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Exclusive Audio Excerpt: "Guaranteed Heroes" by William Lasher

William Lasher shares an exclusive audio excerpt from his newest book Guaranteed Heroes.


Q&A with "The Half-Life of Planets" writers Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

FranklinHeplanInterviewThe Half-Life of Planets switches between two points of view: Liana, a scientific girl studying the planets who is determined to live down her reputation, and Hank, a talented guitarist who happens to have Asperger syndrome along with an encyclopedic knowledge of music.

Here, coauthors Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin interview each other:

Brendan Halpin (BH): What’s the biggest challenge in collaborating on a novel?

Emily Franklin (EF): The plusses far outweigh the challenges. That said, two minds work differently, so pacing was a challenge—get too far ahead with one plot and the other lags. Waiting is also a challenge. Brendan and I are both fast writers, but it was exciting to write this story and waiting for his next chapter to arrive was tricky sometimes.

BH: Where do you think Liana is now? 

EF: She's a scientist, I think, maybe living with Hank back in the States after a stint in Sweden or Argentina studying and working. Wherever she is, I bet she can't hear KISS without smiling. I know I can't.

BH: Which writers, (other than me, obviously) do you most admire?

EF: Flannery O'Connor, Ben Lerner, Kate Atkinson.

BH: From your point of view, what are some of the highlights of the tour we did for The Half-Life of Planets?

EF: Where to begin? Stranded on a tiny plane in Kansas? 4:00 a.m. flight… Probably that night of incredible Cuban food in Miami with you, Daniel Waters, and Elizabeth Rudnick.

BH: When are you going to write a YA novel that involves your encyclopedic knowledge of great spots to eat? 

EF: I am happy to pitch Literary Appetites: Writers and Their Favorite Food Haunts to any book or magazine editor who is interested.

BH: What's your favorite beach town?

EF: Any place with a sad, days-gone-by boardwalk that reeks of 1970s music and has a faded-glory pulse—a kind of cotton candy creepy feeling (but only for an afternoon because—creepy).

BH: Name 3 albums that got you through high school.


The Smiths: Louder Than Bombs

Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman

(really tempted to put Milli Vanilli or something here but won't)

The Pixies: Surfer Rosa (Boston band!)

EF: Brendan, have you ever serenaded anyone? If so, name the circumstance and song, please.

BH: I used to sing to my daughter when she was a baby a lot. A mix of Elvis and Beatles tunes. But in terms of like, romantically, outside someone's window or Great idea, though. Probably would have worked like magic. I wrote a song for my friend once and played it at his birthday party. It was about his love of baggy sweaters. But I was not romantically interested in him. 

EF: Name a song that sums up:

a) your first relationship

b) your worst breakup  

c) your best date

BH: I'm gonna cheat on a) and use Billy Bragg's "The Saturday Boy," which captures the agony of unrequited middle school love perfectly. So perfectly that it's almost painful. At least for me.

b) Well, I suppose the good thing about having had far fewer romantic relationships than most people, and certainly fewer than I wanted in high school and college, is that I never really had any bad breakups. Just like, amicably parting when life took us in different directions. Or, you know, one partner dying. Is that too dark? Probably. Um. Let's see...I think pretty much every straight guy of a certain age has listened to "Under My Thumb" after a breakup, but that's more of a revenge fantasy. I'll go with that one.

c) On my way to my first date with my wife, I was listening to Belle & Sebastian's "I'm a Cuckoo," and even though that song doesn't lyrically connect in any way, I always associate it with the excitement and thrilling terror of new love.

EF: What is your go-to for mopey music?

BH: I like that first R.E.M. record for a rainy day. And the Smiths of course, although the older I get, the more I just find myself giggling at the cleverness of the lyrics. You really can't beat some symphonic black metal for a really dark mood. I enjoy Dimmu Borgir's “Death Cult Armageddon”.

EF: Do you write in silence or with a soundtrack? Do you vary your music

depending on what you are writing?

 BH: I almost always have music on when I'm writing. And I totally choose the music
based on what I'm writing. So for some big heart-rending moment, I'm not playing

"Walking on Sunshine." Actually, I never listen to that song. Although

Kimberley Rew, who is a man, wrote both that song and "Going Down to Liverpool,"

which is also on the first Bangles album. Did I mention that I did almost no research

when writing Hank’s obsessive musical tangents? Kimberley Rew was also a member

of the Soft Boys, who did the original version of "I Wanna Destroy You," which has been

covered a lot of times, most memorably, for me, by the Circle Jerks featuring Debbie


EF: What’s your favorite penny candy?

