Sirocco

OUR TWO OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “FATHER FLASHES,” BY TRICIA BAUER AND “MY DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN,” BY NICK ADAMS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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THE BOOK: Sirocco.

PUBLISHED IN: 2014.

THE AUTHOR: Danielle A. Dahl.

THE EDITOR: Critique Partners; Beta Readers; my agent, Amanda Wells; Mary Buckam, USA Today bestselling author; my publisher, Coffeetown Press.

THE PUBLISHER: Coffeetown Press, info@coffeetownpress.com. http://www.coffeetownpress.com

SUMMARY: The Algerian War of Independence begins in 1954, forever changing the lives of the French colonials, including 10-year-old Nanna and her family. The conflict lasts for 8 years, but despite the constant threat of terrorist attacks, Nanna confronts the usual challenges of growing up—helping to raise her spirited siblings, struggling with math, and defying her harsh father by falling in love.

THE BACK STORY:  Writing Sirocco was not an idea that suddenly popped out of nowhere, but a growing need to tell the stories of my growing up with my brothers and sisters, of our adventures and misadventures. A need to paint the breathtaking vistas of the land of my birth, share the uniqueness of its people, and recount the life of a French girl coming of age in a country torn by a war of independence

WHY THIS TITLE?  Sirocco is the searing wind that, in season, blows howling sand from the Sahara desert, scouring the landscapes of North Africa. It is presaged by grandiose fiery sunsets. Fire

that reflects the convictions, spirit, and pride of the men and women who struggled to keep the land their ancestors won through sacrifices and hard work.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  Sirocco brings to its readers a view of a little-known part of world history and political environment, which presents so many parallels to our modern world of fear, repression and terrorism.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Sirocco is the riveting account of the author’s youth during the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962), and it is the first English-language novel from the Pied-Noir community. Dahl paints a loving and nostalgic image of Algeria but does not spare the reader from the confusion, chaos and violence of war. The beauty of the text comes from the gradual shift in perspective from child to young adult as Nana begins to understand the complexity of the conflict in Constantine. Her cohesive story is smattered with French and Pied-Noir expressions, authentic scenes, and vivid descriptions of the characters in her life. She transports us to a traumatic period that has long been silenced in France and that has only begun to be uncovered in the last decade.” — Amy L. Hubbell, Lecturer in French, The University of Queensland

“Mesmerizing. Poignant. Bittersweet. Richly evocative writing that places you deep in the world of war-torn Algeria. A stunning debut author to watch.” — Mary Buckham, USA Today bestselling author

“With brilliant storytelling, we are drawn into the world of a French-Algerian family during the civil war. Lush language and skillful rendering of this world create a story you won’t be able to put down. Dahl’s memoir Sirocco teaches us about another culture and the history of a time and a place—and most of all, you will meet a family you will never forget.” — Linda Joy Myers, author of Power of Memoir and Don’t Call Me Mother

“Sirocco is a true gem. The story is original, different from so much out there now, and finely crafted as a good storyteller would. I learned about a part of the world I knew nothing about through the eyes of a child growing up in a world of conflict and beauty. A joy to read.”

“This book engaged my heart, my mind and made me think about things outside my own, comfortable little world. Somehow, Mrs. Dahl captures your attention and writes the novel in a very fluid manner, despite the unpredictability and instability, which was her childhood. Compelling and palpable.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: A fourth generation French settler in Algeria, Danielle A. Dahl was born and raised in Constantine, where she came of age during the Algerian War of Independence. A week before Algeria celebrated self-rule and just before Danielle turned eighteen, she and her family fled their home and took refuge in France. Eight years later, she moved to the United States, where she studied commercial art. She and her husband lived in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Illinois before retiring to South Carolina.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Hopefully, Sirocco will help readers understand that, unlike the hardcore, uncompromising extremists whose weapon of choice, is terror, the majority of people indigenous to a culture like that of Algeria are hard-working, peaceful, humble beings who only wish to feed their families and practice their faith without coercion and in harmony with each other and the world at large.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.amazon.com/author/danielle.a.dahl.

LOCAL OUTLETS: The Booksmith, in Seneca, SC.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Available online at Amazon.com, BN.com, and in multiple eBook formats from most major retailers. Also at, info@coffeetownpress.com

PRICE: $0.99 for Ebooks during the month of March; $14.95 for books, $4.95 for Ebooks.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: dadahl.cliffhanger@gmail.com.

Author website: https://www.amazon.com/author/danielle.a.dahl.

Google: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Danielle.A.Dahl.Author.14 Twitter:

http://www.DanielleDahl15 LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/danielle-a-dahl/1a/77a/a04

 

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Father Flashes

THE BOOK: Father Flashes.

PUBLISHED IN: 2011.


THE AUTHOR:
  Tricia Bauer.

THE EDITOR
: N/A.

THE PUBLISHER: Fiction Collective 2, University of Alabama Press.

SUMMARY: The winner of FC2’s inaugural Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, Father Flashes re-imagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship.

