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1. Molly Idle's FLORA AND THE PENGUIN - interview and giveaway!


I've been a Molly Idle fan since I saw her first pieces through my Picture Book Artists Association message board. It took the rest of the world a short time to find her too, and award her a Caldecott Honor for FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO - which I interviewed her for HERE. Well, Molly and Flora are back, and this time it's winter with FLORA AND THE PENGUIN!

Q. So I heard a story that the idea for this story was almost serendipitous - it began with a light conversation between you and your editor?
A.
I would say it was entirely serendipitous! We were talking about how I was drawing the reflections in the water in Flora and the Flamingo, and Amy, my art director, said they reminded her of a reflected sheen on a sheet of ice. And I said something like, "Oh, if it were ice she'd be dancing with a penguin... " And then there was this prolonged pause... And then we both started talking at once: "The penguin would come up through a hole in the ice!" "The book could be all blue!" "They'd be ice skating!" Then we calmed down a bit and Amy said, "But first, let's finish THIS book."

Q. This is such a different color palette. How did working with an entirely different set of colored pencils affect your general mood?
A.
The colors of a book don't affect my mood nearly as much as the characters' expressions do. My mood tends to shift along with theirs. If Flora is smiling, I'm smiling while I draw her... If the penguin is completely grumpy, so am I. Brow furrowed, mouth turned down... Yesterday afternoon I was drawing yawning bunnies- I could barely keep my eyes open!


Q. Was it difficult to work with such a cool color palette after the warm one in FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO?
A.
Only at first. At first I would look at a finished piece and think, ridiculously, "It's not pink." I mean, of course it wasn't pink! But it took a while for me to warm up to the new palette [e: Ha! Warm up - no pun intended!] and feel like the pieces looked right in their cool blue hues.

Q. Flora seems to get in a bit of a bad mood in this book. Where did that come from?
A.
Well, don’t we all from time to time? And I thought if was important for Flora to be a really real little person. I mean, it would have been easy peasy to write a story where she's this idyllic child who's always cheery and never cross... But have you ever met anyone who is actually like that? I haven't. Even the best people loose it from time to time. We make poor choices. Do unkind things... We're human. But then, if given the chance, a good person will do their best to make right their wrongs. I think that’s the best part of our humanity.

Q. Obviously she gets over it and makes a lovely new friend. Was it difficult to work out this story?
A.
Yep. Though we had all these wonderful ideas that set the making of the book in motion, working out the source of Flora and the Penguin's conflict and resolution took me a while...

Q. It’s such a perfect winter book. How are you going to celebrate it?
A.
With the perfect winter treat- hot chocolate and marshmallows! Although, if you're a penguin, you'll probably prefer celebrating it with mackerel..

Q. I hope FLORA AND THE PENGUIN does as well or better than FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO - not a bad goal considering the Caldecott honor. What was it like to get the call?
A.
Oh wow... That was an awesome thing. Actually made me a bit weak in the knees... I remember holding onto the kitchen counter after I hung up the phone. Positively faint with happiness!

CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN! Check out this adorable book trailer for FLORA AND THE PENGUIN:
.

GIVEAWAY!
Candlewick has generously offered to send one free copy of FLORA AND THE PENGUIN to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US or Canada to win - enter below.

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2. Annual Black Swagday Giveaway

Wow, I can't believe we're already to Black Friday weekend--seriously where has the year gone??????

But deadline panicking aside (MEEP!), it's also time for my annual Black Swagday Giveaway!!!  

Since this is the time of year where everyone has gifts on their minds--and I personally feel that signed books are THE BEST gifts anyone can give--I have a nice handy way for you guys to make your gifts even more special.

If you buy any of my books (Keeper of the Lost Cities, Exile, Everblaze, Let the Sky Fall, and/or Let the Storm Break) this weekend--which just so happens to be the biggest shopping weekend of the year, between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday--and fill out the form at the end of this post, I will send you the corresponding swag pack below.

If you buy any of the KEEPER books, I'll send you this (for each book purchased):


















And in case you can't tell, that's:
- a signed (and personalized) bookplate 
- 4 Team Stickers
- 1 5x7 character art print (featuring the awesome illustrations by Courtney Godbey)
(*whispers* if you buy more than one KEEPER book, I *might* throw in some other goodies as well... #justsayin')



And if you buy either of the SKY FALL books, I'll send you the corresponding swag you see in this pic (for each book purchased):
So if you buy Let the Sky Fall you'll get: 
- a LTSF signed (and personalized) bookplate
- a LTSF bookmark
- a LTSF sticker

And if you buy Let the Storm Break you'll get:
- a LTSB signed (and personalized) bookplate
- a LTSB bookmark
- a LTSB sticker 


All of this swag is exclusive--only available here--and hand signed by me!

