Byte-Size Blair | December 22

It’s an end of the year wrap-up! We had a wonderful year here at Blair, our 60th! Not only did we get to celebrate six decades of independent book publishing, we also put out some great new books.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our 2014 releases garnered a bevy of great reviews from all over the country. Plus, we were still receiving great reviews (and awards!) for our 2013 books. Below is our wrap up of all the love our authors received this year. To read more about these and all our books, visit our website at


Voices of Cherokee Women (Fall 2013)
Kirkus Reviews

Met Her on the Mountain (Fall 2013)
The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Publishers Weekly

The ACC Basketball Book of Fame (Fall 2013)
NCL Online

Met Her on the Mountain
NCL Online

Voices of Cherokee Women
NCL Online

Library Journal
BookPeople’s Blog

North Carolina Libraries

So You Think You Know Gettysburg? Volume 2
North Carolina Libraries

North Carolina Libraries

Wilmington Star News
Chapter 16

Reading Reality
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
Boom! Magazine
Wilmington Star News

Shelf Awareness

So You Think You Know Gettysburg? Volume 2
York County’s Cannonball Blog
Midwest Book Review

The Times-News Online

Voices of Cherokee Women
NC Historical Review

The Iowa Review

So You Think You Know Gettysburg? Volume 2
Civil War Librarian

UNC University Library Blog

WNC Magazine

Chained to the Land
The News Star

Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm
Midwest Book Review
The Herald-Sun

Voices of Cherokee Women
Appalachian Journal

Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland
The Southeastern Librarian

The Ghost Will See You Now
Myrtle Beach Online

Badass Civil War Beards
Midwest Book Review

The Ghost Will See You Now
The Advocate


Met Her on the Mountain
Finalist – Thomas Wolfe Award
Gold – Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY), True Crime
Winner – North Carolina Society of Historians Willie Parker Peace History Book Award

Porch Dogs
Gold – IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, Animals/Pets
Bronze – Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY), Animals/Pets

Long Gone Daddies
Gold – Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY), Regional Fiction (Southeast)
Finalist – Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award


1 Day Until Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween! On the eve of this holiday when all souls are said to roam free we present the tale of one lost soldier who found his way home.


GhostsSouthernTN“Home Is Where the Heart Is”
from Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley
by Georgiana Kotarski

The story of a soul returning to comfort a loved one in time of grief is common among people sharing tales around the kitchen table or campfire. Of all the emotions that bind a spirit to earth, the greatest of these is love.

One day in the late 1940s, Earl came down the stairs of his Pisgah, Alabama, home carrying a heavy duffel bag. He was dressed smartly for his trip to a military base in Alaska, more than four thousand miles away. His mother reached for him one last time, holding tight and bracing herself for the long separation. Earl hoisted his duffel bag back over his shoulder and, reminding his mother of the date he would return, started out. As he passed through the doorway, down the porch stairs, and out through the yard, he whistled his favorite tune. He was always whistling. It was his way.

Following a long but uneventful trip to his faraway post, Earl began his tour of duty. He never completed it. One morning, his buddies could not rouse him. He had died in his sleep.

As the weeks and months passed, most of the stunned family made peace with their grief. But Earl’s mother “was just grieving herself to death,” her granddaughter remembers fifty years later. “She was constantly upset and worried about Earl.” She couldn’t understand what had happened to him. Was it a mistake? His body had come home in a closed coffin. His mother had not seen him. She could not touch him, stroke his once-soft face while confessing her love to him in the long night during the wake. The next morning, they had lowered him into the naked earth, then gently pulled his choking mother away.

In her sorrow, Earl’s mother had only his parting words to cling to—words that had made it clear not only that he was coming home, but even when he was coming home. She thought of him every day. Maybe he’ll write, she found herself thinking. She felt secretly eager when mail time drew near each morning, even leaving the eggs frying on the stove or the laundry swinging by one pin when she heard the crunch of gravel heralding the postman’s approach. She moved her chair to the window and spent more time looking down the road than she did mending or snapping beans. “Light’s better here,” she told the family.

The day Earl was due to return, she just didn’t feel up to going to the church singing. She stayed home. That evening, she fell into bed but couldn’t sleep. The grief seemed to wash over her afresh. In the middle of the night, she threw the tangled covers off and set out for the outhouse. In the light of a nearly full moon, she had no trouble picking her way across the roots and ruts of the worn path. It was too cool to bother looking for copperheads in the damp grass. She pulled the plank door open and let it close partway. The baying of dogs in the distance sounded like a dirge. Even here, perched on a cold seat, she thought of Earl. He once got stuck in the outhouse, she remembered, before they bought a real seat to cover the crude hole.

