YYearly Archives: December 7, 2017

National Book Awards

This is probably the first year that I’ve been excited about the National Book Awards, which took place on November 15th. According to its website, its mission is “to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” This has been the focus and mission since 1950, the first year of the National Book Awards, starting with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Throughout the years, it has expanded to include Philosophy and Religion, History and Biography, Arts and Letters, Translation, Contemporary Thought, Autobiography, First Novel, Original Paperback, and Children’s Books, which led to a feeling of too many categories and minimizing the award. Once the National Book Foundation was created in 1986 to oversee the awards, it reduced the number of categories back to fiction and nonfiction. Five years later, poetry was re-added as a category, and after another five years, the young people’s book literature category was also added.

The National Book Foundation also partners with the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Urban Libraries Council and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to distribute high-quality books to areas deemed to be book deserts as their Book Rich Environment Initiative mission. They distribute over a quarter of a million books in 36 housing communities!

This year’s winners in each category are as follows:

Fiction: Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward holds an MFA, is an associate professor at Tulane, and a winner of the 2011 National Book Awards and a finalist for National Book Critics Circle. This is her third novel. Set in rural Mississippi, it centers on a family of a drug-addicted African-American mother who is tormented by the loss of her brother, an imprisoned white father, and the impact of both on their parents and on their children.

Nonfiction: Masha Gessen, The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia

Gessen, a Russian-American journalist, has won several fellowships, including the Guggenheim. Her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and she has written several books. This book examines the lives of four individuals who were born under the promise of democracy, but have ended up with a stronger totalitarian society (and mafia state) than Russia has seen before.

Poetry: Frank Bidart, Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

Bidart has written five other collections of poems and is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle award, among others. This collected works of his highlights the extremes of the human nature and experience, with a highly emotional connection.

Young People’s Literature: Robin Benway, Far from the Tree

Benway has won the National Book Awards before, among numerous other awards. This is her seventh young adult book. This novel tackles adoption and teen pregnancy, and how an adopted child raised as an only child starts to explore her biological family after she gives her own child up for adoption.

If you’re interested in the runners-up and longlist for each category, please go here. I personally was pleased to see that a number of runners-up were published by Graywolf Press, a Minneapolis-based publishing company.

Questions & Answers with D.L. Gardner

I’m excited to have the chance to take a peek into the world of another new-to-me author. Today we are talking with D.L. Gardner.

About D.L. Gardner: 

A young adult and young-at-heart fantasy novelist living in the Pacific Northwest USA. Noted for her novels, screenplays, and film projects, she writes in all subgenres in the fantasy genre including adventure, historical, urban and comedy.

Today we’ll be discussing the book Thread of a Spider:

Following an ambush at the Upton Rail Station in 1921 Ireland, British troops burn Ailis’ home to the ground and arrest her fiancé, Liam, for murder. She and her younger brother Paddy flee to an enchanted glen. Lured by a haunting song, Paddy is abducted by forest folk. Perilous obstacles, and a questionable stranger, hinder Ailis’ attempts to find her brother or free her fiancé, until her only hope for survival rests on the magic of the Fae.

The light was nothing like a headlamp, nor anything man-made, nor anything man could conceive of making. It was, rather, a globe of illumination having no source whatsoever that Paddy could decipher. The brilliant glow appeared to be powered on its own. It hovered in space, casting a beam on the surrounding foliage and reflected like stars in the babbling creek. The longer he stared, the more transparent the radiance became, until he saw a lone figure inside the bauble—a most amazing creature. A woman, nay, a faerie the size of his hand. Slender with long, golden hair and smooth, white skin. She wore a flowing tunic that danced in the breeze of her own making and took on all the color of the globe that burned brilliantly around her. Her wings were a delicate lavender that fluttered like butterfly wings and changed hues from blue to periwinkle as she stirred. Beads of light reflected on a spider’s web which forked out across the foliage surrounding her—spires of ivory lace from which she tugged a single thread. With one end of the fiber in her teeth, she worked her fingers charmingly, so that the filament wound into a beautiful ball of yarn.

