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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: reading, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,161
26. Comics, Comics, Comics!

It's a great time to be a comics fan.

There are loads of amazing ones coming out right now. The Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees all recognized graphic novels as honor books this year. People are starting to sit up and pay attention to the world of comics and graphic novels, so I am here with a list for your kids (AND YOU!). Happy reading! And welcome to the comics life.

Lumberjanes is by  Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen. It's published by Boom studies in single-issue format, but the first trade paperback (collecting issues 1-4) is out on April 7th. Y'all, this one is so incredible. Feminist, funny, and constantly focused on friendship, this series is set at a summer camp and shouldn't be missed.

PrinceLess by Jeremy Whitley has been a relatively new find for me and I'm obsessed. Princess Adrienne is tired of sitting around in her tower waiting for a prince to slay her dragon and rescue her. So she and her dragon decide to go do the rescuing themselves. Completely turns sexist and racist tropes on their head, as displayed by this panel:

PRINCELESS_PREVIEW_Page2

PrinceLess hasn't been checked in since we got it. Your kids are gonna love it.

The Explorer books (there are three) are comics anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi, whom your students already know because they adore amulet. This trilogy asks well-known comic artists like Raina Telgemeier, Emily Carroll, and Faith Erin Hicks, to write comic shorts based on a topic. They're amazing. There's something for everyone in this series!

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager in Jersey City who suddenly and quite accidentally becomes empowered with extraordinary gifts. She has to figure out how to handle being a typical Muslim teenager--who's now a superhero.

Honestly, when I discovered these (there are two so far), I bought them based solely on the tagline: "Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl." Basically, that's enough to sell me, but Mirka is fun and amazing and her religion is shown as something that's part of her life, not something to be overcome or chafed against. Plus, dragons.

This is just a really small cross-section of all of the wonderful comics for kids that are being published right now. I hope you and your kids love them as much as me and mine do!

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

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27. The Science of Reading

In a recent neuroscience study, researchers focused on the visual side of the brain and concluded that volunteers saw words and pictures and not individual letters. This research could prove very helpful in understanding how struggling readers process words, and improve tactics for teaching.

Arbordale truly believes that reading, and being read to, is a very important part of growing up. So, we are closing out the work with a Friday Reads Giveaway! Comment on this post to be entered to win these three Arbordale books!

Daisylocks_128 ShapeFamily_128 AnimalPartners_187

Learn more about the Journal of Neuroscience article on Science News.


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28. Kickass Women of Science Fiction: Including Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Another Giveaway!

Some people say I’m a book pusher. I’m okay with that. I get impatient with friends when they still haven’t read that book I recommended at least A WEEK AGO, for heaven’s sake, so I just go online and send it to them. Pushy? Bossy? I will not apologize. People need to read certain books and yes, I do know what’s good for them.

Which is why I’m about to go full-on pushy once again, and not only recommend some books that you need to read RIGHT NOW to fulfill your need for kickass science fiction heroines, I’m also going to go the extra step of enforcing that by actually giving them away free to one lucky winner.

Diving into the Wreck ebook cover webFirst, Diving Into the Wreck, part of the Diving Universe series by Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I’ve been a fan and student of Kris’s for about 13 years, and have always viewed her as a pretty badass woman and author in her own right. But she also writes amazingly complicated and strong women characters who are always so much fun to spend time with. Kris has generously offered to give the lucky winner a signed copy of the book. She also answered some interview questions for me that I’ll share below, so hang on. It’s always fun to hear how other writers think.

 

The Lost WorldSecond is Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, and if you were a fan of his Jurassic Park you may think you already know all there is to know about this sequel, but I think perhaps you don’t. Because the reason I’m pushing it is that it has one of my favorite heroines of all time, Sarah Harding, who is both scientist and never-say-die person-you-most-want-with-you-in-a-crisis, and I am so inspired by her intelligence and toughness I actually reread this book about twice a year just to pump myself up. I think once you’ve experienced Sarah Harding for yourself, you’ll be totally hooked, too.

 

Parallelogram OmnibusThird is my own Parallelogram seriesWhy am I book-pushing my own series? Because I wrote it for a particular reason: to show two very different girls who are entirely kickass in their own separate ways. One is a scientific explorer, willing to try out all sorts of bizarre (and potentially hazardous) physics theories she’s come up with, and the other is a teen adventurer who has been raised by her very badass explorer grandmother to handle all sorts of physical risks with a cool head and a deep will to survive.

In my spare time I like to read a lot of true adventure books by real-life explorers, and I based the teenage adventurer Halli and her grandmother Ginny on two women explorers I really admire: Roz Savage, who rowed solo across the Atlantic (why not??), and Helen Thayer, who was the first person to ski solo and unsupported to the magnetic North Pole. When she was 50, by the way. So yeah, I think you should read Parallelogram for the same reason you should read the Rusch and Crichton books: because the girls and women in these books will entertain and inspire you.

