Tender coming-of-age story of queer love, chosen family, and healing from trauma

Semi-autobiographical novel explores nuances of mental health, addiction, and suicide

MONTPELIER, VT – Teaching Excellence Award recipient, Gail Marlene Schwartz, gracefully navigates difficult topics in her sapphic, Jewish adult novel “Falling Through the Night” (Demeter Press, Feb. 25th, 2024). Inspired by Schwartz’s personal experiences (immigration, anxiety, and a close friend’s suicide), “Falling Through the Night” is a romantic, funny coming-of-age story that explores the complicated journey of healing trauma and learning how to love. 

Audrey Meyerwitz, an introverted 30-something adoptee with anxiety, wants nothing more than to fall in love and create a healthy family, but the path to romance isn’t simple. Audrey’s life has been packed with sleepless nights, psychiatrists, and a string of nightmare ex-girlfriends. Determined to ensure that her future is a step in a healthier direction, Audrey lets her best friend Jessica, a recovering alcoholic, sign her up for a queer online dating app. What ensues is Audrey’s scary first step toward her lifelong dream: a strong, loving family. 

When Audrey falls for Denise, a French Canadian from Montreal, she finds herself immigrating to Canada and building a new life in Quebec, where she finds community in a collection of queer friends and, eventually, embarks on her dream of starting a family. But when she unearths a secret about her adoptive mother, she must re-evaluate everything she understood about her place in the world. 

Funny, honest, and profound, “Falling Through the Night” is a stirring story about cultivating healthy love from profound alienation: accepting both gains and losses, taking off the blinders of fantasy, and embracing the messiness that defines human nature and imperfect families.

Advanced praise for “Falling Through the Night”

“Falling Through the Night” is a breathtaking debut novel. Audrey is thoroughly relatable as a person dealing with mental health issues who is also full of talent, courage, creativity, and love. A page turner, the book engaged me as both a human with my own struggles but also as a therapist who understands the complexities of early childhood trauma and all the pain involved in healing. Audrey’s immigration to Quebec was a wonderful opportunity to experience that culture and the particularities of a young queer artist fumbling and learning as she adapts. A wonderful portrayal of a woman doing the personal work we all need to do to grow. Inspiring, engaging, and ultimately incredibly hopeful.”

–Glo Harris, therapist and corporate coach

“The winning combination of Schwartz’s beautifully crafted prose and attention to detail allows the reader to journey with Audrey across two countries in her quest for a new family and a better life. “Falling Through the Night” shines a light on the ups and downs of anxiety disorder, and spins a story where the LGBTQ protagonist learns to recognize and accept herself, but so does everyone else.”

–Lori Shwydky, Publisher, Rebel Mountain Press

“Falling Through the Night” is a moving look at the ways in which anxiety and family issues intersect. The book is one part magical romance and two parts unflinching account of a queer woman’s messy journey. Audrey’s path is to create a healthy family despite and because of a past shaped by lies and haunted by a mother she never knew. The book could be described as a page-turning beach read, as we are privy to the whirlwind, sweet, and romantic lesbian love story at the heart of this book. But [“Falling Through the Night”] is so much more than that—it is also a deep dive into family, friendship, addiction, and mental health, at times leaving the reader breathless with all the complexity and beauty that is life.”

–Dr. Jennifer Marlow, author and Professor of English, College of St. Rose

“Falling Through The Night”

Gail Marlene Schwartz | February 25, 2024 | Demeter Press | Women’s Fiction & LGBTQ+

Paperback | 978-1-77258-486-8 | $22.95

EBook | ISBN | $11.95

Gail Marlene Schwartz is a dual citizen, a relationship artist, and an above-average pianist. She is co-author of the books My Sister’s Girlfriend and The Loudest Bark (Rebel Mountain Press) and co-editor of the forthcoming essay collection, Boyhood Reimagined: Stories of Queer Moms Raising Sons (Motina Books). She is a founding editor of Hotch Potch Literature and Art, a collaborative online magazine, and also a freelance editor, writing coach, and writing instructor at the Community College of Vermont. Gail lives in Montpelier, Vermont with her partner, Erin; she spends every other weekend in Montreal with her best friend, Lucie, and their teenage son, Alexi. You can read more about her at gailmarleneschwartz.com.

Follow Gail Marlene Schwartz on social media:

Twitter: @GSchwartzauthor | Instagram: @gailmarleneschwartzauthor

In an interview, Gail Marlene Schwartz can discuss:

  • Her personal journey with mental health, anxiety, and losing a friend to suicide 
  • How Audrey’s story takes inspiration from Gail’s own relationship with her ex and her experience with immigration
  • Gail’s reflections on how to cope with tumultuous familial relationships 
  • The ways in which classification and labeling of mental illnesses can be helpful and harmful, respectively
  • The importance of chosen family and how the LGBTQ+ community as a whole has redefined what it means to create your family 
  • The positive impacts of having more LGBTQ+ representation in popular media 
  • The complex decision to put a child up for adoption or to adopt a child, and the trauma and joy that can come with those decisions

An Interview with

Gail Marlene Schwartz

1. You’ve previously mentioned that this book is semi-autobiographical. What parts of your experiences have you woven into your main character, Audrey? Where do you and Audrey differ? 

Like Audrey, I’m an anxiety sufferer; I also fell in love with a woman from Montreal and immigrated. I had a twin pregnancy and one twin had Down Syndrome, and he went home with an adoptive family. But unlike me, Audrey is adopted with a terrific relationship with her mom, and she grew up with a psychiatric disability and identity. She’s an introvert and a visual artist, and had a lot more support in her childhood than I did.

2. This book heavily discusses mental health, specifically anxiety. What do you see as the most important thing in understanding anxiety?

My anxiety connects me with unmet needs; it’s a signal to stop and tune in and attend to myself. Only when I stopped seeing it as a disease and something to be gotten rid of did I actually begin to work with it and to heal. I also believe that cultural, political, social, environmental, and economic alienation can play a huge role in anxiety. I don’t see it as a personal problem, even if it’s an intensely personal experience. 

3. Why is the chosen family such an important theme in this novel, specifically from a queer lens? 

Family is the oldest and strongest mainstream social structure that we have in the U.S., and when we aren’t partnered or close to our families of origin, life can be very lonely. Chosen family was my salvation. Not only did I find people who loved me for myself, but those same people helped teach me new and healthier ways of being in relationship. Chosen family is how and why I grew up. Most straight people I know don’t consider crafting social alternatives when partnership or biological family fails; it’s a beautiful phenomenon LGBTQ people have to share. 

4. Why did you choose to write a novel discussing more difficult topics such as mental health, addiction, and suicide? 

My artistic practice is about going into the deepest truths of human experience, especially the difficult ones that are hard to talk about. I’m interested in how artists can shift calcified and outdated ways of understanding social problems through storytelling. These are also my experiences, and it’s a joy to create something out of struggle because it helps me feel like the hardship had meaning; what I lived serves my readers and their journeys. 

5. What do you hope readers will take away from your work? 

I want readers to know that even “successful” people who publish books can be a mess. I want them to walk away with hope that these struggles don’t have to mean failure, that hard stuff can be woven into the meaning and work of their lives. I want readers to laugh at the funny parts and feel uplifted. I want the book to be a mirror for their courage and the courage of those close to them. If my work is a tiny part of changing the conversation about mental health, I will die a happy woman.

Download press kit and photos

Our Story Media Group releases educational books for kids promoting multicultural learning and empathy

Through their partnership with CAMFED, Our Story is increasing access to education for girls in rural communities

London, England – With bright, colorful illustrations and an engaging, educational focus, the new “Our Story” book series introduces young readers to influential historical figures, many of whom are overlooked in Western curriculums. Written for children ages 8-12, Our Story books transport readers all over the world, inspiring the next generation to fulfill their potential. Complete with pronunciation guides, engaging activities, and supplementary educational resources, each Our Story book is designed to meet the needs of teachers and maximize classroom learning. 

In a recent BBC London interview with host Shay Kaur, Our Story co-founder Fahad Siddiqui discussed the need for more global education resources. As we find ourselves in an increasingly connected world, it’s crucial that kids have access to information about historical role models from all over the globe.

Part of Our Story’s dedication to making the world a better place includes a partnership with the educational nonprofit CAMFED. For each physical copy purchased, Our Story will work with CAMFED to fund a full day’s education for an underprivileged girl.


