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Contents • November 2017 Review Columns


05 06 07 08 12 14 20 26

03 04 11 16 18 21 31 32

Romance Horror Science Fiction/Fantasy General Fiction Book Club Picks Mystery/Thrillers Nonfiction YA & Children’s Books

The Story of IndiePicks Meet the Review Team Writer’s Association Spotlight Feature List: Fractured Families Feature List: New Indie Mysteries Nonfiction Spotlight: Jen Mann Life With Rodney Publisher Spotlight

Interviews 22 25 28 29

Featured Author: Bette Lee Crosby Authors on the Move: Brian Freeman New & Noteworthy: Olivia Jane Filmmaker Jason Wolos

President & Publisher, Patomi Media Group: Naomi Blackburn

IndiePicks is a book review publication (available in e- and print monthly subscriptions) dedicated to independent publishers and authors. Part of the Patomi Media Group, IndiePicks was founded in 2017 by publisher Naomi Blackburn.

Vice President of Operations, Erin Matty Vice President, Distribution/Inventory Control, Patrick Blackburn

Editor in Chief, Rebecca Vnuk Editorial Assistant, Heaether Ventucci-Johnson Advertising Sales, Naomi Blackburn

Our review team consists of readers’-advisory librarians who review with an eye towards making suggestions to collection development librarians as well as to general readers.

Subscriptions Individual and bulk subscriptions are available. For information, see How to Advertise Advertising in IndiePicks is an opportunity to showcase your book to a national audience of readers and librarians who support independent publishers and authors. For information on advertising rates, please contact Naomi Blackburn,


WELCOME TO INDIEPICKS Welcome to the first issue of IndiePicks Magazine! Our goal is to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of independent publishing houses and those who have chosen the non-traditional publishing route to bring their books to market. Our magazine and website will focus on reviews, as well as interviews, articles, and other entertaining columns related to topics in the indie media world. As you’ll see as you read on, our main focus is on books and authors. However, we recognize the excellence of indie-produced music and film and will soon add more coverage in those areas as well. For now, you can get a taste of what’s to come in our Media section, pages 28-29. We also hope you’ll visit our website, There, you’ll find bonus review content, sneak peeks of print features, and regular blog posts. If you’d like to know more about us, please check out the FAQ section of our website. There, you’ll find everything you need to know, including subscription information, details on our social media accounts, and instructions regarding how to submit for review. One question you might be asking is, “Why IndiePicks?” Well, we like to think that we stand out in the world of book reviews in a few very specific ways. First of all, we will never charge authors or publishers for reviews. Not in print, not on our website. Second, our monthly subscription model is a hybrid—our print and digital subscriptions are available for individual subscriptions, but we also offer a bulk package to libraries and bookstores at a competitive price, allowing them to offer IndiePicks as a print giveaway item to their customers. Finally, we’ve deliberately kept our review team small and wholly made up of professional librarians. We’re so glad you want to take this journey into the world of independent publishing with us. If you have questions, comments, or ideas about what you’d like to see featured in the magazine, please feel free to contact us at Rebecca Vnuk Editor in Chief, IndiePicks Magazine


The Story of INDIEPICKS I, Naomi Blackburn, am a bookaholic. I’ll admit that openly and proudly. I love EVERYTHING about books. Part of my obsession with books includes reading review magazines. Like a child with the old Sears catalogs at Christmas time, I was at my library the first of the month waiting for the book review magazine to be placed in the holder. As soon as it arrived, I ‘d snatch up a copy and return home. Sometimes I didn’t even make it home before opening the issue and going to my favorite columns to see what books have been reviewed. I read with pen in hand, ready to take note of the books that would be added to my ever-growing to-be-read list on Goodreads. Then one day it struck me that the magazine only focused on the Big 5 publishing houses. Thanks to my Goodreads addiction, my reading habits have expanded. In searching out quality books, I have been introduced to many awesome authors who have taken a different publishing route. Rather than go with the traditional publishing model, these authors go “indie,” meaning they work with small or mediumsized specialized publishing houses or Amazon imprints. It surprised me when I first found out that these authors, whom I now lovingly refer to as “Outside the Big 5,” do not have access to the type of review magazines used by libraries and avid readers. This seems a glaring oversight in my mind. Dedicated bibliophile that I am, I am also a fan of my library. I couldn’t afford to read as much as I do if weren’t. I often try to seek out some of my favorite “outside” authors and am always told that the libraries doesn’t carry them. I’ve researched why and although the reasons make sense, I knew there has to be a solution; one that is a win for the authors, addresses librarians’ concerns, and meets industry requirements. My research shows the same issues related to reviews of both music and film. There are a number of great recording artists and movie producers who choose not to go with a traditional studio, but who don’t scrimp on quality.

As I get to know independent authors and artists, I see that they are just as passionate about their craft as those Big 5 authors and major studios. These people became my friends and I know in my heart that if I could do anything to help them I would. Luckily, librarians want to work with authors outside the Big 5. I’ve heard the call from the American Library Association that libraries should be open to these works, but the lack of a related, recognized review source is a stumbling block. In searching out a solution my mind went back to my favorite little review magazine and the concept of IndiePicks was born. IndiePicks is designed to serve both librarians and readers who love indie books. For a review to have credibility among librarians, it must have the librarian seal of approval. Our editor, Rebecca Vnuk, comes to us with over a decade of library experience, including at ALA’s Booklist. Our columnists are librarians, too, and if they don’t feel comfortable purchasing the work for their own collection, we won’t recommend it to our readers. From all of us at Patomi Media Group, we hope you enjoy IndiePicks Magazine. Sincerely, Naomi E. Blackburn Publisher, IndiePicks Magazine Patomi Media Group


MEET THE REVIEW TEAM Robin Bradford, Romance Robin Bradford works for Timberland Regional Library District in Tumwater, Washington and started her career in book tyranny at the age of two, when she coerced her family into repeated readings of the relationship drama “The House that Jack Built.” Fast-forward a [redacted] number of years later, and she is still addicted to books and dedicated to helping others discover the love of reading. In 2016, she was awarded the Librarian of the Year award from the Romance Writers of America. She works with authors to help get their titles into library collections and works with librarians to push for equal treatment of genre fiction. Craig Clark, General Fiction Craig A. Clark, MLS, Kent State University, has worked as a branch manager, circulation manager, and branch librarian for several Ohio public libraries. He has spent the last several years focusing on readers’ advisory in a freelance capacity and authored the book Read On…Sports: Reading Lists for Every Taste, reviewed titles for Booklist, and penned articles for NoveList. Currently, he serves as chair for the American Library Association’s Notable Books Council and lives in Columbus, Ohio. Alan Keep, Science Fiction and Fantasy Alan Keep is a graduate of Ohio State University and has been working towards an MLIS from Kent State. He’s an avid reader and writer with a particular interest in genre as well as literary fiction. Alan has recently moved to Pittsburgh where he hopes to further pursue his academic and professional career in the library field while also spending time with his boyfriend and several very tolerant cats. Megan McArdle, General Fiction Megan McArdle has worked in collection development in public libraries for over 15 years and is currently a senior collection specialist at the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She spent four years as a reviewer and columnist for science fiction, fantasy, and horror for Library Journal and is the author of The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Blends from ALA Editions. Andie Paloutzian, General Fiction Andie Paloutzian founded the Story Center program for Mid-Continent Public Libraries in Missouri, where she worked to help others create and share their stories, and curated a related collection of local works. A frequent presenter, Andie has given talks on project and program coordination, readers advisory, and customer service at conferences including the Romantic Times Booklovers’ conference and the Public Library Association’s annual conference. Andie holds two B.A. degrees and is a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute. She has been advocating for, reviewing for, and judging contests for independent authors since 2013. Becky Spratford, Horror Becky Spratford is a Readers’ Advisor who trains library staff all over the world on how to match books with readers. She runs the critically acclaimed RA training blog RA for All, and is on the Steering Committee of the Adult Reading Round Table. Becky is also known for her work with horror readers as the author of The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition (ALA Editions, 2012) and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association, where she was a guwest of honor at StokerCon 2017 for her contribution to the genre. You can follow Becky and her bookish adventures on Twitter @RAforAll. Kaite Mediatore Stover, Nonfiction Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Director of Readers’ Services for The Kansas City Public Library. She holds Masters degrees in Library Science and English Literature from Emporia State University. Stover is the co-editor of The Readers’ Advisory Handbook (ALA Editions) with Jessica E. Moyer. Stover serves on the Penguin Random House Library Advisory Board and is a Steering Committee member for LibraryReads. She is the recipient of the 2012 Allie Beth Martin Award and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2003. Stover speaks regularly at industry conferences on readers, trends in publishing and reading, and training for library staff with an emphasis on readers’ advisory and customer service. Magan Szwarek, Young Adult Magan Szwarek is the Director of Reference Services for the Schaumburg Township District Library (IL). A dedicated readers’ advisor, lover of audiobooks, and eclectic reader, Magan currently chairs the RUSA-CODES RA Research & Trends Committee and is enthusiastic about re-imagining the role public libraries can play in the lives of the communities they serve. Henrietta Verma, Mystery and Thrillers Henrietta (Etta) Verma has worked as a reference librarian in public and academic libraries. She is currently Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at the National Information Standards Organization, and before that was head of the reviews department and of the SELF-e indie book platform at Library Journal. Etta, who is from Ireland, is a mom to two avid readers. 4

ROMANCE Robin Bradford REGENCY ROMANCE Lady Charlotte Hadley and Captain Julian West both have somthing in their past they would rather forget. For Charlotte it is the aftermath of a marriage that left her a widow after five months, and for Julian it is the battlefield and a friend he couldn’t save, no matter how many in London call him a hero. Their shared past, however, haunts them both. Anna Bradley’s Lady Charlotte’s First Love (Lyrical Press, $15, ISBN 9781516105199) is the second in her Sutherlands series, though it can be read independently. The pain that each of the main characters carries will feel so real to readers, who will root for the lovers to set aside their stubbornness and pride and just listen to each other, as well

as cheer on the people around the couple trying to pave the way towards their happiness. Thankfully, the payoff at the end is worth the heartache and, as a bonus, the book lays the groundwork for the next hero waiting in the wings for his own happily ever after.

maybe explore a side of himself he’s had to keep hidden for all of his 50 years. What he finds is community, opportunity, and a chance to build the life he never imagined living. When shy and unsure Cam meets outgoing Dave, the spark is there, but is

MIDLIFE MEN Protagonists in romance books tend to skew young. So as a reader, whenever I come across a book that has seasoned characters at the center, I’m always curious and hopeful. Audra North’s Midlife Crisis (Riptide, $16.99, ISBN 9781626496682), exceeds all expectations. A year after the death of his wife, Cam leaves his Texas farm town and heads to Austin in hopes of gaining some clarity on his new life—and

home immediately. Though the years have changed both Griffin and Hayden, the passion between them remains. Simone makes the growth in her protagonists evident not only through narration, but through their actions. And that makes the idea of a second-chance love story more believable. The attraction between these lovers is white-hot, but it is the feelings underlying the passion that cause the transition from first love to together forever as each one comes to the new relationship standing on their own two feet.

LOST LOVE Cam ready to embrace how he feels? North’s characters are realistic in both the contents of their baggage and how they handle it. The relationship between Dave and Cam develops at a pace that seems to respect Cam’s fears and inexperience, yet keeps the story moving forward at a good pace. North also perfectly portrays Cam’s move from small-town Texas to the big city. Readers who like coming-of-age stories (in middle-age) or tales of coming-out will enjoy this contemporary romance.

