15 May 2018
From Publisher’s Weekly
Aisha Saeed, the author of Written in the Stars (2015), a YA novel about a Pakistani-American girl whose conservative immigrant parents try to force her into an arranged marriage, has once again reached into her Pakistani background for her second novel, Amal Unbound. The middle grade novel tells the story of a Pakistani girl desiring an education who is forced into indentured servitude to pay off her family’s debt to the village’s cruel overlord. Saeed spoke with PW about the real-life Pakistani girl who jumpstarted the writing of Amal Bound, the heroism of so many young people that too often goes unrecognized, and how the Florida-born author’s research connected her with her relatives who still live in their ancestral village in Pakistan.
What inspired you to write Amal Unbound?
I had the idea for the character in 2011. I knew I wanted to focus on a village in Pakistan in the Punjab region, where my ancestors are from. I knew I wanted to tell this character’s story, but I wasn’t sure what her story would be. I just knew I wanted to write about her. In 2012, the shooting happened with Malala Yousafzai and it was making headlines everywhere. Like everyone else I was paying attention and reading about what was happening. When people talked about Malala, it was, “Wow, she’s so amazing, this is so unusual, so exceptional.” Yes, Malala is exceptional, no doubt. But I thought of all the other young people who do things that are brave and don’t get their names ever in the headlines. But they still do what they need to do.
It’s important for us to think about the people who perform brave acts who will never see their names in a headline. From that premise, I started writing about Amal. I wanted her to do something brave, something people wouldn’t know about, but that would be equally important [to Malala’s real-life advocacy of education for girls].
Why are some regimes so afraid of females becoming educated?
There are some tribal regions like where Malala is from, where education for females is tamped down and girls are told to not actively pursue an education – but this book is set in the Punjab, which is a very different area than the outer lands [northwest Pakistan near the Afghanistan border]. In this novel, Amal’s family and the other villagers don’t object to education for girls, they just don’t prioritize it. They let her go to school until there were more pressing needs at home that took over. There was too much to do at home. It’s definitely devaluing her education and minimizing it.
What kind of research did you do for Amal Unbound?
The village is a fictionalized version of my family’s ancestral village. Growing up in the United States, writing about Pakistan is a way to connect with my heritage, where I come from. A lot of the research began with my interviewing family members, relatives who have lived [in the same village] their entire lives. As for the topic of indentured servitude, I read a lot of books and articles about it, trying to understand it and how it works.
It was important to me to take this difficult topic and make it accessible to young people without watering down the harshness of it. Unfortunately, most people who enter into indentured servitude do not get a happy ending. Also, I knew this was a middle grade book. So, I wanted to make it as honest as possible, but I also wanted to portray it in a way that was accessible to children. That’s why I wrote an author’s note at the end, to underscore that Amal’s story is unfortunately a best-case-scenario and the reality is much harder than [Amal’s experience]. I wanted readers to understand that. It’s an awful practice that happens everywhere. It happens in the United States.
Your last novel, Written in the Stars, was a YA novel. This is a middle grade story—despite this being a novel about a topic that’s just as unsettling as arranged marriages. Why did you decide to write Amal Unbound for middle graders?
Initially, I started writing this as a YA novel. As I was writing it, though, I noticed this young voice coming out and I thought to myself, “But I’m writing a YA novel.” I kept trying to push it back into being a YA novel, until eventually, I gave a version of it to my editor [Nancy Paulsen] and she read it and said, “This is a middle grade novel.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s what it is.” You can start out trying to tell a certain story for a certain age group, but then, sometimes, the story tells you what it wants to be. That’s what happened with Amal.
There’s one scene in the library in the home of Jawad Sahib, the wealthy landowner who coerced Amal’s father into sending her to him, where the two converse about a beloved book from his childhood. This is the one scene where the two bond over their shared love of books— and he drops briefly his evil façade.
That was a tough one. I kept trying to find more instances and ways [to make Jawad more likeable], but sometimes, people are so awful that you have to just call it what it is. So, yeah, there was one moment in the library. And it’s ironic, because Amal’s ability to read is what causes Jawad’s downfall.
The book has received a fair amount of pre-pub buzz. Why do you think Amal Unbound resonates with readers?
It’s been amazing to see all the support that Amal Unboundis getting. I began this novel in 2011. I had no way of knowing that by the time publication day would come, a story about a Pakistani girl in the Punjab and her struggles would seem so relevant and would connect so much with people today. But that’s what I am hearing time and again.