“Mansa Musa”

Our Story | June 21, 2023 | Children’s Nonfiction, Biography, History

Paperback | ISBN: 979-8399082608 | $11.99

“Fatima Al-Fihri”

Our Story | March 15, 2023 | Children’s Nonfiction, Biography, History

Paperback | ISBN: 979-8387041402 | $11.99

Also by Our Story Media Group…

Aliens help kids with social and emotional learning!

The Secret Alien Diaries: Join Zig Zag, Click Clack, Flip Flop, and Bob on their journey of discovery on planet Earth!

This new series for kids ages 5-8 empowers readers to form healthy habits. By teaching secret alien friends how to behave on earth, kids learn self-discipline in an engaging and fun way! Each book focuses on aspects of cognitive, creative, communicative and physical growth.

In the first installment, “Mission: Bedtime,” alien Click Clack stays up too late playing video games and struggles with feeling tired the next day. Kids learn how behaviors (such as getting more or less sleep) impact our moods, promoting social and emotional intelligence. At the same time, puzzles, math equations, and other activities help kids develop their cognitive and creative skills.

Praise for Our Story books…

“My year 6 class and I read the book and we were hooked from the beginning by the excellent writing and beautiful illustrations”

–Rhys Ravey, The Royal Grammar School of Guildford, Doha, Qatar

“Wonderful book. A story I am ashamed to say that I was unaware of! I thought the illustrations were particularly striking”

–Mark Sim, Head Teacher at Oakgrove Primary School, UK

“I loved the illustrations…my children were hooked from the start!”

–Sadia Farooq, Parent, Milton Keynes, UK

Follow Our Story Media Group:

Facebook: @OurStory | YouTube: @OurStoryMedia 

Instagram: @ourstory.media | TikTok: @ourstory.media 

Web: www.ourstory.media 

In an interview, co-founder Fahad Siddiqui can discuss:

  • Where current education systems and curriculums fall short
  • The value of multicultural education in our current hyper-connected global reality, and how the Our Story series fills a gap within many history classes
  • How providing the next generation with a new set of historical role models builds self-confidence and empathy in students while also enhancing their critical thinking skills
  • The importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for kids, and how The Secret Alien Diaries series addresses SEL
  • Our Story’s partnership with CAMFED and their dedication to making the world a better place through accessible education
  • Future plans for Our Story Media Group

An Interview with

Fahad Siddiqui

1. What makes a truly global, multicultural education so important for future generations? How does the Our Story series fit into this mission?

In today’s world, the significance of multicultural education has amplified, especially with the global connectivity facilitated by the internet. With the digital age, our interconnectedness has reached unparalleled heights, from online gaming to international trade. These digital interactions between individuals from diverse backgrounds have skyrocketed.

Multicultural education is paramount, as stated by the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS). It not only enhances critical thinking but also encourages children to question their own assumptions and biases. By exposing young minds to various perspectives and cultures, multicultural education helps them grasp the intricate tapestry of the world around them.

This philosophy seamlessly aligns with our mission: “to empower the next generation through engaging and comprehensive educational tools that fill gaps in traditional curricula, fostering well-rounded individuals.” Without an understanding of the incredible achievements and contributions from diverse individuals, our collective potential remains undiscovered, hindering the development of a truly collaborative society.

2. Why did you choose Mansa Musa and Fatima Al-Fihri as your first two historical role models?

Mansa Musa’s incredible wealth and obscurity piqued our curiosity when my co-founder, Sami, introduced his story. As we delved deeper into the hidden gems of history, we compiled a list of over a hundred remarkable individuals whose stories had been largely overlooked by mainstream education.

Among these stories, that of Fatima Al-Fihri resonated profoundly. A refugee woman, she founded the world’s first university in Morocco in 859 AD, a remarkable feat given the circumstances. Recognizing the importance of highlighting these incredible individuals, we embarked on a mission to share their stories, promoting a more profound understanding of human history and its diverse accomplishments.

3. What is the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL)? How is this addressed in The Secret Alien Diaries Series?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is of paramount importance in education. It equips students with essential life skills, including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and relationship-building. These skills not only contribute to academic success but also help students become emotionally intelligent, resilient, and socially competent individuals. It reduces behavioral issues, and enhances students’ overall well-being. Along with SEL we integrate practical teachings to develop positive habits and behaviors for a holistic learning experience. This combination we believe best prepares students to have a health and well-rounded future. 

Through captivating storylines and child-friendly aesthetics that resemble a personal diary, in The Secret Alien Diaries we create an immersive experience that resonates with young readers. The inclusion of entertaining alien languages to decode, as well as interactive elements like jumping, singing, and shouting, enhances engagement and fosters a genuine connection with the story. The ‘Missions’ in the book also encourage young readers to develop critical thinking, decision-making, and the development of executive function skills, these skills are equally important to SEL. 

4. What resources are available for teachers, librarians and parents to help kids get the most out of these books?

We’ve designed the Our Story series books to be interactive and thought-provoking for kids, with special sections like ‘Let’s Think,’ ‘Let’s Discuss,’ and ‘Let’s Make’ right within the books to stimulate engagement and critical thinking. But, we didn’t stop there. To ensure that this information is fully absorbed and to support teachers, librarians, and parents in guiding children, we’ve created comprehensive ‘Teacher Packs’ for each story. These packs include a condensed one-page version of the story, age-appropriate comprehension questions tailored for Key Stage 1 (Elementary – Grade 1) and Key Stage 2 (Grades 2 – 5), individual and group tasks, fun word searches, and interactive features such as online quizzes. It’s all part of our commitment to making these stories not just entertaining but also highly educational and easy to use in different learning environments.

At the conclusion of each of The Secret Alien Diaries books we have an array of immersive resources designed to enrich children’s learning adventures. Young readers will discover a series of missions intricately connected to the book’s theme. These missions encompass a diverse range of skills, including critical thinking, soft skills, resilience skills, and collaboration skills, all with the intention of fostering healthy habits ensuring a comprehensive educational experience.

Furthermore, our books incorporate interactive activities seamlessly woven into the narrative, enticing kids to actively engage in physical activities like jumping, blowing, and even singing. These hands-on elements infuse the reading journey with enjoyment and interactivity, further bolstering the grasp and retention of essential skills.

5. Can you tell us a bit more about your partnership with CAMFED?

Our partnership with CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education, is a pivotal part of our mission. For every book we sell, we donate to their One Million School Days Appeal, providing quality education, particularly for underprivileged girls, in Africa. CAMFED is a remarkable organization that breaks down education barriers and empowers young learners.

Educating girls through CAMFED has far-reaching effects:

– It significantly improves their economic prospects, with CAMFED alumnae being 58% more likely to be employed and earning an average of 35% more.

– Education leads to healthier life choices, including delayed marriage and childbirth, resulting in improved maternal and child health.

– It nurtures leadership skills, with CAMFED alumnae being 54% more likely to hold leadership positions in their communities.

6. What’s next for Our Story?

We intend to continue to forge a new educational category and provide content that parents and educators alike are craving. Currently we have two series, The Secret Alien Diaries series and the Our Story series. The Our Story series encourages a more equitable society by exposing readers to the amazing achievements of our predecessors from all over the world. The Secret Alien Diaries mission is to continue to provide content that fills the gap of education in schools for developing a well-rounded, independent individual. We have a few exciting ways to build more tools and features to make these skills accessible and fun for all which we are excited to share with you.

Download press kit and photos

Punxsutawney Phil embarks on environmental adventure Co-authors’ middle grade fantasy is “Redwall” for a new generation, with environmentalist message

Delray Beach, FL – Set off into the unknown with an intrepid groundhog and his friends in search for a way to save his community in The Great Weather Diviner: The Untold Origin of Punxsutawney Phil (Morgan James Fiction, Nov 7, 2023). Reimagining the story of Punxsutawney Phil, debut authors Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long create a thought-provoking and delightfully charming environmental story. Perfect for readers 9 and up, and ideal for Groundhog’s Day!

A native of Punxsutawney, Rob Long grew up listening to the legendary folk tales of Punxy Phil. He is Deputy Vice-Mayor of Delray Beach, FL. Rob has dedicated his life to educating children on environmental stewardship and the importance of protecting the Everglades and mitigating the climate crisis for the next generation. With help from his writing partner, Andrew Dolberg, they turned the most legendary weather predictor into a hero that learns his role in the world can help more than just his small community of animal friends.

