sew a variety of things that never quite turn out as I’ve envisioned. I’m a gamer girl, as well, so I’m online in games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars The Old Republic, Hearthstone, Lord of the Rings Online, and way too many other games.

I’ve also decided to go back to school, and am enjoying online classes at Fort Hays State University so I can add a history degree to my list of credentials.

Would the 10 year-old version of yourself kick your butt or praise you for what you’ve accomplished in life?

Oh, she’d be thrilled that I’ve survived the last few years, since they included everything from the death of my husband to moving to a new house. And I think she’d be quite happy with the body of work I’ve produced in the last ten years, although I know she’d tell me I should stop insisting on having time off between books, and instead write non-stop.


About Dragon Storm

According to some (including himself), Constantine is one of the greatest heroes of dragonkin who ever lived. Too bad he’s now lonelier than ever and his biggest adventure involves a blow-up sheep-until he has an opportunity to save his kind once again. All Constantine has to do is break into a demon’s dungeon, steal an ancient artifact, and reverse a deadly curse. The plan certainly does not involve rescuing a woman . . .
Bee isn’t sure whether to be infuriated or relieved when Constantine pops up in her prison. The broody, brawny shifter lights her fire in a way no one ever has before, yet how far can she really trust him? Their chemistry may be off the charts, but when push comes to shove, Constantine will have to make a crucial choice: to save the dragons or the woman he’s grown to love with fierce intensity.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1hQ84jD
B&N: http://bit.ly/1OFgvN4
iBooks: http://apple.co/1jQSK7v
GooglePlay: http://bit.ly/1MAdTdq
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1QNqSft
BAM: http://bit.ly/1OPgyo0

About Katie MacAlister

For as long as she can remember Katie MacAlister has loved reading, and grew up with her nose buried in a book. It wasn’t until many years later that she thought about writing her own books, but once she had a taste of the fun to be had building worlds, tormenting characters, and falling madly in love with all her heroes, she was hooked.
With more than fifty books under her belt, Katie’s novels have been translated into numerous languages, been recorded as audiobooks, received several awards, and are regulars on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. A self-proclaimed gamer girl, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her dogs, and frequently can be found hanging around online.





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2. Process vs. Deadlines

One thing the University has wanted of me, has been to see my process. This may sound easy, but it's been a major shift in the way I usually work. Why? Because for most of my working career I've been dealing with deadlines. Deadlines don't allow you to meander and try various ways of attacking an end goal. With a deadline, you think something through in your head and you go for it. Then you send it off and get paid.
     Books are a slightly different beastie in that I always made tons of sketches, and sometimes played with some new digital methods, but it still didn't go quite as far as this.
     Here at the College of Art, they've asked me to show my process - that part that happens in my brain. They've also asked me to meander and try different media, styles, techniques before deciding which might work for my current project. Basically, they want to see my brain on the outside.
     Once I figured that out, I was able to dive into this new way of working and document it. In fact, one of our required projects is an almanac - basically, a diary of our process.
     So I bought a gorgeous sketch book and I started putting my ideas into it. It also includes sketches, images of influential books and art, pictures of various workshop projects, etc. Judy Schachner would call this a 'character bible' - she's done one for every one of her books. But until now, I didn't really get it. Happily, I'm starting to.
     It was also the reason they had us take a book-binding workshop - to learn to create an almanac (or bible) from scratch. Between my sketch book and my handmade book, I didn't want to create one more book, but I did want to collate these creative volumes. So, for my almanac project, I created a box to keep these two items in. I also might include other floaty things like pretty feathers and leaves.
     It turns out there is a ton of skill involved in making books and boxes - and a ton of little tricks of the trade. (Read my post about book binding here.) I will forever have a greater appreciation for these handmade treasures. My box isn't perfect, but I'm pretty darned proud of the end result.
     Here is is just opened, revealing the caramel paper lining inside and the two books - my sketchbook and handmade book, which will soon be full of Trickster paraphernalia (more on that soon).
Here you can see how the books pull out.
And with the books pulled out. I opened my handmade book so that you can see how the end papers and decorative details tie in with the box design.
My next step will be to make labels for the books and the box itself. I've cut a lino block, which reads "e's process, a.k.a. e's brain on the outside." (I used the easy carve board - which I will never use again - pah!) And I cut out the word Tricksters, which I will use for a new (to me) printing method - collagraph. More on that soon, too.
     In the mean time, I have so enjoyed being able to take the time to explore various methods and run down different rabbit holes. Using glue sticks and scissors speaks to my inner creative child. I hope I can keep it as part of my process in the future. It's so much FUN and makes me feel like a true artist!

