April 2022-Books 'N Pieces Magazine

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from the publisher

APRIL 2022

Inside This Issue

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to sail her by.” ~ William Shakespeare

Welcome Back! It’s exciting to bring back Books ‘N Pieces Magazine after a lengthy hiatus. Why were we gone? The magazine started in 2017 and, after many changes of format, style, content and ways of reaching readers, and with the advent of—I hesitate to use that ‘pat’ answer— Covid—we decided a pause was needed. The publisher, William Gensburger, was concentrating on his novels, now released, and the time required to put out a quality publication was limited. The strength of Books ‘N Pieces Magazine lies in the variety of content geared for writers of all ranges, from professional to amateur, offering information that is both current, as well as useful. Some of the many writers we’ve interviewed show the caliber of content. Many bestsellers, many new authors, all offering their readers a value that can only be described by reading their work. In our issues we will feature short stories, poetry, art, photography, interviews, articles, tips, news, and even related topics like medical, food, health, fashion––everything related to writers, writing, readers and even general interest. We are advertising supported, allowing us to offer the magazine to read at no charge. If you are a business please consider advertising, sponsoring, or even distributing our magazine to your network of readers. Every reader counts. And please join our mailing list HERE. Enjoy this issue. Cheers!

William Gensburger 2

•INTERVIEW ......................... 2 New York Times Bestseller, TOSCA LEE on Life, Fiction, and Everything In-Between. •SHORT STORY .................... 8 Joe Brady’s Bridge by Mike Sherer

•SCRIBBLESWORTH’S BOOK REVIEW ......................30 •ARTICLE ..............................34 CAN YOU AFFORD TO BE A WRITER William Gensburger examines your odds of success.

•BOOK ENDS BOOK REVIEW.........10 by Jill Hedgecock

•INTERVIEW ..........................36 Bestselling author, J.C. RYAN: A Man and His Dog.

•SHORT STORY .................... 12 Pride Among Predators by Denice Penrose

•ARTICLE...............................40 THE VALUE OF A MUSE BOARD by Jill Hedgecock

•ADVERTISE HERE................. 16

•CALENDAR...........................42

•INTERVIEW ..........................18 KRISTINA RIENZI, Author, Life Coach and making it all work.

•ARTICLE .............................. 43 WHY THE WORLD NEEDS CLEAN CHARACTERS IN FICTION by author J.S Ririe.

•SHORT STORY .....................22 The Sin of Rock and Roll Sunday by Cerys Harrison

•WRITING CONTEST .............47 Our first contest of the year.

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DEADLINE FOR MAY 2022 ISSUE IS APRIL 15th William Gensburger Publisher William@BooksNPieces.com Jill Hedgecock Book Reviews Julio Carlos/Scribblesworth Book Reviews Sponsors This Issue: Creative Edge Publicity | JC Ryan, Author Books ‘N Pieces Magazine is published monthly by William Gensburger/ Misterwriter Publications and distributed through opt-in email lists, subscribers, as well as placement on websites with high traffic, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok, Instagram and more. It is also available on issuu.com and BooksNPieces.com. Readership of Books ‘N Pieces Magazine is FREE of charge. We are supported through sponsorships, advertising revenue, as well as donations made by readers without obligation. For ad and sponsorship rates, please contact the publisher. Ph: (208) 991-2626 All email communications: William@BooksNPieces.com

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INTERVIEW

Life, Fiction and Everything In-Between Tosca Lee is the multi-

award winning, New York Times, IndieBound, and Amazon

bestselling author of eleven novels. We wanted to know what makes her tick!

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What is your family background? Heritage? And have you been there? If so, how has it shaped your perceptions? I’m half Korean and half Caucasian (mostly Scottish). It very much affected me as a young person growing up in the 70s. Before I was even born, my parents were denied a marriage license in 1968 in Georgia because my mother is Caucasian and my father is not. Growing up in Nebraska in the 70s, there weren’t a lot of kids who looked like me or even ate the same kind of food that I ate at home. I’ve been to Korea many times, though not in the last several years. I miss it—that’s the thing about being bi-racial, I think—never quite fitting in in one place or a culture completely and always longing at the same time for the other. How did you get the writing bug? By reading great books that took me away so effectively that when I closed the book after reading it, I immediately wanted to go back and read again, if only to return to that place. Favorite place and time of day to sit and write? The dead of night is traditionally my best time. That’s changing slightly now that I’ve got kids (I married a single father in 2016 and became an insta-mom) and after I entered my 50s. Favorite writing instrument? My iPhone. Not because it’s what I 4

normally write with, but because it saves me every time I’m trying to fall asleep and get an idea (which always happens and which I can never remember in the morning). I don’t always have a pen and paper by my bed but the phone is always there. Favorite, food? Movie popcorn with extra butter. Bacon. And my favorite cocoa apple cake with cream cheese frosting. Favorite movie? “Out of Africa.” When did you first believe that you were a legitimate author? I wrote on the staff of a computer magazine right out of college, so I had been in the habit of getting a paycheck for writing, and I did author a couple computer books. So the concept of getting published wasn’t a new one for me. But there’s something about selling and getting paid for your first novel, and then doing interviews, and winning an award. I don’t think there’s a single moment, but a series of events that finally makes it sink in. And then the next time you write you sit down and feel like a fraud all over again. LOL What were your biggest doubts and fears and do you still harbor them? Oh sure. All the time. I’m afraid what I’m writing sucks, that I’ve lost my mojo, that I only had 1 (and

then 2, and then 3, etc. etc.) good books in me. That I’m inadvertently writing something I’m going to get raked over the coals and canceled for. That I’m just not that good. I could go on all day. Has success changed your perspective about yourself, your interactions with others, and how do you deal with that? It helped me finally see that I might have some good things or advice to share. When I started out, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t, most of the time. But I do have thoughts to share and teach often now. If you learned that you could not write anymore, what else would you do? I’d say that I’d try to make a career of organizing drawers and cleaning out closets but Marie Kondo already did that so… On your website you have an enticing tab for ‘CODE’ that asks: “THERE’S A CODE EMBEDDED IN ‘THE LINE BETWEEN’ THAT OPENS A GATE.” How has the response been?

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So, so many. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Asia, Europe, to Australia, Fiji, Israel, the UAE. My mom and I always seem to find some kind of crazy adventure—trekking across the Balkans, or fishing for piraña on the Amazon. This December we’re headed to the Galapagos. Bora Bora is a special favorite for my husband and I. I think it’s been really good. The messed up thing about that is that I don’t get to see the number of people who attempt to break the code (that I hid in The Line Between that readers can find and guess) or how many get it right. I need to talk to my site developer!

Where have you travelled in and out of the US and any place that delights you?

Tosca Lee in Israel

You traveled to Israel, detailed on your blog ‘Israel blog’, which was a very interesting read with parts that showed a lot of your own personality and cares. How personal was it and why? As someone who grew up in the church and then later on went on to write a book about Judas Iscariot, this trip wasn’t just research; it was very personal. I had wanted for a long time to walk those ancient streets. It was unforgettable. Your last novel ‘A SINGLE LIGHT’ is the sequel to ‘THE LINE BETWEEN’. How did you decide to focus on that and how difficult is it to create the suspense in a believable way?

Here’s the explanation for readers intrigued now: https://toscalee. com/i-hid-something-in-the-linebetween-did-you-find-it/

lished. We don’t have to go over a lot of stuff again. So we can just let the story rip.

I have only one goal when I write thrillers: to keep readers up past bedtime. To say, as they try to put the book down, “Oh no you don’t!” That holds especially true for sequels in which my single goal is to ratchet up the tension even beyond the first book. That is how it ought to be, in my opinion. The characters and setting are estab-

You’re back to in-person events with quite a solid schedule coming up including Thrillerfest XVII, May 31-June 4 in New York. Do you find that these appearances help your fan base, or just expose others to your work? And do you enjoy these events? They really achieve a couple things: they help me connect with my fan base—the majority of readers who come to events like book signings are already familiar with your fans of your work. Connecting with readers is the frosting on the cake of this job—my favorite thing. The second thing is that it lets me get out and help other authors when I teach. So for Thrillerfest, for example, I’m teaching, and it’s a chance to encourage and help those authors earlier in their journey. That is very gratifying to me. What’s next for Tosca Lee? I co-wrote a novel with NYT bestselling author Marcus Brotherton about three young friends from Mobile, Alabama who are stationed in the Philippines during WWII and become part of the infamous Bataan Death March. It’s out in May 2022 so watch for it. novel comes

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[Editor note: our thanks to Tosca for her wonderful answers. Links to her social media are listed below. Be sure to check out her favorite recipe on page 7] Learn more about Tosca Lee on: Website: https://toscalee.com Facebook: https://www.facebook. com/AuthorToscaLee Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToscaLee Instagram: https://www.instagram. com/toscalee/ Pinterest: https://www.pinterest. com/toscalee/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/427839. Tosca_Lee BookBub: https://www.bookbub. com/authors/tosca-lee 6

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RECIPE

Tosca Lee’s Favorite... Ingredients:

Cocoa Apple Cake

1 cup butter 1/2 cup water 3 eggs 2 cups sugar 2 1/2 cups flour 2 Tbs cocoa 1 tsp soda 1 tsp cinnamon 3/4 cup chocolate chips 2 cups grated apple (with or without peels) 1 Tbs vanilla 1 cup chopped nuts Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. remaining ingredients. Grease and bundt pan. Bake. Check cake after see if done. Don’t overbake.

water, Fold in flour 10” tube or 55-60 minutes to

Cream Cheese Frosting: 6 oz cream cheese 6 Tbs margarine 1 tsp vanilla 1 lb powdered sugar (or less, depending on consistency) Mix together and spread on cooled cake. Books ‘N Pieces Magazine — April 2022 — www.BooksNPieces.com

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SHORT STORY

Staff Sergeant

Joe Brady’s

Bridge

I

by Mike Sherer

happened upon a man fishing in a river below a bridge. His slim slight frame was slouched down in a camp chair in the shade of the bridge with a rod in his hand. Dressed in jeans and a desert camouflage tee, with a Cincinnati Reds ball cap on his close-cropped head, he seemed perfectly at ease and at peace with the world. A small tackle box was on one side of the chair, while on the other was a small cooler. If I had to guess, I’d say he was late twenties to early thirties. The river was slow-flowing, and not very wide. The trees on both sides seemed undisturbed, other than by the usual suspects, squirrels and small birds. No structures, except the heavy cement columns supporting the bridge towering above, were to be seen. A peaceful place to relax and enjoy some fishing. But it wasn’t quiet; traffic noise, especially the roar of semis rumbling across the bridge over my head, saw to that. As if reading my mind, the fisherman nodded his head up 8

at the bridge. “Traffic gets pretty heavy sometimes.” “Must be a good fishing spot,” I observed, “to make it worth the racket.” He frowned. “Not really.” He kicked his cooler. “Help yourself.” I was parched. “Thanks.” Opening the cooler, I found it filled with beers. I shook my head. “Better not. I’m driving.” “Go ahead. One won’t kill you.” He was right. So I took one out and closed the cooler. “Have you caught dinner yet?” “Not yet.” He turned his attention back to his bobber drifting on the lazy current. I opened the beer. “What are you fishing for?” “Anything that will bite.” I took a long draw. Man, that tasted good. I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was. He smiled up at me when I finally lowered the can. “Two won’t kill you, either.” Before I could disagree, a siren whined sharply toward the bridge above. “It does get noisy here.”