SWEET SURRENDER In Naima Simone’s Sweet Surrender (CreateSpace, $9.99, ISBN 9781974004621), Griffin Sutherland, second son of a wealthy family, left his Texas family so he could become his own man. One of things he left behind, however, was Hayden Reynolds, a childhood pal who became more than just a friend in the months before Griffin’s departure. Years later, Hayden is still nursing her broken heart and dealing with a new job and a new life when she’s tasked with bringing home the prodigal son, as Griffin’s father sends her down to Florida with an ultimatum that he come

Adrienne has been living her life pretty much on autopilot since the death of her wife in a school shooting. She’s been caring for their three-year-old daughter, working in her law practice, and taking one day at a time. Then a new client brings her into contact with an old lover, Sloan, who had no idea what had become of Adrienne after they parted company as Sloan headed to law school and Adrienne left for art school in Paris. There are multiple romances in Take Me There (Bold Strokes Books, $16.95, ISBN 9781626399174) by Julie Cannon. Besides the main couple, Cannon also tells the story of the love between Adrienne and her late wife through flashbacks. In addition, Sloane’s boss, Elliot, and her wife, Lauren, are a couple whose relationship is a model for Sloane. The warmth of Adrienne’s family brings a wonderful completeness to the cast. Readers who enjoy secondchance romances will be happy to root for Adrienne and Sloan, both in their flashback scenes in college, and again when they’re all grown up. ONLINE BONUS REVIEW: His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras


HORROR by Becky Spratford SHORT SCARES In his remarkable characterdriven debut collection of nine horror stories, Behold the Void (JournalStone, $18.95, 9781945373497), Philip Fracassi demonstrates that horror can be thoughtful and lyrical even while it probes our deepest, darkest, most brutal fears. The stories within contain cosmic horror and weird fiction elements and feature intensity of atmosphere juxtaposed with restraint in advancing the action—a masterful storytelling skill rarely seen in the genre. Tension and unease build in these stories until the tales seem to burst open. This makes the stories compelling, but it is the intimate familial relationships at the heart of these stories— and the people entangled in those relationships—that makes them stand out. Take the cult hit, “Altar,” for example, a story about siblings and their mother on a summer trip to the local pool—a memory likely shared by many readers. But Fracassi slowly adds in layers of strangeness and terror as this ordinary day builds to a horrific conclusion. Or the subtler story, “Fail-Safe,” which shows a loving family facing a very difficult decision in this original take on the well-tread monster trope. These are engrossing and detailed stories about flawed people put into extraordinary situations. Do expect to enjoy the ride, but don’t expect any neatly tied up happy endings along the way. As Laird Barron, in the introduction to this collection, sums it up, “Nobody is safe and nothing is sacred.” This is a perfect title to pair with A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford.

THE HORRORS OF REALITY TV Splatterpunk meets satire in the bloody, frightening


battle of ancient evil versus reality TV in Daniel I. Russell’s Entertaining Demons (Apex, $15.95, 9781937009564). Molly is not your typical English teenager. She lives alone with her grandfather, her mother is institutionalized, and her father, well, he’s been missing most of her life. But that’s just the beginning of her problems. Molly is also the newest star of the popular reality TV show PI: Paranormal Investigations, but unlike some of the fake experiences followed by the show, Molly’s completely real nightmare is on view for the world to see. What begins with strange noises and things that go bump in the night quickly escalates as Molly is targeted by a very real and dangerous ancient evil, one that has survived millennia by any means necessary. Alternating point of view between our protagonists and the demons who are descending upon Molly’s small British town, this is a non-stop, edge of your seat, bloody thriller. But it is also a darkly humorous and sharp-witted send up of modern media, reality TV, and humanity’s wrongly placed attentions. The demons have been observing, interfering with, and even altering human history for far too long to be fooled by this new obsession. Molly and her family and friends are heroes readers can believe in and root for, but the demons have centuries of experience and absolutely no morals. Entertaining Demons has all of the violence, gore, and satire of Brian Keane’s Castaways, mixed with a similar frame and storytelling style of Benjamin Percy’s recent novel The Dark Net.

THE DEVIL INSIDE When William Peter Blatty published The Exorcist in 1971, he started a brand-new

subgenre of horror literature that, while waxing and waning in popularity over the years, has never completely disappeared. However, very few have lived up to the evil and terror of the original, until now. Jonathan Janz is a horror star on the rise and in Exorcist Falls (Sinister Grin, $18.99, 9781944044510), which includes the previously published novella prequel, “Exorcist Road,” Janz puts a twenty-first century spin on the demonic possession story and puts his talent for entertaining and frightening using prose on full display. Chicago is being held hostage by the Sweet Sixteen Killer, who targets, violates, and then brutally murders young women of all races and classes, just as they turn sixteen. Jason Crowder is a young Chicago priest who is called to the home of a wealthy parishioner after their son, Casey, begins acting weirdly. He is clearly possessed, but he also

knows way too much about the serial murders. In the struggle for Casey’s soul, the demon enters Crowder, and that’s only as the story begins. What follows is a bloody and graphic tale—part demonic possession story, part mystery, and part family drama. An intense firstperson narration allows the reader to see Crowder’s struggle with the demon inside him as he tries to maintain moral control of his body while also, at times, allowing the evil to surface if it will help him to catch the human killer. Janz keeps readers turning the pages as they root for Crowder while still being utterly appalled by him. This is the perfect read for people who loved Horns by Joe Hill, another tale in which readers root for a protagonist who is controlled by the devil. With the TV series The Exorcist back for a second season, there may be increased demand for the demonic possesion tale.

Demons are making their way to Molly’s quiet English town, intent on shutting down the show. As the darkness converges, Molly is caught in a struggle among demons while desperately fighting to keep her family safe.


SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY Alan Keep ALTERNATE FUTURE Cody Sisco’s Tortured Echoes (Resonant Earth, $16, ISBN 9780997034844) continues the story of Victor Eastmore, a “Broken Mirror”—a person suffering from the emotionally and psychically disruptive Mirror Resonance Syndrome (MRS). Set against the backdrop of an alternate America in which Reconstruction succeeded and a massive transatlantic war resulted in a loose network of nations known as the American Union, Tortured Echoes follows Victor as he tracks down clues about the murder of his grandfather. Along the way, Victor struggles with both the shadow of Samuel Miller, the MRS patient whose rampage led to the stigmatization of the condition, as well as various competing factions and allegiances all of which are converging on Victor and Samuel. Sisco’s alternate America will remind readers of one of the author’s influences, the alternate history giant Kim Stanley Robinson, with a variety of other SF devices such as cybernetic implants

and exploration of interior states of being contributing to Sisco’s own particular spin on the genre. Sisco’s work is highly

the ship. Aster, an aspiring doctor and scientist as well as an inhabitant of one of the various lower decks that hold

Solomon’s exploration of a futuristic yet all too familiarly repressive society is highly recommended for anyone interested in the ever-growing field of SF that is invested in engaging with race, gender, and sexuality as an integral part of any vision of the future.


recommended for fans of alternate history or near future SF, as well as for any reader looking for an engaging new SF series.

GHOST SHIP Rivers Solomon’s SF debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts (Akashic, $15.95, ISBN 9781617755880), is set on the generation ship Matilda as it sails through space towards the “Heavens” promised by the devout white upper-deckers who make up the privileged ruling Sovereignty class aboard

the oppressed dark-skinned majority aboard the Matilda, works to unravel the mysteries surrounding her mother’s supposed suicide, the recent death of Matilda’s Sovereign, and the destiny of the ship itself. She’s aided in her search by her mentor, Theo, the privileged but deeply conflicted Surgeon General who, similar to Aster, falls outside the repressive gender norms of the Sovereignty. Aster’s journey explores not only her own past, but the brutal and oppressive conditions of life aboard the ship as it sails to its destination.

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Robert Irwin’s latest novel, Wonders Will Never Cease (Arcade Publishing, $25.95, ISBN 9781628728637), much like his most popular work, The Arabian Nightmare, creates a world where stories nest within stories and in which a real historical setting becomes suffused with its fictional counterparts. But while his previous novel explored the idea of dreams within dreams and its cast of characters was primarily fictional, Wonders Will Never Cease focuses primarily on the act of storytelling or of prophecy and is populated entirely by real-world figures from the War of the Roses. The story follows Anthony Woodville, a young man on the side of Lancaster who, after being killed only to awake two days later, becomes haunted both by images of the dead and by the various stories that come to swirl around him. Irwin’s narrative follows not only the historical record of Woodville’s life but also weaves in countless stories ranging from legends of Arthur or King Bran to stories of Melusine or the Laidly Worm. Irwin’s exploration of a secret history where the boundaries between stories and life blur together is enthralling and is highly recommended for any fan of literary or historical fantasy.


GENERAL FICTION Craig Clark LOSS AND SURVIVING John McGregor won the 2012 IMPAC Dublin award for his 2010 novel Even the Dogs, and his latest, Reservoir 13 (Catapult, $ 16.95, ISBN 9781936787708), was long listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. The premise is simple: a 13-year-old girl, Rebecca Shaw, goes missing while vacationing with her parents in a rural English village. Reporters descend, police investigate, villagers search, but there is still no sign of the lost girl. At first the need to locate Rebecca permeates the whole of the population, but eventually the town’s anxiety recedes, allowing a modicum of normality. Livestock needs tending, school must go on, the dams and reservoirs require maintenance. An omniscient narrator also observes the individuals of this unnamed village: there are births, deaths, weddings, celebrations, affairs, and drinks at the pub. However, McGregor’s lyrical and economical prose conveys a lurking-at-every-turn sense of dread that the girl is dead and hopefulness that she will be found alive and well. McGregor intertwines the human drama with breathtaking descriptions


of the abundant natural wonder surrounding the village. Reservoir 13 is at once tender and menacing, perfect for readers looking for an original voice in literary fiction.

LOSS AND REMEMBRANCE Award-winning author Mike McCormack’s latest work, Solar Bones (SOHO Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781616958534), is mesmerizing in both structure and content, and was named the 2016 Irish Book Awards book of the year. Marcus Conway is a civil engineer and lives in a small town in County Mayo. He finds himself sitting at his kitchen table reflecting on his life during All Souls Day, a day when the space between life and death grows thin. He reminisces about his family and work, his love for his wife, and his love for the logic of engineering. He laments mistakes made and opportunities lost, and marvels at becoming a parent. Interspersed among the family history are Marcus’ bursts into philosophical ruminations on the nature of being, economic collapse, and the ineptitude of politicians. Readers should be warned that this is a sentence-

length novel, with not a period to be found in any of the pages. The innovative construction does not make the book inaccessible; rather, the stream of consciousness narrative and expressive language hold a rhythm that is quite captivating. This title will appeal to readers who enjoy contemporary Irish fiction like Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart or Spill Simmer Falter by Sara Baume.

LOSS AND GUILT Chicago novelist Tony Romano offers a melancholy psychological drama in Where My Body Ends and the World Begins (Allium Press of Chicago, $17.99, ISBN 9780996755870). The story begins in 1967 Chicago, nearly ten years after the deadly fire at Our Lady of Angels elementary school (a real-life event) that left 92 school children dead. Twentyyear-old Anthony Lazzeri survived the blaze, but he is racked with guilt and trying to find a way to ease the pain. Unfortunately, between his selfdestructive behaviors, a retired detective’s suspicion that he was involved in the arson, and his fractured family, reconciling his grief is not easily accomplished. Where My Body Ends and the World Begins is a compelling and intimate story of surviving loss, but the combined elements of psychological drama and heartfelt grief at times can feel disjointed. The novel will surely have regional appeal, as the author’s note states that those who remember the tragedy well up with tears at the mere mention of the fire. Though Romano doesn’t offer the same level of suspense, the many twists and reveals here may also appeal to readers who enjoyed I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.

Modern Families French author Marc Levy first brought this story to international audiences in 2008. Now an English translation of All Those Things We Never Said (Amazon Crossing, $14.95, ISBN 9781542045926) is coming to US readers at last. Finding a wedding dress 72 hours prior to the big day should have been Julia Walsh’s only headache. If only she hadn’t interrupted her last-ditch gown search to answer the phone. Leave it to her father to complicate things by dying. Julia’s father, Anthony, has always wanted control: of his businesses and of his daughter’s life. Why should death stop him? Julia moves from planning her wedding to planning her father’s funeral. While this timing should have been a small detour, another frustrating yet survivable move by a man she’d barely spoken to in 18 years, it of course turns into something more—Anthony had plans for his daughter. Julia is propelled by her father’s final wishes on a journey, first into her parents’ history and then on a trek from New York, to Canada, France, and finally Germany, gaining unexpected insight about her father and herself along the way. This is an uplifting tale of love, reconnection, and surprise second chances, with a healthy dose of suspended reality.

Two very different lives converge when a young man receives an invitation for something he thought he’d never have—a family, and from someone he believed was long gone. Rave Wayne can’t imagine a promise being kept. He has been abandoned by everyone he ever tried to love. First, left by his mother when he was a teenager, then betrayed by the woman he hoped to marry. Rave’s grandfather, Tuck, is an impossibility to someone like Rave, yet Tuck made a promise to his late wife—a promise he intends to keep—to find their grandson, to make it right. In Something Like Family (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95, ISBN 9781542045780), author Heather Burch delves into loss, abandonment, the traumas of war, and the transformative properties of letting go. Set in sleepy Barton, Tennessee, this gentle, small-town story holds a lot of heart and realistic drama. At the center of it all is Tuck, loveable and flawed: a widower, a Vietnam veteran, and a man of failing health, who is making a final campaign to build a life for his grandson. Anchoring this story is a theme of second chances, earning forgiveness, and finding grace.

