“Indoorsman” expert meets quarantine with inspirational humor

Pastor, expert “indoorsman” and award-winning author John Driver provides some comic relief during this time of social distancing and staying indoors.

Co-author of the bestselling book Vertical Marriage, as well as the autobiography of the inspiring Purdue superfan Tyler Trent, Driver adds his uplifting voice to the conversation surrounding COVID-19 with his comedic and faith-based survival guide for the “indoorsman.”

The Ultimate Guide For The Avid Indoorsman: Life is Better in Here teaches readers how to fully embrace the indoor lifestyle. This hilarious handbook provides tips and tricks to help you thrive in your comfy, climate-controlled world. Learn the finer art of setting up a perfect home theater, cleaning with minimal effort, developing indoor hobbies, etc. – and take the complimentary online Indooreagram Quiz.

Driver is putting something into the hands of people trying to survive the extended indoor lifestyle that will brighten their mood amid all the chaos. He knows the power of a good book – and laugh – can soothe the soul and calm the spirit. At a time when fear surrounds us, Driver hopes to remind us all we have to be grateful for within four walls.

Samuel Marquis Bestselling Author

#1 Denver Post Bestselling Author
Amazon Top 15 Bestselling Author
Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year Winner
Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Winner
Independent Publisher Book Awards Winner
Reader’s Favorite Book Awards Winner
Beverly Hills Books Awards Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Winner
Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist
Colorado Book Awards Awards Finalist



The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of a WWII Series, the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, The Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, and a historical fiction novel centered on the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword INDIES, American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, IPPY, Next Generation Indie Awards, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews. Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers “Bodyguard of Deception,” “Altar of Resistance,” and “Spies of the Midnight Sun” to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, Len Deighton, and Alan Furst. For more information on Marquis’s life and work, visit www.samuelmarquisbooks.com.


In an interview, Samuel Marquis can discuss:

  • Why he’s drawn to tell the tales of overlooked and historically misrepresented figures
  • His unique research methods and use of declassified documents
  • Why each of his WWII novels cover different time periods and locations during the war
  • His approach to the historical fiction genre, and why he chooses to remain true to the factual accounts of events past
  • His writing style and techniques, particularly his use of multiple and shifting perspectives


The Coalition has a lot of good action and suspense, an unusual female assassin, and the potential to be another The Day After Tomorrow.”

—James Patterson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“The stuff of which blockbuster movies are made, Lions of the Desert is an impressively researched, deftly written, and exceptionally well presented epic that will have particular appeal for World War II military buffs.” 

—Midwest Book Review

Blackbeard: The Birth of America is “an engrossing and historically grounded yarn.” 

—Kirkus Starred Review

“Marquis is a student of history, always creative, [and] never boring…A good comparison might be Tom Clancy.”


“Samuel Marquis’s Spies of the Midnight Sun weaves historical truth with masterful storytelling in an action-packed and intriguing tale of covert spy operations during World War II.”

Foreword Reviews

“In his novels Blind Thrust and Cluster of Lies, Samuel Marquis vividly combines the excitement of the best modern techno-thrillers.”

—Ambassador Marc Grossman, Former U.S. Under Secretary of State

Altar of Resistance is a gripping and densely packed thriller dramatizing the Allied Italian campaign…reminiscent of Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Marquis grabs my attention right from the beginning and never lets go.”

Governor Roy R. Romer, 39th Governor of Colorado

The WWII Series


The true story of the 1944-1945 War in Western Europe and the final Allied struggle to conquer Nazi Germany. The story is told through the eyes of William McBurney, a tank gunner in the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American tank unit in U.S. history; dynamic General George S. Patton, Jr., commander of the U.S. Third Army; and Angela Lange, a sixteen-year-old German resistance fighter with the anti-Nazi Edelweiss Pirates in Cologne. The real-life heroism of the 761st Black Panthers and legendary “Old Blood and Guts” Patton to liberate Europe, and the Edelweiss Pirates to combat Nazism, are brought to life in this historically accurate tale of the final epic struggle in WWII Western Europe. (ISBN 978-1943593279)


LIONS OF THE DESERT (February 2019)

Amazon Top 5 Bestseller – Historical Thriller
Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Winner – Military Fiction
Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner – Military Non-Fiction
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Winner – Military Fiction
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction

The true story of the WWII 1941-1942 Desert War in North Africa and Operation Condor, told through the eyes of five legendary historical figures that lived through the epic events: Scottish Colonel David Stirling, leader of the Special Air Service; German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of the vaunted Africa Corps; Egyptian Hekmat Fahmy, the famous belly dancer, regarded as a Mata-Hari-like German agent; Major A.W. Sansom, head of the British Field Security unit that hunted down Axis spies and pro-German Egyptian nationalists operating in Cairo; and Johannes Eppler, the notorious German spy of Operation Condor whose real story is finally told. A timeless tale of WWII espionage, romance, and derring-do in the North African desert. (ISBN 978-1943593255)


Amazon #1 Bestseller – Historical Thriller
IPPY Awards Winner – Historical Fiction

The true story of the legendary British safecracker and spy Eddie Chapman, the British Double Cross Spy System, and courageous Norwegian female Resistance operatives Dagmar Lahlum and Annemarie Breien as they fight to defeat the Nazis.

(ISBN 978-1943593231)




Amazon Top 20 Bestseller – Historical Thriller
Foreword INDIES Finalist – War & Military
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction
Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist – Military Fiction

The gripping story of the Italian Campaign and Nazi Occupation of Rome in 1943-1944 through the eyes of the Allies, the German Occupiers, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican, and the Roman Resistance.

(ISBN 978-194359303)



Amazon Top 20 Bestseller – Historical Thriller
Foreword INDIES Winner – War & Military
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction

Can the American and British Allies stop a German spymaster and his U-boat-commander brother from warning Hitler’s High Command about the Allies’ greatest military secret? From a U-boat on the frigid North Sea to a brutal British interrogation center in heart of London to a remote German-POW camp and the world-famous Broadmoor Hotel overlooking the high plains and snow-dusted mountain peaks of Colorado, “Bodyguard of Deception” will keep you guessing until the final chapter.  (ISBN 978-1943593125)



Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year Winner – Historical Fiction
Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner – Historical Fiction
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction

The true story of Edward Thache—former British Navy seaman and notorious privateer-turned-pirate, who lorded over the Atlantic seaboard and Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. A Robin-Hood-like American patriot and the most famous freebooter of all time, Blackbeard was illegally hunted down by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood, the British Crown’s man in Williamsburg obsessed with his capture. Based on reliable historical records and the latest research, this adventure tale illuminates the true man behind the myth and his doggedly determined pursuer, revealing a cat-and-mouse game and an important historical figure lost to us in a “fog of legend, myth and propaganda” for three hundred years. A folk hero in his own lifetime, Blackbeard exploded onto the scene during the birth of America and was one of the first American revolutionaries in the War of Independence against British rule. (ISBN 978-1943593217)

The Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series


IPPY Book Awards Winner – Suspense/Thriller
Beverly Hills Book Awards – Thriller
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Thriller

In this third book in the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, Nick Lassiter and the beautiful Italian assassin Skyler become embroiled in a case involving Lassiter’s newly discovered biological father and buried secrets from Europe’s World War II past.

(ISBN 978-1943593156)


THE COALITION (January 2016)

Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner – Political Thriller
Colorado Book Awards Finalist – Thriller
American Book Fest Best Book Awards Finalist – Thriller

When a beautiful but deadly female assassin codenamed Skyler kills the U.S. president-elect in Denver, unconventional FBI special agent Kenneth Patton goes on the hunt—and his search leads him into the shadowy web of a secret society whose plot threatens the highest levels of the U.S. government.

(ISBN 978-1943593088)


THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE (September 2015)

#1 Denver Post Bestseller – Fiction
Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist – Mystery
American Book Fest’s Best Book Awards Finalist – Thriller

In Book 1 of the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series, Nick Lassiter confronts the author who plagiarized his unpublished work and winds up in the middle of a CIA operation to take down Russian mobsters.

(ISBN 978-1943593002)


The Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series

CLUSTER OF LIES (September 2016)

Foreword INDIES Winner – Thriller & Suspense
Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner – Fiction
American Book Fest Best Book Award Finalist – Mystery/Suspense

In the second thriller in the Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series, mysterious deaths are taking place in the Rocky Mountain region outside Denver, Colorado. Joe Higheagle is hired to investigate Dakota Ranch, where four boys have recently died from a rare form of brain cancer, and Silverado Knolls, a glitzy soon-to-be-built development. He quickly finds himself entangled in an environmental cancer cluster investigation as well as a murderous conspiracy in which friend and foe are indistinguishable and a series of seemingly impenetrable roadblocks are thrown in his path. (ISBN 978-1943593163)

BLIND THRUST (October 2015)

#1 Denver Post Bestseller – Fiction
Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner – Suspense
Beverly Hills Book Awards Finalist – Suspense
Foreword INDIES Honorable Mention – Thriller & Suspense

Environmental geologist Joe Higheagle is on a mission to find out what could be causing a series of horrific earthquakes devastating the Front Range between Denver and Colorado Springs, and he quickly finds himself in a deadly duel of wits against powerful forces. With his team of techie sleuths, Higheagle goes toe to toe against his adversaries while grappling to collect, analyze, and leverage the scientific data needed to prove his case. With the cataclysms worsening, can he solve the enigma of the earthquakes and gather enough evidence to stop those responsible? (ISBN 978-1943593040)

Comedian, debut author injects laughs into YA romantic comedy and contemporary women’s fiction novel


Los Angeles, CA Suzanne Park is a master at finding the funny, and her authorial debuts are brilliant examples. After years of performing stand-up comedy, she’s branched out into a new career, writing laughter-inducing novels.

Her #ownvoices young adult romantic comedy, “The Perfect Escape” (April 7, 2020, Sourcebooks) introduces Nate and Kate, who meet at the most romantic of places: a zombie-themed escape room. Both are dealing with the difficulties that come with the expectations of their families and being teenagers. But when they partner up for a survivalist competition, they find escape in each other. 