THE BACK STORY
: This book, though short in length, took quite a long time to write. Initially, I wrote the book as poems, but it wasn’t until I transposed these pieces into prose that I found trhe freedom to lengthen the lines and sometimes to depart from the poems’ intrinsic music.  This work cuts pretty close to the bone. The writing of my father’s disappearance was cathartic, but it was emotionally difficult to process and then to get down on paper. I could only work in brief stints, thus the brevity — and the density.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title works on a number of different levels — Father Flashes refers to the literary form of flash fiction, to the camera flashes of the photographer/father, to the glimpses the narrator gets of her father as he deteriorates.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
For the many people trying to deal with the ramifications of Alzheimer’s Disease, maybe this book will offer a sense of familiarity. For anyone interested in family dynamics, maybe this book will offer a glimpse into its complexities. It’s a brutal process, but rather than depressing, I think there’s humor in the material at times. And surprising revelations about self, as well as the afflicted.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Suffused with tenderness, Tricia Bauer’s Father Flashes is at once austere and lavish, simple and complex, troubling and serene. How to describe the feeling exactly? One feels in familiar territory: a parent will dim and eventually die. A child will grieve. Why then does reading Father Flashes feel so surprising—at once so natural and so frightening?”—From the foreword by Carole Maso.

“For fans of flash fiction and prose poetry, Father Flashes offers an impressive exploration of a hybrid form. Its language is precise and startling, and its insights feel remarkably genuine and deeply human. That alone is an exciting achievement for any piece of writing, however conventional or experimental its mode of expression may be.” — Brett Bisceglia, Front Porch.

“Father Flashes, by Tricia Bauer, is a beautifully written memoir and tribute. A father’s personality, his essence, is preserved even as his disappearing is documented. These flashes linger in the reader’s mind, and all together they build the life that must have been.” —Bobbie Ann Mason

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old, so a long time now. I was an unnaturally shy kid, and it was my only outlet to try to connect, though I kept my occupation hidden until I was nearly out of college. I’ve fashioned my life around books — reading them, writing them, publishing with an indie and one of the Big Five, as well as a university press, and even working in publishing (children’s educational).

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I am interested in how stories are told even more than the stgories themselves. The most gratifying reading and writing experiences for me are those where structure perfectly matches the story told. I feel like I’ve always been w3orking under rthe radar. My first novel, Boondocking, comprised three different voices, and it came out nearly 20 years ago. My second, Hollywood and Hardwood, was a a series of interconencted stories published in 1999.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Chapter One

FIRST SYMPTOMS

Their bodies give them away.

Looming larger, Mother has eaten her way beyond Father, who is shrinking to join the metal men poised in accomplishment on his golf trophies. They try to justify why they no longer sleep together.

He laughs and gestures to indicate the hill shaped in their bed she’s grown so heavy. Dream after dream he rolls into her. She scowls at how he makes himself lighter with every trip to the toilet.

“Every hour,” she says. “All night. Every hour.”

My brother and I, home for a visit, do not understand the new arrangement—them in our old beds. Just by our presence, we force them to turn back that old landscape of nubby chenille and bleached white sheets covering a mattress eight hours older than their marriage. Their feet must bump the sky-blue dust ruffle as they sigh into bed.

My brother settles upstairs, directly above me on the double bed in the room once mine. Mother’s new domain of patterns, lengths of cotton and corduroy, virgin wool, and synthetic silks are colorful as foreign goods from dusty, overland hills. Some nights she sews herself to sleep.

My brother sleeps with his new wife as I pull down the wheat-colored blanket on a bed always his—the single in the smaller room for the second-born. Father claims it’s inviting as a just-mown lawn.

What I hear in the next room my brother must hear, too—Mother and Father turning and turning, determined as animals circling a given spot before settling finally against the ground.



RETURNING HOME

My father wakes at two a.m. and sits totally dressed, complete with overcoat and woolen cap, in his small white house surrounded by the perforations of a chain-link fence that could be punched through into the earth with the right blow. Still, the worn row of other same houses would go on.

My father is waiting for someone to take him home.

My mother wakes to find him out of place, says, “Not again with the chauffeur.”

She demands the driver’s name, his color, his sense of direction, and the amount of gas in his tank. Entering her husband’s reality, she thinks she can release him from it. She never tells him his dreams have spilled out of control across the stain-resistant carpeting, the no-wax floors. She tells him never get into a car with a stranger.

He sighs and says, “The fellah should have been here by now.”

He promises to wait as long as he has to.

The couple next door, who have moved back into her parents’ house until he gets another job, raise the volume of the TV. That laugh track scrambles up back steps and presses against the window nearest my father.

“I think I hear something,” he says.

Each of the walls that now frame him hold photographs he’s taken of his children, his wife, night views of the city he’s lived in all of his life.

My brother, who, like me, now lives elsewhere, calls for quiet, his curses soft as rumors of a mid-summer storm. Was he dreaming of children—scattered seeds in January? His eyes, as mine, must be wide with the dark.

“Kiss me goodbye,” my father says from the living room.

My breathing stops at what might be premonition.

We hear my mother answer, “If the guy does show up, I’m getting in the limousine. You can stay here.”

Tomorrow when I take off, I’ll use the only cure I know: loud music—so loud your whole body could split in half—played in a car driven so fast you can almost reach the moment many young years ago when you still believed it was possible to leave home.

THEIR REPETITIONS

He petitions the small events wheeling around him into a dialogue with himself:

“Did you close the door?”

“Is the front door closed?”

“Did you close the front door?”

“I guess the door’s closed.”

“Did you close the door?”

