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1) One Dog and His Boy- Written by Eva Ibbotson, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2014. Hal is just an ordinary kid with a large dream of owning a dog. On his birthday Hal is allowed to choose a pet that is when Fleck becomes a part of his life and an adventure begins after Hal finds him gone on Monday. Together with a girl named Pippa Hal rescues Fleck and running away is his only option, made trickier when Pippa announces that she and the other dogs want to come along. It not only teaches your children about the power of friendship and love but it takes them on a journey through life. I highly recommend this book for your middle graders. Get out and pick up a copy today.
2) The Path of Names- Written by Ari Goelman, Published by Scholastic Inc. New York, NY 2013. Dahlia Sherman loves magic tricks, math and video games. She is not so found of campfire songs or lighting storms or mean girls her age. When she is placed in a sleeping camp strange things start happening like ghosts of little girls and an ancient maze guarded by a mysteries caretaker. This books take her on a journey through the past to discover what all this means. It is a mystery based on ancient Jewish scripture that is much better suited for your older middle grader. The book is a fun read and has a very strong connection to Jewish traditions and mystical culture.
When Melissa Deneen Shipp surprised each of her students with a new book of their very own, their reaction surprised her. “Normally this is the part when they maul me with hugs,” she said. “But instead they just stared. They literally couldn’t believe their eyes!”
She told her students, “Yes, YOU are the owner of that book!” Jumping up and down, her students shouted in reply, “This is mine, this is mine!” It was one of the best days Melissa has ever had as a teacher.
For over 20 years, teachers like Melissa and supporters like you have joined First Book to bring moments of joy, comfort and learning to millions of kids in need.
But there’s so much more to be done. Over 32 million kids in the U.S. live in poverty. In their homes, schools and communities, books are rare.
As our kids return to school this month, we invite you to support them – now, throughout the year and into the future.
I often wonder if people understand that love is an action word. No, I don't mean the act of fleshly love. I mean prove it.
Recently a person in my life has shown me that love was not in their vocabulary, let alone their heart. I dared them to prove to me they love me in ways that would conquer that disbelief. Give me a reason to stay in their lives. Because actions speak far louder than words and the only actions shown- were complacency and contempt. It had been that way for many, neglectful and abusive years.
That person is now taking baby steps to show me that my lifetime of love has not only been one-sided and pointless. They are allowing their heart to shine again. You see, it wasn't just non-love that was being communicated. It was hurt that was not being communicated. The poison had to stop.
If a man walked into his house and saw a stranger forcing his wife to do unspeakable things- would he not rush to her aid and save her?
And if a woman saw that same person robbing her husband and she just happened to have a strong weapon at her disposal, would she not rescue her husband and then think about calling for help?
It's the same in the spiritual sense; emotional & mental.
If a person is struggling with their faith, with their emotions, with their life- and you just happened to be with that person until death do you part- get in there and fight. Seriously. Who are you to leave them go this alone? How can you say you are in love when you don't even try?
Are you the person who is being neglected? I am praying. God knows the answers you need.
Don't leave people alone, my lovelies. Eventually you will lose them. In one way or another. Unless, of course, that is what you want. In that case, stop torturing them.
Step up and be the person your love needs.
Nobody should have to face the most horrifying of life's struggles alone. All humans need another human to hold their hand once in a while, to help them navigate through troubled waters.
This blog entry was not intended to be harmful or judgmental. I don't know who this is for. Maybe it is just for me. Whatever the case, we need each other. We can't go it alone. Let's purpose to be the hope and the salt and the Light in other people's lives. Hold them up when they cannot stand. Let's show them they are worth the fight and be there as long as it takes. Forgive. Forget. And love once again.
