The Historic Issue - August / September 2020

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Historic Fiction & Other Stories The Great Historic Roundup Celebrate Black Voices






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.



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 Gabriella Guerra FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

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











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






SECTIONS 34 Bookstagram 43 Recommended Reading 117 Book Shelf

12 Interview with Kelly G. Park. By Sarah Kloth

20 Interview with Daven McQueen By Sarah Kloth

28 Celebrating Black Voices in Publishing By Sarah Kloth

106 Interview with Marthese Fenech By Sarah Kloth

126 The Great Historic Roundup By Gabrielle Guerra

146 Indie Reviews 158 On Our Shelf

ON TH E G R E AT H I S TO R I C P G 122 RO U N D U P. COLUMNS 116 Girl Plus Book

Sara Grochowski

136 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

140 Book Mom

Megan Verway

142 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

144 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki




Historic Fiction. “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run f rom it or learn f rom it.” – The Lion King BY SARAH KLOTH, PUBLISHER

The self-publishing revolution of the past several years has allowed hundreds of thousands of independent authors to tell their stories of the past, whether it’s from 100 years ago or something that happened just last week. There is much to learn from the stories, characters, and settings these authors use to help bring feeling and emotion to historic events. Every novel, no matter what level, holds an opportunity for the reader, no matter what age, to learn a piece of the past and help us navigate the present. At this cultural moment, elevating black voices and understanding the history of racism in this country is more important than ever. In this issue, authors of color speak about recent issues and how continuing to write on these topics should be supported and celebrated now more than ever.

In this issue, you will find The Great Historic Roundup as historical fiction authors discuss the importance of historical fiction and how they utilize it in their storytelling. We talk with Marthese Fenech, bestselling author of historical novels set in sixteenthcentury Europe, as she discussed her process of writing her historical fiction novel Falcon’s Shadow. Kelly G. Park takes us on a journey of his interviews of former professional baseball players and discusses the stories that make up his new book, Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot. Finally, I am proud to announce Shelf Media Group is 2020 Maggie Award winner for Best Digital Edition, for our Fierce Female edition. We thank all our partners, staff, and most importantly our readers for their continued support Enjoy the Issue.  7



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

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


See More Books By Donald J. Fraser 10


Readers of inspirational fiction will love this moving story that affirms the power - Publisher's Weekly of God’s mercy." "Uplifting and compelling…a powerful and inspiring novel."

— Foreword Reviews

“A tapestry of faith, yearning, and wonder at the majesty of the universe…”

— Kirkus Reviews



Interview: Kelly G. Park.

Author of Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot. BY SARAH KLOTH




Mr. Kelly G. Park is a retired sandlot athlete, never having the skills to “take it to the next level” but enjoying every moment of those pick-up games. As a retired sandlot player, Kelly’s thoughts were not about being on the field with the Pros but of his memories of playing youth baseball. It was that thought that ultimately lead him to begin interviewing former professional baseball players and gathering the stories that make up Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot. Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot is Kelly's debut book.



on the Sandlot tells the stories of former professional baseball player’s memories of playing youth baseball. From the time I was a young boy, I have enjoyed reading biographies of athletes, specifically baseball players. My focus became early 20th-century baseball players such as Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehring, and many more. I then read the book, The Glory of Their Times, a book published in 1966. The author interviewed 26 players from the same era as the biographies I had read, and what I found interesting was a re-telling of stories I had previously read but from a different perspective. I enjoyed this book, so I searched for a similar book to read, and in my search, I came across a book review that said this book is so well written that the reader would believe they were on the field with the players. My first thought was, “I don’t think so, I never had the talent to be on the field as a professional baseball player,” and my second thought was, “But I have a lot of great memories playing youth baseball, I wonder what the pros memories are?” I searched for a book about pro player’s memories of playing youth baseball and could not find one, so I decided to interview the players myself. The stories found in Just Like Me: When the Pros



Played on the Sandlot are in their own words as transcribed from our interviews. I have interviewed 36 former professional players, 28 from Major League Baseball, four from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, and four players from the Negro Leagues. Players told me stories about the impact their family and coaches had on both their youth and pro careers. Some players told me the backstory of how they got their famous nicknames; players talked about their favorite players, some recounted specific game memories, and others told of some unbelievable scouting and recruiting stories. Players told me when they knew they had the ability to play professional baseball and how made-up games helped to improve their baseball skills. What I found is that not all stories about youth baseball are fun and happy, some players didn’t have equipment or leagues to play in, but then again, there IS a lot of funny and happy stories in youth baseball … like how one player really got his famous nickname or why a player wasn’t bothered when he peed in his baseball pants. There is even a boys’ team that would rather be a winning team with a girl than be a losing team without one. All the stories are relatable, whether you are a boy, a girl, the first chosen, the last chosen, the kid that can blow the biggest bubble gum bubble, or whatever



the color of your skin is. Luis Tiant said it perfectly, “How long you gonna be a kid? Not too long, you’re going to be old for a long time. Why would you want to take that away from the kid? Let the kid be a kid. Let him enjoy.” JUST LIKE ME IS YOUR DEBUT, WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE? KP: It has been an adventure. I’ve driven

through the night after getting a last-minute player availability notice for an interview. I’ve flown to Miami for interviews during the All-Star Fanfest, only to be followed by MLB security. Not that I blame them, I had had very little sleep and definitely did not present myself as anything other than “someone to keep a close eye on.” I’ve had “right place, right time,” play a significant role throughout, and I have learned so much about two industries (baseball and book publishing) that I would have never known, if not for this project.



were true to the project, so I presented the purpose and stuck to my plan. What I found was the players seemed to enjoy talking about their childhood. Many a player would begin our interview session with the statement, “Kelly, that was a long time ago; I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember very many stories,” and as we would finish our interview, a player would remember another story, and I would have to scramble to get my recorder turned back on and not miss out on another priceless memory. My one regret in “sticking to the plan,” is I only have a few pictures of me with the players, and the pictures I have were a result of someone else saying, “Hey, do you want to get a picture?”


The approach I took with this project is the same approach I take with any project I have in my professional career. I researched the project, developed a plan and adjusted the plan as needed throughout the entire process. I then began the process of contacting players, which was a learning experience itself. I did not want to come across as merely a fan wanting to meet my favorite players; I wanted the players to understand that my intentions



HOW YOUR EXPERIENCE HELPED SHAPE YOUR BOOK? KP: I am a retired sandlot athlete because 1. I

never had the ability to be anything other than a sandlot and pickup game athlete and, 2. I do not heal from injuries like I used to. But one thing is for sure, I have some great memories playing pickup games of whiffle ball in my front yard, basketball in my friend’s backyard,


football at the city park, and anything else my friends and I could find to do. As I sit here writing this, a whirlwind of memories come flying back to me. From mimicking the entire St. Louis Cardinals lineup during an intense whiffle ball game to trying to knock over a fire hydrant with my face during a much too intense pickup game of football to riding my bike to the city park and just “hanging out” all-day. It’s those memories that shaped this book.



a national convention in Baltimore, and my interview with Lou Piniella happened during another “right place, right time” situation. I actually secured several interviews by using something called The White Pages. For some players, I was able to contact their agent or management agency and others by player referral.










KP: The process of securing interviews with

players is as varied as the number of players I interviewed and could be a short story itself. When I started this project, I knew no one in baseball that I could call and ask for help in interviewing players, but one of those “right place, right time” situations occurred to allow me to get my first interview. I was at a client’s facility soon after I decided to take on this project, a client I had known for ten years when the owner asked me if I knew who Jim Hickman was? I said I did, and he pointed to his maintenance supervisor and told me that was Mr. Hickman’s son. That is how I got my first interview. The process of interviewing Boog Powell began with my sons attending

KP: Many of the players I spoke with grew

up in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and from all regions of the country. The southeast, northeast, midwest, and the western USA are represented, along with players from Canada and Cuba. Historically, it was interesting to hear players talk about how their childhoods were very similar, meeting up with friends and playing ball at the local park or in someone’s backyard. For the MLB players, what I found most interesting is how teams scouted and signed players before the current system of selecting players through a draft. What was especially interesting was the player’s perspective of the Bonus Baby era during the



1950s when teams were required to place a newly signed amateur player on the Major League roster immediately if they signed the player for $4,000 or more. Hawk Taylor’s experiences of being one of the bonus babies that signed for over $100,000 is a lesson to be learned. From the All Americans, it was interesting listening to the players talk about the many rule and equipment changes the League put in during the 12 years of its existence. Many of the rule and equipment changes were made to increase attendance, and on several occasions, the players found out about the change when they got to the ball field. What many people do not realize, the AAGPBL started out pitching underhand, just like fast-pitch softball and used a 12-inch ball, but after a couple of years, they began to throw overhand, the ball became smaller, the bases were spaced further apart, the pitching distance was lengthened, and the pitchers began to throw overhand, just like men’s baseball. From the Negro League players, it was a lesson learned about segregation and the lack of organized playing opportunities. Organized football and basketball teams were more accessible to the players than baseball. One exception was for the players that grew up in Florida. Organized baseball seems to have been available to kids in all age groups in the





Sunshine State. OF ALL THE STORIES, WHICH WAS MOST INSPIRATIONAL TO YOU? KP: I can’t pick one story over another

as being most inspirational. During our conversations, every player told stories of supportive parents and coaches, stories of summers spent playing with friends, and stories that made us laugh out loud. What was interesting to me is that during several conversations, the player would stop, and as if they just realized the importance youth baseball had in their lives, would say something like, ”It was one big part of me, and I can’t take out any one part of it,” or “We grew up in the best of times, I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anybody,” or “I loved youth baseball, it’s some of the best memories of my life.” Those are the stories I enjoyed the most. I was sitting there listening to the players come to this revelation, and I can hear them saying those words even as I wrote this. WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU? KP: Just Like Me will be a series of books.

The two volumes will be split with 18 player interviews in each. Volume Two is set to be released during the 2020 holiday season. Secondly, readers can go to my website, www., and tell their own




youth baseball/softball stories under the “Your Story” page of the website. Based on the response, I will consider a blog to book of these stories from the amateur sandlot player. Finally, I am planning to go through the process of researching and then developing a plan for another baseball-related book, focusing on player talents and what characteristics lead to the ideal player. 


JUST LIKE ME: WHEN THE PROS PLAYED ON THE SANDLOT BY KELLY G. PARK Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot is the first book to tell the story of professional baseball players’ memories of playing youth baseball. My interviews with players such as, Niekro, Campaneris, Sutton, Zapp, Herzog, Bergmann will take the reader back to their youth with one thought, “Hey, that’s Just Like Me!” In the pages of Just Like Me, Thirty-six former Major League, Negro Leagues and All American Girls Professional Baseball League players recount amazing stories of growing up playing baseball — events that ultimately shaped their professional baseball careers. Whether you are young or old, a baseball player or softball player, this book is for everyone. Each reader will find a story that brings back a memory of their youth; there are many funny and happy stories, and some sad stories, but all-in-all, stories that are a big part of our childhood.



A cop. An ex-FBI agent turned private eye. His contact within the Bureau. An anti-capitalist activist. A shady financier and his right-hand man. A biker gang. The brother of a murdered woman, seeking vengeance. A software program that can capture subjects’ entire lives on video. What do they have in common? Big Deal Enterprises, America’s largest retailer. When the manager of a Big Deal store is murdered, her brother knows the fault lies with BDE. When activist Liberty Halfnight is threatened just as she’s about to release a damning exposé of BDE, she calls on her PI contact to investigate the corporation. The resulting investigation reveals a slick theft operation, blackmail, and rampant corruption. As pieces of the puzzle fall into place, they realize that sometimes justice is best served outside the law.


A lifelong resident of Toronto, Paul Trinetti is proud to have worked for his family’s business for nearly twenty-five years. His passion for writing came out of a love of music. As a young child, he became fascinated by the clever storytelling of The Beatles and later with the writing of other artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, and Lou Reed. In his spare time, Paul has recorded close to seventy original songs. Paul is also an avid sports fan.




A Love Story

How My Dog Saved My Life by Joni darc Shepherd

Dog owners will be entertained by Rio and darc Shepherd’s journey … the story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking ... Rio will ring true to dog lovers …” – Blue Ink Review Most of us will experience tragedy and heartbreak during our lives. Rio – A Love Story is a heartwarming memoir of a girl’s family tragedies, the loss of her closest family and support system overnight. She fell into depression and needed a miracle. This miracle appeared in the form of a charming show dog who gave her unconditional love and guided her from sadness to a renewed passion for life. Join them on their inspirational and entertaining journey through the dog show world to rewarding community service, and their magical journey continues.



Interview: Daven McQueen.

Author of The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones. BY SARAH KLOTH




“Ethan and Juniper make a case for why allyship – productive, substantial allyship – is important for sustaining the movement. White people and non-Black people of color have to do the work of learning, supporting, and stepping back to let Black folks lead. That work is difficult and uncomfortable, as Juniper shows us with her attempts and mistakes, but it’s nonnegotiable.”










DM: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones

DM: I didn’t know what to expect when I

centers around a biracial boy, Ethan, who is sent to spend the summer of 1955 with his aunt and uncle in a white Alabama town after getting in trouble at school. He is hated by most people in the town, but befriends a girl his age named Juniper Jones who makes Ethan her partner in a quest of adventures to have an invincible summer.

found out the cover was done, but I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out. I’m a big fan of more minimalist covers, so I loved that Chelsea designed Ethan and Juniper as silhouettes. That, plus the flowers and the bike and the colors – it’s really just the perfect cover. TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES ETHAN HARPER FACES






thoughtful editor – from her first notes, I knew my book was in good hands. She really helped me flesh out the setting, find meaningful research sources, and make my characters more alive. Plus, I did most of my major edits while traveling in Southeast Asia, and the fact that she still helped me make it happen even though I was half checked-out on my postgrad vacation is a testament to how great of an editor she was.

DM: When Ethan arrives in Alabama, he

experiences upfront and violent racism on a larger scale for the first time. He has to simultaneously figure out how to survive and resist while doing the work to understand and love his Blackness. He uses running and listening to records as ways to introspect, but he also leans on his friendship with Juniper, who is naïve at times but supports him through everything. TELL US A BIT ABOUT JUNIPER JONES AND HOW HER CHARACTER HELPS ETHAN THROUGH THESE DARK TIMES.



DM: Juniper Jones is a local, born and raised

in Ellison but considered somewhat of an outcast in the town. She has a goal to make the summer amazing for both herself and Ethan, even with the racism he faces. A lot of her support of Ethan comes through her encouraging him to feel his feelings, even and especially anger. She makes herself a safe person for Ethan to process with and confide in during his time in Ellison.



the US is going to make antiracist progress, listening to and supporting Black folks has to become a habit. The more we are able to tell our stories, be compensated for our labor, and elevate our livelihoods, the closer we’ll be to something better than this. WHAT CAN READERS TAKE AWAY FROM ETHAN AND JUNIPERS STORY AS IT RELATES TO WHAT WE ARE GOING THROUGH TODAY.


DM: Ethan and Juniper make a case for why


allyship – productive, substantial allyship – is important for sustaining the movement. At the end of the day, it’s not on Black folks to convince and educate. White people and nonBlack people of color have to do the work of learning, supporting, and stepping back (whether symbolically or literally, like from a professional role) to let Black folks lead. That work is difficult and uncomfortable, as Juniper shows us with her attempts and mistakes, but it’s nonnegotiable.


drawn attention and outrage recently are part of a larger project of oppression that spans the entire history of this country – from now, to the Jim Crow Era where Ethan and Juniper’s story happens, to the Civil War, all the way back to when the first enslaved people were stolen from their ancestral lands. Understanding what’s happening now requires learning how racist systems from the past have been perpetuated and reconfigured for the present. Black people have been writing, speaking, and organizing around this subject for centuries and have the premier first-person perspective on the realities of racism. If



WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR READERS? DM: For everyone, and especially Black

readers: Self-care and moments of joy are radical acts. Always but especially now, intentionally make time for this.




For non-Black readers: Read books by Black authors. Support Black artists and musicians. Buy Black-owned products from Black-owned stores. Learn from Black voices but do not burden Black individuals in your life with teaching you. Educate the non-Black people around you. Accept that you’re going to make mistakes – do so gracefully. Resist the urge to go back to “normal.” Repeat and repeat and repeat until it’s as natural as breathing. 


THE INVINCIBLE SUMMER OF JUNIPER JONES BY DAVEN MCQUEEN There are some friends you never forget. It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Enter Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t – open, kind, and accepting. Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer . . .


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



WINNER, 2020 eLit Awards

WINNER, NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards 2019

WINNER, Book Excellence Awards 2019

This is NOT Donald Trump’s anti-science. Science itself is treated with great respect in this book. Scientists have rightfully earned the highest status in our culture. But the high status of science has created a problem: Scientists are believed as “authorities” whatever they say, whether it was arrived at via the scientific method or not. In particular, they are trying to tell us that there is no reality beyond the physical. They have not proved this scientifically, so they have forced it upon the academic community with unscientific methods such as ridicule and power politics. Academic people who take a serious interest in the psychic or the spiritual are treated as if they were mentally incompetent, shunned by their colleagues, and denied publication, funding, and employment. Even the mental discoveries of Freud and Jung have been erased by smear tactics. (“Freud did bad science.” “Jung was a mystic.”) Our culture has been blocked from whole dimensions of knowledge, the mental and the spiritual.

DIRTY SCIENCE exposes this corruption in our accredited academic institutions.

DIRTY SCIENCE can be found on,, and dirtyscience. net. You can read Chapter 1 on It is now available as an audiobook on


CONOR THORN IS BACK! One man’s dark deal with the Nazis could bring the Allies to their knees… Autumn, 1942. Rule breaker OSS Agent Conor Thorn is assigned a mission to help the Allied war effort when a key Swedish cryptographer stationed in England goes missing. Thorn is determined to find him before critical information falls into enemy hands, but when his MI6 colleague vanishes trailing the codebreaker to Stockholm, Thorn is plunged yet again into a sinister Nazi conspiracy. Can Thorn stop prized secrets from triggering more wartime carnage? The Ultra Betrayal is the second novel in the thrilling Conor Thorn spy series. If you like harrowing historical drama, riveting espionage, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Glenn Dyer’s well-researched World War II adventure. “The Ultra Betrayal exceeds all expectations. I’m a fan! Read it today!” —Jack Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Savage Son “A tantalizing premise set among the ominous atmosphere of World War II . . . plot twists galore . . .” —Steve Berry New York Times and #1 Internationally Bestselling Author If you haven’t already read The Torch Betrayal, head to your favorite on-line retailer and pick-up book one in the Conor Thorn Series!



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

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



Celebrating Black Voices in Publishing. A Q&A ROUNDTABLE BY SARAH KLOTH

At this cultural moment, elevating black voices and understanding the history of racism in this country is more important than ever. Recent strides including #PublishingPaidMe exposing racial disparities in book advances, #BlackoutBestsellerList drawing attention to Black authors and Black book professionals, and novels like The Hate You Give and Such a Fun Age putting race, privilege, and black experience at the forefront, have drawn attention to heavy topics and sparked much needed conversations. Authors of color speak about recent issues and how continuing to write on these topics should be supported and celebrated now more than ever.










LISA BRAXTON, AUTHOR OF THE TALKING DRUM: I recently wrote an essay that was published in an online news publication about the racism I’ve experienced in my community. White co-workers who had worked with me for years were astonished when they read it. They had no idea what I’d gone through. Many of them shared the essay with their social media followers describing it as a “must read” that they hoped would further the understanding of what black Americans deal with on a regular basis and serve as a mirror for racist offenders. Take that reaction and multiply it tenfold and that’s what a book can do. Black writers are creating a tremendous amount of work, but publishing houses have largely shut them out. Now that the public is encouraged to read black books and the publishing industry is vowing to improve diversity within its ranks with an eye on better representation of black books within its lists, I’m hoping that these books by gifted black writers can reach a wider audience and lead to a better understanding of the black experience in all of its forms. My novel, The Talking Drum, touches on police brutality, housing discrimination, racism, and injustice, and features black characters from different currents of the African Diaspora—African Americans, Caribbean Americans, and recent African immigrants. People across racial lines may not feel comfortable breaking bread together, sitting

in the same sanctuary on Sunday morning, visiting in each other’s homes, but they might just pick up a book about an experience that is not their own. I hope this reading will serve as a catalyst for important conversations leading to improved race relations AMANDA ROSS, AUTHOR OF TO ASTERA, WITH LOVE: We are living in unprecedented times -- as we fight a war with Coronavirus which is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities, we are also fighting for Black lives on a worldwide scale. This battle to end systemic racism has trickled through every area of American life, from the justice system to the publishing industry and even to the ballot box. Writers often infuse their stories with things that they know, even in fantasy novels. When I wrote my book, To Astera, With Love, I wanted to address the things I experienced and saw on a near daily basis -- racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. The result is a tale that features a Black witch fighting for equality in a society where a vampire President has a cult-like following, where witches are demonized for abilities they did not choose, but where collective voices and actions can start to chip away at the systems that reinforce inequality. For writers, part of the thrill of putting pen to paper is to see a world you’ve longed to see come to fruition. This is especially true for 29


Black authors, since our stories are often not told or they are told through other people’s lenses. It is always important for stories encompassing the full breath of the Black experience to be told, but now more than ever those stories have the power to ignite change, make people reexamine the way they move through the world, and provide much needed joy. CATHERINE ADEL WEST, AUTHOR OF SAVING RUBY KING: Black people have been shouting. For days. For weeks. For decades. For centuries. We’ve used pretty much every means at our disposal to protest injustice. For me, my debut novel “Saving Ruby King” calls out the insidious cancers of racial injustice and police brutality. However, readers must recognize this book and others like it are so much more than these subjects. African Americans deal with racism and police brutality, but we also love and laugh and live outside of the bonds and boundaries in which many would like to trap us. The importance of sharing black stories can’t be overstated. It’s a way to hold up a mirror to America. It is a way to peel back layers and expose the root of social injustice. We can’t move forward as a nation without doing this. However, two of the problems black writers face are the infrastructure needed to bring out stories to a wider audience is extremely flimsy 30




and the compensation afforded to us while making these artistic strides is still sorely lacking – especially for someone like me who is a writer of adult fiction. Hashtags like #PublishingPaidMe brought to light disparities BIPOC writers have known all along existed. Now whether publishing was at the best naïve or at the worst complicit in continuing these unequitable policies remains to truly be confirmed, but what is known is our stories matter, BLACK stories matter. They are valid and we have a right to be heard and paid what we’re worth. M.J. FIEVRE, AUTHOR OF BADASS BLACK GIRL: These past few months have been difficult to say the least. Between the pandemic and all the protests over George Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s, and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders, it has been hard to catch a breath. I just keep thinking to myself, No, not again. How could this be happening again? My days were feeling quite heavy during the height of the riots, when all the rhetoric seemed so counterproductive, like we (the people) will never reach an accord. So many people seemed to be dickering over the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” And I’ve learned the hard way, some people just don’t want to listen. But I want Black lives to matter. Then I read accolades for Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys, which


is based on a real reform school for Black boys in the Florida Panhandle that operated during Jim Crow. They found a mass grave among other horrors at that school when it was shut down. And I thought, Wow, now those Black boys who went to that school, they’re finally going to be acknowledged, they’re going to matter, and I began to really appreciate what Whitehead is doing with his historical fiction. I think it’s terribly important work because it creates empathy for a group of people who saw so little love in their lives. It gives the reader an opportunity, in a way, to go back in time and think long and hard about how Black people have been treated, and it makes the lives of those boys matter. I’d like to see more work like Whitehead’s that explores difficult subjects and brings dark chapters from our history to light. Historical fiction has a magical ability to create empathy where Facebook posts and Twitter feeds fail. And I think it’s important for our Black youth coming of age now to have stories they can relate to, not just like the boys in Whitehead’s reform school, but also, strong, determined figures from our past that persevered when the going was almost more than they could bear. In a way, historical fiction about Black people does the work of ensuring that Black lives matter, because it touches people in a very deep way. Monuments are falling now, and people are



moaning about losing history. I say write more Black historical fiction based on the truth, and give readers something they can empathize with. We might end up being kinder to one another if we were reading books instead of staring at bronze statues. I wrote Badass Black Girl because I wanted the generation of young women growing up now to have a guide to understanding systemic racism and to have tools to fight not only the racism, but the everyday pressure that often comes with being Black in this society. A big part of the book is helping Black girls find role models who inspire them and trailblazers who never let the word “no” settle into their consciousness for very long— these are women, for example, who first went to medical school when only a few years before Black women weren’t even allowed to read books in big parts of the country. I’d like to see more strong women like them in historical fiction, because along with empathy, Black people need to believe they are powerful and can accomplish astonishing things, and really, we’re just getting started. MONIQUE L. JONES, AUTHOR OF THE BOOK OF AWESOME BLACK AMERICANS: I recently wrote about LinManuel Miranda's musical, Hamilton, for my website, JUST ADD COLOR. While I have my issues with the musical, I recognized the importance of historical fiction and how 31


it can open an audience's minds to thinking about and reconceptualizing the past, particularly when it comes to learning about different viewpoints and forgotten histories. Of course, Alexander Hamilton's life is the source material for Hamilton, so the musical isn't wholly fiction. However, the film is cast with people of color, turning the story into a reclaimed narrative for people of color. It's an experiment that allows viewers, viewers of color, in particular, to imagine themselves in, as the musical states, "in the room where it happens." Similarly, my book, The Book of Awesome Black Americans, is based on fact. In my book, I discuss Black American inventors, ABOUT THE BOOKS artists, environmentalists, fashion icons, and pioneers. But I hope that my writing can also help readers reconceptualize how they think about America's history and the place people of color have in it. We have helped make this country in ways not usually thought of daily. For instance, it was slave labor that helped build the nation's capital, as well as a free Black man--Benjamin Banneker--who surveyed what would become Washington D.C. Reading books about the totality of America's history, as well as works that theorize America's multicultural future, can help America shift from a country that 32




believes in white supremacy into a nation that focuses on the merits of the individual, regardless of where they come from or what their racial background is. Historical fiction also serves to change readers' mindsets by arriving at the issue of racism at a different angle. Learning about slavery is one thing, but learning about it through the eyes of an enslaved child, such as Addy, a character from the American Girl series of books, paints the picture in an entirely different light. Learning about the civil rights movement of the 1960s might seem boring to some people. But it's alive in the form of The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, in which a middle-class Black family only want to have a fun family visit with their grandmother, but end up witnessing the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Through books like this, and works like Hamilton, an audience can get shaken out of their usual thought processes and realize that people of color aren't political objects--they are people facing monumental circumstances simply because they exist. Historical fiction puts people in the room where things happen and in the minds of the people. Once you've been in the mindset of someone who isn't like you and realize you have a lot in common, you can't conceive of that person's mistreatment. You know that they are human just like you, and deserve the rights of any human being. î –

ABOUT THE BOOKS THE TALKING DRUM BY LISA BRAXTON Displacement/gentrification has been going on for generations, yet few novels have been written with the themes of gentrification, which makes this book unusual It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.