I asked Kristine Kathryn Rusch a few questions about her own writing process and what inspires her to write the strong kinds of characters you’ll find in all of her work:

RB: What qualities do you admire in the heroine of your book Diving Into The Wreck? Did you write those qualities into her character on purpose, or did they develop over time on their own?

KKR: Boss is her own person. She only lets people call her Boss, and she won’t tell anyone her name, because it’s her business. What I love about Boss is that she is so secure in who she is. She knows what she can and cannot do, and she knows just how much she’s willing to tell/give in any situation. She admits when she’s wrong, and she analyzes everything. She’s very strong, but she also can be vulnerable.

My characters come fully formed, but they do reveal parts of themselves over time. Boss & I share a love of history, but she’s so much more adventurous than I am. She would go crazy in a room writing all day. I love it. I never add traits consciously. Subconsiously, who knows? I assume so. But the characters are real people to me, with their flaws and strengths, and that includes Boss.

RB: Who are some of your favorite kickass heroines in other people’s science fiction books and movies? What about them inspires you as a person and/or as a writer? (I’m a big fan of Ripley’s in the Alien series. When she’s rescuing the little girl Newt from the breeding area in Aliens and fighting off the queen alien and her posse–you’d better believe Ripley makes me want to be braver in real life.)

KKR: Favorite SF women. Honestly, that’s a tough one for me. Most of the sf I read is short fiction, and the characters are one-offs. None of the women in the stories I read rise to the level of favorite. I like Ripley–and she was inspiring to me–but is not someone who comes to mind easily.

In SF, my examples were always negative. For example, in Trek, I was so happy that Kathryn Janeway had her own ship. Then I saw the dang first episode, and when she was faced with a big issue that James T. Kirk could have solved in 45 minutes, she gave in, and made her crew suffer for **years**  I think most of the sf films/TV suffer from stupid women problems.

The strong women I read about appear in the mystery genre. I adore Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski. I used to love Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Malone, especially when I encountered her in the 1980s. The female lead detectives were unusual women, who did their own thing in a man’s world. They’re the inspiration for my sf heroines.

RB: This is a chicken-or-the-egg question: Do you give your characters some of your own kickass qualities of bravery, wisdom, compassion, etc.–or do you feel inspired as you write their stories to be more like them yourself?

KKR: LOL, Robin. I love that you think I have kickass qualities. I think my characters are more articulate than I am, smarter than I am, more adventurous than I am, and more courageous than I am. I am blunt and stubborn and difficult, and in my fiction, those qualities are virtues, so there’s some of me there. But these folks are not people I want to be: they’re people I want to meet.

RB: Which character of yours has changed you the most as a person? Why?

KKR: The character of mine who has changed me the most as a person is Smokey Dalton, from my Kris Nelscott mysteries. He’s an African-American detective in the late 1960s. He’s a true hero, in my opinion. But his situations are beyond difficult. I always put him in the middle of a historical situation, and then ask him to respond. Some of those historical situations–I keep thinking, if I were there, would I have had the courage to do what he did? Would I have known what to do? And the thing I admire most about Smokey: His world, horrid as it is, doesn’t break him. It makes him stronger. That has had a huge impact on me and my thinking and my writing.

RB: What do you prefer in your favorite heroines, whether it’s the ones you write, read, or watch: More stoic than compassionate, vice versa,or a particular ratio of both? (For me, 80% stoic, 20% compassionate.)

KKR: Compassion first. I quit reading a mystery series set in the Middle Ages because our heroine–a smart and active woman–had a baby, and then abandoned that baby to go on a crusade. Well, this is the Middle Ages, and yes, she might have done that historically, but it would take 2-3 years to return to that child, and there would be no guarantee that the child was safe or well cared for. So I quit reading right there. The woman was too selfish for me to read about. Stoic, yes. But willing to sacrifice someone she loved for her own ends. Not someone I want to read about.

RB: Bonus question: I know you’re a big fan of the time travel series OUTLANDER, as am I. (I just finished the fourth book. What a ride!) If you were in Claire’s position, catapulted back to 1745 Scotland, what skills would you want to bring to the mix? I love her medical knowledge–it’s such a huge asset. But is there some skill you’d find just as valuable?

KKR: Great question. I have a wide variety of historical knowledge and weird trivia. I know how to make a match for example, and I know how to sterilize a room (even back then) and I know what’ll happen when in most of the English-speaking world. So I like to think all of that will be beneficial. Knowing outspoken me, though, I’d probably be jailed as a witch and executed. :-) I also know that I’d be panicked as hell about dying of something preventable, like the cold that has felled me this week in 2015. If it became an infection in 1745, I could die. And I’d probably worry about that more than anything (except the food, which–yuck!) So as you can tell, I’m probably too much of a worrier to time travel safely.