“Late at night it quiets down.” “You fish here at night?” “My favorite time. The crickets are singing, the frogs are croaking. You even hear a whip ‘o will sometimes. And I’ve heard a hoot owl.” The siren screamed right up onto the bridge, then stopped. The sudden silence was deafening. When I looked up at the bridge, the red strobing light was blasting the sky. “Something bad happened.” The fisherman frowned up at the bridge. “Something bad’s always happening.” “Think we ought to climb up there and see what’s going on?” There was a dirt trail beside the bridge ascending the hillside up to the highway. “No, I’ve seen enough carnage in my life. The ambulance is here. They can handle whatever tragedy’s taken place. We’d just be in their way.” I nodded in agreement, and looked back to him. “What kind of carnage?” He turned his attention back

Books ‘N Pieces Magazine — April 2022 — www.BooksNPieces.com


out to the river. “I don’t like to talk about it.” I studied him. He was young, trim, well-tanned, with a flinty look and glazed eyes. Also, the buzz cut and camouflage shirt suggested military. “Were you in the Army?” He nodded yes. “Middle East?” “Two tours. Afghanistan.” His frown grew severe. “And do not thank me for my service.” I chuckled. “Yeah, I always thought that sounded kind of hoaky.” “Insincere is the word.” “Not too quiet there, I guess.” “It is at night.” He looked up at me. “Ever been in the desert at night?” After I shook my head no, he continued. “All you hear is the wind across the sand.” He looked around at the trees. “I like listening to the crickets here.” “What did you do over there? If you don’t mind my asking.” He looked like he minded, but he answered anyway. “Escort duty. I accompanied supply convoys through dangerous terrain.” A wistful grin graced his face. “Sort of like a guide for people passing through unfamiliar territory for the first time.” A crumpled soda can sailed down from above and clanked on the rocks at our feet. I jump back in surprise when the vet leaped up out of his chair with a snarl, gazing up at the bridge with venom in his

eyes. “Lousy litterers!” “I hate that, too,” I said, once I’d caught my breath. “People are pigs.” He turned his wrath on me. “How do you like it when people toss trash into your front yard?” I shrugged. “I don’t like it. But I just pick it up and throw it away.” “I just hate that!” He heaved a deep sigh and sagged back into his chair. “I need to calm down. I’m still a little tense.” “After two tours in Afghanistan? I get that.” He smiled sheepishly up at me. “Spending time here. Fishing. That calms me.” He returned his attention to his line in the water. Now that he had calmed, something he had said registered. “You consider this place your front yard?” He nodded upward. “That’s my bridge.” I’d seen the signs along the highways, of people and families and organizations and businesses taking responsibility for keeping a stretch of roadside clean of trash. No wonder he got so upset. I wasn’t surprised that he would volunteer to pick up garbage from ‘his’ bridge, after two tours of duty in a war zone. Some people served their country every way they could, while others shirked duty of any kind. “So you volunteered to pick up litter from the stretch of road with that bridge?”

He laughed. “That’s not it.” Humble, too, I thought. Then a tug on his line distracted both of us. Until another distraction imposed upon our peace. The shrieking siren started up again as the ambulance pulled away from the crash site above. I looked up to follow the flashing light at it sped off the bridge. “I need to be going.” He smiled at me and nodded pleasantly, then turned his attention back to his fishing. I walked on down the river bank. Reaching a bend that would take me out of sight of the man, I stopped to look back one last time. He was slouched down into his chair, the way I had first spied him, holding the rod loosely in one hand while sipping a beer with his other. So at peace with the world. That was encouraging. I turned and walked on, hoping I could find such peace myself. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Sherer is a published author of many works from screenplay to novel. His screenplay ‘Hamal_18’ was produced in Los Angeles and is available on Amazon Prime. Published work includes: ‘A Cold Dish’, ‘Under A Raging Moon’, ‘Shadytown’,’Souls of Nod’ and four other novellas and 27 short stories. Only one of his works was been self-published. His novella ‘The Dead Sister’ can be found on Kindle Vella. Mike lives in the Greater Cincinnati area of southwest Ohio. Website: mikesherer.org

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' The Line Between ' & 'A Single Light ' by Tosca Lee

The Line Between (Howard Books, Reprint edition, 2019, paperback, 384 pages, $8.64) and the sequel, A Single Light (2020, 384 pages, paperback, $17.00) by Tosca Lee, is the story of Wynter Roth, who grew up in New Earth, a religious cult run by Magnus, a megalomaniac. In The Line Between, Wynter is indoctrinated at an early age, along with her sister, Jackie, into the belief system of the cult. Wynter might have continued living as a true believer in New Earth if she hadn’t started working in Magnus’s office. Here, she overhears disturbing conversations. Magnus, who calls himself the ‘Mouthpiece of God,’ then takes a romantic interest in her, even though he is married to her sister and they have a daughter. Wynter tries to discourage the man’s 10

overtures, but the gossip mill in their small community alerts Jackie to Magnus’ flirtations, alienating her from her sister. Wynter feels trapped. She believes that the outside world is destined to experience an apocalypse and the only way to save herself and her soul is to remain in New Earth. But then the unthinkable happens and she is cast out. Wynter is devastated that she will no longer be able to make amends with her sister or see her niece, Truly. In the outside world, Wynter moves in with her mother’s best friend, Julie. But just as she is acclimating to the unfamiliar and uncensured world of television, music, and the internet, a pandemic erupts. The virus causes rapid early

onset dementia. Wynter obsesses over the news and struggles to control her PTSD. Then one night, as the world seems to have collapsed into an apocalyptic state, Jackie appears at her house with medical samples that could be used to develop a vaccine. A high-speed, cross-country trek ensues where Wynter joins forces with a man named Chase, and the race to save humanity is on. The Line Between can be summed up as Emma Cline’s ‘The Girls’ taking place in the age of a pandemic. The quality of writing and storytelling in The Line Between had me reaching for the sequel immediately after turning the final page. In A Single Light, the story picks up with Wynter and Chase and about 60 other people, including her niece, Julie, and Julie’s daughter Lauren, riding out the pandemic in an underground barracks called “The Silo”. The Silo is the mastermind of Noah, a survivalist who designed the structure so that the occupants

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are in lockdown for 6 months. His theory was that by then a vaccine would be available. Noah, who remained topside, provides video updates of the status of the world. But then his daily briefing suddenly stops. The unlock system is automatically set so his disappearance isn’t catastrophic, yet the uncertainties associated with this new development finds the story of the Silo occupants taking on elements of ‘The Lord of the Flies.’ As “Open Day” nears, a tragic accident forces Wynter and Chase out of the Silo and into a dystopian world where gasoline and medicine are impossible to find. Sequels often lack the punch of the first novel, but A Single Light is as compelling as The Line Between. What is perhaps most disturbing about both of these novels is how many similarities there are between them and our real-life pandemic. Remarkably, Lee’s fictional pandemic descriptions were already published before COVID appeared. These page-turning, dystopian

novels are sure to please fans of science fiction and thrillers alike. The Line Between was a Goodreads Choice Awards Best Mystery/Thriller 2019 Semifinalist. It ranked as an Amazon’s #1 Release in Medical Thrillers. Woman’s World voted it as a “Best New Books This Week” and BookRiot included it as one of the “50 MustRead Crime Novels for Fall and Winter”. Tosca Lee is an awardwinning, New York Times bestselling author. Other novels include: ‘Firstborn,’ ‘The Progeny,’ ‘Havah,’ ‘The Legend of Sheba,’ ‘Iscariot,’ and the ‘Books of Mortals’ series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into 17 languages and optioned for TV and film. You can find Tosca at toscalee. com. [Editor note: She is also the cover interview of this issue of Books ‘N Pieces Magazine.]

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SHORT STORY

Pride AMONG Predators

by Denice Penrose

M

urder is easy. The killing I mean. It’s simple. We see it all the time here in the Kruger National Park. Eat or be eaten is the rule. Africa is a dangerous place. I should know: I’ve been doing this for twenty years. “Here’s the jeep keys Gerry. Better make sure your rifle is loaded. We’ve had reports of a rogue elephant.” “Thanks Manus.” I deliberately brush my fingers against his as I take the keys. He flushes, but smiles. He’s young, new. He’ll learn. I’ll make time for him at the end of the tourist season. Rifle in its case, slung over my back, I walk out of the thatched cool, across stone floors into the African sun. They’re waiting for me, under the canopy, cameras, binoculars and phones in evidence. They’re stacked in layered seats— high enough to give them good views. Looking at the faces, I note Chinese, Nordic blonde, Indian—a microcosm of cultures. I’ll know the others by sunset. “Môre Julle. That’s Afrikaans for ‘Good Morning,’ I smile. “Sawubona,” Jabu says. “That’s how we say it in my language.” 12

He flashes an electric smile—his teeth whitened by the contrasting darkness of his complexion. “I’m Geraldine, this is Jabu. We have a few rules to keep you safe,” I say beginning our usual lecture. I don’t have to think about the words anymore. I outline our route for the day, the animals we’re likely to see, and I watch faces light up. Ah, tourists, my pain, my pay and my pleasure. Jabu climbs behind the wheel, and starts the engine. “Is your gun loaded?” I ask sotto voice. “Always, Gerry, Always.” We drive out of the gates of Skukuza. Automatically, I begin narrating. “It’s been dry lately, so we’re more likely to spot game along the river, so we’ll be driving along the Sabie River. Our first rest break will be when we get to Lower Sabie.” As if they know we’re coming for them, the impala begin to put in an appearance, “Look it’s like a buck. It’s so close.” Ah, an American. “Can we stop to get a photo?” Jabu looks at me and I nod. Shutters click. Jabu and I share an amused smile—we have a bet on how long it will take for them to go

from excitement over a few impala, to ‘it’s just another buck.’ There are well over 130,000 in the park, so my bet is one hour. Jabu thinks it will take three. An hour later he hands over ten Rand (R), as we drive past a large herd of Impala. One of the tourists yawns. So far we’ve ticked off Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe, and a few wildebeest. There are a couple of keen bird watchers, and they’re delighted to see a Hoopoe sitting proudly in a tree, curved insect eating beak in prominent display. A little later, a flock of purple crested rollers fly past.

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“When we see big five?” I hand back the R10 to a smiling Jabu. It took longer than usual for that question to come up. As if on cue, a small herd of elephants walks across the road in front of us. There is a frenzy of clicks, and excited chatter. The herd lopes across the road in a ragged line, and down towards the water, a mother and calf encircled. “Aw. Look how cute the baby is.” “Can we move in closer?”

