Cover Stories - April/ May 2021 - Shelf unbound Magazine

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APRIL /MAY 2021 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

COVER stories

stories

FEATURING

Cécile Barlier Jakob Guanzon Jamie Harrison David Campos & Maceo Montoya WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING


OUR STORY

S H E LF

U N B O U N D

M A G A Z I N E All we wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started.

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Lamb to the

Slaughter by Pete Delohery A novel about love and cour age, sin and redemption “Iron” Mike McGann is facing the twilight of his prizefighting career. Desperate for his future, he has refused to honor his promise to his wife to quit the ring and start a family. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard is the most menacing presence in prizefighting. But behind his menacing ring presence lives a man nobody knows, a complex man who despises his own image. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard vs. “Iron” Mike McGann, just another fight shown on The Continuous Sports Network, but by the time it is over the lives of these and many others will be forever different.

“This heartfelt tale makes a powerful emotional impact.” —Blue Ink Starred Review Also in Spanish: El Cordero al matadero Available in print and e-book at Amazon, xlibris, and Barnes & Noble.

w w w. p e t e d e l o h e r y. c o m

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Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak CREATIVE DIRECTOR Anna Trokan COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord Lynn Russo V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail sarah@shelfmediagroup.com For editorial inquiries: e-mail media@shelfmediagroup.com

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1877: A NORTHERN PHYSICIAN IN SOUTHERN UNGOVERNED SPACES

Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness. The ailment seemingly appears out of nowhere, and delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.

LEARN MORE AT

WWW.DAVIDCORNISHBOOKS.COM

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CONTENTS FEATURES

I N TH IS

ISSUE

26 Case Study of an Indie Cover: A Story

Between Writer & Artist By Alyse Mgrdichian

45 Recommended Reading

112 On Our Shelf

By Alyse Mgrdichian

34 Creative Collaboration: The Relationship

40 Bookstagram

98 Indie Reviews

18 What Makes a Book Cover Great

of Vision, Collaboration, and Impact By Alyse Mgrdichian

SECTIONS

74 Book Shelf

10 Roundup: Q&A With Book Cover Designers By V. Jolene Miller

58 Interview: Jakob Guanzon By V. Jolene Miller

94 Interview: Yamile Saied Méndez By Megan Lord

108 Interview: Jamie Harrison By V. Jolene Miller

ON P G 26

C A S E S T U DY O F A N I N D I E COV E R : A S TO RY O F V I S I O N , CO LL A B O R ATI O N , A N D I M PAC T COLUMNS 70 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord

80 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki

86 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

90 Book Mom

Megan Verway

92 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

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A WORD FROM THE PUBLISHER

Cover Stories. BY SARAH KLOTH, PUBLISHER

"Never judge a book by its cover." What makes a book cover great? Well, in this issue of Shelf Unbound, we go behind the scenes with authors, publishers, and cover artists to get a glimpse of what goes into the cover design of some of your favorite indie novels. Our cover of this issue features imagery used for Cécile Barlier's cover design of A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation, a portrait of a Roma woman and a child, shot by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, a photographer from Scotland. In this issue we interviewed Cécile Barlier who speaks about the process of creating the cover for her book, A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation, “She fueled me,” Cécile

recounts, “and it felt like she was really looking at me, mocking me, daring me to write her story, and I think that her presence and her gaze helped me to keep steady and push forward.” We have an amazing creative collaboration story between David Campos and Maceo Montoya, a poet and an artist who collaborated with one another on a collection called American Quasar. “It felt like a jazz session. It was basically improv between the two of us—we were just freeflowing and bouncing ideas off of each other.”

Enjoy the issue. 

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WWW.LITERARYLOU.COM

Louis DeGrado

Literary Classic Gold Award For Juvenile Fiction! Gold Award, Juvenile Fiction 2017! Editor’s Choice, Rising Star Award! Come along on an inspiring adventure where a small amount of courage makes a GIANT difference in this story of triumph. When a small, fluffy cat teams up with an advice-giving canary, a cockatoo, some jazz-loving alley cats, and a fancy mouse to protect their home from a villainous, hoodlum rat, a hero is born! With SEVENTEEN original songs by the author, you will enjoy this positive and inspiring adventure for the entire family.

Finalist, Foreword Review’s Book of the Year in both Sci-Fi and Thriller Category! Dive into the covert battle of Good vs Evil in this thrilling novel that takes a fresh approach to demonic powers among us. What decisions would you make if you found out evil forces were banished in time and were trying to become whole again? “A thriller filled with intrigue.” -Clarion Review. Pueblo, Colorado! What do you call a group of friends who dare to take on the paranormal? They called themselves The Questors! When they dare visit a haunted house, adventure a mayhem are at hand. This Juvenile Thriller is designed as an exciting read for youth. A two-book series, The Round House and The Moaning Walls, will take you back to the 80’s and give you Chills down your spine! I DARE YOU TO READ! Short Tales to Chill and Thrill! Read the tale of Jaspar Jones who had an illfated addiction to gambling or, The Legend of Jeffrey MaGills who caught gold fever and treaded on cursed land. I Want my Bones Back, tells the story of a farmer who finds a buried secret that causes him to become one with his land. In Volume 2, find out what’s behind the motivation of the Grave Robbers, or go along on a mystery with The Vampire Detective Agency in I Fell in Love with a Vampire.

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Spend Time Reading with your children in this story full of positive messages and inspiration! What does a nine-year old do when her friends start to argue over facts, or when she has trouble telling right from wrong or gets overwhelmed with all life’s challenges? Anna goes to her art center where her imagination can come to life. Here, she talks with Blue, her favorite crayon, who teaches her about imagination and confidence, True Apple, who teaches her about facts, Communicating Carrot, who teaches communication skills, and Cool Celery, who teaches her to relax and be cool. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2021


Talking Drum. By Lisa Braxton

THE TALKING DRUM EXPLORES INTRA-RACIAL, CLASS, AND CROSS-CULTURAL TENSIONS, ALONG WITH THE MEANING OF COMMUNITY AND BELONGING.

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Roundup: Q&A With Book Cover Designers. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

In this edition of Shelf Unbound, I went behind the scenes with some cover artists to find out how things work behind the covers of books. In this roundup, I had the pleasure of chatting with Amanda Richardson, Cathy Walker, and Black Rose Writing’s lead designer, David King.

CATHY WALKER

AMANDA RICHARDSON

DAVID KING 10

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SU: DO YOU DESIGN FOR INDIE AUTHORS, TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED AUTHORS, OR BOTH? AMANDA RICHARDSON: I've only

designed for indie authors, but one of my goals is to work with a publisher down the line and design for publishing houses! CATHY WALKER: Currently, I have only

designed for indie authors. I believe that for the most part, traditional publishers likely have in-house designers. Though I do know some designers who have done a cover for an indie author who was picked up by a traditional publisher, and they kept the cover. DAVID KING: I design for both.

SU: TELL OUR READERS HOW YOU GOT STARTED IN COVER DESIGN. AMANDA RICHARDSON: I used to be

a photographer, and I had a blog for that business. Long story short, I was too cheap to hire a designer for logos and graphics, so I learned how to do it myself. In 2014, when I began writing my first book, I googled how to make your own cover, and then just went from there, and since I already know Photoshop, it was fairly easy to learn. My first cover was terrible, lol. But I think I've gotten a bit better over the years!

CATHY WALKER: We (my husband and

I) were having some tough times and I was looking for a way to make some extra money. A friend of mine who is a cover designer taught me the basics of PhotoShop and cover design, and I took it from there. With minimal skills, I started to design covers, and when I felt that I could put together a decent quality cover, I set up a website, filled it with premades, and started marketing myself as a cover designer. I am constantly developing my skills and have come a long way from where I started. In fact, most of the premades that I started with, have since been taken down from my website and replaced with better ones. At the time, they were the best that I could do, but I'm much happier with my skills now, as well as my ability to deliver a quality cover to my clients. DAVID KING: I was working as an artist

in the video game industry, but it was too volatile. My friend, Reagan Rothe, owned a publishing company (Black Rose Writing) and reached out to me for doing artwork for book covers and also interior book design. We grew from there. I found that authors are much more rewarding to work with! SU: WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT BEING A COVER DESIGNER? AMANDA RICHARDSON: Seeing the

finished product! I always try to order a 11


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paperback from my clients so I can see my work up close. It's very validating! CATHY WALKER: I would have to say

that the creative aspect of it is what I enjoy most. I start with a blank template and build a work of art. I do prefer working on premades as opposed to custom covers, because I have such freedom to take it wherever inspiration leads me. With a custom [cover], I am guided by the vision of the author, and sometimes, the author's vision will not necessarily make for a good cover. DAVID KING: I enjoy helping authors

put a face to their creations that they can be proud of! And selling books, of course! When people are buying and reading your books, praising the cover design, you know you're doing your job right. SU: IF YOU HAD TO PICK A FAVORITE DESIGN IN YOUR PORTFOLIO, WHICH WOULD IT BE, AND WHY? AMANDA RICHARDSON: Hmm... I

think it would probably be the newest one I'm working on for one of my books! It has been a long time coming, and I put a lot of thought behind it. Three years of thought, actually! I'm excited to reveal it soon.

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CATHY WALKER: I have so many

favorites that it's ridiculous. Honestly, almost every cover I design is my favorite at that time. I do have some premades on my website that I love and am surprised that they haven't been snapped up yet. DAVID KING: It would likely be The

Reckoning by Jeffrey Pierce. It has tons of color, depth, action, and a WWII Zombie theme, which combine for a fun cover. SU: DO YOU HAVE OTHER HOBBIES OR INTERESTS THAT ARE REFLECTED IN YOUR DESIGNS? AMANDA RICHARDSON: Photography.

I always try to find the most artistic version of my vision. I love black and white photos with a lot of depth. I also LOVE typography. I have over 1,000 fonts in my font book... I may have a problem, lol. CATHY WALKER: Hmmm, I had to think

about that one. No, I don't think so. I mean, I love animals, but that is about the only hobby that I have time for aside from book cover design and writing. Many of my cozy covers will have animals on them, but that is more because animal covers are huge in the cozy cover genre rather than me doing it because I love animals.


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DAVID KING: I love fiction and fantasy

movies, games, and books. I've got a lifetime of influences to draw on in the genre. And when I need inspiration for genres I'm not as interested in, my experience over the years helps this. SU: WRITERS ARE GIVEN SEVERAL THOUSAND WORDS IN WHICH TO TELL A STORY, YOU GET ONE IMAGE. WHAT’S THAT LIKE? AND, HOW DO YOU PROCESS THE SCALING DOWN OF AN ENTIRE STORY INTO A SINGLE IMAGE? AMANDA RICHARDSON: Another

reason I love designing premades... I don't have to scale down, haha! But for custom work, almost all of the authors I've worked with have an idea of the kind of image they want. Some of my favorite authors even have an image picked out, which is so helpful! For my own books, it's very hard. I want to find the perfect image, but I also don't want to spend too much time looking when I should be writing. CATHY WALKER: Another mistaken

belief by many authors is that the cover needs to portray their book exactly. Many of them want an exact scene from the book, or a character to exactly match one in the story...hair, clothes, eyes, etc. Close is good

enough. Honestly. Most readers will envision the scenery or the character as they read the story and it will be different in everyone's mind. You don't need to put your entire story on your cover. Please. A cry from designers everywhere, please don't make us try. DAVID KING: I don't. I leave that

responsibility to the author. There's no one closer to the material and who knows their own book better than the author. If the author (and owner of Black Rose Writing) believe that the artwork visualizes their hard work and will help to sell it, then my job's done.. SU: TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE ABOUT THE WRITER/ COVER DESIGNER WORKING RELATIONSHIP. AMANDA RICHARDSON: Most of my

cover design consists of premade covers, though I have done a lot of custom work as well. To be honest, I prefer premade work. Sometimes I want to experiment with a newly learned element or skill in Photoshop, or I see a stock photo that I LOVE, and I can be uninhibitedly creative, and design to my tastes. If someone loves it too, and finds that it fits their story, great! CATHY WALKER: I think that every 13


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Robert Ludlum-sized narrative…a Star Trek series level.” - Kirkus Reviews

All space breaks loose as two alien species go to war for a dad’s abducted family. A new science fiction novel from author Dan Dwyer.

www.Dandwyerwriter.com

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designer approaches that relationship in a different way. It will depend on where they are in their career, how confident they are in their skills, how well-established they are in the business. Many designers have precise rules that they will stick to no matter what, others will be more flexible. Some only want to communicate via email, others only want to converse on FB messenger. Some will do multitudes of revisions, others will stick to the stated number of revisions in their contract. Some will only talk business, others will get a bit more personal and develop a bit of relationship with their client. It really is a personal thing and an author needs to feel comfortable with their designer and visa versa. I've never been the kind of person who says, "It's just business, don't take it personally." I have had a few clients who have given me sleepless nights with their demands and somewhat rude or unrealistic expectations, but I have also had amazing, wonderful clients. DAVID KING: The easiest authors to work

with are writers who try to not be artists. By far the best situation is when the author has an "idea" of what they think would be nice, then stay hands-off and let the artist do the work. Each artist has their own strengths and weaknesses. If the author is willing to play to the artist's strengths, it'll be a great cover. If they force the artist outside of their comfort zone, it can cause a struggle. 16

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SU: WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER... HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT “RULE”? AMANDA RICHARDSON: I try not to

judge, but I do... I think everyone does. Everyone has their own preferences, too. It's hard to hit the mark with everyone, so I try to design a cover that fits the book, that is hopefully marketable and eye-catching, while still being unique. CATHY WALKER: I think this is one of

the biggest mistakes that new authors make. Applying that rule metaphorically to not judging people by how they look is great, but for a book cover...it's absolutely wrong. Sorry to all the authors who think they can get away with a homemade cover, but readers do judge a book by its cover...at least at first glance. DAVID KING: I agree with the statement

wholeheartedly. Though, I feel that judging the book by the cover is inevitable when thinking of purchasing a book off the shelf or clicking a small cover link that you can't see much text. It's gotten easier when shopping online though. I read plenty of books based on reviews and recommendations now rather than just cover artwork. I think most people who are willing


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to try new authors, are willing to look past a cover image they aren't impressed with. And in my world, I've done plenty of impressive covers for not so impressive books. So it's a double-edged sword. SU: TELL US ABOUT YOUR MISSION OR VISION STATEMENT AS A BOOK COVER DESIGNER.

the book... see what it's about. SU: THANK YOU ALL FOR GIVING OUR READERS A GLIMPSE INTO BOOK COVER DESIGN WORK AND YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A DESIGNER. WHERE CAN AUTHORS FIND YOU IF THEY’RE IN THE MARKET FOR A BOOK COVER?

AMANDA RICHARDSON: Honestly, I

just want to create something that authors will be proud to hold in their hands. Something unique, beautiful, and eyecatching, but most importantly, something that makes them happy! CATHY WALKER: It is very important to

me that my clients end up with a cover that they are happy with. It is often a balance between what they think they want and what will actually sell a book. I try to gently lead a client in the direction that I, as the designer, know will sell the book. Sometimes, it doesn't work, but those times are rare...I usually end up with awesome clients who are totally willing to work together to put out a great cover and everyone is happy in the end. Each cover is personal for me and each client is important.

AMANDA RICHARDSON: I'm really

active on social media. You can find me on Facebook: Facebook.com/ejamesdesigns and IG: Instagram.com/ejamesdesigns. I’m also in the process of updating my design page on my website. www. authoramandarichardson.com CATHY WALKER: Thank you so much

for having me. I enjoyed answering the questions and if anyone is interested in checking out my covers or has any questions, here is my website: http://www.cathyscovers.wix.com/books DAVID KING: Design@blackrosewriting.

com and https://www.kingsizecreations.com/ 

DAVID KING: I strive to make my authors

ecstatic to show their work to the world, which triggers readers to pick up and open 17


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What Makes a Book Cover Great? BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

“Never judge a

book by its cover.”

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There’s an old saying, which I’m sure you’ve all heard a million times before: “Never judge a book by its cover.” However, as we wander through bookstores and absentmindedly browse, that’s exactly what we do. A cover acts as the first impression that a potential buyer will have of a book – it can leave a good impression, but it could just as easily leave a poor impression as well. In particular, a cover has the power to pique interest, to the point of being picked up, but it also has the power to leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. These sorts of bad impressions can lead a reader to make a split-second decision against the book based solely on the cover, even though the story itself might be phenomenal. So, what exactly makes a book cover great? The process of creating a cover will look different depending on your publishing methods, and different genres often have different cover expectations and trends. With that in mind, I will be covering this topic in broad, generalizable strokes for the sake of time. So, let’s go over some fundamental components that should always be present in a cover, regardless of genre.

1.First, there’s the undeniable importance of having a clear and visible title. This means, first and foremost, that the font should be professional and easy to read. For example, you should steer clear from fonts like comic sans because of their unprofessionalism, and also from overly stylized cursive because of how hard it can be to decipher. Additionally, the color of the words should make the title stand out from the background rather than blend in. For example, a burgundy background with a plum title would be a bit too muddled. Think of the relationship between your background and title as a contrast between light and dark – this is exemplified quite well in the below examples.

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From the award-winning and critically acclaimed author, William D. McEachern, comes his new novel, The Life of Levi When an itinerant preacher arrives in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, the lives of the tax collector, Levi, his wife, Miriam, and his brother, James, completely unravel. Will Miriam run off with Levi’s best friend, a Greek merchant? Will James leave his fishing business and follow the preacher? Will Levi lose everything? And why is Pontius Pilate coming to Capernaum? Read the second Book in the Casting Lots series.