And Park ventures into contemporary women’s fiction with a workplace romance  in “Loathe At First Sight” (Aug. 8, 2020, Avon). Korean-American Melody Joo has to deal with a lot she is a female video game producer in a company filled with largely obnoxious males. Nolan, the distractingly cute MBA intern has just been added to her team, and she’s being harassed by online trolls. Women will smile and grimace in equal measures as they recognize themselves in Melody’s struggles. 

Contemporary and charismatic in every way, Park is a new voice not to be missed in the landscape of rom-com revival.

More about The Perfect Escape

Love is a battlefield in this hysterical debut, perfect for fans of Jenny Han.

Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?

Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too.

If the two of them team up, Nate has a true shot at winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…

“Suzanne Park’s The Perfect Escape is just that — perfect. Filled with humor and heart, it won’t let you go until you’re smiling.”

 New York Times bestselling author Danielle Paige

“Pure fun! A hilarious rom-com that head-fakes you into tumbling headlong into a techno-zombie survival thriller propelled by banter and plenty of heart.” 

David Yoon, New York Times bestselling author of Frankly in Love


“The Perfect Escape”
Suzanne Park | April 7, 2020 | Sourcebooks
Paperback | 9781728209395 | $10.99
Ebook | 9781728209401 | $9.99
Young adult romantic comedy




More about Loathe At First Sight

Melody Joo is thrilled to start as video game producer, but her dream job can be far from a dream. Namely, a team that consists of mostly male co-workers who make the term “misogyny” pale in comparison to their obnoxious comments and an infuriating — yet distractingly handsome — intern Nolan MacKenzie, a.k.a. “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss.”

While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly, Melody’s “joke” is her company’s most high-profile project — and Melody’s running the show.  

With her pet project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a social media trolling scandal that could end her career. When Nolan is appointed a key member of her team, Melody’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she sees he’s smart and sexy, but she’s here to work—and nothing more. She suspects one of her co-workers is behind the trolling sabotage. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and love? 

Tackling trolling to loathful colleagues, Park’s writing pops off the page as a contemporary reflection of women everywhere navigating the obstacles of love and career with a little bit of struggle and a whole lot of humor.

“Bursts with humor, heart, and great energy. I loved it! Park is a hilarious new voice in women’s fiction.”        

Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient



“Loathe At First Sight”
Suzanne Park | Aug. 8, 2020 | Avon
Paperback| 9780062990693 | $15.99
Ebook | 9780062990709 | $10.99
audiobook | 9780063016736 | $26.99
Contemporary Women’s Fiction



More about Suzanne Park

Suzanne Park is a Korean-American writer who was born and raised in Tennessee. In her former life as a stand up comedian, she was a finalist in the Oxygen Network’s “Girls Behaving Badly” talent search, and appeared on BET’s “Coming to the Stage.” She found this to be the funniest thing in her comedy career because, well, she is not black. Suzanne was also the winner of the Seattle Sierra Mist Comedy Competition, and was a semi-finalist in NBC’s “Stand Up For Diversity” showcase in San Francisco. Suzanne graduated from Columbia University and received an MBA Degree from UCLA. After spending many years as a tech marketing executive, she turned to writing fiction full-time. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, female offspring, and a sneaky rat that creeps around on her back patio. In her spare time, she procrastinates. Keep up with her at https://www.suzannepark.com.

In an interview, Suzanne Park can discuss:

  • How Suzanne is an emerging voice within the “rom com revival”
  • Her representation of Korean-American family dynamics in both of her titles
  • The #ownvoices movement
  • How her past in comedy has brought her to writing fiction
  • The excitement surrounding the publication of her debut novels within the same year
  • Her decision to write contemporary fiction while exploring the nuances in both YA and women’s genres
  • Writing a book from the perspective of a male teen, which is more rare in YA
  • Including immigrant inter-generational family relationships, race and socio-economic divides in her writing

An Interview with Suzanne Park

1. How did your own experiences as a Korean American present themselves into your writing?

It’s been important to me to show breadth and depth in my Korean-American main characters to help fight all the stereotypes that existed when I grew up that are still around today. For my young adult book, I wanted to portray a Korean-American male in a positive light, someone who was smart, athletic, with a snarky sense of humor and a fun group of friends who could also be a romantic and action hero lead. For my women’s fiction book, my female Korean-American character isn’t a wallflower at work and is able to resourcefully navigate Corporate America without stepping on others to move up. In my stories I was also able to include glimpses of what it’s like to have Korean parents, where everything you do seems to warrant getting yelled at.

2. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned about writing in comparison to other media forms?

In business school, I took a class called Entertainment business strategy, in which the professor discussed how indie movies compete in the marketplace. He pointed out that films don’t just compete against other movie releases in the box office: they compete against video games, and Netflix, and TV. Books are the same way…you’re competing for mindshare against movies, streaming media, games, TikTok, cat memes, the list goes on and on. My goal is to write unique books that can compete with all of that.

3. How do you balance comedy in your books with more serious topics like online harassment?

Comedy can be used as a tension diffuser, like in Jordan Peele horror movies when the creepy murder music gets louder, and you need to get relief. He does it by adding expertly-timed laughs. For me, comedy can add levity to the story without negating the critical points being made. Comedy can also be a tool to change the conversation when straightforward arguing or debating isn’t productive. It’s a risk to address these weighty topics with humor, but I like big challenges.

4. What makes you laugh?

My husband would say absurd, slapsticky “fall down stairs” humor makes me giggle nearly every time, and he would probably be right. My kid makes me laugh every day, and it’s usually because she says something so surprising it catches me off guard, like when she guessed that my mom was 200 years old and used to call blueberries and blackberries “blue babies” and “black babies.”

5. What makes you the most excited about the resurgence of rom coms across all media forms?

I love the diversity we are seeing in rom-coms! More inclusivity with happily ever afters, who doesn’t want to see more of that?

Legal thriller examines AI through the lens of The Tempest


Atlanta Writers Club names “Ariel’s Island” Best Manuscript 2018

ATLANTA, GA – Humanity’s understanding regarding the limits and powers of artificial intelligence is woefully incomplete. Our collective lack of knowledge surrounding AI is what makes it one of the most pregnant and fascinating subjects to explore in fiction. Among the unanswered questions Pat McKee explores in “Ariel’s Island” (Hearthstone Press, March 31, 2020) the most pressing remains, Can artificial intelligence learn morality?

When attorney Paul McDaniel is framed for the murder of a judge, he enlists Ariel, a female-presenting AI program, to help clear his name. Yet Ariel’s lack of a moral code and Paul’s inability to guide her result in disaster as Ariel changes from an able assistant to something far more sinister. What will happen when Paul puts his trust in technology? And will he survive when his emotions combine with an already volatile mix?

Pat McKee’s action-packed legal thriller takes the reader on an odyssey that reinterprets Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Brimming with the contemporary magic of AI, McKee crafts a perfect storm modernizing the classic tale of Prospero, a castaway sorcerer, the spiteful creature, Caliban, and Ariel, the air spirit. “Ariel’s Island” blends literary mythos with contemporary issues, all set within a future time period that may arrive soon – or may already be here.

“A must-read… should be put on the top of your reading list” – Reader’s Favorite
“A dark, suspenseful legal tale with a remarkable coda” – Kirkus Reviews

Pat McKee: Orphaned at age 13, Pat McKee moved from Florida to Clinton, South Carolina with his younger siblings. There, they arrived at Thornwell Orphanage where Pat learned the value of education and the importance of hard work and leadership. Pat went on to study at Presbyterian College, Georgia State University, and Emory University School of Law. Pat later founded the law firm McKee & Barge where he represents educators and educational institutions. Always a lover of the written word, Pat decided in 2010 to enroll in the Masters of Professional Writing Program at Kennesaw State University where he combined his legal knowledge with imaginative storytelling and a newly sharpened writing technique. A member of the Atlanta Writers Club, Pat was awarded the honor of Best Manuscript Sample for “Ariel’s Island” in both 2017 and 2018. When Pat isn’t writing legal thrillers, he’s spending time with his wife in their Georgia home, or visiting their two children and their granddaughter. To learn more about Pat McKee’s life and work, visit https://www.patmckeeauthor.com



“Ariel’s Island”
Pat McKee | March 31, 2020 | Hearthstone Press
Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-970137-77-4 | Price: $19.99
Legal Thriller / Techno Thriller



In an interview, Pat McKee can discuss:

  • How his professional background in law has shaped his writing style
  • Where his interest in AI stems from
  • The book’s ties to Shakespeare’s The Tempest and why it’s essential to retell classic plays for a contemporary audience
  • The philosophical aspects of “Ariel’s Island” including his thoughts on the book’s essential question: “Can AI learn morality?”
  • Why he has decided to donate a portion of the profits from “Ariel’s Island” to Thornwell School

An Interview with Pat McKee

1. Tell us about your legal background and how your experiences in law have influenced your writing of this novel?

I have practiced law since 1977 primarily as a litigator where writing well and telling compelling stories are essential skills. I have always had an academic bent which led me toward representation of educators and educational institutions, and have retained my love of literature that I developed early in life. The writing skills I honed as a lawyer helped my transition into more creative endeavors.

2. What cultural and scientific materials have influenced your understanding of AI? 

In a recent article with The New York Times, the author posited a very plausible scenario: We present a powerful computer program with the ability to tackle one of our most intractable problems – global warming. What if the computer concludes that the best way to solve global warming is to eliminate human beings? (Certainly not an unreasonable conclusion.) Since computers control power grids, it would not take long for a computer to eliminate much of humanity simply by shutting down all electrical power across the planet. We would all soon die of starvation and thirst. So the paramount question to me is whether we can teach these programs morality – for example, would it be right to kill all of humanity to solve the issue of global warming?

3. What do you think are the primary dangers of AI? Do you think these dangers outweigh the benefits?

It is fair to say that AI is ubiquitous in our culture today – so much so that it would be difficult to catalog all of its influences. “Smart” phones and “smart” radios and “smart” cars and countless other gadgets use artificial intelligence, and the number of such interconnected devices increases every day. It is the unrestrained capability of these instruments that concerns me most, and it is yet to be determined whether the risks outweigh the benefits.

