International Dublin Writers’ Festival Magazine

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International dublin writers’ festival proceedings Executive Editor/Editor-in-Chief - Laurence O’Bryan Associate Editor - Tanja Slijepčević Graphic Designer - Mirna Gilman Produced by BooksGoSocial Fumbally Exchange, Argus House, Malpas Street Dublin 8, Ireland


Table of contents 06

About the International Dublin Writers’ Festival


Conference Speakers


International Review of Books Magazine 2020




Our Autumn Recommendations

85 Articles 114 Excerpts 132 Short Stories


A few words from the founder and festival directors

OUR STORY In 2014, we first welcomed an international army of aspiring and established writers to Dublin. It was an unique conference - the Dublin Writers Conference - hosted by writers for writers. We were fully focused on getting your story into print, on building a supportive network, on finding new readers for your work, on learning from industry leaders in publishing, marketing and media. Such has been the success of this format, that six years later, we have rebranded the conference as The International Dublin Writers’ Festival to better reflect the global reach of our growing network of writers.

YOUR STORY If this is your first time, we welcome you warmly to the Festival and to your family of fellow writers supporting a universal desire to get your story to even more readers. The International Dublin Writers Festival operates as a not-for-profit. Our goal is simply to help you get your writing to readers, through traditional or indie publishing. We do so without the support of state funding. We do so because your story is our mission. Behind this Festival is a small committee of writers that volunteer a considerable amount of time and energy to ensure that keynote 4

speakers from New York, or Florida, or the UK, and all over Ireland are united to deliver presentations that will enhance your craft. We have always welcomed a diversity of voices and of storytelling. Early in 2020, the Festival endorsed a new Code of Ethics, an insistence that every writer should and could tell their story. Amongst our network of writers we are proud to see and support new immigrants to Ireland, our LGBT+ community, our Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) writers, those studying in Sanctuary Universities, those from an economically- or socially-disadvantaged background. To enable a fuller participation this year we have widened access by offering a Weekend Pass (with full access to all content until the end of 2020) for only €25/$29. In 2020, the Festival will be hosted online and will include writing craft sessions, how to submit your book to an agent/publisher, how to transform your story into a screenplay, and new marketing trends for the new decade, for those who have already published their work. There are many threads to follow: * What is takes to win as a Writer * Getting ready for Success * The Writer’s Journey * Preparing for your Readers * Pitch That Novel! * Finding Readers and Reviewers And many internationally-renowned writers and industry experts. From Niamh Campbell, the 2020 Winner of the world’s richest short story competition, The £30k Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award, to Literary Lion Peter Miller, from publisher Ivan O’Brien, to UK’s leading literary agent Kate Nash, and a host of international and Irish best-selling writers. For now, we trust that you have your Weekend Pass in pocket. We are all waiting to wish you a “Cead Mille Failte,” a hundred, thousand welcomes... Laurence O’Bryan, Festival Chair and Founder Tanja Slijepcevic, Festival Operations Director Paul Curley, Festival Development Director 5

About the International Dublin Writers’ Festival Since 2015 we have welcomed writers to learn, network and improve their craft. Our mission is to help writers excel and to provide opportunities for writers to learn from key industry professionals. Dublin is a World Heritage City and home to some of the most famous writers. This event is an opportunity for all writers, everywhere, to connect with the literary culture of Dublin and to learn from experts and peers. Join us. Writers, both aspiring and experienced, are all welcome. Our speakers are renowned, highly-experienced, published authors, and world-class experts in writing craft, publishing and marketing. This conference provides practical support, valuable training and an opportunity to get to know fellow writers and industry professionals through our online communities. Embracing the future, we encourage writers to explore all aspects of story and non-fiction.

Focused On Helping Authors & Aspiring Authors Our marketing sessions for writers will show you how you can find readers in a rapidly changing world. Our writing craft sessions will help you broaden your writing skills.


Why join us? Experience world class training sessions on writing craft and digital marketing for authors Sessions are delivered by speakers who will give you the inside track Enjoy connecting with fellow writers through our online communities This unique conference will motivate and inspire you to reach your goals as a writer We are a proud partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors Association and adhere to their code of conduct in all our services


What authors have said about the Dublin Writers’ Conference: “The Dublin Writers conference was packed with great information I can use daily as a writer, editor and publicist. I traveled from the U.S. to attend, and it was well worth the expense.” - Elizabeth Thom, American book publicist. “This conference in Dublin is unique in that the focus is on writers and the craft of writing, rather than on readers. It’s a conference by writers, for writers.” - Helen Nazarro, U.S. based editor and publisher. “The BooksGoSocial conference is a very comprehensive weekend event, reasonably priced for writers to attend presentations and network with like minded people.” - Nora Skehan, Irish sci-fi & fantasy author. “A fantastic opportunity to get together with authors from all over the globe at different levels of success. An inspiring event that every writer should attend at least once to experience it.” - Art Johnson, American musician and writer, who traveled from Monaco. “The conference exceeded all expectations-Free from hype and full of practical information. Also enjoyed exchanging views with fellow authors from around the world.” - Catherine DeVrye, best selling author, Sydney, Australia. “The last Dublin Writers’ Conference was really special. The speakers were amazing. My only regret was that I couldn’t attend all the sessions. Can’t wait for next year!” - JJ Toner, full time independent author, Dublin, Ireland. 8

“The Writers Conference in Dublin demonstrated professionalism, great choice of sessions, stylish venue and unbeatable Irish hospitality! I highly recommend it.� - Barbara M Webb, independent author of 2 travel books, Quito, Ecuador


SPEAKERS Ivan O’Brien Ivan O’Brien became Managing Director of O’Brien Press in 2006. O’Brien Press is Ireland’s leading independent publishing house with over 1000 books published, many of which have gone on to international success. O’Brien Press has always been committed to quality in writing, editing, design and illustration. O’Brien Press is the only Irish publisher to have received the prestigious International Reading Association Award. Ivan’s particular interest is in driving change to keep publishing relevant in the 21st century, whether through ebooks, increased international focus or just making beautiful things that people simply have to have. Ivan is also President of Publishing Ireland since 2016, the trade body for the Irish book publishing industry, where he initiated the Books for Screen collaboration with Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, and oversaw the return of Dublin Book Festival to Publishing Ireland.


Niamh Campbell Niamh Campbell recently won the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award with her story Love Many. This is the richest prize for a single short story in the English language. Worth £30,000 to the winner, the international annual award aims to promote and celebrate the excellence of the modern short story, and has attracted entries from some of the world’s finest writers. Niamh Campbell was born in 1988 and grew up in Dublin. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Dublin Review, 3:AM, Banshee, gorse, Five Dials, and Tangerine. She was awarded a Next Generation literary bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland, and annual literary bursaries in 2018 and 2019. She holds a PhD in English from King’s College London and has been a postdoctoral fellow for the Irish Research Council at Maynooth University. Her debut novel This Happy from Weidenfeld and Nicolson in out now. She lives and works in Dublin.

Peter Miller Peter Miller, also known as the ‘Literary Lion’, is the President and CEO of Florida-based Global Lion Intellectual Property Management (formerly PMA Literary & Film Management Inc. of New York). He is interested in ‘cutting-edge authors of both fiction and non-fiction with global marketing and motion picture/ television production potential’, but also projects based around


spirituality and human development. He is interested in authors who have an existing social media presence and are willing to expand even further into YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and interact with a fan base. Most recently, he has represented Sir Ken Robinson, author of the selfimprovement books ‘The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ and ‘Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life’, and Anthony DeStefano, author of ‘Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To’.

Kate Nash As a former author, publisher, publicist and marketer, Kate Nash has seen every side of publishing and set up her own literary agency so she could do “the best job in publishing”. Kate’s reading tastes – from romance to thrillers – are highly commercial. Kate has a degree in History (BA Hons.) from the University of York and later garnered two undergraduate modules in Creative Writing and Literature from the Open University (both with Distinction!). She also holds a postgraduate certificate from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Kate enjoys travel, wine, the theatre and fine art. She is also a trustee of the Catholic Truth Society (CTS), a 150-year-old charity who are the UK publishers to the Holy See. Kate Nash is listed at #20 in UK Fiction by Publishers Marketplace, based


on number of deals made (Feb 2017). Kate was named a Bookseller Rising Star in 2018 and was awarded Agent of the Year by the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2019.

Alexandra Sokoloff Alexandra Sokoloff is the Thriller Award-winning author/screenwriter of thirteen novels and the Screenwriting Tricks for Authorsworkbooks. Her Huntress Moonseries follows a female serial killer, smashing genre clichés and turning the tables on predators. “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”- The New York Times. As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios (Sony, Fox, Disney, Miramax), for producers such as Michael Bay, David Heyman, Laura Ziskin and Neal Moritz. She is also the workshop leader of the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops, based on her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks and blog. Her bestselling, Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI books follow a haunted FBI agent on his hunt for that most rare of criminals: a female serial killer. The series smashes genre conventions and combats violence against women on the page, screen, and real life. The series is being developed for television with Alex as writer/producer.


Dave Chesson Dave Chesson is the guy behind kindlepreneur. com, a website devoted to teaching authors about book marketing and the digital world. His works on keywords, and sales optimization have been featured and promoted by Amazon itself. Dave is also the creator of KDP Rocket, a software that helps authors see what’s really going on in the book market, and thus pick better keywords and categories to help them sell more books. Having been a consultant for multiple publishing companies and NYT bestselling authors, he’s seen both sides of the writing world.

Dee Rivera Dee Rivera is an Influencer, Brand & Communication Strategist, Author, TV Spokesperson and expert, fashion, beauty and lifestyle guru. She has been featured on numerous media platforms airing nationally in the United States and throughout Latin America. Dee can be seen as host on WPIX11, Telemundo, Sirius XM, NBC and Fox TV. With extensive editorial experience Dee also successfully created celebrity covers that included Jennifer Lopez, Eva La Rue, Jon Secada, Rosie Perez, and a plethora of others. Her book Glambition Knocking Down Walls In Heels was released in February 2019. DCG’s motto: “We Place You On The Map”.


Matt Knight Matt Knight is a San-Francisco-based intellectual property lawyer, fiction writer, and author of “The Writer’s Legal GPS: A guide for navigating the legal landscape of publishing”. His publications have appeared in the New York Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, IBPA Independent Magazine, and Houston Law Review, as well as his blog Sidebar Saturdays, designed to help writers with publishing law. Matt is currently working on “The Gene Pool”, the first book of a nearfuture thriller trilogy.

Binnur Karaevli Binnur Karaevli is a writer, producer and director. Binnur earned her BFA in Drama from CarnegieMellon University and her MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. She was the Literary Manager at the Los Angeles Theatre Center where, in 1991, she founded the “Platform”, an acclaimed political cabaret theatre group. Her commercial production experience includes working for Ridley Scott & Associates, PBS and BBC. She won awards at the Moondance and WinFemme International Film Festivals. She also won the Best of the Fest award at the Washington DC Independent Film Festival. 15

Marguerite Tonery Marguerite Tonery is the founder of Tribes Press. Marguerite herself wrote five books, the first three of which she self-published before establishing Tribes Press. She is acutely aware of the challenges involved in getting a book published, the uncertainty you may have about the quality of your manuscript and the endless days of waiting for that publishing house response that never arrives. In response to this, Marguerite decided to publish herself, to source the best of illustrators and designers and to work with independent bookshops to bring her book publishing dream into fruition. In response to her success, Marguerite was asked by several authors to publish their work and so, Tribes Press was born. Tribes Press is an earth conscious book publisher.

Catherine DeVrye Catherine DeVrye is the author of 9 non-fiction books, including three #1 best-sellers translated into over a dozen languages—and two duds. Her memoir was nominated for the Australian Biography prize. She’s had multiple rejections and was expelled from English in high school so describes herself as an accidental author with minimal literary skill who specializes in persistence and resilience-on both a professional and personal level. Starting life in an orphanage, Catherine is a past winner of the Australian Executive Woman of the Year Award 16

and has been invited by such organization as Microsoft, Rolls-Royce and the BBC to speak at conferences in 31 countries. She’s visited over 135 countries and as she transitions from a speaker who writes to a writer who speaks is looking for a publisher for her next book: “Timbuktu to Kathmandu: Courage and Kindness in Crazy Places”.

Andréa Fehsenfeld Andréa Fehsenfeld is an award winning TV Producer and writer with experience developing and delivering over 200 projects for Fortune 500 companies, major networks and global advertising agencies. Expert in personnel and project management with a passion for first class entertainment, her inaugural TV series “Peak Season” became MTV Canada’s highest rated series debut. Her original TV series concepts have been optioned/developed by Reunion Pictures, The Food Network, Cooking Channel, CTV and others. With her unique skill set, Andréa offers an insiders take on the adaption process having developed her debut novel, the psychological thriller COMPLETION, into a limited drama series. Her second novel, A Rainbow Like You, will be released in October 2020.

Alex McGilvery Alex McGilvery reviewed books for twenty-five years, reading all genres. In the last few years he shifted focus to editing. As a content editor he works with authors to polish their story through focus on plot,


character, tone and more. Alex has published twenty books in a range of genres, from Disputed Rock, the conclusion of a thriller trilogy set in a fictional mining town in Canada’s north, to The World Widens, forth in a medieval fantasy series. His most recent project is an anthology released by Celticfrog Publishing titled Mythical Girls featuring both new and established authors. Tranquille Dark, a crime novel set on the streets of Kamloops will be released this summer.

Laurence O’Bryan Laurence O’Bryan has been in marketing for over thirty years and training authors in digital marketing since 2012. Laurence’s had three novels published by Harper Collins. One has been optioned, twice, for the screen. The Istanbul Puzzle was also shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year, and won the Southern California Writers Conference Grand Prize. He also self-published Social Media is Dynamite For Writers, another two novels in the puzzle series and the first novel in a new series set in the late Roman Empire, The Sign of the Blood. Laurence started to help other authors get discovered. He also founded the Dublin Writers Conference.


Danielle Hampson A publishing industry podcasting pioneer, multilingual marketing and cross-cultural expert, Danielle Hampson created “The Authors Show®” many years before Internet streaming radio & TV and podcasting became popular. In its 15th year, the show has processed about 6000 traditionally & independently published authors from around the world. An accomplished talk show personality and a public speaker, she conducted many workshops at conferences organized by various organizations, including the Florida Authors & Publishers Association, Readers Favorite, Phoenix Writers Club, the Phoenix Writers Network, Scottsdale Society of Women Writers, SIAS University in China (Leadership Award), the AZ Department of Education and the Girls Scouts.

Conor Kostick Conor Kostick is the author of a series of successful fiction and non fiction titles. He is one of the most popular writing craft lecturers at the Irish Writers Center for many years. He also teaches medieval history, and the history of the Crusades, at Trinity College, Dublin. Conor was president of the Irish jury for the EU Prize for Literature, 2015. Conor’s books include Epic, Saga, Move, as well as The Book of Curses for younger readers.


As an historian, Conor Kostick’s awards include a gold medal from Trinity College, Dublin, first prize in the Dublinia Medieval Essay Competition; fellowships from the Irish Research Council and the University of Nottingham, and in 2015, the British Academy‘s Rising Star Engagement Award.

Rikard Sommer Rikard Sommer is a Norwegian author and a businessman. He self-published his first novel in the fall of 2017, the thriller If Nobody Listens. The novel has been on Amazon’s top 50 in the genre Medical Thrillers for many months. ‘Sommer has a great writing voice that truly allows you to engage in his amazing storytelling abilities.’ Amazon Rikard has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur. He also lectures on business development, where he talks about the mindset of successful entrepreneurs, product development, marketing and market psychology. Rikard will talk about the Nordic Noir genre and present examples of writers and their style.

Peter Hildick-Smith Peter Hildick-Smith is President of Codex-Group LLC. Founded in 2004, the firm pioneered book audience research. Codex tracks and forecasts digital book trends for book publishers, retailers and technology companies, using quantitative online research as a foundation for business strategy development.


He lectures regularly at The Wharton School, sits on the Wharton Digital Press Board of Advisors, and is a research advisor to the National Endowment for the Arts. He has an MBA in Marketing from The Wharton School (1981), and a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania (1976).

Catherine Kullmann Catherine Kullmann writes historical fiction set in the extended Regency period against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars. Her books consider the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society and look at what comes after the Happy End. Catherine will discuss how to bring the past to life in your novels so that readers make the jump with you into a different world. She will describe her research process, how she manages her historical knowledge and how she uses it to promote her books.

Allie Marie Allie Marie is a retired law enforcement officer. Her first book Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story, was released in fall 2015. It was followed by the second book Heart of Courage: The Red Ruby Story, released in May 2016, which won Best Book in Mystery and Suspense


at the 2017 Indie Romance Convention Readers’ Choice Awards and a third and fourth book in the series. Allie Marie has appeared at over 80 locations to promote her books. She is a member of RWA and Sisters in Crime, as well as their local chapters, and other writing groups.

Aileen Castellano Aileen Castellano is a Wealthness Coach, Spiritual Entrepreneur, Mentor, Speaker, and Self-Development Author with over 17 years of experience as a Therapist and Mediator. Before she began helping clients with life changing transitions, Aileen excelled in the world of finance and banking, expanded her family’s construction business, and became an executive recruiter for a fortune 500 company. Aileen blends practices and beliefs that result in life-changing experiences. Aileen dedicates herself to speaking and writing about personal development, and mentoring women and successful leaders.

Michael Russell Michael Russell, Sunday Times bestselling author with an extensive background in television drama in Britain and Ireland, including The


Bill, Heartbeat, Midsomer Murders and A Touch of Frost. Michael is also the author of the successful Stefan Gillespie historical detective novels, including City of Lies, published by Constable in 2017. The City in Flames, the latest instalment in the series, appeared in hardback in 2019. Michael has also contributed to The Perfect Murder: Spine-chilling Short Stories for Long Summer Nights and translated the first part of The Last Days of Mankind – The Last Night, Karl Kraus’s epic satire about the WWI.

