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what to read next in independent publishing

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

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

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


Margaret Brown fo u n d e r a n d p u b l i sh e r Anna Nair edito r i n ch i e f Christina Davidson c re a t i ve d i re c tor Ben Minton circ u l a t i on ma n a g e r Patricia McClain c o py e d i to r Marc Schuster c o n t r i b u t i n g e d i tor Sarah Kloth s o c i a l me d i a st ra te g i st Jane Miller ac c o u n t i n g ma n a g e r

what to read next in independent publishing



















A Word from the Editor Where it all began...

The Jazz Age New Perspectives on the era that begat Gatsby.

Interview Framed by Greg Gorman

Interview Wayne Thiebaud

Interview Tinkers by Paul Harding

Shelf Throughout the Years A look at all of our past covers

Interview The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

Interview Rising from Katrina by Kathleen Koch

Interview Amanda Palmer

Interview Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell

Interviews Kevin Powers Elissa Schappell Adam Levin

Interview Who By Fire by Mary L. Tabor

Photo Essay Vivian Maier Street Photographer

Interview White Man’s Problems by Kevin Morris

DEPARTMENTS 44 Recommended Reading | 58 Bookshelf | 64 Books to Read

Interview A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Shelf Unbound’s Annual Book Contest Past Winners

To purchase, contact mary@motolocation.co.uk



A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY THROUGH THE EVERDAY LIFE IN HAVANA, CUBA. These captured shots within Split Seconds Havana occur smack in the midst of the pre-normalization of Cuban/US relations followed by the signing of the accord between the 2 nations, President Obama’s visit, and Fidel Castro’s death. This collection of black and white photos situates Havana inside of the dying embers of its 57 year relationship with orthodox communism. But now with its feet firmly planted in the pre-post Castro dance of modernity and change, bets are on that Havana is set to change and in a big way. The author is not sure how much change is in the cards. Nor how quickly it will manifest. Havana will reinvent itself regardless of change, rates of change, confluences or conflicts of influences he says. The shots presented here cut through the politics and the gossip of endless predictions spun by the international and local rumor mills. They portray a timeless face of Havana. A captivating and repeating humanity. “Generational Generalities” as he likes to say. Devoid of its powerful tropical flavors via his cancelation of color, landscapes and seascapes, Havana is stripped bare and reveals its inner city urban pulse. The metronome of its Habaneros.

a word from the


Where it all began... THE END t seems appropriate that with the launch of Shelf Unbound we are beginning at the end. At the end of summer. At the end of ’70s skateboarding. At the end of baseball. At the end of Detroit. At the alleged end of magazines. Because that, in fact, is where it all began.

The whole thing was Margaret’s idea. After progressively falling in love with her Nook and her iTouch and her iPad, the 25-year veteran of the magazine industry pulled me aside one day and, in her trademark deadpan way without a hint of drama, said, “Everything has changed.” She said, “Publishing and reading will never be the same.” She said, “This is so cool.” But there was a problem. With all of this incredible access and content, finding the really great stuff, the unexpected and unusual and self-published and indie stuff, was harder than ever. It took a lot of time and searching and slogging through unremarkable stuff. When at the end of the day, all either of us wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. And, we thought, what if the magazine was digital, so that it was portable and green and responsive? And what if it was hotlinked so that you could order the books you wanted with a click? And what if it incorporated reviews and excerpts and author interviews, so that it would be the next best thing—or dare we say, even better—than spending an afternoon in our favorite indie bookstore? So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started. Kathy Wise editor in chief Originally published September 2010.


what to read next in independent publishing AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018

In memory of

Margaret L. Brown May 17, 1964 - June 4, 2018

Our fearless publisher, Margaret L. Brown, passed away on June 4, 2018, after a 10-month battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Margaret founded Shelf Media Group in 2010 and became owner and publisher of several digital magazines, including flagship Shelf Unbound and later Middle Shelf, Foreground, and Podster. The staff at Shelf Unbound would like to dedicate this issue to the memory of Margaret. We hope you enjoy this roundup of some of her best interviews over the past eight years. UNBOUND


shelf unbound


throughout the years

what to read next in independent publishing AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018

shelf unbound

throughout the years

what to read next in independent publishing UNBOUND


shelf unbound


throughout the years

what to read next in independent publishing AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018




Book 1 OPAL RIDGE “A modern romance with shades of Pride and Prejudice set in the Australian outback.” —Jill Allen Forword Clarion Review

Book 2 THE GOVERNESS “I don’t often review books, because I am not a writer.
This story deserves someone to say some thing good about it though.
I really loved reading the whole book.” —Kindle customer  



Coming Soon!

This book is about Tony, the most dashing, colourful, exciting of the three friends.

Look out for it!



“Fiona Ingram’s middle-grade series is dead-on: the plot is crisp, the characters are relatable, and they leave the reader wanting more.” Terry Doherty, CEO, The Reading Tub, Inc. (USA) THE SECRET OF THE SACRED SCARAB BOOK I A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. The cousins are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when the evil Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out!


THE SEARCH FOR THE STONE OF EXCALIBUR BOOK II Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur. However, their longstanding enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?



Continuing the adventure that ended in Britain just a short while ago, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair, with their friend Kim Maleka, are now hunting for the third Stone of Power, one of seven mysterious stones lost centuries ago. The third stone might be located in an ancient city, hidden in the depths of the Mexican jungle. When their small plane crashes in the jungle, Adam, Justin, Kim, and James are rescued by an uncontacted tribe. James, who is wounded, must stay behind as the kids, with only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the city. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task.

In a small sleepy town in North Carolina, thirteen year old Jake Winston discovered he carries a unique genetic trait; one that a covert government agency will stop at nothing to obtain. After the tragic death of his father, a local firefighting hero, Jake’s absent grandfather returns and sends the boy off on a journey into the gated forest at the edge of town, bringing him face-to-face with a family of dragons thought long extinct. Determined to grasp the power of the blood flowing through Jake’s veins, an agent from the secret ONX facility begins killing every dragon in his path. This forces Jake in the middle of a battle between the government and the dragons of Asheville, where the true potential of his power is revealed.

“Wonderfully descriptive, delightfully quirky. Reminds me of the movie Super 8!” BlueInk Review

“Finely wrought, well-crafted with wonderful humor...anyone can get easily wrapped up in Jake’s improbable quest.” Publishers Daily Reviews

“Inventive and never predictable. I was immersed.” Paula Stewart sweetsouthernsavings.com


Available at

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

Introducing a present-day La Bohème—a must-read novel for all opera lovers.

by Yorker Keith The Other La Bohème is literary fiction that depicts a group of four opera singers, named the Dolci Quattro, who are to perform the nearlyforgotten opera La Bohème by Leoncavallo, also known as “the other La Bohème.” Set in the rich artistic backdrop of New York City, the Dolci Quattro’s lives and loves go through ups and downs in joy and despair, while they give one another much-needed moral support. As the opening night nears, the Dolci Quattro make their utmost efforts to perfect their singing for the opera that will determine their future.


New perspectives on the era that begat Gatsby.


he shows written for the Astaires’ singular talents changed the very shape of the American musical. Their first major collaboration with George and Ira Gershwin, Lady, Be Good! in 1924, was, according to Gershwin biographer Howard Pollack, “one of the quintessential American theatrical works of the 1920s” and “the work that finally severed musical comedy from operetta.” In the previous year, the Astaires had become ambassadors of the American musical, transforming the London musical stage and firmly establishing the international supremacy of the indigenous Broadway -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, musical. Their final collaboration, The Band Wagon in 1931, began, in Brooks Atkinson’s “Echoes of the Jazz Age” words, “a new era in the artistry of the American revue,” through the imagination of its dance narratives, the pungency of its satirical sketches, and the technological audacity of its scenic transitions. Along the way the Astaires played a significant role in fashioning the rhythm and soul of the Jazz Age on both sides of the Atlantic. – from The Astaires: Fred & Adele by Kathleen Riley, Oxford University Press 2012, www. oup.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

“” … there was a big sensation.

The Astaires: Fred & Adele By Kathleen Riley Oxford University Press www.oup.com

Shelf Unbound: You write that “the Astaires played a significant role in fashioning the rhythm and soul of the Jazz Age.” How so? Kathleen Riley: I think that, particularly in collaboration with George and Ira Gershwin, the Astaires helped to shape the cultural life of Britain and the United States between the wars. This alliance seems, in fact, the very measure of a specific moment and movement in history, of what playwright S. N. Behrman heard in Gershwin’s piano-playing, “the rush of the great heady surf of vitality,” of a decade whose modernity is, to us now, at once remote and startlingly fresh. Fred and Adele, who were born in the late 1800s, literally grew up with the new century. They set or, at any rate, popularized trends UNBOUND




in dance (like the Charleston) and in fashion. As personalities and performers they seemed quintessentially modern, metropolitan and American, New World. Apart from the fluency, speed, intricacy and wit of their dance style, they were masters of rhythm, rhythms that were slick, urban, nervous, jazzy. But, as in Gershwin’s music, alongside the surface polyrhythms were a real romanticism, a tenderness and yearning that were just as identifiably American. So in the truest sense they embodied the rhythm and soul of the Jazz Age, its sound, its energy, its pulsating heart. Shelf Unbound: You point out that George Gershwin debuted “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924 and that it was such an “intrinsic part of the American modernist vernacular” that it “found its way into The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, where it was thinly disguised as “’Vladimir Tostoff’s Jazz History of the World.’” Was a hallmark of the era an instantaneous embrace of the new, as evidenced by Fitzgerald’s swift appropriation of the piece? Riley: An interesting question. The Great War changed the world and the cultural landscape utterly, and the 1920s witnessed such rapid progress and experimentation in nearly every field of human endeavor, a fact reflected with dizzying intensity in the visual arts particularly. But, in “high” culture at least, there is an essential paradox in this instantaneous embrace of the new, and it’s brilliantly encapsulated in the last lines of The Great Gatsby: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Here we have infinite possibility coupled with inevitability and pre-determination, aspiration with hopelessness. As much as the modern-

ists sought to break violently with the immediate past, they frequently did this by delving back into the remote past (ancient Greece for instance) for inspiration and validation. What is fascinating about the Astaires is their extraordinary popularity and impact at a time when Eliot’s Waste Land and Joyce’s Ulysses, Vorticism and Dada were exploding onto the world; their New World defiance of the darker aspects of the interwar psyche; their hopefulness and joie de vivre; their absolute modernity free of modernist angst. Shelf Unbound: How did Fred Astaire’s dancing change in his post-Adele career? Riley: For the most part, Fred and Adele’s dances were eccentric and comedic in style. Their off-stage relationship as brother and sister precluded dances of a more intimate nature. With “The Beggar Waltz” in The Band Wagon and “Night and Day” in Gay Divorce—partnered by Tilly Losch and Claire Luce respectively – Fred began to develop a new style that was highly dramatic, highly expressive and highly romantic. After Adele, his style and choreographic repertoire necessarily expanded and diversified. With the exceptions of Ginger Rogers in the 1930s and Barrie Chase in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he never again had a long-standing professional partnership with one person. He was able to adapt his own style to the strengths, and more often the limitations, of each individual partner with whom he danced. He had a genius for making his partners (including a hat rack) look good and perfectly “in synch” as it were. Fred had done a handful of significant solo numbers on stage, but it was really in his postAdele career that he evolved as a truly protean and innovative soloist, who continually experimented with rhythms and props and cinematic special effects. He was, and remains, the person who best understood how to capture dance on film. UNBOUND


… in the spring of ’27, something bright and alien flashed across the sky.


s early as 1919, a standing prize of $25,000 had been offered to the first aviator to cross the Atlantic, in either direction, from America to France or France to America. Sponsored by expatriate French hotel -ier Raymond Orteig, his “Orteig Prize” was one of the most coveted prizes in the flying world. Yet it lay unclaimed for eight long years. Then, during five incredibly tense weeks in the spring of 1927, a window in history opened when seemingly unconnected strands of technology, finance, fanfare, and character met and merged. This convergence of place, time, and people created what The New York Times christened “the most spectacular race ever held.” – from Atlantic Fever by Joe Jackson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2012, www.fsgbooks.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald,

“Echoes of the Jazz Age” Shelf Unbound: Atlantic Fever is as much

Atlantic Fever By Joe Jackson Farrar, Straus and Giroux www.fsgbooks.com 20


about the men and women who chased the dream of flying across the Atlantic and failed as it is about Lindbergh, the first man who succeeded. What characteristics of the 1920s created these extreme risk takers? Joe Jackson: I think the answer to that is a twoparter, based on the type of aviator. I think that the pilots who were the original entrants in the race— the Lindberghs, Byrds, etc.—were at heart daredevils and adventurers. These exist in every era: They form a kind of personality-type that stands outside any particular generation. Yet by 1927, a mix of technology, money, politics and design had brought aviation to the point where it was the “new frontier,” much as the space race would do with the Mercury astronauts in the 1960s. World War I had given aviation technology a kind of jumpstart, and many of the pilots competing for the Orteig Prize had trained as pilots during or immediately after the war. By the 1920s, they saw their chance to “push the envelope” with long-distance flying. But for the second set of aviators, the ones who tried to duplicate their heroes’ efforts imme-



diately after the end of the Orteig race, I think they were very much children of the media. The Jazz Age publicity machine, newly fueled by radio and newsreels, was like nothing Americans had ever seen. It was constant, it was in-your-face, and it was filled with tales of heroes and glory. I think the second set of flyers, many of whom were women, felt somewhere deep within themselves that this was a chance to reinvent themselves, to find a kind of freedom they had never dreamed possible, and in the process become heroes, too. Shelf: You write at the end of the book that “the sad fact remained that during the flying seasons of 1926/1927, at least thirty-one aviators vanished or died in the grip of a strange obsession that no one understood but that excited the world.” How does it strike you overall from a 21st-century perspective: as a sad chapter, or a thrilling one? Jackson: Well, it was thrilling to write about and probably to read about, even in a mythic sort of way. As I look back on my books, and even on my reporting career, I see that I’ve been endlessly fascinated by people who have tried to reinvent themselves in some sort of grand fashion, even if only illegally. It’s as if there are these myths that float above us in a sort of Jungian cloud of “universal unconsciousness,” and those people whose narratives we read and reread have somehow plugged into that cloud. I think the reality is more prosaic—the cloud is the constant telling and retelling of these myths in the various media, and we shape ourselves accordingly. But I do think it was sad. All of these aviators bought into the idea that they were ushering into being a New World: The airplane would link the continents and mankind, creating an era of peace and understanding that would be like nothing seen before in human history. But somewhere along the line, as more started to die for what many began to suspect might be more accurately described as commercial interests, 22


cracks in that belief started to form. Then, in the 1930s and 1940s, these flyers started to see that aviation had indeed changed things, but instead of advancing peace, it had created a new, unforeseen means of killing hundreds and thousands almost instantaneously. That’s where the sadness arises – in many ways, Atlantic Fever is a classic coming-of-age story, where one goes from innocence to wisdom. And though the loss of innocence is part of life, it’s also sad.   Shelf: How did you become interested in telling this story? Jackson: I started thinking about this book during the 2008 Summer Olympics, when there was a lot of discussion in the press about whether we were a culture obsessed with winning and losing. I reread Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, since that is the ultimate loser’s tale, and I was also reading Scott Sandage’s Born Losers, a great take on the American dream of success and the history of failure in this country. One of the main themes of Born Losers is the obvious but forgotten fact that the triumph of the “winners” is built upon the mistakes and misfortunes of the “losers,” and I thought to myself, What was the biggest, most publicized race in the 20th century? That’s when I thought of Lindbergh and the Orteig Prize, but I was really more interested in the losers’ tales.   Shelf: Which person in the book did you find most intriguing? Jackson: Richard Byrd. I felt sorry for him that he could be driven and ambitious in a destructive and self-destructive way. One of the early titles of this book was “This Hero Business,” a quote of Byrd’s, and when it became apparent that one of the main themes of the book was the modern construction of celebrity, it also became obvious that Byrd was a central story in that theme. I found the contradictions in the man—and the way he was built up as the ultimate American hero—absolutely fascinating.


…as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes…

—F. Scott Fitzgerald,

The Great Gatsby

Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style By Jerome Gautier

oco Chanel liberated the New Woman right along with the 19th amendment, and while her fashion inventions were thoroughly modern, they remain timeless, as can be seen in the gorgeous new coffee table book Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style. The “little black dress” was not a term used in 1926, when Chanel’s new creation appeared in Vogue: it was too early for such familiarities. The same illustration appeared first in the American edition, in October, then in the November edition of French Vogue. It showed a sheath dress in black crepe de Chine descending to just below the knee, with long close-fitting sleeves and a boat neckline. The bodice was loose in the front and at the sides, and cut bolero style at the back, while the skirt clung lightly to the hips. The dress was uncomplicated and unadorned, with narrow pleats simply forming a quadruple V. The emancipation of the “weaker” sex continued to gather momentum in the wake of the First World War. Women had been obliged to stand in for men in the workplace and had acquired a level of independence, albeit unpremeditated, that they were understandably loath to give up. They had successfully risen to that challenge, so why, for example, should the order giving them the right to work as clerks and bookkeepers in the wartime ministries now be rescinded? Why did men want to rob them of their new social status and turn them once more into “mere” women? A “feminism based on equality” grew up, centered around a new figure, that of the garconne, the bachelor-girl or “flapper” as she came to be known. The term owes its widespread usage to the novel by Victor Margueritte, La Garconne, whose publication in 1922 generated violent shockwaves. The garconne of the title, Monique Lerbier, is a wealthy heiress determined to find happiness in her own way, disregarding the wishes of her parents of or Lucien, her unreliable fiancé. She is an active woman who wants to be free to do what she likes UNBOUND




Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

with her own body and to explore her sexuality with numerous partners. The novel caused a scandal in a country decimated, demographically speaking, by the war and which did not need its female population imbibing in deviant ideas. Margueritte was punished for his “filthy scenes” by having his Legion of Honour withdrawn. But La Garconne was a bestseller and its heroine came to be regarded as a symbol of feminine emancipation by women everywhere, even among the working classes. She even found her way into the dictionary, where une garconne is defined as “a young woman leading an independent life.” It was a description that could equally have been applied to the feisty Chanel. —Jerome Gautier, from Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style by Jerome Gautier, Yale University Press 2011, www.yalebooks.com/art. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



oman de Caesar has written a book about his own life and that of his great great aunt, Coco Chanel, titled Find Caesar Vol. 1—The Search Is On! (www.amazon.com). He shared this tribute to Chanel with Shelf Unbound: “Throughout history and today, what many people have failed to truly learn, understand, believe and embrace about Gabrielle was that she was such a multi-faceted woman, with such tremendous abilities, gifts, skills and talents; and, for better or worse, she seemed to always face so many challenges throughout her life that would have broken the spirits of lesser persons: yet, she had this uniquely powerful and uncanny ability to use her pervasive talents to create her life according to her rules and her vision, and defeat the interests of fate, karma and misfortune most gloriously.” —Roman de Caesar

— and it all seems rosy and romantic to us who were young then, because we will never feel quite so intensely about our surroundings any more.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Echoes of the Jazz Age” UNBOUND


Arranged in an evolutionary fashion, these verses demonstrate both personal growth and the process of grieving. As a whole, they illustrate the series of emotions we all experience as we make sense of the world around us and of our life within that world.

