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text 2017-10-19 13:32
Exclusive excerpt and a book discount: Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender by Kenneth Harris

 

We're happy to introduce Ken Harris, a comic fan and a YA author whose recent book Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender intrigued us so much that we couldn't resit and invited Ken to share the book details. Read the exclusive excerpt below and immerse in this amazing story. Enjoy!

 

P.S. Ken prepared a surprise for BookLikes readers. Use the links below to find the book at the special reduced prices.

 

Happy Birthday, Ken!

 

 

-- An author guest post by Kenneth Harris

 

Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender - Kenneth Harris,Aaron Harris Hello! My name is Kenneth Harris. I am a children’s book author excited for the opportunity here on BookLikes to interact with readers like you. Please visit my blog at http://JETSETJEFF.BOOKLIKES.COM.

I am a fan of the history of old-school comic strips, comic book heroes, and their creators. I have started a FREE monthly newsletter dedicated to this art medium that emerged during the Great Depression and reached its peak during the 1980s. You can subscribe to my newsletter at http://kforpartnership.wixsite.com/educ.  

In my latest book, a 10-year-old boy secretly creates a malfunctioning Gadget suit to protect his first responder parents.

 

From October 19th to October 31st I am offering a discount for this Amazon chapter-book, Jet Set Jeff: The Science Defender. Regular price for the paperback is $5.99 and the EBook is $3.99.  For the remainder of this month, the hardcopy has been reduced to $3.60 and the digital at $2.99. Click here. You and the children in your life will like this action-packed humorous story. You can learn more about me and my other titles here. Thank you!

 

EXCERPT

 

Chapter 1

 

 

     Residents in Springdale City were afraid of the rising crime problem. Police and firefighters were risking their lives to keep residents safe from thieves and burning buildings. Innocent people were afraid to walk the streets.

     A ten-year-old boy had an idea to ease his own anxiety. Inside his tree house up in a shady oak tree, his weird experiment was underway.

     Outside a corner guarded by drapes, Ike Jones let out a loud sigh. His round face was twisted with boredom. He was a short, pudgy kid. Ice cream preyed on his mind, like usual.

     “Jeff, how much longer is this going to take?” Ike pleaded. “I’m so hungry; I could swallow one hundred snow cones.”

     “Preparation requires patience,” said Jeff behind the curtains. “Soon, you will witness the greatest experiment in the world.”

     Suddenly, Jeff Morgan leaped out, smiling excitedly. He was thin and wore prism glasses over his small eyes. He had on a weird spandex suit with a utility belt. Thrusters, host to little rockets, were strapped to his back. As the machine hummed and crackled, its loose bolts pelted the floor.

     Ting! Ting! Ting!

     “Finally,” continued Jeff as he stood proudly on a chair. “My jetpack is perfected.”

 

 

     Unimpressed, Ike’s eyes narrowed to the size of toothpicks. “What is that junk on your back really? It looks like an air-conditioner.”

     Jeff brushed off his friend’s ridicule and pointed up. “The time has come at last to demonstrate the flight of my latest gadget.”

     “Did you go to the city landfill again to dig up worthless parts?”

     “If there’s nothing more to be said, I shall fly. Stand aside, if you please.”

     Jeff took off running to the open door. When he reached the edge, he leaped and cried out like Tarzan. In slow motion, he drifted about in the air, amazed at the scenery of the grassland stretching in all directions.

     Then, the realization of trouble burst upon his worried face. He wasn’t flying. He was falling like a shooting star. He nervously fumbled away at the dozens of buttons on his special utility belt.

     “Not good!” Jeff shouted.

     “Jeff!” cried Ike.

     Jeff hurtled downward at terrific speed. He landed face down on a pile of neatly stacked leaves.

     Thump!

     Ike climbed aboard an upright barrel. He grasped a rope above and pulled it. The barrel dropped to the surface like an elevator.

     Jeff, slightly dazed, got to his feet as Ike made his way over to him.

     “Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting to fall on your face,” Ike taunted.

     “This is no problem,” Jeff stammered. “I can rectify this malfunction.”

     The loud racket from his jetpack intensified. Surely, there was a big problem with his latest device. Jeff tapped a few switches on his belt in hopes of turning it off.  Despite his efforts, it continued to crackle and pop loudly.

