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1. The Writing Process: How we work...

Well, here is a fun thing.
Author/Illustrator tag!
Thank you Richard Jesse Watson for picking me to join this blog tour.

Fun facts about Richard Jesse Watson:
Besides being an award-winning children's book illustrator,
Richard roasts his own coffee.
He once dismantled a hotel window so he could
roast coffee for an illustrator pal without setting off the fire alarm.

Here's a stunning painting Richard created to go with one of my manuscripts.

Snow Queen
artwork (c) Richard Jesse Watson
Richard is also a folk dancer.
He loves  books, handball, anchovies, and waffles.
He can make or fix just about anything with epoxy. 
He has taught me much of what I know about art.
And he's my dad.
I'm inspired by him as an artist and a person.
Find him online at richardjessewatson.com.

Now, to the Q & A:

What am I currently working on?

Last week I shared with you the  driftwood of my life work.
Today I'll tell you about my other work - writing and art.
Lately I'm playing with picture book,
chapter book, and middle grade manuscripts,
as well as trying to work in some of that gorgeous momentum
I gathered from my UCSD "Illustrating Picture Books" course with Joy Chu.

I'm also working on creative discipline - how I manage my time.
Time is my huge thing. 
How to squeeze any more drops from days plumb full?

I drew a pie chart to see where all my spare time flows out
and to hunt for extra gaps I can curb into a writing / art habit.
I think it's helping. 

Why do I write what I write?

I write
to remember
the striking thing
about a day,
a shadow,
a loss.
to turn knobby memories
into strength and courage.
to spread adventure and creativity
like seeds
that will spark and sprout
in readers
and in me.

That's my why: remembrance. beauty. courage. hope. thanks.

 How does my writing / illustrating process work?

First, inspiration:

I keep notebooks, sketchbooks,
camera, pencils, pen
in car, in purse, in library bag,
in every place story lightning might strike.

Books!  I read like a sieve.
Not really sure how a sieve reads,
but I do
a lot. lot. lot.
(c) 2014 Faith Pray

Next, drafting.
I type manuscripts into a writing program called Scrivener,
and then write and rewrite until the manuscript feels just so.

I scribble sketches and move them around.
Sticky notes are brilliant for this.

Taping together mini books helps me feel how each story breathes.

And then I play with finishes.
Splashy ink and pen. Velvety oil pencils. Pooly paints.
I'm always playing.

When a story feels just so, I send it to my agent.
If he likes it, we work on changes,
and then he sends it out to publishers "on submission."

That's my writing process.
Next in this blog tour, my friend Carrie O'Neill
gets to tell you about how she works.
art (c) Carrie O'Neill

Carrie and I were friends in high school.
What a delight to discover her now at the SCBWI conference in Seattle!
Carrie is just as witty, talented and lovely as ever, and her art is vibrant and engaging.
I am excited to see what Carrie creates next, and I can't wait for you to meet her.

You can find Carrie at www.carrieoneill.com.
She'll be playing tag on her blog soon!


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2. Hartford MFA: Students

So one of the things that I do compulsively is draw people around me. My fellow students were wonderfully accommodating (and sometimes completely unaware)

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3. Lee James Turnock -Up Yours!

Up Yours!
Lee James Turnock
The Comic Company
32 pages (saddle stitched)
Colour cover/ B&W interior
Sized to 5 ½” x 7 ¼” (perfect for stickin’ in your trenchcoat pockets!)/A5


 Britain's least known Underground cartoonist, Lee James Turnock, unleashes another tidal wave of lovingly delineated vitriol. Part autobiographical, part satirical, UP YOURS! is certain to lace your chuckles with mild unease. The highlights of this corker are Turnock's true life confession: "I Was a Teen-age Pervert", "Stinky Pinky", "What Pisses Him Off", and a deft Chick tract parody.

What can I say about Lee James Turnock?  It seems all the good insults have been done.  Seriously.  I am not kidding.  It appears that a lot of people in the UK 'comic community' (sorry, I laughed then) have absolutely no idea what humour is. Or what an Underground Comix is. Combine the two into one and they get more  cross eyed than a 15 year old who has been slapping the bishop too much.

Look at that cover.  All those runny noses in that brown bag. It's...not noses. Oh.

Anyway, lovely cover with great colours and, apart from the over-exposed blancmanges it's a style that might have graced a UK weekly comic years ago....back in the last century when I was young...young......anyway. 

Any...anyway..you really DO NOT get many of THEM to the £ these days.  The problem with having an alleged "family friendly" site is that you cannot post the absolute filth that Turnock produces. Absolute filthy but very funny.  He does have a blog and you can check out work he has done in the past in the Small Press as well as current work:


In collaboration with (writer?) Dexter Cockburn there is "The Most Common Cartoon-Based Childhood Accidents..." which is outrageous. Even as a kid, though, I knew NOT to look down the barrel of a cannon (but why we had one in the garden...?).  "This was your Life" hmm.  Well I never once considered that Hell might be more fun than Heaven!! "Whattock Hunt" just goes to prove that you really -REALLY- do need to check that the dvd you put on for the kids is, uh, not "bestial" in any way!!!  "What Pisses Him Off!" Yeah, I think most of us would really like to do one of these strips. Yeah, but then the screaming and legal threats start...meh.

What makes this issue so great is the semi-biographical "I Was A Teenage Pervert" which is funny, depressing, filthy, funny all in one big glop.  Porno mags, porno videos and those "know-all-about-sex" morons you knew who, obviously, knew absolutely nothing about sex!

I like the writing and unless it's my imagination, I think Turnock's artwork has improved (I wear glasses by-the-way)! There is some very neat figure work and it all just melds together nicely.  It IS an "adults only" book but unless you are an adult you probably would not understand most of the stuff in here such as why the woman is letting the pig do that to her or the joy of finding two carrier bags full of porn when you are thirteen!

The biggest mystery is WHY Turnock's work is so ignored in the UK? It's ridiculous.  We've had very few real Underground Comix creators in the UK since the 1970s and yet here is one who, were he based in the US, I'm sure would be a comix star and at least earning some good money for his work.

So, order a copy online (it's cheap enough) and have a good read.

I am obliged here to tell you that self-abuse can lead to poor eye-sight and need to wear spectacles.

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4. IDW Publishing to Release An ‘Edward Scissorhands’ Comic Book Series

IDW Publishing will release a comic adaptation of the 1990 hit movie, Edward Scissorhands.

Author Kate Leth has been brought on as the writer. Illustrator Drew Rausch has been hired to create the interior art. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez designed the cover for the first issue.

The story of this series takes place twenty years after the ending of Burton’s beloved film. According to the press release, “Kim’s granddaughter, Meg, grows up with Edward Scissorhands only being a legend, a bedtime story. But when weird things start to happen in her sleepy little town, it reawakens her curiously and she decides to search out for the mysterious Edward Scissorhands.”


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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5. The Writing Ninjas of Texas at San Antonio Comic Con

I'll be in San Antonio this weekend for Comic Con with the Writing Ninjas of Texas, dressed in full costume, and I'd love to see you there! Joining me will be authors Madeline Smoot and Mari Mancusi.

Look for us in Booth 409!

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6. The month that changed the world: Friday, 31 July 1914

July 1914 was the month that changed the world. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and just five weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war. But how did it all happen? Historian Gordon Martel, author of The Month That Changed The World: July 1914, is blogging regularly for us over the next few weeks, giving us a week-by-week and day-by-day account of the events that led up to the First World War.

By Gordon Martel

Although Austria had declared war, begun the bombardment of Belgrade, and announced the mobilization of its army in the south, negotiations to reach a diplomatic solution continued. A peaceful outcome still seemed possible: a settlement might be negotiated directly between Austria and Russia in St Petersburg, or a conference of the four ‘disinterested’ Great Powers in either London or Berlin might mediate between Austria and Russia.