Steven James Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base. His latest novel, Synapse, a near-future thriller, was released in October 2019. Suspense Magazine named Steven’s book Every Wicked Man one of their “Best Books of 2018,” saying he “sets the new standard in suspense writing.” Steven’s groundbreaking books on the art of fiction writing, Story Trumps Structure and Troubleshooting Your Novel have both won Storytelling World Awards. Widely recognized for his story-crafting expertise, he teaches regularly as a Master Class instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers.


Gerald. M. Kilby Gerald. M. Kilby grew up on a diet of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and Frank Herbert. This developed into a taste for Ian M. Banks, Stephen R. Donaldson and everything ever written by Neal Stephenson. Understandable then, that he should choose science fiction as his weapon of choice when entering the fray of storytelling. His Colony Mars series, and more recently The Belt series, are a pure sci-fi feast. He lives in Dublin and can sometimes be seen tapping away on a small laptop in a local cafe with his dog Loki.

Chris Rush Chris Rush is an international bestselling horror writer, a member of the Horror Writers Association and a lead investigator with Paranormal Researchers Ireland. Folklore was his first book and quickly became an international best seller, this was followed by the hugely successful All Shall Suffer. His following works The Legend of Loftus Hall and 13 Dead both also reached the top 100 in their selected categories.


His goal is too scare you as much as possible and make you second guess turning the lights off.

Ferdia Mac Anna Ferdia Mac Anna was born in Dublin in 1955 and grew up in Howth, North County Dublin. He graduated from UCD with a Bachelor of Arts in English and History. In 1990-91 he took an M.Phil In Anglo-Irish Literature at Trinity College. He was producer and script editor on the acclaimed award-winning BBC/RTE children’s drama series, “Custer’s Last Stand-Up” (2000-2002) which won the BAFTA for best drama series. Ferdia has taught Creative Writing, Screenwriting, Scriptwriting and Radio and TV broadcasting at DCU, Trinty College, NUI Maynooth and IADT (the national film school).

M.G. Crisci Manhattan-born M.G. Crisci is a criticallyacclaimed author of twelve books inspired by or based on real events. His books are in the genres of romance, history, politics, and crime. He is a former Fortune 500 senior executive, an internationally-recognized expert in the field of consumer motivation and behavior, and a thoughtprovoking social commentator who believes non-political, cross-


cultural activities have the power to increase mutual respect and trust between allies and enemies. He has received lifetime achievement awards in several fields.

Mark W. Schaefer Mark W. Schaefer is a globally-recognized speaker, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {Grow} ( — one of the top marketing blogs of the world. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He specializes in marketing strategy and social media workshops and clients include start-ups and global brands . He and is the author of eight best-selling books including “The Tao of Twitter” (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world), “The Content Code”, named by INC magazine as one of the Top five marketing books of the year, and “KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age”, the top book on personal branding.

Judith Barrow Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales for forty years. She has an MA in Creative Writing, a BA (Hons) in Literature and a Diploma in Drama. Published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Independent Press, she writes both historical and contemporary family sagas. She is


a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council.

Shadows” in 2015.

Judith has had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. The first novel in her trilogy, “Pattern of Shadows”, was published in 2010, the sequel, “Changing Patterns”, in 2013 and the last, “Living in the

The prequel, “A Hundred Tiny Threads” was published in August 2017. This series has been difficult to leave behind so she also published an anthology of short stories about eight minor characters in the series.

Fern Reiss Fern Reiss is the author of nine award-winning books, including “The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days”, “The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days” and “The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days” all Writer’s Digest Book Club selections ( She just self-published two new books, “CoronaVirus and Kids” and “The Family Guide to Quarantine” that could only have been published this quickly via self publishing. Her books and business have been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine and over 100 other publications worldwide; getting authors and businesses this sort of media attention is the skill she teaches at Fern keynotes writing and publishing conferences worldwide. 27

Heather Richardson Heather Richardson is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at The Open University. Her poetry, short stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in journals and anthologies in Ireland, the UK and Australia. She has published two novels: “Magdeburg”(Lagan Press 2010) and “Doubting Thomas” (Vagabond Voices, 2017). Her textile art has been exhibited as part of the Linen Biennale in Lisburn, and at the F E McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge. In addition to teaching Creative Writing at undergraduate level she has delivered workshops and short courses in a number of community settings. She is particularly interested in site-specific teaching, using archive resources such as census returns and newspaper stories as prompts for stories and poems.

Anne Janzer Anne Janzer is an award-winning author, nonfiction writing coach and marketing practitioner on a mission to help people make a positive impact with their writing. She supports and encourages writers, authors and marketers through her books, blog posts, online courses, webinars, and teaching.


Anne spent most of a career working in the technology industry as a marketing consulting. That work entailed writing in the voice of countless brands—she became adept at varying tone and style, writing for online consumption, and getting to the point. In 2015, she shared her observations about the changes happening in the marketing industry in her book “Subscription Marketing”. That book changed her career.

Kathleen Kelley Reardon Kathleen Kelley Reardon, professor, writer and artist, has published ten nonfiction books and two crime mysteries. Her debut novel, “Shadow Campus”, was described by Forbes as “fast-paced” and a “masterful debut.” “Damned If She Does” (2020), a Manhattan-based sequel described by Kirkus as “informed and searing,” was selected for their September 2020 “Great Indie Books Worth Discovering.” Professor of business and communication, she has published in journals, magazines, and was a signature front-page blogger with Huffington Post from 2005 to 2016. Her “classic” Harvard Business Review case, “The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk,” became a reprint bestseller leading to her first trade book, “They Don’t Get It, Do They? “. Her books, “The Secret Handshake”, “It’s All Politics” and “Comebacks at Work”, have also been Amazon bestsellers.


A.G. Billig A.G. Billig is a published author, public speaker, author coach and the founder of the award-winning blog Self-Publishing Mastery. She’s a frequent presenter at writers’ conferences in the US and Europe. As a self-publishing expert and author coach, A.G. Billig uses her book marketing and publishing expertise to help authors become successful. Her key areas of expertise are brand building, traditional media and PR, book launch events and campaigns, public appearances (including audio and video interviews), and mindfulness tools for writers.



International Review of books magazine Executive Editor - Laurence O’Bryan Editor-in-Chief - Tanja Slijepčević Reviews Editor - Tanja Slijepčević Graphic Designer - Mirna Gilman Ranogajec

Produced by BooksGoSocial Fumbally Exchange, Argus House, Malpas Street, Dublin 8, Ireland



Editor’s letter

You are very welcome to our International Review of Books magazine! Well, welcome to 2020! Here at The International Review of Books, we have been making a few changes to the way we review your books. Gone are the three, four, and five-star ratings. In their place, we have a simpler way of rating your book. We now offer a gold, silver, or bronze seal to show visually what the reviewer thought of your work.


The layout is also different. We now have the following sections: • • •

A general summary for context Concise review General thoughts on the novel

As well as the above we have a section for the reader to use that allows them to offer a supportive critique. This part allows for the mention of format issues or spelling issues etc. This part of the review process is not published and shared only with the author. We hope these changes better reflect the hard work you have put into your beloved work. We also hope that they help potential readers decide on your work over others when they read the detailed yet spoiler-free review. Tanja Slijepčević Reviews Editor



A gripping true story of a teenager who is diagnosed with cancer and who is helped by her elder sister who acts as her mother, friend, philosopher and guide. The story revolves around the hardships and challenges faced by the two sisters as they battle the cancer which was discovered late and which is progressing rapidly in her younger sister.

Gethsarade the squirrel needs to ďŹ gure out if he is all talk or could actually be the hero he is meant to be.

A amboyantly written story with clever word plays and characters so complex you’d never peg them to be the furry four-legged kind.

An incredible, wonderful, raw and true story of two sisters, one of whom is diagnosed with epatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer when she is a teenager and the other is an adult who is at the crossroads in her life and who is now acting as her mother, friend and guide. A tragic tearjerker that in the end leads to the death of the younger sister diagnosed with cancer.


Noelle was risen as Valer, prepared for Immersion, but her natural ability to read and understand words made her an outcast. Once known, she has to run away in order to escape her fate, even though she does not know the extent of what was meant to her. Revealing the secrets of the past and the history of the Rising, she takes off on a quest to collect the nine volumes preserved by the original nine, and ďŹ nd her fate.

With the war between the states raging, Wolf and his companions head toward Gettysburg. Get lost in this sweeping epic adventure that spans Custer and some of the battles of the Civil War. For fans and history buffs of the Civil War, this book is a must read! Full of adventure, battles, and a sweeping personal story of a man who just wanted to contribute to the cause, this is a perfect read! Get the individual thoughts from soldiers as the battle of Gettysburg looms!

Very realistic characters made me live the story, and with each page i got to know them better, got to observe how they changed under the circumstances.


Is it possible to go back in the past and change events? Or will destiny override your attempts? Those are the questions explored in this wellwritten, romancethriller, time-travel novel.

Set in a bleak future with different races factioning against each other, Nash Korpes is trying to change the future whilst battling his own demons, with few friends and many enemies, time is against him despite his genius. Well written and easy to read, this sci fi novel kept me hooked, Nash was a very interesting and lonely character whilst Davis, his friend and colleague was, to start, a breath of fresh air. The only downside I saw to this novel was that I hadn’t read the first book and because of this, some of the references and goings on left me feeling a bit lost, I’m definitely going to pick up the first in the series now though, I would recommend!

From would-be rock star to museum curator, Kaley Kline is someone who remembers the past through Rose-tinted glasses, and longs to put right something she’s always felt guilty about. Sometimes things are better off left alone! If She Had Stayed is a gripping, timetravel romance-thriller that builds until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat!


A college student Emilia looks for answers about her past. She finds them in an isolated valley in the mountains of Europe. What starts as a

The main character is Alexander Gray, an ex-Navy Seal who clandestinely works with the top tier of U.S. government. Russia has shot down Air Force, the president is dead, and the vice president is in power. Gray’s current assignment is to accompany a medical team to Italy, where a delicate operation will be performed on Russia’s head of state. His mission is to make sure that the operation goes without a hitch. And it would be mission impossible if anyone other than Gray were in charge. Using his wits, and brute force, Gray makes sure that the mission succeeds. If you are looking for suspense and intrigue along with some plot twists, you won’t be disappointed.

contemporary drama, turns into an exciting paranormal story with an evil sorcerer, romance, and supernatural elements. Valley of Secrets is fresh and fast-paced, with sympathetic and relatable characters. Readers will relate to Emilia’s desire to know her past and the way she overcomes obstacles. She’s a strong and nuanced female lead. Knight’s writing is evocative and compelling and the plot well-crafted. I can easily see Valley of Secrets gaining a welcoming audience.


Sierra was ending her marriage to an ex who gave her a dose of trouble, she wasn’t ready to start again with a new love interest. Especially a cowboy just passing by, and especially not with her two young children she had to think about first..... Storm never planted roots, he couldn’t stick around. Not after his childhood being tossed around foster families, learning if you left first or pushed them away then you wouldn’t get hurt. But it was lonely and he hadn’t realized it until he met Sierra and her family.... I devoured this sweet clean romance quickly. Reminded me of a hallmark type book which could make for a great Christmas movie. The kids, the closeknit family, the horses and ranch life and a blossoming unexpected romance. Even with their relationship trial that did bring me some tears- I’m glad they fixed things and quickly.


cases are female but it also affects males and his case is a unique case which he wanted to highlight in the form of a story so that other people in the world would be beneďŹ ted and gain hope to come out of this disease. The story delineates the incredible suffering, hardship and mental trauma that the author faced on account of anorexia nervosa which is an eating disorder that is marked by extremely reduced appetite and total aversion to food and it is also seen as a serious psychological disorder. This leads to his emaciated appearance over a period of time. The story highlights how he steeled his mind to gain control over his body after undertaking a lot of sacriďŹ ces and suffering. There is a grim foreboding undercurrent throughout the story that makes you want to see what would happen in the end. A crisp short motivating story interspersed with the gravity of human suffering and how the author overcame it to come out trumps in the end.

A poignant coming of age story of a young anorexic male who was leading a great life until he started suffering from anorexia nervosa which began to completely destroy his life until he was just a few feet away from death. However, ironically, the turning point for the author comes about when the Grim Reaper a.k.a. Death helps him during one of his encounters to come out of his morbid anorexia nervosa state. The chance encounter with the Grim Reaper makes him realize that life is very important and we should lead a happy and enjoyable life. He begins to change his mindset and from then onwards, he is on the path to self-recovery and recovers his health. Factually, the story highlights that more than 90% of the diagnosed anorexia


and develop friendships, he can’t help but think of Mari, wondering if she is seeing what is happening, and how he is going to get back to his own time. The area where the portal is located is not yet completed in the past, so he has to wait for construction to be done before he can leave. But as time winds down, he begins to question whether or not he can go back to his own time, and leave the woman that he has come to care about. But everything that he has gotten used to is about to come crashing down...

Michael Harker is the victim of amnesia. After a brutal attack, and a coma, he goes on respite care to the home of Mari. She is an older woman who is looking to help out, but she is not sure about Michael at ďŹ rst. He is quiet and withdrawn, and somewhat prone to drinking. After several weeks, they seem to be making progress, but then the earthquake happens, and everything changes. Right before the quake, Mari was sure that she had seen something, something that did not seem possible. But what she discovered was in actuality, a portal. Michael decides to test the portal, and is transported back 100 years, where things were much different. He is not sure what he is going to do, until Mr. Gordon befriends and takes him in. As he comes to learn about the townspeople


careful reading this. The book has great potential and could do very well. It is full of detail, and the book flows easily. There is almost seamless movement between the chapters, and each of the characters fits well together. The downsides that I can see would be some of the graphic scenes with the sex. For having minors involved (although it was historically accurate) this will be a trigger for some and should be noted before the reading starts. There were a few areas where the text felt a bit more forced, but aside from those few things, this was a book that stood out. For those that enjoy military history, reading about ancient Rome, and are looking for a fabulous “undiscovered” read, this book should be on your reading list for the summer.

This book is told from multiple perspectives, and you will need to hold onto your hat for the ride. As the Persian army moves closer, there are many lives at stake, not just for the military, but for those who have been captured as well. Constantine is eager to show what he can do, while Juliana longs to return to a home that is no longer there. With the many different pieces and the many different names, I found it useful to keep a small notebook next to me while reading, so that I could keep track of what was going on with the many different names. I really did enjoy this book, although some of the scenes were more graphic than I anticipated at the beginning. If you have triggers over sex or violence, then I would advise in being extremely



narrative continues as the family bonds together to survive the difficult and dangerous journey toward freedom. Elisabeth Zguta uses a fastflowing narrative more than dialog to reveal the horrors of war and shed light on a dark time in history when it was easy for governments to lie to its citizens and covert policies were the norm. Spanning a time period between 1939 and 1949, the story highlights the suffering of Ukrainians after centuries of occupation, annexation and being regarded as inferiors. However, the spirit of the Ukrainian people is exemplified in the characters’ optimism, tolerance, and loyalty against incredible odds. Ivan and his family do not spend time despairing over the past. They never give up hope of a brighter future.

Heartfelt and quietly moving, this memoir-like work of fiction uses the voice of a young Ukrainian boy, named Ivan Rudenko, to paint a portrait of the struggles, triumphs, and tragedies of a world at war. Told through the innocent eyes of young boy, the story creates many tender and poignant moments as readers become involved in the plight of this family from the very onset. We feel a tender connection to Ivan as he tries to understand the actions and motivations of the adults who control his life. Shielded by his parents’ love and faith that God will protect them, Ivan does not always understand what he is witnessing. Like most boys his age, he longs for carefree days and dreams of a future when he will achieve the greatness that he believes is his destiny. That connection between reader and


The King of Violins is an epic story about the love of music, and the struggle for survival through a communist regime. This story will sweep you through changing landscapes, French schools, and the struggles of the common Chinese people, who were only trying to survive. Through this book, we are going to follow Ma as he begins to fall in love, and the inability of his first love’s ability to accept his humble background, through a rise to fame, and finding the love of his life. There are so many different themes running through this book, that you are engrossed trying to figure out what might be coming next.

Ma Sicong discovered a love for music, and that love would become a life-long love that fueled a career that would span decades. Through his music, he was able to help support his family. He also became the target of a political regime, that would begin to destroy everything that he had worked for.

This book is a must-read! It is one that is going to stay with you for a very long time.

Mao Zedong first credited him as a national treasure, but that treasure diminished under the harsh regime that followed, with Zedong destroying not only heritage but people in the process. Ma Sicong was not only worried about his family but for the heritage of the Chinese people to survive the brutal conditions that were plaguing his people. He made the decision to flee and seek a better life in America, risking everything to take his family to freedom.


The trial scenes are excellent; they have suspense, surprise, and are well-written. Rape is a delicate and volatile topic; it always has been. Often it is word against word, the proof can be questionable, and the woman’s willingness at the time of the incident is repeatedly questioned. The questioning of Medusa was a very emotional scene. The Olympian characters are a bit complicated and confusing. They aren’t Gods, but supposedly ordinary people with “ichor” in their blood, giving them immortality, but not any extra power. Still, they could somehow do all the things they did in the legends, things they can’t for some reason do now.