Philip Rodington IX aka “Junior” is a young groundhog with the power to predict and control the weather, but he’s still learning and sometimes his abilities get the better of him. When his hometown is devastated by a flood, he sets out to find the Guardians, legendary superpowered animals who help his home when they need it. Pursued by the evil raven overlord, Callidus, Junior must save his town, uncover the mysteries of his powers, and discover the truth about his family’s history and their role in the balance of nature. With the help of his new friend Jill, a brilliant hedgehog, Junior must decide whether he is willing to risk everything to save his home and restore harmony to the natural world.

The Great Weather Diviner: The Untold Origin of Punxsutawney Phil

Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long 

November 7, 2023 | Morgan James Fiction | Middle Grade Fiction 

Paperback | 978-1636981628 | $17.95

Andrew Dolberg is a Florida native with a passion for using storytelling to effect change. With extensive experience advising elected officials and candidates at all levels of government, Andrew has a deep understanding of how to engage and empower local communities. He is also the founder of Champion Briefs, an education resources company that teaches students the power of public speaking, media literacy, research, and critical thinking through storytelling and debate. Andrew lives in the Fort Lauderdale area of Florida.

Rob Long is a sixth-generation Punxsutawneyian who grew up amidst the lore and magic of the world’s greatest weather predictor. After moving to Delray Beach, Florida, Rob became Chair of Palm Beach County’s Soil & Water Conservation District, and currently serves as Deputy Vice-Mayor of Delray Beach. He regularly publishes editorials in the local papers and releases a monthly newsletter advocating for environmental protection and water quality. In 2022 he received the Public Service Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. 

Find out more about them at https://greatweatherdiviner.com/ 

Follow along on social media:

Instagram: @groundhogbook

In an interview, Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long can discuss:

  • Punxsutawney Phil folklore and history, and their creative interpretation
  • Rob’s platform to educate the next generation on climate change and his work in public office
  • The writing challenges faced when reinterpreting a legendary folk tale
  • Rob and Andrew’s process of working together to create a cohesive coming-of-age story for kids

An Interview with

Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long

1. What inspired you to reinterpret the tales of Punxsutawney Phil?

Rob: Because I grew up with it. Punxsy Phil and Groundhog Day were a big part of my childhood and the culture of our town. I was drawn to this recent trend of fractured fairy tales – this sort of reimagining of classic characters. It occurred to me that the existing mythology about Punxsy Phil was very tied to the actual town and the Groundhog Day tradition, as well as the humans that he interacted with. I wanted to explore a more universal, topical, message that really leaned into weather and how it’s tied to climate change. I’m passionate about educating the next generation on the perils of climate change, but I also love stories. This reimagined look at Punxsutawney Phil is meant to present a new world with a lot of depth, characters, and adventures that kids and adults will not only find relatable, but symbolic of real environmental and social issues.

Andrew: When Rob approached me with the original short story that eventually became The Great Weather Diviner, I loved the idea of reimagining a folk talk to tell a modern story. I’ve always believed in the power of storytelling to help people see the world differently, and we saw Groundhog Day–with its mythos about the weather–as the perfect way to explain the threats of climate change. I’m a major fan of fantasy stories, and this was also an exciting opportunity to craft a brand new world for our adventure.

2. One of the major themes of this book is climate change and how it affects the weather/environment. How did you incorporate those lessons into your story?

Rob: The characters in the novel interpret climate change in different ways – their society calls it “Discordia.” It presents an ever-present threat that sets the plot in motion and gives our protagonists their charge. It also presents some harsh truths and realizations for some of our characters when they come to learn its true cause. We use the climate change narrative to portray generational differences and responsibilities. There are several major natural disasters in the book caused by Discordia, but I don’t want to give too much away. You’ll have to read to find out!

Andrew: We usually talk about climate change in terms of the impacts you can see as they happen, but unfortunately, that approach doesn’t give you an accurate read on just how dire the environmental crisis is. We wanted to talk about climate impacts in a way that is more tangible, where readers could instantly notice the ways that a character’s actions might make Discordia (the world’s name for climate change) worse. We didn’t want to go deep into environmentalism in a way that would be boring for readers, instead, we shaped an action-packed plot around the climate message we wanted to convey. There’s some big moments in the story that are the direct result of natural disasters (no spoilers!) and we think these will be easy for any reader to decipher. Our hope is that this book inspires a new generation of young readers to think more about climate change and the environment.

3. As co-authors, was it challenging to write a cohesive story? What did you face when it came to bringing the story together?

Rob: Andrew and I’s writing routine kind of fell into place naturally. We’ve been friends for years, so I brought him the original book concept which was in the form of a short story that I’d written during Covid. Andrew loved the idea and injected a whole new energy and structure into it. We worked on it nonstop after that. We both have a lot of respect for each other, we have a similar grasp on storytelling, and our strong suits are largely complementary, so our process developed pretty seamlessly. 

Andrew: Our collaborative writing process was only possible because Rob and I are such close friends. Before we ever put pen to paper, we talked about the world we wanted to build for hundreds of hours. Some of our best ideas were texted in the middle of the night. Once we decided it was time to start writing, the story flowed easily because the whole thing already existed in our brains. We basically switched off on chapters and the person who didn’t write a chapter would go through and make edits. It was a truly collaborative process because we really shared a brain about all of the details. I don’t think anyone could pick out the sections that he or I specifically wrote because it came together so cohesively.

4. Rob, how did you incorporate your work as a public official into your story? What have you learned from your time in office that has helped shape the story?

Rob: My passion for conservation and the environment, much of which was cultivated during my former role as Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation District Chair, was a major motivating factor for writing this. In my former role, I helped create a field trip program that teaches hundreds of Palm Beach County students a year about the Everglades and sustainability. The kids would get tested after they visited a wetlands area for the day, and we’d get to see what they learned. It was extremely rewarding to me, and this story in a way felt like an extension of that mission. Kids today, more than any of us, have inherited a climate crisis that will shape their entire lives. Their generation are the ones who will have to save the planet. Educating them now is crucial.

Our story also touches on the complicated nature of leadership. A lot of that is directly inspired by my current role as Delray Beach City Commissioner.

5. From saving his town to learning about his weather-predicting powers and the history of his family, Junior faces a lot throughout the story. Was he inspired by anyone you may know?

Rob: Junior wants to do the right thing but starts out very naive and misled. He struggles to make sense of the outside world and his role in it. Even though he’s a groundhog and his journey is fantastical, this is a coming-of-age story at heart. Junior’s story should feel relatable. I can’t think of anyone who directly inspired this story, but it’s dedicated to anyone who takes personal risks to serve the greater good.  

Andrew: We didn’t have a sole person in mind as we wrote Junior’s story, but he was certainly inspired by many people that Rob and I personally know and some people that we admire. For me, I thought a lot about students that I’ve had in the debate world because their view of the world was so un-cynical to the point where they can do anything because they believe anything is possible.

6. What’s up next for Junior? Will we see more stories in the world you’ve created?

Rob: Yes! The Great Weather Diviner is book 1 of a four part series, which Andrew and I are hard at work on. Additionally, we’re working on a spin-off series starring Hugo the Flamingo. These will be picture books meant for 5 – 10 year olds, and detail Hugo’s adventures in the Florida Everglades.

Andrew: From the very beginning, we wanted this to be a series so that we could fully tell Junior’s story and further explain the environmentalist message. The Great Weather Diviner is part one of a four-part series, which we’re already moving forward with even before the first book hits stores. We are also excited to branch out into picture books for younger readers that will feature Hugo the flamingo’s adventures as he leaves the world of the Great Weather Diviner and heads to the Florida Everglades.

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Captivating, timely historical novel chronicles unseen battles of WWI in Ottoman Palestine, breathing life into legends and holding up a mirror to current conflict in the Middle East

SAN FRANCISCO– In the summer of 1914, 16-year-old Evan Sinclair leaves home to join the Great War for Civilization. Little does he know that, despite the war raging in Europe, the true source of conflict will emerge in Ottoman Palestine, since it’s from Jerusalem where the German Kaiser dreams to rule as Holy Roman Emperor. Filled with such historical figures as Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, Faisal bin Hussein and Chaim Weizmann, “Wages of Empire” follows Evan through the killing fields of the Western Front where he will help turn the tide of a war that is just beginning, and become part of a story that never ends.