The German chancellor worried that if Sir Edward Grey succeeded in restraining Russia and France while Vienna declined to negotiate it would be disastrous; it would appear to everyone that the Austrians absolutely wanted a war. Germany would be drawn in, but Russia would be free of responsibility. ‘That would place us in an untenable situation in the eyes of our own people’. He instructed the ambassador in Vienna to advise Austria to accept Grey’s proposal.

In Vienna at 9 a.m. Berchtold convened a meeting of the common ministerial council, explaining that the Grey proposal for a conference à quatre was back on the agenda and that the German chancellor was insisting that this must be carefully considered. Bethmann Hollweg was arguing that Austria’s political prestige and military honour could be satisfied by the occupation of Belgrade and other points, while the humiliation of Serbia would weaken Russia’s position in the Balkans.

Berchtold warned that in such a conference France, Britain, and Italy were likely take Russia’s part and that Austria could not count on the support of the German ambassador in London. If everything that Austria had undertaken were to result in no more than a gain in ‘prestige’, its work would have been in vain. An occupation of Belgrade would be of no use; it was all a fraud. Russia would pose as the saviour of Serbia – which would remain intact – and in two or three years they could expect the Serbs to attack again in circumstances far less favourable to Austria. Thus, he proposed to respond courteously to the British offer while insisting on Austria’s conditions and avoiding a discussion of the merits of the case. The ministers agreed.

The British cabinet also met in the morning to consider France’s request for a promise of British intervention before Germany attacked. The cabinet divided into three factions: those who opposed intervention, those who were undecided, and those who wished to intervene. Only two ministers, Grey and Churchill, favoured intervention. Most agreed that public opinion in Britain would not support them going to war for the sake of France. But opinion might shift if Germany were to violate Belgian neutrality. Grey was instructed to request – from both Germany and France – an assurance that they would respect the neutrality of Belgium. They were not prepared to give France the promise of support that it had asked for; one of them concluded ‘that this Cabinet will not join in the war’.

Grey wired to Berlin to ask whether Germany might be willing to sound out Vienna, while he sounded out St Petersburg, on the possibility of agreeing to a revised formula that could lead to a conference. Perhaps the four disinterested Powers could offer to Austria to undertake to see that it would obtain ‘full satisfaction of her demands on Servia’ – provided that these did not impair Serbian sovereignty or the integrity of Serbian territory. Russia could then be informed by the four Powers that they would undertake to prevent Austrian demands from going to the length of impairing Serbian sovereignty and integrity. All Powers would then suspend further military operations or preparations.

Declaration of war from the German Empire 31 July 1914. Signed by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Countersigned by the Reichs-Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Declaration of war from the German Empire 31 July 1914. Signed by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Countersigned by the Reichs-Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Germany’s response was that it could not consider such a proposal until Russia agreed to cease its mobilization. In Berlin at 2 p.m. the the drohenden Kriegszustand (‘imminent peril of war’) was announced. At 3.30 p.m. Bethmann Hollweg instructed the ambassador in St Petersburg to explain that Germany had been compelled to take this step because of Russia’s mobilization. Germany would mobilize unless Russia agreed to suspend ‘every war measure’ aimed at Austria-Hungary and Germany within twelve hours. The time clock was to begin ticking from the moment that the note was presented in St Petersburg.

At 4.15 p.m. Conrad, the chief of the Austrian general staff, telephoned the office of the general staff in Berlin to explain the Austrian position: the emperor had authorized full mobilization only in response to Russia’s actions and only for the purpose of taking precautions against a Russian attack. Austria had no intention of declaring war against Russia. In other words, Russia could mobilize along the Austrian frontier and Austria could match this on the other side. And there the two forces could wait, without going to war.

This prospect terrified Moltke. He replied immediately that Germany would probably mobilize its forces on Sunday and then commence hostilities against Russia and France. Would Austria abandon Germany? Conrad asked if Germany thus intended to launch a war against Russia and France and whether he should rule out the possibility of fighting a war against Serbia without coming to grips with Russia at the same time. Moltke told him about the ultimatums being presented in St Petersburg and Paris, which required answers by 4 p.m. the next day.

At 6.30 p.m. the Kaiser addressed a crowd of thousands gathered at the pleasure gardens in front of the imperial palace. He declared that those who envied Germany had forced him to take measures to defend the Reich. He had been forced to take up the sword but had not ceased his efforts to maintain the peace. If he did not succeed ‘we shall with God’s help wield the sword in such a way that we can sheathe it with honour’.

In London and Paris they continued to hope that a negotiated settlement was possible. Grey suggested that Russia cease its military preparations in exchange for an undertaking from the other Powers that they would seek a way to give complete satisfaction to Austria without endangering the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Serbia. Viviani, the French premier and foreign minister, agreed. He would tell Sazonov that Grey’s formula furnished a useful basis for a discussion among the Powers who sought an honourable solution to the Austro-Serbian conflict and to avert the danger of war. The formula proposed ‘is calculated equally to give satisfaction to Russia and to Austria and to provide for Serbia an acceptable means of escaping from the present difficulty’.

In St. Petersburg that evening the German ambassador, in a private audience with Tsar Nicholas, warned that Russian military measures might already have produced ‘irreparable consequences’. It was entirely possible that the decision to mobilize when the kaiser was attempting to mediate the dispute might be regarded by him as offensive – and by the German people as provocative. ‘I begged him…to check or to revoke these measures’. The Tsar replied that, for technical reasons, it was not now possible to stop the mobilization. For the sake of European peace it was essential, he argued, that Germany influence, or put pressure on, Austria.

In Paris the German ambassador was to ask the French government if it intended to remain neutral in the event of a Russo-German war. An answer was required within 18 hours. In the unlikely case that France agreed to remain neutral, France was to hand over the fortresses of Verdun and Toul as a pledge of its neutrality. The deadline by which France must agree to this demand was set for 4 p.m. the next day

In St. Petersburg, at 11 p.m., the German ambassador presented the 12-hour ultimatum to Sazonov. If Russia did not abandon its mobilization by noon Saturday Germany would mobilize in response. And, as Bethmann Hollweg had already declared, ‘mobilization means war’.

Gordon Martel is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of War, he is also joint editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History series. His new book is The Month That Changed The World: July 1914.

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7. My tweets

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8. Good news on the way!

I'm always in favor of good news, but I won't report on what exactly this news is until I get some stuff signed. But once that's done, you will certainly hear about it!

In the meantime, I'm still writing stories and scanning in family pics and generally trying to keep up with kids and housework and weeds. (Actually I gave up on the weeds -- my garden tends to go all to hell in July and August. The chickens love it, though.)

I've also sent in some of Dad's slides to ScanCafe to be digitized. They did an amazing job and when this batch comes back, I'll send 'em more. The pics look great, and ScanCafe will email you the digitized files so you get those quickly, while you're waiting for the pics and DVDs to show up in your mailbox.

Here's one of Dad's fellow soldiers in the 588th Engineers in Vietnam in 1967-1968.  I hope I can get his name one of these days.

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9. Barry, Bond, and music on film

Twenty-seven years ago, on 31 July 1987, James Bond returned to the screen in The Living Daylights, with Timothy Dalton as the new Bond. The film has a notable departure in the style of music, as composer John Barry decided that the film needed a new sound to match this reinvented Bond, and his love interest — a musician with dangerous ties. To celebrate the anniversary, here is a brief extract from The Music of James Bond by John Burlingame.

In the script, Bond is caught up in a complex plot involving high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) who is supposedly defecting to the West. Koskov’s girlfriend, Czech cellist Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), is duped into helping him escape his KGB guards. A Greek terrorist named Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) then supervises his “abduction” from England and transport to the Tangiers estate of an American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker). Eventually Bond and Kara find themselves at a Soviet airbase in Afghanistan, where they meet a Mujahidin leader (Art Malik) who helps 007 thwart the plot.

Because the early portions of the story take place in Czechoslovakia and Austria, The Living Daylights crew shot for two weeks in Vienna, including all of the scenes where Kara is performing on her cello. Director John Glen recalled conferring with Barry about the classical music that would be heard in the film. “We listened to various pieces before we chose what we were going to use,” Glen said. “Obviously we needed something where the cello was featured strongly.” (They ended up with Mozart, Borodin, Strauss, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky.) They recorded the classical selections with Gert Meditz conducting the Austrian Youth Orchestra and then filmed the ensemble, using the prerecorded music as playback on the set.

