The Skin Above My Knee by Marcia Butler

Classical oboist and debut author Marcia Butler recalls her earliest memory of music at just four years old. At that early age, she first experienced the life-altering impact of music, a feeling she could only describe as a sublime, “squishy giddiness” felt deep within her core as she listened to her mother’s opera LPs. Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde resounded through their suburban Massachusetts home, while her mother’s vacuum hummed along during weekend housework, and Butler was transported to a new world.  

Now, in her haunting, brutally honest, and beautiful memoir, THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE (Little, Brown; February 21, 2017 ISBN: 978-0-316-39228-0; $27.00 hardcover), Marcia Butler shares just how a young woman becomes a brilliant musician and a true artist. Growing up in an emotionally desolate home with an abusive father and a distant mother she longed to connect with, Butler was magnetically drawn to the oboe—an interest that marked her as unique among her fellow band students. She devoted herself to the discipline and rigor of learning the oboe and practiced obsessively. She quickly became a young prodigy, earning a full scholarship to music conservatory in New York City, and dove headfirst into the hyper-competitive classical music world.

Butler paints a vivid portrait of the sacrifices and joys of a life in music. She chronicles her troubling childhood and her desperate and frugal years in music conservatory, in which her staple meal of the day consisted solely of a head of iceberg lettuce—and then recounts the new challenges that arose as she became an in-demand freelance musician, who performed and recorded with such musical luminaries as pianist Andre Watts, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and jazz pianist/composer Keith Jarrett. She also performed with prestigious orchestras, as a soloist and chamber musician, at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway. Along the way, she succumbed to dangerous, abusive men, drugs, and a pattern of self-destructive behavior. She also grappled with illness and estrangement from her parents and her sister. But despite her turbulent life, Butler asked, in her darkest moments: could music truly save me?

THE SKIN ABOVE MY KNEE exquisitely depicts just how far beauty and art can take us. With fascinating insight into both the intense devotion and laser-like precision necessary for a career in professional music and the grit and glamour of chasing dreams in 1970s and 80s NYC, Butler’s searing memoir is ultimately the story of a true survivor.  

About the Author

MARCIA BUTLER was a professional oboist for 25 years, until her retirement from music in 2008. During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned New York and international stages, and with many high-profile musicians and orchestras. She lives in New York City, where she is working on her next literary non-fiction book and her first novel. Visit her at

Nothing but a Circus by Daniel Levin

“Brilliant observations on the anthropology of power. You will laugh aloud and won’t put it down.”
Daniel Kahneman, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Psychologist, and Author of the International Bestseller
Thinking, Fast and Slow

The majestic architecture that lines the streets of capital cities around the world reflects a level of power and prestige that is an enigma to some and intimidating to others.  Most of what is observed of our leaders is on the two-dimensional screens on our devices, causing these people who are responsible for solving some of the world’s biggest problems to appear untouchable, far removed from ordinary people and the nations they lead.  Once the powerful take the helm, society can only hope that they are doing the job that’s expected of them, and dong it well with a conscience and dedication.  

Daniel Levin, international lawyer and advisor to governments and development institutions worldwide, has had unique access to high-level leaders around the globe.  He is called upon to listen, assess, and offer solutions to mediate disputes, help failing or failed states, and develop future leaders among the next generation of hopeful aspirants by providing advice and insights to presidents, governments, parliaments, and diplomats.  After twenty years of boarding planes with few days’ notice – sometimes even planes without doors when required – Daniel has written down some of his most remarkable and grotesque encounters in the halls of power.  His book NOTHING BUT A CIRCUS: Misadventures among the Powerful (Allen Lane/Penguin; July 6, 2017; Hardcover; $27.95) is shocking, eye-opening, and at times hilarious, as he portrays his real-life characters in their all-too human imperfections and vanities.

Daniel felt compelled to record his first-hand experiences in NOTHING BUT A CIRCUS based on detailed diary entries over the past two decades, giving the reader a rare glimpse of the actions and conversations that take place behind closed doors – from Moscow’s puppeteering skills and manipulation of the West (sound familiar?) leading up to the Ukrainian conflict, Beijing’s power plays for Africa, Washington-style corruption and hubris, ridiculously misguided development initiatives in Angola, arrogance and ineptitude at the United Nations, to a hair-raising, hilarious adventure in a Senegalese airport prison.  

With a generous sense of humor, also at his own expense when recounting his missteps and occasional naïveté, Daniel holds nothing back. The dialogues allow the reader to relive these terrific scenes real-time and to witness how powerful people behave when they think (or, rather, believe – as very little thinking tends to be involved) no one is watching, and the extraordinary contortions they perform in justifying their unscrupulous and self-serving actions.

For more information and to schedule interviews please contact Claire McKinney Public Relations at (908) 955-7563 or

About the Author

Daniel Levin has spent the last twenty years working with governments and development institutions worldwide.  A lawyer by profession, he is an advisor on political and economic affairs, from financial development to conflict resolution.  He is currently a member of the board of the Liechtenstein Foundation for State Governance.  Nothing but a Circus is his first book. 