America, 2022 - drugs are legal, witches are real, and a literal vampire is President. In this world of boutique blood bars and policies that force witches to out themselves, 21-year-old Mercury Amell just wants to live. He wishes that the ages-old feud between vampires and witches didn’t exist. He wishes that his powers and his skin color didn’t increase his odds of being burned at the stake. SAVING RUBY KING BY CATHERINE ADEL WEST When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy. An unforgettable debut novel, Saving Ruby King is a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present and the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.

BADASS BLACK GIRL BY M.J. FIEVRE Explore the many facets of your identity through hundreds of big and small questions. MJ Fievre tackles topics such as family and friends, school and careers, body image, and stereotypes in this journal designed for teenage girls. By reflecting on these topics, readers confront the issues that can hold them back from living their lives.

THE BOOK OF AWESOME BLACK AMERICANS BY MONIQUE L. JONES Black Americans who have shaped their country and beyond: We are familiar with a handful of African Americans who are mentioned in American history books, but there are also countless others who do not get recognized in mainstream media. Their actions may not have appeared to shake the world, but their contributions to shifting American culture were just as groundbreaking. 33










@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 –













In this gloriously sardonic book... the descriptions and dialogue are consistently pithy and snarky... Overall, this novel will be a riotous ride for readers...Fast-paced and often hilarious fiction.” - Kirkus Reviews “Complex, witty, dramatic, thoughtprovoking, and filled with business and social inspection...Snatch 2&20 is engrossing, unexpected, and hard to put down...” -Midwest Book Review “Snatch 2&20 is just wild enough to support its destructive, incongruously wholesome conclusion...a clever, cynical novel about the absurdities of capitalism and the people who prop it up.” - Foreword Clarion Reviews

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

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.



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

Deadline for entry is October 31, 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





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



The Father of American Conservation. BY THOM HATCH

American History | Turner Press | February 2020

There are some Americans, mainly those who live in rural and remote places, who supplement their annual food budget by hunting animals in season. Studies show that eating wild game provides essential fats, which are components of a healthy diet, and help reduce cholesterol, and other disease risks, and is a good source of protein and minerals. The wild meat contains no hormones or antibiotics and is said to be more flavorful than meat from farm-raised animals. Hunters who do not eat the game they kill often donate the meat to food pantries. For non-hunters and hunters alike, certain restaurants specialize in wild boar, venison, quail, buffalo, elk, and other exotic game on their menus, 44


and the prices are sky high. Sport fishing, one of Grinnell’s favorite hobbies, has also made a positive impact on our waterways and the scaly creatures that swim within them. Over the years, states have cleaned up streams, rivers, and lakes, when necessary, and stocked them with native fish from fisheries. Consequently, people who fish and organizations that support fishing have been responsible stewards of the water and have added considerably to the economy and the well-being of the earth. Practices such as catch-and-release have ensured the quality of fishing by maintaining a balance in highpressure areas and is one example of protecting

the environment. Fishing has proved to be a stressreducing, family-oriented activity that is enjoyed by millions of Americans. The Endangered Species Act did not exist in George Grinnell’s day, but he would have given it his wholeheartedly support. Although he was a paleontologist hunting the remains of extinct animals, he had dedicated his life to making sure that existing


species did not go extinct. He would have fought the real threat, Congress, which does the bidding of business and makes stealth attempts, provisions hidden in obscure bills, to try and pass legislation favorable to economic interests and detrimental to imperiled species. Wildlife organizations watch for these stealth bills and inform their members, but the public at large needs to become more aware of this threat to wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund released a report stating that humans are directly responsible for killing off sixty percent of the

world’s mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles since 1970—all due to our insatiable appetite and over-exploitation of earth’s natural resources. Our need for energy, water, and land use for commercial activities, not to mention food production, must be controlled for people and nature to live in harmony. George Grinnell believed that civilization, commercialization, and conservation could flourish together, but we must make the right choices and take into consideration the needs of our wild things.

political changes in this country are making that challenge all the more difficult. Portions of the Clean Water Rule are being repealed, which threatens the health of our waterways. The Department of the Interior is planning to grant developers access to areas previously closed to offshore gas and oil drilling. The Clean Power Plan has been repealed, which had reduced emissions from energy development. 

While on the subject of healing our globe, unfortunately, recent


Award-winning author, Thom Hatch presents the definitive biography of George Bird Grinnell (18491938), who was recognized in his time as “The Father of American Conservation.” This book chronicles not only Grinnell’s life, but also offers a history of his accomplishments in saving the wildlife and natural resources of this country.




Non-Fiction | Turner Press | March 2019

First, to line up all the “beautiful” bodies in Austenworld is to clarify one thing: there is no one, perfect Jane Austen body. Healthy, happy, handsome bodies come in “every possible variation of form,” says Elinor in Sense and Sensibility—a statement anyone who has personally struggled with body-image issues could almost kiss Austen for making. It’s such a refreshing alternative to the narrow definitions of fit bodies blasted to us in modern magazines, movies, billboards, and the internet. Indeed, to read Austen is to get a much-needed reality check from all that “errant nonsense.” One body size does not fit all. Austen believed it so fully, her novels contain some of the most realistically 46


diverse bodies in English literature. Her leading ladies run the gamut of “attractive” shapes and sizes. There’s Anne Elliot on the smaller end of the spectrum with a naturally “slender form” in Persuasion, yet Lydia Bennet is equally alluring in Pride and Prejudice, being a curvy, “stout, well-grown girl.” Harriet Smith joins the body diversity in Emma—“She was a very pretty girl . . . short, plump, and fair.” So too does Mrs. Croft in Persuasion, having a certain “squareness” to her figure, though remaining one of the fittest women in Austenworld nonetheless: full of energy and “blessed with excellent health.” Austen herself was naturally “tall and

slender” (shaped like a fire poker, some said), but she never forced any of her characters into an identical standard of slimness. Neither does she praise the same “beautiful” body type twice. These are extraordinary insights for a woman who knew nothing about genetics or DNA. But as science continues to prove, and as Austen


hinted three centuries ago, everybody has a “true size for rational happiness”—a biological build as unique as our eye or skin color. My baseline body type is different from yours. Lizzie’s is different from Lydia’s. Slimming down to your “true size” is certainly welcomed in Austenworld, but one-size-fits-all “standards of perfection” are not. Instead, getting to a “nice comfortable size,” being comfortable in your own skin, is Jane’s truer message—one repeatedly echoed in Pride and Prejudice. When Mr. Darcy snubs Lizzie at the opening ball, finding her

body “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” (“he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form”), Lizzie responds in a way we all universally admire. She doesn’t cry in front of a selfloathing mirror or starve herself for a month. She merely laughs it off “among her friends,” finding Darcy’s narrow beauty standards absolutely “ridiculous.” To laugh with Lizzie is to take a step toward sanity, something dearly needed in our own world of critical eyes and impossible “standards of perfection.”

The fake Photoshopped bodies in magazines, the digitally tweaked physiques in movies, they’re all like the ideal “accomplished” woman Miss Bingley blathers on about at Netherfield. “I never saw such a woman,” Lizzie rightly rebuffs. She didn’t exist in 1813. She doesn’t exist today. “Pictures of perfection . . . make me sick and wicked,” Austen famously fumed, inviting us all into the exquisite freedom of feeling the same.. 


What can Jane Austen teach us about health? With a multi-million fan base, Austen is already a “lifestyle” celebrity: imitating her ideas on love and romance lie at the heart of her fabulous fame. In his newest literary romp author, Brian Kozlowski offers a new twist on the Austen way of romancing life. The Jane Austen Diet, is the first retrospective look at the healthiest characters in classic literature and what they can teach us today. 47


Beloved Mother. BY LAUREN HUNTER

Historical Fiction | Bluewater Publications | April 2019

Legend had it that Mona Parsons could stir up dust devils by spinning a stick in the dirt. She called up a storm when farmers needed rain without killing a blacksnake and draping it belly-up over the fence. She could twist a rain shower into a ferocious tree-breaker if the farmer denied her pay and call it back thrice-fold with a nod of her head. Word had it she came into the world dancing. The daughter of an established Parsons family in Covington, Virginia, born to a mother no more than eighteen, a daddy at least ten years older, she spent childhood evenings on the grass, stomping dew into the earth as if she tried to awaken Mother Nature herself. Each night, her father called to her from behind his unkempt beard to come inside. Never a deferring child, Mona glanced back at him, dashed through the gate and down the bank to Broken Rock Creek. Tiny, no larger than a wood 48


sprite, she spent days on Turtleback Mountain gathering flowers and herbs and, some say, conjuring with wild beasts. Some days she came down the mountain, her hair filled with moss and sticks, looking like a disheveled elf, her lips and fingers blue from blackberries she had eaten off the sides of ditches. Had Mona then known of the communities of Cherokee Little People, she would have sung out to the Laurel People to share her joy on Turtleback Mountain. But she did not know. She would not know until Beloved Mother began Mona’s training. More forward-minded neighbors told her parents they were blessed. “Such an open, creative child,” they said. “Wild heathen,” others whispered. “A reed shaken by the wind,” some said. “Cursed.”

The Parsons accepted the latter, deemed themselves steeped in hexes and bore no more children for five years. The Virginia mining town of Covington watched and waited. A family who owned an entire mountain could have access to mountain spirits, the old people intoned, and a child could breathe such spirits into her soul unknowing. Those who wield the obvious can manipulate the unseen. That’s the Lord’s own truth, they vowed. The summer Mona turned


thirteen, an angular man sauntered into Covington as if he held the world in his back pocket. He carried a black valise, and a hatchet swung from his belt. She first spied him at the base of the Lost Miners Monument in the Square. Without speaking, she followed him about day after day as if she had lost her power to the gleam in his eye. Folks later said he must have cast a spell on her. Her father belted her evenings when she came back home, but before dawn, when the river behind the house moved lazy and low, a rest from chasing itself down Turtleback Mountain, before any rooster could crow, she slipped out the window and was gone again, without thought of leaving her people behind. Early August, the man was

seen leaving town at dusk. That night Mona’s bed lay empty. The town searched Covington for her. They scoured Turtleback Mountain for her. They went east to Spencer’s Mountain. They did not find her. They asked about for the man’s name, but no one could remember. Some within Covington said the shadowy stranger was Squire Dan Sparks from down ‘round Cade’s Cove who had more land than anybody ever had. Some said he was Squire’s oldest boy who was untamed and a mite crazy. Some who knew not the Cherokee said he was meant to be a Cherokee medicine man but gave up and left for city ways.

so hard at such foolishness that Sister Sun forgets to leave the sky before Brother Moon appears in the east. Great Spirit has to send her on her way. Frustration at Great Spirit’s casting her aside tempts Sister Sun to send a wild wind and fell a tree across Broken Rock Creek so no one can cross without losing themselves for a time in the branches, but she does not. Had the Cherokee been in the valley beneath this mountain, as they had been for generations prior, they would have explained that this Ama idnai, this Turtleback Mountain, was Great Spirit’s sacred place. 

Great Spirit and Sister Sun and Brother Moon laugh

ABOUT THE BOOK BELOVED MOTHER A story of the lives of three women, tightly woven together and surviving the harsh societal environment of an Appalachian mining town in the early to mid-1900s. Two religions contrast with each other—the Cherokee spirits of the native people and the Old Testament God of the white settlers—as each woman struggles to find her place. Love and hate, marriage and adultery, childbirth and abortion, all have their parts to play. Beloved Mother accurately portrays the evilness in humanity, in which the wicked corrupt the innocent to create a vicious cycle of abuse, until one person—with a heart of understanding and forgiveness—has the courage to end it. 49



Historical | Cinder Block Publishing | March 2020 READ ANFiction EXCERPT

Sure as the tide, they came. The sun was high in the sky when four horsemen rode up on Casa Ferrando. The Old Bull was seated on the veranda. Laid across the blind man’s lap was an Austrian M1849 long rifle. The beechwood stock of the old weapon had been brought to a polish that morning. “We come to speak with Enzo Ferrando. He is not at the docks. We are told we can find him here.” The Old Bull’s chair was situated in the shade of the veranda, but he stood now, and as he walked toward the veranda’s edge, the sun revealed to the horseman an impressive sight. The Old Bull had drawn himself up to his full height, clothed in the scarlet cashmere blouse of the Risorgimento, his wild white hair adding a terrible intensity to his grizzled bearing. Seeing the long



rifle, the horsemen drew pistols. One of the men whispered to another that he knew Antoni Ferrando to be blind. “Who are the armed visitors who wish to speak to my son?” the Old Bull asked without drama. He could tell from the efficient sound of steel sliding from leather holster that these men were experienced. One of the four horsemen spoke. “I am Corrado Depretis. I have an uncle you may have heard of. My compatriots are private citizens, as I am, undertaking an investigation of our stolen cargo.” “You speak of a crime. Where then is the magistrate? Where then is the Polizia di Stato?” Corrado was growing frustrated, and he had not expected an armed old man to obstruct him. “This is not a public matter,

Signore. This is a private matter. But we do seek answers to our questions, and we seek justice. We are aware of your reputation, and I do not wish an old man harm. Give us what we need,and maybe House Ferrando survives by your grandchild.” “You say you are Depretis?” the Old Bull boomed. “So your ears still work,” Corrado snapped. “I know Depretis. I know your uncle. I’ve heard him speak. He speaks as if he speaks


for Italy. He recollects the triumphs of the unification for all to hear. How he pulled Italy out from the hold of the Bourbons. But he was not there.” Corrado’s mouth started to form a snarl, but it was unease that gripped his three mounted compatriots. Their horses shifted anxiously beneath them. “I know he was not there because I did not see him to my left or my right when I fixed my bayonet and ran uphill at Calatafimi. We liberated Sicily that day, and when it was time to dine, it was not Depretis that sat at Garibaldi’s right.” Antoni Ferrando said this as his unseeing eyes stared eerily over the heads of the horsemen. The horsemen

started to look to their leader and at each other. The realization that they were on the doorstep of a man melded with history was starting to erode their resolve. Even their horses were sensing their disquiet, and they started to bray. “Corrado, let us leave this man,” one of them whispered. “Enzo is not here.” But Corrado’s blood was up. “We have no dispute with you old man.” Corrado’s voice got higher and more frantic, and cords surged from his neck. “We come for your mongrel dog son. He has taken from us. I will enter this house.” The blind man still had very sharp hearing, and he trained his focus on the frantic voice and slowed his breath. The Old Bull seemed to nod

meditatively and then lifted his long rifle in one fluid motion, discharging the weapon at the top of its upward arc. His aim was true, and his bullet found the left eye of Corrado Depretis, viciously snapping the man’s head back before the lifeless body slumped back in the saddle. The horses reared up immediately, but it took three full seconds for realization of what just happened to register with the three men. When realization came, they emptied their rounds into the Old Bull before reigning up and fleeing. 


The rebel caprices of Enzo Ferrando have dire consequences. His father, the Risorgimento war hero is gunned down on his veranda. His son Lucca is forced into hiding as a deckhand on a merchant ship. Enzo himself is conscripted into the Italian army and forced to wage war on the African Horn, yet he yearns to take vengeance on his father’s killers and to reunite with his son.



Just Like Me. BY KELLY G. PARK

Non-Fiction READ AN EXCERPT | Independently Published | July 2020

Family & Hometown Steve Blass A small town of about 800 people: the thing is, I was so obsessed, every morning of school vacation, of summer, the first thing I would do when I got out of bed, I would run over to the window to see if the weather was gonna be good enough for me to play ball. That was the first thing that I did and found out if I could play ball …. Coaches Doug Flynn Every one of them. I was so lucky. My dad was probably the biggest impact and my mom … my mom was a really good player too, fastpitch softball, Mom played here locally. I’d go out and throw with her, and I’d say “Mom, I’m gonna throw some pretty hard, get ready,” and I’d let one go as hard I could, and she’d go “Okay, now throw this next 52


one hard” she’d catch it like it was nothing and throw it back to me (laughing). Nicknames Hawk Taylor That’s a first edition, that book by William Chester, and I think it was written in 1939. They made a movie serial out of that, and that movie serial was called “Hawk of the Wilderness,” and there is my namesake here; there’s Hawk of the Wilderness. His name is Herman Brix, 1928, 1932 Olympic shot putter. Also played a few roles of Tarzan but he was Hawk of the Wilderness, so that’s how I got my nickname because he was playing the role of Hawk of the Wilderness down at the local theatre, and “There’s my man, I’m gonna be like him, he is it, Hawk of the Wilderness.” I’m five-years-old; I’m nicknamed Hawk of the Wilderness ….

Game Memories Boog Powell Carl and my other brother Charlie, we all played on the same Little League team that went to Williamsport, and we were eliminated the first game of the Little League World Series. I got beat 16 to nothing. And there was a kid; this kid, Bill Masucci, hit one. And I was looking at that Little League Park, I think it’s still pretty much the same now, but he hit one, he hit one on the top of the dike up there off of me, you know where those


kids were sliding down with those cardboard things, he hit one over that, on the back up there, on the next dike up there, I mean it was a bomb, I looked at it and said, “Son of a bitch!!!!!!” I said, “My goodness,” I just admired it, and I ended up; I finally got a base hit, and I did my famous fadeaway hook slide into second base, I had always wanted to do that in the Little League World Series, and I got a chance to do it. I hit a home run, but it went foul right at the last minute, and that was pretty much it. Stories You Just Need to Read Phil Roof (And guys in the stands were placing bets?) On me, yeah. They were betting, saying,

“Hey Roof, can you throw the ball all the way to second”? And I said, “Yeah.” Because you know the backstop was only 15 feet from home plate and we were taking infield practice, we didn’t get there in time to take batting practice, we were taking infield practice when I caught the ball from the first baseman, and I let it go. It was right there, and they were making bets back there and saying, “Pay me off, pay me off,” I could hear them saying, “Pay me off, come on.” And you know that was fun because here I am a kid, made the high school team and had no idea how the score turned out ….

Lou Piniella Yeah, I bought baseball cards all the time; in fact, we lived right across the street from a playground park where they’d play softball at night. The men had softball leagues, and they’d play like three days a week, and I’d always get up early after the game the next morning because I’d go look for some change around second base, or third base, and I’d find … a quarter was really hitting it big, but I’d find a lot of nickels and dimes, and what I did with them, I’d go right down to the store (laughing) and buy the bubble gum cards, they were penny-apiece. 

Baseball Cards


JUST LIKE ME Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot is the first book to tell the story of professional baseball players’ memories of playing youth baseball.




Surprising plot twist . . . whodunit element . . . engaging cast of characters make for a compelling read.”


- BlueInk Review

Debra could be any woman out there.”

- Katheryn Bennett for Readers’ Favorite



A heavy vehicle smashes into four people dining on a street cafĂŠ in busy Chatswood. Detective Brock Larsen has been called to investigate. Were all four victims the target or just one of them? A search for the killer leads the Homicide team to a variety of potential suspects. During the investigation, Larsen and each of his four team members also need to tackle their individual love issues.



An unapologetically raunchy Western with subtle fantasy elements, Mark Lunde’s stellar debut novel, The Phantom of Witch’s Tree, is set in 1912—the last days of the Wild West—and follows one man’s redemptive journey from wastrel to legend.” - BlueInk Reviews

The Phantom of Witch’s Tree, a novel that shatters all the shoot-’em-up conventions of the traditional western as it shifts seamlessly between dark fantasy, horror and the supernatural, unleashing a wild ride through an Old West never before experienced.



Vivid and timeless.”

As enthralling as it is shocking... this novel was brilliant from start to finish.”

Compelling, riveting, enthralling”

Regardless of where many think a woman’s sole place and situation must be, in the historical novel NAKED TRUTH: OR EQUALITY THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Carrie Hayes, two irrepressible sisters are determined to carve out their own positions in this world.