Questions & Answers:

It’s time to delve into the Q. & A. This my favourite part. My questions are crafted to give a reader a clear look at how an author writes; what drives them; and what can be expected in their books.

Question: Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My favorite character in my book is Paddy. Whereas the story is mostly about his sister Ailis and her struggles to free her fiancé, Paddy’s the one that befriends the Fae, and convinces them to help the Irish win the war. He’s a feisty 15-year-old wanting to fight, yet hating himself for killing a man. He loves his family, his country and he learns to love the forest folk as well. There’s something to be said about passion, and Paddy is passionate!

Question: Please describe him/her/they a) physically b) their personality.

He’s 15, red hair, a bit tall for his age. Lots of freckles. A real Irishman and proud of it. He everything a boy that age can be. A tease to his sister. Zealous. Anxious to join the Volunteers and fight but when he finally does fire that gun, the damage is devastating. His heart is as big as a pot of gold, and he embraces myth as quick as he embraces reality. He wants nothing more than to have his family safe, and his country free.

Question: Could I have a couple of quotes from your book of dialogue that shows that personality?

Zealous for his friend, Tommy, when he understands that the boy’s been kidnapped by Fae.

“Magic,” he snarled. “Fae!” He crumpled the cloth with his fist, and shoved the fabric into his pocket. “I’ll find you Tommy, I swear. By the sword of Saint Michael, I’ll find you and bring you back home.”

A tease to his sister.

He interrupted her thoughts. “You’ve heard the tale of the Black Boar? The dark swine is evil, Ailis.”
She glanced at him. His eyes were still closed. “What are your blathering ‘bout?”
“The spirit of the Black Boar. Chased from Northern Ireland to West Cork.”
“Sure, and that’s but a tall story!” she said.
“Thought they had killed him, but he came alive again, and lives to this day.”
Paddy opened one eye and stared at her intensely. “In the form of a Brit.”

Passionate for his country and his countrymen.

There was fury in Paddy’s voice, and his face burned red with passion. “He’s a snitch. He’s going to have everyone we know either shot or hanged. Ailis, he shot you and left you for the buzzards! No one does that to my family. No one! He needs to die!”

Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

Historical Fantasy

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about?

There is violence.

Question: Do you have any upcoming events?

I have a book signing coming up in Western WA.

Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works?

I’m currently writing a WWII historical romance based on the actual letters and life of a nurse in England and a wounded infantryman she cares for.

Question: Do you have any special mentions? (Editor, cover art etc…)

Cover artist Cover design Les Solot Les and Models which I hired for the photo Tess Stuart, and Kohde Rion Howard. Also, I want to thank ManuFixers for the encouragement and wonderful edits.

Question: If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? Please describe the place rather than just a name. The weather, the time of day, the ground, the surroundings, foliage, etc.

I’d be in the green hills under misty clouds, a creek babbling at my feet, the sound of mourning doves in a stand of Paper Birch, the smell of mint and watercress surrounding me and the love of my life by my side.

Question: If the character from above were in that place, what would they be doing?

Considering there’s a war going on, I don’t think they would be enjoying the peace. I think they would looking for Fae, or tracking down the British that took Liam away.

Question: If your character was allowed one chance to say anything to your readers, what would he/she say?

Paddy would say, “Stay close to your loved ones, and don’t let them wander off where the woods are deep, or the fire of war burns. At least not without you watching their backs.

Question: If your character could donate to any charity, which one would he/she choose?

He’d be giving his coins to the unit his sister is a member of, Cumann na mBan.

If you’re interested, you can check out the following links to find out more about this author. Thank you D.L. Gardner and all my readers for your time!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Thread-Spider-D-L-Gardner-ebook/dp/B0748VX5LX


Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thread-of-a-spider-dl-gardner/1126687051?ean=9780692920480

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/D_L_Gardner_Thread_of_a_Spider?id=NNUtDwAAQBAJ

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/thread-of-a-spider

Puzzle: Number the Stars

Today’s puzzle is based on Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It’s appropriate for middle school students.