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New Caledonia: A Song of America, Finalist for the Book Excellence Historical Fiction Award by Author, William D. McEachern…

Some novels are filled with descriptive language that pours off the page and into the reader’s visual experience as they journey with the author during the unfolding narrative… This book engages the reader in a time of relationships and events much different than our modern era. I would heartily recommend the reading of McEachern’s novel…” -Laure McCourt Lopez, The King’s Calendar New Caledonia: A Song of America James, who assisted Bonnie Prince Charles escape the British after the Battle of Culloden, flees Scotland with the Duke of Cumberland’s assassin on his heels. He travels to Colonial America, walks the Great Wagon Road, fights in the French and Indian War, settles in South Carolina, and is drawn into the American Revolution, only to finally confront his nemesis on the battlefield of Cowpens.

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02

INTERVIEW

marketing and publicity, where life-size images of books aren’t available.

Both of these covers have different colors and designs going on in the background, which have the potential to distract from the title – however, the title stands out quite well because of the cover artists’ effective use of color contrast. Aside from successfully employing legible font and contrasting colors, the two aforementioned examples also do a good job with their title’s sizing. Readers shouldn’t have to hunt for a title, and so the size of the font should help draw attention to it. When trying to determine whether a certain size is appropriate or not, think – if you saw the cover as a thumbnail on Amazon, would you be able to read the title from the thumbnail alone? Thumbnail legibility is incredibly important for covers, especially considering the prevalence of digital 22

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2. Second, it’s important to have a clear focal point rather than a busy, muddled mess. In other words, don’t overcrowd your cover with graphics that will overwhelm the reader. The Bell Jar, as pictured above, makes its title the clear focal point, as evidenced by the boldness of the title (i.e., size, color, placement). You can see the layers of the cover at work, with the title being the first thing to be noticed, then the author’s name, and then the art. This isn’t the only way to prioritize a cover’s different layers, though. What it ultimately comes down to is a balance between artistry and simplicity. A cover must be unique and nice to look at, and yet it should not be overcrowded or complicated. Again, there needs to be a clear focal point. Take the following examples.


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ABOUT THE BOOKS

Both of these covers are gorgeous, and have a lot going on. Think about it – we see the author’s name, we see the title, we see the art, and we see a review. All of these pieces are floating around in the same space, and have the potential to overwhelm the reader. However, by employing different fonts, colors, sizes, and placements, the artists of these covers have successfully separated all of the different pieces and created a clear focal point. With the World of Wonders example, the cover’s primary focal point is its title, which is framed beautifully by the art surrounding it (rather than being overshadowed by it). In particular, the title is clearly the darkest and boldest thing on the cover, so although the artwork takes up more real estate, it appears softer and lighter in comparison.

On the other hand, with The Priory of the Orange Tree, equal focus is given to the title as well as to the art (i.e., the dragon on the tower). Chances are, you’ll find your eyes flitting between the two. However, this isn’t a bad thing. The key to successfully employing this second method is to present the two separate pieces as being complementary rather than competitive – with this particular example, the art feels integral to the title, and the title feels as if it’s a part of the art. There is no difference of tone or style between the two, which results in a sense of cohesion. 3.Third, there must be consistency. This means that, related to tone, there must be a consistent theme between the cover and the story itself. A cover reveals something about the book it represents, and a potential reader will make assumptions about the genre or tone of the story based on what they see on the cover. What this means is, there should be no mismatching in theme between the story and the cover that represents it. Remember, the cover is a metaphorical sales pitch of the book. Take the following example.

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02

INTERVIEW

detail, you may want your cover to focus more on conveying the sci-fi environment than on introducing a particular character. However, if your book is very much focused on the romantic journey of your sci-fi characters, but your cover heavily features spaceships, then your reader might be disappointed (since the cover led them to expect an environmentfocused story). Take a look at the following examples. Lord of the Flies is a book about paranoia, violence, and survival. It follows a group of children who have been stranded on an island and slowly start turning against each other, stooping to levels of depravity that seemed impossible for them at the beginning of the story. This cover, firstly, is beautifully composed, and secondly, successfully captures the unsettling tone of the story via its imagery. We see 1) the pig, which holds significance in the story, 2) the tropical scenery within the pig, which helps reveal the story’s setting, and 3) the fixation on red, which is reminiscent of blood and violence. It’s also important for a cover to stay true to what the focus of the book is on. If, for example, you’ve written a space opera with an incredible eye to environmental 24

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With the first example, My Dark Vanessa, the cover focuses on a young girl’s face. This is an appropriate focus, since the story is a psychological thriller about the trauma of a young girl – the story orbits around her, and so it makes sense for her to be heavily featured on the cover. ABOUT THE BOOKS

Then we have The Handmaid’s Tale, the cover of which focuses on a handmaiden (i.e., a designated child-bearer in a dystopian, sterile future). This is an appropriate focus, because the story orbits around the themes of oppression, manipulation, dogma, submission, and other such things, with the handmaidens being the clear victims of such abuse (and so best embody the aforementioned themes). While there is a clear main character in the story (who is herself a handmaiden), it makes more sense to introduce her situation than to introduce her as an individual, especially given the dystopian / situational nature of the story. Again, the topic of covers has been dealt with in broad strokes here, so we’re really only just scratching the surface. However, although this may have been basic, I hope that it has been helpful nonetheless, since the different components covered in this piece are applicable across genres.

Below are a couple things to remember before you go. First, the different components of what make a cover great often overlap and inform one another. For example, the sizing / formatting of your title (i.e., #1) will help inform what the cover’s clear focal point is (i.e., #2), with the composition and imagery of both facets bleeding into the consistency of tone / focus between the cover and the story itself (i.e., #3). Everything is connected, and a weakness in one area will negatively impact the others. Second, the most fundamental way you can learn about what works and doesn’t work with covers is by going out and actually observing different types of covers. As you walk through a bookstore, which ones pull at you? Which ones repel you? Which ones get you to pick up the book and look at the blurb? As you expose yourself to various covers from various genres, reflect and ask yourself what works, what doesn’t, and why. Then, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to give your own story a cover, you won’t be going into it blind – you’ll already have an idea of the basics, and you’ll also feel confident in what your own personal preferences are.  25


INTERVIEW

Case Study of an Indie Cover: A Story of Vision, Collaboration, and Impact. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

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For authors, the creation of their book’s cover is often a very personal process. After all, the cover should be what best represents the content of the book, and no one knows the content better than the author herself. So, I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to speak with an author named Cécile Barlier about the process of creating the cover for her book, A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation. A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation is a collection of short stories that will be released by Red Hen Press on April 6, 2021. The collection is a very wide array of different writing styles and subject matters, and although each story is so vastly different from the next, they do have something in common—they explore different elements of the human condition, and each could be thought of as being its own snapshot of life. While she loves all of her stories dearly, Cécile reports that there is one particular story that stood out to her, ultimately becoming the book’s namesake. The short story follows a deceased Roma woman who attends her own cremation, having a conversation with her children from beyond the grave. While seeking inspiration during the drafting process, Cécile looked online and found a

beautiful portrait of a Roma woman and a child, shot by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, a photographer from Scotland. Tethering herself to this woman as the face and imagined voice of her narrator, she had the image on her screen 24/7 as she wrote. “She fueled me,” Cécile recounts, “and it felt like she was really looking at me, mocking me, daring me to write her story, and I think that her presence and her gaze helped me to keep steady and push forward.” Through the process of pulling inspiration from this Roma woman, Cécile developed a deep emotional connection with her, and so when Red Hen Press approached her about the cover, she immediately knew that she wanted to use this woman’s picture. As Cécile puts it, “She came to mind immediately, since she was literally my muse, and I knew I’d really love to have her photo be the cover. In this way, the cover came about quite organically.” Red Hen Press was supportive of her choice, and so Cécile reached out to Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and asked for his permission to use his photo. Jeremy, thankfully, was on board with the idea from the onset. Jeremy, who has now been a 27


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photographer for thirty-one years, tells me in a separate interview about the picture’s backstory. “I first started visiting the Roma camp of Sintesti, in Romania, in 1990,” he tells me. “I photographed this particular woman and child around 1993. Sadly, I don’t have their names, and I haven’t seen them since. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be given access and permission to spend time there at that camp, and the photography I’ve produced documents an almost 30year span of life in the camp.” While in conversation with Jeremy, I get the sense that these people, these memories, hold a very special place in his heart. After all, he got the rare privilege of documenting life in a very private community, occasionally even shooting the weddings of people he’d taken pictures of when they were babies. Listening to Cécile and Jeremy talk about the Roma woman and the child, the subjects of the book’s cover, I feel the love they share for these strangers. However, getting Jeremy’s permission to use the image was only half the battle for Cécile—now she had to consider composition. Red Hen Press presented a few options that were more on the whimsical side, but Cécile voiced her desire for a more sober composition. “I 28

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wanted something that was very close to the photograph, that didn’t require a lot of treatment; the picture is so powerful in and of itself,” she tells me. Although Red Hen Press’s marketing team and sales reps liked the earlier, more whimsical designs, they were dedicated to bringing Cécile’s vision to fruition. Natasha McClellan, Red Hen Press’s Production Associate, tells me that, “While all Red Hen covers are finalized by our talented team of in-house designers, the author is always involved in the process. It’s important that an author has the opportunity to play an active role in the creation of their book, so if we present them with something that they’re not on board with, we try to approach it from a new angle.” In light of this flexibility and understanding, Cécile immediately knew who she wanted to bring onto the team—her good friend, Vincent Maxime Daudin, who was based in France at the time. As the founder and creative director of VMD (Vision Meets Design), a creative consultancy, it would be safe to assume that Vincent is a “visual guy.” He read Cécile’s book over the span of a couple days, and immediately affirmed her cover choice. “Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s powerful image was the clear way


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to go,” Vincent tells me, “because it provocatively captures the ‘human’ quality of the book’s key messages. The daredevil girl’s empowering attitude, the innocent kid’s hopeful expression… This picture is also full of contradictions: misfortune and opportunity, resignation and resilience, fortitude and vulnerability.” Vincent also agreed with Cécile’s desire for a more sober composition, and brought up the idea of a gradient filter that colorized Jeremy’s classic black and white photo, adding more depth to it. He proposed different options with subtle variations in color, font treatment, and placement, and the two old friends brainstormed together, ultimately coming to a conclusion that they were both happy with. Listening to Cécile, Jeremy, and Vincent talk about their collaboration makes my head spin a little bit—after all, we’ve got a French woman writing in Northern California, a Scottish photographer taking pictures in Romania, and a designer operating out of France. It almost sounds like the introduction to one of those “three men walk into a bar” jokes. So, I can’t help but ask the three of them, what did the process of international creative collaboration look like?

“I think it was very spontaneous and natural, like any good story,” Cécile tells me. “One thing led to the next for us, and everything seemed to just flow—so, even though we were very far away from each other, it felt easy.” Jeremy and Vincent agree, with the common observation being how today’s technology allowed them to connect and collaborate in ways previously unimaginable. “I feel that we have become friends,” Jeremy tells me, “although that’s not always the case when doing this sort of thing.” Everybody working so well together on a project like this doesn’t always happen, and so Cécile reports that receiving so much support throughout the process of publishing her first book was a pleasant surprise for her. In our conversation, Cécile does not forget Red Hen Press or their role in the creation of her cover. “They were very easy to work with,” she tells me, “and they were very open—they could have not agreed with my choice for the cover and made me do something else, but they were very supportive. They gave me a lot of leeway and a lot of freedom, which I’m deeply appreciative of.” Natasha confirms, stating that 29


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“We aimed to bring her vision to fruition while still creating a beautiful, marketable book and, ultimately, I believe we succeeded. Our goal is always to create a cover design that is marketable and that the author can be proud of.” Aside from marketability, there is also the matter of message. Images of any sort have the power to impact and change people. As Vincent puts it, “Photography instantly engages us on a deep emotional level, connecting all of our memories and experiences. We are saturated by a constant flow of imagery on social media, so being truly moved by an image becomes a challenge for photographers.” It’s commonly known in photojournalism that pictures convey a story, and that it is the role of the photographer to capture an image that is as genuine and authentic as possible (i.e., not staged)—the authenticity of Jeremy’s image is what captivated Cécile, and it’s what captivates me. Jeremy tells me, “I hope my work can perhaps make the world a little more understood, or a smaller place, or break down misunderstandings through showing my images. So when one of my images has an impact on someone, such as this one did with Cécile, then I hope I’ve 32

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01

INTERVIEW

achieved something.” I want to end on the fact that pictures have the ability to bridge gaps, and as Cécile recently learned, promoting authenticity can have an incredibly inspiring impact. “Jeremy posted the final cover image on his social media,” she tells me, “and soon enough he was contacted by a Roma woman who he had met through work. She asked whether or not she could be put in contact with me, and I have recently received a note from her. She explained that my cover and my title really intrigued her, and then she told me a story: ‘You see, I am a gypsy,’ she told me, ‘and I’m writing a book on the story of going from a very uneducated family, where my grandmother never learned how to write, to me working for Google now. I am no writer, but I have a story that I know can help many girls like me find hope and education.’ This woman reached out to me for advice, and it really moved me in more ways than one. I am not a Roma woman, but to think that such a connection could be created because of the cover felt so improbable, meaningful, and beautiful. Writing is a lonely undertaking, and yet it’s an incredibly connecting one.” That, I think, is both beautiful and true. As creatives, we have


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the power to encourage, uplift, and empower—however, if not careful, we also have the power to do the opposite. We have a responsibility to be mindful of our message, and at the same time, what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to touch lives. And to think, all of this can be accomplished through a cover alone!  Cécile Barlier, a French author, has been writing for nearly fourteen years now. Her main job is working alongside her husband, Pierre, as an entrepreneur—together, they bring reusable bags to grocery stores in the U.S. such as Whole Foods, Costco, and more. Having written short stories for many years, A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation is Cécile’s first published collection, and is the recipient of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. You can find Cécile at www.cecilebarlier.com. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert is a freelance reportage photographer based in Scotland. His job, which he has now had for thirty-one years, has allowed him to travel the world, leading him to more than one hundred different countries and introducing him to all different sorts of people. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines alike. You can find Jeremy at www.jeremysuttonhibbert.com.

Vincent Maxime Daudin is the founder and creative director of VMD— Vision Meets Design. VMD is a creative consultancy with an emphasis on brand strategy, trend forecasting, and style consulting. With major clients in the US, China, and Russia, and with over twenty-five years of experience in trend forecasting, Vincent has established himself as a creative powerhouse in the field. You can find Vincent at www.visionmeetsdesign.com.

Red Hen Press is a nonprofit publishing company committed to promoting new authors, supporting diversity in publishing, and pushing for literacy in local schools. They seek to broaden readers’ horizons and provide authors with a publication that they can be proud of. You can find Red Hen Press at www.redhenpress.org

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Creative Collaboration: The Relationship Between Writer & Artist. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

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As is evidenced by the theme of this issue, covers are incredibly important—the composition and imagery of a cover play an integral role in the very first impression a reader will have of the book. So, I was incredibly excited to be able to have a conversation with David Campos and Maceo Montoya, a poet and an artist who collaborated with one another on a collection called American Quasar. Set to be released by Red Hen Press on June 22, 2021, American Quasar is a visual-textual collaboration, with David writing poems and Maceo creating artwork to go alongside the poems. Their experience producing the book offers a unique perspective, particularly because of the equal ownership they both took of the project.

“It felt like a jazz session,” David tells me. “It was basically improv between the two of us—we were just free-flowing and bouncing ideas off of each other.” Going off of this collaborative spirit and equal responsibility, David and Maceo wanted the cover to reflect their symbiotic relationship as creators. However, they initially had some trouble bringing that

vision to fruition. The press had originally chosen a blank, minimalistic cover; however, given the centrality of Maceo’s art to the project, both David and Maceo agreed that it made more sense for the cover’s image to be one of Maceo’s pieces. David adds on that, “In the press’s later drafts, the font size of my name was larger as the writer while, as the artist, Maceo’s was smaller and off to the side. The two of us felt that this didn’t capture the essence of our collaboration. The image of Maceo’s that the press chose was perfect, though—the subject has his hands out, and so I knew that, if we placed both of our names in equal font size under each hand, then it would become clear, at least visually, that this single project was a collaboration between two people of equal stature.” Red Hen approved the proposed composition, and David and Maceo were glad for it— and, frankly, so am I. Looking at the cover, the “equal stature” that David spoke of is evident. Maceo tells me that this hiccup does not reflect poorly on Red Hen, but rather reveals an unfortunate norm in the literary world as a whole: “What I think it showed 35


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us was that, although this collaboration was, from the beginning, something we knew had no hierarchy, the literary community still tends to hold the writer at one level and then the artist at a different, lower level.” Listening to the two of them talk about their collaboration, I become more and more curious about how the book came to be. The project, I learn, started as a way to fundraise for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. “The literary prize was created as a way to honor my late brother, the poet Andrés Montoya, who passed in 1999,” Maceo tells me. “It was established nearly twenty years ago at the University of Notre Dame by Francisco Aragón. And Francisco thought, as a way of fundraising, as a way of bringing attention to the prize, that David and I could collaborate on just one piece—one poem for David, and one image for me.” “Maceo created multiple images, though,” David laughs, “and I was like ‘Oh, more images? Okay, I think I could write more poetry to go with them.’” David and Maceo corresponded and 36

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collaborated over the span of a couple months, and within that short amount of time they generated enough work to be made into a collection. “It was a very intense generative period,” David continues, “and it was heavily focused on process and theme. It was more of a conversation between poet and artist than it was between poetry and art.” “David would write a poem,” Maceo says, “and I would come up with a series of pictures. The biggest relief for me was, instead of having to dig into myself for imagery, I was able to dig into the imagery that came through David. Our creativity took off like wildfire.” David and Maceo tell me that they worked closely with the idea of “the precipice of violence,” specifically emotional violence, and that they sought to capture the moments that lead to one’s unraveling. “Those instances and images preceding emotional violence were what we were working with,” David reports, “and I had to search my own memory for them. The question of the book eventually evolved to become, ‘How can I love myself in a country that doesn’t love me?