The idea behind this book is quite intriguing; the Greek gods are still alive, so is all the other immortal being, monsters and people alike. Incidents that happened so long ago are now to be evaluated and judged by a modernday justice system. What happens when the justice of the gods back then meets today’s view on society and humanity? The book begins with a TV-report from the courthouse a few days before Medusa’s starts. An expert panel discusses the incident that happened in Athena’s temple so long ago, and the punishment Medusa received shortly after (the curse that turned her into a monster). Some of the things said in this debate is quite provoking, and the characters are very stereotypical. These parts of the books were, to me, a bit tedious. 48

Tom’s mission is to get Jessica out. He loves her still, he betrayed her, he was the catalyst to so many things and he needs to fix it. I couldn’t put this story down, it had me going and reading more on Rwanda, seeing where they are now as a country. This book blends accurate events and fiction seemlessly that it makes you feel you lived their heartache, their fear, and their successes. Jessica you cannot help but love. She’s such a captivating person, she’s determined, smart, intuitive, has a big heart and creative even in the hardest of times. Her compassion took the pain away from one of the many victims she found on her way to safety.

All Jessica ever wanted was to help people. She came to Rwanda with her OBGYN specialized training as a medical doctor from America. She got tossed into a new setting having to pick up skills, and overcome obstacles she wouldn’t find back home all while not knowing she was sitting inside a powder keg. This story lets you feel what the environment of Rwanda was before the war became official, it emerses you in Jessica’s struggle for freedom to live, and the people who helped aid her rescue.

You will have bitter hatred for Jessica’s superior. What he directed to Jessica but also to other human beings, how he operated and how against the hypocratic oath he was will make Jessica’s vow all the more understandable, he is the villian to rival only the worst of the worst of villians to exist.

Micheal and Tom are other significant characters that showcase their experiences of the war, the devastation and their desperation to get their missions accomplished.


vivid visuals. Even though there’s not much edge-ofyou-seat action It builds to a satisfying resolution. Author Jordana Blasco has crafted an unusual, intriguing, and layered story for young readers and fans of fairy tales. It shows well the intricacies of human relationships and emotions. That being said, I think the novel tries to convey an important message, but this desire to tell things takes over the narrative in places weakening the book’s impact as a work of fiction.

The Legend of the River that Flows tells the story of redemption and hope for a brighter tomorrow. The story takes place in a long-lost civilization where an abused girl rediscovers hope and love. Her arc connects with the story of a resentful boy who has wronged his close ones. How? It’s better if you discover it yourself. Blasco’s writing is often lyrical and metaphoric, yet plainly descriptive where it needs to be. It doesn’t follow a linear narrative - many chapters, especially in the beginning, work as vignettes illustrating the protagonist’s emotional states as she discovers a new place. Chapters are short and punchy and never focus on unnecessary details. The novel succeeds at building a unique atmosphere and the prose conjures up


enjoyable. Remarkably, Ms. Johnson accomplished all of this, against the wishes of her parents, at a time when aviation was primarily a male field. She did not let any of this thwart her dreams and ambitions, building an illustrious career in aviation as both a private and commercial pilot. Then she left aviation, returned to school to earn a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice so that she could be close enough to take care of her father in his later years. True Course - Lessons Learned Aloft is an absolute delight, a treat that you won’t want to put down until you have read it from cover to cover. “True Course - Lessons of a Life Aloft” by Brigid Johnson is a wonderful collection of essays which tell the story of her life as a pilot from when she was a child dreaming of flying, through her career and her adventures, eventually marriage, family and subsequent career after she stopped flying. Ms. Johnson has a lyrical way of describing life behind the controls of her aircraft which draws you in and is an absolute delight, a treat that you won’t want to put down until you have read it from cover to cover.

“True Course - Lessons of a Life Aloft” by Brigid Johnson is a stunningly beautiful collection of essays which tell the story of her life as a pilot from when she was a child, dreaming of taking off into the clear blue skies to her training at a small local airport, through her career and her adventures in the air, the people she met during her travels and her eventually marriage, family and subsequent career. Ms. Johnson has a lyrical way of describing life behind the controls of her aircraft, whether the skies be clear or cloudy, or the forces of nature destructive. She shares moments when her engines sputter and the outcomes were questionable and if it weren’t for the fact that she, the pilot were writing the piece, you would wonder if she made it through. Yet her peaceful writing style is calming to read and thoroughly


Nurse Stern is like every thing you could hate in authority. She should not have been employed. She’s the proof of why private funding and off grid hospitalization should be a thing of the past. Bruce and his wife are exactly what’s wrong with the foster system. They want an easy buck and pray on the defenceless, committing crime after crime without facing the consequences. Rotten to the core. The thing that was most frightening was the creeper. A character of multiple nightmares and serial killers rolled into one. Targeting people that no one would miss and would take longer than normal to notice. I’m glad I hadn’t eaten in awhile reading about it and the hides.

This story begins in the past, introducing Cole and the cover up of the abuse on his foster sister in which he was blamed for. It got him sent away. The asylum is more than anyone’s worst nightmare. Cole has to survive at all costs. We see the past of the asylum and then we see the present and the ghost tours made possible from the darkness.

This book was a twisted, dark and horrifying read that shows the true skills of the author.

The author has done a superb job of creating a dark and twisted underworld in what should be a safe place for those with low functioning mental illnesses. It’s scary and could be transformed into a great on screen horror film. I couldn’t put down the book, reading what will happen to Cole and what others see now that the asylum is closed. If I faced the tragedy Cole did, I’d have those ticks too.


and the characteristics of the vedic signs are also discussed. Another section focuses on the life path number and the birth date as the blueprint of your destiny and indicates the characteristics of various life path numbers and also how to calculate the life path number. Finally, the various stages of life and the three life lessons for each zodiac sign are discussed. An important section focuses on the twenty Tibetan keys to happiness and the nine essential ingredients for a happy life. The most important part of the book focuses on the real value and the true worth of a person as each person is unique and through the use of short allegorical stories it highlights how you should surround yourself with positive and like-minded people.

The book mainly focuses on all the zodiac signs and the state and a potential forecast of the sign in 2020. It is laid out in a typical text book format with different sub sections where the focus is on analysing and understanding each zodiac sign in terms of its strengths and weaknesses; relationships; love and intimacy; career, positive and negative traits and how you will need to interact with people born in that sign. The last section for each sign also highlights celebrities and famous people born in that sign. Overall, a good book on understanding the various zodiac signs. The author also focuses on various birthstones for people born in different months and how it impacts their life. The book also has a section on chakras and vedic astrology and the comparison between vedic and western astrology

A good book for understanding the zodiac signs at a high level and how to interact with people born in different signs. Details are given for the various signs and how to manage the interactions with each sign.


crime. All the characters in the book play their role truthfully and with a purpose, whether only to move the story forward a little, provide a necessary detail to make a scene believable, or reveal a fact about the society or main characters. Savannah is a great main character, innocent young lady tried on every occasion, humble and terrified after what she went through, yet strong in her own way. She is always true to her beliefs and morals, fighting the injustice with all she has, with strong survival instincts and good heart. Doctor Neillands is maybe even more interesting, with the strike of uncertainty accompanying his character the whole time. On one side, the actions speak clearly about his good and merciful heart, the deep loss, yet his anger and possession of a weapon “for luck” put him into a different light, making him suspicious on occasion. Yet maybe the most brilliant part are the villains of the story, with their motives, behavior, modus operandi, and wasted potential of brilliant mind corrupted by money, madness, or hatred. The outcome in the end is more tragic and sad than horrifying. And makes me think how grateful I should be for the life I am living, to appreciate my family and options.

Every time period has its bright side as much as downside. In the spotlight, one sees the privileged and the favored - educated people, people living in (relative) wealth, with high expectations on their performance, manners, and lifestyle. The way of true gentlemen and true ladylike young misses. But below the surface lurk the inconvenient truths - prejudices; the power of rumors and accusations, many times without a solid ground; social inequality; the troubled life of the unfortunate and poor, with no chance for advance. All the historical facts are taken as a whole, explored in depth to show how easy it could have been to get away with crime so awful as murder, even repeatedly, if one knew the people’s behavioral patterns, the possibilities, and has brilliant strategic mind without scruples and morals to keep him away from committing the


I really felt bad for Ryker he was a big introvert and was so used to digging into things too deep that the first time he gets a date with someone special he ends up going too far and it costs him too much. The ending where I believed there would be a happily ever after for them completely blew me away. The author did a great job at making me feel how nervous and shy Ryker was and how dangerous knowing government Intel really is.

A man who was brilliant enough to hack high government security has been leading a double life. His top level government job and a backdoor secret job both no one can know about or bad things happen, too bad it interferes with his dating life- well the one he’s being pushed into having. He finally gets a date with a gorgeous women who ends up being a nortorious hacker like himself, except that’s just the beginning of the journey down the rabbit hole, and getting caught could cost his life. Hackers remorse dives into the double life of keyboard activists, dark secrets and government control. Where genius and shyness can all come from the same person but it’s dangerous when you go too far.


enter the scene and everything becomes twisted - Zara’s personality, her romantic interests, her relationships with friends and family, the paranormal phenomena causing havoc in her mind. Dorian is an extremely attractive character, and not only because of his good looks. The apparent conflict in him wrapped in mystery that drives the reader crazy is an element that keeps the suspense high (and later the mild irritation from unanswered questions too). The side characters are distinctive enough to be able to describe the basic treats of their personalities, yet content-wise I found them somehow subdued and pushed into background, only serving their purpose in plot development, with focus on the drama between Zara and Dorian. There is also noticeable difference in perception of the characters in terms of how believable I found them - Dorian I can easily believe to be even centuries old, with perfected approach to his victims, but on the other side I found Zara less mature than I’d guess based on the age mentioned in the book - I’d say she is in her late teens instead of twenty-two. However, she reacted in the end adequately to the situation and her life experience (based on the information we got in the book), so I found some reconciliation in the end.

Young Zara Logan is living an ordinary life - school, work, friends, occasional crush. Everything changes with the arrival of new neighbor who is handsome, sexy, and has irresistible appeal. His presence is like a drug to Zara, whereas the mystery around him drives her crazy, as much as the hallucinations and the inexplicable crime occurrences in the neighborhood. Driven by curiosity and lust, Zara is determined to uncover her neighbors’ secret. Intriguing story with dark undertones intertwined with the recklessness of youth. The mundane life the female main character is living is ordinary, even boring, until the new neighbors


talking, but that is something parents can explain to their children. An element I really loved about this book is how the writer talks about the parents mentioning talking or communicating is something they will all do. The circle of trust is important for the whole family. Children enjoy knowing they are included and are an equal part of something special. That part of the story will make them feel special. Honeycake: A Circle of Trust by Medea Kalantar is a quality story teaching children about trusting others and talking about feelings. Readers join Nala as she has made a mistake, and she is upset.

Checking out this book helps send home an important message. The story is enjoyable enough too for readers to read more than once as well.

The story is told in a way children can understand and enjoy. This is a delightful story. The illustrations are well done as well add to the story. The lesson in this book is an important one and done very well. The way the writer weaves story and lesson together is superb. The characters are colorful, and readers see the story along with reading it. I recommend this book to parents of young children to help them teach the lesson of talking with their children about trust. It will help them illustration what they mean in a fun way and open the communication. The words she uses are easy to understand, and she explains everything very well. I would have liked her to put a little more emphasis on the relationship with communication and


The author breathes life into these concepts by making writing it in a more personal manner, having a friendly welcoming voice and approaching this is a fashion that doesn’t make you feel inadequate to begin or feel like you’ll just never get there. Each chapter captures your attention and is easy to follow using language that any level of reader can consume. The chapters include: Begin each day with Gratitude, Be a Blessing, Visualize your Success, Forgive Others, Love Yourself, Speak it into your Existence, Dance like You Already Got It. The best part about the chapters being named this way is that if you’re familiar with “Karma” or “what you say about yourself becomes truth” or “positive things happen when you’re being positive” you can jump around the book. You don’t have to start in a linear manner or even go through them all if you already know which chapter you are missing from your life.

This book gives you seven powerful ways to make a change in your life to lead a happier life. When applied you’ll be happier, and receive back things that continue to grow that happiness. Each of the seven concepts is broken down for easy reading, easy application and easy understanding. What I loved most about this book was not only the bite sized pieces of the concepts but also that you can use this as a working manual. Read all the steps at once, or read and try as you go, it’s also a great resource to read more then once and should be read more then once to help digest the content better.

I absolutely enjoyed this read and will continue to read this book again and again. Even my kids could read this book and find understanding right away.


Technically, the writing could use another round of editing. Some word choices and phrases should be polished to make the text more immersive. An excess of exclamation points and exaggerated, snappy dialogue make it, sometimes, difficult to fully sink into this world and relate to characters. Overall, though, the book is uniquely unpredictable and wildly entertaining. It lies a solid foundation for future stories set in the world.

The story, saturated with pop-culture references and snappy dialogue, develops at a breakneck pace. It is steeped in action, unexpected allies, as well as a bit of romance and self-discovery. All of this makes it quick to read and engaging, and its tongue-in-cheek tone has a lot of appeal. While the protagonists seem slightly irrational, their behavior and reactions add to the novels’ unpredictability and surprising plot progression. Additionally, in this kind of story, „normal” characters would seem out of place. We don’t get many descriptive passages and what happens in the story feels purposeful for the plot. As a result, the book can be easily read in one sitting.


With very interesting premise, it is worth to stop and really think about how real a threat of self-modifying virus on protein base is. Especially with respect to the current situation with worldwide virus pandemic, this book hits the mark fully and raises numerous question for everyone who cares about nature, humanity, and life. Despite the slower and slightly confusing beginning, the story develops gradually into complex sci-ďŹ thriller, with distinctive characters depicted well through description, their actions, and their language characteristics. Overall the language is very appropriate to the environment, with scientiďŹ c terminology, abbreviations typical for the information agencies, or accentuated use of accent or different foreign languages.

Jack Kavanaugh, and extraordinary character both in terms of his personality and behavior, and his brilliant, unique mind, centers the storm of the events occurring in the book. His family, disgraced and looked upon, is tightly entwined with the story of a highly adaptable virus showing signs of its own conscience, and Jack is now part of a team standing in front of a great challenge - stop the virus from spreading, break the attempt to seize power over the world leaders, and save the life of his very own father. Numerous forces are on the move, and the Interpol special ISO-6 team has their hands full to terminate the dangerous shadow organisation.


the least - how can everything go wrong for someone in such a short time span? Bad luck aside, the further I got with the book, the more I enjoyed it. The main characters were well-written and memorable, even if somewhat idealised at times - especially Mallory’s perfect assistant and friend, Darren. The story itself felt a bit jumpy at times, but was mostly fast-paced and gripping to the point where I was flying through the pages, needing to know what was going to happen next.

Delta is the next book in Stephen L. Brayton’s series about Mallory Petersen, a private detective and martial artist. This time a series of murders takes place where the only connection seems to be Mallory herself. Additionally, everything else in her life seems to be going wrong as well, starting with her taekwondo studio suffering fire damage to spotting her boyfriend getting cosy with another woman. Can Mallory rise above it all to keep her martial arts studio and private investigations business afloat whilst also trying to figure out who is the killer targeting people from her past? I found Mallory’s bad luck at the beginning of the book daunting to say


that the act of the black cat bumping into his life and his deep relationship with the cat occurred due to his praying to God. This is a real life story (almost autobiographical, even though the complete life of the author is not covered) of a cat which meets the author and later becomes a deep part of his life and family. The author indicates that he is passionate about cats (he also has two additional cats apart from Midnight) and he nurtures Midnight who is not in good health till her last stage. After she dies, he is devastated and believes that her spirit is still there in his house and feels that he is connected with her at different times. Subsequently, another cat bumps into his life and which he calls Moonlight and which later becomes a part of his family. The author makes a sincere attempt to communicate to the world that there are angels who are present and who help us when we face difďŹ cult times. However, it is marred by the various inter-relationships and disjointed connections in the story and it requires a lot of focus to understand the message which the author is trying to communicate in the end to the average reader.

This is a story of a diabetic cat that wanders into the life of a composer (writer) and his family. The author talks about a speciďŹ c period in his life and how the black cat (Midnight) became a part of his family till it passes away and the author again bumps into another cat (Moonlight) and which later becomes a part of his family. This is the story of a black cat named Midnight that has crossed eyes and which cannot miaow like other cats. The author writes about a speciďŹ c period in his life when he was going through a personal life crisis and was suffering from other issues and how he prayed to God to help him come out of these issues. The events that occurred subsequently led him to believe that all these events occurred because he had prayed to God. The author believes


New Reflection, Part 1”. His recovery process is addressed in poems like “Bouncing Back”. The author takes his much of inspiration from rap music and motivational speakers infusing it into his own personal experiences. He relies heavily on the use of imagery which is sometimes starkly realistic and other times almost metaphysical. There is a sameness to the tone and theme of the poems that balances on a thin line, nearly dropping into monotony. The lack of punctuation and awkward phrasing often caused confusion and detracted from the flow of emotions and ideas. Some of the explanations that accompany the offerings did not enhance my experience, because I had formed my own impressions and connections to the work. Most of these references could have been addressed in end notes.

Most of the poetry represented here takes analytical rather than an emotional approach to life. Bryan is intent on sharing valuable messages for the reader to see and experience in a new way. He encourages you to discover your own voice about the difficult and unexplainable things in life. He explores the philosophical and spiritual questions involved in living life fully and urges the reader to claim his or her own life. The selections represent the author’s journey from despair through selfawareness beginning with the poem “Reborn” where he emerges from the depth of depression to a new beginning. But, like life, the journey is not all uphill. There are setbacks. The author address these honestly in poems such as “Bad


all females, are instantly put to the test as they set about capturing the other ship. In true Star Trek fashion, there are bumps and flaws in their plan, and they end up being pulled onto the surface on an alien planet. Here, the story unfolds in a lovely way, revealing the message underlying this fab tale. Don’t judge, and be open to befriending people (or monsters) that are different to you. John Reynolds’ writing is spot on for this age group, and I wasn’t surprised to read in his short bio that he used to be a teacher. The editing is of a high standard, which helps to make this story easy-to-read. With a superb plot, great characters and a meaningful message, Star Blaze is great, fun book for children to read on their own or with their parents.

