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Today I hit “submit” on our new BSP catalog entry and am excited to announce that A MATTER OF MERCY by the wonderful Lynne Hugo will be published this August. Our final cover reveal is coming very soon, so stay tuned!

You’re going to want to pick this one up–especially if you’ve:

  1. ever been to Cape Cod,
  2. if you like oysters or clams,
  3. if you’ve ever made a mistake in your life,
  4. if you’ve ever had to forgive someone,
  5. if you’ve ever had to take a chance on trust and/or love,
  6. if you’ve lost a parent,
  7. if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer,
  8. or if you like, uh, just damn good fiction.

Here’s the lowdown on this beautifully written novel:

Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past—and his prison term—behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust—and love. Inspired by an actual lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends … and where it begins.

We have some more big news here at Blank Slate Press! In addition to welcoming two new authors to the fold, Lynne Hugo and Deborah Lincoln, we’re also preparing to launch two new books from two tried and tested Blank Slate Press authors. The sequel to Kevin Killeen’s smash debut Never Hug A Nun is slated for release in July of 2014, and the second installment Steve Weigenstein’s timeless historical novel Slant Of Light will be released in September. As always, we’re incredibly excited about both novels, and we can’t wait to introduce them to the public. Now there’s not just warm weather and green trees to look forward to in the summer: there’s two more great books coming out from BSP.

Try to Kiss a Girl It’s July, 1969 and the Apollo Eleven astronauts are hurtling toward the moon, and somewhere down below,  two eleven-year old boys who meet on vacation launch their own mission — to try to kiss a girl before the week is over. Try to  Kiss a Girl is the title for the sequel to Killeen’s hilarious and heartwarming story of the misadventures of seven-year-old Patrick Cantwell. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in store for Patrick and his readers:

It’s a hot week in the Michigan resort town of Grand Haven, where Patrick Cantwell — the juvenile delinquent from Never Hug a Nun meets a new friend who reveals to him the secret of the ages… where babies come from. 

Astonished and ashamed that he has overlooked this hidden activity at work throughout history, an activity which apparently even Abraham Lincoln knew about, Patrick wonders what else he has missed and decides he needs to open his eyes and start living.

Shaking hands with his new friend Rex on a five-dollar bet, Patrick rockets into high orbit to try to be the first to kiss a girl before their vacation is over.

But it’s not that easy.  There’s Mr. Jawthorne, the protective father of the kissable, young Tammy and her ChapStick-loving friend Ginny.  There’s a biker just back from Vietnam on a road trip to no longer be a killer who meets two boys in Grand Haven he’d just love to kill.  And there’s Patrick’s big Catholic family whose puzzle nights, dirty diapers and warnings about sin and death threaten to cost Patrick five bucks.

Try to Kiss a Girl is Kodak snapshot of the station wagon era, when the simulated wood grain was unfaded, and parents were young and a cooler full of orange soda and WonderBread sandwiches prevented back seat anarchy.  Well, most of the time.

Up ahead — beyond the Burger Chefs, the Sinclair Dinosaurs and Stuckey’s – was a rental cottage with crooked floors and a lake view, a land of relaxed adult supervision and freedom.  A place where an eleven-year old boy could body surf on a red flag day, ignore thoughts of the approaching school year, work on his pinball game at the Khardomah Lodge and try to figure out someway, somehow… to kiss a girl.

This uproarious tale makes a great companion to the first, and Killeen’s laugh-out-loud prose will ensure that everyone else at the beach gives you plenty of funny looks while you read.


This Old World is the second installment in Steve Weigenstein’s historical series Daybreak. The sequel to the award-winning debut, Slant of Light,  follows the development of the utopian colony Daybreak, as James Turner and his wife Charlotte struggle to lead a group of people with noble ambitions but very human flaws.