... a short collection of poems that range from Morbid to Romance. I personally would recommend this to someone who enjoys reading poetry.

This is an amazing book. The poems give you a calming feeling. Really helps in the grieving that you may be going through, great author.

Valerie M. (goodreads.com)

Rachella B. (goodreads.com)

Paperback | ISBN: 9781532035586 | $10.99 E-Book | ISBN: 9781532035593 | $3.99 Audio | ISBN: 9781532047770 | $9.99


A great warrior in doubt,

a wise and trusted friend,

an awakening.

by J JOSEPH KAZDEN Is reality as we experience it as conscious beings equivalent to the reality that forms the foundation of our universe? J. Joseph Kazden explored this theme in his book “TotIs” and showed why Albert Einstein was not joking when he said that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” “Socrates returns to counsel a respected, fearless warrior named Gita, who’s the commanding general of an unnamed city that’s preparing for war… Once again, Kazden demonstrates a rare ability to describe complex concepts with clarity and precision. He uses the character of Socrates to gently impart these ideas to readers… Imaginative and thoroughly stimulating.” —Kirkus Reviews



In “Gita” Kazden explores anew the nature of the reality that underpins our universe as opposed to our consciousness’ simulation of that reality. In Gita he explores not only the discoveries of modern science but also the revelations and wisdom presented in the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Tao Te Ching, whose ancient texts, some twentyfive hundred years old, had already revealed to humanity an understanding that the “source” reality that forms our universe does not manifest to consciousness; it can not be “observed.” 

book club find

The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich

Two Dollar Radio www.twodollarradio.com Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps is as baffling as it is brilliant. She dispenses with so many writing norms that the reader is required to figure out a new way to read. It’s a thrilling ride. The Orange Eats Creeps earned Krilanovich the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honor this year. She is also bassist in the psychedelic soul band Unicornface. We had a few questions for Krilanovich, not the least being, What the hell? —Margaret Brown Shelf Unbound: The Orange Eats Creeps is a relentless existentialist nightmare told from the point of view of a nameless female hobo vampire junkie. I’ll pull out the key word here: existentialist. Is that the main thing you were going for? Grace Krilanovich: Yes, well, a lot’s at stake here and the dread, the leakage, the thrills and the devouring are all of the psyche as well as the body. I was going for something ultra-dramatic and ridiculous and at the same time quiet and sleepy, like a prolonged, hissing draft of air escaping from an inner tube. I felt it was worthwhile to risk cliché, excessiveness, and sentimentality if it meant approaching some kind of “existential” truth. What I certainly didn’t want to do was limit it too early, define what it was, wrap it up neatly, tell it what it should be. That seemed antithetical to the book’s purpose, its tone, and the form itself. Much of it is rooted in the sensory, the lived experience of the body—just heightened by multiple threats from external forces: drugs, predators, the landscape. And from internal forces: the throbbing bruise pressure of soul sickness. Shelf: “Twilight this isn’t,” writes Steve Erickson in the book’s introduction, and, indeed, there is not an ounce of vampire cliché in this literate novel. Why make the characters actual vampires, though, rather than just predatory human degenerates? Krilanovich: I wanted the confusion there, or rather, not knowing one way or another. Are they? Aren’t they? In terms of “actual vamps” vs. merely “predatory human degenerates”—there are lots of great examples of the latter: Evil Companions, de Sade, Story of the Eye, Buffalo Bill, the Mentors— but it’s the parasitism of actual vampires that had the richness of meaning that I was after. All of the shared cultural anxiety over our perceived interior purity, our bodies’ supposed tidiness and impermeability, wouldn’t have much traction without the imminent threats to Our Precious Fluids by the 28


parasitic force of the vampire. Everyone fears being sucked dry by some leisurely, non-productive ne’er do well. Imagine the insidiousness of all that languid reclining on overstuffed furniture, keeping of non-farmer’s hours (talk about going against the grain), being out of step with the world, willingly or unwillingly. Not being a producer, instead, a pure consumer. And what are they consuming? Life itself. The life essence of living, productive, “daytime” people. Converting them/destroying them. I don’t see my characters as literal vampires to the extent that Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric were in The Lost Boys, like Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein were in Near Dark— though I learned a lot about tone and the sick feeling I wanted to capture for my own nearvamps. Those movies have mystique and a creepy pull that Interview with the Vampire and Twilight don’t, although I still enjoy those two as films. I love going to see the new Twilight movie. I laugh and laugh while my boyfriend shields his eyes and pretends to go to sleep, even though he’s laughing on the inside, I’m sure. Let me make it clear that vamp clichés are still great. It’s a very important cliché to think about and make art about, and it will always be. Shelf: The main character is witness to, victim of, and participant in all manner of depravity. I ultimately had sympathy for her, though, and was moved by her poignant quest for her soul mate/lover/sister Kim. How do you, as the writer, feel about the main character? Krilanovich: Very tenderly. You know, I worked on this book for so long, six years. Inevitably (if things are going well) your characters take on a life of their own and begin dictating what will happen to them in the story. Or they just start going about their business and you’ve got to take it all down fast. It’s your job to listen, and be truthful, and do right by them. And of course you get attached. A great thing was being able to slip back into that voice for the revisions that happened after the book was accepted for publication. It was so much easier and surprised me because I thought that after two and a half years (and after having started a new novel) the characters would be faded out old wooden clothespin dolls of their true selves. But that wasn’t the case at all. Some of my favorite stuff was written last. Shelf: You connect the main character with Donner Party survivor Patty Reed and her wooden doll. What is the meaning of this connection? Krilanovich: It’s partly a personal fascination with the Donner Party and their plight. Growing up in California you’d take a fifth grade field trip to Sacramento and Sutter’s Fort where there’s a Donner Party exhibit and they’ve got the doll on view. Patty Reed’s Doll is a ‘50s illustrated chapter book that we read in class, strange as it may seem to have a cute kids’ version of the Donner Party tragedy. It’s something John Waters should adapt ASAP. So there’s that. But I also felt Patty Reed’s doll (the book and the phenomenon) had certain connections to the story I was writing. Thematically, there are echoes throughout Orange: parasitic beings (once again) with their own agendas, maybe a comforting little pet/confidant here or there and those little yapping sub-entities House Mom makes do her bidding. A lot of stuff in the novel about hibernation, foraging, madness setting in in the middle of nowhere, the site of unknown tragedy, the macabre, bones and artifacts buried in the earth, all those things I hoped would be deepened and broadened by the Donner connection. Shelf: How do you describe your writing style? Krilanovich: Ideally: lush, maniacal, fearless. Realistically: Up to 11, relentless, no brakes; a set constellation of words that crop up again and again. How many times can I get away with using the words “gelatinous,” “ashen,” “creepy,” “hippie,” and “vague” in one work of fiction? Shelf: What are you working on now, and are you writing it in a similar style to The Orange Eats Creeps? Krilanovich: Another novel. I would definitely say it’s written in a style similar to The Orange Eats Creeps. But this is a historical romance, Coast Range of California, circa 1870. Nights seem to stretch on into eternity. A pack of brindle mutts runs around under cover of darkness, leaving a trail of gore in its wake. UNBOUND


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.

The Angel Blade Series

A fast-paced, paranormal adventure, Angel Blade is a series that follows Nikka, a young woman who was dying of cancer until a stranger provided a cure in exchange for becoming a demon hunter. As the seraph, Nikka now wields the power to exorcise and destroy demons, but she must face the most powerful forces of Hell that will try to bring about the End of Days. NOW AVAILABLE: BOOK IV


“The Verdict is in—


Attorney Christopher Leibig offers a legal thriller for the ages. Realistic yet unpredictable, with a clever metaphysical twist, Almost Mortal is a thrilling roller coaster ride.”

Can Sam solve the “Rosslyn Ripper” case before the killer strikes again?

Robert Dugoni, New York Times and Amazon number one bestselling author of “My Sister’s Grave.” “A poised protagonist leads this serpentine but engaging legal tale.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A page-turner that you’ll probably want to read twice.” – Patricia McCardle, author of Amazon’s awardwinning novel, Farishta.

Camille shares an old journal anonymously mailed to the Church, which she believes may have been authored by the killer/confessor. The journal purports to tell the life story of a man with mind control and other special powers who claims to be a descendant of the fallen angels cast of out Heaven by God. As he learns more about the murders, the mystery author, and Camille, Sam begins to realize the so called “Rosslyn Ripper” case may have implications beyond his imagination—including his own past.

Christopher Leibig is a novelist and criminal defense lawyer who lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia. His first two published books, Saving Saddam (2008), and Montanamo (2010) were published by Artnik Books in London. Saving Saddam was released in 2014 in the United States under the title Black Rabbit. Chris also has several published short stories – Secret Admirer (The Cynic on-line magazine 2004) Coldcocked (Skyline magazine FICTION: Thrillers/Legal 2004), Fly (The Cynic on-line magazine 2009), Intervention (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014), and Paradise City (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014). Chris has also published numerous articles on criminal defense and related topics – including in the Huffington Post and The Examiner – and appeared as a legal expert regularly since 2009 in print and television media – including Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post, $15.95 The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. He and his colleagues regularly lecture at law schools throughout Europe and the Caribbean.









“The verdict is in–Attorney Christopher Leibig offers a legal thriller for the ages. Realistic yet unpredictable, with a clever metaphysical twist, Almost Mortal is a thrilling roller coaster ride!” —Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon, New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author of My Sister’s Grave

christopher Leibig

emerging criminal defense attorney Sam Young has always known he had a gift. Or a curse. He thinks of them as minor psychic abilities. When Sam is hired by an attractive young nun named Camille Paradisi, he agrees to help discover the identity of a serial killer in order to prevent Camille’s pastor from being exposed for not reporting the man after a confession – thereby allowing another murder to occur. While Sam’s psychic abilities increase as he investigates the case and gets closer to Camille, he realizes that the enigmatic nun is not revealing the complete truth. Camille shares an old journal anonymously mailed to the church, which she believes may have been authored by the killer/ confessor. The journal, which begins in Argentina in the 1940’s, purports to tell the life story of a man with mind control and other special powers who claims to be a descendant of the fallen angels cast out of heaven by God. As Sam learns more about the murders, the journal author, and Camille, he begins to realize the so called “Rosslyn Ripper” case may have ancient implications beyond his imagination.


Emerging criminal defense attorney Sam Young has always known he had a gift. Or a curse. He thinks of them as just minor psychic abilities. When Sam is hired by an attractive young nun named Camille Paradisi, he must discover the identity of a serial killer. Otherwise Camille’s Pastor will be exposed for not having turned in the man after a confession—thereby allowing another murder to occur. While Sam’s psychic abilities increase as he investigates the case, he quickly learns that the enigmatic Camille is not revealing the complete truth.



Winner 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award

köehlerbooks 2016 Chanticleer Grand Prize Winner—Fiction: Paranormal TM







Christopher Leibig is a novelist and criminal defense lawyer who lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia.






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.

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


Available at








M O .C s5 e g a For


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 www.supersonicflyer.com.

a cowb g n i m o c e B can't be that hard, oy

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.”




“An unrelenting portrayal of a strong female character driven to dark deeds in a foreign land— and the heart-pounding search to find her.” Publishers Daily Reviews

Tokyo—a great place to live, a frightening place to die Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. When an American businessman turns up dead, he’s called out to the site of a grisly murder—or is it just suicide? A slip or jump off the train platform? A security camera video suggests the killer was a woman, but in Japan, that seems unlikely. Hiroshi and ex-sumo wrestler-turned-detective Sakaguchi scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, skyscraper offices and industrial wastelands to find out what was in the past of one Tokyo woman that drove her to murder.

“An absorbing investigation and memorable backdrop put this series launch on the right track.” Kirkus Reviews “For anyone who loves crime and cop novels, or Japanophiles in general, this is a terrific thriller. Fans of Barry Eisler’s early novels will find the same satisfactions here.” BlueInk Starred Review




FRAMED: Greg Gorman for l.a.Eyeworks Photography by Greg Gorman Grafiche Damiani www.laeyeworks.com/framed


or 30 years, photographer Greg Gorman has made an artful, hip spectacle of artful, hip

spectacles with his portrait images for l.a.Eyeworks’ legendary ad campaign, now featured in the new book FRAMED: Greg Gorman for l.a.Eyeworks. We talk eyewear and icons with Gorman.

Shelf Unbound: Starting with Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman in 1982, you’ve shot more than 200 celebrities and personalities for the l.a.Eyeworks campaign. How do you approach photographing a film icon like Lauren Bacall versus a literary figure like Armistead Maupin? Greg Gorman: The approach is very much the same. I work to gain the confidence and trust of the subject and to connect with them in such a way that we become a team, collaborating together to make a great photograph. I spend a lot of time studying each person during makeup to observe the angles of their face as a path to finding the right adjustment for the lighting and the pose that I think will really capture their personality. 38


George O’Dowd/Photo: ©Greg Gorman



“ 40

The ever-changing landscape of the face—in all its magnificent diversity—is always our inspiration.


Elizabeth Streb/Photo: ©Greg Gorman

Glasses in Literature In 1915, P.G. Wodehouse lamented the lack of reality in modern writing in his essay “In Defense of Astigmatism.” “Why, you can hardly hear yourself think for the uproar of earnest young novelists proclaiming how free and unfettered they are. And yet, no writer has had the pluck to make his hero wear glasses,” he wrote, leaving us to wonder if J.K. Rowling perhaps once read this essay and cried oculus reparo. Following is an excerpt from the Wodehouse piece.

Shelf: I particularly love your photograph of Boy George. It well represents what I see in many of your images, which is a quality of being simultaneously intimate and enigmatic. Can you tell us a bit about that photo? Gorman: Thinking of the notion that eyes are the window to the soul, my goal with that shoot was to create a portrait that was intimate but also kind of heroic. George is so iconic in the world of music – choosing that gaze of looking upward with a kind of divinity just seemed to fit. Shelf: Does putting eyewear on a subject influence the shoot in any way? I’m thinking it might be liberating for the person being photographed.    Gorman: Yes and no. I suppose if the subject is wearing sunglasses it can be liberating in some way because there’s a shield of sorts. When the glasses were clear, however, it sometimes Ben Kingsley/Photo: ©Greg Gorman

It is futile to advance the argument that glasses are unromantic. They are not. I know, because I wear them myself, and I am a singularly romantic figure, whether in my rimless, my Oxford gold-bordered, or the plain gent’s spectacles which I wear in the privacy of my study. Besides, everybody wears glasses nowadays. That is the point I wish to make. For commercial reasons, if for no others, authors ought to think seriously of this matter of goggling their heroes. It is an admitted fact that the reader of a novel likes to put himself in the hero’s place—to imagine, while reading, that he is the hero. What an audience the writer of the first romance to star a spectacled hero will have. All over the country thousands of short-sighted men will polish their glasses and plunge into his pages. It is absurd to go on writing in these days for a normal-sighted public. The growing tenseness of life, with its small print, its newspapers read by artificial light, and its flickering motion pictures, is whittling down the section of the populace which has perfect sight to a mere handful. UNBOUND


Laura Dern’s Enlightenment


aura Dern just won a much-deserved Golden Globe for her portrayal of Enlightened’s Amy Jellicoe, who is finding her way in her former corporate and personal world after suffering a nervous breakdown, entering treatment, and coming back newly enlightened. In addition to starring in the series, Dern is its executive producer and co-creator, along with Mike White (you can watch clips and full episodes here: http://www.hbo.com/#/enlightened/index.html). As avid fans of Enlightened, we asked Dern to name a few books that have enlightened her. We’ve supplied their first lines to get you started on the path. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” 7 Habits of Highly Effective



People by Steven Covey “In more than 25 years of working with people in business, university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal

congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other people.” When Things Fall Apart by Pemma Chodrun “Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands.

Photo: Prashant Gupta/HBO

The goal of capturing the subject’s personality in the photograph is always the challenge.

took some convincing to get into the shot. But in either case, the goal of capturing the subject’s personality in the photograph is always the challenge. Shelf: Your favorite photo in the book? Gorman: The portrait of Andy Warhol, which I shot shortly after he signed with Ford Models. I had already been shooting covers for his seminal magazine, Interview, and I thought it would be such an amazing opportunity. That the portrait became one of the most iconic of my career is pure pleasure.   Shelf: Whom would you like to shoot for this campaign that you haven’t yet photographed? Gorman: Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Stephen Hawking. Sugar Ray Leonard/Photo: ©Greg Gorman

Visionaries l.a.Eyeworks co-founders and designers Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi have been visionaries of vision style since launching their company in 1979. A quick look at the pair:

Shelf Unbound: Do you have a favorite among all the photos shot for l.a.Eyeworks? Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi: Truly, our favorite picture changes all the time. From the transformation of Divine to the defiant cheekiness of George Clinton, we fall in love over and over again. But today, we would pick Greg’s piercing portrait of the radical movement artist Elizabeth Streb. Shelf: Where do you get the inspiration for your fabulous eyewear designs? McReynolds and Gherardi: The everchanging landscape of the face—in all its magnificent diversity—is always our inspiration. But we are inspired by so many things, whether it’s a Gillian Welch song, a hummingbird nest, a surfboard, or the way someone customizes their tennis shoes ... we tune in with great delight to so many things every day.   Shelf: You’ve had a few writers in the campaign over the years—any contemporary writers you’d like to put your glasses on? McReynolds and Gherardi: The list is endless, but one contemporary author we have always admired is Dave Eggers, not only for his writing and publishing, but for the generosity and vision of his practice that supports ideas like the 826 National projects. UNBOUND





READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.



