Belles of the Ballpark fights to save fast-fading baseball history

BlueSoxGrandstandsI’ve told people why I served as co-pilot and co-author for the new edition of Belles of the Ballpark: Celebrating the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, written by my talented wife Diana Star Helmer.

This week, someone is helping to SHOW why the book matters.

Ryan Woodward attended the AAGPBL reunion in South Bend last month. South Bend hosted the Blue Sox, an AAGPBL team from 1946-54 at Playland Park.

Ryan had to search to find the grandstands of that bygone ballpark. The stands are fenced off and overgrown. Thanks to intrepid Ryan for snatching a bit of history back from the jaws of progress.

Sinatra sank "There used to be a ballpark." In South Bend, it hosted the AAGPBL's Blue Sox for nine seasons. (Photos courtesy Ryan Woodward.)

Sinatra sank “There used to be a ballpark.” In South Bend, their park hosted the AAGPBL’s Blue Sox for nine seasons. (Photos by and courtesy of Ryan Woodward.)

The history makers don’t live forever. The stories fly out of sight faster than a home run clearing the fence.

Even the landmarks can disappear.

That’s why books like Belles are needed. More than 60 years later, these women still matter. I hope you’ll check out the title and agree.

Picking at Billy’s Booger by William Joyce

BillyBoogerI never played any Beatle albums backwards to hear secret messages.

I think I found one, however, in the new William Joyce book.

First of all, don’t flick away (booger humor…sorry) the full title, which is…

Billy’s Booger: a memoir (sorta), by William Joyce and his younger self

When I saw the book, I geeked out. At last!

After all, I learned about the real-life story behind the story YEARS AGO. The project began when Joyce was a fourth grader. He mentioned the effort (on page 46) of his 1997 picture-bookish memoir, The World of William Joyce Scrapbook.

What he entered as a contest only got him a trip to the principal’s office!

Amazingly, this picture book has a recreation of his childhood edition. There’s a 12-page insert in the new book, a book showing Joyce’s classic, whimsical paintings. (Yes, the three preview paintings from 1997 are included.)

Writers, take heart. A project that was only a dream in 1997 became reality, waiting all those years.

Here’s the Beatle-like subtext I think Joyce has slipped in. Is it a retort for publishers? Retailers? Reviewers?

All of the above, perhaps. Billy’s controversial book becomes a cult classic at his school, it seems.

Starred reviews and national book awards, or the adoration of the reading public?

I think William Joyce has chosen.

I choose William Joyce. I hope you will, too.


Author Kelly Milner Halls shows Blazing Courage

BlazingCourageHorse-loving kids, an author is galloping to the rescue for you.

Kelly Milner Halls has just debuted the beginning of a fun new series. Her Blazing Courage: Animal Rescues #1 (Darby Creek Publishing) is more than just action-packed fiction about a girl getting her first horse.

The book is a milestone for Kelly. Check out her Wonders of Weird website. You’ll see a career stressing non-fiction. She’s transferred that NF talent to write a taut, thrilling tale, making every word count. Her dialog sparkles. She concludes her book with a two-page summary of the REAL fire that almost consumed two dozen horses.

Like her main character, Kelly raised a wild Mustang as a girl. Plus, she still collects Breyer horses.

How do you make the jump from non-fiction to fiction, finding the ability to do both well?

Some might advise to write what you know.

Or, you could follow Kelly’s model: write what you LOVE.

I’m ready for book #2. More, please!


The Green Box challenges readers, writers

GreenBoxBookR.D. Cowen is taking her literary life back. Her newest e-book, The Green Box: A Collection of Poems and Other Musings, is a fascinating exercise in creative courage.

The title refers to a treasure chest in which this mother collects letters to and from her children. “When I am gone, I think it will seem like they have a bigger part of me if my words are captured on beautiful paper, with good ink, in my handwriting.”

The true story takes one stunning tumble. In 2008, a horseback ride ended in near tragedy. Cowen was thrown, suffering a head injury and memory loss. “But love doesn’t let go. And I love writing,” she explains.

Her goal? “And maybe the memories will flood in. Maybe not. Either way, I must write.”