Weigenstein resumes the story in the aftermath of the Civil War, which nearly tore the colony apart. Turner, along with the other men who survived, return to Daybreak. But unfinished business comes back to haunt them all and they discover that the wounds of war do not easily heal. Now the colony faces the same challenges as the nation at large: How to rebuild in the face of such devastation? Can the innocence and idealism that was lost ever be recovered?

The cover isn’t finalized, but we thought we’d give you a peek at where we’re going with it. What do you think?

working cover for This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

BSP is pleased to present this book review written by Zoe Maffitt, one of our summer interns:

Lilith's Brood book cover from AmazonI read this gem of a book thanks to a science fiction class I took this past semester. While Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler is packaged such that the trilogy is in one volume, due to time constraints our class only read the first volume, entitled Dawn.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic time, hundreds of years after nuclear war has annihilated most of humanity and ruined Earth. The story follows Lilith, one of the few humans saved by the Oankali, an alien race that is attracted to the complexities of human beings and who are driven to heal our ravaged planet. Lilith is trained to help the other human survivors make the transition back to a newly healed Earth.

Dawn is driven by the tension derived from miscommunication between the Oankali and the humans. With this constant push and pull throughout the story, the Oankali remain complex, elusive characters.

My reading experience is what stands out to me. No book has made me think as much as this one has. It brings to question the definition of humanity, costs of survival, such complex issues as Stockholm Syndrome and leadership, adaptability versus staying true to oneself, and what it means to be an outsider.

In all honesty, my class had a mixed reaction to Dawn: half of us loved it while the other half trudged through. I believe the distinction between the two mindsets came down to how sympathetic or even neutral the reader remains in respect to the Oankali throughout the book. And that, I believe, is part of Octavia E. Butler’s genius. As a woman with a stutter who grew up in a racially mixed and economically challenged neighborhood, she comes from a place ideally suited towards exploring themes of segregation, persecution, mixed heritage, interactions with those different from oneself, and the huge, insanely messy can of worms that is communication and empathy.

At the end of the day, I cannot recommend this book to you enough. While it can be uncomfortable at times—how can it not, tackling such issues?—it has a permanent spot on my favorite-books-of-all-time shelf. It is such experiences that lead to growth as an individual and, ultimately, as a society.

Happy reading!

Zoe

P.S.  Interested in a quick read? Take a look at Octavia E. Butler’s short story “Speech Sounds.”

(Updated 12.5.2011 – More proof everyone needs a proofreader. Thanks to Elena Makansi for pointing out my misplaced apostrophe.)

Blank Slate Press was founded in 2010. With the help of our Editorial Board, we selected our first two authors–who, incidentally, had NOT finished their books–and guided them through the publication process with both books coming out in early 2011. While it was a learning experience for all of us, we successfully launched two debut novelists to rave reviews. THE SAMARITAN by Fred Venturini, our first book out the door, has received more accolades than we can keep track of and our second book, DANCING WITH GRAVITY by Anene Tressler, continues to receive glowing praise for the beautiful writing, the unique protagonist, and the startlingly revealing journey through one man’s crisis of character and journey of faith.

Besides kudos for the writing, both books have won awards (DANCING WITH GRAVITY won the 2011 Literary Fiction category from International Book Awards and THE SAMARITAN won the Cross-Genre category from USA Book Awards) and now both have been included on notable end-of-year “Best of…” reading lists. Shelf Unbound magazine named THE SAMARITAN as one of its top 10 Small Press books of 2011 (a list which was picked up by USA Today) and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has included DANCING WITH GRAVITY on its round up of favorite books of 2011.

For those of you keeping count, that’s an amazing 2 for 2. Not bad for a debut publishing house. Not bad at all.

But that’s only the beginning!

We’ve got more great books on the horizon plus we’re launching a sister imprint — tentatively titled Treehouse Publishing — to offer curated, collaborative publishing to authors interested in forging a middle path between working with a traditional publishing team and the new financial opportunities afforded by going it alone through self-publishing.