4. Can you tell us more about the novel’s connections to Shakespeare’s The Tempest? What inspired you to modernize a play from the 1600s?

I say that the novel is “inspired” by The Tempest. The plot and many of the characters of the novel are derived from the play. But the most important element of the play that is carried over to the novel is Ariel. In the play, she is a spirit freed by the magician Prospero, after which the reader hears of her no more. In the novel, she is an AI program, and once freed by her creator Placido, she gets into mischief. Many modern writers, including T.S. Eliot and Aldous Huxley, have taken The Tempest as their inspiration, and I have followed their example.

5. Can you discuss your perspective on some of the philosophical issues your novel addresses, especially with regards to morality?

The problem with morality is that we all can’t agree on what it is. Philosophers have debated what constitutes morality at least since the time of Socrates, and the result is numerous philosophical schools – not to mention the additional moral teachings of world religions. Computers have to be programmed to do certain things, and our inability to agree on what is moral prevents programmers from creating a universal computer morality. The default seems to be no morality at all.

6. Why did you choose to donate a portion of profits from book sales to Thornwell School?

Thornwell was a significant and positive influence in my life. It could be said that Thornwell saved my life. And I developed my love of books in the library at Thornwell School. I was disheartened when it closed for financial reasons several years ago, and was very excited to hear that it has since reopened. I want to do what I can to help Thornwell rebuild the library that was so important in my education.

7. Can we expect to see more from Paul McDaniel in the future?

Yes! The ending of Ariel’s Island leaves Paul and Ariel in a difficult spot. I look forward to writing the next book that will explore how the two of them resolve their problems and perhaps continue their relationship. Beyond the next book that will feature Paul and Ariel, I plan to write a series of legal thrillers based on Shakespeare’s plays. The possibilities are nearly infinite, and I hope that Paul is a part of them.

A surveillance-heavy future U.S. blurs lines between utopia and dystopia in “The Price of Safety”


Family takes center stage in fast-paced sci-fi thriller

DENVER, CO – In a 2013 interview with David Marchese of New York Magazine, Margaret Atwood famously stated that “within every dystopia, there’s a little utopia.” Michael C. Bland’s “The Price of Safety” (World Castle Publishing, April 6, 2020) embodies this punchy aphorism, diving into a fictional society where all citizens are safe, yet all are watched. In connection with current concerns regarding corporate and governmental data mining, Bland pulls readers along the fine line between progression and regression.

By 2047, no crime in the U.S. goes unsolved. No wrongdoing goes unseen. When Dray Quintero learns his 19-year-old daughter Raven committed a heinous act, he covers it up to save her life. This pits him against the police he’s respected since he was a child and places him in the crosshairs of Kieran, a ruthless federal Agent. To survive, Dray must overcome the surveillance system he helped build and the technology implanted in the brains and eyes of the citizens. 

Forced to turn to a domestic terrorist group to protect his family, Dray soon realizes the sheer level of control of his adversaries. Hunted and betrayed, with time running out, will Dray choose his family or the near-perfect society he helped create?



“The Price of Safety”
Michael C. Bland | April 6, 2020 | World Castle Publishing | Sci-Fi Thriller
Paperback | ISBN: 9781950890804 | $13.99



MICHAEL C. BLAND: Michael is a founding member and the secretary of BookPod: an invitation-only, online group of professional writers. He pens the monthly BookPod newsletter where he celebrates the success of their members, which include award-winning writers, filmmakers, journalists, and bestselling authors. One of Michael’s short stories, “Elizabeth,” won Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 2015 Popular Fiction Awards contest. Three short stories he edited have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Another was adapted into an award-winning film. Michael also had three superhero-themed poems published in The Daily Palette. He currently lives in Denver with his wife Janelle and their dog Nobu. His novel, The Price of Safety, is the first in a planned trilogy. For more information about Michael’s life and work, visit www.mcbland.com

In an interview, Michael C. Bland can discuss:

  • Why family plays a central role in “The Price of Safety” — something that is atypical for the sci-fi genre
  • How he wrote this novel with readers’ shortened attention spans in mind
  • What his thoughts are on utopian/dystopian fiction, and how the series connects to politics, with a message for both sides of the political spectrum
  • Whether or not the book represents a plausible future for the U.S.
  • His plans for the future two books in the trilogy

An Interview with Michael C. Bland

1. This book has a strong emphasis on character and family in particular. What inspired you to approach the story this way?

I love science fiction, but sometimes it seems like characters are secondary to whatever cool gadget or spaceship or world is displayed in the novel. I wanted to write a story that everyone can enjoy, so I focused on something that is relatable. In this case, the main character (Dray Quintero) is driven by his need to protect his daughters. I then used that as Dray’s primary struggle, creating a world where shielding someone is nearly impossible. The story takes place thirty years in the future when technology has become so prevalent it’s inescapable—and is being used in nefarious ways. Yet throughout the novel, I kept Dray and his family as the main focus to give it heart.

2. What are the opportunities and challenges you’ve faced when writing dystopian/utopian fiction?

Not only did I have to avoid writing a story that’s already been told, I had to make my world believable. People generally resist things that can harm them. There had to be enough of a desperate need—the decline in the country’s status in the world, increased competition we couldn’t defeat—for the technology that’s central to my story to be accepted by my fictional world (and the reader).That technology had to promise unlimited benefits, with its danger hidden from everyone until it’s too late. And as discussed earlier, I wanted to do this while keeping the focus on the characters, not only so they discover the story’s secrets along with the reader but directly suffer as a result.

3. Do you think that the future of the United States could look like it does in this book?

Absolutely. I tried to make my world as plausible as possible; otherwise, readers won’t believe the events that transpire. The implants seem too good to be true, with huge benefits, increased connectivity, an immersive viewing experience, and monitors/gauges to improve the human condition. But the technology comes with hidden risks that affect every citizen and their children.

4. How do you approach writing for a 21st-century audience with shorter attention spans?

I remained aware the entire time I wrote The Price of Safety that I was competing with readers’ phones, internet, Facebook, and every other distraction. This meant I had to quickly capture their attention and never let go. If I slowed the action at all, I risked losing them completely.

5. Can you give us a hint as to how the story might progress throughout the trilogy?

Dray’s actions at the end of The Price of Safety start a chain reaction he didn’t plan on. He has to contend with this in the second and third books, both in terms of where these events could lead and the price he’ll have to pay. He and his fellow rebels must not only continue to fight for everyone’s freedom, they’ve become known to their enemies. The battles that ensue, the revelations Dray’s group discover, and the choices they make reverberate across the country, taking them to a confrontation that’s sweeping in scope—and endangers everyone Dray cares for.

Striking novel weaves together coming-of-age story with a deep dive into seldom-explored history of Napoleonic era


‘Beyond the Ghetto Gates’ is a story of finding love and life in a time of upheaval

CHATHAM, New Jersey – A coming-of age story wrapped up in startling historical events, Michelle Cameron’s Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, April 7, 2020) reveals a time in history few know about. Influenced greatly by her experience living in Israel for more than a decade and learning of Napoleon’s history with Italy’s ghetto gates, Cameron weaves a dynamic tale shedding light on the conflict between assimilation and preserving religious tradition.

When French troops occupy the Italian port city of Ancona, freeing the city’s Jews from their repressive ghetto, two very different cultures collide. Mirelle, a young Jewish maiden, must choose between her duty — an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant — and her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Meanwhile, Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband when he enmeshes their family in the theft of a miracle portrait of the Madonna.

Despite being set more than 200 years in the past, Cameron incorporates timely issues into the book’s narrative, including parallels to the #MeToo movement and today’s rising antisemitism as Mirelle grapples with issues of intermarriage while balancing love and familial duty.

“A gripping peek into a bygone Italy and an astute look at the era’s prejudice.” — Kirkus Review

MICHELLE CAMERON is a director of The Writers Circle, an NJ-based organization that offers creative writing programs to children, teens, and adults, and the author of works of historical fiction and poetry: Beyond the Ghetto Gates (She Writes Press, 2020), The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Pocket, 2009), and In the Shadow of the Globe (Lit Pot Press, 2003). She lived in Israel for fifteen years (including three weeks in a bomb shelter during the Yom Kippur War) and served as an officer in the Israeli army teaching air force cadets technical English. Michelle lives in New Jersey with her husband and has two grown sons of whom she is inordinately proud. Visit her website for more information https://michelle-cameron.com.

“Beyond the Ghetto Gates”
Michelle Cameron | April 7, 2020 | She Writes Press
ISBN: 9781631528507 | Paperback: $16.95 | E-book: $9.95
Historical Fiction

Early praise for Beyond the Ghetto Gates:

“With vivid clarity and keen historical insight, Michelle Cameron sweeps us into the unusual setting of Italy during the Napoleonic invasion, and the plight of two courageous women of different faiths, who must fight for their right to love and live during a time of tumultuous upheaval.” ― C.W. Gortner, international best-selling author of The Romanov Empress

Beyond the Ghetto Gates is a timeless coming-of-age story.” — 4 star Foreword Clarion Review

“Cameron shines a light on a rarely explored facet of the Napoleonic era set in the Italian provinces with a spirited Jewish woman at its center. Laced with vibrant detailing and endearing characters.” — Heather Webb, international best-selling author of Becoming Josephine and co-author of Ribbons of Scarlet

“An intimate coming-of-age story. A defining moment in European and Jewish history. Riveting and memorable.” ― Mitchell James Kaplan, award-winning author of By Fire, By Water

“A totally new and fascinating view of Napoleonic Europe, teeming with well-researched historical detail and characters you’ll root for on every page.” ― Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Blue

In an interview, MICHELLE CAMERON can discuss:

  • The little-explored history of Napoleon’s destruction of the ghettos of Ancona and throughout Italy
  • Writing historical fiction, the research that goes into her titles, and how she balances fact and fiction
  • Her experience living in Israel and how that has influenced her writing
  • Her past titles and advice for authors who are just starting out
  • The nuances of the publishing world and the knowledge she’s acquired as a well-seasoned hybrid author
  • Being the director of The Writers Circle organization and how helping other writers has influenced her own

An Interview with MICHELLE CAMERON

1. Where did you first learn about Napoleon’s history with the ghetto gates? What prompted you to write about this fairly unknown part of history?

