Category Archives: resources

Thank You, Teachers!

turkey-readingTeachers pour so much of their time and energy into preparing lessons for their students. Today, I want to treat you, our teachers! This Thursday-Sunday only (American Thanksgiving break), The Candle Star will be available as a free download right here on Emblazon. So grab your choice of file format, sit down, and relax for a few hours. You’ve earned it.

Mobi | Epub | Pdf
(It’s always available at Amazon, as well. It’s just not free.)

When you’re finished reading, keep those feet propped up on the coffee table a little longer and browse through these  related resources. I’ve done some of your work for you.

As it  features slavery and the Underground Railroad, The Candle Star has been my most popular classroom-seller. I’ve used my background as an educator to design a companion booklet to help teachers get full mileage out of the novel. It includes chapter-by-chapter vocab and discussion questions, social studies extension ideas, and primary sources. It’s also aligned with Common Core standards. And it costs money everywhere but here!

The Candle Star: Classroom Resources pdf download

I’m not done yet. Encouraged by one of my colleagues, I also wrote out three full lesson plans designed to help students explore some of the novel’s historical context. (I especially like the mapping one. I LOVE old maps!) These pdf downloads are free for the taking.

Anticipation Guide (pre-reading activity) for The Candle Star
The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Civil War Era

Map Skills–Using Primary Resources with The Candle Star

Happy Thanksgiving, teachers! Enjoy your well-deserved break.

(Non-teachers, feel free to take advantage of this limited time offer, as well. Just be sure to thank the great folks who mentor your kids so faithfully. And point them to this post!)

Cephalopod Awareness Days

October 12 is the last day of International Cephalopod Awareness Days, which is celebrated each year from October 8th through the 12th.

dreamstime_m_2825661_zpscf09a74f
Copyright photo

In case you’re wondering, cephalopods are a class of mollusks that include octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiluses.

The timing of this celebration has nothing to do with the spooky Halloween holiday, although cephalopods have been haunting oceans for millions of years. No, the dates were chosen because cephalopods have either 8 or 10 appendages.

cephalopod-days

Cephalopod Awareness Days celebrate our curiosity and love of books, movies, and TV shows that feature cephalopod characters. For instance, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘SpongeBob Squarepants,’ and the Harry Potter series, to name a few. Video games like Minecraft and Pokémon have cephalopods, too!

For the sake of keeping this post from growing as long as a giant squid’s tentacle, I’ll share with you just a few interesting facts about octopuses:

They’re extremely intelligent and have excellent memories. It’s no wonder they’re so smart since they have nine functioning brains, one behind the eyes and the others in each of its eight arms. They have four pairs of arms, by the way.

Some octopuses have been known to use tools. Watch the 39 second video below. Home sweet home!

They’re so smart, some have been observed opening everything from screw-top jars to the cap on a childproof medicine bottle.

If an octopus gets bored, they’ve been known to eat their arms. Ew! Do you think that’s gross? It might make you feel better to know that they’re able to regrow their limbs.

They have three hearts. (I wonder if they love Valentine’s Day three times as much?)

They have blue blood. (For a tongue twister, try saying “blue blood” three times as fast as you can.)

Octopuses can change colors to blend in with their surroundings and hide from their enemies. It takes less than a second for them to change color. They can also change their texture to disguise themselves. This is a cool 24-second video:

If a predator confronts them, they can squirt dark ink to dull the sense of smell of their attacker, giving the octopus a chance to escape.

They also have venom, but only the blue ringed octopuses’ bite can be deadly to humans.

They don’t have a skeleton, so they’re able to squeeze through small spaces. Their bodies can fit through any cracks that their beaks fit through. This 1:42 minute video shows an octopus slithering through a crack in a boat:

Do you think Harry Houdini would have been impressed by that escape?

The last interesting fact I’d like to share is kind of scary, like something right out of a horror story. Once a male octopus mates, it dies soon after. The females can lay up to 400,000 eggs, which they guard with their lives. When the eggs hatch, the mother’s body quickly deteriorates until she dies. A haunting tale, for sure.

To learn about other cephalopods, here’s one website among many about these amazing creatures.

So what do you think of cephalopods? Do you find them fascinating? What’s your favorite creature, either real or fictional? Can you think of a book or movie that has a cephalopod in it?

If you love fun, creepy stories, my Monster Moon series coauthor, Kathryn Sant, and I have three thrillers you might like. We write under the pen name BBH McChiller.

Book 1 – Curse at Zala Manor (Great read for Halloween):

978-0615855479

 

“This tale will rattle yer timbers, squiffie, and chill ye to the bone!”

It’s almost Halloween, and twelve-year-old AJ Zantony’s world is threatened by an ancient curse that releases wicked pirates who had been trapped for centuries in his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor.