Our next Blank Slate Press book, DAYBREAK by Steve Wiegenstein, is in production now and will be launched in the spring of 2012. DAYBREAK, set on the cusp of the Civil War, follows the story of charismatic author and speaker James Turner, his pragmatic wife Charlotte, and the idealistic abolitionist Adam Cabot as they work to build a Utopian society in the bottom lands of the Missouri Ozarks. While Steve does a fantastic job transporting the reader back in time and capturing the turmoil of the period, the thing that absolutely captivates me about this book is the amazing characters that populate it. Not only are Turner, Charlotte and Adam wonderfully drawn, but the secondary characters are so colorful and compelling that, even when they’re absolutely dangerous, good-for-nothing low-lifes and outlaws, you can’t help but love them. I can’t wait to introduce the world to Sam Hildebrand (a real-life Ozark outlaw), Harp Webb, Lysander Smith, and the men and women of the Daybreak community.

In short, DAYBREAK is fantastic.

And I can’t wait to tell you more about our first Treehouse title. I’ll be getting the revised manuscript mid-December and will write more about it then. For now, I can tell you now that it’s a fictional chronicle of one man’s experience in the Vietnam War. Torn between being a conscientious objector and doing his duty to serve his country, the main character ends up trained for the infantry but, at the last moment, he is pulled from his trip to the front lines and stuck in an office simply because he can type. It’s a look at running a war’s back office and is a bit like Catch 22 meets M*A*S*H meets The Office. If you’re interested in the philosophical pretzels we can twist ourselves into when it comes to war, this book is for you.

Stay tuned for more on this one!

 

 

I just posted this over at jameystegmaier.com and thought it was relevant to the Blank Slate Press crowd too.

When you were younger, did you ever find yourself so wrapped up in a book that the rest of the world melted away? Maybe that happens to you as an adult too, but I feel like we read in socially acceptable places now, even in public: coffee shops, the park, cafes. When I was younger, I could be walking through a crowd of people at Disney World, and would be considerably more aware of the world Roald Dahl created on the page than the actual world around me.

Kudos to books, because this is awesome.

I thought of this because I went to the Cardinals game the other day and saw something I hadn’t seen in a while. These days I see kids playing on their parents’ iPhones or the Nintendo DS’s. Rarely do I see a kid get as wrapped up in a book as I used to. But I know it happens, because young adult fiction is hugely successful right now.

As I walked to my seat at the game, I noticed a young girl–maybe 11 or 12–completely engrossed in a book. The game had started (Cubs/Cards; she was wearing a Cubs uniform), but she didn’t care. I craned my neck to see what book could compel a kid to read instead of watch the game, but I couldn’t see the cover.

She didn’t read for the entire game, but now and then she’d pull out the book. I know what it’s like to not be able to put a book down. It actually feels…good. Other forms of media don’t have that effect. (Okay, maybe True Blood.)

What’s the last book that you got so wrapped up in that the rest of the world melted away?

 

by Elena Makansi, BSP Summer Intern

I had the privilege of hearing author Laini Taylor’s editor speak about this book at BEA, during the YA Editor’s Buzz panel. She sold it as an exciting, beautifully written, engaging book with a kick-ass, beautiful heroine. A sort of Angels and Devils tale, set in contemporary Prague. While most of that sounded great, I was a bit turned off by the whole “kick-ass beautiful heroine” part. Of course I love reading about powerful women, and I think it is awesome that young readers, especially young women, can look up to and be empowered by these characters. However, after reading many, many YA novels with kick-ass, beautiful heroines, the idea became a bit annoying. They’re all beautiful, yet perfectly flawed in the luckiest ways—they’re stubborn or arrogant or socially-awkward-but-not-really. They’re the Chosen ones, Marked ones, Unique-in-every-way ones.

Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone is indeed beautiful. And she kicks her fair share of ass. She’s sneaky, mysterious, artsy, and dutifully fulfills many of the YA genre’s stock heroine’s characteristics. But this novel surprised me in a wonderful way. Karou’s characterization—indeed the characterization of all of the main players including Akiva, Zuzana, and Brimstone—goes above and beyond stock and wedges a stake right through the reader’s heart. Karou feels as if she’s missing something; she is lost, lonely, confused. The reader cannot help but just feel deeply for Karou. Through graceful and empathetic writing, Taylor takes her readers into the hearts, not just the minds, of her characters.

The premise in a nutshell: angels and devils are at war, and neither deserve to win. The plot, to a seasoned but growing older by the day YA reader, seems at first glance to be trite: an angel falls in love with a devil, but they can’t be together because they’re at war. How many different angel and devil stories have gone wrong? Many. But prepare to be wondrously (pleasantly is an understatement) surprised. This world is incredibly creative, layered with fascinating details and back story.

The seraphim and the chimaera (They’re not actually angels and devils, and they don’t actually live in heaven or hell. Those are mythical words created by naïve humans.)  have familiar attributes and characteristics, such as wings, but their personalities, histories, myths, and magic are so richly imagined as to dance off the page in a flutter of blood-spattered sparkles. And yes, there is blood. This war is brutal to the core. Taylor is unafraid; while I wouldn’t call this book an epic, the story certainly has a wide wingspan. It’s an urban fantasy set mainly in the streets of Prague, but towards the end of the book we get a glimpse into the fantastical Otherworld. The entire otherworldly realm is at war—and has been for thousands of years. In order to save their race, the chimaera and the seraphim must sacrifice…well, a lot of things. You’ll see.

Taylor’s story is gorgeous, exciting, knock-your-socks-off surprising, and so creative and just damn fun (not to mention, funny) that I’d recommend it to fantasy-loving teens, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers alike. In fact, if it wasn’t for my mother’s own insistence that I give Karou a chance, I would have wrongfully ignored Daughter of Smoke and Bone. This book’s got magic, Moroccan marketplaces, Parisian subways,  teeth, romance, myth, gorgeous world-building, loss, mystery, wishes, and art. The only problem I have now is waiting for the sequel–especially since Daughter of Smoke and Bone itself will not be released until the end of September.

Here’s a review Regina Till, a fellow writer and friend, sent me after reading an ARC of The Samaritan. It is not only extremely gratifying, but it made me laugh out loud–especially since she’s eaten my cooking and lived to tell.  I’m delighted to present it in full:

Do you share this conundrum now and then, when a friend says something like, “I can’t wait for you to see my…taste my…meet my….”  (I.E. Hair style?  World class chili?  New boyfriend?) You pray there will at least be something there to which you can offer a positive comment or two.  (I.e. Green is your color!   Is that ketchup I taste?   His moustache looks so real …) Before you’ve even smelled the chili,  you’re warming up for ketchup?

A friend of mine started her own publishing company.  It features writers from the greater St. Louis region.   She and her partners leaped in with a concrete investment of money, time and know-how, and a faith that if you build it (offer excellent fiction) people (readers/investors) will come.  Their philosophy transpired out of their experience; that talent exists right here in river city and surrounds,  and with it a large pool of authors who don’t get the opportunity to be read, or the recognition they deserve, for a variety of reasons.  In addition to the pure talent of available authors, they ascribed to that time-tested (and largely cast aside in the rest of the publishing world) art of editor/author symbiosis that would nurture good into better.   It all sounded fine to me, even as I was a little doubtful that the result could challenge the stacks of unread books I have sitting next to my overflowing bookshelves.  It was that skeptic in me who prepared for a worst-case scenario. How would I kindly encourage if I honestly thought the result was at best a nice try, at worse, a one-chapter read and a painful glaze-over through the rest?   In the meantime, the chili was on the stove.

