From the Abyss by Vantar is a collection of poems that range in length, generally one to two pages long in four-line stanzas. I really appreciated the exceptional way that nature is brought to life in these poems. Sometimes this is in the way a bird or beast is described and others in the way we see a sunflower or how it feels to climb a mountain. These vivid descriptions go beyond the physicality of the object and delve into a feeling or sense of a thing. Along with this, many poems tackle a deeper or perhaps darker view of the world. The poems explore themes of beginnings and endings, of natural cycles of life, of loss, of depth, and of that which is hard to imagine. The poems are a fascinating mix of real and beyond real, bringing a little bit of magic through words into the world of nature. Vantar’s language was exquisite, both easy to read and sparking the imagination. I also like the way he uses references to lure the mind to images without having to explicitly describe them, like giving us the image of a Van Gogh sunflower in order to get to the idea of the sunflower following the sun before starting again.
Within the book, there are over eighty poems each managing to be unique while connected. Vantar accomplishes this through the use of similar themes, sticking to the natural world for the most part, and by repeating keywords from one poem to the next. I found it hard to pick favorites from the book because there were so many stanzas and lines that really sparked my mind but ‘Sunflower,’ ‘Nightingale’s Song,’ ‘The Star Triangle,’ and ‘Zenith’ stuck out to me. The book is filled with so many beautiful poems that it is easy to read through and find several that speak to you. I would say that if you like reading poetry, especially poetry about nature and thought, that this is a must read. The language is intricate and subtle which makes each poem easy to read while still holding a stunning beauty. This is the kind of book that makes a wonderful gift, or a fun book to leave on your coffee table to read a poem or two in the morning to get you thinking about the world.
Pages: 126 | ISBN: 1479776483
Chasing the Blue Sky follows the life of a shelter dog from one home to the next. Why was this an important book for you to write?
There are so many animals in our shelter and adoption system that it is often improbable for people to actually place an individual face or story with many of them. They are often relegated to statistics or ambiguous shadows behind kennel fencing. I wanted to write a story to help capture for people the vibrant life that exists in every one of those statistics or shadows. Having spent a great deal of time around shelters and dogs that have otherwise been abandoned on chains or in backyard kennels, I have seen so many dogs with great possibilities for life who were restricted based on their circumstances. The intent of the book was to try and show people that every one one of those dogs is rich, hopeful, and brimming with the chance to bestow the amazing gifts that all dogs give to us. I wanted to bring people behind the kennel walls using Toby’s story as a vehicle to share the voice of so many forgotten animals.
The story is told from the eyes of a dog, and delivers innocent but intuitive views of the world. What were some inspirations for Toby’s character?
Toby was particularly inspired by my first dog, Mack. Mack was a black and white pit bull mix who was adopted as a puppy from a city shelter. He was such an amazing dog – loving, kind, smart, and patient. He was everything anyone could ask for in a dog. But before I adopted him, he was a dog in a kennel. He may have been overlooked a hundred times and depending on the circumstances he found himself in, he may never have had the deserved chance to show everything he was capable of showing. He inspired me to let the world know that there are countless dogs just like Mack that, if given the chance, will be the greatest gift you may ever know.
The story is heartfelt and beautifully told. What were some of your driving ideals throughout the story?
As mentioned above, I wanted to bring people closer to so many dogs that are so often forgotten. My driving ideal was to be true to the reality of the world. It would have been very easy to write a book that was upbeat, and happy, and full of feel-good moments, but that would have been disingenuous. The book tells stories that I have personally seen over and over again over the past 15 years. This is real life. Often it is gritty and tough to see. Sometimes the situations in the book are tough to read but to address the problems facing thousands of dogs in our country, we must first face the truth. I also wanted to portray some of the unique challenges facing pit bull type dogs. These situations are also based on real stories and scenarios I have come across or personally dealt with. The world is harder if you’re a pit bull type dog and it is important for people to understand the obstacles arrayed against these dogs.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My focus is on books that promote the integrity, rights, and interests of animals. I am currently working on a second book which takes a very different theme. This book is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel set in the aftermath of a pandemic. The story follows the owner of a neglected roadside zoo, his personal journey to survive, and the evolution of his view of animals in light of the savagery of man that has suddenly engulfed his world. I expect it to be released early Summer 2019.