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3. My tweets

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4. हे मेरे भगवान

  हे मेरे भगवान समझ से बाहर है कि आज समाज में ये हो क्या रहा है. इतना दुख है ये सब देख ,पढ और सुन कर कि  दिमाग विचार शून्य है. जहां न्यूज चैनल एक एक  बयान कुरेद कुरेद कर  दिखाने में जुटे हुए हैं  इतनी जबरदस्त और खतरनाक राजनीति हो रही है कि […]

The post हे मेरे भगवान appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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5. Review: The Program

There are few stories more abjectly fascinating than those surrounding Lance Armstrong’s triumph over a cancer he was given infinitesimally small chance of surviving and his subsequent seven Tour de France (AKA Tour de Lance) victories. Consequently, there are few stories more assumptions-shattering than the revelation that Armstrong had, in fact, been using drugs to […]

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6. Asking Better Questions by Eric Lindstrom

Eric Lindstrom worked in the interactive entertainment industry before writing his debut novel, Not If I See You First (Coming Dec 1), gaining a unique insight of storytelling from the gaming industry. Today, he's on the blog talking about how asking the right questions can make your story come to life. 

Asking Better Questions by Eric Lindstrom

The fourth doctor of the TV series Doctor Who was my childhood hero. (He still is, but that’s a different story.) In an episode I watched as a teen, he said, “Answers are easy – it’s asking the right questions which is hard.” It was my first exposure to this idea, and it stuck with me.

Over time this perspective became a very useful tool. When I get stuck and can’t find an answer, stepping back and examining my questions often leads to a solution. This process proves itself useful in many different ways, but here I’ll focus on a key example.

Starting out as a writer, I sometimes found myself blocked, wondering, “What should happen next?” I came to understand (over years, not one Saturday afternoon) how that was the wrong question. Tornados happen. Wildebeest migrations happen. But the vast majority of events in a story don’t just happen. Characters make them happen. “What happens next?” is appropriate for the reader to ask, not the writer.

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7. Cassava Republic coming to UK

       In less than a decade Cassava Republic has established itself as a leading Nigerian publisher -- and it's great to hear that, as Natasha Onwuemezi reports in The Bookseller, African publisher Cassava Republic to launch in UK.

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8. The Subtle Knife: Writing Characters Readers Trust But Shouldn’t

I don’t know about you, but I love reading books where the author encourages me to draw conclusions that are wrong. Case in point–untrustworthy characters who I trust anyway. Like all writers, I am ultra aware of character cues and actions as I read, so when I’m led astray and find out someone I believed to be good really isn’t, I want to cheer and tell the author, “Well done!”

Tricking readers in this manner is difficult.

moodyIn real life, all of us are body language experts. At least 93% of communication is nonverbal, meaning we are very adept at ‘reading’ other people by their mannerisms, gestures, habits and voice changes. In books, this skill allows us to pick up on nonverbal cues which communicate a character’s emotions. Plus, if we are in the dishonest character’s POV, we also have access to their thoughts and internal visceral sensations (heartbeat changes, adrenaline shifts and other uncontrollable fight-or-flight responses). All of this means that tricking the reader can be very tough.

There are several ways to make the reader believe one thing while another thing is true.

One technique is the red herring. This is where a writer nudges a reader in one direction hard enough that their brain picks up on ‘planted’ clues meant to mislead them. So for example, let’s say I had a character who was a pastor and youth councilor for his church and he spent his weekends working with homeless teens, trying to get them back into group homes. The reader will begin to get a certain image in their mind.

If I then further describe him as slightly bald with a bad taste in fashion (imagine the kind of guy that wears those awful patterned sweater vests) but who has a smile for everyone he meets, it’s a good bet that I’ve disarmed the reader. They’ve written this character off as a nice, honest guy. Even though his life is all about the church, no way could he be the one stealing cash from the collection box, or the man having affairs with depressed women parishioners, or playing Dr. Death by administering heroin to street teens, right?

Another technique is pairing. Similar to a red herring, pairing is when we do two things at once to mask important clues. If, as an author, I show my friendly pastor leaving an alleyway at night and then have a car crash happen right in front of him, which event will the reader focus on? And if later, the police find another overdosed teen nearby as they interview the pastor about the accident, commending him from pulling a woman from the wreckage before the car could explode…would the reader put two and two together? If I did my job right, then no.

