Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), 12/28/03

You’d be surprised how many people who find out what I do for a living express disappointment with the current quality of books — and that my response is that I’m delighted with the quality of books today.

Admittedly, there are books that I complain about. But almost every day I get excited about two or three new books written on fascinating topics by exceptional literary talents.

I know that everyone has varied tastes in reading material. Some people don’t like to read books at all. But I get a curious exhilaration from a good book — and when I finish it, I need to quickly get into another.

I used to read history and biography almost exclusively, but now I get genuine enjoyment from high-quality novels. I like to find a book that grabs my interest early on and holds it. Even though I know I forget much of what I read, I think I have learned important things by reading books of great variety.

You may think, “That’s easy for him to say — he reads books for a living!” And it’s true that I probably read more books than the average person. But I believe that people who consistently read books in their leisure time, even if they do it slowly, are often more interesting and more fulfilled than those who don’t. Digesting various good books seems to enrich the brain, and to accelerate the ability to enrich others.

A vocal contingent was not happy about a special National Book Award going to popular horror-writer Stephen King. But a lot of people enjoy reading his novels, as well as the dependable annual works of John Grisham, Janet Evanovich and Tom Clancy.

Others believe it’s a giant leap from those often predictable mysteries to the more literary, upscale writing of John Updike, Louis Begley or Tobias Wolff.

But we all have different interests, so we should probably read what we like to read, books we enjoy — books that make us think or books that just make us happy.

That said, this has been an enormously successful year for the writing and reading of books.

Another “Harry Potter” novel was published (“The Order of the Phoenix”), with J. K. Rowling playing an important role in making children’s books more attractive. Last year, it became a mark of prestige to have read a “Harry Potter” book — even for adults.

Locally, Shannon Hale wrote a wonderful book for young people, “The Goose Girl,” published and recognized nationally. We will hear more from this talented writer in 2004.

The most consistent best-seller this year, and perhaps the most talked-about, has been Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” a mysterious, historical novel that critics call “clunky” in style but which many readers find fascinating. Brown may not be the best writer of the year, but he is the one who most clearly struck a chord with the current public interest in religion, symbolism and history.

Fantasy writers, such as Patrick Carman (“The Dark Hills Divide“) and Michael Stackpole (“The Grand Crusade”), are cashing in on the continuing popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, which continues to charm moviegoers.

This was an especially notable year for political writers because the established niche that conservative writers have enjoyed has been effectively challenged by liberals. They are popping up all over the non-fiction best-seller lists — conservative Bill O’Reilly, the host of TV’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” has “Who’s Looking out for You?” which has been among the top-four best-sellers since its publication; glamorous conservative Ann Coulter has hit the big time with several books, most recently “Treason”; liberal Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” has been a consistent best-seller; Michael Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country” is enjoying popularity, much like his earlier book, “Stupid White Men.” There is even a liberal talk-radio network about to hit the airwaves in January, with liberal hosts (including Franken) getting their own shows to compete with O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.

This has also been the year when non-historians cashed in on writing historical works, such as “Benjamin Franklin,” written by former CNN /CEO Walter Isaacson, and “Franklin and Winston,” in which Jon Meacham, a Newsweek managing editor, has markedly contributed to the public scrutiny of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Scholars of great distinction, such as Fred Kaplan and Robert Dallek, have also written interesting, definitive books on Mark Twain and John F. Kennedy, respectively.

Although book sales have been down, along with the rest of the economy, the quality of books in my view has generally remained high. And that is good news indeed.


A riveting new book for young readers this holiday season

Is there a young reader on your holiday gift list who loved Eragon,The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter?Then the ideal stocking stuffer may be The Dark Hills Divide, the firstvolume in the new Land of Elyon trilogy that has school kids in Walla Walla,Washington, flocking to a local bookstore for a copy.

This enthralling new series is set in a fantasy world in which animals cantalk and enchanted stones can predict the future. In Book I, The Dark HillsDivide, the heroine, 12-year-old Alexa, has spent her life living behindthe four-story walls that surround her village and the three others that makeup Bridewell Common. Even the roads between the towns are walled in to keep itscitizens safe from the unknown. But Alexa’s curiosity for what lies in the hillsand forests on the other side sends her on a daring adventure into a secret worldin which nothing is as it seems to be.

Ideal for readers 9-12, this lush story is filled with mystery, unforgettablecharacters, intriguing plot twists, and moral issues that are relevant to theirown lives.

Several hundred copies disappeared in a matter of weeks from the Book and GameCo. in Walla Walla, after author Patrick Carman visited local schools. “TheDark Hills Divide is a great adventure story for all who are curious aboutwhat is just out of our reach (or sight). Patrick Carman’s storytelling has madehis first book one of our store’s bestsellers within the first month of beingreleased. We can’t wait for the next two volumes!,” says store owner Joyce Bruns.

The Land of Elyon series was created by a successful businessman who began tradingplaces once a week with his wife so she could have a night out, and he took overreading to their daughters. As the months passed, Carman began spinning a tale forhis four- and six-year-olds about the escapades of a girl who became the inspirationfor Alexa.

In the year that followed, Carman “journaled” his thoughts and sketched outimpressions about the characters and place that would become The Land of Elyon.Then, in his spare time between running a national media production company and hisongoing commitment as a volunteer counselor to teens, Carman began to write.

