May 24 – May 30, 2010 Edition Amazon and Penguin Reveal Finalists for Novel Award

SEATTLE, NEW YORK/AUTHORLINK NEWS/ May 25, 2010–Six finalists have been selected from among thousands of qualified writers in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, the international competition in search of the next popular novel, sponsored by, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Penguin Group (USA) (NYSE: PSO) and CreateSpace. From now through June 2, Amazon customers can vote for their favorite work at after reading excerpts from the finalists’ respective novels in the general fiction and young adult fiction categories. The two grand prize winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, who will each receive a publishing contract from Penguin Group (USA) which includes a $15,000 advance, will be revealed in Seattle on Monday, June 14, 2010.

A panel of noted publishing professionals have read the top six finalists’ novels and written critiques of each, posted at These industry figures include bestselling authors Tana French, Sarah Dessen and Nancy Werlin; Amy Berkower, president of Writers House, LLC; Julie Barer, of Barer Literary, LLC; Molly Stern, editorial director and executive editor of Viking Books; Ben Schrank, president and publisher of Razorbill.

The top three finalists in the general fiction category, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name, are:

Jennifer Handford, Warrenton, Va., for “Fortune Cookies” When Handford, a financial advisor, adopted a daughter from China in 2003, the process went remarkably smoothly, but the aspiring writer in her wondered what might have been. Several years of late-night writing sessions later, Handford had the novel, “Fortune Cookies,” which asks the question: what if a family adopted a child and only later learned that the child suffered extreme emotional or developmental problems from her time in the orphanage? In “Fortune Cookies,” a Washington, D.C.-based power couple find themselves in just that predicament, along the way exploring the world of adoption and the nature of the bond between parents and children.

Patricia McArdle, Arlington, Va., for “Farishta” McArdle is a retired American diplomat whose postings have taken her around the world, including northern Afghanistan. In “Farishta” (the Dari word for “angel”) American diplomat Angela Morgan, whose career is in free-fall, is ordered against her will to a British Army outpost in Mazar-e-Sharif, where the soldiers and interpreters are not pleased to have a female in their midst. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, she leaves camp without permission wearing a burka to work with refugee women. Her well-intentioned actions incur the wrath of warlords and further complicate her relations with her military colleagues. “Farishta” brings to life the soldiers and civilians who are fighting for survival in this ancient and troubled land.

Johnny Shaw, Portland, Ore., for “Dove Season” Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting of his novel, “Dove Season.” Shaw owned a bookstore in Los Angeles, which is now entirely online, and he works as both a screenwriter and a university lecturer teaching screenwriting. Only recently did Shaw feel that he had the distance he needed to write a novel about the people and places of his childhood home, the Imperial Valley. In “Dove Season,” Jimmy Veeder returns to his hometown on the California/Mexico border, where his attempt to satisfy his father’s highly unusual dying wish—for a Mexican prostitute named Yolanda—leads him into a world of murder and corruption.

The top three finalists in the young adult fiction category, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name, are:

Amy Ackley, Brighton, Mich., for “Sign Language” Ackley is a mother of three whose career has run the gamut from public administration to labor relations for top automakers. At the age of 16, Ackley left home and began supporting herself. She began writing “Sign Language” seven years ago. Drawn from her personal experiences of losing a father and two friends to cancer, “Sign Language” is the story of a 13-year-old girl whose father’s battle with cancer sends her into an emotional tailspin from which she is determined to recover.

Alex Airdale, Nutley, N.J., for “Service of the Crown” A native of Russia, Airdale moved to the United States at the age of nine. Throughout her teens, she rode horses, fenced, and read Tamora Pierce fantasies about strong female warriors. Airdale —a pseudonym—combines these three pastimes in her young adult fantasy novel, “Service of the Crown,” a coming-of-age story about 16-year-old Renee, a student at the Realm’s top military academy who battles her male classmates by day and an underground crime group by night.

Alison Stewart, Sydney, Australia, for “Days Like This” Stewart, a journalist and writer who loves to travel, was born in South Africa. Over the years, her travels took her to Australia, where she met her husband and had two children. Many years ago, a fortune teller predicted that Stewart would write a book set in the future that would take her “all the way to America!” Her dystopian novel, “Days Like This,” is a cautionary tale set in a walled, futuristic Sydney, where young people, confined to their homes under a nameless dictatorship and in danger from their parents, must escape to survive.

Tim McCall, vice president, director of online sales and marketing, Penguin Group (USA), commented: “We were delighted to see so many high-quality submissions this year in both the adult and the young reader categories, and we look forward always to publishing great new voices at Penguin.”

“The introduction of a new category in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award has enabled an even greater number of new and talented literary voices to emerge,” said Jeff Belle, vice president, U.S. Books, Amazon. “Customers have been enjoying reading and reviewing authors’ excerpts for weeks and now have the unique opportunity to select two Grand Prize winners from six great finalists on”

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is co-sponsored by Amazon, Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace. For complete terms and conditions on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, finalists’ excerpts and to vote for the winning novels, please visit