GENERAL FICTION Andie Paloutzian

It’s a big gamble when cousins Sam and Addie bet on Detroit’s housing roulette, scoring auction a foreclosed property that they will share. They open a vintage diner in tribute to their Polish grandmother. The diner is situated between the apocalyptic rust-belt of Motor City holdovers and the locally ill-received gentrification of downtown. While middle-class foodies are enthusiastic about the new diner, the neighboring community is suspicious. Sam and Addie must wade through the trials of a cold community reception, the long hours of restaurant work, their troubled love lives, one very persistent internet troll, and their own self-doubt, if they are going to keep the doors open. In The Welcome Home Diner (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95, ISBN 9781542047821), author Peggy Lampman offers an enjoyable tale where cousin, co-worker, and community member can all be synonymous with family. This story doesn’t skirt commentary on urban revitalization and the “blessing and curse” it can simultaneously be. It’s a feel-good book, complete with drool-worthy descriptions of Polish delights, soul food, and homespun hot sauce, guaranteed to make your stomach grumble. This is a terrific read-alike for J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

Tim McWhorter’s The Winding Down Hours (Plot Forge, $4.99, e-book only, ISBN 9781937979249), is a fantastic read-alike for fans of This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper, and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest. A recent tragedy, with the sure promise of more pain soon to follow, pulls three estranged siblings into a begrudging reconciliation for a weekend at the former family vacation home. In the name of proper goodbyes, and with dwindling family loyalty, the Taylors— Janine, Mason, and Reid—gather in Cape Cod, where they spent their summers as children with their parents. Now they return as adults: two spouses, one stepchild, and whole lot of addiction, heartbreak, and regret between them. With the dreams of youth in the rearview mirror, along with decades of failure, they couldn’t be further from one another. Having recently lost their mother, and soon to lose their father to dementia, they have gathered to pack up the house and unpack their past and current mistakes. Life has dealt each a blow, and each has attempted to handle his or her crises alone. This is a story of flawed people learning to reach out; of broken families finding unbreakable ties and reason to hope for more.

GENERAL FICTION Magan Szwarek HISTORICAL PICK Known for her book-club favorite, The Other Einstein, Marie Benedict is back with a second novel, Carnegie’s Maid (Sourcebooks, $25.99, ISBN 9781492646617), which tells another story of a woman’s behind-the-scenes contributions to the success of a famous man—this time inspired by her own family’s immigration story and the transformative power of access to selfdirected education made possible by the Carnegie libraries. Beginning with the letter the industrialist wrote to himself committing to use his wealth to further the opportunities available to what he called “the poorer classes,” Benedict weaves an engrossing and elegant tale of grit and determination around the character Clara Kelly. Clara immigrates from Ireland in 1863 and seizes upon an unexpected chance to take a position as the personal maid of Margaret Carnegie, mother of Andrew. During her tenure


at the Carnegie home her eyes are opened to the privation that most of her fellow immigrants endure, as well as the complex hierarchy in place amongst the staff. Clever and determined, Clara grows close to Mr.

9780986154126), opens with a desolate snapshot of 17-yearold Sidney’s morning routine to make it to the school bus from a freezing, remote cabin in Duluth, Minnesota in the dead of winter. Set in the 1970s, the

Carnegie, playing an unseen but vital role in his business ventures. Fans of Melanie Benjamin and Paula McLain will be charmed by this delightful, insightful read.

story that follows is Sidney’s grisly recounting of her life as a victim of abuse at the hands of every member of her immediate family. Yasmineh also describes the twisted journey that led Sidney to attempt to complete her senior year of high school from her family’s vacation cabin, alone, rather than in the tony Chicago suburbs where her family has lived for most of her life. Yasmineh’s tersely direct yet lyrical style perfectly transmits Sidney’s ability to compartmentalize in order to survive in her chaotic family as well as her sheer contrarian nature and her determination to move beyond her beginnings to define her future for herself, finding respite in playing and composing on her guitar. Dark, but not bleak, Yasmineh’s interjections of humor and ordinary sweet moments of teenage life (best friends, first love, fashion) leaven the gritty reality of Sidney’s situation. This is the first novel in a planned series of four, with potential YA crossover appeal for fans of intense, realistic fiction.

LYRICAL DEBUT Singer-songwriter Courtney Yasmineh’s stunning debut, A Girl Called Sidney (Gibson House Press, $18, ISBN

TROUBLE IN PARADISE Chicago-based psychoanalyst and poet Nancy Burke’s immersive debut novel Undergrowth (Gibson House Press, $18.95, ISBN 9780986154164) is a compelling examination of family set in verdant 1960s Brazil. Hoping to retrace a trip they made together eight years before, 19-year-old Larry and his uncle, James, board a plane to Rio, the first stop on a complicated journey to the remote village of Pahquel. When James succumbs to cancer during the first leg of the trip, Larry—supported by a few key members of his uncle’s ex-pat family from the Indian Protection Agency (IPA), a government agency tasked with negotiating contracts between indigenous people and business—decides to press ahead. He finds himself facing a series of life-altering choices. The complicated lives and motivations of the supporting characters (a bitter pilot still mourning his father, murdered in Pahquel some 20 years prior among them) spool out alongside Larry’s against the bleak background of systemic corruption and avarice of the IPA. Readers will be mesmerized by Burke’s enigmatic prose and skillful character building. Fans of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez will find much to enjoy here.

SPOTLIGHT ON: THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION The Horror Writers Association’s Library Liaison, award-nominated author JG Faherty, recently took the time to chat with us about HWA and all it encompasses. IndiePicks: Please introduce us to the Horror Writers Association. JG: The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is a nonprofit organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it. One of the HWA’s missions is to encourage public interest in, and foster an appreciation of, good Horror and Dark Fantasy literature. This can take many forms, ranging from public readings and lectures, library programs, and reference materials to a strong social media presence, blogs, and partnerships with many industry events and library association meetings and conferences. And, of course, there is the immensely popular StokerCon, our annual convention that includes educational sessions (Horror University), panels on a wide variety of topics, and the long-standing annual Bram Stoker Awards ® for superior achievement in horror literature. The HWA also offers scholarships for adult and young adult writers, stipends for library teen writing programs, a mentorship program, members-only anthology opportunities, and promotional opportunities. The organization also partners with the American Library Association on a variety of initiatives.

IndiePicks: What are the origins of the Association? JG: The HWA was formed in the late 1980’s with the help of many of the field’s greats, including Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and Joe Lansdale. With more than 1,250 members in countries such as Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad, United Kingdom and the United States, it is the oldest and most respected professional organization for the muchloved writers who have brought you the most enjoyable sleepless nights of your life.

IndiePicks: Who can join the Association and what do members get most out of joining? JG: The HWA is open to anyone. There are several levels of membership: Active (professionally published writers), Affiliate (published writers who have not yet met the requirements for professional status), Associate (non-writer professionals such as agents, artists, editors, and publishers), Academic, Library (libraries or librarians), and Supporting (anyone with an interest in the horror genre). Members enjoy a wide variety of potential benefits. For instance, an Affiliate member might want to take advantage of the mentor program, which pairs new writers with established pros for a period of six months. Mentees work one-on-one with mentors on all

aspects of writing. There are blogs and informational sites not open to the public where members can share individual and industry news and discuss the craft of writing. Throughout the year, members can recommend works for Bram Stoker Award consideration (this list is also distributed to libraries as our recommended reading list each year). Through our library partnerships, writers often are invited to present at local libraries and guest teach for writing programs. There are also regional chapters in many states that have regular meetings, put on presentations, and do public readings, as well as representing the HWA at conventions.

IndiePicks: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you currently have in the works. JG: Let’s see. Right now I’m working on a novel and a novella (no idea which will be finished first!). My next novel, Hellrider, will be released in 2018 by Asylum Books. It’s a wild horror thriller about a motorcycle gang haunted by a biker they murdered. Also, I’ve had several previously out-of-print novels re-released, including The Cure (nominated for the Bram Stoker Award) and The Burning Time (nominated for the International Thriller Writers’ Thriller Award), both out now from Crossroads Press. All of my novels and novellas are available at Amazon and other book sites. And I’ve got several short stories coming out this year. I’d also like to mention that I direct the Library and Literacy programming for HWA. In addition to partnering with ALA on events, articles, and panels, we also fund five teen writing programs at public libraries each year, have developed a partnership with United For Libraries to help link libraries and writers for speaking engagements, and offer many special perks for libraries on our website, including recommended reading lists, new release information, and access to the monthly newsletter. Our dual goals are to use horror to bring more people into libraries and get them to read, and to help libraries put more horror books on the shelves by making them aware of books in the small, independent, and specialty press areas, which greatly outnumber the titles published by the Big Five.

IndiePicks: How can people keep track of you and HWA? JG: The best way to keep up with my goings-on is through Facebook (JG Faherty), Twitter (@JG Faherty), and my website (www.jgfaherty. com). I’m also on the HWA’s Facebook site a lot ( and I contribute to a variety of genre websites and blogs, including a recent one in RA For All: Horror ( in honor of Halloween.


BOOK CLUB PICKS Megan McArdle THE NOT-VERYGLAMOROUS LIFE OF A MUSICIAN The mock oral history The Fiddler Is a Good Woman by Geoff Berner (Dundurn, $18.99, 9781459737082) purports to be a biography of DD, a smalltime player on the Canadian folk music scene, who went missing. The author, whose previous novel, Festival Man, employed a similar technique, inserts himself in the narrative as an interviewer seeking information about DD from those who knew her best. These include her former bandmates, friends, and the many women she loved and left behind. A picture emerges of a fantastic fiddle player, who is a welcome addition to folk and world music acts large and small. However, the interviews, gathered over a year and including reminiscences ranging over a decade, paint another story of DD. She was talented, but also prone to copious drink and drug consumption, gleeful flouting of authority, and pathological infidelity. Those who knew her seemed to love her and revel in telling often hilarious stories

of the troubles they got into in her company, although no one knows where she is. This freewheeling novel illuminates the colorful and not-veryglamorous world of the touring folk musician. Crisscrossing the considerable breadth of Canada, with a few international stops, this should appeal to fans of music and itinerant musicians everywhere.

Book Group Bonus: Great

for groups open to the more experimental style of this oral history, as well as those interested in something with LGBT characters. Pair with other books about musicians, such as The Commitments by Roddy Doyle or Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

NATIONAL DISASTERS BECOME PERSONAL DISASTERS Just months after multiple devastating hurricanes made landfall in the US and US territories, The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst (Algonquin Books, $26.95, 9781616205287) reminds readers of another natural disaster that devastated

a major American city, as it is a novel of the wreckage Hurricane Katrina left behind for one New Orleans family. Joe and Tess Boisdore came from vastly different backgrounds— Joe an artist from a line of freed slaves and master cabinetmakers and Tess a psychiatrist from the rich, white elite of the city. They raised two daughters, Del and Cora, in a beautiful home on Esplanade. When Katrina hit in August 2005, they packed what they could and evacuated, leaving Cora behind when she refused to come along. The ripples from that decision, among others made during that fraught period of evacuation and return, take a heavy toll on the family. Daughter Del was in New York when the hurricane hit, but she takes the first available flight back to help her parents sort through the mess left behind. Cora, even after she is found, cannot shake the things she saw while the storm waters raged. Though she was never strong, the storm seems to have broken her into pieces. She worked tirelessly with her sometimeboyfriend Troy to rescue those stranded by the floodwaters, but remains haunted by things she cannot quite remember. Jumping back and forth in time, Babst’s debut novel uses gorgeous prose to depict the devastation, physical and emotional, wrought by Katrina.

Book Group Bonus: Groups

ABOUT THE BOOK As humorist Kim Kane entered into this strange new era of ‘’a certain age,’’ she had a nagging feeling there was more to aging in our culture than colonoscopies and early bed times. She began hosting gatherings of women to discuss important questions about the psychological, social, and physiological changes in the aging experience. And with grace and humor, the truth about aging began to emerge: Aging really just means living. And for that, why should anyone feel anything but gratitude?

To purchase Sparkle On, visit


that enjoy books about how people cope with disaster, as well as those looking for books that deal with racial tensions and mixed-race families, will find much to discuss here. Sheri Fink’s Five Days At Memorial would make a great nonfiction pairing. With 2017’s hurricane season shaping up to be one of the worst in memory, this will be a timely pick for discussion groups.

