Tag Archives: Tales from the Sheep Farm

When Books Come to Life (and other related musings)

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Populated (Tales from the Sheep Farm Book 2)

Cover for Populated, written by Susan Helene Gottfried

No, this isn’t a post about Populated. I mean, well, it is. But it’s not.

A couple of years ago, a group of ten women met at one of our houses, intending to start a cookbook club. We were masked, we were mostly strangers to each other. I was new enough to our parent organization to think this would be a good way to meet people. And food was involved. How could it go wrong?

Well, sometimes the recipes we cook go sideways.

And sometimes, life works out in a way that would make Delia Ford, whose story is told in Populated, proud.

A year ago, the woman who’d organized us and opened her house to us for that first meeting — and many times thereafter — found a cookbook author who was new to most of us. And so we did what we usually do: we each picked a recipe and made it.

But then, our fearless (and highly creative) leader discovered more in the cookbook that made it unique. And much fun was had. As we always do, we came together at a dining room table, over food.

And THEN, our leader said, “Why don’t we host the author for a weekend?”

Yesterday was the culmination of a year’s plans.

It was a lot of work for the seven of us, but when I was sitting with author Jennifer Abadi and handling the in-person cookbook sales for her, I asked her how it felt. I’d noticed her taking pictures of all the tables, but hadn’t thought too much about it.

“You brought my book to life!” she told me in a hushed, exultant, wondering voice that was so full of emotion that I didn’t just get it, I thought this is something Delia Ford would do.

And that made me even prouder. That wasn’t something we’d set out to do, per se. We’d wanted to showcase some of the recipes Jennifer has archived, from countries around the world. We’d wanted to make it fun, so we’d mined the interviews she’d included. And we’d wanted to have some fun.

But we gave Jennifer a gift, a greater gift than I think any of us had expected.

Like Delia in her book (although, series spoiler: we do see her again in future books), I woke up Sunday morning and realized many things about the women in my cookbook club — and many of the women not in the club but who I’ve gotten to know over the years.

Like Delia, my world has become strangely populated with people who value me, who respect me, who enjoy my presence, who I like to be around.

So here’s to Jennifer Abadi, who so graciously came to my city and cooked and ate and sold cookbooks and met me and my friends and hopefully loved the hospitality Pittsburgh is actually famous for. Here’s to my cookbook club, who wound up giving Jennifer a gift, bringing her book to life.

And here’s to my friends, who are helping bring my own book to life in such very very different way.

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Two Weeks Until Your Lives are Populated

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Populated (Tales from the Sheep Farm Book 2)

Cover for Populated, written by Susan Helene Gottfried

Two weeks to go.

I know I’m throwing books at you fast. That’s the idea: The faster I get ’em to you, the happier the people who like to see most, if not all of a series up for sale before they start reading. And it makes for better promotions when there’s a long backlist. Readers like those, and Populated will be my tenth release.

Now, if you picked up Maybe the Bird Will Rise (and over a thousand of you did! Thank you!), you may think you know what to expect.

If you’re expecting a tale set in the fictional city of Port Kenneth, TN, you’re right.

If you’re expecting something like Maybe the Bird Will Rise, which gets into heavy territory with Mack’s family history, well, think again.

Populated is the story of Delia Ford, street photographer and Port Kenneth social media darling, and what happens when someone breaks into the Woolslayer Gallery and steals all her art. And only her art.

We’re not kidding when we say all. Delia is suitably impressed.

Add in a slow-burn romance with a man early readers said is their new book boyfriend, an across-the-hall neighbor who is retired from the Bank of Port Kenneth, a family you love to hate (or hate to love), and oops, the ire of one of the less savory families in town, and you’ve got a story that expands the world of Port Kenneth into directions you may not have seen coming.

Grab your copy ASAP. I’m not doing any price drops until after the new year, so once the price goes back up after release day on the 21st, it’s going to stay there.

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Maybe the Bird Will Rise… Book One of Tales from the Sheep Farm

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Cover for Susan Helene Gottfried's Maybe the Bird Will Rise

Are you ready?

I am.

And I am not.

But here we go!

Book One of Tales From the Sheep Farm, Maybe the Bird Will Rise, is up for preorder, with an on-sale date of September 26. That’s not very far away from right now!

To entice you toward the preorder, do I have a deal for you. It’s 99c through the end of September. And then it’ll go back up to its regular price of $5.99. That’s five bucks off!

That’s because I want you to read this book. I want you to love Mack and Tess and the fictional city of Port Kenneth as much as I do. I want you to find alligators. I want you to think about issues of racial justice and equality. (If you’re an author, I want you to enter my world and write a book set here. I want to hear YOUR voice, real and raw and powerful and often censored by other spots within this publishing ecosystem.)

I want this book, and this series, to challenge you. To make you think. To strive to do tikkun olam, the Jewish act of healing the world.

