Indie Debuts - April/May 2020 - Shelf Unbound Magazine

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Q&A PEN America Best Debut Short Stories Judges

The Best Cities for Booklovers


Debut Authors

Getting Published: Authors Discuss Their Newly Minted Work





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


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 Sara Grochowski Lynn Russo V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown D.L. Graser FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail For editorial inquiries: e-mail


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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 serves its victims a most horrible and brutal death. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe it is a serious threat, or that it even exists.1980 is an authentic medical story about a disease that will eventually have an unimaginable impact on the entire world.

1980 is a fascinating read written with the medical professional in mind. It paints a complete picture of the early days of the crisis. …one of the most frightening mysteries of modern medicine. Medical professionals will find it fascinating and the general public, compelling.” - A&U Magazine, America’s AIDS Magazine

Available at

Print ISBN: 978-1-54392-803-7 eBook ISBN: 978-1-54392-804-4

Check out David Cornish’s first novel, 1918, about the influenza pandemic that killed 100 million people.

Print ISBN: 9780692334805 eBook ISBN: 9780692334812






By Sara Grochowski

12 The Best Cities for Booklovers By Lynn Russo

16 Getting Published: Authors Discuss


Their Newly Minted Work By Lynn Russo

23 Bookstagram 31 Recommended Reading 63 Book Shelf

08 Q&A with Danielle Evans, PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Judge

80 Interview with Tola Rotimi Abraham By Sara Grochowski

84 Debut Short Story Collections by Indie

71 Indie Bookstore

Authors By V. Jolene Miller

118 On Our Shelf

94 Interview with Shain Rose

ON P G 16

By Sarah Kloth



Sara Grochowski

68 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

74 Book Mom

Megan Verway

76 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

102 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki


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" I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." – Douglas Adams

With the recent news of the Coronavirus outbreaks many people have been in quarantine or self-isolation looking for ways to entertain. Aside from the binge watching and video conference calls, it’s great to see reading come to the forefront. With publishers and other companies offering free e-books and audiobooks, and a surge of readers looking for and sharing book recommendations, this issue will help satisfy that interest. I think we can all agree that there truly is nothing better than finding a great new author – a new unique voice, a new perspective, a new world.

In this issue you will find a collection of debut indie authors from a variety of different genres. Read excerpts of unreleased titles, view our library of new indie titles coming this year, and find interviews with first time authors to get an inside look at the journey to bring your favorite novel to life. In this issue: Q&A with Danielle Evans, PEN America Best Debut Short Story Judge, 2020 Indie Debut authors – Daisy Bateman, Chelsea Bieker, Katherine Coldiron, and Sara Hinson Bond – discuss their newly minted work, and interviews with various debut self-published authors.



Q&A with Danielle Evans, PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Judge. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI



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Danielle Evans’ own debut short story collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, was published in 2010 by Riverhead books (and her new collection is forthcoming this year), but in 2019 she served as a judge for the PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 collection, along with Alice Sola Kim and Carmen Maria Machado. She spoke with Shelf Unbound about selecting stories for the collection, pushing back against assumptions about short stories, and upcoming collections to look for in 2020.



for an anthology, sometimes the question was less what I looked for, but what found me— which stories I remembered or kept thinking about weeks or months after first reading them, which stories had some moment of surprise or revelation or perfect description that stuck with me. WHAT DO YOU FEEL MAKES AN EXCELLENT SHORT STORY, DESERVING OF BEING INCLUDED IN THE 'BEST OF' ANTHOLOGY? DE: I am looking for stories that use the form

so fully they can’t help but expand it. The ideal of the story form, for me, is something that offers a clear demarcation, a sense of before and after that illuminates why the writer has asked us to stop and look here. So, I always want work that achieves that necessary moment of break or revelation but offers something so fully its own or so pleasantly surprising that it doesn’t feel formulaic.



Best Debut Voices anthology is that it’s judged collaboratively. Collaborative processes can look all kinds of ways, but in our conversations, we agreed not to include anything that a judge was really underwhelmed by, but also to privilege enthusiasm over pure consensus—to include, of course, the stories we all agreed on, but, for the stories we were reading differently, to prioritize stories that at least one judge was really in love with over stories we all felt were fine. It’s a nice way to encounter stories, because sometimes after a conversation, I see things I didn’t see on my own. So, I think in the anthology you can get a sense of different sensibilities in conversation, though all the stories feel, to me, ambitious and challenging and offer some sense of their writer’s distinct voice. If I were reaching for a thematic connection, I might say that a lot of the 2019 stories explore some sense of escape or feeling trapped in something. DO YOU FEEL THAT SHORT STORIES ARE GIVEN THE CONSIDERATION AND ATTENTION THEY DESERVE GENERALLY AND WITHIN THE BOOK INDUSTRY? DE: I don’t know to how to answer this


as a publishing industry question—I hear conflicting things about sales and expectations for short stories, and I think it’s also clearly true that a great many kinds of work don’t get the attention and consideration they deserve,



regardless of genre. I can answer that as someone who teaches creative writing, I get to carefully consider the short story on a regular basis, and it’s one of my favorite things about my job. Not to suggest that academia is without its own flaws, in terms of what gets spotlighted, but it is affirming to me as, primarily, a shortstory writer, that in creative writing courses, the short story is often the form through which students are introduced to contemporary writing. So, I read new stories and collections for myself, but with the secondary delight of imagining introducing them to an audience, and thinking about which stories will invite students to fall in love, or have interesting aesthetic debates, or expand their sense of possibilities for the story form. And sometimes an exciting story collection gets a longer post-publication life than a novel, because it becomes a teaching text. Of course, the flip side of this is that because so many people first encounter or write contemporary short stories as students, there can be an assumption that short stories are always early work. I hope the sophistication and excitement of the best of the genre is enough to push back against that assumption. WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON FOR 2020? WHAT SHOULD READERS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR? DE: Because I have a collection coming out in

2020, I’ve been trying to tune out some of the


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buzz and keep my eyes on my own paper, but I’m very excited to see what this year offers in terms of new stories and collections. A lot of my favorite new work is in magazines—I read American Short Fiction and The Sewanee Review and A Public Space as soon as they arrive in the mail. I’m very excited about Laura van den Berg’s new collection I Hold A Wolf By The Ears, which I was lucky enough to get to read in galley form. I’m also excited to read Amber Sparks’ And I Do Not Forgive You and Leesa Cross-Smith’s So We Can Glow. ABOUT PEN AMERICA LITERARY AWARDS

The PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers recognizes 12 emerging fiction writers each year for their debut short story published in a literary magazine or cultural website and aims to support the launch of their careers as fiction writers. Each of the 12 winning writers receives a cash prize of $2,000. The independent book publisher Catapult will publish the 12 winning stories in an annual anthology entitled The PEN America Best Debut Short Stories. The literary magazines and websites where the stories were originally published will be acknowledged in the anthology. 

Who is Titus? A chicken farmer at 12 years of age, US Army Paratrooper in Japan at 17, All-Scholastic Football player, Football Coach, Biology Teacher, Professional Photographer, Bank Incorporator, Presidential Confidant, Chiropractor and a critic’s quote,

“TITUS OUT GUMPS FORREST!!” The story of a young mill town sports hero. Grit, focus and an ability to weave through all obstacles dominated his life game on the field .......... and off !!!!! Ensuing years finds the sports hero hanging up the cleats and one day dining with a US president and going on to professional brilliance and international acclaim. Never far from hometown yet lightyears from his humble beginnings. This engaging tale will inspire others in pursuit of their own distant personal goal posts!!!! Available at

Titus & Senator Marco Rubio, exchanging books, two great examples of the “American Dream” 11


The Best Cities for Booklovers. BY LYNN RUSSO WHYLLY


“There is no such thing as a bad town for a booklover. Some communities may be better than others, but if reading is your passion, you will find something to suit your taste wherever you live.� - Brian Carberry, Managing Editor,


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We live in an era where people are glued to their mobile devices. However, books seem to be one type of media that whole communities are willing to put down their phones for. Why are books so vital today despite a cultural shift to digital media? sought the answer. After looking at every city and town across the United States with their more than 35,000 retailers and libraries, ApartmentGuide narrowed the list down to the 10 best cities for booklovers. We spoke with managing editor Brian Carberry to unpack what makes these cities the best. “We published this article with National Book Reading month in mind, which took place in March,” Carberry explains. “We wanted to do it because there are still many people across the country who love to read. Whether they’re on a Kindle or holding a hard-bound book, people still enjoy getting lost in a fantasy world or learning something they didn’t know before.”

Common Factors Each of the top 10 cities contains



a population center—a geographic centerpoint of the area’s population. They have hubs—locations where people naturally gravitate, such as a university campus, a thriving downtown district, a beautiful park, or a sunny beach. They are all college towns—some with larger institutions than others. Some of those institutions, such as Harvard, are well known for their libraries. Why are some locations more ideal for book enthusiasts? “I think it’s a combination of both the statistics and the inherent culture,” Carberry says. “On a per capita (per every 100,000 residents) basis, a large city like New York isn’t going to show up in the top-10 ranking even though it probably has the most bookstores.” Instead, the ranking, he says, is more about the ratio. “If you look at some of these smaller cities, they’ve got a good ratio of book establishments to number of people.” There also is a unique type of culture around colleges and universities, Carberry says, but it’s not just because of the students. “There’s an emphasis on 13


education and learning in some of these cultures and subcultures that you might not find everywhere, and it’s everywhere within these cities. So I think that helps boost their ranking, especially with their library counts. An engineering or medical school, for instance, will have it’s own library dedicated to that type of literature. So that will add to the count as well, and will provide opportunities for people who want to learn about these specific fields.” Some of the larger cities on the top 10 list have major universities, so their positions were not unexpected. Cambridge, right outside of Boston, is home to both Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it’s exactly what you would expect it to be, Carberry says—a stereotypical ivy league atmosphere. “It’s a very prestigious community with a population that is well educated.” However, there were some surprises. “Take Pensacola, Florida for instance. It’s on the gulf coast, so it’s a tourist town, but it’s also a military installation, and it gravitates toward a younger, familyoriented population,” Carberry notes. “It’s 14

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not the first place I would have thought of for booklovers, but they do have a quaint downtown area along the coast with older mom-and-pop shops that can bring people together. Then, there’s the beach. The third most popular thing to do on a beach after swimming and sleeping is reading.” Marietta, Georgia also has a culture that brings people together. “It has a great historical downtown area with momand-pop shops and antique stores. It has small universities, and the city itself is very residential, with lots of schools and libraries for families,” says Carberry. While certain communities such those in the top 10 may be more ideal for booklovers, “there is no such thing as a bad town for a booklover,” Carberry says. “Whether you’re in a small town or a big city, and whether there are major universities or small colleges nearby, there is always going to be an audience for booklovers. Some communities may be better than others, but if reading is your passion, you will find something to suit your taste wherever you live.”











Cambridge, MA



Harvard, MT


Berkely, Ca





Pensacola, FL



U of West FL, Pensacola State College


Ann Arbor, MI



U of Michigan


Chapel Hill, NC




Santa Fe, NM




Marietta, GA



U of NC, Duke, NC State St. John's College, U of NM-Los Alamos Southern Polytechnic State U, Kennesaw State U


Saint Louis, MO



U of MO, St. Loius, St. Louis U


Cincinnati, OH



U of Cincinnati, Xavier U





U of AL, Auburn

To read the ApartmentGuide article, go to: î – 15


Getting Published: Authors Discuss Their Newly Minted Work. A Q&A ROUNDTABLE BY LYNN RUSSO WHYLLY

Getting published is a major achievement, whether it is your first book or your tenth. Each one is a work of art and of sweat equity. We spoke with four authors who published new works in 2020 about their books and their experiences.


PARTICIPANTS: Daisy Bateman Murder Goes to Market Genre: Cozy Mystery Seventh Street Books Released: June 16, 2020

Chelsea Bieker Godshot Genre: Literary Fiction Catapult Released: April 7, 2020

Katharine Coldiron

Sara Hinson Bond Gravity’s Heir Genre: Science Fiction Black Rose Writing Released: Feb. 6, 2020

Ceremonials Genre: Experimental Fiction KERNPUNKT Released: Feb. 11, 2020


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WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK? SARA: An amazing science fiction show Firefly,

SARA: For a story about technology that doesn’t

created by Joss Whedon, ran for one season and a movie in the early 2000s. It has an incredible ensemble cast, great world-building, and is full of action and humor. Gravity’s Heir started as my attempt to write my own Firefly story but as World War I in space with a female pilot.

exist, a universe that I made up, and characters that aren’t composites of people I know, I actually did a large amount of research for this book. I wanted all my technology and flight systems to be plausible. So, I read about quantum mechanics, theories of gravity, and general physics of space flight. I also read about World War I and the roles that cultural identity and nationalism played in that conflict.

DAISY: Murder Goes to Market came from

my love of discovering new and interesting artisan foods, and learning about their makers. I liked the idea of having all of these interesting things and people together in one place, and the number of stories you could find there.


KATHARINE: Ceremonials was inspired by


the 2011 Florence + the Machine album of the same name. I felt the album was telling a story in subtext, and I wanted to lift that story up into text. Certain aspects were inspired by the 1968 film Thérèse and Isabelle, based on a book by Violette Leduc, plus a tiny smattering of Greek myth.

characters were hiding from each other, and I knew how I wanted it to start and to end, but the rest of the book was a complete discovery. With every chapter, I planned a new outline, which got thrown out when I wrote the next chapter.


emotional truth I experienced as a girl and have continued to process and live with. My mother left with a man she met over the phone when I was nine, and never returned. I knew this book would never waver from exploring that emotional experience and also the truth of addiction and spiritual searching.

SARA: I had an idea of several of the secrets

KATHARINE: I knew the book was going to

have 12 chapters, because the album has 12 songs. I knew generally what the arc would be, from grief to ghost story, and then from numbness into love. But I didn't know exactly what would happen to take me through all that. I knew, too, that the language had to evolve, but I didn't know exactly how to do that until I did it. WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS? CHELSEA: I teach writing online for four 17


different schools as an adjunct and I am home during the day with my son and daughter. I write during nap time and then after they are in bed at 7 pm.



thrilled when she asked to see the manuscript. KATHARINE: I had been submitting to small

Bay to get to work, which gives me two solid blocks of writing time every day. I make an effort to write every day, because it helps me stay connected to the story.

presses for two years and was very discouraged. I complained on Twitter that I was tired of sending out this book, which I knew was good, and getting rejections. Kernpunkt Press saw the tweet and reached out to request my manuscript, and, miraculously, they accepted it.

KATHARINE: I'm a binge/seasonal writer; I

SARA: By the end of 2018, I had almost

tend to write a lot in a short period of time and then nothing for a long period of time. I think for a long, long time before I start to write, so I'm kind of drafting in my head before it comes to the page.

given up. I had exhausted my list of agents, and despite strong interest, no one signed me. My critique partners insisted I try a few small publishers that accept unagented authors. Within two months I had an offer from one with interest from two others. I selected the publisher with the best terms and the best distribution, and got an escalated nine-month pub schedule.

DAISY: I ride a ferry across the San Francisco

SARA: I am a full-time mom, which means I

only get to write in stolen moments and after the kids are in bed. I nap during the day and stay up until 1-2 a.m. writing.





CHELSEA: My agent found me after reading a

story I wrote online. I shared some of my novel with her and her response was so enthusiastic and her read was so spot on, I knew we were on the same page. DAISY: I found my agent by querying. Her

interests aligned with what I wote, and I was 18

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CHELSEA: Make writing a priority. Try to

connect to other writers through workshops or residencies. DAISY: Always have another project in the

hopper. The only way to reject failure is to keep going.

KATHARINE: Build your community. My book

SARA: Don’t give up after your first book. The

wouldn't be selling if I didn't have so many friends out there pulling for it.

only thing that separates a published writer from an unpublished writer is that the published writer kept going. 

ABOUT THE BOOKS MURDER GOES TO MARKET BY DAISY BATEMAN If you had asked computer programmer Claudia Simcoe what she expected to come of her leaving San Francisco for the California coast to open a farm-to-table marketplace, “assembles a mismatched team to investigate a murder” would not have been her first guess. As Claudia is fingered for a murder she didn’t commit, she races to save her business and herself before the killer adds her to the region’s local, artisanal murders.


For fans of Janet Fitch’s White Oleander and Emma Cline’s The Girls, a dazzling literary debut by Rona Jaffe Award winner Chelsea Bieker about one teenage girl’s feminist awakening and her search for her missing mother.

CEREMONIALS BY KATHARINE COLDIRON CEREMONIALS is a twelve-part lyric novella inspired by Florence + the Machine's 2011 album of the same name. It's the story of two girls, Amelia and Corisande, who fall in love at a boarding school. Corisande dies suddenly on the eve of graduation, but Amelia cannot shake her ghost. A narrative about obsession, the Minotaur, and the veil between life and death, CEREMONIALS is a poem in prose, a keening in words, and a song etched in ink.

GRAVITY’S HEIR BY SARA HINSON BOND Ex-heiress turned spaceship pilot Lena has been avoiding her family and the trauma that forced her out to the edges of the universe, but when she gets caught with plans for a gravity bomb based on her father's designs, she may have to turn and face her past. With war breaking out, she has to decide whether to protect her legacy or preserve the new life and family she's built for herself. 19

Meet Tommye Blount’s


...A captivating, unrelenting collection of poetry composed of sharp-edged truths and beautiful complexities.” — Diego Báez, Booklist, Starred Review, 3/15/2020


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Buy Online


Available at


P U S W.






M O .C 5s e ag r o F


Here is the book that so many early readers are going crazy over. It is the TRUE story of the REAL American hero who risked his life in 1947 to fly the X-1 rocket plane through the sound barrier and take the world of aviation into the modern age. The risks were great with some scary ups and downs, but Chuck Yeager was steady and determined and he did it. What is the sound barrier? This book gives a careful explanation. You and your children will never forget this story. See the movie at










@foldedpaperfoxes TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

@foldedpaperfoxes: My name is Isabelle and I live just outside London in the UK. I'm a book blogger, bookstagrammer, bookseller and I work for an indie publisher. Books really are my life!