“This is a safe distance, especially with a calf in the herd. They can flatten the jeep, and outrun you. You don’t mess with them,” Jabu says. They look suitably chastened, but it’s time to reinforce the safety message. “When people are killed here, it’s usually because they get too close to the predators. They forget that these are wild animals. Stay in the jeep, listen closely, and you’ll be fine. A few minutes down the road,

we pull into a viewing point, close to the river. It sparkles in the sunlight. Reminding everyone to stay in the jeep, I hop out to get the cooler bag. Jabu stands guard, rifle in hand. We hand around cold drinks and water. My hair is damp, sticking to my head under the hat. I shake it out, tie it up again, rub my face with a damp hankie, and reapply sunscreen and sunglasses. Jabu’s shirt is marked by dark sweat patches, and I’m sure mine

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reflects the same pattern. I drink cold water, and think about long showers. I pour a little water down my neck, my blouse clings wetly. Bingo. I feel his gaze, then look up into dark eyes. He glimpses away, but I see his eyes keep returning to my chest. That push up bra is bloody uncomfortable, but so effective. I stretch, knowing his eyes are on me, beginning to reel him in. The hunter has taken the bait. He’s tall, blue eyed, dark haired, nicely toned, his loose shirt hinting at a six-pack as he moves. He’s been quiet so far, a loner. He’s young, just the way I like them. The cicadas chirp incessantly, the anthem of the African bush. The heat rises, and the air is still, no breeze stirring. Jabu scans the bushes with his binoculars. I keep my hand on my loaded rifle, but safety on. A hippo opens its mouth to yawn. The pocked tracks of a crocodile’s back float along the river’s edge. “You’re so lucky living here, seeing this every day.” “It is beautiful,” I agree looking him over. With the casual confidence of youth, he’s happy to strike up a conversation. “I’m Jamie.” I shake his extended hand. His grip is firm, his hand lingers a little. I smile softly, and he flushes, puts his hand in his pocket. 14

“Look, up there,” Jabu says. “I lift my binoculars in a matching gaze. “Well spotted! Look up into the lower branches of the tree across the river, the one at 10 o’clock.” I tell them. Binoculars swing, cameras point, “Where?” “What is it?” “There’s a leopard sleeping in that tree,” I say. “I see it.” “Let me see.” “There’s a dead impala next to it. It looks so small.” “The young are easy prey. It’s nature’s way of thinning out the herd, keeping them strong. Leopards drag their kill up into the trees, to keep it from other predators,” I say. They chatter and look excitedly. Jabu and I check the rest of the area for any more ‘sights’ with one eye alert for potential danger. The clicking slows, and binoculars begin to move around again. “Okay, time to go,” I say. The groans are soon forgotten when we spot a pack of hyena sleeping under a tree. Two pups suckle softly, and I give my group the spiel—being a walking encyclopaedia comes with the territory. At Lower Sabie, there’s a rush to the loos. It’s good to stretch my long tanned legs, straighten my

shorts. In the staff bathrooms, I freshen up, change my shirt, wash my face and brush out my hair. Blue eyes stare at me in the mirror. My bronzed complexion is still unlined, and I need very little make up. I pull a few blonde tendrils out of the ponytail, tweak my fringe. Jabu and I grab lunch in the canteen, while our group raids the gift shop and has their meal. Jamie wanders over to us, backpack slung over one shoulder. He settles in the chair next to me. Jabu smiles, and I shoot him a warning look. “That was so cool. I can’t believe we’ve been so close to all those animals,” Jamie says. “Oh, you changed your shirt. That’s smart. I should have brought a spare. It’s so hot,” he says, eyes lingering a little at my top button, which is a little lower than on my other shirt. I sip my coke, and meet his gaze. His eyebrows raise, and he looks away, swallows. Jabu shoots me a warning look, and I grin wryly. “Where do you come from?” I ask, knowing his answer won’t be a surprise. I’ve already placed that Sussex accent. “I live in Brighton.

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I’ve just finished my degree, and I wanted to travel a bit.” “You’re lucky. Travel is expensive.” “Yes, but I have some money. It’s my inheritance. My dad died a few months ago.” “Is this your first time abroad?” “First trip to Africa, but we summered in different parts of Europe every year, and one year in New York. Dad says, I mean, said, travel is good education.” “What does your mother think?” “No idea. She split before I turned two, and my Dad divorced my last stepmother years ago. I’m all alone in the world,” his lip quivers slightly. I put my hand on his and smile at him. “You’re not alone.” This time he holds my gaze, smiles. He’s hooked. “He’s a bit young,” Jabu says softly as we climb back into the jeep. “Relax, it’s just a bit of fun.” I

flash him a disarming smile, and he shrugs. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.” “That leaves me with a lot of scope,” I reply, knowing he has a few more notches on his belt than I do. Jamie makes a point of sitting right behind me, smiling smugly. I give him an encouraging smile. I hand out insect repellent to those who underestimated the mosquitoes, and fresh bottles of cold water. We’re off again. We head down towards Crocodile Bridge, and to Berg en Dal. Time and a lot more species pass in the hot sun. The list of ticks grows. Jamie talks, telling me about his degree, and I discover he’s an only child. I set my sights on him, encouraging him just enough that he knows to continue, but ensuring he can’t monopolise my attention while I’m working. Mid-afternoon, we approach my favourite place in the park. It doesn’t look like much at first glance—kopje or rocky outcrop, surrounded by a few sparse thorn bushes. Jabu knows to stop here. “Why are we stopping?” Jamie asks. “Just a minute,” I say, scanning the bushes. I know they won’t be far. “Lions!” The Japanese tourist spots them first, and binoculars

swivel, lining up with his pointed finger. They’re there, all ten of them. It’s a big group, but they stay here. They know there’s regular food, and good shelter in that kopje. One strolls closer, sniffing the air. She knows me. “Wow, she’s so close we could touch her,” “Don’t even think about it,” Jabu and I warn together. “They’re not tame. They can kill you with one swipe.” Jabu backs up a bit, and we hear a few groans. The lioness returns to her pride, flops down in the shade. They snooze in the thicket, only the flickering of ears and tail indicate they are alive. Two cubs squabble playfully by their mother. She ends their game with an indolent paw. These are my lions, my pride. “We’ll see better from over there,” Jabu says, moving the jeep again. The male raises his head, stares at us, and yawns. We continue our meandering drive. Even I’m surprised when we spot a rhino. Finally, we wend our way back to Skukuza a little after sunset. Our tourists are tired, but happy, and the Americans leave a big tip. Jamie is last to leave, hovering while I empty the jeep. “Hamba kahle,” I wish Jabu well as he drives off to park the jeep.

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“Sahle kahle,” he replies with a wave. ‘Stay well.’ Jamie approaches me. “Can I buy you a drink? He offers. “Later?” I ditch the khaki uniform, wash off the sweat and dust in a long cool shower. I slip into black lace panties and bra, and then pull on a colourful silk wrap dress. The fabric floats and clings softly. Hair dried, and arranged in soft curls, gold sandals, and a spritz of perfume. I’m ready to prowl. I’m aware of turning heads as I walk into the bar. Jamie’s jaw drops, then he quickly stands up, wiping his hands on his trousers. “Ah. Um. Wow. You look amazing.” “Thanks. A glass of chardonnay Jim,” Jim nods and pours. “I’ll get that,” Jamie fumbles for his wallet. Jim rolls his eyes at me and shakes his head. “Be nice,” he says. “Always,” I laugh, as I lead the way to a secluded corner. Jamie follows. We sit, drink, eat, talk. He’s holding my hand. I smile and slowly reel him in. “It’s late,” I say. “Where are you staying?” He tells me, and I thank him for the evening, adoring puppy expression turns to hang dog. I kiss him softly. “Goodnight.” I can’t be seen leaving with him. Surprise turns to delight when I knock on his door a little later. “I’m 16

really not supposed to do this,” I tell him as I slither out of silk, and slip into bed beside him. “It’s not very professional.” “I promise I won’t tell,” he says. I know he won’t. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in energy. It’s why I like them young. He’s a quick learner. “When will I see you again?” he asks as I leave. “How long are you staying?” “I don’t know— I don’t have any real plans. I can stay as long as I like.” “I’m not working this weekend. We can meet up then.” I help out with a cull on Thursday. I’m a crack shot, so I’m always in demand, but it’s not fun. I know we have to do it to manage the populations, but killing these animals is not fun. They are outmatched, and outgunned. I pick Jamie up outside the mall in Nelspruit on Friday afternoon, and we head back to Skukuza. “You’ll have to hide, when we go through the gates—I’m not supposed to bring visitors in.” He doesn’t question, and hides in the back of the jeep, and we take the back roads to my chalet. No one is around as we sneak inside. “I could lose my job if anyone sees you at my place,” I tell him. “You’ll have to keep hidden.” “I’m happy to stay inside with you,” he tells me. “And inside me?” I say. He has

the grace to blush, and then smiles at me. This should be fun, and I have all weekend to teach him how to play. On Sunday night, when the gates have closed again, and the park is shrouded in dark, I load the jeep, and drive towards Pretporiuskop. The park is mine now, no tourists. The air is warm, the velvet-sky diamond encrusted. The kopje looms in the dark. As if they knew I was coming, they’re there, waiting. I smile as I see them in the jeep lights. I roll out the bundle, removing the tarpaulin. They walk over, sniff, and paw at their snack. My pride, my partners. I smile as they devour the evidence, my prey. Murder is easy. Not getting caught, now that’s a bit harder. Tougher still is finding a way of disposing of the body that won’t leave a trail. My method has worked for twenty years. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Denice Penrose has a Bachelor’s degree majoring in English, Psychology and Library Science, and a degree in Theology, an MSc in Information Science. She is self-employed, working as a research administrator / manager on multiple University research projects in the Digital Humanities. Denice lives in England with her husband and six spoiled cats, who sometimes deign to keep her company when she writes. Follow her on: Twitter @denicepenrose Blog: https://the-write-link.webnode. com/ Instagram: denicepenrose

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INTERVIEW

“For as long as I can remember, I've loved writing. Even as a young child, I read feverishly and wrote stories at every turn.” 18

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Kristina Rienzi Kristina Rienzi is a Jersey Shorebased new adult thriller author, certified professional coach, and the former president of Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey. She has eight books with another in process.

began creating short stories. Soon after, completing a novel was a dream that I would realize two years later.

What’s your favorite writing instrument?

Writing first thing in the morning, in my quiet home office, with a cup of coffee and all technology turned off, is my bliss. I’m most comfortable in my own environment with no distractions and that critical caffeine!

While I love taking handwritten notes in notebooks, journals, and even Post-Its, my preferred writing instrument will always be my laptop. There, I can save work to the Cloud, share it with anyone who needs to give feedback, write and edit in any place and do so with speed. I’m a fast typist, so my fingers can keep up with my brain on a computer more effectively than pen to paper. How did you get the writing bug? For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved writing. Even as a young child, I read feverishly and wrote stories at every turn. Stories have always intrigued me as an introvert. It was an easy way to escape to another place and live a million lives all at once. As I grew up, writing became a part of my professional life, and I realized it wasn’t only something I enjoyed but something natural for me. About 12 years ago, I decided I would get reacquainted with writing for fun, so I joined a writer’s group, took some classes, and

What’s your favorite place and time of day to sit and write?

Where have you travelled in and out of the US and any place that delights you? Living in New Jersey, I’ve traveled to most of the nearby states and some in the Midwest and West Coast, but (truth be told) I’m more of a homebody. My favorite places to visit are Hawaii (the island of Oahu, specifically), and outside the U.S., I love Bermuda and Italy. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? The ambiance, the locals, the food, it’s all a little closer to heaven on earth. There are a few of these places in my soul, and I would go back infinite times if possible.