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In order to spread some festive cheer, Blackstone’s Policing has compiled a watchlist of some of the best criminal Christmas films. From a child inadvertently left home alone to a cop with a vested interest, and from a vigilante superhero to a degenerate pair of blaggers, it seems that (in Hollywood at least) there’s something about this time of year that calls for a special kind of policing. So let’s take a look at some of Tinseltown’s most arresting Christmas films:
1. Die Hard, directed by John McTiernan, 1988
Considered by many to be one of the greatest action/Christmas films of all time, Die Hard remains the definitive cinematic alternative to the usual saccharine cookie-cut Christmas film offering. This is the infinitely watchable story of officer John McClane’s Christmas from hell. When a trip to win back his estranged wife goes awry and he unwittingly finds himself amidst an international terrorist plot, he must find a way to save the day armed only with a few guns, a walkie talkie, and a bloodied vest. With firefights and exploding fairy lights abundant, this Bruce Willis tour de force is the undisputed paragon of policing in Christmas films.
2. Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus, 1990
In a parental blunder tantamount to criminal neglect, the McCallister family accidentally leave their youngest member, Kevin (played by precocious child star Macaulay Culkin), ‘home alone’ to fend for himself over Christmas as two omnishambolic burglars target the McCallister household. As the Chicago Police Department work through the confusion of the situation, Kevin traverses his way through a far from silent night. Cue copious booby traps and slapstick as the imagination of an eight-year-old boy ingeniously holds the line in this family-fun classic.
3. Batman Returns, directed by Tim Burton, 1992
Gotham is a city perennially infested with arch-criminals whose seemingly endless financial resources demand that they be tackled head-on by a force who can match them pound-for-pound (or dollar-for-dollar, if you prefer). Enter Gotham’s very own Christmas miracle: billionaire Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter ego Batman (Michael Keaton), who provides a singular justice-hungry scourge against the criminal underworld. As the Penguin (Danny DeVito) hatches a nefarious plot which threatens the city, Batman’s wholly goodwill must prove resilient. Though director Tim Burton went on to make The Nightmare Before Christmas the following year, Batman Returns itself is hardly a Christmas classic.
4. Lethal Weapon, directed by Richard Donner, 1987
With a blizzard of bullets and completely bereft of snow, LA-based Lethal Weapon lacks nearly all the usual trimmings of a Christmas film. Seasoned detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is close to retirement when he’s paired with the young (and morose) Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) to tackle a drug smuggling gang. As their stormy investigation progresses, Murtaugh and Riggs’ unlikely union flourishes into a double-act worthy of Donner and Blitzen (and, judging by the pair’s return in a subsequent three installments of the series, their entertaining policing partnership always leaves audiences wanting myrrh…).
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, directed by Jeremiah Chechik, 1989
In this third installment of the Griswold family’s catastrophic holidays, Clark (Chevy Chase) navigates his way through the perils of yet another disastrous calamity, but at least this time he has his Christmas bonus to look forward to. Things take a bizarre turn for the criminal when the bonus isn’t forthcoming, resulting in a myriad of mishaps of Christmas paraphernalia and SWAT teams. As the tagline for the film attests, ‘Yule crack up!’
6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, directed by Shane Black, 2005
Petty thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself embroiled in a series of increasingly byzantine cases of mistaken identity as both a method actor and criminal investigator. Reality cuts through when Harry is shepherded into a murder investigation involving the sister of his childhood crush, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan). Perhaps one of the less christmassy films on this list, there are definitely still a few seasonal signs parceled in to this murder/mystery thriller.
“There’s something about this time of year that calls for a special kind of policing”
7. Miracle on 34th Street, directed by George Seaton, 1947
Arguably the ultimate Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street is the classic tale of the legal battle around the sanity and freedom of a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus. This original film won three Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Edmund Gwenn’s portrayal of Kris Kringle (‘the real Santa Claus’). Despite being remade in 1994 and adapted into various other forms, the 1947 version remains the quintessential Christmas film which no comprehensive watchlist could be without.
8. Bad Santa, directed by Terry Zwigoff, 2003
Dastardly duo Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) make their criminal living by posing as Santa and his Little Helper for department stores, and then opportunistically stealing as much as they can. As the security team for their latest blag hunts them down, Willie meets a boy determined that he is the real Santa and the race is on for the degenerate pair to reform their lifestyles before they are stuffed.
What would would you add to this list? Tell us your favourite policing Christmas film in the comments section below or let us know directly on Twitter. Merry Christmas everyone!