Maryam d’Abo was filmed “playing” the cello during several of these scenes. “I started taking private lessons a month prior to the film,” she recalled. “I just learned the movements. They basically soaped the bow so there wasn’t any sound [from the instrument]. It was hard work; I could have done with a couple more weeks of lessons. They demanded a lot of strength. No wonder cellists start when they are eight years old.” The solo parts heard in the film were played by Austrian cellist Stefan Kropfitsch.

The Living Daylights Film Poster (c) MGM

The Living Daylights Film Poster (c) MGM

The actress, as Kara, “performs” with the orchestra in several scenes, notably at the end of the film when Barry himself is seen conducting Tchaikovsky’s 1877 Variations on a Rococo Theme and Kara is the soloist. It was filmed on October 15, 1986, at Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace. Recalled Glen: “It was very unusual for John—unlike a lot of other people who liked to appear in movies, John had never asked before—but on that film, he asked if he could appear. At the time, it struck me as a bit strange. It was almost a premonition that this was going to be his last Bond. I was happy to accommodate him, and he was eminently qualified to do it.”

In fact, Barry had done this once before, appearing on-screen as the conductor of a Madrid orchestra in Bryan Forbes’s Deadfall (1968). On that occasion, he was conducting his own music (a single-movement guitar concerto that was ingeniously written to double as dramatic music for a jewel robbery occurring simultaneously with the concert). This time, he was supposed to be conducting the “Lenin’s People’s Conservatoire Orchestra.”

D’Abo socialized with Barry in London, when the unit was shooting at Pinewood. (She later realized that she had already appeared in two Barry films: Until September and Out of Africa.) “John was there, working on the music,” she said. “He was just a joy to be around. I remember seeing him and having dinner with him and [his wife] Laurie, and John being so excited about writing the music. He was so adorable, saying ‘Your love scenes inspire me to write this romantic music.’ John was such a charmer with women.”

Jon Burlingame is the author of The Music of James Bond, now out in paperback with a new chapter on Skyfall. He is one of the nation’s leading writers on the subject of music for film and television. He writes regularly for Daily Variety and teaches film-music history at the University of Southern California. His other work has included three previous books on film and TV music; articles for other publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Premiere and Emmy magazines; and producing radio specials for Los Angeles classical station KUSC.

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10. flat-heeled-muse

share save 171 16 flat heeled muse

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11. Guest Blogger - COPPA for Authors by A.R. Silverberry

As promised, A.R. Silverberry is the guest blogger today. The topic COPPA is timely for authors and is a must read and reference tool for your writing career. Without further ado, take it away A.R. Silverberry….

COPPA for Authors

Guest Post by A. R. Silverberry

A lot of authors ask, “What is COPPA, and do I have to address it on my website?” COPPA stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It was enacted in 1998 and became effective in 2000, with an amended rule in 2012 that became effective July 1, 2013. What COPPA does is give control to parents over what information is collected online from their children, under age thirteen. According to the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center, COPPA applies to “operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps) directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13.”  If websites or online services have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information directly from users of another website or online service directed to children, the COPPA Rule applies.

As a children’s author, there were several ways I fell under the COPPA Rule. First, if a child under age thirteen emailed me, I had collected information from them, namely, their email address. Children might also want to sign up for my Newsletter or post a comment on my blog. Finally, I periodically have contests on my website that children under thirteen may enter. When I began doing live book signings, I did in fact receive emails from children under thirteen, happily, who enjoyed my book. Happily also, I had my COPPA policy in place so that I could follow the appropriate procedures. Here’s what the Rule requires; quotes are from the Bureau of Consumer Protection:
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  1. “Post your online privacy policy. It should be clear, comprehensive, and describe “information practices for personal information collected online from children;
  2. “Provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with limited exceptions, before collecting personal information online from children;
  3. “Provide parents access to their child's personal information to review and/or have the information deleted;
  4. “Give parents the opportunity to prevent further use or online collection of a child's personal information;
  5. “Maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of information they collect from children, including by taking reasonable steps to release such information only to parties capable of maintaining its confidentiality and security; and
  6. “Retain personal information collected online from a child for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and delete the information using reasonable measures to protect against its unauthorized access or use.”

Personal information includes first and last name; home or other physical address, including street name and town or city; online contact information; screen or user name that functions as online contact information; a telephone number; a social security number; a persistent identifier that can be used to recognize a user over time and across different websites or online services; a photograph, video, or audio file, where such file contains a child’s image or voice; geolocation information sufficient to identify street name and name of a city or town; and information concerning the child or the parents of that child that the operator collects online from the child and combines with an identifier described above.

If you don’t have a site directed toward kids but instead have a general audience website, you still might fall under COPPA if you have knowledge that you’re collecting information from children under thirteen. What is considered actual knowledge of a user’s age? According to the FTC, actual acknowledge can arise when “The site or service asks for – and receives – information from the user that allows it to determine the person’s age. For example, an operator who asks for a date of birth on a site’s registration page has actual knowledge as defined by COPPA if a user responds with a year that suggests they’re under 13. An operator also may have actual knowledge based on answers to “age identifying” questions like “What grade are you in?” or “What type of school do you go to?  (a) elementary; (b) middle; (c) high school; (d) college.” 

I have a COPPA Privacy Policy link at the bottom of my home pagethat takes visitors to my policy. My policy is on my contact page, and at the bottom of the policy, visitors can access a PDF version of the policy. The response I have gotten from parents when I contact them about the policy has always been positive, and I believe it has increased their respect for me as a children’s author.

There you have it: COPPA in a nutshell. This article is intended as an introduction to raise authors’ awareness of COPPA. Nothing written here is intended as the official word on COPPA or a substitute for legal advice. If your website or blog falls under COPPA, you can learn more by going to the Children’s Privacy page on the FTC website and also check out their Frequently Asked Questions. Having a privacy policy in place protects you, and especially, children.

About A. R. Silverberry:
A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel. Follow him at www.arsilverberry.com.

Synopsis of The Stream:

What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?

After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?

Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Streamis a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.

Purchase The Stream:



Synopsis of Wyndano’s Cloak
A sinister shapeshifter threatens to shatter Jen’s world and the kingdom of Aerdem. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning. Wyndano's Cloak may be Jen's only hope. If she has what it takes to use it . . .
Secrets, riddles, and mystery abound in this award-winning fantasy of loyalty, betrayal, and the yearning of the spirit. Ages 10 and up.

Purchase Wyndano’s Cloak:


Limited first edition Hardback:

Signed and unsigned copies available only from the author

Follow A. R. Silverberry:

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Thank you for visiting with A.R. Silverberry today, I am confident you learned something of value today. 


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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12. Why Readers, Scientifically, are People, Too

A few weeks ago my dear sister shared an article titled "Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With." Improper title capitalization rules and superfluous prepositions aside, I take issue with the article. What would one expect, coming from Elite Daily, a site, I must admit, I hadn't stumbled across before but calls itself "the voice of Generation Y." Isn't that a perfect title for a Gen Y site? Elite. Yes, yes you are. Maybe that's my problem. As a Gen Xer, I'm an old fart, skeptical of everything.

Even myself. And I'm also not all that special. I'm just a person with an opinion and about three pounds of neurons in my skull, but I do like to think.

I learned the habit of asking questions of EVERYTHING in undergrad at Kansas State University, probably even before that. Richard Fogg, if you're out there, your lab section of Psych 350: Experimental Methods in Psychology way back in the fall of 1995 was brilliant. Thanks for teaching me true inquiry, critical thinking, and objectivity--and the cool lesson about what happens to a person when they come to the emergency room on a heroin overdose from your days in LA. That was awesome.

But I digress. A little.

I don't believe, and never will, that reading makes a person more empathic. That would be a causal relationship, one the author of the article implies with lines like "readers are proven to be nicer and smarter than the average human, and maybe the only people worth falling in love with on this shallow hell on earth." Wow.

