“The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election” by Michael R. French

The Beginners Guide to Winning an Election CoverAMAZON

In 2025, the “youthification” of democracy has inspired younger candidates to challenge the ineffective and dishonest gray-hairs in Congress. Running for student body president at an Indiana high school in 2025, political novice Brit Kitridge takes on incumbent Matthew Boltanski, who, with help from a mystery backer, already has his eyes set on Washington. Brit gains courage and insights from a wise history teacher on how to win, but ultimately finds a maze of deceit and corruption in her school. Is exposing the truth enough to win the election?


 “An inspirational novel, A Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election examines America’s broken political system through the lens of a student body presidential election at a midwestern high school. From the issue of dark money’s influence on our elections to convincing the habitual nonvoter to vote, author French weaves an emotional tale of an underdog’s efforts to win the election and save her school’s integrity. For those losing hope in America, this book is a must read.” —Bruce Berlin, JD Author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America and president of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics

“The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election is a heartfelt and moving story with vivid characters and a realistic, near-future setting. I highly recommend this novel of courage, honesty, duplicity, and the corrupting influence of private interests in public education—a wonderful book that deserves a wide audience.” —Douglas Preston #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God

 “The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election, a captivating novel, follows the story of Britain, a senior in high school who runs a daring campaign for student body president in the year 2026. The brilliance of this work is that wrapped into its easy-to-follow and easily relatable narrative are deep political and socioeconomic messages that can be foundational in understanding politics and also offer new perspective on the current status of US politics. I recommend this incredibly engaging book for readers thirteen and up, and even schools that wish to teach students more about the high privilege and honor it is to be able to vote and have a political voice in our country.” —Gerry Orz Award-winning filmmaker, youth activist, and author of Lucky or Not, Here I Come



National best selling author Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid mountain trekker, likes to visit developing countries, and with his wife, Patricia, started a 501(c) 3, Dollars4Schools, to support public school teachers in Santa Fe.

He has published twenty four books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon’s, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal. You can find more information about him at his website.

The Witch Who Came in From The Cold

The serialized novel is back! A publishing company called Serial Box is bringing back the concept of enjoying a whole book in broken up installments. Their latest title is The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.

Through a haze of cigarettes and vodka there lies a version of Prague where spies practice sorcery in their games of intrigue. While the world watches the bitter rivalry between East and West fester along the Iron Curtain, the Consortium of Ice and the Acolytes of Flame continue waging their ancient war of magic. Kept to the shadows, this secret contest crosses the lines of politics and the borders of nations with impunity – the intrigues of spies may know clear sides but the battles of witches spill out over all. Tanya Morozova is a KGB officer and the latest in a long line of Ice witches and sorcerers; Gabe Pritchard is a CIA officer and reluctant Ice recruit. Enemies at one turn, suspicious allies at the next, their relationship is as explosive as the Cold War itself.

The fourth episode comes out February 17, but here’s the cover that was released today.

Spurred on by the mystic hitchhiker in his brain, Gabe decides to do a little digging of his own into the Host’s fate. But his interest in the missing student has not gone unremarked by agents of the Flame and the KGB alike . . . to say nothing of Tanya herself, who is determined to discourage this brash young American with a talent for dabbling in matters that don’t concern him.

There will be a total of thirteen episodes and is available in both ebook and audio. Check out the trailer for the series:


What’s the Big Deal About China Mieville? In my Opinion, Nothing!

For some years now, a certain author by the name of China Mieville has been revered as the best thing to come into the world of science fiction and fantasy since the likes of Isaac Asimov or Robert Jordan, seeing him as the pinnacle of what is cutting edge and brilliantly written, to the point where he can do nothing wrong, and every book he publishes is an instant success and wins plenty of awards.

I’ve tried Mieville twice, with The City and the City which I started and soon became bored with after giving it a good fifty pages; and with The Kraken, which I struggled all the way through and was disappointed by the end.  Mieville just comes off as too full of himself, with his prose that often feels purple and overdone to the point of annoyance.  My wife has read and tried Perdido Street Station and Un Lun Dun, and we seem to agree with the same feelings about this author.  He also seems to be ripping of Neil Gaiman a little too much, who does what he does with skill and a resulting enjoyment, while the result with Mieville is something pushed too far.

I was delighted to recently discover that there are some other people who feel similar with regards to China Mieville: the guys at Penny Arcade.  They recently did a comic about it, as well as an insightful and well-written post about it.

And after reading the summary for Railsea, I know I’ll be passing on it.  Really, talking moles?