Ready for what Maybe the Bird Will Rise is about?

Tess Cartieri has called Port Kenneth, TN home for her entire life. An architect specializing in urban renewal, she’s long dreamed of renovating an old sports field at her alma mater, Kenilworth University. But without the funding, the field sits, forgotten—until the day she’s hired to take on this project at last.

The money is coming from, of all people, the man Tess set free after college, Emerson Mackenzie. He had shared this dream with Tess but had turned his back on her and Port Kenneth when the family business needed him.

But now Mack is back in Tess’ life, still reeling from the recent loss of his wife and hoping this project will help him heal. There’s something about Port Kenneth, though, something more than how normal and natural it feels to be with Tess again, that calls to him and he begins investigating what it would take to move his company to the city.

Old family secrets come out of hiding and as Mack and Tess face them together and discover the legacy of the Mackenzie Treasure, they cement their commitment to each other and begin to understand how the past will affect their futures.
Maybe the Bird Will Rise is a story of the search for answers, the hope that adventures brings, and a second chance at love.

See those last four words? This book isn’t a romance, for a bunch of reasons. But there’s romance here, or at least a rekindling of what was, as two people move forward to a future full of uncertainty and secrets.

Seriously. This is the place. This is the time.

Pick up your copy; here’s the universal link!

Need to know more about the entire Tales From the Sheep Farm project? Follow this link, and I’m glad to share. If you have questions, reach out! Don’t be shy. People are treasures too — and that includes you!

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Introducing Tales from the Sheep Farm

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Graphic to show love of books

Books: They tell our stories. Support the NEA or NEH

I wasn’t going to do this yet. I mean, I’ve been sitting on this for well over a year, and the plan was to wait until the website is live and launched.

Life happens when you make plans, huh?

My daughter is doing a study abroad this semester in Africa. Ghana, to be specific. It’s through the university and the group of 12 of them have a faculty member from home present with them; the whole thing has been seamless. They are there to take a deep dive into tropical ecology, as this specific program is designed for Biology majors. But they are also there to learn about their host country, of course. How can you not?

On Friday the 13th, she toured Elmina Castle.

I mean, you can’t talk about the west coast of Africa, the former Gold Coast, without talking about the atrocities committed there. Forced migration. Enslavement. Killing. Murder. Death. Rape. Starvation. Disease.

The Door of No Return.

But even before this, long before we knew for certain that my daughter was going on this adventure, I’d been thinking. Watching, really, as diverse author after diverse author (and even some editors!) got the shaft from the big publishing houses (and some small ones, too). I have spent years listening to some well-published LGBTQ+ authors bemoaning the lack of support they receive, the difficulties they’ve had getting respect from their own publishers. Authors who are searching for a literary agent, only to be told, “I really like your book but I already rep an author whose book features a Jewish main character.” And my favorite: “If you’re disabled, you should be writing about disabled people. That’s what’s hot right now. Not this very good book you’ve put in front of me.”

Yep. All true.

“Tell the whole story,” my rabbi said in a sermon in 2022. “Teach the suffering, teach the pain, and remember it, share it. Because the only way to move beyond it, the only way to return to a more healthful way of getting along with each other and interacting with each other is to tell the story, to remind ourselves of the low that we suffered together.”

Powerful words.

When I heard them, I knew what I had to do. I had this book, this story that has since become MAYBE THE BIRD WILL RISE, the first book in the Tales from the Sheep Farm series, and it begged me to do just this. To tell the whole story, pieces of which I cannot even begin to fathom because I am not the right person to tell it.

There’s only one option: To make this a Shared Worlds project, where I’ll invite others into my fictional world and let them tell stories — fictional of course, but fictionalized is super as well — so that we can, together, move beyond the pain we inflict on each other in the world.

“If we can figure out a way to make ourselves see the other more favorably, to view the other not with a sense of dread or fear, but to see in the other the same holiness that we want for ourselves, then we can tell this story [he was referring to the story of Passover] in a way that builds us all up and builds up our society and builds up our nation.

“So follow the path of the Torah. Tell the story. Look for ways to find goodness in the other. See our own holiness as we look into the eyes of another person.

“If we do that, if we can figure out a way to tell this story, we can figure out a way to use it to remind us to seek the good…”

Join me. If you’re an author with a story to tell and would like to be part of the world of Tales from the Sheep Farm, let’s talk. If you’re a reader who’d like to read more stories of and by diverse authors, stay tuned.

The website’s being built as we speak. I’ve been waiting a long time for it, but when you hire the best, you have to wait for the perfect site. It’s going to be worth it.

But today, as I’m thinking of history of Elmina Castle and my daughter, my heart, standing in those dungeons into which human beings were forced, as I think of her there, looking at the Door of No Return, I just can’t be quiet about what I’m up to.

Tell their stories…

And so I will strive to. Because as the tag line for this project states, People are treasures too.

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