While readers may be smarter and nicer than the average human (14 + years in education make me question both of those claims), I do not believe for an instant, not one millisecond, reading makes a person smarter or, and here's the most important disbelief, nicer than anyone else. There's simply a correlation between reading and empathy, reading and intelligence, reading and "theory of mind"  (the ability to hold opinions, beliefs and interests apart from one's own). I've known plenty of kids who could strip a 1968 Chevy Camaro and rebuild it who couldn't read all that well. How, exactly, are we defining intelligence?

Perhaps empathic, intelligent, and "mindful" people simply are drawn to reading. Perhaps.

But there's more. The author of "Why Readers...," Lauren Martin, cites another study which suggests kids who have more stories read to them have better theories of mind. I have no doubt--but using the word "prove" as in "results that prove the more stories children have read to them, the keener their [mindfulness]" really trips my critical analysis trigger. Maybe the interaction with people is the key, the common factors--good, healthy relationships with caregivers or other adults doing the reading--is the real seed of mindfulness and empathy. Show me a study suggesting a robot can read books to kids and those kids are more mindful than anyone else... well, I guess we're doing a whole lot of supposing without real results and a whole slew of ethical concerns. I haven't read the original studies, but these seem more correlative (collecting data and finding relationships) than causal (actual, controlled studies).

Are readers "the best people to fall in love with"? I don't know. But empathic people are nice. Mindful people are very nice. I'm in love with a woman who is empathic, mindful, and intelligent. She's nice. And while she reads ALL THE TIME I don't know that either of us have finished more than a book or two in the time we've known each other.

I believe reading is very important--Martin cites several other studies "proving" readers are the only worthwhile people on the planet--but it is not the only thing which creates a human. Reading is not the only factor which contributes to intelligence, empathy, and mindfulness.

And yes... this is coming from a guy who writes. And writers need readers. Did I just alienate all of you?


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13. GHENGDU by Barney Saltzberg - GIVEAWAY!

You probably already know I’m a fan of Barney Saltzburg’s work. I interviewed him when ARLO NEEDS GLASSES came out. And I’m thrilled to have him back for yet another adorable creation: CHENGDU COULD NOT, WOULD NOT FALL ASLEEP (Disney-Hyperion). (As somebody with occasional insomnia, I can so relate!) Truly, this is a perfect night time read for a parent trying to put their little one to bed. Barney dropped by to tell us more about it…

Q. Barney, you’ve done it again! CHENGDU is adorable!!!

Q. How did the idea come to you? Are you also an insomniac?
The US State Department sent me to Russia and China to speak about my creative process. While in China, my wife took a 24 hour trip to Chengdu to see the pandas. After seeing her photos and hearing about one that couldn't sleep, I knew I had a book! As far as being an insomniac, I am far from it. I fall asleep very quickly and sleep through the night.

Q. This is a very different color palette for you. How did this book challenge you?
My editor and art director really pushed the look of this book. I had made the dummy in black and white. They had me draw (pencil sketches) half the size of the final art so that when the artwork was enlarged there is a toothy, grainy quality that I had never achieved before. I wanted some limited color with the bamboo so the green would pop against a completely black and white book.

Q. There are fold out (and down) pages in this book, and short, shorter pages - how was it to work with those?
I am a huge fan of Emily Gravett. She has opened my eyes to books that have the ability to surprise us. I find that having pages to unfold just adds to the rhythm of reading a book. I was thrilled Hyperion was open to these interactive flaps in a picture book.

Q. I adore the pages with the eyes - like great big Yin/Yang signs. Did that presentation idea come to you easily?
I honestly never thought of Yin/Yang signs until you asked that question. I think of my drawings from the perspective of how I would approach a scene with a camera. Zooming in and out, etc; We open with the long shot and see different pandas in the tree. When we hear that one panda couldn't sleep, it seemed like an obvious shot to zoom in tight.

Q. You are so prolific as a children’s book author/illustrator… This isn’t your only book coming out this year. The other is TEA WITH GRANDPA (Roaring Brook Press). I’m starting to believe you know the secret formula to creating great picture books (and selling them)! Can you share? :)
I'm lucky enough to have receptive publishers. I do seem to be exercising the creativity muscle more and more as the years pass. I'm delighted there is an audience for my work! Next year I have three books coming out!

Q. I’m positive you have more in the works… what’s next?
Speaking of three books. I have two board books coming out with Workman publishing. They approached me to create a series. In my book, Beautiful Oops, there are some red birds. My editor said she thought I could develop one into a character. REDbird was hatched! I also was concerned with contributing more 'concept' books to the world. There are so many. It took a really long time to find a different approach. I'm excited to have these books come out. I also used a different style of illustration for these books. Given the age of a board book reader, I knew I wanted bold lines and color. I painted pages of colors in acrylic paint, blending and mixing colors. I scanned the pages into the computer, drew the images on a Wacom Centiq monitor and dropped the color in. It was quick and I think a perfect medium for this series. The two books are, REDbird Colors, Colors Everywhere and REDbird Friends Come in Different Sizes. As a follow up to my Abram/Appleseed book, Andrew Drew and Drew, I have a new book called Inside This Book. It's loosely Russian Dolls in books. There's the book, and inside are three books, each about two inches smaller than the one before it. Three siblings are given blank books that their mother made them and we see how each child filled their book and what they ultimately do with them.
     Thanks so much for the visit.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Hyperion is kindly sending a free copy of CHENGDU by Barney to sign for one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US to win - enter below!

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drumarjohnsonJune 14, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Black boys were gifted with an all-new G.E.D. test for the 2014 school year, which will make it even more difficult for them to escape the trappings of low expectations, as the only alternative to a high school diploma, the G.E.D., has now been made just as difficult to obtain as the diploma itself.

Why a new G.E.D.? Politically-speaking, keeping Black boys from having a gambler’s chance at a decent life in this country seems to have become a fetish of the American Social Order.

As states scramble to find more dollars to incarcerate young Black males, a quiet but very powerful sense of hopelessness is settling in among the Black boy population in America. In quiet protest, many have dropped out of school and have taken to the street corners, not necessarily to participate in the underground economy, but to puff their life away and daydream amidst the purple haze of marijuana.While educational racism and economic castration suck the life out of Black boys in America, the Black community sits distracted by American foreign policy initiatives, reality television shows, and professional sports. As neighborhood violence increasingly becomes a fact of life in Black communities, many are at a loss for what to do.

However, we know exactly what must be done. If we want to reverse the special education, ADHD, psychotropic drug, juvenile incarceration, and premature extermination wars against Black boys then we will have to build schools that are uniquely designed to teach Black boys, not only how to succeed in a racially-biased society, but also how to avoid the trappings of a racist criminal justice system. Unfortunately, historically Black colleges have been under attack as well.

Many state higher education systems are underfunding HBCUs in an attempt to force mergers will larger White universities who are not sympathetic to the needs of Black youth. Other private HBCUs have struggled with financial difficulties and a lack of support from the larger African-American community. One such college is the historic St.Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia.

Founded by a contemporary of the legendary Booker T. Washington, the great James Solomon Russell, St. Paul’s would be the perfect location for a residential school for Black boys. Located in a rural section of southern Virginia, not far from the North Carolina border, St.Paul’s campus is reclusive enough and sizeable enough to be the perfect psycho-academic training camp for the current generation of Black boys.

America’s foremost school psychologist and kinsman to Frederick Douglass, Dr. Umar Johnson, is attempting to purchase the St. Paul’s College to be transformed into the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for Black Boys.

This academy will be based on a global business model that prepares Black boys for self-employment and entrepreneurship, not merely acceptance into college. The banking establishment and the higher education systems of America are in collaboration to put more African-Americans into financial debt in the name of a collegiate education.

This is a collegiate education that is increasingly becoming useless in the face of an economy that is becoming more global, while it does nearly nothing to ensure that enough jobs remain in the United States for college-educated young adults.

