Hampton Roads authors shine

Writing is a tough business. After an author writes that perfect book and manages to sell it to a publisher (or self-publish), the hard work begins: He or she must become a name amidst the thousands who have done the same.

When we launched Writers' Block last fall, the main goal was to bring local published authors to the attention of readers. Today I'm sharing some recent good news from Hampton Roads scribes.

Kudos!

LAURIE KREBS TALKS BEES IN NEW YORK: In March, Williamsburg children's author Laurie Krebs traveled to New York to participate in "New York Agriculture in the Classroom," a program designed to introduce elementary school children to agriculture. Krebs, author of "The Beeman (Barefoot Books, 2009), was one of only two authors selected to read to 40,000 children throughout the state. Told from the perspective of a young child, "The Beeman" teaches about bee production and the importance of bees. To help tell the story, Krebs brought along a beekeeper suit for some hands-on fun for the kids. "The Beeman," which features Krebs' beekeeper husband Bill, is available in paperback from Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com for about $9.

MARY MONTAGUE SIKES HONORED: The National Federation of Press Women recently named West Point author Mary Montague Sikes third-place winner of its 2013 Communications Contest in the adult novels category for Sikes' "Daddy's Christmas Angel" (Timeless Love, 2012). According to NFPW's website, the competition "encourages and rewards excellence in communications in a wide range of categories. Entries are judged by leaders in their fields of expertise." Sikes had advanced to the national competition by placing first in the Virginia Press Women's regional competition earlier this year. In that same regional contest, Sikes received a second-place nod for "Blogs—Personal" with entries published in November and December. You can read more about Sikes at marymontaguesikes.blogspot.com.

WILFORD KALE WINS IPPY: "A Very Virginia Christmas," a compilation of Christmas stories and traditions from around the commonwealth edited by Williamsburg author Wilford Kale, won the gold medal prize in the 2013 Independent Book Publishers Awards in the Best Holiday Book division. The IPPY contest, an international competition open only to independent authors and publishers, was created to showcase quality titles published by independents. Kale accepted the award last month at the annual event in New York City. Reporting in an e-mail about the event, Kale said, "(T)he Gold Medal, for me, tends to validate my previous work on my 10 books over the past 20 years that I either was the author, co-author or editor. It pushes me to continue working with books—and I have three more in the works right now."

TOPS IN "WRITING EDUCATION": Earlier this month, Richmond-based James River Writers named Virginia Beach's Hampton Roads Writers recipient of its Emyl Jenkins Award, which honors organizations for outstanding service to writing education in Virginia. "Since its founding in 2008, the nonprofit group of professional and aspiring writers has offered a wealth of valuable programs and resources to the Hampton Roads community," JRW said in a press release. Lauran Strait, president of HRW's board of directors, accepted the award in Richmond. "We're honored to win this award," Strait said in a release. "Helping writers grow in their craft is what we're all about." For more information about Hampton Roads Writers and its programs, including its September writing conference, go to hamptonroadswriters.org, e-mail HRWriters@cox.net or call 639-6146.

Debut releases

"Is this January" (Infinity Publishing)

Afton Lambert of Virginia Beach wrote this tale of an orphaned 17-year-old girl who schemes to marry a rich man for financial security, a plot which launches her into all sorts of adventures, and eventually love. Available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and other online retailers for $8 to $12. Read more about the book at isthisjanuary.weebly.com.

"Meant to Be: An Anchor Island Novel" (Montlake Romance)

Romance author Teri Osburn recently released her debut novel about a young woman who must choose between her fiancé, who seems already married to his job, and his family-focused brother. Osburn, of Virginia Beach, was a finalist in the 2012 Golden Heart contest by Romance Writers of America. "Meant to Be" is available in eBook and paperback at Amazon.com for $4 to $8. Learn more about Osburn at terriosburn.com.

"One Woman, Three Prisons, The Rise Within the Ranks, June 1966 – June 2000" (Self-published)

Peninsula author Jo Ann M. Mertens wrote of her struggles and successes while pushing the glass ceilings of the male-dominated Missouri prison system. The book, which includes photos of people, places and things Mertens encountered, is available in paperback and eBook from Amazon and other online retailers for about $12.

"Tapestry: Poems Woven from the Threads of Life" (Poetica Publishing)

Mary Braford Martin, a writing instructor at Tidewater Community College for 10 years, released this collection of 21 poems after her father's sudden death several years ago. "Tapestry" is available in paperback for $17. Order directly from Martin by mailing a check to 828 Forest Lakes Circle, Chesapeake, Va. 23322. To read more about "Tapestry," go to poeticapublishing.com.

"Test of Time" (Self-published)

Hampton author Jacqueline T. Johnson's debut novel, "Test of Time," is a fantasy about two men from opposing kingdoms who form an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of war and possible betrayal. "Test of Time" is geared for children in middle school to adult. It is available in eBook and print from Amazon and other online retailers for about $9.

"The Wondrous Flower" (PublishAmerica)

Sarah Curtis, former Newport News teacher who currently teaches reading in Suffolk, recently released her children's story about a little girl whose father is in the Navy on deployment. Curtis's hand-made quilt blocks form the book's illustrations. "The Wondrous Flower" is available in paperback at Amazon.com for about $25.

Unshackled (Self-published)

In his debut novel, "Unshackled," Williamsburg author J. Roy Vorhauer tackles the topic of interracial relationships in the 1950s. From the jacket: "Ripped apart by family and nefarious societal leaders, will Jack and Tamara be able to traverse life's obstacles and make it back to each other?" "Unshackled" is available in paperback at Amazon for about $13.

More Writers' Block

Leah Price blogs about our local writing community at dailypress.com/writersblock. If you'd like to share news of a new book or an upcoming writing event in Hampton Roads, email ldprice@dailypress.com.