Author Interview: From Chicken Scratch to Published Book

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The Conversation – Book Review

I approach self-published books with lowered expectations. Calibrating my expectations was not necessary for “The Conversation” by Mike Gannaway, published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.

 

“The Conversation” shimmers with some of the same vibe as the classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” but reaches its destination within an efficient 110 pages.

 

Diane, thirty-eight and unmarried, is on her way to Bethany Beach, Delaware. In setting up the story, Gannaway displays uncanny talent for creating interest and intrigue with sensory details and forward momentum.

 

Diane is a confident, well-read, thoughtful woman who has developed her own credo for life: Choose Freedom. Having abandoned “clubbing scene” days when she dressed her chiseled body to tantalize men, she now knows that “the key to freedom was not burning off drudgery; it was not succumbing to it in the first place.” That’s some hard-earned wisdom, wouldn’t you say?

 

Less than a quarter of the way into the book, Diane sees a man sitting on the beach. It’s nighttime. The switchblade in her pocket is insurance, of sorts. She joins the man and they begin chatting.

 

Chris is attentive, polite and asks the right questions. He lets her go on for a while, mostly about herself. Things are going swimmingly, and readers might think, “This is nice. ‘Nice’ can get boring.”

 

Diane says she reads “history, science, philosophy, religion, classic literature, poetry…anything that increases my understanding of the world and grows me in sophistication and wisdom.” She’s coming across as a smug and preachy woman.

 

With laser accuracy and timing, Chris challenges Diane.

 

Now there’s tension and an exploration of opposing worldviews about the BIG topic with which most humans grapple: Finding life’s meaning and purpose. From this point on in their conversation, the stakes are raised and Diane’s “Choose Freedom” credo begins to erode like a sandcastle under the waves of Chris’ questions and counterpoints. Chris is not harsh or cruel to Diane during this crucial conversation. He is empathetic and genuine.

 

Gannaway possesses the intuition and skills to know when to reveal information and when to withhold it until later to best serve the plot and the debate. His sense of pacing is superb. While his style is lean, it’s clear that he’s thought deeply about how to portray a woman’s spiritual journey convincingly. In this he succeeds. (I’m happy to say, Gannaway does not resort to using annoying Celestine Prophecy-esque contrivances.)

 

If you’re searching for meaning, or if like Diane, you’re sure you already know the meaning of our existence, then this book is a prime candidate for your “read now” list.  The Conversation is appropriate for truth seekers from young adult age upward.

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Article by the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“Walking the Trail” by Jerry Ellis: Long Trail-Short Book

Beth Fowler headshot by Beth Fowler

 

 

 

When I bought “Walking the Trail” by Jerry Ellis, I crossed my fingers and hoped it would be the kind of travel memoir I would savor while reading and cherish when finished.

My hope was met.

The dreadful history of the Cherokee Trail of Tears is skillfully interwoven in “Walking the Trail.” And we learn a little about Ellis’ family back home, too.

During his walk he, of course, meets people, all of whom are broken to some degree or other, yet they remain kind and philosophical in their approaches to Ellis and life, respectively. He seems to bond with them on a soul level, even though the meetings are brief, a pattern that was cast when he was a boy. He tells us about the time this pattern was created in a passage describing a dove that would come to him when Ellis whistled. I think every human being has had a dove in his or her life, and then learned that doves aren’t forever. The passage is as pure and true as anything you could wish to read.

Readers are rewarded with gems of observation, self-revelation, lust, loss, peace, one-of-a-kind Americans and forward momentum. I was confused only twice by the absence of quotations around dialog.

Ellis wrote about his 900-mile walk in a voice that is both masculine and vulnerable. Now that I’ve finished the 256-page book, I wish the book was longer.

Walking the Trail

Visit Ellis on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/NATIVEDEFENDER

 

 

ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Housebreaking Pet Words

Every writer has pet words. Tabitha King’s pets in The Trap are hooked and hauled, as in “She hooked off her socks,” and “He hauled his boots on.” Strong verbs used in unconventional waysare refreshing until they’re overworked and become annoying to readers.

Pronouns, one breed of pets, are especially vague. “I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer,” writes Stephen King in ­On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. And in The Book Alan Watts refers to the pronoun it is a spook, as in “It’s raining outside.” What exactly is it?

King, Watts and other successful authors use it when it’s unavoidable or natural sounding. Character dialogue, for example, sounds natural with a sprinkling of the neuter, singular pronoun.

Read the rest of this blog Housebreak Pet Words

http://www.dgdriver.com/write-and-rewrite

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ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Trash for Teens?

man-258449_150What are your kids reading? What you don’t know may shock you. Book publishers trying to keep young people’s attention are taking cues from the sex-charged playbook of today’s media-saturated society.

Some books for young people are full of not-so-innocent material while making their way on to bestsellers lists and into your child’s hands.

Several books in the Gossip Girls series hit number one on the New York Times children’s book list. Intended for young girls, the series has been likened to “Sex and the City” for the younger generation. It details teen characters’ exploits in sex, money, drugs, alcohol, and other dramas of high society teenage living. Young readers are eating it up.

Another book, Rainbow Party, made waves among critics when it debuted earlier this year. The plot deals with the subject of oral sex and how a group of girls’ plans to host an oral sex party. Paul Ruditis, the writer of the book, states, “We just wanted to present an issue kids are dealing with.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.cbn.com/family/Parenting/BattleCry_TeenReads.aspx

Readers, from pre-teens through adults, also desire books depicting normalcy, dealing with matters we all face, especially as young adults. Readers want books that entertain while exploring life’s important questions.