1NTA third technique is to disguise aspects of his “untrustworthy nature” using a Character Flaw. After all, no one is perfect. Readers expect characters to have flaws to make them realistic. If our nice pastor (am I going to go to Hell for making my serial killer a pastor?) is characterized as absent-minded with a habit of forgetting names, misplacing his keys, or starting service late and flustered because of a mishap, later when the police ask him when he last saw dead teen X and he can’t quite remember, readers aren’t alarmed. After all, that’s just part of who the character is, right?

When your goal is to trick your readers, SET UP is vital.

If the clues are not there all along, people will feel ripped off when you rip the curtain aside. Make sure to provide enough details that they are satisfied you pulled one over them fair and square!

What techniques do you use to show a character is untrustworthy? Any tips on balancing your clue-sprinkling so that the reader doesn’t pick up on your deceit before you’re ready for them to? Let me know in the comments! 

Image: lllblackhartlll @ Pixabay

The post The Subtle Knife: Writing Characters Readers Trust But Shouldn’t appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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9. Academic knowledge and economic growth

Policies aimed at fostering economic growth through public expenditure in tertiary education should be better aware of the different contribution of each specific academic discipline. Rather than introducing measures affecting the allocation of resources in the broad spectrum of academic knowledge, policies might instead introduce ad-hoc measures to foster specific disciplines, for example through differentiated enrollment fees for students.

The post Academic knowledge and economic growth appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. When It Gets Crowded in the Revision Cave

Recently a friend asked me whether she should address the concerns of a beta reader who had clearly missed something in her novel that everyone else got. This started me thinking about the challenges in revising a story when you’ve received critiques from many different people, particularly when their comments contradict each other.

We’ve talked a lot at Publishing Crawl about revising your novel on your own and with editorial letters, but what about earlier in the process — maybe before your book even reaches agents or publishers? I am a big believer in beta readers and critique groups, and I participate in an amazing writing group. Almost every piece of fiction I have written has benefited from the sharp insights of other writers who tell me what’s working and what needs work, and call me out when I’m being lazy. If you’re fortunate, there will be a consensus, a clear sign to what you should focus on, but often there’s very different feedback from everyone, and it isn’t at all obvious who is “right” about your story. Now what?

First and foremost, it’s your story, so you have to follow your instincts. That said, you do have to be open to the possibility that you can make it even better by listening to suggestions you may not immediately agree with. And always remember that you can’t make everyone happy, but that isn’t the point; you’re trying to figure out how to make the story as good as it can be, which should also be the goal of your critiquers.

My record for critiques on a single piece is probably around twenty, for some of my short stories at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, which is where I developed my process for juggling feedback and planning a revision strategy. Whether I have seven or 17 critiques, my first step is to read through everyone’s comments and my notes from the crit session, jotting down the key points and organizing them into four categories:

  1. I totally agree with this comment and I will definitely do this
  2. I disagree with this note, but they’re probably right, so I’d better fix that
  3. That’s very interesting, I’ll keep that in mind
  4. Nope

Although here I’m focusing on what needs to be improved in the next draft, make sure you’re also noticing the good stuff, which can show you where your story is on the right track, as well as give you an ego boost that is likely sorely needed about now. This is the stuff you don’t want to break when you’re fiddling with everything around it — which can easily happen, especially if you’re trying to follow every suggestion you received.

Once you’ve listed everything out, categories 1 and 2 should give you a pretty clear idea of what changes to make in your revision; however, sometimes you will get two or more recommendations that are  incompatible, and you have to choose one. Assuming you don’t want to settle for the fastest and easiest fix, you should consider what makes the most sense for your characters and their story, and what fits with the rest of the feedback you’ve received and strengthens what was already there.

You can also consider the source of the feedback: For example, if you’re writing a YA novel, you might weigh criticism from other YA writers or readers more heavily than feedback from someone who rarely reads YA or doesn’t enjoy it. (Their perspective is still valuable and probably shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but they may be unaware of some of the nuances of your particular genre.) Or certain readers “get” your work or connect with your story more than others, so they have a better idea of what you were trying to accomplish.