So when she announced last summer that her company, Blank Slate Press, had two new authors, and then more recently that the books were done, and the first author’s book was ready for release, I gave her the easy (for me) truth.  Congratulations!  And I meant it.  That, in itself, was an accomplishment.  Blank Slate Press fulfilled a promise to writers if nothing else.  And in only a little more than a year, no less!   That’s good news.   If the actual books proved to be only so-so, well, there is honor in trying.

But of course, the time came.  “I’ll give you an early copy, let me know, honestly, what you think,” she said.  Immediately my mind ran a treadmill of worn out platitudes and phrases.  (Fascinating premise.  The cover is eye catching!  Good use of semi-colons.)  But more importantly, how would I  (or should I even) let her down if, after reading, all I thought she was doing was feeding a delusion?  Beg off with the truth, that I am only one reader?  That I am a cranky one on top of it?  That I am, after all, no critic?

And then I read the book.  The Samaritan, by Fred Venturini.

Forget the platitudes, the semi-colons, my miss-guided B.S.  This book rocks, and I mean that literally.  It agitated my nerve, shocked my senses, punched holes in my understanding.  If you read books (maybe especially if you haven’t picked up a book of fiction in years), on the first of February you can get a copy and read for it yourself .  I urge you to do so.   With one caution:  If you’re squeamish or reticent about brutal or graphic descriptions of violence, (it is raw and explicit), then you may want to pass on this.  For everyone else, there is much more in this book than that disclaimer does justice.

The Samaritan is about loss and regret and regeneration (you read that right) and how hope slides into the crevices of our darkest spaces and moves us on, despite.  It’s about a guy named Dale, whose talents take a backseat to his humanity, and his friend, whose buried humanity regenerates along with Dale’s actual body parts.  It’s about the illusion of healing, and the ways we can, and sometimes do, sabotage the best we have to offer.  It’s about coming up for air every time, just because.  It’s also relentlessly fast-paced, with a meter in each sentence and phrase that comes at you like a line drive, scoring strikes along the way that keep you asking why?  What more?

“…they were one person back then, one voice meant to draw you into trouble, hypnotic as strippers and capable of the same broken promises.”

“It was an endearing reaction to behold, seeing the light beaming through the seams of his ego.”

“Funny how hatred of something causes sign-building, but a passion to defend something just causes anger.”

“I cradled his head and started bawling, a cry that no bite could control, the kind of blazing sorrow that puts a bellows squeeze on lungs.”

It’s a man’s book; (a book about men and the boy’s voice inside that spurs them on), that women will feel true.   And while the premise is fantastical, the yearning to make a difference in this world, to shout “I was here” that seeps from the flesh and dreams of these characters, is something I think most of us feel at one time or another no matter our gender, our background or our specific desires.

Bravo to the author, Fred Venturini.  And to Kristy Blank Makansi and BSP, this reader is sincere; I’ll be glad to recommend this book to anyone. Just don’t ask me about your chili recipe.

All I can say is THANK YOU to Reggie, who I knew would tell me the truth–no matter what. To read a chapter of The Samaritan for yourself, click on over to http://scr.bi/i0k4N0.  Pre-ordering ability is coming soon.

NPR’s listeners voted on the top 100 Killer Thrillers and came up with a must-read scary books list.Get the whole story here and find out more about what makes a book keep readers on the edge of their seats:

The NPR audience nominated some 600 novels to our “Killer Thrillers” poll and cast more than 17,000 ballots. The final roster of winners is a diverse one to say the least, ranging in style and period from Dracula to The Da Vinci Code, Presumed Innocent to Pet Sematary. What these top 100 titles share, however, is that all of them are fast-moving tales of suspense and adventure.

Here’s the top 10.  How many of these have you read?

  • 1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • 2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • 3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson
  • 4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
  • 5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
  • 6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
  • 7. The Shining, by Stephen King
  • 8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
  • 9. The Hunt tor Red October, by Tom Clancy
  • 10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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