The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones. BY DAVEN MCQUEEN

YAREAD Historic AN EXCERPT Fiction | Wattpad Books | June 2020

True to her word from that first day in the Malt, Juniper Jones did, in fact, see Ethan soon. She strolled into the shop that Monday morning in a flourish of checkered fabric that startled Ethan from his sleepy reverie. He hadn’t slept well the night before, tossing and turning as he ran Aunt Cara’s words over and over in his head. That’s just the way it is around here. And yet this, here, was where his dad sent him to learn the consequences of his actions. This, in his father’s eyes, was what he deserved. Shame and fear had weighed heavy on him all night, and now as Juniper approached, he could hardly manage a smile. She didn’t notice—she seemingly started talking before she even walked through the door. By the time she reached the counter, she had finished her sentence. She stared expectantly at Ethan. 58


“Come on, Ethan Charlie Harper,” she said, after a second passed without his response. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me already.” This, despite everything, drew a laugh out of him. Ethan already knew that Juniper Jones would be impossible to forget. He shook his head. “You were talking too fast. What’d you ask?” Juniper sighed theatrically. “I asked,” she said, “what the special of the day is.” Ethan blinked at her. “Special of the day?” “Yeah, you know—the hot new flavor, one day only, get it before it’s gone.” She shaped her voice into that of a radio-commercial broadcaster, throwing out her arms for emphasis. “We don’t really do that here.” He pointed up at the menu on the wall behind him. “Those are your options.” He was sure that she, a loyal customer, knew this

well. Still, she was unfazed. “Sure you do that here,” she insisted. “Look at all these ingredients you’ve got. You could make the best special of the day the world has ever seen.” “I don’t really know how I would—” Juniper reached across the counter, cutting him off with a hand to his arm. “Try. Please?” She looked at him so kindly, so imploringly, that Ethan wondered if she saw through his tired gaze, and knew, somehow, what he had heard in the general


store the day before. It was this gentleness that compelled him to nod and murmur, “Yeah, sure.” Juniper spun away from him, grinning. “I can’t wait to see what you come up with,” she said. Ethan turned to the ingredients behind the counter—the ice cream in frozen tubs, the sprinkles and candy toppings, the soda fountain with its sugary flavors. He glanced once at Juniper, who had moved to examine the jukebox, and shook his head. If he was being honest, this request, while ridiculous, was a welcome distraction. As Ethan added all three flavors of ice cream to the blender and topped it off with a splash of Pepsi, then root beer, then 7 Up, he

forgot, for a moment, about everything. He watched the blender churn the ingredients together into a muddy grayish brown and thought about which toppings would best complement this concoction. Juniper had returned to the counter and now leaned against its metal surface, watching Ethan’s progress. She oohed as he poured the float into a tall glass and spooned two, then three more, scoops of rainbow sprinkles on top. He finished it off with a leaning pile of whipped cream that had already begun to spill over the side of the glass by the time he pushed it toward her across the counter. “It looks,” Juniper began, then burst into laughter. Ethan frowned as she leaned close to the drink, squinting at a

cluster of sprinkles. “It’ll taste better than it looks,” he muttered. “We’ll see about that.” Ignoring the straw that Ethan handed her across the counter, Juniper perched in one of the spinning seats and lifted the glass to her lips with both hands. Whipped cream spilled across her nose as she took a long, loud gulp. Ethan watched as she set the glass back down on the counter, licking her lips. She nodded thoughtfully for a moment, then turned to him and said, “Ethan Charlie Harper, I’ve gotta say—that is absolutely disgusting.” But even as she pushed the drink back across the counter, she was smiling. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE INVINCIBLE SUMMER OF JUNIPER JONES It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t— open, kind, and full of acceptance.



Blood and Silver. BY VALI BENSON

READ Historical AN EXCERPT Fiction | Tellwell Talent | April 2020

Carissa scrutinized her new Purgatory. Allen Street was filled with shops of all kinds, and it seemed that between each shop was a saloon, where crowds of rowdy men were getting drunk and playing cards. It did not look like San Francisco, but it did resemble how she had been told San Francisco looked in 1850, right after the discovery of gold at nearby Sutter’s Fort. The miners had descended in hoards once word of the strike was out. They were quickly followed by the saloon keepers and the gamblers and then the storekeepers and the prostitutes, all the latter preying on the weakness of the poor men who came west with a dream they might strike it rich. The ones who followed usually fared better than the miners. A usual phrase of the day was, “Why work the mine when you could mine the miners?” Many of the buildings appeared to have been put up in a hurry, using 60


whatever materials were at hand. Jonah stopped the wagon in front of a halffinished building at the end of the street. Beyond that, scattered on the hillsides, were hundreds of canvas tents that seemed to stretch for at least a mile. “Please,” Carissa prayed, “let us be in a house with a roof and a floor, and not in one of those tents!” Miss Lucille hefted her bulky body off the wagon seat, with Jonah’s assistance, and surveyed her new base of operation. “Well, ladies, we made it,” she announced grandly. “And just look at all those miners!” she exclaimed as she gazed down the hill at one of the several silver mines that operated just blocks away. “The place is crawling with lonely men who have silver in their pockets!” Elise, the youngest of

Lucille’s “ladies,” jumped down from the wagon agilely. “I smell money,” she told Carissa, who joined her in the street, stretching her cramped legs. “I smell a lot of things,” Carissa returned, turning up her pert nose at the odor of the smelters, the unwashed bodies, and the animal offal that attacked her senses. She alone had enjoyed the wagon trip from San Francisco. She loved sleeping and cooking outdoors and being out of the crowded city.


“We’ll walk,” Elise announced, linking arms with Carissa. As the girls neared the corner, they were startled by the sound of gunshots. Carissa pulled Elise into the closest store, and through the store window they watched the drama unfold on the street. Two rough-looking men, both swaying drunkenly, stood facing each other right there on Allen Street, not twenty feet away. Both men were waving their guns. “You callin’ me a liar?” one man shouted. “No,” the other man shouted back. “I’m callin’ you a card cheat and a liar!” Suddenly the first man raised his gun and fired. His shot went wide, but the other

man’s did not. The first man crumpled in the street, and crowds rushed out of saloons to see what had happened. Carissa and Elise stood in shock, as they knew that the first man was most certainly dead. “What in the world kind of place have we come to?” Carissa asked as she guided the stunned Elise out of the store and rushed to catch up with the rest of their party. Carissa was in a tough spot, and no matter how often she prayed to her father and her brother, there was no answer. She had to take care of her mother. Even though Lisette was old, at twenty-eight, she was still an extremely beautiful woman, and she sang like an

angel. So Miss Lucille kept her. If not for Lisette’s looks, Carissa was sure that Miss Lucille would have booted them out. She probably would have sold them both to one of the bawdy houses that had even less concern about their girls than Miss Lucille had. Under the circumstances, Carissa felt lucky. They had a roof over their heads and they were fed. But she was determined to get her mother—and herself—out of this nightmare. She didn’t know how, but she was going to try. Maybe this new place, Tombstone, would provide the answer … although, so far, Carissa admitted to herself, it didn’t seem too promising. 

ABOUT THE BOOK BLOOD AND SILVER What is a twelve year old girl to do when she finds herself in the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1880, and her only home is a brothel and her only parent is a drug-addicted mother? If she is Carissa Beaumont, she outsmarts the evil madam and figures a way out.

With a host of colorful characters and meticulous attention to period detail, Blood and Silver is a story of the best and worst of human nature, the passion for survival and the beauty of true friendship. 61


Blood of the Dawn.


Their most important work was making decisions in the midst of war. Our one and only ideological line decided it. Comrade Leader, Comrade Number Two, and Comrade Number Three: a perfect trinity. Comrade Leader is the One, the Guiding Thought of our revolution. Comrade Two was the person who brought me into the party. Comrade Three was in charge of logistics. Three. A perfect, sacred number. A closed Circle. The Standing Commit-tee. Organized secrecy at the epicenter. The revolution couldn’t wait any longer; sitting and waiting on reactions is what the State wants. To substitute one class for another, one number for another. Thought rules, but Mao said it: “Power grows out of the barrel of 62


a gun.” Our military arm, Comrade Felipe, was a restless colt itching for combat. He said that in some rural communities, people had reacted negatively to the revolutionary doctrine. Some found it dificult to accept the revo-lution, but we trusted they would absorb and grow to understand the Guiding Thought. There were clashes and some comrades fell, which emboldened police in zones key to our advancement. At that meeting, I remember how Comrade Felipe showed Comrade Three one of the FAL infantry rifles we had seized. “This is what power is made of, comrade, feel it.” It had been a long time since she’d held one. Now she focused on politics and

theory, on what endures when arms are laid down. It didn’t feel so heavy to her, but its bulk braced her arm. Quick as anything, she unloaded and reloaded it. Then, as if suddenly uncomfortable, she gave it back to Comrade Felipe. The Leader prepared to speak to the assembled commissars and open the meeting. Comrades, it must be made clear from the first: the party rules over the barrel of the gun and we will never let it


be the other way around. That said, the masses need to be educated on the crucible of MarxistLeninist-Maoist thought, and the revolutionary army must mobilize the masses. Forceful measures are needed to take the qualitative leap of decisive importance for the party and for the revolution. To transform the orderless agrarian masses into an organized militia. Comrade Leader paused to observe people’s reactions. Not one murmur. Respectful silence in response to his words. Comrade Two maintained an unreadable look. Her posture was always erect, vertical, in line with the wall, where there was an image

of Mao guiding his people beneath the red sun in perpetual advancement and transformation. A new dawn unfolding. Comrade Leader continued outlining the ideological plan. Comrade Felipe would be in charge of the tactical details this time, of overseeing how the action should proceed. The place had already been decided. The colt felt liberated and clenched the FAL rifle harder, the veins in his hands bulging. Objective: to deprive our enemies of their undeserved upper hand, forcing them into submission. May our actions speak for themselves.

They’re either with us or against us. Annihilate. We will start tearing down the walls and unleashing the Dawn. It will send a strong message. They’re not expecting this. Comrade Leader announced the name of the hamlet: Lucanamarca.“Lucanamarca,” echoed Number Three, her voice raised almost to a shout, her fist in the air. Comrade Two looked at me with dis-quiet. She had let a few seconds go by without reacting and now lifted her fist in the air as well, reiterating the one and only decision. “Lucanamarca.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK BLOOD OF THE DAWN An award-winning debut novel of politics, desire, and pain by Peruvian author Claudia Salazar Jiménez. The lives of three women intertwine and are ripped apart during what’s known as “the time of fear” in Peruvian history, when the Shining Path rebel insurgency was at its peak. We are reminded, through Jiménez’s lucid and brutal prose, of the personal tragedies that occur within the social trauma of armed conflict. Blood of the Dawn is a beautiful example of what art can do to help us not forget.




READ Historical AN EXCERPT Fiction | Deep Vellum | April 2016

I start to write: Once upon a time, in a remote region of a faraway land, there lived a little boy. And this little boy was full of an insatiable curios-ity and he was always asking ever so many questions. The faraway land where he lived was in Africa, in a country that encompassed a big river called the Saloum River, and the little boy .lled the land around this river with his questions.

was used to measure all circles, both big ones and little ones, and the schoolteacher didn’t spank him.

He asked his father why the Blacks on the plantation were beaten with a stick, and his father spanked him with his leather belt. He asked his mother why she didn’t read her Bible by herself, and his mother spanked him with her two white hands. He asked the village priest why he drank the communion wine during Cat-echism class, and the priest spanked him with his cane. He asked the schoolteacher why the same number, π,

A fairy tale is one way to recount history. The Saloum River, its village, its plantation, its pirogues, and its 1ame trees form the setting for this tale. The little boy’s parents, his little brother, the fairies, the priest, the schoolteacher, a dog, and a few of the villagers are its characters. The little boy who lived in this exotic setting at the center of this little world was named Christian. The good fairies, along with the



I must tell you, O Best Beloved, that some good fairies were watching over this little boy’s cradle. If there were a few evil fair-ies as well, no one noticed. So there will be no discussion of evil fairies at this point in the tale.

schoolteacher who didn’t spank anyone who asked questions, were responsible for the fact that he really loved going to school, where he was taught to read books, to write fast and well, to count fast and high, and to ask questions. As for his parents, they thought that the time he spent at school was much too long. Because you see, although his mother liked that he could read the Gospels aloud to her, his parents wondered why he needed to learn any more. One day, while spanking


him with his leather belt, the boy’s father said: “Well, you’re not going to become a writer, in any case!” Because, O Best Beloved, at this time on the banks of the Saloum River, there were public writers who would write letters for people and read them the letters they received. And, you see, the little boy’s father was working hard to make the Negroes sweat on the peanut plantation, and he thought that the writer, who spent all his days sitting in the shade of a kapok tree right in the middle of the village, was a lazy man. One fine morning, at the beginning of summer, the school-teacher came to the plantation and explained to the little boy’s parents that not only could their son read

and write fast and well, but that he also knew how to do sums using very big numbers, and that it would be good to send him to secondary school, in the big city, so that he might learn all that can be done with all those big numbers and all that reading and writing. But you see, O Best Beloved, at this time and in the land around the Saloum River, no boy had ever gone to secondary school. His parents listened politely and said they would think about it. Yet as soon as the schoolteacher left, they fought, his mother kicked, his father punched, then they both started spanking the little boy without wasting any more time. They even called the priest over for help. The boy’s little brother was also spanked for good measure.

A little later, when that was over, the little boy came across a yellow dog that belonged to one of his friends, and said to him: “My father has spanked me, and my mother has spanked me, and the priest has spanked me. And still I want to go to secondary school in the big city to learn how to do calculations with even bigger numbers and learn more about the number π." And the little yellow dog licked the little boy’s face affectionately as the little boy scratched him behind the ears. 

ABOUT THE BOOK ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE DAYS The debut novel of mathematician, author, and Oulipo member Michèle Audin, One Hundred Twenty-One Days retraces the lives of French mathematicians over several generations during World Wars I and II. The narrative oscillates stylistically from chapter to chapter, sometimes resembling a novel, at others a fable, historical research, or a diary, locking and unlocking codes, culminating in a captivating, original reading experience.




BY LEILA S. CHUDORI, TR. BY JOHN H. MCGLYNN READ Historical AN EXCERPT Fiction | Deep Vellum | October 2015

Like a black net enclosing the city, ink from a monster squid spreading across Jakarta’s entire landscape—the color of my uncertain future. Inside the darkroom, I know not the sun, the moon, or even my wristwatch. But the darkness that envelopes this room is imbrued with the scent of chemicals and anxiety. Three years ago, the Nusantara News Agency where I worked was cleansed of lice and germs like myself. The army was the disinfectant and we, the lice and the germs, were eradicated from the face of the earth, with no trace left. Yet, somehow, this particular louse had survived and was now eking out a living at Tjahaja Photo Studio on the corner of Jalan Sabang in central Jakarta. I switched on the red 66


light to inspect the strips of negatives hanging on the drying-line overhead. It must have been around 8p.m. because I could hear the muzzled sound of the muezzin drifting in to the darkroom through the grate in the door, summoning the faithful for evening prayer. I imagined the scene on Jalan Sabang outside: the quarrelsome cackling of motorized pedicabs; the huffing and puffing of slow-moving opelets searching for passengers; the creaking of humandriven pedicabs in need of an oil job; the cring-cring sound of hand bells on bicycles as their riders wove their way through the busy intersection; and the cries of the bread seller on his three-wheel contraption with its large box and clear glass windows. I could even see the early evening wind bearing the smoke and smell rising from skewers of goat satay being

grilled on the brazier at Pak Heri’s itinerant but immensely popular food stall located smack dab at the intersection of Sabang and Asem Lama. I could see him using his wellworn pestle to grind fried peanuts and thinly sliced shallots on an oversized mortar, then drizzling sweet soy sauce over the mix. And then I imagined my good friend, Dimas Suryo, studiously observing Pak Heri and discussing with him his choice of peanuts with the same kind of intensity that he might


employ when dissecting a poem by Rivai Apin. Almost every evening, like clockwork, all other sounds from the outside were drowned out by the long shrill whistle from the steamer on Soehardi’s food cart as our regular vendor of steamed putu—a favorite treat of mine, those steamed rice-Hour balls with their grated coconut on the outside and melted cane sugar inside—pulled up outside the photo studio. But other than the smell of Pak Heri’s goat satay, that sound was about the only thing—that shrieking sound—that was able to make its way into the darkroom. The deadly darkness of the developing room seemed to smother almost every sound.

But the screak of the putu steamer and the smell of the cakes always served as a rap on the doors and windows of the photo studio. It was a sign the time had come for me to leave this room that knew no such a thing as time. Today, I don’t know why, I felt reluctant to go outside. Maybe because I could picture the world outside the room and how depressing it seemed to me: neon lights casting their harsh glow on the studio’s white tiled Hoor and glass display cases; Suhardjo and Liang tending to customers who were there waiting to pick up prints from rolls of film they had left at the store a week before or to have their pictures taken for the formal photographs they

now needed for identification purposes. For the past two years, income from the latter had been the largest source of revenue for the studio. Every day, at least ten to fifteen people came to have passport-size photographs taken to attach to governmentissued letters of certification that they were not a communist, had never participated in any activity sponsored by the Indonesian Communist Party, and had not been involved in the so-called attempt to overthrow the Indonesian government now known as Gestapu, the September 30 Movement. 

ABOUT THE BOOK HOME Home is Leila S. Chudori’s remarkable fictional account of life in Indonesia and in Paris among political exiles during the reign of Suharto, from the 1965 anti-communist massacre of over a million alleged Communists and their sympathizers and its aftermath, through Suharto’s overthrow in 1998. The history of the 1965 massacre was manipulated by the Suharto regime to portray its involvement in this atrocity in a favorable light, a history explored by director Joshua Oppenheimer in his extraordinary Oscar-nominated documentaries The Act of Killing, and its powerful follow-up, The Look of Silence. 67


Texas: The Great Theft. BY CARMEN BOULLOSA, TR. BY SAMANTHA SCHNEE Historical READ AN EXCERPT Fiction | Deep Vellum | December 2014

Let's state it up fron, so we don’t get muddled: this is the year 1859. We’re on the northern and southern banks of the Río Bravo, known to some as the Rio Grande, in the cities of Bruneville and Matasánchez.Heading into the wind on horseback we could make it to the sea in half a morning. Bruneville and Matasánchez call themselves cities, but you be the judge of whether they should be called towns. I should tell you a few things about them: Bruneville is part of the state of Texas, Matasánchez is part of Mexico. The former (Bruneville) hasn’t been around long, only since ’21, when Mexico declared its independence. That year, Mexico’s Far North was sparsely populated, though there were a few ranches scattered around—like the ones owned by Doña Estefanía which extend 68


from the Nueces River all the way south to the Río Bravo—you’d have to ride four days to cross her lands from south to north. Back then buffalo flourished. Mustangs ran free. Since the grasslands hadn’t been sown, you didn’t 4nd cattle in herds; they grazed in twos or threes. But the Indians abounded, and they traveled in bands. Indian Territory lay to the northeast, where the Apaches had lived since God created the Earth, and where a variety of northern tribes had moved, evicted from their homelands by the Americans, or fleeing from them. Since the Indians were so different (some were hunters and tanners, some farmers, some warriors), they didn’t share their territory in holy peace, no matter how similar we’d like to think they were. To protect their northern frontier from greedy

Europeans and warlike Indians, the Mexican federal government invited Americans to live there. The government loaned them land or just gave it to them, sometimes even throwing in some livestock on certain conditions. To be perfectly clear: they made them sign contracts swearing to abide by the Catholic faith and pledge their allegiance to the Mexican government. However, they refused from the beginning to allow the importation of slaves, relenting only under great


pressure, allowing a few in dribs and drabs. In ’35 the gringos responded to Mexico’s generosity by declaring their independence. They were motivated by their own interests, especially the right to own slaves. The brand new (slaveholding) Republic of Texas declared its southern frontier to be the Nueces River. At that time the sowing of the grasslands had begun—the grass seeds greedily hogging everything the earth had to offer—while acacias were burned down to make way for herds of livestock, which grazed and mul-tiplied. The buffalo were decimated by hunters. The arrows of the hunter tribes frequently flew in vain, without finding targets. It goes without saying

that this was like a slap in the face to the Mexican government and made its landowners and ranchers hopping mad. Then, in ’46, the Republic of Texas joined the United States, becoming the Lone Star State. Immediately Texas claimed that its territories extended to the Río Bravo. And you already know what happened after that. The Americans invaded us. In ’48, after the invasion (which they called the Mexican-American War, some nerve!), they declared that the Río Bravo was the official border. To stake their claim, the Texans founded Bruneville where previously there had been nothing but a dock built by the town

of Matasánchez, “just in case.” Matasánchez became a border town. Immigrants flooded into Bruneville from all over, some respectable folks, and some American lawyers determined to enforce the new laws, which meant shifting ownership of the land to the gringos. There were all kinds of crooks, the aforementioned, well-dressed ones who robbed (Mexicans) from behind their desks, as well as the kind who tied kerchiefs over their faces. And there were those who did a little of both. It’s under these circumstances that our story takes place, at the time of the Great Theft. 

ABOUT THE BOOK TEXAS: THE GREAT THEFT 1859: Matasánchez and Bruneville. Two cities divided by the Río Bravo – or the Rio Grande, depending on which side you’re on – filled with a volatile mix of characters… tensions are running high, and it all boils over one hot summer day…



The Growth and Collapse of One American Nation. BY DONALD J. FRASER

READ History AN EXCERPT | Fraser & Associates | January 2020

There have always been two views of what makes America a nation. One is tied to a traditional racial or ethnic view, ethnonationalism for short. The other is that America is an idea, as expressed in Jefferson’s natural rights section of the Declaration of Independence, which Gunnar Myrdal called the American Creed. Today, the United States is religiously, culturally, and ethnically diverse. Yet we see ourselves as Americans in large part due to a creedal notion of America. These ideas revolve around liberty, equality, self-government, and equal justice for all, and have universal appeal. They are not partisan, not tied to any particular political party. Men with such differing political ideologies as Barack Obama and Lindsey Graham share 70


in the creedal notion of America. The universal ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and memorialized in the law through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have not always been achieved, certainly not at the time they were written, and not today as we continue with the struggle to meet them. Nor are they selfactualizing. One way to view American history is as a struggle by individuals and groups to claim their share of these rights, from the abolishment of slavery, to the women’s movement to gain the vote and a share of equal rights, to today’s clash over racial injustice. The view that ethnicity and race made the United States one people predominated in the early American

republic. John Jay, in Federalist No. 2, made the argument that the United States was one nation at the time of the debate over ratification of the Constitution by appealing to ethnonationalism. No doubt Jay overstated the degree of national unity at the time that the Constitution was being debated, and also the extent to which the original thirteen colonies were solely of British origin. The ethnonationalist perspective cannot describe


the United States today—it was inaccurate even in 1790, when we were already a diverse people. While ethnonationalism has deep roots in the United States, so too does the American Creed. Jay noted how the United States was “attached to the same principles of government.” To Thomas Paine, the country was drawn from “people from different nations, speaking different languages” who were melded together “by the simple operation of constructing governments on the principles of society and the Rights of Man.” Washington saw America as a place that was “open to receive not only the Opulent

and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions.” The sense of being one nation was fragile during the early Republic, and it continues to be so in the early twenty-first century. Too often in our time, we view those we disagree with as enemies, as members of a different nation. That was the challenge our ancestors faced too, and they allowed their differences to devolve into the Civil War. Perhaps that struggle was inevitable, since the overriding moral issue of their time, slavery, had to be eliminated. Today, we must continue to face the problems of our heritage, especially racial prejudice, born out of

historical experience. Perhaps lessons can be learned from history that will help in finding ways to work together for the common good. The challenge of our times is to continue our commitment to a creedal vision of America. We need to make a reality of the opening words of our Constitution, that “We the People” means all people who share the American Creed, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, and to constantly strive to unleash, in Lincoln’s words, “the better angels of our nature. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE GROWTH AND COLLAPSE OF ONE AMERICAN NATION Our identity as one nation is fragile today, much as it was when the Civil War erupted in 1861. Lincoln, in closing his first inaugural address, warned: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies." But too often in our time, we view those we disagree with as enemies, as members of a different nation.


The Golden Heart by Emil Kackos

Dragons suddenly appear out of the night sky, burning everything in sight. The evil wizard that created them is about to complete a spell that will exchange his heart with the magical Golden Heart and make him the ruler of the world. All he needs is a cup of blood: Human blood! He has created creatures to conquer the inhabitants in preparation for his rule. A teenage witch and several young companions are selected to face the wizard is his lair and save the world.