SPEAKING OF TIME TRAVEL …

Kris and I both have novels in the Time Travel Story Bundle, which is on sale for just two more weeks. Here’s your chance to score a whole bunch of great fiction at an incredibly low price. Don’t miss it!

All_Covers_Large

And as soon as you buy the bundle, head on over to my GIVEAWAY PAGE and enter to win those three fabulous science fiction books! I push them because I love–the heroines in those books and you, Dear Readers. Enjoy!

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29. Book Diets (Not Diet Books)

There has been a lot of controversy recently about different diet books out on the market and while eating healthy is very important we also mustn’t forget to feed out minds. So I’ve come up with a few Book Diets based on popular fad diet books: The Fast Diet (aka The 5:2 Diet) Now you can do […]

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30. Writer Wednesday: I'd Rather Buy a Book

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about things people buy on a daily/weekly basis that cost more than a book, and it kind of depressed me. Not that I want to depress you too, but check out this quick list. (This could have gotten really long, but I think you get my point.)

Coffee (lattes, cappuccino, etc.) ~ I make my own coffee, so I save on this daily expense.

Greeting Cards ~ Is anyone else appalled at how expensive these things are? I mean it's like a total of 20-40 words and you're charging me $5! My book is over 80K and it's not that expensive (in ebook format).

Vending Machine Snacks/Drinks ~ These tiny packages are more expensive than their larger counterparts you can buy in a food store.

Register Items ~ You know, those overpriced candy bars and packs of gum they have at the registers in stores. You could buy an entire bag of candy for the price of the one bar, but this is RIGHT HERE! Same with the gum.

Dollar Bin Specials ~ Okay, maybe this isn't a daily or weekly thing for everyone, but you know what I'm talking about. You walk into Target and those dreaded dollar bins stare you in the face. Of course there's something you HAVE to have, right? ;)

Yet all these things are items people purchase without a second thought. So why then, is it so hard to get people to buy a book priced anywhere from $.99-$9.99? Books are hours or days (depending on your reading time/pace) of entertainment. None of these items do the same. And all of the items above are discarded, when a book can be reread or passed on to another person.

Now, if you enjoy spending money on the things I listed above, that's your prerogative, but personally, I'd rather buy a book.

How about you?

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31. Monday Mishmash 3/23/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. YA Scavenger Hunt  I'm so excited to announce I'll be on Team Gold for the YA Scavenger Hunt next month! Join us on April 2-5th to win books and get exclusive content from a bunch of awesome authors. (I'll be promoting The Darkness Within—sharing never before scene teasers—and giving away a copy of The Monster Within.
  2. Back to Drafting!  As much as I love editing for my amazing clients, I'm really excited to have time to get back to my WIP this week! I'm halfway through it, and my characters have been hounding me to get back to work! They're very demanding.
  3. Reviewing  I have two books I promised to review, and I need to make process on them both really soon. Like now.
  4. Beta Reading  I also agreed to beta read for a very talented writer friend, so I'll be working on that too this week.
  5. My Embarrassing Video  If you missed my embarrassing video last week, you can view it here: 

That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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32. Authentic Writing

Kwame Alexander, Newbery Award Winner 2015, is one of my new favorites. His writing is poetic and fun. His personality is huge. He is a way cool dude.

I had the pleasure of listening to Kwame in New York at the SCBWI mid-winter conference, and he was inspirational.



Kwame says that to write diverse books, we need to live diverse lives. That to write authentic books, we need to live authentic lives.

I'm not saying most of us don't do that, but I think we could all do more. When Kwame talks about diversity, he may not think about the fact that I live in Idaho, in Boise, where the level of racial diversity is sparse. However, I started thinking about the diversity I do experience every day.I look at my neighborhood. While it's all white, it has different kinds of diversity: a Jewish family on the corner whose adult son is autisitc, a next door neighbor raising her meth addicted daughter's child, political activists across the street who commit to their causes, a gay couple around the corner who are raising twin girls born of a surrogate. The public schools my kids have attended include immigrants and refugees from across the world, especially Bosnia, Sudan, Uganda, and Afghanistan.

But how can we increase the diversity we experience, whatever level we have in our daily lives? I think the best way is to stretch ourselves, go beyond our comfort zones, hang out with people we normally wouldn't be in contact with. I live very close to downtown Boise, which is where most of the homeless community congregates. And yes, they are a community. They interact like a large family, with the usual squabbles and infighting, but they are fiercely loyal when someone from "outside" tries to hurt or harass them.  I help serve them meals at our church. I could do more. I could be at the shelters or even on the streets with them. I have been active in lobbying for LBGT rights in our state legislature, and through that I have met many transgender folks I never knew before. That has brought into my life some awesome people, as well as expanded the way I think about gender and the pronouns I use.