When did you first believe that you were a legitimate author? I still wonder! The first realization that I may be an author was when I pitched my debut novel, ‘Choosing Evil’, on Twitter that was picked up by a publisher. It hit home that it was really happening after all of my hard work. The confirmation happened when it became an Amazon bestseller on release day. What were your biggest doubts and fears and do you still harbor them? Oh, I still carry all the doubts and fears; let’s be clear! I doubt my ability to write a book, and once it’s written, I doubt it will be good. I’m afraid no one will read it or buy it, and if they do, they’ll hate it. I’m always surprised when my doubts and fears are (mostly) untrue. Part of being human, I suppose. The difference now is that I know it doesn’t matter what I think, only what I do, written the book. I have no control over how it’s received (liked or not liked) and how it performs (sells or flops), but so long as I do my best. Progress! On your website you have

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fiction and non-fiction sections, the latter dealing with self-help that was your primary focus in becoming an author, and once attained, you began the fiction line covering everything from science fiction to paranormal and suspense—quite a wide range. How did you decide these were the genres to focus on and have you found one works better for you?

back in life and come away with tools to better their lives. There is something profound about getting that from simply reading a book. “Winning on the outside and dying on the inside…” is a line from your bio. A ‘peoplepleaser’ which is always difficult to do, especially these days

Starting out as an author, I didn’t know where I’d land on the genre. I wrote what appealed to me. I felt the pull to write. As it turned out, even though subgenres differ, the main genres were always a thriller. Thrillers get my Kristina (top right) at Barnes & Noble Mystery Author Event heart racing. They’re so fun to write and read, when no one is pleased. How and they challenge their readers did you come to the realization to triumph over obstacles, which that your focus needed to is eerily similar to my non-fiction change and how did you find the writing goals. strength to do so? Have your readers accepted the genre span or are they loyal to just one genre? I can’t speak for my readers, but I think they read my books because no matter the sub-genre, they go on a wild ride and come out on the other side of fear. Facing fears and winning is rewarding on a deep level, and I hope my stories do that for my readers and keep them coming back. Even in my self-help, they address their fears and what’s holding them 20 20

It was simple: I was unhappy. I did everything I thought was right, but not feed my soul and listen to what I needed. Burnt out and miserable, I decided something had to change. That’s when I enrolled in a yearlong coaching school program that forced me to deal with my issues and learn coping skills to live a better life. It changed the trajectory of my life, shifting me from writing fiction to non-fiction and focusing on continuing my personal development by studying happiness and, now, health and

wellness psychology. Happiness is an inside job, and it’s up to each of us to live the life we want. I wanted a happier life, and it started with identifying what wasn’t working and making a commitment to change. It was the best decision I ever made! You’re at eight books, a short story and a boxset and counting. Does it get easier to write with each one, or is each book a challenge of its own? I don’t know that it gets easier, but it gets different. With each book, you learn a little bit more about who you are as a writer and how your process works, perfecting it each time. You challenge yourself to level up on your craft, so even though some things are more manageable, others are more difficult because you’re advancing your expertise in writing. Every book is a challenge of its own, but we become better writers and challenge ourselves. What’s next for Kristina Rienzi? I’m planning another non-fiction release this year for one. Notably, I’m currently pursuing my doctoral degree in psychology (PsyD), specializing in health and wellness, which will take up most of my time. This is perfectly aligned with who I am intrinsically, as well as my non-fiction work. I hope to use what I learn to write more self-help books backed in psychological research like 5 Happy Choices: The Simple Way to a Happier Life. Find Kristina on her website https://kristinarienzi.com Click to buy ‘5 Happy Choices’

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SHORT STORY

f O in

S e h T

H

Sunday Rock and Roll by Cerys Harrison

enry Ford built Greenfield Village as a shrine to American commerce. He dismantled historical homes from across the country and reassembled them on the property he purchased in the middle of my hometown. Locals were hired, at minimum wage, to dress in period costumes and perform Americana chores for tourists like candle making, butter churning, hog feeding. My father, a rabid Democrat, asserted the real reason for Greenfield Village was to keep ol’ Henry’s property taxes down. Regardless, each year he bought a family pass, and we spent many Sunday afternoons chugging around the Village in the 1873 Torch Lake locomotive that encircled Henry’s menagerie. I felt as if I was traveling between two worlds. One world held the clean, refurbished wooden benches on which we sat as we tooted past the pond with Stephen Foster’s steamboat on our left. The Southfield Freeway on my right led to another world, with Corvettes 22

and Barracudas revving their engines. I inherited a passion for gift shops from my mother and the one in Greenfield Village was exceptional. The summer I turned twelve I wrinkled my nose at the dolls with heads made from dried apples and the wooden hobby horses that fascinated me the year before. Instead, I made my way to the section of the shop with racks of women’s dresses and matching bonnets, where shelves with Early American cookbooks and pamphlets with stencils for decorating rooms with Early American patterns soldiered next to packages of vintage sewing patterns. I imagined myself transported back in time to the general store in my cherished Little House books. I wanted to churn butter with Ma Ingalls. I wanted to read books with Laura by candlelight. I wanted to wear bonnets and skirts that rustled around my ankles. I wondered what kind of underwear Early American girls wore. Those patterns weren’t on the

racks in the Greenfield Village Gift Shop. I wondered, too, what Early American girls did when they got their periods. “They used rags,” my friend Merilee replied as she crossed her delicate arms over her narrow chest and planted her Buster Browns firmly on her backyard grass. “That’s why they say, ‘she’s on the rag’.” I wondered how Early American girls kept their rags in place. My newly acquired sanitary napkins were constantly sneaking out of their belt and laying at odd angles on my panties. Merilee fixed me with squinted eyes. “Back then, girls didn’t run around all over the place like you do. They sat still and were quiet. So, the rags didn’t move.” Merilee’s statements automatically carried the weight of authority whenever we had discussions. She was taller, eight months older, and she consistently brought home better report cards than mine. During Olden Days arguments, Merilee was especially persuasive because her father was a

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minister and her family lived as if they were in the Little House books. Like my own, Merilee’s family were Fundamental Baptists. “And then some.” My mother rolled her eyes as she slipped her hands into soapy dishwater and looked through our kitchen window at the Hanson’s backyard. As next-door neighbors and best friends, Merilee and I were often in each other’s houses. I studied the Hansons’ home as if it were in Greenfield Village. The rooms were dark with the curtains and blinds drawn, no matter the time of day or outside temperature, giving the entire house a musty, old closet smell. The small living room was cramped with bulky dark furniture, including an uncomfortable sofa with two matching stiff, boxy chairs. “Is this horsehair?” I demanded of Merilee as I ran my hand over the unfamiliar, natty fabric of the living room couch.

Merilee rolled her eyes. “It’s tweed.” “Feels like I’m sitting on a dead horse.” To the left of the front door was the kitchen, twice the size of the living room, and Martha, one of Merilee’s two older sisters, was usually there. Large-boned and tall, Martha had just finished her high school freshman year, but she carried herself like a matronly widow, shoulders tucked forward, rarely making eye contact. She was solitary, quiet, and quick to respond when anyone made a request of her. I thought she could easily get a job churning butter at Greenfield Village. Her drab brown hair was long and twisted into a tight bun at the back of her neck. Her button brown eyes seemed smaller because of her bulbous, highly set nose. When I saw Martha walking from the parsonage to her father’s church, her movements were furtive, awkward.

But the Martha who ran the kitchen was a marvel. There, her movements were certain and forceful. The pies and cobblers she pulled from that antique oven were works of art. Her roasts steamed with fragrant juices wafting down our street to the delight of our neighbors. The pastries she delivered to the kitchen table were better than anything served at the cafeteria in Greenfield Village. “Martha. I gulped a bite of homemade apple pie. “You should call ol’ Henry Ford and offer to run the Early American Restaurant. Just send him some of your desserts. He’d hire you in a heartbeat!” Martha ducked her head and gave me a grin that reached from one side of her wide face to the other before she scampered off to load the lunch dishes into the kitchen sink. Merilee gave me a sidelong smirk as she collected both our plates for Martha to wash. The distribution of labor in

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the Hanson household perplexed me. Reverend Hanson spent most mornings working on the sermons he would deliver to his paltry congregation. Martha was responsible for everything that happened in the kitchen, all the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Judy, the eldest, was the smart one. Her job was to do the laundry after she studied for the classes she would take in her upcoming senior year. Merilee was still being treated as a child by her parents, and their only requirement of her was to keep her eight-year-old brother, Archie Jr., entertained. “What does your mother do all day?” I challenged Merilee. “My mother does all the cooking and cleaning. She does the laundry, too.” “That’s because you’re spoiled,” came the familiar admonishment. After lunch each afternoon, Mrs. Hanson sat in the uncomfortable chair by the front door. She smiled benignly, hands folded in her lap, easily blending into her surroundings. Her dark hair hung limply on her thin shoulders. Her black dresses reached the heels of her shoes, when she stood, which wasn’t often. I was fascinated by her stillness, her unaffecting voice, and, most of all, her complexion. It was thick, leathered, and wrinkled like the 24

apple doll heads on display at Greenfield Village. I desperately wanted to touch Mrs. Hanson’s skin, to feel if the wrinkles were as parched as they appeared. Each weekday afternoon, perched on that chair by the front door, Mrs. Hanson watched her husband like a crow on a telephone wire while her daughters went about their housekeeping chores. Her head dipped to the left as her eyes followed Reverend Hanson from the living room to the kitchen, then it dipped to the right as he moved from the kitchen to the stairs leading to his study on the second floor. Her hands were still, but her eyes skipped and jumped as she followed her husband trotting through the house. Like clockwork, “Daddy?,” she’d call out minutes after Reverend Hanson returned to his upstairs study. “Do you want me to fix you a little something?” “Just a cup of tea, Mother. If it’s not too much trouble.” “No trouble at all!” Mrs. Hanson would shoot straight up from the chair. Off she’d scuttle to the kitchen, where Martha brewed a pot of tea and set a plate of cookies on a wooden tray with cups and saucers for two. Merilee, Archie Jr., and I would hear Mrs. Hanson softly knock on the study door, followed by the creak as it opened

for her and, moments later, the click of the key in the lock. We knew what that meant. Merilee and I could play uninterrupted by her parents for the next several hours. Both Merilee and I received transistor radios for Christmas and we agreed that CKLW, “Radio Eight-oh!,” played the best music in town. Every weekday, after her parents disappeared into the Reverend’s study, Merilee and I tuned our radios to 800 on our AM dials, slipped on our transistor’s wristlets and, each holding our radio against an ear, sashayed down the block. We toured our neighborhood from Telegraph Road to Crowley Park, from Lapham School to the railroad tracks singing along to Chicago’s “Colour My World” and Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train,” logging several miles each afternoon. Occasionally, we’d meet a boy from our sixth-grade class who screeched his bike to a stop and attempted a conversation. Merilee was unaware she had a habit of allowing her gaze to lazily wander from the boy’s hairline to his shoes and back up to his eyes while her lips slightly pouted. “Boys! Pfft! C’mon!,” I’d grouse, slipping my forefinger through the belt loop on the back of her pants and dragging her to consciousness. That summer, we devoured teen

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magazines and I decided cut-offs was the look for me. I ripped and frayed my old jeans with fringe that hit mid-thigh. I wore my Keds without socks in a vain attempt to make my legs look longer. Merilee’s older sisters had recently handed down threadbare shirtwaist dresses in shades of taupe that looked like they were from Greenfield Village. Her father allowed her to continue wearing pedal pushers and sleeveless blouses through the summer, but when we started 7th grade in the fall, her parents insisted Merilee wear those old dresses to our new junior high school. Although she and I didn’t talk about it, we both knew Merilee would have a lot of explaining to do to the other kids. Merilee and her eldest sister, Judy, had the good fortune to look like Joni Mitchell when “Clouds” and “Blue” were the rage. Their blonde hair was worn long and straight with bangs that swept across their almond eyes. They looked mature and svelte. I struggled with unexpected and self-conscious curves — hips and breasts that seemed to have bloomed overnight, and cheeks that retained their baby fat. If I had worn her pedal pushers and sleeveless blouses, I would have looked like I raided my grandmother’s closet. On Merilee,

the look was stylish, retro. One afternoon just before sixthgrade graduation, my mother and I stepped into Kresge’s Department store. While my mother debated the merits of buying Tupperware knock-offs, I wandered over to the makeup department and experimented with the Maybelline samples. I noticed Judy at the opposite end of the counter, poking through the Yardley display. I raised my hand in a wave as she stood, stunned, looking in my direction. Judy’s lips glistened wetly as she made a quick swivel to her right and bolted out the main door. Later that afternoon, while I unloaded my mother’s Kresge bags from her car, I glanced at the street in front of the Hansons’ house and saw Judy sitting very close to a boy in the front seat of his car. I reported these events to Merilee one August afternoon when she lectured me on the reasons God didn’t want people listening to rock and roll on Sundays. Tiger baseball games were okay. Like Reverend Hanson, we were fans and listened to every game on our transistor radios. The Reverend said listening to baseball on Sunday was in perfect accordance with the Bible, but listening to rock and roll was a sin. “What about the rest of the week?”