With a gripping opening, Star Blaze is a fast paced story that will grab younger readers and keep them turning pages. With excitement from start to finish, this is a great children’s science fiction adventure.

With a gripping opening, Star Blaze is a fast paced story that will grab younger readers and keep them turning pages. With excitement from start to finish, this is a great children’s science fiction adventure.

Soon to be 16, Sandy is woken up with a start one morning by her mother, Magenta. Immediately, the action begins with the pair jumping into their Plutron hovercraft, and escaping just in time. Hot on their heels are the uniformed Votrons, the foot soldiers to the odious president, Odium. Sandy is amazed when she finds out her mother is Captain of a battleship called Vigilant! Adventure and action are immediate, as Odium’s spaceship approaches them. The crew, consisting of nearly


it had been a life saver or a support for each of them. The recurrent themes in the book are related to the death of a loved one, travel, divorce and related areas. The book is a rich tribute to the great friends which the various authors had and which made their lives richer during their life time. The book highlights that most friendships may end at some point in time but that does not mean the friendship is a failure and it highlights the joys of the relationship till it existed with the other person. It also highlights that all types of friends are important in a person’s life. One area that could be improved could be to focus more on the male perspective in order to have a diversity of perspectives as most of the stories are having a female perspective.

The book is an anthology of 20+ stories about real life experiences related to friendship that have occurred in the lives of the 20+ distinguished authors who have written these stories. In today’s fast paced lifestyle, people have forgotten what it means to be friends with other people. Their preoccupation with their work and other personal factors have ensured that their friendships have been rendered inactive and they come to realize this fact after they have grown old or much time has passed. They then remember the good times and the difficult times that they had with their friends and it leads to a lot of nostalgia and reflection on how life has changed for all of them and it also led them to appreciate their earlier friendships that they had with other people and how

The important highlight of the book is the raw candor and the vulnerability demonstrated by the authors and the gratitude exhibited by them while narrating their rich and personal experiences.


Book Description This skilled writer, researcher and investigator provides a thoughtprovoking book filled with history, education, yoga and much more. He discusses how yoga has evolved over the centuries into what it is today. He goes into great detail spiritually, historically and culturally including different religions and Vikings. Readers learn there is much more to yoga than we ever thought possible and it has a deep history. Viking lore is mentioned in an in-depth and poetic way through his writing this book. Readers may think they know yoga and of Viking history involving such lore as Thor and Loki, but so much more is found in this book. Return to Me; God’s Heart Cry then turns inward to look at our restoration by examining our outer restoration or the physical things in our life like our house, clothes, time and our money. What does your house look like? Are there any idols in your house? Are you modestly dressed? What are you doing with your time and your money? Are these things pleasing to our heavenly Father?

Which line stood out from all the others in the book? I loved knowing how stories, characters and history evolved over time, while also relating to yoga. One thing that stood out most was when writer J.R.R. Tolkien was mentioned to have been influenced in his writing by Fafnir – son of sorcery-king, which I learned was a ballad about Norse history or stories. This was very interesting.


they thought when first opening the book. Learning about various words and the origins of them for one is fascinating. Then we go in-depth to the meaning of some words and even the history of it. Perhaps a story or two related to not only Norse characters, but how yoga and religions relate as well. Readers can tell the author is a skilled researcher and investigator. He has left no stone unturned as he mentions elements of the spirit, body and mind while discussing so much more around these topics.

Review A creative and thoroughly researched book for fans of Vikings and Greek mythology as well as yoga. If you enjoy non-fiction and learning more then this is a book you want to pick up. You will learn so much in this book from details about those in the Viking lore from Odin to Thor as well as great detail in words, which are helpful as well as poetic. Nevertheless, there is more to it than that because it is a book featuring yoga – yes yoga. This is a beautifully written and detailed book that makes it works, somehow. This book is not for everyone and often reads as a research paper. Some may even find the writing dry at times, yet the knowledge and poetic words will keep someone interested in the subject coming back for more. Perhaps taking breaks reading will help and keep the reader eager to learn the knowledge the writer is providing. Readers won’t be disappointed. Thought-provoking and profound, this book is more than historical stories, poetry and yoga. Readers will find themselves going on a variety of journeys and learning more than


explains different ways to reach out and be charitable to our neighbors who need our help most. The essence of the story is an entertaining tale of a king’s search for romance, and in the process, how he learns to use his power for the good of his people, and ultimately, for all mankind.


Book Description

Finding My Lich is a fascinating story full of romance, intrigue, and adventure. At the heart of the story is King Eric, in a state of turmoil after he and his people are banished from Earth to another fantasy world known as Abaddon. This story stirs the imagination by introducing several fictional characters such as liches, ogres, orcs, sphinxes, and banshees, and gives them almost human characteristics. I never knew what a “lich” was until reading this book!

Although this is a fantasy fictional story, it has far-reaching lessons to teach us all. This story emphasizes what it means to be human, and

From the very beginning, the author lays out the plot clearly and distinctly. The reader is drawn into the dilemma faced

Which line stood out from all the others in the book? “The first lesson was to feel charity towards the humans.”


by King Eric of how to get the unruly and unsavory people of Abbadon back to Earth after a period of five hundred years of banishment. Eric has struggled to maintain some semblance of peace and order amongst all the races of people under his rule, yet the true challenge he faces is presented to him by Raphael, a chosen angel of The Maker. Raphael informs him that he needs to find a way to prove his good intentions and that his subjects are worthy of earning their freedom. Eric also faces the continued unrest of his people and realizes that the sands of an hourglass left behind by the angel to measure his progress haven’t moved in at least 65 years. Enter Tamara, a human, who teaches him the meaning of compassion and charity, and inspires and encourages him to teach these lessons to his people. In the process of getting to know her, he falls in love with her. This presents him with another dilemma of having to choose between following his heart or his allegiance to his people. How does Eric solve this puzzle? You’ll have to read it to find out.


Book Description Jacqueline Pirtle discusses the belief fallacies both men and women have concerning what it means to be a woman. The thought-provoking questions found throughout challenge readers to examine their own beliefs about the female experience.


Which line stood out from all the others in the book? Your weakness lies in measuring yourself against men on the physicalbody and physical-life level by wanting the value of physical equlity, by wanting the same physical life experiences, or by trying to change men all together.


I was initially intrigued by the title What It Means to Be a Woman because although some experiences are universal, being a woman within different cultures may not be. I wanted to know how Ms. Pirtle experienced being a woman and how that compared to my own. In that regard, I was not disappointed. Ms. Pirtle was very clear when she wrote about her experience of being a woman. There were even some reective questions throughout the book that were designed for the reader

to examine her own life experiences and see where she could improve her awareness and quality of life. I enjoyed the analogy the author presented on how being a woman has a specific energy vibration distinct from being a man. I agreed with her that sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to be equal to men that we don’t focus on our own powerful vibrations enough. The suggestions the author made were useful. For instance, when we align our energies, then there’s no telling what we, as women, can accomplish.


Janet and Lindsay in Janet’s personal jet. Using the medallion characters not only travel to different times, but also in different dimensions. There seems to be two stories going on at the same time. James and Jana (aided by a guide from India,) who seem to be running from someone who is trying to trap him, and the five intrepid characters in the beginning who eventually find themselves under a pyramid. You really have to pay attention while reading this book. There are a myriad of characters that move back and forth in time from 2015 to 14,000 years ago to 2020 and countless dates in between. Economic conditions vary from stable to unstable at different points in history, climate changes, holographic characters, as well as some scenes of sex between characters, so this book is definitely not for young adult readers. The storyline runs the gamut from religion to physics to the economy, to spirituality so it has something for everyone.

The story begins with a group of people forced to live underground due to a cataclysmic event, not only on a distant planet fifty years ahead of Earth time, but also in a different universe. Their initial task is to find an energy source that’s draining their reactor power, and disable it. At the same time on Earth, James Pollack and his mid reading friend Jana, plan to move through time with the help of a medallion and travel to Geneva to a house that James used to live in. The new owner, who was oddly expecting him, gave him a correspondence that arrived by mail the previous day. They jump to another time where they meet





Ora’s Odyssey by Ora Mor Jump into this out-of-the-ordinary account of one girl’s traipsings around the world. From farm to city, from a beautiful home to wandering the USA on wheels, Ora’s experiences will lead you into unexpected adventures- some happy, some haunting, some exhilarating, and some heart-wrenching. Come aboard and watch the scenes fly by...

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The Edge of Heaven: Angels are Among Us by Bill Combs Their lives are shattered and a demon army is coming for them.Mike and Leigh Conley are in for the fight of their lives. An ex-Hollywood stuntman and a mischievous guardian angel join with their friends and family to get them through. Their lives and their souls are up for grabs. Their faith is the key.

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Beyond the Rational Realm: Lifting the Veil of the Spirit World by Jerry McDaniel There is a realm that is waiting for you that might have answers to questions that have been on your mind. This is the world of Spirit, where doors to dimensions and portals to knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment exists for someone who is willing to lift the veil and learn.

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My Brother’s Keeper (Dominic Barratt Book 1 Chris Calder

Dominic Barratt is a Catholic priest who is ordered to help, in secret, other priests with problems. But he has his own demons to confront. Once engaged to be married, Dominic split up with his fiancée Hazel to join the priesthood. Now she comes back into his life, hoping to convince him that he has made a mistake. She wants him to resign and marry her.

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Liberty For Christmas by Michael Delphy Hunt Two deserving girls. One adorable beagle puppy. Who gets Liberty for Christmas? All 11 year old Alexis Hartman wants for Christmas is Liberty, an eight week-old orphaned beagle puppy. All 10 year old Casey Taylor wants for Christmas is Liberty. All Liberty wants for Christmas is love and a family. When a mix-up at a local pet store results in competing adoption claims for Liberty, the perfect Christmas visions of Alexis and Casey are threatened.

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Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, and Adultery in Versailles by Will Bashor This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases. Readers will be fascinated by this glimpse behind the decorative screens to learn the secret language of the queen’s fan and explore the dark passageways and staircases of endless intrigue at Versailles.

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Campaign 2016 American Rage by Vincent Anthony This project was in the works for three years. I started with a story line that would be the centerpiece reflecting current frustrations shared by most Americans. Then, I built several other stories featuring some of the main characters around the same subject matter. You will either love, or hate, this story. I know one thing for sure, it will get your attention.

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Tier Zero: Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle by D.B. Sayers SETI is still hunting for that elusive alien contact. But they’re already here and no one is aware of it...yet. Tier Zero is a sensual journey into adventure, philosophy, and the tantalizing possibilities of our place in the universe.

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The Pygmy Dragon (Shapeshifter Dragon Legends Book 1) by Marc Secchia From the smallest beginnings rises a heroine for the ages. Stolen from her jungle home and sold to a zookeeper, Pip knows only a world behind bars. She dreams of being Human. She dreams of escaping to the world outside her cage. Then, the Dragon Zardon kidnaps her into a new life. Pip rides Dragonback across the Island-World to her new school - a school inside a volcano. A school where Humans learn to be Dragon Riders. But this is only a foretaste of her magical destiny. Buy Now

Battlefield Earth: A Classic Dystopian Book by L. Ron Hubbard Only 35,000 humans remain… …and the aliens hunt them for sport. Join the fight to save humanity. Earth has been decimated by sadistic aliens with superior technology. One man must to unite the remnants of humankind in an epic battle to take the planet back. You’ll love this epic work because this is non-stop science fiction at its best. “Space opera that hits the right notes. Provocative. “Exhilarating.” —SCIFI.COM Buy Now


The Loss Report: A Ridge Walker Thriller by Alex Breck A tale of loyalty, betrayal, love and hate. An ex-assassin thought he’d found sanctuary in his Chilean vineyard. He was wrong. ‘Colm lowered his gun and looked up to see clouds appearing from nowhere. He knew it would happen one day. He’d brought the Ulster rain to this sun-drenched valley.’ Ridge Walker’s much-needed family holiday quickly turns into a nail-biting adventure in terror as he and Orla battle for their lives against myriad foes who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the assassin’s bible, The Loss Report. Buy Now 82

Don’t Bank On It Sweetheart by Michael Wilton To aspiring writer Arthur Conway, the job offer from a small bank proves a welcome haven especially with his mounting bills. But Alastair - his cousin who works at the same bank - sees Arthur’s arrival as an opportunity to unlock the fortunes of the bank while the manager is away. When his scheme fails, a new manager takes over with a bold plan to transform the bank. After Arthur falls in love with Jenny, the young consultant brought in - he faces stiff competition from her pet dog, Ben. Spurned by his love in a jealous misunderstanding, can Arthur foil an attempt to rob the bank - and win her love? Buy Now

Life is Big by Kiki Denis “This innovative and witty novel will delight logophiles and puzzle-solvers!” - Publishers Weekly Alma-Jane, an impossibly curious 11-year-old girl who lives in NYC and the most genetically happy person alive, is about to die due to a raremutation.Ayrton, Alma-Jane’s older brother and a math prodigy, declares war against Death, “the destroyer of Life,” and thensuddenly takes off to Oxford, UK, to examine Albert Einstein’sbrain. Meanwhile, Death and his younger brother, O.M. (Obituary Man), are overworked and in desperate need of a shortvacation. Buy Now 83

Honeycake Books by Medea Kalantar Nala goes into her papa’s office without permission and breaks his favourite mug. Nala panics and hides in her bedroom. With the help of her parents, Nala learns a valuable lesson of trust and how to have an open and honest communication in a safe space. Nala also learns that trust takes a long time to build and can easily be destroyed in a split second! With A Circle of Trust, there is no beginning and no end, which signifies that your love for one another is endless and will last forever. The Honeycake books are a great children’s series that teaches valuable life lessons on diversity, kindness, mindfulness, trust and gratitude. These books will enlighten, empower, educate and entertain children and their families for generations to come. “No matter where we come from, or what colour our skin is, we are all one race... The human race. We are all one! “

~Medea Kalantar Award Winning Author of Honeycake Book Series Buy Now




What is Writing Success? by Ann Richardson

Why do you write? What do you hope to achieve? What, in short, is your definition of success for your writing? The last question confronted me some time ago when a fellow writer who I met online and did not know at all, wrote that I had been ‘successful’ with my books. I have no idea if she had read any of them, but it prompted me to consider what success would look like. It is not a straight-forward question. I wrote back with my usual hesitation. My books do not sell highly, I replied, but they are well reviewed – I don’t know whether I would call them a ‘success’. And then I thought about it a bit more and wrote again with a more reflective response. And she did, too. Let me hold the last correspondence for a moment.


High sales From various writers’ groups, one gets the impression that selling loads of books is the principal goal of most authors. This is not unreasonable. We want people to read our books and we want some income from the process – and those twin aims work in tandem. More readers equal more income. Some writers go further and ‘write to the market’, meaning that they work out what readers are looking for and write to meet their expectations. Some even choose a genre for this reason. Many write numerous books in a series, again to maximise readership. Pile them high, sell them cheap, loads of sales. Everyone is happy. Well, yes and no. We non-fiction writers have a harder time. There will be some with diet books or self-help books of various kinds who have a large market of waiting readers. Some even turn these into series. But it is much harder and rarer.

Good reviews A completely different criterion for success is a lot of good reviews. This is also clearly a goal of most writers, if only because good reviews lead to more sales. We tend to spend considerable effort – and, in some cases, hard cash (such as paying for NetGalley) – in order to achieve it. One can, however, view good reviews as an indicator of success in its own right. Your book may not be highly popular, you may not be making serious money, but there is every reason to be pleased with a succes d’estime. This is true in other art forms – how much money did many famous painters or composers make? – and can be applied equally to writing. I am not talking here of the hasty five-star review written by a well-intentioned neighbour, but of the thoughtful, reflective review from a complete stranger which indicates that your book is very moving or thrilling or thought-provoking or whatever.


Related to getting good reviews is winning writing awards. There are many of these, I have found. Some are based on assessment of the book by a panel of serious judges. Others are based on readers’ votes, which sounds fine until you realise that they tend to be more an indicator of the number of friends and acquaintances a writer can muster (not all of whom will have even read the book) than a real ‘favourite’ book.

Other criteria But books can also be successful on other terms, such as the achievement of laudable aims. When I asked why my new e-mail friend viewed my books as successful, she wrote that they were ‘relevant and useful’. That is certainly one definition and one way in which many non-fiction books will thrive. A book may be highly practical, for instance explaining how to play the flute, or, indeed, how to market books on Facebook. If a book does so effectively, it can be deemed a success in its own terms, whatever the sales or reviews. Alternatively, a book may offer a thoughtful account of the author’s experience of widowhood or dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. Such books can be moving in their own right as well as helpful to others. This, too, can be a sign of success, whatever the sales. Which brings me to my own position. The more I thought about this question, the more I realised that I would define success for myself as having written something I was proud of. In my own case, it is writing well about a subject of real importance, with sensitivity and honesty. It is what I have strived to do all my life.