When life with his loving family takes a sudden turn, Toby finds himself fighting to survive in the unforgiving world of the county animal shelter. But he’s not alone – a motley cast of homeless dogs and a devoted pair of shelter workers will give anything to make sure he finds his forever home.
Chasing the Blue Sky is the compelling, emotional story of one dog’s journey to find his place in the great big world. Readers have described it as “Beautiful,” “Brilliant,” “Poignant,” “Powerful,” and “Gripping.”
If you’ve ever adopted, rescued, or fostered a dog – this book is for you.
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This is a powerful book that kept me enraptured from the start. This poignant tale gives us a dogs-eye-view of a journey through a sometimes happy and often difficult life. From the sadness of leaving his mom as a young puppy, traveling through various homes, finding a loving home and losing it. The reader must experience great sadness and pain against animals who are defenseless and abandoned. If you are an animal lover this story will pull at your heartstrings. This is such a brilliant perspective encourages advocacy for animals. If you don’t shed a few tears while reading this, you must be asleep!
The writing is easy to read but not juvenile, as you might imagine with the perspective of a dog. The innocence of it is heart-wrenching at times, as if from the eyes of a child. I love all the descriptions and explanations for the dogs’ responses along with the actual dialogue between the animals. This was so endearing. The author masterfully created Toby’s world through his innocent observations that were without all the hyper analysis often accompanying descriptions of human emotions. Although the animals display innocence, they certainly are not dumb, on the contrary, there is so much intuition there that anyone who is bonded with a pet can understand. I love the relationships and bonds formed between animals as well.
This story paints a sad picture of shelter life. This is a great book if one is looking to inspire shelter adoptions, which may have been the authors intent. The picture painted in this novel is not pretty and It certainly created a great sense of compassion in me and interest in adopting an animal from a shelter in the future. This book is deeply penetrating and thoughtful. The writing is beautiful, full of innocence but also depth. This is a quick and impactful read that should be kept on hand for anyone wanting to promote shelter adoptions!
Pages: 191 | ASIN: B07K5MM6WJ
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The Infinite Wisdom follows Braxton into a genetics lab, while looking for his fiancée as he stumbles across the origin of the hairless apes. The mythology of the world is that mankind has vanished. Are you looking to further that mystery or will we see the hairless apes reappear?
Book 3 of “The Snow Adventures”, will reveal more information concerning the hairless apes. In addition, new developments in the reason for the space station will come to light, but not without its costs. For this information will cause a tragedy amongst the animals which will change the characters’ lives. Shaking up the norm for the path of Book 4.
I enjoyed the underlying technological theme throughout the book. Did you conduct any genetics research for this book?
Although science can fascinate and inspire my writing as we continue to stubble into the future, I conducted no research into the making of this book. All genetic hypotheses and advance sciences presented within this book comes from the countless movies and science fiction books I’ve read or watched over the years. I merely laid out the ideals and incorporated what aspects of each I felt would best open imaginative minds to concepts our current technology are already adventuring within.
The cover art for this book is awesome. What was the development like for this cover?
For a writer the cover is the most important beginning for any book. Never mind all the hours, days, months or even years of hard work that goes into a book’s development. If the cover arts not appealing, all the investment an author has made will be for not. For a reader must have their interest peeked to invest their time in simply picking up the book for a curiosity look see. This is why I spend a lot of time considering the cover. It must convey an imagery of events to be found within the pages of the book while not promising any falsehoods. With these concepts I had to considered what would best convey the plight of the characters. Who besides Braxton should or shouldn’t be portrayed. The fact that Joann, his sweetheart is a driving factor in the book told me she had to be included. But how then do I present them? Escaping? Boarding the space shuttle? Talking with the unicorns, Mr. Thelin and his sister Ms. Thelin? All good avenues of presentation. Yet everyone’s desire to be free felt to be the most important aspect for the cover. For a reader will see our heroes’ plight and wonder as to how they got there and what must be done to escape. This then seemed the most obvious choice as it invited the reader to at least explore as to how they were imprisoned within the pages and I hope, would invest the reader to continue reading in order to see our heroes gain their freedom.
Where will we find Braxton in the next book in the Snow Adventures and when will that be available?