“The rest of the week is okay.” “Even The Doors?” “The Doors are okay.” “But they sing ‘don’t you love her madly’.” “They mean don’t you love her a lot.” “I don’t think so.” “That’s because you have a dirty mind.” “What about Love Me Two Times? Does that mean to love him twice as much?” “Sure. What else could it mean?” “I don’t know. But I don’t think your dad would like Jim Morrison no matter what day of the week it is. I mean, look at his picture in Tiger Beat! He doesn’t have a shirt on! And look at what it says his favorite meal is, pizza and beer! I think if your dad saw this Tiger Beat he would make you change the station when The Doors came on.” Merilee frowned as she considered this because Jim Morrison was our favorite rock star. “Daddy said rock and roll is okay. Just not on Sundays.” “Wait.” I shoved my glasses up the bridge of my nose. “Are you saying I’m going to hell because I listen to rock and roll on Sundays?” Merilee’s arms crossed her chest. “Daddy says your family does a lot of things on Sundays that they shouldn’t, like go to Greenfield Village or out for lunch after

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church. It’s not just your family. All the people who work on Sundays are going to hell, too, even if they don’t know the Bible. Daddy says if your dad was a better father, you wouldn’t go to hell.” My cheeks flamed as tears pooled in my eyes and the part of me that is my mother’s daughter chewed on my lower lip, but the part of me that is my father’s child won out. I squared my shoulders, wiped away the tears, and took a step towards her. “I’m going to hell because my family does things like go to Greenfield Village on Sundays? All the people working there in the concession stands and the ticket booths, they’re going to hell, too, because the Bible says people shouldn’t work on Sundays?” Merilee nodded firmly. “That’s right.” “At Tiger Stadium, people work in concession stands and ticket booths on Sundays and they won’t go to hell?” Merilee’s eyes flicked around her bedroom. “Can you show me where it says in the Bible that God. Likes. Baseball?” My nose was an inch from Merilee. “Daddy says baseball is okay on Sundays but not rock and roll.” Merilee’s Buster Browns stomped on the parquet floor. 26

I played my trump cards about her favorite sister, Judy. “You are such a troublemaker! She had wet lips because she licked them, probably. And the boy who drives her home from school needs help with his homework.” “Brother!” I hooted. “I hope I never have to help a boy with his homework if it means he has to put his arm around me to study!” Merilee chewed her thumbnail and glared at me. “Daddy is going to be so mad.” After this exchange, we spent less time together. Merilee resented being told her sister had worn makeup and socialized with a boy because she had no choice but to rat Judy out to her parents. I was furious that my closest friend, a girl who was older and smarter than me, parroted her father’s hypocrisy. We were at a stalemate. Judy didn’t finish high school in my hometown. Not long after Merilee and I debated the sin of Sunday rock and roll, Reverend Hanson hastily decided Judy needed to improve her relationship with God and she was sent to an evangelical school in Indiana. “It doesn’t make sense to me.” I

huffed. “If Christians only stay with other Christians, what’s the point? Our preacher’s always saying how tough it is to be a Christian, but it wouldn’t be if everyone were.” “You don’t understand.” Merilee glared at me. “No. I don’t.”

“Daddy says the boys around here only think about one thing. He says we need to be around other kinds of boys.” “The boys we know only care about baseball.” Her eyes narrowed. “No, they don’t. And you know it.” “You mean they think about sex.” “Yes.” she nodded, arms crossed

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and Buster Browns planted. “You and I talk about sex.” “It’s not the same.” “You and I talk about sex all the time.” “It’s different with girls.” I smirked. “It’s true. You and I talk about it,

but we would never do it.” I rolled my eyes. “We wouldn’t know what to do.” One Saturday afternoon in late September, Merilee showed me a letter from Judy describing her first date with a proper boy from her senior class who proposed marriage that very night. Judy accepted him. Merilee thought this

was very exciting and proof her parents’ decision to send Judy to their alma mater was the right one. “Don’t you see? If she hadn’t gone there, she would never have met him. He wants to get married right away, right after they graduate. It’s so romantic!” “What are they going to do for money?” “They don’t need money, they’re going to college!” Shortly after the receipt of Judy’s letter, Martha and Merilee each packed a suitcase and waited in the back seat of the family’s Buick Roadmaster. I lay in bed staring at the clock on my nightstand. The day before, I sat on Merilee’s bed and watched as she packed sensible shirtwaists and anklets, her copies of the Little House books, and her transistor radio. I promised I would get up early the next morning and wave goodbye from my porch, but I didn’t. My body felt as if it were made of stone as I imagined the black Buick pulling out of the driveway. Merilee broke her promise to send me her new address. I never heard from her. As seventh grade rolled into eight, I considered the loss of Merilee’s friendship to be an ache

that had calloused over. The days spent pouring over teen magazines and learning the words to songs I shared with a best friend were wispy, infrequent memories. On the morning of my first day in high school, I climbed the school bus steps to find there was only one open seat. Gwen, a girl I remembered vaguely from sixth grade, marked her place in a worn New Testament with an envelope and beamed up at me from under white blonde lashes as I sat next to her. We chatted about the reputations of our teachers as we compared our class schedules. We had none in common. Our conversation stalled and Gwen began twisting a lock of hair around her index finger. She suddenly blinked rapidly and grinned. Did I remember Merilee Hanson, the girl who used to live next door to me? I admitted I did, addled by the unexpected question. Gwen’s cheeks flushed as she pulled out the envelope. “I just got a letter from her! During summer vacation, I went to the Bible camp Merilee’s brotherin-law runs in Indiana. We had such a great time! There are some people, you know? You just click with them. That’s how it’s always been with me and Merilee. Ooooh! Are you okay?”

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“New contacts,” I lied as I examined the mascara smudges on my fingertips. … The summer I graduated from high school, I got one of those minimum wage jobs at Greenfield Village. I didn’t feed chickens at the Firestone Farmhouse or cook meals over the hearth at Cotswold Cottage. At the orientation meeting, I received my assignment to research the late 19th century Bloomer Girls and develop a character to play while on the job as a reenactor. I was given a bicycle from the Overman Wheel Company and a list of items to retrieve from the Village’s costume shop: cotton blouse, short jacket, flannel bloomers, pair of laced boots, and hat of my choice. To my astonishment, the costume list included underwear for an Early American girl: loose chemise and fitted corset. I soon discovered I had gotten a plum assignment. As a Bloomer Girl, I simply rode my bicycle around the Village and chatted up the guests at a Suffragette, unlike the girls assigned to buildings. On hot, sticky summer days, reenactors who had traditional women’s roles were stuck in their houses and the expression “slaving over a hot stove” took on real meaning. Their only relief came from brief 28

excursions to fetch water or wood, and from breezes that occasionally drifted past the heavy damask curtains in the houses. For me, the most challenging aspect of my job was getting used to riding a bike on the bumpy dirt roads that crisscrossed the Village. I was part of a small roving reenactors group that included my summer boyfriend. Jamie wore a gray Confederate officer’s uniform that complimented his wavy, dark hair and aquamarine eyes. His character, Rupert Beauregard Calhoun III, was in Greenfield Village because he was making his way back to the family’s Virginia plantation after deserting his infantry regiment at Gettysburg. Rupert’s remarkably poor sense of direction being one reason he failed so miserably as a soldier. Jamie used his character’s AWOL status to scout out the best places on the grounds to sneak a cigarette. I couldn’t look at Jamie without wanting to run my hands up his arms, to pull his shoulders closer, and kiss the mouth that tasted of Marlboros and Wintergreen Lifesavers. I was heady with lust. We met regularly in the secluded areas of the Village. Afterward, he helped me pin my hair back into a Gibson Girl pompadour under my straw boater and dust the dirt from my bloomers. I navigated the rocks

on the dirt roads to the carousel in the middle of the Village; Jamie dodged in and out of trees along the outfield of the Walnut Grove Base Ball Field at the far end of the property. Our affection for each other was mutual and finite. We knew after Labor Day weekend, we would head off in opposite directions. Jamie planned to hop in his Mustang Mach 1 and take the Southfield Freeway north to Michigan Tech where he’d finish his degree in computer engineering. I had a one-way ticket to LaGuardia and a student loan for my freshman year in the NYU drama department. One August afternoon, after Jamie and I clocked in at the Administration Building, we followed the path to the Josephine Ford Water Fountain at the entrance of the Village, a spot where tourists typically gathered and pulled out their Instamatics for a snapshot before crossing the railroad tracks and setting out to explore the grounds. I was walking my bike through the crowd, careful to avoid bumping into any of the guests when I saw that long, blonde Joni Mitchell hair. I abruptly stopped. She was no longer what I would have described as tall; she had maybe an inch on me. Her

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dress was made of the familiar thin, faded cotton, but it wasn’t a shirtwaist. She was five or six months pregnant. When the baby in the stroller next to her began squawking, she rummaged through the diaper bag on her hip, pulled out a pacifier, and plugged it in the child’s contorted mouth. A slight, older man scurried out from the Gift Shop carrying two large strawberry Slushies. He deposited one in the cup holder of the stroller and slurped the other between animated gestures at the buildings encircling the outer perimeter of the pavilion. Merilee’s eyes followed the man’s jabbing finger. That’s when she noticed me looking at her from across the fountain. She tilted her head to one side and frowned slightly, then a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She said something to the man with her and made her way towards me. Jamie was a few steps ahead of me and turned around. “What?” he mouthed at me. Merilee nodded at Jamie and addressed me, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Her voice was soft, with no trace of the authoritative tone I remembered. I shrugged awkwardly and she continued. “Can we buy train tickets at the station, or do we have to go all the way back to the entrance and buy them at the ticket

booth?” I hesitated. Jamie interjected she could buy tickets for the train at either place. She nodded at him again and walked a few steps before pausing. She turned back and looked at me. “Thanks,” she murmured. And she was gone. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cerys Harrison was born and raised in the home of the Ford Mustang, Dearborn Michigan. Growing up she was fascinated with New York City and, after graduating from college during a recession decided to move there, thinking it was more glamorous to be an unemployed actor than an out-of-work librarian. After a successful detour in advertising, Cerys returned to her hometown, libraries, and writing. And an occasional turn on the stage. Follow her on: Twitter: @parkerscorners, Facebook: cerys.connie.harrison Instagram: madamepince.

BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ

LIES MY DOCTOR TOLD ME (2ND ED.) by Ken Berry

Has your doctor lied to you? Eat low-fat and high-carb, including plenty of “healthy” whole grains—does that sound familiar? Dr. Ken Berry is here to dispel the myths and misinformation that have been perpetuated by the medical and food industries for decades. https://amzn.to/3thcmaI WHY WE GET SICK: THE HIDDEN EPIDEMIC AT THE ROOT OF MOST CHRONIC DISEASE-AND HOW TO FIGHT IT by Benjamin Bikman A scientist reveals the groundbreaking evidence linking many major diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, to a common root cause—insulin resistance—and shares an easy, effective plan to reverse and prevent it. https://amzn.to/3Mk5nXi BITE ME: TELLALL TALES OF AN EMERGENCY VETERINARIAN by Laura Lefkowitz DVM A reality based, uncensored look at the world of modern veterinary medicine, the dramas, the traumas and the comedies that regularly take place. https://amzn.to/346eadY

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School Shooter Thorsten Nesch, is one of the coolest writers we’ve had on our blog, “Grolar”, was one of the most original books last year, and he’s back with: “School Shooter.“ Yes, you can bet that this will be a splendid book. Why do we say this? Because Thorsten Nesch is one of those writers that pack his books with original, wild, unexpected plots and valuable content with depth. With a surprising start, Thorsten Nesch catches our attention and kicks the plot onwards with the main character. His narrative moves from first to third person perspective with ease and we don’t notice until we stop to think about what happened. This fluidic shift and the simple description of the scenarios create a cinematic feel for the reading experience. Readers will love how fast the book moves and the feeling of progress you will get when the chapters speed by because of Nesch’s narrative. He made the 30 30

by Thorsten Nesch

book easy to read, enhancing our urge to reading more, and faster, which is exactly what he wants, because the tension rises by the paragraph. Very nice. The emotions, perceptions, motivations and internal struggles of characters have depth and add weight to the story. It’s amazing how easily Thorsten Nesch can make the book interesting by showing what his characters are thinking and feeling in a split second, and explain their backgrounds with so few words! The characters’ unique approaches to the situation of crisis feel real. This allows readers to identify with them more. The author also uses characters to show stark emotional differences between genres. It’s interesting to see how he can do it with subtlety and make it believable and clear. Although the book is

suspenseful, there is humor from the characters that fit their ages complete with logic and wit. We love how the author allows characters to debate plausible reasons for school shootings and try to make sense of it all within. After a while, you realize the intentions of the author with this book. To show the uncertainty that “survivors” of a shooting have when trapped and how important it is sometimes to stay put. He also takes a chance to go into the thought process of teens and kids, and how they try to understand the whole situation emotionally. The author, we assume, shows how poorly these situations are handled by the authorities, parents, and “higher ups”. It’s fascinating how “oblivious” most people want to be when things like this happen. There’s an important mention of how the police are ready to intervene with small crimes, but not so much in the big ones. This book is interesting and demands a deep reflection of society and the standards of courage and integrity required. It

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is the lack of caring in people and especially in our homes that creates criminals. This story is a critical piece of work that everyone should read and reflect upon. Excellent job by Thorsten Nesch. Grab your book and be intrigued by his brilliant social commentaries inside this novel. This is a valuable read with great plot-twist in the end, so grab your copy of “School Shooter” now and enjoy. Pros: Incredible way to address school

JAILED

shootings and the social causes of it without blame. Incredible philosophical depth with an emotional touch to it. Perfect narrative and pace that rises and steadies itself when needed. GREAT ending, with an incredible plot twist and deep emotional messages that make the entire read worth it Great suspense scenes and buildups that lead to a thrilling read. Realistic characters with diverse personalities and depth.

Cons: The book could have moved a little faster in some parts. •Lesson of the book: “Hugs save lives.” •Favorite Character: Nina •Cover Score: 8.0/10 •Book score: 8.4/10 Read the full review and others on Scribbleworth’s Website HERE •Buy it on Amazon HERE •Listen on Audible HERE

by Robert P. French

High tension, jail-style high tension, gives us a heart-stopping introduction to the 7th book in the Cal Rogan Mystery series, as we are presented to a 6 foot-tall (1.83 m) man with a gang that wants a piece of Micah, but doesn’t get it because he is friends with another gang leader that is as muscled as one can be, and he is standing right beside him, which almost causes a violent altercation. Why does the giant want a piece of Micah, if he is just a skinny kid that has never seen jail in his life? We are yet to find out because apparently, Micah, was wrongfully convicted and is serving a jail sentence in one of the harshest prison facilities in Canada, and the whole situation looks like a set-up. Rogan, a private investigator, a

retired private investigator that is trying to live his life as a professor in a university may be his only hope out of this situation, but how can he prove himself innocent if all the evidence is against him? We have a very interesting set-up for a mystery novel with an inviting narrative told with confidence. The plot develops with ease even with all the minute details the writer puts and calls our attention to in order to understand certain implications that might hinder events or be used later on in the story. A curious thing: our main character, Detective Rogan, has in hand an “unwanted” proposal that if he accepts, may risk the life of the man he is trying to prove innocent making every move count as time

works against him. There are some incredibly smooth characters, like Jim Garry and Ellie, that we start loving right away, and it seems like the author took great care for us to love Jim even more after every word he speaks. Really cool, and when you add that to the interaction of the characters in the whole story, the way it all feels effortless and real, - the relationship between Ellie, Sam and Cal; the relationship and interactions between Cal and his ex-wife, his business partners, with all the tension and joy between makes this mystery romance much more enjoyable. Attention is paid to the detail, not only in the interactions between characters, the conversations, but also in what is

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spoken, and the reader can see that certain characters, the lawyers, take great care to be as helpful and polite as possible while paying attention to everything that interviewers say. NICE! The mystery evolves perfectly, I mean, there are clues that are mentioned ever so slightly and left hanging in the air, even forgotten for a while, and then picked up after a few moments or scenes, adding another piece of this puzzle in the back of our minds, and yet, we have no certain idea on how the whole thing might fit. There are so many possibilities, angles and suspects and not enough evidence. It can be a hate crime, a hired kill, or even a kill just to frame a rich kid, but the question remains: Why would someone go to such extreme lengths in order to frame the boyfriend of the victim? Fortunately, this mystery book isn’t one with a simple, nobrainer case and the author does very well to leave many possible paths to follow, to the point that when the plot starts to mature and the evidence seems to be making sense and the trails start pointing to a prime suspect, or several prime suspects, another road opens that was left so far unexplored and opens up all sorts of questions to the entire case. Was the victim just worried about something, or did that worry involve something major? Was she involved in something bigger than anyone could know? Did 32 32

her killer make her part of his dealings? Was love the true reason why she was murdered? Was her family involved? Did her parents know? So many questions are being raised, which keeps the interest of the reader in the story, very nicely done!

One thing is for sure, nothing is what it seems and everything that is happening, has an unapparent thread as the main connection, no matter how unlikely it seems. One wrong choice from a good person was enough to make this castle of cards start to fall down on everyone, sending people to jail, inciting murders in order to cover up, avenge someone or something as even gangs were involved in the whole thing, but the most impressive is who caused it all. There is romance too in the book, and there’s a possible love triangle in the mix. Will there be a possible infidelity from our

main character? Will he resist the “subtle”, charms of the rich and gorgeous Melanie that is romancing the detective? We will see. The legal structure, procedures and requirements in the book as the detectives, the lawyers, and the police task-force conversations feel very solid, congruent and believable due to the few terms and nuances that would validate or invalidate or appeal the entire case. Lots of tension in the scenes of interrogation as emotions are well portrayed, and we can see the mischief, the anger, and the pleasure of privilege as the main suspect goes forward with his plan, self-righteous and arrogant in his ways, certain that justice has been served and that he will go free for it. But there is much more to this case as we all will see. Robert P. French also inserts unexpected events in the plot that aren’t related to the main case or the main suspects, but have a huge impact on the life of the characters overall and can up-turn the whole novel in an instant, and when we start to realize what might be happening, well, it’s too late. Warning: You will be surprised, in a good way to learn, firsthand, how many plot lines and plot developments there are in this book. Just when you think that the story is over and the case is solved, BANG, another gang, another murder, kidnapping, the main suspect isn’t the one who killed the victim and is completely

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innocent because he, or she, is involved in other crimes that relate to the murder, and when you think everything is fine and dandy, BANG, the government steps in. Hahahahah! This book is excellent and this author knows what he is doing. Kudos! If you love hard-to-solve cases and loads of mystery, this is definitely the author, the series, and the book for you, because even when we have most of the evidence out there, and everything is “ready,” there are still several complications in how to frame it and which angle to show to better convince the judge that Micah is innocent. Excellent and very realistic. Love it!

Pros: •Excellent characters with depth, uniqueness, and sense of humor. •Excellent narrative. •Excellent combination of narrative and plot to create suspense and thrilling scenes. •Excellent emotional connection, the author passes the emotions from the characters to the reader. •Excellent plot development with many plotlines. •High tension in many scenes. •Great legal jargon, well explained in order to be easy to understand. •Hard to figure-out mysteries. •Great pacing.

Cons: None we can think of, the book is solid. •Favorite Character: Ganesha •Lesson From the book: “Hell is filled with good intentions, and it looks like paradise” •Cover Score: 8.5/10 •Book Score: 8.8/10 Read the full review and others on Scribbleworth’s Website HERE •Buy it on Amazon HERE •Listen to Podcast HERE •Visit the Author’s Website HERE •More on Reedsy HERE Julio Carlos is the founder of Scribble’s Worth, the most selective & honest Indie book review site of Twitter’s Writing Community. He is always open for chats on Twitter.

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ARTICLE

Can You Afford to be a Writer? by William Gensburger

There are over 45,860 writers in the United States (as of 2019)1 with one percent or less traditionally published. Of the rest, self-published or hybrid published, seventy-seven percent (77%) of self-published authors make $9000 a year. Only zero point sevent (0.7%) of selfpublished authors make over $100,000 a year. The average age of writers is 42.9 years2, so don’t fret if you see the years adding on before you make headway. Amazon.com offers over 2 million books. Most Amazon authors will not make more than $500 per month3, with most firsttime authors selling 250 copies or less.4 So what’s the secret to beating the odds? How can you, a selfpublished author, compete in a vast market with the odds skewed against you? The reason self-publishing is so huge an industry is that it makes it easy for any writer to publish any work at little to no cost and be able to claim the monicker of being a

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published author. The problem begins with that premise. “95% of these books are insufferable.” [goodreader.com].

When you can write quickly, fail to do so in a pleasing manner, or grammatically flawed, spelling errors, poor formatting, bypass the editing and proofing cycles that are invaluable to producing a quality product, utilize the Amazon ‘Create-A-Cover’ using basic templates, you can handle it all with no effort, and join the ranks of the 45,860 authors cited above. The only problem is you are not

a valid author. You are a sloppy author, enamored with the idea of writing, perhaps with illusions of celebrity reactions from adoring fans. After all, JK Rowling write at her kitchen table and whipped out the ‘Harry Potter’ series of bestselling books. If you research JK Rowling and discover the massive work that went into the creation, plotting, multiple drafts, edits, proofing involved in each book before it could be published, it quickly becomes apparent that not only was it incredibly difficult to complete, but she handled it professionally from the start. All the lousy books on Amazon hurt the visibility of those books worthy of a look. And if you expect to make a living from your writing, you are starting with a false expectation. Writing is a passion for most authors–they enjoy telling a wonderful story that, if they do their job, is well crafted and grabs the reader. Most authors have other income sources whether side jobs, or perhaps freelancing writing in other forms (copywriting,

77% OF SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS MAKE $9000/YR Books ‘N Pieces Magazine — April 2022 — www.BooksNPieces.com


speeches, ghost-writing, resumes, teaching….) Assuming you did your due diligence, crafted a solid novel, edited and proofed, created a decent cover, obtained some reviews (beyond friends and family), there are many things you can do to amplify your visibility and sales. I will cover these in another post. Can you afford to be a writer? The correct answer is that it is the wrong question. The correct question should be “Can you imagine not being a writer?” 1. www.publishingperspectives.com 2. www.database.io

3. www. youngdumbandnotbroke.com 4. www.medium.com

MORE BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ STARPLEX by Robert J. Sawyer For nearly twenty years Earth’s space exploration had exploded outward, thanks to a series of mysterious, artificial wormholes. No one knows who created these interstellar passages, yet they have brought the far reaches of space immediately close. When an unknown vessel — with no windows, no seams, and no visible means of propulsion — arrives through a new wormhole, an already battle-scarred Starplex could be the starting point of a new interstellar war . . . https://amzn.to/3MdoG4B

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Busy Writer Recipes Quick & Easy Meals for the Busy Writer

Asparagus Shrimp Stir Fry in under 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 4 tablespoons butter, divided 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 3 cups cold cooked rice 1-2 asparagus stalks 1 stalk green onions 1 garlic glove (or powdered garlic) 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (frozen defrosted) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon cooking oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a pot, boil 5 cups of water. Add 3 cups of rice. Cook for 10 minutes covered, then turn off heat for additional ten minutes. Allow to cool. While rice is cooking, chop up the two stalks of asparagus into thirds, dice the green onions. Mince the garlic. In a separate pan add 2 tablespoons butter, the eggs and stir until cooked and broken apart. Set aside. To the same pan add the remaining butter, garlic, onion, asparagus on high heat, stirring regularly. When asparagus has become a deep green, add the shrimp, oil and soy sauce and cover for five minutes. Serve rice in a bowl and top with the asparagus, shrimp topping. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 3-4. NOTE: Variations can include large shrimp, different vegetables, or replacing shrimp with chicken, pork, beef. Also, the addition of tofu cut into small squares offers a variation of texture.