“Masterful storytelling will keep you furiously turning the pages of this compelling historical WWI novel. A winner!” –Andrew Kaplan, New York Times Best-Selling Author of Blue Madagascar and the Homeland Novels

“Michael Cooper masterfully captures the time and geopolitical intrigue around the onset of WWI. The characters, historical and fictional, come to life on the page as the storyline drives relentlessly forward. Bravo!” – Matt Coyle, bestselling author of the Rick Cahill novels and Anthony, Lefty, and Shamus awards-winner

“Wages of Empire”

Michael J. Cooper | Nov. 30, 2023 | Koehler Books | Historical Fiction | Ebook, 9798888241875, $7.99
Paperback, 9798888241868, $22.95 | Hardcover, 9798888241882, $30.95

About the Author

Michael J. Cooper emigrated to Israel in 1966 and lived in Jerusalem during the last year the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. He graduated from Tel Aviv University Medical School, and after a 40-year career as a pediatric cardiologist in Northern California, he continues to do volunteer missions

serving Palestinian children who lack access to care. His historical fiction novels include “Foxes in the Vineyard,” set in 1948 Jerusalem, which won the 2011 Indie Publishing Contest grand prize and “The Rabbi’s Knight,” set in the Holy Land in 1290. “Wages of Empire” won the 2022 CIBA Rossetti Award for YA fiction along with first- place honors for the 2022 CIBA Hemingway award for wartime historical fiction. He lives in Northern California with his wife and a spoiled-rotten cat. Three adult children occasionally drop by. Learn more at michaeljcooper.net

In an interview, Michael J. Cooper can discuss:

  • His unique perspective as someone who lived in Jerusalem during the city’s division between Israel and Jordan
  • How the city’s history continues to shape current events in the region.
  • The long-standing Israel-Palestine conflict, drawing on his firsthand experience in the region and historical knowledge, as well as complex factors that have contributed to the conflict’s persistence.
  • Personal anecdotes and experiences of living in Jerusalem during the city’s division
  • The consequences and impact of Jerusalem’s unification in 1967, as well as the subsequent events that have unfolded in the city and the wider region
  • The involvement of international actors, such as the United Nations, the United States and regional powers, in the Israel-Palestine conflict and their influence on its dynamics
  • How to encourage dialogue, empathy, and understanding among people from different backgrounds regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, emphasizing the importance of seeking common ground.
  • Potential solutions or strategies for achieving peace in the region, drawing from historical context and current events
  • The book’s classic hero story of a young man coming of age at a pivotal moment in history and risking everything to play a role in the unfolding of history
  • The non-Eurocentric view of WWI with dynamic fictional and historical non-European characters generating strong cross-cultural and universal appeal to a wide range of people with strong crossover appeal to the YA market.

Download press kit and photos

Celebrating National Authors Day with Our Writing Influences

Nov. 1 is one of our favorite days of the year, because we get to celebrate some of our favorite people: authors! This year, we asked some Books Forward about their favorite writers, and here’s what they said:

“One of my favorite author’s is Rainer Maria Rilke. Yes, his words are like paintings. But he also shows you what a feeling feels like. That heart-soul coherence infuses so much life. And as I was healing myself from childhood abuse, his writings helped me gain credibility of MY feelings rooted in my contrarian beliefs — of the GREAT freedom, birthing inside of me. Un-rushed and viscerally elegant, Rilke invited a stillness that harvested my authentic ‘voice,’ as an author and composer.”

— Wen Peetes, author of “Inner Child Healing”

“When I was struggling over whether to leave my marriage and my safe and comfortable life to step into an unknown future, I felt so alone. Initially, I didn’t know a single other person in the same situation, so I turned to books, desperately searching for stories that spoke to my experience. A close friend handed me ‘She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders’ by Jennifer Finney Boylan. ‘Your situation is different,’ this friend said, referring to the fact that I was questioning my sexuality, not my gender identity as Boylan was, ‘but I think you will relate to it.’ As I turned the pages of this memoir, I felt as if the author was traveling in my head. The waking up in the middle of the night, weighing pros and cons. The wondering how I could possibly give up a life that had so much good in it. The contradictory voices inside my head competing for attention. 

“Jenny Boylan gave words to feelings I hadn’t yet been able to express. Reading her story made me feel seen, less alone, and eventually, empowered to step into my authentic life. That’s exactly what I hope ‘The Only Way Through Is Out’ will do. My deep desire is that my memoir will impact readers who are holding back from living out loud — whatever their context. I want them to know that they are not alone. That it is possible to get to the other side of the struggle, even when it feels impossible in the moment. That it is never too late to say yes to your life and step into a new story.”

— Suzette Mullen, author of “The Only Way Through Is Out”

“Mary Rainbow Stewart leapt to mind immediately as an author to celebrate for National Authors Day. Her life is fascinating stuff. She was the daughter of a teacher from New Zealand and a vicar, graduated with a teaching degree from Durham University in England, obtained her master’s degree during World War II, and then worked as a university lecturer. While some readers best know her as the author of the Merlin Trilogy, Mary Stewart had a burgeoning career in the 1950s and 1960s, prior to writing those Arthurian novels, which saw her widely hailed as the creator of the romantic mystery (with many of those books spending months on the New York Times Bestseller List). Her novels were heavy on haunting suspense and featured a rich mixture of menace, building tension, and evocative scenic description. Each of Mary Stewart’s heroines was brave, smart, compassionate, and resourceful — and woe betide any romantic interest who stood in the way of her main character solving the mystery and saving the day!

“Mary Stewart’s ability to weave together terror, action, detective work, and humor was bolstered by her elegant prose and perfectly conjured scenery and sense of atmosphere. She took readers on trips to Avignon, Scotland, a chateau in France, the Pyrenees, Austria, Lebanon, and my personal favorites — Delphi, Crete, and Corfu in Greece. You can actually feel the heat of the sun, hear the swell of the ocean, and smell the bounty of wildflowers in her descriptions of Delphi in “My Brother Michael” and Crete in ‘The Moon-Spinners.’ My hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer once called ‘Airs Above the Ground’ ‘a tale of breathless excitement against a background of breathless scenic beauty’ — an absolutely perfect description for each of her mysteries! I think I’ll go read ‘Madam, Will You Talk?’ for the fifth (or possibly the sixth) time.”

— Tracy Carter, author of “Dogged Pursuit”

“I admire Juan Rulfo, a rare talent, author of the classic Mexican novel ‘Pedro Páramo.’ On her deathbed, a mother commands her grown son to go back to the village where he was born and find his father. Soon the reader realizes that everyone the son meets there is dead, and the dead have stories to tell. When’ Pedro Páramo’ was published in 1955, at first people didn’t know what to think of this crazy story. It was a precursor to the magical realism movement in Latin American literature. Gabriel García Márquez called ‘Pedro Páramo’ life-changing and claimed he’d read it so many times he could recite the entire thing.”

— Ann Marie Jackson, author of “The Broken Hummingbird”

“As a devout writer of fiction, I had never been inspired to write a memoir, which I envisioned as a retrospective of one’s entire life. Until I read ‘American Chica’ by Marie Arana. In this luminous account, part childhood recollections of growing up in a bi-cultural household in Peru, part Peruvian history, part investigation of her ancestral roots in both Peru and America, a particular time in her life is examined, rather than the overall panorama. It was a revelation as well as an inspiration. American Chica is written from the view of a child, yet with the introspection of the adult narrator. Arana’s lyrical pros weave in magical realism — at which Latin writers excel — with the concrete history of place and time. 

“I paused throughout to re-read lines simply to savor their beauty. She poignantly describes her parents’ love for one another along with their inevitable and heart-breaking cross-cultural conflicts. Particularly humorous were the scenes between her plucky Yankee mother and her old-school, proper Peruvian in-laws. The richly researched Peruvian history, including the horrific oppression of the indigenous Peruvians by the Spanish overlords, is paired with an unflinching look at her own infamous Peruvian ancestor, a merciless rubber baron. Yet throughout, there are light-hearted touches of what it means when cultures meet and how we humans are the richer for it. As a bi-cultural writer, I can relate all too well, and am indebted to Marie Arana for inspiring me to write my own Arab-American story.”

— Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki, author of “Dancing into the Light”

“I grew up reading fantasy and sci-fi from a variety of authors, such as Frank Herbert, Johnathan Stroud, Stanislaw Lem, Margret Atwood, Robert Heinlein, all of whom (and many more) influenced my writing. But it was right as I was transitioning from reader to writer when I first started reading the work Ursula K. Le Guin. I was utterly blown away, the joy of her novels reminded me why I loved reading in the first place.

“So many fantasy and sci-fi novels focus on big action or political drama, and though I do love both of those, it was Le Guin’s empathetic and incisive attention to the personal that gripped me. Her novels, be it ‘The Lathe of Heaven,’ ‘The Left Hand of Darkness,’ ‘Earthsea’ or elsewise, always place human lives and minds at the center of their narratives. This is not a rejection of world-building, (she paints some of the most vivid worlds ever put to ink) nor a turn away from big philosophical or political ideas (there are few good novelist more blatantly philosophical or political than Le Guin) but rather her focus on her characters inner lives, feelings, and personal journey points to a simple truth about our world: Everything human created, be it technology, society, politics, springs from individual people and their quirks, loves, lives, and psychology. This is the one thing that connects the most successful literary works with the most successful genre stories, the centrality of human experience. It does not matter if someone is living in New York, Middle Earth, or in some far flung galaxy, people are people, and all good fiction must wrestle with the universal trials and joys of human experience.  

“There are many speculative fiction authors I might recommend to fans of the genre, but I recommend ‘Left Hand of Darkness’ to everyone. If you have never read sci-fi, let Le Guin be your first.”

— Noah Lemelson, author of The Slickdust Trilogy

“Writing in the thriller genre, I’ve had plenty of inspiration from both living and deceased authors who have led me on wild adventures as I try to figure out who the real villain is while the protagonist excitingly struggles to save the world. There is certainly no shortage of wonderful authors to pay respects to in this regard. However, if I’m being honest to both questions above, my answer falls well outside the thriller genre. Truthfully, it’s not even close: J.R.R. Tolkien and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ I’ve been reading it (all three parts) every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas for going on 27 years now, and every time I do, I still very quickly get lost in the magical world of Middle Earth and learn something new about the characters I love. The balance of vivid imagery, descriptive prose and incredible plotting is unlike anything else out there, and the fact it took Tolkien so many years to write helps pay tribute to the masterpiece that it really is.”

— J. Lee, author of “The Deadly Deal”

“I was instantly inspired by author Anne Lamott when I picked up my first book of hers, ‘Traveling Mercies,’ about 20 years ago. I had never read such a seamless blend of gut-wrenching memoir, wisdom, humor, and gorgeous writing. This and her other books make me laugh, cry, take notes, and reread them. The same is true of her occasional blog/Facebook posts and even her speaking. I don’t know how she does it! Her worldview is both dark and brilliantly light, and she speaks her truth in a way that makes me want to stand up and shout, ‘Listen to this!’

“I long to write like her; her words flow like water, taking us on a gutsy journey, even when she’s talking about politics or laundry, and especially when she’s laughing at her own foibles. I love how she recounts hilarious, sometimes irreverent stories from teaching her Sunday School class that speak directly to us of truths we may not dare speak to ourselves. She’s a role model for me as a writer, wise woman, and compassionate human being. I can imagine her rolling her eyes at such a statement and saying something mildly self-deprecating and perfectly witty, making me laugh and admire her even more. I bet she can’t help it.”

— Liz Kinchen, author of “Light in Bandaged Places”

“One of my favorite authors is Eva Ibbotson. Her middle grade novels take horror-story tropes like witches, scary ghosts, and monsters, and turn them upside down until they are hilariously funny. In Ibbotson’s books, the children always outsmart conniving villains — with the help of kindly creatures and a few caring grown-ups. Books like ‘Which Witch?,’ ‘Dial-a-Ghost,’ and ‘The Great Ghost Rescue’ are comfort reads for me. Because I am working on a book with ecological themes right now, I’m inspired by Ibbotson’s novels ‘Island of the Aunts’ and ‘The Abominables.’ In both of these stories, children become the caretakers of mythological creatures. These books are allegorical, calling on readers to protect our planet and the amazing creatures who we share it with.”

— Laura Shovan, author of “Welcome to Monsterville”

“There are so many authors that I look up to, both traditionally published and self-published, but I could not go past the very person who opened my childhood heart to reading and storytelling. And who doesn’t love the rhyme, wit and charm of Dr. Seuss along with the life lessons featured throughout his captivating stories?

“I bought ‘Fox in Socks’ in early primary school with my pocket money at a book fair. Since then, I have read that book by myself, with friends (taking turns reading and challenging each other to be the fastest) and to my children uncountable times along with the many other stories in his collection. Dr. Seuss taught me that not only was it fun to read but that stories could be completely open to the storyteller’s imagination and that nonsense was totally acceptable.”

— Leisl Kaberry, author of The Titanian Chronicles


Pioneers of family-focused climate activism offer a powerful, timely correction to the climate/ baby conversation

CHICAGO, IL & PAWTUCKET, RI– Co-authors Meghan Elizabeth Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli turned a decade of work with their organization, Conceivable Future,  into a no-nonsense, compassionate guide for authentic family and political life amid the climate crisis. “The Conceivable Future: Planning Families and Taking Action in the Age of Climate Crisis” (Rowman & Littlefield, February 8th, 2024) is an empathetic, data-backed argument written in conversational prose that cuts through the noise to address how people, on an individual and collective level, can get politically involved to make the world safer for everyone’s children. 

“The Conceivable Future” explores the ways in which the erosion of our planet impacts our personal decisions about family planning, parenting, and political action. This book offers fresh, timely insights to questions such as: How do I decide to have a baby when there’s the threat of environmental collapse? How do I parent a child in the middle of the climate crisis? What can I actually do to help stop global warming?

Kallman, a sociologist and Rhode Island State Senator, and Ferorelli, an activist and writer, offer both informed perspective and practical steps for taking meaningful action in combating the climate crisis, while also making smart, balanced decisions when it comes to starting and maintaining a family.

“The Conceivable Future: Planning Families and Taking Action
in the Age of Climate Change”

Meghan Elizabeth Kallman & Josephine Ferorelli

February 6th, 2024 | Rowman & Littlefield

Global Warming & Climate Change, Women’s Health, & Environmental Science

Print | 978-1-5381-7969-7 | $26.00 

Praise for “The Conceivable Future”

“I know so many young people are trying to figure out what a burning world means for their most important choices…Now I’ll be able to send them this wonderful book, which manages to be both shrewd and kind; it understands on the deepest level that when we think of the world only as a series of individual decisions, those decisions become overwhelming, and that the only alternative is to build joyful and humane societies that work for all of us, including those who haven’t gotten here yet!” 

–Bill McKibben, founder of Third Act 

“Kallman and Ferorelli provide a compelling and compassionate framework for working though seemingly insoluble dilemmas, beginning with the decision to have a child, but not ending there. The book ends with a commonsense guide on how to make change happen.” 

–Amitav Ghosh, author of “The Nutmeg’s Curse” and “Parables for a Planet in Crisis” 

“This is a book full of feeling as much as politics; a rigorous, compassionate and empowering companion which holds its readers close while navigating the hardest of questions.” 

–Brett Story, filmmaker, “The Hottest August” (2019) 

“This book is like finding a friend when you are lost in a wilderness of despair and disinformation. With compassion, radical honesty, and humor, Kallman and Ferorelli guide us through one of the most heart-wrenching and necessary questions of our time: should we bring children into a world destabilized by climate crisis? The authors help us navigate uncertainty and find the collective will to change what’s possible.” 

–Madeline Ostrander author of “At Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth” 

“The climate crisis is a crisis of reproduction. Reproductive justice is climate action. Kallman and Ferorelli have created a guidebook for climate action that recognizes these realities, and which is fierce, funny, open-hearted and never prescriptive.” 

–Meehan Crist, writer in residence in Biological Sciences, Columbia University 

MEGHAN ELIZABETH KALLMAN & JOSEPHINE FERORELLI: Meghan Elizabeth Kallman is a professor in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at UMass Boston, a state legislator, and climate organizer based in Rhode Island. Josephine Ferorelli is a writer, illustrator, and yoga instructor who makes her home in Chicago, Illinois. Together they have been friends, collaborators, and co-directors of Conceivable Future, the organization that birthed this book, for a decade. 