And there's no limit on how many I'll give away. Everyone who fills out the form between now and 11:59 pm pacific time on Monday, December 1, 2014 WILL get the swag. I'm also not requiring proof of purchase. If you say you bought it, I believe you. But remember, every time you lie, an alicorn's poop stops sparking AND WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE WITHOUT SPARKLY POOP??????

It also doesn't matter where you buy the book (though supporting your Local Indie Bookstore guarantees you a life of sunshine and happiness) or if you buy the paperback or the hardcover (ebooks and audiobooks count too!). And you're welcome to buy as many books as you want! (Just make sure you fill out the form separately for each book, so I know to send you more prizes).

Giveaway is also open internationally!!!


**Please note** This giveaway ONLY applies to books purchased between 11/26/14-12/1/14, and does NOT include books previously purchased. Of course I super-appreciate if you've bought my books before now, but I've also done previous giveaways for many of those purchases that you would've had a chance to take part of (sorry if you missed them). So this is only for new purchases, and if you are desperate for the swag you could always buy a book to give as a gift (what better gift could there be, really? Plus then you can get your friends/family/teachers hooked on the books so you have someone to talk about them with) and keep the swag for yourself--I won't tell! :)

Um... I *think* that covers everything--but if I missed something, of course feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments. 

Here's the form you'll need to fill out (and if it doesn't load for some reason, go HERE)

Loading... Read the rest of this post

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3. Coloring Page Tuesday - Owl Cook!

     Everybody wonders how to cook the best treats for Thanksgiving. I'm betting a wise owl will have the best recipes!
     CLICK HERE for more Thanksgiving coloring pages! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...


THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Makes a GREAT teacher gift! Click the cover to learn more!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.


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4. Holiday Giveaway: Win McFarlane Toys Eli Manning and Joe Namath figures Signed by Todd McFarlane

Hey people, football playoff fever is well underway with so many unanswered questions keeping people up at night. Is the era of the scrambling quarterback over? Did it ever begin? Will Geno Smith ever start another game? Will the Giant or The Jets being more shame to the Meadowlands? And can Mark Sanchez redeem himself while still wolfing down Phillie cheese steaks all the time?

To celebrate this and more, we have a very special beat giveaway, in conjunction with our partner, Lockerdome. Just hit the links to register to win one of TWO special action figure packs to remind you of TWO of New York’s  Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Joe Namath. The figures are made by McFarlane Toys and are highly detailed in the style of the company figures. And both are SIGNED BY Todd McFarlane.

Void where prohibited. Contest is not open to Beat employees.

 

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5. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One! | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One! Giveaway begins November 24, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 23, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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6. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3 | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3. Giveaway begins November 24, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 23, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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7. Lynn Cullen's MRS. POE - Guest Post and Giveaway

I have a surprise for you today - an adult book, MRS. POE by my dear friend Lynn Cullen. Lynn has also written books for the younger set, like I AM REMBRANDT'S DAUGHTER and MOI AND MARIE ANTOINETTE. So, I'm thrilled to have Lynn on today to help promote her latest book, although it's been selling gang-busters. Lynn shares a touching story with us about reading to her children. Take it away Lynn!


     I’m all about books. I read them every spare moment I have, which these days is generally only when I’m not writing them. I got my affliction from my dad, who so loved reading that he always kept a Reader’s Digest in the glove-box of the car, on the toilet, and in his coat-pocket, so he would never be caught without a story to peruse. My favorite activity as a kid was to ride my bike a couple miles to the library and load a paper grocery sack—the big size—with fictionalized biographies of Abe Lincoln, Helen Keller, and Daniel Boone, as well as every last book in the Little House on the Prairie series. I’m one of those people who cannot sleep without a nightcap of turning the pages of a novel before bed. Whenever I pass a bookstore, be it in an airport, shopping center, or strip mall, I look longingly at all the lovely spines and wonder what I’m missing. I’ll willingly sacrifice gazing at the scenery for reading while riding in a car.
     But as addicted as I am to consuming the written word, for a few short years there was time when reading was not quite a complete and utter pleasure. There was a time when I dreaded it almost as much as changing a tire: the years when my kids were small.
     Granted, this brief anathema to reading came only at their bedtime. And it increased with the ratio of kids to mom, especially after throwing the birth of three kids in four years into the equation. But after doling out three home-cooked meals a day, plodding along under the weight of kids and their bags of gear to the park, a museum, or the library, and then scrubbing three wiggling, chattering monkeys and pinning them down to brush their teeth, I was the one who was cooked.
A photo of Lynn in one of her fave writing spots and with her dog, Rosie.