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I’ve got these two sides pulling against me, so how can I fit into either?’” This theme was especially applicable when David and Maceo started working on the project back in 2016, when everyone was still trying to wrap their minds around Donald Trump’s election and the impact that that would have on the political landscape and matters of citizenship. “So much of our work was about this excavation of self,” Maceo tells me, “and I think that the era that we were about to enter into dealt with how we belonged. It also dealt with how we could come to terms with loving and understanding ourselves when the reflection of us in society was warped. Some of the pieces in this collection are very abstract, but I also see them as being rooted in a certain political moment.” David goes on to tell me that, as was the original plan, the book is still a fundraising effort for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. “This project still being a fundraising effort makes it very special to us,” he says, “and the process of working with Maceo was a freeing one—our vision was a shared

burden, and this allowed me to explore areas I probably wouldn’t have explored otherwise.” Maceo agrees, pointing out how he never felt like he’d tapped himself out of images for this project, particularly because of his and David’s creative reliance on one another. The common theme, I gather, is a lack of inhibition due to the security that teamwork brings. In our conversation, I not only get a sense of their immense respect for one another, but also of their desire to speak truth through art. Through each poem, each image, they take a bigger narrative and distill it into snapshot moments of vulnerability, pain, and authenticity. David and Maceo have been kind enough to send over a sample from their book, and so, if you would like to see one of David’s poems paired with one of Maceo’s paintings, you can find them on the next page. Needless to say, I am excited for the release of American Quasar, and I hope to see David and Maceo collaborate again in the future. 

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03

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American House Fire In a house fire, you don’t die from the flames, so don’t mind the broken windows. I’m trying to let the smoke out. I have been for a long time running from room to room looking for an exit. What I would give for the chill of starlight, to believe in a just god who brings rain to temper the blaze ravaging my house, to feel, for once, what it’s like to win; in victory, instinct orders our arms to rise toward the heavens. Some say this is what we’re left with to remind us of god, to remind us to surrender. But the smoke has stolen too many of our fathers; it’s after our sons. And every door leads to another dead dream’s room. Still, they watch my house burn, smoke lifting its arms over the city. Only if they didn’t cook with fire, they say. Only if their house had followed code. How many more doors will have to burn until it’s yours? I’m running out of windows, and my arms are losing their strength. The sky darkens with victory, surrender? It’s hard to tell anymore. But what’s certain is in a house fire, you die when you cry your child’s name. 38

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

DAVID CAMPOS is a poet and writer, and he teaches English at Fresno City College. His work has won the 2014 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and the Annual Prairie Schooner Strousse Award. He is a CantoMundo fellow, and is a part of Fresno City College’s Puente Program, which helps special cohorts of community college students transfer over to four-year universities. You can find David at www.davidcampos.me.

MACEO MONTOYA is a visual artist and writer, and is an associate professor at UC Davis’s Chicano Studies Department. In his work, he focuses on the ways that different mediums of storytelling can be combined, and he often collaborates with writers and artists on visual-textual projects. His writing has won the 2011 International Latino Book Award for “Best First Book,” and his artwork has been featured both nationally and internationally. You can find Maceo at www.maceomontoya.com.

Red HHen en PRess

RED HEN PRESS is a nonprofit publishing company committed to promoting new authors, supporting diversity in publishing, and pushing for literacy in local schools. They seek to broaden readers’ horizons and provide authors with a publication that they can be proud of. You can find Red Hen Press at www.redhenpress.org and on Instagram - @redhenpress.

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AM BO

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@_katie.reads TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

@_katie.reads: I am an 8th grade English teacher based out of Hampton Roads, VA. I graduated in May from The College of William & Mary with a Bachelors in English and Secondary Education. While I was an undergrad, I was lucky enough to intern at Blue Dragon Publishing and Penguin Random House in their publicity department. I have also had the pleasure of working as the assistant to the most recent Poet Laureate of Virginia. I am a lover of ice cream, beaches, and cute dogs.

AM

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TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED.

BOOKSTAGRAM Each issue we feature a new bookstagrammer highlighting some of their amazing work.

NAME:

@_KATIE.READS FAVORITE GENRE:

LITERARY FICTION BOOKS READ PER YEAR:

I READ 76 BOOKS, AND I READ 51 IN 2019

@_katie.reads: I started my account on February 15, 2019. I was co-running Amy Voltaire's book launch with Blue Dragon Publishing, and I wanted to personally familiarize myself with the Bookstagram community. I post reviews of everything I read, and my reading taste is eclectic. I enjoy literary fiction, historical fiction, short stories, essays, poetry, YA, memoirs, and contemporary fiction. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE/SMALL PRESS AUTHOR AND WHY?

@_katie.reads: My favorite independent press author is Kim Hooper. Her latest novel, All the Acorns on the Forest Floor, is incomparably well-crafted, empathetic, and cathartic. She sensitively braided the experiences of varying characters together in a series of short vignettes in an exploration of grief, loss, new life, hope, and tragedy. My interview with Kim over the summer was so comfortable, and she has the best book recommendations. I chose her book as my book club pick for January, and Kim was kind enough to join us. I can't wait to read her upcoming novel, No Hiding in Boise, which is set to be released by Keylight Books in June. WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE INDIE BOOK?

@_katie.reads: My all time favorite indie book would have to be All the Acorns on the Forest Floor!  40

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E N TER YO U R B O O K ! SHELF UNBOUND

BEST

INDIE BOOK

COMPETITION Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best selfpublished or independently published book, receiving entries from May 1 to October 1 each year. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

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Call For Entries. Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best SelfPublished Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine. To submit an entry, Apply Online. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered. THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the December / January issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of fullpage ads in the magazine.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2021.

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Dark. Gritty. Thrilling. Twisted. HOLD YOUR BREATH! Thought-Provoking Paranormal.

HIGH FLYING IS HERE!

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EXCERPTS

SHELF UNBOUND’S RECOMMENDED READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.

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RECOMMENDED READING

Survive. BY S.C. DEUTSCH

Dystopian | Self-Published | November 2020

No longer watching the ground as she walked, Ana’s sole concentration was now on the trees directly in her path. The jungle was thinning, and she was sure it would meet the beach very soon. The creature trotted in front, leading the way while keeping its place slow to accommodate Ana’s dragging feet. When the trees were spaced far enough apart for a glimpse of the water to be seen, Ana stopped, and her mouth dropped. Rubbing both eyes, then squinting against the glare, she was unable to believe they had finally made it back. Despite the difficulty it caused her breathing, Ana forced herself into a trot, no longer needing the creature to lead the way. Ana had only gone a few steps when something she saw on the water caused her to scream in frustration. A small boat appeared to be leaving the beach and heading out to sea. Momentarily forgetting

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everything, including her companion, Ana screamed again and took off. The creature, startled, came to a stop, stared for a moment, then took off after her. Ana was no longer watching where she was going. Vaguely aware of the trees blocking her path and swerving to avoid them, she ran full out in the direction of the beach. Tripping several times and passing through low-growing bushes, her legs were scratched and abraded, and the shortened pants were ripped even further. Continuing to scream at the top of her lungs, Ana hoped to catch the pilot’s attention and force the boat to return to shore. Her companion followed, galloping as it attempted to catch up but unable to reach the girl running headlong through the trees. Ana never saw the patch of dirt that looked different than the surrounding area. Her entire concentration on reaching the beach

before the raft was out of earshot, she ran right into it, managing a few steps before sinking to her hips. Struggling, she continued to try and push forward, but was now stuck fast. Screaming in frustration, Ana redoubled her efforts to move, with no success. Her companion was dancing along the edge of the patch, tail slashing furiously over its back. The screaming descended to a squeak, her voice giving out as her throat became raw. Giving one final push in an effort to escape proved fruitless. The ground had


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locked everything from the hips down in a muddy vise, resisting any attempt at movement. Ana searched the surrounding area for something to grab, hoping to be able to haul herself out. Seeing nothing, Ana raised both hands, covering her face as the tears started to fall. Believing that the rendezvous had been missed by mere minutes, she concluded that there was no escaping this hellhole, which led to an outpouring of grief that overwhelmed her. Tears poured through her fingers, dropping with fat plops into the mud below. Ana continued sobbing. And then started screaming. Despite the damaged vocal cords, Ana kept at it, a raw primitive sound like nothing ever heard by the residents

of the surrounding jungle. Something was in the mud and it was attacking her legs. Like a thousand razor sharp knives, the feeling was nothing short of being slashed to ribbons. Afraid to reach into the muck to try and stop whatever it was, Ana threw back her head and howled. Her furry friend gave one more panicked look at the desperate scene playing out in the mud, turned tail, and fled. Ana never saw it leave. Something unusual was starting to occur and her grip on reality was slipping away. The sea began separating into prisms of light and dark blues, sharp crystals like quartz rising from the depths. The sky was running with assorted colors, swirling and blending before running into

the sea and eventually merging with the crystals. Ana stopped screaming and gazed around in wonder. The pain was still there, but it felt separate, like a wall divided it from her physical being. The colors of the forest had become ultravivid, and the rich smell of rot and decay, not being at all unpleasant, filled her nostrils. The sound of a beating heart and blood rushing could be heard, and Ana was surprised to find that the whooshing came from inside her. Head cocked as soft music emerged from the surrounding trees, her body swayed with the rhythm of it as the sound could now be seen as well as heard. 

ABOUT THE BOOK Could you survive alone for seven days on an inhospitable island? Spoiled and pampered, Ana has never been held responsible for anything in her whole life. When she commits a crime against the government, she is sentenced to exile on a remote island. All she receives to aid her in her trial is a list of instructions she must follow, a knife, and a backpack, contents unknown. After being deposited on the beach, Ana must navigate this strange and often hostile world for the next seven days, returning to the same spot in exactly one week or risk losing her ride home. Along the way, Ana discovers things are not often as they appear, and help can be found in the most unexpected places. Her voyage leads her to discovering hard truths about both herself and the world she inhabits. But will these discoveries ultimately help her survive? Or will she lose any chance of returning to the world she knows and the life she lived before?

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Not My Ruckus. BY CHAD MUSICK

Cinnabar Moth Publishing | February 2021

Esther kissed me once for free, when we were both just girls. We were sitting watching the Rangers play baseball—not the Olympics, because it was the summer of 1980 and Carter was choosing to hide in a boycott rather than fight the communists who were running it—and Gunnar went to the fridge to get a fresh bottle of beer. “Daddy,” Esther called, “can we have some sandwiches?” He grunted back, and we heard his breathing punctuated by the clatter of the silverware drawer and the rattle of the jam jar. Esther swayed back and forth, making fun of how Gunnar had staggered as he walked to the kitchen. “Usually I get his beers, or mom does, but you’re company.” She winked at me. I wasn’t allowed at Esther’s house often, even though

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we should have been best friends all along. We were both 14, we lived across the street from each other, and we would go to high school together the next year, just like we’d always gone to school together. But her family wasn’t our kind of people. On the day Esther kissed me, though, momma’d had a vision of her and Esther’s mom going shopping together. When momma had a vision, you didn’t stand in the way, and so she had dropped me off and taken Esther’s mom in the big car to go shopping. Gunnar came back with a paper plate of peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for us, and a pair of beers for himself. He eased back down into his lounger with the creak of springs and scritch of leather on denim, and opened a beer. He let it dangle from his fingers, and

it wasn’t long before he was snoring. Esther crept up on him and eased the bottle from him. She held it out, for me to drink. This was one of the reasons they weren’t our kind of people, and I shook my head no at her. “I’ll scream,” she whispered, and held it out again. “It’s gross. He’s already drank off it.” Esther pushed her finger into the neck of the bottle and wiped it, just a little


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pop of sound when her finger came out, then wiped the outside of the top. She made me take the bottle. I drank some, of course I did. Not much, just a swallow, so she wouldn’t scream, and then I gave it back to her. She finished the bottle, and then laid it down beneath Gunnar’s fingertips. There hadn’t been much left anyway, I told myself. We sat on the floor in the Texas summer heat and leaned our backs against the new couch. The plastic on the seats got sticky and uncomfortable when the sun shone on it, but the unglazed terra cotta floor was cool, and her hand was warm when she put it in mine. She was swaying again, and

when she swayed my way, her head rested on my shoulder and stayed there. “Esther,” I told her. She looked up. “We’re best friends now.” She nodded. Good. It was good to have a friend. Even if next year she didn’t join me in softball and running and volleyball and all the other sports I’d been denied in junior high because there were only intramurals, I’d still have a friend. Frank didn’t let me play with him anymore, because he was older and it wasn’t “cool” to have your little sister around, especially if she was better at baseball than you. He could get the bat on the ball sometimes, smash it high in the air with the powerful arms that he’d once used to

hoist me on his wide shoulders, but he lacked control. Just about every hit was a foul or a pop fly. Even when he hit it well, he was never ready to run. I’ve always been ready to run. Esther didn’t care about baseball, even if she’d watch it on the tv with me. At school, I’d used to watch her when she double-dutched with the other girls, who called me boy like it was a curse word and stopped their ropes when I came around. “I have a secret,” she said, without lifting her head. “I want to tell it to you.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Folks know 14-year-old Clare isn’t normal, even for a tomboy. She runs too much, talks too little, carries a gun too often, and holds a grudge forever. Only her papa’s job at the bank keeps gossip quiet. It’s unwise to risk the cold anger of the man who knows everyone’s secrets. Clare feels prepared for everything from fire, to flood, to demon attack. When her neighbor Esther kisses her, though, Clare has no ready script. Maybe she could write one, given time she doesn’t have. At the moment of that first kiss, Esther’s mom is bleeding out from a gunshot wound. Clare can read the signs everyone else is determined to ignore. A murder was only the beginning. Esther needs protection, whether she wants it or not, and Clare won’t abandon her friend just because things are hard.

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Abundance: A Novel. BY JAKOB GUANZON

Fiction | Graywolf Press | March 2021

$8,722.04 Everything, everyone had a price, and so this was Papa’s. If this life insurance check amounted to the dollar-cent sum of nearly six decades of breathing, a solid four of which had been spent working, Henry didn’t even want to know the heartless arithmetic that would one day crunch out his own price tag. Even though it was Saturday, his body clock had still dragged him out of bed by 5:30 a.m., no matter how badly he wanted to sink back into sleep. He was turning into Papa. Before climbing out of their cozy nest, he sealed the covers

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over Michelle, ran a palm over the bulge of her tummy.Rather than flip on the TV for the day’s forecast, he watched the coffeepot fill drip by drip until it grumbled through its finale. Then, with the life insurance check clasped against a mug of black coffee, he toed the screen door open and took a seat on their single wide’s wood-latticed steps. Dawn’s citrus matched the tart, sulphur smell of the gravel pits in the distance, the horizon line spliced by angling stalks of cranes and conveyor belts. There’d been little time to grieve. Papa likely would have appreciated the bypassing of

mourning rituals. The single-page, handwritten will, drawn up shortly after Mom had passed, simply named Henry sole executor, who could do with Papa’s assets and ashes as he saw fit. What he picked up from the med school’s crematorium wasn’t an urn. Just a container. Plain, cylindrical,


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white, slightly bigger than a Folgers can and much heavier than it looked. When he gave it a shake to assess its contents, his papa, he heard a little thump from within. Chunks of bone, he was told. Its label, printed in a mechanical, matterof-fact font, spelled out Papa’s name and three dates: birth, death, cremation. But before he could dig up the phone numbers of family members he’d only met once as a three-year-old visiting Manila, other phone calls started

coming in. A swarm of indecipherable legalese and not-so-subtle insinuations. The banks and collection agencies were demanding Henry take over Papa’s unfinished payments and settle his debts, threatening repossession, probate court showdowns, and garnisheeing his wages.

of the skinnies blush. After a twenty-minute conversation with an estate lawyer (billed the full hourly rate of $150), all the logistics and ciphers got distilled down to more comprehensible terms:As executor, Henry was legally obliged to set his neck to the chopping block. 