Reflecting on my own books I write what tends to be called ‘creative non-fiction’. The particular selling point of my three current books is that they use the actual words of people (following a long interview), so that they are comparable to a TV documentary, but in words. Their focus, however, is all over the place, according to what happened to capture my interest. There is no series and certainly no writing to the market. Indeed, there is probably little cross-over in their ability to capture


readers’ interest. All are independently published. How do they fare by these criteria? With respect to sales, I don’t know what reasonable expectations for non-fiction should be, but I have never considered mine to be notably high. The first, initially published by HarperCollins in 1992, is about what it was like to be living with AIDS when it was a life-threatening disease with no known cure (Wise Before their Time). It sold many thousands when first published, as there was huge interest in the disease at that time. I decided to re-launch it in 2017 for its historical interest – and it has sold nearly 300 copies since that date. More than I expected, but not exceedingly impressive. My most recent book, published in 2014, is about what it is like to be a grandmother (Celebrating Grandmothers), exploring the joys and the challenges of the role. I thought it would sell well – among other things, it is a perfect present for older women who can be difficult to buy for. But it has sold less than 650 copies to date, which is nothing to be particularly thrilled about. And in-between, there is my book about what it is like to work with the dying (Life in a Hospice). Initially published by a medical publisher in 2007, I had thought it would sell well because I found the subject so fascinating. Alas, I did not reckon with readers’ reluctance to read about death, and it sold only 600 copies in its first five or so years. Re-launched in 2017, it has been doing considerably better, with over 2,500 copies sold since then, helped by two BookBub promotions. On the criterion of good reviews, my books have fared well. All three have received a large proportion of five star reviews, including many very thoughtful ones. My favourite, written by Sir Ian McKellen in his Foreword to my book on AIDS, says “these true stories are as powerful as any great classic of fiction”. And the book on hospice care was Highly Commended by the British Medical Association, a serious award in my view. But most importantly, I feel – and the reviews confirm – that my books achieve my principal aim of an honest and moving communication about a subject of


importance. In each case, I wanted to develop a real empathy among readers for the people in the book. It is hard to know, of course, but both the formal reviews and informal comments from others suggest that I have performed this task. That pleases me immensely. Yes, I would like sales – the more, the better. Yes, I want to get good reviews as they show that others have appreciated my efforts. But most of all, I need to feel that I have created something I am proud of. What about you? Originally published by Ingenium Books at Ann is currently finishing a book about being an older woman, provisionally entitled My Granny likes to stand on her head, due to be published in the autumn. Website:


Behind the novel “My Brother�s Keeper” by Chris Calder Let’s get one thing straight: My Brother’s Keeper is not a “religious” book. It’s a story about a man who happens to be a Catholic priest. But he could just as easily be a Church of England minister, or a cleric of any other Christian denomination. Or, with a bit of tweaking, Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindu. The book is a work of fiction! What matters is that Dominic, the protagonist, is raised within the loving but arguably stifling confines of a strict Catholic family, later to find himself shackled mentally and spiritually by the constraints imposed upon him by his core beliefs. He becomes a priest, taking solemn vows of Obedience and Chastity that commit him to obey his superiors, and to remain celibate for the rest of his life. Then Hazel, the fiancée whom he left to join the priesthood, comes into his life again, determined to get him to resign and marry her. Dominic is tortured by the re-awakening of feelings that he once had for her. It is an apparently insoluble problem. The idea for the book came to me some time ago, as a subject suitable for television fiction. The story has its principal underlying thread, the dichotomy between Dominic’s core values and his feelings for the woman to whom he was once engaged. That thread is on-going, whilst Dominic is also managing the task of dealing covertly with the problems of other priests. Every troubled priest has a


different problem, something that made it possible to cover each in one or two separate chapters. The narrative is therefore episodic, perhaps enough so to be considered suitable for a television series. So there it is. I hope you enjoy the book. I have a sequel planned. But please, in this one case, do not judge the book by its cover! And finally; I’m Chris Calder. Thank you for reading this. I write because I breathe; to be unable to do either would, for me, be impossible. But I also write because you read, and I never lose sight of that. So, I have a humble but genuine request; if there is any way in which you think the book could have been better, please tell me. I value my readers’ opinions and always respond. You can find me at


SCI-FI OR SCI-FU? by Daniel S. Janik

Science fiction or scii-fi/SF, most literary genres have ancient roots, in this case the 2nd century CE Assyrian satirist Lucian of Samosata. His literary work, A TRUE STORY included travel to other worlds, extra-terrestrial lifeforms, interplanetary warfare, and artificial life. It is also one of the first genres for many fledgling writers. Its appeal, I think, comes from realistic speculation of plausible future events, to which as a contemporary publisher I would add, that helps readers look back at contemporary events with a wider or more diverse perspective. Often relegated to “flights of fancy,” in fact, I believe that as an offshoot of modern futuring, it can serve as an important social, political, even moral mirror much needed by but often lost to those actively engaged in living their lives. Savant Books and Publications’ mission is to publish “enduring, literary works ‘with a twist’ that widen the reader’s world point of view,” and its imprint Aignos Publishing to publish “avantgarde, experimental and innovative works 93

that ‘push the leading edge’ of all genres of fiction and non-fiction” within the general Savant framework. As such, outstanding science fiction is and will remain a center staple. Coupled with explorations of human relationships set in future settings, science fiction meant to give us a reflective glimpse of our possible futures, is elevated to what I like to call sci-fu, and sci-fu is at the very heart of what we feel is truly relevant storytelling. As an author, I began my writing career at 16 years of age, with a 70-page scifu “novel” called THE HYPERBOLIC CURVE. So proud I was of my work, I decided to send it to 75 of “the best” publishers I knew. Over the next several months, I papered my bedroom wall with pink rejections slips, but the most memorable one came from the New Yorker magazine (I considered many of its best article worthy of the genre). It appeared to be hand-typed on white (not pink) paper and thanked me for having sent my work to them. To this day, whenever I’m frustrated with writing, reviews or “getting a good publisher,” I think back to that one kind rejection, put on my armadillo coat (figuratively speaking), roll up my armoured sleeves and keep writing. What surprises me at this point in my authoring career is that over the years, though I’ve explored multiple genres including non-fiction and poetry, I haven’t lost my love of sci-fu or my interest in writing it. My most recent book, released this year entitled THE EDGE OF MADNESS (Aignos 2020) written under my pen name Raymond Gaynor, is a consummate sci-fu work offering a mirror to society reflecting the plausible consequences of current and future actions. Sci-fu is a “newly” recognized genre of which I am truly proud. I am occasionally asked if I think science fiction has changed? Aside from my own experience with its subtle change from sci-fi to sci-fu, I think the emphasis in sci-fi and sci-fu has also changed. Recently given departmental academic stature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the emphasis in “Futuring” continues to move from speculation to analysis, the latter being of value in fixing our current failing infra-structure for a post-COVID world.


Whether it be government, politics, society, education, transportation, health care or publishing, we are involved in an unprecedented time of reflection, analysis, planning and rebuilding, and sci-fu, I believe, continues to thrive and drive our choices. Savant Books and Publications | Aignos Publishing is proud to be “on the leading edge of all genres” including not just sci-fu, but screenplay-novels and interactive works like our “Color-Me-Please” childrens’ books. Daniel S. Janik, Savant/Aignos owner/publisher, editor and cover artist, is a multi-award-winning author and poet who founded Savant Books and Publications to help introduce the best new and established authors to the reading public. An educator and former physician, as an author, he favors both fiction (children’s books, poetry, romance, military/political thrillers and science fiction) and non-fiction (autobiographies, biographies, educational learning theory, student study guides, earth and space sciences and military). Go to to follow his exploits


Doris Lessing, Hereafter and Her Universal Existence by Kiki Denis Yesterday I was surfing “through GreatImmortality. org, (you know, where you go and communicate with any book hero or any dead, but important and famous, person) and ran” (Denis, K. Life is Big, p. 17) into Mrs. Doris Lessing. Afraid that she would disappear as soon as she’d sensed my presence, I skipped any formal salutations and went straight to my question: “Are you happy here?” I asked. Here referring to her current state of being and not to an actual, physical place. Mrs. Lessing looked at me considering my actuality. Was I there? Was she? Was I asking her what I was asking? And would she be heard if she decided to answer? Virtual encounters had never been a habitual thing for her, or for her generation for that matter. And, of course, virtual encounters between the living and the dead are still as tangible as time traveling. And yet the idea, the possibility of the situation grabbed her attention at once. You see Mrs. Lessing was and still is (I am here to assure you of that) a great enthusiast of ideas. “An idea is so exciting and wonderful,” she once said in an interview (BBCNewsnight) when asked why she kept writing at the ripe old age of 88. So, yesterday, Mrs. Lessing turned and looked at me straight in the eye and said: “I was born in Iran in 1922, in a country that disappeared while I was still alive, during Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mussolini’s Italy! During the British Empire. All of these historic monsters I used to be terrified of as a girl, have disappeared for sometime now like clouds in the sky and you asked me if I am happy!? Happiness was never the point. Was it?”


Right, I thought, embarrassed; happiness is a word of my generation and this endless search of one’s well being, that we’ve made our daily mission, is most probably one of the latest made-up monsters. But, of course, my mental chatter left me no time to reply. So Mrs. Lessing went on. “When I was a kid I read and read and read, and it was what saved me and educated me. Reading took away the monsters’ powers. Born in the end of the World War I, I lived through the Great Depression, World War II, nuclear era, cold war, genocide and yet what I was and still am, is a human entity whose aim is to identify, or better said, experience human universal existence. Perhaps in several occasions my gender drew my womanhood too tightly around me so when I wrote, I wrote from the woman’s prospective, but my intention has always been to reach that deeper human level that exists beyond gender, beyond race and beyond any social status.” And then there was a pause. Mrs. Lessing took a deep breath, and I noticed that she was holding a piece of paper. “People love power but I am here to tell you that idealisms of any kind don’t describe human condition,” she added a bit crossed. Then she stretched her hand and handed me the piece. I gaze at it, thinking, a new novel? “I don’t write fiction anymore,” she replied as if she had heard my thoughts. “Worlds have emerged into one; the dead and the living exist within the same neutral zone of ideas, of thoughts,” she continued as if talking more to herself than me now. “We have an epidemic, you know,” I said because I felt she should know. “Another monster,” she commented, unimpressed. “Unless…” “Unless!?” She looked at me surprised now. “Unless this is the end of Homo Sapiens,” I added hesitantly. “But, you’ll always


be here,” I rushed because I didn’t want to part with her so soon. “No, I won’t. I’ll be gone together with all humanity, but it’s ok. Didn’t I say that was never the point?” I nodded and then something happened in me, and I said without much thinking: “What if this is the beginning of Homo Evolutis!?” For the first time Mrs. Lesssing’s gaze encouraged me to go on. So I did: “What if this is the end of Homo Sapiens and the beginning of Homo Evolutis, the bodiless evolved next version of the hominid genus, the new species of the mind, that lacks smell, taste and touch. During which, race, gender and social status won’t exist anymore, they would only be traits of the extinct Homo Sapiens era.” “Wouldn’t that be a nice end?” Mrs. Lessing said with a smile as if another idea had just crossed her mind. Then she said: “Keep it, it’s for you,” and walked away. Below is the poem I inherited from yesterday’s encounter written by one of the most creative minds of all times.

Fable by Doris Lessing When I look back I seem to remember singing. Yet it was always silent in that long warm room. Impenetrable, those walls, we thought, Dark with ancient shields. The light Shone on the head of a girl or young limbs Spread carelessly. And the low voices Rose in the silence and were lost as in water. Yet, for all it was quiet and warm as a hand,


If one of us drew the curtains A threaded rain blew carelessly outside. Sometimes a wind crept, swaying the flames, And set shadows crouching on the walls, Or a wolf howled in the wide night outside, And feeling our flesh chilled we drew together. But for a while the dance went on – That is how it seems to me now: Slow forms moving calm through Pools of light like gold net on the floor. It might have gone on, dream-like, for ever. But between one year and the next – a new wind blew? The rain rotted the walls at last ? Wolves’ snouts came thrusting at the fallen beams? It is so long ago. But sometimes I remember the curtained room And hear the far-off youthful voices singing.

References: Denis, Kiki. Life is Big, B086CDQXZX, April 6, 2020 “Doris Lessing wins Nobel Prize for Literature (2007).” BBCNewsnight, watch?v=BPv6Gbof4BM Lessing, Doris. “Fable.” Poethead, 16 November 2011, Kiki Denis, originally from Greece, has lived in the US since 1990. She holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College and MA from Exeter University. Her first novel “The Last Day of Paradise” won the 2005 Gival Press Novel Award. Her second novel, “Life is Big” was released in April of 2020. Kiki lives in New York with her husband and 3 kids.


THE ALHAMBRA by Wendy J. Dunn Catalina took her hand. “But Mother will speak to me.” Beatriz nodded, taking Catalina and María’s hands. They slipped through the stone arch into the Court of the Lions, edging close to the narrow path of water dividing the court. Twelve stone lions supported alabaster basins, into which crystal jets of water poured and sparkled. East, west, south and north, triangles of well-tended flowerbeds marked the corners of the courtyard. Fronds from various climbing plants festooned their own nimble design. Slender columns of the purest white marble supported archways of open filigree. Delicate fretwork covered the walls. Wherever Beatriz looked, light dappled and water sparkled in a constant exchange between one and the other, the exquisite art of nature adding to the fine art as man had ever wrought. The Alhambra, Heaven reflected on Earth. Surely little in their mortal world compared with the beauty found here?

Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters. I first travelled to Spain in 2007, after writing a scene in the first draft of Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters - a novel imagining the early years of Katherine of Aragon. Imagining The Alhambra, I saw in my mind a cloud of white butterflies, fluttering a graceful dance in a garden. Sunlight flittered through pomegranate, orange and cypress trees. Emerging from writing, I realised I had little idea about the reality of The Alhambra. To my relief, an internet search revealed The Alhambra is famed for its butterflies - but I wanted to know more. My problem with imagining places of the past still in existence today is that I want to see them with my own eyes. I am an Australian who has managed five research journeys to the England, and two to Spain. My first time in Spain, ignited by my butterfly vision, saw me undertake a seventeen-day tour. At that time, I was working on my first draft of Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty


of Daughters. I wanted to see for myself the places important to the early life of Catalina of Aragon. As I hoped, my time in Spain fed my imagination. I fell in love in Spain – not with a person, but with a place, a love shared by many. I only had one day at The Alhambra back in 2007. I remember the grey sky, and my anxiety that a downpour of rain would spoil my long-awaited visit. The rain held off until we left – long enough for The Alhambra to soak into my heart and psyche. The Alhambra was built by Badis ibn Habus, the Berber King of Granada, in the 11th century. There is a romantic legend that The Alhambra, meaning ‘red castle’, was built at night, under torchlight. The family of Catalina of Aragon took possession of it from the Moors in 1492, and her parents Isabel and Ferdinand used it for their royal court. It was Catalina of Aragon’s home from the time she was seven to fifteen. During my time there, I closed my eyes and smelled the perfume of flowers and heard the song of water cascading into stone water fountains. I imagined my novel’s point of view character, Catalina’s tutor Beatriz Galindo, talking with Catalina and her companion, María de Salinas, in sunlit courtyards edged by well-kept gardens and the shade of cypress and orange trees. I imagined them strolling in The Courtyard of the Lions, named because of the stone lion protected fountain. The Alhambra feasts the eyes with its water features, gardens and architecture. My time at The Alhambra helped me found the right words to describe the palace and its surrounds in my developing novel. To my eye, the stone interior and exterior seemed like delicate lace work – allowing light to filter in and out, dappling over floor and wall. The architecture of The Alhambra is married to water and gardens. One famous water feature has been the subject of countless photographs of tourists and the inspiration for artists. A long rectangular pool mirrors the arches of the Partal façade in the Patio de los Arrayanes, or the court of the myrtles. It was very easy to imagine Catalina growing up in this place of great beauty, until the day came when she would leave her parents for ever. I saw Catalina and her friend María, the point of view character in my new novel completing


the tale of Katherine of Aragon’s life, practicing their dancing steps in The Courtyard of the Lion. I imagined them bathing together in the bath of the Comares Palace, under a small stone dome cut with stars to let the light flicker on the water. I saw them in the garden with Beatriz Galindo, sitting at her feet as she read them stories. I saw them preparing to say their final farewells before they started their long journey to England. I was at The Alhambra for only about five hours. It did not feel long enough, but it was long enough to embrace The Alhambra in my heart forever as one of my favourite places on Earth. Leaving The Alhambra, I promised to return one day. I was lucky enough to do that in 2019. I hope one day to make another return. Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian author, playwright and poet who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of three Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel, and Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters. For more information about Wendy J. Dunn, visit her website at www.wendyjdunn. com


The Magical, Mystical Addiction of the English Language by Dan Vale My family lived in Germany for five years, and when we first got there, we went to a German restaurant. We soon learned that we had a lot to learn. When my twelveyear-old son asked a German waitress where the bathrooms were, she gave him a cookie. Despite the difficulty of learning a foreign language, I am in awe of foreigners who are able to learn our difficult English language. Still, the complex and convoluted nature of our language is addicting and wonderful. Although we are enthralled by words, we know that reading too many poorly chosen words to describe something is like eating too much of a mediocre meal. The US government regulations on the sale of cabbage, for example, consist of 26,911 words. The Gettysburg Address, however, consists of only 286 words. Thomas Jefferson appropriately said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” While in junior high school, I was not enthralled with the rules that I learned from my rather dour English teachers. Still, I found that my insatiable reading helped me to absorb many of the rules of good writing. I even found that there were fun ways to learn to write well. For example: Verbs has to agree with their subjects. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies. 103

I soon learned that English is a language that cannot be governed entirely by rules and logic. For example: There is no egg in eggplant. Quicksand works slowly. Boxing rings are square. Noses run and feet smell. Quick does not rhyme with Buick. A house burns up as it burns down. Some words are just odd. Words such as kayak, level, and radar are called palindromes. They are the same word backward or forward. After I learned many of the rules of good writing, I also learned that, despite grammar checkers, that there are times when my writing could improve when I occasionally and skillfully broke some those rules. For example, the rule not to use sentence fragments can sometimes be broken to lend drama to writing. So true. As another example of breaking the rules, Winston Churchill once became irate when an aide suggested that Churchill should not end a sentence with a preposition. The angry Churchill replied, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” Funny rules helped me to spell better. For example, one can easily remember the difference in the spelling of desert and dessert. The word dessert has “ss,” and that stands for “sweet stuff.” More people should have more of an interest in writing well. Some job applicants, for example, learned that the power of even one misspelled word can ruin their chances of landing a job. “Was instrumental in ruining an entire operation for a Midwest chain store.” “Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.” This announcement of a lab report also shows the woes that come from spelling errors: 104

“The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.” A restaurant window a sign read “Don’t stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up.” A cleaner’s establishment got the attention of potential customers. The sign in their window read “Drop your pants here, and you will receive prompt attention.” These newspaper headlines demonstrate the embarrassment that results from poorly chosen words: “Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted.” “The police surrounded the building and threw an accordion around the block.” Some words fit the definition of oxymoron. For example: Why is abbreviated such a long word? Why is a television set called a set when there is only one? Why is the word phonics not spelled the way it sounds? Why do “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing? During his career, Yogi Berra was a baseball player, coach, and manager. He also had the knack of using words in ways that were incorrect but funny. For example, he once said, “We make too many wrong mistakes.” He made so many statements like that one that his comments were collected and called “Yogisms.” Is there any wonder that we writers have become addicted to the English language? How could we possibly not become addicted? Well, I have to pick up my wife now at the beauty parlor where she went to curl up and dye. My best wishes to all of you wordsmiths out there. Dan Vale has a PhD in counselor education. Over a seven-year period, he wrote 785 articles for Examiner Online. He has written two books, which can be seen on his Amazon author page. 105

OUR Golden Man From Ireland by Karina McRoberts Many people don’t know that a city of gold arose from desert, many years ago. It still thrives there. I speak of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, in the outback of Western Australia. At present, we in WA are disease free, unlike the rest of our country. And our gold continues to power the nation’s economy. Back in the day (mid-late 1800s), KalBoulder was anything but disease-free. Typhoid fever ran in waves; outbreak after outbreak. Because, being a desert, there was not enough water to ensure proper hygiene. Water was the true gold. Horses could not carry what was needed - and, they needed a fair bit themselves to make the journey from Perth, about 350 miles west. Camels could not carry much weight. Steam trains needed the water to fuel their engines. Anyone with water got richer than most of the miners. Enter the hero of the day, Charles Yelverton O’Connor, an Irish engineer with an outlandish plan. Very few believed in him, but against all odds, he constructed a huge pipeline and a series of pumphouses, to carry water uphill, all the way from Perth. Who needs naysayers? The pipeline delivered. It saved the town. That water still flows today. Without it, we would not be saving our nation’s economy in these dire times.