Back and forth the words flow from the stutterer trying to hold onto sounds long enough, not to be understood, but to force them to accumulate enough meaning that he understands himself. Then, adjusting each image to the tempo of heartbeat, he pulls detail after detail from his imagined past to hold him here:

“Anything can get in. My mother called and called me, so I ran up the hill to our house. My legs ached like I don’t know what. I reached into all my pockets for the keys when this little cat brushed by me and pushed the door right open. There were cats everywhere.”

She repeats the work she has given her life to: helplessness, need, mispronunciation guided into meaning. Farther and farther back she goes—every morning laying out his clothes that smell of sunshine and wind, bending his arms toward the armholes, moving his fingers to buttons, then buttonholes, with a warm wet rag wiping at his face, the back of his neck, the undersides of his feet. Eventually, she knows, he will need diapers.

Every Saturday when I call long-distance she tells me what he’s done all week, the amazing things he’s said:

“How come you only have one ear?”

“What the hell is that pig doing on the clothesline?” the way once she must have reported to her own mother about my first cawing at language.

There is little difference between joy and fear when a woman is in awe of what is expected of her.

THE SETUP

The photograph he frames with his fingers, he took five years ago to finish off a roll. “What’s the setup here?” he asks of the image in front of him.

He’d come home, in from startling wind after an assignment to photograph a new Jiffy Lube. His collar turned up, his hair wild as the forest undergrowth near the farm of his youth, he looked pushed through a narrow tunnel and into a still, inland sea of light. My brother, mother, and I were discussing divorces and operations and the end of daylight savings time. Often he interrupted this way and we thought nothing of it at the time.

“One quick one,” he’d said, and the three of us knew immediately that he meant to develop the film right after the shutter click.

“Hold still,” he’d said. “I’ll join you.” The time scraped by in seconds as he made his way to the center of us and smiled. Automatically, we were together.

“Who in the hell are these people?” he now asks, as my mother brushes at the new space between them.

“You know who they are,” she says defiantly, looking down through her bifocals.

He squints and says, “I think I do recognize the fellah.”

“That’s your son.” She speaks the announcement so softly she listens to herself.

“Son, hell. He’s old enough to be my father.”

He shakes the photograph in the air. “Just what’s the setup here?”

Now she is with him, one arm on his shoulder to guide him toward the small orbit we have made of ourselves. She touches the faces of the photograph. “Son, daughter, mother, father.” She looks up at nothing in particular.

“That’s it?” he asks.

“It’s a family,” she answers the solid way she’d pronounce the obvious—”It’s a meatloaf”—at dinner.

“The hell it is,” he says. “Who is this old guy?” he asks, staring at the image of himself.

Then it’s quiet, but for the wind that’s been almost audible all along.

Often the last photographs he took in order not to waste a single frame, were afterthoughts that, over time, have ripened with more meaning than those taken with purpose. The border collie the day before she was hit by a moving van; his mother a week before a mini stroke distorted her smile; once smuggled as a baby from Canada, that tall backyard spruce before smitten by a freak hurricane, or the family before disease expressed its strength; before asides became the conversation.

DUCTS

“The tear ducts are shot,” the doctor says.

The man is tall and smart looking with thick-rimmed glasses, and wise enough to speak to my mother in the colloquial way that she interprets as “down to earth.”

What’s worn away might be a key piece of metal or polymer, not the metaphor for emotional regulation. The doctor turns to me. “It’s actually the mucus membrane that’s deteriorated in his eyes.” He pauses, looks above my mother’s head at a mounted diploma.

“Basically, there’s nothing to hold back the tears,” the doctor says.

If he’s down to earth, I’m up in the clouds and thinking of rain.

Mother stares at Father, who complains anew that he doesn’t know why in the hell he’s always crying. Like a malfunctioning camera, his eyes won’t focus.

She opens her arms for emphasis, one hand pointing in the direction of the doctor, the other toward me. “He
wasn’t the one who used them,” she says.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: $12.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: readermail@triciabauer.com.

My Dear Wife and Children

BOOK:  My Dear Wife and Children: Civil War Letters From a 2nd Minnesota Volunteer

PUBLISHED: Hardcover, 2014; Softcover, 2015

AUTHOR: Nick K. Adams

EDITOR: The Edit Team of Strategic Book Publishing

PUBLISHER: Strategic Book Publishing

SUMMARY:  What does a father write to his wife and young children when he’s gone to war? Does he explain why he left them? How does he answer their constant questions about his return? Which of his experiences does he relate, and which does he pass over? Should he describe his feelings of separation and loneliness?

These questions are as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago, when David Brainard Griffin, a corporal in Company F of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, wrote to those he left behind on the family’s Minnesota prairie homestead while he fought to preserve the Union.

His letters cover the period from his enlistment at Minnesota’s Fort Snelling in September 1861, to his death in Georgia during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. One hundred of them were preserved and passed down in his family. They, along with one from his daughter as she asked the next generation to read her father’s words, have been carefully transcribed and annotated by a great-great-grandson, Nick K. Adams, allowing further generations to experience Griffin’s answers to these questions.

Filled with poignant images of his daily activities, his fears and exhilarations in military conflict, and his thoughts and emotions as the Civil War kept him apart from his family, these letters offer a fascinating insight into the personal experiences of a common soldier in the American Civil War.