     Ike kindly slapped Jeff on the shoulder. “Why don’t you find another hobby? Chasing after an ice cream truck is more fun-licious.”

     “After I repair my jetpack, no ice cream truck will outrun us,” Jeff snarled.

      “I commend your latest effort, but I have to be home for dessert.”

     Jeff gasped, “Ike, you said you already ate dessert. Don’t let sweets distract you from this secret mission. After all, you agreed to be my assistant.”

     “That was twenty experiments ago,” Ike said as he backed away to the surrounding bushes. “Nothing you build ever works right. I quit.”

     “But we’re so close.”

     “Sorry.”

    Ike ran off through a break in the bushes. He was unaware of his friend’s disappointment in his departure.

 

 

     Jeff took off his whirring jetpack. He studied it closely. He promised himself he wouldn’t give up on fixing it. In order to protect his mom and dad, he knew he had to succeed. They worked dangerous jobs that always made him nervous.

     He heard a twig snapped.  Somebody was coming. He quickly hid the jetpack behind a tree. He also removed his gadget suit and tossed it over his humming device.

     “Jeff!?” a woman’s frustrated voice hailed.

     Ms. Fisher emerged from the woods with his one-year-old brother Wade in her arms. The wrinkled-faced babysitter was angry. She disliked long walks from the house.

     Jeff couldn’t help but smile merrily at them. A pacifier dangled from Wade’s mouth.

     Luckily, the noise from the jet thruster lowered to a faint squawking. Jeff hoped Ms. Fisher wouldn’t hear it.

     “Yes, Ms. Fisher?”

     “Jeffrey Morgan! You know I’m not fond of straying from the house in the evening.”

     “Sorry, I forgot.”

     “Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes. Be sure to wash your hands before you eat.”

     “I copy that radio transmission, Sargent Fisher,” Jeff joked.

     The raising of her eyebrow meant she didn’t take kindly to his mockery. Jeff bit his tongue. The last thing he wanted was his parents to find out about his bad behavior. Ms. Fisher was a cranky old woman with no sense of humor.

     “That will be enough out of you,” she countered. “Be at the dinner table and don’t have me come looking for you.”

     Ms. Fisher stomped away with Wade back to the house.

     Jeff had spent many months working on his experiment. He wasn’t ready to give up easily. He slipped on his costume once again. Jeff fastened the jetpack over his back and jumped into the barrel. He pulled the rope with both hands. The barrel shot up to a port beneath the tree house.

     There Jeff figured out the answer to the problem.

     His hand caught a lever on the side of his pack. He dragged the handle down. Spitting flames radiated brightly from the rims of his rockets. He felt himself being slowly lifted into the air.

     “I’m flying!” Jeff cried excitedly. “I’m flying!”

 

 Chapter 2

 

 

     Jeff hurriedly squeezed his feet into ski boots. His hand snatched a mask-like helmet from a table. When he placed it over his head, he looked like an astronaut who crawled out of a trash compactor.

     He flew out the window like a soaring bird.

     Whoosh!

     Jeff blazed upward like a fast launching jet. The bird’s eye view of the green land formations was quite clear. Eventually, the sight of the city loomed largely. His flight was a success.

     Jeff swirled and twisted playfully as he hung in mid-air. His fun was cut short when a distant disturbance below caught his eye.

     A thick wisp of smoke was rising from a fiery midtown apartment building. Jeff knew his father, who was a firefighter, would be at that scene. Jeff believed he had a duty to protect him.

    He sped towards the leaping flames.

    Fire and smoke poured out of the open windows of the apartment building. Panicking firefighters were manning the hoses. Others were on ladders pulling choking residents out of the burning building. From the safety of the sidewalk, tenants watched with wearied eyes.

     “A firefighter is still in that building!” cried a woman.

     “No one can save him in time,” said a distraught man. “The fire is too much!”

     “Stand aside!” Jeff commanded in a firm tone.

     The man and woman looked up and saw Jeff flying sternly over them.

     “What in the blazes is that?” asked the woman.

     Jeff twisted a dial on his utility belt to activate the landing gear in his boots.

     It didn’t work.

     “Oh my goodness!” he gasped.

     He crashed through the fourth-floor window. Inside the dark smoke, he collided with a wall and fell face down. Jeff quickly got to his feet. He flicked a switch on his belt to turn on emergency lights installed in his helmet. The broken blinkers flashed on and off repeatedly.