Headline image credit: [365 Toy Project: 019/365] Batman: Scarlet Part 1. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
There are myriad muscles that control the brow, chin, eyes, jaw, nose, and mouth. Some people can wiggle their ears. Different cultures utilize different expressions. Looking away may be deceptive in America, but indicative of respect in Japan. The important part when revising for body language is to note when and how you relate facial expressions and to avoid repetition and purple prose. One should not wriggle one's eyebrows while leering.
A character cannot control fleeting micro-expressions, the initial emotional response, but he quickly recovers from them. Facial expressions reflect our feelings about what is done and said, sometimes more eloquently or more obviously than we intend. Someone told me that there were only two true emotions: fear and love (or pleasure and pain). All other expressions stem from those two. The micro-expression field of study acknowledges seven. Love isn't one of them.
Unless the character is a professional interrogator, he is not going to hook Dick up to a lie detector, register his body heat and pulse, or measure the dilation of his pupils. There are, however, emotional triggers and signs that humans register in the space of a second. Most of your characters aren’t trained to recognize them. There are several personality types that pick up on nonverbal cues exceptionally well. If you want your detective to be a natural lie detector, pick one of them.
If you pay attention to what is happening in the body when a heightened emotion is experienced, you can make your characters believable. Highlight the places in your manuscript where you discuss emotions. Take a careful look at the choreography and word choices.
Anger: The jaw clenches. The lips thin and lift in a snarl. The nostrils flare. The eyebrows draw together. Aggression is a response to fear or a response to boundary violations. When Dick is angry, he may puff himself up to appear larger and stare his opponent into submission. His brow furrows. His blood pressure rises. The stress triggers a neurochemical cocktail in response to the fight or flight instinct. He flushes and clenches his fists. His sweat glands kick in. His muscles are primed to strike. He may shake his fist or point his finger. He may drift forward slightly, or step forward deliberately, depending on how much of a threat the opponent represents. His tone either lowers in warning or rises, depending on the circumstances. His anger may continue to simmer after the altercation. He usually vents to other people or indulges in a physical action to release it.
Anger can be expressed passively. After the initial response of jaw, nose, and lips, Jane may turn silent and look away. She may mutter under her breath or fake smile. She has the same physiological response, but her conscious instinct is to hide it. Passive people who are angry often cry when furious. As her throat closes and her blood boils, she becomes incoherent. She goes into wait and watch mode. Her anger simmers but she holds onto it. She is more likely to gossip and indirectly sabotage the person she is angry with. Temperament plays a role in how anger is expressed.
Contempt: A corner of the lip tightens and lifts. Contempt is in response to an intellectual boundary violation. Dick may make scornful or sarcastic comments. He may consciously override his initial response in an attempt to hide his disdain. He could state his true feelings in the matter. Contempt is in response to something or someone he does not believe, agree with, or like. He may deny his contempt, but his face betrays him.
Disgust: The nostrils clench and upper lip lifts. Dick may frown and pull back. He may flinch or purse his lips. He may utter exclamations of disgust in response. His heart rate slows. Disgust is in response to something he fears or abhors at gut level. His body retracts. He may put out his hand or wave someone away.
Fear: The upper lids and eyebrows lift. The lips stretch wide and pupils dilate. Fear is in response to a physical or emotional violation. Dick can react with mild fear or outright terror, depending on the stimulus. His response is instantaneous and involuntary. Dick's senses go on high alert. His fight or flight response is triggered. He either freezes or retracts. He may gasp. His muscles prepare to escape or avoid. He sweats. He shivers. The hair shafts stiffen. His pulse rate increases. He may go into shock, depending on the stimulus. His flesh may feel cold as the blood rushes to prime the muscles in his hands and legs and fuels the brain. He may step back or turn to run. He may cover his face and head with his arms. The rush of neurochemicals leaves him feeling shaky after the stimulus is dealt with.
Happiness: The corners of the lips lift, the teeth may show. The cheeks plump. The muscles around the eyes are engaged and wrinkles appear. The eyes may widen, or narrow if the nose wrinkles. Jane's posture relaxes and expands. She moves toward someone or something. Her body language is expansive. Neurochemicals induce a high. She may laugh. She is verbal and inclined to touch. She may be mildly delighted or completely overjoyed. Her focus may broaden to take in others. She wants to share her feeling.