PLAY THE HAND YOU’RE DEALT As Michael Shou-Yunh Shum’s first novel, Queen of Spades (Forest Avenue Press, 9781942436317), opens, it is 1984, and the Royal Casino sits in rural splendor just outside the small town of Snoqualmie, Washington. The lives of four characters revolve around the casino, famous for being one of the last places in the world where hands of Faro are dealt. Mannheim, manager of the pit, has spent almost 40 years at the Royal, and is reeling from learning that he has only months left to live. He has recently hired a new dealer, Chan, who has come to the Royal for a new start. Chan becomes fascinated with one of the casinos long-time regulars, a big bettor known only as the Countess. Chimsky is another dealer, one lucky enough to deal in the high-stakes room where the Royal’s singular Faro table reigns. A gambling addict, Chimsky finds himself deep in debt to a local bookie. In addition, Chimsky’s ex-wife Barbara is struggling with her own addiction to gambling, determined to stay away from the tables—and Chimsky. The point of view shifts among these four as their fortunes rise and fall. The reader will feel the rhythms of a casino floor and even learn a little about rules of the games played at the Royal, and while the author does not shy away from showing the desperation of the hardened gambler, there is an undeniable thrill in his descriptions of a winning streak. This debut exhibits a lovely command of language and an astute eye for human frailty, while exploring the intersection of chance and fate.

Book Group Bonus: As this novel is based roughly on a short story of the same name

by Alexander Pushkin, book groups discussing this title should consider reading the Pushkin story and discussing the parallels and points of diversion.

THE DOWNFALL OF A POLITICIAN David Christie was a long shot to win a senate seat for Pennsylvania in the 1984 election in The Senator’s Children by Nicholas Montemarano (Tin House Books, $15.95, 9781941040799). When a tragedy strikes his family, the sympathy vote sweeps him into office. Years later, as David is running a strong campaign for the presidency, a scandal erupts that scuttles his political aspirations once and for all. While David’s daughter Betsy never really got over that initial tragedy, there is a more tangible fallout from the later scandal: a sister she never knew. In 2010, David lives in a nursing home, suffering from dementia and the advanced symptoms of Huntington’s disease. His grown daughter Avery, born of the infidelity that ended David’s career, seeks a connection to a man she never got to know before his decline. She visits him, but his condition leaves David adrift in his own past. When Avery and Betsy finally meet, they must confront their complicated feelings about family. This character-centered novel mostly deals with the fallout of David’s decisions on those around him, leaving David himself more of a cipher, which is especially poignant as his growing infirmity means that those he wounded will not get closure. The non-linear chronology reveals the damage done to his children, both acknowledged and not.

Book Group Bonus: For

groups interested in discussing the fallout of infidelity, political scandals, and those who enjoyed Sue Miller’s The Senator’s Wife.


MYSTERY/THRILLERS Henrietta Verma TWISTS AND TURNS In Jeffrey B. Burton’s The Eulogist (Permanent Press, $29.95, ISBN 9781579625023), Special Agent Drew Cady is enjoying a happy semiretirement. He quit the FBI’s cut-throat, treacherous Criminal Investigation division for its Medicaid Fraud department after one too many brushes with criminals left him with a permanently damaged hand. Between that and finding love with a woman who owns a country resort, he’s moved to the backwoods in more ways than one. Cady is lured into the fray once more, though, when a US senator is found dead, with his eulogy neatly placed nearby. Why the Senator was killed and how the killer was able to pull off the kind of surgically precise stabbing that investigators rarely see is just the tip of the iceberg in this at-times extremely tense thriller. As Burton’s story unravels, the crimes start to pile up—and even though readers are privy to the killer’s actions, a twist concerning who exactly is leading this chase is one they won’t see coming. A hold-your-breath scene in which Cady and other agents face a deadly showdown is superbly written, starting over repeatedly so that each of those involved can impart his or her viewpoint. Burton’s forceful storytelling showcases the love, loyalty, and merciless ribbing that bind together those dedicated to crime fighting. He mixes an element of (accessible) cyber genius in with the Jeffery Archer-esque political machinations to create a cutting-edge drama peppered with characters whom readers will care about and whose dialogue and actions they will find believable. The book’s satisfying and unexpected ending leaves Cady mulling a loose thread, so that his


adventures look set to continue. In the meantime, readers can catch up on the agent’s other cases in Burton’s earlier titles in the series, The Chessmen and The Lynchpin. For another indie series to jump into after this, pick up Ken Fite’s Blake Jordan Thrillers.

NEW LIBRARYMYSTERY SERIES A mystery set in a small town can be perfect. There’s something about the same people being around each other for decades that adds an Agatha Christie, trapped-in-a-mansionwith-a-killer motif to even tales set in the quaintest environs. (Perhaps, especially those.) In Victoria Gilbert’s modern take on village sleuthing, A Murder for the Books: A Blue Ridge Line Mystery (Crooked Lane, $26.99, ISBN 9781683314394), Amy Webber is a librarian who lives with her elderly aunt in a rambling old house in Taylorsford, Virginia. (Librarians should note that, despite the book’s slightly clichéd title, the small library featured here—and Amy’s role in it—rings true, which is unsurprising as author Gilbert is a librarian.) Amy’s life is as you’d expect—busy workdays and evenings spent gardening and passing the time with neighbors and family. She’s also slowly getting over smarmy ex-boyfriend Charles, whom she’s starting to realize is better off in her past. But all is not well. Under the town’s placid surface, old resentments and wrongdoings fester, and the polite pretensions that keep them hidden can’t be maintained when there’s a murder at the library. The investigation that ensues happily causes Amy to have more interaction with a handsome new neighbor, but mostly it causes tongues to wag and the town’s rifts to deepen. Can Amy find out

who committed the murder without jeopardizing those that she loves? Is her new romance a good idea or is she just asking for more heartbreak? And perhaps most puzzling of all, who was behind a notorious crime in the town’s history, one that has rumors still swirling? Gilbert keeps readers wondering till the tale’s rewarding conclusion, one that they will not see coming and that will leave them wanting more from the author; more is on the way, with the second book in the series slated for July 2018. Until then, pick up some of the books in Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s Little Library Mystery series, also published by Crooked Lane.

JUDGE-TURNEDAUTHOR The real world of New York justice, in all its corruptness, is the backdrop for Frederic Block’s intriguing hero, a Brooklyn civil rightschampioning lawyer who’s running for DA and who in his spare time writes country music. The hero in question in Race to Judgment (SelectBooks, $24.95, ISBN 9781590794388) is Ken Williams, an African American attorney who’s had it with his boss, a DA who is clearly determined to put even obviously innocent black defendants away for as long as possible. Williams is working several cases here: a young man who’s been newly accused of murder, and who’s desperate to be exonerated quickly as his wife has a baby due; another man, JoJo, who’s been in jail for years for killing a Rabbi, but who just had one of his accusers confess that JoJo was framed; and a young Hasidic woman moving outside her culture for the first time to get justice against an abuser. Block’s author’s note explains his background and impetus

for writing this novel—he’s a Federal judge in New York City, and he turned to fiction to tell the stories of several high-profile cases he presided over throughout the years. High profile they were, indeed—Block was the judge in a murder trial after the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which pitted some of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish and black residents against each other. Accounts of this and other real cases enhance what is already a compelling story of a man trying to make his corner of the city fairer for all. Readers should note that Block doesn’t shy away from portraying the biased opinions that some members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox and black community members hold about each other; while this can sometimes be jarring, it’s realistic, and overall the book will leave readers with a better knowledge of New York’s political and civil rights history. Lessons on court procedure are also in abundance, and the icing on the cake is a closing section of sheet music for the songs Williams composes during the course of the novel. For further Brooklyn intrigue, try Triss Stein’s Erica Donato mystery series.

THOUGHT-PROVOKING THRILLER An emotional, sometimes nerve-wracking tale awaits readers in Brian Freeman’s The Voice Inside (Thomas & Mercer, $24.95, 9781542049047), the second book in the Frost Easton series, after The Night Bird. The novel is the author’s fourteenth work overall, and his experience shows, as his plotting and character creation will draw readers in from page one. The dialogue, too, is realistic and immediate, all adding up to an immersive and thought-provoking experience. Easton is a San Francisco homicide cop—one who loves his city even though it hasn’t

always been kind to him. Easton was a lawyer in his younger years, but when a family member became the victim of serial killer Rudy Cutter, Easton switched careers, determined to find justice. He’s not one of the boys—he prefers quiet time with his cat to the cop-bar scene, for starters, and his reputation as an outsider grows even more difficult to bear after he’s forced into an unpopular move regarding the manipulative, ruthless serial killer who’s at the center of the book’s intrigue. Easton’s loneliness is echoed by the worn-down characters around him, each of whom is deeply affected by the lengthy killing spree. Don’t take this for a dreary read, though. Readers will be alternately scared by some of the scenarios in this fast thriller and saddened by the sympathetic Easton’s tough breaks; they will also revel in Freemans unexpected plot swerves and his habit of keeping the reader in the dark as to who exactly stars in a scene— which often means who’s being killed—until it’s over. A major background point in this tale is that the serial killer is himself a victim. That nuance, along with Easton’s infuriating habit of staying on the honest side of the fence no matter what, creates an insistent ambivalence in the readers’ perception of this story. Be prepared for moral dilemmas that last after the final page. Tana French fans are a likely audience for Freeman’s kind, careworn Inspector Easton; the book is also one to give to binge-

watchers of the Northern Irish serial-killer TV series The Fall.

GRITTY MYSTERY Police and private detectives, make way! In Trey R. Barker’s When the Lonesome Dog Barks: A Jace Salome Novel (Down & Out Books, $18.95, ISBN 9781946502148), sheriff’s deputy Jace works as a jail guard in Zachary County, Texas. One might think that by the time criminals are locked up the mysteries are over, but not in this jail. The guards are facing what they at first think is a random uptick in fistfights, but after an altercation that seems off to Jace—she can’t let go of the idea that when the staff got involved, an object was passed among the inmates—the fights turn out to be part of a ring that has roots outside the jail’s walls. At the same time, deaths and an attempted burglary in the outside world command the attention of “road” sheriff’s office staff, including Jace’s best friend and former colleague, Rory. The county has a lot going on, and it’s no comfort to Jace’s grandmother, whom she lives with and who deeply disapproves of her granddaughter’s dangerous job. Texas native Barker, a patrol sergeant and investigator for the Illinois Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, is well up to the task of portraying the gritty, challenging realm of a sheriff’s office. What’s less obvious is how he manages not only to very effectively

get inside the mind of a female protagonist, but also to explore the difficulty of being a woman with PTSD struggling to prove herself in the man’s world of a jail. With several plotlines to contend with here, Barker also succeeds admirably in keeping the tension going while juggling numerous shady characters, office rivalries, and family drama. Give this to readers who

enjoy Emily Littlejohn’s Gemma Monroe Mysteries. After they’re done with it, they have several other Barker titles to choose from: this is the third Jace Salome novel (after Slow Bleed and East of the Sun), and the author also has The Barefield Trilogy under his belt.

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by Henrietta Verma

If you found the scary ghouls and goblins of Halloween good practice for Thanksgiving with your family, you’re not alone. Below are indie mysteries and thrillers that feature families in all their loving craziness. If the books don’t convince you that your clan isn’t the worst, at least you’ll have some cracking stories to mull over while you tune out your batty uncle. An English Murder by Cyril Hare. Faber & Faber, $14.95. 9780571339013. Clue meets Downton Abbey in this re-release of a 1951 classic by Judge Alfred Gordon Clark, who, as Hare, was a mainstay of English crime writing. On Christmas Eve at snowed-in Warbeck Hall, friends and family find themselves with no escape and a killer in their midst. The Blood Strand by Chris Ould. Titan Books, $7.99. 9781785656002. Comic publisher Titan also releases fiction, such as this thriller set in the Faroe Islands, Danish territory between Iceland and Norway. British police detective Jan Reyna returns home when his father is found unconscious and a body washes up on the beach— is Jan’s father a murderer? Pursuit of the answer uncovers family details that the detective was happier not knowing.