BH: Blecch. Penny candy is gross. I mean, unless something like Tootsie Rolls count. My candy rule is: If it's not chocolate, I'm not interested. So those candy sticks with the stripes that spiral up the sides, the gross sugar dots on pieces of paper... No, thank you. 

EF: What are some movies that The Half-Life of Planets would be friends with?

BH: I think our book would be friends with some mopey dystopia, and that our book would be like the happy friend that balances the mopey friend out. Hopefully it would be a dystopia with a nice car and excellent snacks in the fridge. Like The Hunger Games. You know The Hunger Games has a pantry full of awesome chips and cookies. 

EF: Do you think Hank thinks back on Liana as his first big love—or that they are

together still?

BH: I’d like to think they stayed together. We plotted out a sequel that had them breaking up for college, but then maybe getting back together at the end. So yeah, that's what I think happened: brief breakup in college that led them to realize what a terrible mistake they'd made in breaking up. 

EF: What is one outstanding memory from the colossal cross-country book tour we did?

BH:  Well, I got to see Graceland, which was a fantastic life goal achieved. I remember a great dinner at that Cuban restaurant in Miami that you found for us. I gorged myself on fried yucca. And fried plantains. And fried something else I can't remember. And people coming in to eat dinner with their kids at 10:00 p.m. You also found us that great breakfast spot in Miami. And when we did the event at Books and Books in Coral Gables and that band of teenagers played Fleetwood Mac covers and we were all sitting outside listening to them play— that was pretty awesome.  

So, yeah. Miami, I guess was the big highlight. Also I saw Salman Rushdie on the street in Washington, DC. Not a huge fan, but still, he's kind of a big deal.

EF: In honor of The Half-Life of Planets—and Hank and Liana—will you go see Squeeze with me this


BH: Heck, yeah. I would very much enjoy hearing a whole bunch of their songs live. I just hope they don't play "Hourglass." I hate that song. 

Emily Franklin is the author of Liner Notes and a story collection The Girls’ Almanac. Her most recent YA book, Last Night at the Circle Cinema, is a Junior Library Guild Selection. She has also authored or coauthored ore than a dozen young adult books, including Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom (named to the 2013 Rainbow List) and The Half-Life of Planets (nominated for YALSA’s Best Book of the Year).

Brendan Halpin is a teacher and the author of books for adults and young adults, including the Alex Award–winning Donorboy, Forever Changes, and the Junior Library Guild Selection Shutout. He is also the coauthor, with Emily Franklin, of Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom.

"The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" by Mordicai Gerstein

51r+Hbf5JkL._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. Mordicai Gerstein’s Caldecott Medalwinning picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, andin two dramatic foldout spreadsthe vertiginous drama of Petit's performance.

Petit’s incredible story has recently been adapted for the screen. The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, opens in IMAX and premium large screen engagements September 30, and in theaters everywhere October 9. Read on to learn why Mordicai Gerstein was inspired to write about Petit’s famous stunt. And see stills from the movie.

I was in midtown Manhattan when I first learned of Philippe's feat from the front pages of the New York Times and the New York Post, the day he did it. I immediately knew who he was; the city was full of marvelous street performers of all kinds and for me he was the best. He didn't speak a word, but used the audience as props and foils for his comedy. He got them to form a circle on the sidewalk by zooming round and round on a unicycle till everyone’s toes were just kissed by the tire. He would then look at the crowd and rearrange people from here to there and take a hat from this one and exchange it for that one until he was satisfied. Then he would put slack rope between a lamppost and a tree and dance on it while juggling fiery torches

He was hilarious and astonishing. Reading of what he had done changed my idea of what a human being was and what one was capable of: anything. I read a profile of Philippe in the New Yorker several years later, saved it, and spent years trying unsuccessfully to make a book about a kid who bicycles a tightrope to the moon.

When 9/11 happened, he came to mind immediately, and I realized that his was the more remarkable story and began to write and draw The Man Who Walked Between the Towers .

I think that now the towers and Philippe have become woven together into a true legend.

I have seen amazed young readers ("Is this really true?") come to a new idea of what is possible if one pursues a dream.

--Mordicai Gerstein, author of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Author Post by Carla Neggers: Romantic Destinations and the Holidays

611QzygHV+L._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_Carla Neggers, author of A Knights Bridge Christmas, writes about her favorite romantic destinations that inspire her holiday stories.

