Tag Archives: Anvil of God

New Blog Tour

Sorry to have been so absent of late, my website has been under construction of late and my access to the blog has been limited.

For those of you who like to follow along, I’m doing another blog tour.  You can find interviews, reviews and features on Anvil of God according to the following schedule. Continue reading

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Anvil is a finalist in ForeWord Reviews “Book of the Year Awards”

Great news! Anvil of God has been selected as a historical fiction finalist in Foreword Reviews “Book of the Year Awards”

Check out the link: https://botya.forewordreviews.com/finalists/2013/historical/

Book stack

From the news release by ForeWord Reviews:

ForeWord Reviews the only review magazine solely dedicated to discovering new indie books” announced the finalists for its 16th Annual Book of the Year Awards. Each year, Foreword shines a light on a small group of indie authors and publishers whose groundbreaking work stands out from the crowd. Foreword’s awards are more than just a shiny sticker on the front of a book; they help connect the best indie books to readers eagerto discover new stories written by previously unknown authors.

“In the next two months, a panel of over 100 librarians and booksellers will determine the winners of these prestigious awards. A celebration of the winners will take place during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Friday, June 27 at 6 p.m. with awards in over 60 categories, cash prizes for the best in fiction and nonfiction, and widespread recognition.”

ForeWord Reviews covers the rapidly growing independent, alternative, university, and self publishing industries. Its magazine is distributed quarterly to 7500 librarians and booksellers and is also available at most Barnes & Noble newsstands and by subscription.

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Author’s Corner

Peter Johnson leads me into a small conference room at the offices of the Columbia University Press in Lincoln Center.  An oblong table occupies most of the room. It is littered with books and recording equipment.images-2

“You sit here.” He points to the head of the table and positions me before a large hollow black box.  Its interior is coated with soundproofing foam and it holds one of those huge microphones – the kind you see in studios protected by a flat round screen.

I am reading a one-minute excerpt of Anvil of God for “The Author Corner for Public Radio” and Peter is the host of the show, director and voice coach all rolled into one.

“Let’s do a quick read just for length,” he says. When I finish, he frowns.  “That leaves us only about five to ten seconds to do the set up. Do you mind?” He grabs the script and begins to edit.  Some authors might blanch at this, but I’m so used to being edited that I let him pare down the excerpt.   Most of the edits are minor so no harm, no foul.

He asks a few questions about the book and within minutes writes a short introduction to set up the read.   We go back and forth about what is important for the listener to know, and then once we agree, it’s show time.  I read through both the intro and the selected scene. Peter is frowning again.

“We’re still long.  You’ll have to read faster.”

Another run-through.  Another frown.

“That was good for time, but I need you to be more animated. Do you have little nieces and nephews?  Say five years old or thereabouts?”


“Read this as if you are telling the story to them. Exaggerate.  If you think it’s over the top, it is probably perfect.”

Another read.  “Bigger.”

Another.  “Faster and bigger.”  He starts underlining words.  “These are really great words. Try to emphasize them.  So, now I’m to read it bigger, faster, and to emphasize certain words.

I start again and feel like I’m shouting into the microphone.


“No need to shout,” Peter says.  “But you know that line ‘and he will dream of becoming king’?  That’s the whole thing.  And he will DREAM OF BECOMING KING!” Now he is shouting.  I nod my head.  I think I’ve got it.

I’m big and fast and I hit all the words AND HE WILL DREAM OF BECOMING KING!  I almost laugh at this point but keep going.

Peter smiles.  One more time he says.  I read it again.  He smiles again.  “I think we got it.”  I feel like Eliza Doolittle.  “It will likely air sometime in March,” he says, shaking my hand and escorting me out of the conference room.  I suddenly find myself back outside on the street, watching cabs roll by in the snowy New York City afternoon, wondering how big and fast I will sound to my nieces and nephews.

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English 5


“Welcome to English 5.”  A small sardonic smile lit Professor Ermarth’s face, suggesting a deeper meaning than her words conveyed.  In the innocence of my youth, however, I ignored any instinct to run, took my seat in Sanborn House, and flipped open my college-lined, spiral notebook.

Every student at Dartmouth was required to take English 5, preferably in the first year of study.  And having a profound fear of writing, I figured I would stress less if I took the course fall term and got the requirement out of the way.  It was the first class I attended and seemed pretty tame until Professor Ermarth closed her book at the end of class. “Your first assignment, due Monday, is to write a five page paper on the first four chapters of Paradise Lost.”

Have you ever read Paradise Lost?  Not an easy thing to decipher, much less about which to write. Turns out, we had to write one paper each week.  The good news was, that if we didn’t like the grade we received, we had the option to rewrite the paper – as many times as we’d desired.  The only grade that would count would be the last version submitted.

Although anxious about the volume of writing, this sounded feasible to my seventeen-year old, virgin ears.  I spent the next few days deciphering the first four chapters of Paradise Lost, wrote my paper and called home to tell my folks that all was well.

And it was, until I got back the graded paper.  It was covered in ink.  Every sentence was edited – several times.  “Wrong word choice.” “This makes no sense.” “You already said this.”

I got a “D+” – not the way I planned to start my college career.

After a few bouts of despair, I took solace from the fact that others had received similar grades. I also knew I could rewrite the paper to receive a new grade. I already had another paper due, however, and from Ermarth’s comments on the first paper, it was clear the second paper wouldn’t fare much better than its predecessor.  I had to redraft my second paper as well as the first – and in those days we had to type everything on a typewriter that had no self-correcting features (we used liquid paper to cover our mistakes).  I put in a few late nights to catch up.

I got a “C-” on the rewrite and no grade on the second paper.

“What’s on the pages seems much ado about a small point, namely that the form of the work is a device to involve the reader.  This is true of any work in any language, and so in effect you say nothing in saying this.  The language isn’t bad, considering how hard it is to write well without an argument to develop…much of your argument here is merely assertion, which of course is no argument at all.”

Ermarth had given us the opportunity to suggest our grade.  I had given myself a B-.

“Your evaluation seems optimistic.”

I called home in a panic.  I was in over my head.  Even after my Dad’s pep-talk – “They wouldn’t have let you in if they didn’t think you could do the work.” – I wasn’t so sure.

I went back to writing, now with a new third paper and two re-writes behind it.  I began to think the professor was sadistic – until I realized that she had to grade every paper we submitted.  Okay, so I figured, maybe sadomasochistic.

I got to the point where I was writing or re-writing (and typing) a paper each night.  And I, who never had gotten a “C” in my life, was relieved to get a “C+” on any of my first drafts.

I rewrote the Lost paper five times (for an A-/B+, thank you).  I rewrote one on Camus’s The Fall four times (never choose an existentialist subject with an English professor) and was relieved to get away with a gracious C+.

Needless to say, English 5 did nothing to help my fear of writing. After ten weeks of sweating through paper after paper, I ended the term with an exhausting B+.  It was the last English class I took at Dartmouth. As you can imagine, I now consider this an enormous personal loss.  Dartmouth had some of the finest English professors (including Ermarth) on the planet.  More risk averse than I am today, I was foolish and cowardly to pass them by.

I still have a fear of writing, although it is less pronounced than it was during my freshman year at college.  I could not have imagined then, during those early autumn walks to class in Sanborn House, that I would wind up a writer. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have had my suspicions.  There are only four files from my days at Dartmouth still in my writing desk.  Ermarth’s edits of my English 5 papers is one of them.

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