Archive for March, 2009

UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN: A Travel Thriller, Fine Memoir

Dear Reader,

Like travel? Like suspense? Like memoirs? If so, I suggest you read Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven. Author  Susan Jane Gilman combines humor, youthful naivete, 1986, big dreams, China, kindly strangers, and stupidity to create a thrilling travel memoir. Her words make you laugh, cringe, worry, sigh in relief, and shake your head in disbelief.

They also suggest you thoroughly screen all future travel mates.




Dear Reader,

“My goals are qualitative rather than quantitative. I never aim for a particular number of games to win, but rather for a team that is as good as it can be and guys who are an asset to the community and good role models. … I measure our teams by how we performed compared to our potential—that’s really the only reasonable measurement to use.”   Tony Dungy

Retired Indiana Colts head coach Tony Dungy and co-author Nathan Whitaker’s sophomore book collaboration has created a congruent and well-crafted book, Uncommon: Finding Your Path To Significance. I expect Uncommon will become as big a hit as their last book, Quiet Strength (2007), and I am pleased to say this book, unlike the latter, which I blasted in an review (see my 2/5/09 post “Tony Dungy’s Got a Brand New Book”) , will deserve whatever praise it receives. It takes a relaxed yet clear approach, uses strong supporting anecdotes and Bible verses, and keeps a clear focus on its goal: to convince boys and men to strive to become upstanding husbands, fathers, athletes, employers, employees, citizens, to become uncommon.

Who will like this book? Fans of the Indiana Colts, Tony Dungy, and/or football, of course, plus men and women who want guidance from a man who “lives” his Christian convictions and is determined to share these convictions to better the world. It’s an easy, but not patronizing, read.


Create a Vacation with Heart: Use The Workbook MAPPING YOUR VOLUNTEER VACATION

Dear Reader,

I’m proud to announce that my client Jane Stanfield’s new travel workbook, Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation, is now in real and virtual bookstores. I suggest you use it to plan your volunteer vacation, because with it you’re guaranteed to experience fewer planning headaches than you would otherwise. And Jane knows headaches. She’s had plenty.

In 2005, she decided to undertake a yearlong international volunteer vacation, and she took a year to plan for it. She knew this would require she gather lots of information, but she didn’t know she’d have to dig through hundreds of books, place zillions of phone calls, and perform endless Internet loop-de-loops. (Exaggerations inserted by me.) She’ll tell you her efforts were worth the trouble, especially since she wound up tending orphaned kangaroos in Australia, feeding baby baboons in South Africa, and participating in an archeological dig in Thailand, but she’ll admit it was often difficult to see her future adventure from the drudgery. She wished she could have had one good source to help her plan, so when she returned to the US she started to write this book.

And it’s a thorough yet concise, easy-to-follow guide/map for new and experienced travelers who dream of creating “a vacation with heart.”

Note: This book oozes “buy appeal.” Its cover compels you not only to pick it up, but also to read it. And to do this, you don’t even have to be the least bit interested in volunteering or vacationing. Its design is that good!

Note Note: Jane is available to speak about her volunteer experiences.


Are You A Reluctant Novelist? Try Writing For Reluctant Readers.

Dear Reader,

I recently read The Rabbit Tattoo, a young adult fantasy novel written by Susannah Brin for 9-12-year -old readers. It’s a 4 x 7, 67-page paperback—a short novel. Its topic, a boy’s new neighbor who performs magic tricks, is easily grade appropriate, but its language and sentence structure is for a lower grade. That’s because it’s intended to entertain “reluctant readers,” below grade level readers who find reading more work than fun. It is part of a subgenre called Hi/Lo books—high interest, low reading level (also ‘low vocabulary’ or ‘low ability’).

Good Hi/Lo novels possess the same qualities as good novels for fluent readers. In her article “Hi/Lo Books: Writing for Reluctant Readers,” Eugie Foster says Hi/Lo good novels have “strong characterization, featuring realistic protagonists that readers truly care about, with exciting and up-to-date storylines about interesting topics.” She also says:

  • characters must be immediately distinct from each other
  • readers should be able to use context to define longer vocabulary words
  • it is best to keep sentence structure “short, simple and clear”
  • plot and storyline progression need to be chronological and straightforward
  • the story has to be fast-paced.


The length of The Rabbit Tattoo impresses me: 67 pages. And I wonder if “67” could become the magic number for reluctant novelists. “You must to jump in and climb out of your story, construct a taut, full-speed-ahead novel, and you may use only 67 pages. Are you up for the challenge?” And I wonder what would happen if all reluctant novelists used Foster’s guidelines to write novels which convert reluctant readers into fluent readers. I think there’d be a lot more fluent novelists.