I think these teens who are speaking up after the shootings in Parkland are inspiring so many others. All these young people are standing up and saying enough is enough. The timing of a story like Amal Unbound, that’s what’s helping it resonate with people. There’s injustice in the United States too, and kids are taking a stand and trying to lead the way. This book is about resistance and about not giving up. That’s a message that a lot of people are connecting to as well.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99, May ISBN 978-0-399-54468-2
9 April 2018
PUBLISHER: Magination Press
RELEASE DATE: April 9, 2018
In the era of the Black Lives Matter Movement, a book like Something Happened In Our Town. The American Psychological Association’s Magination Press released the 32-page graphic novel about how a Emma, white gradeschooler, and a black boy the same age named Josh see the police shooting of unarmed black man through discussions in their families.Child’s Story About Injustice is inevitable. So, kudos to first-time children’s authors Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Anne Hazzard, and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin. Click the link above for indepth information and to see a sample.
“Why did the police shoot that man?” the girl asks to begin a discussion that tries to explain actions by law enforcement and issues of race in the United States.
“Can police go to jail?” the boy asks his mother that spreads into a conversation many black parents say they have with their sons.
The publisher states, “The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.” The colorful work also includes notes and other background information to help adults begin talks with young people about racism and injustice.
Celano, Collins and Hazzard say they have read many stories to their children. The psychologists have worked together for more than twenty years as Emory University School of Medicine faculty members that focus on children and families in Atlanta. Zivoin, an established graphic artist who lives in Indiana, loves to tell stories, too.
22 January 2018
PUBLISHER: Elephant Eye Publications
RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2017
Here’s a scoop on a new book by a talented author, Kellianne Sweeney, a fourth-grade teacher at Andover Elementary in Orlando, Florida. Hers is the first work other than mine issued from Elephant Eye, my Children’s book publishing outfit.
She is a Columbus, Ohio native, but currently lives in Orlando, where there are plenty of beaches, palm trees, sunshine and not the merest suggestion of snow. She has called many states, including New York, New Jersey, Washington, California, Texas, Virginia and Florida home. Most of her adult life, Sweeney has been as a teacher, which, along with roles as mother and wife, she finds an important channel for her energies. The author believes that imagination and creativity are what makes life three-dimensional.
The core of Eggsplats and Mudpie Rainbows is a series of poems, wistful reflections and observations on life as might come from the mind and heart of a child. Watch as she showcases the book’s pages in a Literacy Week video presentation.
18 January 2018
PUBLISHER: Amazon Digital Services
RELEASE DATE: 2014 – 2017
I love a good find. Cyndy Green‘s discovery has proven to be like a stumble onto pirate treasure. Well, she has been out there for several years. Her first book still in print, Nana and the Vampires, released in February 2014, about a month
after the author turned 50, seemed an odd fit with the second. That was an inspirational work, Divine Appointments, published in July 2015.
“My goals are to entertain, and sometimes, educate,” writes the mother of six and grandma to a dozen who also writes texts on Bible study. “I like to combine faith, fun and fantasy.”
That is why a few months ago when I stumbled onto a sample of Nana and the Howling Brothers , third volume in her Nana Files series, I had to share the delight. That 92-page middle grade reader combined with the previous saga Nana and the Zombies, and the first roll out the adventures Cindy and her BFF Becky, small-town, junior high students with a fascination for a new neighbor boy. The hitch is he might be a vampire.
Green likens her books to the middle school stories in by Beverly Cleary’s many works, such as the Ramona Collection or James Patterson’s eight-volume Middle School series. True. At the same time, the author has a style and sense of characters that make the attraction of her targeted fifth-to-eight-grade readers a cinch.
Cindy and Becky find themselves on the trail of boys again trapped at a Halloween dance under threat from the flu, a vengeful kid named Rodney and zombie prisoners in the Nana and the Zombies. The good news is they end up with boyfriends, yet grounded.
Cindy vows to stay on the straight and narrow, but the Howling Brothers peak the girls’ curiosity. When they see the guys move into the creepiest house on Cemetery Road, the pair is off into what the author says is “their scariest, dumbest and coldest” adventure. There is more.
“I love post-apocalyptic books,” Green wrote in her blog last September with the announcement of a new series – Stone Survival. “I like to read about everyday ordinary people thrown into terrifying, life-threatening situations and how they survive.”
Stone Survival chronicles the struggles of a Christian family on the first day of the Apocalypse. “I’m excited about these books,” she writes. Those who visit cyndygreenbooks.com can learn about them.
“If you sign up on my Stone Survival mailing list, I’ll notify you when these books are available,” Green writes. “I will give each of you a FREE BOOK when they are finished!”