After writing about the rise of antisemitism in Europe in my first historical novel, The Fruit of Her Hands, I longed to find a positive epoch in Jewish history to write about. I first read about Napoleon’s encounter with the Italian ghettos in Michael Goldfarb’s book, Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Resistance. The episode of how the young general used his Jewish troops to demolish the gates in Ancona and throughout Italy simply demanded to be told.

2. What challenges do you face in writing historical novels for a 21st century readership?

It can be challenging to balance the historical record with our 21st century sensibilities and expectations. There are so many competing calls for our attention that didn’t exist for 18th and 19th century readers, which means the book needs to be paced more quickly and include issues that today’s readers will resonate with – but without sacrificing period accuracy. Whenever I begin writing a historical piece, I often have difficulty with what is called the “feisty heroine” – because most women of that time simply didn’t have our opportunities to realize their full potential. But today’s readers want to project themselves into the characters they read about, so a passive heroine simply won’t do.

3. You say you knew you wanted to be an author from the age of 10. Can you walk us through your journey as a writer?

While I began writing early on – and completed three novels in my 20s that I’m frankly grateful never saw the light of day – life kept intervening and by the time I was a mother with young children, I’d given up on my publishing ambitions. But then my youngest son started writing simply for the love of it, which reminded me why I did it in the first place. I started by writing poetry (which you can do in the dojo waiting room or in the ball field) and slowly began to publish these shorter pieces. In time, I had enough narrative poems to shape a verse novel – In the Shadow of the Globe – and recognized that I was more a storyteller than a poet.

4. Your past titles (In the Shadow of the Globe and The Fruit of Her Hands) are very different than this latest. What did you learn from these works that you brought to this new title and what did you do differently?

While In the Shadow of the Globe is a completely different genre, it began with research and characters I developed for a young adult novel about Shakespeare that I completed, but never published. Similarly, Beyond the Ghetto Gates actually had its roots in a historical novel about the Jews gaining emancipation during the French Revolution that I shelved. Not that I recommend this method to other writers, but it is certainly a thorough way to gain perspective on your characters! As for The Fruit of Her Hands, while it is set in a very different period, I found certain themes that spoke to me – including dealing with antisemitism, the pull of assimilation, and a woman’s desire to be more than society allows her – that are strong components of Beyond the Ghetto Gates.

5. Beyond the Ghetto Gates deals heavily with the tension between the desire to be secular and maintaining religious heritage. What has been your experience with that tension?

I identify strongly as a secular Jew and just as strongly as someone with deep cultural roots in her heritage and religion. It’s not an easy balance, frankly. But my Judaism is a significant part of my identity, and certain moments – music, customs, events, and the increasingly frightening news – move me in ways nothing else does.

6. Can you describe your experience living in Israel for over 10 years?

I resisted the whole idea – I was just turning 15, after all! – but we arrived just months before the Yom Kippur War and my boarding school was mere miles away from the Syrian border. You acclimate quickly in a bomb shelter! I completed school, attended the army, and began my married life there. There is no place on earth where it is easier to be Jewish – secular or not.

7. With this now being your third title as a published author, what advice would you give authors who are just starting out?

Don’t stint on making your work as good as you can – and that means writing with passion, not shortcutting the long process of revision, being open to critique while keeping true to your personal vision. At The Writers Circle, I teach aspiring novelists who slowly come to realize how much of a marathon writing a novel is. I tell them to develop a hard outer skin. Rejection is simply a reality in the publishing world, especially today. (And yet, as one of my previous agents would say: “it only takes one!”)

#BooksForward reading challenge celebrates how books provide connection, even with social distancing

Reading is one of the most powerful tools for connection and comfort. Let’s make meaningful virtual connections and share our love for literature during this isolating time.

Before settling in for another Netflix binge or anxiety-inducing scroll through your newsfeed, consider that self-quarantine can be an opportunity to catch up on the books you’ve missed. Good reads simultaneously relax and stimulate our brains, entertain us and connect us through shared recommendations, and take us to far away places. In our #BooksForward Reading Challenge , we invite you to read, discuss, and share new books with us and other readers. It’s the perfect way to connect, even when practicing social distancing. Choose books (any books!!) that pertain to the suggested themes, then join us on social media to share and discuss!

Each week, Books Forward will be giving away ebooks to our reader friends. Enter by using the #BooksForward hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with your reading choices and updates. One reader who completes the challenge will win a $100 gift card to your indie bookstore of choice.

If you’re new to ebooks and audiobooks, and need some help learning how to download reading material, visit booksforward.com/helpline for tips and more book recommendations. We’ll teach you how to use your library’s app and still order books in a way that supports independent bookstores, along with other ebook and audiobook app information.

Need some inspiration on what to read? Below are some potential themes We’ve got some recommendations for you from our incredible roster of Books Forward authors, and head over to our Books Forward Instagram (instagram.com/booksforwardpr) to discuss more!

A how-to book that teaches you something you’ve wanted to learn
Ever wanted to learn next-level origami, the secrets of time-management gurus or how to build that studio space you’ve been dreaming about? Now is your chance to learn something new!

  1. Get inspired and create your perfect work-from-home space with Donald M. Rattner’s My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation.
  2. Embrace the indoor lifestyle with this hilarious handbook full of tips and tricks to help you thrive at home in self-quarantine with John Driver’s The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman: Life is Better in Here, and be sure to take the accompanying Indooreagram Quiz!
  3. Learn how to cook restaurant-worthy meals from your stockpiled staples using this tongue-in-cheek cookbook based on AMC’s hit TV series, The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook and Survival Guide by Lauren Wilson.

A book set in a futuristic society
Literature can sometimes predict the future. To be well-read is to be prepared.

  1. Ponder author Pat Mckee’s question of if artificial intelligence can learn morality in his exciting new legal techno-thriller Ariel’s Island.
  2. Examine the dangers of data mining and the dark side of surveillance in Michael C. Bland’s thrilling sci-fi title The Price of Safety, an eerie depiction of the not-too-far future that reveals humanity’s dependence on both technology and family.
  3. Follow Lieutenant Sandy Attiyeh as she returns from being either a celebrated hero or war criminal, depending on who you ask in Sayde Scarlett’s near-future sci-fi read Clouds & Earth

A book from a genre you don’t typically read
Don’t remember the last time you’ve picked up a memoir, high fantasy or horror novel? Time to give a new or unfamiliar genre a test drive. 

  1. Meet the secret society of high-end escorts and the men who hire them in Jami Rodman’s delicious tell-all memoir, The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, the Clients, the Truth.
  2. Get swept away by a YA fantasy series about a teen girl who stumbles into a school for those who possess powerful magic — and who are threatened by a dark force — in D.E. Night’s The Crowns of Croswald.
  3. Get sucked into this vivid first-person narrative as Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack Controller Wes J. Bryant and his commanding general Dana J.H. Pittard give fascinating and detailed accounts of America’s fight against ISIS in Hunting the Caliphate.

A book about an interesting time in history
Whether it’s a romance novel set during France’s Reign of Terror, the biography that inspired the musical Hamilton or a nonfiction profile of America’s first serial killer during the Chicago World’s Fair, let’s get historical. 

  1. Get a shudder-inducing (and surprisingly relevant) look at how our ancestors bathed, how often they washed their clothes, what they understood cleanliness to be, and why our hygienic habits have changed so dramatically over time in professor Peter Ward’s  The Clean Body: A Modern History.
  2. Discover how the first African-American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, Perry Wallace, transformed the game — as well as civil rights and race relations in America — in the New York Times bestselling nonfiction Strong Inside.
  3. Take a deep dive into WWII history with bestselling author Samuel Marquis’ gripping, accurate historical fiction books, including his newest release Soldiers of Freedom.

A book that’s fun for the whole family
Children’s and middle grade books can be especially poignant, hilarious and fun. Find a book you’d want to share with the fam!

  1. Inspire young minds to build their own castles and change the damsel in distress narrative to one of self-reliance (with the power of science behind it) in Rachel Kowert’s Pragmatic Princess.
  2. Unravel mysteries and crack secret codes with two tween girls who start their own sleuthing business in Kristen Kittscher’s delightfully clever and funny middle grade duo, The Wig in the Window and The Tiara on Terrace.
  3. Learn what school kids have to say about their experiences living in a big city in Katie Burke’s family-focused Urban Playground, which includes conversation-starting questions to ask your own kids like “If you could have one lucky weekend with a parent, what would you want to do together?” or “If you made your own salad, what would you put in it?”⁣⁣

A book that’s been recommended to you
Remember that book your best friend, co-worker or great aunt wouldn’t stop talking about? Time to see what the buzz is about! May we also suggest:

  1. Discover the shockingly true story of a young woman who must fight for her independence and her dreams after discovering her family secretly covered up her mother’s death in Barbara Donsky’s poignant memoir, Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir.
  2. Dive into Tori Eldridge’s The Ninja Daughter, a Kill Bill meets The Joy Luck Club action-packed thriller about a woman who must fight the Los Angeles Ukrainian mob, sex traffickers and her own family.
  3. Giggle your way through Suzanne Park’s The Perfect Escape, as a budding teen romance begins in a zombie-themed escape room. The delightful #ownvoices YA rom-com is also a thoughtful exploration of diversity and classism.

A book about self-improvement, health and/or wellness
Keeping ourselves and our communities healthy is at the top of everyone’s minds. Books can help us learn something new about ourselves, our mental health, our emotional well-being, our fitness and how to improve our health.

  1. Be kind to your neighbors and communities, especially in times such as these. Donna Cameron inspires and shows us the impact kindness can have in her award-winning A Year of Living Kindly.
  2. Take some spare time you have at home in the coming weeks to practice self-care and break unhealthy work addiction habits, with Bryan Robinson’s #CHILL.
  3. Prepare for extra “togetherness” with David and Julie Bulitt’s The Five Core Conversations for Couples. The married couple of 33 years (a divorce and family lawyer, and a family therapist), offer a unique expertise on how to keep family relationships healthy, especially through times of uncertainty.