Call Back by Denise Grover Swank. CreateSpace, $14.99. 9781540882103. A dysfunctional family is a cross to bear, and doesn’t Magnolia Steele know it. Her father has disappeared and everyone believes he was an embezzler, not to mention that he seems linked to recent deaths in the area. Then another death hits close to home. Come Home by Patricia Gussin. Oceanview, $26.95. 9781608092598 The author of the riveting Shadow of Death introduces a man caught between his life as a doctor in Philadelphia and the needs of his family back home in Egypt. Life in America has been good, and he has his wife and son to think of, but the fall of Mubarak regime means upheaval for loved ones in Cairo. Ditched 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton. Kensington, $7.99. 9781496708571 Cozies—think knitting while sleuthing and vicars solving crimes—are big these days, and can be a calm-but-compelling respite from gory mystery novels. In this one, Sophie “Phee” Kimball has moved from Minnesota to be near her retired mother in Sun City, Arizona. The family is busy preparing for Mom’s wedding when, oops, is that a dead body? Easy Errors: The Posada County Mysteries by Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Press, $23.95. 9781464209239. After a deadly car crash devastates two families with law-enforcement connections, witnesses to the carnage reveal that the occupants of the car were in distress before the accident ever happened. As Sheriff Bill Gastner investigates, it turns out that there’s another puzzle to solve: a teen who should have been in the car is missing. Readers may enjoy the trip back to the 1980s that Havill presents. Family Ties: A Detective Mark Pembleton Mystery by Nicholas Rhea. CreateSpace, $7.99 9781530561278. A family from the past haunts the pages of this mystery by Rhea, the late author of many police procedurals. Rhea’s hardworking Detective Pembleton finds himself overseas in this novel, assigned to guard U.S. Vice President Hartley on a UK trip. Hartley is interested in looking up his British ancestry while he’s there, and that’s where the mystery begins: it seems that a recent ancestor died in suspicious circumstances and other family members then engaged in a cover-up.


Framed by Ronnie O’Sullivan. Orion, $26.99. 9781409151296. The sport of snooker forms the backdrop to this thriller in which London snooker-club owner Frankie James is trapped in a web of danger that involves his family. His father is already in jail for armed robbery, and now his brother is wanted by the police for a killing. James is drawn into Soho’s gang underworld as he fights to get his brother off the hook. Girl on Point by Cheryl Guerriero. Red Adept Publishing, $13.99. 9781940215969. In documentarian Guerriero’s debut novel, a young woman distances herself from her family after her sister’s murder, but then finds purpose—as well as danger—when she joins a local gang in order to find the killer. Gone Tomorrow by Felicity Price. Blackjack Publishing, $3.95. 9780473407636. Price is one of the many authors on the move: after a successful traditional publishing career, she’s just released her third independently published title. The author specializes in stories about women who are over 50, and this sequel to A Sandwich Short of a Picnic and Head Over Heels features a character who is trying to find love when life takes a hard turn: her granddaughter goes missing. Heaven’s Crooked Finger: An Earl Marcus Mystery by Hank Early. Crooked Lane, $26.99. 9781683313915. Wiley Cash has a rival in author Hank Early. High praise indeed, but it’s true—Early wonderfully catches the cadences and ambience of the south, and his characters, especially the children, are unforgettable. Head to Georgia with him in this novel that sees a man returning to his fire-and-brimstone pastor father’s church to investigate clues that the old man might not really be dead. Purple Palette for Murder: A Meg Harris Mystery by R. J. Harlick. Dundurn, $17.95. 9781459738652. Canadian author Harlick is back after her Arctic Blue Death was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. Family is at the center of Meg Harris’s sleuthing work this time: her daughter has been attacked and is near death, and her husband has been imprisoned for murder. 17


by Henrietta Verma

The following are previews of some of the mysteries and thrillers being released by indie publishers and authors in November, 2017. Happily, it’s just a sample—check the publishers’ websites for other new titles. An Absent God by Vincent Wilde. Cleis, $16.95. 9781627782128. In Wilde’s second Cody Harper novel, New York City private detective Harper, who also cross-dresses and works as Desdemona, investigates threats against failed presidential candidate Rodney Jessup. Publisher Cleis is known for erotica and LGBTQ titles, and this title fits that bill, as Cody takes up with Jessup’s bodyguard, Tony. The Armageddon File by Stephen Coonts. Regnery, $27.99. 9781621576594. A divisive election. Possibly rigged voting machines. Rumors of involvement by American’s enemies…stop me if any of this sounds familiar. As in Coonts’s bestselling Flight of the Intruder, CIA Director Jake Grafton and his wingman Tommy Carmellini are on the case. Below the Surface by Leena Lehtolainen. AmazonCrossing, $14.95. 9781542048743. Fans of Scandinavian mysteries, rejoice! Finland has joined the fray. Lehtolianen, a prolific and successful author in her native Finland, is releasing her Maria Kallio police procedurals in English. In this eighth book in the series, Kallio is just back from maternity leave when she’s tasked with solving the murder of a journalist. Day In, Day Out by Hector Aguilar Camín. Schaffner Press, $14.95. 9781943156269. At a funeral in Mexico, a writer runs into a long-ago rival and what ensues, say publisher Shaffner Press, is “a hard-boiled account of sex, corruption, and murder, where the line between memory and madness is blurred.” Deadbomb Bingo Ray by Jeff Johnson. Turner, $29.99. 9781683367253. After binge-watching Ray Donovan, what’s next? Deadbomb Bingo Ray, that’s what, the story of a Philadelphia “fixer” who’s facing vengeance from a low-life he took down years before. 18

Fractured Justice by James A. Ardaiz. Pace Press, $16.95. 9781610352987. Like Frederic Block’s Race to Judgement (see page 15), this one is from the horse’s mouth: author Ardaiz is a former prosecutor and judge. His debut novel sees a young DA haunted by the case of a serial killer who’s killing women in central California. The Ghosts of Galway by Ken Bruen. Mysterious Press, $25.00. 9780802127334. After Dan Brown’s new Origin, satisfy your love of relic-tinged quests with Ken Bruen’s latest Jack Taylor mystery. The Irish author’s latest tale finds Taylor searching for The Red Book, a heretical screed held by a Vatican cleric who’s fled to Galway. Guilty Blood by Rick Acker. Waterfall Press, $12.95. 9781503942936. Desperate to exonerate her son, who’s been accused of murder, Jessica Ames enlists her late husband’s best friend to fight the case. He’s a corporate lawyer, but he’s all she has, and soon romantic sparks start to fly. Nantucket Red Tickets by Steven Axelrod. Poisoned Pen, $15.95. 9781464207150. Nancy Thayer’s Nantucket-set summer novels have a dark counterpart: Axelrod’s stories that illustrate the seamier side of the island. In this outing, Nantucket Police Chief Henry Kennis investigates a lottery scam and an old killing while coping with the quaint-on-thesurface island’s opioid-abuse problem. The Night He Left by Sue Lawrence. Freight Books, $14.95. 9781910449950. In 1879 Dundee, Scotland, a woman waits for her husbands’ train, which she sees crash. But was he really on it? The same town is the setting for the present-day portion of the book, in which another woman finds that her husband has disappeared. The Other Twin by L.V. Hay. Orenda Books, $14.95. 9781910633786. Determined to overturn the official verdict of her sister’s death, Poppy uncovers secrets, resentments, and a social media tangle.

Outside the Wire by Patricia Smiley. Midnight Ink, $15.99. 9780738752358. Smiley’s latest offers military fiction fans a mystery featuring an Army Ranger murder victim whose missing dog tag raises suspicion. Shakedown by Martin Bodenham. Down & Out, $17.95. 9781946502131. In Bodenham’s latest financial thriller, a financier faces ruin after being duped in a deal with the government. It gets worse: he finds himself in a battle with organized crime that reaches all the way to the White House. Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten. AmazonCrossing. $14.95. 9781542048538. Swedish author Sten’s Sandham Murders books are hugely successful both in print and as a TV series. In this one, attorney Nora Linde suspects a cover up in the case of a death involving an elite military group. Trespass by Anthony Quinn. Pegasus, $25.95. 9781681775500. Irish author Quinn’s successful police-procedural series continues with Detective Celsius Daly investigating a boy’s disappearance—a case that reveals links to a crime committed during Northern Ireland’s lengthy sectarian conflict. This is one to pick up if you’re a fan of Adrian McKinty or Stuart Neville. World Enough by Clea Simon. Severn House, $28.99. 9780727887337. In this noir mystery—a departure for Simon, who normally writes cozies—journalist Tara Winton exposes the underworld of Boston’s nightlife while investigating a death. Written in Blood by Layton Green. Seventh Street Books, $15.95. 9781633883611. Detective Joe “Preach” Everson is a cop with an unusual background: he used to be a pastor. He’s come home to small-town North Carolina after the painful investigation of child murders in Atlanta. It doesn’t offer the peace he seeks, though, as he’s sent straight into investigating a bookstore murder that bears a bizarre resemblance to a killing from classic literature.


NONFICTION Kaite Stover ONE IS NOT THE LONELIEST NUMBER Before Mary Richards, Carrie Bradshaw, and The Bachlorette, there was Marjorie Hillis. She didn’t turn the world on with a smile, write about good sex, or pass out roses. Hillis championed the pleasures and benefits of living alone and liking it in a book published in 1936 that shared bestseller space with another by a determined single woman, Gone With the Wind. Joanna Scutts’ compelling cultural history of the single woman examined through the life of America’s most famous such woman completes the triumverate begun with Kate Bolick’s Spinster and Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies. In The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It (Liveright, $27.95, 9781631492730), Hillis may have been the “extra woman” of the Depression Era, but she not only encouraged women to enjoy their independence, she wrote more books on money management, entertaining, and enjoying life as a singleton well into one’s senior years. Readers will absorb a plethora of rich detail and never feel overwhelmed by Scutts’ exhaustive research. It’s all folded into a compelling narrative of an intriguing, ground-breaking woman living in interesting times. The Extra Woman deserves a place in every public library’s collection. It will delight book groups, too; they won’t know to ask for it yet but will be thrilled to discuss it.


TOP PICK Readers will respond to this compelling story of Americans in their sunset years in one of two ways—frantic calls to financial advisors for updates on

nomads. Book groups that enjoy narrative nonfiction with strong social justice themes will be mesmerized by this awardwinning journalist’s dark story of the American economy.

have no intention of getting out of the recliner for anything more than hot cocoa. A pleasant addition to public library collections and a nice gift for Anglophiles.


401ks or unfazed shrugs while planting “for sale” signs in front lawns. The intrepid seniors in Jessica Bruder’s brutal yet compassionate exposé of itinerant Golden Agers working for minimum wage are only a broken hip away from destitution. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (Norton, $26.95, 9780393249316) is a shuddering work. Bruder’s conversational style invites readers to the cozy “Squeeze Inn,” a tiny camper attached to a finicky Jeep Cherokee driven by Linda, a 63-year old “working retiree” on her way to her summer job as camp host at a national park. She’s one of the new mobile working class known as “workampers”— retirees with too-small social security checks and victims of the 2008 housing bust. The statistics on retirement are eye-opening, and Bruder presents other facts in easily digestible chunks. Readers will be stunned to learn how frequently, and unknowingly, they encounter these cheerful

Shelve it between Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

COZY TRAVELOGUE This charming collection of travel vignettes has a decidedly British feel and is perfect for the PBS crowd. Roz Morris opens her travelogue, Not Quite Lost (Spark Furnace, $11.50, 9781909905924) with a wistful look (via Google Streetview) of her soon-to-be-demolished childhood home. Her description of the estate is lovely, and all of Morris’ travel adventures are amusingly told, in a way that is not quite as curmudgeonly as Bill Bryson or whimsical as Peter Mayle, but fans of those authors may like this lighter collection. It’s gentle, sweet, and boring in a good way, like vanilla, a lazy Sunday afternoon, or one of grandfather’s oft-told tales. This is the perfect armchair travel collection for readers who

Understanding the Internet and how it fits in our culture can be mind-boggling. Alicia Eler, an art and pop culture journalist, homes in on the now ubiquitous “selfie” and looks beyond social media to the impact these impromptu self-portraits have on the law, advertising, and journalism. The Selfie Generation: How Our Self-Images are Changing Our Notions of Privacy, Sex, Consent, and Culture (Skyhorse, $24.99, 9781510722644) has an academic look and feel. Eler certainly did her research and applies it thoughtfully to her subject. But just when the reader may feel bogged down in scholarly references, Eler shakes up the narrative pace by sharing relevant examples ripped from trending hashtags. The chapter on “Fake News” is an eye-opener, and who knew a monkey could own the copyright to his own “selfie”? Social media junkies will be fascinated with this tightly written examination of our virtual world. Less-addicted readers with a healthy interest in how internet culture shapes social behavior may pause for “selfie” reflection and alter online use accordingly. Give to fans of Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together or Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.


IT’S THE MILEAGE Unlike Sean Connery or fine wine, getting better with age is not something that most women feel they do. Author Kim Kane understands this, and her gentle guide to aging in all aspects will hearten many readers of a certain age—male or female (but mostly female). Sparkle On: Women Aging in Gratitude (Wise Ink, $15.95, 9781634890571) is full of charming practical observations from an Everywoman. Kane has the warm, friendly voice of a trusted friend. Her book opens with truthful observations about aging bodies, ill-fitting clothes, and the challenges of exercising. No preaching or depressing commiseration here; Kane casts a sensible humor over her topics as she moves from the surface concerns women have about growing older to the more serious ones, such as learning how life with a long-time spouse changes as the years go by; dealing with how the death of friends and family can affect one’s psyche, and coping with a too-rapidly changing world. This book will be appreciated by readers who are fans of inspiring self-improvement guides and is a great entry point for those readers who are not. Never cloying or overly optimistic, Sparkle On is a terrific addition to public library collections and would appeal to book groups, too. It’s also perfectly suited for gift-giving between friends.