If you or your child complete the puzzle, feel free to share it with us by tweeting it to @BaQ_Mag! Enjoy!


We're including a PDF version of the puzzle, as well! Please click the button below to access it. 

Note: The PDF contains 3 pages: the puzzle as pictured, a printer-friendly version, and an answer key.

A Look at Author J. E. Muller

I don’t often feature an author in my weekly column, but this newly published gal has my attention. For being brand new to the world of writing, self-publishing and marketing, Mueller seems to have all the right moves down pat. That alone sparks my interest! Let’s take a look together at the self-proclaimed fantasy author, Skyrim lover, and cat herder.

J. E. Mueller has been an active writer for years, as well as a very out-of-the closet geek. From conventions in full cosplay, to movie marathons with themed food, geekdom is far from a turnoff. Mueller also enjoys a variety of video games from Skyrim to Stardew Valley, Splatoon to Mortal Kombat.

Mueller’s debut novel, Fire’s Song, was released June 17, 2017 and today is sitting at an Amazon ranking of 774 in its fantasy subgenre. Those are good statistics for a new author almost 2 months after release. I’ve added it to my reading pile and I’ll be sharing my review in the coming weeks.

Fire’s Song:

Having already lost and given up everything, Key is determined to find a cure for her curse. With her very touch able to kill, she must seek answers from a distance. In this world, if a curse born dies, then the demons win their soul. Without much more to lose, Key decides to try the last of her luck on a village catered to magic born. Her questions unleash events that take her places she never expected existed.

An excerpt was provided by the author to share with our readers. Let’s take a look inside the book:

“What foolish move is this?” He turned the swords to point at me.

“Your fire can’t kill me,” I replied simply.

“The swords can,” he said, confused and surprised by my boldness.

“Obviously,” I responded without stopping until I was in front of him. Before he could say another word I punched him in the face as hard as I could.

Not ready for it, he fell backwards. The swords clattered to the ground and I encased them in a smaller flame shield. The strain from the extra magic usage was instantaneous. I could only hope it didn’t show in my expression. My years of bluffing were finally coming into play.

Regaining his feet and composure, he glared at me. His nose was now bleeding and likely broken.

Holding up my fists I got into a defensive stance. “Wanna dance?” I asked, ready to go. My plan was very limited. I was making it up on the fly.

Questions & Answers

It’s time to delve into the Q. & A. This my favourite part. My questions are crafted to give a reader a clear look at how an author writes; what drives them; and what can be expected in their books.

Question: What genre would you say the book falls into?

Medieval fantasy

Question: Are there any trigger warnings and/or explicit content readers should know about? Mild language

Question: What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works? 

I am currently working on book two of my three book series. I’ve also started to outline a shorter, possible one shot. Aiming for novella length on that one.

Question: How does your cover tie into your story?

My main character, Key, is a bit of a wanderer thanks to her curse. So the forest in the background captures that, as well as the fire capturing and displaying just what her magic can do. The demons nicely off to the sides show the added effects they’ve had on Key as well as the world she lives in.

Question: What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

As a child, Ella Enchanted and Fever 1793. As a pre-teen/young teen, Harry Potter.

Question: If you could meet any character from any book, who would it be? Why?

Modra from the Chronicles of Lorreck series. I see a lot of myself in her. The good, the bad, and some terrible decision making reminds me a lot of my own journey.

Question: When did you realize you were meant to be a writer?

When I first started writing ‘books’ around fourth grade. They were around 5-10 pages, and at that time doing something like that just for fun really showed my interest in writing.

Question: If your life was a book, what would be the tagline?

Blundering attempts at simple things with extra laughs.

Question: What advice would you give new writers?

Books change lives. You never know how your words can impact someone, how your words can change, and help another. Don’t give up.

Question: What has been the worst mistake you have made in your writing career?

Trying to show my story to an alpha before it was ready. I learned a lot from that experience.