     Jeff realized he was on the top floor balcony, and the fire was all around him. He heard a man coughing. He looked down over the railing and saw his father on the floor beneath him.

     Surprisingly, he didn’t have his mask on.

     “Dad!” Jeff cried.

     His father didn’t hear him because he was on his knees choking from the cloud of smoke. He had his hand around his neck. The floor where he was located was on the verge of collapsing.

     Jeff knew he had to think of a way to save him fast.

     The third level shattered. His father fell with the debris of what was once was a floor. Jeff pointed a wrist device at him. A handcuff, attach to a long cable, swept down. Its jaws draped over his father’s flailing wrist.

     “Got you!” Jeff said excitedly.

     His father dangled in the air below, leaping flames engulfing the lobby. He looked up to see who saved him. He nearly fainted. “What are you?” he asked.

     “Just a good astronaut…I mean Samaritan,” answered Jeff. “I have to get you out of here, Dad.”

     Mr. Morgan was greatly startled. “What did you call me!?”

     Jeff realized his mistake and blushed. “I said drag! It’s sure a drag getting you out of here.”

     Jeff flew over the fire as his father dangled in disbelief. Jeff guided him out of the smashed window through which he came. The burning ceiling came down just as they escaped.

     Once outside, Jeff swung his father into the arms of grateful firefighters.

     “That little guy saved my life,” said Mr. Morgan.

     “Who are you?” asked a curious firefighter.

 

 

     Jeff thought about that as he floated. Loose bolts hurtled from his noisy gadget suit.

     “I haven’t given that much thought,” he replied.

     Another excited firefighter drew closer. “That strange suit of yours is a success. With your help, we can save many lives.”

     “Sorry, but I am not a super-hero.”

     A panicking police captain pushed through the crowd with a radio in his hand. “There’s been a report of a bank robbery,” he said.  “It’s the National Bank on the other side of town. We won’t get there in time.”

     Jeff knew his mother, who was a police officer, was assigned to work in that sector of the city. He knew she would be there. He also knew he must protect her too.

     A succession of rocket blasts sent him up and away. The crowd cheered their hero on.

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

     “Hurry up, you idling fool!” demanded Glue Dude as he eyed the nervous bank teller. “I want that bag filled with all the money!”  He was aiming his long glue soaker gun. “And don’t forget to add in a lollypop!”

     The shivering manager passed from cage to cage, gathering the cash, and stuffing it into a satchel.

     A wicked laugh burst from the mask of the evil scientist. “With the apartment fire I started downtown, the other cops will be very busy. They won’t get here in time to catch me. I fooled them all.”

     The bank customers, including Mrs. Morgan who was on-duty as a police officer, were face down on the floor. Their trembling hands covered the backs of their heads. She lifted her eyes to the greedy robber.

     “Glue Dude, you won’t get away with this,” Mrs. Morgan said.

     “Don’t bet on that, Copper,” he said. Glue Dude brandished his weapon. “This glue soaker is my most valuable invention. One day, I will have enough money to build the most destructive weapon in the world. I shall finally be respected as the greatest scientist of them all!”

     “Keep dreaming, Paste Face!” said Jeff as he skated into the lobby.  Smoke billowed from his defected blazing jet skates.

     “How dare you interrupt my plans!” said Glue Dude.

     Mrs. Morgan was star-struck like the rest of the smiling patrons. “Who are you?” she asked. “A super-hero?”

     Jeff blushed again. “Not exactly, Mom…I mean Ma’am!”

     “You little rascal,” said Glue Dude. “One blast from my glue gun will leave you stuck and hopeless.”

     “The only thing stuck and hopeless is your getaway.” Jeff taunted. “Make it easy on yourself and give up gluey brain!”

     Glue Dude raised his glue gun. Thinking fast, Jeff removed his electronic boomerang from his utility belt. He threw it. Instantly, his jet rang traveled backward. Jeff looked confused. It sailed out the entrance door of the bank.

     Jeff looked back at Glue Dude and stomped his feet “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

     Glue Dude shrugged. “It looks like it has an electrical problem.”

     The jet rang came swirling back into the bank.

     “Look out, Super-Hero!” cried Mrs. Morgan.

