Cover Reveal: Cut From Strong Cloth by Linda Harris Sittig

We are very excited to share the cover for our next book release: Cut From Strong Cloth by Linda Harris Sittig and forthcoming on December 1 later this year.

At nineteen, Ellen Canavan lives for the dream of her late father: to succeed in business. But being a woman in 1861, she finds the path to entrepreneurship blocked many times over. The threat of war, her mother’s disapproval, and even a malicious arsonist threaten to limit the aspiring textile merchant to the status of impoverished Irish immigrant.

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As she travels from the factories of Philadelphia to the riverfront wharves of Savannah with her business mentor, James Nolan, the Civil War explodes amidst their blossoming love, and the two are separated. Can Ellen’s undaunted, fiery strength guide her through a divided nation, or must she abandon her dream in order to save her own life?

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“Sittig has brought the past to life with a fascinating look into the textile industry of pre-Civil War Philadelphia and the unshakeable spirit of a young woman who fought to change the status quo. Superbly researched,… this is a story that you will not forget and will leave you longing for a sequel.”
-Jeanne M. Cumiskey, Director, Fabric Research & Development, Abercrombie & Fitch

Cut From Strong Cloth is Linda Harris Sittig’s first novel in a series, Threads of Courage, which will feature strong female figures from history who battled a status quo that was aligned against them and deserve to have their stories told.

Between now and December 1, the book is available on pre-order from our publisher store. You can pre-order the book for $15 (shipping included). For a limited time, there is also an option to add our first anthology Forging Freedom, a collection of 35 fiction and non fiction short stories, for an additional $5.

About Linda Harris Sittig

Born in Greenwich Village, New York City, and raised in Northern New Jersey, Linda was lured into reading by Lad, a Dog and Nancy Drew, Girl Detective. Later her attraction to history and a bit of wanderlust led her to study in Switzerland, before returning stateside to earn a B.A. in History and a M.Ed. in Reading.

Combining her passion for history, stories, and the need for literacy, she began publishing commentaries on how parents could encourage the love of reading with their children. That led to a twenty year weekly newspaper column, “KinderBooks” (Loudoun Times-Mirror); a non-fiction text, New Kid in School (Teachers College Press); and writing for a nationally syndicated educational newsletter, The Connection (PSK Associates).  Linda has been recognized twice by the Virginia Press Association with Certificates of Merit for her journalism.

Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Reston Connection, and The Purcellville Gazette, in addition to numerous professional journals and short story anthologies. From 1982 – 1994 she received three separate distinguished educator awards from local, state, and international organizations. Linda currently teaches at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA where she works with educators on how to implement the best practices of literacy instruction.

Currently promoting her novel, Cut From Strong Cloth, Linda is paying tribute to an ancestor who in 1860 Philadelphia struggled to become a successful textile merchant as the Civil War exploded around her.

Linda lives in Loudoun County, Virginia with her husband, and where the Blue Ridge Mountains are the first to greet the dawn. In her spare time she travels with her family and enjoys her grandchildren.

To find out more about Linda, follow her on twitter at @lhsittig, at her blog featuring Strong Women in History, and at her author website.

Writing Tip: Indirect Characterization

Power of WordsIndirect characterization is a technique used to develop characters in which the author provides clues that allow the reader to experience a character in more depth. Indirect characterization is showing rather than telling. Instead of saying, “John walked to his seat. He was tired,” I would provide clues that communicate the same idea, but in a way that would help readers figure it out on their own. I might write, “John shuffled through the door a moment before the bell. He yawned as he took his seat and rubbed his eyes, squinting up at the clock. Red pillow lines still marked his face, and his disheveled hair looked like he’d run his fingers through it maybe once.” In this example, I never told you John was tired. But you can probably assume it—from the yawns, the bed-head, the shuffling.

We could make the above scene even more interesting by adding a deeper point of view. Let’s say I’m in the point of view of the teacher. Maybe she’s having a rough day and is tired of students shuffling in late. We’re still going to stay in third person POV, but we’re in the teacher’s head:

“John shuffled through the door, a moment before the bell. Ms. Williams cringed as she put down her box of tardy slips. How that boy always managed to come in right before the bell, she’d never understand. He couldn’t be so lucky every day, though, could he? One day he’d be late, and then it would be detention for him. She suppressed a smile. While the rest of the students got out their homework, John squinted up at the clock. As if he didn’t know the bell always rang at 8 a.m. sharp. Teenagers. She marked him down as ‘present’ before calling the class to order. She’d call on John first. With those pillow lines on his face and the ridiculous bed-head, he looked half asleep still. If she couldn’t get him for being tardy, she’d get him for being stupid. The rest of the class would enjoy his sleepy attempts at analyzing Edgar Allen Poe.”