     Yet I never considered the possibility of NOT reading to them. It was almost as if I thought their vulnerable brains might melt without a dose of nutritious reading each day. I knew how important infusing their minds with story construction and ideas and laughter had to be for them. What I didn’t know was how good reading to them would be for me.
     Now that my girls are grown, when I look back over their childhoods, what comes back to me most vividly is reading with them each night. I can still smell their damp hair, soap-scented skin, and young breath as they lie in the crook of my arm. I can still feel the delicate wings of their shoulders and the rise and fall of their narrow chests. I can hear their baby voices and the funny construction of phrases unique to each as we talked about the stories. More than the trips, the meals, the baths or anything else, I remember the bond with and the awe for each of these wondrous souls as we turned the pages together.
     Now when I read to my grandchildren, I notice my daughters hovering nearby, relieved to give up their duty for a switch but also not quite comfortable with resigning from their usual place behind the book. I understand. These precious moments are finite in their number. But little do my children know that even as I am delighting in their babies, I am savoring, oh, I am savoring, the sweet memory of cradling them.

     Lynn Cullen's newest novel, Mrs. Poe, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of his lover, poet Francis Osgood. A National Bestseller, Mrs. Poe has been named a Target Book Club Pick, a NPR 2013 Great Read, an Oprah.com "Books That Make Time Stand Still," an Editor's Pick at The Historical Novels Review, an Atlanta Magazine Best Books 2013, and an Indie Next Pick. Lynn is also the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She has written numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist" and was just chosen as a "Book That All Georgians Should Read" by the Georgia Center for the Book. Her newest picture book for children, "Dear Mr. Washington" will be released by Dial/Penguin Books for Young Readers in early 2015 and is a Library Guild Selection. She is currently working on a novel about the women in the life of Mark Twain."

GIVEAWAY!
Simon and Schuster has generously offered to send a free copy of MRS. POE to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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8. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis, by Carole P. Roman | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a full autographed set of the Captain No Beard series, by award-winning author Carole P. Roman; including the newest title Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis! Giveaway begins November 22, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 21, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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9. Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, by Robert McCarty | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale by Robert McCarty. Giveaway begins November 21, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 20, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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10. John Rocco's BLIZZARD - Interview and Giveaway!


John Rocco has a new book out called BLIZZARD - a mostly light book because of all the snow. It’s a wonderful follow-up to his Caldecott honor-winning, mostly dark book, BLACKOUT, which I also adored and talked to John about HERE. In BLIZZARD, John relays a story from his own childhood when forty inches of snow buried Rhode Island back in 1978. I can so relate to this story because of my own similar experience… an ice-storm in Georgia in the 70s that left me and my family sleeping by the fireplace where we cooked our food, boiled our water, and kept warm for days before things got back to normal. So, I’m thrilled to have John back to talk about his latest picture book...

Q. Hi John, You’ve done it again! You’ve taken a quiet little moment of life and made it big and beautiful - congratulations!
A.
Thanks so much Elizabeth! I think the quiet moments are the most interesting.

Q. Truly, you’re creating a niche of pulling those odd little moments from life, a blackout, a snowstorm, and turning them into something magical. How do these stories develop for you?
A.
Well, with Blackout, the story was developed through interviewing many people in Brooklyn and New York City about their individual experiences during the blackout of 2003. What was interesting to me were how many of them had similar experiences, and that became the thrust of the book. Blizzard on the other hand had developed from my daughter continually asking for stories about my childhood. This was one of them. This book is almost a diary of that week when I was little. When I told my father about the new book I was working on, he shipped me all the newspapers from that week in 1978. He had actually saved them!

Q. I love the contrast of the dark book versus the light book. Was that intentional?
A.
Well, I guess I could have called it WHITEOUT, but I like the fact that they both begin with B. But yes, almost everything is intentional in my books. The things that aren't are usually the best. You know, those happy accidents? I do think they make a nice pairing for story time though. In Blackout, the main character goes through an emotional arc, from being bored, to scared, to curious, to surprised and happy. I tried to use color, and the lack thereof, to help amplify his emotions. With Blizzard I was dealing with an event that most adults at the time did not find fun at all. In fact, it was a pretty big ordeal. But us kids thought it was fantastic and magical and…and…THERE WAS NO SCHOOL FOR A WEEK!

Q. I’m sure the lighting in BLACKOUT was a challenge. Were there any particular lighting challenges in BLIZZARD?
A.
The biggest challenge for me with Blizzard was to figure out where and when to let the white of the paper feel like the snow, and where to use watercolor washes to indicate some atmosphere. I think finding that balance was the most difficult.

Q. Was it truly you who made the trek through the neighborhood on snow shoes fashioned out of tennis rackets to get to the store and purchase emergency supplies?
A.
Yes, it was. In fact I remember that my sisters racket was a white Christ Evert model, and mine was a light blue Bjorn Borg model. Recently, at a book signing in my old home town, the woman who owned that store with her husband came by and said hello. It was surreal. I screamed out, "I JUST PAINTED OF PICTURE OF YOU!" The one big change I had made was that when the snowplows finally came it wasn't hot chocolate everyone was drinking in the street, it was whiskey. My father had told me that when the snowplows finally started up our road, our next door neighbor ran out and planted a bottle of whiskey in the snow. They stopped the plow and everyone came out for a toast.