Find out more about Meghan and Josephine at their website



Follow Meghan & Josephine on social media:

Instagram: @conceivable.future | Facebook:  @ConceivableFuture

 Twitter: @ConceivableFut

In an interview, Meghan & Josephine can discuss:

  • Why “The Conceivable Future” focuses on family planning as the heart of their environmental activism 
  • How to move beyond a focus on “should we be/not be having children?” toward real solutions
  • Why a justice-based perspective is the pathway to healing
  • The common myth that overpopulation is a keystone issue to our climate crisis 
  • How Kallman’s work as a climate activist informs her career as a Rhode Island State Senator

An Interview with

Meghan & Josephine

1. Your book stems from over a decade of work through your organization called Conceivable Future; how did that organization come to fruition? What made you two decide to transform that work into this book? 

In 2014, we met at a mutual friend’s concert. We were both activists, feeling alienated and discouraged with climate activism. And we were both 30 years old at the time, so family planning decisions were starting to feel both more pressing and more impossible. Together we started what would become Conceivable Future, bringing young people together at house parties across the country for conversations about the reproductive crisis that is climate change, based on the idea that sharing stories can build strength and resolve, and can help create a framework for transformative action. We found that people badly needed to talk. And since then, research has emerged proving that these concerns–about how to care for the children we have, about whether to have a child or more children as the climate crisis continues to unspool–are global. As soon as we began facilitating this conversation, we could see it was a much bigger topic than can fit in a 2 hour meeting. The book expands on what we’ve heard, and learned, through ten years of our organizing work.  

2. What is your view of global population? How do you address the misconception that overpopulation is a main contributor to our climate crisis? 

Across the world, abusive, authoritarian population control efforts have attached legacies of trauma to the subject of reproduction. In the US alone, the reproductive rights of Indigenous women and women of color have been repressed by many governmental and non-governmental actors and by implicit and explicit policies for literally hundreds of years. 

The history of population control is a transnational history of cultural elites deciding whose babies are desirable, and whose babies are to blame for any number of societal ills. That is not a world we want. The argument for reducing the human population as a way to reduce emissions feels compelling in its simplicity: more people means fewer resources, more hunger, more suffering, more pollution. By reproducing, the argument goes, poor people create their own poverty. By focusing on population size, Global North institutions, whether governments or NGOs, are absolved from both responsibility and nuance! 

But not only does this approach obscure real solutions, it identifies the wrong problem. A 2012 study of global economic drivers of carbon emissions found “no relation between short-term growth of world population and CO2 concentrations. We need to be tackling the bad economic and political systems that create inequality and climate change, not policing people’s bodies and their reproduction. 

We will never achieve a more just world by attempting to control people’s reproductive lives. We don’t get to justice by coercion or force. The future we are struggling for stands on a foundation of human rights, in which we share, celebrate, and defend full reproductive autonomy and self-sovereignty. This includes the right to have children, as well as the right not to have children. 

3. How does The Conceivable Future provide an intersectional framework for those who are interested in learning and taking action about climate change? 

As Conceivable Future invites people to join this highly personal and deeply political conversation, we recognize that these topics– of population, reproduction, and climate justice, and how they connect to who we all are– have different meanings for everyone, rooted in different histories of oppression and trauma. We honor your story. We advocate for self-determination, an inalienable right for ourselves and our communities. Everyone on the planet lives with the fossil fuel regime in different and interlocking ways, and those ways reflect our identities, histories, and experiences. What we know we have in common is our desire for a sustainable future for all families.

4. What is climate justice and why is it important to your work? 

Everyone deserves to survive and thrive, but inequalities make the climate crisis more dangerous for some than for others. Climate justice begins with the understanding  that some people and groups are feeling  more negative impacts than others. For instance, dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure is more likely to be located in poor communities than wealthy ones. And so, real solutions to climate change put justice first. That means that risk and harm mitigation is well-planned and funded, and costs and benefits are equitably shared. It means that we, in our groups and institutions, take responsibility for our decisions so that past inequities are not exacerbated by climate change, but remedied through our responses. 

5. What do you hope that The Conceivable Future will accomplish for readers? 

We want readers to know that they’re not alone if they’re feeling anxious, frozen, and frightened about the climate-changing world, and their place in it. We want readers to feel less guilty (the problem is not you personally, but rather our institutions) and more inspired (we can fix the real problems!). We hope this book is a starting point for readers to get unstuck, and get ready for the struggle–and the adventure–of our lives.   We’ve created  a climate action playbook that takes readers from the micro (individual, internal, and interpersonal work) to the macro (collective action strategies) level of engagement. We offer strategies and guidance for living a balanced life of climate action.

Download press kit and photos

Physicist and assistant blasted into parallel fantasy universe

Enemies become lovers while facing ancient terror in epic romantasy

Madison, WI – Welcome to the world of Meerdon, where magic exists, dangerous creatures roam, and where physicist Jon and his assistant Megan find themselves after a botched experiment blasts them into another dimension in David Scidmore’s romantic fantasy,  Aylun (Meerdon Publishing, Oct 23, 2023).

An energetic and romantic debut fantasy series flings two ordinary humans across parallel universes to a magical world where a mysterious prophecy may spell disaster for its inhabitants. Aylun can be read as a companion novel to his critically acclaimed Dellia, or as a thrilling standalone fantasy!

While David Scidmore’s first novel shares the story of Jon’s romance and travels with Dellia, Aylun follows Megan who is immediately kidnapped by the heartless tyrant, Aylun. Forced to confront an impossible prophecy that threatens her and her oldest friend, she undertakes a harrowing journey to a city lost centuries ago.

As she struggles to find answers, Jon and new friends Dellia, Garris, and Kayleen are drawn into a conflict with a dark and ancient menace that could obliterate everything and everyone they care about. As the puzzle deepens, the threats multiply, and their situation grows more desperate, Megan’s best hope to save them all and return her and Jon to their home world lies  with the very tyrant who abducted her, Aylun. Perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and Outlander.


Book 2 of The Ever-Branching Tree series

David Scidmore | October 23, 2023 | Meerdon Publishing | Fantasy

Hardcover | 978-1-64571-006-6 | $39.00

Paperback | 978-1-64571-005-9 | $30.99

E-Book | 978-1-64571-007-3 | $6.99


More about David Scidmore:  Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, David Scidmore has held many jobs over the years, from fast-food worker to musician to electrical engineer. He now lives in Verona, Wisconsin, with his wife, Brenda. In recent times, his lifelong passion for playing keyboards and composing music has turned into a fascination with crafting literary works. His enthusiasm for weaving complex stories that stir the emotions led to his first book, Dellia. With an obsession for expanding his ability as a storyteller, he continues that tale in Aylun, the second book in the Ever-Branching Tree series. Find out more at his website.


Follow David Scidmore on social media: 

Facebook: @dscidmore

Explore Dellia, the first book in the Ever-Branching Tree series!

Jon was a physicist who wanted nothing more than a simple life with few responsibilities and someone to share it with. In the middle of an ordinary day, a horrible accident leaves him stranded in a baffling world of impossible phenomena, terrifying creatures, and mysterious prophecies. Desperate to get home, his only hope is a harrowing journey across three distinct realms.

But his arrival in the new land has not gone without notice. Suspicious of the circumstances of his arrival, a nervous ruling council requires someone to investigate. So they send the one warrior most suited for the job: the dedicated and compassionate Dellia. She lives to serve because helping people is what gives her life purpose and meaning, but as a protector, she is also bound by an unshakable devotion to the council.

Lost and alone in a vast world, Jon is in dire need of help. Skilled and knowledgeable, Dellia is exactly the kind of help he needs. If only he can keep from falling for the one person whose duty may drive her to stop him.

In an interview, David Scidmore can discuss:

    • Creating a “fish out of water” fantasy where two people journey to a parallel universe
    • Using two characters from the real world to center in an epic fantasy world
    • David’s love of bringing exciting and romantic stories to life
    • The use of physics to help develop the characters and explain the world
    • Picking up Megan’s journey in an unknown world and elaborating on the world that he’s already created
    • The influence of different ethnic cultures to help develop the world
    • Challenges faced when creating a multi-POV narrative with unique perspectives that fit together into the same storyline
    • The key themes of relationships and how they affect Aylun and Megan
    • Dellia, the first book in the series and subsequent books in the future

An Interview with

David Scidmore

1. Can you elaborate on the different cultures represented in Aylun and the significance of the cultures for the storyline?