My hope is that Ken’s War does that.

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When teen hormones and culture shock collide. Get your copy here Ken’s War A new YA novel

ken's war coverNancy Springer, (http://www.nancyspringer.com) an award winning writer, wrote: “KEN’S WAR by Beth Fowler: Vibrant with authority as it depicts Japanese culture, American military life, and the angst of an Army brat, Beth Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion, mirroring the messiness of real life. Ken’s psyche includes a plethora of contradictory impulses, including an awakening sexual awareness handled with delicacy and tact by this gifted author.”

 

Fantasy Well-Crafted for Middle-Grade Readers

Co-authors Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks launch into “Things Are Not What They Seem” without wasting time on background and descriptive junk readers of any age group dislike.The authors masterfully set the fantasy in present-day New York City, featuring regular, relatable kids.

 

This middle-grade fantasy adventure starts with, “When the pigeon first spoke to Jennifer that morning in the playground, she responded by pretending to examine something absolutely fascinating at the top of a nearby tree.” The pigeon speaks in precise British English, which adds humor to the situation, at least for my inner tween who found something grin-worthy on nearly every page.

 

Jennifer, who’s almost 13, is smart but not smart-alecky. She has a sense of humor, but never makes others the butt of her wit. She can be sarcastic, yet possesses a strong sense of right and wrong, compassion and a well-developed altruism. Like girls her age, she’s concerned about her appearance and what peers think of her. Being trustworthy is important to the tween. She’s a likeable and engaging protagonist. Her brother, James, provides some of the comic relief, often while bantering with the pigeon. Then there’s Sleepy, the sidekick with allergies. And of course, there are bad guys.

 

(Sometimes young characters use phrases – “come down on them like a ton of bricks,” – that I have trouble picturing anyone other than adults saying.) Chapter ends are written with page-turning finesse. The story keeps adults in their place, that is, the kids shine in the limelight. They face challenges, push the plot arc to the climax and back down to the satisfying and appropriate end.

 

Jennifer learns that the pigeon is actually a man named Arthur Whitehair, a 19th-century Englishman who’d been turned into a pigeon that will live forever by misreading an ancient spell meant to give him eternal life as a human. Likewise, an devious colleague of his, Malman, had been turned into a hawk by Whitehair’s mis-incantation. Jennifer, et al search for the manuscript of the spell so they can reverse it, turning Whitehair the pigeon back into a man.

 

Without becoming pedantic, the authors weave in Shakespearean quotes and Latin phrases, and there’s a nod to the Harry Potter stories, too. One senses a depth of history and tradition, without the burden of boredom.

 

Some scenes are reminiscent of classic Disney antics. Others remind us that the stakes are high. What young fantasy reader doesn’t love sentences like this one spoken by the aptly named Malman? “Mind me! I’ll rip out your throats and peck the eyeballs from your heads—dainty morsels that they are. Even your mothers won’t recognize you.”

 

With more than 63,000 words, “Things Are Not What They Seem” is longer than typical middle-grade books. Even though every scene has its purpose, I wonder if some could have been written more economically.

 

Things Are Not What They Seem unobtrusively incorporates important values, while never losing sight of the plot and always maintaining readers’ trust and interest. It’s a well-crafted fantasy for younger readers and their adult cohort.

Review by the author of Ken’s War.

 

 

 

 

Coming-of-age in the Northwoods: Novel hits the right spots

 “Be a man that people can count on,” 14-year-old Sevy Anderson’s father tells him. Because Sevy’s father broke his leg in a sawmill accident, the boy must quit school and earn money for the family among rough and tumble lumberjacks and river rats who harvest the white pine forests of Wisconsin.

White Pine begins where every good story starts: On the cusp of an irreversible, life-changing event for the protagonist.

Told in the first person from Sevy’s point of view, readers are privy to the teen’s inner emotions of fear, pride, remorse, affection and homesickness. With a deft, light hand, author Caroline Akervik, through Sevy, describes aspects of lumbering and lumberjacks that give readers confidence that this is a reliable, accurate depiction of life as a Northwoodsman in days gone by…which means readers can settle in and enjoy the story.

Roget, a giant of a lumberjack, objects to Sevy’s presence in the lumber camp. “He’s is a boy. He has no place here.” Problems escalate when Sevy’s forgetfulness causes what becomes known as “the incident.” Sevy vacillates from carrying the heavy burden of paying for his father’s dream to own a farm, to the simple joys of hearing bells jingling on the horses, and eating salt pork and biscuits after a long day of dangerous, hard work in the numbing cold.

The tension, while varying in intensity, never goes slack. The story doesn’t veer from Sevy’s struggles to live up to the command his father gave him and his own desire to be a true Northwoodsman, in this coming-of-age novel.

Readers who love Gary Paulsen’s young adult coming-of-age stories set in the wilderness will treasure White Pine, as will fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. No warnings about content are needed for this wholesome, credible, engaging story. White Pine is a book that parents and other adults can read to young children and give to pre-teens and teens to read on their own. As with the best of this genre, adults can enjoy the story as well. The book belongs in school libraries and on family bookshelves. And more importantly, in the hands of middle grade readers.

 White Pine: My Year as a Lumberjack and River Rat is published by Melange Books LLC’s young adult imprint Fire & Ice.

Review by Beth Fowler author of Ken’s War: When teen hormones and culture shock collide.