“Young readers with a love of action will have fun with this tale of fire-breathing dragons and magic spells�

- BlueInk Review




Seminal Moments by Jan D Hendrix

Along the road of life there can be many adventures. They can be real or imagined or personal or hearsay, and the next one may be just over the hill.



The Perf ection of Fish A Near-Future Fable of Genetics and Identity

Poignant, provocative, hilarious, and original, The Perfection of Fish is an addictive pageturner from a serious new talent”

- BlueInk Review

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READ ANHistorical EXCERPT Fiction | March 2020

My father deserted my mother and me when I was thirteen years old. He had become famous that winter on the Great Race of Mercy, one of the Athabascan mushers who brought diphtheria serum to Nome and saved ten thousand lives. He’d done the impossible, a blind run in the howling darkness, crossing the open ice of the Norton Sound, the temperature falling to sixty below, the sun a distant dream. He was our hero, our North Star. And then he was gone. He left us, of course, for a woman. A blizzard had hit him at Unalakleet, a storm so powerful that it travelled four thousand miles, till at last it reached New York and froze the Hudson River. The woman lived in just that far-away land, on the wild island of Manhattan, and her name was Kathleen Byrne. The Hearst papers had been 76


giving the Great Race front-page headlines; Kathleen was a reporter, lean and hungry, she’d go to the ends of the earth for a good story, and one day she got her chance. No one in my hometown of Nenana had seen anything like her, a slender redhead with emerald eyes, smoking Lucky Strikes and exhaling expertly through her nostrils, this coolly confident young woman with fiery hair. She wanted details that would bring the story to life, so Father brought her to our home to show off his sled dogs. At least, the ones who’d survived, for three he had raised since they were pups had died on the trail. Somewhere in the madness of that journey he’d forgotten to cover their groins with rabbit skins, and they’d perished of frostbite in the unfathomable cold.

I gaped at her stupidly. “Excuse my son,” said my mother. “He has no manners.” Eighty-six years have passed since that time, but from old photographs I understand just what my father must have felt. She seemed audacious and yet fragile, and she had the sort of smile that made men who’d known her barely fifteen minutes want to say, if you smile that way at any other man I’ll lose my mind. I’m not talking


about lust, you understand; rather, a sort of greed combined with something barely distinguishable from rage.

when my father and his friends had been drinking, for the Russian and his wife both died years before I was born.

And what did Miss Byrne want with my father? Ah, but what an outrageous trophy to bring back from the Arctic frontier! His native name was Taliriktug, strong arm, but he went by his English name, Victor. He was sinewy, powerful, and, for an Athabascan, unusually tall. His maternal grandfather had been an Orthodox priest, a Russian who came to Alaska as a missionary and proceeded to lose his faith in a strange new world. He joined some fur traders, then married a native woman, my great-grandmother. All local legend, all stories overheard

When Kathleen left, my father went with her. He said there’d be interviews with The Saturday Evening Post, and on something called radio that could send his voice into a hundred thousand homes, maybe more.

fooled. ““When will Father return?” I asked incessantly. “Soon,” my mother said at first, and later, “When the winds that took him blow him home,” and finally she answered me only with silence. I stopped asking, I never spoke of him, though a great grief lay on my heart. 

He said Miss Byrne had reason to think the Lambert Pharmaceutical Company might pay him a lifetime’s wages for endorsing a product called Listerine. He said he’d write letters and be back in just a few months. But I was the only one he

ABOUT THE BOOK HEARTS SET FREE Seven Lives Inexorably Intertwined. Over Eighty-Six Years. That Will Bring a Revelation Beyond What Any of Them Could Imagine. The Alaska Territory, 1925. When Yura Noongwook’s husband abandons her and her thirteen-year-old son, she vows to win him back and destroy the woman who stole his heart. They embark on an epic cross-country quest that leads them to the Nevada desert, where they meet a man who has turned into the last thing anyone expected him to become … 77


Snatch 2 And 20. BY LUKE E. FELLOWS

READ AN EXCERPT Fiction | April 2020

My first few weeks on the job went by without a hitch. I was only almost fired twice. But it became apparent soon after that my “I’m just tying up loose ends on my model” line was wearing thin. That was unfortunate, as it had worked perfectly at B of A. Even issuing a price target 40 percent above the current price didn’t seem to be cutting it. I raised it to 50 percent, but to no avail. I had no idea what else I could do. Peter started to ask me more insistently about my “conviction level” and whether I had done “the work” to back it up. He also started to ask me what dates on the calendar would be the most important ones for the stock. When I suggested the earnings release dates, he almost punched me. That’s when Holton stepped in. In that brief moment of daily euphoria when Peter’s Maybach pulled out of the garage and could be seen 78


barging its way imperiously through traffic toward his Connecticut castle, Holton Wynn found where I pretended to work. “Come on, Giles, let’s get a drink.” Three hours later and three martinis in, I’d learned more about POS than in the previous month. “So, you are saying that I actually need to get to know Egon,” I choked. “That’s pretty much how it works.” “And then get information from him about Zyxview’s products, financials, launch dates, and upcoming announcements, and communicate those to Peter in code.” “I never said that.” “What did you say?” “I said that you need to get to know Egon in order to know the company better than anyone, including all the upcoming catalysts for the stock, which will enable us to be ahead of everyone else trying to do the same thing. It’s how Peter makes

money.” “But isn’t that what I said?” “No. What you said would be insider trading.” “How would I know all the catalysts if I don’t ask him those questions?” “I don’t know. That’s for you to work out.” I could have sworn he winked, but perhaps it was a blink. Whatever the nuances that were for the moment escaping me, it was pretty clear that I was expected to cheat from day one. My objection was not purely on moral and legal grounds (though no saint, I draw


a line at felonies). It also implied that I was going to have to hustle and work. That was an entirely new concept for me, and I was pretty upset. “Did you ever cover a company for Peter?” I asked hopefully, trying to get the inside scoop on getting the inside scoop. “Nah. I would never do that. I love my family too much.” “So how did you get to be COO?” “I played lacrosse at Virginia.” I assumed he’d misheard. The dimly lit room was packed full of other men, sipping the same cocktails at other similar tables, no doubt all having similar hushed conversations. It wasn’t even late enough for the hookers at the bar to be getting much attention.

“No, I asked how you got to be COO,” I whispered more loudly. “Yes, I played lacrosse at Virginia.” Holton smiled. “You don’t get it, do you?” “Nope.” “Okay, so here is how the industry basically works. You’ve got the head guy, who’s usually a sociopathic, autistic narcissist with a massive chip on his shoulder. He is determined to make more money than the next guy at all costs, so that others can find out he has more money than the next guy. But they can’t do that without funds, which they have to raise from asset allocators.” “Okay…” I probed. “The asset allocators usually come from the Midwest, or Texas, or somewhere. Pension fund money or the like.

Dumb as shit. They aren’t used to dealing with New York types. So, the New York types hire a jock to raise the money. Jocks are universally looked up to by asset allocators as they are the guys at high school who nailed all the cheerleaders the asset allocators had wet dreams over.” “Did you nail a lot of cheerleaders?” “Hundreds—sometimes in pyramids. I tell the asset allocators about my days at Virginia, winning the NCAA, and the frat parties where the cheerleaders dressed like schoolgirls. They allocate hundreds of millions of dollars almost immediately.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK SNATCH 2 AND 20 Would you sell your soul to a sociopathic hedge fund titan for tens of millions in dirty cash? What about your sexy wife? What if it meant cozying up to a neurotic and lecherous tech entrepreneur while risking your freedom, and maybe even your life?



Rio A Love Story – How My Dog Saved My Life. BY JONI DARC SHEPHERD

READ Memoir AN EXCERPT | Sojourn Publishing | October 2019

I plodded through each day the best I could. Despite being busy at work, with housework, and home life, and with some dog training and shows here and there, when the days faded quietly into night, and at other times when I had too much time to think, I found myself very sad still. I was still broken-hearted, and did not want to go on. I thought of how tumultuous life had been, and felt I understood now what people meant after someone died and they said, “They are now at rest.” Pat and Mom were resting after their terrible bouts with cancer. I felt horrible and wanted to rest too, to shut out everything. I was so sad and it was so hard to get out of bed in the morning. I would open my eyes, then dread what the day would bring. I wondered what was next, and didn’t feel the energy to go on. But I had to go on. Taking my 80


own life was not an option. I was not there yet. It was not my time. For fleeting moments, I wondered if what I was going through was depression. This may have been depression, but I did not for a moment consider seeing a doctor or therapist. I saw no use in seeing a doctor, from family and friends’ experiences. I believed a doctor visit would only result in a drug prescription and would not address the cause of my problem. What I was feeling was not something drugs would heal. I needed — and wanted — to heal from within, not mask whatever it was. I did not want to take drugs and get hooked on them, or experience side effects that seem to happen to so many people, especially from freely prescribed opioid drugs. I thought there might be some kind of alternative

medicine that might assist me. I knew meditation and yoga would be very beneficial in so many ways, both mentally and physically. Oh, and a massage would make me feel good and take some anxiety away. There are so many other types of activities you can do to help yourself. Perhaps some kind of alternative medicine would indeed help along the way, but I felt I needed to get at the root cause of my issues. After many hours, days


and weeks of deep thinking, I finally came to the realization that I was going through a major change in my life. That is why I felt like I did. It made more sense now. One of the doctors who treated Mom told William that we never really grow up until our mothers pass away. Perhaps a good part of what I was feeling were the growing pains from finally being thrown out of the nest, so to speak, and having to really grow up and transition from my life with Mom and Pat. I believed it was time for me to get out and create my new life without them, do things in my own way, and finally evolve to become what and who I was meant to be. Yes, it was time to do so, I quickly discovered.

This revelation became a key turning point in my life and a major life-changing experience. I realized that to find my new life of fulfillment, I needed to create my own independent life. I needed to find out who I was meant to be. Not Mom’s daughter or Pat’s sister, but Joan. What a scary idea! I was clearly now on my own and had to develop into the person I was meant to be. I had to keep growing. I needed to get out into the world and look for self-fulfillment and new opportunities, because they were not going to find me. I needed to discover what I was meant to be doing. I did a lot of reading and understood

that to attain anything good, I needed to focus on good positive thoughts, and with that, good positive energy would come. Sitting around was not the cure for whatever I had. It was not an option. Though I did not know where to start, I decided I would get out, try new things, and keep busy, even if the new activities merely distracted me from my sadness for a while. Distractions, as Pat said, can be very helpful to get through sadness. “Where will all of this take me?” I wondered. I didn’t know, but life dared me to trust it and take a giant leap, so I did. 

ABOUT THE BOOK RIO A LOVE STORY - HOW MY DOG SAVED MY LIFE Most of us will experience tragedy and heartbreak during our lives. Rio – A Love Story is a heartwarming memoir of a girl's family tragedies, the loss of her closest family and support system overnight. She fell into depression and needed a miracle. This miracle appeared in the form of a charming show dog who gave her unconditional love and guided her from sadness to a renewed passion for life. Join them on their inspirational and entertaining journey through the dog show world to rewarding community service, and their magical journey continues. 81



READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | Frogworks Publishing | July 2014

By noon, they reached the first mountain lake on the way to the highest pass. Santiago and the porters had set up a dining area next to the cooking fire—a tarpaulin stretched across a pebble beach surrounded by the canvas stools. “No samweeches today,” said Santiago, as he added a final ingredient to the iron stew pot over the fire and stirred it with a wooden spoon. Stew of the fishes today, he added proudly. They found plastic bowls and let Santiago fill them with a creamy stew full of translucent pink and ivory chunks of unknown flesh. Flatbread appeared, along with the noon ration of tea. After five hours on the trail, Santiago’s lunch was nectar and ambrosia. As Wylie and Larry returned to refill their bowls, Larry asked the cook what was in the stew. He listed basic ingredients, and added, “Mostly she is caracol and feesh.” Wylie misunderstood. 82


“Charcoal?” “No. Caracol are snails,” said Pedro. “They come in all sizes in these alpine lakes and, as you know, are very tasty.” Wylie, who had avoided snails on his many visits to Paris, was surprised. Damn, he thought, they are tasty. Lunch concluded. Mercy walked to a cascading stream of icy water that poured into the lake to refill her canteen. As she bent to collect the water, Pedro pulled back her arm. “Sorry, but we never drink water from streams here—no matter how pure it looks. Santiago and his crew always boil water for ten minutes before letting us use it. The problem is giardia.” “I read about that,” she said. “But at this altitude it shouldn’t be problem, should it?” “So long as an animal can put its waste into the water anywhere upstream, it is a problem. If those tiny parasites infect your

intestines, you can get very sick. Let me tell you, I know. I did very stupid things when I was younger.” Mercy decided not to demand details. She recalled her own intestinal discomfort when they arrived in Huaraz. “Thank you, Pedro. You are taking very good care of us.” Pedro blushed. Wylie and Larry decided to take a few minutes to cool their feet before proceeding to their evening’s campsite. They found a rock jutting out into the lake from


which they could dangle their feet into the azure waters. The porters and Gaspar watched, waiting for the expected reaction. “Christ! That’s cold!” offered Wylie, as he withdrew his feet. “Witch’s tit!” exclaimed Larry, who managed to remain immersed in the freezing water a bit longer. Pedro, amused, said, “the water temperature is about half a degree above freezing. The pupfish and escargots enjoy it, but it can be very dangerous for people. If you fall out of a boat here, you will be dead in fifteen minutes if no one rescues you.” Wylie turned to Larry. “Beautiful but dangerous. Where have I heard that before?”

They relaced their boots, grabbed their hiking staffs and followed Pedro and Mercy up the trail. Larry reported on a conversation he had with Gaspar during their lunch break. “That Gaspar is a very interesting man—and he knows much about these mountains and has an adventuresome nature. He is fascinated by mummies— momias. He told me about a trip he made a few years ago to the Chachapoyas area, where the locals showed him a place that had many mausoleums full of funeral bundles. He knows I am interested in such things and offered, sometime, to show them to me.” Wylie suggested that, with numerous villains after them,

this might not be the right time to consider a new archaeological venture. Larry agreed. It was far to the north and distant from the town where their flight to Ecuador awaited. Nevertheless, he said wistfully, “You are right, of course. It is just that no one has reported anything about mummies in Chachapoyas. Just the way, I suppose, you can’t stop being a lawyer, I can’t ignore being interested in old cultures and artifacts, especially an unknown tomb with mummies. But, that must be for another time.” Larry shrugged his shoulders, picked up his staff and trudged up the trail with Wylie. 

ABOUT THE BOOK HIGH ANDES Will Wylie and his daughter make it out alive? Wylie Cypher, a corporate attorney, has a dying marriage, a midlife crisis, and is disillusioned with his work. Trying to regain fading youth, he plans a trekking vacation with his daughter, Mercy, across the White Mountains of Peru.



On Nana's Shoulders. BY VICKI SCHOEN

READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | Yellow City Publishing | May 2020

Five-year-old Logan Sherrill couldn’t get the pictures out of his head. Daddy ignoring him, the mean-looking judge, Mommy staring at Daddy’s back, Nana dabbing at her eyes, Mommy turning off the TV fast when Daddy came on the screen. He snuggled under Mommy’s arm. She didn’t respond. His world no longer made sense. His head screamed with pain. The mush rumbling in his tummy threatened to soil his clothes. Fear had invaded his peaceful world and refused to leave. *** Struggling to get her breath, Debra Sherrill squeezed her eyes shut, blacking out the courtroom. The love in her heart struggled to beat down the dread that threatened to overwhelm it, tried to assure her this whole proceeding was nothing but a nightmare. She bit her lower lip hard, hoping the physical hurt might dull the emotional pain. It didn’t. 84


“Nana?” She looked toward the voice and reached for Logan’s hand, but he clung to his mother, so she patted his knee. “You okay?” He nodded, mute. “I love you.” Debra stared at the little boy—Nick’s brown hair and eyes, Amber’s pale skin. Once again, she bristled at the thought of Amber bringing him with her. “Love you too, Nana.” Debra stared at the back of the bench in front of her. She hadn’t been able to sit on the front row. She needed a buffer, something to soften the blow, although she knew that was ridiculous. Someone had scratched the dark varnish. Just a single line, but the scar looked deliberate. It cut too deep to be an accident. *** Amber Newberry, or Sherrill, depending on whether she was on stage or off—or maybe just on her mood—felt Logan’s nervous little body and Debra’s

disapproval. She’d counted on Nick, given him this son, planned to ride, with him in tow, to the pinnacle of stardom. Stardom in a career she’d put every ounce of her energy into without even so much as a pat on the back from the breeders that must have missed a pill nine months before her birth. Well, she wouldn’t let whatever happened today stop her. She should have known that she would never be part of a happy, stable family. She should have known Nick would let her down. Men did that. And


now she had to contend with the little warm presence under her arm. She was tough. He would be too. She’d show her fans that she wasn’t only a fabulous singer/songwriter, but a devoted mother as well. The band sat with the reporters and cameramen in the seats behind her. They’d step up to be her family now. They needed her. *** Nick Sherrill had never been more scared in his life. The attorney standing next to him, waiting for the bailiff to remove the cuffs, attempted to exude confidence. Nick knew the attitude was all for show. Hell, the man didn’t even convince me I didn’t kill Preston Archer. And I didn’t—I don’t think. How in God’s name has my life gotten so screwed up? He rubbed his wrists. I’ll likely have a long

time to think about it. The door opened. He was escorted to the defendant’s table and sat, not looking once in the direction of his family. He couldn’t. *** The jury entered. Only a couple glanced toward the defendant. Debra had heard somewhere that if the verdict was guilty, the jurors wouldn’t face the prisoner. Her breathing got quicker, shallower. Her moist hands grabbed the back of the bench in front of her, and she pulled herself to a standing position. The judge seated himself while she stared at Nick’s back. Her little boy—a future ballplayer, or professor, or businessman, or scientist. His rounded shoulders gave him the look of a defeated old man, not the robust look of a confident first

baseman intent on a major league career. They sat. The judge’s voice was far away. The foreman’s distinct. “Murder?” “Not guilty.” “Manslaughter?” “Guilty.” Then more talk and the judge retired to his chambers. Nick was ushered out a side door. They waited—a long, numbing wake for the life stunted in its twenties and the other three pulled along for the grim ride. Then once again they all rose and sat. Debra held tight to her hope for leniency until two words smacked her in the gut: “twenty years.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK ON NANA'S SHOULDERS On Nana’s Shoulders is the story of families—their unraveling and reconfiguring, of missteps and unexpected directions, of hard decision, of love and hurt and all the consequences that follow. Debra Sherrill, having been blind-sided by an ugly divorce, is struggling to redefine herself just as her teenage son is propelling himself down a path of failure. When he meets a young woman who is hell-bent on success, the consequences are unexpected and fall squarely on Debra and her young grandson, forcing her to prioritize the people she loves. 85


New Caledonia: A Song of America. BY WILLIAM D. MCEACHERN

READ Historical AN EXCERPT Fiction | AuthorHouse | August 2016

Cowpens was a relatively wide open area. In better times, Colonists brought their herds here to fatten on the grass that grew here in the open spaces among the spares trees. A road came from the southeast, then swept north and finally veered northeast leading to the ford over the river about five miles away. This road was called either the Green River Road or the Mill Gap Road. Four branches of Thicketty Creek framed the left flank of General Morgan’s position. These branches were separated by three ridgelines that generally ran west to east. The ridges were not high, maybe fifteen or twenty feet tall. The ridges tended to have more trees as they met the Creek. The ridges were progressively higher as one went north. The right flank of General Morgan’s line had no such natural end to it, although the trees became denser the further west one went, such that 86


the battlefield to be seemed to be framed by trees. Early on the winter morning of January 17, 1781, the staccato long roll was beaten by American drummers calling the infantry to their places on the meadow of Cowpens. On the first ridgeline, Morgan had placed his skirmishers. They could see from the top of this ridgeline about 150 yards or so of relatively clear land before the trees became too dense. Benny would be coming up the Green River Road. As soon as he got to the open space of the Cowpens, he would be seen by the skirmishers, who would start to unleash their shots. They lay in waiting. The dark gloom of a winter night was just starting to change to the inky grey of a winter morning. The field before them was cast in a thin mist. The breeze was cold. My son and I were in the skirmisher line,

that is the first line, with our Pennsylvania rifles. ***** “Father, are you scared?” I couldn’t see Daniel’s face in the inky gloom of night as we took our positions on the skirmish line. “Yes, son, I am.” I paused a moment. “Any man who might meet his Maker today has plenty of reason to be afraid.” “I am not afraid of Judgement. I believe in God’s promise to man. But still I am afraid. Am I


less of a Christian?” Daniel spoke each word slowly, thoughtfully, and carefully. “Son, I am afraid, too. I’m not a philosophical man, nor am I man who knows theology. I believe that I am saved by God’s grace alone, for surely I am not saved by what I’ve done. I know that I am a man who has a job to perform. I have to do all I can to help my friends, neighbors, and you, to win this battle. I hate the British. I hate all they have done to me and my family. I’ve lost two wives to their barbarity and cruelty. Two good, fine, God-fearing women who did not deserve the fate that befell them. If I can kill the man who did that to them, I would willingly go to meet Jesus.” I snarled the last

words. Talking to Daniel had gotten me mad. I was angry now; I would kill every British man I could see. I think he noticed the change of the tone of my voice for he stopped talking for a short while. “Father, I’ll kill them, too,” he finally whispered. We both loaded our long rifles. We situated ourselves behind two trees about 10 yards apart. “Two well-aimed shots,” I said in reply. ***** British Lt. Colonel David Campbell was in the van of the Legion. The horses were barley lifting their hooves as they shuffled onwards. The sloughing through the mud had worn them out completely. The Legion

infantry could hardly step in time, they were so tired. The cold night made him rub his hands together. “Sir,” he said to Colonel Tarleton, “should we stop and rest the men? We’ve been marching for five hours. The men could use some rest and some food.” “What? Stop? Rest? No, Morgan is just in front of us. I must prevent them from getting across the ford. Here, we will defeat the rebels in detail, before they can rejoin Greene and the rest of the rebel army. We must move on.” Tarleton dismissed Campbell’s recommendation without giving it a thought. 

ABOUT THE BOOK NEW CALEDONIA: A SONG OF AMERICA Swirling events embroil Daniel and James as wagoners hauling freight for the British Army in the French and Indian War. On the road to the Battle of the Monongahela, James learns that Captain David Campbell is their commanding officer. For a minor infraction, Captain David Campbell whips Daniel Morgan nearly to death. The story of James, Daniel Morgan, and Captain David Campbell is played out over the course of two wars, the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, in battles such as Monongahela, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens. Who will survive? 87


Murder in Chatswood. BY PETER A. STANKOVIC

Mystery READ AN| EXCERPT Independently published | March 2020

“Move your ass,” he said as he strode through the crowd of on-lookers. Despite the rain pounding the pavement, people were drawn to accidents and tragedy, it seemed. Brock Larsen held up his badge as he used his superior size and height to push through stationary bodies of men and women and even children to the centre of the commotion. It was late at night, near eleven o’clock, and Brock wondered what irresponsible parents allowed their children to be out at this time. He’d have them locked up if he had any say. Brock found uniformed cops already on the scene. It was fourteen minutes to eleven, when he checked his watch, but one could be forgiven for imagining it was a lit-up sporting match, so bright were the surrounding lights. Restaurant lights, streetlights, ambulance lights and cop lights. 88


A large vehicle was wedged into the side of the corner restaurant in busy Chatswood, largely populated by Asians. When Brock came across a uniform, he presented his identification, then he asked what had gone down. He was told the black SUV apparently slammed into the restaurant deliberately killing four people and injuring others. The driver had fled the scene which was the reason Brock had been called. It looked like murder. Brock gazed around at the sea of Asian faces with a few white faces sprinkled amongst them. He turned his attention to the uniform, an overweight man, almost as tall as Brock’s six foot three, in his mid-thirties. “Did anyone volunteer information?” asked Brock. “No but Jennine and I just arrived at the scene,” he said.