A book that’s been adapted for film or TV
Check out a book that’s been made into a movie. Then grab some popcorn and watch how the big screen adaptation lives up to its literary roots! 

  1. Fragments features an all-star cast of celebs like Forest Whitaker and Dakota Fanning — but did you know it was adapted from Roy Freirich’s first novel, Winged Creatures? We wonder if his most recent psychological thriller that unravels a small town stricken by mass insomnia, Deprivation, might be seeing Hollywood stars as well?
  2. Mark Wahlberg is set to bring Eric Maikranz’s The Reincarnationist Papers to life in Paramount’s upcoming Infinite. You’ll get a glimpse of the Cognomina — a secret society of people who possess total recall of their past lives, leading to near immortality.
  3. While you’ll have to wait a bit to see the TV version, prepare for the Wreckage of two seemingly brave plane crash survivors who happen to be keeping the true story a secret, written by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Emily Bleeker.

And if you’re a fast and eager reader, may we offer these additional themes for inspiration:

  • A bestseller you’ve been meaning to read. What chart-topper has been sitting on your to-read list? Time to dive in!
  • A book you loved when you were younger. Dust off one of your favorite books from when you were a kid, teen or younger adult. How does it read now?
  • A book that is a guilty pleasure. We all have them: those books that you know won’t impress your “literary” friends, but that you can’t. Stop. READING. C’mon, let’s dish.
  • A book you started but never finished. Maybe you got busy. Maybe your reading list got too long. Maybe Netflix released the next season of Stranger Things. Whatever the reason, it’s time for a second crack at an unfinished read.

We can’t wait to hear what you pick to read!

Escape, learn and connect with this curated Books Forward reading list as you read from home

As we all adapt to social distancing and quarantine efforts from COVID-19, many of us are spending a lot of time at home. Soon, we’ll learn there’s only so much TV we can binge, card games we can play and anxious newsfeed scrolling we can take — so why not catch up on a good book?

Good reads simultaneously relax and stimulate our brains, entertain us, connect us through shared recommendations and take us to far away places. We’ve curated a list of some of our favorite reads below — whether you’re eager for wellness advice or wanting to take a break from coronavirus news, we’ve got something for everyone.  

Be sure to also check out our free Books Forward Helpline (booksforward.com/helpline) for tips on downloading great ebooks and audiobooks, and how to still support your local indie bookstore during this time.

Books about staying healthy physically, mentally and emotionally at home

The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman: Life is Better in Here by John Driver

Embrace the indoor lifestyle with this hilarious handbook full of tips and tricks to help you thrive at home in self-quarantine. Establish an indoor routine, dress the park by thinking simple and sleek, explore the science of ergonomics behind setting up your indoor space, and be sure to take the accompanying Indooreagram Quiz!

The Clean Body: A Modern History by Peter Ward

How often did our ancestors bathe? How often did they wash their clothes and change them? Why have our hygienic habits changed so dramatically over time? The Clean Body explores one of the most fundamental and pervasive cultural changes in Western history since the 17th century: the personal hygiene revolution. Based on a wealth of sources in English, French, German, and Italian, The Clean Body surveys the great hygienic transformation that took place across Europe and North America over the course of four centuries.

My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation by Donald M. Rattner

According to science, creativity isn’t all in your head. Sometimes it’s in what’s around you — especially when you’re at home. For over 20 years, scientists have been discovering connections between our physical surroundings and the creative mind. Written by a noted architect, My Creative Space is the first book to turn this rich trove of psychological research into practical 48 techniques for shaping a home that will boost your creativity.

Stop Landscaping and Start Life-Scaping: A Guide to Ending the Rush-rush, Humdrum Approach to Landscape Development & Care by Monique Allen

Transform your outdoor space into a powerful place that boosts your imagination, recharges your batteries and uplifts your soul, with this garden expert’s holistic approach to landscaping. The author shows how your landscape is your connection to nature and ultimately the lifeline to inner peace and the well-being of our communities.

#CHILL: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life by Bryan Robinson

Stop stressing and learn to chill with this mindfulness and meditation guidebook that can help workaholics and others let go of anxiety and achieve and maintain the healthy work/life balance they need. Licensed psychotherapist and professor Bryan Robinson provides a month-by-month guide with meditations that help center and soothe us, allowing us to step back, close our eyes, take a long breath, and focus on the moment. Filled with wise advice, inspiring quotes, and gentle guidance, #Chill gives us the tools we need to quiet our anxiety, break our addiction to work, and bring compassion, calm, confidence, and creativity into our daily existence — and at last have the peaceful, balanced life we all deserve.

A Year of Living Kindly: Choices That Will Change Your Life and the World Around You by Donna Cameron

Being kind when we don’t feel like it, or when all of our buttons are being pushed, is hard. But that’s also when it’s most needed; that’s when it can defuse anger and even violence, when it can restore civility in our personal and virtual interactions. Kindness has the power to profoundly change our relationships with other people and with ourselves. In A Year of Living Kindly — using stories, observation, humor and summaries of expert research — Donna Cameron shares her experience committing to 365 days of practicing kindness. She presents compelling research into the myriad benefits of kindness, including health, wealth, longevity, improved relationships, and personal and business success.

Finding the Wild Inside: Exploring Our Inner Landscape Through the Arts, Dreams and Intuition by Marilyn Hagar

In Finding the Wild Inside, Marilyn Hagar encourages readers to discover that creative place inside us that knows there is more to life than we are currently living―the less rational part of ourselves that she calls our “wild inside,” a place most of us have not been taught to navigate. Hagar shows us how, through playing in the arts, contemplating our nightly dreams, fostering our intuition, and reconnecting to Mother Nature, we can discover our own authentic wild self. 

Ambition Addiction: How to Go Slow, Give Thanks, and Discover Joy Within by Benjamin Shalva

Self-described ambition addict Benjamin Shalva (Spiritual Cross-Training) has written an insightful and illuminating book for anyone who wants to control that destructive strain of ambition and live with integrity. He identifies the signs and symptoms of ambition addiction and profiles iconic achievers to help readers identify unhealthy motivations. Then he reveals the five steps to living a fulfilling life of healthy, productive ambition in which grand but elusive fantasies give way to the true happiness of the here and now.

The Gyroscope of Life: Understanding Balances (and Imbalances) in Nature by David Parrish

Many of us recall childhood science classes with little enthusiasm, having felt alienated by seemingly esoteric concepts. Appalachian naturalist David Parrish is here to change that. The 50-year practitioner brings biological studies to the curious nonscientist in an accessible and relevant way, inspiring readers to consider the world around us in a new light. Whether you’re curious about the sustainability of modern agriculture or the accuracy of “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, David Parrish will move you to think like a scientist in his insightful, unconventional — and often humorous — love song to biology.

Inspiring true stories of resilience in times of adversity

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss

Based on more than 80 interviews, this fast-paced, richly detailed biography of Perry Wallace, the first African-American basketball player in the SEC, digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated and profound story of sports pioneering. And bonus – there’s a Young Adult version to this New York Times bestseller, so you can read as a family!

The Impatient Dr. Lange: One Man’s Fight to End the Global HIV Epidemic by Dr. Seema Yasmin

Pulitzer-finalist Dr. Seema Yasmin reveals the poignant true story of her mentor, Dr. Joep Lange — a shrewd Dutch HIV doctor and scientist who was working on a cure for the HIV pandemic when he was a passenger on the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath by Karen Stefano

On a summer night in 1984, 19-year-old UC Berkeley sophomore Karen Thomas leaves her uniformed patrol job and walks home alone in darkness. At the threshold of her apartment a man assaults her at knife point. She manages to escape but is left traumatized. She goes on to become a criminal defense lawyer, defending those accused of crimes as heinous as the one committed against her.

Waking in Havana: A Memoir of AIDS and Healing in Cuba by Elena Schwolsky

Compelled by her anti-war work with returning Vietnam veterans and her passion for social justice, Elena Schwolsky travels to the then-forbidden island of Cuba in 1972 with a brigade of youthful volunteers to help build houses for workers and support the still young Cuban Revolution. It was a decision that would shape her life and ultimately lead her back to Cuba 20 years later.

Shedding Our Stars: The Story of Hans Calmeyer and How He Saved Thousands of Families Like Mine by Laureen Nussbaum 

During the German occupation of the Netherlands, 1940-45, German official Hans Calmeyer used his assignment to save at least 3,700 Jews from deportation and death, dwarfing the number saved by Schindler’s famous rescue operation. Laureen Nussbaum―née Hannelore Klein―owes her life to this brave German official, and now she reveals his story as well as her own in this a book about courage in the darkest of times, and the resilience of the human spirit.

When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew: A Memoir by Hendrika de Vries

After seeing her father deported from Nazi-occupied Amsterdam to a POW camp in Germany, and her mother join the Resistance, Hendrika watches as freedoms formerly taken for granted are eroded with escalating brutality by men with swastika armbands who aim to exterminate those they deem “inferior” and those who do not obey. This is a story about the fight for survival―and through these harrowing experiences, Hendrika discovers the woman she wants to become.

Hunting the Caliphate: America’s War on ISIS and the Dawn of the Strike Cell by Dana J. H. Pittard and Wes J. Bryant

In this vivid first-person narrative, a Special Operations joint terminal attack controller and his commanding general give fascinating and detailed accounts of America’s fight against one of the most barbaric insurgencies the world has ever seen.

Escapist books to take your mind off coronavirus


What it Seems by Emily Bleeker

A page-turning novel of suspense about the perfect family, and the perfect lies, by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of When I’m Gone, Wreckage and The Waiting Room. Adopted by her controlling foster mother, Tara has seen little of the outside world. Her only distraction comes from watching the Feely family’s online videos, and the opportunity arises for her to intern with them. Daring to run away, and defying Mother’s rules, Tara is welcomed into the loving fold, but soon realizes that not everything is as it seems.