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 9, 2017
24 June 2017
RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017
Publisher’s Weekly says The Teacher’s Pet, the latest book by author Anica Mrose Rissi and illustrator Zachariah Ohora, spins a tale about a bumbling science teacher that readers ages 3 to 5 will eagerly embrace. The publication says, the main character, Mr. Stricter is “a classic bumbler cut from Amelia Bedelia’s cloth.” The ability to identify animals is not among them. Students aim to hatch tadpoles, but the product of their efforts flee. The science students keep one that grows into a hippopotamus. His name is Bruno. Mr. Stricter just seems excited to be in the mix. After Bruno smashes his desk, he cries, “Isn’t he adorable?”
Rissi whose previous work includes the Anna Banana series, continues concocts a clever, understated narrative that is well balanced by the loudly colored scenes depicted by OHora (The Not So Quiet Library). Together, according to PW, those techniques “make the most of the story’s physical comedy in thickly painted scenes spiked with neon orange.”
11 April 2017
PUBLISHER: Emerald Lily Publishing
RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2017
I don’t know whether I am jaded, or too accustomed to preachers who push Progressive thought, but Kilns College President Ken Wytsma’s first book, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things escaped my interest. Thomas Nelson Publishers premiered the 344-page work, written with the aid of David “D.R.” Jacobsen, in 2013, which Publisher’s Weekly described as “one of the new breed of evangelical Christians returning to scripture to redeem justice as a central tenet of faith.” Well, he is back.
Wytsma’s, The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege, slated for release on May 5, shows his avowed interest in justice is more than a passing fancy. In the 208-page book, the author-academic who also pastors Bend, Oregon’s Antioch Church, takes aim at one of the nation’s most confounding conundrums – how to get cure the disease of American racism. Publisher’s Weekly says the work is a prophetic call “for justice for those who have been consistently disadvantaged by a system and culture built on what “a white normative standard” that shapes perceptions and judgments. ” The reviewer asserts that the author “has a gift for persuasive argument, well displayed in his deployment of history, biblical theology, and current affairs to demonstrate the subtle and unsubtle ways that white dominance shapes American culture and conversations about race.”
27 March 2017
PUBLISHER: Emerald Lily Publishing
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017
In Déjà You, five authors share stories of second chances, as varied in telling as the writers themselves.
Kelly Cain’s We’ll Always Have Oahu takes us on a whirlwind New Adult romance set in the 80s between a young woman on a high school graduation trip and a handsome Navy sailor.
Bianca M. Schwarz transports us to 1760 in The Pearl with the story of Marcus Landover, who attends a card party and ends up with more than he bargained for in the beautiful Sophia Chelmsford.
Amanda Linsmeier’s Joy and Sorrow reunites lovers separated by death in a Women’s Fiction tinged with the unusual.
The Eyes of the Heart by Jamie McLachlan gives us Rosalina, who is forced to confront her attraction and the truth about her blindness when a new gardener is hired at the Greystone house.
Finally, C.H. Armstrong brings us Mr. Midnight, where tragedy reunites two star-crossed lovers, but misunderstandings soon rip them apart. Now, six years later, the stars are realigning with the help of the smooth voice of a late night radio DJ.
Some of the stories are sweet, some sad, some steamy, but all carry the same theme. Déjà You is a collection of stories for those who believe in love, but most of all, second chances.
The Birth of Déjà You
About two years ago, a group of five novice writers signed with the same small publisher, each inexperienced in the publishing world yet committed to understanding the process and finding success. Through their mutual dive into unchartered territory, Amanda Linsmeier, Bianca M. Schwarz, C.H. Armstrong, Kelly Cain, and Jamie McLachlan reached out to one another and became instant friends, sharing laughs, tears, and the struggles of life and writing. We soon dubbed ourselves “Book Besties.”
During the fall of 2016, we decided to write a book of short stories together. As friends, we wanted to combine our talents to create a collection that would inspire hope and happiness. After much deliberation, we chose the theme “Second Chances” and decided to title this anthology, “Déjà You.” Though each story contains the same theme, they all are as unique as the author who wrote it. Including New Adult, Women’s Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, and Contemporary Romance, each short offers a different take on the theme and involves varying heat levels, from sweet to steamy.
About the Authors
Kelly Cain has published a multicultural adult and new adult romance, but she writes across genres and age groups, currently penning book one of a young adult urban fantasy series. Most of her stories are set in Texas with frequent travels to her home state of California, and all of her stories have an excess of food weaved throughout.
If she’s not writing, she’s probably reading. Or maybe cooking. Check out her website for recipes for dishes featured in her books, and some other fun stuff. She has two adult daughters and lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas.