The Other La Bohème by Yorker Keith

Overture Begin your song, oh Muses. Let me join the zesty tune. My heart needs no more sorrow, Neither discord nor despair. Induce me to embrace love, Peace, and hope in harmony. Lift, lift me up, oh Muses. Let us sing a song of joy. Act I Scene 1


uses were singing in glory in the fine October sky—the image Henry saw in the clouds as he strolled along Broadway near 72nd Street, several blocks from the Metropolitan Opera House. He even recognized the Muses’ sweet song. His chest swelled in anticipation as he continued a few blocks to the Café Momus, where his friend Stephanie was working as a waitress. The restaurant attracted a loyal clientele among connoisseurs of opera and classical music, who appreciated the authentic French cuisine at reasonable prices, especially before or

after a performance at one of the many nearby theaters. Henry paused outside the window and peered in. Since it was not yet five o’clock, patrons occupied fewer than half of the thirty-odd tables. Stephanie stood before the bar in her black uniform, casually watching the customers. Henry fished a digital pitch-maker from his pocket and found C-sharp. He cleared his throat and inhaled, assuming the role of Marcello. Then he burst through the door and began singing, extending his hand toward Stephanie. “O Musette, o gioconda sorridente!” (“Oh Musette, oh radiant smile!”) Stephanie broke into just such a smile as Henry continued his serenade in his burning tenor voice, praising her charms. His rich tones reverberated in the intimate restaurant. Stephanie immediately replied to his aria in her coloratura mezzosoprano, wagging her right index finger. “Badate! I miei difetti non

nascondo.” (“Mind you! I don’t hide my defects.”) She cautioned Marcello that she was a capricious vagrant, living day to day. When she completed her aria, both joined in a duet: Marcello, adoring her, and Musette, warning him. The music entwined to a dramatic climax with a soaring high A, then descended slowly, ending with their simultaneous murmur: “Musette!”…“Badate!” “Bravo!” Waiters and waitresses shouted their kudos while the patrons applauded. Henry bowed and Stephanie curtsied. As they rose, they met each other’s eyes and laughed. …



The Governess by Victoria Capper www.victoriacapper.com


ne night, Bruce walked in to the doorway of the room where Thea was curled up in a chair, quietly reading a book. She looked up. He didn’t say a word, just grinned at her and crooked his finger. Thea was puzzled, “What is it?” He just stood there for a moment just watching her, smiling all the while, then said. “Follow me.” Thea followed him into his office and there, along the window ledge outside the office was a python. It was a beautiful creature, blue and black and grey diamond pattern about as thick as your wrist and four or five feet long. Thea didn’t notice or appreciate its beauty. She just stared at it, horrified, frozen on the spot. Then she gasped and turned to Bruce and threw her arms around him and

buried her head into his chest. Bruce instinctively responded by folding his arms around her, cradling her protectively. How long they stood there wrapped in their embrace neither ever knew—a few moments— all the time in the world. She felt safe and comforted and strangely warm. Bruce, for his part wanted to deepen their engagement but he felt protective and knew he couldn’t take advantage of this wonderful woman who had turned to him for protection and care. Slowly Thea realized what she had just done and hesitantly turned to move out of his arms and looked at the window again. Bruce jolted out of his trance thought, Ooooops what had just happened here? Thea couldn’t believe she was now calmly looking at

the biggest snake she had ever seen. She’d come a long way in learning to live in the bush. Just the same she didn’t really want it to be around the house where she was living. Bruce couldn’t always be there to take her in his arms. She hoped big pythons had to be moved away for their own safety. “Yes” Bruce said, “I’ll take her straight down to the wool shed. She’ll be safe from the cats and can eat the mice down there.”



Titus The Life Story of Dr. Titus Plomaritis by Titus Plomaritis http://amzn.to/2qljkNn

RIDE TO THE HOSPITAL (A short story on page 40)


his would be the appropriate time to relate my one bad experience related to splitting wood. It was a hot summer day and I was home alone when I decided to surprise my brothers and split a pile of wood. I was 12 years of age at that time. As I was splitting the wood at a fairly good clip, the axe apparently was getting dull and needed sharpening, but I just ignored the warning and kept chopping away. This one time the axe got stuck and I was having a difficult time separating it from the block of wood. I pulled real hard on the long handle—and it released

suddenly. Losing my balance, I fell to the ground and landed on a broken bottle. Then I noticed blood squirting out of my left upper thigh.  I ran into the house and jumped into the bathtub with a bottle of peroxide and a towel. I kept pouring the peroxide on the wound until the bottle was empty, keeping the towel pressed on the wound. I then took one of my father’s neckties and tied it around my leg, ran down the stairs jumped on my bicycle and rode it to Lowell General Hospital, which was located one and a half miles from our house. I ran into someone’s office, and that someone in turn took me to the emergency room. After explaining the details

of the accident to the doctor, he cleaned up the messy necktie bandage ensemble, added a few stitches and sent me off. I don’t remember if the hospital ever sent my father a bill, if so I’m sure it was deducted from my shoe shine account, as was the necktie.



Jake & the Dragons of Asheville by Brian Kacica



s the Krill wound their way through the ancient passages, getting closer to the earth’s surface, the quakes grew in strength. The state-of-the-art engineering that went into building the ONX facility was no match. The titanium welds were beginning to crack at their weaker points. The first Krill to break through the lower floor of the building, stopped abruptly when he slammed his head into the ceiling of a holding cage. Three soldiers were positioned outside the massive titanium bars. The men laughed, thinking it was trapped, but their chuckles quickly turned to screams of horror when the sinister looking beast bent back the bars, skewered the men on one talon and barbecued the three to a crisp. ~ Not too far from the ONX, Jake was maneuvering

Mort and the others to a large flat area at the top of a neighboring mountain. Once he felt safe, he stepped out of the orb and walked over to Mort, who was lying in a patch of tall dry grass overlooking the forest with Asheville in the distance. The old dragon looked weak from battle, his eyes bloodshot and skin horribly scarred. Jake placed his hand on the force field, changing its energy. It wasn’t long before Mort was on his feet and speaking again. “Jake Winston—” “Mortayvious, King of the Dragons.” There was a prolonged silence between the two. Jake’s eyes watered out of joy. Mort swung his right wing around him in a protective position. The winds kicked up, blowing Jake’s hair into his face and forcing a large sneeze from Mort. The two shared a laugh, before Jake returned to the business at hand.

Spread out in the open field, the other dragons were now healed. One after the other, they nodded their heads to the king, then took flight, heading in the direction of their cave. Instinctively they knew it was time to return to a safe haven and wait out the Krill. “The sepulchral stones,” Mort said, as he handed Jake the luminous green rocks, “You will use them to return the Krill.”




If you like these five books, you’re sure to like...

Jake & The Dragons of Asheville by Brian Kacica www.dragonofasheville.com



Reborn and Other Versifications by A.E. Fonner | www.aefonner.com

From “Preface” The thing about poetry is that it is very personal. I think a poet is suddenly inspired and locks him—or herself off in some closet to breathe life with words into the idea that had struck. When poets are done, what have they to show for their effort? A few lines on paper that may or may not rhyme. Those lines may have some semblance of rhythm or meter, or perhaps they do not. The poet’s work may be embraced by an audience, or it may be destined to banishment in a drawer or box. One thing is for sure, though: the poet will feel a sense of personal accomplishment and pride, having finished. That is why writing poetry is so personal. FREEFALL Come, Lord, Let her fall! Night from the heavens, She envelops me In her somber light. While You sigh a knowing breath, And salvation fades from my sight, I freefall from a dizzying height. Lost at once to the sullen day; Hope’s an illusion of Your ethereal way. BREATHE Oh love, a frail tapestry, Now offer it I do to thee. Please take my hand in revelry, And hold my heart so carefully. So, wake my soul from dormancy, To bring my spirit ecstasy. I wait for you so patiently. My purpose cries relentlessly, For you are all my eyes can see; As I pursue you zealously, For in my life new life you breathe.

WOMAN Whose eyes are these that hold my thoughts? Dark and warm, their sultry gaze Sifts through the contents of my soul and, like fire, Burns deeply into my conscious haze. Whose smile is this that melts my heart? It warms the essence of my day, Restoring purpose to my being and, like flame, Lights the path as I go my way. Whose voice is this that soothes my ear? The sweetest sound, it ever rings. Strings and harp pale in beauty, and, by God ordained, Angels fall silent when she sings. What woman is this whose hand I hold? With gentleness, she treats my soul. She cares for wounds I cannot hide and, with practiced hands, Heals my being to make me whole. ©2017 by A. E. Fonner



Right after Mark’s next-door neighbor is murdered, he gets a new neighbor—the beautiful but mysterious Sylvia, who has just arrived from London. Mark is drawn into a mutually obsessive relationship with Sylvia. She is secretive regarding her past and Mark’s friends caution him that she can’t be trusted. But Mark won’t listen to his friends or to the priest who later claims that Sylvia is a deadly threat. Mark is enchanted by Sylvia’s beauty and charm, even though dating her has its challenges. Whether it’s performing gymnastics on the ledge of the Golden Gate Bridge, creating an embarrassing scene at the wedding of Mark’s best friend, or shocking Mark with her unusual sexual proclivities, Sylvia never misses an opportunity to make a bad first impression. When Mark first meets Sylvia, he tells her, “You’re the girl of my dreams!” Sylvia smiles and responds with a warning—“Be careful what you wish for.”

“The Vampire Girl Next Door

is a choice pick for one looking for a romance with a supernatural twist, highly recommended.” John Burroughs Midwest Book Review

In The Vampire Girl Next Door, Mark fell in love with Sylvia, the beautiful, but quirky girl next door, not realizing that she was a vampire who killed his last neighbor. Now, in The Vampire Girl in London, they fly from Mark’s San Francisco to Sylvia’s London. They tangle with terrorists, are shadowed by a CIA agent, and are pursued by a vampirehunting cult. Even more challenging, they must cope with living in a mansion full of Sylvia’s vampire friends—some of whom she can’t really trust. And Mark still has to deal with Sylvia’s sexual hijinks. Will Mark and Sylvia’s love be enough to survive it all?

“The Vampire Girl in London

would satisfy supernatural fans and I’m once again entertained by Arbib’s fascinating couple, Sylvia and Mark.” Lit Amri, Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews www.thevampiregirlnextdoor.com Available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle. Paperback and all e-book formats available on author’s website.








Rising from Katrina

How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered by Kathleen Koch John F. Blair, Publisher www.blairpub.com


n her account of the surreal experience of reporting on the all-but-complete destruction of her hometown of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, former CNN reporter Kathleen Koch gives what may be the best description of Hurricane Katrina’s impact for those of us lucky enough not to have been caught in its path. By focusing on a single community, Koch brings the initial horror and devastation wrought by the storm—as well as the ongoing and present day (meaning still, right now) struggle to recover—into proper perspective. Rising from Katrina puts a name, a face, and a history on a dozen or so families who survived the event, allowing readers to understand the actual impact of FEMA’s slow response on real people, not just the media portrayal provided by an inept administration appointee whose boss thought he was doing a “heck of a job!” —Jennifer Wichmann Shelf Unbound: Personal experience as news seems to be a growing phenomenon in media. As a CNN correspondent covering the flooding from Katrina, you were part of the vanguard of this trend. How do you think such subjective crossovers affects journalism, its mission to deliver news, and the interest that the public has in news? Kathleen Koch: I ventured with great trepidation into this realm of reporting. I never believed in inserting myself into the story. I often argued against including a standup (me on camera talking straight to the audience) in my reports if I thought it wasn’t warranted. I am a traditionalist and believe the news should be the focus—not the reporter. But apparently audiences are tiring of “straight news” and want both reporter involvement and opinion. I think the former can be used effectively if the journalist exercises restraint and uses their personal involvement to draw viewers into the story, educate and inform them, and make them care. In cases like mine where a reporter has deep personal ties to and knowledge of an area where a major news event is occurring, then their personal take on a story can give the audience valuable insight. I believe things can go awry when a reporter’s personality and opinion begin to dominate. In that case, the end result can cease to be news and morph into an editorial.



Shelf: On several occasions that you note in the book, remaining an impassive observer in the face of desperate times was incredibly difficult for you, such as when you saw the abandoned convenience store with available food and water. Looking back, do you think you walked the correct line or is there something you would have changed about your experience? Koch: We walked a very fine line in those days after Katrina, and I think we did the right thing. True, it was frustrating to go back to that convenience store six months after the hurricane and see the food and drinks that were perfectly good right after the storm rotting and covered with swarms of flies. Still, without the owner’s permission, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to go in and haul out armloads of items that weren’t ours. Yes, we did cross the line and get involved. But my crew, producer, and I did it when we were off the air. Yes, we took blankets, clothing, food, and water to victims. But we bought it ourselves when the first store opened up. Yes, we looked for missing people and gave away our own hurricane supplies before we left. But we did it off camera instead of turning our personal desire to help into a self-congratulatory news story. The only thing I wish I could have changed, I couldn’t. And that was to have had more time that first week to locate a missing man before his family found his body three days after we departed. Shelf: Your accounting of hurricane coverage, particularly following Katrina, seems more akin to active war coverage than weather reporting. Because of your personal experience growing up with the threat of hurricanes you knew the extent of that peril more than most, but it also had to be a somewhat familiar danger. Do you think you would have as easily accepted an assignment in Iraq or Afghanistan as you did in Mississippi in 2005? Koch: No. As a CNN correspondent, I had the option of taking “war training.” I never did. I believed that would have constituted an implicit agreement that I was willing to accept an assignment in a war zone with bullets flying around me. I had young children. I felt it would be irresponsible to risk my life that way for my job. The risks faced when covering hurricanes, I thought, were manageable. But none of us had ever dealt with a hurricane like Katrina. Now I understand that the greatest threat may not be from the elements, but from the chaotic and lawless situation you find yourself in afterwards. And I also now understand the mental and emotional toll such circumstances can take. Still, it didn’t stop me from covering Hurricane Gustav in 2008, nor would it dissuade me in the future.



Shelf: Many people turn away from tragedy as a mechanism to cope with the stress and emotions their stark reality engenders. In covering Mississippi after Katrina, you repeatedly turned back to the tragedy you witnessed there instead of ignoring it. Why do you think you made this choice? Koch: That was home. They needed me. There was no way I could turn my back on them. Mississippians have a long tradition of taking care of their own. Also, the national focus on the tragic levee collapses in New Orleans made me even more determined to keep returning to Mississippi to tell the Gulf Coast’s story and make sure people there got the help they needed. Finally, when my producer and I left the Bay St. Louis citizen’s shelter Saturday after the storm, I told the people there, “I promise I won’t let anyone forget what happened here.” I keep my promises. Shelf: You and many of the sources you quote remarked on the tendency for Mississippians to look on the bright side of their situation and be grateful for what they had, not dwelling on what was lost. In what ways do you think that attitude played a role in the long wait for relief and lack of recognition that Bay St. Louis and other Mississippi communities experienced? Koch: It definitely played a role when it came to media attention. Just like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, cities where mayors and public officials scream and curse and sign-waving citizens protest angrily in the streets get attention and coverage. Towns where folks work together, say they’re blessed and things will be just fine, don’t. Mississippi’s story was more nuanced and therefore really needed to be told by a native like me or ABC anchor Robin Roberts. You had to understand the people, their history and traditions, and why they were reacting as they were despite being the ground zero of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. caption caption caption Regarding the long wait for relief, I believe that was simply a matter of poor logistical planning. Affected areas received help as soon as the federal and state governments could get it there. Whether their citizens and leaders screamed for aid or not was not a factor. Shelf: While covering Hurricane Gustav, you describe driving across a drawbridge in Biloxi and experiencing gale-force winds which almost swept your vehicle off the bridge. I was struck by your shock that some arm of the government had not done



something to close the bridge because of the dangers from high winds. How have you maintained your faith in the general ability of government to keep people safe after witnessing first hand the problems that followed Katrina? Koch: In the case you mention during Hurricane Gustav, I was surprised because a city police car was sitting at the foot of the bridge. The officer had to be aware of the dangerous conditions. I was stunned that the vehicle was not blocking all entry. In general, I have lost much of my faith in the ability of government to help people following major disasters—particularly the federal government. I tell groups I speak to about crises and disaster preparedness that you will be relying first on those closest to you—family, friends and neighbors, your local government, and help from neighboring states. But anyone who’s expecting the federal government to come riding to the rescue will be sorely disappointed. The feds will get there if and when they can. I also think the local authorities are the ones who best understand the people and their needs. Many found that after Katrina the federal government and some national relief organizations insisted on strict adherence to cumbersome rules instead of taking the speediest route to help the most people. Shelf: So many of the individuals living in Bay St. Louis have a remarkable love affair with the water. Following Katrina, many seem to have maintained that connection. How do you think they have eluded feeling betrayed by nature? Koch: I think most people there who love the natural beauty of the place also respect the destructive force of the elements. For generations, so many in the region have made their living off the water and they understand that which sustains you can also destroy you. So that acceptance of the risk is part of living on the water. I do see a heightened level of concern when storms approach the Gulf. The town of hardy hurricane veterans has a new sense of vulnerability. As I relate in my book, the first heavy thunderstorms after the hurricane caused widespread anxiety and brought back frightening memories for many. Much of that early trauma has faded. And I am relieved that more residents than ever before now evacuate if a real hurricane threat materializes. Shelf: At the end of your book, you relate how so many of those who survived the hurricane have begun to focus on smaller, more meaningful things in their lives— nights home with family instead of shopping at the mall for example. How has your experience with Katrina and its aftermath shaped the values that you live by? Koch: I take any opportunity I can now to volunteer, and encourage my family to do the same. I’ve always been frugal and not terribly materialistic, but now I loath waste and conspicuous consumption. (I can’t help thinking how money and energy could be put to so much better use on the Gulf Coast or in Haiti, etc.) I have greater faith in the ability of the individual to make a difference. I have a deeper faith and trust in God. Finally, I have a greater appreciation of the brevity and fragility of life and the need to reach out every day and build bridges not walls to connect to others and make this world a better place.