They were relentless, seething, foaming. Their persistence would have made even the most shameless, derisive, and downright slimy

ABOUT THE BOOK

A wrenching debut about the causes and effects of poverty, as seen by a father and son living in a pickup Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior’s birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow. 51


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She Wore a Yellow Dress. BY JOHN R. CAMMIDGE

Historical Fiction | Gatekeeper Press | Feb 2021

It was not until the following morning that I realised how stupid I was. The effects of the alcohol had worn off, and I worried that I had likely put an end to my relationship with Jean-Louise, if she ever found out. It was not the dancing and talking that was the issue, it was the kissing. She would regard that as cheating and I had not lived up to my promise to stay away from Essex girls. I could gamble that she would never find out, but many people had seen my behaviour and there was always the risk that someone might tell her. I could not wait for that to happen; I had to do something before she heard about it from someone else. It seemed that the best way was to admit to my indiscretion as soon as possible. I would have to conduct a very difficult conversation with her, and while Chris arranged to have the party host pass on a message to Vanessa

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that I would not call her, I prepared for my next meeting with Jean-Louise. Our arrangement for the following weekend was to meet in central London, and go shopping along the Kings Road in Chelsea and then on to Carnaby Street. Jean-Louise had never visited these places, but she had read about their many boutiques containing fabulous clothes and outrageous-looking people. During the outing, I paid for an orange and grey miniskirt for her to wear at college, and a pale cream leather pinafore dress for her to wear when we went out together during the cold winter evenings. I planned to make my confession during dinner at a newly opened Indian restaurant just north of Oxford Street. We found a quiet corner table as Jean-Louise excitedly re-examined her purchases from earlier in the day. Once the poppadoms and

beer had been served, I looked her in the eyes, and began. “I need to tell you something about last Saturday.” I spoke quietly, so that we would not be overheard. “Chris asked me to go to a party with him last weekend. I didn’t want to go but he said I should because it was arranged for this year’s intake of graduate trainees.”. I could hear myself beginning to blame Chris, and that was not my intention, so I went on. “Anyway, I decided to go with him, and during


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the party his girlfriend introduced me to one of her female acquaintances. I wasn’t thinking at the time, but we talked and we danced, and I maybe danced with her longer than I should have. She was pretty but nothing took place because I asked Chris to take me home. I’m sorry that I broke my promise to you and spent time with another woman. What I did was wrong, and it will never happen again.” She looked shocked and, judging by her reaction, she was more hurt than angry. I waited for her response, and in a few seconds it came. “That really wasn’t a nice thing to do. I told you in Hull that something like this might happen. How would you like it if I said that I’d gone out with a friend and met another

man in Manchester? You’d be jealous and disappointed, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s how I feel, but at least you’re telling me, and you sound penitent. I’ve so much else to worry about at the moment that I don’t want us to fall out right now, but let this be a warning to you, and never let it happen again.” I felt a wave of relief hearing that our relationship was still intact, and the incident had made me realise how fond I was of Jean-Louise. I started to think that maybe the time had come to do something more with our relationship, and not wait until she finished her teacher training. As I travelled by Underground back to Upminster, I pondered our future. I was still awaiting

placement in a permanent job, and she had not even begun to search for a teaching post in Manchester, so maybe now was the time to become engaged. I thought that it might encourage her to think about teaching in Essex and lessen her distress if I was not placed in Langley. Proposing our engagement did not require setting a wedding date, but her answer would indicate whether she cared for me or not. Also, at the back of my mind I admit to having thoughts that, if Jean-Louise turned me down (something that I was not hoping for), at least I would have opportunities to meet other girls like Vanessa.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A spark is lit on Bonfire Night in Northern England in 1965, but for John and Jean-Louise the fireworks continue to explode for decades to come. An awkward Yorkshire farm boy with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester, John and Jean-Louise blossom, grow - both together and apart - and find ways to compromise in this coming-of-age story that goes beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops. 53


RECOMMENDED READING

One Stupid Thing. BY STEWART LEWIS

Young Adult | Turner Publishing | March 2021

The beacon from the looming lighthouse at the end of Baxter Road broke through the fog in slow bright arcs, illuminating the two of them in brief flashes. During one, Jamie and Sophia locked eyes, and the ladder creaked. Trevor reappeared, presenting a carton of eggs and placing them on the railing.“What are you doing, Trev, making us omelets?” Jamie asked. “I’ll have mine poached,” Sophia said, taking her phone back out. “No, we’re going to play a little game.” He handed them each an egg. “Moving cars. Windshields are twenty points. Roofs are ten. First one to fifty wins.” “Wins what?” Sophia wanted to know, still scrolling.Trevor took out an Amazon gift card. Jamie looked away toward 54

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the hidden ocean. “Fine,” Jamie said. “But you guys already have credit cards.” Sophia just shrugged. Trevor spun around and whooped. “How do we fall for his crap so easily?” Jamie whispered to Sophia. “Dunno. Always been that way.” The first car that went by was a vintage Land Rover. All three of them launched an egg toward the street, but the SUV was long gone before the eggs smashed onto the pavement, each yolk a yellow blob glowing in the dark. Trevor howled like a sick dog. “At least we’re doing something! You feel it? That’s blood running through your veins.” As he distributed the second round of eggs, he took on the role of a commentator, as if it was a major sporting event. “Showing promise from

Greenwich, Connecticut, is Sophia Long Arms, and right on her tail is Shorty J, who is not ‘yolking’ around . . .” They heard another vehicle coming. It was a pickup truck. Trevor and Sophia hurled their eggs, but Jamie just dropped his onto the roof. “WTF, Jamestown. You got a limp wrist?” Trevor spat his nickname for Jamie with contempt, a bad taste in his mouth. “I dropped it by accident,” Jamie lied.


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“Fine, ten points for me.” Trevor downed the rest of his second beer and let out a sharp burp. “Gross,” Sophia said. Jamie gave her a look of agreement, as if he’d never do such a thing. The street below was quiet. Vapors rose off the pavement. Jamie looked across the shuttered, vaulted rooftops of the homes around them, some whose spires stuck out through the fog. “This could be an English village,” he said to no one in particular. “Maybe that’s why they call it New England,” Sophia said. “Due to the resemblance.” Trevor passed out the eggs again, and Sophia said, “One more and I’m out.”

“C’mon, Long Arms!” “Yeah, me too. This is dumb,” Jamie added. Trevor looked at both of them, slowly shaking his head. But then his eyes widened at the sound of another car coming. An old Mustang. The three of them got into position, like it was an actual sport. The sound of the car got louder as it approached, and Trevor yelled, “Now!” They all released the eggs at the same time, which sailed perfectly, like a trio of arced missiles programmed to attack a target. There was something beautiful about that moment, like time slowing down, until another sound came that made Sophia scream—a piercing screech of tires. The car jerked to the right,

swerving into a tree with a deafening crunch on impact. Jamie jumped back, repeating the word “no” softly, under his breath, over and over. Trevor lurched forward, holding the railing. Sophia hugged herself, her jaw slack. Then, a bone-chilling silence. There was no more laughter from downstairs—just the tick and hiss of the Mustang’s engine dying, the windshield crumpled inward, as if punched by a giant. The body of the car hugged the tree, and smoke from the engine ascended through the leaves. The three of them stood there, frozen, waiting. 

ABOUT THE BOOK ONE STUPID THING It was just one stupid thing that happened...

When a group of high school students spend a summer night drinking warm beer on the beach and playing pranks on passing cars they get a lot more than they bargained for when a seemingly innocent game takes a sinister turn. From award-winning author Stewart Lewis, comes an island mystery told from the perspective of four teens who get involved in a tragic accident that may be a murder. 55


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Watch Her Vanish. BY ELLERY A. KANE

Thrillers & Suspense | Bookouture | Oct 2020

Olivia ran in the direction of the screaming. Though it had stopped now, the absence of it chilled her. Down the steps of Grateful Heart, up the stone path that wound around the back and into the grove of ancient redwoods. Here, the path turned to dirt and led to the Earl River that flowed into the bay. “Doctor Rockwell!” Olivia heard one of the Murdock twins calling her name before she saw her, bone-white and trembling, near the large drainpipe at the river’s edge. A dog whined and circled her, its leash trailing behind, forgotten. Olivia knew then, it was Maryann and her poodle, Luna. Just behind Maryann, plain as day, Olivia saw the feet. The soles, booted and unmoving. The legs, still as driftwood. They protruded from the pipe and rested on the mossy rocks below. Whatever else remained lay inside the tunnel, shrouded in the endless dark. “It’s her,” Maryann said, her voice one-note. Hollow as a dead piano key. Olivia hurried down the embankment to the river, 56

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careful not to slip, and past Maryann toward the pipe’s entrance. In the summer, the river beneath the bridge slowed to a trickle here, and kids smoked cigarettes and weed, and immortalized their names in spray paint under the shelter of the drainpipe. Other things happened too. Bad things. Like the rape of the Simmons girl a few summers back. But now, the water hit Olivia, ice-cold, at mid-calf. She sloshed across the river and toward that pair of feet, extending her arms to keep her balance on the shifting rocks. “It’s her,” Maryann said again. “It’s her.” Olivia heard voices behind her. A panicked jumble of them. One, in particular, rose above the others, announcing himself as an officer of the law, telling her to get back. To wait. She ignored them all. All her life she’d run toward trouble. How else could she explain her chosen profession? Em called it her savior complex. But in truth, Olivia had only ever wanted to save one person. But her dad didn’t want saving. So, she had to settle for saving

somebody else. A whole lot of somebodies. Bonnie, though, was beyond saving. Olivia had known it from the moment she’d heard Luna whimpering, seen her wandering free, her fur slick with river water. Luna, the kind of dog who had outfits for every holiday and rode around town in a baby carriage and had her hair groomed more often than Olivia. Luna, who Maryann loved so much she had a lifesized stuffed replica in her office at the library. Maybe, in some dark crevice of Olivia’s heart, she’d known all along. Mothers don’t


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go missing voluntarily. Not mothers like Bonnie. When Olivia reached the drainpipe and could finally see inside, it hit her like pounding waves breaking against the sheer cliffs that bordered Fog Harbor. First, the hands, partially submerged and bloated as oven mitts. Olivia braced herself against the tunnel’s rim. Then, the blouse strewn open; the jeans undone. Olivia’s legs anchored her to the spot like the roots of the centuries-old trees that watched, unaffected by it all. The eyes open but opaque and unseeing; the lips slightly parted. Olivia intended to scream, but the sound got stuck, and she only managed a shallow gasp. Finally, the ligature around the neck. The head, oddly angled. Olivia bent over, dry-heaving, and felt her knees buckle beneath her, just as a hand

cleaved to her elbow to hold her upright. She knew that hand. It belonged to the smartass detective. “What the hell are you thinking?” he asked. “You can’t just go charging into a crime scene.” Olivia couldn’t tell him she blamed herself for this; it sounded ridiculous. But she’d knowingly gone into Grateful Heart, and now Maryann and Bonnie had to suffer the consequences of her curse. She also couldn’t tell him the other thing: that it wasn’t her first dead body. Not even Em knew that. Only her father knew, and he’d made her swear to take it to the grave. She couldn’t explain any of that, so she simply nodded, her head bobbing like a child’s balloon as he guided her to the rocks nearby. With his help, she lowered herself onto a dry spot next to Maryann. She focused on her breathing and Luna’s

lolling pink tongue until she felt halfway human again. At the top of the embankment, James pushed his way through the crowd, but he didn’t make it far. His face twisted. Animal sounds escaped his mouth. Someone grabbed him, and he collapsed to the ground, sobbing. Olivia knew it was a moment she’d live again and again in the worst of her nightmares. “It’s her, right?” Maryann sounded better now. Less like the undead and more like the Maryann who worked as the prison librarian, her nose stuck in a book and everybody else’s business. There was no one else but Olivia to answer. “Yes.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK WATCH HER VANISH

Shutting the car door against the rain, Bonnie instantly feels safe with her husband’s favorite baseball cap on the seat beside her and the two empty booster seats in the backseat littered with loose Cheerios. She smiles to herself, feeling lucky to be going back to her boys. But she never makes it home… An addictive and unputdownable crime thriller that will keep you up all night. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Kendra Elliot and Mary Burton. 57


INTERVIEW

Interview: Jakob Guanzon. Author of Abundance. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

What happens when you take an ordinary event like a grocery run, add an inpatient group of shoppers, and that journaling habit inspired by your mother? Well, for Jakob Guanzon those things turned into the writing and launching of his first novel, Abundance. In this tense narrative, an ordinary father, down on his luck, is faced with hardships as he strives to make a better life for him and his son.

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INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

YOUR DEBUT NOVEL! THIS IS EXCITING. TELL US WHAT THIS MONUMENTAL EVENT HAS BEEN LIKE FOR YOU.

JG: It's bananas. I mean, how many kids who dream of being an astronaut ever make it to space camp, much less board a rocket to the moon? Before you catch this incredible break, the odds of ever getting published are stacked sky high, and the years of rejections but still writing into the void train you to expect disappointment. That said, it's no easy feat to get my head around the fact that a book I wrote is out in the world, but it sure tickles me to try. I've got to admit that it's been pretty nerve-racking, too. Not in terms of critical reception or sales figures, though. I was really worried that scratching such an audacious goal off the old bucket list would inflate my ego to Hindenburgian proportions, only to crash me into a blaze of writer's block. However, once the hullabaloo of the initial launch had settled, my first uninterrupted writing session in weeks proved that I still got the itch, and that's humbling. READING YOUR BOOK REMINDS ME OF THE MOVIE THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. WHAT INSPIRED

YOU TO WRITE ABUNDANCE?

JG: As a huge Fresh Prince [of BelAir] fan, I'm ashamed to say I never saw that one. Quite a few friends suggested I watch it while I was writing Abundance, but I had to hold off. Other stories— whether in books or on the screen—have this cheeky way of weaseling their way into my own work during my initial drafting phases, so I've always got to proactively distance myself from similar works whenever I'm writing something new. The original inspiration for Abundance came to me at a supermarket here in New York. The check-out line had come to a standstill. The other shoppers' impatience behind me was palpable. When I peeked toward the register, I saw the culprit for the delay: a woman nervously sifting through a splash of loose change to pay for her groceries. She looked tired, the coins heavy in her fingers. Meanwhile, the indignant huffs kept gusting from behind me. Such an utter lack of empathy, it jarred me. Clearly this was a person who needed help, yet in that moment she was reduced to an object of scorn to her fellow shoppers, whose inalienable right to a seamless retail experience she'd infringed simply by being poor. To me, this felt like 59


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a rift that merited exploration through narrative. IN SOME WAYS, THIS BOOK IS A COMING OF AGE STORY AS WE ALTERNATE BETWEEN HENRY’S GROWING UP YEARS WITH HIS FATHER AND HENRY RAISING HIS OWN SON. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO CAPTURE BOTH VERSIONS OF THE MC?

to delusions of hope. He gets swept up into truly believing that things might get better for once, that this could finally be his big break, when both human history and contemporary data all indicate that, well, nope: social mobility is a thing of the past. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU. HOW DID YOU GET INTO WRITING?

JG: While I'd originally conceived of this story as a day-in-the-life piece, the subject matter at the forefront began to feel too heavy. Glimpses into Henry's youth and happier days seemed like an effective way to both offset this grim weight. There's an intrinsic current of hope that runs through your conventional bildungsroman, and that youthful levity rubs up against the ickier realities of adulthood to provocative narrative ends.

JG: My ma gave me a journal when I was about eight years old. My folks were going through a divorce, which is messy stuff for anyone to process, much less a child, so she suggested I scribble down how I was feeling in those pages. It helped. It stuck. Writing has become a refuge for me, a quiet place where I can wrangle with my irrational emotional responses to the world's havoc, and compress them into more manageable units of language.

Not only do the scenes of Henry's youth allow for a more complex and humane reading of him as a character, but they also sow certain thematic seeds that get subverted later in the story. The big one for me was American optimism, which, in Henry, gets embodied as a naive form of hubris. In spite of how thoroughly acquainted he's been made with life's passive cruelties, he's so prone

Still, it took me quite a while to transition from clandestine musings to fiction. Storytelling felt out of my league. It's one of those rare enduring technologies, implemented through the ages to transmit knowledge, foster community, and even rebel against the status-quo. That seemed like pretty serious territory for a moody kid like me to wander into, so for years I tried to mitigate my

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INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

compulsion to write stories by focusing my energy elsewhere. I had bills to pay, validation to earn, and none of the drivel I was writing in secret would have gotten me close to either a paycheck or a friendly high-five. But eventually it became clear that writing was the only pursuit that gave me some semblance of meaning, so I might as well give it an earnest go before I die. YOU USE THE AMOUNTS OF MONEY AS CHAPTER TITLES IN ABUNDANCE. TELL US HOW YOU DECIDED ON THIS UNIQUE DETAIL.

JG: Economic hardship is nothing new to literature, but there was one excruciating psychological aspect of poverty that I felt had yet to be unpacked: that unrelenting awareness of your spending power, down to the penny. When you're broke, it's a figure that gets branded onto your mind because it dictates what you can access in society, which isn't much. The poorer you are, the narrower your options get, which in a very real way undermines your agency, not to mention your human worth. By titling each chapter with the exact amount of money Henry has in his pocket, I sought to convey this

information in a way that was as inescapable for the reader as it is for Henry. Over the course of the novel, each expenditure or minor gain provides an external source of tension that presses down on the ostensible plot, which to some slight degree captures the perpetual crush of poverty on the individual.

WHO ARE A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS, AND HOW DO THEY INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?

JG: There are too many brilliant authors working right now, pushing language against fresh thresholds as well as bringing historically underrepresented stories into readers' lives. Writers like Carmen Machado, Justin Torres, Deb Olin Unferth, and Mark Doten pop into my mind first, probably because each one of them has forged their own unique style that's playful on the page, yet still manages to tap into zones of devastating pathos. That's the type of literary trapeze act that dazzles me most. Such stylistic inventiveness and unexpected emotional gut-punches keep me on my toes as a reader, and also challenge me to never settle for easy outs as a writer.

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INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? DO YOU HAVE OTHER BOOKS IN THE WORKS? IF SO, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM?