BACK STORY: The last known copies from the original letters came to me more than 20 years ago. I immediately began using them as my primary resource for the final dozen years I taught a fourth/fifth grade social studies unit on the American Civil War. Upon retiring from teaching, I used some of the experiences from reading the letters to my classes as an inspiration of my first book, The Uncivil War: Battle in the Classroom. I then spent two years transcribing and annotating the letters into the present volume, and am currently in the last stage of writing the story of the family he left behind, describing life on the prairie while Pa’s gone to war.

WHY THIS TITLE? “My Dear Wife and Children” was the most common beginning of his letters home.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  His letters offer a wealth of personal information, not only about the Civil War as it was experienced by the common soldier, but also about what life was like during that period in a northern prairie setting as he responds to the issues his family must face without him.

REVIEWS:

“I have read many other collections of letters, and this is one of the best. Griffin was a patriotic and loyal soldier, as his highly literate letters reflect.

“This collection is well-written and well-edited, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in first-hand accounts from the viewpoint of a common soldier. His descriptions of the campaigns in which the 2nd Minnesota took part will make the book an invaluable addition to the library especially of those with an interest in the War’s Western Theater.” — Robert L. Durham, Civil War News.

“These letters bring to life a turbulent time in North American history. The corporal’s vivid accounts of his daily life, the long marches, the gruesome battles, and his unspeakable homesickness, make the facts of history all the more real.” — Readers’ Favorite Book Review – 5 stars!

“David Brainard Griffin, Corporal in the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, was a farmer, a homesteader, a devoted husband and father, and a man determined to do his duty to his country. He is attentive to the simplest details of daily life in the regiment — to the sounds and smells of camp; to the snuffling of the horses, the rough music of bands, the scent of damp firewood when the men break camp. He brings it all to life. But the strongest impression we have of this man is his love for his family. In the early letters, he declares it reassuringly. As the months go on and the battles go badly, we sense a deep need and longing for the safety and warmth his family provides for him. Either way, his concern for them never waivers.: — Dean Robertson, Author.

“I must admit that I slowed my reading as I approached the end of the book. Knowing that he died at Chickamauga, I wanted to keep him alive and well. But, that was simply an indication of how emotionally involved in Brainard’s life a reader can become. Nicely done…” — Michael Movius, President, Puget Sound Civil War Round Table.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Nick K. Adams is a retired elementary school teacher and an avid Civil War Re-enactor and historical speaker who lives in Washington State. At book signings, he often portrays Minnesota’s 1861 governor, Alexander Ramsey, who sent his great-great-grandfather off to the war. His first book, The Uncivil War: Battle in the Classroom, was inspired from his use of these letters in the curriculum of his fourth grade classroom. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his third book, which tells the story of the family Griffin left behind on the Minnesota prairie, as revealed in the letters he wrote home.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.Civil-War-Letters.com

WHERE TO BUY IT: Barnes & BNoble, Amazon, direct from the author at http://www.Civil-War-Letters.com.

PRICE:  $31, harcover; $19.95, softcover.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: “Contact” link at http://www.Civil-War-Letters.com.

 

Weather Report, March 28

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS,  “BIG IN JAPAN,” BY JENNIFER GRIFFITH, “SECRET FIRE,” BY DENNIS YOUNG AND “WAR WV,” BY MICHAEL ABRAHAM , CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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UPCOMING ON  SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, MARCH 29-APRIL 4

In their own way, each of the books being featured this week are about war.

Danielle A. Dahl’s memoir, “Sirocco,” is subtitled “A French Girl Comes of Age in War-Torn Algeria.”

In “My Dear Wife and Children,” Nick K. Adams gives us poignant and sharply detailed letters from a Civil War soldier to his family back in Minnesota.

Finally, Tricia Bauer’s gripping “Father Flashes” paints a searing portrait of a man at war with himself, and the disease that is slowly overtaking his mind.

“SIROCCO,” BY DANIELLE A. DAHL

Writing Sirocco,” says Danielle,  “was not an idea that suddenly popped out of nowhere, but a growing need to tell the stories of my growing up with my brothers and sisters, of our adventures and misadventures. A need to paint the breathtaking vistas of the land of my birth, share the uniqueness of its people, and recount the life of a French girl coming of age in a country torn by a war of independence

 “Sirocco is the searing wind that, in season, blows howling sand from the Sahara desert, scouring the landscapes of North Africa. It is presaged by grandiose fiery sunsets. Fire that reflects the convictions, spirit, and pride of the men and women who struggled to keep the land their ancestors won through sacrifices and hard work.”

 

 

“MY DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN,” BY NICK K. ADAMS

What does a father write to his wife and young children when he’s gone to war? Does he explain why he left them? How does he answer their constant questions about his return? Which of his experiences does he relate, and which does he pass over? Should he describe his feelings of separation and loneliness?

These questions are as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago, when David Brainard Griffin, a corporal in Company F of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, wrote to those he left behind on the family’s Minnesota prairie homestead while he fought to preserve the Union.

His letters cover the period from his enlistment at Minnesota’s Fort Snelling in September 1861, to his death in Georgia during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. One hundred of them were preserved and passed down in his family. They, along with one from his daughter as she asked the next generation to read her father’s words, have been carefully transcribed and annotated by a great-great-grandson, Nick K. Adams, allowing further generations to experience Griffin’s answers to these questions.