The Way I See IT

Joseph Chan was born with two rather restrictive birth defects. One of them is a genetic eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is progressive with age. The other is paroxysmal kinesigenic dyskinesia (PKD), an involuntary muscular spasm brought on by other sudden movements such as standing up from a sitting position; a condition that actually lessened after age forty. In The Way I See It, Mr. Chan talks candidly about the challenges of growing up with these two birth defects. Despite facing the fear and frustration of falling behind in school as a little child, and stigma for being different, this is a story of love, faith, and personal triumph over fate. The Way I See It is Joseph Chan’s spiritual journey to discover his life’s purpose and to share the hope and inspiration that he has found with those who might also bene t from it.


s e . n y


f h a n t y e , l o s

“In a book filled with wisdom, one of the most remarkable lessons is the way in which the author views his physical limitations.” By Foreword Reviews

4 stars out of 5

by Foreword Reviews


BOOK SHELF Ones Such as These by Al Fonner


enna wasn’t planning a family; but fate puts her on a sharp learning curve that threatens to alter her life forever. Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, she must choose between her own desires and the viability of the fetus growing within her womb. As the reality unfolds in this story, Jenna embarks on a spiritual, philosophical journey and learns about truth: sometimes, it is both elusive and unpleasant. www.aefonner.com Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iUniverse. Blood Lake By R.L. Herron


ward-winning author R.L. Herron has created a spine-tingling modern horror thriller based on the curse of a Cherokee prophet executed for defying the forced migration of the Cherokee people in 1838 known as “The Trail of Tears.” As John Burnett is about to discover, Tsali’s bitter curse has followed the only sons of the Burnett family for eight generations. Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner ● ● Foreword INDIE Book-of-the-Year Finalist ● ● Shelf Unbound Notable 100 for 2016 ●

Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes


ex and suffrage collide in Mistress Suffragette. At the Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty Penelope Stanton quickly draws the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women. During a glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles for love.

www.DianaForbesNovels.com Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Smashwords. ​The Centurion’s Woman by Amanda Flieder


lex fell asleep at a work retreat and woke up in the wrong time. She’s rescued by a Roman Centurion, but that doesn’t help with the trouble that always finds her … Ixillius had been on a routine razing, but Alex—imprisoned and injured—is anything but typical. He claims her as his slave, but needs to know: who is she?

www.ronaldherron.com Available at Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

www.amandaflieder.ca Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Chapters.Indigo

BOOK SHELF Mushy Plays Hide & Seek by Jane Miller


hen Mushy finds that special hiding place, the Strawberry Children are unable to find him. Mushy falls asleep while hiding and the Strawberry Children grow tired of looking for him. As day turns to night, the Strawberry Children get sleepy and return to their home under the vines. Mushy finds his way home with the help of the moon. Mushy’s Counting Book our child will develop learning skills with this repetitive counting book. Go with Mushy through the forest as he counts. Find new characters as your child searches the land of Moonvile.


Available at Amazon. If You Were Me and Lived in... Colonial America by Carole P. Roman


oin Carole P. Roman and travel through time to visit the most interesting civilizations throughout history. Learn what Colonial American children did for fun. If You Were Me and Lived in... Colonial America does for history what her other award-winning series did for culture. So come and discover the world through the eyes of a young person just like you. www.caroleproman.com FACEBOOK LINK | TWITTER LINK Available at Amazon.

Mr. Mouthful Learns His Lesson by Joseph Kimble Mr. Mouthful is a fancy talker who causes trouble and confusion for kids—until he has to respond to an emergency. Kids will learn lots of new words, like froufrou and blather and titter and chapeau. BlueInk calls the book “charming” and “amusing,” with “polished illustrations”; says “young readers will delight in the fun drawings, captivating characters, and silly situations.” Foreword Clarion calls it “a funny book.” www.mrmouthful.com Available at Amazon. Shopping for the Real You by Andrea Pflaumer “The chapter on the LBD (little black dress) alone is worth the price!” “I found this to be the best book for advice on color and style, easy to read and understand.” “It is loaded with information, all clearly explained. Definitely the best book I have read on the subject.”

www.shoppingfortherealyou.com Available at Amazon and the author’s website.

BOOK SHELF A Bitter Wind by Anita Merrick

California Cures! by Don C. Reed


“Imminently readable.” —5 stars, NN Lights Book Heaven

hen Alexander ‘Ramses’ Smith is assigned to decipher hieroglyphs at Temple of Khnum—all heka breaks loose. A strange darkness cloaks everything: the temple, spirits and supernatural beings, all seemingly conspiring to reawaken his clairvoyance over logic/scholarship. Lex goes on an emotional rollercoaster ride where a time entanglement shatters all sense of reality, putting him dangerously susceptible to ancient secrets infused in stone; re-defining the lines between imagination and reality—or losing a battle for sanity.—Read: Kirkus Recommendation (Website) www.anitamerrickauthor.com Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Friesen Press, Google Play, iTunes, Kindle, and Kobo.

“...Personal, eye-witness account... extraordinary scientists.... The California Stem Cell Program... is changing the world.” —Mary Wooley, President/CEO, Research!America “No collection covering stem cell advancements should be without this book.” —Midwestern Book Review “Don Reed is a force of nature...” —Maria T. Millan, M.D., President/CEO, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine www.stemcellbattles.com Available at Amazon and World Scientific.

You Shall Know Our Names by Ezekiel Nieto Benzion

Making a Living Making a Life by Daniel Rose

FINALIST National Jewish Book Award, 2014

real estate developer and philanthropist presents a masterful debut collection of exceptionally cogent and timely speeches and essays.


s my grandfather gave me the 200-year-old journals, he pleaded, “I must know what is hidden here. You read the ancient language. Who were these men? What did they do? Why did the family preserve these books for centuries?” So my journey began. By its end I had discovered my history and the secrets in my name. www.tellingourtales.net Available at Amazon.


“Ever the stylist, his succinct, well-cadenced prose shows an engaged mind, sharply tuned wit, and compassion and intellect that provide a model for civic engagement.” “A wise, well-honed collection of speeches that address vital issues with fresh, penetrating insight.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Available at Amazon.

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE www.shelfmediagroup.com What to read next in independent publishing. FE BR UA RY

15 /M AR CH 20




t publishing



0 BER 201

xt in independen what to read ne



hot dog

Wayne Thiebaud by John Wilmderding Acquavella Galleries www.acquavellagalleries.com Rizolli International Publications www.rizzoliusa.com

“In a career of almost unparalleled longevity and qualitative consistency, he has gained a much-admired seniority among American realist painters. Known for his sensuous brushwork, strong saturated colors, and manipulated spatial design, he has produced an unmistakably singular body of images in an equally personal style of execution,” writes John Wilmerding in Wayne Thiebaud, a large-format book surveying the artist’s work from the 1960s up to his recent Hot Dog Stand, which he completed last year. Barbara Pflaumer, editor of the forthcoming magazine Foreground: Fine Art for the Culturally Curious (coming from Shelf Media later this year), talked to the 92-year-old painter about painting, subject matter, and hotdogs. Shelf Unbound: Hotdogs have been a subject you’re returned to over the years. You painted a row of them in 1961’s 5 Hotdogs and you’ve got one on a sign in last year’s Hot Dog Stand, which was on the cover of the New Yorker. What’s the appeal of this subject for you and what does it mean to you? Wayne Thiebaud: Essentially it is a subject matter that offers a chance for painting in a different way, which generally has been the probe of my painting research. I am continually looking for things that have meant something to me. 62


I worked in those kinds of stands when growing up as a young boy and I draw and paint them from memory. It is a sentimental journey in some ways and represents a wider reference to American culture and experience in the way people work, eat, dress and the places they like to go and are in the habit of going to as part of their daily lives. Shelf: Does photography have a role in your process? Thiebaud: No. I do all my work by memory and drawings. Shelf: Does irony or whimsy play a role in your work? Thiebaud: I am less interested in that and more in the positive challenges that represent traditions of paintings and the notion of caricature. As an old teacher, the concept of caricature is central to the notion of style. People don’t invest the time of knowing what role caricature plays in the character of space, color and light—but it is important to examine those things which are central to the act of painting and essential to use in the character of light. How one can use many kinds of light in a single painting—the glint of light, the focus and out of focus use of light —that’s what Vermeer did and what gives his paintings magic, the magic of caricature. Bonnard caricatures everything in his paintings, his space is almost nutty—he gives his space uniqueness and personal style. These artists have developed a new vision species—also Van Gogh and De Kooning—other worlds they have created that are parallel and unique. Shelf: You are perhaps best known for your paintings of desserts—colorful rows of cakes, or ice cream cones, or lollipops. Does that subject still interest you? Thiebaud: I still paint that subject matter—I approach each painting with a slightly different problem with the light and the space of the works and I like to take it on again. A painting from 1950 and what you do with it today fascinates me—I encourage my students to do the same as Cezanne proved there is no such thing as a finished painting, there are only completed works. Shelf: Do you have a sweet tooth? Thiebaud: Yes. Shelf: We’ve got a dog theme going in this issue. Are you a dog person? Thiebaud: I’m a dog lover but no longer have a dog. Shelf: Who is your favorite author and whom are you reading today? Thiebaud: Flaubert’s Parrot and a lot of poetry—the life of the mind is as rich and as wide as we make it and is of primary importance to painters. If painters do not use art, history, and literature, which have always been linked, they are not very good painters. UNBOUND


Books to Read in 2018


PRAY THE GAY AWAY by Michael & Zach Zakar




THE CALLING by Priya Kumar

THE WISE MAN SAID by Priya Kumar


“Provides remarkable evidence for the ability of dreams to inspire, to empower, and to heal.” —Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. Coauthor of Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work with Them

“A necessary and welcome basis for exploring . . . everyday life. [This] work is deep and easy to understand.” —Arny Mindell Author of Dreaming While Awake and Earth Based Psychology

“A revolutionary book. The implications of Dr. Donnell’s work will be of interest to philosophers and physicists alike.” —Martha Lawrence Author of Pisces Rising and Ashes of Aries


Past President, American Holistic Medical Association Assistant Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota Medical School

“This important book delves into the miraculous while remaining grounded in real life experiences.” —Hal Zina Bennett Author of The Lens of Perception


THE CHOKER by Lee Carl



n this illuminating book, Dr. Christina

Donnell chronicles a series of dreams that,

much to her surprise, revealed the presence within her of certain transcendent capacities. The more they surfaced, the clearer it became that in her dreams she was gradually approaching a state of oneness with all of creation—an awareness she proposes lies dormant in humankind, ready to be awakened. Transcendent Dreaming provides both a riveting account of these discoveries and a viable means for realizing them. Through example, it invites readers to access their infinite nature by delving deeply into their own dream experiences. It then helps bridge the chasm between identifying with one’s individual self and with the underlying intelligence pervading the universe. In offering this blueprint for a transcendent



“For anyone who believes there is a vibrational shift now occurring, this book is a must read.” —Bill Manahan, M.D.

Transcendent Dreaming

Christina Donnell, Ph.D.


hristina Donnell, Ph.D., a classically trained clinical psychologist, has studied Eastern traditions and the shamanic energy practices of the Q’ero Indians of Peru for nearly two decades. She currently maintains a consultation practice and travels extensively, conducting workshop intensives, giving public lectures, and leading experiential expeditions. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.



humanity, Transcendent Dreaming gives us back our heritage and guides us toward a future of inner peace, joy, and wonderment independent of external circumstances.

TRANSCENDENT DREAMING by Christina Donnell, Ph.D.


MAP OF THE SPIRIT by Michael F. Cantwell, MD, MPH

Books to Read in 2018

SEVEN, DELETE by Donna Kay Kakonge

WATERMARK by Elise Schiller

THE CHOKER by Lee Carl

After he is severely wounded at the Battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24, 1863, Mark is captured by Union soldiers and placed in a federal military hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. There he is nursed back to health by the lovely Ruth Taylor, a Quaker nurse/volunteer at the hospital. Falling in love with the gentle and caring Ruth, he eventually wins her hand in marriage. The war ends. Mark converts to the Society of Friends, and Mark and Ruth settle into what would seem to be a “happily ever after” life of farming in the lush valleys of the Appalachian Mountains near Allentown, Pennsylvania. But Ruth feels a call in her life to serve as a missionary to the Brule Lakota (Sioux) in Western Nebraska—a tribe that is slowly being decimated by white encroachment. With deep misgivings, Mark agrees to accompany her, and the couple moves to the West to answer Ruth’s calling.





Can Ruth survive the tough, brutal life of a Great Plains wife and missionary? Can Mark serve as both a companion to his wife and a mentor to the distrusting Native American tribe while withstanding the pressures inherent to an Indian agent? Most importantly, can Mark, with the grace of God and a spirit of self-forgiveness, find redemption for his many transgressions by becoming a missionary to a dying race on the bleak, windswept barrens of the western Great Plains?

Peace in the VaLLey

Mark Gamble is one of the greatest sharpshooters in the Civil War’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. He is well-known on both sides of the battle line: revered by his compatriots and feared by his enemies. Mark’s own fear is that his soul is lost forever as his lust for killing increasingly takes over his entire being.

A Quest for

Redemption in the Old West J OHN E RIC V INING WITH


THE FOREST TABERNACLE by Dr. Patrick D. Milroy

Peace in the VaLLey


THE FEARFUL LION by Almas Akhtar

PEACE IN THE VALLEY by John Eric Vining

MARX’S SOPHISTRIES by Lawrence Eubank

THE LIBERAL ETHOS by Lawrence Eubank

THE LAND by Steve and Martha Huddy




the download

AMANDA PALMER If you have yet to discover Amanda Palmer, prepare to be mesmerized. She’s got a critically acclaimed new album, Theatre is Evil, with an übercool accompanying art book, The Grand Theft Art Companion. She’s got almost 900,000 Twitter followers. And she gives her music away for free. www.amandapalmer.net | facebook.com/amandapalmer youtube.com/amandapalmer | twitter: @amandapalmer 66


Artwork: David Mack

Shelf Unbound: You describe your music as a cross between punk and cabaret. What drew you to this artistic amalgamation? Amanda Palmer: Well, both punk and cabaret have similar themes, as far as I’m concerned. Art as culture therapy. But I thought “punk cabaret” was the perfect way to describe my songs and the dresden dolls back in the day, since we were very theatrical but very aggressive and LOUD and both grew up with DIY and punk bands as our aesthetic and emotional parents. Shelf: You had me at 2010’s Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele. Last year you famously set a Kickstarter fundraising record for a music project with contributions totaling almost $1.2 million to produce and promote your new album Theatre is Evil. Rolling Stone called it “one of the year’s best rock records.” I’ve been listening to it over and over and agree with every accolade it has received. What does being fan-supported do for you as an artist? Palmer: It means that I get to communicate directly with my audience without having to negotiate for permission. And having gone through the major label nightmare, and having done many projects where I felt my phones got tapped and my psychic artistic letters to my fans got censored by the prison warden, it’s all I ask in this life. Just a clean line and de-static’d connection straight from me to those who want to listen. My favorite shows to play are in living rooms, as much as I also love playing in huge public theaters and venues. I’m happiest when I’m actually WITH people. And since I know that my



music will never be mainstream or commercial, I’m very happy to dig deeper and find my kindred spirits than I am to try to please the lowest common denominator. For that, I need a very clean signal. The internet has provided it. I feel hugely grateful. Shelf: I love these lines from one of your recent blog posts: “i take the things around me, and i put them in a blender in my mind, and i connect the dots, and i layer, and….i write.
sometimes songs, sometimes poems, sometimes emails.” In your songs, your blog, your twitter posts, your performances, and your life you are continuously putting yourself out there raw and seemingly unfiltered. Is revealing yourself to your audience the chicken or the egg of your art? Palmer: Yes, I suppose it is. Making art is always a dance between your inner spark, the filter you send it through, and the final transmission that comes through your song, your voice, or your paintbrush. The choices we make at every one of those steps are the choices that make us unique artists. Some choose to be opaque. Sometime I choose to be opaque. But where I like to grow and water myself is the challenge of being authentic and spontaneous and dealing with the consequences of those actions. Sometimes you get explosive joy raining down electricity all over you and sometimes you get a pile of rotten dung on your head. But one thing is for sure: it’s never boring. If I had to play it safe and make considered choices for a focus group; or churn out safe, standard radio music and aim for the middle audience I’d rather....I don’t know...just sit in a cave and meditate.

Artwork: Rick Berry

The Bed Song

The Grand Theft Art Companion “NOW, about the ARTWORK. over the last six months i’ve been working in secret with OVER THIRTY visual artist friends of mine to create a massive explosion of song-inspired album art, in all different kinds of media. some people took the project really literally and made super lyrics-specific paintings....some people went way abstract. the end result is an EXPLOSION of incredible art.” —Amanda Palmer on Kickstarter.com

Theatre Is Evil Sampler Click HERE to download Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra’s Theatre Is Evil Sampler at Noisetrade.com 70


Artwork from The Grand Theft Art Companion by Amanda Palmer, www.amandapalmer.net. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Artwork: Sylvia K.


yellow pages

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers Little, Brown and Company www.littlebrown.com


he war tried to kill us in the spring,” begins this gorgeously written debut novel by Kevin Powers, a veteran of the war in Iraq. The Yellow Birds is at once a searing portrayal of the unremitting hell experienced by two soldiers and a work of such accomplishment that “Great American Novel” seems a warranted accolade. More please, Kevin Powers. Shelf Unbound: The Yellow Birds succeeds as both an evocative, poetic novel and a high-impact documentary of the horrors of war. Were these aspects equally important to you? Kevin Powers: Yes. And I would even say that I found it impossible to separate the two. I chose to emphasize the language as a way of highlighting what it was, exactly, that I was trying to document. Instead of simply creating a record of fictional events in time, a catalogue of circumstances if you will, I wanted to use the language as a kind of parallel to the experience of being in a war. I hoped that if the language in the book was strange and immediate and dynamic, but also clear, then a reader would have access to the full spectrum of emotional and sensory confusion that becomes Bartle’s everyday interior life. Many writers have very capably shown us the kinds of things that happen in war. I expect others yet to come will look at the war and illuminate that terrain with even brighter lights. I wanted to create the portrait of one person looking out from it, and to see what light, if any, would escape. Shelf Unbound: How soon after returning from serving in Iraq did you start writing the book, and what was your starting point—a character, or a scene, or a specific memory?