     “Please, I am not a super-hero,” countered Jeff. “Just call me…”

     The swirling boomerang rang against the back of Jeff’s head.

     Whack!

     Jeff saw stars circling around him. He forgot what planet he was on. He slumped to the floor.

     Glue Dude laughed merrily. Jeff struggled to get to his knees.

     “You are a clumsy super-hero,” mocked Glue Dude. “Prepare to be swarm with paste.”

     Glue Dude activated his glue gun. Hoping to fly up, Jeff turned a dial on his utility belt. A long wire shot out from his wrist device. The jawing handcuff seized Glue Dude by his wrist.

     “Hey!” Glue Dude protested.

     "Oops…" Jeff said.  "That was supposed to activate my jet rockets."

     The powerful tentacle pulled Glue Dude off his feet. Both Jeff and Glue Dude spun clockwise at high-speed. Glue Dude circled around like a blind fly.  Jeff felt like he was spinning on a merry-go-round.

     “My brain is becoming scrambled eggs,” cried Glue Dude. “I give up. Please release me.”

     “I left the instruction manual at home,” Jeff joked. “I don’t how to turn it off.”

     “Find the off switch before I vomit, you pile of rubble!” Glue Dude hissed.

     “Oh,” prompted Jeff, “I think I created that button.”

     The instant Jeff flicked a switch on his belt, the handcuff released Glue Dude. His swirling body crashed through a window.

     Smash!

     Jeff paced toward the shattered window. Outside, across the street, he spotted Glue Dude running off into an ally.

     “You’ll never get me,” said Glue Dude. “I assure you, this isn’t the last of Glue Dude.”

     “Don’t come back!” warned Jeff.

      A delighted Mrs. Morgan and the customers eagerly approached Jeff.

     “Who are you?” Mrs. Morgan asked.

 

 

     Jeff eyed his mother for a moment, thinking, and then continued. “For now, call me Jet Set, the Science Defender. Until next time, stay indoors and stay safe Springdale residents.”

     Jeff saluted them. Afterward, he fired his rockets and began flying away. Loose screws from his humming suit rained down over the impressed spectators. They pushed and shoved to get at the screws they wanted to claim for souvenirs. Poor Officer Morgan had her hands full.

     Back at his tree house, Jeff slipped off his gadget suit. On the ground level, he ran through the woods, out across the lawn and up the side steps to his rural home. He pushed open the side door that leads into the dining room.

     Immediately, he found Ms. Fisher sizing him up. Her face was firm and her arms crossed. Jeff was startled.

 

END OF EXCERPT

 


 

Sooooo. How did you like the story? We'd love to hear your feedback!

Share your opinions in the comment section below.

 

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text 2017-07-18 20:09
[Guest post] How I became a travel writer

 

Summer time means travels! Have a look at the confessions of a debut travel author, Nicholas Kontis, who encourages readers to focus more on the local experiences and local people when traveling. Maybe this read will inspire you to hit the road and explore something amazing this summer!

 

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A guest post by Nick Kontis

Follow Nicholas Kontis' blog on BookLikes HERE

Nick Kontis' author page on BookLikes is HERE

 

Being a child of Greek immigrant parents, it was important that I learned about my heritage. I was blessed to spend my childhood summers in Greece. I learned the meaning of family and of sharing. I slept on couches in spare rooms, hitched rides, and helped with the preparing of meals. I even learned to bake bread when I was 12 years old.

 

At age 24 I left my native San Francisco, and took a backpack and on what was to be a last trip to the Greek Islands before buckling down and becoming a productive American citizen.

 

On the island of Ios, I met Swen and Maria from Sweden. After many shots of the chalky Greek liquor Ouzo, I forfeited my return ticket home and traveled to Bangladesh and later all throughout the Indian subcontinent.

 

Moving on, I manage to tread lightly all throughout India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Australia, New Caledonia, Tahiti and then finally back to California.

 

Without a job prospect in sight, I ended up creating one. I started the first travel agency in the U.S. specializing in discount around the world airfares. I was the Lonely Planet guidebooks of travel agencies catering to backpackers. I actually sought out world travelers finding them in various locales of San Francisco. I turned them into productive sellers of around the world airfares. Productive travel agents.

 

I never left the travel industry. In a field where people scoffed and said that I wouldn’t make a dime,  I did extremely well.