What are your comfort zones? Where could you expand yourself, expose yourself to more diversity? It doesn't have to be racial diversity, although that is a good place to start if it's not something you are routinely exposed to. It could be age diversity, or gender diversity. It could be volunteering to build homes at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (I grew up next to the rez)--the poorest place in the U.S. It could be traveling to another country to help victims of a disaster. Or it could be simply hanging out where the poor in your own community are and talking to them like real people.

Another fantastic way to increase the diversity in your world is, of course, reading diverse books! Read about people in other countries, in other times, of other races, religions, genders, and ages. Read authentic books.

Then proceed to write diversely and authentically.

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33. How to Raise Kids Who Read

Want to raise a child who loves reading? Daniel Willingham, author of the book Raising Kids Who Read recommends making reading “the most appealing thing a child can do.”

In an interview with NPR, the author said that the reason to raise a reader shouldn’t be to increase school performance or to help them make more money later in life. The real reason should be to raise a person that appreciates books and the worlds you can learn from them. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

You should model reading, make reading pleasurable, read aloud to your kid in situations that are warm and create positive associations. But also setting a tone where our family is one where we like to learn new things. We like to learn about the world, and a big part of that is reading. Developing a sense in the child that I am in a family of readers before the child can even read.

Former GalleyCat Editor Jason Boog also has excellent tips for parents looking to raise bookworms. In his book Born Reading, Boog outlines step-by-step instructions and advice for cultivating reading in kids from birth.

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34. Time Travel Prizes and Story Bundle!

I LOVE TIME TRAVEL STORIES. I love to read them, watch them, write them. My current obsession is Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful (and lengthy! Hurray!) time travel romance series OUTLANDER. Love the books and now am enjoying the DVD of the first season of the TV series. More on that in a minute.

My young adult science fiction series PARALLELOGRAM has a whole time travel element to it, which is why I’m thrilled to tell you that the first book in the series, INTO THE PARALLEL, has been selected for inclusion in a fantastic TIME TRAVEL STORY BUNDLE featuring some of the top names in science fiction and fantasy.

Here’s what’s in the bundle:

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The initial titles in the bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

The Rock by Bob Mayer
Time Streams by Fiction River
Alternitech by Kevin J. Anderson
Time’s Mistress by Steven Savile
Parallelogram Book 1: Into the Parallel by Robin Brande
Lightspeed: Issue 28 by Lightspeed

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $14, you’ll get another six titles:

The Edwards Mansion by Dean Wesley Smith
Time Traveled Tales by Jean Rabe
The Trinity Paradox by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
Summer of Love by Lisa Mason
Ansible by Stant Litore
Snipers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This incredible book bundle is available for only 3 weeks. I know you’re going to want to buy it–we all are. But as a special bonus for buying it now, in the first 48 hours it’s on sale, I’m throwing in a TIME TRAVEL PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY. Because we all want more!

One lucky winner will receive:

  • The DVD of OUTLANDER Season 1, Volume 1, just in time to start watching the series when it resumes next month.
  • The DVD of my favorite time travel movie, Richard Curtis’s ABOUT TIME. Love this movie so much, I want to make sure everyone in the world sees it. And at least one person besides me owns it so you can watch it over and over.
  • The PARALLELOGRAM Omnibus Edition, which includes the complete 4-book PARALLELOGRAM series. No waiting in between cliffhangers! Everything right there for the reading!

Now here’s the interesting thing about the giveaway: Unlike with most giveaways, your chances to win this one actually improve the more people you share it with. When you enter, you’ll get a special code to include on your own tweets or posts about the giveaway, and when someone enters using that code, you get 3 EXTRA ENTRIES for yourself. How cool is that?

So there you have it: In the next 48 hours you can buy 13 exciting time travel books AND enter to win more books and a couple of movies. Not bad for a Wednesday!

Here’s the link again to buy the TIME TRAVEL STORY BUNDLE.

And here’s where to go to enter the TIME TRAVEL PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY.

Good luck everyone, and happy reading!

 

 

 

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35. Friday Feature: The Great Timelock Disaster


AMAZON



There's nothing’s more dangerous than a wizard-in-training. And Pete Riley, has just proven it. He's worked a bad time spell--a very bad time spell.

No YouTube, no smoothies, no Manga. Not ever again. Not unless Pete figures out how to reverse his spell and free Weasel and him from Victorian England. 

He has until the next full moon. Only a few days.

Tick. Tock.




Here’s how the story starts, and it only gets worse.


One minute the clock was tick-tocking on the mantel and the next it was a smoldering mess.

“No,”􏰁Harriet shouted. Then she braced one hand on her desk and covered her eyes with the other.

Pete froze, not blinking, not breathing, but waiting to see if Harriet would point one of her long, bony fingers at him and turn him into a turnip or something slimy.