Sadness: Pupils narrow. Upper eyelids droop. Corners of lips turn down. Sadness is a response to loss or hurt feelings. Jane's body language closes in protectively. She may cross her arms, lower her head, or turn away. She may grow quiet and have trouble speaking. Her throat feels constricted. Her eyes and nose prickle and water. Her chest feels heavy. She may become more aware of her pulse and breathing. A strong stimulus can feel like a blow to the viscera. She may gasp, cover her abdomen, or bend over. She may transition to shock. Sadness may be followed quickly by anger. With extreme grief, she may scream or yell. Her body may crumple to the floor. She holds herself and rocks back and forth. Crying can be soft and silent or guttural and loud. It can pass quickly or go on for minutes. The initial blast may be followed by softer gushes as Jane calms down.
Surprise: The eyebrows lift and eyes open wide. The forehead furrows. Surprise can be a response to something positive, negative, or neutral. Jane can have a quick startle or a longer shock wave. The reaction can be followed immediately by fear, joy, or confusion. Depending on the stimulus, the jaw drops. Surprise is usually quick and over, but the stimulus sometimes makes Jane ruminate on it for some time. She may share her surprise with others in an attempt to understand it.
Veteran Hollywood film and TV writer Laurice Elehwany Molinari bursts into the children’s book world with an outstanding debut novel, The Ether: Vero Rising—a fantastical middle grade story on good vs. evil.
It’s an evil, runaway, red balloon. It’s hiding under the car, waiting to roll out and get me. Mom let me walk by really fast, because she knows that balloons are trying to kill me.
And look what’s back there! Two more balloons. White ones. I know what they have planned…
That’s close enough…
I have no plans to start liking balloons, but I want to thank my friend Little Binky for sending me this lovely award. I am not afraid of it.
Do you see what else is hiding? In the grass? A feather. It’s from the birds that sit in the trees and laugh at me.
All kinds of things are hiding in all kinds of places. When I try to hide, I always get caught. The other day, I brought my tiny yellow dog and hid on Mom’s bed with it. Somehow, she found out that I was in there.
I don’t know how she does it! She’s a regular Nancy Drew when it comes to figuring things out.
When she was little, Mom was probably Nancy Drew’s biggest fan. She read every one of the Nancy Drew Mysteries, and hung on every word.
Now that she’s a writer, she hardly ever writes mysteries. She wrote one once, and when it was finished, she said, “Ugh. This thing is so lame.” And “Where’s the suspense, the red herring, the foreshadowing!?” and “Seriously? You’re back on the bed again?”
Mom might BE Nancy Drew, and LOVE Nancy Drew, but she has no plans to WRITE Nancy Drew.
Here’s a common problem that I see in first drafts: the main action has happened off-stage.
Think about Scarlett O’Hara and the other southern women sitting at home waiting; in an attempt to avenge his wife, Frank and the Ku Klux Klan raid the shanty town whereupon Frank is shot dead. But the raid takes place off-stage.
Or, think about times when a weaker character stays home, while the adventurous character is off doing something. Sports stories are hard when the POV character is watching the on-field action.
This can be a real trap for children’s novels if an older sibling or parent is doing something fun/exciting/scary/etc off stage.
Another challenging situation is when a bully is planning something and the POV victim is just trying to avoid that.
Or, maybe you’ve planned a great scene, and the main character is present, but you don’t write that scene. Instead, what you write is something like this: “The next morning, Elise lay in bed and went over the previous night in her head.”
No. That doesn’t work!
Does this always need to be changed? No. But it’s a major problem and challenge as you revise. Here are some tips.
Recognize the problem. As you write the first draft and revise it, you should be evaluating the scenes. Ask: Who hurts the most in this scene. It should almost always be the main character. If it’s someone else, why isn’t THAT character the hero/ine of the story?
Put the POV Character in the action. When you find a scene where the main action is off-stage, look for ways to rethink the plot and scenes and put the main character in the thick of the action. It’s why Captain Kirk leaves the Enterprise and goes down to the planet over and over and over. Really? No Captain would be allowed to jeopardize his life that much and give over the control of the ship to a junior officer. It’s unrealistic–but great storytelling.