Powers: I started writing it about a year or so after I got back. I began by attempting to answer the question, “What was it like over there?” I was asked that question quite regularly and I became fixated on the idea of likeness and its function in the way we understand the world. It seems to me that analogy, comparison, simile, metaphor, whatever, are all inherent in our process of perceiving reality and our constant testing of our perceptions. Whether these relationships fit the patterns we are accustomed to, and so on. I wanted to explore the difficulty of trying to order the world as those relationships broke down. What would you test reality against after all previously held assumptions about the world had proved unreliable? In the face of our most extreme of human experiences, what kind of worldview would you have to cobble together from what remained? Shelf Unbound: I read that you completely scrapped the first draft of the novel. How come? Powers: I mostly completely scrapped it. The ideas I mention in response to your previous questions occurred to me as a result of that first draft. I realized that I wanted to make them the focus of the book and that I would have to start over to have any chance of doing so effectively. Shelf Unbound: Was writing the book cathartic? Powers: It never occurred to me until this very moment, but that may have been why I needed that first draft. It wasn’t until I started over that I felt like I was writing (however briefly) with the kind of clarity I wanted. Shelf Unbound: What are you working on now? Powers: I have a book of poems in a state of relative completion and I’ve started thinking with some determination about my second novel.




blue lines

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell Simon and Schuster www.simonandschuster.com


n eight interconnected stories, Elissa Schappell explores post-feminist revolution female angst with precision, brilliance, humor, and heart. I love this book. —Margaret Brown Shelf Unbound: As the writer of the “Hot Type” book column for Vanity Fair, cofounder of Tin House magazine, and former senior editor of The Paris Review, you’ve probably read as much contemporary fiction as anyone. So with Blueprints for Building Better Girls, was there a particular literary territory you wanted to stake out as your own? Elissa Schappell: Since the time I was a little girl, writing has been the one thing I have always done and it is the only thing I have ever been good at. Growing up I very much wanted to please my parents—who were good parents—and be a good daughter. And certainly in the culture I was growing up in, girls were supposed to be nice. But I was a depressed kid from about the time I was 10, and nobody wanted to hear about that. So I would actually write swear words in water on the wall of my closet. I would write “fuck” there and in the pages of my diary. I wrote terrible poetry and terrible limericks. Writing was the one place where I could unload my anger. When I was an editor at The Paris Review, there was constantly brilliant stuff in front of me. “Wow, we have another story by Alice Munro!” We published the beginning of The Virgin Suicides. I was constantly thinking, Why do I even try? This is crazy. But you also see that good writers write bad stories, and I discovered that if I typed one of Raymond Carver’s stories into the computer I could see what he was doing. For me writing was life saving. It was the way that I solved the problem of being alive.



Shelf: Your female characters struggle with anorexia, infertility, motherhood, jobs, rape, narcissistic partners, etc. The commonality, and what compelled me to relate to each of them, strikes me as the struggle with identity. Do you see your characters as suffering a collective identity crisis?  Schappell: Blueprints has a chorus of female voices that, while different, are singing the same song: This is what it’s like to be a woman in America. My idea was to write about very recognizable female characters and to tell the story you don’t know about them—the story they want you to know. We didn’t get blueprints. We got an entire book—a whole bunch of ideas that you should be a mother and a perfect wife and have a job and have great girlfriends and that you must volunteer. In etiquette books they tell you how to behave as a well-mannered person. In this book I wanted to show how these rules passed down from generation to generation hurt and separate and alienate women and how ultimately they force us to adopt these personas that don’t reflect who we are as a way to protect ourselves. When I think about identity, we are all burdened with an identity of our own making but also one projected onto us, and there’s no way that can’t be complicated. For me that is where the drama is. Shelf: You are known for your brilliant concision; The New York Times Book Review calls you “a diva of the encapsulating phrase.” What is your process for constructing a spectacularly descriptive and evocative brief sentence like “Roger had noticed the scar on the inside of my arm the third time we had sex.”?  Schappell: I write a lot and then I cut it in half. It takes me a long time to figure out what I want to say. I work really, really hard at it. It is work and it should be work and it should hurt a little bit. For me personally, it should hurt. It takes a long time to write something truthful.




pink ink

Hot Pink by Adam Levin McSweeney’s www.mcsweeneys.net


dam Levin delivers non-stop dazzle in the short story collection Hot Pink: “The fifty-third day in a row we hung out, me and Franco got all these grilled cheese sandwiches at Theo’s BaconBurgerDog from Jin-Woo Kim, who people call ‘Gino’ because we’re not in Korea or are in Chicago or people are lazy or two of those reasons.” But it’s not just spectacle; Levin also writes with affecting poignancy. Hot Pink is my new favorite color. —Ben Minton Shelf Unbound: Your award-winning debut novel The Instructions weighed in a 1,030 pages; Hot Pink is a collection of 10 short stories. Which is more challenging—developing and sustaining a long story or encapsulating a short one? Adam Levin: It’s a tie. I’m desperately afraid of boredom, so whenever I sit down to write fiction, I attempt the most challenging thing I can.   Shelf: What’s the starting point for you in concocting characters like Susan Fells, a precocious 15-year-old lesbian double-amputee with denial and mother issues, or Jane Tell, an art school dropout who entices strangers to injure her? Levin: The starting point is almost always the sentences.  I’ll write a bunch of sentences ‘til I get to one that I like, then delete the others. Of the one I like, I’ll ask myself one of the following questions: “What kind of person would say what was just said?” “What kind of person would think what was just thought?” “What kind of person would care to make the observation just made?” I’ll get some vague answer (e.g., “An angry young woman would say this.”), then write another sentence I like that follows the first, and I’ll ask one of the aforementioned questions again, but with a more specific subject, (e.g.,”What kind of angry young woman



would say what was just said?”) or, if the second sentence seems to be a bit dissonant with the first, which is often the case when things are going well (at some point, fairly early on, some dissonance will definitely need to arise if I’m going to stay interested in what I’m working on), I’ll ask the question more argumentatively (e.g., “How could the angry young woman from the first sentence possibly be the same speaker/thinker/observer as the speaker/thinker/observer in this second sentence?”). And so on, ‘til the the third or fourth or twentieth sentence – ‘til whenever the dissonance threatens to become nonsense -- at which point I’ll address the dissonance more directly, which gives rise to plot, which itself helps further determine who the character is. Other times, I just get bored, so I cut some awkward young genius’s legs off or something, and then have to figure out how to justify that narratively.   Shelf: You write quirky characters who relentlessly fail each other and themselves, and yet you portray them with what ultimately seems like affection. Do you assess real people with the same generosity? Levin: When I find them entertaining, yes.  Shelf: What are you working on now? Levin: A novel, I think. COLLECT ALL THREE | Turns out Hot Pink also comes in blue or grey so you can pick one to go with your couch. Cover illustration by Walter Green—see more of his cover designs at www.waltergreens.com.





Vivian Maier Street Photographer Edited by John Maloof Text by Geoff Dyer powerHouse Books www.powerhousebooks.com

“I acquired Vivian’s negatives while at a furniture and antique auction while researching a history book I was co-authoring on Chicago’s NW Side,” says John Maloof. “From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from her storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments.” What Maloof discovered was the unknown work of the unknown street photographer Vivian Maier [1926-2009] –- nanny, loner, visual poet. Maloof’s find launched a blog, a Kickstarter project, a forthcoming documentary, museum exhibits, and a new book, briefly excerpted here. 78


Vivian Maier represents an extreme instance of posthumous discovery: of someone who exists entirely in terms of what she saw. Not only was she entirely unknown to the photographic world, hardly anyone seemed to know that she even took photographs. While this seems unfortunate, perhaps even cruel – a symptom or side effect of the fact that she never married or had children, and apparently had no close friends – it also says something about the unknowable potential of all human beings. As Wislawa Symborska writes of Homer in her poem “Census”: “No one knows what he does in his spare time.” —Geoff Dyer From Vivian Maier – Street Photographer, edited by John Maloof, text by Geoff Dyer, powerHouse Books 2011, www.powerhousebooks.com. Text and photographs reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. UNBOUND


“Maier’s recent, sudden ascent from reclusive eccentric to esteemed photographer is one of the more remarkable stories in American photography.” —David Zax, Smithsonian



“Ms. Maier’s streetscapes manage simultaneously to capture a redolent sense of place and the paradoxical moments that give the city its jazz...” —David W. Dunlap, lens.blogs.nytimes.com



“She had an incredible eye for the small details and proved to be rigorous in framing, often concentrating strongly on the detail she wanted to show… without caring too much for the surroundings.” —Photoble.com 82


“The arresting, artfully framed scenes from the streets and byways of New York, Chicago and beyond seem alive with movement.” —Katie Beck, BBC.co.uk





Eimear McBride’s novel is difficult to read but rewards the adventuresome reader with its genius and the heartbreaking story of a troubled young girl with an abusive mother, a disabled brother, and an uncle who molests her. I urge readers to step outside their literary boxes and experience this remarkable book.

Coffee House Press coffeehousepress.org

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride 84


Photography: Jemma Mickleburgh

Shelf Unbound: You begin the novel with these lines: “For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say.” And you keep going like that for the next 226 pages. How did you invent this unconventional style of writing, and what were you trying to achieve with it? Eimear McBride: The starting point for the style was reading Ulysses. The effect it had on me was so profound that, after the first five pages, I understood everything I had written before had to go in the bin and I had to start again. More conventionally composed prose felt rather bloodless in the light of it

and I realised that there are great swathes of existence which cannot be adequately described or explored within those traditional, grammatical frameworks. What I hoped to achieve was an unmediated experience for the reader whereby the writer becomes completely invisible and the reader feels so closely implicated in the protagonist’s experience as to almost be experiencing it within themselves. Shelf Unbound: Was writing in this style constraining or liberating or both? McBride: I think it was both. As a writer, to decide to cut all ties with everything you have



ever been taught to believe is not only important, but necessary, in order to make your work communicable, is extremely liberating, and terrifying, but mostly liberating. Technically it was very difficult though because I then had to invent my own conventions and work out how to stick to them. Shelf Unbound: I’ve read that it took you nine years to find a publisher for this book, which last year won the Goldsmith Prize and recently won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. What do you think it says about the state of publishing today that publishers were reluctant to take a chance on it?



McBride: Obviously the experience of being unpublished for nine years was hugely dispiriting for me personally and all the more so because I very quickly realised that the problem was far greater than mine. Somewhere along the line— doubtless in pursuit of greater profit margins—publishers decided to stop taking chances on writers, which means they also stopped believing in readers and their desire for work which examines aspects of life that cannot reasonably be explored within the confines of a 350 page whodunnit. It seems to me that many publishers have forgotten that the intrinsic nature of the reader is to be adventurous, interested and open to being engaged by different forms.

Shelf Unbound: One thing I love about this book is that it requires the reader to float along in a state of incomprehension that then develops into partial comprehension and then into complete comprehension, if not of every moment but of the story as a whole. Were you concerned at any point that readers would struggle with it? McBride: I was always aware that I was making a big ask of readers. I knew, chances were, when they opened the first page and saw all those short, oddly punctuated sentences, it might alarm them a little. But, communicating the story was always central to my plan so I knew that, if I did my job properly, readers who were

willing to go through that period of adjustment to the style would hopefully find a compelling story there to make their initial extra effort seem worthwhile. Shelf Unbound: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is your debut novel. Will your next one be in a similar style or perhaps more traditional? Or do you plan a whole other form of invention?  McBride: I’m still interested in language and what it can be cajoled into doing, so I won’t be returning to the traditional any time soon. That said, I built the language of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing around that particular story and next time I’ll do the same, which means it will be different again.





Shelf Unbound: What first planted the seed of Tinkers in your head? Paul Harding: My maternal grandfather’s stories about growing up in Maine. Like George Washington Crosby, his father had epilepsy and abandoned the family when my grandfather was 12, after discovering his wife’s plans to have him committed to an asylum. Whether out of generational tact or something like simple grief, my grandfather would not elaborate on these facts, which made them all the more irresistibly fascinating to me, concerned as they were with my begats, so to speak.


Bellevue Literar y Press www.blpbooks.org

HE NAMING OF TINKERS as this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction was a win not just for first-time novelist Paul Harding but also for indie publisher Bellevue Literary Press, an arm of the New York University School of Medicine that gave small publishing its first win in this category since 1981. It’s a win for readers as well: Tinkers is a fantastically inventive piece of literature. Shelf Unbound recently talked to Harding about transcendentalist thinking, Moby Dick, and what it feels like to be the poster boy for independent publishing. —Margaret Brown 88


Shelf: The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is awarded “for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” What about this story most reflects or reveals American life? Harding: I can’t say. I did not write it with “America” or “American life” in mind. It might be that that is what allowed whatever people find quintessentially American in it to permeate the material, though. Certainly, a book that has a protagonist whose first two names are George Washington is going to set some associations in motion, but I just picked the name George as an obvious fictional replacement for Paul, which was my grandfather’s actual name. He was Paul Washington Crosby. I think that the book is steeped in pretty thoroughly American literature and thought as well, given its proclivities with transcendentalist thinking. Shelf: The novel begins with George Washington Crosby, a clock repairman, imagining the house that he built by hand caving in on his failing body. It’s fantastic imagery of the literal dismantling of his carefully constructed life. Where did the idea for this scene come from? Harding: Well, I put the poor soul on his deathbed, alone, and had the idea that he was hallucinating about cracks in the house he’d built himself and spent his life meticulously maintaining. It seemed a kind of obvious emotional reaction, a fear he’d have as he felt things and himself slipping away from one another. Then, I just sort of applied a principle I most admire in Moby Dick, which is to extend metaphors to their logical ends, until they collapse, give way. The metaphor in this case was a bit more literal than usual, I think, though. Once the scene is framed in the context of a hallucination, I just wrote out the house collapsing, stage by stage, as if it were literally true. Then, I just left it alone. I didn’t want to over-determine the image; just describe the thing as precisely and as vividly as possible, as palpably as possible, and hand it over to the reader and her own imagination. Shelf: You’ve become the poster guy for small presses and independent bookstores. What did Bellevue Literary Press see in Tinkers that the larger publishing establishment did not?

Harding: Certainly, larger publishers and more commercially oriented agents look at every manuscript with the very real concern about whether they can sell 10,000 copies of the thing in hardcover. There’s a real bottom line with which everyone struggles. I don’t begrudge people the parameters of their jobs and economic reality. I think that someone who reads a zillion manuscripts a year might find Tinkers in the middle of the pile and think, What the hell is this? The real misfortune is that quieter, more meditative books are tougher to evaluate, or even to become implicated in, in such a profit-oriented environment. Anyway, it was my still unbelievable good fortune to somehow have Erika Goldman at Bellevue come across the manuscript. From there, it was a classic case of the right book finding the right editor. Since Bellevue is non-profit, I imagine that Erika had the good fortune to be able to read the book without certain, er, financial necessities tugging at her brain as she did. She just plain liked it, I think, and was able to publish it on that basis alone. Lovely! Shelf: You’ve described yourself as a “self-taught modern New England Transcendentalist.” How does this personal framework inform your writing? Harding: It’s just a habit of seeing. I mean, I find the New England transcendentalist thinkers—among whom I include, in addition to Emerson and Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, Wallace Stevens, and even John Cheever, to an extent—experience their own perceptions and relationships to the world and to other human beings in a way that deeply resonates with me, impresses me, challenges me, gives me joy, and so forth. This kind of thinking arose directly out of the thinking of the Protestant Reformation, of course, and I find the relevant cosmologies, morality, and so forth to simply be

Shelf: Which came first for you in writing Tinkers, the use of the clock as a metaphor or the idea of exploring the fluid nature of time? Harding: It’s funny, the clock metaphor arrived as a non-negotiable dramatic premise of the book, because my own grandfather repaired and traded clocks and I apprenticed with him for several years. So, I didn’t think of it theme or symbol first. It was a literal, concrete fact, out of and through which I subsequently evolved some of the novel’s themes about time. Of course, I’m obsessed with being in time, with our experience of it, how it foreshortens and elongates and doubles back on or ahead of itself, and so forth, and I think of all that experientially, which as a fiction writer means in terms of character and also in terms of narrative. So it all harmonized in a beautiful and pleasing way; I was able to swim around in all sorts of temporal realms and luxuriate in all sorts of non-linear, associative states of mind. It’s all about mind and consciousness, and those are all about the essence of being human.

Shelf: Near the end of his life, George dictates his memories into an old tape recorder. You write, “He imagined that his memoirs might now sound like those of an admirable stranger, a person he did not know but whom he immediately recognized and loved dearly. Instead, the voice he heard sounded nasally and pinched and, worse, not very well educated, as if he were a bumpkin ... .” What does the dissonance between his imagined voice and his actual voice say about his sense of identity? Harding: I guess it says something about the discrepancy between how we perceive or want to perceive ourselves and how we actually are. My immediate impulse while writing that passage was just derived from how much I hate to hear my own recorded voice. It makes me cringe. I feel the same way about seeing photographs or film of myself. I always think, Terrible; that’s not how I’d like to think of myself at all. So, it’s a pretty usual bit of human mortification. There’s some Emerson in there, along the lines of each person thinking he is misunderstood, is better than he acts or is perceived as being.

Shelf: You studied with Marilynne Robinson, who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Gilead. Where do you see evidence of her teaching or influence in your writing? Harding: In all of the above. She is a kindred spirit. Within 10 minutes of meeting her, I recognized her as a dear friend whom I’d not previously met. I can just sit with her for hours and hours on end and talk about art and music and philosophy and theology. In terms of writing, from my point of view, I feel as if we’re members of the same family. I experience her influence as a joy and as great good fortune.

Shelf: You were a drummer in the rock band Cold Water Flat. I hear all kinds of rhythms in Tinkers. Are you conscious of the pattern or meter of your language as you write? Harding: Absolutely. I am wholly committed to writing lyric prose, which is the term I use for writing that falls just the other side of prose poetry. I think of my writing in terms of things like tempo and time signature and rhythm, the musicality of language, its incantatory properties. These things are also, of course, other ways of thinking about the ebb and flow, catch and release of time held by or inside narrative.

the most beautiful impulses and ideas across which I’ve come.





Cataclysm Baby By Matt Bell Mudluscious Press www.mudlusciouspress.com Shelf Unbound: You’ve written 26 small tales of the grim and grotesque, with grossly malformed babies and shockingly evil children. How did you come to this subject matter and to the idea of cataclysm? Matt Bell: The apocalyptic mood has been a strong part of my reading and writing for a long time, and I’ve definitely written more fiction about people perched at endings than at beginnings. I like characters backed into corners, and I generally work from the belief that by my taking the everyday elements of



our lives—in this case, especially the family—and estranging them in some extreme situation sometimes allows us to see their parts more clearly. And certainly the use of violence and trauma in fiction always creates a strong reaction in readers. My hope is that it isn’t merely shocking, but that it discomfits the readers into a special kind of openness: by confronting the grotesque, we’re already dealing with elements outside our day-today life, and that confrontation can be both moving and generative of change in ways that a milder fiction might not be.

