FOCUS on Books

Check out all of these fine Authors!

Nancy Kelly Allen is from Hazard, Kentucky.  She is the author of many children’s picture and chapter books including:  Trouble in Troublesome Creek, Daniel Boone Trailblazer and Once Upon a Dime.  Her picture book On the Banks of the Amazon was awarded Appalachian Book of the Year in Children’s Literature.  Her most recent book is What Sea Creature isThis?

Melissa Burton resides in Georgetown, KY.  She is a former elementary teacher who always loved writing and children’s literature.  She saw a need for kid-friendly books on Kentucky history and began working toward her dream of becoming an author.  Her books include:  Now That’s Interesting: Kentucky’s Capitol, Kentucky’s Boone, and With Purpose and Promise.

Lori & Ron Coffey are the top husband and wife paranormal investigative team in the United States.  They are the owners of Fairy Ring Press, of Mount Sterling, and the authors of Gateway Ghosts and Local Legends, Kentucky Cryptids, Fangs Across the Americas, Gateway Ghosts and Beyond (due Spring of 2013) and The Bigfoot Book (due Summer of 2013).  They have worked as consultants and appeared on episodes for the SyFy Channel, M2 Pictures, PBS, and ABC. They have traveled across the United States presenting lectures on the paranormal as well as appearing on talk radio on three continents.

Steven R. Cope, a Kentucky original born in Menifee County, living now in Winchester, is the author of ten books, including the short fiction collections The Book Of Saws and The White Doors and the novel Sassafras.  He will be in Powell County signing his two children’s collections Crow! and his new The Frogville Skits, a Dozen Soggy Froggy Plays for Children.

Jeannie Dotson is a teacher at Powell County Middle School.  She loves writing and is proud to now have two stories published in the popular Chicken Soup series.  The books are titled:  Chicken Soup for the Soul:  New Mom’s and Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Food & Love.

Christopher Epling is a Kentucky veteran and graduate of the University of Kentucky and the University of Pikeville. His cartoons are published within the Appalachian News Express (Pike County), Mingo Messenger (Mingo County), North of Center (Fayette County), Elkhorn Area Observer, and the Kentucky Kernel (University of Kentucky student newspaper). Christopher won the Kentucky Press Association Mark of Excellence Award for Editorial Cartoons in 2012, and was named 2012’s “Artist to Watch” by His first children’s book was featured at the 2012 Kentucky Book Fair (Erby’s Turn to Rake). This title received 5 out of 5 stars from “Reader’s Favorite” (2013).

Alonzo Fugate is a teacher in Breathitt County.  Alonzo is devoted to ensuring that all children develop a love of reading and shares his love of writing with his students.  He is author of several books.  Quirky poetry for kids is one of his specialities.  Some of his books are:  Nose Pickin’ – (and 50 Other Ways to Tickle Your Brain!), Dark and Bloody, and Pumpkin Guts, Tater Eyes, and Other Tasty Treat.

David Griffin, a native of Rockcastle County, KY, is a 1962 graduate of Mt. Vernon High School; earned his BS degree in 1965 and his Masters degree in 1984.  Griffin taught high school chemistry, biology, and journalism for 38 years at three separate Kentucky schools (Campbellsville High, Mt. Sterling High, and George Rogers Clark High) and also served a term as president of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association.  Following his retirement from the teaching profession, Griffin’s career as a writer was born when he began a weekly column for the local newspaper. Today, Griffin is co-editor of FOCUS Magazine and continues his public service in education as a member of the Powell County Board of Education.  He resides in Stanton, Kentucky, with his wife, Katherine.

Rebecca Hicks is a native of Powell County and graduate of Powell County High School.  She is a writer, artist and creator of the children’s book and comic Little Vampires. She founded Lunasea Studios to support her creation of “all things geeky,” including books, art prints, crafts, and plush toys. Rebecca currently lives in San Diego, California, with her husband James.

Preacher Bill Holman has been ministering with Kentucky Mountain Mission in Beattyville, Kentucky, since 1953 and visits the public schools throughout eastern Kentucky conducting programs for students. Many children have seen this widely known Christian ventriloquist and preacher as he came to their school with the Crusader Gospel Team.  Preacher Bill tells his life story in the book The Dummy in the Middle and will also be bringing his new DVD with all proceeds going to support the Youth Haven Bible Camp.

Dr. William Lynwood Montell presently resides in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  He has taught at Campbellsville University, Western Kentucky University, University of Notre Dame, and  U.C.L.A.  He has written 27 major books.  He has also contributed chapters published in six other books.  For many years he has been a featured speaker/storyteller paid for by the Kentucky Humanities Council, Lexington.   Some of his books for children and adults include:  Tales from Kentucky Doctors, Tales from Kentucky Funeral Homes, Tales from Kentucky One-Room School Teachers, Tales of Kentucky Ghosts, Haunted Houses and Family Ghosts of Kentucky, and Ghosts Across Kentucky.  His most recent book, Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs, will be available.

 Jerlene Rose resides in Clay City, Kentucky.  She is the owner of Parkway Publications, LLC, which publishes several magazines including FOCUS Magazine which serves Central and Eastern Kentucky, the Powell County Fair Catalogue, and Kentucky Festivals & Events magazine and Tennessee Festivals and Events magazine which are distributed quarterly statewide in their respective states, at manned welcome centers and other outlets.  She has edited and/or published several books as well, such as Kentucky’s Civil War, 1861-1865, which has been recommended in a CW book Anthology as the number one book to read about Kentucky’s involvement in the Civil War.