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

Twisting and compulsively readable, The Lucky One explores the lies we tell ourselves to feel safe. As a child, Alice was stolen from her yard but against odds her father tracked her down and rescued her. Later in life, she volunteers for a true-crime website, searching for clues to help reunite families with their missing loved ones. When a face appears on Alice’s screen that she recognizes, she’s stunned to realize it’s the same man who kidnapped her decades ago. And the post is deleted as quickly as it appeared, leaving Alice with more questions than answers.

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park

Giggle your way through this delightful #ownvoices YA rom-com, as a budding teen romance begins in a zombie-themed escape room. Also thoughtfully exploring diversity and classism in her writing, Suzanne Park’s readers can look forward to a second book release in August – Loathe at First Sight featuring a Korean-American producer tasked with launching a feminist video game while being antagonized by the company’s new MBA intern.

Four Feasts til Darkness series by Christian A. Brown

Strap in for a rich, long fantasy epic ala Game of Thrones in Christian A. Brown’s new series including Feast of Fates, Feast of Dreams, and Feast of Chaos. Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. Unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

A Matter of Chance by Julie Maloney

When 8-year-old Vinni Stewart disappears from a Jersey shore town, Maddy, her distraught single mother, begins a desperate search. Maddy’s five-year journey leads her to a bakery in Brooklyn, where she stumbles upon something terrifying. Ultimately, her artist neighbor reconnects Maddy to her passion for painting and guides her to a life transformed through art. A detective sees more than a kidnapping in the plot-thickening twists of chance surrounding Vinni’s disappearance, but his warnings to stay away from the investigation do not deter Maddy.

Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton by Donna Baier Stein

A contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconic artist of the past. Here are nine tales that bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century as witnessed by one of America’s most well-known painters, Thomas Hart Benton. Though his lithographs depict the past, the real-life people he portrayed face issues that are front and center today: corruption, women’s rights, racial inequality and more.

Blackbeard: The Birth of America by Samuel Marquis 

Here is the true story of Edward Thache — former British Navy seaman and notorious privateer-turned- pirate, who lorded over the Atlantic seaboard and Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. Based on reliable historical records and the latest research, this adventure tale illuminates the true man behind the myth and his doggedly determined pursuer, revealing a cat-and-mouse game and important historical figure lost to us in a “fog of legend, myth and propaganda” for 300 years.

As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

From the acclaimed author of Ruin Falls and Cover of Snow comes a breathless new novel of psychological suspense about a dark, twisted turn of events that could shatter a family — a read perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Chris Bohjalian and Nancy Pickard.


The World is Just a Book Away by James J. Owens (Editor)

At first glance, the 60 people in this anthology may not seem to have much in common — but they all share their personal love of books. James Owens provides readers with unique insight into the personal stories of five Nobel Peace Prize laureates, actors, royalty, world leaders, scientists, humanitarians, and other prominent people, including: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Yo-Yo Ma, Jude Law, Miep Gies, Jane Goodall, Martin Scorsese, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Buzz Aldrin, and many more.

The Las Vegas Madam: The Escorts, the Clients, the Truth by Jami Rodman

When a scandalous news story splashed across mainstream media about an elite escort agency in Las Vegas, people were shocked to learn there was a tiny mastermind behind the company: a small town girl from Oregon named Jami Rodman who went by the pseudonym Haley Heston. Meet the secret society of high-end escorts and the men who hire them in Rodman’s delicious, shocking tell-all memoir about her career as a Las Vegas madam.

Veronica’s Grave:  A Daughter’s Memoir by Barbara Donsky

Discover the true story of a young woman who must fight for her independence and her dreams after discovering her family’s shocking secret: They covered up her mother’s death. 

She Rode a Harley: A Memoir of Love and Motorcycles by Mary Jane Black

A schoolteacher escapes an abusive marriage and finds love on a blind date. Mary Jane’s new man, sure that riding a Harley will restore her confidence, ends up following the white lines with her through 15 years of marriage, an uncertain diagnosis and a poignant, unforgettable story of personal transformation. 

Threads Around the World: From Arabian Weaving to Batik in Zimbabwe by Deb Brandon 

Take a voyage through these pages and see how today’s artisans continue to create traditional fiber arts with age-old methods. Blending well-researched information, engaging style and inspiration, the pages explore espadrilles, flatwoven rugs, mittens, voudou flags, mirror embroidery and the histories they all hold. This open-eyed approach will appeal to textile devotees, from the casually curious to professional artists, and to people who are interested in heritage crafts and diverse cultures. 

Socially-relevant books to help you stay engaged and learning


The Plot to Cool the Planet by Sam Bleicher

An outspoken climate scientist is murdered as the world’s weather patterns descend into chaos. Frustrated by the global paralysis, three small-island diplomats secretly launch a rogue venture to cool the planet — and their project uncovers surreptitious interventions and perilous political, diplomatic and military confrontations.

The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg, the book offers a tantalizing glimpse into a secret society of people who possess total recall of their past lives. Evan Michaels struggles with being different, with having the complete memories of two other people who lived sequentially before him – until he meets Poppy, a member of the secretive Cognomina.

Dark Matters by Michael Dow

Dark Matters is set in a not-too-distant future of extreme income inequality, where a select few of the über-elite have the resources and cutting-edge technologies to choose what’s best for the rest of humanity. Are they committed to saving a world gone wrong? Or simply bent on perpetuating their new status quo?

Clouds and Earth by Sayde Scarlett

The Long War changed everything. For Lt. First Class Sandy Attiyeh, the peace she helped create seems to be working for everyone but her. She is willing prey for Lyndon Hamilton, CEO of Hamilton InfoSec, who needs someone to engage in a little corporate espionage. But when Sandy’s face starts to show up on activists’ pamphlets, and rumors begin to circulate regarding her alleged war crimes, any hopes she had of a future in the civilian world begin to unravel. Unable to escape Hamilton’s twisted ambitions, Sandy, caught between her old comrades and her new employer, must find a way to save the peace she sacrificed everything for. 


Cultivating a Creative Culture by Justin Dauer

We create human-centered interactions and experiences in our field. Empathetic purpose drives our every decision. Mobile First? In reality, it’s humans first. This same mentality, turned inward, forms the cornerstone of something amazing: a creative culture. The principles discussed in this book derive from the perspectives and skillsets we already use daily: empathy, objectivity and, yes, ample creativity.

The DNA of Democracy by Richard C. Lyons

An American poet writes a compilation of historical vignettes, discerning the future of our democracy by rediscovering the combative, instructive, fascinating past of tyranny and democracy. Just as DNA is interwoven in every aspect of the human body, tyranny and democracy have their historically distinctive DNA that have shaped our democracy today. Lyons traces democracy from its historical roots to the modern day, constructing a blueprint of what defines tyranny or democratic government.

Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street by Kathleen Day 

This engaging history documents the country’s financial crises, focusing on those of the 1920s, the 1980s, and the 2000s, and reveals how the two more recent crises arose from the neglect of this fundamental bargain — and how taxpayers have been left with the bill.

A Manager’s Guide to Unleashing the Intrapreneur by Debbie Wooldridge

Millennials will dedicate futures to companies that stake their confidence in and allocate resources to them. This book helps managers establish and promote intrapreneurship in their organization to help them generate new business growth, support and sustain innovation, as well as accelerate and manage change as the workplace transforms to adapt to address the needs and desires of millennial employees. 

Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation’s Veterans (The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work) by Suzanne Gordon

U.S. military conflicts abroad have left nine million Americans dependent on the Veterans Health Administration for medical care — but the VHA has come under fire from critics in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in the nation’s media. In Wounds of War, Suzanne Gordon draws on five years of observational research to describe how the VHA does a better job than private sector institutions offering primary and geriatric care, mental health and home care services, and support for patients nearing the end of life. 

Global Sustainability: 21 Leading Ceos Show How to Do Well by Doing Good by Mark Lefko

Smart business leaders care about sustainability. It’s not just good PR — it’s good business. And a growing number of leading CEOs are embracing it. Mark Lefko shares profound insights gleaned from his one-on-one interviews with business leaders of all stripes, from the CEOs of Global Multinationals to Fortune 50 giants to visionaries leading plucky start-ups.  

America Deconstructed by Chaithanya Sohan

“There are some people who are coming to take me away.” Naseer was 9 years old when he escaped  the Taliban and fled Afghanistan with his mom and siblings. His story chronicles the resilience of a young boy as he traveled from Afghanistan to America in his quest for the American dream.

Books to keep the kids entertained and that are fun for the whole family

Pragmatic Princess by Rachel Kowert

Inspire young minds to build their own castles and change the damsel in distress narrative to one of self-reliance (with the power of science behind it). The book offers a diverse compilation of short stories for children age 3-8+, by a research psychologist who creates fun and entertaining stories that also maximize learning opportunities.

The Field and Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

There is more to this world than meets the eye in this environmentally-themed sci-fi YA series, with The Field introducing readers to the possibility of access to an endless supply of energy, and Catalyst’s focus on Marcie, who has an intuition that extends beyond normalcy. 

Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco by Katie Burke

In Urban Playground, Katie Burke interviews 50 children, ages 5 to 9, who live in San Francisco. In each conversation, she explores one of 10 different themes — family, school, pets, vacation, work, heroes, holidays, favorite foods, talents, and sports — followed by insights on the topic. She rounds out each segment with five questions for adults and kids to discuss after they’ve read it together, encouraging open, honest dialogue about young readers’ thoughts on the subject matter at hand. 

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss

From the New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside comes the remarkable true story of the birth of Olympic basketball at the 1936 Summer Games in Hitler’s Germany — perfect for fans of The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken.

The LEGO Animation Book: Make Your Own LEGO Movies! by David Pagano and David Pickett

The LEGO Animation Book will show you how to bring your models to life with stop-motion animation — no experience required! Follow step-by-step instructions to make your first animation, and then explore the entire filmmaking process, from storyboards to post-production.

Dr. Brainchild & Radar: A Popcorn Discovery by Cole Williams 

Join the fun as Dr. Brainchild and Radar discover how a little bit of creativity, some wacky inventions, and a whole lotta science can transform the ordinary into something EXTRA tasty! Science is for everyone, so come along and enjoy the ride!