It’s possible Jen Mann doesn’t sleep. In six short years, she’s started a popular blog, self-published solo works to acclaim, edited an anthology series that launched other careers, and was traditionally published. Mann is making the best-seller lists and a name for herself on her own terms. In December 2011, blogger Mann was done with that damn Elf on the Shelf. Her husband convinced her to redirect her venting to her blog, and her harried tale of a mom at the end of her holiday wreath went viral. Over one million readers found it in the span of 24 hours, and 17,000 new fans flocked to her on social media. “I still wish I knew what I did exactly, because I’d do it every day,” Mann says. Before starting her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat (her husband’s title, she swears), this “cusser with a big heart” was a work-at-home mom of two small kids. “I had always wanted to be a professional writer and this was my chance. Readers started In the name of gainful employment, who wouldn’t seek out a asking for a book,” explains virtually unknown relative for a halfhearted referral? Who wouldn’t Mann. “So, I started writing it take an interview at 11 p.m.? Who wouldn’t linger in the bowels of a and my husband learned how to career placement agency for years for the promise of a paycheck? self-publish.” They put her first And, the better question is, why do we do this to ourselves? In e-book out in 2012 via Amazon. Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Cantankerous Clients, Micromanaging Minions, and Other Supercilious By 2013, she was inspiring other Scourges (Throat Punch Media, LLC., $15.00, ISBN 9781944123062), bloggers to come with her. “The essayist Jen Mann covers that why and more. The frustration of really cool thing about indies is work can involve getting the job, but more so, it’s the people we that we don’t see one another work with and work for—those we endure for the sake of workplace as competition. We’re not afraid harmony, project completion, or please-oh-please promotions. Mann to share information or lift one unpacks one hilarious story after another, opening up about every another up. After my success professional pitfall she’s been a party to, from early babysitting with my first self-pubbed book, debacles to college derailments, corporate conundrums, and finally, I had so many bloggers contact adulting with aplomb. This laugh-out-loud collection of cube-farm me that I offered to publish fodder that will resonate with the lackey in us all; it’s a hilarious a humorous anthology. I told hymn for those toiling in pursuit of pocket money and purpose. them to give me one funny story and I’d put it together.” That’s how I Just Want to Pee Alone was born. It was the start of an incredibly popular series of books, and Penguin Random House came calling. Mann would go from blogging, to self-publishing, to editing indie anthologies, to being traditionally published in under three years. Many people expected traditional publishing to be her happily-ever-after However, Mann jumped back into the waters of self-publishing, choosing once more to go it on her own. In April of 2017, she published her first young adult title–her first foray into fiction, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits. “I wrote the book because my tween kids wanted a book that would appeal to them. When I told my daughter that my agent didn’t want to shop it, she said, ‘Well, it’s a good thing you know how to selfpublish, Mom.’” Mann adds, “I think control and timing also pulled me back to self-publishing. I am a super-duper control freak. It’s more work, but I like to be in charge. And readers are voracious and one book a year wasn’t doing it for them. It also wasn’t doing it for me. I have tons of ideas and I don’t want to have to worry about a publishing schedule.” Part of Mann’s agenda is clearing up publishing misconceptions. A self-described “foul-mouthed Campbell’s Soup kid,” Mann says many people are usually shocked when they meet her. “They expect a wizened hag who sounds like she smokes a pack a day and drinks nothing but whiskey,” she reports. “I’m also a hugger, which tends to throw people for a loop.” In addition, she says, “People assume if you self-pubbed, it’s because your book is unprofessional. They think you’re not a ‘real’ writer. And if you are traditionally published, you must be rich. A ‘Big 5’ contract is like hitting the lottery. You’re set now for the rest of your life.” Mann says neither paints the whole picture, which is why she’s happy to have experienced both. Not wanting to let dust settle over 2017, she self-published one more title in September: Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Cantankerous Clients, Micromanaging Minions, and Other Supercilious Scourges [see accompanying review above]. Having offered up essays galore and young adult fiction, what’s next? Mann’s thinking hilarious women’s fiction. Fortunately for readers, her pace won’t have them waiting long.


MEET AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings the wit and wisdom of her Southern mama to works of fiction—the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery, and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away. Bette Lee’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then-unpublished manuscript. Since then, she has gone on to become a USA Today bestselling author and winner of numerous other literary awards. We knew our readers would enjoy getting to know Bette Lee, so we were delighted when she agreed to an IndiePicks interview. We wanted to know, first off, what inspired Bette Lee to try her hand at writing fiction. She explains, “Although I have spent the major portion of my career writing for business, it was a reader’s love of fiction that prompted the switch. At first I thought it would be an easy transition—after all, I was both a reader and writer so it should be a piece of cake, right? No, totally wrong. There are vast differences; writing for business is about the destination—get to the facts quickly and with no little or no lingering. Whereas writing fiction is about the journey—the story lies in the path we take to get to our destination.”

query letters to agents and traditional publishers. Eventually I got a contract, and in exchange for a pittance they received the print rights to my first novel (then titled Girl Child) for seven years. Proud of this achievement, I began doing speaking engagements at women’s clubs, charity functions, and the like. Before long, the book, started doing reasonably well. At that point they had the paperback version of the book priced at $19.95, rather steep for a paperback. When it began to inch its way up the Amazon rankings, the publisher upped the price to $24.95 and I, as we say in the South, pitched a fit. The reader in me knew that asking a consumer to pay that much for a book by a then-unknown author was ridiculous. I refused to have anything more to do with the company or promoting my novel. I continued to write but was determined to just wait out the seven years of the contract for the rights to revert to me.” Bette Lee continues, “Here is where luck, good fortune, or perhaps simply being in the right place at the right time took over. E-books were just coming into popularity and Amazon was the frontrunner. The publisher contacted me and asked if I would now give them the rights to publish an e-book (the original contract was only for paper). When I refused, they allowed me to buy back my rights to the book and it opened a new door. I had already begun reading on a Kindle, so I had no trouble imagining myself published in that format. My husband was newly retired and looking for something to do, so I asked what he thought about becoming a publisher. His answer was, ‘Not much.’ After a lengthy discussion, we came to an agreement. I would write the books and he would handle the business end of publishing. So far it’s been an awesome experience.”

‘Storytelling is in my blood’

Bette Lee had previously been in advertising and marketing, and notes, “Planning an ad campaign is not unlike writing a novel in that you must understand your audience and know what appeals to them. I still use that same reasoning when I plot a novel. I start by understanding what my characters are like and then determine what they want badly enough for them to undertake the journey.” One of the things that makes indie authors stand out is that they’ve moved past the traditional publishing model into doing things on their own. I was curious to find out what led Bette Lee to self-publishing, and she let me know that, “Timing played a significant role in this. I began writing


Something that readers respond to most when reading Bette Lee’s novels is what

I often note is the biggest appeal factor of women’s fiction—that sense of recognition that the reader gets, whether it’s a familiar situation or a character they relate to. Bette Lee explains why that is a hallmark of her writing: “Most of my ideas stem from real life. I hear about some ordinary happening in a person’s life and start thinking, ‘what if it happened another way?’ I guess you can say I wander along the road not taken and see what comes along.” She also notes, “It takes time to learn to linger, to hang out with your characters and get to know them as friends. I had to learn to enjoy the journey and notice all the little things that people notice about their friends. Only after I did that was I ready to introduce my newfound ‘friends’ to readers. Giving readers the kind of characters they can fall in love with is what keeps them coming back.” “Storytelling is in my blood,” Bette laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.” When asked about her writing process, Bette Lee divulges that she writes almost every day, but doesn’t set word count goals. “Some days the story flows magically and I write several thousand words, but love every one of them. Other days, I struggle to get a few paragraphs that I love and if I don’t love it, I delete it and start over. There have been days when I write 5,000 words and at the end of the day have kept only 500. When I start a new novel I generally have the beginning and end in mind, but as the story unfolds the character personalities

BETTE LEE CROSBY are what lead me down those less-traveled roads. That’s the fun part of writing.” She continues, “Before I begin writing any story I get to know the characters; I can picture them in my head, know their likes and dislikes, and know what behaviors are in keeping with their character. Doing this helps me to stay true to my character’s believability no matter which path the story takes.” Bette Lee’s books have won multiple awards. Her first award was for the thenunpublished manuscript of Girl Child. When she regained the rights to it, she published it as The Twelfth Child, and it went on to win the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Award Gold Medal. Since then she’s published 17 novels, winning over 40 literary awards and acknowledgments. “I am particularly proud of the two back-to-back years (2016 and 2017) of having won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Chick Lit,” she remarks. “That is an international competition so being awarded once was a great honor, but winning it twice was amazing.”


While her books are categorized as women’s fiction and chick lit, she sometimes wonders if she could ever take on something different. “I love writing women’s fiction, but almost all of my novels end up crossing genres. The Memory House Series is women’s fiction but borderline magical realism. Most of the Wyattsville novels can easily be classified as historical mystery. As a matter of fact, I have had more than one reviewer point out the fact that they are male and do not consider my books to be women’s fiction. I love hearing things like that,” she says gleefully. “That said, I can’t imagine I’d be inclined to write a horror story or a science fiction tale. They just aren’t in my wheelhouse.” Bette Lee claims her guilty pleasure is letting the hours slip away while she chats with readers and friends on social media. You can chat with her on Facebook (bettelee.crosby), Goodreads, or Twitter (@BetteLeeCrosby). Better yet, stop by her website and sign up to receive her newsletter:

Silver Threads 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner, Chick Lit 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Award Gold Medal, Women’s Fiction Regrets of Cyrus Dodd 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist, Historical Fiction 2017 FAPA President’s Book Award Bronze Medal, Historical Fiction Baby Girl 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award, Chick Lit “Best Self-Published Books of 2016,” Women’s Fiction 2017 American Book Fest’s International Book Awards Winner, Chick Lit/Women’s Lit Reader’s Gold Medal, Women’s Fiction Wind Dancer Films Top 10 Finalist Passing through Perfect InD’Tale Magazine 2016 RONE Award Winner, Inspirational Reader’s Gold Medal, Southern Fiction 2015 Florida Writer’s Association Royal Palm Literary Award



It takes a cop who’s been to the darkest places to take on a city’s deadliest predators.

More Hot New Releases


AUTHORS ON THE MOVE: BRIAN FREEMAN Here at IndiePicks, we find it particularly interesting when authors make the move from the traditional publishing model into self-publishing or working with the growing variety of new imprints. We were delighted when fanfavorite mystery author Brian Freeman took the time to speak with us regarding his experience.

hands, the way I did with my novel West 57. Similarly, independent publishers like Thomas & Mercer can use the power and reach of Amazon to tap into this huge, vibrant community of readers. Indie publishing represents an extraordinary opportunity for authors and readers alike. That’s why I’m in it. IndiePicks: Most of your books are thrillers, but you’ve ventured off into chick lit in the past. What’s the appeal of switching up genres for you as a writer?

The fact is, writing the book is an organic process. The story takes on a life of its own, as do the characters. As I get the words on paper, it evolves a lot from my original vision. The backstory doesn’t necessarily change—but how I choose to tell the story changes a lot. The characters reveal secrets to me. The story goes in new directions. And sometimes I’m writing along, and I realize, “It’s about time to kill somebody.”

Brian: Several years ago, my wife Marcia and I noticed a trend in the publishing business. Technology and social media were giving readers entirely new ways to share information about books and discover new authors. This was all happening outside traditional channels. You could learn about a new book, research it, talk to other readers about it (and even talk to the author, too), and then buy it, read it, and review it—all without leaving home.

I think independent publishing is a natural evolution of that trend. There’s still a thriving traditional market, but the online book world has become a separate marketplace altogether. It’s new, big, and exciting. If you build relationships with thousands of readers, you can publish your books and put them directly in their

IndiePicks: Tell us a bit about your writing process. Brian: I always know how a book ends before I start, so I begin with a chapter-bychapter outline and background sketches on the characters. Then I mostly toss it.

IndiePicks: You’ve published your Jonathan Stride series with “Big 5” publishers, and you’ve done standalone novels on your own via CreateSpace. Your latest series of Frost Easton mysteries are with the Thomas & Mercer imprint of Amazon Publishing. Tell us what led you to publish your books on your own and with Amazon?