It’s no secret that I love to travel, whether to see new places or to revisit longtime favorites. My husband, Joe, and I have enjoyed visiting some incredibly romantic destinations, from the canals of Amsterdam to a cabin on a lake in Maine. Here are three romantic destinations that have inspired the settings for my holiday stories…and one of them is in my own backyard.



Dublin, Ireland

Most years, you’ll find me at home with my family for Christmas, but a few years ago we packed up and flew to Ireland, landing in Dublin on Christmas Eve. Carolers, bell-ringers and pubs made me think of Charles Dickens! We joined the crowds in Brown Thomas, an elegant, historic department store on pedestrians-only Grafton Street. (I bought socks; I still can’t figure out why.) We wandered through historic St. Stephen’s Green with it shallow ponds and many statues. Friends had warned us Dublin would be cold, dark and wet in December, and they were right! We loved it, and it wasn’t wet every day. Not much is open in Dublin at Christmas, but that makes it perfect for long walks through the city to soak up its romantic atmosphere. To top it off, we discovered the charms of buttery mincemeat tarts and did our very first Irish whiskey tasting. We are always planning return trips to this endlessly fascinating Dublin.

The Cotswolds

I’d heard of “twee” English villages long before my first trip to England, but I never quite knew what that meant until I visited the Cotswolds, a region of rolling fields and honey-stoned houses west of London. Whatever the season, the extensive network of marked trails are a draw, whether for a short village stroll or a multiday, inn-to-inn trek. We discovered a bookshop that sells hats—or was it a hat shop that sells books?—and enjoyed lingering in a tea shop with warm scones, clotted cream and gooseberry jam. So taken with the Cotswolds, Joe and I not only are plotting our return but we have been known to watch Inspector Lewis to remind us of this romantic spot (without the murder investigations, of course!).

Woodstock, Vermont

Just down the road from our hilltop home in Vermont, picturesque Woodstock is situated between the Connecticut River and the popular Killington ski area. It’s been rated as one of the best small towns in the USA for Christmas, and for good reason. Its historic houses lining pretty village streets and its elliptical-shaped town green are a great sight anytime of year, but they’re truly special at Christmas. Billings Farm and Museum offers horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides, ornament-making and tours of its Victorian farmhouse, decorated for Christmas. Wassail Weekend is a jam-packed few days of concerts, carolers, winter activities and home tours that draw visitors from all over to this romantic village.

I hope you enjoy the holidays as much as my family and I do and that A Knights Bridge Christmas inspires you to think about what the romance of the season means to you.

Kindle Library Adds Over 5,000 Image Comics Titles

Image Comics, comiXology and Amazon have announced an expanded and renewed distribution agreement to sell Image Comics’ digital comics and graphic novels across the comiXology platform and expand the distribution of their library to the Amazon’s Kindle Store.

61Gw42BYlKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Today’s announcement heralds the debut of more than 5,500 Image Comics digital titles in the Kindle Store including The Walking Dead, Saga, Wytches, Descender, Sex Criminals, The Wicked + The Divine, and many more.

“We’re stoked to debut day-and-date single issues, as well as get our deep library of amazing trade collections back on the Kindle platform so that even more comics fans can discover some of the best creator-owned content out there,” said Jeremy Sullivan, Director of Digital Sales at Image Comics.

“With titles like The Walking Dead, Saga, East of West, and more, Image Comics publishes some of the bestselling comics and graphic novels on our platform,” said Chip Mosher, comiXology’s VP of Communication & Marketing. “Image plays a central role in the diversification and expansion of comic book fandom, with so many great titles that create new fans across the world. Making Image Comics titles available through Amazon’s Kindle Store is a big win in our quest to make everyone on the planet a comics fan. We’re very happy today, not only to renew our relationship for comiXology readers, but to expand Image’s presence to the larger Amazon audience as well.”

Kindle readers will also have access to new Image Comics titles on the same release date as their print versions become available.

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Dark Horse Single Issues Now Available on Kindle, comiXology

Kindle Fire 7 - LayeredToday Dark Horse Comics, comiXology and Amazon announced an agreement to bring the full catalog of Dark Horse Comics’ single issues to the comiXology platform and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Now, all Dark Horse Comics’ digital single issues will be available on comiXology and the Kindle Store the same-day-as-print versions arrive in comic shops.