 

Going Local: Experiences and Encounters on the Road - Mr. Nicholas Kontis  Now, as a travel journalist, I wrote my first book on the timely subject matter of experiential travel titled, Going Local Experiences and Encounters on the Road.

 

Ever since the birth of Airbnb, immersing into local society and the buzz word, "sharing economy," came to fruition. Today's modern day explorers seek a better understanding of people. Going Local details how to implement a local point of learning from local cultures.

 

 

With the assistance of technology, never before has it been so easy to stay in someone's home, share a meal, hitch a ride, and to be guided by a local to gain greater wisdom from a society.

 

"Going Local" delves into the rise in peer-to-peer travel and shows how to use meal sharing apps, and other ways in which a nation's food and cuisine is a glance into a nation's culture.

 

Other subject matter includes: how a trip around the world is a life-changing experience, moving out of your comfort zone and living abroad, why it is of the utmost importance to practice responsible travel, along with choosing responsible tour operators to guide you, volunteering and why we all should give at least a small portion of our journeys to help others.

 

With keynote talks with travel visionaries, icons and explorers in the field of travel, including Tony Wheeler, Richard Bangs, Rick Steves, Don George, Judith Fein, James Dorsey, Tim Leffel, Dr. Harald Goodwin, David Noyes, Andrew Zimmern, Eric Wolf, Larissa & Michael Milne, Tomislav Perko, Tamara Lowe.

 

The great Lonely Planet guidebook founder Tony Wheeler, gives the cover endorsement stating:

 

“Many people - Mark Twain included - have noted how travel is a certain cure for bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I hope Nick’s book may help persuade people to take the treatment.”

 

As some of my luminary travel author colleagues have reminded me, travel books are a breed of their own and not interesting to most readers.

 

The average American reads fewer than two books a year and a paltry 38% of Americans have passports. So there aren't many travel books that are robust blockbusters. Expect slow and steady, not a mad rush.

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Going Local: Experiences and Encounters on the Road - Mr. Nicholas Kontis You can find the book on BookLikes here: Going Local: Experiences and Encounters on the Road by Nicholas Kontis  

 

The author is also willing to e-mail a PDF copy in exchange for a review.

If you're interested, please leave a comment below.

 

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text 2017-07-04 13:10
[Guest post] Spiritual Writing: the most read genre of all

 

We're happy to welcome Nataša Pantović Nuit, an author of 9 mindfulness books and spiritual researcher and trainer, on BookLikes blog. Nataša introduces the subject of spiritual writings, and we have to confess that we've learned a lot form this short piece. We wish you all inspiring and spiritual reading. And writings!

 

All readers are invited to join Nataša's Giveaways.

 

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A guest pos by Nataša Pantović Nuit.

Follow Nataša's on BookLikes ->

Nataša Pantović Nuit's author page ->

 

If you are into “Spiritual writings” you are probably already pre-warned and have experience more than a few expectations and accusations instantly associated with this amazing genre. To be fair, throughout the history this was the most read genre of all. Remember the “eternal” classics such as: Bible, Koran, Baghavagita, to mention just a few, that have earned the reputation of the “best sellers” of all times. Whether in English speaking countries or within the countries of the East, the books that took the attention of the millions were “Spiritual” writings, talking about eternal love, happiness, or damnation.

 

Even within the ancient marketing, it was clearly understood that if a book is written by God, it stands a much better chance to win huge audience. Paradoxically, if you are a believer, all the books are by force written by God or influenced by His or Her Majesty, cause God as an Omni-potent entity must surely encompass the world of writing, yet a claim that the words are directly channeled by Holy Spirit (a messenger of God) is quite a popular one. Yet the competition within the world of Holy Spirit followers is quite tough, surely such experiences must be unique and sacred, so the other people’s assentation of the same, was at times guarded by deathly sword.

 

Within the competition of who is more “enlightened”, and closer to God, only “the best” could possibly survive. Some tradition have decided to keep this “spot” reserved only for the karmic few, by birth given rights, some others chose a complicated hierarchical process that after the completion give their God representatives the full trust.

 

Moving a step away from the Holy Books, and mind you this was not easy, there were times when only Holy Books were readily available for folks around the fire gathered to read, the written word was once “sacred”. If it is “written” then it must be true. Pope Innocent the VIII (we are talking 15the century) embraced a book written by two German Dominican Monks, called the “Malleus Maleficarum”, the Witches' Hammer, the hunting manual and blessed it, giving to the Inquisition all the power and tools needed to act against this so-called evil, called: women, resulting in killing some-say millions.