 Jan Watson’s  first novel, Troublesome Creek, was the winner of the Christian Writer’s Guild 1st Novel Contest in 2004. She has since written six more books, all set in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky  and all published by Tyndale House Publishers.  Jan was named Best Kentucky Author by Kentucky Living Magazine in 2012. A former registered nurse and peri-natal loss counselor, Jan resides in Lexington, Ky.


From the Bookshelf

by Janice Lee Odom

I love to read.  I am a bibliophile, a lover of books.  In another life, I might have been a librarian like the actor Burgess Meridith in that old episode of the Twilight Zone in which he is the only one to survive a catastrophic event, but is thrilled that books are still there for him to read even though he can’t find another human soul. He was thrilled, that is, until he broke his glasses.

The only difference between me and that character is that I love people too.  And I want to share with other people my reading life.  Now that I review books in FOCUS Magazine and have the radio show “Featuring the Arts” which airs on Tuesdays on WSKV 104.9FM at 5PM EST…shameless plug completely intentional…I hear from writers all the time. 

Roberta Simpson Brown, a native of Appalachia (she’s from Russell Springs, Kentucky) and a graduate of Berea College recently sent me a copy of her book, “Campire Tales, Kentucky.”  I found the book to be a delightful romp full of very genuine tales that came from real people here in Kentucky.  It made me reminisce of days when my grandmother would be stitching on her quilt, looking over the top of her glasses, and beginning to recite her stories in her southern drawl.

Because these stories are told by different people from various parts of Kentucky you will have the feeling that you have been on a voyage across the state, perhaps crossing over into the Twilight Zone a few times yourself.  I recommend the book. Visit Brown’s website at

Another book I had the pleasure of reading is by a writer, Lance LaCoax, whom I met at the Kentucky Book Fair held in Frankfort this year.  He had penned a book called “Cellar Doors.”  Of course, I had to have the book since I am a huge fan of the “Donny Darko” movies…an oddly cryptic little movie that was Drew Barrymore’s first stab at directing and starred Jake Gylennhall before he rose to fame.  A line from that movie, delivered by Barrymore who has a small role as an English teacher in the film is this, “The most beautiful words in the English language are the words “cellar doors.”  I knew that anyone who wrote a book called “Cellar Doors” had to be a “Donny Darko” fan, and well, that was good enough for me.  I bought the book.

The book was a dark look into horrors that befall people, secret societies with creepy purposes, and a sort of redemption that happens along the way. I am not entirely sure the plot worked quite as well as I would have liked, but LaCoax executes the genre  in a stylistic and non-cliché manner.  I felt justified in the money spent. Given that this was LaCoax’s first book, I was impressed.  You can find out more at

Finally, my editor picked up a book somewhere in her travels and brought it back to me. This book was the surprise hit, “the belle of the ball,” so to speak.  There are many reasons why I feel this way about the book, “A Shattered Memory,”  by Alan Halsey.

First of all, Alan Halsey is a local person, and he has used local settings for his story.  His protagonist is from Campton, Kentucky.  The headquarters of a secretive scientific organization are in Stanton, Kentucky.  The protagonist’s father is the County Judge Executive of Campton.  It was crazy to be reading a novel and recognizing the places.

Secondly, Halsey excels at creating an alternate universe in a clever place.  He presents an evenly told story, with each chapter leaving you wanting more.  You will not want to put the book down until you’re finished.  I must say, this rarely occurs for me, since I read so many books.  So, when it does happen that I want to keep reading until I am finished, it is usually a book written by polished authors with several books to their credit.  “A Shattered Memory” is Halsey’s first book.  Find out more at or



Book Review

By Janice Lee Odom

Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal

By Silas House and Jason Howard

Testimonies are important. In the end, testimonies are what we have when the dust settles. Something’s Rising is an important collection of voices. These stories are from people who collectively and in their own unique way make their stand, and when such a spectacular event occurs, the lesson is always worth the attempt to document.

“Developed as an alternative to strip mining, mountaintop removal mining consists of blasting away the tops of mountains, dumping waste into the valleys, and retrieving the exposed coal. This process buries streams, pollutes wells and waterways, and alters fragile ecologies in the region,” says the book description on Amazon.

This is oral history, a concept that is increasingly garnering attention as authors attempt to capture the essence of things that are happening in a society that is rapidly changing. Sometimes the changes in technology are faster than the ability of the moral questions to catch up. Oftentimes, changes occur without consulting with the inhabitants, in this case Central Appalachian residents.

Things are complicated by the fact that, as destructive the consequences of mountaintop removal may be, there were those who benefited.  In fact, some of the very people who stand against mountaintop removal have had family roots changed dramatically by the advent of mining; some of their lots improved markedly.

From Amazon’s description: “Jean Ritchie, “the mother of folk,” who doesn’t let her 86 years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough-talking coal-miner’s daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes cooperation is the key to winning the battle; Jack Spadaro, the heroic whistle-blower who has risked everything to share his insider knowledge of federal mining agencies; Larry Bush, who doesn’t back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; Denise Giardina, a celebrated writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the issue; and many more.”

As I read the book, I was moved to see my world differently, challenged to get involved, motivated to understand my environment better. The new questions, both socially and economically, revolve around sustainability. What kind of world do we want to leave future generations?

“Silas House and Jason Howard are experts on the history of resistance in Appalachia, the legacy of exploitation of the region’s natural resources, and the area’s unique culture and landscape. The cumulative effect of these stories is stunning and powerful. Something’s Rising will long stand as a testament to the social and ecological consequences of energy at any cost and will be especially welcomed by readers of Appalachian studies, environmental science, and by all who value the mountain’s majesty — our national heritage.” The book description sums it up beautifully. My time with the book was well spent. In the end, the book does what any good book should aspire to do; it educates.



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