Getting the Word Out About Borders

It’s been three days now since I was officially done with Borders, and while all of us who were once employed at the Roseville store have accepted this and are now looking ahead and moving on, by Sunday evening the last Borders stores will be closed for the last time and that will be it.  In a week or two, the company known as Borders will become little more than a distant memory for many people, so I just wanted to do what I could to continue the memory on a little longer.

Yesterday I worked on getting the word out on the column I wrote, “Thank You Borders,” mentioning and submitting it to as many places as I could and below is a list (which I’ll update as necessary) of the sites who have graciously linked to the column:

Thank You Borders – #ThankUBorders

Everyone pretty much knows now that it’s the end for Borders and starting on Friday will be the beginning of the actual end as the liquidation process begins. We can all spend lots of time and bytes and words going over what was done wrong and how things could’ve been done better, but at this point it’s a done deal. Borders is finished and in a couple of months will be little more than a memory for the hundreds of thousands of readers and employees who have had the pleasure to going to a Borders.

Instead, let us remember the good times; celebrate some great booksellers you had the pleasure of working with or having help you; recall a signing you enjoyed at a Borders; what you perhaps loved about working there . . . any little memory you would like to share.

A specific hash tag on Twitter has been set up for this, so I invite everyone to click on the link below and share your happy thoughts and memories of the Borders era . . .


As for me, I plan to share a memory each and every day from now until the very end on my history with Borders.  And I’ll be adding those memories as a comment to this post.

So here’s to making the next two months enjoyable and great as we come to the end of an era in the book world . . .

When Authors do the Right Thing

A couple weeks ago I heard that Seanan McGuire (who does the great Toby Daye urban fantasy series and Feed) had withdrawn her story from a forthcoming YA anthology, Wicked Pretty Things, because one of the authors, Jessica Verday, had submitted a story involving a homosexual relationship and had been told she needed to make one of the characters female otherwise they wouldn’t publish it.  Seanan talks about this here.

A number of other authors have since pulled their stories also and Melissa Marr has asked that her name not be used on the cover for a blurb.

Today Jim C. Hines made one giant leap to publish these withdrawn stories, where he said:

  1. If you have not already found a home for your withdrawn story, I would be happy to read it.
  2. If I like the story (and knowing most of the authors involved, I suspect I will), I’ll offer $100 up front to publish it here on my blog.
  3. Each story will include a donations link. Once the initial $100 has been covered, further donations will be split 50/50. Half will be paid to the author, and the other half will be donated to a LGBTQ-friendly cause.
  4. If I publish multiple stories, I will look into putting together an e-book collection of those stories, with profits again being split between the authors and a LGBTQ-friendly cause.

You can read all about it on his post.

On days like this, it makes me very happy to see some really good people in this world, especially when something begins as a complete negative and gets turned into a strong positive.  Think I might make this my next column.

When Authors Go Bad . . .

About a month ago I did a post on a small time Indie author who I’ve been reading — Michael J. Sullivan — achieving the dream of getting a contract with a big book publisher.  Sullivan was the first small, Indie author I reviewed and interviewed, and I was certainly glad to have played a part in helping get his books noticed.

On March 16th, BigAl’s Books and Pals gave a two star review for the self-published ebook The Greek Seaman by Jacqueline Howett, citing some of the big problems with the book were spelling and grammatical errors.  The author then posted a comment, attacking BigAl for his review a few days later.  What follows are hundreds of comments, many from the author attacking just about everyone.

“It’s a rip-roaring ride through words and opinions that will keep you hooked to the very end!”

It’s an important example of what happens when people can’t take criticism, and as authors, criticism is simply a part of the job.  If you can’t take it, then you need to do something else.  Jacqueline Howett couldn’t take it, and now she’s ruined any potential career she could’ve had.

Atheism in Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

While my review for Brandon Sanderson’s latest book, The Way of Kings — the first in an epic ten-book series known as the Stormlight Archive — won’t be up until around November 15th; in the meantime I wanted to put up a passage from the book involving the King and one of the main characters, Jasnah, who is an atheist in a world of adamant and determined believers of various religions.  She is seen as a heretic, but in this wonderful passage, her ideology as an atheist is brilliantly explored and succinctly put, providing a clear explanation why atheists are able to be moral and know the difference between right and wrong, without following the words of a book or the threat from some deity.

As an atheist, Jasnah is certainly a welcoming and enjoyable character to read about.

“Atheism is not a disease, Your Majesty,” Jasnah said dryly.  “It’s not as if I’ve caught a foot rash.”

“Of course not, of course not.  But . . . er, isn’t it difficult, having nothing in which to believe?”

. . .

“I wouldn’t say that I have nothing to believe in, Your Majesty.  Actually, I have much to believe in.  My brother and my uncle, my own abilities.  The things I was taught by my parents.”