Q. What was your fondest memory from that time?
A.
I think building all the snow forts and tunnels in our front yard. My sister and I were like gophers, digging through that snow.

Q. Did working on this book bring up old memories for you? How was it to work with that?
A.
It's interesting you ask that. My parents separated when I was about 18. My sister and father both moved to California shortly after that. So now, almost thirty years later, I re-created the world where we were all together again. Drawing all the details of our living room; the wood stove, the conch shell on the mantle, the Andrew Wyeth print on the wall, my mom's rocker, my dad's chair…it's all there. It was strange and fun and a little emotional for me.

Q. I know you’ve shared before, but for my readers who don’t know, can you share your illustration method?
A.
First I create a tonal drawing, and then I scan it into the computer and color using a combination of digital paint and water color washes and textures that I bring in as well.

Q. We’re heading into the snowy season. Any words of wisdom to those who might have a similar experience?
A.
Most importantly, I would say, stay safe and enjoy the time you get to spend with your family.

Q. Thanks and I wish you much continued success, John!
A.
Thanks Elizabeth!!
Here I am with John (far right) at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this past October:


Check out this great book trailer for BLIZZARD! (The link will take you to Vimeo.)



GIVEAWAY!
Disney has kindly agreed to give a free copy of BLIZZARD to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below.

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11. DEFY Book Trailer and Giveaway!

Fantasy lovers! Have you read DEFY by Sara B Larson? If not now is the time! Adventure? Fantasy? Romance? A girl who has to pretend she's a boy? Sounds like my kind of book! Check out the new book trailer! DEFY will be out in paperback next week, on November 25th! The sequel, IGNITE, will be out on December 30th. YAY! No waiting!! About DEFY By: Sara B. Larson Published by:

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12. Skink: No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of Skink—No Surrender, by New York Times bestselling author Carl Hiassen. Giveaway begins November 19, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 18, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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13. Coloring Page Tuesday - Quail!

     Q is for Quail... with a tardy book return. Doesn't he look guilty? Or is he too closely related to turkeys to feel comfortable?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

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14. Get Happy, by Mary Amato | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of Get Happy, by Mary Amato. Giveaway begins November 16, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 15, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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15. Eugene Yelchin's ARCADY'S GOAL - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to have a new friend on today, Eugene Yelchin, author/illustrator of the Newbery Honor winning BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE. He has a new book out called ARCADY'S GOAL and he dropped by to talk about it...


     Given the fact that I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, and the even more unfortunate fact that I had to survive in that country until I finally left at 27 years old, it comes at no surprise that my books are a meditation on the unalienable rights — Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      The pursuit of Happiness takes many forms in America. A current form that’s getting a lot of attention is soccer. Soccer is something I know about. My father was a fairly well known soccer player and captain of the Red Army Soccer Club. For years he trained me to become a soccer player until he realized that I would rather draw pictures on my soccer ball than kick it.

      In ARCADY'S GOAL, a Russian boy dreams of becoming a soccer champion. “The trouble with soccer,” says Arcady, “is you can’t play it alone. Soccer is a team sport.” Being a member of a team is a problem for Arcady, who has never been permitted to be a member of anything. As a child of the enemies of the state in the pre-World War II Russia, he is excluded not only from being on a soccer team but from what most of us take for granted—being a member of a family. Family, the most essential fabric of humanity, is torn apart by the Soviet state and remade into a highly politicized entity. As a result, for Arcady and the man who adopts him, creating a family of their own let alone a children’s soccer team is extremely dangerous.

      In this lies the paradox of telling young American readers stories about freedom. To them being a member of a family or a member of a sports team are basic unalienable rights. My hope is that in looking through the eyes of Arcady, they might view those rights in a slightly different light. They might become more attentive to what they inherited. They might consider that preserving those rights requires personal courage. They might not take the pursuit of Happiness so lightly. That in fact, as Arcady shows, Happiness is sometimes only achieved at great risk of both life and Liberty.


LISTEN TO AN AUDIO SAMPLE OF ARCADY'S GOAL - Click the image to listen on YouTube:


Here is Eugene with his boys:


And here are shots of Eugene's studio (click the image to see it larger in a new window):


LISTEN to a great interview with Eugene at LET'S GET BUSY PODCAST!

GIVEAWAY!
Macmillan has kindly agreed to give away a free copy of ARCADY'S GOAL to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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16. The Demon Catchers of Milan 2: The Halcyon Bird, by Kat Beyer | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of The Demon Catchers of Milan #2: The Halcyon Bird, by Kat Beyer. Giveaway begins November 15, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 14, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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17. THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS - Interview (with both the author and illustrator) and GIVEAWAY!


THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS written by Bil Lepp and illustrated by David Wenzel is a bit of a throwback to the sweet sort of folklore that I would have stared at for hours as a kid. A greedy king wants everything, while a humble king respects the little things in life. Eventually the two sensibilities come to a head. I’m thrilled to have Bil and David here today to talk about their creation…

Q. Bil - THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS reads like a classic. How did the idea come to you and how long have you been telling the story?
A.
I have been telling The King of Little Things for about ten years. The idea came from my son. One day he asked if I wanted to play Kingdoms. He then proceeded to collect his subjects- the Tonka Truck dump truck, the Tonka Truck firetruck, the T-Rex. All the big toys. He said, "I will be the king of big things." He then handed me a marble and a jack and said, "You can be the king of little things." I said, "What a great idea for a story! Play by yourself...cat's in the cradle..." and I went to my office and wrote the tale. The orginal version was closer to 2500 words then the 700 some words the story is now. I told that version for years before the book came out, so my oral version is a bit longer than the book version.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - What was your reaction when you read the manuscript for the first time? Did the images come to you easily?
A.
The artwork for King of Little Things was definitely in my wheelhouse. I have been recognized for my whimsical approach to many subjects, but particularly those with a Medieval theme. So envisioning the characters was very enjoyable. Once they were fleshed out, I developed the various concepts for each spread, and I had to give that some real thought. The book has a King character that conquers other lands and I wanted my art to not glorify that in any form, so I tried to think of visuals that implied rather then exemplified the military aspects of conquering. I still had plenty of chances to illustrate pompous generals and inept knights. A secondary theme of the story Bil wrote were the many small and little things that make up our world and I really enjoyed sneaking as many of those tidbits into the art as I could.

Q. Bil - You are a well-known storyteller. Was it challenging to turn this story into book text?
A.
I was amazed by the editing process. I had, obviously, wonderful editors. There were times when lines were cut from the tale that I hated to see go, but I just kept telling myself that the folks at Peachtree know what they are doing. One of the most fascinating aspects was seeing, on certain pages, how the layout of text and the illustrations work in conjunction. For example, on the page where the big king is wearing all the hats and crowns and the text mirrors the movement of the hats.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - I’ve heard illustrators refer to some texts as “illustrator candy.” Were there lots of illustrator notes or was Bill’s text simply mental candy for you?
A.
I guess Bil's provided me with a small bowl of illustrator candy. I usually do a lot of preliminary character work on this kind of project. Between Bil, Loraine, the art director, and Margaret, the publisher, we had agreed on the two king characters before I started to develop the layouts. I was really free to interpret Bil's words and the suggestions I received on my sketches truly enhanced the final versions.

Q. Bil - What was the message you wanted to relay in THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.
I feel as if I say more here, I will take away from the point. :-)

Q. David - Most of the illustrations are loaded with tiny details. How long did each piece take you and what was your method?
A.
Thanks for noticing all of the"little things". I spend a lot of time developing the layout so each page works with the entire story. basic simple shapes at first. I compiled several lists of little things that I wanted to include and the sky was the limit since Bil had already designated items like rust, fungus and pickles as subjects of the King of Little Things. So I used my lists to plug in as many extra little things as I could. Once the sketch is done I do a value study in PhotoShop and then transfer the sketch to 330 lb. Fabriano soft press watercolor paper. I then go over the sketch in a black colored pencil and then watercolor it.

Q. Bil - What was your path to publication with THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.
I was very fortunate that Carmen Deedy heard me tell The King of Little Things at a storytelling festival. She asked if I would be interested in the story becoming a picture book and I think I responded with a resounding, "Duh, of course!" Carmen shepherded me through the process and I am grateful that her love of the story led to its eventual publication. I know I grew impatient at times during the process, but Carmen was there to assure me that the process worked. And, after earning all these great reviews, accolades and awards, I must confess, she was correct. When David came on board I was even more excited. Even his initial illustrations, rough drafts, were so delightful, and insightful, that I knew he was going to make the book a real success. I had been with the story a long time, and had grown used to it, but David's art helped me see the story in a whole new way. I have heard of writers being dissatisfied with the illustrations, but that is not the case here. David's devotion to the details and the illustrations turn a good story into a great book.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. David - You’ve been in the illustration business for a long time. Any advice for those struggling on a similar path?
A.
I guess all illustrators get asked this question. There is no easy answer. My son Brendan Wenzel has been carving out a great career in children's books and I think his path is more recent and more relevant then the one I started on many years ago. He has always had really great ideas for books and he had to work in several other illustration fields before he caught on with children's books. He worked doing story boards, making props, animations, and other art related jobs. He kept his eye on his goal and explored every opportunity to get his work out there. He put one of his pieces in an art show in California, it was seen by Angela DiTerlizzi, and she connected with him to illustrate her new book, Some Bugs. I think it's important for aspiring illustrators to understand you build a career piece by piece and always strive to move forward and try to think of set backs as inspiration to get you to the next level.
Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.