Shelf: You seem like a nice guy, Matt. Where do you go in your head to invent such wicked characters as the daughters who slowly dismember their adulterous father? Bell: As I writer, I often feel tasked to turn into what worries or upsets me, rather than away, as I more often would in my daily life. When I was a kid, it was the books and movies that scared me that I remembered into adulthood, and as an adult we’re still vulnerable to a similar kind of reaction or interaction. Where I might shy away from violent or upsetting thoughts while out in the real world, making the fictional world alive with conflict and danger sometimes means allowing that fear and disgust into my conscious thoughts, and then going past those emotions into what’s beyond them, an often useful space. What’s the thing that scares us most, and what would come to replace it, once we get acclimated to that first fear, as we inevitably will? Those are powerful places to visit, and worth exploring on the page. Shelf: I’m struck by the way you use language to evoke real, relatable pain within your fantastical gothic construct: the “pummeled womb,” “my grief-stung wife,” “this hurt-drowned heart.” Do you start with the carica-

ture and work to find the character, or the opposite? Bell: I wouldn’t say that I start with caricature, but I usually start with voice or image, and then try to unpack whatever it is that interests or moves me in that voice or image. What I’ve learned to do is to move forward by moving backward, continuing to go back to that initial inspiration, mining it for what else is there, and then extruding that into the next part of the story—and if I’m lucky, that process will lead to the next such image, the next self-powered or pregnant utterance, hopefully before the first one runs out of juice and leaves me stranded. This process is enough to get me from event to event, from scene to scene, from beginning to end, and along the way it ideally offers up everything I need to make it through a draft. When I was a younger writer, I thought writing fiction was about piling up novelty after novelty, trying to offer something new in every moment, but I think now I believe something fairly different: that this process of unpacking is more powerful, that it eventually goes deeper, by working to explore a greater part of a smaller number of objects or ideas. Shelf: Care to share what you’re working on now? Bell: I’ve been writing a novel for the



past few years, and am now in the final editing stages. After that? Who knows. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to start from scratch, and in many ways I’m looking forward to returning to the blank page, in all its possibilities. At the end of a project, it’s easier to work—because what you’re working on is presumably already pretty strong and only needs to get better—but the work is also more constrained, because every choice already made means there are less potential choices to make next. I’m looking forward to starting again, to



making another long passage through uncertainty, and to seeing what new experiences I might find there.

Hali, Halle, Hamako The day came when we could no longer hide the glistening sight of our daughter’s flippers, nor the secret of her skin, its oils and fur. Like the other parents afflicted before us, we took her to the lonely end of the

island, to the cliffs hung high above the breaking surf. There my wife kissed our daughter’s wet nose, after which I bound tight her swaddling, stilling her wide limbs to her sleek middle, and then together we let our baby tumble from our hands, through the tall air, into the swallowing sea.

when sometimes I catch my own face staring back from the water beyond. Those waveless days, I see my face or a face like my face, but not the faces of the fish that once swam in those depths. Our fish are gone, and our daughter too, and together her mother and I pray for some rewinding of waves, some reversal of what awful ripples we have made, so that our daughter might one day find her way to the flatter side of the island, to the yellow beaches, to the path leading to our small hut, our home meant once to be her home.

Afterward, what endeavors we undertook to forget, even as our guilty bodies tried again for some more right-birthed baby, even as our bodies proved unable to produce another – even as we entered this famished sea, this season of nets cast out and collected empty, until throughout our village every stomach was as hollowed And if it happens? If our pup returns? as our crib. Then what? And now these legs, walking me back to the cliff, my guilt-path worn through Then how: With anger? With forgivethe jungle. ness? With love? Now these eyes, watching the ocean crash its anger-first upon the shore, a parade of knuckles on top of knuckles on top of knuckles. Now this hurt-drowned heart, when I see how other times the ocean is flat like so much glass, like the unwalked beach below, its sand stormed upon, lightning-fused and mirror-smooth;

Or with that thing we deserve instead, a new mood from our new daughter, dredged deep from the dark, rising slow and sure, purposed only to take us back down. From Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell, Mudluscious Press 2012, www.mudlusciouspress.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.





Who By Fire by Mary L. Tabor Outer Banks Publishing Group www.outerbankspublishing.com

Mary L. Tabor’s ingeniously constructed and emotionally rich Who by Fire has a middle-aged widower traversing the downward spiral of his marriage. Highly recommended for your book club.

Shelf Unbound: You have your main character creating the story of his deceased wife’s affair through memory and invention. It’s a novel approach to narrative — how did you arrive at it? Mary L. Tabor: It’s fascinating to me that you use these two words memory and invention. Robert invents the story he didn’t know as he tries to discover what his wife actually did while she was alive. Perhaps the biggest risk I take in the novel is that use of invention. But I still have to make clear to the reader that real time, what I call the “now” or the present action of the story, is always operating, driving the plot forward, driving my narrator Robert forward. As Robert and I invented the story he didn’t know, my own memories invaded as they inevitably will for the writer of any story. Memory 94


by its very nature is flawed, but the need to revisit memory over and over again is part and parcel of being human and alive. Revisiting memory is the way we search for meaning in our lives, for the narrative of who we are and who we might become. In some sense, we’re inventing. But in fact we’re searching for emotional truth. As writers, we aspire to find that. When fiction rings true like a bell, we believe it. Shelf: The story reveals the fissures in two marriages. You’ve written about marriage before — what interests you about the subject? Tabor: The ultimate challenge to our humanity gets played out day in and day out in marriage. When E.M. Forster asserts in the epigraph to Howard’s End, “Only connect…”, he sets the challenge for all of us. In a committed relationship with another, whether there be a contract or not, we romantics hope for transcendence in love. But, of course, our flawed humanity that includes the baggage of our past gets played out in daily living. It gets played out in the ordinary: buying the groceries, commuting, sweeping up the messes that occur again and again. The only way through all that, I think, is to believe that transcendence in love comes hand-in-hand with the transformation of one’s self — not the other, not the beloved.
 ut that’s only part of my answer. Marriage as subject provides for me a solid place to search for answers about the meaning of existence. Not to get too philosophical on you, but the search for meaning is the reason I write — and read.   Shelf: One of the main female characters is named Evan. I’m wondering why you chose a masculine name for her? Tabor: Until you asked me, I hadn’t realized Evan is a male name. The unconscious mind is tricky, isn’t it? I love the character Evan more than anyone else in the book. The answer might be as simple as this: As I’m heterosexual, perhaps I unconsciously gave her that name. Shelf: You’ve taught creative writing. What did you learn in the process of writing this book that you would share with your students? Tabor: Save everything. I think most writers are hoarders. When a student has told me after a workshop that he’s going to trash a story, I’ve reacted in horror, but until I wrote this book, I’m not sure I fully understood why. Many years ago, I read an article in the newspaper about a baby’s bones found in a suitcase in the attic of a house after it had been sold on Veazey Street in DC. I cut it out and saved it. Didn’t know why, just couldn’t forget it. Later I wrote a short story about what might have happened and titled it “The Suitcase.” That story reenvisioned became a key part of the novel. Shelf: You recently posted on your blog: “I’ve written a novel entitled Who by Fire, ten years in the making, and I’m pretty sure not many folks will ever hear of it or read it.” What would it mean to you if people did read it? Tabor: I know from all your questions that you understand the risks, the unusual structure of this novel. If it ever got read, I would cry because I’d be so indebted to those readers, as I am to you. I would cry in gratitude. UNBOUND




A new collection of short stories from the co-producer of Book of Mormon

Grove Atlantic groveatlantic.com

White Man’s Problems by Kevin Morris



Shelf Unbound: You’re a highly successful Hollywood entertainment attorney, and you won a Tony for coproducing Book of Mormon. Why add writing to the mix at this point in your career? Kevin Morris: I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but have come to it the long way. When I graduated from college, 30 years ago, I made a conscious choice to go to law school to earn a living. I promised myself I would eventually return to writing fiction. Good fortune led me to Los Angeles, and entertainment law and producing have been a terrific way to practice and stay involved with art and the creative process. Though I’ve written non-fiction— articles, book reviews, opinion pieces—finally the time came where I decided I had to dedicate myself to telling stories. That’s what I have been doing for the past five years, at least two full days a week, and beyond that as much as time, representing my clients, and being a dad will permit.

Shelf Unbound: Your father was a refinery worker, and a theme in some of these stories is respect for the capable doers of your parents’ generation compared with today’s hightech button pushers. In “Summer Farmer,” a depressed wealthy movie producer talks about riding the service elevator with “the working guys, the electricians, caulkers, framers and the like. Seeing them made him think of his dad and his uncles, who carried pressure gauges and tape measures and had specks of drywall in the hairs of their forearms at the end of the day.” In “Mulligans Travels,” Jim Mulligan—50 and struggling to make his next big tech deal— accidentally runs over his dog, which then becomes wedged under the rear axle, and Jim struggles ineptly to get the jack to work in time to save him. Are you nostalgic for pre-tech times and a real hard day’s work?



Morris: Not so much. It’s more that I am interested in the American Dream as it exists in today’s world and the relationship that men have with success. The way we live is changing rapidly and success is constantly shape-shifting. We’re busy trying to define it, deal with it, not get jealous about others who have it, what have you. And when we think we have achieved it, we worry that we are deluded or have redefined success just to make ourselves happy. At least the people and characters who interest me do. Stridently successful people without any doubt are pretty one-dimensional. There’s also a technical reason for upper mobility in the characters. Taking someone from poor to rich is a useful vehicle—it adds a layer of alienation and complication to a person’s story. We chase money so much in American life that we risk looking up only after it is too late. I’m hardly the first to observe that. And the over-achievers are especially prone to it.



But, I’m more interested in the pressure not to let life pass you by before it passes you by, and the conundrum that puts my characters in. That’s Jim Mulligan and Eliot Stevens and John Collier from “Rain Comes Down,” even though it’s now too late for him. Is that a white man’s problem exclusively? In some ways, but mainly I think it’s a modern human problem. Shelf Unbound: Many of your characters, despite being privileged, are in a mid-life malaise—depressed, divorced, dissatisfied. You recently turned 50 (as did I)—is there an autobiographical element in these stories? Morris: It’s not on-the-nose autobiographical. More a sense of memory and an attempt to make something creative out of my life experience. The guys I write about share a sort of alienation as they get older. They’ve been hard workers and “succeeded” by society’s standards, but they can’t help feeling

from “Mulligan’s Travels”


efore he could get the glasses to his face, Mulligan heard a muscular and garbled noise, almost like the workings of a trash compactor. He slammed the brakes. The sound had been strange—like something being rolled, very low and dense. He sat silent, hoping the coast was clear. He hoped it might have come from across the street. Maybe the gardeners were mulching or something. Or maybe he had run over a branch or Bella’s skateboard or something. He shifted back into drive and started forward. The same low noise shot out, this time punctuated by a higher-pitched yelp. He closed his eyes and lifted his hands off the steering wheel as though it were suddenly ten thousand degrees. He had

run over something. It was bad-muffled, crunching, and violent. He knew the sound of a body getting hit. He threw open the car door and dove to the ground. There was Henry, wedged under the rear axle, staring at him, a purplish mark on his brindled brow. Heartbreak slammed into Mulligan’s chest. He tried to be calm. “Hey, Henry. Hey, buddy,” he said. “C’mon, big boy. Can you come here?” Henry moved his front legs and shoulders, trying to obey, but he got nowhere. Mulligan reached and burned his hand on the exhaust pipe, and when he pulled back in pain, he smashed it again inside the wheel housing. From White Man’s Problems by Kevin Morris, Black Cat 2015. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



like they should be happier. So, like Henry, the dog on the cover, you can’t tell if the characters are tough and ready to fight, or about to be run over. (The sadness in Henry’s eyes may be a hint.)

to worry about failing their boss or their family. They don’t have to worry about the responsibilities and fears that come with being a grown-up, a parent, a spouse.

Shelf Unbound: You selfShelf Unbound: A rare exuberant published White Man’s moment in these stories is in Problems in 2014, and then “The Plot to Hold Hands with it was picked up by Grove/ Elizabeth Tremblay,” which ends Atlantic. Why did you initially with high school student Roman choose to self-publish? Budding having indeed just held Morris: The first book I wrote, hands with Liz: “I think about a novel, received good feedback her sweater and her lips. I still in terms of its literary merits but smell her. I start to run. Slowly editors thought it was too hard to at first, kind of a home-run trot. categorize so, ultimately, I couldn’t Then I go faster. Then faster find a traditional publisher. It was still. All the way home.” Do you discouraging but I continued to think that kind of unfettered write. I found myself writing stories, exuberance is only for the young? and after a year had a collection of Morris: They sure seem to be nine that I thought would make a able to access it more easily. When good book. I didn’t even consider we’re young we’re so hyper aware of submitting it to a publisher, knowing ourselves—self-conscious, but also how difficult it is to publish story much more willing to take chances collections. I knew digital publishing and live on the edge. It’s easier for was becoming easier and selfthe young to feel unfettered because publishing more acceptable so I they are unfettered. They don’t have decided to go for it.

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It was the chance of a lifetime—to witness China’s greatest engineering exploit since the Great Wall in person. He would perform research for his dissertation and help his friend’s family move to higher ground. But Joe’s plans are suddenly altered by a debilitating accident. The unexpected detour brings the civil engineering graduate more than he had planned. While recuperating from his injury in modern-day Arcadia, he is commissioned to carry out a four-hundredyear-old tradition soon to be submerged by the construction of the mega dam. Now equipped with unsurpassable martial mastery, Joe pursues a lost heirloom and a crafty killer.






Jennifer Bresnick’s enchanting Tolkienesque epic fantasy The Last Death of Tev Chrisini captivated our judges from page one and held us in thrall through its conclusion 467 pages later. We fell in love with the story and its characters and with Bresnick’s assured literary tale-spinning. We talked to the 26-year-old author about her debut novel.


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Winner of the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book


Tev Chrisini is a soldier who can’t die, caught in the middle of a war that won’t end. When a temporary truce is called, he is chosen to guide an envoy to the peace talks. But when a young woman in his care flees with a wanted murderer, Tev’s mission suddenly changes course, setting him on a race against dark forces to recover a legendary book: one that holds the secrets of his past—and the keys to his future. —Jennifer Bresnick Shelf Unbound: How did you come up with the idea for this novel? Jennifer Bresnick: It started out as an act of desperation five minutes after midnight on November 1, 2009. I had finally worked up the courage to participate in my very first National Novel Writing Month, but I was completely stuck for ideas. I’d never written a novel before—I’d never written any fiction longer than a ten-page short story for a college class—and I was entirely convinced I couldn’t do it. I was about to forget the idea all together, actually, when I started browsing my bookshelf for inspiration, and opened up to a random page in a book about military history. The phrase “there was always a war” jumped out at me, and all of a sudden there was a vision in my head of the world I wanted

to create, as well as the basic premise of the book. That phrase became the first line of my novel, and the story followed from there. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night (or many nights after). Shelf: Who are your literary influences? Bresnick: I’ve been a die-hard Tolkien fan since the third grade and I’ve worn through more than one copy of The Silmarillion, which probably says a lot about me. My other fantasy influences include Terry Pratchett, with his wickedly sharp sense of humor, and Tad Williams for his epic world-building and perfect sense of character. If you notice a bit of Regency flair in some of my work, it’s because Jane Austen and especially Patrick O’Brian are some of my all-time favorite authors. I love history, and I try to infuse as much historical and sociological realism as possible into my made-up worlds. But I can only ever hope to be a fraction as adept as O’Brian when it comes to weaving meticulously researched details, humor, action, and heart into my work. Shelf Unbound: I’m sort of stunned by how perfectly you structured the ebb and flow of the plot, given that this is a long book AND your first one. How did you go about creating this somewhat complicated, multi-story plot, and was there a lot of editing of the story sequences? Bresnick: I love stories with a lot of different plot threads, because they’re usually so




good at creating suspense and turning any story into a bit of a mystery. When everything comes together and you get that “Aha! I knew that’s what the grandmother’s necklace would be for!” moment near the end, it’s really satisfying both as a reader and a writer. The most challenging part of having multiple plots was making sure the timing worked out, considering most of my story involved journeys. Everyone was traveling to different places at different rates, and it did get a bit confusing. I ended up drawing a big calendar on a couple of pieces of paper awkwardly stapled together, and plotted each character’s timeline in a different color to keep track of it all. Then I discovered that there’s some really great storyboard software out there, and I felt a bit silly for getting my colored pencils out. But sometimes there’s just no substitute for scribbling on paper. The whole construction of the book was a learning process for me, and it was only with many rounds of editing that I got it into the shape that I wanted. Shelf: Why did you decide to self-publish? Bresnick: Originally, I only published a Kindle version of The Last Death because I wanted an easy way to allow some of my friends to read it. I used to be very, very shy about sharing my work, and it was a big step for me to make the book public. I had no expectations that anyone would be interested. But then I started getting some positive responses from family, former teachers— even strangers. My downloads picked up,

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and I began to get some comments on my blog. Suddenly, readers out there in the wild were enjoying and embracing something that was deeply personal to me. It became a way to connect with people on a level I had never experienced before, which was both surprising and gratifying. I began to learn more about book promotion and how easy it was to publish in print—easy if the fickle formatting gods are on your side, at least. I decided to produce a paperback with CreateSpace, and I’m very happy with the results. Even if it never becomes anything more than a hobby, I’ve never been happier. Shelf: What are you working on now? Bresnick: Right now, I’m working on a prequel to The Last Death, called The Spoil of Zanuth-Karun. It’s set in the last days of the Empire when everything is starting to fall apart and the problems that Tev encounters are just starting to take shape. You’ll get to learn a lot more about where Tev comes from, and he does make a couple of cameos. I hope it will be available in the spring of 2013. I may come up with a few additional stories about Tev’s adventures during his long life. Some of the characters Tev encounters get a similar treatment in a companion novella I wrote, called Treason’s Choices. You can read all about my current state of creative affairs on my website, at www.jenniferbresnick.com.

There was always a war. The teams sometimes rearranged themselves, and land would change hands when one player’s fortunes dipped particularly low, but somewhere, for some reason, there was always a war.  After close to seven hundred years, most of the participants were finding it hard to keep up.  The great empire of Zanuth-Karun had fallen, Umre and Agan were no more; Gidan had long since claimed neutrality, roundly denounced as a cop-out by all sides.  Untold thousands of kings, generals, and heroes had gained the dubious immortality that comes from being killed in interesting ways.  The original grievances were all but forgotten, wearing down the fervent patriotism of centuries ago into a comfortable, familiar antagonism: a predetermined set of countries to be steadily and continuously despised. Somewhere north of the Schism Line, just past the edge of the clearing in the dense pine forest where his regiment was camped, a soldier named Tev Chrisini reluctantly pushed the dice across the makeshift yasho table and let Neidril take his turn. “Are you sure, sir?” Neidril asked. “If I get more than a ten, there isn’t a way you can make it up.” “Just finish the round,” Tev replied, gesturing for him to continue. “I can cover it. Don’t worry,” he added when the man looked at him doubtfully. “You didn’t last time.” “Yes I did. And I would have sooner, if she had just listened to me,” Tev replied, smiling a little as he remembered the incident in a little border town a few months prior. The innkeeper’s wife had chased him out of the building, screaming and throwing a chicken at him — a live, squawking, terrified chicken — when she thought he was about to run out on a large debt to her husband. He had no intention of doing so, of course, but she had been so furious over the possibility that his explanations were worthless to her. It hadn’t been his proudest moment, trapped in a corner, fighting to get control of the livid, flailing bird as the woman searched for more poultry, but it had been pretty funny. But he wasn’t surprised that he was losing again, and badly. In fact, he thought, he ought to be used to it by now, since he was fighting for Kialdar again, and Kialdar wasn’t doing quite as well as it could have hoped. From The Last Death of Tev Chrisini by Jennifer Bresnick. Excerpted with permission. All rights reserved.