“So, you have no idea what actually took place?” “No clue sir,” said the cop. “Why did you say that the SUV deliberately struck the victims?” Brock asked, taking his iPhone from a pocket in his new Levi Strauss jeans. He took some photos. “That’s what I was told by the person who reported the crash.” “Who was that?” “Don’t know. She didn’t leave a name.”


“Well try to find her amongst this the people here and make sure you get her details,” instructed Brock. “Yes sir, on it.” “Ok,” said Brock, “let the ambulance people check on the injured. You and Jennine go around and obtain names and contact details of all the people in this crowd. Somebody must have seen something which will help us.” Brock watched as the cop known as Buzzer Beal, on account of his immediate buzzing of his superior if something was amiss, walked over to Jennine to impart his orders. Brock made his way to the damaged vehicle and wondered how the perpetrator had escaped.

The heavy vehicle, a big Grand Cherokee Jeep, had mounted the footpath and ploughed into a table of occupants as well as the side of the café. Thankfully the bulky SUV had missed several tables lining the side of the establishment or the casualties would have been much greater. The SUV had seemed to target just one table, shattering glass and contents on the table, before smashing into the café wall. Airbags had been discharged so the driver must have been relatively unharmed when he exited. The driver’s door was in good repair as it was the front of the vehicle and the passenger’s side which had borne the brunt of the collision. Brock checked to examine the driver’s area. The seatbelt may have been

left undone or the driver could otherwise have been pinned inside. The café patrons were still in shock, some crying, others staring into the distance. They had been asked to clear the restaurant and wait outside but remain to provide information of what they’d witnessed. Brock calculated the size of the crowd: between thirty to forty patrons plus dozens of curious onlookers. That was a large number of people who needed to give statements and contact details, Brock thought, realising his colleagues would be here for some time. 

ABOUT THE BOOK MURDER IN CHATSWOOD A heavy vehicle smashes into four people dining on a street café in busy Chatswood.Detective Brock Larsen has been called to investigate.Were all four victims the target or just one of them? A search for the killer leads the Homicide team to a variety of potential suspects. During the investigation, Larsen and each of his four team members also need to tackle their individual love issues.




Historical | LitFire Publishing | November 2019 READ AN Fiction EXCERPT

Levi went down to the docks of Capernaum. Capernaum had the finest docks of any of the cities that nestled on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Whereas most of the other cities had one or two docks, Capernaum boasted six piers jutting into the waters of the Sea. As he looked to his right, he could see the two southernmost docks, which stood as two embracing arms, almost joining at the hands in a circle. These encircling arms were like the arms of a mother cradling her children, that is new ships which were being built in the breakwater. The piers, like virtually everything else in Capernaum, were built of basalt rock. On top of the rocks, which had been strewn into the sea to create walls, where some planks in order to make it easier to walk out to the boats tied to the piers.



Levi scanned the horizon from south to north reviewing the other docks lined up as if they were rocky fingers grasping the seawater. Finally, his eyes gazed at the men, boats, fishing nets, and other nautical paraphernalia strewn along a small beach. The motion of the men caught his attention. On the shore, several men were laboring on a fishing boat. Others were sewing nets. Some were sorting fish into two piles. Others were cutting up fish. Still others were simply standing in groups talking, laughing at jokes, and passing the time of day. Boats bobbed up and down in the water, as the waves slapped their sides, making the boats bounce off the piers of the docks. The sounds of wood creaking, of bumps, thuds, and the clapping of water on the sides of wood, accompanied the rhythmic

motion of the bobbing of the boats forming a beautiful counterpoint of sight and sound. The sounds of men’s voices singing the songs of work blended with the sounds of hammering, sawing, sewing, the hack of knives cutting up fish, and the plops of the fish falling on the ground in one of the two piles. Levi stopped in his tracks, and, for the first time in his life, beheld the spectacle of life down by the seashore. It had never really entered


his mind that men labored all day long at fishing. He had not realized all the aspects of the industry that now spread before him. He had heard his brother going out in the early morning dawn or even at night to fish, but he had never thought that men, lots of men, really did this. Here and now, he saw them, their skin brown and weathered from the sun and the spray, their hands and arms bobbing and weaving in skilled, rapid motion that betrayed years of experience and talent at their various jobs. He watched one man who had a salt-and-pepper beard, and whose hands flashed first one way and

then the other with the bobbin fixing his net at what Levi now realized was an inordinately fast speed. The smell of fish, flayed, and open to the sun, blended with a scent of freshly sawn wood. Just then, a cool breeze blew across his face. The wind bore with it a hint of the flavor of wet hemp rope. The odors of the bodies of the men, who were sweating in the hot sun, their bodies glistening with perspiration, pungent and musky, was the clear overtone in the symphony of smells, scents, and odors that lingered in the air.

the flashes of dazzling yellow blinded Levi’s eyes, leaving traces of blue-green afterimages. In the next moment, the midnight blue waves crested, only to fold back upon themselves in shape-shifting light and dark. Levi saw the moment, as if the world had slowed down, such that each detail and each nuance were revealed. He could examine it all in his mind by turning over and over the scene in its minutest quality. He saw detail he had never captured before. î –

The sunlight glinted off the water. At one moment,

ABOUT THE BOOK THE LIFE OF LEVI Levi is a man beset by problems. While he is wealthy, his riches are always being threatened in many different ways. As a Tax Collector for the Roman Empire, he is shunned by his fellow Jews as being ritually impure, and so all Jews want to cheat him out of tax money. Being shunned deeply wounds Levi, because he had once dreamed of being a Rabbi. He had studied in Jerusalem under the great teacher, Gamaliel, but was out-shone by a fellow student, whom he hated, Paul.



The Perfection of Fish. BY J.S. MORRISON

READ SciFi/Fantasy AN EXCERPT | Black Rose writing | July 2020

The last words Chester Truman Kelsey uttered on Planet Earth were “Yippeeki-yay.” They were recorded by a nurse and were not original words. Kelsey’s originality was all used up, just like his failing body. He had never seen the Bruce Willis movie and was unaware the phrase arose in 15th century England. No, Nadia wrote, sitting at her father’s desk in the museum room, the engrams—the memories that inspired his last words—probably came from the 1930s Bing Crosby hit, “I’m an Old Cowhand.”

year-old Nadia Holkam stood by Kelsey’s bedside with her mother and father in the master bedroom on the first floor of his house—now a dedicated infirmary. The attorney had just left the room, and a doctor had removed the drip. Nurse Mandy Sipe, who stood near the door looking at her watch and tapping her foot, held a clipboard to monitor the condition of her patient and any last utterances or requests the individual might make. She had a date that night and needed to leave early.

Some tunes are earworms. As she tried to put thoughts on paper, she remembered her final encounter with Kelsey, and how, according to the nurse on duty, the lights in the room flickered when he said the famous last words.

There were photographs on all the walls celebrating Kelsey’s life, including recent events. Helium balloons tied to the iron bed proclaimed, “Happy 113th!” Nadia remembered thinking, He doesn’t look a day over 111. Annie Holkam leaned over Kelsey’s bed, trying to

In October 2013, thirteen92


decode his whispers. “He says, ‘Bury me below the iron bed. This bed.’” Arthur eyed the strangelooking bed and nodded as if he understood. Kelsey coughed. His eyelids fluttered against sickly skin. He whispered again, and Annie put her ear closer to his mouth. “He says, ‘Sing me a song of the mountains.” “Now?” Arthur asked. “I don’t know many songs. Anyway, you’ll have to sing.


I’m not very good.” “He means after ...” “Oh. Then we have time to think about it.” He raised his voice so Kelsey could hear. “We’ll come up with a good one. Don’t you worry.” Arthur patted Kelsey’s shoulder. Kelsey lifted his trembling hand, touching Annie, mumbling. She recoiled and looked at Arthur. He cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?” “He said, ‘Protect yourself from the power.’” “Me? What power?” “No, me,” Annie said. “I think he means the power of the ley lines.”

Arthur whispered a response. “I don’t know what that means. He’s delusional.” After a spell of heavy breathing, Kelsey’s eyes snapped open. He turned his head and said in a distinct, audible voice, “Nadia. Nadia.” Nadia moved closer, touching his arm—cool, frail as tissue paper, and covered with purple blotches. She inhaled the aroma of medicine, bleached white sheets, and the unpleasant scent of body odor. The old man smiled. “I’ll do what I can ...”

you—” “... to keep you safe. The future ...” His eyes locked on Nadia’s, looked into them, looked beyond them. His shaking hand lifted and gave a weak thumbs up. Then the tired eyelids drooped and closed. He drifted into a troubled slumber. “You should go,” the nurse said, clutching her clipboard and looking at her watch. “Visiting time is up. I need to give him an enema.” 

“You’ve already done a lot, Mr. Kelsey,” Nadia said. “You built a town. You showed us the way. You helped all of us,

ABOUT THE BOOK THE PERFECTION OF FISH The contest between men and women escalates to a new battlefield — genetics. Legislators mandate a testosterone- lowering food supplement to reduce violence and make gun control unnecessary. The blowback assumes epic proportions. Nadia Holkam — a pawn in the battle — desperately seeks her true identity.



Dirty Science. BY BOB GEBELEIN

READ AN History EXCERPT & Philosophy | March 2019

The academic establishment, like the scientific establishment, is an in-group, with a long list of opinions, attitudes, and beliefs, which, like physicalism, are not supported by legitimate arguments, and yet, like physicalism, are implanted in the minds of academic people so completely that debate is out of the question. These ideas are just parroted by academic people, as if they represented fundamental truths that are self-evident and need no supporting arguments. Here is a list of the ones that I am aware of: “The myth of the selfmade individual” “Freud did bad science.” 94


“Carl Jung was a mystic.” “Ayn Rand was right wing.” Edgar Cayce (they insinuate) was a fraud. Eklal Kueshana is thought not even to exist. Creativity doesn’t exist. Intuition doesn’t exist. Psychic abilities don’t exist. Parapsychology is pseudoscience. The spiritual doesn’t exist. “Dreams are a random firing of neurons.”

“The mind is nothing but the physical brain.” prejudice against football prejudice against psychotherapy prejudice against hypnosis prejudice against religion These things were communicated to me


by scientists and scholars at the very highest level, including a Nobel Prize winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner. I can’t believe that people at this level would take such prejudices and beliefs seriously, let alone allow their thinking to be ruled by them. So again the possibility of mass hypnosis comes to mind. I use the expression “hypnotic implant” because the word “suggestion” isn’t strong enough. As I have said, a hypnotic suggestion becomes implanted in one’s mind before one’s critical faculties

are able to deal with it. Therefore I call it a “hypnotic implant.” Or one might call it a “hypnotic command,” because, once implanted, it can operate as a law that must be obeyed. I offer the hypothesis, to be questioned, to be tested, to be debated, that every item on The List operates as a hypnotic implant or command. These hypnotic implants are not rejected by people’s rational thinking because the academic community, like the scientific community, is an in-group, and these hypnotic implants are sustained by constant

reinforcement from one’s colleagues, who are programmed in the same way. I offer my rational arguments in this book as a way to break out of this spell, and I welcome the rational arguments of academic people in response. 

ABOUT THE BOOK DIRTY SCIENCE Establishment scientists are trying to tell us that there is no reality beyond the physical. This has not been proved scientifically, so they use unscientific methods such as ridicule and power politics to force it on the academic community, blocking our knowledge of whole dimensions of reality, mental and spiritual. DIRTY SCIENCE exposes this corruption in our accredited academic institutions and calls upon the intelligent reading public to put pressure on them to clean up the mess. 95


The Ultra Betrayal. BY GLENN DYER

READ ANFiction EXCERPT | TMR Press | June 2020

Conor delivered the news to Eve; the fifteen-minute window was not received well. “You don’t understand. I’m not treating a paper cut.” “Listen, I get that you need more time. But we could have an Me 109 or an E-boat halfway down our throat anytime. We just can’t sit for that long. The captain is right. Do what you can. If it’s not enough time, just do the best you can to make him comfortable until we get back to England.” Conor added, “Don’t think I don’t care … he’s my best friend. But he’s pretty tough.” Conor looked at Emily. “Give her a hand, Em. The captain said the boat’s radioman would help out too.” # “We need something to help manage the pain,” Eve said. “There’s got to be some alcohol on this boat.”



The radioman came through the hatch, rolling up the sleeves of his wool shirt; the bottoms of his blue pants were tucked into calf-high rubber boots. “Tony’s my name. Skipper says I’m to do what I can for you. Now, what do you need, ladies?” Eve ran down the list of items. Tony told her and Emily that there was a small amount of brännvin on board. “It’s got quite a kick to it.” “Get it,” Emily said. “But,” Tony said, scratching his bald head, “those other items … sharp knife, canvas, no problem. A tube of some sort, I don’t know … and what’s an occlusive bandage?” “That’s where the canvas comes in. I need something to seal the opening in his chest, and it needs to be airtight. I need to do that before I release the air in his chest with the tube,” Eve

said. “Tony, do you have some petroleum jelly?” Emily asked. “My brother said that they had some on his merchant ship for sunburns.” Tony’s eyes lit up. “Ahh, right you are, miss. Last assignment for the line was out of the Rock. They called the stuff Red Vet Pet. I brought some on board when I shipped in with these boys. The lads laughed. Said there wasn’t enough sun in the North Sea to worry about.”


Eve nodded. “And I need some tape. Do you have a small medical kit aboard?” “Sure do, ma’am. It’s small. Some gauze, iodine, but that’s it. We run out of medical tape.” Emily and Eve looked at each other. Tony scratched the same spot on his head. “Well, how about some duct tape? Sticks like glue. Amazing stuff, that tape is.” Emily smiled. “Great, Tony. And the tube?” Tony’s scrunched-up face was a study in bafflement. “I think that’s a dead end, ladies. I can’t think of anything.”

Emily quickly plucked a pen from Tony’s shirt pocket. “Hey, that’s my favorite pen. My dad gave that to me on my eighteenth birthday. Never been without it since.” Emily unscrewed the barrel from the cap, then the nib from the barrel. “Tony, can you poke a hole in the end of the barrel?” He scratched his head again. “I can, but I don’t want to.” “I’ll make sure you get another one; that’s my promise to you. With a note of thanks from the prime minister.” Emily turned to Eve. “This would work, right?”

# Conor went aft, found a pair of overalls, and slipped into them. When he stepped down the short ladder into the engine room, all his senses overloaded. The sound of just the three working Packards was deafening; his lungs seemed to vibrate inside his rib cage. The smell of fuel, grease, and oil mixed with sweat made his eyes water. He started to open his mouth to yell a greeting, but the port and starboard engines throttling back made him pause. The engines shut down, and right on cue, the first officer poked his head through the topside hatch. “You’re on the clock.” 

“Yes. It’s not perfect, but it will do.”

ABOUT THE BOOK THE ULTRA BETRAYAL One man's dark deal with the Nazis could bring the Allies to their knees... Autumn, 1942. Rule breaker OSS Agent Conor Thorn is assigned a mission to help the Allied war effort when a key Swedish cryptographer stationed in England goes missing. Thorn is determined to find him before critical information falls into enemy hands, but when his MI6 colleague vanishes trailing the code-breaker to Stockholm, Thorn is plunged yet again into a sinister Nazi conspiracy. Can Thorn stop prized secrets from triggering more wartime carnage? 97


The Phantom of Witch's Tree. BY MARK LUNDE

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | Untreed Reads | July 2018

Corporal Augustus of the North West Mounted Police sat on the plank sidewalk, smoking Dragon’s Blood and watching the Reeves Brothers saloon across the street. It was late night now and the shops and cafes were finally dark and empty. For over an hour an hour no one left the saloon and people moved behind the windows, dancing and drinking. There was a constant hubbub as the player piano rose above the loud, alcoholic voices and on the second - floor veranda a floozy sat alone and sang discordantly to the music. She never saw the giant policeman. No one did. To amuse himself Augustus gathered some leaves out of the air and breathed on them. He 98


had them perform an intricate quadrille to the music until he tired of their antics and let the leaves fall lifeless in the dirt. He waited. Absently, he touched the scar that bisected his eyebrow, ran over his eye socket and down into his beard. The scar was a memento from Cypress Hills. In those days he was a young rowdy teamed up with some Yankee wolf hunters from Montana. Crossing the forty ninth parallel, into Alberta they’d ridden north, well armed and in pursuit of stolen horses. The Assiniboine lodge they’d come to was greeted with fire and anger. They’d picked the wrong settlement in their hunting of the horse thieves, but it

hardly mattered. When the gun smoke had finally cleared and the wounded and women and children made silent, Augustus could no longer call himself a human being, and understood precisely who and what he was. At the height of the bloodshed he’d seen a mad Scot dismount and approach a stillbreathing woman. The Scot had brought out


his skinning knife and accomplished his work with one slash and a quick tug. When he’d finished he held up the raw bleeding scalp and shook it before Augustus. “I commit my sins two by two,” the man had leered. “And pay for 'em one at a time.” To this day Corporal Augustus was still paying. But that was many years ago and he was resigned to it. Around midnight he saw Matt Hargreaves and Norbert Stern come out of

the saloon with a prostitute. All three were drunk. Augustus rose slowly and crossed the street until he stood before them and leaned on the hitching rail. They were close enough to touch him yet they did not see him although his red serge jacket shone bright as the sun. Hargreaves and Stern were boisterous, saying their farewells loudly as though to make up for shallow affections. There was a strange distance between them. Hargreaves joked that he was leaving town to become a swine herder and live off corn husks. The whore didn’t get this biblical allusion.

Hargreaves complained he had a cold coming on and the whore suggested he stay upstairs for the night. Being young, drunk and stupid, Hargreaves declined. He asked Stern to ride with him but the old murderer refused, having slipped his arm around the whore’s waist. The devil and his pecker, Augustus mused. It was laughable how simple these Americans were… 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE PHANTOM OF WITCH'S TREE October 1912 Deputy Matt Hargreaves is assigned to serve a warrant miles from home, but a simple mission soon goes tragically wrong, and a father and child lay dead. Consumed with guilt, Hargreaves flees from the carnage and begins a downward spiral leading to gut-wrenching hallucinations and a strange passage through an alternate reality.




READ Historical AN EXCERPT Fiction | HTPH Press | February 2020

Hyde Park, New York, January, 1869 Floor to ceiling books run the length of the room and are accessible by means of a ladder. Two winged chairs face the fireplace, their backs to the rest of the library, in the center of which is a round table with a large bowl of oranges. Whistling under her breath, Tennessee begins to search the Roosevelt collection and climbs a few rungs up the ladder. “Ah, Miss Claflin, fancy you’re being a reader.” He does have the same voice as the Commodore. She turns to face William Vanderbilt. If she descends the ladder, he will loom over and put her at a disadvantage. She descends two rungs and puts herself at his eye level. “Yes, I always strive to learn things should the opportunity lend itself.” “Really, to what end, pray?” “Well, if I learn enough, perhaps I might become a 100


writer.” At this, he throws back his head and laughs. With some dismay, she observes it’s very much like his father’s laugh. Wiping at his eyes and nose with his handkerchief, he answers. “Miss Claflin, are you familiar with psychology?” “Please, enlighten me.” Tennessee smiles, noting how Cornelius Vanderbilt’s jaw is chiseled and strong, while his son William has lambchop sideburns to augment a weak chin. “It’s a science concerned with one’s character. Once you’ve acquainted yourself with psychology, you’ll discover that the nature of your association with my father indicates you have a licentious susceptibility. Whilst you may refrain from the expression thereof, it is nevertheless in your character and is immutable, making you forever enslaved thereof as well. A very unfortunate position

from which a woman, such as yourself, might struggle to be a writer, Miss Claflin.” “I so wish you’d call me Tennie, as your father has insisted that I do call you Billy.” His nonsense is impossible to follow, so she says again, “Billy.” Does he recognize her from the street outside the apothecary? “Ah yes, Tennie.” He clears his throat. “So, as to your becoming a writer and whether my father might support you in such endeavors, I have it on


good authority, he doesn’t give much thought to you doing anything other than seeing to his comfort. That’s certainly the consensus of my sisters.” She waits for him to leave, but he makes no sign of moving, so she says, “I must continue in my search for a book. Heaven forbid someone mistake me for being an illiterate from Red Light Lizzie’s.” She catches the faint glimmer of recognition on William Vanderbilt’s face. “Perhaps I’ll read something to do with psychology. Billy.” Tennessee turns to face the bookcase and climbs a few rungs so her bustle will be at his eye level. She moves her backside just so, wiggling it for good measure. She looks

over her shoulder at him. “Oh! Excuse me, I thought you were gone.” Having been caught in the act, the scarlet William Vanderbilt beats a hasty retreat. “HA!” Another male voice laughs. Oh, no, she realizes someone else had been in the room. Slowly, she turns around. The ginger-haired man from the balloon stands up from the winged chair. “He is such a horse’s ass!” he exclaims. Unnerved, Tennessee wonders why her heart seems to be fluttering. The ginger haired man had not been present at lunch nor the previous day. He adds, “Well, I’ll say this. There’s nothing worse than the repressed lust of a God-fearing bully, what.”

“That’s quite true.” Tennessee descends the ladder. “You want to write?” He hands her a large magazine. “Give this a gander.” “I am afraid I do not know—” “James Gordon Bennett.” He bows. Now her heart is hammering. She can sense that his is, too. She says nothing. James Gordon Bennett straightens himself up and adds softly, “Junior.” He helps himself to an orange, then bites into it through the skin. He says, “If you want to make someone like Billy Vanderbilt feel it in the balls, just write about him. That’s how you get them.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK NAKED TRUTH OR EQUALITY, THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT From Washington Heights to Washington D.C. comes a true American Herstory. Filled with intrigue, lust, and betrayal, this is the fight for sexual equality. 1868, on the eve of the Gilded Age: Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy, and sometimes clairvoyant. But it’s her sister, VICTORIA WOODHULL, who is going to make history as the first woman to run for President of the United States.



The Golden Heart. BY EMIL KACKOS

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | Xlibris | September 2010

The trees were dying. There was nothing alive across the White River, which was the west border of Rondolar; no birds, no animals, nothing green. Everything was already dead. Now the lush greenery that grew on their side was turning to brown. The sickly trees were bad enough, but all the other vegetation was dying, right down to the grass. None of the experts King Leo sent to investigate found any cause for it: there was no disease or parasites or insects. It just seemed like something was sucking the life out of the plants. “Answers!” he demanded of his ministers. “I need answers! If this spreads to our crops-“ he didn’t have to finish. Everyone knew what would happen if the crops failed. All of 102


Rondolar depended on them. And what if the animals were affected? Or people? Lethomeade, the Minister of Agriculture, said what at least some of them were thinking, but were afraid to say. “Maybe we should consult Dara, she knows about these things and -” “NO!” the King shouted. “I will not hear her opinions! If science cannot find out what’s killing the plants, then she can’t possibly know.” The King did not like Dara. Or maybe he was afraid of her. People said she knew the past and so could see the future and many believed in her predictions. The King did not and thought she was a fraud. She was impossibly old – she was old when his

grandmother was a girl – and spent most of her time in the library with the ancient writings. That night, at the stroke of midnight, the impossible happened. The guard manning the West Tower saw it first. “Alarm!” he screamed to the courtyard below as he frantically rang the alarm bell. “Something is burning the fields!” He strained his eyes to see


what was causing the fires that were sprouting in the crop fields. Then he saw it: a huge black shadow against the darker night, red eyes gleaming, wings spread wide. Instinctively he ducked behind the stone wall, just as a stream of fire scorched the tower. “Dragons!” he thought. The dragons left as quickly as they had come, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Krestar’s walls had prevented much damage inside the city, but some of the crops had been burned. Luckily, the damage wasn’t too severe. This time. “Dragons?” King Leo asked, incredulous. “Dragons? First the trees now Dragons. What is

happening? Where did they come from? Who sent them? What do they want?” he demanded. The King, short and stout, was impatient at the best of times. Now, at 3 AM, he was shouting at the hastily summoned ministers. “We have no answers, my lord.” said Stefan, the Security Minister. “I have summoned General Rafael and – he paused and lowered his voice “we have asked Dara to come.” The King exploded. “Dara? What does that crazy old woman know about anything? Are you crazy, too? How can she possibly help?”