In The Green Box, Cowen is sharing writing from as early as 1987. Romance. Religion. Those themes develop over the next quarter century.

Her current writing overshadows her early efforts. This would be the case for any writer. However, would any writer be this brave, sharing EVERYTHING?

The passion and sincerity on every page make The Green Box worth opening.


Margret Aldrich’s Little Free Library Book worth checking out

LittleFreeLibraryBookClassic participatory journalism is alive and well.

Forget the author who doesn’t give a hoot about the subject. Here’s Margret Aldrich, proud Little Free Library steward and master storyteller, creating a gem in The Little Free Library Book (Coffee House Press).

Aldrich gets it. She has experienced the joy of sharing books, spreading kindness and connecting with little-known neighbors. That makes her the perfect choice to tell the story of Little Free Library founder Todd Bol, who launched the idea in 2009. Bol has seen more than 25,000 of these sharing sites (in all 50 states and 80-plus countries) emerge. He believes that “humanity’s sweeter side emerges when neighbors share books and ideas.”

Additionally, Aldrich captured a wealth of Little Free Library steward stories in her 264 pages. People do more than offer a box of books on a post outside their home. They create a totem to their favorite titles. Boxes are decorated like dollhouses or other emblems of personal reading tastes.

The Pennekamp family in Los Angeles told about one surprising group of patrons. Doctors in scrubs appeared for book browsing. Actually, the visitors said, “We’re not doctors. We’re actors. We just play doctors on Grey’s Anatomy.”

The author knows the book-sharing idea is hypnotic. That’s why she salted the book with helpful chapters such as “How to Start A Little Free Library,” “If You Build It” (about pre-made boxes available from the LFL Foundation) and even how to “yarn bomb” your structure. Included is a detailed construction plan for a basic library structure.

Full color throughout, this book belongs on every coffee table. Applause belongs to book designer Linda Koutsky. Combine that with a passionate author who knows how to represent this fun, new tradition, and you’ve got an informative and always-entertaining book that you may never want to share in a Little Free Library. Or, you’ll buy one to keep and one to share. It’s that good!




How NOT to be like Jon Stewart

Thank you, Jon! By Martin Monroe (detail cut out by MARVEL) ( [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thank you, Jon! By Martin Monroe (detail cut out by MARVEL) ( [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Content editors, take note.

Fiction offers a constant temptation. Plug in popular culture references in every paragraph, right? Being trendy or timely helps, doesn’t it? The Daily Show guy did it for 16 years.

There’s one alternative: being TIMELESS.

It’s easy to assume that MySpace and VHS movies will be around forever. Wait. Where’d they go?

Fiction is fiction. Invent a name. Describe the good or service. Don’t get trapped by exact details. Today’s “hot” could be tomorrow’s “not.”

Be careful. Milk cartons are one thing. Seeing an expiration date, a “best when read by August, 2015” on your work, is another.

I bet even that Jon Whats-his-name would agree.



Two secrets of a Kindle e-book promotion

(Image by Onyx and Alexa Aker)

(Image by Onyx and Alexa Aker)

Maybe Baby has been fun.

My wife Diana Star Helmer is in the second day of the free Kindle e-book giveaway. (Yes, good books still remain. But hurry!)

Everyone should enjoy the feeling of being a literary Santa Claus.

What kept the process from feeling overwhelming?

We asked talented people for help.

The first request went to Onyx and Alexa Aker. The pair created a striking themed graphic to show AND tell about the book’s availability.

The Akers set themselves apart from other designers through extra effort. Anyone who reads Maybe Baby should say, “Ah. That’s just like that cool illustration I saw online.”

Why? Because the Akers read the book beforehand to see that their visual ideas matched the book’s theme. The Akers are all that. And more.

Secondly, we knew someone ready to spread the word of the book’s availability to the world. We wanted someone who could post the news everywhere fast.

That someone is e-book author James H. Mayfield, who doubles as a social media all-star. He reached more than 100 online sites fast and economically. He’s answered our questions before and during the event. James is someone every self-published author should have as an ally.

How do you find such creative teammates. Ask. Ask. Ask. Not just references, but the providers. Do they listen? Do they converse? The caring creatives are the ones to recruit and retain.