Make the story about how the off-stage action affects the POV character. In Gone with the Wind, Frank and the other men go off to avenge Scarlett’s honor, but the POV stays firmly with Scarlett. It’s about her growing realization of what the men have gone off to do, the opinion of the other women, and eventually the women’s reactions when the men come back. This is a risky way to write a scene, because the real stuff happens off stage; but it can work if you keep the focus right.
Write the scene. If your character is just thinking about what happened last night, it’s a simple fix. Write the @#$@#$@# scene! Sometime this happens when the author is afraid of the emotions in a powerful scene; the author avoids writing that scene and tries to jump forward in time. It never works. You must write the scene that you fear. you must write the exciting scene because your reader demands it; that is the exact reason why they come to your story. Don’t cheat them out of the emotionally experience.
There are so many amazing quotes out there that focus in on what needs to be done and does it in a sentence or two.
The quote above from Anatole France, does just that.
It reminds me of the Bible quote: "Faith without works is dead."
No matter how much planning you do, if you don't take actionable steps, you won't get anywhere. And, if you can't dream it or believe you can accomplish it,
Other info: Claire has also written Ferryman, which I reviewed here and won the Scottish Booktrust Award.
Summary : The English government have closed the borders with their Celtic neighbours. Any Celt found in England is branded with a tattoo, found twice they are executed. Scottish Lizzie is the 'property' of psychopathic London gang boss Alexander. Can Lizzie escape Alexander's deadly grip and at what price her betrayal?
Review: Following bad economic times, England closes the borders with Scotland and Wales and brings in a new policy: Celts found in England are branded. Branded Celts in England are killed. Lizzie is one such branded Celt, who is the "property" of Alexander, a gang boss in London, who keeps her around for her bombmaking skills. as time goes on, Lizzie realises she might like a life outside the gang. Which is something that Alexander does not like at all.
I read McFall's Ferryman last year and really enjoyed it. I was looking forwards to this, especially with everything going on about the Scottish Independence referendum. Extreme nationalist governments make good reading (not real life), and so do gangs. Add in promises of a clever awesome female character and I'm sold.
You very quickly get pulled into Lizzie's world, both the political climate and the gang life that she’s part of. It’s a world that is believable, if you imagine that a yes vote leads to extreme xenophobia on the English peoples’ part (ie just a huge ramp up of how it is now).
I love the fact that all the characters are well fleshed out really well. You really get close to them, even if that closeness is not something that you really want to be. Alexander’s creepiness seems to know no bounds. Lizzie, I liked a lot; she’s resourceful, and you want things to go right for her, even though they tend not to. I loved reading about them and how they got where they are and where they want to go.
It’s very very different to Ferryman. McFall writes well in both softer afterlife stories and gritty thrillers. I’m looking forwards to see what she does next.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a fast paced relevant dystopia.
In my current WIP, I want to up the action and make this a physically exciting story. So, I bought a great ebook, Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy. It’s great, as I said, and breaks down the actions into easy components that can be easily mastered. Even for me, it’s easy.
Healy says that great action scenes put characters into motion and the “effective description of that motion is what makes the difference. . .”
I get that part. But here’s what stumps me: “At its most basic level, an action scene is an expression of plot or character development through violence.”
Violence. As in people hitting each other, shooting at each other, killing each other. Yep. That kind of physical violence.
It’s been a long, long time since I was in a knock-down drag-out fight. That was with my younger brother when I was about 15, and we were fighting about whether the overhead light was on or off while we watched TV. I never had the chance to play football, which is a pure Show-Don’t-Tell version of testosterone. When my daughters played soccer, I cringed when they played tea party on the field: Oh, you have the ball? Well, take your turn and when you are finished, I’ll take my turn. Teaching aggression (much less violence) to young ladies is hard.
Our society trains women to avoid violence. We teach our daughters aggression now on a soccer field, but step off the field and it’s tea party time again. Women writers are at a disadvantage in writing action scenes.
Because Healy says that a great action scene needs violence.
Heck, I can’t even work up a good case of Road Rage.