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

Book 2 – Secret of Haunted Bog (Fast paced and full of action):

Lynn Kelley Author, BBH McChiller, Secret of Haunted Bog, Monster Moon mysteries

“Beware the bog, landlubbers.

If ye venture into that haunted place,

Yer every step be filled with danger. Yarr!”

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

 

 

Book 3 – Legend of Monster Island (Perfect for Cephalopod Awareness Days):

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Cover illustration by fellow Emblazoner, Mikey Brooks

“Listen, swabbers, to this kraken tale.

Treasure and scoundrels and setting sail.

Sinking ships and a ghostly wail.

Can AJ survive, or will the beast prevail?”

Available in print or eBook formats.

 

 

 

 

lynnprofile

Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals, but nowadays she’s a goofball in the highest degree who’s susceptible to laughing jags. She tries to control herself out in public, but it’s not easy. She’ll jump at any excuse to wear funky get-ups. For instance, making wacky YouTube videos, entertaining her grandkids, or hanging out at  a costume party.

She recently became a Master Certified Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

 

 

Lessons learned from my flat iron — No time like the present

cartoon-hair-on-fireI have thin hair. The kind that requires a short funeral service every morning as I mourn over the strands that have fallen out from brushing. When flat irons became all the rage, I made sure to buy the most expensive brand that promised not to damage my precious locks. I dumped a good $150 into it, so I was annoyed a few months back when I noticed the flat iron’s charging light never stopped blinking.

I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and so I kept using it . . . until a week later when I took a good hard look at my hair in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair so frizzy?”

It was burned. Irrevocable hair damage. My hairdresser said it resembled cotton candy. (Ouch, that hurt!) She cut off a lot, trying to “lessen” the damage. In the meantime I learned an important lesson.

It’s much better to take some time now to fix something rather than to continue along, assuming all will be well.

boy writingIf you know a tween who struggles with writing, the time to help him or her through this issue is NOW, especially as school begins anew. The following are five suggestions taken from the National Council Teachers of English website to encourage writing in children. (Link to the full article.)

  1. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good “talking.”
  2. Talk through their ideas with your tween. Help them discover what they want to say.
  3. Make sure your tween has a “place” of her/his own to write. Any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  4. Share letters and emails from friends and relatives. (You may need to urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Grandparents can be very helpful here. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.
  5. Think of unique ways a child can be involved in writing. For example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, etc. Each attempt at writing, no matter how small, is important and builds confidence.

Above view of a girl geek . She is using her laptop and looking at the camera.  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786682][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/children5.jpg[/img][/url]

Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

book-Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net(image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

WRITERS: GET & STAY INSPIRED!

Writers write, obviously, and most of the time we do it with passion, excitement, and a love for our craft. But there are times when we need a little extra inspiration . . .

Useful ways writers can accomplish this:

JOURNALING. Journaling our thoughts and feelings is a great way to cleanse the mind and give our ideas a clearer “space” to flow. Aside from personal topics, we can journal specifically about our writing, what we’re struggling with in our manuscripts, what we’re researching, ideas we have but aren’t sure about, any fears we have about our writing (maybe we’re questioning the topics we’ve chosen or our craft skills), certain obstacles we believe might be slowing our progress, things in our lives or writing careers we’d like to see changed, and on and on . . . Journaling is a great method to clear our heads, ease our hearts, and allow for new paths of clarity to show up, so that our focus becomes fine-tuned once again.

ENGAGE IN OTHER TYPES OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Drawing, painting, sculpting, scrap-booking—really anything that engages our creativity in a visual way—helps awaken our muses. Some may want to create art inspired by something they are writing about specifically, such as a character or setting. Some may want total freedom to create whatever comes to mind. Either way is fine, as is any style of artistic expression. Even doodling works wonders to keep our fingers moving while our minds are allowed to relax and find new inspiration.

TALK IT OUT. Bantering, brainstorming, talking out our story ideas in a free-style way with a writing buddy or two can lead us to solutions we might not otherwise have found. The trick is not to get too serious (at first), letting anything/everything flow freely, so that we can eventually arrive at the real “heart” of our projects with a new/deeper outlook. As an alternative to working with a buddy, writers can also go solo by using voice recorders (voice recorder apps work great) to talk things out on their own until those golden ideas click into place. I do this while taking a walk or driving (nowadays nobody ever thinks you’re talking to yourself).

WATCH A MOVIE. Structure-wise, movies and books share many of the same rules. For extra insight, watch a movie in the same genre in which you write. Pay attention to when and how the story-structure points occur (inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, climax, etc.), observe the settings shown, the focus of the camera on particular objects, listen carefully to dialogue between characters for uniqueness or interesting styles of banter. Writers can learn a lot from cinematic art, and it’s definitely a fun way to get inspired.