 

The Malleus Maleficarum - Montague Summers,Jakob Sprenger,Heinrich Kramer All wickedness, is but little to the wickedness of a woman. ... It is written in the manual.

 

What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colors... Women are by nature instruments of Satan - they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.

 

A-Ma Alchemy of Love - Nataša Pantović Nuit

This book was printed and re-printed many times in the centuries to follow, “the  Witches' Hammer became the bestseller, the hit amongst different classes, and was passed from hand to hand, read aloud in Churches, and on the village squares, stored in special places, with the Bible, consulted in the dark corridors of the torture chambers. The best Hunters would know it by heart, reciting it as a deepest wisdom against poor women. Printed, reprinted and translated into German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese, it outsold all other books except the Bible!” (a quote from A-Ma Alchemy of Love, my spiritual historical fiction book, that explores the 17th century China).

 

Note: Personally, I have a deep interest for this amazing time: the 16th and 17th century when the printed books became available and we finally entered the era when our ancient scripts are readily available for us to read, compare, and thoroughly research.

 

Back to the modern times, did you know that within the world of our most powerful Internet, the words that still win the most of our “human” interest are: God, sex and love. I bet this does not surprise you!

 

Writing and talking about “enlightenment”, “love” and “God”, we ought to learn our reputation either as an eligible representative of a religious structure or as a “Spirit” filled individual that allows this “Divine “ force to flow within ones life.

 

Detaching the “psychological” tools from the religious connotations is always a difficult process and it risks "charlatans" invading the space of Gurus, Philosophers, Sages, Priests, and Spiritual Researchers promising an "instant happiness", a "curse" or a "pink pill" that cure all the diseases and bring immense wealth.

 

Whether you approach your spiritual writings with the “mind” or with “heart” filled with “Divine” flow, this will not be an easy journey, yet with the "Rightful Effort", under the shade of inspiration, and within the worlds of a constant ever-expanding self-development training, working with Virtues, Creativity, Changing Habits, etc., you might be able to truly “break” into this most amazing market.

 

Giveaways!

 

ENTER TO WIN ->

 

ENTER TO WIN ->

 

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Artof4Elements (htttp://www.artof4elements.com) is a Mindfulness Training and self-help Publisher that publish books, audio, and video materials in areas of Mindfulness, Meditation, Self-Help, New Thought, Alternative Health, Nutrition, and Conscious Parenting.

 

In March 2014, Artof4Elements developed and launched the Alchemy of Love Mindfulness Training Series of 9 fiction and non-fiction books, authored by 7 authors, focusing on spiritual growth, creativity and mindfulness.

 

Nataša Pantović Nuit is a Maltese Serbian Author of 9 mindfulness books, a spiritual researcher and trainer, whose work focuses on spirituality, alchemy, conscious parenting, and self-development.

 

You can find Nataša Pantović Nuit on BookLikes:

Follow Nataša's on BookLikes ->

Nataša Pantović Nuit's author page ->

 
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text 2017-04-06 04:39
THE EAGLE TREE at Boston Harbor School

I had a wonderful time presenting to the school assembly at Boston Harbor School in Olympia Washington last week. What a great group of K-5 students with fantastic questions about being a writer and a lovely discussion of books they love, including my bestselling novel THE EAGLE TREE.

 

Here's the basic slideshow I presented (with lots of discussion and interesting anecdotes to fill out this skeleton frame of a presentation

Source: www.facebook.com/SinfulFolk
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text 2017-02-19 17:36
Book Love Story: Why I love writing books

 

It's all about love during the Valentine's Week. So far we've read about book love from the reader's perspective but let's change that with the last story in our project. It's high time to look at the storytelling from the writer's point of view. We've invited author Ned Hayes to present his book love story.

 

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A guest post by Ned Hayes

 

 

Storytelling as a Calling: A Book Love blog post

 

by Ned Hayes



          Storytelling is a calling: we manufacture meaning out of events through the act of storymaking. After all, the human experience doesn’t really make sense on a day to day basis. Story is a fabric laid transparent over the bumps and bricks of random occurrence, a map showing the past and the future. It is as if we weave a web of story, from inside ourselves, like a spider, and live in it, and call it world.