But O’Connor’s fate was not so golden. You can read his story, and learn of much more through the eyes of Mae Belle and Diedre Cornelius, fictional characters in my novel, The Palace of the Stars. These two brave women will show you what it was like, for the women who toiled as nurses amongst the disease-plagued populace. Yes, history does repeat itself, doesn’t it? Hats off to nurses! And, what it was like for women generally. Not the “grand parade” of history. No, not so much about the famous dates and names, but about the lives of those who’ve had their histories buried. For far too long. The Palace of the Stars is fascinating and fun historical fiction based on historical fact; I describe it as character-rich adventure, with a generous serving of gorgeous escapism. There’s plenty of adventure, humour, romance, and mystery for you to get your teeth into. Others describe it: “Infectiously fascinating.”- Grady Harp, ‘San Francisco Review of Books’ “Richly realised and highly evocative.”- William Yeoman, ‘The West Australian’ So, try something different! You’ll be thoroughly entertained and learn something about a part of the world you probably know little about. And, while you’re there, lift a glass to one of the greatest engineers of past and present, and to his family! Our heroes! Slainté! &qid=1596253691&s=books&sr=1-3 Australian author Karina McRoberts is a writer, artist, musician, theater producer, and conservationist – a rich tapestry from which to derive stories of magical realism. She aims to enable readers to escape to the heights of their minds and the depths of their souls. Karina has wandered very far and been engaged in a variety of earlier professions, ranging from migrant sweat-shop labourer to research scientist.


Karina has intense interests in the evolution of social justice and the expansion of human (and animal) consciousness. Never at a loss for inspiration, she aims to bring her readers entertainment, enlightenment and, most of all, pure enjoyment! Hoping to re-create happiness, hoping for the end of this time when the world is on its knees, Karina is hard at work on a post-viral production of her living theatre show, A Night at the Palace of the Stars, based on her novels. https://www.palaceofthestars. com/ She lives near York, Western Australia’s oldest inland town. Here’s a Utube for a bit of flavour:


The Inherent Nature of the Gemini Child by Maria Riegger If you are reading this book, then you likely have a Gemini child in your life. First, I would like to commend you for seeking to understand your Gemini child. Too often, not only do people fail to understand someone else, they do not even seek to understand. My experience is that most people are quick to judge and label others as “different” or “weird” or “abnormal,” without stepping back and taking the time to try to understand why others are the way they are, what motivates them, how they view the world, what is important to them, what they fear, and what they are all about. Second, this book will be especially helpful for understanding older Gemini children, who already have a clear personality and who are becoming increasingly independent. In my experience, parent-child conflicts and misunderstandings often arise when children start to assert their independence and become their own individuals. Many parents either feel threatened by that development because they are codependent, or don’t like the fact that the children are not compliant. It is not the parents’ job to raise children to comply and obey without question. It is theparents’ job to raise emotionally healthy, emotionally intelligent children who think freely and who stand up for themselves, i.e. self-champion. A Gemini child needs a TON of freedom. Your Gemini child does not always want to do what the group is doing, and that is okay. Not only is it okay, it represents a child’s normal development, i.e., to separate from his parents and to eventually grow into a healthy adult capable of making his own decisions. Gemini is a mutable air sign. Fixed signs are concerned with stability, maintaining the status quo, or stabilizing things, and can thus exhibit stubbornness of mindset. Cardinal signs are always moving forward, moving ahead, intent on achievement and progress, and are able to adapt more easily. Since Gemini is a mutable sign, it can exhibit either fixed or cardinal qualities. Mutable signs adapt 109

easily and tend to change their minds frequently. Gemini is an air sign and, as such, understands and applies logic quickly, but does not immediately empathize with others. As we will discuss below, the logical nature of the Gemini child allows him to detach, observe, and selfreflect, all important tendencies when dealing with the challenges of life. On the other hand, Gemini’s tendency to analyze rather than empathize means that parents should teach their Gemini children that empathizing with others helps strengthen relationships. Gemini is ruled by the planet Mercury. Mercury heavily influences anything that it touches, and lightens up otherwise serious and heavy energies, such as those energies of Saturn (which rules Capricorn) and Pluto (which rules Scorpio). Mercurian influences lead a child to be quick-witted, restless, intelligent, and humorous. Mercury does not always take things seriously, so go easy on your Gemini child when he is being goofy, which will likely be frequently. Gemini children cannot sit still. They cannot help talking to, and even interrupting, other people. Their minds work so fast that they leave other people in the dust. They are often annoyed at how slowly other people work, talk, and move. They absorb information like a sponge. They have a childlike curiosity about everything which remains long into adulthood. They love technology, travel and exploring new places. They are independent and prefer to go at their own lightning-fast speed. I know what all this is like, because I was that Gemini child, the child who soaked up information so fast that my mind was (is) always racing, who made mental connections quickly and easily, who had (has) trouble sleeping because my mind never shuts off, and who needed (needs) a lot of physical exercise to calm down my nerves. Most importantly, a Gemini resents anyone who attempts to shut this lightning-fast energy down, who attempts to cage the Gemini’s boundless energy and mental reserves. As a parent, be wary of that. While you need to have extreme patience to deal with a Gemini child (you will see why below), you cannot shut down the Gemini’s mental speed and need for freedom. Never underestimate the power that you have as a parent. That power is significant and can be used for good or bad. Never underestimate how much 110

your child is shaped by your behavior and by how you interact with him. Your relationship with your child is the model that he will use to form relationships with other people for the rest of his life. Will he be communicative, reflective, understanding, and empowered? Or will he be reactive, dismissive, insecure, and self-centered? The choice is yours, so make it carefully. Next, we will discuss the major characteristics of the Gemini child. Sit down, buckle up, and let me take you on a tour of the Gemini mind. Maria Riegger is based in the Washington, DC area. She is a banking /corporate attorney by day (but please don’t hold that against her), and a fiction author by night. Maria is a Gemini whose head has always been in the clouds. From a young age, her mother scolded her for not paying attention; when she was bored, she would make up stories in her head. Her greatest fear is boredom. She has been writing since she was about thirteen years old. A lover of languages, she speaks French, Spanish, Catalan and some Portuguese; and has lived in the U.K., France and Spain. She has been caught air-guitaring in public. She loves to laugh, and is the “go-to” person if a friend needs someone to laugh at his lame jokes. In true Gemini fashion, she indulges both her logical personality as an attorney as well as her creative fiction-writing personality. She loved law school and even misses it, which led her friends to conclude that she is certifiable.


How Stephen King Solved my Plot Problem by Dave Ives

I’m in the throes of writing my fourth book. It’s fiction but based on a trip I took to the Philippines way back in 1989 while a junior officer in the US Air Force. I have a bunch of stories I want to share but here’s the rub … how do I connect them? How do I take a bunch of – what I consider – interesting stories and connect them into a larger story; a story that flows; a story that’s captivating, a story that has a beginning, middle and end? Well, that’s where plot comes in. Just reach into my handy bag of plots and pull one out … voila! – I got a story. Only one problem, I don’t have a bag of plots. But, I could easily get one. I could go on a grand hunt for canned plots and then pick out a nice juicy one. But I don’t want to do that. Here’s why. I just re-read Stephen King’s book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft and he gives masterful advise on plot. It’s the best news I’ve heard since they announced the “New Kids on the Block” were going on a reunion tour. It’s pure genius. Maybe that’s why Mr. King is the master storyteller. Anyway, Stephen’s advice on plot is so simple, even I can understand it – even I can do it. Here’s how he solved my plot problem. When it comes to plot, Stephen King says … FORGET IT – DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT – DON’T HAVE ONE!


Now those aren’t quotes but it’s what he says. Don’t believe me? Get his book “On Writing” and open up to Chapter 5 and start reading. If you come up with anything different from what I’ve written above, then I’ll eat a unicorn … I mean – my hat. Stephen goes on to say, ” … stories … pretty much make themselves.” He argues that if you rely too much on plot your story is “apt to feel artificial and labored.” I can follow this advice. Plot? What plot? Now, my challenge is to come up with a compelling story. But of course, Stephen has a solution for that as well,” … stories … pretty much make themselves.” All I must do is write and – according to Stephen – the story will appear. No canned plot, just a nice story that is buried deep in the ground and all I have to do – as the writer – is expose it. He likens a writer to an archaeologist – just keep digging and the story will appear. So, I’m off to grab my “shovel” and start looking for buried treasure – uncover a story that’s waiting to be discovered, waiting to come out and be shared with the world. My job is not to create a canned plot, but to simply dig for the buried story that’s already there. Note: I wrote this article back in September 2016. Happy ending – I published the book in early 2017 and feel pretty good about digging up a compelling story. Disclaimer: I’ve never read a Stephen King novel all the way through. But, I’ve read enough to know he knows how to paint awesome mind pictures. And, I’ve seen ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ – what a compelling and creative story put to screen! So, when Stephen King talks about writing, I listen. Born in Melrose, Massachusetts and raised in Pelham, New Hampshire, Dave Ives served in the United States Air Force as a medic from 1982 until 1984. He then entered an active duty commissioning program graduating from Ohio State in 1987 with a degree in aerospace engineering. Dave worked as an air force engineer until 1991 when he transitioned to a civilian engineering position. In July 2009, he left the engineering world to focus full time on his property investing business. In 2014 Dave published his first book starting another career as an author. Dave currently resides in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. For more about Dave, visit his website Facebook page: ivesguy Twitter: @ivesguy 113



A Stormy Conception by Dionne Grace Brandon appeared at the kitchen doorway, and her lips twitched into an involuntary smile—she couldn’t help herself. The black silk robe, and matching boxer shorts—a present she’d bought for Jonathan, which he’d never worn—stretched across Brandon’s large frame, awkwardly tight. The sleeves were too short, the boxer shorts fit—just. And the robe lay open, obviously too tight to close. Shauna turned her back to him, and her shoulders shook with suppressed laughter. “Are you laughing at me Shauna?” Brandon asked, as he watched from the doorway. She laughed out loud then, and turned to him again to see his eyes sparkling with wry humour. “I’m’s’s just—” she took in a breath “—so funny!” She laughed again, tears coming to her eyes. “Jonathan is a smaller build to you. I’m sorry, I didn’t...I didn’t think of that, and I don’t have anything else that you could put on.” He smiled, “That’s okay, you’re obviously enjoying the show.” “Not as much as when you fell pushing my car earlier on, you have to admit Brandon, that was hilarious!” Their eyes met and they both burst into fits of laughter. Shauna was pleased by his show of humour, it was good that he could laugh at himself, she never would have thought so going by her first impression of him. Chuckling, Shauna opened the fridge, congratulating herself for setting the


timer on the oven that morning, so the chicken would be ready when she got home. Taking out red peppers and tomatoes, she washed them at the sink, then handed them to Brandon with a knife. Brandon raised a questioning brow. “Well, you didn’t expect to have dinner and not help me cook it, now did you?” Brandon’s lips curved into a smile. “I guess not.” Shauna gave him a brief glance as he chopped the vegetables with a confidence that said he was right at home in the kitchen. Did that mean he lived alone? Her gaze travelled back to him again, unable to resist the urge. She somehow needed to look, take in every line, every contour of his muscular body. She felt an instant rush of warmth fill her insides. There was something blatantly masculine about him, maybe because he seemed like a very physical man. His body attested to hours in the gym. She couldn’t keep her eyes off him. Oh how she missed by held by a man, especially on nights like this. She drew in a deep breath, pushing thoughts she shouldn’t be having from her mind. She battled with herself. She was a woman, a single woman now, and she did have her needs. Jonathan certainly hadn’t wasted anytime seeking to fulfil his needs when they’d separated. She felt a pang of guilt touch her as she thought of Jonathan. Since their divorce she’d often asked herself if she’d made a mistake in leaving him. They were still friends, and there had been times when she’d been tempted to work things out with him, but the constant fights had spoiled what they’d had in the past. She still cared about him, but they couldn’t go back. But Jonathan wasn’t here, Brandon was. His whole presence filled the room, she felt intoxicated by it. His eyes told her he was experienced when it came to female company, this was a man who had known a lot of women. Would she become one of them? 116

Then as though he had heard the unspoken question, his eyes met hers and locked. Her breathing grew ragged. And as if to take in some much needed air, her lips parted. His eyes grew dark and focused on them, then a shadow crossed his face and he looked away. Shauna felt it prudent to say something—anything, to break the tension that filled the room. She ducked under the sink to retrieve a saucepan from the cupboard. “You didn’t ask what we were having for dinner.” She said, pouring rice into the pan. “What are we having for dinner?” “Chicken, with stir-fried vegetables and rice, is that okay?” “That’s fine.” His voice seemed strained; maybe he was having just as much trouble with this attraction as she was. Then chided herself for being silly, she doubted very much that Brandon was having trouble with his attraction to her, that much he’d made clear with those eyes of his. If she was an experienced woman then she might have known what to do in this situation, but she wasn’t experienced, Jonathan had been the only man she’d ever known intimately. She also held her Christian values sacred; it was something she would never break. But she had never met a man like Brandon before; she’d never felt this undercurrent of...something with anyone in the past. It seemed to overwhelm her. The wind howled suddenly, rattling the window, and interrupted Shauna in her thoughts, reminding her yet again of the turmoil outside. “You don’t talk much do you?” she remarked, bending down to get a onion from the vegetable rack beside him, and found her gaze drawn to his legs. Very nice,


she thought. He had nice feet too, there was something strangely sensual about his bare feet. “Am I supposed to?” Brandon asked, watching her as she moved round the kitchen. “Well it would be nice. Oops, sorry,” she apologised as she nearly elbowed him in the eye reaching over to open a cupboard. Stepping back, he allowed her to rummage in the cupboard and she heard his intake of breath. She sneaked a look at him out of the corner of her eye. He was watching her, his expression disturbingly intense as his eyes roved over her curves. She knew then that he could feel the electric tension in the air. It was driving her crazy! “Okay,” he answered finally. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Go ahead.” She turned to him, leaning against the counter, and gave him her full attention. “Why did you say you were married?” Unprepared for the question, Shauna turned to check the vegetables gently simmering on the stove. “What makes you think I’m not?” she asked without turning around. “Because you live alone. The bathroom has no evidence of a man’s presence. No razor, no aftershave, one toothbrush.” She hadn’t thought of that. It was alright to be evasive, but she didn’t want to risk being caught in an outright lie. She turned to him again. I’m divorced. And I didn’t say I was married, you assumed I was.” “And you continued to let me believe it, why?”


“Because...I wanted you to stay—because of the storm. You seemed more relaxed with the idea of me being married.” “Was the storm the only reason why you wanted me to stay?” His tone was husky, sending a shiver down her spine, and the look in his eyes told her he knew the answer to that one, and he moved towards her, pinning her to the counter. His body was inches from hers, and he reached up, lifting her chin to meet his gaze. “It wasn’t the only reason was it?” She slowly shook her head. “You know you’re driving me crazy,” he said. The intensity of his eyes dried every bit of moisture in her mouth and throat. She licked her lips. “Wh—what do you mean?” “Surely you must know the affect you have on men. Every move you make ties me up in knots.” She simply stared at him. He gazed into her eyes for a long moment, then traced her lips with his thumb. “You’re a very sensual woman, Shauna.” What would have happened next, Shauna didn’t know, but they both jumped at the sound of the telephone ringing in the living room, breaking the intimate moment. *** Dionne Grace is a romantic at heart. She loves reading books, which in her early teenage years enhanced her vivid imagination. She would often invent fascinating love stories to entertain her school friends involving famous pop stars. She writes sweet romances, about couples in relationships who have a passion for each other. Sometimes this passion leads them into situations where they lose themselves, taking them down a path which possibly they should not have gone down, or in contrast, through life’s experiences, they reject the love that is offered, not having the faith or forgiveness to trust it.