@foldedpaperfoxes: I started Folded Paper Foxes to join in with the thriving community of bibliophiles I saw online. My aim with Folded Paper Foxes is simply to share my love of literature and champion great books that I think everyone should be reading (as well as scouting out recommendations from everyone else!).

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





@foldedpaperfoxes: Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions. It's the story of a Mexican village, thrown into turmoil by the murder of a woman known as the witch, and I've never read anything so brutal and beautiful. Melchor weaves an utterly appalling investigation of poverty, misogyny and power dynamics with zero apologies, and Hughes has crafted a translation that seethes on every page. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE BOOK AND WHY?

@ foldedpaperfoxes: Night Waking by Sarah Moss. She is my favourite contemporary author and, though she has since moved to Picador, I will be forever grateful to Granta for publishing her books so I could enjoy her work years before her latest novel Ghost Wall propelled her into the spotlight. î – 23












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“AN ABSORBING BOOK... “AN ABSORBING BOOK... - one sure to appeal to a broad audience of readers interested in cold war history, aircraft, defense, and the sacrifices of unsung heros.”

_ Blueink Reviews

Willy Victor and 25 Knothole is about the vital cog of airborne defense against the real threat of a sneak attack on the American mainland... It provides a history lesson that the American public is unaware of.

a g cowbo n i m o c y e B can’t be that hard,

can it?

It certainly looks easy to Franklyn “Frank” Ellington Seton IV. Smothered by both his overbearing mother and stuffy Maryland Society, Frank escapes to the vistas of his childhood. He will soon learn, however, that the one thing the movies left out was the smell. And the dirt. And the horses. As Frank makes his way through mid-twentieth century America, he searches for a place he truly belongs. And if being an actual cowboy is too difficult, why not try Hollywood?

“With a mixture of nostalgia, melancholy, and heaps of humor, The True Life of a Singing Cowboy will lasso you from the first note.”


Teetering On Disaster. By Michaela Renee







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.

Early Bird Pricing deadline for entry is March 30, 2020.




High Flying is a fast-paced, suspenseful, psychological thriller. Readers will find themselves with their hearts pounding while they read this!” - Paige Lovitt for Reader Views


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



Vagablonde. BY ANNA DORN

Fiction | The Unnamed Press | May 2020

I look up from my phone and my gaze meets the mirrors again. Jesus, isn’t there anywhere else to look? If I was that type of person, I’d write a letter to Walgreens explaining that if they want to sell things to discerning Virgos such as myself they must make a better effort to make the lighting conditions more flattering. I’m here to pick up my Celexa. I’ve been thinking of going off my SSRI’s lately, but this lighting is making me feel crazy as hell, like I couldn’t fathom facing the harsh world without chemical assistance. I watch the pharmacist, who is slightly too pretty to be a pharmacist, move as though she is walking through jelly. The line hasn’t budged. Fuck it. My pills don’t run out for a few days anyway. I just 32

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like to be prepared. I ditch the line and slide my B-Complex vitamins and Maybelline Great Lash mascara into my purse while avoiding eye contact with the too-pretty pharmacist. My energy lightens as I leave the pharmacy area, and I smile at the security guard on my way out, unconcerned about the two “stolen” items in my purse. There are lots of things I’m guilty about, but stealing roughly $15 worth of necessary products from an objectively evil corporation is not one of them. It’s more political activism than anything. In the parking lot, I think I’ll finally ask Dr. Kim about getting off my SSRIs.

Why? Because I’m thriving. * I hop in my Saab and rev the ignition, then pull onto Sunset, heading towards Dr. Kim’s office in West Hollywood. The sun is blazing that frightening Los Angeles yellow, the type that makes palm fronds resemble shiny strips of plastic about to burst into flames. As I drive, I listen to a


guided meditation from my “Insight Timer” app and wonder whether Dr. Kim has ever been to Echo Park. He probably thinks it’s still gang territory. My mind wanders when I meditate. I attended meditation class once after it was recommended to me by a number of medical professionals. I told my teacher that I sometimes love my mind’s crazy thoughts, and she told me I was inviting delusions. I never went back after that. I don’t need a teacher to meditate. Sit there, breathe. It’s not rocket science. I’ve been thinking about psychotropic medication a

lot lately. I’ve had a 10-yearreliance on SSRIs—first Lexapro, now Celexa. A lot of people say: if you were a diabetic, you wouldn’t hesitate to take your insulin, but I don’t care for this metaphor. Doctors seem to understand diabetes much better than they understand the human brain. I worry the pills are doing nothing at best, poisoning me at worst. What if I have some amazing personality or hidden creative genius that’s being suppressed? And then there’s the fact that the stuff is relatively new, meaning they don’t know much about long-term effects. I’m not trying to grow an extra limb anytime soon.

the audio: Visualize your energy shining brightly like the sun. I roll my eyes and shut off the meditation. This one sucks. I have zero tolerance for cheese. I just need someone with a soft, monotone voice to say, over and over again: everything is just perfect. Tupac blasts from KDAY, glaring in its contrast: All Eyez on Me. 

I refocus my attention on

ABOUT THE BOOK VAGABLONDE Prue is a 30-year-old attorney who wants two things, the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as a rap artist. Her life is good on paper: she has an easy government job and a nice girlfriend who gets her in to all the right shows, and when Prue is introduced to music producer Jax Jameson, they instantly click. Prue joins Jax’s “Kingdom,” a collective of musicians and artists who share Prue’s aesthetic sensibilities and lust for escapism. 33



History | The Unnamed Press | April 2020

Between 1964 and 1973, the United States unloaded two and a half million tons of bombs over Laos, or a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, twenty-four hours a day, for nine years. Jessica Pearce Rotondi, the author of What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers, lost her uncle in the conflict. In the excerpt below, she describes searching for her missing uncle’s crash site in rural Laos. The sun rises over the rice fields, and from the van window, Liz and I can see the red roads and green rice paddies blurring toward the mist fleeing the mountains. Liz tries to manage my expectations; even if the smaller roads are passable, the likelihood of finding my uncle’s crash site beyond them is slim. We have no idea if we will be sent back from the park’s border by police—or worse. Mr. Ped has instructed us to say, 34

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“Tourist, tourist,” and smile if we are stopped. Even if we do manage to make it through, we have no idea if there are unexploded bombs or impenetrable jungle blocking our way. The highways here require herculean navigation, never mind the spidery network of roads crawling up the mountain. I spot the glimmer of what looks like a tollbooth up ahead. “Police checkpoint,” Mr. Ped says. “Checkpoint?” I look at Liz and think of the photocopied declassified documents in my bag—the maps, the reports . . . Will they see the Air Force seal and stop us? Under the Lao criminal code, reporting news that “weakens the state” carries a jail sentence of up to one year, as does the act of merely importing a publication that is deemed by the government to be “contrary to national culture.” Defamation is a

criminal offense that can lead to jail time or even death. A man in an olive-green uniform pokes his head through the passenger window and speaks with Mr. Ped. I focus on the blue tassel swaying from his shoulder, the braid pressed neatly around his arm. He steps away, then with a flourish slides open the van door. It whooshes on its track as warm air blasts our legs. The officer leans in, his eyes traveling from Liz to me, up and down. He’s so close I can see myself


in the black of his pupils. He exchanges a few more words with Mr. Ped without breaking eye contact with me, then laughs. I jump when he slams our door shut before waving us on. When I look back, he is still watching us. He disappears in our trail of red dust, though the smile on his face does not. It takes a moment before I realize I’m still clutching my passport. “You have to be careful with the police,” Mr. Ped says from the passenger seat. He turns around to look at Liz and me directly. “My last customer, a Thai tourist, took a picture of officers at a checkpoint like this one. They locked him in Lao prison for a month.” I think I detect a faint tremble in Mr. Ped’s voice as he speaks but realize I’m the one

shaking. In 2003, two European journalists were jailed while reporting on the war in Laos. The year after Liz and I travel there, Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong will issue a decree banning “disseminating or circulating untrue information for negative purposes against the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and the Lao government.” Internet service providers will be held liable for “tarnishing the Party,” and citizens will be required to register for social media sites using their full names, making the sharing of news not sanctioned by the government almost impossible. We continue to kick up dust as the rice fields blur by along the road, though now, the roadside is periodically

dotted with shacks and people on motorbikes and wooden carts that hug the shoulder. When we come to five buildings in a row on a single street, our driver takes a right. “Here we are.” We park before a sherbetorange hotel complex that’s only half built, a palm tree the sole plant in the dust of the yard. Construction workers hammer a roof on a set of rooms with wet paint. “Biggest hotel in New Sepon,” Mr. Ped says proudly. New Sepon is called New Sepon because Old Sepon no longer exists, destroyed by the bombs my uncle helped drop. 


In the wake of her mother’s death, Jessica Pearce Rotondi uncovers boxes of letters, declassified CIA reports, and newspaper clippings that bring to light a family ghost: her uncle Jack, who disappeared during the CIA-led “Secret War” in Laos in 1972. The letters lead her across Southeast Asia in search of the truth that has eluded her family for decades. On the night of March 29, 1972, Jack’s plane vanishes over the mountains bordering Vietnam. The crash eerily echoes the one Jack’s father, Ed Pearce, survived over Germany in WWII, when Ed parachuted out of a burning plane before being captured and sent to Stalag 17 prison camp. Years later, Ed will become convinced that his son is still alive and that the U.S. government he fought for is lying to him.



The Wanting Life. BY MARK RADER

Fiction | The Unnamed Press | February 2020

Three months ago—a few days after Easter, actually— he’d walked into Mercy Clinic a fit man of seventy with a nagging pain in his side. Strained muscle, he’d thought. Small hernia, maybe, from lifting too many books during St. Iggy’s library remodel. Instead, Dr. Shah had blinked his big dark eyes and said, I’m very sorry. The o round and hollow, the r’s trilled. In the X-ray of his liver, the two smallest tumors looked like fish eggs. The big, deadly one: a gray fist clenching a straw. The cancer was already stage three. The location of the big tumor made surgery impossible. There was very little that could be done. He’d get six months more if he did chemo. Four, maybe, without. So then, he’d decided a few days later, without. Quality over quantity being the idea. Which meant he’d be in the ground by September. October, if he was lucky.


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As a pastor, he was no stranger to deterioration and death. In hospital rooms silent but for the wet rasp of a single throat, and bedrooms that reeked of fear and lemon disinfectant, and once in a sunny backyard, standing beside a very annoying Buddhist monk named Brother Larry—he’d led families in prayer, administered last rites, and given counsel the best he could. For thirtysome years now. He told the dying and their families that heaven was real, a realm beyond suffering. He gifted people On Death and Dying by Kübler-Ross, A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis, Bibles with little Post-it tongues. Except for the few months after his mother had died, when everything made him cry, he never lost his composure. It was his job not to—and he was good at his job. All the hiding he’d done, the secrets he’d kept inside—he knew this had something to do with it. The official story of the life of Father

Paul Novak was that he was a more or less happy man who’d lived an admirable life of service. He knew he wasn’t as beloved as his best friend, Tim Cochran, pastor at St. Boniface in town, or Ed Warpinski over at St. Anne’s: they were warmer and more charming, bear-huggers both. But in his own steady, generous, devoted way, he’d served his congregation well. Reserved by nature, he’d worked hard to become a man people could open up to, someone who listened. He showed up to appointments five minutes


early, was meticulous and opinionated about matters large and small—yes, sometimes to a fault. But that was only because he cared so much, because he hated to disappoint. In the twenty-eight years he’d been the pastor at St. Ignatius Parish in Northfield, and the five before that at St. Matthew’s with Father Tim, before they were reassigned, he’d baptized hundreds of babies, married hundreds of couples, delivered thousands of sermons. As eloquently as he could, he’d shared his thoughts about the abiding love of God, the inevitability of suffering, the mystery of faith. Still, even so, flowing under this story had always been another, fraught one, and

in the month after he’d celebrated his last Mass and especially during these past two weeks in their rented cottage in Sister Bay, only this story had felt true. In this version of things, he was a coward who’d built a cage around himself but spent most of his life complaining how he wasn’t free. In the morphine-fueled daydreams that had arrived these past few weeks, Paul had been visited by a number of handsome strangers: the men who could have been. They sat across from him at a dinner table, candlelight reflected in their eyes. They rolled over in bed to touch his face. Most of them had olive skin and dark eyes, like Luca, but they weren’t him, not exactly. Though Luca had appeared to him once,

directly, as himself. In that dream, Paul was climbing a staircase, carrying a white paper bag filled with cheeseburgers, Luca’s favorite. When an open door appeared at the top, there was Luca sitting on the edge of an open window, his hair the same shiny, dark, curly mop it was in Rome, but his body was pale and skeletal. Where were you? he asked, and Paul realized that Luca had been waiting for the meal he’d brought for a long time. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE WANTING LIFE Set in Rome during the spring of 1970, and in Cape Cod and Wisconsin over the course of the summer of 2009, The Wanting Life lays bare the private stories people tell only themselves— stories that justify lives of passion or compromise, service or joy. Three members of the Novak family are in crisis. Paul is a dying priest haunted by vivid memories of his past and Britta, Paul’s self-destructive sister and caretaker, struggles to find meaning in a world without her beloved second husband. Meanwhile, Maura, Britta’s daughter, is an artist no longer in love with her husband and she finds herself stranded between a future with her family, and the man she believes is her one, true love. 37



Fiction READ |AN University EXCERPTOf Iowa Press | October 2019

Early this morning the blackbirds fell from the sky, hammering onto rooftops and parked cars, pavement and windshields. It happened in what our parents call the wee hours, the thumping on rooftops that shook us from sleep. Today we girls sit glossylipped at our desks at school while men in gloves buzz around outside, shoveling bird carcasses from the lawn, and we pick polish from our nails, passing notes and pretending to be bored while at the same time trying urgently to outdo each other in grades, in answers, in looks from boys. Except for the birds, it is an ordinary day. Though no one can explain why they fell, in some ways the birds—for us— seem like a great equalizer. Because every day, for us, brings a small event that in some way upsets the 38

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world the way the birds do for everyone else today: a strange look from a boy, maybe, or the stranger, more critical looks we give each other. We love each other. We go way back. Our priests and pastors tell us to be kind, and our parents tell us to be grateful. They make casual commandments that we struggle to follow and, when we fail disastrously, denounce as unfair. No one knows what it’s like to be us. Our teacher tells us to be proud. We are really going to go somewhere someday, she says. But where? When? And where are we now? Outside the classroom window, a steady drip from the gutter, diamond drops of water refracting light. It snowed a little last night, unseasonably, and the papers say maybe this is why the birds fell, mis-taking snowy parking

lots for bodies of water, avenues for rivers, and attempting to dive headfirst into them. They navigate by starlight and, at night, might mistake for stars the artificial lights of a town like ours. There are other possibilities, too, the papers say: disorientation from fireworks at a venue outside town, the inscrutable hand of God. The birds, their bodies on the sidewalks that we picked our way around this morning on our walk to school, make everything


suspect. When our teacher tells us that one number multiplied by another equals another, we are unsure whether to believe her. We watch those dainty crystals of water drip outside the window, redirect the sunlight. We pass notes, pick the color from our nails. Our teacher, Ms. Kendall, is beautiful and flawless as an actress on a magazine cover, though she wears a turtleneck that reaches up high and sits snug just beneath her chin, a sweater that smells of wool, a smell we inhale when she walks by, a smell like being tucked beneath a warm blanket on a frostlined morning. While men wander outside our classroom window, retrieving feathered bodies from the grass, we

look at them, then look at her. We see them watching her through the window with blackbirds in their gloved hands and wonder if it’s true, what the boys say—that she’s a stripper after school gets out, that friends of their brothers’ fathers and fathers of their cousins’ friends have seen her, her knee crooked around a silver pole in a dark room. “They’ve seen her,” the boys say. “Everybody knows about Ms. Kendall.” We sense the untruth of the rumor, its cruelty. We see that Ms. Kendall looks at home in her pinstripe slacks, sheathed in her wool turtle-neck. And yet, too, we understand intimately the ways in which people change: rapidly, without warning,

the way these blackbirds with the iridescent oily sheen on their wings, with their wiry claws, fell from the sky in the still-dark hours of morning. We have been sinking our own claws into each other’s flesh for years. We love each other ferociously, and we hate each other ferociously as well. We swing between these two positions pendulously. We are best friends. And we are all alone. 

ABOUT THE BOOK HAPPY LIKE THIS The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and relationships that are often unscripted or unconventional. In the midst of their ambivalence about marriage, monogamy, and motherhood and their struggles to accept and love their bodies, they look to other women for solidarity, stability, and validation. Sometimes they find it; sometimes they don’t. 39



Fiction READ| AN Independently EXCERPT Published | January 2020

Ellie had decided to pursue her acting dreams away from high school. I could barely survive high school with Ellie by my side. John had gone. How in the world could I do it without her? It was an easy decision for me to make and without any hesitation, I support Ellie's idea and plan to drop out of high school along with her. We just had to think of a way to survive telling about our decision to our parents together. Our two sets of parents freaked. Two young girls suddenly dropping out of academia, barely just turned seventeen and not even finishing high school? Unheard of! I was accused of being a lemming to Ellie, willing to follow her blindly to the sea. Ellie was accused of living in a fantasy world. Ellie, being Ellie, was finally able to convince our parents to give us a chance. She must have inherited her gift to negotiate from her lawyer parents. We had a deal that if we weren't 40

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successful within a couple of years (two or three at most), we could go back to finishing our high school diplomas and then go for our university degrees. I could see the decision tearing our parents apart but either it was agreeing to Ellie's proposal or losing us both. They knew how stubborn Ellie could be. They knew I wouldn't leave her for the world. Both Ellie and I talk on the phone to discuss whether or not we had convinced our parents. "What do you think? Do you think that they will agree?" "I am pretty sure my parents are going to say yes", says Ellie. "I always win and usually they give in by the seventeenth time I ask them." "I don't know about my parents...they were pretty worried especially mom. I think it really shocked her." "You can't back out now Cassie. We need to stay

strong...think of the freedom! No more boring classes...we can be on our own exploring the world together!" "Ellie... I am still thinking about what my mom said. She said that when I was born, it was like her heart started beating outside her chest, outside as me. She doesn't want me to stop being her baby. She can't believe that I want to drop out of school and move out." " is going to happen sooner or later. You are your own person


too and need to understand the world around you and standup on your own two feet. Sooner or later you will have to stop holding on to your parents' hands and become independent. Deep down, they would want you to follow your heart and happiness. Besides, we have made them a iron-clad promise that we will try outfor our dreams and if we weren't successful, we will go back to doing what they want...go to high school and then university." "Ellie, I am not like you. You are so sure what you want to do in your life, you have always been sure of it...I don't even know what I want to do..." "Stay with me Cassie and we will figure it out together, like

we always do!" "You know Ellie what my parents said...they said that it gets harder to go back to high school once you leave it in the middle." "Hmmm...that might be true but it is not like we would go back to the same high school. We could take online courses for the courses that are missing to get our diploma as well." Ellie was right, I hadn't thought about that option. It makes me feel better. "So you don't think that it will be hard to go back to studies?" "No, it won''s because we made a promise to our parents. That reason would make it easier to go back." "So do you think that they will agree Ellie?"