The Dark Hills Divide (Amped Media, $11.95) is available through bookstores, and the Land of Elyon web site.

For more information about the book, please visit



Please visit for acomplete press kit (click on “Online Media Kit.”)

For a review copy of the book or JPEGs, please contact:

"Northwest author Patrick Carman's The Dark Hills Divide to help the Agros Foundation build more villages in Central America"

SEATTLE – The Agros Foundation and Northwest authorPatrick Carman have joined forces in a special fundraising campaign tohelp build self-sustaining villages in Central America.

Agros will receive a $5 donation for each copy of Carman’s new book,The Dark Hills Divide, that is purchased through the web site,,at the regular price of $11.95.(To register the donation, please enterthe word “AGROS” in the comments field at the time of purchase.)

Founded in 1982, the Seattle-based non-profit organization currentlyassists seventeen developing communities in Central America and hashelped over 3000 people break free from poverty through land ownershipand technical assistance. The program acquires land for village sites,typically in war-torn regions, then transfers title to the formerly-landlessfamilies upon repayment of the loan. Agros also provides the necessaryfunds and assistance to build needed infrastructure, and brings inagricultural and other experts to assist communities in becomingself-sustaining by teaching them how to raise animals and crops thatcan be sold locally or on the world market. As an example, Agrosarranged for Seattle-based broker, Atlas Coffees, to purchase the entirecoffee harvest from a Guatemalan village of 82 families whose land hadbeen stolen from them in the early 1900s.

Carman, who lives in Walla Walla, is a long-time Agros supporter withhis wife, Karen. Both have made numerous trips to Central America to workat Agros villages and have been very involved in raising funds for aspecific new village in Nicaragua.

An ideal holiday gift for anyone who loved The Lord of the Rings,Harry Potter, or The Chronicles of Narnia, Carman’sThe Dark Hills Divide is the riveting first volume of The Landof Elyon trilogy, which sold over 170 copies within two weeks at oneNorthwest bookstore.

The Dark Hills Divide, which is set in a fantasy world in whichanimals can talk and enchanted stones can predict the future, centersaround 12-year-old Alexa, who has spent her entire life living behindthe three-story walls that surround the four villages that make up BridewellCommon. Even the roads between them are walled in, both protecting residentsfrom the unknown and preventing them from venturing out into the surroundingforests. When Alexa’s dear friend, Bridewell’s founder, suddenly dies, shefinds a mysterious key that will lead her into a secret world where shediscovers that a plot is underway to destroy the villages.

Young readers will love this lush story, which is filled with mystery,intrigue, endless surprises and moral questions that are relevant to theirown lives.

The Dark Hills Divide is a wonderful gift for the young readers inyour life. Order your copies now at www.LandOfElyon.comto ensure that your books are delivered in time for Christmas.

For more information about Agros, please go to

* * *

Media Contact:

Media Relations
Amped Media

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin MARQUEE, 11/06/03

His wife got a night off, and he became a children’s author. Seemed like a win-win situation for Patrick Carman, a Walla Walla businessman. He built a company that sold 50,000 board games, a dot com and an advertising agency in Portland. Despite his business accomplishments, Carman felt he still didn’t have an outlet for his creative side.
Three years ago, he started making up stories to give his wife a night off from parental duties, as well as to entertain his two daughters with stories about a girl in the Land of Elyon, who digs out of her walled-in home to go on adventures.
Carman recently released his book, “The Dark Hills Divide,” the first in his youth fiction trilogy about a girl who digs out of her walled-in home and sets off on adventures.
Sound familiar?
The stories in the books were spawned by the stories he told his girls on those nights his wife got a break.
Carman began is path to authorship by journaling his ideas for a year, a tactic which he admits may have been out of fear.
“I was terrified to start writing,” he said.
But making a children’s book turned into more than transcribing stories to paper.
“Writing it was only a third of the process,” he said. First he would “get it all out, and then go through and keep tweaking.”
“I would love to see a first draft of ‘Harry Potter,'” he said.
Carman did a lot of groundwork to prepare for his first book, including studying books in the voice of young females such as “White Oleander” and sending his book through numerous edits with professional publishers.
During the writing process, Carman also learned about the intricacies that go into making a “good book,” such as the absence of slang to set a time period for the book, the problems of revealing characters and plots too late, and learning where to place the hook to grab a reader.
“There have been so many changes since I thought it was finished,” Carman said. “I feel sorry for the people who read it the first time…”
Running a company is stressful and difficult, he said, “but there’s a joy in writing that makes up for all that hard work.”
Carman put his business savvy to work with “The Dark Hills Divide,” as he used his contacts to help create art, a web site and a marketing campaign around the book.
“Finishing a book is not any different from starting a business,” he said. “You have to be able to differentiate (between what you can and can’t do yourself) and find someone with those talents.”
While writing the book, Carman said he devoted about half his professional time to writing. The businessman-turned-author currently spends that time promoting the book, and sharing the writing journey with local students.
Carman started a series of 10 classroom discussions with local elementary school students, a program for which he is writing supplemental material. Carman will lead students through creating a story and have students try their hand at creating maps and journals for their stories, just as he did.
“I just want the kids to have fun,” Carman said.


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