That was a turning point for us. We launched a major effort to build personal relationships with readers via social media. Our goal was to reach out to readers directly, so that we could alert them as soon as a new book was released—and then also enlist them to help us spread the word to other readers. That direct contact has become an invaluable resource for authors in selling books. There’s no middleman, just a personal connection between readers and writers. Readers can talk to me, and they can talk to Marcia.

That’s true of my chick lit, too. I’ve written two books (The Agency as “Ally O’Brien” and West 57 as “B.N. Freeman”) with a first-person female narrator and glitzy urban settings. They’re nothing like my thrillers. They’re romantic and funny, and that means I can show readers a completely different side of myself. I can be sentimental; I can tell jokes. Ironically, a book like West 57 may be closer to who I am as a person than my suspense novels!

Brian: For me, it’s all about bringing new characters and stories to life. I love exploring different creative directions. Doing something different—whether it’s starting another thriller series or switching genres altogether—gives me the opportunity to immerse readers in a whole new world. In The Night Bird, I introduced Homicide Inspector Frost Easton and brought readers to the romantic, dramatic locale of San Francisco. The plot is scary and wonderfully twisted; it’s all about manipulating memories. This series is nothing like the stories I’ve told in my Stride novels, and it was exciting to push the creative envelope. Of course, whenever I do something different, I wonder how readers will react—but I’ve been overwhelmed by how much they’ve loved this new series.

Readers sometimes ask me if I know how a series is going to end, and the truth is, I don’t. I think we’re all the product of the experiences we have and the people we meet. So with each book, the characters change, and their destinies change. I don’t know where Frost Easton and Jonathan Stride will go next, because it depends on what happens to them in each book. But that’s also what keeps the creative process fresh and surprising. IndiePicks: What can readers look forward to next from you? Brian: Readers have been telling me for years that I need to write faster—and I’ve taken that suggestion to heart! I released two books in 2017 (The Night Bird from Thomas & Mercer and my latest Stride novel, Marathon), and I’ll be doing the same in 2018. Frost Easton will be back in San Francisco in The Voice Inside from Thomas & Mercer in January 2018, [Editor’s note: Review appears on page 14] and Stride returns in Alter Ego in May of 2018. That’s my seventeenth novel! And 2018 is shaping up to be another busy year of writing, too. Visit Brian’s website:


YOUNG ADULT Magan Szwarek SUSPENSE AND SURPRISES Gillian French’s atmospheric and creepy The Door to January (Islandport Press, $16.95, ISBN 9781944762100) finds sixteenyear-old Natalie Payson returning to her hometown of Bermier, Maine, after two years away. She’s back on the premise of working in her aunt’s cafe to earn money to buy a car, but really intends to investigate the abandoned farmhouse she has been having recurring nightmares about. She enlists Teddy, her cousin and childhood best friend, to help record ghostly voices from within the house—a house that is slowly freezing over from the inside in July— and instead is pulled through time back to 1948, where she witnesses the events leading up a series of murders committed by the former occupant. These disturbing past events are

compounded by the horror of her present. Natalie and Teddy are repeatedly confronted by the presence of the trio of bullies who tortured them

High-school senior Twyla Jane is planning her future; a future she hopes will include her amateur-chef boyfriend,

much more complicated and connected than she previously understood. The accessible writing style and genuine emotion effortlessly carry readers through to the tough, inevitable conclusion.


throughout their childhood; a traumatic series of runins that culminated in the mysterious shooting death of a fourth delinquent, the details of which Natalie cannot quite recall. French expertly builds tension and dread in masterful fashion in this truly frightening paranormal thriller, weaving the storylines to a climax that will leave readers gasping.

PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS: Wondering how to submit your materials for review consideration in IndiePicks? Visit for information on to how to upload e-galleys and where to mail print copies.



Billy. They’d love to be far away from Halo, Montana, a small town that subsists primarily upon its proximity to Angstrom Air Force Base and is riddled with missile silos (some still active) and where the majority of her classmates’ futures will be defined by military service. Twyla reluctantly agrees to fulfill her community service graduation requirement by volunteering for the Help a Vet program, specifically to assist former classmate Gabriel Finch, an ex-Marine known as a damaged loner with a dubious reputation for something he may have done while serving in the Middle East. She becomes fascinated with the mosaic Gabriel is creating from spent ammunition in the abandoned missile silo on his property and, as the two grow closer, enters his work in a national contest, hoping that it will save them both. Author Nina Berkhout’s first YA novel The Mosaic (Groundwood, $16.95, ISBN 9781554989850) is an ambitious, layered story of Twyla’s coming-of-age and her dawning realization that the world is

In Hannah Bucchin’s Paintbrush (Blaze Publishing, $9.99, ISBN 9781945519109, Josie and Mitchell have lived in the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune in North Carolina, since they were small children putting up with group birthday parties, mandatory Friday night dinners, and myriad other rituals. Now seniors in high school, the once-close pair have grown apart, their relationship confined to sharing rides to and from school. As they face the next phase of their lives, their paths couldn’t be less similar. Mitchell is chomping at the bit to head to college and leave Paintbrush behind, while Josie is reluctant to leave the comforting familiarity and loathes the idea of abandoning her younger twin sisters to the sole care of their (in her opinion) too-permissive mother. When Mitchell’s mother reveals a devastating secret that shakes the community, and one of Josie’s sisters begins engaging in risky behavior, the two old friends turn to each other for support. Chapters alternate between Josie and Mitchell’s perspective in this sweet coming-of-age story, revealing the depth of their feelings for both for their home and each other. Bucchin’s charming writing, well-drawn characters, and realistic storytelling will satisfy fans of Sarah Dessen.

CHILDREN’S Erin Downey Howerton WINTER FUN


Seasonal changes can be a tangible experience for young people, yet many related changes are hidden from sight. Lizelot Versteeg illustrates both for readers in Squirrel in Winter (Clavis Publishing, $13.95, 9781605373492) by taking Squirrel on an adventure with his friend, Robin, to say goodnight to all their animal friends one last time before winter. Their landscape has been changed by snow, so the twosome sets out to discover what’s happening as their animal friends prepare for the long cold months. Animal habitats in the wild, on farms, and in gardens are depicted and described both visually and in words, with helpful cues for adult readers to prompt children to carefully search for Robin and a hidden snowdrop flower on each spread. This appealing book could be used in several ways—as a teaching tool about nature, as a findand-seek, or as a bedtime book with the emphasis on saying goodnight to each animal. Prepositional words and phrases are highlighted, making it a similarly versatile teaching tool about grammar. Nothing has been lost in the book’s translation from Dutch, and it will be as enjoyable to adult readers as it is to young readers. (Ages 3-8)

Families and community members take turns respecting and showing affection for one another in various ways in the picture book You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith (Orca, $19.95, ISBN 9781459814479) which depicts First Nations people. Illustrator Danielle Daniel takes Smith’s words and demonstrates the power of community in action as an intergenerational cast of characters spend time with each other. Children drum, sing, dance, cook, hug, talk, and listen with parents and elders, and people are the clear focus of the illustrations. Daniel uses a soft geometric approach for bodies and environments, letting faces shine with the glow of rosy cheeks and affectionate, heartshaped mouths. While sharing is a universal concept, Daniel’s illustrations bring specificity to the narrative. The children have various skin tones and hair textures, and one adult appears to be a male with long, braided hair. In this book that is perfect for a shared storytime as well as a lap-sit reading session, the actions of each person emphasize community, togetherness, and mutual respect. Just as in Smith’s board book My Heart Fills With Happiness, readers will joyfully make connections between their own communities and the indigenous one depicted here. (Ages 3-8)

FRACTURED FAIRY TALE The fractured fairy tale The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais (Diamond Book Distributors, $19.95, ISBN 9781941302453), translated from the French, will enthrall older readers looking for a grim twist on the traditional Red Riding Hood story. Lush and soft watercolor illustrations create a dreamlike environment that enthralls and haunts Little Red by turns. The wolf’s mother asks him to take a rabbit to Grandmother Wolf, who isn’t able to hunt anymore. Little Red agrees after being warned about a bloodthirsty hunter and his daughter, who hunt wolves for sport. Swept away by adventure, Little Red abandons the trail and ends up hungry. He slowly eats parts of Grandmother’s rabbit until he has nothing left but a bag of bones! A kind little girl appears to offer help, and readers will realize that Little Red’s trusting nature spells trouble in the deep, dark forest. A surprising ending flips the story around yet again, upending readers’ expectations and may leave them with more questions than answers about perspective and prejudice. This is an excellent book to pair with the traditional Perrault Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, and some readers may be inspired to rewrite a traditional fairy tale themselves from a new point of view. (Ages 8-12)

FRANKEN-DINO In Tyrannosaurus Ralph by Nate Evans and Vince Evans (Andrews McMeel, $9.99, ISBN 9781449472085), Ralph is just your average kid—until a run-in with Melvin, the local bully, results in a brain transplant disaster. Ralph accidentally summons a dinosaur with the blast of a tuba and although he’s been squished, a mad scientist has saved his brain and transplanted it, Frankensteinstyle, into a tyrannosaur’s body. And good thing, too, because Ralph now has to train to be Earth’s champion in a galactic battle for the planet with space aliens. There’s not much explanation offered for this strange turn of events, but readers just won’t care. The madcap, snappy action and hilarious situations that follow from Ralph’s misadventure will enthrall middle-grade readers looking for a new hero, albeit one that isn’t able to take great selfies anymore (those short arms!). While Ralph was never able to fend off bullies in human form, he learns to be a gladiator as he’s given the opportunity to save the world. The storyline will resonate with young readers who’d like to tap into their own inner dinosaur, and the bright, punchy visuals will keep them turning the pages to see if Ralph can dominate the alien challenge. A zany, inspiring story for even the most reluctant of readers. (Ages 8-12)


MEDIA: FILM AND MUSIC NEW AND NOTEWORTHY Olivia Jane Lands “Between Earth and Air”: Life as an Indie Musician by Justin Hoenke Listening to Olivia Jane’s debut album, Between Earth and Air, you would think that being a songwriter was something she’d been doing all her life. “I never thought of myself as a writer. I grew up as an actress. My job was to illuminate what other people write, not write it myself,” said Olivia in a phone interview. Olivia’s dive into songwriting is a recent one and by the sound of her nine-song debut album, it has been quite productive period recently for Olivia. “Just a few years ago I was in Philadelphia doing a show. I sat in my room playing piano, thinking about heritage, homeland, and sacred ground, and the next thing I knew was that I wrote my first song, ‘The Fisherman’” (Track 9 on Between Earth and Air). What became the song that ends her stellar debut album with a bang was actually the first one written.

With her debut album Between Earth and Air, singer/songwriter Olivia Jane brings together a nine song set that is full of soaring melodies, jangly guitars, and introspective lyrics that tell the tale of personal growth. The album really picks up the pace on the third song, “A Way Out,” a song that sounds like it would be right at home in a blockbuster film. Tracks like “The Fisherman” and “Amsterdam” show the personal side of Olivia Jane as a songwriter, presenting the listener with songs with characters who seek growth, change, and never ending inspiration. The production on the album is top-notch and features contributions from tried and true musicians such as guitarist Waddy Wachtel and Bernard Fowler (backing vocalist for The Rolling Stones). On “Dream To Live In,” the fifth song and the emotional crux of the album, you can hear Olivia Jane and Fowler riffing off each other at the end and creating a beautiful sound that makes a wonderful song just that much better. Fans of well-written music produced with great care will enjoy this album.

The other songs that make up Between Earth and Air tell of a “tried and true collaboration” between Olivia and writer/producers Robert Davis and Nathaniel Cox. When asked about “Dream To Live In,” the album’s fifth song and emotional centerpiece, Olivia opened up about working with Cox on the song. “Most of it was by Nathaniel, wanting to write something telling the stories about immigrants. But we had this middle section and I just said that I wanted to write this bridge, so I went away and focused on writing the she melody and lyrics to that part. What you hear on the album is what we all came up with together.” Despite the writing duo being “skeptical of the song at first because it was so different than the others,” it made the final cut, where it sits nicely in the middle of the album giving listeners a closer look at the emotional intensity Olivia puts into her work. “My goal as a writer is to relate to everyone. I like to hold a mirror up to nature,” she comments.