ABOUT THE BOOK

JG: I made the mistake of starting another novel back when Graywolf acquired Abundance, about two years ago now. I'm happy (and quite relieved) to say that it's finally reached the final stages of revision. The working title is Paint the Devil on the Wall, which comes from an old Swedish idiom for "expect the worse." It follows a triptych structure that cycles through three loosely connected characters who have wildly incongruous beliefs about how to effect progress. The first is a radicalized misfit who's taken up a wildfire lookout post in the depths of the Sequoia National Forest where he can practice restraining hostages and assembling homemade explosives. The second is a Swedish environmentalist whose cold rationalism prevents her from sympathizing with her partner's trauma. And the last is a celebrity philanthropist who's the only one of the three that does effect significant social uplift, though his sole motivation is his voracious narcissism. It's a wild one, and at the very least has kept me occupied creatively. Fingers crossed it'll resonate with readers as much as the first book has.  62

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HER HERE A wrenching debut about the causes and effects of poverty, as seen by a father and son living in a pickup. Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior’s birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow. To celebrate, Henry treats Junior to dinner at McDonald’s, followed by a night in a real bed at a discount motel. For a moment, as Junior watches TV and Henry practices for his interview in the bathtub, all seems well. But after Henry has a disastrous altercation in the parking lot and Junior succumbs to a fever, father and son are sent into the night, struggling to hold things together and make it through tomorrow.


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DELOS: THE WHITE TREE BY BLAKE MILLER

The gripping and exciting story of impossible 16-year-old twins, a black girl and a white boy, who find themselves being called on by a mysterious source to come to its help. Answering this call, however, reveals that they are part of a world much larger than our own, one filled with deep mysteries and life-changing revelations; with Lurkur Witches and evil shadowraiths; with new loves and devastating betrayals; and with battles for survival and a realization of their own momentous destinies…DOZENS of READER REVIEWS available on Goodreads.com (4.75 STARS average) and Amazon.com (4.7 STARS average). Where to Buy: Amazon | Hierophant Press | Delos The White Tree

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blake Miller is a graduate of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA, and Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. He currently resides in his hometown of Lexington, KY, where he is hard at work on the second book in the DELOS series. His favorite book is Dune, and his favorite book series is the Harry Potter series (he even taught a class on it at The Lexington School in Lexington, KY). What he is most proud of, however, are the reader reviews that he has gotten for DELOS: The White Tree. 65


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YA ROMANTIC MYSTERY

JANUARY DREAMS BY CARRIGAN RICHARDS

Love is the last thing on seventeen-year-old Megan Devereux's mind. The only thing she wants to focus on is continuing her good grades to get a scholarship so she can leave her stressful home. She starts having dreams of sharing an intensely, visceral love with Casper Truitt. But in real life, she hates Casper. She wants nothing to do with him, but that doesn't stop him from suddenly paying attention to her, claiming he likes her. When Megan meets the brooding and handsome Vincent, they start dating and quickly fall in love. But each time they kiss, she sees vivid visions of another time and place. Consumed by the dreams and visions, Megan’s determined to learn the truth about them, but the more she learns, the more her life is in danger. Where to Buy: Amazon ABOUT THE AUTHOR Carrigan Richards is the author of critically acclaimed Pieces of Me, a young adult contemporary romance, and the Elemental Enchanters Series, a young adult paranormal romance series. She earned her BA in English at Kennesaw State University and is currently seeking her Master’s in Professional Writing. As a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, most of her work deals with mental health in the hopes of spreading awareness. She is an author of several young adult novels, writing about psychological topics in many genres. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, playing with her furdog, or cheering on her Atlanta Braves. 66

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THE TALKING DRUM

BY LISA BRAXTON

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi's dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport. For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world, while trying to hold onto his marriage. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts. Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Braxton is an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her Master of Science in Journalism Broadcasting from Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her debut novel, The Talking Drum, was published by Inanna Publications in May 2020.

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YOUNG ADULT/COMING OF AGE

HOW THE DEER MOON HUNGERS BY SUSAN WINGATE

Winner Best Fiction In The 2020 Pacific Book Award Mackenzie Fraser witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-year-old sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumped-up drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life. And she’s losing. How the Deer Moon Hungers is a coming of age story about loss, grief, and the power of love. “Adult and new adult readers will fall headlong into it. No one who picks up this heartrending story will emerge from it unchanged or unmoved. Great for fans of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.” –BookLife Review Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Wingate a #1 Amazon bestseller and award-winning author who writes unputdownable, surprising and twisty stories with crackling dialogue that exhibit a rare deftness in style offering up stories that are riveting, original and with a humanity rarely seen in contemporary fiction.

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FICTION

BIRD IN HAND

BY NIKKI STERN

Sam Tate returns to face off against a vengeful killer, a mistrustful boss, a shadowy nemesis, and a 300-yearold pirate. When Arley Fitchett's body washes up onto Maryland's Eastern Shore, Lieutenant Sam Tate, just two months into her new job, is charged with finding out who murdered the popular guide and treasure hunter. Fitchett, she discovers, was hunting a rare carving he believed had been stolen by Chesapeake Bay pirates in 1718 and hidden nearby. No one knows if the story is true, but several locals seem to share Fitchett's interest in the wooden bird with the sapphire eye. Any one of them could be the next victim. One of them is definitely the killer. “Shades of the Maltese Falcon. The stuff that dreams are made of for mystery lovers.” ~Kirkus Reviews Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nikki has written five books, a dozen short stories, and countless essays, several of which have been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today and in three anthologies. She is a co-contributor to the interactive murder mystery musical series “Café Noir,” published by Samuel French. The Wedding Crasher, the first in her new series about dedicated homicide investigator Sam Tate, won the Kindle Book Review Award for best mystery/ thriller in 2019. Nikki, the former executive director of Families of September 11, currently serves on the leadership council of Search for Common Ground, an international conflict transformation organization. She plans to continue writing mysteries while also collaborating on both a children’s book and a nonfiction project to be announced. 69


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Every Stolen Breath. BY KIMBERLY GABRIEL

I just finished this book and it is a big wide-eyed YES from me! And I am a fan of this book cover as well – which is fitting to feature in the Behind the Cover issue of Shelf Magazine. Kimberly Gabriel did a great job with this crime drama YA novel. “Too many people I’ve cared about have died. I guess at some point you’re willing to risk everything to protect the ones left, regardless of the cost.” From the very start you are thrown into suspense. Every Stolen Breath starts two years after Lia’s father is attacked and killed by The Swarm – a murderous flash mob. Lia is determined to investigate and bring justice for her family and others who have fallen victim to the attacks. She knows there is more to them and they are not done contrary to what people are being told. She’s done her research… she’s willing to be caught in the chaos and stalk them as they stalk others. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is stopping her. Justice will be served. But as you know with any good thriller – there must be twists and turns and anxiety building pieces throughout. This book does NOT fall short. You’ll find yourself staying up late to try to learn more and waking up thinking “man… what’s going to happen?”

WHAT TO READ IN YA FICTION BY MEGAN LORD

Young adult fiction continues to become one of the most popular genres – mostly for adults. Join us each issue to find your next YA read.

EVERY STOLEN BREATH BY KIMBERLY GABRIEL

And the TITLE leads to so much more as well. Lia was a premature baby with asthma, and Every Stolen Breath is symbolic that she has lived on “stolen breathes” since she was born. She’s got a story, she’s solving a story, there is a story behind The Swarm… This book is an easy read, and ends up being a fast read because it sucks you in. There were points my heart started to race and I felt pure intense emotion right away in the very first chapter – and it just keeps up from there. Read it – and WELCOME Kimberly.

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|

RECOMMENDED AS YOU R N EX T

YA R E A D

EVERY STOLEN BREATH

.

“Never underestimate a survivor” The Swarm is unrecognizable, untraceable, and unpredictable – random attacks on the Chicago streets by a mob of crazed teens that leaves death in its wake. It’s been two years since the last attack, where Lia Finch’s father was murdered, and the cops believe the mobs are a thing of the past. However, Lia has found clues that reveal the Swarm is ready to claim a new victim. Lia will do anything to uncover the reasons behind her dad’s death and stop others from being struck down. But due to debilitating asthma and PTSD that leaves her with a tenuous hold on reality, she is the last person to mount a solo crusade. After the Swarm puts Lia on their radar, she teams up with a teen hacker, a reporter, and a mysterious stranger who knows firsthand how the mob works. Though if Lia and her network don’t uncover the master puppeteer – and fast – Lia could be the next target. Inspired by the real-life “flash mob” violence that has plagued Chicago since 2011, Every Stolen Breath by debut author Kimberly Gabriel is an immersive thriller that shows how hard one girl will fight back, knowing any breath might be her last. 72

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W H AT P E O P L E A R E S AY I N G A B O U T G I R L + B OO K

“Best YA Blogs And Book Reviewers” - URBAN EPICS, 2015 BLOGGER AWARDS

“Top 100 Book Review Blogs For Book Readers and Authors” - FEEDSPOT

“The awesome Girl+Book YA book review blog.....I smiled to see Blue Karma recommended for "tom-boys, tree climbers, adventure seekers, and backyard-campers" because I have answered (or still do) to all of these descriptions....The Girl+Book blog continues to make my day.” - J.K. ULLRICH, AUTHOR OF BLUE KARMA

“I Just Read Girl Plus Book’s Review Of Revelation, And It Made My Night!” - ELLERY KANE, AUTHOR OF LEGACY SERIES

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OK COULD BE H O B ER UR E! O Y Promote your book in Shelf Unbound in our Special Advertising Section for Authors.

Each issue of Shelf Unbound is distributed to more than 125,000 people in the U.S. and 62 countries around the globe. Our introductory ad rate for this section is $350/quarter page as seen here. Contact publisher Sarah Kloth to reserve your space. sarah@shelfmediagroup.com

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No Birds Sing Here

They Called Me the Hillside Rapist

In this indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time, ersatz novelist Beckman and aspiring poetess Malany, set out on an odyssey to define the artistic life, and in doing so, unleash a barrage of humorous, unintended consequences. NO BIRDS SING HERE is a multi-layered novel about a Post-Modernist America in which the characters confront a world of distorted intellectualism and overt incompetence and still manages to be humorous, moving and profound.

or nine months in 1981, a monster roamed the streets of Saint Paul, Minnesota, indiscriminately assaulting and raping at least sixteen women. He became known as the Hillside Rapist by a frustrated police department and the deeply traumatized residents of the Cathedral Hill neighborhood where the crimes were carried out.

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon.

BY DANIEL V. MEIER, JR.

How The Deer Moon Hungers

BY JAY CHAPMAN

One night in January 1982, the police showed up at Jay’s house and said he was the monster who had been raping all those women. He was arrested in his parents’ kitchen and brought to jail, beginning a legal nightmare so traumatic Jay has not been able to talk about it until now, nearly forty years later.

LIKE US, THE POLAR BEARS

BY SUSAN WINGATE

BY TESS MARSET

MACKENZIE FRASER witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-yearold sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumpedup drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life…on the inside! And she’s losing. "From the ashes rises the phoenix. As a family descends into an abyss of pain, so Mackenzie fights to discover her own way out of the overwhelming circumstances of her sibling's death."Susan Wingate is gifted at capturing these shifting nuances as events continue to pull characters apart and put them back together like puzzles, albeit in a different way.

Seventeen-year-old Molly needs to figure out how to get her brilliant plan to save polar bears into action while dealing with a few . . . challenges: Phobias + self-doubt; Anxiety + more anxiety;Loss of BFF

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Hope arrives in the form of Sig, the last-available lab partner, who has an audacious idea for saving the polar bears and--a secret. He accepts Molly as she is, problems and all, and challenges her to follow through on her polar bear rescue plan. She accepts his challenge, putting her well outside her comfort zone. But as Molly and Sig set off to raise funds for the cause, complications threaten to melt the thin ice that keeps Molly from


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Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, goes to Dubrovnik to prepare an article for his editor on the wines and wineries of southern Rhône. He meets up with an old Bordelaise wine making acquaintance, Lucien Delasalles, and his step-sister, Niki Menčetić. He becomes embroiled in the murky affairs of Niki and her family and the local police, which leads to his sad departure from the ancient city.

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is again staying in Europe, this time with his brother, Adrian, for both work and a holiday. During an extensive new wine project from his publisher, he meets up again with a number of his old acquaintances from both France and Dubrovnik, including Niki Menčetić. Whether he can resolve his difficulties with Niki’s life is uncertain.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

To The East

The Final Programme

The book gives a composite picture of what heaven is like based on the eyewitness testimony of nineteen separate accounts. As a result it gives a more complete picture than any other single book does. All of Scripture’s testimony about heaven is confirmed and many more details God never revealed in His Word. Many readers say it’s a great blessing and have bought extra copies to give away.

In this final novel of the Out of Solitude tetralogy, Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is comatose in a hospital in Sydney, Australia after the events of Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His Croatian lover, Niki Menčetić, believes him gone, the victim of a cruel deception by Andrew’s brother, Adrian, and has returned to Dubrovnik. Andrew now has to try to re-establish the rest of his life.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

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Whisperwood: A Confederate Soldier's Struggle BY VAN TEMPLE

A story of one man's struggle of conscience through the bewildering, brutal, and terrifying experience of the American Civil War. Anderson Flowers, a poor, twenty-year-old farmer, leaves his home and sweetheart in the summer of 1861 and walks the twentyfive miles to Kosciusko with his best friend, Dallas, to enlist as a soldier in Company K of the 20th Regiment of the Army of Mississippi. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates

BY CHRISTIAN A. BROWN

Arnold Falls

BY CHARLIE SUISMAN

Spend time in the funny, oddball village of Arnold Falls, where larger-thanlife characters deal with the smallest of problems. Somehow, it all comes out right in the end. Arnold Falls is a novel that tips its hat to Armistead Maupin and P. G. Wodehouse, creating a world in which food, music, friendship, love, and tending your own garden are connected in surprising ways. Winner of the 2020 IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts, 3rd Edition BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

Duane Kinkade was ten years old in the summer of 1861 when raiders struck his farm after his pa had gone to the war; eleven the following spring when he left in search of his father and became a part of the war himself; thirteen the summer he returned home, a veteran soldier after two and a half years of army life and battlefield experience. An intricate blend of fact and fiction, the thread of experience of the fictitious boy soldier runs through the fabric of a very real war and its historic violence as it actually happened.

www.christianadrianbrown.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

www.jarthurmoore.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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The World Looks Different Now

The Talking Drum

On a glorious, if blisteringly hot, Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson’s world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-yearold son, a medic in the army, has taken his life. In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband immediately travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Kieran was stationed, in an effort to assist their daughter-in-law. Upon their arrival, though, the couple find themselves plunged into a labyrinthine and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations.

The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY MARGARET THOMSON

BY LISA BRAXTON

The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Prey of the Falcon

The Seventh Treasure

Two Women, a Spaniard and her American friend, go missing from the University of Madrid in a suspected abduction. Gone without a trace with no demand for ransom, no communication from would-be kidnappers— nothing. Principal investigators, Gene Cerone and Mercedes Garcia soon discover a dark plot that touches the best and brightest women—leaders amongst their peers—at universities across Europe, eventually taking investigators to the desert kingdoms of the Middle East to find answers.

This thriller follows the travails of Secret Service agent Gene Cerone, who travels to Spain to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his sister’s death. Teaming up with Lieutenant Mercedes Garcia of the National Police Force, their investigation unwittingly uncovers an unfathomable conspiracy dating back to the time the Moors surrendered their kingdom in Granada in 1492. If successful, it will shake the foundation of the country and establish a new and powerful monarchy.

www.lencamarda.com

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY LEN CAMARDA

BY LEN CAMARDA

As with The Seventh Treasure, all royalties donated to The Wounded Warriors Project and the Hilton Head Humane Association.

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Behind the Scenes of Behind the Lens. Written by: Hannah Cook, editorial intern with Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press

It’s a given that any novel starring a photojournalist must have

SMALL PRESS REVIEWS

TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

a cover worthy of the character. It may come as a surprise, then, that rather than using an actual photo, designers opted for a graphically designed cover for Behind the Lens, the debut novel by real-life photojournalist Jeannée Sacken. In Behind the Lens, seasoned American photojournalist Annie Hawkins Green returns to Afghanistan in 2015 after having suffered through a traumatizing Taliban ambush eight years prior. Readers will be drawn into Sacken’s carefully crafted story of intrigue, suspense, and danger amidst the complex patriarchal culture of wartime Afghanistan. With so much happening within the story, it was a challenge for designers to create a cover that exemplifies all of its most important elements. Original cover designs spotlighted photographs of two Afghan women, but that idea was eventually scrapped for a few reasons. First, its identity as a photo made the work appear nonfictional upon first glance. Even though a photograph would make sense for the story, because it is a fictional work, designers ultimately decided that an actual photograph might mislead the readers. Second, the novel follows Annie’s journey, so it was decided that she must remain the focus of the cover, while the back cover highlights the Afghan village where the story takes place. The decision to showcase Annie came with the opportunity to feature the most important elements of her character, giving readers the chance to know her before even cracking the spine. First and foremost, of course, is the camera, illustrating Annie’s career as a photojournalist and its powerful, driving force in the novel. More subtle, however, are the messages showcased by prominently presenting Annie’s bright red hair. The color

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of Annie’s hair sets her apart in the Afghan village of Wad Qol, making her an easy target for those who oppose her work and increasing the danger in which she puts herself. It also indicates her fiery and tenacious personality, one of the many reasons readers will fall in love with her character. Drawing on her many years of travel as a photojournalist, Sacken writes with an authority that can only be gained from experiencing adventure firsthand. Despite never having been to Afghanistan herself, her travels in other countries combined with meticulous research result in impressively detailed and atmospheric descriptions of the culture of Afghanistan, especially as it

pertains to women. So, if this cover catches your eye, don’t miss out! You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but in this case, the attractiveness of the outside lives up to the excellence within.