Once I have a sort of road map of the changes I want to make, I usually dive in and start editing from beginning to end, in a linear order, layering in changes as I go. Of course every edit ripples throughout the piece, so the more time I can spend focused on and immersing myself in the story, the better to keep it all in my head, and ultimately put it on the page. I’m also keeping in mind some of the criticism that I am less sure about, or even some of those “nopes,” because as the story changes, they might make more sense or I’ve become more receptive to them. As I change the story, I feel more free to take it wherever it needs to go. If I take it too far or it doesn’t work, I can always revert back to the previous draft!

When I first started revising this way, it sometimes felt like I was writing by committee, and I resisted taking too many suggestions from others. Whose story is this, anyway? But if you’re committed to telling it in the best possible way, so it will reach the most readers, getting lots of feedback from many different perspectives is incredibly helpful. Don’t forget that every reader is different — just look all those wildly differing reviews on Goodreads! (No, don’t.) In a way, they’re all correct, because reading is such a personal, unique experience. And so is writing. In the end, you decide what your story will be, and you’re the only person who can write it.

Everyone’s writing and revision process  is also unique! So, how do you reconcile varying feedback from multiple readers?

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11. ‘A girl who made the peacock look ugly, the squirrel unloveable': Martial mourns a lost love

I begin with one of Martial’s more troublesome twentieth-century Avid Fans: the poet, editor, translator, and Fascist propagandist, Ezra Pound.

The post ‘A girl who made the peacock look ugly, the squirrel unloveable': Martial mourns a lost love appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Translations from ... Madagascar

       The December issue of Words Without Borders will apparently be devoted to literature from Madagascar, and at Broadly Ilana Masad profiles translator Allison Charette, in Meet Madagascar's 27-Year-Old Literary Ambassador.
       Madagascar is one of those countries from which almost nothing is available in English -- even though some Malagasy writers write in French (i.e. aren't that inaccessible). Charette got a PEN grant to translate Naivo's Au-delà des rizières (see the Sepia publicity page), so hopefully we'll at least see that in English soon.

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13. Topipittori – Publisher Interview

As many of my blog followers will know, a few weeks back I was thrilled to be contacted by Lisa Topi of the Italian publishing house, TOPIPITTORI, about translating my interview with Leonard Marcus for their website. Through our email … Continue reading

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14. मेरा भारत महान

  मेरा भारत महान हे भगवान !!! समझ से बाहर है कि आज देश में ये हो क्या रहा है. इतना दुख है ये सब देख ,पढ और सुन कर कि  दिमाग विचार शून्य है. जहां न्यूज चैनल एक एक  बयान कुरेद कुरेद कर  दिखाने में जुटे हुए हैं  इतनी जबरदस्त और खतरनाक राजनीति हो […]

The post मेरा भारत महान appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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15. three things, one day: STORY, GOING OVER, Danielle Smith

Yesterday, amidst much corporate work, three things happened:

I learned that Going Over, my 1983 Berlin Wall book, has officially launched as a paperback, and I thank Chronicle Books for its faith in this story. (And the darling Taylor Norman, for tweeting the news.)

I learned (again from Taylor, who has so steadfastly supported this book) that This Is the Story of You has gone to print, with its gorgeous jacket and incredibly generous quotes from Dana Reinhardt, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Margo Rabb (and its Junior Library Guild citation).

I talked to Danielle Smith, who (in a matter of days) read the middle grade novel I've lately been obsessed with, said so many reassuring things, talked with me about some decisions I'd have to make as I refined the story, and said yes to representing me. I have known Danielle for almost as long as I have been writing for younger readers. The popular force behind the beloved There's a Book blog, Danielle has read my stories, always. She has supported me in a multitude of ways—throwing blog parties, walking the floor of the BEA with me, calling just to talk, listening as I worked through ideas. A few years ago, Danielle launched a career as an agent and today, as a member of Red Fox Literary, she is seeing her authors receive raves and stars, foreign sales, and success at hoped-for houses. I've always been happy to call Danielle my friend. I'm incredibly happy to be taking this step forward into the land of Middle Grade with her.

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16. Library of Bangladesh

       I mentioned the announcement of the Dhaka Translation Center's 'Library of Bangladesh'-series earlier this year, and apparently the first two volumes are now out, published by bengal lights: see their publicity pages for two novellas by Syed Shamsul Haq and a collection of stories by Hasan Azizul Huq -- and let's hope there's some foreign distribution for these, too.
       Apparently ten more volumes are already planned.