Question: What is the best moment you have had with a fan?

A fan was rereading my book and sent me a wonderfully angry message. They forgot one of the plot twists. They knew everything would work out in the end (mostly) from prior reading, but that one moment of dread caught them off guard a second time and it was a wonderfully hilarious interaction.

Thank you for your time. If you are looking for more information you can connect with this author online using the following links:




Until next time, happy reading!

Recipe: Klah from the Dragonriders of Pern Series

“This spicy drink is generally served hot, possibly with milk and/or sweetening, sometimes with a splash of a warming liquor. It is brewed from the bark of a native tree. The flavor is something like cinnamony chocolate, with a touch of hazelnut and coffee. It can be drunk cold, but the preferred taste is warm. Klah contains a mild stimulant like caffeine and is used as the morning drink. Everyone but infants drinks klah. Children frequently mix theirs with sweetening and milk until they get used to the pungent infusion.”

The Dragonrider’s Guide to Pern by Jody Lynn with Anne McCaffrey

The air is getting colder and the days shorter, so it’s a good time to take a journey into Pern and drink some nice, warm Klah.  One of the definitive stories of the Science-Fantasy genre, the world of Pern can be explored through over forty novels, novellas, atlases, and short stories!  Just in case your “to-be-read” pile wasn’t high enough.  This recipe is perfect for reading in the cold, when you need a little boost, or just when you want something sweet.  

This is a variation on the official recipe, and does contain caffeine but the alcohol is optional.  Grab your favorite mug, your dragon, and these ingredients:


– 1.5 cups of heavy cream

– 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

– 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

– 4 cups milk

– 2 cups brewed hazelnut coffee

– 1 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– Rum (optional)


In a large pot combine all of the ingredients on low heat.  Stir regularly and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the chocolate is fully melted.  Pour into mugs, top with whipped cream, marshmallows, and some cinnamon if you like. Alternatively, you can make this in a crock-pot to keep warm over several hours or if you feel like sharing.  

We hope you enjoy this drink and happy reading!

Review: Sparks Fly by Kadian Thomas

Sparks Fly is an amazing debut novel in Young/Adult Fantasy. What’s different about this book? There are two strong female main characters.

The first is a young girl named Calina who runs into a forest, hoping to avoid being attacked by bullies.

The second is Anorvia. She’s been bred her whole life to fulfill a prophecy. Destined to return to her homeworld as a saviour, she too enters the forest.

Only one person can travel between the two worlds – the wrong one does.

I love the idea of alternating between the two girls and seeing both of their struggles to end up on the side of the portal they were meant to be. Later on, we are given a third perspective, which in some books would be confusing, but here, I believe it works well.

The ending is where I felt this first-in-a-series lacked. Cliffhanger endings can be a good thing. They build up suspense for what happens next. This, however, wasn’t a tension-building ending – rather, I found it a bit confusing. I came away with a feeling of What just happened? I even went back to reread the final pages to see if I missed something. Alas, I did not. I will simply have to wait for the next book to understand why.

Four out of five stars!

Puzzle: A Wrinkle in Time

Today’s puzzle is based on A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s appropriate for children in middle school.

If you or your child complete the puzzle, feel free to share it with us by tweeting it to @BaQ_Mag! Enjoy!


We're including a PDF version of the puzzle, as well! Please click the button below to access it. 

Note: The PDF contains 3 pages: the puzzle as pictured, a printer-friendly version, and an answer key.

B&Q Writer’s Haven Word Crawl

What are Word Crawls?
World Crawls are a set of writing challenges–usually set to a storyline–meant to make writing a bit more fun and entertaining.

We hope you enjoy our very first Books & Quills Magazine Word Crawl! We’re excited to release it, and we hope it will help you write “ALL TEH WURDZ!” This crawl is based on our Writer’s Haven, an online global community of writers. All are welcome! Visit http://baqm.co/writershaven to join!