"Yes, absolutely! I am sure they will." Surprisingly, our parents did agree just as Ellie had predicted. Now that I think about it, both Ellie and I were tremendously fortunate in having parents that were so supportive and who gave us enough freedom to pursue our dream and forge our own paths in life. It must have been a hard decision for them to make but reluctantly and after much deliberation, they agreed. Victorious, Ellie and I decidedly set off to pursue her acting career. As for myself, I was to figure out my own purpose in life out there in the real world. î –


MY DEAR ELLIE What would you do for your BFF? Cassandra Grace will do anything. This is a coming of age story about two beautiful best friends Eleanor James and Cassandra Grace. Eleanor James, or Ellie, is a aspiring actress who dreams of being a superstar and her best friend is there to support her all the way. What could come between their friendship? Cassandra, or Cassie, narrates their life story and tells us about their special friendship with a bond strong enough to last a thousand years. 41


The Brightest Place in the World. BY DAVID PHILIP MULLINS

Fiction READ |AN University EXCERPTof Nevada Press | June 2020

She crawls from beneath the table, minding the placement of her hands and knees, to find the dining room covered in glass. Glass on the carpet, the chairs. Glass on the tabletop, the hutch, the leaves of a potted gardenia. She felt the shower of it against her shoulders and back, she heard it spray the furniture, but she’s astonished to see so much, all four windows gone. Gingerly, Emma stands up and shrugs the flannel blanket from her shoulders, running her fingers over her arms and legs and face. Thanks to the blanket, there isn’t a scratch on her, even though she wears nothing more than spandex cycling shorts and a cotton tank top. The chandelier, loosed from the ceiling, swings in a tired circle from two twisted wires, the bases of its eight tiny bulbs headless in their sockets. Fragments of glass stick to the wall and flicker like crystals in the orange morning light. 42

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She steps with care to one of the empty window frames and peers outside. Smoke darkens the sky. A towering fire rages below— one of the plants in flames. Which one, though? Which one? It’s impossible to tell. Near as they are, the distance is still too great, the smoke too dense, a reddish-black pall in the shape of a cauliflower. Emma tiptoes through the house, searching in her white ankle socks for a phone and her tennis shoes, glass everywhere. On the kitchen countertops. On the armchairs and end tables. Arrayed in an abstract mosaic across the ceramic tile in the entryway. Knives of it, splinters, razor-edged sections the size of dinner plates. As far as she can tell, no window has been left unbroken, no vase or picture frame. Each room looks as it might in the wake of a powerful earthquake. She can’t catch her breath, though it’s no exertion at

all to walk so delicately from room to room. Emma feels as though she’s in a semiconscious state. She is outside herself, she thinks— is that what people call it? There’s a ringing in her ears, and she feels momentarily like she’s lost—lost in this house she knows so well— everything a little murky all of a sudden, foreign-looking in some frightful way. Has she sustained an injury to the head? She touches her face again, smooths her palms slowly over her skull. No lumps, no blood. Her search for shoes and a


phone seems a rational, selforienting task, but she keeps having the strange sense that her thoughts are not her own, that they belong to someone else, and Emma moves aimlessly around the living room, hardly looking. They are in the spare bedroom, her Nikes. She remembers now. She took them off, as she sometimes does, while riding the stationary bike, feeling lighter without them—before the explosions began, before she grabbed the blanket from a linen closet and hurried to the dining room for cover. Emma makes her way down the hall. Once or twice she missteps and a shard of glass crunches like a corn chip under the ball of her foot, though her socks remain untorn, her feet uncut. In the spare bedroom she

pulls on her shoes, leaving the laces untied. The ringing in her ears has abated, replaced by a sharp whisking sensation, a fretful feeling, at the back of her tongue. She finds the cordless phone on a nightstand in the master bedroom. She dials Andrew’s cell phone and gets his voice mail. Emma bites her lip and tries the number again. This time a computerized voice tells her that all circuits are busy. She dials 911—it’s the only other thing she can think to do—telling the dispatcher there’s been an accident. “Explosions,” she says, absurdly. “A fire.” “The WEPCO plant?” the dispatcher asks, clearing his throat. Emma feels a flush of heat in her neck. “We’re aware of the situation,

ma’am. Are you hurt?” He speaks slowly, as if to a child or a drunk. “I’m not hurt, no,” she says. “You don’t have to send anyone. I’m hanging up now,” Emma says, and hangs up. Back in the living room, she turns on the television. An aerial view of the plant: fire and smoke, so much smoke, a close-up of what she saw from the dining room. Abandoned automobiles, dented or windowless or overturned, obstruct the narrow roads that curve like tributaries through the flat sepia terrain. Studying the screen, Emma looks for Andrew among them, looks for his dark-blue Sonata, but can see no one, can spot no car that resembles his. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE BRIGHTEST PLACE IN THE WORLD Inspired by true events, The Brightest Place in the World traces the lives of four characters haunted by an industrial disaster. On an ordinary sunny morning in 2012, a series of explosions level a chemical plant on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The shock waves are felt as far away as Fremont Street. Homes and businesses suffer broken windows and caved-in roofs. Hundreds are injured, and eight employees of the plant are unaccounted for, presumed dead.




Fiction READ| AN University EXCERPTof Nevada Press | November 2019

Abby settled in, adjusting IV fluids, ordering labs and X-rays. She gave the patient morphine, and he began to relax. Fortunately, the wound had nearly quit bleeding, but he was seriously anemic and would need to go to Flagstaff Medical Center for a surgical wound flush and possible blood transfusion. The patient, now dull with narcotic, sleepily protested the transfer because it had taken him a year to get that campground reservation, but he was overruled. The rangers cleared out, and Ginger up front called for an ambulance. “Ready to jump back on the treadmill?” Dolores asked, smiling and pointing to the next exam room. Abby nodded. She was no stranger to a busy pace, and preventive visits were her favorite encounters. She relished the task of keeping her patients healthy, finding the tiny abnormalities before they became bigger problems. Uncovering the destructive habits 44

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and searching for what might change the course. Endlessly challenging and sometimes rewarding. Her next patient had waited a long time because of the trauma case: Ada Cheshire, a cheery, obese fifty-fiveyear-old woman who drove a shuttle bus up and down the rim, carting tourists to the far western overlooks where traffic was no longer allowed because of congestion. She was new to the job, just six months. “Here for my yearly Pap!” Mrs. Cheshire announced loudly, pulling off all her clothes and shedding them on a chair before Abby could step out of the room. “Nah, don’t leave. It’s just us gals. My first time with a lady doctor, and I think I like it. Dr. Wilmore, was it?” Abby quickly handed her a gown and sheet to cover her ample body. “Mrs. Cheshire, I don’t know if you realize, but Paps aren’t recommended every year anymore. Only every five years at your age, if your

past Paps have been normal and if you don’t have HPV. HPV is that virus that causes cervical cancer.” “Say what? I’ve got a virus in my hoohaw?” She stopped undressing and her eyebrows shot up. Abby smiled. “No, I’m saying you probably don’t, since your Paps have always been normal. We’ll test for it to be sure.” “Honey, I think I’ll just stick with the old yearly schedule for now. Because I’m ready for this Pap, and I’ve cleaned up for you down there, so let’s do it.” One of her dimply


breasts kept slipping out of the paper gown, which was not large enough to contain her, so Abby handed her an extra gown to cover her front. “We’ll do it today for sure.” Abby knew not to push new information too quickly. “And when was your last mammogram?” “Nope, nope, none of that for me.” Her head wagged. “I’ve heard terrible things about those mammograms. Why, honey, they can actually cause breast cancer! Besides, I heard they hurt like the devil.” “They do hurt a little.” Abby nodded. “But in reality, you’re more likely to get breast cancer, family history or not, than cervical cancer. For you at your age, a mammogram is more important than a Pap. And mammograms don’t cause cancer, by the way.”

“Well, I’ll think about it, but no promises, because I’d probably have to drive all the way to Flagstaff to get the dang thing done. And let’s get on with this, ’cause my shift starts in thirty minutes.” She plopped herself on the table with a loud groan and flopped her legs open wide. Abby grabbed the sheet to cover her lower half. A few minutes later, after changing to a longer and wider speculum to accommodate the woman’s large proportions, Abby finally located the smooth shiny cervix, peeking at her from the top of the vagina, and swabbed for the Pap. “Whew. Glad to have that over.” Mrs. Cheshire heaved herself upright and wiggled off the table, casting aside all the drapes from her pink

podgy body and reaching for her clothes. “And you know what, Dr. Wilmore? I think I will take a year or two off, since you think it’s okay.” “Excellent,” said Abby, taking the specimens and sliding discreetly out the door. “And I’ll leave you a list of all my recommendations, like the mammogram.” The rest of the morning was similar. There were blood pressures behaving nicely and blood pressures behaving badly, and medications had to be adjusted. Some diabetics were managing well, but most had sugars off on a rampage, creating havoc. A few tourists with minor complaints, ruddy rashes and puffy knees and watery bowels. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE COLOR OF ROCK A young physician, Dr. Abby Wilmore, attempts to escape her past by starting over at the Grand Canyon Clinic. Silently battling her own health issues, Abby struggles with adjusting to the demands of this unique rural location. She encounters everything from squirrel bites to suicides to an office plagued by strong personalities. While tending to unprepared tourists, under-served locals, and her own mental trials, Abby finds herself entangled in an unexpected romance and trapped amidst a danger even more treacherous than the foreboding desert landscape. 45


Cynetic Wolf. BY MATT WARD

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT - Young Adult | March 2020

I sprang onto the picket fence, gauging the trajectory like those old American baseball holos we’d seen in school, back before the empire and its pastime collapsed, of course. The pungent smell of the Conalds’ dog hit me, but he wasn’t anywhere in their big yard. Must be in their twostory mansion. What did a dog do all day? Despite being wolfish—and an unusually wild animote at that—I hadn’t the slightest idea. Actually, domesticating pets at all was weird, but the Conalds were good people, I guess. I dove for the ball but came up shy as it clattered to the ground alongside Mr. C’s rusty e-bike. He’d let me ride it once. It’d be nice not to have to walk everywhere, but would take mom months at the center to afford something like that. At least we didn’t hit it or break a window, again… My spine tingled as I reached for the ball. There 46

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was a faint crunch. Bruce appeared from around back, staring me down, the fifty-kilo mutt baring his teeth as he crouched. Jeez. I took a step back, unsure how to react—it was always strange between us half-human animotes and animals. Was it jealousy? My claws shot out as I stood taller to scare the dog off. The wind turned, and a whiff of flowers and feces hit me. Bruce froze and time slowed. Without warning, he dropped his shoulder and charged, muscled body bounding towards me as he built up to killing speed, his uncomplicated eyes burning with primal anger. Crap. I ran for the fence. I was fast, he was faster. At the last second, I spun and snarled, flashing my fangs. He skidded to a stop, whimpering, and slammed through the white fence, bolting down the dirt road. Shoot. Should I follow? It might make things worse.

I ran to Mr. C’s porch and hammered on the painted door. Nothing. The window didn’t help, only my disheveled reflection: bags under dark silver eyes and even my hair—short with flecks of silver, black and brown— looked messy. Forgot to shave too, dark stubble covered my pointed cheeks and chin. Oh well. Mr. C wouldn’t mind. Another knock. No luck. Now what? “Pavel? Toras?” I yelled. They must have taken off when the dog appeared. Crap. Tapping my


wristband, I opened a virtual screen, fingers flying through the air as I fired a quick message to Mr. C explaining what happened. I headed in the direction Bruce had run, but stopped. After what happened at Ms. Ivey’s, I knew I should grab Mom. She’d have a fit otherwise. I sprinted home. Three minutes later, our two-room hovel came into sight. The door was ajar, good old Elly at the kitchen table, calling Vovi from the sound of it. Elly’s blue eyes focused on two glimmering holographic screens floating in front of her. Mom was out back, bent over her newest pet project; a tangle of sweet potatoes along the 3D-printed wall. Her jet black hair was in a bun, furry arms sweating. Being wolfish,

we didn’t eat many vegetables, but “It’s cheaper if you grow it,” as she liked to say. Unless you lived in the cities... but for bottom-dwellers like us, that would never happen. I told her everything. She dropped the roots and whipped around, brown eyes thrashing me as mine sought cover in the dirt beneath my feet. “Not again.” “It wasn’t my fault,” I said before she got going. She stood, her eyes blistering. “It’s never your fault!” After getting the facts straight, we headed out. It was a chilly autumn day, but a beautiful one, colorful leaves dancing in the wind. Mom took a deep, calming breath, looking around our well-kept little yard as mist rose from her lips. “Did Roge see what happened before you left? I

hope you didn’t leave a mess and not say anything, Raek Mekorian. That’s not how I—” “No, I tried…” I cut in. I explained everything again which seemed to placate her, somewhat. Dread built as we walked the dusty road, past sporadic huts and shacks. A handful of furry neighbors were out, enjoying the weather or on video calls as they gardened or gossiped, but we hurried past. Mom was on a mission, which was never good. As we got closer, Mr. C’s slimy, wet musk assaulted my extra sharp nose. He must be back. I should have waited. 

ABOUT THE BOOK CYNETIC WOLF It's 2096, sixty years after ninety percent died from a manmade Bioplague. Humanity has splintered into four unequal subspecies: immortals, cyborgs, enhancers, and subservient half-human, half-animal hybrids. The world is anything but equal. Hybrids everywhere are suffering, but sixteen-yearold Raek Mekorian, a wolfish with a nose for trouble, doesn’t see an alternative. Except the Resistance, who don’t stand a chance against the world government. His mom always said, “Keep your head down.” And he does, until his sister is murdered by a pair of cyborgs. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, fracturing the rigid governmental caste as he is thrust into the dangerous world of superhuman hit squads, Resistance uprisings, and secrets better left unsaid.



Inevitable. BY SHAIN ROSE

READ ANFiction EXCERPT - Romance | March 2020

They looked ready to kill each other and when their gazes lasered in on me, I almost fell into the freezer from the sheer anger they unleashed in just their stares. I fanned my face and slumped in front of the freezer, keeping the theatrics going. “I seriously might stand in the freezer door all day.” Relief washed over me when Rome finally cracked a smile as he stepped into the kitchen. He moved closer to me and said, “Looks like you worked up a sweat.” I laughed a little. “More like I worked out a bucketful of sweat.” Rome studied me for a second. Then, without the slightest bit of hesitation, he slid between me and the freezer, spread his hand over my bare stomach and nudged my back to his front. I let out a little gasp as I glanced up at him over my shoulder, but he was smirking directly at Jax. He leaned down and dragged his tongue across the most sensitive part of my neck. “Mmm, a Brey-sicle, just what 48

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I wanted. I could lick your sweat all day. I’ll text you and Vick later to see if you want to hit a few bars.” With that, he smacked my ass and I yelped. He made his way to the door, nodding toward Jax. “Jax,” he said curtly. Jax and I stood there, taking one another in after the front door slammed. The only movement in the room was the clock ticking. His glacial eyes bored into me so much that the freezer seemed to warm my back. It was the stare people talked about, the one no one could read, the one where you knew, deep down in your core, that he either didn’t give a crap about you or cared so much he might rip your head off. I can honestly say I didn’t know which emotion I wanted from him. Goosebumps skittered up my arms, and I willed myself to take a breath in and a breath out. Somehow, my living room and kitchen seemed so much smaller once Rome was out

of it. Jax took up all the damn space. His stance dominated every square foot of the room as he stood there in his workout clothes and let the sweat run down his temple. He didn’t move or even seem to breathe. I only knew he was alive because he held that water glass so tight, I saw his knuckles turning white. I had to be the bigger person. I couldn’t succumb to rubbing my relationship in his face because Rome and I hadn’t truly moved on from our broken hearts. We’d just bandaged them. I turned to close the freezer, trying to dispel the moment.


“So, are you hungry?” He grunted out a sort of laugh and mumbled, “Are you kidding me?” I turned back to him, crossing my arms over the sports bra that was drenched in my now cold sweat, “I have a pizza I could heat …” “Are you fucking him?” he asked so matter-of-factly I almost questioned whether I’d heard him right. “What?” “You heard me, Whitfield. Are you fucking him?” “I don’t think this is an appropriate conversation between friends, Jax.” “Well, when he touches you like that in front of your friend, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask.” Did it really matter? He left me, and he was definitely fucking someone else. It was all over the

news. I contemplated screaming it at him. Who did he think he was asking something like that as if he had a right? Did he really think I was going to tell him? He slammed the water down on the counter and some of it spilled over. Then, he stalked toward me in the kitchen and I backed up. When I bumped into the edge of the counter, he caged me in with his arms. This look in his eyes I knew. It was the one I dreamt about and cried out his name for. His eyes would turn the bluest blue before he’d take me as if all of me was his. “Answer the question, Whitfield.” “I don’t think it’s fair of you to ask.” “Answer the fucking question.” “No, I’m not.” Then, I mumbled, “At the moment.” I realized my mistake when he

shoved back from the counter, spun around to pace and roared, “She says at the moment. Fuck!” Then his hands were pulling his hair up. “How many times?” I slumped against the counter. “Jax, really?” He whipped back around to pace up to me again. “Yes, really.” “Does it matter?” I whispered. He touched his forehead to mine and searched my eyes as if he could gaze the answer out of me. “Yes, baby, it matters.” “Why?” “Because I need to know how long it's going to take me to erase every time you were with him from your memory.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK INEVITABLE Aubrey: The day I lost my parents was the day he saved me. Jax Stonewood—my best friend's older brother. He was never meant to be my savior. My first real love. And certainly not my greatest heartbreak. I spent years getting over him and now he's back—the nation’s most streamed artist and eligible bachelor... but I'm not falling for him again.Jax and I are done. Jax: The day I saved her was the day I lost myself to her. Aubrey Whitfield was only ever supposed to be my brother’s best friend. Not my life. Not the one I would die for. Definitely not the one that would break me. She’s built up walls to shut me out but I won’t leave her behind again.




READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | Catapult | February 2020

We met before I was ready. It was the year I turned twenty. All the signs were already there. The earth was instructing me to prepare my heart for a solitary life. But I am not a good listener. I was not watching for signs. My mouth was instead wide open like a crocodile’s, begging for more. His face was like the Benin moat; firm, brown, and wide like it was built to keep strangers out. He had a big mouth filled with crowded teeth struggling for space, like a deep ditch overflowing with water. There may be other ways to describe the fullness of his lips, the hollow of his cheeks, the four equal parts his bulging forehead split into when he frowned, but even now I can only think of the cultivated inaccessibility of it all. His face really was unapproachable, believe me. It was like the run-down house in our neighborhood where the boys who worked in long-distance transit buses gathered to smoke weed at the end of the day. His eyes were small and always red. When he looked at me, he made me want to apologize for all the 50

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wrong I ever did. But the first time I saw him, I was not looking at his face. I saw only his legs. It was a Saturday at the start of the rainy season. I had hurried out of the house without my umbrella. The winds were bellowing before I arrived at the bus shelter, but I could not go home and come back in time for the bus. He saw me before I saw him. I felt the warmth of a gaze at the back of my neck, but when I turned in his direction all I could see were those legs. I was wearing a happy dress and the wind was battling with it, I was gathering the tulle with my hands, tucking the skirts between my legs. His legs were thick and long, majestic, like the trunk of a leadwood tree. He must have noticed me staring at them, for he moved them with swiftness to my side, covering me beneath the shade of his umbrella. It was already raining. It really was only a light drizzle, but the drains around us were blocked with refuse, so soon my feet were soaked with murky water. He was looking at me, saying nothing, as I watched the water ruin my work shoes and caress

his ankles. All those people waiting for the Rapid Transit Bus, sheltered under raincoats, umbrellas, polyethene bags, all their noise, all their muttering—about the morning crowd, about the clogged drain, at the lateness of the bus, about the unnecessary earliness of the Lagos rains— was nothing but the incidental music to my destiny. I waited until the fifth time I saw him to speak with him. When I did, it was to ask him if he lived alone. His name was Constantine, like the emperor, but I called him


Aba for the city where he was born. He did not speak often of Aba, except to say, “A man must go where the money is. Aba will be there when I get back.” His mother was a fisherperson. She was getting older so no longer went out to sea, but her boats did, and once a month she sent him a basket of fish smoked in her coal oven. I never saw him shave, but he was always groomed in that way few Nigerian men are, clean and only a little prickly with stubble. He would kiss me all over and my toes would twist with need. When he slid into me, my mouth erupted in a tangy sweetness. He was from the river and so everything about him was full and wide, his nose wide like the ocean, his navel full as the deep blue sea. He worked at the wharf. He took the Rapid Transit Bus to Apapa every day, like I did.

He did not believe in destiny, God, or the internet, but when I bent my elbows and knees, when I lengthened my torso and stretched like a yogi in compass mode, he believed in me. I was becoming a grown-up madam of a woman. It was happening like my grandmother once said, “A girl becomes a woman when she finds a man she would do anything for.” I had found a man. I had taken a loverman for myself. My loverman did not laugh when I tickled. He did not cry when he was spent. He shuddered, like a possessed man at the command of the exorcist, like he was expelling whatsoever joy was trying to lay a hold on him. My Aba was exacting and exhausting, like all my favorite sad songs, so I rolled around when he asked and played him over and over. I played him like I was a little girl again, sitting at home singing myself sore. Back then, before our mother

disappeared like smoke, before I had any real reason to weep, I would sing sad songs and cry so hard until I was sick with a high fever. My mother never could figure out how I got so sick sitting at home all by myself. But I knew what I was doing. I was sick with longing. I was sick with the curse of sensation, with all the world’s sadness seeking and finding a resting place in my bones and in my marrow. One day, I was just a little girl who sometimes got out her seat in the neighborhood bar to dance, even if no one else was dancing. Then the next day, I was in love, I was a woman. 

ABOUT THE BOOK BLACK SUNDAY Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth.



The Identity Thief. BY ALEX BRYANT

YA READ Sci-Fi AN&EXCERPT Fantasy | K&M Books | February 2020

DANGEROUS WORDS Every word that follows is false. It’s strange how quickly a life can unravel. Only a few minutes ago, the father had been woken up by shuffling sounds coming from his study. Against his better judgement, he’d gone to investigate, fearing burglars. But what he’d found was far worse: his own daughter, sitting on his desk chair in her nightie, her hopelessly frizzy hair falling into her eyes as she bent over his book. It was a chapter of his life that he’d tried to keep closed. But it had opened of its own accord, in the middle of the night, and once open it wouldn’t be easy to shut again. “Where did you get that book, Sophie?” he asked.


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It was a stupid question that could only have one answer. His daughter pointed shyly to a gap on the uppermost bookshelf on his office wall. The spot where the book had been resting, untouched, since before the girl was born. “How did you reach that shelf? You didn’t stand on the chair, did you? You know that’s very dangerous.” The daughter shrugged bashfully, not wanting to admit anything. But that didn’t matter right now. All that mattered was getting his daughter away from that book. The key was to act normally. Not to overreact. “Never mind. I’m not angry. Let’s just put that book away and go back to bed. It’s two o’clock in the morning!” “I knooooow,” the daughter replied. “But I couldn’t sleep, Daddy. There was a

monster in my bed.” “Aren’t you a bit old for monsters?” “That’s what I said to it. But it wouldn’t listen.” The father drew the sash of his dressing gown tighter. “Well, I’ll come with you, and scare it away.” “But I’m not sleepy now.” The daughter pointed to the book’s title. ῬΗΤΟΡΙΚΉ ΑΡΙΣΤΟΤΈΛΗΣ “Why do these letters look funny?”


“It’s Greek. Some of the letters in their alphabet are different from ours.” “Why do you have a Greek book?” “It’s, uh, it’s something I was interested in a long time ago. But not anymore.” Underneath the title was a small but immaculately drawn torch: a slender stem topped with stylized fire. Thankfully, his daughter didn’t ask what it was. Her eyes had returned to the strange handwritten message. Every word that follows is false. “Who wrote that?” “I don’t know, honey. It doesn’t matter.” “You’re not supposed to write in books.” “You’re not supposed to be reading this book in the first

place!” With a forced laugh, the father pulled the heavy leather book out from under his daughter’s curious gaze, snapped it shut, and returned it to its place on the uppermost shelf. He’d hoped it would stay far from prying eyes up there. How stupid he’d been, leaving something like that out in the open. He should have got rid of it years ago. And now it was too late. “Why can’t I see it?” “It’s…it’s not a good book for children to read.” “What does it say?” “It’s very boring, I promise you. You wouldn’t want to know. Why don’t we find a book in your room, and I’ll read that to help you fall asleep?” “But I want that one,” the girl

whispered, gazing up at the top shelf. The father had always been proud of his daughter’s bottomless curiosity about the world around her. As soon as she’d started speaking, she’d been relentlessly asking him questions, determinedly unpicking the world around her. She was never happy with easy answers – she’d just keep asking new questions until she was satisfied. Questions he needed like a hole in the head. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE IDENTITY THIEF A shapeshifting sorcerer called Cuttlefish unleashes a terrifying wave of magical carnage across London. A strange family known as the River People move into Cassandra Drake's neighbourhood. Are the two events connected? Spoiler alert: no.




READ Mystery AN EXCERPT | Seventh Street Books | June 2020

Claudia stumbled toward the door, fumbling for her phone and trying not to vomit. She might have screamed, or maybe everything felt like screaming. By the time the ambulance arrived, she had gotten her breathing back under control, though her heart was pounding so loud that she thought the paramedics must have heard it from the road. She told them what had happened, and they left her to wait at one of the picnic tables at the edge of the parking lot. There wasn’t going to be much they could do, but that was for them to decide. Claudia had seen a dead body before, but only because her great-aunt had insisted on an open casket, and while the mortician’s heavy-handed makeup job had been 54

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disturbing in its own way, it had nothing on this. It had been Lori, but not, her swollen face and bulging eyes making a grotesque caricature that Claudia would never, ever forget. She didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when the other vehicles pulled up, first a fire truck, then all three of San Elmo’s police cars, then a van with a picture of a cow in a tutu painted on its side. “Claudia! What’s going on?” Julie Muller parked the van in the only available space and leaned out the window. “Did something happen to the market?” It took a moment, but eventually Claudia was

able to find her voice. “No,” she warbled. “The market’s fine. It’s Lori, she’s . . . Lori got hurt.” “Oh no,” Julie’s expression was appropriately concerned, but the tension had left her voice. She and Lori hadn’t exactly been close, and it wasn’t surprising that she wouldn’t take an injury to the other woman as seriously as something like damage


to her shop. She would be horrified when she learned the truth, of course, but Claudia wasn’t sure how much she was supposed to be saying at this point. Julie, and everyone else, would find out soon enough. Julie was the second generation of the family that owned the Dancing Cow Cheese Company. She was a well-built woman in late middle age, slightly overweight thanks to three children and a lifetime of proximity to dairy products. Her father, Elias Muller, had immigrated from Switzerland in the sixties, taken one look at what passed for cheese in

this country and declared it unfit for feeding to pigs, so he had decided to start his own creamery and show his new countrymen how it was done. (It was a well-known story, because he liked to tell it loudly at every opportunity, which was why his grandchildren refused to go into the grocery store with him anymore.) They had been the first vendor to sign on to the market, and Claudia was sure that Elias’s seal of approval had helped to bring in the others. She didn’t know what he was going to say when he heard their space had been the site of a violent death, but

she didn’t think it was going to be good. “Ms. Simcoe? Do you have a minute?” A policeman had emerged from the building and approached Claudia. “We’d like to ask some questions about how you found her.” Claudia allowed herself to be led away, feeling Julie’s alarmed stare following her. 

ABOUT THE BOOK MURDER GOES TO MARKET If you had asked computer programmer Claudia Simcoe what she expected to come of her leaving San Francisco for the California coast to open a farm-totable marketplace, “assembles a mismatched team to investigate a murder” would not have been her first guess. As Claudia is fingered for a murder she didn’t commit, she races to save her business and herself before the killer adds her to the region’s local, artisanal murders. 55



READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | KERNPUNKT Press | February 2020

On the first night after I returned from my aunt’s house, Amelia climbed into my bed. When I asked her, at an intermission, how she knew what to do, she said she learned from the girls at the orphanage. She silenced my other questions with kisses, sliding her fingers up, down, around, and inside, finding delicious places to inhabit, teaching me to spelunk for pleasure in the caves our bodies made among the rough bedsheets. Lights-out showed me what I’d been knocking against for the whole first term: we were in love with each other. Sensible Corisande protested our ages, our sex, our situation, our wildly different personalities, but Amelia’s unswerving hazel eyes towed me back to the sheltered cabin we shared in the Good Ship Cartwright.


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Her nightmares faltered, became fewer and farther between, and eventually stopped. I’d look up from Sappho and find her studying me; she’d cling to my hand to the last possible moment before we divided for separate classes. Never let me go. The girls told us we were cute or said nothing; the teachers merely said nothing. Three years passed. When she returned from the summer holidays, that autumn we became sixth-form girls, Amelia’s nightmares accompanied her. Nothing held them at bay. Darkness curtained the school at night, muffled it closely. Light came as through cheesecloth. We made plans for the future, Amelia and I. “We’ll move to the city,” I said.

“You’ll go to college and I’ll work,” she said. “I’ll get my inheritance in three years,” I said. “We’ll get a house on the coast,” she said. “I can swim in the ocean every day,” I said. “I’ll learn to play the piano,” she said. “I want to be a professor like my father,” I said. “I just want to be with you,” she said. “I don’t care what I do with my days, I just want to sleep in the same bed as you.”


Instructors pressed her on this last point, but her direction remained unfixed, floating, tethered only to me. Even this hardly fretted me, while all else weighed heavy. The path of a sparrow became an arc that described my life. The droning music of the chapel’s organ brought me to tears. Everything, everything carried significance like a bundle tied to its back, because school was ending, my life was changing, and I knew not what lay ahead. Amelia consulted the lines on my palm one night, playacting a thickly accented fortuneteller, and told me I loved water and would soon go on a long journey. I gazed at my hand by firelight after she’d fallen asleep, the roads and

the clearings, the geography of what I clasped and held. That night I was visited by a nightmare of my own. I sat in the empty pews of the chapel and watched while the Directress, robed in silken gray, sliced open the belly of a bleating lamb and picked through its viscera. My favorite teacher, Miss Finley, comforted the animal, which whined pitifully but refused to expire. “It is you,” intoned the Directress, and pointed a bloody finger at me. I stood up and left the chapel in no especial hurry. Once outside, thunder rolled through the forest and across the campus. Amelia screamed and beat on a window from a third-floor classroom in

the building across the footpath from the chapel. The thunder continued, and as I turned to face the lake, I found that it was not thunder, but a river, loosed from a dam somewhere nearby, rushing closer in a great wave that could not but overtake me. Amelia shrieked my name. I did not move. It is me. The river crushed me where I stood, and I woke. That night, it was she who comforted me. “Never let me go,” I whispered. “Never let me go.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK CEREMONIALS CEREMONIALS is a twelve-part lyric novella inspired by Florence + the Machine's 2011 album of the same name. It's the story of two girls, Amelia and Corisande, who fall in love at a boarding school. Corisande dies suddenly on the eve of graduation, but Amelia cannot shake her ghost. A narrative about obsession, the Minotaur, and the veil between life and death, CEREMONIALS is a poem in prose, a keening in words, and a song etched in ink. 57




As a loud alarm started on the bridge, Lena opened a comms channel to the whole ship. “Um, Raines. Gael. We have a situation. Please come to the bridge immediately. Cedo, too.” She shut off the comms and turned to her bosonic emissions screen. So long as the bigger ship hadn’t directed any pull on them, they should be able to direct a quick pull on the moon and planet behind them to drag them back and out of the way until the bigger ship passed. Otherwise, they were going to drift directly into the larger vessel’s path. “What’s going on?” Raines was the first to arrive, and he 58

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immediately rushed to Lena’s side. With a hand on her shoulder, he leaned over to look at the screen. “What the hell is that? Why weren’t we alerted to a ship that size in our vicinity?” “Because she was just floating there,” Lena responded, agitated. “She wasn’t giving off any bosonic readings. Until a few seconds ago, she wasn’t reading anything more than her mass produces. Like an asteroid. But as soon as we came upon her, there she was. I— I think she was lying in wait.” She began increasing her subtle pull against the distant Aegea and Pyrrhos behind her, trying to avoid any push against the now obvious

and much closer field around the large warship. Such a long distance maneuver would take a few minutes to begin to affect Aspasia’s velocity. “And how did our VAS not see her?” Raines demanded, leaning on her and squeezing Lena’s shoulder slightly. “Without an active field, our Vicinity Alert System may have read her as


debris or an asteroid. Easy to move around with our automatic systems. Nothing to worry about.” “Lena, what’s wrong?” Gael came rushing in, slightly out of breath. “Looks like a warship,” Raines answered as Lena concentrated on upping the pulls she had established. None of her controls seemed to be reacting the way they should. “Cedo, I thought you fixed this,” she shouted as he, too, arrived on the bridge. “The L-drive? I did!

Controls were all responding before we docked yesterday.” He had his toolbox at the ready, but it was already too late for that. She needed the controls. He couldn’t fiddle with them now. Lena upped the chehon concentration to get a stronger pull on the planet behind her. She really hoped she wasn’t wasting vital fuel on this. If they used too much, they might get stuck in the new trajectory and start to drift right back where they came from, and they’d waste even more fuel as she tried to reverse it.

Unfortunately, that did not seem like it was going to be the problem. “Lena, you’re drifting too close. They’ll notice us.” Gael said. The ship was looming closer and closer, no matter what Lena did. “It’s too late.” Lena realized what the problem was as she stopped trying to fight it. “They’ve already got us.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK GRAVITY’S HEIR Ex-heiress turned spaceship pilot Lena has been avoiding her family and the trauma that forced her out to the edges of the universe, but when she gets caught with plans for a gravity bomb based on her father's designs, she may have to turn and face her past. With war breaking out, she has to decide whether to protect her legacy or preserve the new life and family she's built for herself.



Introducing Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.


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Send Pics.


With a tone and themes reminiscent of cult favorite Veronica Mars, McLaughlin’s Send Pics offers a searing look at sexual assault, privilege, and toxic masculinity. High school juniors Nikki, Ani, and Lydia have sworn off boys until college, when they’ll finally escape their small town and the painful memories made there. When the worldly Suze moves to town – and rejects the advances of toxic Tarkin Shaw – the girls know they’ve found an ally. As their trio expands to a quartet, the girls swear to protect one another, “Shields up!” becomes their rallying cry. When Suze is drugged at a party then blackmailed by Shaw, who has naked images of her, the friends, along with Marcus, a journalist, and Deshawn, a concerned classmate, are forced to take action. But when Shaw ends up dead, along with his secrets, the teens quickly learn how far-reaching and how deeply the corruption and toxic masculinity in their town runs.


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.