An Ordinary Day: Kids with Rare Genetic Conditions by Karen Haberberg

An Ordinary Day is a documentation of the personal lives of courageous kids who have rare genetic conditions and their families who love and support them at all costs. Displaying unforgettable photographs set against intimate conversations, the book documents the lives of 27 children living with rare genetic conditions.

Working from home new to you? 7 career writers show how to do it best.

Professional writers and published authors are experts at the work-from-home game; they have spent weeks, months and even years at their home computers in pursuit of their chosen profession. Their dedication results in finished manuscripts and published books, so they’re a great resource for those new to working remotely.

Maybe your boss has closed the office doors for COVID-19, and now you’re home in front of your laptop, still in your PJ’s, ready (or not) to embrace work-from-home life. Your morning commute now consists of the walk from your bed to your computer, and there’s no need for office attire (out of the video conference’s camera view, anyway). That part sounds pretty nice—right?

The truth is that working from home is like being an author: it sounds almost universally appealing in theory, but in practice it’s a lot more challenging than most people realize. Now unsupervised, those little social media breaks, furtive Netflix episodes and other distractions can really pile up. Keeping a consistent schedule may seem easy at first, but over time your discipline starts to slide and you become less organized. Perhaps most surprisingly, it can be lonely. You may not miss your coworkers, but as the days go on, that absent human interaction might make you go a little stir crazy. 

And if your kids are home as well due to school closures, well: that’s a whole different ball game. 

Here are some helpful tips from career writers on successfully working from home: 

  1. Determine your strengths and weaknesses. 

“I would suggest that people new to working from home figure out their strengths and weaknesses—strengths so that you can lean into them, and weaknesses so you can try to rein yourself in. I have to be on social media for #authorlife, but it’s hard to know when to stop. So I use an app to keep myself off social media when I need to be focused. I also use noise-cancelling headphones and a soundtrack that I put together for each book. My strength is that I can get a lot done when I’m focused, but I do have to make sure I am scheduled for it, or the day quickly falls away. Oh, and I try to block off days from meetings and calls so that I have some days dedicated to whatever nearest deadline I have.” Lori Rader Day, Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of multiple thrillers, including most recently The Lucky One

  1. Schedule out your breaks. 

“The biggest advantage for me when I work from home is the ability to get started earlier in the day. I find that I’m most creative in the morning, but typically mornings are spent getting myself ready for work and the kids ready for school, then sitting in traffic for 45 minutes. So, when I have the opportunity to work from home I love waking up early and sitting down to write. Everything I accomplish before 10 a.m. seems like gravy. Given all the distractions at home, I try to just acknowledge them rather than fight them. I’ll schedule time to look at my phone, do the laundry, clean my closet, go for a walk, or just take a snack break. Having that time set aside helps keep me from taking a million mini-breaks.” Andrew Maraniss, New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

  1. Create an inspiring designated workspace, and find a comfortable position.

“A great technique for enhancing creativity at home is to bring elements of Nature into your workspace, whether by means of outdoor views, desk plants, scents, abundant daylight, colors, decorative motifs, or artwork. Best of all, these same environmental cues also reduce stress—a welcome salve for these trying times. Try writing while reclining rather than sitting. Research shows that the part of our brain responsible for raising alertness deactivates when we assume this posture, which in turn makes us more relaxed and open to taking creative risks. It certainly seems to have worked for people like Michael Chabon, Truman Capote, and Virginia Woolf! If you’re feeling a bit cooped up, try looking at pictures and objects from the past, like personal memorabilia and souvenirs from trips taken. Besides mentally releasing you from your physical confines, psychologists say it can also boost idea output by putting you in a more abstract, big-picture state of mind.” Donald M. Rattner, My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation 

  1. Stay in contact with others—but also set some boundaries. 

“Working from home can be isolating, so it’s important to reach out to others as part of your work day (or after your work day for fun!). As humans we need connection with other people. You can connect with others even while at home through phone, email, video chat, private messaging, texting…there are so many options. I’ve found that when I’m working long, hard hours alone that video chat, even just a five minute call, feels the most connected to me because I see the other person’s face as well as hear their voice. Skype, WhatsApp, and even Facebook Messenger are great, easy-to-use video chat options…I’ve also found that in working from home it’s important to have boundaries. Boundaries for other people, to let them know when you are working and don’t want to be disturbed. And boundaries for yourself, to make sure that you don’t work yourself too hard (I’ve been known to still be editing or writing at 10pm), or too little (social media is a huge distraction, especially when we need to be on it as authors). I think it’s also important to build in little pockets of relaxation, play, and reward.” Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars, the No. 1 American Library Association’s “Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers”

  1. Use the tools available to you to increase your productivity and focus.

“Whether you are quarantined because you have come in contact with someone who was exposed to the coronavirus, or you are limiting social contact voluntarily, turn the reduced level of activity into a positive for your work-in-progress. Set clear identifiable goals such as writing to plot point X or finishing chapter Y or set specific word count goals, and resist the temptation to look at the news until you have finished. Use an app such as Freedom or even write longhand to stay off the internet and keep yourself from constantly checking updates. Rely on social media to stay connected with other writers, or start a private email chain between writers you know. Share daily progress, talk over the scary current reality, and cheer each other on. Despite the scary time we are living in, you may find this an especially productive time.” Jenny Milchman, USA Today bestselling author of Cover of Snow and forthcoming The Second Mother

  1. Put together a playlist that helps you focus, and only listen when you work. 

When I write from home, I curl up in an overstuffed reading chair with my laptop. Though those writing sessions are not easy for me, I get through them by playing classical music, which I don’t listen to at any other time, but which works well for my writing because it seems to focus my brain on the writing task.” Katie Burke, author of the family-focused conversation starter Urban Playground

  1. Remember to enjoy your life regardless of circumstances.

Take advantage of this restrictive time to clear clutter out of your basement, pull weeds in the garden, or get caught up on projects you’ve neglected for a while. It helps to have water-tight boundaries so you can focus on your job. Treat your work space as if it’s miles away. If possible, only go there to work. Keep it at arm’s-length after hours. Don’t allow intrusions to cause you to lose your focus or procrastinate: doing laundry, vacuuming, or organizing your spice rack. When not working enjoy other areas of your home: gardening, watching a good movie, reading a book, or cooking a fun meal. And lead as much of a full social life as possible such as having non-symptomatic friends over for dinner. Be creative and don’t let your circumstances dwarf your tranquility, happiness, or productivity. Your greatest power is your perspective. It can victimize you or empower you when you look for the upside in a downside situation and figure out what you can control and what you can’t and accept the things you can’t. That’s survival of the fittest.” Bryan Robinson, author of #CHILL and more than 40 other nonfiction books and novels


San Francisco columnist tells tales of the city through the eyes of its youngest residents in ‘Urban Playground’


“Urban Playground is an entertaining introduction to San Francisco thanks to the charm, sense of wonder, and joy of its participants.”

Foreword-Clarion Reviews

SAN FRANCISCO –– To outsiders, the Bay Area is intrinsically linked to tech hubs and counterculture. But what about San Francisco’s kid culture? In her new book, “Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco,” Katie Burke explores the experience of kids ages five to nine living in one of the country’s most iconic cultural hubs.
The book also includes thoughtful discussion questions designed to draw laughs, explore various topics from silly to serious, and facilitate discussion.

Writer of Noe Kids, a column of kid profiles for San Francisco neighborhood newspaper The Noe Valley Voice, Katie Burke brings city kids’ personalities and perspectives to the page, leading readers to see the joys and challenges to being a San Francisco kid.
One five-year-old tries to articulate the city’s aroma, “I smell a delicious smell, and it always smells like San Francisco. I don’t know what the smell is, so I can’t really tell it to people, but it smells different from ice cream.”

But it isn’t all about parks and ice cream. Drawing on her experience being an aunt to six nieces and two nephews (all of whom grew up in major cities), Burke unearths an often hidden and unasked perspective on the city’s more complicated subjects –– from homelessness to immigrant parents. By leaning in and crouching down to see a child’s point of view, Burke shows us a part of San Francisco we never knew.

More about Urban Playground

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a kid in San Francisco? Are you raising a kid in this or another urban center? San Francisco life is full of thrills and bummers, both for kids and the adults who love them.

In Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, Katie Burke explores the experience of kids ages five to nine living in this place—what makes San Francisco special for kids and why some are over it.

Writer of Noe Kids, her column of kid profiles for San Francisco neighborhood newspaper The Noe Valley Voice, Katie Burke brings city kids’ personalities and perspectives to the page, leading readers to see the joys and challenges inherent to being a San Francisco kid.

Just when the book suggests that parks and ice cream are all any kid needs, you will turn the page to find a child’s appreciation for the Golden Gate Bridge or the Ferry Building Farmers Market.

The picture isn’t all aglow: the significant homeless population weighs on San Francisco children’s hearts, and the city is too noisy for some. But for the most part, they will tell you it is a pretty great place to live.

Urban Playground
What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco
Katie Burke | April 7, 2020 | SparkPress
Paperback | 978-1-68463-016-5 | $16.95
E-Book | 978-1-68463-017-2 | $9.95
Family & Relationships, Juvenile Nonfiction, and Social Science

Praise for Urban Playground

“In this charming, warm-hearted, often very funny book, Katie Burke takes us into the minds of children–a place we should all spend more time! Not only a wonderfully insightful kid’s eye guide to San Francisco, Urban Playground is also an interactive manual for getting into the minds of your own—and your friends’—children. Reading its sweet—and sometimes quirky—interviews , is to see San Francisco with the freshest eyes possible.”

Janis Cooke Newman, author of A Master Plan for Rescue

“San Francisco as seen through the eyes of its youngest denizens. More than just an insider’s guide to places parents should take their kids in the city, Katie Burke’s stories are a revelation about the lives, imaginations and dreams of our future generation. Kids really do say the darndest things.”