Kelly is the author of Altered, a new adult multicultural romance and Connections, a steamy short story exclusively available on Amazon. Visit her on her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Tumbler.
Bianca M Schwarz was born in Germany, spent her formative years in London, and has a US passport, but she considers herself a world citizen. She lives in Los Angeles because that’s where they make movies and she used to work on them. She writes novels because that’s kind of like making a movie in people’s heads and because she just loves books. Bianca has one son, because that’s all she can handle and she tolerates her husband because, well, she loves him and there is no help for that. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Amanda Linsmeier is the author of Ditch Flowers and Beach Glass & Other Broken Things. Her writing has been featured in Portage Magazine, Literary Mama, and Brain, Child Magazine. Besides writing Women’s Fiction, she loves reading and writing fables, fairytales, and fantasy, and sometimes she pretends her Hogwarts letter is still coming. She can be found blogging about writing and books at amandalinsmeier.com. When she’s not writing, she works part-time at her local library and brings home more books than she has time to read. Amanda lives in the countryside, surrounded by trees, with her family, two dogs, and two half-wild cats. You can Amanda’s blog for book reviews and random musings, or check her out on Twitter or Facebook for more information.
Jamie McLachlan is the Canadian author of Mind of the Phoenix, an Amazon Bestseller in Dark Fantasy and the first novel in the Memory Collector Series. The third, Rise of the Phoenix, is set for release in summer of 2017. When not writing, Jamie reads, dabbles in various crafts, and spends time with her family. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.
C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma-native transplanted in the Midwest. A life-long lover of books, she made her author debut with the 2016 release of her historical fiction novel, The Edge of Nowhere, which was inspired by her own family’s struggles during the one-two punch that was The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. Armstrong is currently working on two young adult novels and is a regular contributor to the Minnesota-based women’s magazine, Rochester Women. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.
For more information on Déjà You or the Book Besties, visit their website, or find them on Twitter or Facebook.
22 March 2017
Coauthors L.T. Vargus and Tim Mc Bain, who came up with the intense Awake in the Dark and Scattered and the Dead series are back with Dead End Girl, a thriller about a serial killer set to launch within weeks. They also have a new sleuth, rookie FBI agent Violet Darger, inspired by the authors’ reads of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon.
“It’s 500 pages of serial killin’, thrillin’, and blood spillin’,” states McBain.”And there’s a villain.”
More? Here is what to expect:
A brilliant serial killer stalks women in rural Ohio, dubbed by the press as “The Doll Parts Killer.” His victims are dismembered and left in garbage bags in public places such as residential neighborhood, outside a roller rink, and behind a Burger King.The investigation is a disaster. No physical evidence. Unreliable witnesses. To make matters worse, the FBI has lost contact with the star profiler working the case. Enter Darger.
As in Chris Chibnail’s crime drama Broadchurch aired on the BBC, the crime fighter Darger is a tortured soul on the edge with losses and secrets of her own. Her last case ended with a dead 16-year-old girl. Darger still has nightmares and panic attacks. The detective she faces an aggressive, territorial killer unlike anything she’s seen. The victims harbor dark secrets. The clues twist and writhe and refuse to keep still. If she fails, the madman will kill again and again. He watches the investigation on the nightly news, gleeful to relive the violence, knowing that he can’t be stopped.
16 March 2017
From the nationally syndicated cartoonist of In the Bleachers, Steve Moore, comes a new middle-grade series about a kid named Steve, who plays the same position in every sport: benchwarmer. Perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Timmy Failure, King of the Bench is an ode to teammates, underdogs, and benchwarmers everywhere.
Steve is King of the Bench. No brag. It’s just a fact. But this year Steve and his friends are excited to try out for the Spiro T. Agnew Middle School baseball team. The only problem is, after watching another player get beaned by a fastball, Steve has developed a serious case of bean-o-phobia – the fear of getting hit by a pitch. If Steve ever wants to get off the bench and get in the game, he’s going to have to muster up some courage, and fast.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why Steve would write a book and tell total strangers all about the humiliating phobia that almost ruined his first year on the baseball team? Duh. It’s pretty much a rule that you spill your guts when you write a book about yourself. For more information.
Indie author Lisa Carlisle, known for her paranormal, military, new adult and rock romances has a new release, Dress Blues. The story of Marine veteran Vivi Parker is about the fear of second chances. The wounded ex-soldier has created a haven as an attendant at a shelter for cats. It is a place to forget the skirmishes of her last deployment. At a fundraiser, Vivi bumps into Jack Conroy whom she could never have while on active duty, but never forgot. The dilemma is whether they can have a chance to realize the love she feels in a second life. For more information