It’s almost NaNoWriMo and somehow you’ve found yourself on Books and Quills Magazine’s Writer’s Haven server on discord. “What is this strange place?” you wonder. You’re welcomed warmly and led on a tour. You’re promised a sticker at the end of the tour, but the B&Q sticker stash is gone. Seems B&Q has a sticker swiping pirate aboard! Word war for five minutes while you wait for a new shipment of stickers to arrive.

You’ve completed the tour, you finally got your sticker… there’s just one more thing you’ll have to do before you’re fully initiated. Learn the chant: ALL TEH WURDZ!! FIX IT IN EDITING!! Do a three-digit challenge while you memorize the chant.

Congratulations, you’re one of us now. You’ll get used to the shenanigans eventually. Sprint to 100 words while you settle into your new home.

Speaking of shenanigans, what’s with all the people dressed up like sexy polar bears? Sprint to 300 words as you stare at them with a combination of confusion, concern, mild amusement, and fascinated attraction.

Oh no… Tara, the resident sticker stealing pirate, just popped in! “Overly affectionate greeting,” she says with a smile and walks off mumbling something about living to amuse. What? Is that a reference to something? Perhaps to the show that she seems to be “mildly” addicted to? If you understood the reference, sprint to a leisurely 150 words and then take a short break. If you didn’t get the reference, do a 10-minute sprint and then go binge watch Person of Interest.

Somebody hands out snacks. Bananas for everyone! Now that you’re refueled, word war for 15 minutes.

Turns out you need to refuel again after that word war. You head to the break room to get a cup of coffee and find that a knot of toads has gotten into the B&Q caffeine stash. That won’t do. Sprint to 100 words as you chase them out of the break room.

You report back to the staff about the toads. Turns out they knew about them and they aren’t really toads at all. They’re a group of bad students turned into toads by B&Q’s resident witch. You notice Tara slip down in her chair, trying to hide. Word war for ten minutes while you try to convince her to tell you how to turn them back into humans.

If you wrote more than 300 words, congratulations, now you can go help those poor students turn back into humans. If you wrote less than 300 words, roll a die and multiply the number you rolled by 100 and write that many words so she’ll finally tell you how to help the poor students.

Well, that was rather strange. But you’re starting to get used to the shenanigans now and by now you know that every time something strange happens, Dani is sure to have a song for it. Head over to the jukebox channel and listen to the most recently posted song. Write for the duration of the song.

Somebody asked what those striped things outside barber shops are called. The answer is right on the tip of your tongue. Was it stripper poles? Sprint to 200 words while you try to remember.

Barber poles, that’s it. Reward yourself with a short break for remembering.

Everybody is distracted by barber poles now. Did you know barbers used to perform bloodletting, surgeries, and tooth extractions as well? And that the stripes on a barber pole are symbolic of the blood and bandages. Fascinating! Now stop procrastinating. Write 300 words in five minutes to make up for the time you spent researching barber poles instead of writing.

Now that you’re back on track, head over to “if-you-see-this” and do the last challenge posted.

You decide it’s time for another quick break. You head to the break room. There’s some bot named Clay there. He wants you to play a game, but you just want a little love that he can’t or won’t seem to give. Word war for 15 minutes while you mourn the lack of love from Clay.

Finally over Clay, you move on from the break room and find yourself in the midst of a meme war. Sprint to 300 words while you search for the perfect meme to post.

The meme war finally comes to an end and you head to the break room again, in need of some (preferably not-toad-infested) coffee. On your way back, you hear somebody running around screaming something about somebody, or maybe a volleyball, named Wilson. What in the world? Sprint to the nearest thousand as you shake your head and laugh quietly.

You hear something in the distance, coming from another room. What is that? “Aye aye Cap’n.” Is… is someone here singing the Spongebob theme song? You can’t resist the urge to sing along and the song will undoubtedly be stuck in your head now. Write for the duration of the song.

While you’re in the middle of typing away and working toward meeting you word count for the day, four individuals approach you. They say their names are Christina, Steve, Troy, and Lionel and they tell you they work for Fenix Corporation and insist that the building is on fire and that everyone has to evacuate. Sprint for 20 minutes while you listen to them argue amongst themselves and babble on about time travel and the “TEMPEST Machine”… whatever that is.