Behind the Lens by Jeannée Sacken will be launched virtually on March 9th, 2021 by Ten16 Press, an imprint of Orange Hat Publishing. It is now available for pre-order online and can soon be found in your local bookstore. To check out some of Jeannée’s photojournalism work, go to jeanneesacken.com. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

BEHIND THE LENS Eight years ago, seasoned photojournalist Annie Hawkins Green barely survived a Taliban ambush that left her military escort dead and a young Afghan girl dying in her arms. Since then, she has managed to suppress her memories of that brutal day-until she returns to Afghanistan to teach a photography workshop at the secondary school for girls run by her expat best friend Darya Faludi. As the Taliban gain prominence in the once peaceful region, Annie's nightmares from her last time in-country come roaring back with a vengeance. But are they just dreams? The unshakeable feeling of a grim, watchful presence makes Annie think otherwise. As Annie struggles with her nightmares, more trouble brews with the suspicion that Darya's teenage daughter is sneaking away at night to meet her shadowy boyfriend. Meanwhile, Annie's own daughter wages war with her father and stepmother back home, feeding Annie's all-consuming mom-guilt. Her only comfort, a poetry-writing U.S. Naval officer who saved her life all those years ago, is now at the other end of a satellite phone 7,000 miles away. How can he possibly keep her safe? How can anyone?

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SMALL PRESS REVIEW

Author Q&A with Jeannée Sacken. BY HANNAH COOK

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF! JS: For as long as I can remember, I have loved stories— reading, writing, and telling them. My best friend and I competed against each other to see who could read the most books in our library’s summer reading program. At sleep-away camp, the other kids parked their sleeping bags as close to mine as possible, all the better to hear my ghost stories. In fourth grade, my class voted to forego recess so I could read them a story I’d written. My decision to major in comparative literature in college was a natural choice. How better to be able to read novels all the time and get credit for it! After earning a doctorate and teaching English and French, I ultimately resigned my tenure and left academia to pursue photojournalism and creative writing. For the last twenty years, camera in hand, I’ve traveled the world, documenting the lives of women and children through

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SMALL PRESS REVIEW

CONTINUED

images and words. And that has led to my writing my first novel. HOW DID YOUR BACKGROUND WITH TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY INFLUENCE BEHIND THE LENS? JS: Photography. Travel. It seemed logical for Annie Hawkins Green to be a photographer who travels the world. The next step was to make her a war photographer going to conflict zones. Annie gets an adrenaline rush when she photographs military forces but also when she captures images of everyday people just trying to survive and live their lives. But war takes a toll on journalists, hence Annie’s drinking and her PTSD. Although I’m not a war photographer, I’ve experienced my share of intriguing situations during my travels. To name two: the lodge where I was staying in Namibia burned down around me in the middle of the night, and while in Botswana, I had to be medevaced out of the Kalahari Desert in a helicopter. Some of my experiences have found their way into this novel. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE THE SETTING OF BEHIND THE LENS IN AFGHANISTAN? JS: Actually, Behind the Lens is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I live, as

well as in Afghanistan. Because Annie is a war photographer, I needed to set her story in a conflict zone. Afghanistan has been riddled by war and violence for many years. Despite the toll war has taken, Afghans are known for being incredibly hospitable and have maintained their rich and diverse cultural traditions. That appealed to me. In addition, I wanted to have girls’ education be a central part of this novel. The fact that even nowadays the majority of Afghan girls are still unable to attend school is a story that needs telling. WHAT WAS THE RESEARCH PROCESS LIKE FOR THIS BOOK? JS: I read my way through stacks and stacks of books, followed every lead I came across online, attended “Meet Your Muslim Neighbors” workshops hosted by members of the Masjid Al-Huda in South Milwaukee, visited a U.S. naval ship, watched endless Afghan dance performances and YouTube road trips along the river in the Panjshir Valley, baked loaves of roht, cooked Afghan dinners, studied maps, and read the Qur’an. And that was just the beginning. HOW MANY COUNTRIES HAVE YOU TRAVELED TO? WHAT’S ONE COUNTRY YOU HAVEN’T 83


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VISITED YET BUT WOULD LIKE TO? JS: My husband and I travel together. He likes to joke that he carries my camera gear. He should! It’s very heavy. Often, we select a destination based on a specific photography project. That was the case when we went to farwestern Mongolia to attend the Golden Eagle Festival and also when we went to Namibia to photograph the Himba. We’ve traveled to about fifty countries, but that’s misleading because there are places we love so much that we keep going back. There are so many places still to visit that it’s impossible to name just one. Recently, we decided we’d like to photograph snow leopards and tigers as well as the women and children in Ladakh, a remote section in northern India. We’d also like to visit Borneo and Bhutan, Uganda and Gabon. Our list is very long. YOU’VE DECIDED THAT A PORTION OF THE PROCEEDS FROM BEHIND THE LENS WILL BE DONATED TO FUND GIRLS’ AND WOMEN’S EDUCATION. TELL US ABOUT THAT! JS: Both my husband and I are committed to furthering education in any way we can. Wherever our journeys take us, we make a point of visiting schools and donating books and other 84

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supplies. The situation of girls’ education and women’s ability to work in conflict zones is particularly dire. Illiteracy rates run high. As do birth and mortality rates. In a country like Afghanistan, girls were actually banned from getting an education under Taliban rule. And now, nearly twenty years later, there are few secondary schools for girls—they’ve all been destroyed. Just getting to school is fraught with danger; girls are sometimes attacked with stones and acid. Plus, there’s a Catch-22: girls over the age of about twelve must have female teachers, and quite simply, 80% of teachers in Afghanistan are male. It is not just in Afghanistan that girls face these obstacles; many countries have erected barriers to women and girls receiving the education they need to be self-supporting and to have a say in the control of their own lives. There are 501(c)(3) organizations working to help educate women and girls. Global Giving International sponsors many programs, among them “Grow Peace in Afghanistan: Educate 3,000 women.” The Global Fund for Children works to rectify inequalities and funds education programs. Women for Women provides grants to local NGOs to train women to work and provide for themselves and their families. The Malala Fund recruits female teachers and funds girls’ educational opportunities. 


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THE WRITERS BEHIND THE BOOK COVER. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

READING ON THE RUN

Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

I live in remote Alaska where I work 40+ hours a week at my day job, write novels, and own a pop-up book shop. In my spare time, I chase after grandbabies and go running with my giant puppy, Omar. Always, I carry a book in my purse. I never know when I’ll get a few minutes to indulge in a good read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, at lunch, bundled up in my car by the river, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.

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I grew up in the ‘80s. I remember the Atari game, chasing lightning bugs, TV dinners, getting up to change the channel, reading the Trixie Belden series (any other Trixie fans out there?), and the book covers I made out of brown paper sacks for my junior high textbooks. Did you ever make those? Anyone who made their own book covers knew it was imperative to also have a 6-in-1 retractable ballpoint pen for drawing and doodling on the cover. Those were the days. You could literally Algebra or Earth Science behind your decorated brown paper book cover. Whether they’re used to protect the book, disguise the book, are used as a bookmark, or as a way to disguise the content of what you’re reading, book covers are masks. They even act as a mask for the author. Wait. What? Ever stop and think about what lives behind the cover of a book? Beyond the cover image, the title, and the categorization of the book (novel, memoir, travelogue, etc.). What exactly is between the covers? What butts up against the inner side of the spine that faces outward on the bookshelf for all the world to see? And, I don’t just mean the letters that form words and sentences and paragraphs. As a reader who is also a writer, I find myself thinking about the people behind the cover. Not only the characters, who are amazing in their own right, but the authors too. We all have ideas about what the writer’s life looks like. Even I imagine a picturesque scene of an author behind her desk with the perfect beverage in the perfect mug as she types feverishly away at the perfect, bestselling novel before heading down to the bank to cash her perfect (and hefty)


royalty checks. Surely, I’m the only writer with imposter syndrome. I’m the only writer who can’t think of basic words, or the one who paints her characters into a corner so tight she can’t help them find their way out so the story just stops dead in its tracks as every other writer is effortlessly producing stories…Say it isn’t so!

a good writer has to weave a tale so great that she causes her readers to emote. And, if we’re not moved when we write the story, we can guarantee you won’t be moved when you read it.

The truth is, some of those books you read are written by authors whose real lives are hidden behind the gorgeous covers of their books.

Glenda Thompson faces the gritty, raw episodes of our broken world. She writes about pain in a way that lets readers believe there’s hope and good in the world to balance the bad. Be careful where you step when reading her book, there are rattlesnakes everywhere.

Glenda Thompson, author of Broken Toys, used to be an emergency medical technician. Imagine the traumatic scenes she’s experienced. Tara Wine-Queen, author of Tenderness and Troubling Times, wrote “The Baby Losers Club” after experiencing a near miscarriage. Tami Lund, author of Into the Light, book 1 of The Lightbearer series, lost her son to suicide almost five years ago. Michele Mathews, author of Be Strong and Pinky Swear, was estranged from her daughter and is working toward rebuilding their relationship. They say that for a writer to do their job well she has to do two things. First, a good writer has to chase their characters up trees and then throw rocks at them. This is at the heart of a solid book. You create a character, give the character a goal, and then spend 300 pages creating obstacles for the character to run through in order to achieve said goal. Second,

Yet, how does a writer delve into a storyline when she’s experiencing hardship or pain?

Tara Wine-Queen and Michele Mathews explore more common life events in such a manner that anyone can pick up their books and relate to the characters. Tissues might be necessary. Tami Lund writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Based on the covers, love and lust are in the air. It’s similar to the way readers escape life with a saucy story, a clever character, or a romantic comedy. Writers pick up their pens, outline the draft and get to know the setting. They dream up characters so real, it’s as if they’re close friends. Behind the cover is where we go, readers and writers alike, to get away from it all or to see it from another point of view. 

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Dotters Books. EAU CLAIRE, WI

F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU CAME TO OPEN DOTTERS BOOKS. DB: Books have always been my favorite thing, and since I was very small I've wanted to own a bookshop. Part of the reason my husband and I moved to Eau Claire was because there was no independent bookshop. After the birth of my daughter, I was looking to get involved so I joined a local book club started by Elizabeth de Cleyre (one of our co-founders). After our first meeting, myself, Jill Heinke Moen (our co-owner) and Elizabeth started talking and I mentioned that I always wanted to open a bookshop. A week later, we were talking through ways to make that happen. We operated as a popup shop for a little over a year, setting up at various local businesses around town. Then, after we found the perfect space, we decided to open a brick and mortar in late September 2018. WHAT KIND OF READING TRENDS DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? 88

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DB: In 2017, when we started Dotters Books, we determined that one of the most important parts of our shop would be stocking books by women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) authors. We felt that amplifying these voices would signal to publishers that book lovers value traditionally marginalized perspectives. We want every single person to walk into our shop and see themselves somewhere on our shelves - from children's books to fiction to nonfiction and everything in between. With that as our ethos, we found that customers responded really well to the books on our shelves. WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT OWNING AND WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE? DB: Most everything! I love books and I love to help others find a book that fits their needs. Whether they're looking for escape, education, challenge, a wonderful story, it's a privilege to put a book into their hands that they're excited about. Then, when they come back into the shop, I love to hear their


F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

thoughts on the book. It's such a special way to get to know people; to listen and learn from people with different experiences and ideas about the world. I'm so thankful for the book community in the Chippewa Valley. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE? DB: I would imagine that lots of shops have had to make huge modifications to their businesses in order to sell books online during the pandemic. I think this is a positive step forward as there are many in our community who need that accessibility. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of recognizing difference and responding in a way that all are included. If that means that events continue to run both virtually and in-person so that more people can be reached, I'm all for it. Our shop has been able to sponsor large virtual events in our community that would not have been able to happen in real life as a result of budgets and travel. I'm sure we've all watched events all over the country with wonderful authors leading to even more connection in the book community. I think this is the future. Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but I hope we come through this time with the feeling that we're more connected than ever.

owned restaurants, record stores, boutiques, bookshops - coming together with the people who've continued to connect despite the distance. Shopping for books online is convenient and currently necessary, but real life community and connection cannot be replaced by an algorithm.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING INDIE BOOKSTORES THRIVING? DB: Independent bookstores are irreplaceable. Yes, we've all modified our businesses in order to survive through a pandemic, but when things are able to open safely again, I have no doubt that people will be flocking to places of community - locally89


BEHIND THE COVER – THE INTRICACY OF A MOTHER & DAUGHTER. BY MEGAN LORD

BOOK MOM A little bit of everything from a scatter-brained, book-loving Mom.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

I am the mother of an adventurous and exhausting but amazing toddler boy that runs my life. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading mind numbing children’s books over and over again because he has his select favorites… But when I do get time to read (or listen) I love reading and listening to a variety of genres. I get the most time to indulge in books of my choice during what I like to call “wind-down baths” once a week.

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Being completely honest – as a mother of two young children, I really don’t get as much time to read as I used to. Because of this, I’m much more selective with what I will read. I get books in the mail, book review requests, recommendations from friends, recommendations from ads, books, books, books! Thrown at me from every direction, how is one to choose which ones to prioritize? The COVER definitely has some strong pull. This is the first thing you see on a book – of course if it’s visually drawing your interest will start to spike. Once the cover draws me in – it’s the synopsis, the story – what type of story am I going to get into here. Give me a good cover, and then throw in a mother – daughter relationship book, and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker! Now, I’m sure I’ve referenced before one of my favorite reads being The Memory Thief. It’s just one of those books that will stick with me… I find myself thinking back to it often. It just has that pull, that effect on me. The cover art shows a gold lock with an intricate, flowy design around it on a black backdrop. Because I am so infatuated with the book, the art also sticks with me. This is why when the book Between Before and After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry found its way into my hands it caught my attention. The cover art reminded me of that of The Memory Thief. This book cover art is a detailed, fancy key on a black backdrop. Then I read the synopsis about this “historical coming-of-age novel about the complex bonds between mothers and daughters”. Of course, I had to give it a go – and I’m pretty glad I did!


Between Before and After is told in a dual narrative which I like. The future (aftermath of the past) perspective is told by teenager Molly (daughter) in 1955 California, and the past perspective is told by Elaine/ Lainey (mother) in 1919 New York City. It is very easy to follow the narratives back and forth. The story has multiple layers and very real issues. You really fall in deep with Lainey and feel for both characters hard throughout. Lainey was orphaned post World War 1 at a very young age with her brother Stephen – their story is strong all by itself. But then you bring in Molly’s story, Lainey’s daughter, who wants to find out more about her mother’s past and why she’s so depressed and seemingly withdrawn from reality. Secrets, choices, things you do or hide for the sake of protecting/sheltering your children… this is all unraveled in this book. And then there is more – if you love classic fairy tales, there is an underlying layer beautifully and uniquely retelling the story of Hansel and Gretel. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t want to give too much away (spoilers just aren’t my review style), but you should go ahead and give this book a read if you’re into real fell and historical YA novels.

at this – but I’ve noticed with my littles, the louder, the more color, the more likely it is to be grabbed off our bookshelf. They want to see activity on the cover 100%. One of my three-year-old son’s absolute favorite books to grab with a cool cover is Snug House, Bug House! By Susan Schade and Jon Buller – a great example of a kid’s book cover that sparks interest! **Fun Side Note for YA – I’m writing this from the passenger seat of our truck on a family road-trip, and we’ve technically been in four different States in the past 2.5 hours (KY,TN, MO, AK) – Travel is LIFE – You’ll probably hear more about this trip in the next issue. 

Now for the kids - COVERS MATTER! You bring a young kid into a bookstore or library and tell them they can pick out a book – you can bet money they’re going to pick out their book based on the cover. So, make it fun. Dr. Suess obviously has done a great job 91


Behind the Cover, with Jillian and Jack. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.