Her books are intentionally thought provoking, and real life. A message about a discovery of how the scars of life can be healed, no matter how difficult this sometimes seems in this imperfect world. And ultimately, through God’s divine intervention he imparts a revelation of what his purpose was all along. Website: Goodreads: Facebook: Instagram: Twitter: Pinterest:


How to Summon Goliath by Frances Ohanenye David shoots off like a sneeze. The spindles that serve as his legs fight to support his frail frame. His open and torn shirt billows like a diamond kite ripped into by a merciless wind. Air whizzes past his street-trained ears. He forgets to fear for his bones that might splinter and defeat this most unappointed mission of his life. David has raced to many errands for family and neighbors, but he has never run to fetch Udia police. His long and lean face saves him from splattering on paper as a true replica of the famous stick person children draw for want of artistic skill. Plug in eyes too big for his face, an almost flat bridge connecting flaring nostrils, and two fixedwidth semi-circles that meet to form a mouth, and David would be art. Before he sped off, David’s curiosity wound its way, and his prying eyes wedged between adult legs and peeked into the cause. The people watching the body floating on Udia River refused to disentangle their preoccupation. Among them was the woman whose plaintive voice slashed the morning air with “Get the police!” David forgets to fear for himself as he flits through streets filled with vendors whose open mouths profess their shocked and pitying looks, vendors perplexed to see a stick moving with an incredible firmness of purpose. His brazenness meanders through desperate junctions where ill-tempered workers fight, not only to open doors, but also to be the one who claims the last seat inside the taxi with a triumphant smirk. David dodges speeding vehicles, the ones lucky enough to pull back or to zoom to extricate their necks. He meanders around colorful taxis, now his collection of the round objects he amasses in his home base when friends come over to play nchorokoto: yellow, red, black, blue, white that the sand rendered dirty, and other hues. His struggles with his shirt. His damaged ribs hurt as his body bends to comply with the street’s curvature.


An electronic store blares its wares as the skyline unhinges dusk from dawn. It bequeaths passersby with sounds from exotic places. This unfamiliar part of town compels David to notice every speck. In his usual locale, he carries out morning chores in a mindless way. His eyes dart about and settle on a screen. Now he fights to keep moving, but against his resolution, his legs slow down as if he has come to the end of the race, commandeered by the finishing line. The biggest television sits with confidence outside the shop’s entrance. David wonders who can afford to buy such a bedroom, for it is the size of his bedroom. No numbers come to his intellect to equate what the store’s owner will demand. His parents do not own a TV. Such luxuries will never know him. David’s head moves in an unnatural way as something on the face of the TV makes him want to cry and to run for a different reason. He freezes, but his rasping breath belies his stillness. The scene parading on the screen strikes him as eerily familiar. He recognizes several objects in his environment. His head doubles in fear, and he wonders how what he is seeing might be possible. The screen drags him to it, and he focuses on the images. He recognizes himself and tears of fear sting his eyeballs but do not create enough momentum to cascade. The screen spies on him, enervates him, and he needs his mother to help him understand what he is doing inside a television. He does not see a door on the side of the television. He does not feel celebrated like he imagines those who go there feel or should feel, wherever there is. His right hand waves without approval, and he waves back. His eyes release tears. Fear brings more tears. Caution forces him to step back. The dread of his own body, his own image, plastered on the screen mesmerizes him. War between leaving the presence of the oracular screen and resuming his race rages within him. He must hustle through the whirlwind of morning frenzy. The police station is still far. He takes hasty steps toward his goal, but his body begins a motion he could not control. As if in sequence, his body pivots toward the most gripping smell put on earth: frying akara. His body plays him in slow-motion, side by side, frame by frame, toward it, the akara, more powerful than the television. He salivates. His mind brings the golden-brown beanballs to him. He would do anything for just one, two. No one ever eats just one akara. 122

“Moi-moi!” A little boy’s desperation carries through to David and forces him to turn his head. David knows that desperation, the urgency to get rid of food before it cools and is rejected by the mass en route to work or school. The bean pudding fails to drag David forward, but a lie does. He searches the milieu for the liar. “Bay-read! Come and get your hot bay-read.” Another boy, a little older than David, chants the desire to get rid of loaves of hot bread before they mold. David does not smell the bread, which leads him to conclude that the seller is lying. Hot bread, lie-lie. Hot bread sears plastic. Hot bread, lie-lie. He turns away from the boy and takes hasty steps. He bumps into workers and students preoccupied with fending off hands that grasp for them like those in inferno. Adult and childlike tentacles claw in determined efforts to pull customers toward their wares. Workers clutch at doors of vehicles for salvation. Bam! Duum! Fam! Yank! Vroom! Beep-beep! “Get out!” “Commot!” “I touched the door first!” Sounds of yanked and slammed doors produce a continuous tempo. Intermittent honking adds unmusicality to the cacophony. The kaleidoscope of fashionable but harried clothes rushes, pushes, and skips. The soles of flat shoes clunk while the heels of women’s shoes click on the asphalt. They accompany the uproar and the screams from vendors. Those taxi chasers lucky to glimpse a familiar car or face run with wide, grateful strides to escape Babel and accept free rides. Upon escaping, they collapse in relief.


“Chin-chin! No too hard and no too soft. Ju-u-s-’ right!” A girl’s euphonic voice clashes with the racket around it. “Ice cold water! Come and get ice cold water to wash down food!” “Groundnut! Hot and delicious groundnut. Fresh, fresh!” “Hot a-kamu! I go gi’ you the plastic bowl and spoon for free!” David’s stomach squeaks in protest. He places a hand over it as if to shut it up. It is not a growl. It is the creak of his bedroom door whose hinges have rusted. David distracts himself with the realization that any of the children hard-pressed to sell morning provisions could have been he, but his mother prefers to chant her wares at her dignified shed. The air, the morning air, is rife with the aroma of fried food, and David’s mouth continues to water as each scent forces his attention to the gravity of his hunger and its perpetual lack of resolution. He realizes that he is in a vicious cycle, imprisoned by food. He recalls himself to his clamorous environment and the haste to clear it and get the police, but the environment is not finished with him. He takes solace in the fact that no one is accosting him with the demand for money. The only money in his pocket belongs to his mother, and as starved as he is, he will not dare spend one kobo of it, not that anything costs ten kobo anymore. A fresh scent wafts to him, and he pauses to exhale. He searches for the woman frying the akara. He knows it must be a good woman, a meticulous woman. The smell of the hot oil is different from the one he smelled minutes before. That was recycled grease overburdened with the smell and debris of other foods. This is fresh grease like when his mother fries food. His mother pours old grease to cook soup but fries food with new oil. “There she is,” he says aloud, glad to be rid of the television’s hold over his senses and the residue of anger against the lying bread-seller. He would have volunteered his services to run a couple of errands for the fryer of the beanballs. One look at his emaciated form, and the woman would have given him some balls even before he goes on her behalf. “Good morning, Ma!” He veers toward her to deliver the salutation with gentleness and resumes his errand. He waves with the slow motion that deep 124

reverence requires. David’s hope is that the woman will recognize him in the future. The haste and the respect surprise her, but the boniness of her greeter confounds her. Frances Ohanenye’s works have appeared in The Journal of Social and Natural Science Research, Atlanta Parent Magazine, Nigeria’s The Guardian Newspaper, Yahoo! Voices, Textbroker, and other media outlets. She flits between Atlanta and Houston in pursuit of a writing life. Her picture book, Waters’ Family Chronicle, is poised for release in September 2020. Please visit for updates.


Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths By Holly Bell

Chapter 1 The Missing Piece Had she heard it, felt it or sensed it? Time stopped. She caught Jonathan’s eye, as he stood still with a slight furrow between his brows. And then the moment was whirled away in the bustle of The Event. That was when it must have happened. All Amanda Cadabra could tell Detective Inspector Trelawney, afterwards, was that Jonathan had been there. ***


Inspector Thomas Trelawney, of the Devon and Cornwall police, passed a hand through his light brown hair, and wondered if he would ever get used to interviewing dead people. Especially so, the white-tressed and victory-rolled lady, seated ramrod upright beside him, upon the chintz sofa of number 26 Orchard Way, on this February afternoon. He reminded himself, as he added two sugar lumps to his tea, that the politically correct term for ‘deceased’ was ‘transitioned’. ‘You’re looking well, Inspector,’ the lady commended him, in cut-glass English tones. ‘No one would put you a day over 40, and I am sure you look quite 10 years younger.’ ‘Thank you, Mrs Cadabra.’ He wondered at her affability. ‘Surely the inspector is barely a day over 40, Granny,’ pointed out Amanda, pushing her untidy mouse-brown plait back over her shoulder and handing him his favourite shortbread. ‘I do hope that that was an attempt at a compliment. Anyway, you know why he is here.’ ‘Once again, my dear, you confuse the state of what is so indelicately referred to as “death” with omniscience. I believe I have made full disclosure of the events leading up to the incident. At least, my part in them.’ A tall silver-haired man, seated in an armchair on the opposite side of the comfortingly blazing fire, was appearing as solid and unghostlike as his wife. Perran Cadabra was gently splitting a scone with a porcelain-handled knife, and looked up mildly at his wife’s words. ‘But the case isn’t closed, my love,’ he pointed out in his gentle Cornishflavoured voice. ‘Not until they have the last bit of the picture.’ ‘Yes, Granny,’ Amanda put in, in support of her grandfather’s observation. ‘We know what you intended and why. That you planned to send the minibus carrying the whole of our family – loath as I am to own them! – over the cliff that day.’


‘But I was rudely pre-empted,’ said Mrs Senara Cadabra, née Cardiubarn, indignantly. ‘If I had known the letters would be hijacked ….’ Perran met the eyes of his granddaughter and the inspector. All three of them shared the unspoken thought. Senara baulked at the notion that she had been bested by a Flamgoyne. The house had been the rival of the Cardiubarns for centuries. Senara’s own homicidal clan should have perished at her own hands. She had gone to the trouble of setting up a booby trap on that treacherous Cornish bend, had lured her venal relatives into a journey that hinted at great financial reward, and been thwarted. Before the trap could be sprung, the ordinary letters of invitation that should have gone out had been replaced by magical parchment. Each sheet had released a toxin. That had put an end to them all before ever the minibus hit the sharp crags at the bottom of the sheer drop. ‘What your Granny is saying,’ Perran explained, covering his wife’s discomfiture, ‘is that she wants to know who told the Flamgoynes about her plan, as much you, Ammee love, and the Inspector do.’ ‘So you will help, won’t you Granny?’ asked Amanda, her blue-brown eyes looking into Mrs Cadabra’s violet orbs in what she hoped was a persuasive manner. ‘I really don’t see what I can contribute,’ Senara replied. ‘But very well, young Thomas Trelawney, ask away.’ His pleasant features broke into a smile at her use of his first name. Trelawney owed her his life, as he had recently become aware, and had hoped his acknowledgement of this connection between them would make her more approachable. However, there was no dimming Senara Cadabra’s love of the cat-and-mouse game she so enjoyed playing with him. She was not about to abandon her entertainment. ‘I expect you want to know what connexions I had with your family,’ she


continued. ‘I prefer not to think of the Flamgoynes in that light, Mrs Cadabra. They are my maternal grandmother’s. I am a Tre....’ Senara smiled triumphantly. She had already thrown him onto the defensive. He grinned in acknowledgement. ‘Well, yes, nevertheless, I would like to know.’ ‘None,’ she pronounced, crisply. He looked at her in surprise. ‘I have no connexions with them whatsoever.’ Senara elucidated, ‘There used to be the occasional cold-war truce party between the Cardiubarns and the Flamgoynes. But you must remember that I had left Cardiubarn Hall in my youth.’ ‘When we eloped,’ added Perran Cadabra, with a twinkle. Senara’s face softened as she glanced at her husband, and they shared a reminiscent moment. She continued: ‘I returned, only at my mother’s request, for Amanda’s birth and, thereafter, to deliver and collect her for their inspection at intervals. Until, at the age of three, they finally gave her over to our care, and we departed for Sunken Madley. By the time of the incident, I had had no association with any of the Flamgoynes for over 20 years.’ Trelawney moved on. ‘Whom did you instruct to send out the letters? Your man of business?’ ‘I had absolute confidence that the person I used would have been unwaveringly loyal. Thanks to adequate intimidation and a great deal of money. Unlike your … Flamgoynes, we did not enslave our servants and staff with enchantments. Promises of reward for loyalty, and recompense, of another kind, for the opposite, were always more than enough.’


‘Did your solicitor visit you, or did you attend his offices?’ enquired the inspector. ‘The former.’ ‘Could anyone have seen him enter or leave or overhear your conversation?’ ‘I was circumspect, naturally, but it is possible,’ conceded Mrs Cadabra. ‘May I have his name? And where exactly were his offices?’ ‘Does it matter? It’s not like you could conduct an interview or alibi anyone at this late date.’ He gathered, rightly, that Mrs Cadabra was not going to identify her agent, and went on to his next question. ‘It is possible that a Flamgoyne or one of their … staff could have overheard, or listened into, your conversation that day?’ ‘Well … the room could have been bugged, I suppose.’ Trelawney tapped a finger on the arm of his chair, as he thought. ‘There is one person who may have information about Flamgoyne presence in the town that day.’ ‘You mean?’ ‘Pasco … Flamgoyne.’ ‘The family retainer?’ Mrs Cadabra looked surprised. ‘Good heavens. Is he still alive?’ ‘He’s the estate manager, actually. Yes.’ ‘Would he talk to you?’ she asked sceptically. ‘Perhaps. There is one person he would talk to. The person who is now head of the Flamgoyne family since th—’ ‘Dear Amanda wiped them out single-handedly,’ Mrs Cadabra interrupted gleefully.


‘I did no such thing, Granny!’ her granddaughter protested. The inspector firmly brought the conversation back on track. ‘Mrs Cadabra, you are right in one respect. As far as we know, all Flamgoyne descendants are deceased, incapacitated or absconded. The person who has inherited from Lady Gronetta is …’ ‘Don’t tell me,’ chortled Senara, ‘Oh, that’s rich …. ’ ‘Quite,’ Trelawney agreed, ill at ease. Greatly diverted, Senara clasped her hands. ‘It is, isn’t it? Your father!’ Murder comes to Sunken Madley. Asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch Amanda finds her village once more under the microscope of Inspector Trelawney. While relentlessly seeking the last piece in the cold case of the Cardiubarn killings, a new death urgently takes centre stage. Does Amanda have the magical skill to fathom the perilous hidden depths and find the real killer before one of her beloved neighbours faces the shame of arrest? Holly Bell - Humorous and quintessentially English with suspense and magic. Cat adorer and chocolate lover, British author Holly started out with non-fiction. However her love of stories flowered from long experience of writing, photography and videography, into the Amanda Cadabra series. Having read and re-read Agatha Christie’s books and JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings with delight from childhood, the creation of cosy paranormal mysteries was the natural choice. Holly’s new cozy paranormal mystery Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths will be published shortly on Amazon. The next book in the Amanda Cadabra series, and a new spinoff novel, are in the pipeline. For updates, join the newsletter at and check out the latest posts at Find Holly on Twitter @Holly_b_author and Facebook on https://www.facebook. com/hbamandacadabra or Holly loves to hear from readers. 131


Third Time’s a Charm by Neal Owens

The solitary feelings that were written in my ethnic eyes increased as I envied the images of friendships around me. Maybe I should introduce myself ? Maybe I should look at one of them and smile? But the shyness and insecurity that led me since the memory of my childhood continued into the first day of college—I didn’t say a word to the persons at my sides. My head lowered with feeble thoughts. “Dear God, help me become a man,” I said within as my eyes locked on a few of the joyful students that were entering the room. Maybe one will see me and say hi. But their eyes ran across me as if I was invisible. I sighed in grief as the indistinct conversations increased around me. The inner portion of my brows lifted and the corners of my lips lowered. My only thoughts were that of another place. I didn’t belong here. The professor’s raspy voice interrupted my withdrawal. I opened my eyes and


saw his round face that had a friendly smile. He extended his hand. “Welcome, my name is Professor Jenson,” he said. I shook his hand. “Thank you, my name is Khalid Howard.” He smiled, nodded, and greeted the student next to me. My eyes and thoughts followed him as he greeted the remaining students in the amphitheater seating before returning to the front of the class. A comfort had settled on me, but I still didn’t introduce myself to the student at my left or right. Neither did they say a word to me. When the buzzer sounded, I surprisingly stayed in my seat as students sped by with smiles on their faces. Hesitantly, I stood and went down the narrow wooden steps with my head lowered as if I was concerned that I might fall. Halfway down, my head instinctively raised, and I saw the smile in upturned, hazel hue eyes that paused on mine. I hesitated to return the smile, and she passed by. Why didn’t I say hi? She wanted me to say hi. I’m so stupid. That blunder on Monday had me thinking about the next day of class on Wednesday. I woke that morning in my two-person dorm room, overly eager to see her again, and was among the first to enter the classroom. I sat in the same seat. Anticipation was the adrenaline as my eyes shifted around the bodies that annoyingly blocked the entrance. After seconds that felt like minutes had passed, my cheeks raised and the corners of my full lips turned upward. My caramel eyes followed the highlighted pixie cut, hoping she would look my way, but she didn’t. “She’s not interested in me,” sprung as a depressed voice in my mind. But my eyes periodically stared like a lost soul at the back of her head, in the hope that she might turn around, but she didn’t. Anxious for the class to end, that I might soak in my misery without anyone


around me, I struggled to remain focused on the professor’s teachings. Time moved slowly. Frustration grew as seconds seemed to pass like minutes. I leaned back with my fingers locked on top of my head. My eyes and elbows swung to the left, then to the right, in search of a friend that wasn’t there. I had conjured the nerve to approach her when the buzzer sounded, and in my haste, I almost stumbled down the steps. When I regained my balance, she was passing by the stationary bodies that were blocking the path. Out of character, I rudely shoved through and faintly heard the rebuke. My eyes and thoughts were locked on her graceful gait, and I scurried down the final steps. Should I run to catch up with her, or will my quick steps gain ground? I decided to slow my pace. Was it because I didn’t want to appear pressed, or was I slowly losing my nerve again? As I wrestled with indecision, my eyes were locked on tight blue jeans and tan suede ankle boots on the long-legged frame that was twenty yards in front of me. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, she stopped a few steps from the door that exited the building. She just stood there, as if she was waiting for someone to meet her. “She’s waiting for me to catch up,” came to mind. But was it my imagination? Was it wishful thinking? “Maybe, she’s waiting for her boyfriend,” I said within and believed. In silence I walked past without looking her way, feeling her eyes and thoughts on me. But was it my imagination? Was it wishful thinking? I didn’t look back. My head lowered as the afternoon sun struck my forehead. I sighed and lifted my head to the ambiance from the sky as I blindly walked past the Student Center. Why didn’t I just say hi? What kind of man am I? I punched myself within. Feeling like a wuss for the remainder of the day, I cried unto the Lord, “Dear God, bring me the spirit of manhood.” I repeated those words daily. As the days continued with my other classes, I kept an eye out for her, hoping she might pass by and soothe my misery. But what if she did? Would I have the nerve to say hi?