Q. Bil and David - Are you doing anything special to celebrate the release of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS?
A.

Bil: I'm hoping that this book leads to more oppotunities for David and I to work together again. The book actually came out a year ago, but we are celebrating the anniversay by going to the PEN Awards ceremony to receive our PEN/Steven Kroll Award.

David: We've been together in NY a couple of times to promote the book and attend the Irma Black awards at Bank Street College. We would like to celebrate more with each other and libraries and bookshops that would like us to come by.

I wish you both much continued success!


GIVEAWAY!
Peachtree has kindly agreed to send one free copy of THE KING OF LITTLE THINGS to one of my lucky followers. Must live in the US to win - enter below:

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18. Hello Kitty Con 2014 Recap

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On Nov. 1, 2014, I headed down to Los Angeles's Little Tokyo with my pals Celina and Kate to see the crazy Sanrio extravaganza known as Hello Kitty Con. Celebrating her 40th Anniversary, HKCon2014 was a massive cutesplosion of displays, activities, and of course, shopping. My only regret is not getting a second day pass so I could see panels as well as shop. Oh, ok, and that the SPAM booth ran out of Hello Kitty Musubi kits. And that I didn't have time or energy left to go make sand art.

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Ok, so I have a lot of regrets. But I had a ton of fun, too! It was weird to look through the Vintage Village displays and see things I most certainly had as a kid. To see all the people dressed in head-to-toe Sanrio gear made me grin. I picked up some collectibles (Socks! Notebooks! Baggu!) for myself, plus a couple more things to give away! Enter below using the Rafflecopter.

The prize is a set of 40th Anniversary notebooks and pins from Hello Kitty Con, plus a bag of Strawberry Pocky because they're pink and delicious. If the post gets 100 comments (minus any by Alethea, Thuy, or Kimberly) we'll throw in a gray Hello Kitty Baggu bag from Poketo, and the Hello Kitty graphic novel, Delicious!

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Open to US residents only. Ends 11/20/2014.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!
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19. 100 Sideways Miles Blog Tour

I'm so thrilled to be on the 100 Sideways Miles blog tour for Andrew Smith! Read on for more about the book, my review, and a giveaway. Check out the tour schedule for more reviews.

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About the book

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 277
Published: 2 Sept, 2014

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.
Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

Where to find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads | Free Preview

About the author

Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers WeeklyKirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).

Smith is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Stand Off, the sequel to Winger, coming in January 2015, is his ninth novel. He lives in Southern California.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Events | Goodreads


Alethea's Review

To begin, I should tell you I know Andrew Smith. I met him in 2011, right after a Wall Street Journal article on YA books basically shat all over him and a few other terrific authors for writing children's literature that was "too dark". He's a great guy and an amazing writer. While the content of his novels are usually brutal, violent, darkly and scatologically humorous, which might make you think the author is some rough, tough ne'er-do-well, he's actually quite sensitive. Anyone who understands his writing understands that, just as he understands us and our feelings. (All the feels!)

While it would probably behoove me to tell you that I am giving the book an honest review regardless of how I think of Andrew, that wouldn't be quite true. I would be even less truthful to say I'm giving it a good review because I like him a lot, and want to spare his feelings. I want you to know I'm giving 100 Sideways Miles the most honest review that I can, given that I already presupposed it to be brilliant because it's written by Andrew Smith. I'm not sugar-coating it, because I don't have to.

It's brilliant.

Finn Easton's view of life, from his stance as an epileptic, uncertain, eventually heart-broken teenaged boy tilts the reader's perspective in unexpected ways. Whenever Finn has a seizure, all is beauty, and words cease to have meaning as the connections between them unravel in his brain. He marks time in miles instead of minutes, thinks of people in terms of their molecules, and how much or how little the microscopic bits of matter want to stay together or rejoin the universe. His best friend Cade, crass and a little insane, makes a great foil. Finn's crush, Julia Bishop, is a girl I'd fall in love with, myself. She's forthright and real. Their story unfolds like history rather than fiction.

Strange plot and lovable characters aside--I won't spoil anything for you--the real star of the show is Smith's prose. He has a penchant for taking normal, everyday words and stringing them together in unforgettable ways, like "the planet of humans and dogs", or "the knackery never shuts down", simple but lyrical to the point where I find myself thinking them throughout the day, when I think about politics and people, when I am planting seeds in the garden, when I'm shampooing my hair. "Twenty miles. Twenty miles." It's how many miles the earth travels per second. When he's not busy blowing your mind, Smith sneaks in relevant tidbits of history, like carrots in the meatloaf. I probably knew, but didn't remember, anything about the St. Francis dam disaster of 1928, and now I feel like I'll never forget it.