Motivation. The hardest thing for me is to motivate the characters. I can block out the action and get the characters fighting. I’ve seen enough action movies to be able to do it. (Go watch The Transformers latest movie if you want non-stop violence. Wow. It must take up 75% of that movie.)
But WHY are these characters resorting to violence? (See, even our language makes it hard to use violence: “resort” implies that violence is a last option and the choice to use it is not easy.) Why would the characters use fists, swords, guns or other weapons against someone else? Healy helps with blocking out the sequences of actions and building them into longer sequences. But he says little about the character motivations.
In one sense, this is an escalating of tensions. Almost any motivation would work: revenge, for example, could easily escalate into violence. Two rivals for a fortune in gold could escalate an argument into violence and death. For violence to take place, there’s a line that needs to be crossed. Polite society demands that people restrain themselves, and that self-control must break for your characters, shoving them into a no-holds-barred action. Violence. It’s an escalation and it’s a letting go of social restraints. It’s a willingness to take action and a determination to get something done—no matter what.
Sounds like a good way to increase the tension and stakes in a story. Yes, often action stories are physical stories, without much in the way of characterization. You’ve heard it said that you either write an action story or you write a character story. A cross-pollination though, could create an intriguing mix. This time, I’m shooting for a story with better balance between action and character.
Cinematic. In some ways, this mix will be more cinematic. The sights and sounds of the action are crucial to the success of the scene. And yes, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize the actions in my head; I’m trying to see it as if it is on the big screen. Healy’s title is right on, violence—action scenes—are cinematic.
Thanks to Healy’s advice, I am making lists of what he calls “stunts,” or isolated pieces of actions, that will build into “engagements,” or movement across a setting, which will ultimately build toward some climactic “resolution.” I am taking baby steps in building a chapter with interesting action, um, violence.
Look out. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, er, getting ready to type the next chapter of this new action-adventure story.
Hi, It's us again. I know we still keep harping on about our great giveaway. It is great. You'll find that winning a copy of 'It's a ruff life' (Childrens Secret Agent, Spy, Action, Adventure Books for 8 to preteens) is really fun.
A ten year old boy, who's read the book, told his mum he wants all the other books to read. He loved the story and so will you. It's like other's have said very funny, very crazy and a thrilling and exciting read, which is the story of our lives!
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The Doglet Academy introduced a new class this term. It certainly wasn't my idea of a fun class. I mean what famous doglet needs to learn how to cook? I have a chef for that called Seamus.
This class was worth a lot of credits and it was an easy way to give me top marks for the end of the year. And you know me, there's no way that I will come in 2nd best at anything. So I enrolled in the class. I now wish I hadn't. I'd have been far better off taking a Spanish or French class, or at least my beautiful paw nails would have been; participation in that class made them all soft.
The first thing the teacher said was that I had to get rid of the painted nails, as if... So I used a pair of latex gloves. Have you ever tried to work with latex gloves over your paws? It's a recipe for disaster; the extra fingers flap around and get caught up in everything.
We made pastry but I kept getting my gloves caught under the rolling pin. Eventually I put the pasty in a pie tin and filled it with some nice looking meat. It looked great when it was finished. Even the teacher said how nice and well presented it was. Of course, I made it, how else was it going to look with my natural style of flair? I couldn't wait to take it home and gloat at Max as to how much better I was than him . In fact I was going to eat some of it in front of him while he sat salivating.
When I got home I put my plan into action. I went to find Max. "Hey I've got something to show you." I took a bite out of the pie. The meat was nice but the pastry was hard. "This is really delicious." I then found a chewy bit, which seemed to take for ever to chew. Oh no, I thought when I realised that I had just eaten some of the latex gloves. "Would you like some? I made if for you." "Thanks, what's wrong with it?" "Nothing, I was just sampling it to show you how delicious it is." I said as I waked away.
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I went skate boarding with Ben & Rover last weekend. We went to the new skateboarding park. We had a wicked day. I haven't ridden a skateboard since I took down the demon in his monster truck and that was on a specially adapted racing board.