SEQUEL TO ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD
To celebrate the launch of The Great Time Lock Disaster Lee is giving 20 eBooks away. She hopes you'll jump in to the copter and go for a ride!


Usually, C. Lee takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Double Negative (2014) was her third young adult novel. Researching it turned her into a literacy advocate. Her fourth YA, Sudden Secrets came out in December 2014. 



When she really want to have FUN, she writes middle grade books. Alligators Overhead and The Great Time Lock Disaster are now available.

Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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36. Does Age Matter?

Since I finished Clockwork Orange I’ve been mulling a bit about age and books. Several people commented that they were blown away by Clockwork Orange when they read it as a teen. Then today in the comments at Necromancy Never Pays Jeanne commented that perhaps because she was older she liked the book under review better than two others who didn’t care for it as much. Does age matter when reading?

Not always, but sometimes it does. I think I would have felt differently about Clockwork Orange if I had read it as a teen. I didn’t read The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe until I was an adult and while I could see the charm for a kid, as an adult, I didn’t think it was all that. Same thing happened to me with Catcher in the Rye.

Conversely, when I was younger and read Moby Dick in high school English class I liked it but found it mostly really boring. Rereading it as an adult, the book turned out to be amazing. The first two times I read Jane Austen’s Emma I was in my twenties and I found her insufferable. When I read it last year I suddenly liked Emma and the book so much better.

Age matters but I don’t think it is age as a specific number, I think it is more age as experience — both reading experience and life experience. Does that make sense? I would like to think that age doesn’t matter when it comes to reading (and most of the time it doesn’t), the thought that there are some books out there that I haven’t read yet but might have missed the boat on makes me a bit sad. But then I can buoy myself up with the thought there are probably books I have not read yet that will be much more amazing when I do because of my age. Two sides of the same coin? Has your age ever made a difference when reading?


Filed under: Books, Reading

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37. Keiko: Wild Rumpus

For more Keiko, see my Keiko comic archives.

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38. Friday Feature: Don't Forget To Breathe



Sixteen-year-old Leocadia arrives home from school to find her mom’s bloody body. Unaware that the killer still lingers, she rushes to her mother’s side, only to be grabbed from behind and then everything fades to black.

After a year of retrograde amnesia and battling personal demons, Leo’s dreams are getting worse—she’s starting to remember. More bodies are discovered and they seem to be oddly linked to her mom’s unsolved homicide.

When Leo allows her friend, Henry to drag her into the haunted Lucien Mansion, misty ghosts appear, ghosts that just might lead to her mother’s murderer.

Will Leo let her memories threaten her into a relapse or, will she fight to find her mother’s killer – only to become his next victim?

Anyone else in love with this cover? I am!

Excerpt:
Moonlight played tricks with my eyes as we circumvented gravestones like an obstacle course, and pluming fog licked our legs as misty ghosts danced on marbleized stones. My breath shuddered as Henry bypassed me, leading the way. “Hurry—” he whispered and nudged my shoulder.
I picked up the pace and cranked my head to the left. Dark moving shapes appeared in the distance and moaning floated past my ears, probably the wind or just my imagination? Goose flesh pebbled my skin as I stumbled over an urn. Henry lugged me up urging me on.
“What are we running from?” I gasped quietly so not to wake the dead. 
“Them—over there.” Henry jerked his chin, the lenses of his glasses captured raining moonbeams. “I think it’s cops.”
His hand reached back, palm up. I latched hold. “Why would police be patrolling the cemetery?”
We whipped around a mammoth tombstone, a squared foundation for a glorious angel. He halted and threw me unceremoniously to solid concrete. My heartbeat migrated up my esophagus. Henry covered my mouth with his hand. “Sh-h...don’t breathe so loud.”
My pumping lungs slowed as I stabilized my swallows of air. Henry squashed his body into mine. A tad too close. His speedy heartbeat harmonizing with my own while cold leached into my back. I cringed at the discomfort of my head pressed between his chest and the stone. 

Buy it on Amazon.


You can find Cathrina here:


Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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39. KEIKO: The First Time

Anyone else purposely slow down near the end of a really, really good book?

Also see my previous Keiko comics.

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40. PARALLELOGRAM Omnibus Edition Now Available!

Parallelogram Omnibus

For those of you who like to read your series in one big chunk, there’s now an omnibus ebook edition of the entire PARALLELOGRAM series–and it’s incredibly cheap for the moment. All four books for only $7.99! And more important, no waiting in between cliff hangers.

Enjoy!

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41. Read Aloud!

Today, more than a million people in at least 80 countries around the world celebrate World Read Aloud Day. This annual event “calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.” How will you take part?


