Conviction & Accolades

After being named a finalist—but not winning—the Laramie (western novel) Award, and after getting Literary Classics’ seal of approval (but no novel award), I was beginning to doubt there would be any real recognition of my hard work. Yesterday I learned that my novel, To Swallow the Earth, had indeed won in the 2016 International Book Awards. If you know you have a quality product, never give up hope!

Strange Inheritance

Man inherits–and publishes–manuscript 108 years in the making

MIDVALE, Utah, May 22, 2015 — What would you do if you came across an unpublished mystery manuscript? If it was good, you might just publish it. That’s what publisher Karl Beckstrand did when he inherited the silver rush thriller from his grandfather.

“It was typed and ready for submission to publishers,” Beckstrand said. But while the story, set in 1880s Nevada, was gripping, “there were holes in the plot and the characters needed to be fleshed out some more,” Beckstrand said.

Because Beckstrand’s author-grandfather had grown up in the back country of Northern California in the early days of the last century “his writing was filled with intense action, but also a real care for the land and its creatures,” Beckstrand said.

Being careful not to destroy the story’s folksy vernacular, Beckstrand decided to fill the gaps and burnish it a bit. “The language practically vibrated with authenticity,” Beckstrand said. “I really wanted to preserve that as I worked on it. I think it came out wonderfully.”

The result: “To Swallow the Earth,” by Ransom Wilcox. “It’s a thriller and a romance about man and a woman, each searching for missing family members, who clash amid a Nevada silver rush scheme that leaves both unsure who to trust — and scrambling to stay alive,” Beckstrand said.

“While it has the hardened male players you’d expect in a story about that era,” Beckstrand said, “it also has a strong female lead character.” Beckstrand is proud of his grandfather’s inclusion of a gutsy woman.

Beckstrand, who has more than 20 published titles, kept his grandfather’s name on the western novel. “I think it’s kind of fun that 108 years after his life’s adventure began, my grandfather’s mystery has been published,” he said.

Wilcox also has a book of short stories on the fanciful reminiscences of his early, rugged years in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains: “Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California.” Both books may be found via http://www.PremioPublishing.com, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/NOOK, Amazon.com/Kindle, iTunes, Follett, Ingram, Mackin and select booksellers.

Goodreads giveaway has ended, but ebook will be available at 99¢ through August on most ebook platforms: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25486206-to-swallow-the-earth.

Read a Book with No Words

MIDVALE, Utah, Nov. 26, 2014 — Want to help kids cement their vocabulary skills? A new book—without words—can do just that.  Polar Bear Bowler: A Story Without Words is designed to help children create their own narration to engaging, funny images. It is Karl Beckstrand’s eleventh book.

Illustrated by Ashley Sanborn of Lehi, UT, the story is about a Polar Bear that hitches a ride to Antarctica. He’s never seen penguins before; to him they look like something fun to play with. So, the fun begins. The new title has been translated into more than twenty languages.

What would you do if Old MacDonald’s animals ruined your catering business? Ma MacDonald’s response is pretty clever in Beckstrand’s twelfth book: Ma MacDonald Flees the Farm. Activities include finding and naming animals and foods (for ages 3 – 8). The 32-page, soft cover and ebook was  illustrated by Alycia Mark of Providence, UT.

True to its multicultural tradition, Premio Publishing’s books feature learning activities and characters of color. Premio’s mystery and language books, non-fiction, ebooks and app are nationally-lauded, invite family learning and together time, and often end with surprises. Premio is celebrating its tenth year.

Most titles may be found via http://www.PremioBooks.com, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/NOOK, Amazon.com/Kindle, iTunes, Follett/Title Wave, Ingram, Mackin and select booksellers.

Spooky Halloween App & Mystery Books Teach Courage

Scared of the dark? Follow a gusty pup through an interactive Halloween app: Sounds in the House! Finally, an app that reveals what’s behind many, sometimes frightening, creaks and thuds that scare young and old on dark nights. Sounds in the House is a humorous interactive story with text and audio narration in both English and Spanish, a pronunciation guide, a finding activity and–of course–sounds.