We started off on the ramps just as a warm up; we soon progressed to the half pipe. That was something else; I'd never ridden the half pipe before and I only fell off 3 or 4 times. Ben, on the other hand, was a real pro. He did some amazing jumps, turns and half turns.
Rover was pretty good too. He didn't fall off at all. We'll have to plan a weekly visit here, I could really get into skateboarding as my new exercise activity.
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Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.
While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago! Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.
All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015. A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.
BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)
The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children. Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation. Long live Dav Pilkey!
When a stimulus signals the brain, the body goes through a logical sequence. Make sure you relate the beats in a logical order.
1. A stimulus triggers the senses. The brain receives the stimulus instantaneously. It can be something your character hears, intuits, sees, smells, tastes, or touches.
2. The body has an involuntary response that takes a nanosecond. The limbic system evaluates the stimulus and sends chemicals racing through the body as neurons fire, depending on its evaluation of whether the stimulus is negative, positive, or neutral. The brain decides if there is a potential threat or reward.
3. The response triggers a reflexive action.
4. The brain then regains control over the body and makes a conscious decision about how to proceed.
A posited theory is that everyone we meet (and everything we come across) leaves a neural imprint. The brain decides if a person, place, or thing is a friend or foe and whether the next encounter will be negative or positive. The composite images are stored in an easily accessed file folder for comparison. How much a person or thing resembles the positive or negative composites determines how likely you are to like or dislike a new person, place, or thing when you encounter it. It decides whether snakes are lovely or lethal, whether a physical action is comforting or threatening, and whether an action you take is likely to result in reward or punishment.
It compares faces and decides that your new boss looks a lot like the girl you liked in elementary school. Your initial reaction is positive. She may turn out to be perfectly awful.
The brain makes these split-second decisions every second of every day. It is important to understand this process as you write, but it's only necessary to zero in on this part of the response at the most critical turning points of your story.
Next, the body reacts involuntarily to the stimulus. It recoils or reaches out. It startles or is soothed. A character gasps, coughs, sneezes, laughs, or screams. This reaction is embedded deep within the animal part of the brain. It is governed by sheer instinct and raw emotion. It is the fight or flight response at play. His pulse, breathing, and muscles react. His skin erupts in chills. His mouth goes dry. The character is not speaking or moving yet. He flinches, blinks, tenses, and displays a micro-expression.
What happens next depends on how the brain filters the stimulus through the character's conditioning, personality, and emotional connection to the stimulus. It tests the emotion of the moment. The brain decides to override or reinforce the initial involuntary response. If the stimulus is a threat from a comforting person, it causes dissonance. The same is true if the loving gesture is issued from a threatening stimulus. Dick's impulse may be to hug someone. It is awkward when that someone pulls away from it.
Finally, the character's conscious mind takes over and is free to decide which course of action to take next. The body recovers from the initial reflex. It overcomes the muscle memory and moves with intention. Conscious control over his breathing, pulse, and muscles is restored. Dick moves deliberately forward or backward and speaks. He alters his breathing, flexes his trembling knees, or relaxes his tightened gut and jaw. He smiles and shakes hands or fake smiles and avoids shaking hands.
If Dick has been startled, shocked, or wounded, his body recovers. Writers often forget to mention this step of the process. His system returns to normal once the threat has passed. Make sure you show the recovery after a major impact.
Not every encounter needs to reveal every beat. Use more beats when the tension is high, less when the tension is low. Use extreme actions and reactions sparingly. The verbal camera should zoom in on the mechanics during critical parts and zoom out for the noncritical parts.
Next time we will discuss distance and touching. How close is too close?
Spring is finally coming. Things that have been hidden under the snow are coming back. Look! It’s a coffee cup!
Mom’s new story was hidden under the snow in her brain. Every single day, when she started working on it, she gave it a new title, made a list of new characters, decided on a new theme, and gave them new goals to accomplish, new problems to solve, and different obstacles to overcome.
It’s a good thing spring is coming. Mom’s hidden story is coming back. It’s her third day working with the same title, the same theme, the same characters, and they have the same goals, problems, and obstacles as they had yesterday.
I think spring has sprung….
Look! It’s a banana!
I wonder if the black bananas taste better than the yellow ones….
Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.
Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.
The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.
Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.
Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014. This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.
It's time for an update. Some crazy things are happening around here at the moment and I don't mean Max's disgusting pie pig contest. We finally have the next four book proofs to edit then they can be released, so watch this space! To give you a heads up they are titled Diamond in the Ruff, Ruff in Hollywood, It's A Ruff Life Being Dognapped and Ruff Resort. They are all an amazing read and like my first adventure will have you sitting at the edge of your seats, or was it me that did that when I read the first one. They'll have you LOL and that's a promise. I mean who can't help but laugh at that stupid dog Max? If you don't you'll end up crying out of frustration, or is that me again? Anyway I'll let you know the release date nearer the time.
If you are a member of Goodreads.then go and play my Spy Animal Game. Be the first to join in.
I'll tell you a new story soon but I'm just finishing off my new amazing fashion creations. You'll here all about them in book 8. Max is out somewhere, YIPEE! I don't have to put up with his mangy flea ridden fur for a bit but I'm sure he'll have some mundane story to tell you when he get's back.
Cuddling, kissing, and hugging are often signs of affection. They could be signs of aggression if the character receiving the affection doesn't want it. There are situations in which a character must control involuntary responses, especially if Dick is a spy, a cop, or pretending to be someone he isn’t. If faced with an angry mugger or screaming toddler, Dick's initial primordial response might be recoil. His body might tense to strike. If it is a mugger, he lets the punch fly, unless the mugger is holding a gun pointed at his head. If it is a toddler, Dick overrides the urge to strike and deals with it another way, unless he has poor self-control or the child is demon-possessed.
Every character has a different idea of how close is close enough when speaking to other people. We call it personal space. It's uncomfortable when someone stands too close. It is crossing a psychological boundary. Some characters are touchy-feely types. An extrovert is more likely to be a hands-on kind of guy. An introvert hates being touched by people he doesn't know very well. A character who has been abused may not want anyone to touch him, no matter the reason, loving or otherwise. Some families and cultures are big on physical displays of affection, others aren't. A character might hug every one he has ever met upon seeing them again. Others prefer a handshake or a bow. The reasons can be personality, culture, or life experience.
Touch denotes a degree of intimacy. Someone touching Dick's shoulder could mean multiple things: desire, anger, or compassion. Little kids touch more than adults. A toddler is not self-conscious about where his hands land or where his head rests. The elderly can crave touch as much as toddlers. It may be decades since someone has hugged them or held their hand.
Jane might not mind being touched by a lover or best friend. She might object to being handled by a stranger at a party. Friends and family touch Jane to greet her, tease her, get her attention, help her, or hinder her. How comfortable she is with them makes a difference in how well she tolerates it.
Jane may normally love being touched by her husband until she is angry with him. How your character feels affects how she processes the touch and the person touching her.
There are times when someone we don't know very well needs to touch us: massage therapists, hairdressers, doctors, nurses, medical personnel, rescue personnel, etc. A teacher may have to touch a child to direct him. A guard may have to touch Jane to direct her. It may make the character very uncomfortable. Children involved in sports are used to being tackled, patted, or punched by teammates. Others aren't.
Characters that are deceptive, don't like themselves, or are ashamed of something may avoid touch. They are uncomfortable when someone approaches them, pats them on the back, or moves in for a hug. Pedophiles touch inappropriately.
When a person touches Jane and it feels off, it sends a frisson of alarm through her system. Depending on the circumstances, Jane may subconsciously recoil, but consciously blow it off and make excuses for it. However, her subconscious remains on high alert until the danger has passed.
When describing touch in your fiction, make sure it is appropriate for the circumstances.
Make sure you tell the reader how the character feels about being touched. Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
What kind of caress, hug, or handshake was it?
Is Jane’s instinctive response to pull away when she knows she has to endure the hug?
These small conflicts illustrate character, reveal relationships, and make characters very uncomfortable at scene level.
Touch ignites an involuntary response, followed by a voluntary response, followed by a recovery. Illustrate the beats during critical encounters. The how and why are important. Was the touch appropriate or inappropriate? Tolerated or defended? Welcome or unwelcome?