My cousin Mary Jo  and her sweet dog Molly volunteer in the Paws for Tales program at the Weyers-Hilliard library in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Kids who are looking for good listeners can come in and read a book to Molly or one of the other “friendly, trained four-legged friends.” What fun—and what good practice!

Reading aloud is good practice for writers, too. Before you consider a poem or story complete, give it the read-aloud test. Read it yourself. Read it to a child or a pet. Ask someone to read it to you. Does it flow well? Does the rhythm fit the message? Listen to the sounds of the words. Do they match the tone of the manuscript? Be alert for any stumbles.

Note any issues on your manuscript as you listen. Focus on those spots in your next revision. Repeat as necessary. Have fun!

JoAnn Early Macken

P.S. I’m also celebrating March 4th (one of my favorite holidays) on my blog. Stop in and see why!


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42. Writer Wednesday: Wattpad

2015 is the year of branching out for me. I'm trying new ways to reach readers. My latest venture is with Wattpad. I wasn't very familiar with this platform, but I know a lot of readers are there grabbing free samples of books. So I thought why not?

I joined and got permission from the very awesome people at Spencer Hill Press to upload my two FREE Touch of Death series companions, which are also available on the SHP website. 

The first is Curse of Death, which is the myth behind the series. It shows why I love Medusa and feel she was wrongfully cursed. 
The second is Kiss of Death, which is a prequel novella told from Alex's POV, because I just love Alex and his story needed to be told pre-Jodi.

So what does this mean? I'm not entirely sure yet, but I'm hoping to reach new readers and introduce them to my work. I'll keep you posted on how it's going. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Wattpad here and to read my free stories.

Are you on Wattpad? Feel free to leave your link in the comments so I can follow you. If you aren't, what do you think of a site that allows you to sample an author's work?

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43. March is NATIONAL READING AWARENESS MONTH

As we wait for the snow to melt

and SPRING to arrive, it's a great time to enjoy READING!

I usually highlight story books, but today I'd like to celebrate
some fun research sites.

DK Publishing has a free online encyclopedia: FIND OUT
The site is for simple searches on a variety of science-related
topics. Results provide a colorful illustrated page with brief
explanations and related topics. Of course, if one of the topics interests you, check at your local library for a corresponding DK book on the subject.

Another free online site, available through public and school libraries, is EBSCO Kids Search. This is a more in-depth database of magazines, encyclopedias, dictionaries, web articles, biographies, books, newspapers, and photos. A handy tool to have at your fingertips.

Kids Info Bits from Gale/Cengage Learning is search resource available through some libraries as well. It's a more simplified database of sources, including magazines, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and maps. It includes advanced search capabilities and is geared toward elementary school students.

So during this month focused on READ ALOUD time, choose a topic of interest (I know my grandson would pick Monster Trucks); use one of these kid-friendly sites or a book and read together for 15 minutes.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter--every season is just right for READING!

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44. The Neuroscience of Learning to Read

The New Yorker online has an interesting article on How Children Learn to Read. The information in it comes from a study cognitive neuroscientist Fumiko Hoeft published last fall. In 2008-2009 she recruited a group of five and six-year-old children from a variety of backgrounds, ran a bunch of tests and then had them all back three years later and ran more tests. Her goal was to study the neuroscience of reading development and she discovered some interesting things. For one, over-all intelligence and IQ did not matter when it came to learning to read. Instead, it has everything to do with a specific organizational pattern in your brain:

When Hoeft took into account all of the explanatory factors that had been linked to reading difficulty in the past—genetic risk, environmental factors, pre-literate language ability, and over-all cognitive capacity—she found that only one thing consistently predicted how well a child would learn to read. That was the growth of white matter in one specific area of the brain, the left temporoparietal region. The amount of white matter that a child arrived with in kindergarten didn’t make a difference. But the change in volume between kindergarten and third grade did.

White matter is like a series of roads that that allow communication between various parts of the brain. The more roads you develop, the better the communication, the better your reading ability. White matter apparently has a particular window for development, and if it doesn’t happen, or it happens incompletely, children will have a hard time turning letters into words that mean something.

Of course there are all kinds of things that can go wrong but Hoeft also discovered some fascinating things the brain can do to compensate. Development of the white matter is a combination of genetics and environment which is a help to fretful parents who might worry they have failed their child in some way.

Read the article for all the details. It isn’t super long. One thing I am disappointed she didn’t talk about is early readers. If the white matter develops between ages 5 to 9 and this is what spurs reading development, what about those of us who could read before the age of five? Are we freakish outliers? Or is there something else going on, and if so, what? I know studies like these are expensive so of course you are going to study the group that is the most typical age for reading development, but gosh darn it, I want to know about what my brain was up to when I was four. What was going on that allowed me to read early instead of beginning the process in kindergarten with my peers?

Isn’t neuroscience interesting, especially when applied to one of our favorite subjects? That our brains are so much alike yet at the same time so different is fascinating. At least I think so!