This situation is sending devastating numbers of Black children with college degrees to the homeless shelter and soup kitchens of America.

Our children have to be taught how to make a living anywhere in this world regardless of the circumstances of the political economy in which they live. The FDMG Academy will teach our children to be masters of Agricultural/Agronomical Science, Economic/Financial Science, Political/Military Science, Nutritional/Dietary Science, Family/Community Science, and African-Centered Spiritual/Cosmological Science. In addition to these six core sciences, and the three “R’s,” our boys will be taught to master at least two building trades (i.e., electrical, cosmetology, plumbing, auto, carpentry, HVAC, computer network/design, masonry, etc).

Why the trades? A man’s bread and butter are only guaranteed when he can work for them. During the 1970s America’s public school system began working in concert with the racist building trade unions to systematically see to the removal of the trade building programs from predominately Black high schools, which created a blue-collar skills gap in Black communities, particularly in the inner-cities, which was then quickly monopolized by White labor.

With Black parents brainwashing their children into thinking that their is no hope without college, we have seen generation after generation of Black youth turn their backs on the building trades only to end up graduating Magna Cum Laude with a doctoral degree that has no marketability in the competitive job pool.
loveWhy a residential academy? Black boys are disproportionately raised by single Black mothers, who oftentimes struggle escorting their sons safely and successfully into manhood.

Although some Black mothers, blinded by the influence of Eurocentric feminism would argue that their sons don’t need fathers, many know otherwise. The crisis in Black male education isn’t really about education at all: it’s about the lack of masculine energy in the schoolhouse leaving our boys hungry for guidance from male role models that they rarely get to spend time with.

Our residential academy will provide our boys with the discipline, structure and masculine energy needed from strong caring Black men. A heaven on earth, a home away from home, is what we have in store for our boys.

A powerhouse academy where they love coming to school and never have to worry about being mis-diagnosed and thrown into special education for “invisible” disabilities like ADHD and Emotional Disturbances (ED).

This would be the first residential academy in U.S. history for boys based upon the principles of traditional African culture.

The African-American community must change its paradigm and approach to education if our children are to have a fighting chance in this world. With White racism using the charter school movement as a front for its ethnic cleaning campaign, thereby gentrifying every major Black inner-city in America, public school will soon be a distant memory.If you care about the future of Black boys, and of all African-Americans please donate to help Dr. Umar Johnson acquire the historic St. Paul’s College, to be used as the FDMG Academy, before it is purchased by those not interested in the welfare of our children.

Visit www.DrUmarJohnsonSchool.com for more information on the school project and to make your much needed donation to this critical fundraiser. We must raise $5M by August 21, 2014 and need your immediate help. Resumes are now being accepted at FDMGResumes@gmail.com.

Dr. Umar Johnson is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Certified School Psychologist & Certified School Principal. He is one of the most requested speakers in the world and has lectured in North America, South America, Europe, Afrika, and the Caribbean.

He is author of the best-selling book Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education & ADHD Wars Against Black Boys photo. As a private-practicing school psychologist he works with parents, educators, superintendents, attorneys and mental health professionals to better serve the needs of African-American children.

He is a descendant of both the great Frederick Douglass and Bishop Alexander Wayman , 7th Bishop under Richard Allen’s AME Church. Dr. Johnson can be reached  www.DrUmarJohnson.com or 215-989-9858. He welcomes correspondence from parents with issues protecting and educating their children from special education abuse and ADHD exploitation.

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15. Interview with Agent Naomi Davis from Inklings Literary

Hi! Lisa here to welcome Agent Naomi Davis from Inklings Literary! We have a great interview to share so let's get started.

Naomi Davis has a background in writing, editing, and customer service, has been Michelle Johnson's assistant for two years and is now taking on select projects.

When she's not entertaining her spawn, she's immersed entirely in imaginary worlds with the characters who inspire her fiction, or reading stories with characters who spring off the page, grip her by the heart (/throat), and wring her emotionally dry. She loves a good bad guy, especially when he has a story to tell, too.

She currently represents a handful of select clients and is passionate about working with authors to shape their voice and platform to their fullest potential.

In fiction, Naomi is interested in Romance of any variety including Paranormal, fresh Urban Fantasy, general Fantasy, New Adult, and light Sci-Fi, as well as upper Young Adult stories in those categories.

What is it about a manuscript that excites you? 
I'm often drawn in from the first few sentences. If the setting is somewhere I've never thought of before or the relationships are immediately presented in a way that blows my mind, I'm hooked.
What is on your wish list?  
Right now I'm actively looking for YA and NA stories that feature unique settings and a dark tone within the genres of contemporary, fantasy, horror, and science fiction. I adore stories with added elements of romance and LGBTQ themes.
What are some things you love to see in a query? 
I love to see queries that follow the submission guidelines on our website. I know the guidelines vary greatly between agencies, but when I'm sorting through 50+ queries in a day, it is far easier for me to process all the information if it's presented in an organized way. I'm more likely to get excited about a story if I'm not frustrated from wading through unrequested materials.
What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query? 
Please do not quote the last 20 rejections you've had. I realize they said complimentary things about your writing. I would like to evaluate your work for myself without my mind cluttered by all the compliments of others, especially when they were rejections, after all.
Can you define voice for us? 
Voice is one of those things that is so hard to describe because it is different for every author, but I'll do my best. Think of the way you talk: the things you say that make your friends laugh, the witty or deep observations you make in your head, the words you don't say aloud when you're emotional because they are too private, or too close to your heart. That's your voice.
Each character in your story will have his or her own unique voice, and the way you link them together through the observations they make and feelings they have about each other becomes the overall voice of the story. If they are too similar, the story reads flat. If they are too different, the story reads chaotic.
Look at the people you hang out with in real life: they have distinct similarities to you (the main character) and they have distinctly different qualities, too, which then become things you admire or dislike about that person. Striking a realistic balance of the differences and similarities between characters makes the story believable, and your readers will relate to the characters so strongly that they'll hang onto every word your characters say. They'll CARE about the characters, so they'll care about what happens to them (the plot). The sooner you can make your characters consistent within the story, the stronger your hook on your reader's souls will be.
Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices? 
All of the above.
Love it! Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability? 
By far emotional connection. Groundbreaking, market-smashing books were not such huge hits because they were what was "popular" at the time. They were unexpected and made the reader look at the world - or imagine a world - in a way they had never conceived of before.
Why did you become an agent? 
Frankly? As an author, I have the best agent I could ask for who supports every endeavor I undertake and encourages me to grow in all directions possible. She provides me with feedback, champions my work like it's the best thing since sliced bread, and cares about me as a writer, not as just a marketable project. Every single writer deserves an advocate with that kind of passion, and I hope I can be that advocate for the writers who snag my heart through their art.

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16. Jargon

Jargon consists of words that relate to a specific group, profession, or event.
  • actionable intelligence
  • bait and switch
  • behind the eight ball
  • best practice
  • bounced check
  • brain trust
  • bull market
  • circular file
  • core competency
  • face time
  • fall guy
  • file thirteen
  • food chain
  • free lunch
  • game changer
  • head count
  • hired gun
  • in the loop
  • in the red/black
  • in the running
  • out of pocket
  • push back
  • put to bed
  • time frame
  • value added

Medicine is full of Latin words that sound intimidating but mean relatively little. 

  • Thyroiditis (root word thyroid + itis meaning inflammation)
  • Myeloma (root word  myelo=marrow+ oma meaning growth)
  • Endocrinology (root word endocrine + ology meaning study of)
Although it is Latin, it is also their jargon. Medical terminology is full of acronyms. If you've ever listened to a professional conversation and been unable to follow the acronyms, you've listened to jargon.
  • CT scan (computed topography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • BMP (basic metabolic panel)
  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • PET scan (positron emission topography). 
Jargon is used as short-hand to refer to things common to people’s understanding. The art of texting has inspired an entirely new acronym vocabulary.
  • BTW - By The Way
  • IMHO - In My Humble Opinion
  • MOTD - Message Of The Day
  • FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
  • CYA - See You Around
  • HTH - Hope This Helps
  • FYI - For Your Information
  • LOL - Laugh Out Loud
  • PFA - Please Find Atached
The field of computing has spawned many jargon words:

  • blog
  • Byte
  • CD-Rom
  • disk drive
  • email
  • hard drive
  • hyperlink
  • internet
  • RAM
  • vlog

For fantasy and science fiction writers, building a new world can be enriched by adding a few - I stress few - new words and phrases. Make certain you clarify their meaning to the reader. Adding a dash of unique jargon brings your world to life. Too many obscure references, and you risk losing a reader's interest.