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INTERVIEW

A Man and His Dog How Bestselling Author J.C. Ryan Found a Loyal Audience

Originally, J.C. Ryan (his pen name) was a military officer turned lawyer who then became an I.T. manager before becoming a bestselling author of spellbinding archaeological mysteries and actionadventure thriller novels. Born and raised in Namibia, with Afrikaans as his first language, J.C. Ryan served in the military before being sidelined from a crippling back injury. Returning to university, he studied law, had a private legal practice for over 15 years, moved to the Gold Coast of Australia in 2008, to work as an IT project manager. It was the commute from the Gold Coast to Brisbane for ten years that exhausted him, and on the trip he would keep his 36

mind occupied developing stories. enjoy a comfortable income from He doubted himself, wondering royalties produced by the books, whether he could tell a good and he appreciates the fan base for story, so started writing non- each of the series, and he is always fiction, self-improvement encouraging to new authors. books, but found that J.C. Ryan was asked about the unappealing. Rex Dalton thriller series, which After watching features a main character, a documentary on Rex Dalton, and Digger, the pyramids in a Dutch Shepherd he Egypt he realized inherits that works with he had a good him helping people © WikimediaCommons/Hollandse_herder_korthaar.jpg story after all. throughout the world. He published his first novel in May 2014 How did you decide to come up using the Kindle Direct Publishing with Rex and Digger and what service of Amazon. He was quickly were the changes from the concept surprised by the response and to the second novel? immediately a fan-base started to grow. My inspiration comes from In October 2019, at the age reading the modern-day action of 63, JC left his day job heroes such as Lee Child’s Jack and turned to writing Reacher, Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, full-time. Mark Greaney’s Gray Man, Greg He now has over Hurwitz’s Orphan X, Robert 30 books under his Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and others. belt, and counting. He Those heroes have a large and only publishes through loyal fanbase and that made me KDP, although print wonder if they might like one more copies are also available through hero, actually two heroes, a special Amazon. operator with a special dog. His success has allowed him to I discussed my idea with a good

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loyal to the character of Rex and the dog. Why do you think that is?

friend of mine, Mitch Pender, a military dog trainer, who guided me through the intricate and amazing capabilities and psychology of those majestic fourlegged soldiers. Mitch has a lifetime of experience and an exceptional depth of knowledge as a military dog handler and trainer. The rest is history. The action hero fans love Rex and Digger. I published book 15 in the series at the end of December 2021. Thus far I have almost 12,000 reviews with an average 4.5 to 4.8-star rating for every book. Reviews such as these say it all: “Want a thrill a minute, then read JC Ryan’s thrillers with his remarkable characters, Rex and Digger. You’re in for a treat and a

“wild ride!” “What great series! Started with 1st book and halfway thru knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t stop. Adventure hero with a conscience, Rex and Digger take care of those who need to be stopped.” “I’ve been addicted to reading this series; not able to put them down. I feel like I know Rex Dalton, Digger, Catia, and the others as friends. I hope the series continues as I never grow bored with them. The politics and history are really interesting and timely. Always a thrilling adventure. Your audience have adopted Digger and your fan base is quite

Yes, the reaction to the duo surpassed even my wildest expectations. I guess people in general like animals especially so when it comes to man’s best friend. And like my readers often say: “What’s not to like?” “Love a tale about a smart animal who loves to work with a human that understands and respects it’s abilities.” “Rex Dalton and Digger make me very happy! Excellent mysteries! I love these great stories! Always a treat! I’m always sorry when I get to the end!” How long do you think you can continue to write Rex stories and are you concerned that at some point the readers may decide it is enough? The world remains a dangerous place in fact, the last few weeks things have gone from bad to worse with the Russians invading Ukraine and China threatening to attack Taiwan. As long as the bad actors remain, the services of Rex and Digger will be in high demand. I am current working on book 16 in the series. I have ideas for at least four more stories right now.

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And every few weeks I get a new one. So, it’s not a shortage of story ideas but rather a shortage of time which determines how many more stories will see the light and how frequently. As long as my readers ask for more, I will keep on writing. Your other novels span a range of genres, from The Rossler Foundation Mysteries, which follow threads of the ancient astronaut theories, to The Brainstorm Series that delves into nanotechnology and cyber warfare and more. How have they fares compared to the Rex Dalton thrillers and why do you think there is a difference. The surprising thing is that a good 80% plus of my readers of the pre Rex Dalton and Digger series have made the switch and love it. My earlier series are still being read widely with the exception of the Brainstorm Series—for some reason the two books in that series never got the traction I hoped it would. I guess it is because those books are perceived to be totally 38

in the science fiction genre even though they’re not. How do you write? Your routine/ time of day/method? The last few months I spent about 3-4 hours a day writing. I also spend a lot of time reading books in my genre and try to read a book

every 10 days or so. I keep a file of book ideas, and whenever an idea comes up, I write it down there, and when I happen across some information related to it, I also file it in the ‘Ideas’ folder. That way I don’t get distracted by the ‘next shiny object’. Once I am ready to move on to the next book, I spend a lot of time thinking through the theme and storyline and write a very highlevel outline. Then I think through the flow of the story and start to write a

detailed outline. By detailed, I mean some of my outlines are 150 pages or more. The longest outline I wrote so far was a little over 230 pages. In this process of creating the detailed outline, I do my research on the various topics, finalize my characters, timelines and story flow. By the time I am done with my detailed outline, and I start writing, I pretty much just finish the book. It’s almost like ‘copy typing’ or ‘filling in the blanks.’ I am so into the story by then, I usually struggle to keep my fingers moving along quickly enough. During this time, I work closely with an editor to edit the book, which they do overnight, also making developmental suggestions. I know that’s not how most “how to write” books advocate it, but that’s what works for me. Do you find writing a rewarding career and if so what are the high points for you? Yes, its the most rewarding career I ever had. I guess part of the enjoyment is the fact that at my age, the time when some people start to be forgetful and becoming weird, I have an excuse when my family and friends catch me talking to myself–

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I’m conversing with the characters in my stories. Make no mistake they can be an unruly bunch and it sometimes take a lot of talking to get them to toe the line. What do you see ahead for your writing? I will continue writing until I can’t do it anymore. My wife and I are planning to become digital nomads traveling the world in a year or so, visiting many countries and places while I continue writing along the way. J.C. Ryan Books The Rex Dalton Thriller Series The Fulcrum The Power of Three Unchained Sideswiped The Inca Con No Doubt The French Girl Duty of Care Donna Teresa Under the Pope’s Window The Shanghai Strain The Delphi Technique The Rossler Foundation Series The Tenth Cycle Ninth Cycle Antarctica Genetic Bullets The Sword of Cyrus The Skywalkers

The Phoenix Agenda The Rowen Termination The Carter Devereux Series Nothing New Under the Sun The Wolves of Freydis The Alboran Codex The Nabatean Secret The Labyrinth of Minos The Exonerated Series Judgement call Damned if You do Damned if You Don’t The End Justifies the Means Learn more and buy these books on Amazon at amzn.to/3puQYxq Website: www.JCRyanBooks.com

MORE BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ RHINO IN THE ROOM by Jill Hedgecock The last place seventeen-year-old fashionista, Claire, wants to go is on a South African safari with her father. But when she breaks a critical gamedrive rule, Claire and her father are pulled into the crosshairs of armed rhino poachers. https://amzn.to/3hzmpTa

VIKTOR by R.D. Trimble Some histories are written in blood. Cutthroat, brigand, traitor. Viktor has left a trail of misery and death throughout 15th century Hungary. Driving by a sense of unholy ambition, he enters into a dark bargain with Lord Vlad Dracula III, immortality and untold power in exchange for eternal servitude and unswerving loyalty. https://amzn.to/3vyFa0Y DISTANT RUMORS: 16 STORIES OF LIFE AND DEATH by William Gensburger 16 Masterful Short Stories that cover a wide spectrum of life, love, death and more. This anthology includes drama, mystery, science fiction, dystopic, quirky and more. https://amzn.to/3MlyHwG

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ARTICLE

Boards: A Visual Writing Aid Muse Boards for All Genres by Jill Hedgecock

When distilled down to its very essence, a writer’s job is to immerse their readers in a three-dimensional world through words. Just as fine artists often find it easier to paint from a photograph or by placing their easel in front of a live model or in a landscape setting, many writers find that prose can be inspired by looking at images of their subject matter. But what is a muse board exactly? A muse board is a versatile visual aid designed to create mood, assist in character development, inform book structure, and inspire descriptive text. A muse board can be specialized to fit any genre. One of its most powerful features is assisting writers in keeping details straight. This article describes how to make and use a muse board in four easy steps and the many advantages of investing the time to create one. Step 1: Select Your Format Muse boards can be digital or physical. Regardless of the media preference, there are many ways to organize your images: collage, 40

phy-school.com/make-photoshop-collage-9-steps), Sampleboard (www.sampleboard.com), and Milanote (https://milanote.com/ product/writing-software). I’m partial to Pinterest because your followers can monitor your book progress, creating buzz during book development.

sequential images that outline the book, topic- or character-specific, or mood driven. Physical muse boards can be created from corkboard, whiteboard, or trifold cardboard (e.g., child’s science project exhibit boards). The trifold is brilliantly designed for novelists because spatially, the 25%, 50%, 25% area distribution of the board is perfectly in accordance with a well-balanced, “three-act” plot structure. Another advantage of a 36- by 48-inch trifold format is that it can be displayed at author readings and book signings, which makes this my favorite option. The digital world offers many types of platforms that can be used to create this tool, including Pinterest (www. pinterest.com), Photoshop’s collage feature (https://digital-photogra-

Step 2: Assemble Materials For a digital muse board, Step 2 will largely entail using computer search functions. While digital media is convenient, content is limited to Internet images and digital photos. A physical medium provides more options for materials such as: • Photos • Post its • Magazines • Maps • Fabrics/textures • Scented cloth • Photographs of your own text • Family genealogy trees • Geographic maps • Your introductory paragraph • Synopsis and book cover— great for advertising your book at signings • Internet images

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• Inspirational quotes • Isolated words • Written sound bites (think movie trailer) or elevator pitches Color coding the images by mounting them on vibrant scrapbooking paper (red for intense topics and green for setting) can be useful for plotting. When you are not using your own photos, be conscious of potential copyright issues. A few examples of sites that provide royalty-free photography include pexels, (www.pexels.com), pixabay (https://pixabay.com) and Unsplash (https://unsplash.com). Step 3: Define Your Goal and Create Your Board Identifying your goal(s) will maximize the value of this tool for your specific writing needs. For example, a writer who struggles with character development could collect images of clothing and facial expressions to help define their protagonist. If descriptions are your Achille’s heel, you may want your board to consist largely of photos of people or objects. Do you need inspiration to jumpstart your writing day? How about a sticky note showing text you’ve written that you’re proud of? Maybe you could study an image on your board and write a paragraph on why you included it. The text might not ultimately be part of the book, but this quick exercise may

launch you into your work-in-progress or possibly take your book in a new and exciting direction. Is travel a key element to your book? How about adding cultural and iconic images of the important destinations? Depending on your project, you may want to create multiple boards. Memoirists might want to consider creating more than one board or assigning each panel of a trifold to different family members, period details, or genealogy charts. Character-driven novels may benefit if the author creates an entire muse board for their protagonist and villain. Remember, assembling a muse board can be a fluid process. For my trifold muse boards, I use scrapbooking paper and loose tape so I can move things around. I have also learned to leave space for my book cover image and my elevator pitch to maximize marketing potential during book signings. Step 4: Reap the Benefits Here are some of the many potential advantages: 1). Corrects weaknesses in your writing style 2). Identifies key themes and help

set tone or mood 3). Focuses chapters and helps overcome writer’s block 4). Improves ability to describe objects and people 5). Prevents time-consuming rewrites 6). Keeps text true to a time period 7). Organizes your chapters 8). Creates balance in the story arc 9). Ensures consistency of descriptions of people, objects, and settings 10). Assists in foreshadowing 11). Helps define your beginning and/or ending 12). Circumvents writer’s block While you might be concerned that creating a muse board will consume precious writing hours, the planning and energy spent creating this tool can actually save time. Plus, the process of designing a muse board can stretch your creative brain and elevate your work to a whole new level. Best of all, it can be an effective marketing tool at author signings after publication. Jill Hedgecock is an award-winning and internationally published author. With the aid of a muse board, the first draft of her debut coming-of-age suspense novel, Rhino in the Room, was written in about six weeks. Her two Doberman-inspired novels (Between Shadow’s Eyes and From Shadow’s Perspective) were published within two years of each other. For more information, visit www.jillhedgecock.com.