Braxton will find himself back into his old job of investigations. Though in truth he’s rather be with his wife, Joann and their growing family. Current circumstances however will lead him on a chase for an escaped murderer who somehow has vanished from a secured holding cell. How and why will leave the animals shaken to the core. This Book 3, of The Snow Adventures, I’ve slated for an appearance on amazon sometime in 2020.
Braxton Snow, P.I., big city arctic wolf, is back!
While escaping the glacial clan of his birth, Braxton lands in a sinister genetic laboratory established by the hairless apes long ago. With the help of his new allies, Braxton navigates this alien technology to find his jackrabbit fiancée. But the curious archaeologist red fox has nailed all their coffins by pushing buttons he shouldn’t. They know where the hairless apes went now—somewhere the animals should not have followed! Will they ever return home?
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Be Happy to Be You is a cute children’s story about being happy with who you are. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?
Children are the inspiration for my stories; the children I have taught and my three grandchildren. Joe (6 years), Harry (4 years) and George (10 months). Children are individuals and they are all different with their own characteristics and strengths. I strongly believe that they should be happy to be themselves.
The art in this book is well done and very cute. What was the art direction and collaboration like between you and Jan Dolby?
Having submitted my book to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, I was introduced to Jan Dolby as a possible illustrator for my work. I was delighted with her drawings; her pictures were a perfect match for my story and her designs for my Baby bird were exactly as I imagined them. I hope that she and I will continue to work together on future Baby bird books.
This story did an exceptional job of driving home the idea of being happy with yourself. Why was this an important book for you to write?
As an Early Years teacher, I understand how important it is that young children are instilled with a sense of their own worth. A positive sense of self is, in my opinion, the greatest gift we can give any child. They need to be proud of their own unique achievements and embrace their strengths. This message is at the heart of my book. Using picture books, we can provide children with strategies to cope with possible problems they may face and offer them opportunities to discuss their feelings with a trusted adult.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My second book, “On Our Way to School,” is due to be published later this year by MacLaren-Cochrane. This is the story of Joe’s journey to school with his mother. Unfortunately for Joe, he forgets things that he will need for the day; his bag, his book, his coat etc. Each time he realises that he has forgotten something, he has to return to his house and set off for school again.
I have recently completed a second book featuring Baby bird, “The Lonely Bird”. In this story, Baby bird is lonely and he sets out to find a friend. Baby bird is unsuccessful it seems…. or is he? I have written quite a few stories but these have not yet been submitted for publication.
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Travels with the Doggie Lama shows the deep relationship that can develop between a dog and their owner. Why was this an important biography for you to write?
Keisha (The Doggie Lama) was my companion through some very important changes in my life (ending a long-term relationship, moving across the country, getting married, having a child, exploring spirituality on a deeper level). In the years after she was gone I would often remark to others that she taught me more about being an energetic being than anything I had formally studied. Her death was both a painful and a mystical experience and I found that when I would talk about her passing with others, it would often spark a long conversation about how difficult losing a pet can be. The loss of a being that holds such unconditional love for us is traumatic and difficult to grieve. “It’s just a dog” some might say, yet if anyone has ever connected deeply with an animal, the loss of that relationship can be incredibly painful.
In writing Travels with the Doggie Lama, I wanted to share the sheer entertainment that such a vibrant personality brought to my world but more so the subtle, life-changing connection that healed my heart and instructed, in some unconventional ways, the art of unconditional love.
I love the title of this book, how did you settle on the title?
Her nickname, “The Doggie Lama,” emerged during my study of yoga, partially as a term of endearment with my husband and I (referencing her constant assistance with meditations in the house) but also spoke to the lessons I was learning from her essence and her connection to Source energy (as any animal will do as they are so closely connected to nature and our true state). She and I physically traveled quite a bit during her life (including several cross-country moves) but we also shared internal travels together: changing and growing through life, exploring the energetic aspect of our existence, and ultimately discovering deep, unconditional love.
Memoirs cause one to reflect on their life in different ways. Is there something that you have a different perspective on now that you wrote this book?
At one point in the book I describe my realizations about what I had learned from an impetuous, loving dog. “We didn’t travel to the Himalayas to sit at the feet of a wise guru, seeking enlightenment. We sat on the floor of the spare bedroom beside one another, breathing in and out. The vast universe was right there behind closed eyes, an open mind, and a willing heart… No one would ever make a movie out of our journey; these were just the things of everyday life, the substance of the physical universe. But our connection had been an epic tale, in my opinion.”