As she started back to the house, she heard whistling. Earl’s tune! Clear as a fiddle, too. She stopped and steadied herself against an old dogwood. Looking up toward the house, she saw a soldier coming through the yard with a duffel bag on his back. His whistling grew louder as he neared the steps and sprang up onto the porch. It was Earl!

As he went in the front door, she ran in through the back, which allowed a view straight through to the living room in the front of the house. She saw Earl, real as rain, walk into the living room.

“I’m home,” he said.

Then he vanished.

“He was always one to play tricks,” remembers the granddaughter, “and Grandmother thought he had slipped upstairs or something real quick. She had every one of them out of bed, searching the house. They looked under beds, they looked in closets—anywhere he could’ve possibly been hiding. But after that, Grandmother thought that Earl was home. She didn’t see or hear from him again, but he was home.”

The family thought it was just her mind playing tricks. “No one else ever saw anything there. Only my grandmother saw him. But it put her mind at rest.”

Years later, the old home between Flat Rock and Pisgah was torn down and its lumber salvaged to repair other houses.

But no matter to one Alabama soldier. Home is where the heart is, and his is with Mama.


Check back for more terrifying legends in our Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

Frye Gaillard received Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing

Congratulations to Blair author and University of South Alabama Writer-in-Residence Frye Gaillard, who received the 2012 Clarence Cason Award in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa last week.

Gaillard began his career as a reporter for daily newspapers in the late 1960s, writing about the Civil Rights Movement as it unfolded across the South. Since 1990, Gaillard has been a writer, author and editor for newspapers and books. He also was the founding editor of the Novello Festival Press in Charlotte, a national award-winning literary publishing company. Lauded for his books on the Civil Rights Movement, Mobile native Gaillard joined USA as a writer-in-residence in the history and English departments in 2005.

John F. Blair, Publisher, published Gaillard’s As Long as the Waters Flow: Native Americans in the South and East and If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity. See a full list of his books here. Congrats, Frye!

Robert R. Taylor, the first professionally educated African-American architect in the 1900s, still in the news today

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington (NewSouth Books), by Ellen Weiss, was featured in The New York Times Friday, January 13, 2012. The book interweaves the life of the first academically trained African-American architect with his life’s work—the campus of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.

Here’s a look at what The New York Times had to say about the book. Enjoy!


Robert R. Taylor, the first professionally educated African-American architect, ran a kind of design-build program. From 1892 to 1932, he drafted plans for expanding the Tuskegee Institute campus and then supervised students who fabricated and installed bricks, millwork, roofing, wiring and plumbing.

The trainees learned “unobtrusivebuildings survive at Tuskegee confidence and self-reliance,” Taylor’s boss, Booker T. Washington, wrote in 1904.

Dozens of Taylor’s buildings survive at Tuskegee, in Alabama, and the architectural historian Ellen Weiss has written the first monograph about him, Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington (NewSouth Books).

“I feel I know him,” she said in a recent telephone interview. She pored through hundreds of pages of his correspondence, drawings and photos, mostly at Tuskegee and the Library of Congress.

Robert R. Taylor in 1906. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Taylor was descended from slaves and plantation owners in North Carolina. White friends who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology apparently suggested that he apply there. He became the architecture school’s first black graduate.

At Tuskegee, girls from the cooking classes fed construction crews for Taylor’s projects, ranging from grain silos to a chapel with a 105-foot steeple. The works appeared in magazines alongside designs by firms like McKim, Mead & White. Construction financing often came from white New Yorkers, including the railroad heiress Arabella Huntington and the politician Seth Low.

Taylor favored Doric and Ionic porches on the facades, perhaps consciously adapting plantation architectural traditions into symbols of black independence. “Columns — they’re emblems of power and authority,” Ms. Weiss said.

He endured racism without mentioning it much in his letters, and he remained calm when the Ku Klux Klan paraded at Tuskegee. Family members described him as “courtly and elegant, always formally dressed,” Ms. Weiss writes. (Among his descendants are the corporate executive Ann Dibble Jordan and the presidential adviser Valerie Bowman Jarrett.)


Read the full article at The New York Times.

A great weekend for “Time” by Roger Reid

Hey blog readers, don’t forget to turn back your clocks this Sunday, Nov. 6. Ah, that extra hour of sleep! It almost makes that 5 p.m. sunset worth it. Well, almost.

But since we’ve got clocks on the brain this weekend, I figured it was a great time to share a little bit about Time, by Roger Reid (NewSouth Books).