For historical writers, you have nitpicky fans. Look up when a term was first used. They love to point out your errors.


? Turn on the Clichés, Colloquialisms, and Jargon option in the toolbox. They will be marked for you. As you read through your draft, decide which to keep and which to kill. Have you used the jargon intentionally?
? Does it mean what you think it means?
? Have you committed jargon abuse? Should you trim it?
? Does the jargon fit the time and place?
? Does the jargon fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

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17. Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre


May Contain Spoilers


Oliver and the Seawigs is a cute, cute book!  Ten year old Oliver Crisp has spent his entire life exploring all of the unexplored areas of the world, and he’s tired of it.  What Oliver wants is to wake up in his own bedroom, in his own house, and go to school every day.  When his parent sadly realize that there is nothing left to discover, they resign themselves to a boring life living in their long neglected house.  Oliver is delighted, and he is anticipating finally being settled.

Poor Oliver’s non-roaming life comes to an abrupt end.  After not even a day, his parents disappear.  They had taken their dingy out into the bay to explore the new islands that mysteriously appeared during their long absence from their house.  When the raft washes up on shore, minus his parents, Oliver knows he has to take matters into his own hands.  He grabs his explorer pack, hops in the dingy, and sets off in search of his missing mom and dad.

I loved Oliver.  He is a take-charge kid, and he doesn’t panic when his parents go missing.  He has had plenty of disaster training during his adventures with his dare-devil parents, and he immediately puts it to good use.  Little fazes him; not a talking seagull, a near-sighted mermaid, or even an island that isn’t really an island but a living,  breathing creature.  Okay, so the troop of sea monkeys almost does him in, but he quickly tamps down his fears and focuses on the task at hand.  He must save his parents from their own folly.

In addition to encountering one outlandish mishap after another, Oliver and the Seawigs is lavishly illustrated with amusing, cartoony pictures.  Working seamlessly with the prose, the illustrations add even more character to an already charming tale.  I believe this book will appeal equally to boys or girls, as well as their parents. 

Highly recommended.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:


A lively step up from early chapter books, this seafaring romp is packed with hilarious art, lovable misfits, meddlesome monkeys, and tons of kid appeal.

When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail on a rescue mission with some new, unexpected friends: a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are even more exciting, unusual, and full of mischief than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad?

The post Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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THIS is a story about four people named EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, AND NOBODY. There was an important job to be done and EVERYBODY was sure SOMEBODY would do it. ANYBODY could have done it, but NOBODY did it. SOMEBODY got angry about that, because it was EVERYBODY'S job. EVERYBODY thought ANYBODY could do it but NOBODY realized that EVERYBODY wouldn't do it. It ended up that EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY when NOBODY did what ANYBODY could have done.


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19. I'm adopting the artist Meera Lee Patel

I'll tell you all the reasons soon.

For now: Is she gorgeous, or what?

Read a Free People interview here.

Enjoy her art here.

Celebrate her spirit.

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20. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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21. My tweets

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22. BOBBEE BEE: The US-Israel Special Relationship Timeline That AIPAC Doesn’t Want You To See

The Bilzarian Report 2012

May 14, 1948- Official Recognition- The United States of America becomes the first country to officially recognize Israel as an independent nation.
1949-1973- US-Israel Aid Commences- The United States gives Israel an average of $122 million per year in foreign aid payments.
Summer 1954- Lavon Affair- Israel recruits Egyptian Jews to blow up American and British targets in Egypt. Israel planned on blaming the murderous false-flag attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to garner support from the US and Britain. After officially denying any involvement, the Israeli government finally admitted their role in the incident in 2005 by honoring the surviving agents with a certificate of appreciation.

1955-1970- Israel Steals American Uranium to Build It’s First Nuclear Weapons- In 2011, the Institute for Research on Middle Eastern Policy examined hundreds of newly de-classified documents from the FBI and CIA and discovered that Israeli spies in collaboration with American Jews stole hundreds of kilograms of weapons grade uranium from US stockpiles and shipped it to Israel. Although Israel does not officially acknowledge the possession of nuclear weapons, their nuclear arsenal is estimated at between 200-300 nuclear weapons. (Source: PressTV)

1963- AIPAC Formed- The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) “America’s Pro-Israel” is formed, but refuses to comply with US law and register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. AIPAC has been in violation of federal law for nearly 50 years, but through political contributions and connections, AIPAC officials have remained above prosecution for their many violations of Federal law, including espionage (as addressed later).

June 8, 1967- USS Liberty- Israeli jets and torpedo boats attack the American naval ship USS Liberty with the intention of murdering every sailor on board and then blaming the attack on Egypt. Israel’s goal was to draw America into the Israeli-Arab War. Israel has officially claimed the attack was an “accident,” but every survivor of the USS Liberty claimed that it could not possibly have been an accident given that Israeli jets flew directly over the ship hours earlier on several occasions and one pilot flew so close that he waved to the US sailors, and the sailors waved back. Given the proximity of the jets and the surrounding facts of the incident, there is no question that Israel knew whose ship it was. Lt. General Marshall Carter, the director of the NSA, told congress the attack, “couldn’t be anything else but deliberate.” A later coverup ensued, and in 2002, Captain Ward JAGC senior counsel for the court of inquiry claimed that the court of inquiry’s findings were intended to coverup what was a deliberate attack by Israel on a ship it knew to be American.

1975- Oil Guarantee- The Jewish US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, secretly brokered a deal in which the United States of America guaranteed Israel’s oil supply in the event of a crisis. The 1975 Israel-United States Memorandum of Understanding (see the full text here) required the United States to maintain an oil reserve for Israel and guarantee the shipping of that oil to Israel in times of emergency. This deal has cost the United States more than a hundred billion dollars since it was first enacted. The most troubling aspect of this deal was not the cost however, but the stipulation that in case of an oil emergency in which both the US and Israel needed oil, the US would give its oil to Israel. Section 3 (b):

If the oil Israel needs to meet all of its normal requirements for domestic consumption is unavailable for purchase in circumstances where’ quantitative restrictions through embargo or otherwise also prevent the United States from procuring oil to meet its normal requirements, the United States Government will promptly make oil available for purchase by Israel in accordance with the International Energy Agency conservation and allocation formula as applied by the United States Government, in order to meet Israel’s essential requirements. If Israel is unable to secure the necessary means to transport such oil to Israel, the United States Government will make every effort to help Israel secure the necessary means of transport.
This is oil that would have been used to heat homes during the winter, power ambulances, and provide the fuel for tractors to farm America's agricultural lands. To put this into perspective, in the event of an oil crisis, the fuel that Americans would need to heat their homes, get them to work, and produce food would go to Israel. This agreement very well could have starved tens of thousands of Americans in order to save Israelis if an oil crisis would have taken place.

1978- US Starts Paying Egypt $1.3 Billion Annually In Exchange For Maintaining Good Relations With Israel- John McCain admitted in a CNN interview that US-Egyptian aid was essentially a bribe to maintain good relations with Israel. The aid was pledged during a US-brokered peace negotiation between Egypt and Israel, and began to be distributed just after the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace accord.