         I believe that story is in fact all powerful in our lives. To be truly human is to tell stories. Without stories – without that rhythm of beginning, middle, and end, without that hopefulness of meaning being given by seeing the pattern of a story – I believe that we become less than human. I believe that storytelling is what makes us human. We are homo storytelli or homo sinificans, the storytelling creature.

         This idea of the importance of storytelling was first brought to my attention by the wonderful little book The Dark Interval: towards a theology of story, by John Dominic Crossan. The critic Frank Kermode also wrote a book called The Genesis of Secrecy: on the interpretation of narrative that made an early impact on me. And finally, Annie Dillard’s book Living by Fiction also influenced my ideas about what was possible in fiction.

 

The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story - John Dominic Crossan The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Chas Eliot Norton Lecture) - Frank Kermode Living by Fiction - Annie Dillard

 

          Today, I write stories because they give me a way to make sense of the world. The world is a complex place, so I don’t restrict myself to one genre or one style. I’ve now written three novels that have ranged across the spectrum of storytelling, from mystery to historical fiction to young adult literary fiction.

 

The Eagle Tree - Ned Hayes Sinful Folk - Ned Hayes,Nikki McClure Coeur d'Alene Waters Preview - Ned Hayes  

 

          In telling stories, I can also help others to also make sense of this often-confusing and often frustrating world as well. The web I weave can be of use to many people. I’ve discovered this to be true most recently through talking to readers of my bestselling novel The Eagle Tree. In this novel, a young boy on the autistic spectrum wrestles to bring together his disintegrating family as he strives to climb an old growth tree. He is trying to make sense of his reality, and in this poignant and difficult story, he finds a great meaning and purpose for his life.

          I thought The Eagle Tree  was a unique and unusual story. Yet what I’ve been happily surprised by is that many readers have written me to tell me that I successfully captured part of their story of life on the autistic spectrum. They have said to me that I have “told their story” or that my story “helped to show that my son’s life makes sense.” I’ve also been told by other readers that the difficulty of interacting with a family member who has development or neurological differences are described with authenticity and with compassion. They found meaning this book as well. My small words helped to give hope to their experience and made their stories matter. The Eagle Tree  is a story that brought meaning to their lives.

        Yet along with authenticity, there’s one other duty that novelists have: Entertainment.

          “The first duty of the novelist is to entertain,” says Donna Tart, the bestselling author of the smash hit The Goldfinch and The Secret History. “It is a moral duty. People who read your books are sick, sad, traveling, in the hospital waiting room while someone is dying.”

 

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt The Secret History - Donna Tartt The Little Friend - Donna Tartt

 

          Entertainment = storytelling as a moral duty. We have the deep and meaningful charge to write something that’s entertaining. We are not allowed to tell a boring or meaningless story. Our stories must be interesting, must be inventive, must – in the end – be entertaining to our readers.

          Entertainment sometimes gets a bad rap. People think it’s a waste of time. Yet entertainment need not be shallow. Storytelling as entertainment doesn’t need to be meaningless. We don’t have to create something false like The Transformers – because a story like The Hunger Games  or 1984  is equally entertaining, yet contains deeper truths and gives insight along with its momentum. Entertainment means delivering a tale that can lift us out of our present reality and give us a vision of something beyond our mundane reality. A good story tells the truth, and carries us along on a tide of hope and insight.

          This is why I like to read fantasy, horror and science-fiction. These genres don’t hide their attempts to entertain: these types of books wear their badges of entertainment on their sleeves, plain for all to see. Even the covers of these books communicate their intent, with their spaceships and unicorns and fantastic sorceries. Some of my favorite fantastical and horrific stories include John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, The Ritual  by Adam Nevill, and Tim Power’s The Stress of Her Regard.

 

Paradise Lost - John Leonard,John Milton The Ritual - Adam Nevill The Stress of Her Regard - Tim Powers

 

          In the science-fiction realm, I also have special favorites. Some of the stories I admire the most in these areas include The Sheep Look Up, by John Brunner, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, and Downbelow Station  by C.J. Cherryh and of course, many books by Ursula Le Guin, most notably The Left Hand of Darkness.