Told journal entries, conversations, and glimpses into internal thoughts, the players caught up in this story of date rape, blackmail, and murder are fully formed, their imperfections painfully real. McLaughlin shies away from teaching an obvious lesson, instead presenting the events with realism and honesty, challenging the reader to draw their own conclusions as events unfold, then challenging those assumptions as the story progresses. Though readers should be mindful of triggering content, McLaughlin’s calculated tale of power and revenge will be appreciated by those who know the #MeToo era is here to stay. 61






At Jonesville High, casual misogyny runs rampant, slut-shaming is a given, and school athletes are glorified above all else. Best friends Suze, Nikki, Ani, and Lydia swear they’ll always have each other’s backs against predatory guys—so when Suze suddenly starts dating wrestling star and toxic douchebag Tarkin Shaw, it’s a big betrayal. Turns out, it’s not a relationship–it’s blackmail. At first, Suze feels like she has no choice but to go along with it, but when Tarkin starts demanding more, she enlists the help of intelligent misfits DeShawn and Marcus to beat Tarkin at his own game. As Marcus points out, what could possibly go wrong? The answer: everything. And by the time the teens realize they’re fighting against forces much bigger than the Tarkin Shaws of the world, losing isn’t an option. 62

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Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing





Moustache & Macintosh BY D.L. GRASER

Three Nails: Adventures of Moustache and Macintosh

The night was calm as we floated across the ocean. “Land's not too far away,” I heard the captain tell Short Leg Louie after dinner. I had not heard anymore cries from the princess in the last couple of nights. I wondered why. I just have a gut feeling that tonight is the night I take her off this ship with me. I have to leave because Short Leg Louie said he will make sure there are no witnesses and I am the only witness aboard this vessel.

As Princess Yahaloma slept, I made my way through the wall of butterflies that surrounded us and out into the night. I noticed the heaviness of the air, it was thick and had an odd smell to it. My feet seemed to slip a little as I walked because of the mist that covered the ground. Nothing moved out here. There was no moon, no wind, no sound, no nothing. In the middle stood a very tall man. I crouched down in the tall grass. Who and what was this? I should have never left her. What was I thinking? Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Fantasia for the Man in Blue

Soar! ...Loser: A Novel

"...A captivating, unrelenting collection of poetry composed of sharpedged truths and beautiful complexities."

Number three in the Lleyellyn Shay series. After setting the scene by describing Lleyellyn’s past, and the suspicion pointing to him as one of the vigilantes taking the law into their own hands, the plot of Soar! …Loser thickens. Manuel Montoya, Lleyellyn’s boss, and he are summoned to La Vegas to complete sound studio filming for the motion picture began on location at the ranch where they both worked. Montoya’s role in the movie expands. Lleyellyn lands a small speaking part. His girlfriend reconnects with an old friend from her go-go dancing days. There is a murder. Then a curious reporter starts digging into Montoya’s past – and Lleyellyn’s. Will Lleyellyn be exposed? Will the murder be avenged? What happens to Montoya’s movie career? And Lleyellyn’s? The conclusion is both satisfying and unexpected.


— Diego Báez, Booklist, Starred Review In his debut collection, Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount orchestrates a chorus of distinct, unforgettable voices that speak to the experience of the black, queer body as a site of desire and violence. A black man’s latenight encounter with a police officer – the titular “man in blue” – becomes an extended meditation on a dangerous, erotic fantasy. In these and other poems, Blount viscerally captures the experience of the “other” and locates us squarely within these personae. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 64

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SOAR! …LOSER is available directly from the author by mail, phone, or email. Ross Phelps, 175 Green Apple Rd. Las Crescent MN 55947, (507) 313-0152, ESTOQUE@ACEGROUP.CC



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. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. 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. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.






But for the Mountains

Mind Riot

Arden Thatcher’s been presented with something she never thought she’d have: a future away from her abuser. Only, the prestigious National Women’s Institute isn’t quite what she expected. There’s a secret bubbling beneath its refined surface, and those who refuse to play along may well wind up dead. With the danger escalating, and the return of her abuser on the horizon, Arden’s going to need powerful allies to escape.

Salem Scott had one goal for his summer vacation. Instead, he’s volunteering in a private mental institution, confronting demons he’s not ready to face. But when his band kicks him out for missing rehearsals, he might just find the greatest summer of all time.

Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon


Feast of Fates



Hopeful and fun, Mind Riot explores what happens when kids who are “too cool for feels” are dropped into a reality where emotions are too loud to ignore.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts 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 battlefi eld 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. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.


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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It’s society’s mantra. Hurry up and go there. Beat the clock and be here. Rush, rush, rush. Always on the go. The number of times I’ve had people tell me they’re too busy to read? Only too many times to count. I can relate. Many times I told myself I’d have more time after the kids were grown and on their own. Yet, here I am, in that exact place in life, and I’m busier than ever. There’s always one more thing to do and rarely enough time to do it in. Back in MFA school, we had to read three books a month. Three! So many books. While I selected recommended books and ones I thought I’d enjoy, I often chose titles based on page length. Wide Sargasso Sea was manageable if I only had a week to read it. Meanwhile, This Much I Know is True had to be read at the first of the month and other activities scheduled around it to ensure completing on time. Often I finished all three books with hardly a day to spare, only to start all over again. These days I average a book a month. I build my TBR pile based on cover, title, genre, and more recently, debut authors. Reading is a luxury for which I carve time in my hectic schedule. As I explore books by these up and coming literary artists, I think about the time they’ve spent agonizing over the perfect words, the perfect cover, the perfect characters to deliver their best work to the reading masses. When a new author hits the ‘publish’ button, she needs readers. She needs them to pore over the completed project and offer up a review. I realize you might be thinking—Who has time to read and review a book? I have to go to work. I have children to raise in between working out and eating a balanced diet. There are

errands to run and corporate ladders to climb. I have to sleep some time. I get it. I’m over here trying to juggle all of those things too. But debut authors need us. And isn’t part of life, a large part of life, about the importance of giving back? Despite the busyness and the hectic pace, you can give back to debut authors. Here’s how. Start by carrying that book with you everywhere you go. Go ahead. Toss it in your bag or purse or briefcase. Tuck it under your arm and start treating it like your cellphone. Everyone knows you don’t go anywhere without your phone. If you’re into e-books you can download the Kindle app on your phone or carry your e-reader with you. Next, start looking at all the places where waiting is involved. Truth be told, we wait a lot. Take today for example. I drove my husband to work (he works at the airport) with the intention of picking up our daughter who came home for the weekend and he reminded me it would be at least fifteen minutes before the jet came in. Fifteen minutes? Fabulous. I grabbed the next book on my TBR pile (The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan) to read while I waited. I like to alternate between my known favorite authors and potential new ones. Next up is Tenderness and Troubling Times, a collection by Tara Wine-Queen.

Where do you wait? The doctor’s office, the dentist’s office. At the DMV. In the Uber or Lyft. On the plane. In line at restaurants. Even on your lunch break you’re waiting for the afternoon shift to start. Use those snatches of time to read and start your review. That’s right. Begin the review process at the same time. You don’t have to prepare to write a lengthy, poetic piece. A simple sentence with the number of stars the book has earned is plenty to get a debut author smiling from ear to ear. In the event you can give a little bit more, do. Take notes on an app on your phone about what you liked and didn’t like. Be as specific as you can. Did you enjoy a particular scene or character? Authors love to hear this kind of feedback. Don’t worry, this isn’t about pretending or giving a good review if you didn’t enjoy the book. It’s about giving an honest review. Other ways to review on the run include: • Post a picture of the book with star emojis and tag the author on social media. • Follow the author on social media and give her (and her book) a shout out. • Buy a copy of the book for a friend. Even if you didn’t like it, your friend might. Read on the run. It’s worth it. 




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Harriett's Bookshop. Fishtown’s independent bookstore & creative space, named for historical heroine Harriet Tubman, celebrating women authors, artists, and activists. "Harriett’s Bookshop is named for one of the most powerful and most courageous human beings in the history of humankind. So, we decided we wanted a space that exhibited her qualities and characteristics with the goal of making that a space that invites others to take on those same qualities and characteristics in their lives. My understanding is that the first place that Harriett Tubman chose to come to when she decided to escape enslavement was Philadelphia. This is a place known for freedom and it makes sense in my mind for a bookshop, which is such a liberating space, to be named for her. The double

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t’s serve as my way of paying homage to both Harriett & her mother who shared the same name. The funny thing is the store just keeps on evolving. Before it opened, we’d sold out twice from word of mouth. Then we have this magnificent opening. And next we are told to shut down the store [due to coronavirus], and now we have a beautiful digital collection that folks still explore & shop. So, you know the mission is the mission regardless of what is going on in society, my work right now is to celebrate women authors, women artists, and women activists. When we were open, we were hosting these cool off the cuff events like our Whisky Writers Club, but now we’ve moved online and we are still hosting out of the box events like the one we are hosting on Sunday with Minista Jazz called God is Change pulling from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower." 71


Katastrophe. "This is my life. Right now. Right this second. So wrecked I wish I could box it up and hand it to the one person who started all this, who shattered me. Then again, I'm pretty sure he'd just open the box and laugh." A dark ride into, Kat, one teenaged girl's life as she struggles with new trauma that she has bottled up all summer, which leads her to push everyone who cares about her – friends and family –away. Kat finds refuge in an unlikely neighbor where she learns to accept and manage her emotions. As the story unfolds, the reader, alongside with Kat, learns the truth behind the night that started it all.




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About The Book: Who has the energy to care about a new year of AP classes or even the prestigious Northeastern Computing Competition when life constantly spins you sideways? Not Kat Morgan. Lately, everything feels like a catastrophe... school isn't working, her parents are a mess, and Joey-summer mistake and Chem Lab partner--taunts her constantly. Not even her best friends can help. Kat remembers what things were like before: before she learned about Dad's girlthing in Amsterdam, before Joey screwed up her life with a car ride, but mostly before she discovered the need to rework her body with deliciously sharp things. 

The Paper Pusher


“It was reminders like those which made Sophia first see the bodies around her with horror, and then with interest.” A powerful novel about one women’s fight through emotional turmoil caused by a mother’s manipulation and her curiosity that sparks a hope of independence. Lansing’s The Paper Pusher is a touching, thought-provoking, and yet equally maddening inside look of one’s journey to find themselves amongst a constant battle of emotional struggle.

About The Book: Sophia Weber is an anxious twenty-two-yearold, utterly dependent on her mother’s care. Gertrude Weber, Sophia’s mother, spends her time whipping her matriarchal household into shape while obsessing over her daughter’s wellbeing. But Gertrude uses her maternal power only to manipulate her daughter into living a life of fear and dependency. The novel takes readers on a tormenting ride through Sophia’s memories while she struggles in the present day with a mother who has not yet allowed her child to grow up. 





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


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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What's Your First Book Memory?

Your ‘Book Mom’ is going to be having baby #2 in approximately 9 hours – long story for how I know this, but I do. It’s a bittersweet time as I reflect on memories with my first baby, my son Max and all our firsts. I remember as an infant I read “Oh, The Places You Will Go” and “Where the Wild Things Are” to him often. They said it was never too early to start reading to your child, and I took that to heart and started reading to him in the womb and continued the day he came home. We used “Oh, The Places You Will go” as our baby shower guest book and had our guests write notes and sign throughout the book with the intention of it being a forever keepsake for him that I will give him on his high school graduation day. “Where the Wild Things Are” is one of the earliest books I remember reading as a child – and my son’s name is Maxwell (Max) so it only seemed fitting to start reading it to him right away. We even dressed him as King of the Wild Things Max for his first Halloween. Baby #2 is GIRL – and a whole new ballgame for me. I haven’t TECHNICALLY read to her, just her, in the womb, but she’s heard all types of books being read as I read them to my son. The difference is I realize right now that I didn’t pick out special first books for her like

I did my son. I didn’t think about having people sign a book for her because we didn’t have a shower. I’ve never heard her name in a book that I have a memory of, so I don’t have that to pick one off of either. Her “womb books” consist of my toddler sons now favorites as he has actual interests and preferences… dinosaur books, shark books, “Hop on Pop”, “Llama Llama Red Pajama” … and his newest favorite an Easter story about an Elephant trying to be the Easter Bunny “Tiny the Mississippi Easter Bunny”. I can’t really change that I didn’t tailor reading to her at this stage of the womb game, but the reflection helps me to start thinking about it for when she comes home. And I wonder how much difference this makes with the difference of the 2 kids. Studies have proven over and over the amount of words your infant and child hear a day has a huge impact. I believe WHAT words they hear matter too. My mom was in college and taking a Physics class when she was pregnant with my older brother. She tells us reading her Physics book out loud to him in the womb is a strong memory she has. My brother is extremely book smart,

technical and analytical. I am NOT, I had to work much harder for good grades, it didn’t come naturally. I am more “street smart” or “common sense smart” as opposed to my book smart brother. My mom had a similar reflection that with baby #2 you don’t have the freedom to focus on solely that little growing baby in your belly because you have another young child that is taking up your thoughts, energy and time. So baby #2 gets to hear more real life conversations, toddler conversations and whatever your day to day with you and your current child bring in that womb life stage. I am curious to see how this plays out with my older son and younger daughter now. My almost 3-year-old is SUPER smart for his age and very accelerated verbally, conversationally, and cognitively. Will my daughter in turn be less book smart and excel in a different way like happened with me and my older brother? Or was it just a coincidence my brother and I excelled in different ways? It sure does make you think as a Mom… of course you have every intention of doing the best you can by all of your children. Either way wish me luck – I’ll find out very soon and keep you all posted! 



FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill


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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In a society hyper-focused on perfection, becoming the "total package" can seem a daunting, impossible task. However, part of being whole is an acceptance of one's faults; or "limiting beliefs", as fitness and lifestyle Guru, Aviva Reimer, has coined. It was my great pleasure to have had the opportunity to sit down with her and to ask her about her methods, mindset, and successes in transforming others—body, mind, and spirit—into the total package. (Interview has been condensed for brevity; the full discussion can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.) CB: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Tell me a bit about yourself: who you are, where you're from and what you do. AR: I'm originally from Europe. I'm a transformational life

coach, which basically means I help people transform their lives: their personal space, their emotional capabilities, their perception. I clean up all the negative aspects of their life.

CB: Everything from personal training to nutrition to fashion and relationship advice? The total package, one might say? AR (smiling): Yes!

CB: Wow! So, about your book. What inspired you to write this? AR: As you know, it's quite an investment to undertake

the writing of a book, especially while running a business. However, you have to practice what you preach: commitment, due diligence. And once I've committed to something, I always see it through, regardless of the perceived outcome. Also, I really wanted to share my advice with a much larger audience than just my clients and publishing has given me an

avenue to do just that. CB: As a go-getter, I struggle with selfhelp books, because I find a lot of the material redundant or preachy. The Total Package, though, is convivial and friendly. I feel as if you were having a conversation with me rather than teaching. You were quite vulnerable in the book, which is endearing. AR: Thank you! The Total Package is for

everyone, really. Even if we're at a comfortable state of achievement in our lives, life plans and evaluations can reassure us that this is, truly, the life we want. Obviously, people who are still struggling with limiting beliefs strongly benefit from self-assessment and improvement too. We can be either too critical of ourselves or not critical enough. CB: Regarding the writing process itself, how did you manage to write and publish a book in just under a year? Do you have any tips or tricks you employed? Did you find that a background in health and wellness benefited you through the writing process? AR: My background certainly helped, yes.

Being regimented and fastidious carries over from profession to profession. To save time, I (voice) recorded my manuscript, chapter by chapter, then eventually had it transcribed and began the process of editing and reconstruction. CB: That's a great tip! I'd never even considered dictation. One of the

phrases frequently used in your book is the term, "limiting beliefs". Could you explain that to our audience? AR: Limiting beliefs is an amalgam of

childhood trauma, fears, disappointments, rejections—all the negative things we can experience in life—that carry through into adulthood and inhibit the choices we make. Part of becoming the total package means confronting and conquering these demons, as each time we battle them and win, we become stronger and better at making bold and corrective decisions we'd otherwise not have made. CB: It's a fantastic way to encapsulate so many negative experiences. AR: I think so, too.

CB: Well, thank you for your time. I hope that our readers and viewers come away feeling a little more hopeful or intrigued about the prospect of self-betterment. My last, and most important question, is where can our audience find you? AR: "The Total Package" is available on

Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major online retailers. You can follow me on Instagram @avivareimer and discover all sorts of information about myself and my work at, CB: Thanks again for speaking with me. AR: My pleasure. —C  77


Introducing Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.


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

“2016 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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Interview with Tola Rotimi Abraham. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI

In her debut novel, Abraham, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, tells the story of a family in Lagos, Nigera over a 20 year period. Exploring class, family, and poverty, Abraham’s debut has been lauded by NPR as a “novel that will destroy you.” Abraham spoke with Shelf Unbound about her inspiration of the novel, her hopes for this story, and what readers can look forward to next!


WHAT INSPIRED THE PREMISE OF YOUR DEBUT NOVEL, BLACK SUNDAY? TRA: It was inspired by many things. It was really interesting to me to examine how a Nigerian family survives losing everything to a scam. Nigerians, Lagosians especially, are very proud of their street smarts so there’s deep shame involved with being duped. The scam is the beginning of woes for the family in Black Sunday. However, the story develops into being more than that. I was also thinking about the lasting effects of family separation and childhood poverty. I loved writing about these remarkably resilient children; it is a character driven novel in that sense.

THE NOVEL FOLLOWS THE FAMILY FOR A SPAN OF 20 YEARS. WHEN YOU BEGAN WRITING THIS NOVEL, DID YOU KNOW THE STORY WOULD DEVELOP IN THIS WAY? DID IT AFFECT YOUR PLOTTING OR APPROACH TO THE STORY? TRA: Yes. I knew that the book would follow children through childhood and adolescence to adulthood. The novel begins at the end, with all the characters looking



backwards, the very first line is “There were many ways to be a stupid girl in Lagos.” This point of telling - adults narrating their childhood - created many challenges, especially with voice. I wanted to create immersive believable child narrators, especially in the early chapters. I also wanted the adult perspective - the retrospective adult voice - to clearly influence the narration. I think I was most successful with mimicking how retrospection works, instead of a linear, detail-heavy plot line; these characters take turns narrating significant people and events. WHAT COMPELLED YOU TO WRITE A STORY NOT ONLY ABOUT SIBLINGS, BUT ABOUT TWINS? TRA: It's a story about families. Grandmother, Mother, Father, siblings, twins. The home is the primary center of socialization. It's very interesting the specific ways filial bonds break or mend us. Twins have a special place in Yoruba culture. There’s a mythic, religious element to the relationships of twin siblings with each other. This is a great opportunity to explore estrangement.



WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THIS STORY AS IT MAKES ITS WAYS INTO THE HANDS OF READERS? TRA: A fresh perspective! I hope it makes readers think about poor Africans differently. Poverty is not synonymous with laziness or unintelligence but especially in a city like Lagos, is a result of complex interwoven and difficult-to-manage postcolonial government systems. There’s no easy fix! I think there are two distinct ways to write about the poor and marginalized. The first is to center a privileged audience, include enough horror and tragedy so readers come away feeling “grateful for the things I take for granted in my own life” but end with a neat resolution so that even in a fictional universe these readers never experience deep perplexing hopelessness. The second is to render hopelessness authentically. To write imagining the poor and marginalized as readers not just subjects. To prioritize those readers who have similar lived experiences, writing those stories in such a way that readers with similar histories come away feeling seen, heard, and understood. This is what Black Sunday is doing. It is not a feel-good book, but it's honest.


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WHAT CAN READERS LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT? TRA: I’m working on two book projects right now. The first is a middle grade novel about two brilliant magic wielding girls who literally save the world. Like Black Sunday, it will be heavily influenced by Yoruba storytelling tradition. I’m hoping younger readers will find it funny, even laugh out loud funny. In adult fiction, it's harder to describe my current project. I can say that it is also about Nigerian women but set in midwestern United States. It’s about family. And there's a love story… an atypical love story at the center of this book. 


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F E AT U R E D A R T I C L E 01

Debut Short Story Collections by Indie Authors. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

As writers, we give poignant thoughts, an opportunity to escape, to relax, to travel abroad while sitting still. In the process, we take a little too. Meet five emerging independent authors of short story collections and discover what they’re taking from those who allow their stories to swallow them whole. Clarissa Gosling: Author of Moving Abroad with Children, Raising Bilingual Children: when school speaks a different language, and A Mixed Bag: a multi-genre collection of short stories. 

Tara Wine-Queen: Author of Tenderness and Troubling Times 

Leslie Sullivan (aka Anna McCluskey): Author of A Pilsner Colored Ring of Light 


Divya Adu: Author of You Are Enough, Said Me and room

Remi Carrington: Author of the Bluebonnets & Billionaire series 


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publishing a book was more important.”

Clarissa Gosling Clarissa Gosling is the author of A Mixed Bag, a multi-genre collection of short stories. She hails from the Netherlands where she started her writing career in the non-fiction realm. After a year of writing exploration and trying out a variety of genres, Gosling independently published four of the stories in A Mixed Bag. When she’d finished writing six additional stories, she bundled the ten of them together and published the full collection. Although Gosling’s previously published works were centered on non-fiction topics, she received only positive feedback when she shared with her immediate entourage that she was itching to write and publish a collection of stories. “I didn’t receive any negative reactions. Most people were interested and supportive of me. I think the idea that I was writing and

A Mixed Bag contains no overarching theme but does consist of a variety of cross-genre selections that might appeal to any number of readers. Gosling explains, “there’s a fairytale, a techno-thriller, a historical fantasy, a sci-fi story, a paranormal romance, a couple of middlegrade ghost stories, two contemporary family dramas, including one with some fairies in it.” Though she admits this “mixed bag” of genres makes it difficult to promote, Gosling sums up the description by calling it “a multi-genre collection [of] ten short stories with a measure of the fantastical in each.” HAVE YOU ALWAYS ENJOYED READING SHORT STORIES? WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INTEREST/LOVE FOR THEM? CG: I like reading short stories as they can be

more creative than novels. Having a shorter format means the author can play around with structure and things in a way that's difficult in a longer work. They're also shorter to read and easier to fit in when you don't have so much time to read.


then unknowingly launched it on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday--not a date I’d recommend to other indie authors. I promoted 85


the piece through my blog and social media presence, though I found it difficult to get the message out to an audience wider than my [existing] circle of followers. When I'd published the (short) stories individually, I published only on Amazon and put them into their Kindle Unlimited program, but I decided to launch The Mixed Bag across all retailers. I found that going it alone with short stories is difficult, as many of the promotion sites are geared towards novels, and it is unclear whether they will accept collections of short stories, especially a collection like mine that crosses genres. If I were to publish a second collection of short stories I would ensure they were much more thematically linked. I chose to publish independently because these days, traditional publishers rely on the authors to do most of the legwork for promoting their books. I decided if I’m going to have to do that anyway, why not do it all myself ? Not only do I get a higher proportion of the profits but I can be a lot more flexible and responsive to the market. My books are completed in my timeframe and I’m in control of the whole process. That challenges me to treat my writing like a business and to take it seriously. DO YOU PLAN ON WRITING MORE COLLECTIONS? OR IS THIS YOUR JUMPING OFF POINT TO LONGER WORKS? CG: At the moment I have no plans to write

more short stories, though I'm sure I will as they're fun to do. Two of the short stories are 86

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related to novels I have drafted, and a couple of others I have ideas for extending, though they're not currently planned. I have decided to concentrate on YA fantasy and am working on the first book in a trilogy.


dragon shifters. It will be the first book in a trilogy. I expect to publish it in the second half of 2020 along with a prequel novella. For those new to Gosling’s collection be prepared to delve into the results of her experimentation with style and genre. Though there is no overarching structure to A Mixed Bag, Gosling admits to having a bit of a love affair with the works of Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. “I’m not sure I would consider my work to be anywhere near on par with theirs,” Gosling explains. That being said, the only way readers will be able to determine for themselves is to pick up their own copy of A Mixed Bag. You can purchase A Mixed Bag at h t t p s : / / b o o k s 2 r e a d . c o m / b / m i x e d b a g and find Clarissa at C l a r i s s G o s l i n g . c o m where she’s likely to be working on her next piece of fiction and reading some of the stories published in Alone in a Room with Invisible People Podcast Halloween Flash fiction contest.


Tara Wine-Queen From Weston, West Virginia comes the author of Tenderness and Troubling Times, Tara Wine-Queen. By day she’s an English teacher and in her spare time she’s written a collection of stories centered around loss. On an extremely cold day, from the remote tundra of Alaska, I had the privilege of speaking to Ms. Wine-Queen who had this to say about her path to self-publication and where she hopes that path will take her next.


was a lot of internet research! I only released my novel a little over a month ago, and there are already so many



things I would do differently. Maybe because I am an indie author, because I am doing this all on my own, I do feel less pressure to put out big sales numbers immediately. I’m comfortable with taking my time and trying to get my book into the right hands, letting things grow organically. Within those followers that I do have, I launched it with some Facebook marketing and experienced a wonderful and warm response. Ultimately, when I think about it, I know I have a lot of work left to get to where I want to be, but it’s giddy, meaningful work. A year ago, I had just started writing again for the first time in a decade, and I made a 2019 goal of getting published in multiple publications, to get that outside validation of people who weren’t swayed by their relationship with me, so to end the year with a book that I put out and am proud of feels pretty stellar. DO YOU PLAN ON WRITING MORE COLLECTIONS? OR IS THIS YOUR JUMPING OFF POINT TO LONGER WORKS? TW: I would say I have both ahead

of me. I have three novels that I work on, but stories come into my head and won’t leave until I get them out, and I appreciate the break they give me from the longer pieces. They help to 87




shake me out when I’m feeling stagnant. I also recently had a new piece accepted by Flash Fiction Magazine. A collector, herself, Wine-Queen admittedly states she has “a book problem.” She claims the primary decorative feature of her home is books, and launched into the quote by Louise Erdrich.

“We have a lot of books in our house. They are our primary decorative motif-books in piles and on the coffee table, framed book covers, books sorted into stacks on every available surface, and of course books on shelves along most walls. Besides the visible books, there are books waiting in the wings, the basement books, the garage books, the storage locker books...They function as furniture, they prop up sagging fixtures and disguised by quilts function as tables...I can't imagine a home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you'd longed to fall asleep reading the Aspern Papers, and there it is.” As a child, she collected snow globes and “I Love Lucy” memorabilia. The only one she hasn’t grown out of is her beloved book collection.


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response about “The Baby Losers Club.” I’d planned it as a novel, but the research that went into it (novel) was traumatizing for me. It’s an important to have child loss, infertility represented. So many women experience this and it’s not spoken about in a normalized way. Tara Wine-Queen, author of Tenderness and Troubling Times, English teacher, and collector of books and readers’ hurts can be found on her website: h t t p s : / / w w w . t a r a w i n e q u e e n . c o m . She enjoys reading the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver, and the collections of Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin.


Leslie Sullivan Leslie Sullivan (aka Anna McCluskey) made her debut into the world of short stories with her recently published collection A Pilsner Colored Ring of Light, a spontaneously published collection of five short stories that received positive reviews as stand-alone stories on her Patreon page. In addition to holding down a collection of day jobs, Sullivan (McCluskey) describes herself as a humorous writer with a penchant toward emulating the works of Terry Pratchett. “His books are incredibly hilarious and insightful at the same time. I strive to show something about the world while making people laugh. I’m not just writing funny things to be funny, I want to instill a little bit of my worldview and my point of view on how the world should be, as well as how it is.” Her other (yet to be published) collection



The Bloody Unicorn and Other Delightfully Dark Drinks is a collection of stories, each accompanied by a cocktail recipe of the same name. There’s a story called “The Bloody Unicorn”, another called “The Eye-Gouger”, and one titled “The Machete.” Each were started with a cocktail recipe when she realized they needed an accompaniment. “My first thought was actually that between each drink I would tell hilarious tales from my days as a bartender, but I couldn’t think of very many! I have a gazillion stories from my barista career, and you’d think bartending would be funnier, because, you know, booze. Then I realized the macabre names of the drinks lent themselves really well to darkly humorous fantasy stories. So that’s what I did.” YOUR BOOKS HAVE SOME INTERESTING TITLES. WHO IS YOUR WRITING GEARED TOWARD? LS: My work is definitely geared toward

adults. I don’t do well with writing without cursing. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COLLECTION(S), USING ONLY THREE WORDS? LS: Silly, dark, surprising HAVE YOU ALWAYS ENJOYED READING SHORT STORIES? WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INTEREST/LOVE FOR THEM? LS: I have always enjoyed reading short

stories in isolation. Oddly (considering how 89




much I enjoy writing them), I don’t enjoy reading whole books of short stories. When I’ve read anthologies in the past, I’ve had to read them one or two a day, and have another book as my main read. AS WRITERS WE GIVE TO OUR READERS. WE GIVE OUR WORDS, EMOTIONS, STORIES. DO WE TAKE AS WELL? DO WE COLLECT THINGS FROM OUR READERS OTHER THAN ROYALTIES AND REVIEWS? LS: Yeah, for sure. I feel like the humor

involved in my writing is very much a personal thing. There’s always stuff that one person finds funny and someone else doesn’t. Whenever someone says they enjoy my work, I feel like I’ve found my people. Like my kind of weirdos, such as it were. The people who ask ‘why?’ aren’t my people, but others, who love it, I get that spark of joy from having found a kindred of my people. Author, poet, and speculative humorist, Leslie Sullivan (aka Anna McCluskey) believes short fiction is a “niche market” and that a lot of readers enjoy and many others aren’t even aware it exists. She hopes she can do her part to increase awareness to the masses so that they’ll buy her books and because she honestly thinks it [short fiction] will enrich their lives. You can connect with her at TheAnnaFiles or join her Patreon team and become a true “annaphile.”


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Divya Adu Divya Adu (pronounced DIV-YA AH-DO) never throws away a photo. Ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s a photo of an ex-boyfriend or the “moment” has ended, she keeps those gems tucked away as part of her life collection because, as she put it, “I enjoyed that moment at one time.” Perhaps that’s part of what makes this 20 year old New Yorker a bit of an old soul. Author of You Are Enough, Said Me and room 317. I had the pleasure of speaking with Divya about her short story collections and life as a writer. WHY THE INDIE ROUTE INSTEAD OF TRADITIONAL PUBLICATION? DA: When I was sixteen I decided I wanted to

write a book. I had so many stories, journals, and poems, I felt that I needed to do something. And “do something” she did. After publishing on Wattpad and getting good responses from her fans, Divya completed her own research




and saw the length of time it typically takes to go the traditional publishing route. Declaring herself “impatient” she decided to do her own research and get her books in the hands of readers at her own pace.

I wrote every day, which later turned me on to writing short stories and poetry.


DA: “You Are Enough” … Said me:

DA: I think, for me personally, I write as a

catharsis. It’s like my therapy--my version of going to therapy without going. While I don’t really expect to get something back from my readers, I’ve had some tell me that I’ve told their story in the process. I take pleasure in knowing I’m able to be a voice for those who can’t tell their stories. I like being able to do that for readers. DESCRIBE ONE OF YOUR COLLECTIONS USING ONLY THREE WORDS. DA: "You Are Enough” … Said me:

vulnerable, raw, delicate. HAVE YOU ALWAYS ENJOYED READING SHORT STORIES? WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INTEREST/LOVE FOR THEM? DA: I started off with short stories. I’ve

been writing poetry since I was six years old. My mom used to buy me journals and


This collection contains stories about my childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up in the inner city and was raised by my parents and babysitters. I wrote this collection as a coming of age piece--what I saw, heard, experienced, dreamed of, and the women in my family. I had to figure out how to be a woman on my own because the women in my family worked so much they didn’t have time to talk to me about boys and sex and other womanly things. After awhile, I started to see myself as better than those women and in my book I talk about coming to the realization that I’m no different from the women in my family. That whatever they didn’t teach me wasn’t because they didn’t want to but because they had no one to teach them. The book helped me heal and helped me realize I am enough. I no longer had to look for my mom or cousins or aunts to tell me I’m enough. I no longer need that validation. Room 317: This collection has stories written in essay form. It’s about dependency and how it feels to depend on someone else. How we often rely on others because of a lack of self-esteem. There are essays



on love, intimacy, and family coupled with poems. You can connect with Divya on Instagram @iamdivyaadu. To purchase her poetry inspired merchandise, check out her website: https://divyaadu.bigcartel. com.



like a great time for short stories.” For a novelist, Carrington explained she enjoys writing short stories but is often involved in producing longer works. Not a bad thing considering all the stories in her forthcoming collection will focus on the Christmas season and include minor characters from the Bluebonnets & Billionaires series. DO YOU THINK SHORT STORIES ARE ON THE RISE? RC: I think they might be. For busy people,

Remi Carrington Remi Carrington, author of the Bluebonnets & Billionaire series has made a name for herself in the romance genre and in November 2020, she plans to make her debut in short stories. After having a short story accepted in an (upcoming) anthology, she worked with a group of sweet romance authors to put together a Christmas anthology. It was these two experiences that have prompted her to create her own collection. Carrington: “With the busy season, it seems


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reading short stories is a way to read a full piece without investing too much time. Sometimes it’s not about lack of time but the clutter in our heads. A friend of mine had trouble reading long pieces of fiction following the death of her mother. It was a side effect of grief. Eventually she was able to focus on longer fiction but during that time she read short stories. DESCRIBE YOUR COLLECTION IN THREE WORDS. RC: Satisfying, memorable, connected.

You can learn more about Remi Carrington, her series, and upcoming collection by visiting her website: h t t p s : / / 

The story is about Digit, the Robot dog, who helps to stop bullying at the Zipper Elementary School. Digit is a special dog because he teaches children not to bully each other in school. Digit carries a red toolbox kit that teaches children about positive behavior, positive role models, positive rules, being kind to one another, being helpful to each other, and teaches children how to deal with problems about bullying in school. Digit teaches the children how to be friendly, to share, to say please and thank you but most of all he teaches them to have positive behavior. Digit says, “Bullying Hurts! It hurts us all. Stop Bullying now!



Interview with Shain Rose. BY SARAH KLOTH

Author of debut contemporary romance, Inevitable: A Second Chance Standalone Romance.



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TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BOOK SR: I don't think I can remember a time where I wasn't a lover of love. Sometimes people tell you there's a moment that they knew they fell in love with something. For me, I like to think I was just born with it. From the day I got my library card, I searched out romance. And what a wonderful world I got to disappear into with happily ever afters and fictional characters I could relate to. My book, I think, delivers that. There's a strong heroine who struggles in an abusive home and has to grapple with new realities when the abuse goes too far. Her next-door neighbor, the hero in the novel, experiences that trauma with her. Throughout the book, they have to decide whether they can overcome it together or let it destroy them. It is a second chance romance with an angsty punch that allows for readers to relate throughout. WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA FOR THIS BOOK? SR: I came across an article. The woman described losing her sister, how she'd set up search parties, how she was still searching. What I read that day stayed with me a lot longer than most everyone I talked to about it. That story is still with me. It beckons to me in the night, creeps into the corners of



my thoughts and makes me wonder what I would do if I lost someone so close to me in the way that woman did. To have someone you love just vanish. The thought cripples me. To have experienced it... there aren't words. So, I started to read article after article, watched video after video. I couldn't imagine the loss, the pain, the heartache in not ever knowing and yet so many of these women endured a type of heartache like that. So I took romance that I loved and weaved in some of the topics I researched. I talked to women, I tried to get informed. I then wrote my book with references to these topics in hopes that my readers will dive into researching an important issue themselves. You will find some scenes within the book vague for this very reason. I am not trying to inform or provide accurate representations. My book is purely fiction. I'm hoping my readers find their way into their own research and my book prompts them to do just that.