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45. Reading Insecurities

Recently I was feeling like my credentials as a reader of science fiction weren’t up to snuff. There are certain books and authors that are classics in the genre that I haven’t read and sometimes, especially being a female who likes to read a genre that has been dominated by males for a very long time, I feel like I’m not quite legit. My latest feelings of insecurity did not come from anywhere specific, they just sort of bubbled up from who knows where. But I think they are feelings we can all relate to as readers because no matter what we read there are always going to be books we have not read, big gaping holes even, that will leave us insecure about whether or not we can consider ourselves well read. It’s like saying you love Victorian literature but you’ve never read Wilkie Collins, that sort of thing.

From insecurity and curiosity, I decided it was about time I read Isaac Asimov’s first Foundation book. I’ve read one Asimov book before, Fantastic Voyage, and quite liked it. So with Foundation I was expecting something adventure-y. I was also expecting a novel. The book is neither. It is a collection of short stories. Okay, I can adjust to that. But instead of adventure we get politics and the collapse of an empire and lifting up of science into a religion.

The political maneuverings are really the only thing keeping me going. The book was published in 1951 and the stories had appeared in a magazine at various times before making it into a book. The science is amusingly dated. Psychology has been elevated to the heights of being able to predict the future. Nuclear power is considered clean energy. And this group of scientists have been tasked with writing an encyclopedia and a good deal of their research is done using microfiche which is supposed to be the gold standard for reading and research technology. And back in the day it was. But this book takes place so far into the future that humans have spread out to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and Earth either no longer exists or is uninhabitable and has become a mythical place lost in time and history.

All that is just fine and kind of amusing. What is not amusing is that there are no women in the book. All the scientists are men, all the politicians are men, every single character is a man. Women aren’t mentioned as wives or mothers to sons or even buxom love interests. It’s like they don’t exist. As I am reading along and trying to not grind my teeth I am suddenly reminded, oh yeah, this is why I haven’t read a lot of the “classic” SF books! And this is why women have felt left out of the genre for so long.

I’m about halfway through the book and I can tell you right now that I won’t be reading the rest of the books in the series. I’m not going to let myself feel insecure about that either. Because really, it doesn’t matter whether I have read them or not. What matters is that I enjoy the books I read and not worry about what others might think.


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46. Friday Feature: Super Bad by Kai Strand




It's hard to be good when it's so much fun to be bad

Excerpt from Super Bad:

After sliding the card out of the envelope, she stared at it for so long Lexa finally said, “Well?”
Sandra glanced at her friend before frowning again at the card. Finally she handed it to Lexa and stared at the flowers.

Seeing you last night was as refreshing as the clean smell after a rainstorm.
—Set

Lexi’s lip curled up. “What does this mean?”
“I’m not sure.” Sandra spoke tentatively. “He obviously has a thing for weather.”
“And you,” Lexa said.
“Maybe.”
Lexa rolled her eyes. “What do you mean, maybe? He became a stalker at the party last night, and now he’s sent you your very first flowers.”
Sandra shook her head. “There’s something…I don’t know.”
A thought somewhere deep in her gray matter teased her, but kept getting overridden by images of Set’s beautiful face lowering toward hers in the dark of the hedge cave. She mentally scolded herself to focus, but then she remembered the feel of his power pulsing from him and making her skin thrum when he came within a few inches of her, and her concentration scattered.
She shook her head not wanting to relive those memories. “I don’t know. I don’t really think it’s me he wants.”
Lexa smelled an oversized rose unfurled in full bloom in the middle of a bouquet that somehow looked like a summer storm stuffed into a vase—all whites and lavenders, purples and deep blues. “It sure looks like he’s focused on you, Sand.”

SUPER BAD The unexpected conclusion to the Super Villain Academy series.

The world is in chaos. Violence and thievery reign. And with the supers still balanced, it’s only getting worse. Without good versus evil, the supers care less and less. In order to restore purpose, the world needs its super heroes and its super villains, but the one who balanced them in the first place is missing.

Sandra’s concern over finding her brother, Jeff, isn’t her only problem. Her pathetic excuse for super powers has left her needing a new ankle. And though she’s still very much committed to her boyfriend, Source, she’s growing unreasonably attracted to Set, the boy who double crossed Jeff by stealing his girlfriend.

When Sandra is taken and held as bait by kids who want to unbalance the super world, it becomes the inciting event that changes things for supers everywhere and forces them to answer the question, “Hero or villain?”
***
Super Bad is scheduled for release in June, but there have been whispers of it releasing sooner. Don’t miss out. Subscribe to Kai’s mailing list and be among the first to know.
***
King of Bad - Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. Is Jeff bad enough for SVA?