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Calendar of Events MAY 2022 •Idaho Writers Conference 2022 Fri, May 20, 8:00 AM – Sat, May 21, 5:30 PM http://IdahoWritersGuild.com JUNE 2022 •New York Pitch Conference: June 2 - 5, 2022 ( Zoom Online ) June 16 - 19, 2022 ( Live in NYC ) New York Pitch Conference Professionals are Looking for Marketable Commercial and Literary Stories and Novels in the Genre Categories of Serious and Light Women’s Fiction, Suspense Women’s Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thrillers, Futuristic Thrillers, YA and Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, Horror, Suspense, Historical, Narrative Non-Fiction, General Fiction, and Upmarket. Select Professionals are Also Scouting for Potential TV and Film projects. https://newyorkpitchconference.com/ •National Writing Day 2022 June 23 https://literacytrust.org.uk/about-us/national-writing-day/

ence & Exhibition: June 23–28, 2022 https://2022.alaannual. org JULY 2022 •Sun Valley Writer’s Conference July 16-July 18. https://svwc.com •18th annual San Francisco Writers Conference: July 21–24, 2022 https://www.sfwriters.org/2022-conference/ •Writer’s Digest Annual Conference: July 28-31, 2022 https://writersdigestconference.com SEPTEMBER 2022 •The Library of Congress National Book Festival, Washington D.C. September 3–4, 2022 https://www.loc.gov/ events/2021-national-book-festival/festival-information/ If you have calendar events you would like to submit, please email them to william@booksnpieces.com by the 15th of the month preceding the event.

•ALA-The American Library Association Annual Confer-

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ARTICLE

Author J.S. Ririe~ Why the World

Needs Clean Fiction & Characters With Values!

I

really am in a very small minority. I see it with most of the books my 13-yearold granddaughter reads and her obsession with the macabre, violent and unreal frightens me. Fortunately, she’s not into the really graphic sexual stuff yet, but I see the handwriting on the wall. No one wants to write about normal people with regular problems anymore because it’s much too tame and doesn’t appeal to the masses who have been conditioned to accept things as being routine that caused people to gasp even a generation ago. I feel a great need and responsibility to help fill the gap between people who have decided that God no longer exists, and ones who still believe in him, with stories that cause people to get in touch with their inner selves and hopefully find the strength to fight their own problems without giving in to all the negative influences that are so prevalent in our me-centered society.

Brylee Hawkins Virtue

Brylee is a character of the twenty-first century. She knows what it’s like to feel rejection, regret,

betrayal, anger, and loneliness. Watching her grow from a frightened young woman with no real sense of self into a confident adult who can run a ranch and

and pain without turning her back on God, like almost everyone else in her family has done, because she understands that without her faith she has nothing left to cling to. Her journey parallels that of most women who have ever lived, not in exact experiences, but in the throbbing disappointment, excruciating heartache, and loss of dreams that few mortals escape. Brylee’s story is not for readers who prefer fantasy to reality, but it is for those who want a thoughtprovoking and exciting read that is full of twists and turns they will not see coming.

An Author's Values

give emotional support to a family she doesn’t know helped me to identify my own strengths. She has no answers when she arrives in Australia to face her estranged father, but she has the faith necessary to keep moving forward when her beliefs threaten to destroy everything she is trying to build-even a new romance. She learns how to fight through the hardships

I can only speak to the values I’ve set for myself, and they are ones I cannot violate even though I know I would garner far more success if I did. I was raised in a very strict home where our mouths were washed out with soap if we said even the mildest swear word and our behinds felt the pain coming from a razor strap if we backtalked to our mother or stepped out of line in any other way. I’m not saying that’s any way

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to raise kids, but we knew what it was like to respect God, country, and adults–-something that is sorely lacking in today’s permissive and self-indulgent society. I also grew up reading books where the authors could tell a riveting story without lacing it with profanity, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, explicit sex, and many other things I feel are unnecessary but still show up on nearly every page in the books that are coming off the press today. I feel accountable for every word I write because it defines who I am as a person. I’m proud of being a Christian in a very unChristian world. I want people to know I believe in God and in my Savior who died for each of us since I know I will have to account to them one day. That stance offends a lot of people who can say some very unkind things, but I try to let their comments roll off my back because we have the right of choice and should never condemn someone else for their personal beliefs.

true individuality, underscoring diverse problems that could happen to almost anyone. I write in first person because it feels more authentic to me, and I cast women as my lead characters because I really have no idea how men think, and I want my stories to be believably real. I also feel that the genres of family life, romance, and mystery are more likely to be read by women who want to identify with the lead character. In ‘Indecision’s Flame,’ Brylee is searching for forgiveness and family as she tries to make peace with a very disturbing past while trying to build a future where she can thrive. Reagan Sinclair, as a new FBI agent, finds out through some very desperate experiences that perhaps her parents were right in advising that a career exposing her to the seediest underbelly of life isn’t the right place for a girl who attends church every Sunday and who still believes in God. Maya lost her husband in an unexpected avalanche and is left with two children to raise. Rani has a chip on her shoulder as big as the state of Colorado and cannot stand weakness in anyone, but then she discovers some of her own. Andrea just wants to be married but falls in love with a guy who is all wrong

for her. And Jada goes back to her old college as an adjunct professor hoping to find answers as to why her professional life is flourishing while her personal life stinks. The series I’m working on now is about a middle-aged divorced woman who finds herself alone with no one to cling to for help, but she is willing to risk everything she has left to become part of a family she has never known and isn’t sure still exists.

Indie v Mainstream Publishing

I’m afraid to push too hard into mainstream publishing because I don’t want anyone telling me I have to change my characters’ values and beliefs just so a general audience would be more interested in their stories. I have to say that I value my integrity over potential dollars earned, and stand firm in that position. Whatever money I do earn goes directly into an account for my grandchildren. I like having people tell me how much they appreciated one of my books because it gave them direction, courage, and hope. I appreciate being able to connect with other writers of faith-filled books who are going through the same struggles Creating Women of Substance I am in finding the right audience. In the past seven years, I have It gives me the courage to stand by published sixteen books--two series my beliefs because the work we’re and four standalones. Each lead doing is helping people if only one character comes from a place of by one. For me, that’s what my NOTE: ALL BOOKMagazine COVERS HYPERLINKED. CLICK THEM! 44 Books ‘N Pieces — ARE April 2022 — www.BooksNPieces.com


Books by J.S. Ririe

writing is all about.

Personal Growth Through My Writing

I think I realized how much I’ve grown as both a person and an author when I started my latest series. While each of my books contain reflections of an incident or feelings I’ve had somewhere throughout my life. I no longer care what someone might think about the story line or how my characters react to personal problems. We live in a very diversified world and have to accept both the good and the bad in others if we want to be happy. That doesn’t mean we have to embrace a lifestyle that isn’t right for us or accept any kind of abuse, but we do need to show compassion and understanding. That’s something I’ve always believed, but being judgmental, jealous, or angry has, in the past, clouded many of my dealings with people. I no longer feel that way. I now know who I am and would like for my faith to fill anyone struggling with the same peace I’ve managed to find. Of course, I would still like to find that golden niche every author dreams of, but I’ll keep on writing until I do. Thanks for reading.

J.S.Ririe

•Crossfire at Bentley •Kismet finds a Way •Rivers of Rage •Beyond the Glass Doors AGENT REAGAN SINCLAIR SERIES

•Final Allegiance •Resilience •Safe Haven •Unsheltered •Welcome Redemption INDECISION’S FLAME SERIES

•Indecision’s Flame - Book One •Lost - Book Two •Exposed - Book Three •Betrayal - Book Four •Reawakening - Book Five •Unraveling - Book Six •Destiny - Book Seven Find J.S. Ririe books on Amazon and your favorite outlet. https://amzn.to/3ppR4Xe

MORE BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ

A NEW YORK SECRET: A HEARTBREAKING AND UNFORGETTABLE WORLD WAR 2 HISTORICAL NOVEL by Ella Carey

From top-ten bestseller Ella Carey comes an utterly heartbreaking historical novel, inspired by true events, about the courage, love and friendships that sustain us in the darkest of days. https://amzn.to/3hzmpTa DEAD SIMPLE by Peter James Now a Major ITV Drama Starring John Simm (Roy Grace Book 1) by Peter James It was meant to be a harmless stag-night prank. But a few hours later, the groom has disappeared and his friends are dead. With only three days to the wedding, Roy Grace is contacted by the man’s distraught fiancée to unearth what happened on that fateful night. https://amzn.to/3tlGEZP LUST, MONEY & MURDER SUPER BOXED SET (6 BOOKS): THE FIRST TRILOGY & THE RUSSIAN TRILOGY by Mike Wells

You can follow her on her blog at: http://janhillbooks.com [Publisher’s note: I have known Jan for many years. She is not only a kind and generous author, but her books are not boring in the least. In fact, there is a wonderful level of tension that she manages to inject into her characters that make you forget that you are reading a clean romance, or clean drama series. If you’ve been looking for a solid series that you can share as a family, I strongly recomment any of her books.]

Master of ‘unputdownable’ thrillers Mike Wells offers the first two trilogies in his bestselling Lust, Money & Murder series in one super boxed set (six books). Starring Secret Service Special Agent Elaine Brogan https://amzn.to/3MlyHwG

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Lifter by Julio Carlos

"Emotive and Soothing. Visceral and Stirring" “Life itself, the sheer struggle of living can seem overwhelming at times. So many things taken for granted, so many small joys overlooked. The poignant and unabashed prose is simple, but hits with the power of a heavyweight. As inspirational as it is thought provoking. Highly recommend.” - International Best-Selling Author, Anna J Walner “Emotive and soothing. Visceral and stirring. This is a varied collection of poems with unexpected relatability. The words flow easily off the page and into your mind, resonating with deep, perhaps even buried, feelings you don’t usually entertain. It’s a short book but take your time with it. It’s one that you’ll return to again and again to take time out for yourself and some mental healing. Don’t let the world put you under its feet.” - Award Winning Author, Neil Hemphrey “This is the kind of book you want to turn to whatever your current state of mind. It is a pick-me-up and keep-me-going inspirational book” - Marie Snow “I read “Lifter” from start to finish in one sitting because I just couldn’t turn away. Everything Julio has written feels very relatable to me, as I have struggled with my mental health and with having love and worthiness toward myself, and I really felt the truth of the words hitting me deep inside. Highly recommend reading.”Jada Reese

A fast—under 10 min — read. Available now for $0.99 https://books2read.com/u/b5ovYp 46

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