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17. Thanksgiving Day Prayer

O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
— Walter Rauschenbusch

The post Thanksgiving Day Prayer appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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18. The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds

After 22 years of reading Christmas books to my kids, it is rare that I find a holiday book that is worthy of sharing here. But, when Peter H. Reynolds, author of the Creatrilogy of picture books that explore creativity and inspiration, creates a Christmas book, you know it will be worth buying and reading year after year. It is a good thing to have at least one or two picture books that help kids recognize the rampant consumerism of this season, and The Smallest Gift of Christmas is a reminder in the gentlest, most subtle of ways, which is exactly what I look for in a book with a message. The message of The Gift of Christmas is one that is easy to forget this time of year - being with people you love is the best gift, no matter what time of year. Reynolds wraps this message (which has been clobbered in so many other Christmas books) in a story that is sure to entertain young listeners and readers and presents it in a tiny trim size along with a photo-frame ornament.

The Gift of Christmas begins, "Roland was eager for Christmas Day." The accompanying illustration shows stockings hung over the fireplace, Roland's reaching all the way down to the floor. When Roland races downstairs on Christmas morning only to see the "smallest gift he had ever seen," he wonders, "had he waited all year for this tiny gift?" Roland closes his eyes and wishes his hardest for a bigger gift - and he gets it. Over the course of a few pages, his greed grows, as does the size of his gift. Finally, he heads off to search the universe for the biggest gift. When he looks into his telescope and sees earth shrinking to a tiny dot that will soon disappear, he realizes that what he really wants is to be back on earth and home with his family. As is rocket lands gently in his snowy front yard, Roland realizes that the "smallest speck was his biggest gift."

Short, simple and sweet. The Smallest Gift of Christmas is one that kids need to (and will want to) hear more than once.

Source: Review Copy

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19. The antagonist: Hero or villain?

In many stories, the antagonist may even be more important than your main character. Your main character cannot become sympathetic without an opposing force.

The antagonist is more than just a bad guy who tries to stop the good guy. A good antagonist actually pushes the protagonist to action. The bad guy gives the good guy a reason to behave like a good guy. Because he is so important, your antagonist has to be every bit as real, every bit as well-rounded, as the protagonist.

The Antagonist is Evil


 No. The good antagonist is not evil. OK, he could be, but not for the mere sake of being evil. It's fun to write the bad guy who ties maidens to railroad tracks for fun, and throws the hero's One True Love on to the conveyor belt at the saw mill just because he can. The kind of bad guy who spends his time laughing maniacally while he twirls his 'stache. There's one secret, one thing you need to remember, if you want your antagonist to be truly interesting:

The antagonist honestly believes he is the good guy. Everything he does has a reason, and to him, those reasons are Right. They are Correct. They are Good.

Your good guy needs flaws and your antagonist needs positive characteristics. In some stories, the reader might even start to wonder just which character is the good guy and which is the bad guy. Few characters are as dull as the arch-villain who is evil just because being evil is evil. People aren't like that. Even people with a warped sense of reality (another little secret: we all have a warped sense of reality, shaped by our imperfect perceptions), do things for a reason. There are truly evil actions, and your bad guy might do some of them. But we humans have an almost unending supply of rationalizations for what we do.

A Rebel With a Cause

Your antagonist has his own character arc. Give your antagonist a cause. She wants to accomplish something, wants that more than anything else. And, like your protagonist, she is prepared to do what she has to do to achieve it, because that's what people do when something is of ultimate importance. Even a bad guy who wants to do something truly awful, like blow up a stadium full of innocent people, does it because he believes it has to be done to achieve the end result, which he believes to be for the ultimate good.  
  • Sauron thought he was doing Middle Earth a favor by taking dominion.
  • Saruman thought he was doing good by trying to stop the Black Lord and taking the power himself.
  • Darth Vadar probably saw the Jedi as nefarious upstarts who wanted to thwart his plan to make the universe a better place.

A Hero in His Own Mind

The antagonist believes he's the hero. Your protagonist, who stands in his way, is the villain.

We are both nice people. The last cookie is sitting on the counter. You want it. I want it. Boom: conflict! In my story, you are now a villain because you want what I want.


My favorite example of this principle comes from politics. No matter what your political position is, your side is right and the other side is wrong. Maybe even evil. The thing is, the other side looks at you the same way. Why? Because each side believes it is right. If they were allowed to have their way, the world would be a spectacularly better place. It's the same with your hero and villain.  