Filled with poignant images of his daily activities, his fears and exhilarations in military conflict, and his thoughts and emotions as the Civil War kept him apart from his family, these letters offer a fascinating insight into the personal experiences of a common soldier in the American Civil War.

“FATHER FLASHES,” BY TRICIA BAUER

The winner of the inaugural Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, Father Flashes re-imagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship.

Adds Tricia: “This book, though short in length, took quite a long time to write. Inititially, I wrote the book as poems, but it wasn’t until I transposed these pieces into prose that I found the freedom to lengthen the lines and sometimes to depart from the poems’ intrinsic music.  This work cuts pretty close to the bone. The writing of my father’s disappearance was cathartic, but it was emotionally difficult to process and then to get down on paper. I could only work in brief stints, thus the brevity — and the density.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big in Japan

THIS WEEK’S OTHER TWO FEATURED BOOKS, “WAR, WV,” BY MICHAEL ABRAHAM AND “SECRET FIRE,” BY DENNIS YOUNG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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THE BOOK: Big in Japan

PUBLISHED IN: 2012

THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Griffith

THE EDITOR
:
Through the publisher.

THE PUBLISHER: Jolly Fish Press, Provo UT

SUMMARY: Big in Japan: Zero to Hero in 400 Pounds.

Buck Cooper is a big, fat nobody at his statistician job in Dallas. The six-foot-six blond guy isn’t sure when he became socially invisible—probably about the time he passed the three hundred pound mark. But when his parents shanghai him to Tokyo for a business trip, he finds himself thrust into a whole new world—where his size still defines him but suddenly isn’t the liability it’s always been. Now, it could be his greatest asset—because this zero is about to become a sumo hero.

Go along with Buck as he gets sucked into Japanese culture as a foreigner, peek inside the secret world of sumo wrestling that can be more dangerous than expected, and cheer as he reaches inside himself for the strength he needs to overcome, literally, huge enemies.

THE BACK STORY: I went to Japan as a missionary during college, and I spent a year and a half there and fell in love with the people and the beauty and the culture. It is amazing! A few years later I started writing romantic comedy, and the idea came up over lunch with my husband to write about Japan. And to write about sumo. BUT…I’m a woman. (Women do not sumo.) And I’m five-foot-one and not sumo size. It was a huge leap to think I could ever get into the mindset of someone doing sumo. But I couldn’t sleep at night because Buck’s character kept bugging me! His story had to be told.

Research was a bear. Honestly, as I started digging, I couldn’t find much written about sumo online in English. (Since that time, there has been more added, but at the time it was tough!) I combed blogs, read news articles, read the Japan Times, dug up a chart on all the various sumo moves, brushed up on my Japanese (which I could speak fine but not read well), and basically immersed myself in the sumo culture for months. It was fascinating! I might not have caught every nuance of the sport and its politics, but I hope I conveyed a Sumo 101 primer for those who want to know more.

I started writing BIJ in the summer of 2009, the third week of July, and it debuted in print in the third week of July 2012 at its launch party at a sweet bookstore called Weller Books in Salt Lake City. In the process, I did SEVEN rewrites from the ground up—always keeping Buck’s character’s integrity, but revamping the various situations he had to face and the enemies he encounters and how he triumphs. Oh, and keeping his love interest sweet all along.

Something of possible interest to readers is that this book has been optioned for film. The producer fell in love with the story and the characters and is working toward production, according to our conversation earlier this month. It’s so exciting! There could be a sumo wrestling romantic comedy coming to a theater near you! Who’d’ve thunk, right?

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title Big in Japan has a couple of layers of meanings. First off, it came from the idea of a person who is insignificant in his own world or hometown or country, but is a big deal somewhere else. I remember when David Hasselhoff was waning in popularity in the United States, but he had a huge following in Germany. Same with Lionel Ritchie being the big star in the Arab world. So, in BIG IN JAPAN, the main character is unnoticed in his own world, but when he gets to Japan, suddenly his biggest liability becomes a huge asset, and he’s known everywhere. Go, Buck!

The other layer of this is a little more on the nose: it’s a story of a six-foot-six, 400+-pound man in Japan.


WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
I think at it’s heart, BIG IN JAPAN is a story that reaches nearly everyone on some level. It’s the underdog in all of us that resonates to this story. If you love a sports underdog story of any kind, from Rudy to MacFarland, USA, to Beverly Hills Ninja, this is your book! It’s got humor, but it also has a deeper side—as Buck has to overcome challenges no one saw coming, and a violence we Westerners wouldn’t expect lurking beneath the surface of a national sport in a mostly peaceful country.

Another audience for this is lovers of travel—and those interested in Asia or Japan specifically. I wrote this book sort of as “my love letter to Japan.” I tried to show what it’s like as a Westerner going to the Orient, and I let Buck live out all my own social gaffes (but with much more charm and grace!) I hope I did it justice.

This book has been read in high school and university English classes because it touches on subjects of bullying, hazing, being ostracized, culture shock, and overcoming fears/doubts/enemies through staying true to principles. It’s been pretty amazing to hear students’ responses along the lines of, “Well, that wasn’t boring.” Bahahahaha!