Polar Opposites - Heroes and villains are balanced. After Oceanus is kidnapped, Jeff learns the supers are so balanced, they no longer care to get involved. Ironically Jeff’s superpowers are spiraling out of control. Will they find Oci before he looses it completely, and will they find her alive?
***
Win a $10 Amazon gift card or an ecopy of either King of Bad or Polar Opposites. Plenty of chances to win. Open internationally. Enter here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


About the author:

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for the younger ones, Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.

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47. How to Read More Than 3 Books a Month

Behavioral specialist Sam Thomas Davies reads more than 42 books a year. His trick? He relies on “the 10% rule.”

That is, he recommends that you “commit to reading your new book in its entirety” by reading 10 percent every day, he explains in a piece published on HighExistence.com. It also helps to own a Kindle, he says, because you have access to so many books and it is easy to read books on the go.

Davies points out that the longer the book, obviously the more pages you’ll have to read. Still he’s got a work around. Check it out:

If 10% is a lot because of the size of the book, split it in half and read 5% in the morning and 5% in the evening. This is easy if you commute to work via public transport. You’ll learn a lot of Kindle books aren’t even 100% long. Once you’ve excluded the acknowledgements, appendix, prefaces, recommendations and sources – in other words, the parts that aren’t as interesting – a book only ends up being between 70-80% in length.

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48. Where Do You Draw a Line?

So here’s a question for you. How much leeway do you allow books, especially those from earlier times, when they are sexist, racist, classist, condescendingly colonial, etc? It’s been rattling around my brain a bit since I finished Foundation. Given Asimov wrote the stories in the 1940s, I can forgive him a little for his lack of inclusiveness when it comes to women. But only a little because part of me thinks he should have known better. And when I read H. Rider Haggard’s She, the whole thing was so absurd and the book so terrible on so many fronts that I could only laugh. But the misogyny and anti-immigrant sentiments in Dracula horrified me in a way that I could not find funny. I could laugh off Haggard, get away with being annoyed at Asimov, but Stoker made me angry. I could probably pinpoint why if I sat and thought about it for awhile but my brain is tired and doesn’t want to expend that much effort at the moment.

Instead, it just knows that there are some books I can forgive their moral transgressions and some I cannot. Do you find that to be the case too? And if so, do you know why you can forgive some but not others?

I’m not talking about the authors themselves. If I had to like the authors in order to enjoy the books then there would be a lot fewer books on my TBR pile. I try to keep an author’s personal leanings, whether they be grade-A jerk or heavenly angel, out of my opinions of their books. Of course if an author whose books I like turns out to be a really nice person that makes me happy, but it is not a requirement.

I like to think when it comes to books I can be generous and understanding, but truth be told, I sometimes can’t make the effort. I’d like to say there is a definite line and if the book crosses it then it’s all over between us. But it’s actually a line in the sand that keeps shifting. Where the line ends up depends on my mood, what kind of story it is (adventure, romance, mystery, drama), when it was written, whether the issues (sexism, racism, etc) appear to be deliberate or unconscious (don’t ask me how to tell, I don’t know, but I still make the judgment), how much a part of the story it is (a page, a scene, a chapter, the whole book), and probably a few other things that aren’t coming to me at the moment. It’s probably not entirely fair to change the standards all the time but I also don’t think it’s fair to have one blanket standard either. It’s case-by-case.

My brain is running out of gas so I will leave my thoughts there for now. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


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49. Friday Feature: Love, Lattes and Mutants by Sandra Cox



Finding love is hard, even when you aren’t a mutant.


Like most seventeen-year-olds, Piper Dunn wants to blend in with the crowd. Having a blowhole is a definite handicap. A product of a lab-engineered mother with dolphin DNA, Piper spends her school days hiding her brilliant ocean-colored eyes and sea siren voice behind baggy clothing and ugly glasses. When Tyler, the new boy in school, zeroes in on her, ignoring every other girl vying for his attention, no one, including Piper, understands why

Then Piper is captured on one of her secret missions rescuing endangered sea creatures and ends up in the same test center where her mother was engineered. There she discovers she isn’t the only one of her kind. Joel is someone she doesn’t have to hide from, and she finds herself drawn to the dolph-boy who shares her secrets. Talking to him is almost as easy as escaping from the lab. Deciding which boy has captured her heart is another story


Buy the book:

Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She's a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.



Find Sandra online:
Blog

And Sandra has a giveaway with some awesome prizes:
A Piper-approved necklace and $10 Starbuck Card

A Piper-approved bracelet
Enter on the rafflecopter form:


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50. Now You Can Get Your Ebooks Signed and Personalized!

Did you know you can get your ebooks signed and personalized? I didn’t until about an hour ago (thank you, BH!). There’s a service called Authorgraph that allows you to request and collect signatures and messages from your favorite authors.

So cool.

I’m on there now if you’d like one from me. Here’s my page!

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