Which one is the bad guy?

Molly has a new puppy. This puppy is so naughty. When she takes it for walks, it pulls at the leash and tries to go its own way. It doesn't follow Molly's perfectly reasonable rules. When the puppy runs away, Molly is devastated. How could her puppy be so wicked?

But what is the puppy doing, really? It's being true to its own puppiness. It doesn't understand Molly's unnatural rules. All she does is try to to restrain it and she scolds it for simply being what it is. 

Let your reader sympathize with the villain, and understand why he wants what he wants, and maybe even see his point. If your reader can sympathize with both the hero and the villain, the conflict becomes more real, the stakes are raised, and your reader is more engaged.

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20. The “Greater West” and sympathetic suffering

At its root, Islam is as much a Western religion as are Judaism and Christianity, having emerged from the same geographic and cultural milieu as its predecessors. For centuries we lived at a more or less comfortable distance from one another. Post-colonialism and economic globalization, and the strategic concerns that attended them, have drawn us into an ever-tighter web of inter-relations.

The post The “Greater West” and sympathetic suffering appeared first on OUPblog.

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21. Daily Drawing: Turkey 18


This turkey has given up hope and is waiting for the inevitable. I hope you’re having a much better day!


The post Daily Drawing: Turkey 18 appeared first on rob-peters.com.

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22. The Sock Monkey Trilogy by Cece Bell

If you know anything about kid's books, kid's book awards and graphic novels, then the name Cece Bell should not be new to you. I had the pleasure of getting to know her work before she wowed the world with the 2015 Newbery Honor book, El Deafo, and am so happy to get to spend more time with her books now, especially her creation, Sock Monkey and all his friends. Bell has a sensibility that is a bit left of everyday and a wonderful way of somehow making every story, very subtly and sweetly, about acceptance, friendship, bravery and love. Originally published almost 10 years ago, Candlewick wisely, happily, has reissued Sock Money Takes a Bath, Sock Monkey Boogie-Woogie and Sock Monkey Rides Again.

Sock Monkey is a famous toy actor. He is also kind of a stand in for toddlers. In Sock Money Takes a Bath, Sock Monkey gets some good news and some bad news. He has been nominated* for "Best Supporting Toy in a Motion Picture" and has been invited to attend the Oswald Awards Ceremony at the Big Theater. The asterisk notes that "Nominees MUST be clean." Just thinking about taking a bath makes Sock Monkey, "dizzy with fear." Happily, his best friends, Miss Bunn, Froggie and Blue Pig are free to help him out. Miss Bunn takes him to bathe with mild soap and a few other monkeys in a hot springs atop a snowy mountain. Froggie helps him rinse in the clear, cool water of a pond and Blue Pig gets Sock Monkey to the desert where he can bask "all day in the sizzling sunshine." Clean and calm, Sock Monkey heads to the awards where he faces disappointments and surprises and a lot of great word play from Bell.
While I love all three books, I think that Sock Monkey Boogie-Woogie just might be my favorite. Sock Monkey is going to the Big Celebrity Dance and is super excited - until he discovers he doesn't have a partner! His three best friends are traveling, but they send home gifts that come together to make - another monkey! Sock Buddy can make cupcakes AND turns out to be the perfect dance partner! They impress everyone at the dance and, best of all, when Sock Monkey's friends meet Sock Buddy, they feel like they've known him forever. What I especially love about Sock Monkey Boogie-Woogie is the fact that Sock Monkey and Sock Buddy both seem to be guys. Bell  makes the less conventional choice and it makes the book all the more completely lovable.

Sock Monkey Rides Again finds our famous toy actor in another difficult situation. This time, it's not the prospect of having to bathe that is throwing him off, it's the fact that he will have to kiss the leading lady! In order to star as Red Reardon in "Hubbub at the Happy Canyon Hoedown," Sock Monkey will also have to learn to yodel, ride a horse, lasso a cow and get some cool duds. As always, Sock Monkey's friends are there to help out. But, when it comes time to kiss Lulu Nevada, he just can't do it and Lulu is left in tears. No matter how he tries to console her, he realizes there is really only one thing he can do, and he does it. And the director gets his shot!

I have been reading Sock Money Takes a Bath, Sock Monkey Boogie-Woogie and Sock Monkey Rides Again over and over to my students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and they all love Sock Monkey. Also, all three books always seem to spark some kind of discussion, whether it's about how to make a sock monkey, or looking at pictures of the monkeys in the hot springs. 