REVIEW COMMENTS
: “Well, that wasn’t boring.” – High School English Student

“Quick and highly entertaining!” – New York Times Bestselling Author Chris Stewart

“This book should be a movie!” – Eric Bishop, author of The Samaritan’s Pistol

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: Jennifer Griffith is the author of about a dozen traditionally- and self-published titles and anthology submissions. She started writing when her first son was born (she now is mom to five kids), and she had gone so long without an adult conversation that her brain started melting. Her husband, who was in law school at the time, suggested she start writing—which was a good idea, since then she could have conversations with the imaginary people in her head. Most of the time she writes fluff she calls “cotton candy for the soul,” but there are occasional nuggets of heartier fare in there. But she promises none of her stories will change your life. She stays busy as a family chauffeur, driver’s ed teacher, cook, maid, and laundress—as well as family consultant for Boy Scout Eagle Projects, political campaigns, scholarship applications, fashion decisions, and which song to choose for children’s theater tryouts. She’s busy with church and local politics and being in the Daughters of the American Revolution. In her spare time, she writes romantic comedies—because, why not? She’d like to think of her own life with her awesome husband (and kids) as a delightful romantic comedy. Her Amazon author page can be found here.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: As I was writing Big in Japan, there were a hundred times or more when I asked myself what was *I* doing writing about a sumo wrestler in love. But then I remembered—this was Buck’s story. He’s just a great character, and I wanted to go on that wild ride through Japan with him, deep into the depths of sumo, and come out triumphant on the other side. I recently spoke with the producer who has optioned the book for film, and he voiced similar sentiments—that Buck just resonated with him on a visceral level, the things he had to face and overcome in life. I’m not trying to be braggy about this character—I know I haven’t created anyone else quite as compelling in any of my other books (yet!)—I’m just saying he’s real to me, and scores of fans of the book have told me the same thing. I hope someone reading this will fall in love with a big, fat blond sumo wrestler like I did.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon here.

LOCAL OUTLETS: I live in a teeny tiny town with zero bookstores unless you count Walmart (and I don’t.) So, no local outlets. How sad. But it’s the price we must pay to have the luxury of never having to sit in traffic. Ever. Except when exiting the county fair on Saturday night once a year.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, I heard there was a copy in an Arizona Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store somewhere. If you find it, let me know! Send me a photo!

PRICE: Ummm…. $7.99 Kindle, $12.99 paperback on Amazon

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find me on Facebook at Author Jennifer Griffith. My Twitter handle is @GriffithJen. Or you can email me at authorjennifergriffith@gmail.com. I love to hear from readers!

 

War, WV

TITLE: WAR, WV

PUBLISHED IN: 2013

AUTHOR: Michael Abraham

PUBLISHER: Pocahontas Press

SUMMARY: Tragedy strikes often in the coal country of Southern West Virginia, one of America’s poorest places. Too often the tragedies are caused by corporate malevolence. When a coal impoundment dam upstream of War, West Virginia, collapses, sending a raging black torrent of death through the hollow, Lucas “Pug” Graham and a band of survivors decide that justice must be done.

THE BACK STORY: I am continually amazed (and horrified) at the destruction of lives and the natural environments of the central Appalachian coal country. For those exploring the area for the first time, it is an unforgettable, life-changing experience. Through fiction, I wanted readers from a wider geographic area that is so startlingly different from most of America but not 400 miles from our nation’s capital, to visualize the destitution, decrepitude, and misery, while still understanding the resiliency and fortitude of the residents.

WHY THIS TITLE?: WAR, WV is my third of four novels. All four are named after places, real places, with an English language name (Others: Union, WV, Providence, VA, and Orange, VA), which in each case I can use the word as a metaphor for the story. I could have chosen any number of locations throughout the area (for example, Welch, Gilbert, Bradshaw, Hurley), but War, a real place, had a name with the perfect tenor.

WHY WOULD SOMEBODY WANT TO READ IT? The impact of coal and coal mining has had in indelible impact on this region, and is the key to every understanding of lifestyle, economy, and ecology. As consumers of energy that is likely supplied by coal or steel that is made in the furnaces stoked by coal, we are all involved, whether seen or not. Readers have enjoyed and benefited from the knowledge and understanding of an area that few contemporary Americans have ever seen but yet is within a day’s drive of tens of millions.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

1. “Michael Abraham’s book WAR,WV, is a riveting novel about a horrific coal slurry impoundment dam break like the one that killed 125 people, injured 1,121, and left 4,000 homeless along Buffalo Creek, WV in 1972. But Abraham’s book has a vigilante justice plot that will have you hollering Yes!”

2. “Michael Abraham gives the reader an outstanding taste of the local culture as well as the conflict between the miner and the coal companies. The book is really a fight for justice in the Appalachian coalfields and the manner in which justice is accomplished makes for some exciting reading.”

3. “In WAR, WV, Michael Abraham weaves a compelling story of the mining life in a small town in the coal country of West Virginia. We meet miners and their families, already dealing with tragedy, shortly before a major disaster rips their world apart. The way the miners respond to the crisis and seek justice leads us through surprising twists and turns and leaves no one unscathed. A memoir of the early days of coal mining through the eyes of one of the characters adds depth to the portrait of the lives of miners and their families. What is the real price of extracting coal from the ground and who pays it most dearly? I love this book!”