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Without a doubt, my two favorite fitness personalities—one modern, one classic—have to be Jillian Michaels and Jack LaLanne. They come from wildly different eras and social climates. They are dissimilar in many ways. And yet, at their core, they share an aspect of military charisma and command. You want your life to change? Start changing it. Grab your sneakers and get moving. What’s so unique about these two is that it’s not just a persona they exhibit, it’s a personality trait. There’s a part of their genome or psychology that’s programmed to push forward when most of us quit. And the authenticity of their drive is infectious, to the tune of inspiring millions to sweat, grit their teeth and challenge their bodies, minds and spirits. Because I’m not a television-watcher, I was actually introduced to each of these celebrities, and authors, through their literary body of work. Jillian has been responsible for writing (or having had ghostwritten) multiple books on the metabolism, various workouts, maternity, and dietary advice. Many of her articles I’d read in the break room while I was a fitness manager at Goodlife, years and years ago. Later on, I collected her books for both continued learning and entertainment. Her no-nonsense charm surely affected my own development and honed my brand of coaching, which is in a similar vein to hers. I practice what I preach and I don’t preach snake-oil promises or quick fixes to health. You want to lose weight, you most likely need to move, excessively and regularly. She never seemed to follow the diet trends, which swing like a pendulum from feast, to famine, carbs to no carbs, and


provide no consistency or routine for people to follow. She’s one of the few in recent years who was openly outspoken against keto (and the negative effects of prolonged carbohydrate deficiency are now beginning to emerge in the dietary and clinical fields). Pills and fitness shortcuts without caveats— some of which can be lethal—do not exist. You need to treat your body as you would treat an instrument, an expensive sports car, or those shiny Louis Vuitton heels (pick whatever analogy applies to your personal lifestyle). However, she wasn’t the first celebrity to espouse this simple wisdom. Jack LaLanne, aka the Juiceman, was peddling a similar brand in the 1960s and earlier. Jack started his transformational journey at a low point in his life. He described himself as a junkfood-junkie until he hit his teens, where he decided—at an age where so many of us struggle to find a compass or to make sound decisions—to turn his life around before it fell off the tracks. The man was decades ahead of the commercialization of fitness, and one of the first to break into that market with his revolutionary juice machines and his theatrical displays of derring-do such as towing 70 boats for over a mile with only his sheer strength. Jack was a pioneer of modern sensibilities, too, and encouraged both women and the elderly toward fitness. A shameless showman and man of infinite energy, he also somehow found the time to write several books and to host The Jack

LaLanne Show: an exercise program that ran for over 30 years. The man was active even into his 90s. Yes, 90s. He’s living proof that the science behind longevity and self-care is sound, and simple. His outspokenness against sugars, processed foods, excess fats and excess in general have been proven true through modern medicine. What made him unique, as with Jillian, was his commitment to helping people through giving them the advice that was sometimes tough to hear, but simple in essence to follow. As a culture, we’ve become increasingly tribalistic and generally incapable or intolerant of receiving corrective criticism, or worse, even deducing what is corrective criticism from what is an attack upon us. I believe that each of these celebrities has/ had the talent to reach their audience through nearly any medium, through any defensiveness they might present. And I believe that’s because at the heart of it, they each desire the best for those with whom they interact. They’re not opportunists cashing in on fads, they’re coaches and motivators who want to inspire humankind to greatness. And frankly, that’s just awesome and the exact medicine we need.

—C  93


INTERVIEW

Interview: Yamile Saied Méndez. Author of Furia. BY MEGAN LORD

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INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

WHERE DID YOUR LOVE OF BOOKS COME FROM?

YSM: I was born and raised in Argentina, a country with a rich tradition of books, cinema, and music. I was inspired by the artists who bore their witness to the things our country experienced in its eventful history, especially, the last decades, and also the beauty that surround us, like: Alma Maritano, Maria Elena Walsh, Laura Devetach and others who have been acclaimed worldwide for their work in children’s literature. Also my parents encouraged my love of books and stories, and my grandfather wrote aloud to me. WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING?

YSM: I started writing as soon as I learned how, when I was 6 or 7. My grandfather had just passed away and it was a very traumatic event for me. I guess I have been processing life and loss through writing ever since. But it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, already a mother of four little ones, that I became serious about my writing and started pursuing publication.

life of Iris Valcarce, my dear friend, who passed away in early 2020. Her life was rich and beautiful, and someone needed to record it. I gave her a bound manuscript that will never be published, but it was my tribute to our friendship and her love for my family and me. Ever since, each of my stories has been dedicated to a particular person or group of people who have motivated me to tell their story. In the case of FURIA, it is my tribute to all las futboleras who love the beautiful game and made a place for themselves in the sport they love. WHAT CULTURAL VALUE DO YOU SEE IN WRITING/READING/ STORYTELLING/ETC.?

YSM: Storytelling is a human trait we use to pass on survival skills, whether we know it or not. We can understand a society by the art it produces, and in my case, my writing is my activism and my way of bearing witness to the things I experience and observe.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK?

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS THAT YOU FEEL WERE INFLUENTIAL IN YOUR WORK? WHAT IMPACT HAVE THEY HAD ON YOUR WRITING?

YSM: I was inspired by the amazing

YSM: I have so many favorite authors, 95


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but my literary ancestors are: Isabel Allende, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Melina Marchetta, Philip Pullman, Nova Ren Suma, Carolina De Robertis, Guadalupe García McCall, Meg Medina, Rick Riordan. They have taught me to be true to myself as a storyteller and to respect my audience. HOW DID IT FEEL TO BE PICKED FOR REESE WITHERSPOON'S BOOK CLUB?

YSM: Being part of the Reese Book Club has been an amazing opportunity to get my books to a wider audience. The whole RBC team and the authors are a group of people passionate for stories and readers, and it's been one of the greatest honors of my life to be part of it. WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND OF HOW THIS STORY CAME TO BE WRITTEN?

YSM: It was born of my love of fútbol and seeing so many girls and woman fighting for the right to play it. At the same time, the Ni Una Menos movement has been a force that has spread all over the world, and its influence has called attention to the problems with gender violence and inequality that aren’t endemic to Latin America but all of the world, unfortunately.

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WHAT WAS MOST CHALLENGING TO YOU WHEN WRITING THIS BOOK?

YSM: Writing is wasn’t challenging. Publishing it was a different story. In the early days of my career, I was complimented over and over on the writing and the story itself, but I was told repeatedly that there wasn’t a market for a story like FURIA. Until We Need Diverse Books came along, and the market perception changed, and it found the perfect home at Algonquin Young Readers. Elise Howard and Sara Alpert, my editors, believed in FURIA and me from the start, and helped me take FURIA out into the world. WHAT ARE YOUR FANS SAYING ABOUT THE BOOK? TELL US ABOUT A UNIQUE INTERACTION YOU HAD WITH ONE OF YOUR READERS AFTER READING YOUR BOOK

YSM: The best has been the reaction of the Argentine readers in Argentina and all over the world, who for the first time see a girl from a barrio who truly represents them without stereotypes. AFTER READING FURIA, WHAT’S ONE THING YOU HOPE A READER


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

WOULD TAKE AWAY?

YSM: I hope that they understand what a force teen girls are. How brilliant and powerful they are! WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER’S STORY TO WRITE AND WHY?

YSM: They’re all my favorite characters, but I enjoyed developing Karen because she’s a younger version of Camila although they’re so different at the same time.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN THE WORKS NEXT? ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON YOUR NEXT NOVEL AND CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT IT?

YSM: I’m working on a multitude of projects: a middle grade anthology about menstruation stories (with Aida Salazar), a middle grade series about horse girls, a YA anthology of Latine horror stories (with Amparo Ortiz), an adult romance, and a second YA I can’t say anything about, except that it’s also set in Argentina. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university. But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her. 97


BOOKS IN REVIEW BR

SHELF UNBOUND’S

Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews

SPONSORED BY

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The Iron Labyrinth.

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BY MERRILEE BECKMAN

Set in 1947 England, Merrilee Beckman’s debut novel, the first book in a trilogy, is a thought-provoking work of speculative fiction that revolves around a mild-mannered editor who finds himself inexplicably transported underground, where he becomes one of countless slaves forced to exist in a nightmarish iron labyrinth. The last memory Brian Renwick has of his previous life was standing in his kitchen opening a window. Now he’s a slave named Colum whose sadistic master (“call me Uncle”) uses mental and physical manipulation to break the editor down and recreate him for his own nefarious purposes.

PUBLISHER: IUNIVERSE

Surrounded by a strange blue fog and unfathomably deep waters, the subterranean labyrinth is seemingly impossible to escape. Time ceases to exist. Renwick is locked in an endless cycle of back-breaking labor extending the tunnels with huge iron blocks, eating gruel, and sleeping in an iron prison cell. With his identity slipping away, he attempts to escape his

prison and regain his freedom. Meanwhile, back in England, Renwick’s friend Roche investigates his coworker’s strange disappearance. As Renwick’s bizarre journey unfolds, the author plants intriguing speculative plot seeds, including time travel and alien worlds, and questions the very nature of reality. “Reality, at its heart, is ephemeral,” she writes. These hooks open the story to limitless possibilities, and readers will find themselves furiously turning pages to fit the various puzzle pieces together to reveal the ultimate purpose of Uncle and the iron labyrinth. Additionally, Beckman does an exceptional job making Renwick a threedimensional and endearing character, one that readers are emotionally connected to and invested in. The conclusion, however, is somewhat underwhelming, and may leave readers who were hoping for a more thematically impactful resolution less than satisfied. However, while the story’s ending is disappointing, the rest of the novel is gripping. Readers will find the journey through Beckman’s narrative labyrinth nothing short of thrilling. 

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The Other Side of the Ocean.

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BY BEVERLEY BELL

When war comes to a young man’s Sierra Leone town, his life is brutally changed in Beverley Bell’s The Other Side of the Ocean. Saah is a happy teenager living in Freetown with his family. He is aware of the war —known as the blood diamond war— raging in his country, but so far life has proceeded fairly normally. Then one day, while Saah is at his sister’s, the rebel soldiers come to Freetown, setting fire to homes, and killing most anyone who gets in their way. Saah and his brother-inlaw, Musa, manage to escape, though not unscathed.

PUBLISHER: XLIBRIS

After a treacherous trip at sea, the pair arrive in a country where they believe they will be safe, but the border patrol agents seem almost as dangerous as the rebel soldiers. As they travel, seeking safety and care, they discover that not everyone welcomes refugees. They must also adapt to a new way of living as they transition from a life where a meal

might be gathered from nearby fruit trees, to one involving microwaves and TV dinners. This is an authentic, unflinching look at violence, racism and their victims. Bell writes that she worked many years as a “counsellor” and was inspired to write this novel by the refugees she met during the course of her career. Her experience makes for a tale that is at times heartbreaking and gruesome, but also speaks of endurance and hope, even in the face of the unimaginable. The author’s style is confident, straightforward and early on skillfully captures the innocence of childhood, such as when Saah and his friends say goodbye to a friend: “Life went on, and Saah and his friends allocated Haniah a place in the back of their minds with other people they used to know.” One plot thread involves a brutal injury that at times seems to go unacknowledged, but that is a minor flaw in this well-paced, absorbing account of survival. 

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They Will Be Coming for Us.

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BY KIM CATANZARITE

Kim Catanzarite’s They Will Be Coming for Us holds readers spellbound as it straddles several genres. First and foremost, it’s a love story. But it’s set in a science fiction narrative and reads like a thriller, even though there’s no violence. The love story introduces the book. It begins with a young woman, Svetlana, or “Sveta,” a Russian adoptee who works in an ice cream shop in a small Pennsylvania town. The town has been overrun by UFO enthusiasts during an annual summer festival that celebrates a supposed 1960s landing of a spacecraft near the town. During this crazy festival that boasts thousands of people dressed as aliens and sci-fi characters, Sveta meets Andrew Jovian. He helps her when she becomes overwhelmed at the ice cream shop, and the two – somewhat improbably – fall in love at first sight. They immediately become inseparable, PUBLISHER: FORSTER PUBLISHING and before you know it, she’s introduced to the wealthy Jovian family. Andrew’s father founded an aerospace company that works with NASA, and they’re the town’s “royalty.” The suspense starts building when Sveta senses something odd about members of the Jovian clan and feels uncomfortable around them, but within months, Sveta and Andrew are married. The novel’s sci-fi element runs throughout the story with the entire Jovian family’s obsession with stars, space and the night sky, and becomes much more shocking as the chapters fly by. The twists are too good for spoilers, but there’s a tip for astute readers: the family’s name. The excellent writing draws readers in with its quick clip and snappy dialogue. Catanzarite offers terrific turns of phrase, such as “Her dark eyes have something strong like black coffee brewing in them,” or “I am a fish out of water in frantic search of a pool or puddle I can leap into.” As it skillfully blends genres, They Will Be Coming for Us offers both quality writing and an irresistible story—a winning combination all around.  101


No Hiding in Boise.

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BY KIM HOOPER

Trust is hard to come by when the potholes are filled with secrets. I’ve never been to Boise. I’m pretty sure, after reading Kim Hooper’s novel, I don’t want to go. You seriously can’t hide in Boise. Who knew? No one is who you think they are, confrontation is hard to come by, and you might fall face first into a plot twist. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The characters in this book are great. They’re a group of misfits connected by geography PUBLISHER: and one tragic event. Was it a random event? KEYLIGHT BOOKS Maybe, but looks can deceive. It was the ordinary in this novel that made the storyline so extraordinary. You can be an average Joe, a new mom, a guy trying to figure out life as a dad, or a college student striving for independence, and life can still happen to you. It’s ironic, the parts of the book that suspended my disbelief vs. those that didn’t. I found the forgiveness displayed by some characters to be authentic, while the disconnect that others showed to be less so. But, in every chapter, and in every POV, I was there. Hooper gives the grand tour of Boise and dares you to think life can’t happen to you. 

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The Hive.

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BY MELISSA SCHOLES YOUNG

I know a book is good when I wake up at 4am on a Sunday and pick up where I left off the day before. The other day, I read The Hive. It’s a great book filled with spirited and unique female characters. The Fehler women are strong despite their dysfunctional family unit. They fight back against their personal demons and whatever obstacles life throws at them. Every one of their interactions were plausible and authentic. Written from the multiple POVs of the Fehler family, the reader gets a front row seat to the PUBLISHER: challenges women face in a small town in KEYLIGHT BOOKS Midwest America. In many ways, Young tells a coming of age story through each of the Fehler womens’ life experiences and challenges. Young’s mastery of setting and dialogue is visible throughout. I heard the characters’ engage with one another and saw their home, the family business, the Catholic school, and the Fehler family camp. Although I struggled some with visualizing the Fehler sisters and their mother, Grace, I was glad I had the opportunity to spend time with them. I was impressed with how the author told the story of The Hive using a masterful exploration of dysfunctional family dynamics and the strength the characters developed as they faced their obstacles head on. 

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Her Here. BY AMANDA DENNIS

Her Here by Amanda Dennis is a personal detective story. The story takes place in Paris, France as we watch Elena try to solve the mystery of what happened to Ella, who is the daughter of a family friend, Siobhán. Ella went missing many years ago in Thailand. Elena was hired by Siobhán to read and interpret Ella's journal, especially the last year before she went missing. Elena left her life in the United States to spend a year in Paris to dedicate herself to Ella's journals. As you read the story, you realize Elena is dealing with a lot of mental health issues herself that affect how she handles working with the journals.

PUBLISHER: BELLEVUE LITERARY PRESS

Dennis stylizes the book in a way that you can tell how Elena slowly begins to lose herself in the journals. There is the normal font text style that shows when the reader is in reality. The italic font lets you know you are reading Ella's words from

her journal, and the bold text is when you are reading Elena's interpretation of Ella's words. As you read, you start to notice the bold text starts to grow in amount to the normal and italic text. Even when Elena is in reality, she starts mixing up the world of Ella's journals with the real world. This is a book where you get just as caught up in solving the mystery as the protagonist does. You want to know why Ella has disappeared. What reasons led up to it. You also feel for Elena who is trying to understand things from her past as well. Each character has their own reasons why they become so absorbed with this mystery. This is an intriguing novel with a good concept. As the reader, nothing is spelled out for you. You are thinking right along with Elena wondering what happened to Ella. This is also attributed to well-developed characters and plot. For fans of mystery, detective, and self-actualization, Her Here will meet your expectations.  104

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Broken Toys.

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BY GLENDA THOMPSON

Don’t let the teddy bear on the cover fool you. Broken Toys is not for children and the children in it are not the stars of the show. Behind the cover of this book is a fast-paced, multicharacter novel about the horrors of a ring of child predators. Gruesome at times, think of it as an episode of Dateline in written form.

PUBLISHER: THE WILD ROSE PRESS

The cast of characters is rapidly introduced, which was a struggle for me. The excessive use of pronouns had me re-reading previous lines to ensure I was keeping everyone straight. It was worth the trouble and once I had the key characters identified, I read the entire book in one afternoon. I sweated with the Texas rangers

beneath the summer sun. I felt the angst in Rhyden’s family conflict. Thompson paints a picture and then thrusts the reader into it. Usually, I love the moment of discovery when the hidden meaning of the book’s title becomes apparent. There’s usually a golden thread among the pages and when I get to the end, I’m thrilled. In this case, that golden thread did not suspend my disbelief, but it was not a deal breaker. A classic tale of good versus evil, Broken Toys is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be reminded that bad things happen in this world and that not everyone is who they claim to be. 

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When the Colors Started.

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BY BRADFORD PHILEN

Bradford Philen is a tourist. He strolls from one end of the earth to the other in search of character types. A myriad of races and ethnicities, different sexes, and a variety of ages...he seeks them out. Then, he transformed them into a collection called When the Color Started.

PUBLISHER: TAILWINDS PRESS ENTERPRISES

These characters are bold and daring. From Travis to Cleveland to Khoudia; be prepared to sit up and take notice of their personas and their pain. Others, like Allison, on the other hand, are quiet and introspective. Philen peels them back like onions until the reader isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. The one

thing the reader is sure to do, on some level, is relate to them and their stories. Be warned, though. If you aren’t comfortable with an author inhabiting characters outside his race or if you’re unsettled by characters who dig deep into their psyche and leave the blunt inner workings of their fictional minds on the table, these stories might not be for you. His word choices are bold - sometimes shocking - and his characters pull all the punches. If you can see beyond these aspects, be prepared to journey with Philen as he focuses on the central-most part of his stories - the humanity that lies within.  106

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The Girl in the Treehouse.

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BY JENNIFER ASBENSON

Girl Power by Association Perhaps the difficulty of the retelling resulted in a choppy blend of two major life events that Jennifer Asbenson experienced. Regardless, Asbenson displays heroic warrior qualities for what she endured and lived to tell about.