1980-1981- Israel Teams Up With Republicans to Defeat Jimmy Carter- During the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981, Israel, upset at President Jimmy Carter’s attempt to create a peaceful two-state solution in Palestine, used its clandestine operations in Iran to prevent American hostages from being released before Carter’s re-election bid. Carter wrote in his White House Diaries that Israel was purposefully thwarting the peace process with Palestine so it could continue to settle on Palestinian land. History has certainly proven Carter right, and Peter Beinart, the author of The Crisis of Zionism confirms this fact by investigating every major Israeli-Palestinain peace negotiation, and pointing out Israel’s efforts to subvert them. According to Consortium News, Israel used its operatives in Iran to ensure that US hostages were not released before the election, which doomed Carter’s chances for re-election. The hostages were released immediately after Reagan’s inauguration, and Israel was subsequently caught shipping US weapons to Iran after an Israeli chartered plane crashed in the Soviet Union. Israel claimed to have the Reagan administration’s approval for the transfer. As the Consortium article points out, recent discoveries make the cooperation between the Israelis and Republicans to remove a US President by using American hostages as political pawns, impossible to ignore.

1980-1990- Israel Steals American Technology and Equipment at Unprecedented Levels-

According to the Israeli newspaper Hareetz, “It is worth mentioning that in the 1980s, regardless of Jonathan Pollards’ espionage activities for Israel, Israeli companies and individuals were involved many cases of technological espionage, steeling U.S. secrets, technology and equipment. The most outstanding case involved Milco, a U.S. based company owned by Israeli tycoon Arnon Milchan, which bought and shipped equipment with which could have also been used as triggers for nuclear weapons.” Recently released FBI documents revealed that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was integrally involved in the Milco incident.

1982- Sabra and Shatila Massacres- The Israeli military purposefully allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps, which were under Israel's control, and rape, murder, and dismember 800 civilians. Nearly all of the dead were women, children, and elderly men. In 1983, an Israeli investigation concluded that then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent the massacre. The New York Times recently uncovered de-classified transcripts of conversations between US officials and Israeli officials, in which Israeli officials misled the Americans about the events in Beirut, and bullied them into accepting outrageous accusations that the Palestinian women and children were “terrorists,” and therefore deserved to be massacred. According to the New York Times, “The Sabra and Shatila massacres severely undercut America's influence in the Middle East, and its moral authority plummeted.” Only a year later, in 1983, the US marine barracks were bombed in Lebanon, in which 241 marines were killed.

1985- Jonathan Pollard Incident- A Jewish American named Jonathan Pollard was caught stealing American secrets and selling them to Israel. At first, Israel denied any involvement in the incident, but later admitted complicity in in 1998. The wife of Pollard’s handler, Avi Sella, worked for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Pollard later admitted that a prominent ADL member was deeply involved in the spying. Like AIPAC, the ADL does not register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act as per the law, even though it works closely with the Mossad, and has been caught spying on Americans for Israel. Amazingly, the ADL even had the gumption to shamelessly appeal to President Clinton in 1993 to commute their spy’s sentence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also campaigned for Pollard’s release.

1987- Israel Starts Receiving Regular Payments of More Than $3 Billion Per Year. The real US-Israel aid is estimated to be $15-$20 billion per year when valuable military equipment deemed “scrapped”, loan guarantees, under the table aid, and preferential contracts are factored in.
1990- First Gulf War. Saddam agreed to withdraw from Kuwait if Israel complied with international law and withdrew from Palestine. Instead of encouraging Israel to abide by international law, the US launched an attack on Iraq, even though Iraq did not threaten America's oil supply nor pose any danger to US interests. Israel did not send any troops or material support for the invasion.

1993- ADL Spying Scandal- San Francisco newspapers broke the story that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which has close ties to Israel, had been paying American police officers for confidential information, illegally wire-tapping phones, and even dumpster diving to acquire private information on American citizens. The Anti-Defamation League later sold the information to the Israeli and South African governments. Among the individuals the ADL spied on were civil rights activists deemed “anti-Israel”, Congressmen such as Nanci Pelosi, reporters, labor unions, the NAACP, African National Congress, and the Rainbow Coalition. Presumably the ADL was going to use any damning material acquired during their spying efforts to blackmail these politicians and influential people into changing their negative stances on Israel. Just one of their spies, Roy Bullock, had compiled files on more than 9,800 Americans and 950 organizations spanning three decades. After the search of the ADL offices, the San Francisco District Attorney said the ADL was conducting a “national spy network.”

1993- AIPAC President David Steiner Caught on Tape Bragging About his Organizations Incredible Power in America. Steiner first admitted to manipulating the US Secretary of State into giving Israel more foreign aid. Steiner said he, ”met with [Secretary of State] Jim Baker and I cut a deal with him. I got, besides the $3 billion, you know they're looking for the Jewish votes, and I’ll tell him whatever he wants to hear … Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don’t even know about.”

In the same conversation, Steiner said he would support any politician who has been good to Israel over his own brother. He also discussed his efforts to get Jewish, and pro-Israel candidates re-elected, even by paying for a rigged poll. Steiner was attempting to raise money for dozens of pro-Israel candidates through his position at AIPAC, even though the organization claims that it doesn’t engage in such behavior. In the conversation, Steiner asked a potential Jewish donor to get his children to write checks in order to subvert political donation laws.

Steiner also said, “We gave two employees from AIPAC leave of absences to work on the [Clinton] campaign. I mean, we have a dozen people in that campaign, in the headquarters and they're all going to get big jobs. We have friends. I also work with a think tank, the Washington Institute. I have Michael Mandelbaum and Martin Indyk being foreign policy advisers. Steve Speigel— we've got friends this is my business.”

“I talked to Bill Clinton [and he made a commitment that] he's going to be very good to us.” ”One of my officers, Monte Friedkin, is one of the biggest fund-raisers for them [Clintons]. I mean, I have people like that all over the country.”

When asked if he knows who Bill Clinton would put on the Supreme Court if elected, Steiner replied, “We're talking now. We don’t have no commitments yet. We're just negotiating. We're more interested right now, in the Secretary of State and the Secretary of National Security Agency. That's more important to us.” He also said, “we are negotiating” who will be Secretary of State.

1993- Israel Caught Selling US Military Secrets to China- Israel sold $2-3 billion worth of sensitive US military technology to China. This was technology that the US had specifically forbidden to be delivered to China in anyway shape or form, as it would undermine America's national security. Read this link for the full story.

1996 GAO Spy Report- The Government Accountability Office reported that Israel spies on the US more than any other ally.

2000-2003 Iraq Sanctions- In 2000, AIPAC distributed a letter asking AIPAC members to put pressure on the US Congress and the President to ramp up sanctions on Iraq and block the oil for food program, which was providing Iraqi civilians with much needed food and medicine. In 2003, AIPAC attempted to block a bill that would have allowed US companies to export food and medicine to Iraqi civilians. AIPAC took the position that the food and medicine would not help the Iraqi people, which is obviously untrue, and that the bill would hasten Saddam'’s effort to procure weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was of course not building weapons of mass destruction, and the AIPAC efforts ended up murdering thousands of Iraqi civilians.

September 11, 2001- Five Dancing Israelis- The terrorists who perpetrated the worst attack on America in its history stated on record that their motivation was America's unabashed support for the apartheid regime of Israel. Five dancing Israelis were actually caught filming the world trade center attacks and dancing in celebration afterwards. When the Israelis were caught in a van that had contained explosives, they said we are all on the same side now against the Palestinians. The dancing Israelis later admitted on an Israeli talk show that they were there to document the event. Before the US government classified all information on Israel's involvement in 9-11, the FBI officially concluded that Israel had to have known of the attack before 9-11-2001 and didn't warn the US. After the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are benefitting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq.” He also said, “these events have swung American public opinion in our favor. At best, Israel knew of the attacks before hand and did not warn America because of the strategic support against the Palestinians that it would bring. At worst, Israel had a hand in planning the attacks.

2001- Israeli Spies Deported- More than 60 Israeli spies were arrested and detained. Most of them failed lie-detector tests about their spying activities on the US and their connection to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

2002- Harvard Economist Estimates Total US-Israel Aid At $3 trillion. Dr. Thomas R. Stauffer, a world renowned economist who taught economics and Middle East studies at Harvard, as well as serving twice in the Executive Office of the President on a task force for oil imports and controls, estimated that as of 2002 (in 2002 dollars) Israel has cost the US $3 trillion. His estimate took into account direct military aid, political support, oil price increases as a result of conflicts, and peripheral/hidden foreign aid.