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am a businessman and writer, a native of Southwest Virginia. I am continually amazed at the extraordinary diversity in thought, culture, and landscape that surrounds me. We have brilliant doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators and engineers, living alongside herbalists, miners, ministers, luthiers, musicians and faith-healers, all who are devoted to forging successful futures but revering and maintaining cultural traditions. I have made it my life’s work to recognize, celebrate, and promote these people.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I am drawn to the coal country, and McDowell County, West Virginia specifically, like a moth to a burning candle. American industry brought hundreds of thousands of people into the coal mines and the coal camps in the first half of the 20th Century and then with market forces and industrialization arriving, left them with few opportunities for meaningful employment and prosperity. Thousands have left, leaving behind a despoiled landscapes of coal mine tailings, containment lakes filled with poison, thousands of abandoned structures, and ravaged lives. It has been an honor and a privilege to give readers a greater understanding of this elemental slice of American life.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

(Please select one of two)

1) The days of the winter solstice are haltingly short in War, West Virginia, with ephemeral glimpses of sunlight peeking over the tight, deeply forested mountains above the tiny Appalachian coal town. This year was no exception, with a light dusting of snow covering the ground and stubborn remnants of the prior week’s larger snowfall, six-inches in town and more on the mountaintops. Piles of snow mostly turned to dirty ice lay at the edges of the town’s few parking lots. Dustings were hardly worthy of conversation amongst the 850 or so residents who ventured into public spaces like the War Room Café, the Hotel Fretwell, the FoodFair Grocery, or any of the few other businesses still operational in West Virginia’s southernmost city.

Almost by the minute since the heyday of pick-and-shovel mining in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the central Appalachian coal fields surrounding War had diminished in revenue, importance, and vitality. War’s own population had shrunk by two-thirds.

A century of unbridled industrialism and repeated unnerving swings of boom and bust had culminated in the last great outmigration of former miners, primarily to the industrial cities of Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh beginning around 1950 and continuing in fits and starts to the present. It had left scores of ghost towns and abandoned coal camps, sucking the vigor from the region and leaving behind a pervasive sense of despair, a despondency heightened by isolation provided by densely packed hills choked by overwhelming vegetation and the tentacles of dizzying, winding, dirty, potholed roads throughout the area.

The sense of gloom was deepest in McDowell County, by far West Virginia’s poorest, a gloom accentuated by the physical confinement of the topography, the abundance of abandoned structures – both residential and commercial – and the encroachment of poverty, drug abuse, violence, and premature deaths, a dreariness furtively brightened by the smattering of Christmas lights. A musty, moist, redolence drifted through the tiny community’s frosty air.

2) Lucas “Pug” Graham helped his mother up the slick, makeshift wooden ramp to their Living Waters Full Gospel Church. He felt a stinging drop of sleet strike his nose, reminding him of a happier childhood day. But the present mood was decidedly somber, reinforced by the story of tragedy he knew was just inside the white-framed church door. The wake began almost as soon as he’d gotten his mother situated, they already being late due to the exigencies of his mother’s duties to her husband Emmett – Pug’s father – in his infirmity.

“Dearly beloved,” preacher David Karwoski extolled as Pug and his mother found places to sit on the hard wooden pews, “we are gathered here today to send to the bountiful hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in eternal salvation, Patricia Thompson Getgood and her infant son Roscoe Dale Getgood.”

The newly deceased were the wife and son of Donnie Getgood, an employee of Graham Coal, a company Pug had ostensibly recently inherited. Pug’s brother, Millard, was dead, or at least presumed so, missing for seven weeks. Nobody knew. Regardless, he wasn’t around and had vanished without a trace. That’s what had brought Pug back to War, that and his father’s condition.

As his mother had kindly patted him on his knee, he had been lost in thought, his personal demons swirling around the pall of the death he saw in front of him. He was deflated by his own situation, a life that had started with so much promise.

LOCAL OUTLETS: WAR, WV can be purchased from the author’s website at http://bikemike.squarespace.com/ , at Amazon, or at these local outlets:

Abingdon Heartwood

Big Walker BW Country Store

Blacksburg Deli Mart (Glade Road)

Bramwell Coal Heritage Store

Charlottesville UVA Bookstore

Christiansburg Deli Mart (I-81 and West Main)

Christiansburg Local Yokels

Eggleston Palisades Restaurant

Floyd Bell Gallery

Floyd Floyd Country Store

Galax Chapters Bookstore

Mountain Lake Mountain Lake Lodge Gift Shop

Paint Bank Paint Bank General Store

Pembroke Mountain Lake Lodge Gift Shop

Radford Deli Mart West

Radford Glencoe Museum

Tuggles Gap Tuggles Gap Restaurant

Union Korner Kafe

PRICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Michael can be reached by calling 540-392-1119, email at <bikemike@nrvunwired.net>, and on Facebook

Secret Fire

THE BOOK: Secret Fire.

PUBLISHED IN: 2007.

THE AUTHOR: Dennis Young

THE EDITOR: Various

THE PUBLISHER: The first four novels were published through iUniverse. The compendiums were published through Amazon Createspace.

SUMMARY:  A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods. Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine to shape the course of elven and human history within. With family relationships and blood-oaths taking precedence over all, The Ardwellian Chronicles offer stirring tales of high adventure and challenges testing the mettle of the bravest souls and spirits.