“But , what is right and wrong, you’ve  . . . Well, you’ve discarded that.”

“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.”

“But the Almighty determines what is right!”

“Must someone, some unseen thing, declare what is right for it to be right?  I believe that my own morality – which answers only to my heart – is more sure and true than the morality of those who do right only because they fear retribution.”

“But that is the soul of law,” the king said, sounding confused.  “If there is no punishment, there can be only chaos.”

“If there were no law, some men would do as they wish, yes,” Jasnah said.  “But isn’t it remarkable that, given the chance for personal gain at the cost of other, so many people choose what is right?”

“Because they fear the Almighty.”

“No,” Jasnah said.  “I think something innate in us understands that seeking the good of society is usually best for the individual as well.  Humankind is noble, when we give it the chance to be.  That nobility is something that exists independent of any god’s decree.”

“I just don’t see how anything could be outside God’s decrees.”  The king shook his head, bemused.  “Brightness Jasnah, I don’t mean to argue, but isn’t the very definition of the Almighty that all things exist because of him?”

“If you add one and one, that makes two, does it not?”

“Well, yes.”

“No god needs declare it so for it to be true,” Jasnah said.  “S could we not say that mathematics exists outside the Almighty, independent of him?”


“Well,” Jasnah said, “I simply claim that morality and human will are independent of him too.”

“If you say that,” the king said, chuckling, “then you’ve removed all purpose for the Almighty’s existence!”


08/31 On the Bookshelf . . . “Pariah,” “Mysterium” & “The Way of Kings”

Pariah Mysterium Way of Kings

Received an interesting trio of books (two by request):

We have a zombie novel from Rob Fingerman, Pariah.  It’s been quite a while now since I’ve read a zombie book, but this is purely intentional, as there is simply an overabundance of them right now, wherever you turn, whether it’s books, stories, movies, and even a TV series.  So I needed a break; but now I think I’m ready to check out another zombie book, and it’s going to be Pariah.

Then there’s Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson.  After enjoying Julian Comstock, I’m interested in seeing how Wilson tackles science fiction and parallel universes.

And finally there’s Brandon Sanderson first book in his epic fantasy series that he’s been wanting to publish since he started writing, The Way of Kings; the first book of the Stormlight Archive.  Clocking in at just over a thousand pages, it’s one of the most beautifully designed fantasy books I’ve ever held, with color, illustrated maps on the inlay covers, parchment-design pages and further maps within, numerous illustrations, and title plates for each chapter.  In this essay, Sanderson talks about how the initial stirrings of this series began when he was fifteen and how it is a dream come true to now have it published.  And if you want to meet Brandon Sanderson, get your book signed and find out a little more about The Way of Kings, you can find him on his book tour.

In some final news, BookBanter will be interviewing Brandon Sanderson some time in the next month or two, to tie in with the second anniversary of the podcast, and to find out what’s changed with Sanderson in the last two years.  Brandon Sanderson was the first interview on BookBanter and continues to be the most downloaded episode.

Mockingjay Book Tour


Having finished reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins — the concluding volume to the Hunger Games trilogy — I was sadly unable to secure an interview with her for BookBanter. However, she is currently on an extensive book tour across the United States; the dates and locations are below from the Scholastic site.

While my review for Mockingjay is forthcoming, my quick one liner for the concluding book is this: first two thirds should’ve been two separate books to make it a five-book series; the last third was as good as the first book.

Fall 2010 Suzanne Collins U.S. Tour Schedule

August 31, 2010


Wellesley Booksmith

Wellesley, MA

October 1, 2010


Wild Rumpus

Minneapolis, MN

November 4, 2010



San Jose, CA

September 20, 2010


Harleysville Books

Harleysville, PA

October 2, 2010


Red Balloon Bookshop

St Paul, MN

November 5, 2010


Barnes & Noble

Lynnwood, WA

September 21, 2010


Barnes & Noble

Fairless Hills, PA

October 3, 2010


Anderson’s Bookshop

Naperville, IL

November 6, 2010


Elliot Bay Book Company

Seattle, WA

September 22, 2010


Children’s Book World

Haverford, PA

October 3, 2010


The Book Stall

Winnetka, IL

November 6, 2010


Third Place Books

Lake Forest Park, WA

September 23, 2010


Politics & Prose

Washington, DC

October 4, 2010


The Magic Tree Bookstore

Oak Park, IL

*Please note: This schedule
is subject to change*
September 23, 2010



Hanover, MD

October 4, 2010



Schaumburg, IL

September 25, 2010

Time TBD

National Book Festival

Washington, DC

November 3, 2010


Kepler’s Books

Menlo Park, CA