“She knows things, sire. She stays in the Archives and pores over the old scrolls-“ “I don’t care about the old scrolls!” the king shouted. “I care about the here and now!” Just then the door creaked open and Dara the Sage slipped in. She was small and frail, her thin white hair stuck out at all angles. She showed both her teeth in a horrible grimace that for her was a smile. Stunned silence greeted her. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE GOLDEN HEART Dragons suddenly appear out of the night sky, burning everything in sight. The evil wizard that created them is about to complete a spell that will exchange his heart with the magical Golden Heart and make him the ruler of the world. All he needs is a cup of blood: Human blood! He has created creatures to conquer the inhabitants in preparation for his rule. A teenage witch and several young companions are selected to face the wizard is his lair and save the world



Seminal Moments. BY JAN D HENDRIX

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | iUniverse | June 2018

One Sunday afternoon after a successful test firing of the Saturn-5 rocket engine, Bill Kelly, Chief Engineer on the project, celebrated by spending a quiet afternoon lounging around his backyard pool. Dressed in cut-offs and his favorite faded blue t-shirt, emblazoned with the letters “NASA,” he relaxed comfortably in one of the pool’s cushioned lounge chairs and let his mind drift back over the project. As he considered events leading up to the successful firing, he surmised that for each obstacle that slowed or stopped the progress of the work, there was somebody who stepped in and got the project moving again. His analytical mind played with axioms that might correlate connections with each problem-solving event. He searched his memory for technical similarities between the actions that broke through the barriers that blocked the work’s progress. He finally concluded there was not a single technical 104


connection, that there were only individuals who stepped in with their own solutions. Some special individual along the way had come forward with unique ideas, and that proved to be the only connecting link. He was deep in though when his wife, Ann, walked up and dropped a stack of letters next to his half empty cocktail glass. “If you feel like it, you might get caught up on your mail,” she said, smiling sympathetically down at his sleepy demeanor. “Aw, not today,” he complained to Ann. “Fine,” Ann said. “But I’ll leave them here in case you change your mind.” As she walked away, she spoke back over her shoulder: “Dinner will be ready soon.” His reverie broken, Bill casually picked up the mail and began shuffling through the stack, dropping each letter in his lap as he read the return addresses. Nothing

caught his interest until he came to a letter with a return address of his old high school. “Umm…” he mumbled under his breath, “What’s up with them?” Opening the letter, he found it to be a twenty-year reunion announcement of his high school graduating class. He smiled at the thought of his high school days and lay back in the lounge chair, closing his eyes and reminiscing. He remembered after graduating the long, restless days with little to do but sit around in City Café and hang out with


his friends, Linda and Doug. Those were both good and bad days, he thought, as his mind drifted back. ** “Any job prospects today?” Linda asked, pouring Bill’s coffee and spilling a little on the beige, marble counter top at the front of City Cafe. “Naw, nothing but pickup stuff,” Bill said over the noise of customers talking and laughing and the clinking of silverware on breakfast plates. “Something’ll come soon,” Linda continued while toweling the spilled coffee clean with one quick stroke. Linda graduated high school just two months back. She had neatly combed blond hair and a few freckles just under her slightly hazel eyes. With a youthful Doris Day face and a mature girlish figure,

she was a popular asset for the City Café. The owner, old Nat Berman, had told Bill that there was a definite change in the air after he put Linda at the front counter. “Well, I hope so,” Bill said. “I’m beginning to crawl the walls from nothing to do.” Bill had graduated high school the previous year but had not been able to find a full time job, only finding enough work to keep his truck going and a little spending money. With a mass of black hair that spilled down across his forehead and an easy-going smile, his boyish face belied the underlying restlessness just below the surface of his demeanor. “I’ve been thinking of joining the army just to get out of Riverdale,” he continued. “I’ve been watching the Help Wanted Ads for you.”

“Thanks, Mother,” Bill chided, smiling up at her. “I’ll try to be a good boy and quit complaining.” Linda smiled back at Bill. Her crush was obvious. In eleventh grade she would stop and watch him at football practice as she walked home from school. She would stop on the sidewalk next to the practice field and watch the players run up and down the field. Everyone knew who she was watching. Playing Quarterback and a senior, Bill was widely popular and too busy to notice eleventh graders. Now, a year and some months later, she seemed happy to have him hang out at City Café where she worked. 

ABOUT THE BOOK SEMINAL MOMENTS Along the road of life, there can be many adventures. They can be real or imagined or personal or hearsay, and the next one may be just over the hill. Usually when these exceptional experiences are recalled, they are viewed as just another life occurrence with no further meaning. But sometimes, if the event was memorable, it has meaning thats more significant than the event itself.



Interview: Marthese Fenech.

Author of Falcon’s Shadow. BY SARAH KLOTH






MF: The hostility between the Ottoman Sultan and the Knights of St John incites the collision of two great empires, intertwining the fates of characters separated by faith, loyalties, and vast distances. Beyond military conflict, the men and women of this series must confront corruption and oppression, treachery and disaster in a turbulent time that saw the flourishing Renaissance at odds with the repressive Roman Inquisition. The first novel in the trilogy, Eight Pointed Cross, takes place decades before the Great Siege of 1565—the storm had been brewing for quite some time. Eight Pointed Cross introduces two families, one, living humbly on the island Malta, the other, affluent, living in Istanbul. This novel culminates with the lesser-known but decisive 1551 Siege of Gozo, an event that saw the tiny island emptied of its entire population. Falcon’s Shadow picks up in the immediate aftermath of the first novel



and sweeps from quarry pits to sprawling estates, tumultuous seas to creaking gallows, the dungeons beneath the bishop’s palace to the open decks of warships. Chance connections are made, secrets revealed, and betrayals exposed against a historical backdrop. Fates will collide at the Battle of Djerba, a momentous clash which unites lost kin, only to tear them apart once more. WHY SIXTEENTH-CENTURY EUROPE AND WHY MALTA?

MF: My parents are Maltese, and frequent visits to the island from the time I was very young piqued my interest in its opulent history. Life under the rule of the Knights of St John fascinated me most. Malta also lends itself very well to beautiful descriptions—gifted with four compass points of natural beauty, the smell of the sea constant no matter how far inland one might venture, ancient temples that predate the pyramids of Egypt. It’s easy to find oneself swept up in its architecture and narrow lanes. In July 2000, I travelled to Malta for a pre-college vacation. I intended to spend my days at the beach, my nights barhopping, and every second sharing laughs with good friends. I checked off every 107


box, every day. But this trip became so much more when my friend suggested we go to the capital city Valletta to check out the Malta Experience, an audio-visual masterpiece that showcases the island’s incredible seven-thousand-year history. The moment the Great Siege of 1565 played out on the screen, everything changed. Suddenly, the battle I’d heard so much about came to life for me as never before. The siege tested the resilience and fortitude of this little island and its people in ways I could hardly comprehend. It’s an underdog story for the ages. Just like that, the idea to write a novel based on this epic battle took root. An eighteenth-century French writer said, “Nothing is better known than the Siege of Malta.” Yet, so few people I’d encountered outside of Malta had even heard of it. Perhaps, in my small way, I could help remedy that.





Twenty years, many miles, and a few thousand cups of tea later, I’m launching the second book and completing work on the third of my Siege of Malta trilogy. The story was just too big to fit into a single volume. WHAT DRAWS YOU TO HISTORICAL EVENTS AS THE BACKDROP FOR YOUR WRITING?

MF: Telling stories is something I loved to do as far back as I can remember. Creating images with words seemed to be a kind of magic. Most of the stories I wrote as a kid were entirely cast with talking animals. Even now, in my Siege of Malta series, I tend to treat animals more delicately than humans. While I no longer write about talking animals, my Siberian husky has a little cameo in Falcon’s Shadow (no dialogue, of course.) When I was a teenager, I went to see the movie Speed ten or eleven times. A crush on Keanu Reeves inspired me to write a cheesy thriller—my first attempt at a composition involving people. Mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could start and finish an entire novel. It took me


two years writing part-time while I was in high school, but I managed to complete it. Not long after that, the film Braveheart drew me to the historical genre, a love further reinforced by Gladiator, which coincidentally, is filmed in Malta and features several of my friends as extras. In high school, history was my favourite subject—incidentally, one of my brothers is a history professor at the University of Northern Iowa. I loved to learn about daily life in the Middle Ages, communication and the importance of scribes and town-criers, the development and enforcement of laws, the cause and outcome of battles, the roles of different institutions, the use (and misuse) of medicine, the creation (and banning) of art and literature, and most of all, the perspectives of the people, their motivations, their resilience. Despite the passage of time, people want and need many of the same things today as they did in the past. Beyond necessities for survival, people crave human connection, acceptance, recreation, fellowship, justice, knowledge, a sharing of ideas, progress.



This realization gave me the confidence to tackle historical fiction—I didn’t have to create characters I could never relate to simply because they lived five hundred years ago. And while living in sixteenthcentury undoubtedly presented its own set of challenges and struggles, the human condition remains the same. The story needs to revolve around the characters and their experiences—the setting becomes virtually incidental. FROM THE ANCIENT STREETS YOUR CHARACTERS ROAM, THE FORTRESSES THEY DEFEND, THE SEAS THEY SAIL, AND THE DUNGEONS THEY ESCAPE, TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS AND RESEARCH THAT GOES INTO YOUR WRITING.

MF: The research process is one of the most rewarding aspects of the genre. I love to dig into the past, see what I might unearth. When I set out to write Eight Pointed Cross, I built a home library comprised of history and military texts, including the siege diary of Francisco Balbi di Correggio, a Knight of St John, who helped defend Malta during the Siege of 1565. Ernie Bradford’s the Great Siege 109


of Malta also proved to be an incredible resource, providing intricate details of the siege and the factors that led to it. I consulted with historians in Malta, Turkey, Canada, and the US, who answered endless streams of questions and pointed me towards useful resources. Although research, creativity, and imagination are the keystones of worldbuilding, plot construction, and character development, hands-on, immersive experiences add authenticity. It’s not enough for me to read about a place or look at pictures. I need to immerse in it, its smells, sounds, and tastes; its languages, people, and pace. These sensory details then make their way into my scenes. The musty smell of a cellar, for example, might invoke a description of a dungeon. The way a slant of light touches the forest floor might inspire a scene in the woodlands just outside Istanbul. Battles feature prominently in my novels. As such, I thought it important to feel a fraction of what my characters may have felt while defending Malta during a midsummer siege.





One August day, I took the bus to the seaside village of Birgu, one of my main settings, and spent an afternoon on the wall of Castile—essentially, a stone oven. For three hours, I stood on that battlement and wrote detailed notes describing everything I felt, like the way the sweat would bead and run down my face or arm, pool in the dimple of my knee. I ignored every impulse to find shade or drink water. Though effective, it was hugely reckless and idiotic, and I was rewarded with heatstroke and a day spent in bed, shivering, sweating, cramping, and convinced I contracted the plague. But it was still nothing compared to what those who fought in the Siege likely experienced. From May until September, they boiled tar over open flame and handled incendiary weapons beneath a relentless sun. How the defenders endured such heat while clad in fifty pounds of armour is beyond me. I also spent time in Istanbul, a living museum, every street-corner a testament to the city’s vivid past. Lively exchanges with locals inspired a cast of Turkish characters, including a very kind and helpful shopkeeper, an equally unpleasant staffer at my hostel, and five or six kittens that worked together to steal a cooked


chicken. In my first novel, I introduce Katrina, a strong female protagonist who wants to learn archery. For Kat, finding someone willing to teach a girl the bow in sixteenth-century Malta would prove a challenge. For me, the challenge began once she found that person. I’d need to describe her struggling through lessons and finally mastering the skills. Skills I did not possess. As I developed her character, I knew I had to learn archery. And so, I signed up for a two-day workshop, which I thought was a beginner archery lesson. It ended up being an intensive, archery certification course. The other students knew not only each other but all the technical terms. They frequented archery ranges and competed around the country. I hadn’t so much as picked up a bow since gym class ten years earlier. Despite my mistake, I stayed—might as well learn a few things in case of a zombie apocalypse. Learning to teach archery proved to be an unexpected gift. Katrina’s instructor would have to demonstrate the proper technique. As you’ll discover in Falcon’s Shadow, Kat becomes the teacher. Although it was important for me to



learn how to do the thing, it was as important for me to learn to teach it so I could write believably from an archery instructor’s point of view. I could now write with the confidence that comes from experience. Amazingly, I passed the final exam and am technically a certified archery instructor. In the years since my certification, I’ve taken archery lessons— but certainly never taught any. Many styles of weapons were used throughout the siege. I took up axethrowing and went to a gun range, where I shot a variety of guns and felt the incredible kickback—something I needed to experience because muskets and arquebuses were the matchlocks of choice at the time in which my novels are set. Though my books are fiction, they feature actual historical figures—but even when writing a character based on a real person, I need to fill in his or her thoughts and body language. And, in many cases, dialogue and actions. I conduct thorough research on every historical individual so that I can develop a clear picture in my mind of his or her physicality, body language, facial expressions, demeanour, and personality. History helps out by supplying some of 111


the person’s actual dialogue. Of the lines I make up, I try to stay true to what he or she would likely have said. For instance, I wouldn’t have Grand Master Valette, a man of iron discipline and unshakeable faith, suggest a night of carousing and gambling at the local tavern. I might find inspiration in great feats, like Chevalier Romegas and his wild, reckless courage against an Ottoman fleet, or Dr Giuseppe Callus, a Maltese patriot who attempted to negotiate more say for the people in their governance, or I might find inspiration in quiet, sweet moments, like when Sultan Suleiman wrote poems to his beloved Roxelane. IMMERSING READERS IN A DIFFERENT TIME PERIOD CAN BE TOUGH. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR READERS WHO MIGHT BE TOO INTIMIDATED TO READ HISTORICAL FICTION?

MF: The human condition is timeless. Themes are not specific to the genre. While historical facts should hold, the details should not overshadow the story. The challenge for the writer is getting it as accurate as possible while still keeping the story compelling—a veritable balancing act.





Historical fiction allows the reader to not only understand what took place but to be touched by it, to gain empathy, to connect with those who lived it. This genre brings history to life in a way textbooks can’t always manage. It makes the past personal, provides the human side of history, allowing readers to acquaint themselves with historical figures by illuminating their personalities, perspectives, motivations, and emotions. The reader comes to see the characters, know them, care about them, as happens with all genres. Historical fiction is not the mere recounting of facts and details; it is the telling of a story through character. The time in which that story is set becomes secondary. REFLECTING ON OUR HISTORY CAN TEACH US IMPORTANT LESSONS. WHAT LESSONS SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY WITH FROM FALCON'S SHADOW?

MF: History is not consigned to the past. It surrounds us. It interacts with the present and future constantly. Even though my books are set five hundred years ago, I write in the present tense to make history immediate.


Current. Relatable. Immersive. My job is to pull history from the past and show how it has shaped us and continues to shape us, that it is relevant and informs much of our decisionmaking, whether or not we realize it. Past is prologue. We are witness right now. And may we all be on the right side of history. I strive to portray both sides of the battlefield fairly, with heroes and villains operating within each sphere. I hope readers will root for Maltese and Turkish characters alike, cheer for their successes, lament their losses, and wish for them to prevail—despite that they can’t all prevail. Rather than focus on the big players exclusively, I tell the story from the perspective of regular people—ones not bound by oaths or position or politics but average people flung into situations beyond their control, determined by geography and religion, and choices made by the governing powers. Likewise, instead of concentrating on one specific culture or history, I tried to intersperse a variety of histories from



several locations to help readers better understand the different, sometimes clashing cultures and perspectives of the day. My books offer glimpses into not only Malta and Turkey’s past but also North Africa’s and Continental Europe’s. I aim to give a balanced view of institutions while staying true to the reality of the era. The Church, for example, is usually vilified in novels and films, often rightly so. However, I juxtapose the evil of the Inquisition with a compassionate, progressive-minded character, Fr Anton Tabone. I hope Falcon’s Shadow imparts to readers that the vast majority of people truly believe they are on the side of righteousness, that heroes and villains are a matter of geography and often misguided perspective, and that it is critical to question the narrative one is fed. We have much to learn from cultures separate from our own. Christians and Muslims were raised to distrust one other. Both groups justified killing the “infidel” and worked to dehumanize their “enemy” through stories and depictions, easy enough to accomplish among a mostly illiterate population. Access to information 113


was extremely limited and controlled, especially in sixteenth-century Malta. Town-criers shared only what was deemed necessary. Peasants accepted whatever they were told as they did not have an opposing point of reference. And encountering someone of a different culture was unlikely unless that person had come to invade their homeland—not exactly conducive to debunking cultural myths. My protagonist Domenicus realizes this when he is press-ganged into a Christianled invasion of Zoara. As a Maltese peasant who experienced constant raids of his home by corsairs, he views North Africans as the villains, the monsters in his nightmares. But his perception changes when he is forced to join an attack on a sleeping village. He becomes the monster in someone else’s nightmare. For him, the experience is a life-altering revelation. Throughout my novels, “enemies” show one another kindnesses. They start to see each other as human beings, forge friendships. The true enemy is ideology. The moment divisive, false notions are stripped from the equation, what remains are people who have far more in common than they have differences.






MF: Set for publication in 2021, the third book will feature the culmination of all battles—symbolic and literal—with the Great Siege of 1565. It begins on the eve of one of the bloodiest battles in history. The elite Ottoman army departs Istanbul, the seat of Sunni Islam, with a force 50,000 strong, a great host heading for Malta intent on crushing the Knights of St John once and for all. In the final book of the trilogy, characters will face hopeless odds and endure terrible losses amid hurtling cannonballs and exploding mines, poisoned wells and crumbling ramparts. But there will be the forging of unlikely allies also, the creation of unexpected bonds. And most of all, there will be the triumph of the human spirit. Fate will meet fire. Watch the world ignite. ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE READER TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR RECENT WORK OR HISTORIC FICTION IN GENERAL?




MF: Historical fiction is important, perhaps now more than ever. We often say those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. But we need to do more than just know history. We need to feel it. To empathise and understand. To see it as more than just a bunch of stuff that happened a long time ago. History abounds with the terrible consequences of atrocities none of us wants to see duplicated. Gaining empathy is the first step in preventing harm. This genre can guide our decisions and alter our behaviours for the better. Regarding my recent work, I’m very happy to share that Falcon’s Shadow reached number one on Amazon’s Bestseller list within mere hours of the novel’s release for preorder. The digital version will be officially available as of July 7, with the paperback following on July 21, and the audiobook slated for release in late August.  ABOUT THE BOOKS

FALCON’S SHADOW BY MARTHESE FENECH The ghosts of war leave no footprints. When legendary Ottoman seaman Dragut Raїs attacked the Maltese islands in 1551, his army left Gozo a smoking ruin emptied of its entire population. Among the five thousand carried into slavery is Augustine Montesa, father of Domenicus and Katrina. Wounded and broken, Domenicus vows to find his father, even if it means abandoning Angelica, his betrothed. Armed with only a topaz to serve as ransom, he sets out on a journey that sees him forcibly recruited from the streets of Europe and thrown into the frontline. On Malta, Katrina struggles to find work after the Grand Master has her publicly flogged for speaking out against him. When at last, she stumbles upon a promising position, all is not as it seems. Her job forces her to confront a terrible truth—one that may prove disastrous for Robert, the man she loves. 115


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Inspired by the real Women’s Battalion of Death, which fought for Russia in the early 1900s, this emotional and compelling story gives voice to women often overlooked in history while providing resonant similarities to today. Katya Pavlova and her older brother, Maxim, were raised by her military father in Petrograd, Russia, after her mother abandoned their family. At 17, she’s abandoned her studies as a chemist and works in a munitions factory filling grenades for the war against Germany, saving her wages to pay off her brother’s gambling debts, his vice since being wounded in action. Even as she questions the Tsar’s choices and finds merit in the idealist beliefs of the socialist Bolsheviks, Katya feels compelled to help the war effort, especially after her brother defects after being called back to the front. When she learns of a newly formed women’s death battalion accepting volunteers, she joins along with her best friend, even though the battalion is meant primarily to boost the morale of rapidly deserting Imperial soldiers. Soon, Katya finds herself leading a platoon through intense and demanding training and, eventually, at the front lines.


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Katya is a compelling heroine: loyal, persistent, and empathetic, leading her platoon with both compassion and strength. Through Katya’s eyes and conversations with her comrades, readers will recognize societal battles against sexism, classism, and familial expectation, all of which eerily parallel contemporary society. Well-researched with memorable characters and emotional heft, this historical drama will stay with the reader, hopefully enlightening readers to women’s undeniable role in history, including war, and providing further context through which to view the ongoing fight for women’s rights and equality. 117







In 1917, Russia is losing the war with Germany, soldiers are deserting in droves, and food shortages on the home front are pushing people to the brink of revolution. Seventeen-year-old Katya is politically conflicted, but she wants Russia to win the war. Working at a munitions factory seems like the most she can do to serve her country— until the government begins recruiting an all-female army battalion. Inspired, Katya enlists. Training with other brave women, she finds camaraderie and a deep sense of purpose. But when the women's battalion heads to the front, Katya has to confront the horrifying realities of war. Faced with heartbreak and disillusionment, she must reevaluate her commitment and decide where she stands. 118



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“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

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A fatal race across the Andes to hold a corrupt government to account

A father and daughter’s trekking expedition turns into deathly pursuit across the Peruvian Andes as they try to deliver information that will bring down a corrupt government. If you like travel to remote, exotic locations, you will like this novel. Told with such authenticity it makes you feel you’re there, the story winds and twists its way through remote mountain passes and unending crises.





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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.

The Distance Between Stars

New Jump Swing Healthy Aging & Athletic Nutrition Program


In an African country quickly sliding towards civil war, an American diplomat adrift in his personal life searches for an investigative reporter who has gone missing in the bush. "...a thoroughly authentic novel of Africa whose themes of race, privilege and what it means to be American ring true to anyone who has spent time on the continent.” — Keith Richburg, former Africa bureau chief, Washington Post Available at Amazon and 122




If you’ve ever heard of a diet that promised to give you more energy, New Jump Swing is the program that delivers 100% on that promise. New Jump Swing is a healthy aging program that combines the best in diet, fitness and motivational psychology. This book is the revised and updated version of two of Thomas’ world record speeches. Those speeches were titled “The history of herbs in maintaining physical fitness “and “Vegetarian Athletic Nutrition”. It also includes his record setting jump rope cross training fitness program as well as a detailed presentation on minority health disparities and it's affects on health and longevity. www. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



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.






Tokyo Traffic

Book Trip

Running from a life she didn’t choose in a city she doesn’t know, Sukanya, a young Thai girl, escapes into Tokyo from human traffickers who will do anything to get her and their computer back. With help from a girl living in a net café, Sukanya tries to get free from her pursuers and her past. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu tracks the killers through Tokyo’s teen hangouts and deserted docks, straight into the underbelly of the global economy.

An abusive team of characters get their just desserts. A questionable leader keeps trying to warp the world. A diverse group of friends is threatened by cultural crackdown. And a global virus leads to the chaotic displacement of Earth's population. Book Trip, the second novel of freelance author C.J. Duarte, is a towering mosaic of plots, characters, symbols and themes that resonate across borders. Love, occultism, nature, experimentation, language, absurdity, faith, commercialism...and much more. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available for free PDF download at


Feast of Fates



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

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

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



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.