It was Monday again. The class I had longed for felt like a place I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be reminded that nerve and confidence weren’t in me, so I considered cutting class, but an urge guided me. Late to class, I sat on the seat closest to the door so I wouldn’t see her when class ended. I kept my eyes and ears on the professor. I didn’t look for her—and I tried not to think about her. But I had a strong feeling that she was looking at me. But was it my imagination again? Was it more of the same wishful thinking? When the buzzer sounded, I had planned to hurry from the building but froze when I exited the class. I turned around and faced the bodies that were exiting the room. Like a slideshow, she appeared, and without hesitation, I approached with a manly stare and extended hand. “Hi, my name is Khalid.” Her nude-polished thin lips widened and parted slightly. “Hi, my name is Sophia.” I gently removed my hand from the softness of her touch. “Nice to meet you, Sophia. Do you have a boyfriend?” Her head tilted to the side, and her eyes widened. I could see the thought in her eyes and said, “I asked because I like what I see when I look at you.” “Ah-hum. What do you see?” “What others don’t. I see the woman inside.” She stretched her arms downward with one hand over the other and slowly swung her body from side to side. “Tell me about her.” “She has lots of attention but remains lonely.” “Why is she lonely?” “Because men seek her body, but not her spirit. They don’t look behind her eyes or hear the depth of her words.” “And you do?” “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.” Her eyes narrowed. I could hear her thoughts. I could feel her attraction.


Beaming with confidence, I said, “Can I have a chance to spend some time with you?” She widened her eyes and broadened her smile. “Walk with me,” she said. Seven years later, that conversation remains vivid as I look at my daughter from behind the window of the hospital’s nursery. Two miscarriages didn’t deter Sophia and me. We tried a third time—and found the third time’s a charm. Neal Owens was born and raised in Washington, DC. He wrote his first story in the fifth grade but didn’t consider writing a profession. But after 33 years of service to at-risk as a sports coach and mentor, Neal resigned as Director of Operations for a nationally-affiliated youth-serving organization to pursue his passion for writing novels and short stories. He decided to become an independent author and published his debut novel, Mirrors of Life, in August 2019. Neal recently received the Silver Award from Literary Titan and was honored as the Award-Winning Finalist for the 2020 International Book Awards for the Fiction: Cross-Genre category. His second novel, Mirrors of Life – Part 2: The Fight for Political Power is scheduled for release on September 15, 2020. Both novels are available wherever books are sold online and in stores. Find out more about Neal Owens here:


The Art of Old Age by Yvonne Walus

Robber raids elderly victims Police are warning the elderly in Auckland to be wary after several were confronted by a robber - in some cases while he was lying in ambush awaiting their return home. There have been eight incidents in recent days where people have been challenged and robbed while they were at home. In all cases the victims were elderly. *** Sometimes I wonder who these people used to be, the ones I rob. They all look the same, dotted with freckles of old age, their skin leathered and thinned and in urgent need of ironing. Their shoulders are always caved in, their backs rounded like tortoise shell, and their eyes emit that switched-off look even when they stare right at you from above the gag. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s an ex-model I’m tying to her dining room chair, as rickety as her own eighty-year old frame. Whether the old man who’s pissed his pants in fear used to swish - immortal and forever young - in his sports car. Whether this couple, holding hands as they shuffle hand-in-hand into their golden-years cottage where I lie in wait, used to bicker the way my parents did. Have they ever been unfaithful? Felt tempted to throttle the living


daylight out of one another? Is the hand-in-hand shuffle a bluff ? Usually I can tell as soon as they see me. It’s whether they choose to protect themselves or the spouse. The old rimu floor looks like solid honey but it’s hell on my elbows. Give me a carpet over wooden planks any day. With single old folks, I knock on the door and pretend to sell vacuums or cheaper electricity plans. Sometimes I’m a gas inspector or a police officer. Starved for company and for something to do with their infinitely long day, they usually let me in. Couples are trickier. That’s why I wait for them inside. Here they come now. The garden gate squeaks on its slanted hinges. I part the slats of the Venetian blind. The old woman has her thin arm zigzagged through his, the Louis Vuitton handbag hanging off the other arm for counterbalance. Against all odds, she’s wearing high heels. Not stilettos, granted, but still about a metre too high for an old bird like her. The old geezer is carrying a plastic bag from the local electronic shop. Oh, good. Normally, I take what’s in their houses and wallets, which doesn’t amount to a lot. A brand new gadget, still in its box and with a receipt attached is a bonus. *** Old age is a nuisance, I think as my wife switches her bag to the other hand and weaves her arm through mine to steady herself. Anybody who’s experienced the aches, the insomnia, the shortness of breath, can tell you that old age sucks. For me, though, old age is more than a nuisance. It’s a nightmare. I used to run ten kilometres every morning to stay fit. My handgun would find its target within a hundred metres. I was a wizard with explosives. The perfect spheres of my biceps could lift a woman and throw her onto a bed. I used to do a fair amount of that back in Russia before I met my wife. And after, if truth be told. What can I say? The times were tough, the future uncertain. Under Stalin and under those who came after him, we learnt to take life one day at a time,


one pleasure at a time, one enemy at a time. Back then, we knew the meaning of the word fear. Fear made me fake and kill friends and brown-nose my way out of trouble. And now? Now I’m holding a new laptop computer a thousand times more powerful than Stalin ever was. Now my greatest problem is that the footpath between our garden gate and the front door is strewn with brown leaves, as ugly as the face I see in the mirror when shaving. Old age is more than a nuisance and a nightmare. It’s also unsightly. My wife lets go of my arm, pokes the key into the lock and turns the handle. “Tea with jam?” she asks. She used to offer blowjobs in that tempting tone. Now it’s tea. Old age, I tell you, it’s worse than death. *** “Tea with jam?” I ask. My husband has no time to reply. A shadow detaches itself from the window and pins him to the floor. Isn’t it the other way round, I wonder, aren’t you supposed to pin your shadow down? I’m sure there was a story like that. I used to like stories, back when I was young. Younger. Back then. my husband was a great storyteller, able to explain every smear of lipstick on his collar, every bundle of hundred-rouble notes hidden under the mattress, every visit from grey-suited officials. I ooh-ed and aah-ed and nodded. Knew better than to believe a single word. While my husband played soldier-spy, I tinker-tailored our existence from a room shared with two other couples into our own luxurious villa on the peripheries of Moscow and a palace-like dacha on the pebbly beach of the Black Sea. I had the body and the brain to achieve it. I had the cunning and the KGB training to hold onto what I’d achieved, and once the system had crumbled, I had the foresight to flee to New Zealand. While my husband is flailing on the beautiful wooden floor, in vain trying


to force his muscles to remember how to be the James Bond of the Eastern Block, I swing my designer handbag. The weight of makeup, hand cream, hairbrush, coins for the parking meter, three pens, a book and everything else we women carry around, makes contact with the intruder’s skull. Before he has time to recover, I yank off one of my shoes and aim its heel at his temple. It’s not my first time. It’s why I always wear heels, even on days when my lower back is demanding slippers. The beauty of old age is that nobody ever expects it to fight back. “You get rid of the body,” I tell my husband. “Like in the old days. Meanwhile, I’ll make the tea.” I feel half a century younger. Perhaps we should do this again. Soon. New Zealand Herald, 21 December Christmas For Cops The last six months saw a sudden plunge of burglary statistics across Auckland. But the real Christmas gift for out police force came when they entered twentyfive abandoned premises, each full of stolen goods. “It’s like Christmas has come early,” says Detective Ian Macdonald. “We got this anonymous letter with the addresses. Had no idea what we’d find.” The police are still looking for the owners or lapses tenants of the properties, but word on the street is, they’re not looking too hard. My heritage is inter-continental. The first twelve years of my life in communist Poland taught me never to trust newspapers, how to play the game within the system, to value uniformity, and to ride in public transport squashed between so many people that my feet didn’t touch the ground. The next sixteen years in South Africa’s apartheid taught me never to trust newspapers, how to play the game within the system, to value diversity, and to drive the car fifty metres down the driveway to my mail box. New Zealand is a fantastic country to live in - consequently, I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else, and I plan on not emigrating ever again. Crime fiction is my passion. My childhood hero was, predictably, Hercule Poirot. I’ve changed my mind several times since, and for a time I was totally into Harlan Coben’s super-rich super-able Win (Windsor Horne Lockwood), but my current favourite is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch… I mean, Sherlock Holmes. 141

All Saints’ Day Celebration by Breakfield & Burkey

The harvest season was a fabulous time for the extended family to gather at Wolfgang’s mansion, tucked away in the mountains of Zürich. In between various community activities, Haddy conducted impromptu history lessons. Julie asked, “Why don’t we celebrate Halloween, Momma?” Haddy smiled at her youngest daughter as the other children gathered around her. “We don’t celebrate Halloween because of its pagan origins. The tradition began as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Then in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Over time, All Saints’ Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.” Eric and Bruno snickered, as Quentin asserted, “Ha! Can you imagine trying to repel ghosts wearing costumes and dancing around a bonfire! How could they believe such nonsense?” Petra and Julie appeared unsure but remained silent. Haddy countered, “We don’t wear costumes or dance around a bonfire since we Europeans have learned to lock our ghosts away where they can’t harm people.” The boys went silent. Moments later, Eric cautiously asked, “Like, … locked


in a room? Like the door upstairs on the third floor, Uncle Wolfgang keeps locked. That room has a ghost?” Haddy’s intense look made her daughters feel wary. The brothers and best friend Bruno looked apprehensive. Lacking his prior confidence, Quentin challenged, “There are no such things as ghosts. Only silly stories designed to frighten small children. I’m not a child scared by old tales of ancient rituals. I’m 13! I don’t believe there is a ghost locked upstairs in that room.” Haddy half scolded, “Promise me you won’t try to unlock that door to see for yourselves. It’s difficult to capture and hold such a fearsome creature like the spirit we have in that room.” Petra asked, “Why do we have a ghost? Where did it come from? Will it try to harm us?” Julie tightly clung to her sister. Haddy studied all their faces. “Let’s go into the study and get a cup of mulled cider. Then I suppose I should tell you about Morath.” The sun was setting with the fiery blaze streaming into the study, matching the colors of the warming, recently lit fireplace. Getting their cups of the warm brew, they settled into the large sofa and chairs. Haddy began, “Morath was a wealthy merchant but a mean-spirited man. His handsome features and physique were useless as no woman would have him because of his cruel streak. One day he decided if he had a huge mansion, he might be able to win the hand of some young lady. As the house was under construction, he proclaimed he wanted someone to come to share it with him as his wife. “Local women scoffed at Morath’s offer, but it didn’t stop word from spreading throughout the region. One day a young lady strolled up to the work site leading a nice milk cow. Her dark hair flowed over her lithe frame, perfectly matching her ebony black eyes that missed nothing. However, she had a harelip birth defect. It made speech difficult for her and hard for others to understand her. Following several attempts, she finally conveyed to Morath that she was there 143

to take up his offer. The milk cow was her dowry to prove her intention. “Morath, unable to respond, kept staring at her birth defect. “Finally, she asserted, ’My name is Jenny. Yes, I have a harelip. I’m exactly like you. No man in my village will have me because of this defect. Yet, no woman wants you because of your mean-spiritedness. I may have a fault, but I can still be a loving companion who brings you a wedding gift. If you accept me, then we’ll work together and be happy.’ “Something shifted inside of Morath. Remarkably, he could no longer see the defect. He silently took her hand. They wasted no time getting married. Jenny worked every day with the construction team following Morath’s instructions on the details of the mansion. Every day Morath fell more in love with Jenny. He even grew attached to the milk cow he nicknamed Pfennig. “As the structure neared completion, the couple grew anxious to move in. Disaster struck as the brick masons were trying to finish the facings of the fireplaces as their last task. Getting brick up to the third floor required a platform and a pulley. A full load of brick broke the rope and sent all the blocks raining down on Jenny, who was below supervising. “Morath was devastated. He wept at her burial. He unceremoniously paid the contractor and moved in a few days later. The townspeople found him a few weeks later dead by his hand. His note told of his grief and desire to join Jenny. That locked door on the third floor is where they found Morath. The realtor who sold us this property said never to open the room as Morath and Jenny dwelled there but were peaceable ghosts.” Mesmerized, the captivated girls huddled close together. Eric and Bruno were equally fascinated by Haddy’s narration. Quentin seemed a little unsure but still couldn’t accept that ghosts stayed in Uncle Wolfgang’s home. “Aunt Haddy, how can ghosts simply be locked in a room? That makes no sense for beings that supposedly pass through walls.” Haddy gave her maternal smile. “Quentin, they stay in there to be together. The door is locked, so we don’t intrude. It’s been that way as long as we’ve owned the home.” 144

Sensing he would not win the argument, Quentin fell quiet. Haddy excused herself to oversee dinner preparation. Lamps and candles glowed brighter as the sun vanished. The room was more shadowy with flames from the fireplace after Haddy added a log on her way out. The children nervously talked among themselves. Quentin waited until they all fell silent. “Are you with me? I have a pretty good idea where the key to that room is. We’ll just go see if there are any ghosts in that room.” Petra, Julie, and Eric were alarmed at the challenge. At 13, Bruno argued, “You’re going to do it again, right? Not listen to your elders. Drag us along on another crazy adventure. This time you think we’re ghost hunters!” “What’s your point?” After a few moments of silence, Quentin persisted, “Oh, I see, you four are children. I’m the only one ready to be an adult. I’m not going to stay down here cowering, believing in ghosts.” Bruno relented, “As usual, my friend, I don’t have enough common sense to say no. Lead on, oh mighty troublemaker.” Eric dutifully followed his older brother Quentin. He shared his best I’m scared, so don’t let me do this look with Petra and Julie. All it did was encourage the girls to follow along. True to his devious nature, Quentin secured the key. They quietly slipped up to the third-floor landing and stood apprehensively in front of the locked door. Their breathing rates increased as their minds raced with what lay before them. Quentin’s hand shook as he pushed the key into the lock and turned it. The bolt quickly retracted, and he twisted the doorknob, then pushed open the door. Quentin carefully reached in to turn on the light switch, but a clammy blob dropped on his hand, startling him. His short gasp frightened the others who, in turn, bunched up behind him. The hallway light glowed enough to lighten the empty room to reveal a ghostly apparition sailing around inside. Sounds of heavy boots moved toward them on the wooden floor. This sound alarmed the children into action as they moved to close the door. But it only opened wider. They spotted distorted images shifting in an old beveled mirror that amplified 145

the children’s growing terror. They froze as if rooted to the floor, when an eerie voice murmured, “Who disturbs our quiet peace? Are you here to sacrifice someone to end our loneliness? Come, which one of you will join us?” Just then, a friendly voice behind them announced, “Great special effects, don’t you think, children?” As one, they jumped then abruptly turned to see Aunt Haddy with Otto and Uncle Wolfgang grinning at the frightened children, ready to give reassurance and comfort as needed. Summoning his self-control and looking trapped like a wayward thief, Quentin asked, “This was yet another lesson learned, wasn’t it?” Otto, the girls’ father, laughed and countered, “Quentin, what did you learn?” Sheepishly he admitted, “I should be more mindful of the stern warnings of elders.” Then he added, “I also need to expect the unexpected and plan to defeat the improbable.” Wolfgang laughed. “I doubt you will ever be more mindful. But I can believe your second comment.” Petra asserted, “I learned this is the last time I ever follow Quentin’s plans.” The adults chuckled, knowing this lesson would stick. LIMITED SUPPLY - FREE US and UK Audible codes to readers here on any of the books. Email for yours today Breakfield is a 25+ year technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles likes riding his Harley, cooking extravaganzas, wine tasting, and travel. Burkey is a 25+ year applied technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world, focusing on optimized customer experiences. She writes white papers and documentation but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction. Rox loves to travel, garden, sew, and explore. Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with young adults and beyond. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today in exciting award-winning stories. Https:// 146



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