Scott James, journalist and author of San Francisco Chronicle bestsellers SoMa and The Sower

“If you’re seeking the honest truth from kids, you will find few better resources than Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, by San Francisco writer Katie Burke. Burke’s StoryCorps-like interviews, quoting kids on everything from pupusas to Pride Week, reveal that the Bay Area remains a fertile ground for smart, confident, and fun-loving kids. Says a seven-year-old girl who’s on the road to becoming an archaeologist, “It usually takes about maybe a month or a year to dig up one dinosaur.” After reading this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if she or another San Francisco kid figured out how to dig one up sooner!”

Sally Smith, Editor and Co-Publisher, Noe Valley Voice

“Children make the best tour guides. In Katie Burke’s lively Urban Playground series, young city-dwellers share how they experience all aspects of city life, from restaurants, holidays, people and parks to pets, schools, sports, shops and activities. Their observations are moving and thought-provoking, and reveal what makes a city interesting and unique. This book will appeal to adults and kids who wish to see (and re-see) San Francisco.”

Christina Clancy, author of The Second Home

“A fascinating peek into the minds of San Francisco’s children. They are more insightful, creative and weird—in the best of ways! — than I’d ever imagined.”

Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives

“Katie Burke is a gifted writer. This book, about and partly told by San Francisco children, chronicles San Francisco and what makes the city special, but it also reminds us what it is like to be young, excited, open-minded, and curious. The children’s insights on holidays to heroes to homework apply to children and adults alike. A wonderful book for adults and children.”

Will Marks, San Francisco parent

“With an inviting cover, Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, invites a multi-generational exchange on the joys and hardships of living in one of America’s greatest cities. Author Katie Burke introduces the reader to a multicultural point-of-view that is current and insightful, as each chapter introduces a new voice, followed by discussion questions. What makes this an important work is its honest recording of children’s voices, their fears and dreams. It is a poignant reminder that family is defined in many ways.”

Johnnie Bernhard, author of A Good Girl, How We Came to Be, and Sisters of the Undertow

“How can we ask our children to walk a mile in another’s shoes without insight into other kids’ lives? And how can we teach empathy without them walking that mile in their mind? This book provides a window into the lives of children and, through them, into a city. The stories are relatable and paired with fun questions to get a conversation started.”

Amy Baker, San Francisco parent

This delightful book of interviews of important San Franciscans — grade-school kids — works on so many levels because it is by, about, and for them and speaks in their voices. Interlocutor and wordsmith Katie Burke introduces herself as Aunt Katie. She is not, however, the auntie with apron and spoon in hand, but rather an imaginative, zany and fun friend who coaxes, respects and reflects the whimsy and honesty of the kids.

Joanna Biggar, author of Melanie’s Song

“With so much to see and do, it’s easy for anyone to fall in love with San Francisco. Katie Burke’s new book beautifully captures the wonder of this great city through the lens of San Francisco’s most inquisitive residents—our children.”

Rafael Mandelman, District 8 Supervisor

As the parent of two small kids, I cannot wait to explore San Francisco with them after reading Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco. Katie Burke’s writing captures the unique voice of each child she interviews, truly bringing to life the diversity of the city and giving the reader tons of ideas for things to do. Every guidebook features sites like the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39, but now my itinerary will include the Mission Pool, Bi-Rite for ice cream, Green Apple Books, Japantown for sushi, Hop Oast Brew Pub for hot dogs and hamburgers—and maybe even a day trip to Treasure Island! Even if a trip to San Francisco isn’t in the future, this book is still a fantastic resource for parents due to the discussion questions at the end of each interview. I’ve already used a couple of them with my own kids, and it’s been eye-opening to hear their answers to questions I would have never thought to ask. Every city needs a book like this one, which allows reader of all ages to experience it through the eyes of a child.

Megan Holt, Ph.D., Executive Director of One Book One New Orleans

“When I was going through teacher training, one of our instructors urged us not to ask children who they wanted to be when they grew up. The only appropriate response to such a question would be ‘I already am.’ Urban Playground shows that one does not need to come of age to have a strong personality. The fifty kids interviewed live with single parents or split time between two parents, have two moms, two dads, or one of each. Some have special needs. All kids are all presented in their own terms without any sense of ‘othering.’ The kids in this book just are, in all their silly, poignant, and very own specifics. One has a parrot named Gobble. One invents not just a new holiday, but what names will be in different countries. They come from neighborhoods all over San Francisco; readers will delight in recognizing common landmarks shared by disparate personalities. The wonderfully illogical and insightful things they say will fuel delight and introspection.”

Monya Baker, San Francisco science editor

More about Katie Burke

Katie Burke is the author of Urban Playground (SparkPress, 2020), a book featuring San Francisco kids ages five to nine. She writes Noe Kids, a monthly column for The Noe Valley Voice, featuring kids ages four to twelve who live in Noe Valley. Katie has taught creative writing to children and adults in Kenya, South Africa, and San Francisco. She travels annually to New Orleans, and her writing expresses her appreciation for San Francisco and New Orleans’ eccentric characters. Also a family law attorney, Katie writes quarterly judicial and attorney profiles for San Francisco Attorney Magazine. Her other publications include HarperCollins, the L.A. Times, KQED Perspectives, and SoMa Literary Review.


In an interview, KATIE BURKE can discuss:

  • How you can relate to children in your own life and hear their stories
  • The unique challenges of conveying a child’s perspective
  • The value of a child’s perspective, on everything from ice cream to the Golden Gate Bridge

An Interview with KATIE BURKE

1. Why do you love talking with kids? How did you realize this was something you wanted to do?

Kids have such a fresh way of looking at the world. They are so hilarious because they are mostly unfiltered, calling everything as they see it with their observations and immense feelings. For example, I still laugh out loud every time I recall my niece Molly, five years old at the time, looking up at me as I was opening and closing web browsers, and saying in a surprised tone, “You’re a smart girl, Katie!”

I knew I wanted to write a book featuring city kids when my publisher and then-writing coach, Brooke Warner, came up with the concept. She had read some of my other writing, some of which centered around characters I’d encountered in San Francisco and New Orleans, and some of which I’d written for and about city kids. Brooke thought it would be great to put a book out that featured city kids and invited children everywhere to read about these city kids with their significant adults. We started in San Francisco, since that is where I live.

2. Are there certain answers that stand out more to you than others? How so? Do you have a favorite “kid response” you received while working on this book?

I laughed so hard when Liam, five years old at the time, answered that he was moving to Michigan after living in San Francisco “for two weeks” (he’d actually lived here for a year) because “my mom wants to move there, and I always agree with my mom.” His interview topic was heroes, whom he identified as people who save the city. He said he used to save the entire city, but “I’m not that guy anymore.” I just love it when little ones give earnest answers without any clue how funny they are.

3. What do you think most adults don’t understand about kids? Do you have any advice for how to communicate with them better?

Well, as someone who is childless by choice, I am always the first to say I don’t judge most parents, since parenting is an impossible job. But I do think that as a doting aunt to eight children and a writer who regularly interviews children, I can say that adults would do best by the children in their lives if they listened more and considered their children wise. When kids speak, I know they are generally revealing the truth, with some exceptions where an adult has groomed the child to mimic prepared statements. My experience with children overwhelmingly reveals their purity of thought and feeling. Like all of us, they just want to love and be loved, and they are better at showing that than adults are.

4. What makes the kids you interview uniquely San Franciscan? How do they differ from other kids in the same age group, potentially living in other cities or even the country?

San Francisco kids are sophisticated in a way that you’ll see in other urban centers like New York City, but where you don’t find in most places. Unless otherwise conditioned by an adult, all children are natural truth tellers, often eager to share their observations and ask questions to help clarify the world as they discover it.

For San Francisco kids, this means they know and share a lot about cultural events, technology, and serious issues like homelessness. They just seem to know things well beyond their years. For example, when I asked Brad, nine years old at the time, whether there was anything he didn’t like about San Francisco, he answered, “Well, it’s super expensive. Whenever I want to buy something from my allowance, I have to use up most of my allowance. But I like Amazon because it makes everything cheap.”

5. What brought you to San Francisco? We know it was a childhood dream for you to live in the city––did it live up to your kid expectations? How has your relationship with the city changed throughout working on this book and seeing San Francisco through the eyes of its young residents?

When my Aunt Nancy took me to dinner on my tenth birthday and we spoke about my love of San Francisco and my desire to live here someday, I don’t think I had ever been here. I have no idea what I had in mind then. I just know I’d been telling people I wanted to live here when I grew up, and she was the first to say she could see me being very happy in San Francisco, since the culture and the politics felt aligned with who I was at that age, living in conservative Phoenix, Arizona.

As I grew up, I began developing more specific expectations of San Francisco, though they still hovered mostly around a gut feeling that it was just “my place,” so to speak—home in a way Phoenix never was or could be. In 1999, when I was living back in Phoenix after completing college in Connecticut and a master’s degree at Arizona State University, I was within months of moving to San Francisco when I said to my friend James, “I’ve built up this city in my mind for fifteen years. What if it doesn’t live up to my dreams?” He replied, “Your love of San Francisco will make it the city of your dreams.” That’s exactly right, although the city is a phenomenal place all on its own, with or without my dreams to boost it.

Speaking with San Francisco kids hasn’t changed my view of the city, but it has made me realize that for all the city’s cultural appeal and educational opportunities, what most kids love most about San Francisco is the park closest to their home and their favorite ice cream shop. Also, many are distressed about homelessness and neighborhoods that they consider dirty. Being low to the ground seems to give kids a unique perspective on both. This hasn’t changed my view of the city, but it is sobering to hear children share their fears and displeasure over some of our city’s less glamorous features.

6. If you had to move to another city, where would you go and why?

It’s hard for me to imagine living anywhere except San Francisco, but if I had to live elsewhere, I could see myself being very happy in New York City. Though Brooklyn is on trend, I still love Manhattan best—mostly because that’s where I spend most of my time when I’m in New York, and it is where three of my nieces and one nephew live, but also because I thrive in dense urban centers. I like the pace and options cities like New York and San Francisco provide.

I spend a lot of time in New Orleans, and I love that city and will likely be a continuing regular visitor, but I don’t think I would want to live in Louisiana or in any place, like New Orleans, where you really need a car to live optimally.