PUBLISHER: SELF-PUBLISHED

Asbenson’s memoir reminds me of A Child Called It and The Glass Castle with a little bit of Dateline thrown in for good measure. If you’ve been touched by trauma or the victim of abuse you’ve been warned. Also, if you’ve been kidnapped or raped, or know someone who has, tread lightly. Bolstered by Asbenson’s strength and will to

survive, I read the book in two sittings. I couldn’t help but trust her, cheer for her, and ache for her. I wasn’t as triggered by this book as I had expected. The author shares her experiences from the safety of an actual treehouse, and I think that helps. She writes detachedly through forewarning and short chapters. She digs deep into the history of events where you’re sure to bleed and cry with her. Then, she sits you down and reminds you that you are a warrior and survivor too. That’s the clencher. This book comes with a trigger warning, but Asbenson also reminds you of your worth and your value. She takes her girl power and sprinkles it like fairy dust. 

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F E AT U R E

Interview: Jamie Harrison. Author of The Center of Everything. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

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CONTINUED

Meet Jamie Harrison, daughter of a poet/novelist, author of several books, and a woman who didn’t dream of growing up to be a writer. What? Thankfully, Jamie resisted a nonwriting life and recently completed her newest novel, The Center of Everything. Polly, the main character, lives an idyllic life in Montana until she’s involved in an accident and a beloved friend of hers goes missing. Now, Polly must navigate a sudden loss admit this new and strange normal.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU. DID YOU GROW UP WANTING TO BE A WRITER? WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY INTO BEING A WRITER BEEN LIKE?

JH: I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer; my father was a poet and a novelist and I knew it was a rough way to make a living. I cooked and worked in magazines and eventually, after leaving New York for Montana, became the editor of a small press. When it went out of business, and I had trouble finding work, I tried writing a mystery for the sake of earning a living, and I got away with it. TELL US ABOUT THE

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR NEWEST NOVEL, THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING.

JH: It came out of several things I’ve been curious about and wanted to write about—children and memory and grief—and earlier projects that somehow came together as one. I’d worked on a kind of a ghost story about children on Long Island in 1968, a short story about a young woman cooking in New York in the mid-eighties, and a contemporary mystery set in my town in Montana. And I also wanted to go back to some of the characters I loved in my previous book, The Widow Nash. HOW IS THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING DIFFERENT FROM YOUR PREVIOUS BOOKS?

JH: In a way, I’m not sure it is—it’s about the same family that is introduced in Widow, but because most of Center is set in 1968 and 2002 rather than 1905, Center just gets to be called a novel rather than historical. I have a bone to pick with that idea. The writing is the same, and I hope the characters are equally real—I wonder what the cutoff year for “historical” is. I edited out sections set in 1920 and the late forties, which will hopefully end up in a third book. And a lot of the 2002 section 109


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is pretty similar to my Jules Clement mysteries—the same basic world, and much of the same sensibility. Polly’s cousin Harry is pretty close to Jules. YOU GIVE US A CLOSE-UP VIEW OF POLLY (MC) AND HER LIFE AFTER A BRAIN INJURY. WHAT WAS YOUR RESEARCH PROCESS LIKE?

JH: A lot of reading. I’ve known several people who had closed-head injuries, and I have had a minor brain injury. So some of the details are drawn from life, but squared. THE CONFUSION THAT COMES WITH A BRAIN INJURY IS EVIDENT IN POLLY’S LIFE AFTER THE ACCIDENT. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WRITE THAT PERSPECTIVE WITH SUCH CLARITY?

JH: That kind of confusion can be completely denting—it just shakes you to your core. Writing about it was a good way of finding my way out of it, if only by imagining it being worse. I had always intended to write about the supposed iffiness of Polly’s childhood memories, but this gave me a way to think about how a child really sees, and give Polly back some of that ability. I really tried 110

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to remember how I saw the world at eight, and it helped to look back at things I’d seen and heard -- LIFE Magazine to book illustrations, top 40 songs, and Walter Cronkite. THE IMAGERY AND WORD CHOICE IN THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING IS ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL. DOES THIS COME NATURALLY TO YOU WHILE WRITING, OR DOES IT DEVELOP OVER TIME THROUGH THE REVISION PROCESS?

JH: Thank you! I think some of anyone’s best writing is deeply felt and often comes out of nowhere—the thoughts that send you scrambling for a piece of paper— but consistency and overall quality is definitely about revision. My first drafts are awful, and getting all the bits to work together sometimes feels endless. My husband reads everything, and I have a wonderful agent, Dara Hyde, who knows what works and what doesn’t, and then I have Dan Smetanka, the best editor in the world. Though he’s occasionally heartless. WHO ARE A FEW OF THE AUTHORS YOU LIKE TO READ? HOW DO THEIR BOOKS INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

JH: I read a great deal by the time I was twenty-two, everything from the supposed great books canon to Ian Fleming, Daphne duMaurier to Faulkner to Aeschylus to hundreds of mysteries, and I’ve been behind ever since. I just finished Hamnet and it was gorgeous; I’d die happy if I could write a story as spare and incredible as Train Dreams or as fluid as The Known World. So many great writers, so little time: my bedside table is currently piled with Jess Walters, Denise Mina, Lauren Groff, Ladee Hubbard, Tod Goldberg, David Mitchell, James McBride. ABOUT THE BOOKS

WHEN CAN WE EXPECT YOUR NEXT BOOK? AND, CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT IT?

JH: Aaargh. I’m two-thirds of the way into two mysteries with my old character Jules Clement, which is a kind of hell-zone of shoveling sand. But I’ll pop through, soon. And when I can’t bear my plot problems, I’m scribbling down bits of a third book in the Polly series. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Set against the wild beauty of Montana as a woman attempts to heal from a devastating accident, this generational saga from the awardwinning author of The Widow Nash is a heartfelt examination of how the deep bonds of family echo throughout our lives. For Polly, the small town of Livingston, Montana, is a land charmed by raw, natural beauty and a close network of family that extends back generations. But the summer of 2002 finds Polly at a crossroads: a recent head injury has scattered her perception of the present, bringing to the surface long-forgotten events. As Polly's many relatives arrive for a family reunion during the Fourth of July holiday, a beloved friend goes missing on the Yellowstone River. Search parties comb the river as carefully as Polly combs her mind, and over the course of one fateful week, Polly arrives at a deeper understanding of herself and her largerthan-life relatives. Weaving together the past and the present, from the shores of Long Island Sound to the landscape of Montana, The Center of Everything examines with profound insight the memories and touchstones that make up a life and what we must endure along the way. 111


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CHECK OUT

What's On Our Shelf Nobody loves books more than us. We're a team of readers with broad interests and strong feelings about the books on our shelves.

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ON OUR SHELF

NOWHERE GIRL by Cheryl Diamond

By the age of nine, I will have lived in more than a dozen countries, on five continents, under six assumed identities. I’ll know how a document is forged, how to withstand an interrogation, and most important, how to disappear . . . Wild, heart-wrenching, and unexpectedly funny, Nowhere Girl is an inspiring coming-ofage memoir about running for freedom against the odds.

Surviving would require her to escape, and to do so Diamond would have to unlearn all the rules she grew up with. Like The Glass Castle meets Catch Me If You Can, Nowhere Girl is an impossible-to-believe true story of self-discovery and triumph.

THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING by Jamie

THE INLAND SEA: A NOVEL by Madeleine Watts

Harrison

For Polly, the small town of Livingston, Montana, is a land charmed by raw, natural beauty and a close network of family that extends back generations. But the summer of 2002 finds Polly at a crossroads: a recent head injury has scattered her perception of the present, bringing to the surface longforgotten events. As Polly’s many relatives arrive for a family reunion during the Fourth of July holiday, a beloved friend goes missing on the Yellowstone River. Search parties comb the river as carefully as Polly combs her mind, and over the course of one fateful week, Polly arrives at a deeper understanding of herself and her larger-than-life relatives.

Drifting after her final year in college, a young writer begins working part-time as an emergency dispatch operator in Sydney. Over the course of an eight-hour shift, she is dropped into hundreds of crises, hearing only pieces of each. Callers report car accidents and violent spouses and homes caught up in flame. The work becomes monotonous: answer, transfer, repeat. And yet the stress of listening to far-off disasters seeps into her personal life, and she begins walking home with keys in hand, ready to fight off men disappointed by what they find in neighboring bars. During her free time, she gets black-out drunk, hooks up with strangers, and navigates an affair with an ex-lover whose girlfriend is in their circle of friends.

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CELADON by Raymond

GET READY TO RUN by

HARVEST MOON by Jenny

Avery Bartlett

Joseph Phillip Natoli

Knipfer

In the late 1960s, in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Neil Chase, a young man yearning to travel, risks everything to take a journey by freighter and see the world. He arrives at a rural Japanese village famous for its pottery, but he soon realizes that things are not perfect in this seemingly idyllic spot. The town and its residents hold secrets hidden for centuries, each with their own different cross to bear. Chase falls in love with a beautiful potter's daughter who lives across the river; she too has a secret she's determined to hide. As Chase learns the ceramic craft and becomes ever closer to the potter family, he discovers that even good intentions can be as destructive as bad ones, that it is easier to make mistakes than undo them, and that no voyage allows you to return unchanged.

Cecily Darden, called “Alice” by her shrink, is drawn into the dangerous world of a husband, Thomas Limone, who suddenly disappeared a decade earlier. Somehow an unexpected inheritance from Thomas’ father brings her to a Brooklyn neighborhood facing gentrification. She finds herself a target for everyone with a claim on a certainly illegal treasure trove that the IRS is also looking for. Whether or not she is or isn’t a shill in a long con, an involvement that begins with her relationship with Thomas, known as “Trip” in the New Utrecht Avenue neighborhood is something that Angelo Bari, the “Prince” of the neighborhood and fascinated by Alice, cannot decide.

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear.

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Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing.


ON OUR SHELF

THE SIXTH OF SEPTEMBER by Callista Bowright

As Olivia grows up within a simple Lancashire background, her traumatic childhood experiences propel her on a painful path that eventually molds her into a tough, beautiful fighter. Sophie could not be more different. Although she is raised in wealth and comfort, she lacks confidence and struggles, in her hippy way, through similar life experiences and losses with nervous bravery. Both are sensual, raunchy, strong, and loving women who defy society's hypocrisy. Then one September day, their worlds collide. Olivia and Sophie could be bitter rivals, but they are intelligent women who combine their strengths to face and cope with the past and present. The Sixth of September is the story of two scarred yet strong women whose lives intertwine and lead them into new beginnings where they must each uncover what truly makes them happy.

BEWARE THE VIOLET

THE CALL TO SEE by Sara

by Maria Vermisoglou

Enochs

Discovering supernatural creatures are real is one thing but learning I have powers and learning to use them is quite a feat.

She would do anything for her kids. When she learns the planet is in grave danger, can she save it to protect her descendants?

My name is Violet Webb. I live in a small town that nearly worships Halloween but I hate it. I can't wait until I graduate and get as far as I can from that silliness.

Ava Andrews puts family above all. Still grieving after her brother’s shocking murder years before, the mother of four is nervous when her husband’s new job relocates them from Arizona to Texas. And when her elderly mom has a stroke back in Phoenix, Ava plunges into a nightmare of visions revealing a dying Earth and her children fighting to survive.

Everything changed when I followed the white rabbit. I ended up in a Realm full of vampires, fairies, witches and every creature possible. Oh, Did I mention Jacques? The hot shapeshifter with the French accent that makes me see rabbits everywhere? Now what? Some bloody lady of Fate gave me a prophecy to get home. The only problem is that I must defeat the darkness before it swallows both of our worlds.

Praying it isn’t too late to reverse course, the determined woman vows to invoke the change needed to ensure a safe future for her offspring. But despite her exhaustive search for answers, she can’t shake the feeling that the solution lies in her own heart.

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EARTHLINGS

RECRUITMENT

by Sayaka Murata

by K.A. Riley

As a child, Natsuki doesn't fit in with her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut, who talks to her. He tells her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. One summer, on vacation with her family and her cousin Yuu in her grandparents' ramshackle wooden house in the mountains of Nagano, Natsuki decides that she must be an alien, which would explain why she can't seem to fit in like everyone else. Later, as a grown woman, living a quiet life with her asexual husband, Natsuki is still pursued by dark shadows from her childhood, and decides to flee the "baby factory" of society for good, searching for answers about the vast and frightening mysteries of the universe--answers only Natsuki has the power to uncover.

In the Valta, no matter what month you were born, everyone is assigned the same birthday. November 1st. It's the anniversary of the day when the government declared war on the Eastern Order. The day you turn seventeen, the Recruiters come to take you away. And no one ever hears from you again. It's October 31st. Today, Kress is sixteen years old. Tomorrow, she'll be taken. The good news? So will her best friend Cardyn, and Brohn, the handsome, enigmatic boy she's avoided all her life. The bad news? Recruitment isn't what any of them expected.Weeks of training await. Military and psychological tests, escape rooms, hand-to-hand combat. The Recruits are told they're the key to winning the war. But with each day that passes, things begin to make less sense. If only Kress had been able to bring her trained raven, Render, with her.

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THE HARPY by Megan Hunter Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy's husband, Jake. The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage--she will hurt him three times. As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.


ON OUR SHELF

ABUNDANCE: A NOVEL by Jakob Guanzon

Evicted from their trailer on New Year’s Eve, Henry and his son, Junior, have been reduced to living out of a pickup truck. Six months later, things are even more desperate. Henry, barely a year out of prison for pushing opioids, is down to his last pocketful of dollars, and little remains between him and the street. But hope is on the horizon: Today is Junior’s birthday, and Henry has a job interview tomorrow. To celebrate, Henry treats Junior to dinner at McDonald’s, followed by a night in a real bed at a discount motel. For a moment, as Junior watches TV and Henry practices for his interview in the bathtub, all seems well. But after Henry has a disastrous altercation in the parking lot and Junior succumbs to a fever, father and son are sent into the night, struggling to hold things together and make it through tomorrow.

THE SONGBOOK OF BENNY LAMEN by Amy Harmon

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing. Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.

LOVE LIKE WATER, LOVE LIKE FIRE by Mikhail Iossel

From the moment of its founding, the USSR was reviled and admired, demonized and idealized. Many Jews saw the new society ushered in by the Russian Revolution as their salvation from shtetl life with its deprivations and deadly pogroms. But Soviet Russia was rife with antisemitism, and a Jewish boy growing up in Leningrad learned early, harsh, and enduring lessons. Unsparing and poignant, Mikhail Iossel’s twenty stories of Soviet childhood and adulthood, dissidence and subsequent immigration, are filled with wit and humor even as they describe the daily absurdities of a fickle and often perilous reality.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist.

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SWIMMING TO THE TOP OF THE TIDE by Patricia Hanlon

The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. Patricia Hanlon and her husband built their home and raised their children alongside it. But it is not until the children are grown that they begin to swim the tidal estuary daily. Immersing herself, she experiences, with all her senses in all seasons, the vigor of a place where the two ecosystems of fresh and salt water mix, merge, and create new life. In Swimming to the Top of the Tide, Hanlon lyrically charts her explorations, at once intimate and scientific. Noting the disruptions caused by human intervention, she bears witness to the vitality of the watersheds, their essential role in the natural world, and the responsibility of those who love them to contribute to their sustainability.

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HER PERFECT BONES by Ellery Kane

The girl’s body is curled up like a shell and almost completely buried in sand. Only her fingertips can be seen, reaching helplessly up towards an escape she will never find… Seventeen-year-old Shelby Mayfield sits alone on a bus to Fog Harbor, California. Aside from a few items of clothing, all she has with her is twenty-two dollars, the ragdoll she’s kept since kindergarten, and the devastating secret she’s been hiding. How long will it be before her family realizes she’s gone? Can anyone see the fresh bruise on her cheek beneath the makeup? Perhaps she was a fool to believe the person she is meeting in this remote little town could help her…

FORESHADOW: STORIES TO CELEBRATE THE MAGIC OF READING AND WRITING YA by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan

Thirteen Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers. This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.


ON OUR SHELF

SINGULARITY

PHOENIX FLAME by Sara

FOOL'S ERRAND by Jeffrey S.

by Jayme A. Oliveira Filho and Jayme S. Alencar

Holland

Stephens

Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall--a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado--from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can't stop thinking about Taya.

Years after the death of his gangster father, a young man discovers a letter that sends him reluctantly defying the mob as he races to locate a hidden treasure.

SINGULARITY is a scifi book that mixes the UNIVERSE, science, physics, adventure, love, romance, faith and religion in an inspiring story about the future of mankind and the decisions that we will make as Species to survive in a world during the 22nd Century.

But Maddie soon realizes there's more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn's doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters. As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything.

It’s been six years since the untimely death of Blackie—a charming rogue who endlessly pursued “The Big Deal”—when his son discovers an enigmatic letter telling of a cache of stolen money. Feeling no choice but to pursue his father’s dream, he embarks on a search that leads from New York, to the Strip in Las Vegas, and ultimately to the south of France. Along this life-altering journey, he is confronted by the dangers of his father’s past as he unravels a decadesold mystery, while revealing other long-buried secrets as well. Poignant and entertaining, humorous and exciting, romantic and mysterious, Fool’s Errand leads him to discover both the treasure and himself.

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In the old days, books had awful covers and marvelous content; nowadays, the opposite happens.” — GIACOMO LEOPARDI, THOUGHTS

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