Britfield & the Lost Crown

I Don’t Belong Here

Tom has spent the majority of his life locked behind the cruel walls of Weatherly Orphanage, but when he learns that his parents might actually be alive, Tom is determined to find them. Together, with his best friend Sarah and armed with only the word “Britfield” as a clue to Tom’s mysterious past, the two make a daring escape. Now, they are on the run from a famous Scotland Yard detective and what appears to be half of the police officers in England!

What does it mean to belong? In a place? With a person? To a family? Where do our senses of security and survival lie? I Don't Belong Here ruthlessly investigates alienation during moments of transit and dislocation and their impact on women’s identity. These twenty essays—ranging from conventional to lyrical to experimental in form and structure—delve into the root causes of personal uncertainty and the aftershock effects of being a woman in an unsafe world.

Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon






"History is for human selfknowledge ... the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.”


- R. G. Collingwood

From Number the Stars to To Kill a Mockingbird, so many authors have used historical fiction to help us gain “human self-knowledge.” So much is learned from the stories, characters, and settings authors use to help bring the past to life. Every book, no matter what level, holds an opportunity for the reader, no matter what age, to learn a piece of the past to help us navigate through the present. We reached out to historical fiction authors to discuss the importance of historical fiction and how they utilize it in their story telling.



ELEANOR KUHNS AUTHOR OF THE WILL REES SERIES ELEANOR KUHNS is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York.

"I utilize the historical setting of my mysteries to describe little known pieces of American History. Instead of adopting an aristocratic detective, mine is a weaver and a farmer. The term middle class had not been adopted yet, but that is what Will Rees and his family are. I try to use the historical setting as background and show how it affects the lives of the common man. I am particularly interested in ferreting out little known pieces of history and using them. For example, in the next book, Death in the Great Dismal, I place Rees and his wife in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia where thousands of slaves escaped to. I also set many of my books against the Shakers. At that time, they were a fringe group with 'radical' ideas such as the equality of the sexes. Until I transitioned to full time writing, I was a librarian and so was trained to value accuracy. I check all the facts. With that said, I use the newspapers from that time heavily.

New York has a free database to use. The papers expressed the views of that time, so I try to have at least one character express what was a common view and another discuss what truths hindsight has given us. All the quotes are taken directly from the speaker's writings: letters and so on. As a weaver, Rees is not in the halls of power but he is certainly affected by decisions. In the book I am writing now, the election of 1800 is a big issue and much discussed." DEATH IN THE GREAT DISMAL BY ELEANOR KUHNS Finding themselves in a slave community hidden within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will Rees and his wife Lydia get caught up in a dangerous murder case where no one trusts them. September 1800, Maine. Will Rees is beseeched by Tobias, an old friend abducted by slave catchers years before, to travel south to Virginia to help transport his pregnant wife, Ruth, back north. Though he's reluctant, Will's wife Lydia convinces him to go . . . on the condition she accompanies them. Upon arriving in a small community of absconded slaves hiding within the Great Dismal Swamp, Will and Lydia are met with distrust. Tensions are high and a fight breaks out between Tobias and Scipio, a philanderer with a bounty on his head known for conning men out of money. The following day Scipio is found dead - shot in the back. Stuck within the hostile Great Dismal and with slave catchers on the prowl, Will and Lydia find themselves caught up in their most dangerous case yet. 127


LORNA COOK AUTHOR OF THE FORBIDDEN PROMISE Lorna Cook is the author of the Kindle Number 1 Bestseller 'The Forgotten Village', which was her debut novel, staying in the UK Kindle Top 100 for four months. It has sold over 150,000 copies, has eleven overseas/foreign language editions, won the Romantic Novelists' Association Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel of the Year Award and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers.

Historical fiction is an easy route into the past. It brings history alive, keeps its memory burning, and highlights events that may have been forgotten, lost to the past, but brought back to memory through the power of good fiction. Of course, you have to remember the genre is called historical fiction and not historical fact. There will invariably be a few ingredients added to the pot that weren’t there at the start: dialogue that never happened, characters created that never existed but the time and the place, the events and themes were often very much present — the starting off point to writers’ imaginations, the diving board from which a reader can leap easily into the past and learn something new. My current book is called The Forbidden Promise, which focuses on events in the depths of the Scottish Highlands during WW2 when a Spitfire 128




crashes into a loch and the pilot begs to be hidden. It’s an escapist fiction with a real time and a place as its jumping off point. It encompasses everything I want when I read historical fiction: mystery, history and a touch of romance, but best of all, it allows the reader to escape to the past without any of us having to invent a time machine. I do a lot of what I call ‘google’ research before I start writing. I check that what I’m about to embark on is feasible with a good search on the internet for anything readily available. The absolute last thing I want is readers to read my work and think, ‘pah – that would never happen.’ When I’ve got a fistful of facts that I know fit what I want to write about, I can either let those facts guide me in a different direction if suitable or guide me closer to where I was already heading. Then, I buy every single book I can find on the topic. My Amazon bill is out of control. I read, read, read. I watch every documentary I can find. And then, I make so many notes and let my characters and the history guide me while writing. For example, my next book is The Girl From the Island, set in Guernsey during WW2. Guernsey and The Channel Islands were the only British piece of soil occupied by the Nazis. It’s an incredibly evocative piece of history and it’s also incredibly important




to be factually correct (in my opinion) to do service to the history, to do service to those that lived through it. WW2 is still within living memory so who am I to mess around with the truth of it?

the critically acclaimed Jane Prescott mystery series. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in history. She enjoys reading and writing about dead people and how they got that way.

THE FORBIDDEN PROMISE Scotland, 1940: War rages across Europe, but Invermoray House is at peace. Until the night of Constance’s twenty-first birthday, when she’s the only person to see a Spitfire crash into the loch. Constance has been longing for adventure – but when she promises to keep the pilot hidden, what will it cost her?

Historical fiction has been my favorite genre ever since I realized that murder and adultery could be politically significant acts and therefore reading about them was educational. You could immerse yourself in a tale of well-dressed people behaving badly and still feel like the smartest person in the room, something that was very important to me as a teenager.

2020: Kate arrives in the Highlands to turn Invermoray into a luxury bed-and-breakfast, only to find that the estate is more troubled than she’d imagined. But when Kate discovers the house has a murky history, with Constance McLay’s name struck from its records, she knows she can’t leave until the mystery is solved… How will one promise change the fate of two women, decades apart?


Everyone should study history, especially if they tend to vote. But not everyone is going to start with The Power Broker by Rober Caro. You have to get acclimated, find your footing in the vast stream of “what’s happened since the dawn of time.” That’s where historical storytelling comes in. It’s a great first step. Start with The Alienist by Caleb Carr, then move on to Mike Wallace’s Gotham and Greater Gotham. You’ll very quickly realize that history has all the best stories. What novelist could invent Henry VIII? Or Rasputin. You wouldn’t dare make up the story of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dying on the same day, and that day was July 4th.

Mariah Fredericks is the author of 129


I write a mystery series set in late Gilded Age New York. I wanted to write about murder and class in America. The Gilded Age happens to be a time when Americans were killing one another for all kinds of reasons: political assassination, sexual exploitation, abuse of labor, rage against the obscenely wealthy, native hostility to newcomers. Not only does the period give me many resonant motives for murder, it lets me think about a central question in our history: which lives are seen as valuable and worth protecting? Which lives are seen as expendable, or even dangerous? Which deaths make us weep? Which deaths do we celebrate? Or shrug at? For that reason, I try to be as accurate as possible, both in physical and mental details. The way people viewed one another— through the lens of fear and prejudice—is a strong part of my books. It can be tricky presenting those attitudes in a way that feels



authentic without either appearing to excuse them—“Oh, it’s just how people thought in those days!”—or exploiting people’s pain for commercial use. But I feel if you’re not real about the ugliness, you’re not showing the country as it was and often still is. ROSEANNA M.WHITE AUTHOR OF THE CODEBREAKERS SERIES

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset

DEATH OF AN AMERICAN BEAUTY The third in the compelling series, set in Gilded Age New York, featuring Jane Prescott. Jane Prescott is taking a break from her duties as lady’s maid for a week, and plans to begin it with attending the hottest and most scandalous show in town: the opening of an art exhibition, showcasing the cubists, that is shocking New York City. 1913 is also the fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation speech, and the city's great and good are determined to celebrate in style. Dolly Rutherford, heiress to the glamorous Rutherford’s department store empire, has gathered her coterie of society ladies to put on a play—with Jane’s employer Louise Tyler in the starring role as Lincoln himself. Jane is torn between helping the ladies with their costumes and enjoying her holiday. But fate decides she will do neither, when a woman is found murdered outside Jane’s childhood home—a refuge for women run by her uncle. 130



her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. Historical Fiction plays such a key and fascinating role in society today! There are the obvious reasons--it teaches about and brings to life eras of history that could otherwise be overlooked and forgotten, and it reminds us that our ancestors were people like us. But there are so many subtler ways it speaks to us too. For starters, humanity is very cyclical-our generations and their ways of viewing the world tend to be on a four-generation revolution, so we see "echoes," so to speak, of ourselves in those who lived in eras past. Though technology may change and some ideas have evolved, the human heart is what the human has always been, and when we take that view of how people a hundred or two hundred or two thousand years ago reacted to situations, we can then evaluate how WE would react in that situation. It's always easier to see the right path or make judgment calls when we're a step removed though, right? So while questions of equality and justice and priorities that are set in a contemporary world may hit too close to home and make our defenses fly up, those same questions framed in a historical context can draw us in and help us to look deeper into our hearts BECAUSE it's not so much like looking in a mirror. As Emily Dickenson



points out in her poem "Tell all the truth but tell it slant," sometimes we can't handle truth told straight-up. But historical fiction helps us "tell it slant"--from a perspective just enough different from our own to make it approachable. One of the reasons I've so enjoyed writing two series set during the First World War (Shadows Over England and The Codebreakers) is that there are so many "echoes" between that era and our own, right down to the pandemic--my final Codebreakers book, A Portrait of Loyalty, takes place when the Spanish Flu first hit London. It's modern enough to seem "like us" but also just distant enough to call to us. And hopefully compelling enough to show us new sides of age-old questions. ON THE WINGS OF DEVOTION All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster—a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed "Black Heart" every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing.




Annette Oppenlander is an awardwinning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in wellresearched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past. History provides the perfect view of hindsight that allows us to evaluate the actions of people, and to understand how certain events developed. I’d like to think that history is important because we can learn something from it. I think people either love historical fiction or ‘the old stuff’ leaves them cold. Maybe those who enjoy it, love to imagine how life was in a particular era. In most cases, life was much tougher than it is today. Looking at it safely from a distance—present day—allows us to learn and analyze without the hardship of actually enduring it. In high school, I loathed the subject of history. The books were full of numbers, mentioning this famous person and that battle. My love for history developed much later and when I began to write. I swore to 132




myself I would create stories that brought these eras to life. I also wanted to tell stories of regular people, not famous generals and politicians. One of my favorite subjects is World War II, and I believe this complex era remains fascinating for many readers. Not only because it was the largest and deadliest war ever fought, but because many of us have family members who were somehow involved. My biographical novel, Surviving the Fatherland, which took 15 years to complete, tells the true stories of Lilly and Günter who were caught up in Hitler’s war as children. The story follows both kids through the teen years to adulthood—in its essence it is a complicated love story. To date, Surviving the Fatherland has received eight U.S. nominations/awards and recently a first German nomination for the German translation. For me, historical fiction is the place I’m most happy at. I get to do two favorite things: one, bury deeply into research which appeals to my analytical side. And secondly, I get to write. Initially, it is always challenging to learn the ins and outs of a historical time. There are so many details to get right, not just how people dressed, but their worldviews, their speech, hopes and dreams. In a way, my stories allow me to travel to these former times. I’ve already ‘visited’ the Middle Ages, the Wild West, the American Civil War, the


U.S. Prohibition era, and WWII. There is no telling where I’ll go next. Luckily, readers love to come along. WHERE THE NIGHT NEVER ENDS A chance encounter between a penniless young woman in search of her missing brother and a hobo burdened with a big secret takes both on a journey to Chicago’s glamorous yet crime-ridden 1920s where prostitution, bootlegging and corruption rule. Separated by fate and brought back together by chance, WHERE THE NIGHT NEVER ENDS is an unforgettable tale of courage and perseverance, a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.


Gill Hornby is the author of the novels The Hive and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children. My first two books were contemporary. It seemed an easier place to start: no research, after all; just write about the world around you. But for years, I had burning within me the idea - the need, almost - to write a novel about Cassandra Austen, her relationship with her sister Jane, and the story of why



Cassandra chose to burn all Jane's letters. I had done nearly all the research for a biography I had already written. All that was required was that crucial work of the imagination. The realisation of the feelings behind the bald facts of their lives. The putting myself in their shoes. The recreation of what was going on under those prim bonnets. I immersed myself, and I loved it. The nineteenth-century became my living world. I wept when I finished. The Austen ladies' company had brought such deep pleasure. I missed spending my days with them. Miss Austen was published this year, and I have now been commissioned to write another historical novel, and am deep research again. But this time, no imaginative leap is required. For this year, the nineteenthcentury has come to us all. The Austens, of course, lived in a socially-distanced world. They bowed, they curtsied, they kissed a gloved hand. They lived in their own neighbourhoods, among a small, trusted circle. When they gathered at the Assembly, with strangers, they danced around one another, or in lines, touching only a fingertip. Generations lived together, as we have done during lockdown. Young adult children could not pull away constantly into their independent lives but were forced to fall back on their families - as mine have done since March. In nineteenth-century novels, they 133


seem to talk about food all the time. And now we know why. Meals - the sourcing of them, the cooking of them, the saucing of them, the eating - have been the focus of our new home-based days. Above all, they lived with the ever-present fear of contagion. The symptoms of the common cold could be the sign for imminent death. A fever meant danger. Outbreaks of smallpox and cholera were a constant and terrible threat. Lately, though, I have tried to read new and current fiction. I find it too remote to relate to. What is all this? Bodies crushing against themselves in cities, throbbing together in clubs. Virtual strangers going to bed together. The work of a crazy person! The first decades of the 21st century now seem like a spasm of aberration in human civilization. And I retreat, at once, into the past, to Austen or the Brontes or the wonderful current crop of historical writings: a world we can all understand.




Kathy Kacer's parents were both survivors of the Holocaust. Her mother survived the war in hiding; her father was a survivor of the concentration camps. Their stories of survival were an inspiration to Kathy as she was growing up. As an adult, she was determined to write their stories and pass them on to young readers. She went on to write more than twenty books, all focused on the Holocaust. I’ve written more than 25 books for young readers which focus on the Second World War and the Holocaust. Many of the books are creative non-fiction - telling the personal story of a Holocaust survivor. Many are historical fiction - weaving historical events around a fictional character and story. I think there is an important role for historical fiction, even when it comes to writing about difficult topics like the Holocaust. In fact, historical fiction often

MISS AUSTEN England, 1840. For the two decades following the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen has lived alone, spending her days visiting friends and relations and quietly, purposefully working to preserve her sister’s reputation. Now in her sixties and increasingly frail, Cassandra goes to stay with the Fowles of Kintbury, family of her long-dead fiancé, in search of a trove of Jane’s letters. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister’s legacy to the flames? 134



makes these sensitive topics more accessible, especially for the young adult audience that I write for. However, in creating a fictional story, it is critically important that the historical context is true and accurate. Even when the story departs on fictional lines, the events of history have to be truthful. We cannot start revising or inventing history, especially for a topic as important as the Holocaust. That’s a responsibility that I take very seriously in my writing. I have a couple of books that have just come out. Louder than Words (published by Annick Press) is the third book in a fourpart series called The Heroes Quartet. Each book in the series focuses on a real person who saved Jews during the Holocaust. This book is about a woman named Nina Pukas who saved a Jewish family by protecting three children when their mother had been arrested and deported. Fictionalizing Nina’s story gave me the opportunity to enhance her life, adding details and events that only added to the drama of her heroism. The other book coming out in the spring is The Brushmaker’s Daughter (published by Second Story Press). This is the story of Otto Weidt, a German businessman who saved dozens of blind and deaf Jews in Germany by employing them in his brush factory and saving them from deportation. For this book, I created a fictional girl - the daughter of one



of the men who is employed by Otto. She becomes the eyes and ears of all the workers in the factory, and is the voice of this story. Once again, I was able to create a richer and more accessible story by inventing this young girl. Do Children find my historical fiction books intimidating? In the case of my books, I find that kids have quite the opposite reaction. Since they know that the books are about a time of war, I think they assume that the stories will be exciting and nail-biting at times. My publishers tend not to advertise that a book is historical fiction. They may put on the cover that it is based on a true story, or inspired by a true story. That too is intriguing for many kids. So much of it is in the packaging of a story - finding a way for kids to be attracted to the book and then getting them to dive in. LOUDER THAN WORDS Life is becoming ever more terrifying for the Jewish community as the Second World War envelops their lives. For twelve-year-old Dina and her sisters, it gets even harder when their father dies. Their mother must go back to work and despite many objections, the family adjusts to the arrival of their new housekeeper, Nina, who is not Jewish. But Nina’s role changes dramatically when the Nazis invade their small Ukrainian town. 




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.



Someday when we reflect on 2020, I think we might well laugh in disbelief about the events of this year. Could our nation - our world - be under more bizarre circumstances? And what exactly happened to those murder hornets? Regardless, I don’t want to look back and see that I’ve lost a unique opportunity to read. It’s hard to believe there’s been a state of near-stillness in many places in the country. People are following shelter-inplace rules, hunkering down, and all manner of businesses are locked up tight. Has a more conducive time to read ever presented itself? Yet I’m hearing about readers who can’t read. Their minds are too busy. Their homes are overrun with their workfrom-home partner and children who haven’t been to school since March. Those dusty TBR piles shame them as the words swim on the pages and the context is as indecipherable as the multitude of state mandates being drafted. Who can possibly read when our lives are in upheaval? Since March I’ve read eight books while four others sit gathering dust. Not exactly a read-a-thon but not a bad number either, considering the day job, the grandkids, and worldwide chaos that’s taken up its share of my brain capacity. Who knew working from home could be so intense? I’d be lying if I said the recent staycations haven’t helped me binge read. That’s right, staycations plural. I’m on the tail end of my second one as I type this and I’ve learned so much about how to balance the chaos with reading. First, if you aren’t able to concentrate on your reading,

it’s okay. Take the break. Shop for books if you have the cash flow to build a towering TBR pile. There are indie bookshops and indie authors that could really benefit from your patronage. Indulge a little (or a lot, depending on the bank balance) and know that you’re helping writers by doing so. Second, if you’re determined to read a book during this unusual time, don’t over exert yourself by selecting a title that is above and beyond what you can handle these days. If you’ve set a lofty goal of reading through the classics but can’t wrap your brain around Bronte or Austen right now, grant yourself permission to cozy up to something a little less daunting. Cozy up to an old favorite or choose a selection of short stories something you can corral your attention span for before you need to get up and head to yet another video teleconference meeting. If you’re feeling particularly isolated or anxious, don’t pull a horror novel or a book about someone stranded on a desert island off the shelf to read. In fact, that bears repeating. If you’re feeling especially lonely and isolated, steer clear of the books about lonely, isolated characters. Right now we need some rom-com, some cozy mysteries, and an encouraging memoir or two. Third, if you’re only able to secure a snippet of time for reading, lower your expectations of this year’s read-a-thon. Do you normally speed read eleven books in three months?

That’s great when the world isn’t on pause. For now, go easy on yourself. Maybe you can only read eight books or five or (dare I say it?) one book. That’s okay. It’s more than okay, it’s fantastic, because it means for a little while, you’ve been able to turn off the news, walk away from the anxiety, and escape to a safe(r) place than the year 2020. That’s part of a book’s purpose, to allow us an escape from the hum-drum and from the maelstrom. Finally, if you need a book (and who doesn’t?), re-read your favorites. Pull those books from the shelf, dust them off, and curl up with a good cup of tea. Books are amazing - like that favorite pair of sweats or fuzzy socks that provide the perfect layer of warmth on a chilly day. Here are a few of my favorite titles that have offered a comforting escape route when I’ve needed one: The Firm (John Grisham), I Know this Much is True (Wally Lamb), Wife 22 (Melanie Gideon), The Bonesetter’s Daughter (Amy Tan), Finding Claire (Pam Humphrey), and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn). Our year thus far has been anything but typical. Rest assured, we’ll get through it together, apart, and with a good book...that we’ll use for reading or for swatting those murder hornets. Read on the run. It’s worth it. 






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." 139


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.



Historical Fiction, heh? History mixed in with a fictional story… always very interesting. But what I find the most interesting of all is often in the “historical fiction” books you get the most accurate depiction of the time period the story is set. In non-fiction you get the “big names” you get the “big events” you get the “fact list”, but you don’t always get the painted picture of what life for the non-famous or general public was like. In historical non-fictions, often the author paints you a visual, reaches into your empathetic compartment and lets you really feel the time they’re taking you back to. I recently read a book called Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill. Now this one was, just wow, that’s what it was. It is set in 1941 during WWII – the embarrassing era of American injustice against the Japanese. This is a love story between an Italian-American and a JapaneseAmerican. In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Taichi (male frontrunner), and his family are sent to the “Japanese holding camps”, and they were not pretty. Him and the Italian-American female, Evalina, have to hide their love for each other and the racial injustice is just unsettling and makes you sick feeling what these people felt during such a time in AMERICA as AMERICANS. But man, does this book make you FEEL it. One of the advertising quotes is “What will we look like when we come out on the other side of this?” … A perfect example of how a Historical Fiction book can really put you in the time and allow you to FEEL the history. Give you a hard swallow of the TRUTHS that aren’t always included in your non-fiction history books. You get to feel the ‘camps’. You get to feel the discrimination. You get to feel the empathy of those that

don’t agree. You get it all, not just the “facts” you’re supposed to know from the time. Not just the hero stories, the inventor stories, the government stories. The story of something you could have experienced if you lived it. Now I am by no means a history buff… probably the opposite, one of my weaker topics. But of the history I DO know it surely seems to repeat itself, so I believe it will be important to teach my kids as much as I can about history and WHY they should not allow so much of it to just be continual repeated but learned from, moved forward from, made better by. Each generation raises the next, right? So, wouldn’t it be our job to raise humans that make the world better in the next generation. And if we kept doing that over and over, raising better humans, innovators, entrepreneurs, kind souls, un-corrupt and highly educated politicians, teachers, leaders, etc... couldn’t we change the future with our children for the better? There are some amazing historical fiction (including historical fiction YA) books that I truly believe if encouraged to read, could teach our children so much that may be glossed over in the history lessons they’ll receive in school. Now I’m saying non-fiction history isn’t educational and important. I’m just saying that fictional can have it’s purpose in the learning experience as well. These books can take your kids on a journey into a different time, a different life. It can open up feelings, empathy, bring to light social issues (the start, end or in

between times)… they can really paint a picture in their mind of what it might have felt like to live during these eras or events. Yes, fiction is fake, but it’s not all fake if you catch my drift.

SHORT LIST OF RECOMMENDED HISTORICAL FICTION FOR YOUNG READERS:  The Orphan of Ellis Island by Elvira Woodruff (9-11)  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (13+)  Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (13+)  I Survived… (Book Series) by Lauren Tarshis (9-11)  The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (12+)  Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai (8+)  Refugee by Alan Gratz (11+)

And on that note… my littlest future world changer is being very adamant that she needs me right now. Catch ya next issue! Keep reading to the super little ones, and encouraging the ones that can read to read as often as possible! Let’s raise humans that change the world for the better and use books to guide empathy and education.  141

Fact or Fiction: Why Not Both?. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

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.