Winner of the 2013 Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Indie Book

Nancy Peacock

It’s 1875 in Drunken Bride, Texas, and the eve of former slave turned Comanche warrior Persimmon Wilson’s hanging. Nancy Peacock has created an enthralling character in Persy and a story that is at once an epic adventure, a love story, and a history lesson. We talked to Peacock about the novel. Lystra Books & Literary Services | www.lystrabooks.com

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Shelf Unbound: How did you come to the Shelf: Your first line is one of the best idea of writing a novel about a slave? I’ve ever read: “I have been to hangings Nancy Peacock: The original idea was to before, but never my own.”  Tell us about explore the possibility of a black man rid- writing that line. ing with the Comanche Indians. I’d read Peacock: Thank you. It’s one of my favorite a book several years earlier about white lines too, and it just came to me one day. captives (mostly children) of the ComanI think that writing—and all art—takes a lot che who assimilated into of psychic space, and I was I think that writing — and the tribe and even fought in a place like that, a place with them. I found myself all art — takes a lot of psychic of inner spaciousness, when asking the writer’s favorite I started wondering about space, and I was in a place question—What if? What if a black man riding with the like that, a place of inner a black man rode with the Comanche—and then that spaciousness, when I started Comanche. That led to the line just showed up in my next question—How did he wondering about a black man head. I didn’t so much write get there? I kept on like this riding with the Comanche — it as deliver it. That’s the until I had backed it all the and then that line just showed way it was working with the way up to a cane plantation character of Persy. He has up in my head. in Louisiana. The reason an incredible strength to him, for that location was that and a lot of focus, which I knew New Orleans had fallen early in the made my job a lot easier. I did not need to go Civil War, and I knew that some of the planta- in search of him, so much as get out of his tion owners fled to Texas with the enslaved way and be his writer, and check the historical people so as to keep what they saw as their facts to make all the puzzle pieces fit together. property. I thought that this would be one I really believe that sometimes a story and way for my character to end up in Texas— a character choose a writer, rather than the and it almost happened that way. other way around, and I think that is why that




psychic space, that spaciousness for art is so important. Shelf: The novel takes place in Louisiana and Texas in the late 1800s. How did you go about researching the regions in this era? Peacock: This was hard. These are two places I had never been, and could not afford to visit, so I had to piece it together without the benefit of travel. Once I had accepted that this was the way it was going to be I started trying to figure out how. I felt that Louisiana would not be too difficult. I knew swamps, and I knew rivers. I read a lot about cane planting and processing, and created Sweetmore, the plantation where Persy is enslaved. In the Louisiana section he stays in one place, so once I’d created that place it could continue to serve me as the setting. But Texas! Texas is a big place with lots of ecosystems, and Persy is traveling in most of the Texas section. I watched some movies that were supposed to be set in Texas, but the thing that really helped was drawing my own map, and then looking up national and state parks, getting pictures of them and marking them on a map. In this way I got a

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handle on what sort of terrain Persy would be passing through. I also read a lot of memoirs and diaries from the period, and these provided some good description. Shelf: Your characters use the word “nigger,” which would have been accurate for the time. Did you have any qualms about using it? Peacock: Yes, I did. But it was necessary to use it as it is true to that period, and I always try to stay true to the story. I open every reading saying that this is an offensive word, and that I only use it the context of fiction, and apologizing to anyone who still finds offense with it. Shelf: In writing out his life story just prior to his hanging, Persy is candid about his shortcomings, for example of his lies to Chloe about escape plans he never actually makes, he says, “I told Chloe whatever I thought she wanted to hear, and she rewarded me with her love.” Yet he is unrepentant of the murders he commits when he later becomes Twist Rope, a Comanche warrior. Was it your intent

from the start to write him as an emotion- and one that many enslaved people lived ally and morally complex character or did with. I think Persy told Chloe these lies as much to convince himself that he was doing that develop as he emerged? Peacock: I think that to be human is to be something as to convince her. Later, riding with the Comanche he emotionally and morally complex. As a reader I find these sorts of characters the most becomes a warrior, something he could believable and the most interesting. As a never be while enslaved. He carries guilt about not being able to prowriter I hope for my humantect Chloe, but this is someAll this came from really ity to touch my characters’ thing that will never happen humanity. In other words, trying to listen to the again. He’s empowered. I try to understand what it characters. We all share It’s also important to rememwas like to be that person, something as human beings, ber that these were bloody and to be other people in and this is why fiction is times, and Persy had seen the story. possible, and why being killing before. The killing he If I were Chloe, trapped moved by a story is possible. participated in as a Comanin the big house with a man che was just sanctioned by who rapes me, I would des- I think stories connect us a different group of people in deep ways, ways that we perately want to escape. than the killing he’d seen preAnd if I were Persy, I would could not otherwise connect. viously. All the acts of violence be frightened to try. Persy understands the swamps and the danger Persy witnesses were sanctioned by someone. All this came from really trying to listen to the better than Chloe. Yet he is a man, and I think every man who is in love wants to characters. We all share something as human please his woman, wants to save her from beings, and this is why fiction is possible, and any unpleasantness if he can. What Chloe why being moved by a story is possible. I think was going through was more than unpleas- stories connect us in deep ways, ways that we ant of course. It was an impossible situation, could not otherwise connect.




WINNER of the 2014 Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book

Death Never Lies by David Grace Wildside Press davidgraceauthor.com

“The newspapers said they were high on meth or crack or some other drug with a name that sounded like a line from a movie. …” 110 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R


WINNER Shelf Unbound: From the opening scene with two drug-crazed gunmen holding up a corner store, Death Never Lies is a nonstop page-turner that unfolds like a movie. It’s your 15th novel—what have you learned about creating a complex, tight plot in the course of your writing career? David Grace: The question for me always is: From what direction should I approach the construction of the story? You can start from: 1) a character, which is where I began thinking about Death Never Lies (Greg Kane) and Death Never Sleeps (Big Jim Donegan); 2) an emotional situation (someone thought dead is rescued alive), which is where I started with The Concrete Kiss and Stolen Angel. 3) a plot structure, e.g., a chase or search. In Shooting Crows At Dawn I started with the idea of three killers racing across Texas for the Mexican border while relentlessly pursued by an old-fashioned East Texas sheriff. 4) a gimmick of some sort—some dangerous technology is on the loose

(The Forbidden List)—or a dangerous situation—the Secretary of State has learned that the President is a traitor (The Traitor’s Mistress). 5) A shocking crime and an unusual victim or suspect, which is where I started A Death In Beverly Hills. I think John Connolly is a terrific writer and I would urge people to use his Wrath Of Angels as a model of how to construct characters and plot a book. Also, The Godfather and The Silence Of The Lambs are wonderfully plotted and written books. No matter where you start—character, threat, emotional situation or a crime—you need to spend a great deal of time on plotting the story itself. I first write a narrative description of the story from beginning to end. That’s usually five to ten singlespaced pages. Then I build a chapterby-chapter outline consisting of one paragraph for each chapter in the order in which those chapters are to appear in the book. That will easily run ten to fifteen single-spaced pages. Lastly, when all that is done and I actually start writing, I have to let the story evolve; characters appear and disappear and I need to be flex-



WINNER ible in adding or deleting scenes and chapters so that the story grows and evolves and so that it works from an emotional and pacing point of view. Shelf Unbound: Homeland Security detective Greg Kane is a great character with the deductive smarts of Sherlock Holmes and the physical bravado of an action hero. How did you come up with this character? Grace: I’d been thinking about writing a book based on someone like Kane for a long time. I liked the first two or three seasons of the TV show House and I initially thought about writing a novel with an obnoxious but brilliant detective as the main character. More than five years ago I actually wrote the first three chapters of such a book, but I could see that it was turning into a pretty ordinary crime/thriller novel and I didn’t want to write that kind of a book. It was rapidly becoming more about who the villain was and how the hero was going to catch him than about who the hero was. The more I thought about it the more I became convinced that I didn’t want to do a detective version of Dr. House, so I abandoned that idea. Years went by.

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“Afghanistan or Iraq?” Kane asked after the girl had taken their order. “Afghanistan—Kunar Province mostly.” Foy’s eyes clouded over for a second then snapped back into focus. “Nothing like this over there,” he said glancing around at the vinyl benches and Formica table tops. “How about you?” “I never served,” Kane said in an almost embarrassed tone. “Then how come you recognized my tattoo?” “In my job you run into a lot of guys with tattoos. It pays to learn what they mean. ...And a lot of guys who claim to have served and never did. You get to learn how to recognize the fakes pretty fast.” “I wish I was a fake. I wish I’d never joined up,” Foy said staring at Kane with sudden heat, then he looked away. “Do you

want to know what happened to me? How I ended up here?” Not knowing the right answer, Kane just shrugged. “Nothing,” Foy said with a sudden, bitter smile. “I didn’t get shot. I didn’t get blown up. Not one damn thing.” Kane started to speak but then the girl brought their food. The way Foy tore into his burger Kane wondered when he had eaten last. When the shake was down to the dregs and all that was left of the fries were broken crumbs Foy looked back across the table and smiled. “Thanks. That’s the best meal I’ve had in a while. Man, I miss those shakes.” “Sure,” Kane said. “My pleasure.” “You want to show me that picture again?” Kane slid it across the table. Foy glanced at it and pushed it back. “Yeah, I saw him. Eleven, eleven-thirty last night. I was up under the heat vent at Burger World. He passed me and went on up the block, away from the titty bar.” “Any idea where he was going? Did you notice if he turned down any of the cross streets?” “Sorry.” “Well, thanks.” “You know,” Foy said as if the idea had just occurred to him, “maybe I could look around for

him. You know, walk the neighborhood, keep a watch out.” “Keep a watch out?” “Sure. Twenty bucks?” Foy asked with a different kind of hunger in his eyes. “I could get you into a program,” Kane said. “Help you get off the sauce.” “Nah,” Foy said, smiling. “That won’t work.” “Why not?” “Because you can’t get straight unless you want to get straight, and I don’t.” “Maybe some counseling—” Foy waved Kane’s words away. “Do you have a pill that will make me forget, something that’ll let me unknow what I know?” Foy’s face grew hard then he forced himself to relax. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t get shot or get blown up, not me, personally.  ...Look,” Foy said, struggling to explain, “you meet a guy, have some beers, find out where he’s from, how he met his girl and then, boom, some asshole blows his arm off and he’s gone and a new guy gets his bunk and he tells these stupid jokes and you find out that he likes olives on his hamburger and the next thing you know they’re shoveling pieces of him into a body bag and then the guy who sleeps in the rack across from you and three down who looks like Opie and can draw like

a son of a bitch goes out one morning and comes back without a face. And it never fucking stops. You just sit there and watch these guys get fed into the meat grinder day after day and pretty soon you don’t want to know them. You don’t want to talk to them. You don’t want to hear about their girlfriends or how their little sister wants to be veterinarian or that their mom makes this great fucking blueberry bread pudding. You don’t want to know anyone, but you can’t shut them out. They just keep coming and they just keep dying, or worse, and it never stops.” Foy covered his face with his hands and shook his head as if that might drive the memories away. A few seconds later he wiped his eyes with a napkin and gave Kane an embarrassed little smile. “So, thanks for the offer and everything, but what I was and what I am...fuck, it’s like loving hot dogs and then taking a tour of the sausage factory. You can never go back to what you were before you knew.” “The booze will kill you, Randy.” “So what?” From Death Never Lies by David Grace, Wild Side Press, davidgraceauthor.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



WINNER I knew there was something there but I didn’t know what. The breakthrough came when I realized that Greg Kane didn’t want to be the pain-in-the-butt, angry guy he had become and that his struggle to be a more normal person made him a more compelling and interesting person than just a brilliant jerk who solved crimes. Once I understood not only what skills Kane had and who he was but also who he wanted to become, I was able to turn Greg Kane into a more interesting and more heroic character than I had originally envisioned. Shelf Unbound: In your career as an attorney, you were authorized to argue cases before the Supreme Court. How much of your actual legal experience and knowledge winds up in your novels? Grace: A bit of honesty here—although Chief Justice Warren Burger did admit me to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court I never did so. After trying a few cases in state court I found that I preferred business law to litigation, and I spent the rest of my legal career in the more sedate area of contracts and corporations. However, my legal training, the habits of organization, inventive thinking, un-

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derstanding how people acted and reacted in various situations, helped me a great deal in planning and plotting my novels. Shelf Unbound: You’ve written screenplays for a number of your books. Which one of them would you most like to see turned into a movie? Grace: My favorite screenplays based on my books are, in order: True Faith; Daniel; The Concrete Kiss; A Death In Beverly Hills, Shooting Crows At Dawn and Stolen Angel. My good friend’s sister ran into Dean Norris a few weeks ago and I thought: “He would be perfect for Harvey Ingersoll in The Concrete Kiss and the perfect actor to play Sheriff Jubal Dark in Shooting Crows At Dawn.” I told her to tell her sister that if she ever met Dean Norris again to let him know that I had two great scripts for him. Unfortunately, I suspect that he has heard that same boast from waiters, dental assistants and random strangers five or ten thousand times already. Nevertheless, I still get a little emotional when I close my eyes and imagine Dean Norris as Harvey Ingersoll telling a room full of hysterical people: “I told you! I told you Amy is alive!”







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WINNER of the 2015 Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book

Sin Walks Into the Desert by Matt Ingwalson ingwalson.blogspot.com

El Viejo saved Sin’s life back when the boy was a 12-year-old punk hellbent on shooting up the school bus with his daddy’s .357. And now the old man’s gone missing. So Sin straps on his guns, grabs his go-bag, and hikes into the desert to find him, only to uncover a nest of killers with ancient vendettas waiting out there with the king snakes and coyotes. —MW 116 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R


WINNER Shelf Unbound: You’ve created a modern minimalist Western noir style, with a Breaking Bad kind of cool bad guy protagonist. How did you develop your style and what influenced it? Matt Ingwalson: My characters tell me how to write their stories. The Owl & Raccoon books are all clipped cop talk. Regret Things was as unrestrained and ambitious as its heroine, Nicki. And Sin Walks Into the Desert is empty and haunting because the main character is an empty, haunted human being. There are Western plains where the horizon is so far away it’s meaningless. The world is a flat surface without any walls to hold you. That sense of infiniteness, that’s what I wanted to achieve with the language in Sin Walks Into the Desert. It’s a story about scary men searching vast spaces, trying to decide what their humanity is worth.

send him off to live with his uncle, who teaches him an old school “law of the West” good guy/bad guy moral code. What is the reader to make of Sin’s obsession with guns? Ingwalson: It’s a good question. I purposefully resisted giving easy answers in the book. On the one hand Sin just has a lot of normal teenage angst but without any buddies to help him through. But on the other hand, something is seriously broken inside him. His idolization of his big sister borders on obsession. And he was born with a homicidal urge he doesn’t have the social skills to repress or the mental dexterity to understand. He’s constantly suppressing his nature, and as a result he’s a bit of a shadow, living right on the edge of something terrifying. Guns are the only things that give Sin a sense of control. And he’s not just good with them. He’s a natural killer.

Shelf Unbound: The young Sin is similar to the archetypal shooters we see in the news today—a bullied, disaffected kid who gains access to a gun. But his parents take action and

Shelf Unbound: In addition to Sin Walks Into the Desert and its prequel Regret Things, you’ve written a series of police procedurals. What interests you about crime?



WINNER Ingwalson: David Byrne once said singing is a trick to get people to spend more time with music. And I think that’s part of it. The crime genre is a trick to get people to spend more time with characters, more time in uncomfortable situations. But part of it is that genre fiction is just cool. The real world is artificial and stupid. I’ve seen enough genuine tragedy that trumped-up literary drama makes me want to go around punching people. I write crime, noir and horror because they’re fucking cool. Sue me. Shelf Unbound: By day you’re a copywriter for an agency. How has being a copywriter influenced your fiction writing? Ingwalson: I wrote three novels when I was in college. They were awful—navel gazing and whiny. So I shoved them in a drawer and spent the next 15 years working as a copywriter. But as I got promoted to creative director and then executive creative director, I found myself writing less and less. So I went back to fiction as a creative outlet, and my style had changed without me even realizing it.

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he voice on the other end of the phone sounded like sandpaper would sound if it whispered and was a woman. Every other word, she had to pause and breathe, shallow breaths that took forever to happen. Sin was used to it, waited patiently for her to get the words out. “Thanks.” Wait. “For calling.” Wait. “Kiddo.” To which Sin said nothing. “Seen el Viejo recently?” “About a week.” When Sin spoke, it was at some volume

just barely above silent. Catrina waited a bit to make sure he’d actually finished before she went on. “Not since he went to the place?” “No.” “He’s AWOL.” “No, he’s at that Denzhone place for a few days still.” “He’s got a situation.” Anybody else, Sin would’ve laughed. El Viejo didn’t have situations, except the arthritis that kept him in his rocking chair and off the streets where he belonged. But the voice on the other end of the phone, the voice that talked instead of texted, it belonged to la Calavera. Catrina Limon. Special Agent Catrina Limon. Special Agent is one of those titles like Senator. Once you have it, you get to keep it forever. El Viejo’d met Catrina when she moved out to do border security with the ATF many years ago. He’d consulted with her unit on strategy, tactics and local customs, and eventually they got around to pulling triggers. Anybody el Viejo pulled triggers with didn’t screw

around much. That went double for la Calavera, even if she, like el Viejo, was stuck in a chair these days. She was one of the first and best female agents the federal government ever had training anti-terrorist units along the Mexican border. She was old even then, older than el Viejo, but they both had family in the same area of Wyoming so they shared that in common. Or maybe el Viejo fell in love with the idea of an elderly female out in the desert commanding a tactical team. He’d taken her under his wing, taken her drinking, taken her out to the desert to show her how the cartels set up mobile staging sites to get guns, drugs, workers and slaves across the border. Turned out she’d chalked up three kills as a sniper back in her time someplace she couldn’t really talk about or maybe didn’t want to. Nicaragua? Cambodia? She wouldn’t say. But three. No shit. Most guys couldn’t say that, could they? El Viejo could say it a few times over, but he was a different topic altogether.