 

The Sheep Look Up - John Brunner Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler Downbelow Station - C.J. Cherryh The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

 

          All the books I’ve named above provide wonderful entertainment while providing deeper insight. Yet the charge we bear to entertain goes beyond the simple affectations of fantasy and spaceships. As storytellers, we have a moral charge to give our readers a removal from the world, an escape hatch into a new way of thinking. Even literary fiction must entertain – it must deliver some insight and tale that lifts the quotidian events of our lives into a higher mythical and hyper-realistic realm. The story must move us.

          I found this truth brought home to me when I wrote my second novel Sinful Folk. The famous literary agent Jenny Bent read the first draft and told me “This is beautiful writing, but there’s not enough real storytelling here.” So over the course of one year after I received Ms. Bent’s feedback, I rewrote the entire book to bring my characters from just a land of beautiful (yet un-entertaining) prose into a story that was worth the telling. To learn how to tell an entertaining piece of historical fantasy, I went back and re-read some of the masters of historical fiction, especially those who wrote about the medieval period.

          The books that most influenced my approach to historical storytelling included Morality Play by Barry Unsworth, Ella March Chase’s The Virgin Queen's Daughter, Brenda Vantrease’s The Illuminator, Kathryn Le Veque’s The Warrior Poet  and Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers.

 

Morality Play - Barry Unsworth The Virgin Queen's Daughter - Ella March Chase The Illuminator - Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Warrior Poet - Kathryn Le Veque The Owl Killers - Karen Maitland

 

          The story that I re-wrote as the novel Sinful Folk  was finally published. It had become a heartfelt and harrowing tale that moved my main character – a fourteenth century woman – from a place of peril and heartbreak through great danger until she achieved the heights of power and privilege. My character changed over the course of the novel, transforming from fearful subterfuge into a driven, motivated heroine who conquered the High Court of England. I changed the book into a real story. And when Sinful Folk was finally published, it was described by New York Times bestselling author Brenda Vantrease herself as a “A pilgrim tale worthy of Chaucer, delivered by a master storyteller” and received starred reviews in BookList, BookNote and many other publications.

          In fact, all of the authors I list above -- whose work I read as inspiration – ended up endorsing the novel Sinful Folk (with the exception of Barry Unsworth, who had unfortunately passed away just before I published my novel).

 

          I think this love of authentic tales that entertain goes back to my childhood, when I found myself alone much of the time. And alone with only a good book to read. So books became my companions and my friends. Donna Tartt points out that “Books are written by the alone for the alone.” C.S. Lewis said “I read to know that I am not alone.” This is true of every reader. We read to connect with other human perspectives, to know those voices and embrace those souls. We also read to be accompanied by other voices in our solitary trek through time.

          When I was a child, the books that brought me companionship included Mischief in Fez by Eleanor Hoffman, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings  and finally, a story I’ve re-read many times – the deep and meaningful Watership Down, by Richard Adams.

 

Mischief in Fez - Eleanor Hoffmann,Fritz Eichenberg A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien Watership Down - Richard Adams

 

         Hoffman’s work brought me into other worlds, and showed me possibilities beyond my ken. Le Guin demonstrated the power of brevity in telling a fascinating tale, while Tolkien showed that fantasy could tell deeper truths, even while being tremendously entertaining. Adams continues to show me – every time I read him – that deep and powerful stories lie all around us, even in the lives of rabbits and seagulls, and that all we have to do is pay attention. The web of story surrounds us: all we have to do is open our eyes. Today, the tales told in these stories still resound in my dreams, and still are echoed in the books I write today.

         Finally, for anyone who is interested in telling a story, it’s important to note that listening to a story is how you become a story-teller yourself.

          I believe that to tell stories, we must read stories. Writers are readers. Therefore, I recommend anyone who wishes to write first become an avid reader. Read a book a month, a book a week, even a book a day. Become a reader, and you will be well equipped to be a writer. And you will never be alone as long as you have books and the tales within them.

 

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And what's your book love story? Join our project, write your story, publish it on your BookLikes blog and tag with why I love tag so we could find it and share it. You can also add the link to your book love stories in the comment section below.

 

Dear BookLikers, writers and readers, thank you so much for participating in this amazing project. Presenting all those stories to You and about You was a fascinating time and we hope that you've enjoyed the book love story week as much as we did.

 

We're looking forward to creating more projects as such -- so, who's in? :)

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