This POV gets us into the teacher’s head, and boy does she have issues! It’s much more interesting than the first, more neutral, scene, because it automatically adds tension. The teacher is out to get John. Whether John knows it or not, we aren’t yet sure, but I’d like to keep reading to find out. When working on each scene, think of it as a belt in a motor, or a rubber band if you don’t want to get your hands greasy. If there isn’t enough tension, the belt won’t be able to do its job. If there’s too much tension, it will eventually break. Readers like tension, but you don’t want them to have a heart attack while reading. Still, if there isn’t enough tension, there’s nothing to keep the reader glued to your book.

Announcing New Imprints for Young Adults and Younger Readers

We are excited to announce Freedom Forge Press’s two new imprints: Apprentice Books and Bellows Books! Both imprints will open to submissions on October 1, 2014.  

Apprentice Books

apprentice logo colorApprentice Books is our young adult line. These are stories targeting readers ages 13 (for younger YA) to 18. As always, we’re looking for stories with a strong freedom theme that are not dogmatic about it. Think The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver. But while we love dystopias, we are also looking for books that address freedom by celebrating the spirit of the individual, free to achieve his or her best. For instance, we love the innovation and strength of Gary Paulsen’s characters as they face survival situations that force them to find their inner power. We also love coming-of-age tales and well-researched historical novels that highlight strength and freedom—or the fight for freedom—of past eras.

These books would ideally be rated the equivalent of PG-13, though there are always exceptions for well-written stories (violence in The Hunger Games, for instance, is pivotal to the story). With books meant for the older end of the YA spectrum, we’re willing to push the boundaries a bit.

Specific submission guidelines and announcements for this imprint can be found on the Apprentice Books page of our website.

Bellows Books

15_1405.i032.014.P.m003.c20.blacksmith iconBellows Books are meant for readers under age 13. Primarily, we’re interested in middle grade works—books for readers ages 7 – 12. These would be chapter books meant to be read independently by developing readers—or read aloud to younger readers one chapter at a time. These stories should empower young readers to find strength in their abilities and celebrate all that freedom allows. Like any good middle grade book, adults should disappear into the background, allowing the younger characters to make decisions and confront and solve problems on their own.

We’d love historical fiction that highlights strength and freedom—or the fight for freedom—of past eras. We’d consider survival stories, mysteries, and any other tales of the perseverance of the individual.

Bellows Books will also consider books for younger readers; however, illustrated books are expensive to produce. For illustrated books, we will only accept works from authors who have already found an illustrator and either have either already purchased rights to the illustrations, or have found an illustrator willing to work for a share of royalties. When querying for an illustrated book, please provide details about illustrations you have acquired or hope to acquire as well as artist contact information.

Specific submission guidelines and announcements for this imprint can be found on the Bellows Books page of our website.

Celebrating One Year Anniversary of Forging Freedom Anthology!

Anthology CoverThis week a year ago we released our first book, Forging Freedom.

Thirty-five authors joined us for the journey, representing 7 countries. They shared stories from their family history, stories from their hearts, and even some stories they made up for fun. There’s fiction, true stories, science fiction, romance, and yes friend, there’s even a zombie story.

But one thing unites them all. Each story you will find shares a connection to freedom and the spirit of the individual.

Looking back on our first project, we are extremely proud of the excellent contributions from our authors. And we continue to want to share these stories to do our humble part to keep the flame of freedom burning.

This week, Forging Freedom is on sale now through Friday 9/19/14. You can get the Kindle version for $0.99 this week only at Amazon or the paperback for $11.00 with free shipping at our publisher store.

Cover Reveal: Cora Cassidy and the Craven Corgi

We are very excited to share the cover for our next book release: Cora Cassidy and the Craven Corgi!

Cora Cassidy and the Craven Corgi is an illustrated children’s picture book in which Cora shows her little corgi companion that many of the things she fears actually make life enjoyable. Through her journey, Raven the corgi finds freedom from fear, opening the way for a lifetime of possibilities.

The book will be the debut release of our new children’s book imprint – but more on that later.

Cora Cassidy is written in verse by the talented Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers children’s mystery series.  Val teams up with the artistic talents of illustrator, artist, and all-around awesome gal, Yuming Cao.

Cover Front

Atlas Shrugged Part III

2014_08_08_Wallpaper_WIJGBY VAL MULLER

Atlas Shrugged Part III (Who Is John Galt?) is now out in theatres, and I’m looking forward to it.