READ. Perhaps the most effective way to re-charge ourselves as writers is to read. Read books in the genres you love—the ones that get you excited—no matter if they match the genres you write in or not. The point is to inspire and re-ignite your passion for the written word. Reading helps us stay in the world of “story” while also helping us to relax. It allows us writers to stop focusing so hard on our own manuscripts, and at the same time, fills us with motivation that we can take back to our writing. Whenever anyone asks me what one thing I would suggest for writer’s block, my answer is always: READ!

Want more tips? Check out my board over on Pinterest with tons of articles, quotes, pictures, etc. to help Writers-Get & Stay Inspired!

 

head shot image extra crop colorChristina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She is also a once-upon-a-time CPA and the author of Bean Counting for Authors. Christina enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.  WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

 

 

For the Reluctant Summer Readers

Writers generally love to read, but that doesn’t mean our kids always do, and with the advent of summer, some tweens are cheering the chance to toss books aside and get down to some serious video gaming or hanging with friends by the pool. No books for three months! Whoohooo!

 

Oh no. Not so fast. You can’t nurture a love of reading (which often comes with better reading proficiency) by ditching it 25% of the year.

photo credit: lakeridgees.schools.pwcs.edu
photo credit:
lakeridgees.schools.pwcs.edu

So how can we get our reluctant readers involved with books during the summer?

 

Here are a handful of ideas.

Volunteer at the Library

Many local libraries have summer reading programs that are run, at least in part, by youth volunteers. My kids will be spending every Tuesday afternoon helping kids sign up for the reading contests and select prizes for reaching reading goals. As enthusiastic readers come in and gush about their new favorite book, it can help a reluctant reader see that peers value reading. And, well, you know… If peers like it…

Even if something like that isn’t available, youth can often volunteer to help re-shelf books with adult supervision. There is something about handling the books, seeing the shiny covers and all the different genres and subjects, that piques interest in even anti-reading kids.

 

Watch the Movie

No, not instead of the book. With the book. This requires the parent or guardian to be quite familiar with both, but it’s worth it. We did this most recently with To Kill a Mockingbird, reading a chapter and then watching the corresponding scene in the movie. Since books and their movies are never quite the same, we talk about the differences and which one they enjoy better.  It doesn’t take long to find out that books usually include a lot more details. The benefit of the movie, though, is that it helps a reader visualize the characters and locations. This in turn keeps the energy going when they dive back into the pages.

 

Bring Back Bedtime Stories

Yes. With tweens. I’m not kidding. If you are good at reading aloud with expression, this can be a truly awesome bonding (or re-bonding) experience with even tweens. That bedtime slot is great because it’s time to wind down; there aren’t friends distracting, and it gets them settled before midnight so that you can sleep, too. (They might have the summer off, but you don’t necessarily have that luxury.) This is a great time to pull out the more fluffy, popular books that don’t feel like literature class–things that are fast-paced and either full of humor or action.  Learn to stop right at a good spot, and if they fuss for you to read more, you can say, “Not now, but you can always read more and tell me about it in the morning.” (wink wink)

 

Make a Movie

Tweens love taking pictures and stupid videos of themselves, so challenge them to make a movie out of a chapter from a book. They can do it with their friends–both the filming and the editing–so that makes it feel like fun.  There are plenty of free, simple movie-editing programs that don’t require advanced degrees to figure out, and they’ll probably learn some new skills in the process. This isn’t, after all, a graded school project. It’s going to be the main feature for a “home movie” night with popcorn and pizza.

 

Pair up!

Got two readers who’d rather not? Here’s a way they can get two books read for the mental price of one. Sort of. Start with two books of similar length (especially chapter length), and have each child (or parent and child) choose one and read the first chapter. Then they come back together and report on what happened in the story, hopefully with some details and enthusiasm so that the other kid wants to know more. Now they swap books and read the next chapter (or designated time length) and repeat the process.  This can be fun for a few reasons: (1) one chapter isn’t soooo daunting; (2) they feel like they’re leapfrogging through the book faster, and thus feel more accomplished; (3) summarizing the story for someone else helps it stick in their own minds more, thus boosting their memories of the events and making them feel more real; and (4) they don’t have to read for long–maybe only 15 minutes a day–to get through more books, which also boosts confidence.  This is a good activity for social kids because that positive feedback loop will cement that “reading is fun” idea into their subconscious.

 

Summer can be the opportunity to kindle (or rekindle) a child’s love of reading because it isn’t school-related. Since reading is a life skill that helps with countless others, it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure their success when school starts back up in the fall.

 

Now where’s that library card?

 


A shot B&WAncientsLia London

Recent release for young readers: Ancients of Drandsil and the Circle of Law (new edition of formerly called The Circle of Law).