People who don't like Andrew Smith point and pick at his use of profanity as weakness. To me, they're the weak ones. His frank voice helps me feel understood; it echoes the way I think, speak, and feel. It makes us, his readers, feel like we're not alone. Not just that, but Smith's detractors are missing the point; they're missing the words and ideas that matter. "Twenty miles. Twenty miles." Every moment we stand still, we're moving. 

100 Sideways Miles is darkly funny, deeply thoughtful, and a worthy addition to Andrew Smith's bildungsroman novels.

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Tour Schedule

November 3rd ~ The Pirate Tree – Review
November 3rd ~ Roof Beam Reader – Review
November 3rd ~ Cabin Goddess – Mom & Son Review with a Recipe
November 3rd ~ Bookish – Review
November 3rd ~ Lookandseebeanazed – Review
November 4th ~ The Reader and the Chef – Review
November 4th ~ The Bookish Confections – Review
November 4th ~ Fangirlish – Review
November 4th ~ Reads All The Books – Review
November 5th ~ Word Spelunking – Review
November 5th ~ Debbie Bookish – Review
November 5th ~ Books and Bling – Review
November 5th ~ Falling For YA – Review
November 5th ~ I Read Banned Books  – Review
November 5th ~ Ringo The Cat – Review
November 5th ~ A Leisure Moment – Review
November 6th ~ Reading on the Farm – Review
November 6th ~ Blogging Between the Lines – Review
November 6th ~ Bookhounds YA – Review
November 6th ~ What A Nerd Girl Says – Review
November 6th ~ Movies, Shows & Books – Review
November 6th ~ Deal Sharing Aunt  – Review
November 7th ~ Pixie Vixen Book Reviews – Review
November 7th ~ roro is Reading – Review
November 7th ~ The Reader and the Chef – Review
November 7th ~ Cabin Goddess – Review
November 7th ~ Reads All The Books – Review
November 7th ~ Laura Kreitzer, Bestselling Author  – Review
November 7th ~ LRB - Karin Baker  – Review
November 7th ~ Read Now Sleep Later – Review


Giveaway

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20. Children’s Book Trends on The Children’s Book Review | November 2014

This month's little peek into what TCBR readers have been most interested in shows the book trends are following the upcoming season with "20 of the Best Christmas Books," "Kids Thanksgiving Books," and the "Best New Kids Books!"

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21. Penny Warner's CODE BUSTERS - Guest Post and Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to help Penny Warner celebrate the 4th book in her CODE BUSTERS series today. Penny was a mentor to me in my early career and I actually did a mock cover for the series before it was sold. So, I have a special loyalty to it and its creator. So, welcome Penny!