A sequel to Space and LongleafTime continues the young-adult saga of teenage sleuth Jason Caldwell.

Jason has nearly lost his life twice solving crimes in Alabama, but he can’t turn down an invitation to return to the state for an archeological dig at the historic Stephen C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the same weekend that the criminal Jason put in jail in a previous adventure, Carl Morris, escapes from prison – and it’s a sure bet Carl’s going to be hunting for Jason.

Accompanied by his friend, Leah, Jason discovers that all is not science as usual at the excavation location, where someone has been stealing fossils. Even if Jason can catch the culprit, he still has Carl Morris to worry about – not to mention the question of whether he and Leah are “just friends,” or something more.

Time is a fast-moving story that incorporates factual information about geology and paleontology into its intriguing tale of suspicion, pursuit, and revenge.

Roger Reid is a writer, director, and producer for the award-winning Discover Alabama television series, a program of The University of Alabama’s Alabama Museum of Natural History in cooperation with Alabama Public Television. Learn more about him at his website.

And if you want to find out more about the Jason Caldwell saga, check out this video of the author as he speaks about his books:

Tasia Malakasis’s Belle Chèvre fromagerie donates to Alabama tornado relief

We’re waiting with bated breath until October to get our hands on Tasia Malakasis’s Tasia’s Table (NewSouth Books),  a collection of recipes and stories from the award-winning cheesemaker at Belle Chèvre, a small fromagerie in Elkmont, Alabama. But the wait hasn’t stopped us from ordering some of Tasia’s artisan cheese. In fact, if you purchase your Belle Chèvre cheese from Kroger during the month of June, they will donate a percentage of that sale to the Red Cross Alabama Tornado Relief Fund.

More than 500 Kroger stores nationwide have stocked up on Belle Chèvre’s healthy breakfast cheeses, so feel free to stop by your local Kroger to stock up on Belle Chèvre’s cheeses yourself–every purchase will help families in Alabama as they recover from the deadly tornadoes that passed through earlier this year.

And while you’re at it, try out Tasia’s goat cheese grits (or other goat cheese recipes she’s posted for us). Yum!

Sometimes the story behind the novel is as inspiring as the novel itself

Last Queen of the Gypsies by William Cobb

A recent review from Foreword Reviews of The Last Queen of the Gypsies, by William Cobb, reminded us that we needed to share it with you, blog readers. And it wasn’t until we stumbled upon this story from the Birmingham News that we realized how lucky we were to distribute this book for NewSouth.

You might already be familiar with author William Cobb (he’s a big name in Alabama literature and has published seven books to date). But by this time last year, William thought his writing career had ended for good.

William had suffered from a mysterious neurological condition for about three years. He had trouble keeping his balance, and he couldn’t concentrate. Day-to-day life was a challenge. Writing became almost impossible.

“‘I can’t do this anymore,” he told his wife. “We can’t travel anymore. We’re old. This is it.”

But thankfully, William’s doctor recognized some of his ailments as symptoms of normal condition hydrocephalus, a rare condition in which the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord doesn’t drain normally, which causes difficulty walking and leads to mental decline. William underwent surgery for the condition.

“I swear, before I left the hospital, I could walk without a cane,” he told The Birmingham News. “And I could just tell that my dementia was reversing itself. It was amazing.”

Almost a year later, Cobb is rejoicing in his return to health with the release of The Last Queen of the Gypsies, his first book in nine years.

The Last Queen of the Gypsies is a brilliant, quirky, highly readable story as compelling as it is fresh and original. The book interweaves the stories of Lester Ray, a 14-year-old boy who was deserted by his mother when he was a baby and has now escaped his abusive alcoholic father, and Minnie, a woman who was abandoned by her Gypsy family of migrant fruit pickers when she was 11— while they journey on parallel quests to find families they never really knew. It ranges from the Great Depression to the new millennium and from the panhandle of Florida, where the novel is basically set, to New York City during World War II, to the Georgia and Carolina coast, to Fort Myers and south Florida.

It seems Foreword reviewer Julie McGuire enjoyed this novel as much as we did: “In The Last Queen of the Gypsies, William Cobb masterfully parallels the stories of Minnie and Lester Ray, and the various colorful characters they meet along the way—including a dwarf named Virgin Mary Duck, the freakish crew of a traveling carnival—in a story of love and loss, hope and despair, and the resilience of the human spirit.”

This is one book I’m adding to my holiday wish list. Considering it for yours? Maybe this excerpt will sway you. You can also meet William Cobb on Nov. 17 at Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama. More details here.