In writing about the events of those fourteen years with Keisha I came to realize at a deeper level that it’s the everyday events, the small and seemingly mundane exchanges that create the fabric of our lives (not the big, momentous events we often seek out). Everyday life can be funny, exasperating, touching, and boring, but when reviewed through a larger lens, we can see the beauty and meaning behind the totality of those events.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
While I plan to write a sequel to Travels with the Doggie Lama, I am currently working on a fanciful trilogy showcasing the adventures of one of my current dogs, Darci (a Pekingese/Maltese mix). Her secret life as a WWII tank commander was exposed a few years back and details have emerged about her exploits in the European theater during the dark days of that global conflict. Her military prowess and rivalry with Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, from the sands of North Africa to the beaches of France, are detailed in these photo books. We plan an initial release in late 2018.
Life in the middle of a big city can be scary. Lily, a young professional living alone in Houston during the mid-1980s, experiences a frightening brush with a near-home invasion. The disturbing episode is the impetus to seek out a home security system: a dog. Fear pushes Lily to purchase her new companion without thinking through the details and she finds the new addition to her life just as unsettling.
Financial struggles, professional challenges, romantic wounds and the trials of being twenty-something all share the tiny apartment with Lily and her new puppy, Keisha. The carefree, adventure-seeking whims of Keisha are at odds with the order-loving, financially challenged Lily.
And yet the irascible dog may be just what the doctor ordered. Once Keisha trots across the threshold, where weeks before the faceless intruder had sought to gain entry, Lily’s life opens up in new, at times exasperating, ways and the adventures begin.
Lily and Keisha both push the boundaries of what’s expected of them and venture out to new venues and new experiences, causing Lily to understand that things are not always what they seem. As Lily begins a deeper exploration into her spiritual life she is shocked to discover Keisha’s talents may extend beyond her garbage loving, squirrel-chasing pursuits.
Join this pair on their journeys: external and internal, humorous and touching. Laugh with Keisha’s flagrant disregard for the law and social convention. Cry with Lily’s struggles. Dip into another level of love and connection and explore the non-spoken bond of soulmates.
It doesn’t matter if you are a life-long dog lover, or someone who has never had a pet; this story will touch your heart because it speaks of the transcendent power of love to bring true joy into our lives–whether we happened to be born with two legs or four.
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Tags: alibris, animal, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, biography, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, companion, dog, dogs, ebook, exasperating, family, funny, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, Lily Tanzer, literature, memoir, nonfiction, nook, novel, pet, publishing, read, reader, reading, shelfari, smashwords, spirituality, story, touching, travel, Travels with the Doggie Lama, writer, writer community, writing
The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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Don’t Call Me Chip is the story of one determined chipmunk and his fight to save the creatures who share his yard from an illintentioned family. What was your inspiration for this fun novel?
The inspiration is my ‘pet’ chipmunk named Chip ‘Hoover’ O’Donnell – my wife gave him the middle name ‘Hoover’ because he sucks up seed like a vacuum. Chip lives under our deck and has been a welcomed friend throughout the warm months. He’s been around for three years now (he just resurfaced from hibernation 2 weeks ago). Last year I learned that chipmunks live only 3-5 years. I wanted Chip to have an adventure. This book grew out of that.
Timothy, the chipmunk, befriends an eccentric old man and they form a heart warming relationship. What was the basis for their relationship and how did it change as you were writing?
The friendship is based on my friendship with Chip. He is very comfortable around me, letting me pet him while he eats food from my hand. Chip actually suns himself at my feet while I read or write on my deck.
This is a very fun novel. What was the funnest part for you to write?
Writing Timothy’s hand jestures and sarcasm – especially his waving to the neighbors, saluting Mikey, and and the pranks played on the neighbors.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book is the sequel to my fantasy novel, People of the Sword. Its title is Rise of the Celts. I am hoping to have the book out in early 2019.
DON’T CALL ME CHIP is a tale about Timothy: a chipmunk who protects an elderly man and a host of woodland creatures from the wrath of a family of nasty neighbors, who seem determined to drive out everyone Timothy cares about.
Timothy might seem like your average chipmunk who loves seeds, sunbathing and enjoying a quiet life in the suburbs. But after the new neighbors move in and wreak havoc, they will have to come face to face with his wit and resourcefulness.