WHY THIS TITLE? All the titles have relationships to the books. For example, in Secret Fire, this refers to several things: Sheynon Calidriil’s desire to fulfill a quest put before him; his growing love for a half-elf maiden; the Priestess Kaanan’s vision of a great challenge to come and how she can aid her Faith in coping with it. Things like that. I think most book titles have at least some connection with the stories they represent.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: High adventure, relatable characters, strong female protagonists AND antagonists. A continuing saga that eventually will cover nearly one hundred years and three generations.

REVIEW COMMENTS: I have a handful of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, and a lot of great feedback from readers whom I’ve spoken to at conventions, book signings, and other events.

AUTHOR PROFILE: You can find my profile on my website or my Amazon Author page

I have a series called The Ardwellian Chronicles, epic fantasy adventure with continuing characters. The series focuses mainly on three families and members thereof. Currently I have the first four novels complete and published, and I’m working on number five. There will be six novels total in the series and seven compendiums, of which two are complete.

Book One – Secret Fire; Book Two – Dark Way of Anger; Book Three – Secrets of the Second Sun; Kaanan’s Way;  irst Compendium – Blades of Alliance: The Thirteen Swords of Power; Second Compendium – Champions: The Heroes of Ardwel

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My stories are about people; unique and gifted people, yes, but they still have their failings and their blind spots. They’re “human”, to put it simply, and this shows itself at the most inopportune times in some cases. And not only does this pertain to the protagonists, but the antagonists as well. No one is perfect. Some are so far from it, they become their own worst enemy.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:From Book Five, Blood Secret.

Words as brash, impetuous, and foolhardy were used with a smile to describe Kaul, by those whom he had on occasion called friends, or at the least, tolerated as accomplices. Once he had been told only when those around you speak in taunting, are you accepted. Too many times, therefore, Kaul may have taken taunting as a challenge, and soon enough even the bravest of acquaintances found their exit from his company.

Kaul’s ancestry was never known, yet even he knew in the past lay human, Drow, and orcish blood, and he dimly recalled his mother, a slave of the name Sabina. How he had come to Ardwel was a tale unto itself; of murder, kidnapping, and escape, of blood and vengeance taken, the taste of hot flesh in his mouth, the first time he had killed with his own hands.

Then flight from the cold uncompromising north, far beyond the mountains where the lair of the great dragon Ancanar was said to be. Into the fertile lands of city-states and elven villages, of humans in their multitudes and colors, of petty thieves who had no courage for the highways or the soldiers flying banners. Far too tame was this land for Kaul, and he drifted east, to the great Black Forest and the home of Drow.

Drow… dark elves, of which he could be counted as a part, though his countenance was as none they had ever seen. Larger, stronger, callous in a way Drow disregarded, nearly without discipline or conscience, even soldiers stood apart, for Kaul would not hear the words of leaders, and for many moons scratched the welts of punishment that lay across his back.

Then came a messenger, from Modennethra, a House grand in the hierarchy, and an offer of a meeting with one called Skaan. She was lithe and not without a bit of interest, and before they parted he had taken what she offered. The pleasures of her flesh, for one, a promise of a place within the House for another, yet for a service. Never were the Drow known to host an offer without return, given and in full.

Something there had happened; in Reena’s travel to the human place, Drakenmoore, she had returned not her own self, and never again did Skaan see her in that light. Reena, now serving the Dark Princess, had become but a servant, not the concubine of Archane, which Skaan would with gladness have accepted. In simple words, Reena no longer was herself, and no matter Skaan’s position in the House of Modennethra, no matter favors promised to the leaders there, she could not learn the truth of it. And so began the plotting of her way, to seek Reena’s release, but would need of allies she could… if not trust, then control. Allies who owed none of allegiance to Archane.

And after all, Skaan was a great assassin… and held the ways of arts Archane knew nothing of.

Kaul became her bodyguard, and served many years of faithful duty, rising even to the notice of Archane herself, and offered a position in her entourage, to the dismay of Skaan.

However…

Plans change with circumstance, and Skaan soon grasped this was the way to Archane’s heart. Not in lust or desire, or even, hardly ever know by Drow, that of love. But with a keen, dark dagger, deep between those breasts Reena had been so fond of.

Came the time and opportunity, yet in heartbeats it all fell to ruin. Heartbeats that were Skaan’s last, as her own life came to end when she thought it to be Archane’s final day within the world. And Kaul’s part, broken by a seer said to be older than the Dark Princess, left him naked, not only of the flesh, but to the wrath of guards and servitors, damning words and gestures falling on him as he ran. Barely he had escaped, running through the corridors with an army in pursuit, and burst beyond the caverns of Ung’gu’wi, the night cool and misty, and ran, if not for his life, then it was a close thing.

And thereafter he was hunted, shunned by Drow and humankind, and only then did Kaul understand, trust was never full, and only by his own hand would he ever be a king.

LOCAL OUTLETS: My books are available in various book stores in the Midwest, and I also have copies available for direct sales to prospective readers.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: You can find my books on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.

PRICE: The novels are in the twenty-dollar range, 6” x 9” trade paperback, averaging about 450 pages, and the compendiums are in the twenty-five dollar range, 8-1/2” x 11” soft cover, full color illustrations, about 125 pages.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Website: http://www.ardwel.com

Facebook: Working on The Ardwellian Chronicles and Hope I Live Long Enough to Finish Blog: http://www.theardwellianchronicles.blogspot.com

Twitter: @ArdwelWriter Email: ardwelwriter@yahoo.com