The original inspirations for the cast of the Sock Monkey books!

More books by Cece Bell


Source: Review Copy

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23. In Thanks: Books That Built a Writing Teacher

What are the books that have shaped you as a teacher of writing? Reflecting today, in thanks, for the authors and books that have influenced my life as a teacher.

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24. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 11/25/15: San Diego is getting MORE hotels!

§ Rob Salkowitz gives an overview of the various subscription based comics services including Marvel Unlimited, ComicBlitz and so on. From Spotify and Apple Music to Netflix and Amazon Prime, huge chunks of the media distribution world are moving from paid downloads to monthly subscriptions. But since the early days of digital comics and graphic […]

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25. Review: Kissing Ted Callahan

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding. Poppy. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys)The Plot: Riley and Reid walk in on our their band mates Lucy and Nathan -- to their surprise, Lucy and Nathan are together. Together-together.

Riley is stunned, especially because Lucy is her best friend and Lucy never said a word. Riley and Reid both resolve to pursue love (and kissing and maybe even sex), and to share each detail, and to help each other out.

The top of Riley's list is her crush, Ted Callahan; Reid's is Jane.

How successful is their plan? Well, there will be kissing. Of Ted Callahan, and other guys.

The Good: This is primarily Riley's story, but because Riley and Reid share notes and progress reports and suggestions in a Passenger Manifest journal, and part of that is written by Reid, it's both their stories.

Kissing Ted Callahan is about Riley shaking herself into action. Oh, she's hardly passive. Her goal is rock star, so her time has been taken up with the band. And her best friend is Lucy, and she's friends with Reid and Nathan, but she's been satisfied, kind of, with that.

Riley isn't satisfied anymore. And confiding in Reid, instead of her usual Lucy, helps push her to do things like offer Ted Callahan a ride home. Or kiss Garrick. Or call the number of the cute boy she met at the CD store. Riley goes from zero love interests to three. Kissing Ted Callahan is about Riley (and Reid) navigating teen age dating, figuring out the difference between like and love and lust and love, wondering just what is right to tell someone if there isn't any real commitment yet.

Reid's story in some ways mirrors Riley's The first girl he pursues turns out to already have a boyfriend, and Riley doesn't really make the connection to her own situation. The next girl is -- well, it's a bit funny, because Reid makes a list of potential girls. Ones who talk to him, ones he likes, who has potential? Unlike Riley, he's not acting on a crush. It's more that he wants someone, and there is something very sweet and likable in how he keeps himself open to any possibility rather than requiring a crush first. It's also very honorable that he pursues a girl he likes being with, ignoring that his friends don't really like her.

At one point, rather late in the story, their Passenger Manifest goes missing and Riley and Reid have to deal with the consequences. For Riley, that ends up being the consequences of not having conversations and not talking. Kissing and sex may create a connection but it doesn't replace talking. Yes, there is a sex scene,  butwhile Riley may be kissing three boys there is only one that she really likes. No, I won't say who.

What's nice about the emphasis on communication is that it is clear from the beginning that Riley's failure at spoken honesty, and desire to not confront, isn't something that just happens with boys. Remember Lucy? Part of what drives the whole book is Riley's continuing inability to talk with her best friend, Lucy. Part of Riley's growth is realizing she has to have the tough conversations, whether it's about the status of a friendship or of a relationship.

I also like how this explores attraction and relationships (both friendship and more), and that Riley (and Tom and Garrick and Milo) is not just about who she is dating or kissing but is about creating real friendships and how those friendships are made. Lucy, Riley, and Reid have known each other since kindergarten and those types of friendships sometimes means someone has a hard time making new friends -- they don't have the skills. Riley is developing those skills, though admittedly mainly because she is seeking a boy. And mainly because she assumes that Lucy's changed relationship with Nathan means that Lucy's friendship with Riley is different.

Finally! It's also about a band, and I loved how being part of the band is used for the story, from being what ties Riley and her friends together, to her passions and interests, and also the time it takes outside of school. Their dedication is clear.

One final thing: this may be a spoiler, so stop reading if any type of spoiler bothers you. This is not the type of book where Riley looks at her good friend Reid and sees him in a different light while he has an unrequited crush. This is about two people who are friends, whose friendship grows stronger but whose friendship remains a friendship.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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