DREW’S CLUES TO CREATIVE WRITING
By Penny Warner for Elizabeth Dulemba

      I always wanted to be Nancy Drew. She’s the one who set me on the path of writing mysteries. In fact, everything I know about writing, I learned from reading Nancy Drew mysteries. I thought I’d share her writing tips with you today.
1. Create unforgettable characters: “You know Nancy.” All agreed she possessed an appealing quality, which people never forgot. ~ Clue in the Diary
      All stories are based on interesting characters—there are no exceptions. Introduce us to your character a little at a time, using action and dialogue (showing), rather than a thumbnail sketch (telling). Create realistic characters without using stereotypical traits, and include some surprises about the character that are believable. Finally, give the characters conflict—happy characters make dull characters.
2. Use dialogue: Suddenly the young sleuth snapped her fingers. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll set a trap for that ghost!” ~ The Hidden Staircase
     Dialogue makes a story come alive. It also helps move the story along, increases pace and creates drama. Listen to real conversations for realism, then edit and tighten them to make the dialogue readable. Keep attribution simple—use action or “said,” rather than adverbs and euphemisms for “said.” Finally, read your dialogue aloud.
3. Set the scene: Many Colonial houses had secret passageways. “Do you know any entrances a thief could use?” ~ The Hidden Staircase
      A vivid setting pulls the reader into the story. It also intensifies suspense and becomes a character in itself. Show the setting through the character’s eyes and include all five senses, telling details, and occasional metaphors.
4. Add mood and atmosphere: Nancy had heard music, thumps and creaking noises at night, and had seen eerie, shadows on walls. ~ The Hidden Staircase
      Give a sense of foreboding through description. Mood and atmosphere give the story depth and stimulate the emotions of the readers. Use foreshadowing to give the reader a feeling of unease.
5. Outline your plot: Ellen was alarmed. “We must do something to stop him!” “I have a little plan,” Nancy said. ~ Quest of the Missing Map
      Before you begin writing, outline your plot so you know, generally, where the story is headed. You can keep it simple and just jot down the major plot points of the story—where the story takes a surprising turn and how it ratchets up the suspense. Or you can write a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, with the option of veering off if the story requires an alteration.
6. Start the clock ticking: “Hurry, girls, or we’ll miss the train to River Heights!” Nancy knew being on time was important. ~ Secret of Red Gate Farm
      Begin with the inciting incident, which starts the clock ticking. Include not only the situation, but where it takes place, and who’s involved. This is where you ask the story questions: What if….? Think about your goal as you start the story and where it will lead.
7. Create conflict: Nancy struggled to get away. She twisted, kicked and clawed. “Let me go!” Nancy cried. ~ Secret of the Old Clock
      There is no story without conflict. The protagonist must come up against an antagonist, which can be a person, an idea, a corporation, or some kind of evil. Conflict helps reveal the protagonist’s needs, values, and fears, and causes her to confront her demons, challenge herself, and become a hero of sorts.
8. Pack it with action: “How do we get in?” “Over the top, commando style,” George urged. “Lucky we wore jeans.” ~ Clue in the Crumbling Wall
      Today’s reader wants action, so give your protagonist opportunities to do something physical. Give her a choice between fight or flight, and when she fights—make her strong but still vulnerable.
9. Spark reader’s emotions: Nancy was too frightened to think logically. She beat on the door, but the panels would not give way. ~ Secret of the Old Clock
      Crank up the reader’s involvement but increasing the character’s emotional risk. This way the reader will care about the story. If she can relate to the protagonist’s emotional jeopardy, she’ll be hooked on finding out what happens.
      And there you have it—The Mystery of Writing Children’s Mysteries, solved, by the Girl Sleuth herself!

      Penny Warner is the author of the award-winning series, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB, and the award-nominated guide, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK. She can be reached at www.pennywarner.com and www.codebustersclub. Here is her favorite writing spot:

GIVEAWAY!
      Egmont has kindly agreed to give the whole set of THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB books (#1-3 in paperback and #4 in hardcover) to one of my lucky, lucky followers! Must live in the US/Canada to win - enter below!

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22. Monday Mishmash: 11/10/14


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. The Attic of Sand and Secrets by Medeia Sharif  I'm reading this right now!
THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS 
by Medeia Sharif

Vendor links will be updated on Medeia’s site.

Middle Grade Historical and Fantasy, Featherweight Press, November 2014

Lily, a learning disabled girl, attempts to unravel the mystery of her abducted mother using supernatural clues from an ancient stranger, even when it means posing a danger to herself.

Learning-disabled Lily desires to prove herself, although her mind freezes when presented with big problems - such as her mother's abduction. With a French father and Egyptian mother, Lily worries that her mother hid her ethnicity from her French in-laws. However, there's something deeper going on. Lily finds a way into an attic that's normally locked and encounters a mysterious, moonlit Egyptian night world. There she finds Khadijah, an ancient stranger who guides her to finding clues about her mother's whereabouts. Lily becomes a sleuth in both the real world and magical desert, endangering herself as she gets closer to the kidnapper.

Find Medeia – Multi-published YA and MG Author

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

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2. Revisions  This week I'm revising one of my manuscripts I put aside for a while. It's always fun to go back and read a first draft I've stepped away from.

3. Some Fine Day by Kat Ross  Kat Ross has a new release and a giveaway for you.
What if everything you've been taught is a lie?

Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist knows that when the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.

She knows that the only species to thrive there is the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.

Most of all, she knows there's no place where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.

Turns out Jansin was wrong. On all counts…


Enter here to win a Kindle Paperwhite pre-loaded with Some Fine Day, plus other awesome YA audiobook giveaways!

4.  Reading/Reviewing  I'm reading a bunch of books that I need to review. It's nice to have to find time to read. Usually reading gets pushed aside for other things, but when I promise to review, I can't do that. ;)

5. Promo  My crazy month of events every week (some weeks more than one event) is over, but I do still have a signing set up for this month and two school visits coming up. This week I'll be trying to book another signing for the holidays.

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

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23. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Pop-Up Book | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Pop-Up Book, story by Lisa Ann Marsoli and illustrations by Keith Andrew Finch! Giveaway begins November 11, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 10, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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24. Coloring Page Tuesday - Grasshopper!

     G is for Grasshopper... You know the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It's starting to get colder outside (here in the south). Methinks it's time for Mr. Grasshopper to get to work saving up food for the winter!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
AWARDS
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

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25. Snowman’s Story, by Will Hillenbrand | Book Giveaway

Enter to win a hardcover copy of Snowman's Story, by Will Hillenbrand Giveaway begins November 12, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 11, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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