Down East Girl

Down East Girl CoverJulie Davis has just released Down East Girl, a lovely book about coming of age in eastern North Carolina.

The story follows Lily McIntyre, a precocious girl whose family is rumoured to be descended from pirates. Lily delights in this swashbuckling family legend and we are carried along on her girlhood adventures on Harkers Island. Although Lily is bound to the sea, her intellectual nature and the coming of World War II pull her inland toward Beaufort and Chapel Hill, where her life grows more complex as she reaches adulthood.

This is a beautifully rendered story of life on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It portrays an honest and sometimes difficult struggle of the people of Harkers Island’s fishing villages as they realize that their way of life is passing into the mists and a modern world is emerging around them.

This book is rich with the local dialects and aphorisms of the island, thoroughly researched by Davis. While the book is painted in golden hues, the language brings shocks of color that truly delight.  Each chapter is its own very satisfying story, making it a pleasure to come to. In style and tone it is reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder or James Herriot, though with more adult themes from time to time.

The story arc is gentle and the camera stays up close throughout, but don’t be surprised to find humor and history among the seashells.

5 stars.

The Brothers’ Keepers

brothers_coverMatthew Peters has just released “The Brothers’ Keepers,” the first book in the Nicholas Branson series of thrillers.

“The Brothers’ Keepers” is fiction of the highest order. This thriller keeps the suspense on eleven, but only gets started there. Nick Branson is a scholarly Jesuit who packs a mean left hook. Together with the intriguing librarian Jessica Jones, we are treated to a behind-the-robes look at the forces of the Christian church and their sway on western society. But there’s little time for quiet reflection as we are whisked from Washington, DC to France to Afghanistan in a chase to discover a secret that some labored for centuries to ensure would never be found. This book overflows with political intrigue, action, and the best prose to come along in years.

“The Brothers’ Keepers” held me in suspense through to the last page. That in and of itself makes it a worthwhile read. But the historical bombshell it exposes, and the questions it poses, have sent me time and again to investigate the details presented in the story. The fact that it is so well researched leaves one wondering just what sort of foundations we stand upon.

Hopefully there is someone like Nicholas Branson looking out for us.

5 stars

Musical Fantasy Giveaway

Tales from the Red Book of Tunes is a musical fantasy filled with dancing, fiddle tunes, bagpipes, murderous myths and monsters. Set in the mythical world of Hollean, it traces the development of ten fiddle tunes from their folk origins to modern times, and gives you a glimpse of the lives they’ve touched along the way.

We are giving away twenty copies of Tales from the Red Book of Tunes on the book review and sharing site Goodreads. Get your copy today.

These interwoven tales are for anyone with a love of music and dance. But there’s a bonus for musicians and dancers. Go to the book website to listen to the tunes, print sheet music, and see how people are writing new dances to these tunes!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tales from the Red Book of Tunes by Tyler  Johnson

Tales from the Red Book of Tunes

by Tyler Johnson

Giveaway ends September 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

View the book trailer

Dance Writing Contest Winner – Spring 2014

Congratulations to Elizabeth Bloom Albert, the winner of the Spring 2014 Dance Writing Contest. Elizabeth took on the challenge of writing dances to match two tunes from the dance adventure Tales from the Red Book of Tunes. Her dance “A Carriage Works” was selected by Tyler Johnson and a group of experienced callers as the best in contest.

Tyler notes, “the dance is a Sicilian circle, and when viewed from above the dancers form the spokes of a wheel, making the dancers themselves a part of the story. The figures match the music quite well, making it a fun and accessible dance.”

View the dance and listen to the tune at the story page for “A Carriage Works.”

A donation has been made to CDSS in honor of Elizabeth’s winning. Please let her know what you think of her dance.


Chicagoan Elizabeth Bloom Albert has been a contra dancer since 1999, but she’s been dancing–(international) folk dance and (East coast) swing—for a long, long time. Elizabeth began writing contra dances about five years ago; she’d become bored with Sudoku and crosswords and needed a new challenge. When she’s not writing dances, she’s writing prose. Her short stories and essays have won, placed, or showed in a number of writing contests and have appeared in Narrative Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Karamu, Permafrost, Canteen, Southern Women’s Review, Quarter After Eight and elsewhere.


Tyler asked Elizabeth some questions about her involvement with the dance community

– What’s your home dance community?

I do most of my dancing in Chicago with the Chicago Barn Dance Company. I also want to give a shout-out to the Huntsville, Alabama dance, where my husband and I dance 2-3 times a year.

– When and where did you start dancing?

I have been dancing contra since 1999. Before I was a contra dancer, I did a lot of (East coast) swing and (international) folk dance—and still do some on occasion.

– When did you start calling and writing dances? What drew you to that?

I am not a caller. I have been writing dances for about 5 years. I’ve always loved puzzles (crossword; Sudoku; acrostics); writing a dance is the best puzzle there is because when you solve one successfully a whole room full of people get to share the joy.

– What does the dance community mean to you?

When you think about it, social dancing is a cooperative endeavor and cooperation is at the core of any good community. So my weekly dance group is probably the most community-minded thing I do all week.

– Do you play an instrument?

No, but I plan to do so in my next life. (And I really hope my next-life mom steers me to the violin.)

– What do you do when you are not dancing?

In the summer you’ll find me riding my bike or out in our garden, where we grow vegetables and perennials. I also love to cook and bake. And one of these days I will get back to knitting, sewing, and quilting.  But mostly, I am a writer (of short stories and essays). I have yet to have a book published, but I have won, placed or showed in a number of writing contests sponsored by literary magazines. These prizes let me know that I have at least some talent and convince me to keep plugging away (in spite of hundreds of rejection slips).