Young children and adults will enjoy the jittery puppy, created by illustrator Channing Jones, who takes action and finds he is safe and loved. “It’s about facing fear,” says author Karl Beckstrand. “Once you know what causes those squeaks and bumps, you find there’s seldom cause to be afraid,” he says. Still, it is fun to see what makes a dog—or a person—jump, given the right start.

Not that anyone needs a comprehensive list of what keeps people awake at night, but Beckstrand’s mystery book Why Juan Can’t Sleep chronicles–with hilarity–every possible cause for insomnia. A finalist for a Utah Book Award this year, the newest edition in the Mini-mysteries for Minors series has finding activities and illustrations by Spanish artist Luis Sanz that grab readers and aid comprehension. From wild dreams to noisy neighbors, crazy critters and too much Chinese food, Beckstrand makes sure adults and kids are entertained at Halloween or any bedtime.

Beckstrand’s mysteries feature characters of color and usually end with a twist. They have been lauded by the Horn Book blog, ForeWord Reviews, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. Many are available in English-only, Spanish-only, and bilingual versions–with full text and pronunciation guide in both languages–and as e-books (for ages 4 – 10).

Other mysteries include: She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos, Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras. Sounds in the House may be heard in any home. Ask for the app or mystery books at: Sam Weller, King’s English, Premiobooks.com, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon/Kindle, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, Follett, Ingram,  EBSCO, Qualtiy Books, Premiobooks.com, Custamizabooks.com, Android and iTunes stores and libraries nationwide. The Sounds in the House app is compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Tablets and phones, Kindle Fire, PC/Windows and Mac.

¿Alguna vez, has oído en tu casa ruidos que te asustan? ¿De dónde vienen esos chirridos y golpes? Te encantará descubrirlo. No hay nada que temer; Sounds in the House – Sonidos en la casa es una aplicación chistoso que explica las causas de esos sonidos espantosos. Este Halloween, aprenda sobre el temor, el valor y la amistad — con un perrito bravo. Un misterio divertido para toda la familia (2 años y arriba), incluye una guía de pronunciación en inglés y español, un actividad de búsqueda, dibujos vividos para ayudar con el vocabulario — y sonidos. La aplicación es compatible con iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Tablets y telefonos, Kindle Fire, PC/Windows y Mac, y viene gratis con la compra de cualquier libro misterio por Premio (via Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, Follett Library Resources/BWI Title Wave, Ingram, Barnes & Noble/Nook, EBSCO, Premiobooks.com, Sam Weller’s.) La aplicación puede ser comprado en Custamizabooks.com, Amazon/Kindle, Android y iTunes.

Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories & Poems

MIDVALE, UT, USA – Animal lovers can get a peek at life in rural California in the early twentieth century when animals played a critical role in human survival. Author Ransom Wilcox knows—he lived it.

Wilcox’s family moved to the Sacramento Valley from Canada in 1907. They farmed, tended livestock, and sometimes got by via hunting and fishing. Once, when the hunter became the prey—of a charging wild boar—Wilcox stuck a pole he was carrying into the ground and climbed up!

Wilcox’s stories in, Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California, tell of his great love for a beautiful filly and how he depended on horses in ranching and hunting. He also writes about the devotion of a special dog that saved his life—and how he was later able to return the favor, performing emergency surgery on the injured canine. “Doc” Wilcox, as his friends called him, was a chiropractor by profession, and grateful for his medical training when his rescuer needed help.

Wilcox’s love of animals and the great outdoors is evident in his nature-themed stories and poems (for young and old). They convey courage, devotion, and perseverance with warmth and sincerity.