WHAT FIRST INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE? SR: First and most importantly, I am a reader. I devour books and I have a ferocious appetite. I am truly inspired by the words 95


writers put on a page every day. To add to that, I think romance authors sometimes are looked down upon in the writing community. I hid my love for romance for a very long time because of that. The inspiration came from those books that I read, from the writers that were brave enough to put themselves out there. I majored in English Literature and romance was frowned upon in my writing courses. Now, I fight for love and romance one word at a time because I truly believe that romance novels have helped so many heal, cope, make it through some of the worst times in their life. I know because I am one of the many. I've gotten lost in some of the worlds that Nora Roberts, M Robinson, LJ Shen have created. Being lost in those worlds sometimes is where I felt most at home. I hope I can provide that to at least one reader somewhere. HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO WRITE? IF NOT, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO DO? SR: I majored in English Literature and received my Master's in English too. The dream was always to be a writer. I went down the rabbit hole of a normal day job for a long time but every night I would come home and read as many books as I could in 96

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hopes I would be writing them one day. I've been fortunate enough to have stumbled into my own happily ever after with a husband who told me I better follow my dreams, quit my day job, and write a damn book. ARE YOU PART OF A WRITERS GROUP AND IF SO WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM JOINING A WRITER’S GROUP? SR: I am part of a few groups that share insights and wisdom on how to survive in the writing world. I honestly think the biggest thing I have learned is the romance writing community is an amazingly talented, caring community that wants to see every single author succeed. We're all there for each other, when someone needs a shoulder to cry on or when someone needs a girl to pop the champagne bottle in celebration. I learned to reach out and to trust in that community. It was the single most important thing for me in surviving the rough writing days. ANY ADVICE FOR NEW AUTHORS? SR: I'm still an amateur! I think I will be forever. I guess the only advice I have is to know that you know nothing. Keep writing anyway. î –



The Indie Catalog Latest releases, award winners, and more!






It is the late winter of 1950 and Safir Turan—an immigrant living a lonely life in Brooklyn, NY—has just learned of her father's death in distant Istanbul when she is contacted by a wealthy American claiming he knows her family. Senator Weldon Scott takes Safir on a riveting journey to a time before she was born; to the remote and desolate Taurus Mountains of a declining Ottoman Empire wracked by World War I. Safir struggles with the truth of her past as her world crumbles under the weight of the senator's revelations. An epic, multilayered story spanning continents and generations, Saint Illuminator’s Daughter examines themes of identity, faith, belonging and, ultimately, survival within a compelling, fast-paced narrative. Where to Buy: Friesenpress | Amazon | Apple Books ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mike has been writing stories since he was ten years old. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Mike attended Simon Fraser University, graduating with a degree in History. He worked summers at the North Vancouver Waterworks to pay his tuition. Mike has written many short stories and his first novel, The Raven Effect, was published in 2011. Though writing fiction is his true passion, Mike’s career of managing municipal water systems spanned three decades. He retired in 2017 and lives with his wife Stephanie in Victoria on Vancouver Island. When not writing he works in the garden and shakes his fist at squirrels. Saint Illuminator’s Daughter is Mike’s second novel.


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An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that brings a unique mix of psychotherapy and Sign Language and Coda Culture. Just when you think you have it figured out, think again! Dr. Alicia Reese takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro suffers with crippling anxiety, and as sessions progress, he begins to share the reasons why he's struggling. As Ferro's narrative becomes more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth. And, finally, when Ferro reveals his secrets, Reese learns how far she's willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing. Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Deborah Serani, Psy.D. is psychologist in practice 30 years. She is also a senior professor at Adelphi University and has been published in academic journals on the subjects of depression and trauma. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found at ABC News, CNN, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post and USA Today, and affiliate radio station programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. She is also a TEDx speaker and has lectured nationally and internationally. Dr. Serani has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - where a recurring character, Judge D. Serani, was named for her. Dr. Serani is an award-winning author, writing about psychological topics in many genres. 99






Elena, a young Jewish orphan, is subjected to cruel and invasive acts of pedophilia as a youth and by her father. One night she invites Ernst a friend and member of the Nazi Jungen Corps into her bedroom. Acting upon her imprinted bizarre lifestyle, she teaches him all of the intimate actions she is now addicted to. Thus, their spirits bind in a manner that will soon transcend into their next lifetime. Elena is sent to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for women. Ernst now an SS officer, transfers there where they both meet their demise and are thrust into this present world. Upon meeting, she says. “Yes I know who you are. You’ve come back to me again… and just in time.” Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N


Dr. Somma, a former Law Enforcement Officer of 28 years, investigated, arrested and testified in the trial of pedophiles, and the defense of the very young victims hopelessly entrapped in the abomination of sex trafficking. These mere young innocent girls are offered to the local military population with no hope of escape and often in fear of their lives. While their owners profit greatly from this nefarious form of slave trade. The author choses to remain anonymous in the hope of continuing his work, and hopes “Shadows Falling”, although labelled as fiction, will lend some insight into the horrors these victims endure, and to their continued methods of recruitment and entrapment. 100

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The image on the cover is a modern carving of the Mayan goddess Ix Chel. To quote a passage from this book, “She is goddess of the moon, childbirth, death, the endless cycle… The rattlesnakes stand for nobility, reincarnation, and eternity. Nobility, because they are polite: they warn you with their rattles when you get too close. Reincarnation, because they shed their skins and grow new ones; eternity, because birth, death, the shedding of skin, go on for all time. Ix Chel is goddess of the moon, because the cycles of the moon are the cycles of fertility, the cycles that create our crops and our children. She is the goddess of death, because death is the other side of birth. There can be no birth without death.” I purchased the carving in the photograph from the man who carved it, a Mayan guard outside Loltun cave, in Yucatán, in May 1980. He spoke no English, but I managed to carry on a conversation with him using my rudimentary Spanish (with the help of a pocket dictionary) for several hours. Now, almost forty years later, I have come to realize how deeply what he told me informed my subsequent thinking, and that Ix Chel represents the spirit of magic and mystery that I wanted to convey. I have therefore put her on the cover.

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound ABOUT THE AUTHOR Richard Beeson graduated from the Lakeside School in Seattle (where the young Bill Gates and Paul Allen first encountered computers), before attending Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music. After graduating from Juilliard he enjoyed a successful career as an orchestral musician at Lincoln Center, performing alongside Beverly Sills, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo, among others. In 1987 Beverly Sills appointed him to the position of Orchestra Manager at the New York City Opera. In the year 2000, he left the performing arts so he could return to an earlier passion: writing fiction. Since then he has completed the trilogy Seduction of a Wanton Dreamer (Learning to Dream, Dreaming in the Afterjoint, and Dreams of a Dying Shaman), the thriller Stonewall’s Head, and a play titled Ball of Plutonium. He lives in New York City with his wife, the songwriter Elli Frye. To see his other books, visit his website at





Light in the Mourning: Memoirs of an Undertaker's Daughter BY MARGO LENMARK

“Death speaks to me” says the author and man, does it! Margo’s father was a funeral director which gave her an amazing perspective on death…and therefore life. The stories she has to tell about the messages the departed gave her is the most alluring and compelling read. Many deceased loved ones gave her clear messages about life, unusual gifts of insight and cognition as their departing gift to her. Isn’t that exactly what we want? For loved ones to come back and tell us what is important in life? Every message is completely different, and each changed how she lives her life. They are important instructions for the living from those who have died. This book is her account of how these messages were revealed and the indescribable gift that was given. The author takes us beyond the thin veil that separates this world from the next and shows the interwoven beauty between life and death. Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This is Margo’s first book. It took her 12 years to write, but it was worth the wait. It’s a fascinating read with glowing reviews from best-selling authors Deepak Chopra and Marci Shimoff. She has a BS in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh and has been a motivational speaker since high school. Traveling far from her midwestern roots, she now lectures on how death speaks to her through the voices of the dearly departed.


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Carrying Independence BY KAREN A. CHASE

July, 1776. The Congress has agreed to assemble on August 2nd to sign a single copy of the Declaration of Independence that would show they stand unanimous in their desire to separate from British rule. But the struggle to bring all the congressmen to Philadelphia seems as insurmountable as the fight for independence against the world’s greatest army‌ With cries of war spreading across the colonies, an intrepid young Post Rider, Nathaniel Marten, is reluctant to raise a rifle for the Cause. His heart is pulled by sympathy for his mother, English-born and loyal to her homeland; concern for his father, whose artisanal gun shop is being converted into an armory for the newly formed Continental army; and fear for the peaceful Shawnee tribe he has long considered his second family. In a chance encounter with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, Nathaniel is asked to secure the remaining seven signatures by carrying the sole copy of the Declaration across the colonies by land and by sea.

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Chapters | IndieBound ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen A. Chase is an award-winning author, and a Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR). Her first book, Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, garnered seven independent publishing awards. In 2017 she was a visiting scholar at the American Antiquarian Society, and is now a 2019-2020 Virginia Humanities fellow at the Library of Virginia. A member of the Historical Novel Society and James River Writers, she also provides presentations to lineage groups and historical organizations, as well as book clubs. Discover more #ChasingHistories at 103






Halloween is looming large in New Orleans, and Private Investigator Franki Amato’s in a gloomy mood. Her boyfriend Bradley has to leave on an extended business trip, and her slacker brother is coming to town with her matchmaker nonna who’s determined to see a Sicilian lemon superstition bear fruit. Meanwhile, the entire city is spooked because a caped figure is targeting its blood banks. Things turn macabre when a psychic makes a dark prediction about Franki’s brother and a frat boy is found in a cemetery crypt with his blood drained. As bad luck would have it, Franki is hired to investigate the murder by the number one police suspect, an eighteenth-century vampire impersonator. A detective acquaintance offers to team up to find the killer, but he’s interested in more than Franki’s professional input. To solve the case, she goes solo into NOLA’s vampire community and immerses herself in local vampire legends. Can Franki prevent another bloodletting? Or will the next blood spilled be her own?

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N |


Traci Andrighetti is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Franki Amato Mysteries and the Danger Cove Hair Salon Mysteries. In her previous life, she was an awardwinning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a PhD in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime--writing, that is. Her latest capers are teaching mystery writing for Savvy Authors and taking aspiring and established authors on intensive writing retreats to Italy with LemonLit. 104

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American businessman Peter Hubley lays sprawled across the floor of a Brazilian airport, cappuccino dripping down what remains of his forehead. Within an hour, his killers are dead and their bodies stolen. When an organized crime syndicate claims responsibility for the savage murder, questions are raised and the case is assigned to Special Agent Nikki Benton. To Benton, a straight-laced FBI veteran, the Hubley case is an unusual and much-anticipated opportunity to prove herself and get out from under the thumb of her misogynistic boss. But she quickly realizes that nothing about it adds up and she may be in over her head. Her instincts prove true when her prime suspect Ben Siebert, a rebellious ex-Marine with a questionable past, is pressing a Glock 27 to her temple. The two are forced to work together when they learn that everything - the death of the killers, the public's assumption Hubley was hiding something, even the case being assigned to Benton - was part of a carefully orchestrated plan...and that they are the next targets. But to stop a formidable perpetrator intent on killing thousands of innocent people, they must risk everything and reveal the shocking truth behind the Hubley case. Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. Lee lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He graduated from Duke University with degrees in Engineering and Sociology and a minor in Business. In his spare time, he can usually be found playing Frisbee Golf or reading in his La-Z-Boy. The Hubley Case is his first novel. To learn more about or contact him, please visit






The gravy train hasn’t stopped in the hollers of western Virginia for more than thirty years when Stony Shelor starts his junior year at Jubal Early High. Class divides and racism are still the hardened norms as the Eisenhower years draw to a close. Violence lies coiled under the calm surface, ready to strike at any time. On the high school front, the cool boys are taking their wardrobe and music cues from hip TV private dick Peter Gunn, and Dobie Gillis is teaching them how to hit on pretty girls. There’s no help for Stony on the horizon, though. Mary Lou Martin is the girl of his dreams, and she hardly knows Stony exists. In addition, Stony can’t seem to stay out of juvenile court and just may end up in reform school. A long, difficult year stretches out in front of him when a new boy arrives in town. Likeable bullshit artist Jack Newcomb dresses like Peter Gunn, uses moves like Dobie Gillis, and plays pretty good jazz clarinet.

Where to Buy: Amazon


A.D. Hopkins worked 46 years full-time for newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was named to the Nevada Press Association's Newspaper Hall of Fame. He was best known as an investigative reporter and editor but spent several years as a roving writer, criss-crossing Nevada to write about its colorful small towns and back country and their outstandingly individualistic residents.


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Calvin Russell and Richie Glass don't know each other, but they have the same job: wait outside American Federal Bank...with the engine running. The problem is they've been recruited by two different crews intent on robbing the same bank, on the same day, at the same time. When the bank heist goes sideways, the two young men--one a smart-ass gambling addict from Beverly Hills, the other a car-thief from Inglewood with a wife and five-year-old son--must work together to figure out what the hell happened, all as they try to pull off the score of a lifetime. It won't be easy with FBI Agents, LAPD Homicide Detectives, pissed-off street thugs, racist bikers, and a mysterious gangster all gunning for them. Where to Buy: Amazon


When he's not supplying voices for television and movies, Clay is putting all sorts of characters into all sorts of predicaments. Visit him at







Newly widowed Champs Noland hates Egret's Pond, the retirement community he nicknamed Regret's Pond. Tired of empty condolences, "What to Expect When You're Grieving" pamphlets, and casseroles delivered by do-gooding widows, he flees to his ramshackle summer cabin on the Sassafras River bringing the golden urn containing Pat's ashes with him. His plan? To spend his days idly fishing on his rusty old boat, Tetanus, and drinking beer. Alone. But troubled waters await him. Not only is Pat dead, but his daughter Laura has redecorated his beloved cabin with plans to rent it out as a "hair-being-bee." His boat is gone, his beer fridge is filled with watermelon-flavored Perrier, and his plans for solitude are shattered by interfering neighbors, a notorious chicken-farming arsonist, and the arrival of his demanding adult children.

Where to Buy: Amazon ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trish Heald is a former strategic business advisor, writer, and editor who turned her hand to fiction after an MA in Psychology revealed a passion for helping flawed characters through crises and renewal. Trish lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, three screenaddicted teenagers, and a narcoleptic beagle. Sassafras is her debut novel.


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Chelsea is determined to make it to her brother’s wedding. And she’s not going to let the fact that she’s been dead for two years stop her. Joining with her mime friend from a New York City park and her ghostly mentor with forty years of afterlife under her belt, the three women set out on foot for San Francisco. Along the way, they are faced with joy, sorrow, and the haunting surprises of the open road. This humorous and lightly macabre journey explores relationships, personal burdens, and what it means to keep moving, even when your heartbeat has stopped.

Where to Buy: Amazon


Alanna McFall is a novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in a number of places on either coast before landing in the Bay Area, where she is a resident playwright with PlayGround San Francisco. When not writing, she is a theater administrator, cross-stitcher, and podcast nerd. Follow her work and upcoming projects at The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus is her first novel.







In 1999, Juliet Cutler leaves the United States to teach at the first school for Maasai girls in East Africa. Captivated by the stories of young Maasai women determined to get an education in the midst of a culture caught between the past and the future, she seeks to empower and support her students as they struggle to define their own fates. Cutler soon learns that behind their shy smiles and timid facades, her Maasai students are much stronger than they appear. For them, adolescence requires navigating a risky world of forced marriages, rape, and genital cutting, all in the midst of a culture grappling with globalization. In the face of these challenges, these young women believe education offers hope, and so, against all odds, they set off alone–traveling hundreds of miles and even forsaking their families–simply to go to school.

Where to Buy: Amazon


Juliet Cutler is a writer, an educator, and an activist. Her teaching career began in Tanzania in 1999, and since that time, she has been an advocate for empowering at-risk girls through education. "Among the Maasai" is Juliet's first book, though her literary and professional publications number more than two dozen. She has taught writing in many settings including as adjunct faculty for the College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota. She holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and a BS in education from the University of North Dakota. 110

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As a child, he was raised in an unstable and violent home by a mother struggling with mental illness. An absent father with a firm belief in tough love left him with only his sister to understand or comfort him as they faced a home full of harshness, resentment, and physical abuse. As a man, he braved the war-torn landscapes of Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Having learned early from his father that only the strong survive, he enlisted in the Air Force after high school and began an impressive military career in intelligence analysis, communications, and supporting special operations, meeting incredible individuals along the way. In his time overseas he faced harsh realities of the politics of war, the consequences of military actions, and the challenge of attempting to rebuild a country while its own people are trying to kill you. Baghdaddy is Bill Riley’s memoir: an honest and colorful depiction of his journey through a turbulent youth and into a challenging adulthood.

Where to Buy: Amazon ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Riley is a writer and retired USAF Lt. Col. with interests in space exploration, coffee roasting, global communication, intelligence activities, and ancient ruins. Bill was an intelligence analyst during the Cold War. Later, he specialized in strategy and communications. During his career, he's worked with intelligence and special operations professionals from every service, virtually every intelligence agency, and several friendly foreign governments.







She didn’t see the hammer. For a fraction of a second JoAnne Jones saw a young black face, framed by a black hoodie, and then she descended into a place where she felt and saw nothing. Jones survived this sudden assault by a stranger, but it left her with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), fractured hands, and PTSD. Headstrong tells the story of how she learned to live with the daily challenges of TBI. It brings the reader into a life traumatized by violence and set in the context of a society full of violence and vocal, visible white supremacists. Woven throughout Jones’s account are the stories of how medical professionals, friends, family, and strangers became a foundation strong enough to hold her during the worst of times, and to give her the buoyancy to find a path toward hope.

Where to Buy: Amazon ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JoAnne Jones is Professor Emeritus at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where she worked for twenty-five years. While at Springfield College, Dr. Jones served as Associate Dean of the School of Human Services and Acting Dean of the School of Social Work. Before Springfield College, she was an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at the University of Calgary, School of Social Welfare. Her teaching and research focused primarily on social justice issues.