You finish your sprint only to find that the four strange individuals are still there and still arguing. You shoo them away, because you have a feeling if you don’t then you’ll be listening to them for hours. Once they’re gone, you notice all the staplers have gone missing from the virtual B&Q office. You’re informed by the B&Q staff that there’s no need to be alarmed, Steve probably just stole them all… again. Do a 10-minute word war to get the staplers back.

It’s late and you’re tired and it seems all the coffee and snacks are gone. You’re in desperate need of boosting your word count a bit before you finally curl up in the nap room. You arrive at the B&Q crawl room and the first thing you see is “get a wife” and the word “felon.” You find yourself suddenly questioning everything. Sprint to 500 words while you try to sort it all out in your head.

A couple people run by shooting Nerf darts at each other, one of them dressed as the devil. You wonder where the funsanity ends and find yourself a target of the darts. “This is a no procrastination zone,” May and Tara tell you. Quickly write 100 words to save yourself.

It’s been a rather long day and there’s sure to be plenty more shenanigans tomorrow. Wrap up with an easy 5-minute sprint before packing in and calling it a night. You’re going to need your rest in preparation for another fun and crazy day in the Writer’s Haven.

Puzzle: Where the Wild Things Are

Today’s puzzle is based on Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It’s appropriate for children in elementary school.

If you or your child complete the puzzle, feel free to share it with us by tweeting it to @BaQ_Mag! Enjoy!


We're including a PDF version of the puzzle, as well! Please click the button below to access it. 

Note: The PDF contains 3 pages: the puzzle as pictured, a printer-friendly version, and an answer key.

NaNoWriMo Prepping

My NaNoWriMo prep usually starts in September. I take any one of the handful of ideas floating around in my head at any given time and begin to flesh it out into as much detail as I can. I start with a basic plot that grows and develops as I build my world and give birth to my cast of characters.

I never go at it alone. I always surround myself with my fellow writers, asking them for advice and help when I need it and offering the same in return. It’s with their assistance that my world takes shape into something more than just a tiny pebble of an idea and forms into something greater that I can work with, in which I can give my characters and my plot a home.

The characters are the most important part of my stories. Without them I’d have an empty and boring world devoid of life and the action intended to keep readers turning the pages, hungry for more. It’s on my characters that I spend the most time. I always start with my main character, giving them just enough life that they can begin to talk to me and tell me about themselves: their mannerisms and flaws, their qualities, their motives and how they intend to reach their goals. I develop my other characters around my main character so when it’s time to start writing they can support and help or, in some cases as with an antagonist, hinder the main character on their journey to accomplish their main goal. I treat my supporting characters the same way I do my main character, letting them shape themselves. In a way, my characters write their own story.

I also spend a lot of time doing research. In my experience, there isn’t any story that couldn’t benefit from some research. Sometimes it’s in-depth historical research, or researching a bit of science I’m not already well enough acquainted with or need to brush up on. Other times my research consists of studying works by other authors who’ve “mastered” the genre(s) I intend to write in to become more familiar with the styles and methods they use to become successful writers and produce best selling works. On the occasion that I set something in a place I’m not familiar with, I take quite a bit of time to research the setting of my story. Sometimes even setting a story in my hometown requires a bit of research.

And then, of course, there’s taking time to put together a playlist that helps to keep the words flowing. Sometimes I’ll seek out help from a few artistic friends who help me to more clearly see my main characters by doing sketches based on the info I share about those characters with them. There’s also the search for a cover, even just a temporary stand-in during NaNo season to keep me motivated. And I never seem to be able to really get going once November 1st rolls around unless I’ve got even just a temporary working title for my project.

By the end of October, I’m always anxious and ready to roll, eagerly counting down the seconds to midnight on November 1st when I can finally put my pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and start my 30-day marathon of writing to hit my 50,000 words.

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