Also from Premio Publishing: No Offense: Communication Guaranteed Not to Offend by Karl Beckstrand (also from California). In his ninth book, Beckstrand captures with simplicity and wit the essence of non-offensive, politically correct communication. Funny–and free of degrading bits–this is safe, entertaining reading for the whole family. Beckstrand encourages (in a clever way) the expression of important ideas and respectful dialogue—which often lead to serendipitous solutions that neither side would have arrived at without the other. He makes a strong statement about the problems with political correctness—especially unconstitutional limits on free speech. PremioPublishing.com

Originally posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/21/2013 4:48 PM

Ramblings of an International Relations Guy

Aside from stereotypical images of Jihadis and impoverished tent dwellers many of us have had, we westerners also misunderstand the predominant culture of the Middle East & North Africa. For example, I have heard Christian leaders denounce the worship of Allah (which is simply the Arabic word for God), as if he were some pagan idol. They ignore the common Abrahamic roots of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity and the fact that, like the Bible, the Qur’an has been interpreted in a myriad of ways to justify ideas and practices that are far from humble submission to God (the prevailing message of both texts).

Author Dona Stewart makes the important distinction that the intense hatred so common in the Middle East isn’t so much jealousy of our freedoms and prosperity, but our general departure from moral virtues–which Muslims value above freedom and tolerance–and the fact that we make this departure so alluring.

Most Muslims don’t begrudge us our technological progress; they’re happy to have access to it. It is the hollow secularism that is so often transmitted via technology that they resent. We in the West are the “Great Satan” not because we have democracy and science, but (speaking generally) because of how we choose to use it. Professor Daniel Peterson says that Western secularism is “simultaneously repulsive and attractive” to Muslims. It’s not just that we have vices contrary to Muslim sensibilities; it’s that they are so hard to resist. This internal conflict fuels intense resentment. While we in the West don’t have a monopoly on vice, our misunderstanding this critical difference in priorities exacerbates East/West frictions. This cultural divide is central to the chasm between the West and the Middle East & North Africa. Understanding it is critical to understanding East/West relations.

See:
Stewart, Dona J. 2009. The Middle East Today. New York: Routledge (page 10).
Peterson, Daniel. 2002. Perspectives on the Islamic World. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Conference of the International Society and the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Aug. 18 – 19, at Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 6/7/2012 6:26 PM | Add Comment

The World

When Communism was about to fall, Francis Fukuyama wrote of a coming “end of history,” because democracy had won and free markets would unify the world via prosperity. 
     A little later, Benjamin Barber wrote of another reality: a coming collision between two hollow ways of living: Jihad and capitalism, “one re-creating ancient sub-national and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without.”
     Barber seems a little jaded in his view of these clashing cultures: “…tribe against tribe … a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence,” versus, “[the true goal of free markets is] not liberty and the right to vote but well-paying jobs and the right to shop.”  
     While many supposed that “globalization” (information and capitalism) would triumph over tribal backlash, I don’t see national borders or cultures eroding as many have predicted. We can’t even agree on terminology, let alone environmental accords. “Imposing a free market may even have the opposite effect,” writes Barber. “Democracy grows from the bottom up and cannot be imposed from the top down.”
     “Nationalism was once a force of integration and unification …bringing together disparate clans, tribes, and cultural fragments under new, assimilationist flags,” he continues. “The passing of communism has torn away the thin veneer of internationalism … to reveal ethnic [differences]” This clash of traditions (ongoing since the beginning of recorded history) is why mortals will never arrive at a homogeneous sameness, and why it’s not a contest between only two soul-less ways of living. Thank heaven for non-conformity and third options! Hooray for distinct cultures—insofar as they don’t promote hatred and favoritism.
     Seeing the history of tradition, I don’t think we can dismiss it as a phase or a fad to be waited out. My friend from Albania says that as soon as communism fell, her people rebuilt their cathedrals (even though Christians are a minority there).
     It makes sense that government must be local, that it require buy-in and participation, and that cultural and national borders be respected. While I have great hope in the universality of information, Jihad will conquer democratic ideals unless we dying westerners (who refuse to procreate [oops—that’s me, gulp!]) teach the principles of freedom—if not to our children, then to those of the Jihadists. This education cannot take place in an environment of fear, isolation, or bigotry. It will also not occur if all that the rising generation seeks from the worldwide well of knowledge is music, games, and videos.

Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer.
Barber, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jihad Vs. McWorld” The Atlantic, March.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/22/2011 9:14 AM