Historical fiction is an absolutely massive genre. From the romantic, harrowing adventures of Claire from the Outlander series, to classic reinvention after reinvention of Elizabeth I and Mary I of England as well as monarchs of all the ages, there seems to be no end of stories to tell. The pool of ideas is as rich and long as human history itself. And in an age defined by diversity, books like Roots speak to the organic and topical nature of historical fiction. These are timeless stories, eternal and mythic, with an essential relatability. On some level, we know there is truth to this “fiction.” Now, I could talk about how to set about writing these stories—the authenticity, research, and vast amounts of granularity needed in one’s thinking and planning to successfully execute such a tale. But since this is a more physically minded segment, where we opine about fitness, health, and athletics in conjunction with literature, let’s talk about the main draw—and sometimes flaw—for me with this genre: realism. Sure, you can take the “wheels off the cart” approach, throw historical sources to the wind and write something like George Washington vs. The Demonic Army (and truth be told, it would probably be a smash hit—get to it, you’re welcome!), but writing about George Washington’s dalliances requires research, research, research before you even begin to structure your prose or worry about

incorporating the racial and emotional elements of your story. Outlander, for example, works so fantastically because we’re already convinced that Claire is a headstrong, war-time nurse before she’s transported into the past and those skills are called upon. Because Diana Gabaldon has done her work; she displays a thorough understanding of not just one, but two periods in human history (and even more come future novels). And she’s skillfully woven narratives about women and their perceived utility and inutility during these eras into her construction. Once she’s established the world, and Claire, through convincing characterization, meticulously crafted environments and loads of deftly delivered facts, we believe almost everything—from the wild to the mystical—that happens to Claire. Like any great creative endeavour, you need to start with a believable foundation, and the foundation for historical fiction is harder to erect than one of pure fantasy because it can crack under the weight of known facts. As a fantasist myself, I’ve always admired those who do parallel realisms. ‘What if ’ scenarios that stem from historical realities but are heavily, believably twisted

by an alternate branch in fate. Man in Highcastle comes to mind, which offers a chilling, often horrific glimpse into what our world might have been like if the Nazis and Japan had won their respective wars. Again this delivers us (semi)factual information through a fictional lens, and with that distance, we can better process the greater scope of morality, despotism and hope than if we’d simply read or listened to, say: Ordinary Men (also a worthy and disturbing account of human depravity). We have to learn history’s lessons, one way or another, or we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Relatedly, and not evinced in my previous examples, it’s also good and necessary to read, learn, or write of the positives of human history, too: the alliances made, inventions born and times when we united to do collective good. So, my deepest commendations to these authors and their fans who help a truly wondrous branch of literature to flourish. Historical fiction isn’t just important, it’s an essential and digestible means of delivering history and truth to the world. —C 


A Story About Resilience and Dignity. Written by Shannon Ishizaki, owner of Orange Hat Publishing

"An entertaining and inspiring read." -Richard Staff, RN, MSW, Norwegian American Musician

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

Kristine, Finding Home: Norway to America (Orange Hat Publishing 2019) is the story of Kristine Kristiansen Hjelmeland, a young woman born and raised in Førde, Norway, and her journey from sheltered maiden aunt, to mother, to leader within her new American community. Chossek’s captivating narrative explores the powerful themes of belonging, ambition, and hope within the context of a family love story. Based on letters and reports, photographs, and oral history, this story is written for Kristine's descendants and in honor of all those who have the courage to change their lives. "There are books you can nestle into and feel like part of the family. Kristine, Finding Home is one of those. From beginning to end, I was Kristine's little sister, listening to her, admiring her, sticking up for her at each turn of her fascinating life. From Norway to Illinois, Kristine's story captivates. It is a pleasure to read." -Judy Bridges, author of Shut Up & Write! Kristine, Finding Home: Norway to America spans the years from 1918 to 1940. The first third of the book is devoted to the events leading to Kristine’s emigration with her daughter Odny in 1925. The last and larger section of the book attempts to depict what life was like as an immigrant living in the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s. 



"Kristine, Finding Home is a story about resilience and dignity in the face of monumental life challenges. Immigration, the Great Depression, and assimilation compelled Kristine and Fredrik to cherish Norwegian culture while ultimately embracing American citizenship and all that it offered. An entertaining and inspiring read." - Richard Staff, RN, MSW, Norwegian American Musician

About The Author Aleta Chossek is a storyteller at heart. Participating in writing workshops with Redbird Studios and Red Oak Roundtables in SE Wisconsin, she writes personal essays and family stories. A wife, mother, grandmother, and sister, Aleta has connected in new ways with friends and family members through her writing. Travel, friends, growing grandchildren, local advocacy, her faith community, and a global partnership with Meru, Tanzania fill her days. She writes, lives, and loves in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can read more about her at 145



Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews




The Ultimate Black History Trivia

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Who was the first black licensed attorney in the United States? What was Ike Turner’s first name at birth? Who was the most valuable player of the 2015 NBA Finals? Give up? You’ll find the answers to those questions — and many more— in Curtis Claytor’s educational and entertaining compendium, The Ultimate Black History Trivia Book. The trivia guru/African-American historian has spent countless hours researching and compiling the 2,000 trivia questions that fill this engaging and entertaining book. His hefty offering presents multiple choice answers to each question. Readers can tackle it by category, as the book is separated into four sections: History, Sports, Music and the Arts. PUBLISHER: IUNIVERSE

The author’s research ranges beyond the usual school diet of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver, presenting challenging questions about

contemporary pop culture icons such as basketball star LeBron James, rapper/actor Snoop Dogg, actor Denzel Washington and, of course, Oprah. Although Claytor is a student of popular culture, he seems more comfortable in the realm of black history, offering 800 historical questions ranging from the Boston Massacre to the founder of the Black Panther Party. The Ultimate Black History Trivia Book can provide hours of fun, but it also has practical applications: Claytor’s research will settle generations of household disputes and misinformation, and educators can unitize its contents to punctuate overlooked or marginalized AfricanAmerican history figures and events. Questions can also be used as quiz material. The author often includes, below an entry, the page number of the periodical he used to research that particular question. He also offers a source list and an appendix listing the correct answer to every question at book’s end. Sports enthusiasts, music and movie lovers and others will find hours of entertainment in these pages— and even casual readers will give it more than a cursory glance. After all, reading trivia is a lot like eating popcorn. One bite, and you’re sure to crave more.  147

Fortuna and the Scapegrace.

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Throughout this captivating, darkly comic, often absurdist novel, the narrator and central character takes on multiple identities with the ease of a chameleon changing its colors. When first met, our protagonist is down and out in San Francisco in the mid-19th century, desperate “to be rid of Erstwhile Me,” a wish granted sooner than expected as he is drugged and shanghaied onto a clipper ship short of crew.


Once aboard, to set himself apart from all the “Smiths” and “Jonses” who had joined the ship’s company under similar circumstances, he signs on as Hoper Newfangle, befriends a pastor profoundly ignorant of the Bible, cares for a seemingly suicidal nanny goat who spends much of her time fending off randy sailors, and has occasional flashbacks to his childhood in France and his dreams of becoming a romantic poet. Clearly, the author skillfully draws implements from the toolbox of magical realism to assemble

the structure of his novel. The magic continues when the ship founders in a windstorm and the narrator is flung onto an atoll in the South Pacific that happens to be home to the pastor’s long lost flock and even longer lost love. Swiftly, the shipwrecked sailor slides into the persona of his absent friend, claims the man’s love as his own, and prepares to be anointed as leader of the Shining Redemption. Eventually, this all leads to a complicated denouement involving the goat, a fortunate tsunami, and other oddities. The author handles this tasty stew of a plot with verve and humor, remaining in tight control of every deviation. This allows readers to easily follow the many plot turns and revel in the lively characterizations. While every character fits into the story’s fantastical construct, the narrator/protagonist stands out, in particular, as a most memorable rogue. Those who prefer a straightforward plot may be deterred by the many twists and turns here, but all others will delight in this well-wrought and highly satisfying tale.  148


A Monster in the Making.

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Chris Csordas’ gripping novella recounts how a disadvantaged boy becomes a killer. Growing up in small-town Canada, 11-year-old Ben lives a tortured existence. Born to drug-addicted parents, he is bullied at school and reduced to sleeping in a barely habitable basement at home. One night, Ben’s mother, Amy, kills his abusive father, Matt, during a fight. Terrified of losing his mother, Ben helps her dispose of the body. Deprived of Matt’s malign influence, Amy cleans up her act, quitting drugs and getting a job. She is unnerved, however, by Ben’s affectless reaction to his father’s death. PUBLISHER: IUNIVERSE

Nevertheless, Ben’s life seems to be turning around. A new babysitter, April, is kind to him despite the awkward crush he has on her. And he stands up to a bully, which gets him in

trouble but also gets him special mentorship from Mr. Anderson, his school principal. This idyll doesn’t last, as Mr. Anderson reveals a dark side of his own character that starts Ben on a murderous path. As Amy begins to realize what is going on and that she must stop it, Ben becomes increasingly dangerous. Given the abominable behavior of his first victims, Ben is likely to garner readers’ sympathy when he begins fighting back, despite the gruesome measures he takes. Csordas later skillfully turns this sympathy into revulsion as he portrays Ben’s growing desensitization and selfishness, which develops into a willingness to hurt even those closest to him. He provides another compelling character in Amy. She begins as a selfish and unsympathetic character but develops insight, courage and compassion (while remaining realistically flawed). Csordas has developed an engrossing narrative that, given its short length, relentless pace and well-developed characters, is difficult to put down. A Monster in the Making will likely delight fans of psychological horror.  149

The Storm Over Paris.

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A Renaissance War I wasn’t sure about William Ian Grubman’s book The Storm Over Paris. I know nothing about art or art history, and the cover intimidated me. It was the WWII era that convinced me to give it a chance. Mori Rothstein should have listened to his wife when she said they needed to get out of Paris. Poor choice? Perhaps. As an art collector and connoisseur Rothstein has a soft spot for the masterpieces Hitler is stealing and he decides to PUBLISHER: take on a vigilante mission to right Hitler’s many DUPAPIER PRESS wrongs as he snatches up innocent Jews and wreaks havoc on the world. Mori’s self-induced penance for failing his family? Perhaps. With the help of his sons, a friend, and his wife, Mori gives the Nazis a run for their money. Mori’s family’s sacrifices are startling as they hide themselves and their deeds in plain sight. Peril, strife, and many consequences commence. You don’t need an art history degree to keep up with the story. It’s heartfelt and superbly told. There are some unsightly formatting issues but I believe you’ll be able to extend grace as you'll be so enthralled by the pace and the desire to get the Rothsteins out of Paris. Grubman suspends disbelief and paints a masterpiece of underground suspense you won’t soon forget. 



Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival.

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The Hand a Woman’s Dealt


to come.

Author, Vicki Tapia, takes the reader on a journey of women’s rights from 1887 to 1941 using her great-great grandmother as the vessel through which she sheds light on the history of women’s rights. Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival is a book of sheer grit and determination. With the dream of marriage and children, Maggie becomes smitten with the first man who shows her attention. Headstrong, she eschews her mother’s words of warning and remains patient as she waits for Sam to ask for her hand in marriage. Along the way she dismisses every red flag that forewarns of her life

Whether she’s fighting for her rights in marital conflict or birthing Sam’s children, Maggie also deals with her first family’s losses, loves, and dynamics. Nothing in her life comes easy and though the losses are too many to count, Maggie never quits. Married and divorced thrice, a business woman, mother, sister, daughter, and friend, Maggie’s story gutted me. She began her journey as a flighty, stubborn young woman determined to prove to the world that she was capable of being loved. By the end, she’s proved herself a mature pioneer capable of demonstrating a fierce strength and unconditional love for herself. 


I am Mrs. Jesse James.

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A Marriage of Constants


There are two constants in Pat Wahler’s novel I am Mrs. Jesse James: love and revenge. It’s difficult to imagine a marriage withstanding such opposites, yet there’s Zee James loving her husband through injury, giving him children, and traipsing across the country at his insistence. Her husband, the infamous Jesse James, was stubborn, a devoted believer in the Union. His righteous indignation is an ever-burning fire that can’t be extinguished. Money, travel, children, nor the love of his wife satisfied his need to exact revenge on others.

Author Pat Wahler provides readers with an emotionally gripping tale about one renowned man’s unknown wife with rich scenes, authentic characters, and a female MC that you can’t get enough of. I wanted to hug Zee and cheer for her devotion to her family. I also wanted to throttle her for not thinking more of herself and the life she could have had if she’d believed in herself enough as a strong, single woman. I am Mrs. Jesse James is love and hate in a single set of wedding vows that leaves you gutted for the family that a war unraveled--the kind of book that makes you look backward on your own family history for the little known gems that have made you who you are. 



Courage and Complicity.

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When is Enough, Enough? Claudette Languedoc’s book Courage and Complicity, an engaging tale about a young Caucasian female teacher who takes a position in an Indian residential school in Canada, weighs heavy on my mind. Consider this your trigger warning: You can’t go into this book without some level of mental preparation. The author writes about the students’ assimilation and the school staff who rape young girls and misuse their authority PUBLISHER: SAPARE PRESS to abuse the children. These topics are as old as time, yet as I read Mary Brock’s story and closed the book on that final page, my immediate thoughts were that of Mary’s quandary. Should she have done more for her academic charges? Or had she done all she could to protect the girls from their rapists, the boys from shame, and an entire schoolyard of Indian youth from assimilation? The relationships between Mary, her colleagues, and her students left me uncertain who was protecting whom. A timely novel, this Courage and Complicity, of racism, morality, ethical standards, and a glimpse into Canada’s (recent) past. A book of choices, Languedoc’s novel presents readers with a first-person platform on which to stand and decide - when is enough, enough? And upon whom does that burden rest? 


Hero at Home.

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With a foreword by Senator Elizabeth Dole and illustrations by Inna Eckman, author Sarah Verardo’s Hero at Home offers a touching children’s story that describes a family caring for their father, a wounded combat veteran. The nonfiction picture book introduces readers to “Grace’s Dad” Michael, a man who, a page at the end of the book explains, “sustained catastrophic and life-changing injuries in 2010” in Afghanistan. He underwent 119 surgeries and many other therapies. The story chronicles the everyday life of Grace’s family, which thrives even as its members adapt to the physical and psychological trauma Michael experienced.


Verardo’s writing is straightforward yet effective; for example, “[Michael] wears a special leg that looks like it belongs on a robot. His arm was rebuilt with lots of tools.” Meanwhile, the children work each day to help their father adapt to his new circumstances: “Every morning Grace

helps her Daddy’s nurse check his heart…” Most poignantly, the author writes that “Grace’s Dad tells her that sometimes people get hurt and their bodies change, but they still have the same heart.” The book’s illustrations are simple and light-spirited. They complement the text, and convey that while the family deals with incredibly difficult circumstances on a daily basis, they still manage to prosper as a unit. In addition to Eckman’s illustrations, the book includes photographs by Lindsay Hart of the Verardo family, which increases the emotional and educational impact of the work. Verardo’s work rings with the power of authenticity. It should be noted that this is not a children’s story meant for entertainment, but a work aimed at helping children understand the emotional and physical toll that wounded combat veterans and their families face. As a story to educate children on this topic, Hero at Home excels. It is a valuable resource, suitable for educators and parents alike. 



Don’t Drink the Pink.

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A girl named Madeline is given a different power-providing potion every birthday in B.C.R. Fegan’s beautifully illustrated children’s picture book Don’t Drink the Pink. On her first birthday, Madeline is visited by her Grandpa Gilderberry, an eccentric inventor with an array of colorful potions. He tells her to pick one, warning her “Don’t drink the pink.” She selects a red one and drinks it, causing her to breathe fire. For the next 14 years, Madeline picks a new color every time—but always avoids the pink potion. Each time, she’s granted wondrous powers: to fly, become invisible, and more.


But on Madeline’s 15th birthday, her grandfather is absent, having passed away a month before. She finds the pink potion, with a note that says “Happy Birthday” and “Never fear.” Madeline drinks the potion, and is transported back in time to her one-year-old self, with her grandfather once

again offering the potions and a comforting bear hug. Intended for ages 3-8, the book showcases basic concepts, such as numbers and colors, but also tackles the weighty issues of aging and death. As Madeline gets taller between each birthday, her grandfather grows more frail, and although the pink potion brings Madeline back to age one to see her grandfather again at the book’s end, we can assume that it, like the effects of the other potions, will only last a day. Written in rhyming verse with outstanding illustrations, the book’s main drawback is the unvarying repetition of its signature stanza, seen 15 times: “Happy Birthday, Madeline,”/ he said with a wink./ “Take a potion, take a brew./ Just don’t drink the pink.” Small alterations could preserve the meaning of these lines while making them more interesting to read. Additionally, Grandpa’s death may be difficult for the youngest readers to comprehend. Nonetheless, Don’t Drink the Pink is an entertaining read and another excellent offering by Fegan, who has established himself as a consistent author of quality children’s books.  155

Finn and Botts: Double Trouble At the Museum Museumink.

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In Stew Knight’s delightful middle-grade book, best friends Finn and Botts solve a mystery during their school field trip to a museum.


Finn and Botts (depicted as pigs in the illustrations, although the text never refers to this) are invited, along with school classmates, to spend the night at the city museum. Before the trip, they learn that some dinosaur bones have gone missing from the institution, and from the moment they arrive, strange things begin happening. For example, the museum director notices that a crate containing dinosaur bones has been mysteriously moved from an exhibit to the museums’ back doors. When she asks Finn and Botts to help a museum staff member return the crate to the dinosaur gallery, the two notice occasional trails of dirt and rocks—some that sparkle—on the floor. Later, Finn discovers the crate has moved again and is now

hidden behind a plant in the gem exhibit. Soon, the crate has disappeared altogether, and he and Botts see the class’s troublemaking twins running out of the gallery. As Finn and Botts follow the twins, they are led to a hidden room where they solve the mystery. More twists, laughs, and an unpredictable ending follow. Knight’s story features a cast of well-honed, original characters so skillfully crafted and such fun that readers won’t even realize they’re turning pages. Among the funniest scenes: when Finn and Botts pose as cavemen in an exhibit; and when, after learning the sleepover is part of a fundraiser to save the dinosaurs, Finn’s sister quips: “…[S]ave dinosaurs?…Everyone knows they are extinct!” The illustrations are amusing and well rendered, and fun dinosaur facts are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Additionally, at one point, the class is given a puzzle to solve while viewing the dinosaur exhibits; readers will be delighted to discover the puzzle at book’s end. 



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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.





HANNAH'S WAR by Jan Eliasberg

by Curdella Forbes

A Tall History of Sugar tells the story of Moshe Fisher, a man who was "born without skin," so that no one is able to tell what race he belongs to; and Arrienne Christie, his quixotic soul mate who makes it her duty in life to protect Moshe from the social and emotional consequences of his strange appearance. Written in lyrical, luminous prose that spans the range of Jamaican Englishes, this remarkable story follows the couple's mysterious love affair from childhood to adulthood, from the haunted environs of rural Jamaica to the city of Kingston, and then to England-another haunted locale in Forbes's rendition.


Berlin, 1938. Groundbreaking physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss is on the verge of the greatest discovery of the 20th century: splitting the atom. She understands that the energy released by her discovery can power entire cities or destroy them. Hannah believes the weapon's creation will secure an end to future wars, but as a Jewish woman living under the harsh rule of the Third Reich, her research is belittled, overlooked, and eventually stolen by her German colleagues. Faced with an impossible choice, Hannah must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of science's greatest achievement.

It is 1939 in Berlin, Germany, and twelve-year-old Lillian and her Papa are on the run from Nazi soldiers. Because they are Jewish, they are in danger of being arrested and put in prison. Lillian's father is blind and it seems no one is willing to help them, until they meet Otto Weidt. Mr. Weidt runs a factory that makes brushes for the Nazi army, and his secret is that he employs blind Jewish workers. Lillian learns that Otto Weidt is determined to keep her, Papa, and all the Jewish workers safe. But will he be able to?






by Alex Difrancesco

by Elvia Wilk

In a near-future New York City in which both global warming and a tremendous economic divide are making the city unlivable for many, a huge superstorm hits, leaving behind only those who had nowhere else to go and no way to get out. Makayla is a twenty-four-year-old woman who works at the convenience store chain that's taken over the city. Jesse, an eighteenyear-old, genderqueer, anarchist punk lives in an abandoned IRT station in the Bronx. Their paths cross in the aftermath of the storm when they, along with others devastated by the loss of their homes, carve out a small sanctuary in an abandoned luxury condo.

In the near future, Berlin's real estate is being flipped in the name of "sustainability," only to make the city even more unaffordable; artists are employed by corporations as consultants, and the weather is acting strange. When Anja and Louis are offered a rentfree home on an artificial mountain--yet another ecofriendly initiative run by a corporation--they seize the opportunity, but it isn't long before the experimental house begins malfunctioning.

by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Based on true events, a story of courage, forgiveness, love, and freedom in precolonial Ghana, told through the eyes of two women born to vastly different fates. Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that transforms her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father's court. These two women's lives converge as infighting among Wurche's people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the nineteenth century. 160


Oval is a fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world, as well as a prescient warning of what the future may hold.





by Hanif Abdurraqib

by Aatif Rashid

by Rosmarie Waldrop

In his much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew. It's a book about a mother's death, and admitting that Michael Jordan pushed off, about forgiveness, and how none of the author's black friends wanted to listen to "Don't Stop Believin'." It's about wrestling with histories, personal and shared.

Aatif Rashid’s debut follows Muslim American art history student, Sebastian Khan. A couple hundred days away from graduating, Sebastian joins the Model UN at his college—not because he’s interested in world affairs, but “for the glamor of international diplomacy without any of the responsibility”— and spends his time attending conferences at different colleges across the country where he starts fretting over his future. In this witty, semi-satirical coming-of-age story, Sebastian navigates the anxiety of graduating and leaving the safe bubble of college for the uncertainty of adult world.

A re-issue of the 1986 epistolary novel, The Hanky of Pippin’s Daughter is a reminder that Rosmarie Waldrop is a master of prose fiction and poetry. A young woman in America writes to her sister in Germany as she tries to piece together the lives of her parents, “just those ‘ordinary people’ who helped Hitler rise.” Reading about a country and a family that is falling apart helped me to realize how much memories haunt our everyday lives.




Two boys look to the water for escape, but for very different reasons. For sixteen-year-old Ryan, the water is where he feels the most confident. Ever since childhood, when he realized that he would never walk like other people, he has loved the water where gravity is no longer his enemy. But he never imagined he would become his small town’s hero by saving a schoolmate from drowning.





by Caroline Stellings

by Rajni Mala Khelawan

The year Louisiana – Easy for short – meets Janis Joplin is the year everything changes. Easy is a car mechanic in her dad’s shop, but she can sing the blues like someone twice her age. So when she hears that Janis Joplin is passing through her small town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Easy is there with her heart - and her voice - in hand. It’s 1970 and Janis Joplin is an electrifying blues-rock singer at the height of her fame – and of her addictions. Yet she recognizes Easy’s talent and asks her to meet her in Texas to sing. So Easy begins an unusual journey that will change everything.

A striking new literary voice tells the story of a young Indian woman coming of age in the Fiji islands whose traditional childhood both enriches and nearly destroys her "My mother once said that everyone in this world is granted one beginning and one ending. Life is made up of what is in between: the connections, the discoveries, the triumphs, and the losses." Growing up in the Fiji Islands in the late 1960s, Kalyana Mani Seth is an impressionable, plump young girl suited to the meaning of her name: blissful, blessed, the auspicious one. Her mother educates Kalyana about her Indian heritage, vividly telling tales of mischievous Krishna and powerful Mother Kali, and recounting her grandparents’ migration to the tiny, British colony.



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.





If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ” —