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Book Review: Between Two Fires by Mark Noce

Here is a repost of a book review from last year. I’ll have a review of the second title in this series posting on December 8, so be ready for the latest on this historical series!

Writer's Resource Blog

Release date: August 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books

This power-packed historical novel is the first in a series…and it’s going to have readers beating on the publisher’s door for more.

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that historical fiction can be a real slough. In the wrong author’s hands, novels set in any time period earlier than maybe 20 years ago can bog down in details…what folks wore, how they acted, the mores of their society, what their culture told them was right, how they rebelled…endless, really.

But in a strong author’s hands, historical fiction is a true delight. And that’s what Noce has delivered with Between Two Fires: a work that moves along briskly while providing everything they need to know to dive into the period. Never once will readers be left wondering, “What. What? Who? How did that happen?”

Part of the strength of this work…

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Cutest Dual-language Picture Book!

English-Spanish Hardcover resizedJuvenile author Wendy Gilhula has sent me a copy of her debut work. Pika Bunny and the Thunderstorm has some of the sweetest illustrations I’ve seen in a long time!

Gilhula and I worked together some years ago on prose and poetry she had written. The ideas she had just would not let her go. One of them was a series of stories about a bunny named Pika.

Pika Bunny explores the world and illustrates the most touching elements of the parent-child relationship. After Gilhula put her ideas down on paper, she found a publisher who wanted not just one of the works, but several.

Today she is celebrating because Pika Bunny has found life in several formats. The debut story is available in paperback and hardbound versions. There are also English-only and Spanish-English editions, for a total of four versions!

When I received my copy, I reread the story that had demanded the author’s time and focus. Pika Bunny is frightened by a thunderstorm. Then he learns all the good things about rain and thunder. Pika Bunny triumphs over his fear!

PikaBedWashFrom the first page, I really was taken in by the illustrations. Adrianna Allegretti is the illustrator here.

Like most children’s books, the illustrations stay focused on the characters. In a few places, however, Allegretti opts to draw only the storm or other elements of nature.

The combination of the characters in nature, in their cozy interior spaces, and the ones that allow nature to roam free across the page lend this work a particular feeling readers will love.

One of the coolest things about Pika Bunny is that the work is available in a dual-language version. The story is told in Spanish and English, with the same text running in both languages on the same page.

The work has been nominated for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI’s) Golden Kite Award. 

Of special note is the dedication in the front of the book. Gilhula thanks a number of individuals, all by listing their first names and the first initial of their last name. These are all kids who were her beta readers!

She wanted to honor the contributions of these dedicated fans. And here she has, while also preserving their identities and therefore their safety.

Want more of this cuteness and sweet words? Tune in next week for an interview with author Wendy Gilhula!

On seeing and being seen

Yesterday I came across a New York Times article about a guy who listened to all the records on NPR’s list of greatest music by women. Whenever he talked about his dedication to hearing all the music on the list, people were shocked that he would be listening to “women’s music.”
Now, “women’s music” is, according to him, a genre that (as he describes it) is one woman and a guitar. Folksy, perhaps. But specific. And not the kind that is widely popular.
Even though he constantly said no, he was listening to “music by women” rather than “women’s music,” the misunderstandings continued.
It reminded me, painfully, of the idea in publishing and among readers (and reviewers, and art organizations that provide awards) that fiction about women is “women’s fiction” (i.e., chick lit or romance or fill in the blank with whatever genre is currently considered the lowest of the lowbrow). Or, on the wildly mistaken far end of that opinion, that fiction written by women is also always women’s fiction.
Then my partner, who is a woodworker and is reading the book of a woman who has made a name for herself as a woodworker, shared this article.
Let’s change publishing, fiction, and reading (and thus the world) by having parity for women in publishing options, review options, marketing deals, and awards opportunities.

Lost Art Press

PWNov09CVRrevised2 A knockout indeed

I’ve lost track of how many times people have written “So great to see a woman in the magazine!” following the publication of a project feature. For years I’d roll my eyes and think Never mind my gender. WHAT ABOUT THE WORK?

It’s thorny, this issue of gender representation in woodworking. You can say pretty much the same about race. When you’re the odd one out, it’s easy for readers to see only what makes you different. Which is galling when, for you, what matters is the work.

While I was on hold during a recent phone call, I glanced at Instagram and found myself tagged by Sarah Marriage at A Workshop of Our Own. She was commenting on a post by Phoebe Kuo. “Have you heard about our woodshop drinking game?” asked Sarah. “You take a shot every time you see a woman depicted working…

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Author Interview: Dr. Barbara Culp

As mentioned in last week’s post about great books for the back-to-school season, now we’re going to hear directly from Dr. Barbara Culp herself.

Culp Teachers

Dr. Culp started out as a preschool teacher before teaching at the elementary and middle school levels. The area superintendent promoted her until she became the principal of one of the largest elementary schools in Georgia.

After retiring, she found that education was a field she could never leave. She returned to work as a field supervisor of aspiring teachers before founding a tutorial service. The books she has written allow her to reach out to everyone who is focused on academic excellence.

More than four decades of experience have been distilled into this series. Each of the comprehensive books targets teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and students with thoughtful, relevant advice. Readers empower themselves with wisdom from an educator who has been where they want to go.

She kindly took a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for this blog.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

To a new writer, I would say it takes time to fine tune your writing skills. Don’t give up, because your passion and purpose will take you places you never dreamed of.

To a seasoned writer, I would say you owe it to your voice in the world to mentor others who have a calling on their lives to write.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

For me, my mind is constantly at work searching within and without looking for more thoughts and information to fill the void with respect to the project I’m currently working on. It resembles an outline or table of contents; it is part of the whole that inspires more.

It makes me feel that I have something of value to add to the big picture of reading and writing and, as an artist, I am challenged to always put my best foot forward.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

I think the greatest challenge to publishers is to get people reading again. In a world where technology rules, reading a book seems to be the last thing people want to do.

I hate to offer this suggestion, but the right incentives usually motivate people to doing things they might not do on their own…so, hide messages in books that lead to monetary rewards/incentives or put books on audio to be listened to as we travel to and from.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading the Bible and The Moses Code.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? (The authors do not have to be living.)

I think James Baldwin was an underappreciated Black author during his time, and that was one of the reasons why he left America and moved to France. If he were living today, his novels would probably be bestsellers as he had a tendency to speak about human sexuality as it exists in the world today.

Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

Michelle Alexander is a new author, civil rights attorney, and Professor of Law at Ohio State University who wrote a book titled The New Jim Crow. She spotlights racism based on her insight as a civil rights lawyer. In her book, she helps us to see the imbalance in our justice system when it comes to race in America.

Culp Principals

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Believe it or not, I believe I write best when I am bored or depressed. When I am feeling low, I can write my way back to a place of happiness, self-acceptance and self-reliance. The ideas, words, and thoughts seems to just flow.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Again, my next project is school/workplace related, and it centers on building highly effective and efficient operating teams in support of greater student success.

 

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

This is an issue that everyone who uses Amazon–to buy anything from toilet paper to books and gardening equipment–needs to know about.

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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Books by a Blotter Friend

Just discovered this link to two videos posted by The Blotter literary magazine. Thanks, Blotter gang!

Check out their mag after you look at the videos. PDFs of all their back issues are available online. Happy reading!

POST:

Our good friend LAINE CUNNINGHAM has a couple of novels out & about:  Seven Sisters and The Family Made of Dust.  Here are trailers for them:

Source: Books by a Blotter Friend