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So you plan to breastfeed your baby. Hooray! But what if things don't quite follow your plan? Because, let's be honest, breastfeeding is not always as simple--or glorious--as folks make it seem. A new mom is rarely prepared for the drain of breastfeeding (and we're not just talking milk ducts). No modern mother has time to read a magnum opus on the nipple. Textbooks are great, but we ought to get back to the breast . . . and the heart beating beneath it. Not Another Breastfeeding Book cuts the fluff and tells it to you straight, from one mother to another. Loaded with facts and inspiring full-color pictures, Chelsie Knight offers a down-to-earth look at starting and sustaining a breastfeeding relationship. Easy to read in one sitting or flip through for just a few minutes, these pages offer the support you need to reach your breastfeeding goals. Because breast milk is pretty amazing for everyone involved. Where to Buy: Amazon ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When I became a stay-at-home mom, I loved having the opportunity to watch my kids grow and be there with them on a daily basis. My canines didn't mind the endless walks and attention either. At the same time, there were those spare, free moments where I wanted to do something more for me. While my days were jam-packed with smiley giggles, dirty diapers, and nursery rhymes on repeat, I strived to pursue one of my own passions, which led to the creation of Not Another Breastfeeding Book. As a mother who personally struggled with most issues that can come up in the breastfeeding journey, I wanted to prep new and expecting mamas with reliable information, tips, and tricks to get them past the hurdles that can easily throw women off of their breastfeeding goals. 113


My Real Name is Hanna. An Emotional, Yet Gratifying, Story of Perseverance, Love and Sacrifice My Name Is Hannah is a beautiful but heart-wrenching story of a Ukrainian Jewish family that was forced into hiding to avoid being victims of the Holocaust. A fiction novel, Tara Lynn Masih’s saga is based on an all-too-real family and true events of the German invasion into Kwasova, a small village that once existed in southeastern Ukraine.


The story is told through the eyes of Hannah, the oldest of three children in the Slivka family. As Hannah walks us through her daily life as a young, innocent teenager, it’s easy to visualize the fields, the cows and sheep, and the children playing. You can almost smell the fresh country air. But there is also fear and dread in the air that grows as the Germans march forward and, town by town, strip the Jewish community first of their livelihood, then of their dignity, and then, eventually, of their very lives, as thousands are sent off to concentration camps or

are killed where they stand. When the Germans arrive in Kwasova, the Slivka family is forced to take drastic measures to save themselves. This book left me wanting more. But don’t fret. Unlike the Diary of Anne Frank, this family has a happy ending. 


My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 114

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A Thread So Fine. Love Is the Thread That Holds This Family Together During Hard Times For the Malone family, 1946 was a year of ignorant bliss. World War II was over and Ed, the oldest of the three children, was coming home. Shannon, the middle child, and Eliza, the youngest (who had moved up a grade years earlier), were both set to graduate high school at the end of the year, and were looking forward to the new adventures and freedoms college would bring. To those on the outside, it would seem that life in the Malone family was perfect.


But life is seldom perfect, and the Malones’ bliss is shattered when Shannon is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and Eliza suffers a pain so deep that the only way she can overcome it is to block out both the incident and her family. Meanwhile, their mother Nell is hiding her own deep, dark childhood secrets; and at times, the skeletons in her closet prevent her from loving her daughters as openly and freely as she knows she should. Her family thread, it seems, is unraveling. Her daughters are slipping away, and she’s unable to stop it.

But the thread of a family’s love is strong, and only time will tell whether it can pull this scarred, broken family back together. 


A Thread So Fine by Susan Welch was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 115



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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The stories collected here represent the most recent winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, which recognizes twelve writers who have made outstanding debuts in literary magazines in the previous year. They are chosen by a panel of distinguished judges, themselves innovators of the short story form: Tracy O’Neill, Nafissa ThompsonSpires, and Deb Olin Unferth. Each piece comes with an introduction by its original editors, whose commentaries provide valuable insight into what magazines are looking for in their submissions, and showcase the vital work they do to nurture literature’s newest voices.


The son of working-class Mexican immigrants flees a life of labor in fruit-packing plants to run in a Native American marathon from Canada to Guatemala, challenging himself to reimagine North America and his place in it in this "stunning memoir that moves to the rhythm of feet, labor, and the many landscapes of the Americas.


After The Last Battle takes place in a post-apocalyptic world after the Kingdom of Heaven suffered a massive defeat against the Hordes of Hell. With the angels nearly extinct, the demons have conquered the Earth, splitting it into eighteen colonies - one for each of the demonic generals. Due to the state of the world, vast amounts technology have been lost and forgotten; the world has returned to the medieval period. After The Last Battle follows a twenty-two-year-old and an angel forced out of hiding - as they attempt to make a difference in the tattered world. But it's not long before that good intent pits them against an intelligent demonic general and his growing army.





by Sara Bond

by Nicole Mabry


When her father threw her out, sacrificing his only living daughter for the good of his shipping conglomerate, Lena Lomasky swore she could make it on her own. But now she’s broke and desperate, and pride won’t fuel her spaceship. Her latest job is simple: carry a datastick of state secrets home to her father. The same man who cut her off without a cent. Whatever. She can do this. Pass the whiskey. An ill-timed royal assassination ignites a war and Lena’s crew is blamed. When she thinks to use her cache of state secrets to save them, Lena discovers she’s actually smuggling the only known plans for her father’s invention: a gravity bomb that can vaporize entire cities. 118

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After years of failed relationships, Karis Hylen abandons her social life and whittles her days down to work and spending time with her dog, Zeke. Her selfimposed exile ends up saving her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the east coast, killing millions. Alone in her apartment building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls to her mom, and conversations with two young girls living across the courtyard. With the city in a state of martial law, violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day. But her biggest enemy is her own mind. As cabin fever sets in, vivid hallucinations make her question her sanity.

I know my brother is dead. But sometimes Mama gets confused. ​ here’s plenty about the T grownup world that six-yearold Aoife doesn’t understand. Like what happened to her big brother Theo and why her mama is in the hospital instead of home where she belongs. Uncle Donny says she just needs to be patient, but Aoife’s sure her mama won’t be able to come home until Aoife learns what really happened to her brother. The trouble is no one wants to talk about Theo because he was murdered. But by whom?





by Margarita Montimore

by Chelsea Bieker

by Eddy Boudel Tan

It’s New Year ’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints, and awakens in her 51 year old body thirty-two years into the future. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…

Drought has settled on the town of Peaches, California. The area of the Central Valley where fourteen-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live was once an agricultural paradise. Now it’s an environmental disaster, a place of cracked earth and barren raisin farms. In their desperation, residents have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance.

When the airplane piloted by Elias Santos crashes one week before their wedding day, Coen Caraway loses the man he loves and the illusion of happiness he has worked so hard to create. The only thing Elias leaves behind is a recording of his final words, and even Coen is baffled by the cryptic message.

Possessed of an unstoppable plot and a brilliantly soulful voice, Godshot is a book of grit and humor and heart, a debut novel about female friendship and resilience, mother-loss and motherhood, and seeking salvation in unexpected places. It introduces a writer who gives Flannery O’Connor’s Gothic parables a Californian twist and who emerges with a miracle that is all her own.

Numb with grief, he takes refuge on the Mexican island that was meant to host their wedding. But as fragments of the past come to the surface in the aftermath of the tragedy, Coen is forced to question everything he thought he knew about Elias and their life together. Beneath his flawed memory lies the truth about Elias—and himself.





by Heather Chavez

by Joanne Kukanza Easley

Driving home one rainy night, Cassie Larkin sees a man and woman fighting on the side of the road. After calling 911, the veterinarian makes a splitsecond decision that will throw her sedate suburban life into chaos. Against all reason and advice, she gets out of her minivan and chases after the violent man, trying to help his victim. When Cassie physically tries to stop him, he suddenly turns on her and spits out an ominous threat: “Let her die, and I’ll let you live.”


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A drunken mother makes childhood ugly. Jane runs away at sixteen, determined to leave her fraught upbringing in the rearview. Vowing never to return, she hitchhikes to California, right on time for the Summer of Love. Seventeen years later, she looks good on paper: married, grad school, sober, but her carefully constructed life is crumbling. When Mama dies, Jane returns for the funeral, leaving her husband in the dark about her history. Seeing her childhood home and significant people from her youth catapults Jane back to the events that made her the woman she is. She faces down her past and the ghosts that shaped her family.

Grey’s Anatomy meets Scrubs in this debut novel about a young doctor’s struggle to survive residency, love, and life. Having spent the last twentysomething years with her nose in a textbook, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia has just landed the medical residency of her dreams. But after a disastrous first day, she’s ready to quit. Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and her duty to be the “perfect Indian daughter” have her questioning her future as a doctor. Enter chief resident Ethan Cantor. He’s everything Norah aspires to be: respected by the attendings, calm during emergencies, and charismatic with the patients. As he morphs from Norah’s mentor to something more, it seems her luck is finally changing.



SPITFIRE by M. L. Huie

by Anika Scott

An immersive, heart-pounding debut about a German heiress on the run in post-WWII Germany. Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

THE ENGINEER’S WIFE by Tracey Enerson Wood

How far would you go for vengeance? It’s V-E Day 1946 in London. World War II is long over, and former spy Livy Nash is celebrating with her third drink before noon. She went to war to kill Nazis. Dropped behind enemy lines as a courier, she quickly became one of the toughest agents in France. But her war ended with betrayal and the execution of the man she loved. Now, Livy spends her days proofreading a demeaning advice column for little ladies at home, and her nights alone with black market vodka.

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally—she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make change. But then her husband Wash asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible. Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold and her life transformed when Wash, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. It’s challenging, but the work gives her power and purpose like she’s never known before.





by Finola Austin

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

This dazzling debut novel explores the scandalous historical love affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, giving voice to the woman who allegedly corrupted her son’s innocent tutor and brought down the entire Brontë family. Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.


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It’s 1905, and the Japanese victory over the Russians has shocked the British and their imperial subjects. Sixteen-year-old Leela and her younger sister, Maya, are spurred on to wear homespun to show the British that the Indians won’t be oppressed for much longer, either, but when Leela’s betrothed, Nash, asks her to circulate a petition amongst her classmates to desegregate the girls’ school in Chandrapur, she’s wary. She needs to remind Maya that the old ways are not all bad, for soon Maya will have to join her own betrothed and his family in their quiet village. When she discovers that Maya has embarked on a forbidden romance, Leela’s response shocks her family, her town, and her country firmly into the new century.


STRUNG OUT by Erin Khar

In this deeply personal and illuminating memoir about her fifteen-year struggle with heroin, Khar sheds profound light on the opioid crisis and gives a voice to the over two million people in America currently battling with this addiction. Growing up in LA, Erin Khar hid behind a pictureperfect childhood filled with excellent grades, a popular group of friends and horseback riding. After first experimenting with her grandmother’s expired painkillers, Khar started using heroin when she was thirteen.


At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: her mother’s. As a child, Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you think,” her mother insisted.

GUNS UNDER THE BED by Jody A. Forrester

It is 1969 and Jody A. Forrester is in her late teens, transitioning from sixties love child to pacifist anti-Vietnam War activist to an ardent revolutionary. Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary revolves around her three years in the Revolutionary Union, a Communist organization advocating armed overthrow of the ruling class. In readiness for the uprising, she sleeps with two rifles underneath her bed. One of millions protesting the war, what sets Jody apart her from her peers is her decision to join a group espousing Mao Tse Tung’s ideology of class war. But why? How does she come to embrace violence as the only solution to the inequities inherent in a capitalist empire? 123





by Karen Dietrich

by Jennifer J. Chow

by Mary Keliikoa

Not a single resident of St. Augustine, Florida, can forget the day that Michael Joshua Hayes walked into a shopping mall and walked out the mass murderer of eleven people.

Mimi Lee is in over her head. There’s her new Los Angeles pet grooming shop to run, her matchmaking mother to thwart, her talking cat Marshmallow to tend to—oh, and the murder of a local breeder to solve…now if only Mimi hadn’t landed herself on top of the suspect list. Mimi Lee hoped to give Los Angeles animal lovers something to talk about with her pet grooming shop, Hollywoof. She never imagined that the first cat she said hello to would talk back or be quite so, well, catty—especially about those disastrous dates Mimi’s mother keeps setting up.

PI Kelly Pruett is determined to make it on her own. And juggling clients at her late father’s detective agency, a controlling ex, and caring for a Deaf daughter was never going to be easy.

He's now spent over a decade on death row, and his daughter Evelyn - who doesn't remember a time when her father wasn't an infamous killer - is determined to unravel the mystery and understand what drove her father to shoot those innocent victims.


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She takes it as a good sign when a letter left by her dad ties into an unsolved case of a young woman struck by a train. Hunting down the one person who can prove the mysterious death was not just a drunken accident, Kelly discovers this witness is in no condition to talk. And the closer she gets to the truth, the longer her list of sleazy suspects with murderous motives grows.





by David Heska Wanbli

by Kate Lansing

by Elle Marr

Parker Valentine has always dreamed of opening her own winery in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. But she gets more than she bargained for when a food and wine critic unexpectedly shows up at Vino Valentine on opening day. A negative review could be fatal for her business, and not only does he seem to hate her chardonnay, he also collapses and dies shortly after drinking it.

Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine.


An addictive and groundbreaking debut thriller set on a Native American reservation. Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s own nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone… Alive. Trust no one.






by Ryan Wick

by K.M. Szpara

by Justin T. Call

Maven’s latest job should be simple: steal a rare coin from a New York apartment. But when the coin’s owner comes home with a beautiful woman, who then murders him, Maven realizes his mission won’t be so easy. And once the woman tries to take the coin for herself, Maven’s forced into action. After he narrowly escapes being killed himself, he is then coerced by the woman’s boss, a sadistic drug lord, into a far more complicated and dangerous job. If Maven fails to crack the safe of a rival cartel boss in Miami, his friends and family will die. If he succeeds, they still might.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution.

You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world. But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same? What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world…or destroy it?


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Molly and Gene Myers were happy, until tragedy blighted their hopes of children. During the years of darkness and despair, they each put their marriage in jeopardy, but now they are starting to rebuild their fragile bond. This is the year of Woodstock and the moon landings; war is raging in Vietnam and the superpowers are threatening each other with annihilation. Then the meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town – and changing their lives for ever.



by Nicole Jarvis

by Jane Gilmartin

Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerova – a widow with secrets of her own. When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When a pharmaceutical company asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy.


STACKING Awareness Through his Debut Novel. Written by: Jenna Zerbel, Editorial Assistant with Orange Hat Publishing

SMALL PRESS REVIEWS ORANGE HAT PUBLISHING Orange Hat is an independent, Wisconsin-based publisher that's all about the dreamers and go-getters. Shannon Ishizaki started Orange Hat in 2011 because she loved the work - reading, amplifying inspiring voices, and helping dreams come true. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

In honor of Autism Awareness Month this April, the spotlight shines on Jesse Horn: Speed Stacking champion, accomplished author, motivational speaker, and advocate for Autism Awareness. When he saw a commercial for Speed Stacking in 2006, Jesse Horn had no idea how immensely his life was about to change. Since then, Jesse has triumphed in competitions all over the world, made friends that will last a lifetime, and become a monumental inspiration to people in every corner of the globe. Speed Stacking, an international athletic phenomenon, is a sport in which individuals from all different walks of life are welcome to compete. Contenders (such as Jesse Horn) stack and dismantle towers of specially designed cups in a timed event to exhibit their agility and quickness. The world of Speed Stacking prides itself on promoting qualities such as sportsmanship, friendship, and inclusivity – all of which played a key role in why Jesse Horn immediately found his passion in this activity. In his debut memoir, Stacked Against the Odds: Life with Autism and How a Unique Sport Changed My Life, Jesse Horn expresses his gratitude to his Sport Stacking family, “You are all like family to me. You all see me as ‘Jesse’ and my autism makes no difference to any of you! When I told all of you for the first time that I have autism, you all accepted me for who I am and made me a big part of


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the sport stacking community. It feels so heartwarming to know that I went from hardly having any friends at all to hundreds and thousands of friends from all around the world.”

Of course, the Speed Stacking community loves him right back! Bob and Jill Fox,

founders of Speed Stacks, Inc. and the World Sport Stacking Association, praise Jesse and his new book. “It would be simple to look at the shelves of sport stacking trophies and medals won by Jesse Horn and declare him a champion. To us, however, Jesse represents a champion defined by far more than shiny hardware. He is a winner in life. And he is a warrior who shows up to fight for kids facing adversity through autism. His voice is one of genuine hope for parents with children on the autism spectrum, and he is an inspiration to anyone who has overcome obstacles or has obstacles to overcome.” Orange Hat Publishing is proud to work with Jesse Horn and share his story about determination, passion, and joy with audiences everywhere. His book is currently available on, online and at your local bookstore. 






Little Lovely Things. That Which Doesn’t Kill Them Just May Have Made Them Stronger Claire and Glen Rawlings are your typical couple and parents of typical girls, who together, make up a typical family. Claire is studying to become a doctor, while Glen is a teacher and a volunteer high school football coach. With Andrea, four, and Lily, one-and-ahalf years old, their life is full, always moving, and in a constant state of blissful chaos. Then one fateful day, their life is anything but typical. Claire became ill, and what happens while she is incapacitated is every parent’s worst nightmare.


From then on, Claire and Glen’s lives are a jumbled blur of painful memories combined with a sliver of hope. Yet as time passes, they know that the only way to overcome their sorrow and suffering is to try to move their lives forward. But moving on also drives a wedge between them. Claire and Glen struggle to find the words to tell each other how they truly feel, and their marriage suffers.

Little Lovely Things, by Maureen Joyce Connolly, tugs at your every emotion, from shock and sadness to grief and anger to love and hope—and it keeps you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last. 


Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly was named a Finalist in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 130

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Before We Died. The Danger and Drama Will Keep You On the Edge of Your Seat Baxter and Jack were pushed to their physical and mental limits every day as dock workers in the shipyards of Hoboken, New Jersey. As sons of Irish immigrants who came seeking the American dream at the turn of the century, they were happy to make their own money and burn off some youthful angst through heavy work. But a family tragedy throws the boys into the stark reality of having more than themselves to take care of. When Bax sees an ad for rubber tappers for hire in the jungles of the Amazon, he envisions not only a way out of their monotonous life but also a way to achieve wealth and fortune, and to comfortably support the families they hope to one day have.


In the end, they find themselves working harder than they ever thought imaginable, all while fending off the risks of the Amazon jungle, from malaria to boa constrictors, alligators, jaguars, mosquitos, and worst of all, savages who want to kill them.

Before We Died is a story of two brothers’ struggles to make something of themselves and the sacrifices they endure to get there. What they suffer in the process will take them to the very brink of survival. î –


Before we died by Joan Schweighardt was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 131



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Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. —



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