Misadventures among the Powerful
by Daniel Levin
Allen Lane/Penguin
Publication Date: July 6, 2017
ISBN:  978-0241288535
Price: $27.95 Hardcover; $17.99 Digital
Pages: 208 pages


How to Build a Piano Bench by Ruthi Postow Birch

“Thirteen East Petain Street, Prichard, Alabama—that’s an important address for me. It’s where I learned everything I needed to know to succeed in life and in business—lessons passed on to me by the people who lived in this neighborhood that straddled the poverty line. I learned I’d have to be independent enough to do things for myself. I would have to be brave enough to take on things I’d never done before and didn’t know how to do—and would have to figure out as I went along. Not knowing how to do something never stopped my daddy from doing it. He didn’t know how to build a piano bench till mine broke.”


“Don’t follow the crowd until you are sure you want to be where they’re going.” 


Ruthi Postow Birch grew up on a red-dirt road in south Alabama without any idea of what she would become in this world. When her father built her a new piano bench, not knowing a thing about how to do it, he passed on an important lesson. 

“There is always just one right next step—and you know it because it’s the only one that makes sense. Find that and do it. Then look for the next. If there is something you can’t do, figure out who can do it for you.”

Ruthi took that advice from Petain Street all the way to an office on K Street in Washington D.C., where she built her own successful staffing firm from the ground up. In a new book HOW TO BUILD A PIANO BENCH: Lessons for Success from a Red Dirt Road in Alabama (River Grove Books, March 2017, $16.95, ISBN 9781632991089), she chronicles her engaging and humorous journey, noting important tokens of wisdom she captured along the way. 

Like most parents, Ruthi’s did what they could to provide everything she needed and to support her interests as a child. Still, Ruthi was uncomfortable in social situations and found that listening to other people’s stories can be more important than telling her own. From her childhood visits with her elderly neighbors on Petain Street, to her professors as a college student at the University of Georgia, Ruthi was an attentive and discerning audience—who remembered almost everything they told her. 

Ruthi spent a considerable amount of time alone as a child, which may have contributed to some feelings of anxiety in group situations. In HOW TO BUILD A PIANO BENCH, she is completely candid about her social life in high school and college (or lack thereof) and admits to having had more first dates than seconds. In Ruthi’s world, most clouds had a silver lining that only added to her determination to make her personal dreams come true.

Whenever she was faced with a problem, she would forge onward and dig through to the solution. When she was in college and found that she couldn’t “learn” the way other students did and pass her exams, she created a plan that included writing down every last thing a professor said and adhering to a strict study schedule. When she had three children who she missed so much while at work, she made a steadfast routine that included an early start in the morning, a strict end time at work of 5:00P.M., two full hours with her kids at night, and more time to work before getting a few hours of sleep so she could hit the next day running in the same pattern. 

Resourceful, tenacious, self-deprecating, and funny, Ruthi Postow has a wonderful story to tell with colorful characters and a rich life of listening and learning her way to success. Some people might classify HOW TO BUILD A PIANO BENCH as a rags-to-riches story, but from Ruthi’s perspective she was wealthy way back when, just from growing up in her tight-knit community. 

“Whatever you’ve got can go. In the end, all you’ve got is your character,” said her parents. Her book is a testament to the strength of strong values, a work-ethic, and a lifetime of making dreams come true. 

Lessons for Success from a Red-Dirt Road in Alabama
By Ruthi Postow Birch
Published By River Grove Books, 2017
ISBN 9781632991089
Trade Paperback / E-Book
$16.95 / $8.99
264 Pages

Do You Know What a Book Publicist Does?

Do You Know What a Book Publicist DoesDO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES?
A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns
By Claire McKinney

For more information on the book visit our Plum Bay Publishing page or on Amazon.

Book publishing is an ever-changing industry—between technological advancements, the emergence of self-publishing, and the rise of social media, how can an author distinguish their book from the competition? Whether traditional or self-published, authors can be left in the dark when it comes to promoting and marketing their books.

Book publicity expert Claire McKinney has found that the lack of information on how book promotion works has left most authors without a clear idea of how they can contribute to their campaigns. Her new book DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES? A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns, stems from over twenty years of experience in the field.

In her book, McKinney exposes the depth of extensive campaigning necessary for successful promotion. From this, authors can begin to understand the everyday workings of their in-house publicist—and for indie authors, how they can improve their own promotional efforts.

Book promotion can be rife with opportunities to make or break an author’s career, and McKinney examines these pitfalls. Showing writers how to brand themselves and identify their professional goals to properly prepare their books for success, McKinney also dives deep into important topics such as creating a personal image, writing press kits, and the importance of building momentum through media with unique insight that could only be provided by a seasoned industry professional.

Combining professional advice with charts and case studies, authors will see the inner workings of book publicity at every angle from initial idea generation to event planning.


• How to promote their book to the media
• How to create their own media contact list
• How to write press release materials and how to use them
• How to create a timeline and plan a campaign on their own
• How to pitch, who to pitch, and when
• How to talk to their publisher about publicity

With McKinney’s clear voice, readers will be equipped with the tools they need to create a campaign from scratch, and have fun in the process. DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BOOK PUBLICIST DOES? serves as a comprehensive step-by-step guide that every author should have in their arsenal.

About the Author
Claire McKinney is twenty-year veteran of the publishing industry. She has worked for major publishers, including Little, Brown and Company, Putnam, and Disney Publishing Claire has appeared on CSPAN and on the Today Show as an expert on self-publishing. She travels regularly to speak to authors and audiences about book promotion, publishing, and social media marketing. Visit her at

A Guide for Creating Your Own Campaigns
Claire McKinney
Plum Bay Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9988617-0-8
Price $11.99
146 pp