I donated to the Atlas Shrugged Kickstarter campaign (you can even find my name on the Producer’s Wall at http://www.atlasshruggedmovie.com/kickstarter?p=19) because I think the ideas in the novel are important to share. Although I’m not sure a three-part movie can concisely deliver the ideas of the book to those who aren’t already fans, I was glad to hear it was finally being made into a movie.

For those who haven’t read the book, I wanted to share why I think Rand’s philosophy is such an important concept.

First, a bit on Ayn Rand. Rand was born in Russia in the early 1900s and moved to America in the 1920s. In Russia, her father worked hard to run and own his own business, but under Lenin, that business was confiscated. Seeing the damage done by fanaticism, including seeing thugs take over the college she was attending, Rand dedicated herself to reason above all else. Her experience in Russia allowed her to see how damaging “groupthink” can be as well as what happens when people stop being guided by reason and let other, more emotional, concerns lead them.

In her writing, Rand liked to make sure the reader got the point. That’s why her novels are so long. She had a definite idea of what she wanted her novel to be, and she was uncompromising in seeing that idea to fruition—in some ways, she is like her main characters. The problem is, this makes for a long-winded novel, the length of which intimidates most would-be readers.

I have taught The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged several times. The main lessons my students gather from these texts is not something I taught them—it’s something they came to on their own, and it surprised me. But they are right: They have learned that our society tends to value people’s intentions over results.

As a broad example, if a politician institutes a program with the intention of helping the poor, but that program becomes bankrupt or backfires or ends up making the people it’s trying to help too dependent or even worse off, we tend to reward that politician for wanting to help the poor—regardless of the results. On the other hand, if a business owner produces dozens of jobs—thus helping people in need of work—we still look critically at him because his intention from the start: to make money for himself. Even if the result is that consumers now have goods to purchase and people now have jobs, his intent from the start was inherently selfish, and thus we judge him as a bad person.

Our society has it backwards. We should judge results rather than intent. After all, wasn’t Hitler trying to make the world a better place (at least in his own mind)? Should we judge his intent, or the results?

In Atlas Shrugged, we see a war between government and business. The government in the book is one not dissimilar from our government today: one rooted in crony capitalism and nepotism, one that encourages the public not to think but to blindly follow emotions. The government in Atlas Shrugged, in short, over-regulates the country to (literal) death. In The Fountainhead, the media—controlled by a small group of powerful people—puts out so many pointless stories that people aren’t even able to think about what truly is important anymore. In fact, they blindly follow what they are told to think by their preferred media source. Sound familiar?

Like our government today, those in power in Atlas Shrugged pick the winners and losers. If one company is becoming too successful, the government creates new regulations that cripple that company, all in the name of giving other companies a fair chance. The result of this is that those with prowess in business—those who are able to provide quality products for low prices—are punished. Those who are unable to provide quality products for low prices are rewarded with subsidies and other protections. The end results, of course, is mediocrity that hurts everyone. Now, instead of some people having minimum wage jobs and other people living like Carnegie, Jobs, or Gates, no one has jobs. Everyone suffers and misery is shared equally.

I can’t help thinking about GM (at present, I own a Chevy, which has greatly disappointed me despite my desire to “buy American.”). The government recently subsidized the Volt through various incentives and tax credits, both for buyers and for manufacturers at each step of the process. This is an example of the government deciding on a “good intention” (electric cars). The results, however, were not what was desired. Electric cars, even today, are not very efficient. And they ignore the fact that electricity is usually produced with the same non-renewable sources electric cars are trying to avoid. Again, moving to electric cars is a good intention, but the result of government interference was not useful. The same is true for the government’s movement to produce gasoline using corn (ethanol). Remember when corn used to be so cheap at the grocery store? Not anymore. Even environmentalists have come out to say that producing gas from corn is not efficient—it costs too much energy to produce. Again, the intention was “good”—to help shed our dependency on foreign fuels. But the result was actually harmful.

Borough Market cake stall, London, England - Oct 2008

If an electric car were made by a big company with no subsidies, or a new form of gasoline were created by a private company, both businesses would probably be criticized because of their “greed” and their desire to make money. But in business, decisions must be made based on logic. Whereas the government has an “unending” supply of (tax) money and borrowed debt it can throw at pet projects, businesses need to make economic sense. In a true free-market economy, an electric car would only be produced if it could be made as a reliable car for a price people would be willing to pay.

The government can force its “customers” to buy a product or service that it creates or that it permits businesses to offer (an obvious example is the Affordable Care Act). Some health insurers quickly gave their support to the idea of government-mandated insurance because it would bring them a steady supply of customers forced into their storefronts by the threat of government fines, higher taxes, even imprisonment or men and women with guns showing up to enforce the government’s will.