Talus is based on the question: “What would happen if you plopped the militaristic people from ancient Sparta into a world where some of their women became empaths.” The idea was particularly appealing because in Sparta, the women owned the land, ran the household, and had a reputation for being highly outspoken. All of this made Dellia a fascinating character. Erden is a similar concept but based on a forerunner of ancient India, and Elore is based on ancient China. Part of the motive for mixing cultures is structural. I wanted three realms whose cultures didn’t mesh well, making rule by one central government problematic. Perhaps a bigger motive was that I have spent an embarrassing number of hours watching movies and television from India and the Far East and have enjoyed them a lot. It has given me an understanding and appreciation for their people, what they value, and how they see themselves and the world.

2. How would you describe Megan’s character and her development throughout the novel? What about Aylun’s character development?

Megan was a very fun character to write, and constantly surprised me. She has a tragic past, one that has made her determined to live life for herself and no one else. Often, she is fun-loving and often behaves frivolously, but when she sets her mind to something, she can be a force to be reckoned with. In a way, her journey is about discovering that if she is to protect the things she loves, she can’t just live only for herself. Aylun is, in some ways, the polar opposite. He has lived a life of discipline and service to a greater cause. He has suffered a terrible loss that has left him deeply troubled, and through his time with Megan, he learns to overcome much of it. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other and make them a great team.

3. What inspired you to write Megan’s journey of being abducted by Aylun?

To be honest, it wasn’t anything grandiose. When I was figuring out the plot for Dellia, it occurred to me it would be more intriguing if Megan went with him, but they got separated. That forced me to figure out what happened to her, or at least gave me a start. From there, things just evolved. The truth is, I don’t really know who the characters are until I start writing. I always have some concept, but I don’t really get to know them until I put them in a scene and start writing down what they do. Much of the dynamic between Megan and Aylun and how their relationship starts and evolves came from them, not me.

4. What are some important ideas you want readers to take away from Megan and Aylun’s respective journey?

I’m always searching for answers myself, so it’s never made sense for me to try to send a message through writing. I do, however, like my characters to have conflicting opinions, to debate them, and to have each one make the strongest possible case for their point of view. If I were to try to find a message in what I’ve written, it is perhaps that life is messy and complicated and often defies simple answers. Each character has their own issues and relationship problems, and none of them is entirely right or wrong. Another message might be that persistence is its own reward, that if people work hard and don’t give up on each other, they can overcome tremendous difficulties and find a better balance in their lives.

5. Do you have plans to continue the Ever-Branching Tree series or some new writing plans?

Oh yes. When I started Aylun, I wanted to create a story with more than one protagonist. I hoped to acquaint people with Megan and Aylun, then bring Jon and Dellia back in, so it becomes a story about four different people, each with their own ideas and agenda. In the next book, I want to do the same with Garris and Kayleen. I want to go back in time to when this all started and take each step down the road to Garris’s banishment. Then I want to jump forward and have Megan, Aylun, Jon and Dellia encounter something that connects to that past and they have to deal with the same issues again.

Amnesiac gladiator prophesied to bring balance in vengeance-torn world

A pulse-racing, gritty action fantasy perfect for fans of The Stormlight Archive

GOLD CANYON, AZ – The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of an enslaved gladiator who must unlock the secrets of his own memory and survive as the prince’s spy in this character-driven epic fantasy drama by debut author, Tim Facciola. A Vengeful Realm: The Scales of Balance (Oct 24, 2023, First Torch Books) thrusts readers into the dark and fast-paced world of vengeful royals and a bloody plot to overthrow a kingdom beset with rebellion at any cost. Perfect for Gladiator fans and right on time for Gladiator 2 out in 2024!

After spending ten years perfecting his epic fantasy, Tim Facciola debuts with an action-packed story of blood, espionage, prophesied destiny, and the journey to freedom captivating readers as Zephryus contends with his amnesia, his captors, and works to forge balance between the world of gods and humans.

In a world where shedding blood brings peace, Zephryus, an enslaved gladiator, must do what is necessary to restore the balance between the gods and the kingdom. With only his fractured memory and the weight of his prophecy, Zephyrus joins forces with Prince Laeden to infiltrate the kingdom’s enslaved gladiator network and spy on Queen Danella before her plans to take over the throne come to fruition. But freedom comes at a cost and as Zephryus’s involvement grows, so does the twisted fate of their empire.

With nods to the Roman Empire’s Hellenistic culture set during Europe’s middle ages, fans of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, and Django Wexler will be enthralled by this dark and tenacious story of freedom, revelation, and hope. 

“A Vengeful Realm: 

Book One: The Scales of Balance”

Tim Facciola | October 24, 2023 | First Torch Books | Fantasy

Hardcover | 979-8986285535 | $24.99

Paperback | 979-8986285528 | $14.99

TIM FACCIOLA: When Tim isn’t writing epic fantasy, he can often be found in his garage-gym or in the mountains where he lives. A virtual fitness professional by trade, he integrates his creative passions into movement, training with maces, clubs, staves, and swords to unlock his inner gladiator. To inquire about Gladiator Training, reach out to him at TimFacciolaFit@gmail.com.

More than writing, reading, gaming, playing music, hiking, and paddle-boarding, Tim loves story. If he’s not working on his own story, he’s helping others develop theirs as an author coach. To inquire about Author Coaching services, visit firsttorchbooks.mykajabi.com

Living in Arizona with his wife, Colleen, Tim continues writing epic fantasy novels while exploring different storytelling mediums so he can inspire others to hope. To live. And to believe. Find out more about him on his website.

Follow Tim Facciola on social media:

Twitter: @timfacciola | Instagram: @timfacciola_theauthor | TikTok: @timfacciola

Advanced praise for A Vengeful Realm


“A sprawling cast of vivid characters and a meticulously crafted realm, with exposition and world-building unraveling seamlessly alongside the plot…an original work of fantasy that doesn’t trod familiar ground”

-Self-Publishing Review

“Arena-set action sequences shine … but even more impressive is the constant political maneuvering, as characters mingle with enemies while plotting against them. There is, of course, plenty of mystery, and Facciola amps up excitement with signs of magic, appearances from gods, and betrayals.”

-Kirkus Review

“It is difficult to overstate the storytelling prowess of author Tim Facciola.”

-Independent Book Review

“Tim Facciola’s A VENGEFUL REALM (THE SCALES OF BALANCE, Book 1) is a strong debut fantasy action-thriller.”


In an interview, Tim Facciola can discuss:

  • His familial estrangement and reconnection and how it encouraged him to use his characters to explore human connection
  • His fitness background in training with maces, swords, etc. and how that played into his writing
  • How he incorporates modern themes of human rights, systemic racism, classism, and nationalism 
  • The research and use of Hellenistic culture blended with the Middle Ages
  • Why he uses fantasy to reinforce the idea that we are stronger and better together, rather than divided 
  • The ten-year process to create deep world building and character development through his novel that’s easy to read
  • How his wife’s difficulty connecting with female characters and stories inspired his approach to formulating strong and independent women without sacrificing their femininity
  • The importance of writing non-toxic romantic and platonic relationships in fantasy
  • Why he wrote the full trilogy before releasing the first book
  • How doubt plays a role in healthy faith journeys and how his own impacted his characters’ worldviews

An Interview with

Tim Facciola

1. Your fantasy story is based on some of the Hellenistic culture blended with the middle ages. How did the research go into that and what were some of the ways you incorporated it into your book?

I was very fortunate to partner with a freelance editor (Chersti Nieveen of Writer Therapy) who has extensive knowledge in the history and culture of ancient Rome. She was instrumental in bringing the historical context of Hellenistic culture to the manuscript while balancing the fantastical elements that made New Rheynia feel real. Of course I had my own, much less academic approach to research by watching movies like Spartacus (1960) and the Starz TV Series by the same name (2010). I wouldn’t call it research, but playing the original God of War video game series (2005-2010) prompted me to explore Greco-Roman mythologies which was a gateway into other mythological research that helped formulate the Valencian pantheon.  