Between Earth and Air will easily find a place in the hearts of fans of Fleetwood Mac and the singer/songwriter genre. Full of jangling guitar, soaring melodies, and introspective lyrics telling tales about love, family, and life, the album has a quality about it that allows it to be easily relatable to everyone. Having grown up listening to the music of her parents’ generation, Olivia feels Between Earth and Air has an organic and natural sound that calls back to music of the past yet remains modern day sensibilities. “My sound is nostalgic. It’s not exactly a pop sound . . . it also has a classic rock sound to it, and I wanted to keep that sound when we were writing and recording the album.” Going the indie route was a conscious choice for Olivia. “I felt like this was the right time to stay indie. I am still cultivating my sound, my brand, and my writing. What I found very precious about this process is that I still had control over what went into this record. If I was with a label I was worried that it might get muddied a bit. I’m still in development as a songwriter and performing musician.” Between Earth and Air is available through streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon. “These days the streaming game is the way that artists get the most traction, so I’ve been pushing that first, but I’m in the process of setting up an online store for music and merch on my website ( so that my fans can get the album on CD and vinyl.” The future holds a lot for Olivia. In between her work as a songwriter and performer, Olivia still finds times to dive into acting work. She recently wrapped up filming a part for season six of the television show Major Crimes and continues to be what she calls “actively creative” in her day to day existence. “The more I sing, the more my soul is open to receiving those artistic moments in life.”


Scenes From an Italian Restaurant: An Interview with Trattoria filmmaker Jason Wolos by Justin Hoenke Jason Wolos has some sage advice for new filmmakers out there: Whatever you do, try not to make a restaurant or food movie as your first feature film. “It is hard enough to write a film, get it funded, and then get the crew together. Then we added in gourmet food that not only had to be prepared but it also had to look really good.” Take it from Jason, co-writer and director of Trattoria, a thoughtful and romantic film that is packed with family, friends, and of course, food. Though he is a veteran of filmmaking, having been a part of numerous projects for major international companies, government agencies, nonprofits, and more, Trattoria was Jason’s first dive into independent filmmaking. Released in 2013, this wonderful independent film has received positive reviews from critics and had sold-out showings at the Sonoma International Film Festival and the Cinema By The Bay Film Festival. Going independent with Trattoria wasn’t the original plan, but in the end, it worked out. “Making any kind of movie is difficult, but with an independent movie it takes a lot of perseverance,” said Jason in a phone interview. “We started out by pursuing the typical Hollywood route, but early in the process we realized that by going that way we might not end up with a completed movie. This film is a passion project, and from the start we knew that we wanted reach our goal and make the make the movie. Because of that we knew we had to do it ourselves.” The making of Trattoria started just like any film, with script and rewrites as the first steps. It was the next step, what Jason calls “the search for money,” that made this passion project into the indie feature film that you see today. “Once we had the script in place, I had to rely on my inner strength and drive to get the film funded and into production,” says Jason. Ultimately, the filmmaker found backing by what he calls “pounding the pavement, picking up the phone, and doing the dance” with potential investors. “There’s a lot of money outside of the Hollywood system, so perseverance and drive are key if you want to get your film completed.” Another key ingredient that made Trattoria a truly independent film was having a family member help out along the way. When it came to staffing the film, Jason realized that hiring a food stylist to cook and keep the food looking good while filming wasn’t in the budget, so he turned to his uncle, Douglas Dale, a chef at Wolfdale’s in Lake Tahoe, to fill the spot. “All the beautiful food shots you see in the restaurant contain real food, his delicious cooking hot off the stove. Once we got the shot, the actors and crew continued to eat off-camera till it was all gone. This is different from Hollywood movies with million-dollar budgets—they make fake food that will look hot and fresh for hours under the movie lights and allow you to do several takes with the same plate of food. So we were very fortunate to have my uncle contribute his food skills to making Trattoria as good as it is, as well as having him on set also provided me with another level of support on my first independent movie.” Being the creator of Trattoria isn’t the only way that Jason is part of the indie community. He is the founder of IndieHouse SF, where he is using his own production space to help build the indie filmmaking scene in San Francisco. A space that can be used for anything from “screening works in progress to networking parties to wardrobe fittings,” as Jason notes, IndieHouse SF is where filmmakers, interns, and others can connect and learn from each other. “Something that is disappearing in San Francisco is a place to connect, because real estate is so expensive,” Jason laments. Filmmakers now have access to a space that brings this community together and where they can also rent filmmaking tools from an arsenal of equipment to help with their own projects. (See indiehousesf. com for more information.) Jason sees a bright future in store for indie films. With a “growing appetite for independent media coupled with a new generation of filmmakers producing independent media with production values and professionalism right up with the Hollywood films,” public viewing of independent films is on the rise. “In the summer I work with kids on filmmaking at SFFILM’s Young Filmmakers Camp and this year I asked them how much video they’re watching every day and where they’re watching it. They’re watching 4-6 hours per day on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, which are platforms great at presenting independent media.” For more information, visit the Facebook page for Trattoria:

A word for the wise: don’t sit down to watch Trattoria until after you’ve had a good meal. Trattoria is a thoughtful, romantic story that weaves together two things that bring people closer: family and good food. Filmmaker Jason Wolos’ first feature film manages to pull together a cast that works well together and a story that keeps the viewer interested in what’s going to happen next. Focused on the interplay between chef Sal Sartini and his son, Vince, as they learn how to live and work together over cooking food, actors Tony Denison and John Patrick Amedori’s scenes together shine and are some of the highlights of the film. One of the unique parts of Trattoria is how it is interspersed with bits of real-life wisdom from San Francisco-area chefs. This does quite a bit for the film in terms of keeping it fresh, fun, and captivating for the audience. Advice from these professionals helps the film’s story grow, and allows the viewer the chance to get more in touch with the characters. If you’re looking for a good film to watch with your significant other, look no further than Trattoria. The plot and characters feel just like a good home-cooked meal that you’ll never forget. Just remember: eat dinner before watching!

To purchase Trattoria for your collection:


Meet Our Contributors Justin Hoenke Justin Hoenke has worked in public libraries all over the United States and is currently the Executive Director of the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Before that, he was Coordinator of Tween/Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library, where he created The 2nd Floor, a 14,000 square foot space for ages 0-18 that brought together learning, fun, creating, and public events. Justin is a member of the 2010 American Library Association Emerging Leaders class and was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2013. His professional interests include public libraries as community centers, music, video games, and creative spaces. Follow Justin on his blog at

Alexandrea Weis Alexandrea Weis was raised in the motion picture industry and began writing at the age of eight. After finishing her Ph.D. in Nursing, she decided to pick up the pen again. She has published many novels and won several national awards for fiction. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her bestselling books, she believes creating vivid characters makes a story memorable. Alexandrea is a certified and permitted wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and when not writing, rescues orphaned and injured wildlife. She is married; they live in New Orleans. Find Alexandrea online at


LIFE WITH RODNEY by Alexandrea Weis Alexandrea Weis is an award-winning author of several horror novels (find out more about her and her books at alexandreaweis. com), and is also a certified and permitted wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. When she is not writing, she rescues orphaned and injured wildlife—including a racoon named Rodney, whose adventures she’ll detail monthly on our blog! We’re delighted to introduce you, in his first print appearance, to Rodney. Life as a wildlife rehabber is both rewarding and heartbreaking. We live, love, and devote ourselves to the animals we rescue. Our successes drive us on to help more, and our losses make us swear we will never take on another animal as long as we live. And then, there are animals who touch us in such a way as to meld with our souls like nothing else. For me, this happened when a bouncing three-week-old baby raccoon got sent to me by a fellow rehabber. I named him Rodney, and he has enriched my life—and my love for vodka. I do not recommend keeping a racoon to anyone. It’s like having a two-year-old on steroids. They get into everything, and forget having nice furniture or anything to sit on that isn’t shared with a fat varmint. Your stuff is their stuff. And they don’t share their stuff with anyone. Rodney has a propensity to steal; all raccoons do. The Native Americans called them little thieves and the name is justified. My biggest problem with Rodney is his love of handbags. If anyone comes over, we must make sure all their belongings are stored OOR (out of raccoon range). When you first have to describe why you are putting a lady’s handbag on the top shelf of a closet door secured with a latch, you tend to get a lot of odd looks. And then Rodney walks into the room. The sight of him has sent more than one person running for the door. (My mother-in-law refuses to enter my home, which can be a good thing.) We used to have friends. We don’t have them anymore. Being the people with the raccoon that crashes dinner parties put our entertaining on hold. In fact, having anyone in our home usually means some preparation on our part. Secured in his room, Rodney has his TV set to his favorite movie or show (he loves Game of Thrones). He’s also given a snack. Having a raccoon makes entertaining difficult, and forget sitting down to dinner. If Rodney knows people are eating in the house, he wants to know why he can’t join in. At our last dinner with friends, Rodney climbed into a chair at the table and stared around at our guests as if he felt slighted for being ignored. It was when he began tossing utensils across the table that we banished him to his room (and yes, he has his own room). With any luck, we can sneak people inside and out again before he catches on. But in those instances, he is not enraptured with his TV or deep into his Rice Krispy Treat; we have to warn all visitors of a pending “inspection.” Unlike a dog who sniffs in inappropriate places, a raccoon will go through your crevices like a jumpy TSA inspector at the airport. Pockets get turned out, shoes get sniffed—even the soles get patted down. He has to check out every inch. Being related to bears, raccoons rely on their noses a great deal. But to the average person, it can get intimidating. At least we know there won’t be any incendiary devices getting through our front door. Rodney will sniff them out. Makes you wonder why the TSA hasn’t grasped the concept of using Raccoons instead of people for those body searches. Admit it; who could say no to such a beautiful face? It would give “getting groped at the airport,” a whole new meaning.


Publisher Spotlight: GIBSON HOUSE PRESS Every issue, we’ll take a look at an indie publisher. This month, Deborah Robertson of Gibson House Press tells us all about her company.

IndiePicks: Share a moment you’re particularly proud of. Deborah: I’m very proud to have discovered the two debut novelists we are publishing in 2017, one through a trusted colleague/advisor and one “over the transom.” They are both gifted individuals whose work validates my concept and mission. IndiePicks: What do you have in the works right now?

IndiePicks: Please introduce us to Gibson House Press. Deborah: An independent press based in the Chicago area, Gibson House Press publishes novels by musicians in the belief that songwriters and musicians of all kinds are uniquely connected to storytelling. While the creativity of these authors has its inspiration in music, the books are not necessarily about music. We are interested in good stories and good music, in the voices of musicians, in promoting their fiction. We produce beautifully designed original trade paperbacks (and e-books) at our own pace, thoughtfully developing our authors and list and cultivating readers. We are fortunate to have a supportive distributor, IPG, committed to presenting our books to bookstores and libraries and an exceptional team of advisors and independent publishing professionals committed to our mission. IndiePicks: How did you decide to start your publishing house? Deborah: I was looking for my next “project” and reading about some of the ways in which technology made it easier to experiment in the publishing business. So, I just started trying things and learning by doing (or perhaps learning by failing). As I was developing and professionalizing the business, I was attending a lot of music fests and performances and noted that some favorite musicians were publishing novels, memoirs, and other literature, or had a creative writing degree, or their songwriting just seemed to have epic narratives. The idea of musician-novelists became my focus. I’ve always been interested in publishing. I was an English Lit major, and early in my career did editorial work and book reviewing. From there I moved into nonprofit public relations and ultimately arts and humanities programming for libraries. Working with so many accomplished artists, designers, editors, marketing professionals, and others throughout my career helped me refine my taste and recognize great talent.


Deborah: I’m very excited about our two 2017 authors and their titles: Courtney Yasmineh’s A Girl Called Sidney is a gritty comingof-age novel featuring a truly resilient character who must turn her back on her difficult family and who ultimately finds her way through perseverance and a passion for making music. Nancy Burke’s Undergrowth delves deep into an epic clash of indigenous and outside cultures, family ties, and greed in the Amazon rainforest, where an uncontacted tribe, mercenaries, government agents, and well-meaning advocates struggle for control of natural resources amid complex relationships. [Editor’s Note: Reviews for both of these titles can be found on p. 10 of this issue.] Both authors have new albums coming out in 2018—Courtney’s seventh and Nancy’s second. We also have several manuscripts in the pipeline for 2018 and continue to seek new work by musician-novelists. IndiePicks: What do you like about being an independent publisher? Deborah: It’s always fun (and by fun, I mean risky, challenging, exhilarating, and terrifying) to work for yourself. I love finding and working with creative people and I find it thrilling to bring readers to and promote the work of artists who might not otherwise get the attention they deserve from mainstream publishers. Equally satisfying is assembling and working with an expert, very experienced team of independent publishing professionals who make every step of the process enjoyable: from manuscript editing to book and cover design to marketing and event planning, and small business development.

Follow Gibson House Press on Twitter (@GibsonPress) and Facebook (GibsonHousePress). You can also sign up for their monthly e-newsletter or submit your manuscript via


Issue 1 - Nov. 2017  

Charter issue