As long as an insurance company met the mandatory minimum coverages of the health law, there would be customers and guaranteed revenue. In the absence of free markets and competition, businesses lack incentive to provide a better quality, more affordable product. As a result prices increase and customer satisfaction suffers. In the free market, a business earns its customers because a transaction in the free market does not take place unless both parties derive some benefit from it. With several choices and healthy competition, prices remain low over the long term and innovation brings people new and exciting products such as smart phones and smart watches.

But in Atlas Shrugged and in our world today, people complain because of the “unfairness” of businesses (those heartless, greedy capitalists!). Remember when cell phones first came out? They were quite the status symbol. Only the very wealthy could afford the brick-sized phones. It wasn’t fair to people who couldn’t afford them. But in the long run, they made things better for everyone. Now, cell phone technology has improved so that almost everyone has one. (Though the government is still messing around with the cell phone market, as with most things today).

The point Rand made in Atlas Shrugged is that people need to use common sense—logic—and not be persuaded by emotions that are often exploited to take greater control of our lives. The events in the book—which lead to starvation and freezing to death when food and fuel become scarce—seem so outlandish as to be a hyperbole. But they were based on Rand’s personal experience following the upheaval in Russia where she saw deaths from starvation and freezing as the government seized businesses in order to eliminate “unfairness.” The events Rand witnessed and used in her book illustrate the potential end result of crony capitalism and allowing the government to manipulate us and give up our freedom of choice.

She also saw the greatness that could happen when people are allowed to produce within a free market—when consumers are allowed to willingly pay for something they desire as a way of rewarding insight and punishing shoddy products. And this is the bottom line. If everyone simply used logic in everyday interaction, most bad decisions would be eradicated from the start. But in Atlas Shrugged, as in our modern culture, we transfer the responsibility to think for ourselves to media outlets with deep agendas on both sides of the spectrum, and we reward intentions rather than outcomes. In both cases, we’re just asking for trouble.

Val Muller started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Teacher, writer, and editor, Val pens a children’s mystery series, Corgi Capers, inspired by her growly-dog Leia and her fraidy-dog Yoda. Her supernatural chiller, Faulkner’s Apprentice, is her most recent outlet for purging her nightmares, with her young adult novels, The Man With the Crystal Ankh and The Scarred Letter, forthcoming. Her favorite novel is Orwell’s 1984, and she believes strongly in promoting freedom and celebrating individual achievement as a way of bettering the lives of all. Stalk her at www.ValMuller.com

Photo Credit:

“Borough Market cake stall, London, England” By Diliff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

September 11, 2014

Flags With CloudsSeptember 11th is a day that lives on in our hearts. We pause today to remember the acts of hatred borne out by Islamic extremists. We remember that giving up one’s life to take another is not courageous, but giving up one’s life to save another is. We remember that bravery is not running into a plane to use it as a weapon of fear, but bravery is running into a burning building past those who are running out in order to render aid to the helpless. We remember those who did not come home on 9/11/01, and we remember the loved ones they left behind.

We remember.

Writing Tip: Character vs. Plot and Likeable Characters

Power of WordsReaders may argue over what is most important, plot or character. I argue that character is more important than plot. I’ve read novels and stories in which an unlikeable character ruined an awesome plot. I’ve also read novels and stories in which a terrible (or almost non-existent) plot was saved by a likable character.

For many writers, the problem is that the character exists in a very real and very likeable way in the author’s mind. Sometimes, communicating that likability onto paper is a challenge. Readers like to be shown things in a concrete way. Years ago, the book that solidified this idea for me was The Bad Beginning, the first in the series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events.

In this series, the main characters have tell-tale physical traits or ticks that help us visualize their personalities. When Violet thinks hard about something, for instance, she ties her hair up to keep it out of her eyes. Readers may argue over what is most important, plot or character. I argue that character is more important than plot. I’ve read novels and stories in which an unlikeable character ruined an awesome plot. I’ve also read novels and stories in which a terrible (or almost non-existent) plot was saved by a likable character.

For many writers, the problem is that the character exists in a very real and very likeable way in the author’s mind. Sometimes, communicating that likability onto paper is a challenge. Readers like to be shown things in a concrete way. Years ago, the book that solidified this idea was The Bad Beginning, the first in the series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events. In this series, the main characters have tell-tale physical traits or ticks that help us visualize their personalities. When Violet thinks hard about something, for instance, she ties her hair up to keep it out of her eyes. This very human habit made me like her as a character.

It’s important to plan a character’s traits before delving into the story. Even if this exists in a subconscious way, I like to write it out before I start writing the actual story. I like to list tangible ways to show my character’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m usually good at thinking of intangible qualities, but I’m not as good at showing these things in a way readers will understand. Having some type of pre-writing helps me keep the reader in mind.