2. You’ve used many modern social issues like human rights, systemic racism, classism, and nationalism. Why was it important to include these into your epic fantasy story?

I believe we were created to be creative and with that purpose comes power. And with that power comes responsibility. Art has a way of bypassing people’s heads and actually connecting with that thing that beats in their chest, so to have access to this medium and not use it to try to encourage others to ask questions—to me, that’s creative-negligence. My goal including these issues in my story is never to preach, but rather to ask people to think critically, to ask questions, and to take introspective inventory. We are all human, and these issues face humanity. After all, what are stories if not opportunities to teach us more about ourselves? 

3. I heard that you used your fitness training background to help write the action scenes. What went into that process?

So I’ve always been fascinated with swordplay, martial arts, and human movement. As a personal trainer, I always sought to push the boundaries of the typical modalities of training and athletic performance. What began with calisthenics became Mike Fitch’s Animal Flow and GMB’s mindful movement and athletic autonomy. From there I got into training with the steel mace, clubbells, staves, and swords. The more I played around with those implements, the more I wanted to write; and the more I wrote, the more I wanted to dance around with these different tools. Inevitably, learning took place, and I believe it injected life into my combat scenes and playful exuberance into my exercise practices.  

4. How did you use your characters to explore human connection and what was the inspiration behind it?

Long, long ago when I was just jotting ideas down in between personal training sessions, this story only had one point of view character (and it was actually meant to be Fenyx’s story!). I soon realized that one perspective only allowed the reader to experience the world in one way, which is how many of us live our lives. It can be difficult to put ourselves in others’ shoes (or sandals in this case) amidst our own chaotic lives, but only through that empathy can we actually start experiencing the world. So one POV character quickly became seven, and my goal was to show the world from the perspective of different faiths, social-standings, socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, etc. but it also allowed me to play with interpersonal relationships. The father-son, brother-brother, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter, friend to friend, brother-sister, sister-sister—the list goes on, but this series and these characters allowed me to flex that creative-responsibility to explore for myself and encourage others to try to see things from the other’s perspective. Who knows, perhaps we’re all just a little misunderstood and a little grace would go a long way to reconciliation and progress.

5. What’s next for Zephryus and the rest of your characters?

Well, this is a complex question, because for me, for the series, Zephyrus, Vykinallia, Threyna, Fenyx, Laeden, Iylea, and Danella have all had their stories wrapped up with a bow. So if you’re asking for book 2… if you were hoping Zephyrus’s ride would be smoother now that he knows who he is, guess again. Still learning who he is and what he’s supposed to be, he also must contend with who he was and the regrets that spawned from his past choices. Except now, he’s got two armies and a traitorous God coming for him. If you’re asking what’s next now that the trilogy is finished (coming out soon!), I will say this much… I left a few unresolved stitches that COULD be reopened (and yes I use that phrasing intentionally) to make way for a second installment in the aftermath of AVR. But first, I already have projects in the works like Threyna’s origin story, and a story that takes place 400 years earlier that sets the table for the struggles in the divine realm as seen in the first trilogy. Beyond that, one day I may come back to this world and explore it with some of these characters as a sequel trilogy. But endings are important to me; I take too much pride in the world, these characters, and the current ending to reopen it if I can’t wrap it up and deliver an equally cathartic conclusion. 

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Son’s novel honors parents lost to 2020 East Troublesome Fire

Grand Lake, CO–Based on a remarkable true story, Glenn Hileman’s “A Yellow House in the Mountains” (March 2024) honors the lives of his parents, Lyle and Marylin, who were lost to Colorado’s East Troublesome Fire, by showcasing the love, faith and determination which guided them through difficult times.

By the end of the day on October 21, 2020, more than 193,000 acres and over 400 homes were consumed in the East Troublesome Fire, Colorado’s fastest-moving fire in history. Lyle and Marylin understood living in their mountain paradise had risks, and their approach to the oncoming fire was consistent with their approach to other challenges in their lives–they faced it together.

An awe-inspiring novel based on a love story like no other, “A Yellow House in the Mountains” traces Lyle and Marylin’s relationship from their high-school sweetheart days to their 68-year marriage. Filled with a sense of the couple’s ambition and determination, “A Yellow House” will leave readers with a strengthened resolve to overcome life’s challenges and embrace life’s miracles.

“A Yellow House in the Mountains”

Glenn Hileman | March 1, 2024 | GLH2 Holdings | Fiction, Historical

Hardcover | ISBN: 979-8-9888228-1-3 | $27.95

Paperback | ISBN: 979-8-9888228-0-6 | $18.99 

Ebook | ISBN: 979-8-9888228-2-0 | $12.99

GLENN HILEMAN: Glenn is the CEO of Highmark School Development and has spent over fifteen years living in Bountiful, Utah. His love of Grand Lake, Colorado led to him purchasing his parent’s home in 2020. His family is actively working to restore the property from the devastation of the East Troublesome Fire. In doing so, they hope to honor the legacy of his parents. Learn more about Glenn at: www.yellowhouseinthemountains.com 



In an interview, Glenn Hileman can discuss:

  • The lasting impact of the East Troublesome Fire in Colorado, which was the fastest growing fire in the state’s history
  • Why it was important to tell Lyle and Marylin’s story, as the only two lives lost to the fire
  • The powerful lessons he learned from Lyle and Marylin, and the real-life miracles that touched their lives
  • Why he’s planning on restoring the property Lyle and Marylin lost to the fire
  • What he hopes readers will take away from “A Yellow House in the Mountains”

An Interview with

Glenn Hileman

1. Why did you decide to share Lyle and Marylin’s story with the world? 

Their lives were filled with remarkable experiences that can inspire others. Through their commitment to one another and with faith, they overcame numerous obstacles in life and left a legacy worthy of remembrance. A love story, “A Yellow House in the Mountains” provides relatable examples of how to navigate life.

2. Do miracles really happen?

Miracles occur frequently but may be overlooked or mislabeled as coincidences. Lyle and Marylin’s story contains several examples of miracles. Some of their encounters were immediate while others played out over a sixty-eight year marriage. Their story will touch the hearts of many that look to understand our purpose in life and the role miracles play.

3. How did Lyle and Marylin overcome life’s challenges?

An unwavering commitment to their marriage provided Lyle and Marylin with the strength to get through hard times. They believed their relationship could endure through eternity and that working together, they could improve and grow. 

4. What lessons will readers learn from Lyle and Marylin?

Challenges and adversity are a normal part of life and often provide our greatest opportunities for growth. Personal improvement takes effort and having the support of loved ones helps facilitate change. Our potential in life is magnified as we collaborate with others, especially with family and friends.

5. What should readers know about you?

Perhaps the greatest written insights into my life are contained within the pages of the book. Like my parents, I lean heavily on my family and faith to navigate life.

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What a book foreword can serve to do in a novel

Writing the Prologue for Dancing Into the Light: an Arab-American Girlhood in the Middle East

By Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki

A prologue can be several different things. It can hint at what is to come in the story, give background, or set a mood. More than anything, it should entice the reader to delve further into the book.

For Dancing Into the Light, I wanted the prologue to bring both the present and the past into focus so readers could see that a large part of the book would be a recollection of a magical past. 

It starts in the present—I am dancing in a Latin club with my husband and friends. A particular song by Harry Belafonte instantly brings back poignant childhood memories of dancing with my father. I imagine my father and mother dancing romantically together in Tehran, Iran, where we then lived. I mention that my father is Arab and my mother is American, from Tennessee, and that both of them are now deceased.

I describe the feelings that ignite in me when I dance to Latin and Caribbean music and I hint that there is a story to follow that will trace my current dance passion—I mention that I presently teach dancing and study ballroom Latin dancing—back to my childhood.

It sets the two themes of the book—dancing and loss—and describes the power that music and dance hold for me, pulling me back to my youth with my parents during a time when we were all together. It also hints that things changed and we are no longer together.

So, in the four pages of the prologue, I try to encapsulate what the book is about, tease the reader with the promise that the story will be both heart-breaking and joyful, and set the mood to invoke the reader’s interest in the story to follow.

In the epilogue, I come back to the scene in the prologue and explain how my last days were with my father before he passed. I wanted the epilogue to be a sort of continuation of the prologue, a coming full circle, to wrap up my memoir’s theme—that dancing during my youth pulled me out of depression and loneliness, and into the light of living joyfully again.