As of today, Dark Horse Comics’ full digital catalog is now available on both comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle Store. This release includes more than 2,000 Dark Horse Comics single issues, including  Fight Club 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tomb Raider, The Witcher, Plants vs. Zombies, Halo, The Goon, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D., and more.

“This is huge,” said comiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger. “Our fans were thrilled when we added Dark Horse Comics on comiXology earlier this year. I’m very excited that we’re now able to offer new releases the same-day-as-print and the incredible Dark Horse Comics catalog of back issues to readers through both comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle Store.”

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New Titles From Oni Press

51HXGftcLtL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Oni Press, comiXology and Amazon announced today an expanded and renewed distribution agreement that more than doubles the Oni Press library on Amazon’s Kindle Store. Today’s announcement means more than 500 Oni Press titles are now available in the Kindle Store, including The Sixth Gun, Letter 44, Scott Pilgrim, The Bunker, Kaijumax and more.

“Together comiXology and Amazon are able to offer digital comics to a large audience of new readers as well as devoted longtime fans,” said Oni Press Publisher Joe Nozemack, "Oni Press is extremely excited to work with both to expand the reach of our comics and creators.”

The newly-expanded Oni Press catalog includes popular favorites like Rick and Morty and Invader Zim, Eisner-nominated titles Bad Machinery, I Was The Cat, Mermin, Stumptown and more. Kindle readers now also will have access to new Oni Press titles same day as print.

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James Hankins: My Book in 15 Seconds

Caitlin can't quite remember the past--yet can't seem to forget it to save her life? Learn more about The Prettiest One by James Hankins.



Robert Dugoni: My Book in 15 Seconds

Can a cold case lead detective Crosswhite to an active killer? Learn more about Her Final Breath from best-selling author Robert Dugoni.



Paul Alexander: Why we are still fascinated with James Dean

51b+QQmS5oL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_Celebrated biographer and journalist Paul Alexander talks about the short life of James Dean and how his death immortalized him as a cultural icon. Paul’s new biography, Being James Dean, is now available.

September 30, 1955. It’s a date that has become so infamous that for years now movie fans mark it with tributes. What happened on this day? At 5:59 p.m., on a stretch of two-lane highway in Northern California, James Dean died in a car crash. Driving his silver Porsche Spyder 550 convertible, Dean, an amateur sports car driver, was on his way from Los Angeles to Salinas to compete in a race the next day. He was driving too fast. He had not turned on his headlights. As a result, his speeding silver car blended into the coming twilight so completely Donald Turnipseed, a college student in a Ford sedan, did not see Dean and made a left-hand turn in front of him. Dean tried to swerve but it was too late. The violent collision sounded like a small explosion. Dean died on impact. He was pronounced dead on arrival when he was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. He was twenty-four years old.

At the time, he had made three pictures, but only East of Eden, Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece, had been released. A student of Stanislavski and a member of the Actors Studio, Dean portrayed the troubled Cal Trask with such power, displaying such raw emotion, that he invited comparisons to Marlon Brando. Then, within days of Dean’s death, Rebel Without a Cause came out. Audiences were stunned by Dean’s unnerving portrayal of Jim Stark, the disillusioned teenager who rebels against his family, authority figures, and, finally, society in general. With this picture, Dean became the teenage Everyman who spoke for a generation repressed by the conservatism of the fifties. Soon a myth began to form around Dean that was only enhanced when Giant was released in 1956. In his final picture, an adaptation of Edna Ferber’s epic novel about the Texas rich, Dean’s Jett Rink, who ages from a youthful, evocative cowboy to a hunched-over, alcoholic oil baron, was a tour de force.

Over the years, the Dean myth grew, and a generation of actors — Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino — emerged shaped by the emotive, highly personal style Dean perfected. Calling him “the inspiration,” Pacino has said, “The person I related to was James Dean. Rebel Without a Cause had a very powerful effect on me.” But Dean was an influence beyond acting. In the sixties, he was a symbol of rebellion to a youth discontent with the status quo. In the seventies, he would come to represent the very ideal of individual freedom. “It is quite possible that the James Dean mystique,” The New York Times notes, “which persists to the present day, might not have been as intense had he lived longer, but like so many others untimely ripped from our midst — Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon — James Dean has transcended mere idol status and entered the hallowed halls of Legend.”

As an early biographer of James Dean, I have continued to document his life and impact. On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of his death, my new portrait, Being James Dean, explains why as the decades go by our fascination grows.