In Stauffer’s estimation, US aid to Israel costs 275,000 American jobs per year due to unfair trade imbalances and sanctions on Israel’s enemies. In one example of under the table aid, Stauffer pointed out that the US actually gave Russia and Romania billions of dollars in undeclared aid to facilitate Jews moving to Israel. The US has also spent hundreds of billions in the region to secure friendly relationships with Israel. John McCain admitted in an interview that US aid to Egypt is really just a bribe so the Egyptians will maintain friendly relations with Israel. The US has also given Turkey and Greece billions for the same purpose.
A summary of Stauffer’s breakdown can be found here:

2003- Iraq War- In January 2003, AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr stated, “quietly lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq” was one of AIPAC’s successes over the past year.” Jeffrey Goldberg reported during a profile piece of AIPAC’s policy director Steven J. Rosen that, “AIPAC lobbied Congress in favor of the Iraq war.”

In addition, the US media, which by this point was almost completely controlled by Jewish American supporters of Israel (see this link for proof), refused to investigate the validity of the governments accusation of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. The mainstream media then went a step further by criticizing anti-war activists and even called them traitors who were against the troops. Many Americans leaders and reporters came out after the war and criticized the media for its pro-war propaganda, but very few spoke of the Israeli connection for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.
Even though Israel aggressively lobbied America to attack Iraq, they committed no troops or resources to the struggle.

2005- AIPAC Spying Scandal- A pentagon analyst pleads guilty to passing military secrets to two AIPAC employees en route to Israel. After some political wrangling, all charges were dropped against the two Jewish AIPAC employees in 2009, even though the analyst agreed to testify against the AIPAC employees, and the government had overwhelming evidence to prosecute. It was later reported by Time magazine that Jane Harman, a Jewish congresswoman, was bribed by AIPAC to lobby the Department of Justice to drop the spying charges against the AIPAC employees. In 2009, CQ politics reported that Harman was caught on a NSA wiretap telling an Israeli agent that she would lobby the Department of Justice to drop the case.

2008-2009- Israel Fires White Phosphorous Shells Into Civilian Locations, Including a Crowded Refugee Camp. At first, the Israeli army categorically denied the use of white phosphorous gas on civilians (a war crime), but then later admitted it when video footage made it impossible to deny. These weapons were made in the USA. The entire planet criticized the barbaric and internationally illegal war crimes, but President Bush and the United States supported the Israeli atrocities, which hurt America’s standing in the world.

2010- Israel is Caught Stealing America’s Nuclear Triggers- The United States Bureau of Industry and Security released a report concluding that nuclear triggers were illegally exported to Israel. (Source)

2010- Israel Bribes US News Outlets for Biased Stories- Newly declassified files prove that Israel has actually been covertly paying American media outlets tens of millions of dollars to publish pro-Israel stories. Among other things, the documents revealed that Israel paid the Atlantic magazine $50,000 to disrupt a US peace proposal that would have allowed Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. These documents came from a Senate hearing, which ended up being censored by American politicians who received significant campaign financing from non-gentile sources. The bribed senators even went as far as sealing the most damning documents from the investigation.

January 13, 2012- Atlanta Jewish Times Owner Claims the Mossad is Considering Assassinating President Obama- Andrew Adler, the owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times, writes an article stating that Israel has three options in order to defend itself. 1. Attack Hezbollah and Hamas 2. Defy the US and attack Iran 3. “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.” He went on to say, “Yes you read three correctly. Order a hit on a US President in order to preserve Israel’s existence.” He claimed to know for sure that this option was already “being discussed in Israel’s most inner circles”, and given his high powered Israeli friends, you can bet that he is correct.

April 18, 2012- The Bilzerian Report Estimates the Total Cost of America’s Relationship with Israel, Adjusted for Inflation and Including the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be in Excess of $5 trillion, or $16k per American.

July 28, 2012- CIA Reports that Israel is the Largest Spy Threat in the Middle East. The report details numerous incidents of Israeli spies breaking into American diplomats’ homes and offices to steal sensitive material.

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23. Query Question: niche, very niche appeal

I've written a whole series of novels (I'm on the seventh and final one). I know you're not supposed to complete a series unless you can sell the first one, but I quite literally couldn't help myself. The world drew me in.

I just started querying agents on Book One, after going through it with critique groups and beta readers. It's not a shelf novel...it's far from perfect, but I think it's good, and I don't think I'll change my mind about that with time. My problem, besides my inexperience querying agents, is that it's not a broad-audience series. They're decidedly weird books, hard to pigeonhole into an exact genre. I mean, imagine if Hunter S. Thompson came back to life, huffed a bunch of ether and said, "I'm going to write a young adult fantasy novel!" (Except maybe the ether impaired his glorious writing abilities a little. And to be clear here, I don't huff ether).

If I continue having no luck with agents (only queried about 15 so far), would it hurt me so badly to self-publish this series and try to market to my narrow audience? My future books might be more marketable: I'm having very good luck getting my little narrative nonfiction anecdotes published, and wanted to compile them at some point into a memoir. My idea for my next fiction novel seems more mainstream, too.

You think there aren't small publishers out there who appeal to very niche audiences? You haven't done enough research my friend.

Of course, some small publishers are complete and utter disasters, whereas others are chugging along  producing beautiful books.  Your job is to find out who they are and which side of the line they live on.  You can do this instead of writing and it still counts as work! Wheee!

A small publisher can be a whole lot better than going it alone. For starters, you have comrades in arms (other writers on the publisher's list) and that will help you when you need to learn how this
publishing game works. And you have people to ask if it's just you or if everyone's royalty statement is late.  Or a bunch of people to contribute toward the PW ad that features all your titles. 

Small presses are a great place to find the niche audience you think will be yours. 

And having niche work is no barrier when you have wider appeal books in the future.  Everyone in publishing understands that there's a limited audience for dinosaur erotica....or was.

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24. His Terribleness invades Print Magazine

Just found out a logo/t-shirt thingy I designed/illustrated will be in Print magazine’s Regional Design Annual! The root beer shall be flowing tonight!

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25. Why are we doing any of this?

Every teacher has heard it before: if you’re teaching students to succeed on the Test, then you’re teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond.

And if you’re like me, you’ve either inwardly or outwardly scoffed at this claim.

As I use the summer to reflect on this past school year and to begin planning for the upcoming one, I’m thinking about this in terms of my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course. Thankfully, I’m not under much external pressure to ensure all my students earn qualifying scores on the AP exam in May. But I do feel responsible for preparing them adequately for the Test since it has the potential to beef up their transcripts and earn them college credit.

But is the purpose of the class to pass the exam, or is it to prepare students for reading, writing, and thinking at a college level? Does preparing them for the exam do just that in this specific instance?

I would argue that part of it does but part of it does not. In particular, the reading section of the AP English Lang. & Comp. exam fails to imitate authentic college-level work. The section consists of four one-page passages — usually taken from varying disciplines and time periods — each followed by multiple choice questions testing a variety of reading and rhetorical analysis skills. Students have one hour.

But in how many college courses were you handed single-page excerpts accompanied by multiple choice questions? How many of your college exams looked like this?

In my experience (as an English undergrad and then as an Education grad student) the answer to both questions is zero. I had to read book upon book upon book, many of which were unfamiliar, dense, and complex. If we weren’t reading a book, then we were reading long, scholarly articles. We read. We thought. We discussed. We wrote. We did not answer multiple-choice questions.

Yet, answering multiple-choice questions like the ones on the AP exam is the kind of skill that can theoretically improve with explicit instruction and practice. So do I spend my time having my students do just that? Or do I spend it having them read/discuss/write about the kind of texts they will encounter in college and beyond?

The College Board and many others would probably say both — but if the point of practicing multiple-choice questions is simply to become good at answering multiple-choice questions, then why are we doing any of this?

While this isn’t a new question, I still haven’t heard a convincing answer.

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