The last straw is that the new neighbors keep calling him CHIP. Convincing all manner of rodents and other small wildlife to work together, Timothy launches an assault against their invasive neighbors.
Based on a true character, this book is a clean, fun read for eight-grade reading level and over.
Posted in Interviews
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Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where they’re introduced to many strange guests. What served as your inspiration for this imaginative hotel and its occupants?
The concept was really born from the title. I had wanted to write a counting book for a while but one that carried a stronger narrative than many others in this particular category. After I had the title, everything else just came together. I think that there is something about doors that sparks a natural curiosity, particularly in young children. I wanted to extend that curiosity by placing the story in a setting that would really compound the mystery. A magical castle, to me, holds a lot of intrigue and seemed like an excellent place to begin a curious journey.
There are a lot of interesting creatures behind each door. My favorite was the miniature giants. What was your favorite to write and animate?
I have so many! For most of the characters there is a fascinating juxtaposition between the general perception of their stereotype and a characteristic they embody in the story. Some of the other creatures are simply a play on popular culture. However a few of them are just plain cute. If I had to choose only one favourite, I think it would be from this last category – the big-headed monkeys.
While I was writing this character, I had in my mind something so adorable that it would make a great stuffed toy. What’s exciting about working with Lenny is that we both think similarly. She was able to take my thoughts for this idea and really bring it to life with brilliant expression. They may not be a typical mythical creature, but I think they nevertheless compliment the overall enjoyment of exploring this hotel by diffusing the expectation that each character needs to have some kind of creepy characteristic.
The story is told in rhyme and each door has a theme which, I think, makes this book great for the classroom. Was it challenging to write the story in this way or was it natural?
After I had the idea, the story itself flowed quite naturally. The fantastical nature of the castle meant that each door wasn’t restricted to a single concept or any established rules. I think this is (in part) what both pulls you along in the story and tempts you to linger – every door is a portal to its own unique and perhaps unexpected theme.
I don’t want it to send like I’m begging, but please tell me this story is going to be expanded on in future books?
Ooh, now that’s an interesting question. It was definitely a fun story to write so I wouldn’t rule out a sequel. I’ll let you know…
The magical Hotel of Hoo is a mysterious place with some very unusual occupants. As our guests explore the strange hotel, they are invited to experience everything it has to offer with just one warning… don’t ever look behind door 32.
This imaginative picture book aims to take children beyond the first ten cardinal numbers, and introduces them to the patterns of counting in a fun and accessible way. With rooms to explore and unique objects to count, children will enjoy lingering on each page as they make their way closer to the forbidden door.
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Don’t Call Me Chip, by Neil O’Donnell, is the story of one determined chipmunk and the battle he undertakes to save his human and the creatures who share his yard from an ill-intentioned family. Mikey, an eccentric old man and former Marine names the adventurous chipmunk Timothy, provides him with a small store of seeds, and thus steals his heart. Timothy, having lost his home, takes up residence in Mikey’s yard and makes it his job to protect and serve as a way of showing his gratitude and love for the old man–his new friend.
I have to say, I did not expect to fall in love with Don’t Call Me Chip–but that is exactly what happened. O’Donnell has masterfully captured the thoughts and feelings of the wild animals in his work and presents them in a way not seen in any other book or short story. Timothy, telling his own story for the majority of the book, is boisterous, cantankerous, and contemplative. The reader is privy to all of Timothy’s thoughts as he evolves from a suspicious chipmunk to a loving and protective pet.
All really great books have those little moments that take your breath–moments that seal the deal for the reader. For me, that moment arrived when TImothy refers to Mikey as his new friend. It seems a small and otherwise benign line out of the many more humorous and action-packed passages, but it carries a hefty weight for me. Timothy, a loner like Mikey, misunderstood and underappreciated, makes a lasting connection in that moment.
The shift from first person to third person at the end of the book threw me for moment, but I enjoyed the change in point of view. O’Donnell gives readers the feeling of an age-old story by backing up and giving a broader picture of Timothy’s final ordeal.
I am giving Don’t Call Me Chip a solid 5 out of 5 stars. I truly loved the characters–big and small. Mikey, who could be anyone’s elderly neighbor, is lovable and the obvious underdog. Resilient and focused, Timothy makes for the perfect main character and, in his own right, tiny hero.
Pages: 85 | ASIN: B079GTSKZR
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