“Why do you say that?” Sin said. “We got.” Wait. “A photo.” “OK,” he said and he hung up his phone. No need to be polite or say goodbye. You couldn’t offend someone like la Calavera. Sin stood up and slipped his phone back in his pocket. Even though it was just about fall, it was still seventy degrees at night and he had no jacket. He shook his shoulders a bit and let his t-shirt arrange itself over his belt. “You going?” Sindy asked. He nodded. “You coming back?” Sin didn’t know how to say goodbye, especially since he’d just got there. Finally he leaned down and kissed Sindy where she’d kissed him, on the skin up underneath her ear. She had a little rose there that trailed down the back of her neck, the stem ending somewhere near her spine. He didn’t really make eye contact with her as he slouched towards the door. From Sin Walks Into the Desert by Matt Ingwalson. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



WINNER I actually wrote a blog post about what authors can learn from copywriters and I’m going to crib from that here:

of published authors whose dialogue wouldn’t survive the first creative review in any agency in America.

Shelf Unbound: You recently 1. Know the end. When you write published the third book in the an ad, it only ends one way. The Sin & Nicki series, To Guns. reader buys what you’re selling. You What’s it about, and what do work backwards from that point you like about writing books as to build gripping copy. This is the a series? opposite of the inverted pyramid Ingwalson: A reviewer called Sin technique journalists are trained in. Walks Into The Desert a neo-Western and I thought, “Yeah, that sounds 2. Inhabit a voice. Writing is not cool. I’m going to write another the linear assembly of grammatically one of those!” To Guns was all correct and accurately spelled about getting Nicki and Sin stuck sentences. The best ad writers are in a showdown in the middle of method actors, slipping completely the mountains and watching them inside a brand and effortlessly Bonnie-and-Clyde their way out. adopting its tone. To Guns is a fun book, but like Sin Walks Into the Desert, it has some pretty 3. Have an idea. People hate edgy themes. Nicki’s flaw is narcissism; advertising. So to be noticed, no matter how much attention she copywriters have to grasp for big, gets, it’s never enough. And Sin original ideas. (Or if not completely doesn’t have the skills to get out of original, at least charmingly anything without resorting to violence. unexpected.) And copywriters learn Neither one of these characters is to communicate those ideas fast. finished, either. The fourth book will be mostly Sin and it will massacre 4. Learn to write dialogue. You anything else I’ve published. The want to write how people talk, go bust fifth book, if I get there, is going to out a few dozen radio spots. Your skip a decade and involve Nicki’s ears will guide you. There are a lot daughters. Get stoked.

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ss le d a h rs e sh li b u -p lf se , e Once upon a tim d e w ie v re s k o o b ir e th g in of a chance gett ked ic w r e h g n si a le p d a h a ll than Cindere . d e g n a h c s a h y r o st t a Th stepmother. BlueInk Review: because every book

might not be a princess, but they all deserve a shot at the ball.

serious reviews of self-published books www.blueinkreview.com


WINNER of the 2016 Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book

On Bittersweet Place by Ronna Wineberg Relegation Books relegationbooks.com

Wineberg’s coming-of-age story of Lena Czernitski, a young Russian Jew who has fled the Ukraine with her family to brave the challenges of assimilation in 1920’s Chicago, has all the elements of a classic. It is a lovely novel with a heroine of depth, intelligence, and tremendous heart.

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WINNER Shelf Unbound: How did the idea for this novel come about? Ronna Wineberg: The seed for the book came from my family history. My mother’s family fled from Russia. Though she and my father were born in the United States, many of our relatives had come from Russia. As a child, I didn’t know much about the family background. When I was in college, some cousins of mine and I decided to talk to our grandparents and aunts and uncles about life in Russia. We all sat in the living room of my parent’s home and asked questions. I was riveted by the stories. My great grandfather was murdered by Cossacks but not in the way that occurs in the book. I thought then that someday I’d like to write about an immigrant family. But when I began to write fiction, I wrote stories about contemporary life. Eventually, I decided to write a series of linked short stories about a Russian girl and her family. After I had written a few stories, I realized I was writing a novel. The Russian portions of On Bittersweet Place are loosely based on my family’s history. Shelf Unbound: You have rendered a complex and memorable

character in Lena. How did you go about creating her? Wineberg: Thank you. At first, I experimented with different voices for the narrator and different points of view. When I discovered Lena’s voice, she led me through the novel. Things happened in the book that I didn’t expect. Lena evolved as I wrote and as I revised; she became a stronger character. The key for me was finding her voice on the page and her internal voice. Sometimes I read sections aloud to be sure they sounded like her. Shelf Unbound: You cover a lot of weighty topics in this novel: prejudice, sexual abuse, mental illness, death, infidelity, class. Yet you weave them into the story so seamlessly that the book never feels heavy handed. Why did you want to include all of these topics and what was your approach to doing so? Wineberg: The topics arose as I wrote. When I created Lena and her family, I knew that one family member would suffer from mental illness. The sexual abuse arose in the course of writing. I wanted to capture Uncle Maurice’s essence as a person— what he does in the book seemed




“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” —Martin Buber

to describe who he is, his character. It’s also a burden Lena has to carry. After I finished a draft of the book, I realized there were a lot weighty topics in the pages and that Lena faced many challenges. But I felt this was realistic for the era and for a child in a struggling immigrant family. Shelf Unbound: What kind of research did you do to so effectively portray Chicago in the 1920s? Wineberg: I grew up in Chicago and am familiar with the landscape of the city and the lake. I visited Chicago while writing the book, drove around and walked in the area where Lena lives. I didn’t know much about the city in the 1920s and had to do a lot research, which I enjoyed. I read books about popular culture in the 1920s. I learned about music, fashion, jewelry, books, prices of products, schools, sexual mores. I read about daily life in the United States in the 1920s and read Irving Cutler’s The Jews of Chicago. The Encyclopedia of Chicago was very helpful. And I read about American, Russian, and world history before and after World War I. I did research on the Internet and spoke to librarians at the Chicago Public Library who found names of Chicago

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PROLOGUE September 1922


he first day in the apartment on Bittersweet Place, my father carried two wooden crates to a corner of the living room. He set a wide piece of wood on top. “Desk,” he said. “This is your desk, Lena.” He gave me three pencils and a square black notebook. Here I began my labors in English. I was ten years old. Each night, I

printed words. Smokestacks in the sky. Rise high. Blue. Like a sea. Der yam. The noises of the city and the apartment were my companions. The roar of the elevated train. The clatter of cars. The landsleit and relatives talking and arguing. From the open window, I imagined I could see all the way to Maxwell Street, where pushcarts squeezed one next to another like squatters’ houses, where the odors of sweet warm breads and foul raw chickens rose in the air. If I walked east from the apartment, I knew I would find the blue waters of Lake Michigan. In Russia, we lived by a gray-green lake, in a white wooden house in Belilovka. What we saw then was all that we knew: the hilly green land, the smoke that flowed like ribbons from a lumber mill, my father’s letters that arrived from America on thin white paper. At my desk, I willed myself to forget the past. But the memories charged through my mind. My grandfather at the head of the table. His dark beard gleaming like

satin. My grandmother next to him. My two uncles and my older brother. I felt safe in that house by the lake. Then, we’d heard drunken laughter from outside. “Cossacks. The Petlurias,” my mother had cried. “Go to the forest. Quick.” She’d pushed my brother and me to a window in the back. We scrambled out barefoot and ran. This was what I wanted to forget: the dark, damp forest. My brother’s hand clutching mine. The smell of pine, the cold dirt beneath our feet. The scratch of weeds. We hid behind a cluster of trees in terrified silence. And then the crack of a gun and the awful screams. Later that night, I wept when I saw my grandfather slumped on the table, his arm stretched out as if he’d been offering the visitors a glass of wine. At my desk, I told myself: Lena, stop thinking about this. Instead, I tried to concentrate on schoolwork. Then I printed in my notebook. I prepared a list. At first, I wrote in Russian. Later, as I became better at it, in English. I added and erased until my list felt exact and complete.

My Fears by Lena Czernitski September 15, 1922 I Will never speak good English Will not have one American friend I will be attacked on the street by an American Petluria I Will lose someone dear to me Will never have a home that is safe Will never grow up I will never ever know happiness again I wrote my fears to try to pull them out of me. I promised myself I would find a solution for every problem. I would work hard, learn English. I would become like an American so I could have American friendships. When I had banished all my fears from my heart and mind, I would belong in this new country, I was sure. The Goldene Medina. This golden land. I would finally be strong and grown up



WINNER streets in the 1920s, weather patterns, streetcar routes, and other information about the city. I did research before I wrote the book and while I was writing and revising. It was important for the details in the novel to be accurate. Shelf Unbound: You write in your acknowledgements that your grandparents and other relatives fled Russia, arriving as immigrants at Ellis Island. What does it mean to you personally to have written this novel? Wineberg: I wanted to capture the warmth, tension, and difficulties of a family and portray what it was like to be a Jewish immigrant in the Midwest during a time of prejudice. The book is a way to honor my grandparents and other relatives, to bring back to life their world as they may have experienced it, to imagine that world. The novel is fiction, but I wanted to make the emotion in the book true. Writing the book also helped me reconstruct what it feels like to be a teenager, part of a family yet trying to break away, a piece of my life that is long past. I’m grateful that Relegation Books and its extraordinary publishing team believed in the book and took such good care of it. And I’m happy the novel speaks to you and other readers.

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ubslush is a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. Our niche platform allows authors to raise money and gauge audience response for new book ideas while readers pledge their financial support, democratically bringing books to life. By offering publishers and industry professionals their own unique pages, Pubslush gives these innovators the power of customized crowdfunding. Pubslush’s highly-rated personalized service and focus on user education helps to ensure our authors are as successful as possible. Our community bridges the gap between writers, readers and industry leaders, facilitating a more open and comprehensive publishing process. While our philanthropic cause,  The Pubslush Foundation  serves to aid in the fight against illiteracy by providing books to children with limited access to literature.



WINNER of the 2018 Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book

The Last Train: A Tokyo Mystery by Michael Pronko

A flawless, dark, atmospheric mystery set in Tokyo. Our judges couldn’t put this novel down.

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WINNER Shelf Unound: You’ve lived in Tokyo for two decades—what interested you about Tokyo as the setting for The Last Train? Michael Pronko: Tokyo is always provoking my curiosity. Japanese culture, and Tokyo life, too, has this respect for what is concealed or veiled from quick and easy view. Of course, Tokyo has an exciting surface life with huge numbers of people and diverse places, all in constant motion, that is hard not to see. But the unnoticed currents below the surface are more thrilling, more elusive. There’s layers of the accepted and forbidden for just about everything. Mystery novels reveal, gradually, what we usually avoid or keep out of sight—past mistakes, dangerous desires, corruption, fears—and Tokyo has a lot of all of those. So, that background seemed a good place to set the novel. I’ve written three works of non-fiction about Tokyo life, and I realized that a lot of what I wrote about was the mystery of life here. So, it seemed the next step was to write that response into larger fictional narratives. I’m still enchanted and amazed by Tokyo, and at times repelled and confused. Because of everything

roiling under the surface, Tokyo seems an intriguing setting for these Hiroshi mysteries. Tokyo is a huge, fast-paced city that can feel endless and exhausting, but I’m fascinated by all the complexities of life here, so it seemed natural to write it in Tokyo. Shelf Unbound: Your three main characters are fascinating and enigmatic—white collar crime Detective Hiroshi Shimizu, his mentor Takamatsu, and the spellbinding Michiko Suzuki. How did you develop these characters? Are they based at all on real people? Pronko: The characters come from my interacting with a lot of people over the years. Over twenty years, you meet and see a lot of people in Tokyo. Michiko is a composite of women I saw when I was going out a lot covering jazz. I wondered what their life was like. I was startled by the dignity and inner strength of women working in the night trade. Michiko is a powerful, perplexing character who lives her life in her way on her own terms. That’s rare. Though violent, she acts based on some of the best qualities of Japanese character, though she has a thing about revenge. Takamatsu is probably the most



WINNER fictional of all the characters in the novel. He’s Hiroshi’s mentor, and is unapologetically unrestrained, but still ethical, though his ethics depend on the situation. I think that’s a distinct type of person in Japan, but he’s not based on a real person. Hiroshi is the character I can sympathize with most. I used to teach students who had lived overseas for many years and returned to Japan. Their re-entry was not always smooth, since Japan can be very rigid in many ways. After years of working with those students, I got a strong sense of what it is like to be trapped between cultures. Later, I realized that’s been my experience, too. Takamatsu and Sakaguchi, the sumo wrestler, are more purely Japanese characters. Hiroshi always stays a bit removed from Japanese customs and ways of thinking. Those characters developed on their own from the seeds of observation and interaction over the years here.

intriguing what students like, and don’t like, and it’s always a bit of a challenge to find that sweet spot when they can be swept away with a work but still move out of their comfort zone. I’ve taught a lot of novels over the years, but a few stand out. Modernist novels like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and The Great Gatsby are based around conflicts and characters, as well as symbolism, that always clicks with students. Novels like The Joy Luck Club and Slaughterhouse-Five mean working with a more challenging structure, but once they figure out the jumbledup time and place, they sink into these novels of ideas and of culture and get into interesting readings and discussions. Recently, students have come up with strong papers on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are so many universals packed into the novel’s rather simple framework, they can connect with it in an individual way. As for films, The Graduate transfers easily to a Japanese context, especially Shelf Unbound: You are a the search for identity and meaning. professor of American Literature The inertia and apathy of Benjamin is at Meiji Gakuin University. What something they resonate with perhaps American novels resonate with your too well. To Kill a Mockingbird (I often Japanese students? read novels and film adaptations side Pronko: I teach contemporary novels, by side) always sweeps them away. and American film, art and music. It’s Other films seem to consistently

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The Last Train by Michael Pronko


he pulled him toward the entrance of Tamachi Station away from the nearby warren of bars, eateries and allnight clubs filled with bar hoppers and boozers. She checked her watch, barely noticing the drizzle. The trains would stop running soon. Drunken, red-faced Japanese men in groups, or alone with a woman

peeled off from one of the hostess bars, ambled along the streets with liquoredup gracefulness. Drunk together at night, they talked loudly and coarsely, acting boisterous and loose, though in the morning they’d return to quiet, meek company mode. Under the glaring lights of the station’s vaulted entrance, she appeared even younger and prettier than out in the dark and drizzle. Her face, shrouded by thick hair, was a classic oval. Straight-cut eyelids arched over her strongboned cheeks and her lips curved deliciously. As they entered the station, she took in the times of departing trains and gauged the distance from ticket machine to platform. The man’s red cheeks, shiny brow and comb-over did not match his chic, European suit. His broad chest and full belly strained against his tie-less, widecollared shirt, one shirttail flopping out in front. He lurched after her toward

the wall of ticket machines, missing a step, then another. Neat, bright colors rendered the immense circulatory system of the city into one readable grid, a maze of connections that led everywhere, or nowhere. The man looked back and forth for a minute, and then twisted toward her in stuttering confusion. She brushed back her hair with her hand and dropped coins in for two tickets. It didn’t matter if she got the right price. He tried to make a joke, but she checked the departure board and hurried him through the gate toward the escalator for the silent ride down to the platform. At the bottom, she steered him around a kiosk shuttered for the night. With his arm clamped in her grip, she walked him down the empty platform toward the end. From The Last Train by Michael Pronko. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



WINNER connect, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Some Like It Hot, and Boyhood. But these are just generalizations, really. Students are very individual in their tastes, picky and eclectic, at times too. So, in any class, students will respond to very different works, and very different parts of the works. It’s always an adventure to hear their reactions. Shelf Unbound: You run the site jazzinjapan.com. What is Japanese jazz like and what are a few groups we should be listening to? Pronko: With over 100 clubs featuring live jazz every night in Tokyo and Yokohama, there’s a lot to choose from. Some aspects of jazz here stem from Japanese culture and style, but jazz is jazz. I mean, there’s a spirit of improvisation and freedom that flows from the heart of the music that seems largely the same. But of course, jazz is created by the individual sense and experience of musicians, so it’s inevitable it sounds Japanese. I like a lot of different styles of jazz, almost all of which are present here. I am a fan of Yosuke Yamashita, who continues to make fascinating music, everything from big band to free jazz, often blending Japanese

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and western instruments. I also like Takeshi Shibuya, but he’s never been one to pursue fame. He’s hardly known here, even, but like his cohort, Isao Suzuki, he really cooks. Pianist Hiroshi Minami has stretched outside of Japan, mostly in Europe. Over the past ten years or so, women have become much more common, and that’s a huge, welcome change. Junko Moriya runs a traditional big band, as does Satoko Fujii in a more avantgarde style. Both women have received acclaim overseas, and rightly so, they are simply amazing. I also like Hikari Ichihara, Hitomi Nishiyama and Ayumi Koketsu. Saxophonist Erena Terakubo spends as much time in New York as in Tokyo. It’s great that women are contributing much, much more to the jazz scene than in the past. The jazz scene is thriving and the level of musicianship, already high, continues rising. I go out as often as I can, as it’s a real pleasure to sink into a few hours of music to unwind and decompress from the pressures of life in Tokyo. Shelf Unbound: Tell us about the next books in your series. Pronko: The next novel in the Hiroshi series will come out this spring. It’s called The Moving Blade. Through the

WINNER story of a murdered diplomat, it focuses on U.S.-Japan relations, the military bases and a bit of Asian history. The main character, a half Japanese, half American woman named Jamie, learns about her father’s past after his murder. As she learns more, and Hiroshi digs deeper (and falls for her), they stumble on more corruption than they expected. For this novel, Takamatsu has been put on leave, though he’s not completely gone, so Sakaguchi, the sumo wrestler-turned-detective takes over and works with Hiroshi. The novel explores bigger social and historical issues than The Last Train, but it has the same forward momentum and Tokyo setting. The next novel after that will be Thai Girl in Tokyo, which follows a teenage Thai girl on the run for her life on the streets of Tokyo. She’s rescued by a young, streetwise Japanese woman in Shibuya. They hole up in an internet café and stumble through Tokyo’s youth culture—good and bad—trying to get her back home. That novel is drafted, but I think it will not be done done until later this year or early next. I’ll do a standalone mystery after that set at an English school, which will include Sakaguchi, the ex-sumo wrestler, who secretly started English lessons. I’ve got two more in the Hiroshi series planned after that, since Hiroshi has so much more to learn. After that, we’ll see what evolves.



Profile for Shelf Media Group

Shelf Unbound August/September 2018  

Margaret Brown Tribute Issue

Shelf Unbound August/September 2018  

Margaret Brown Tribute Issue

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