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FEBRUARY/MARCH 2020

FEATURING

The Rise of Short Stories Interview with Melissa Marr Behind The Scenes: Short Answers with Short Storysmiths Excerpts of New Short Stories

DEBUT

Short Stories BY INDIE AUTHORS

WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING


OUR STORY

S H E LF

U N B O U N D

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

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Lamb to the

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

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

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

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Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak CREATIVE DIRECTOR Anna Trokan COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord Sara Grochowski Lynn Russo V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown D.L. Graser FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

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

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FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020

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THE EMERGENCE OF HIV A NOVEL

DAVID CORNISH MD

Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness.  The ailment seemingly appears out of nowhere, and serves its victims a most horrible and brutal death.   Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe it is a serious threat, or that it even exists.1980 is an authentic medical story about a disease that will eventually have an unimaginable impact on the entire world.

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

Available at

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

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

Print ISBN: 9780692334805 eBook ISBN: 9780692334812

WWW.DAVIDCORNISHBOOKS.COM

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FEBRUARY / MARCH CONTENTS BOOK REVIEWS

I N TH IS

ISSUE

22 Little Lovely Things 23 Before We Died 29 Amazing Things Are Happening Here 78 My Real Name is Hanna

SECTIONS

79 A Thread So Fine

31 Bookstagram

82 Tornado Season

41 Recommended Reading

83 Stream System: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane

73 Book Shelf

94 Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs

81 Indie Bookstore

95 Many People die Like You

96 On Our Shelf

ON P G 90

B E H I N D TH E S C E N E S :

S H O RT A N S W E RS W ITH S H O RT S TO RYS M ITH S .

FEATURES

COLUMNS

08 Debut Short Story Collections by Indie Authors

71 Girl Plus Book

Sara Grochowski

By V. Jolene Miller

18 Interview with Melissa Marr By Sara Grochowski

24 The Rise of Short Stories By V. Jolene Miller

90 Behind The Scenes

By Sara Grochowski

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84 Book Mom

Megan Verway

86 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

102 Small Press Reviews By Shannon Ishizaki


A WORD FROM THE PUBLISHER

Short Stories. BY SARAH KLOTH, PUBLISHER

"When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you." ~George Saunders When I was a kid, my favorite short story was a choose your own adventure book from The Skylark Series - Spooky Thanksgiving. But I loved everything, including collections of Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Ghostwriter CYOA editions. But my favorite memory of short stories is my older sister and her friends reading from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark at sleepovers to scare my best friend Kayla and I to get us to leave the room… you know, typical older sister stuff. Today, I enjoy short story of all kinds. One I’ve most recently enjoyed was

Thylacine Dreams: 6 Tales of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy by Jonathan Maas, which was a Shelf Unbound Indie Best Award winner. For me, short stories bring a great sense of enjoyment because each word, each sentence is more powerful than a traditional novel as they have to be more direct and

concise. You get the same great pleasure and fulfillment of a novel in just a few short pages. In this issue, we interview short story writers, including Melissa Marr, author of Tales of Folk & Fey, Clarissa Gosling, author of A Mixed Bag: a multi-genre collection of short stories, Tara Wine-Queen, author of Tenderness and Troubling Times, Leslie Sullivan (aka Anna McCluskey), author of A Pilsner Colored Ring of Light, Divya Adu, author of You Are Enough, and Remi Carrington, author of the Bluebonnets &

Billionaire series.

You’re sure to find a new favorite short story among these works. Be sure to check out reviews of upcoming short stories as well as a few of our 2019 Indie Best Award winners. Enjoy the issue. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remi Carrington: Author of the Bluebonnets & Billionaire series 

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publishing a book was more important.”

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

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

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

DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE INDIE ROUTE INSTEAD OF TRADITIONAL PUBLICATION? CG: I had a three month pre-order and

then unknowingly launched it on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday--not a date I’d recommend to other indie authors. I promoted 9


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

more short stories, though I'm sure I will as they're fun to do. Two of the short stories are 10

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

CAN YOU GIVE US A HINT ABOUT YOUR NEXT WORK IN PROGRESS? CG: I’m writing a YA fantasy novel about

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


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

DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY TO PUBLICATION. TW: The journey to publication

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

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

of me. I have three novels that I work on, but stories come into my head and won’t leave until I get them out, and I appreciate the break they give me from the longer pieces. They help to 11


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

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

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AS WRITERS WE GIVE TO OUR READERS. WE GIVE OUR WORDS, EMOTIONS, STORIES. DO WE TAKE AS WELL? DO WE COLLECT THINGS FROM OUR READERS OTHER THAN ROYALTIES AND REVIEWS? TW: In a way, yes. It reminds me of my

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


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

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

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

stories in isolation. Oddly (considering how 13


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

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

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

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


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and saw the length of time it typically takes to go the traditional publishing route. Declaring herself “impatient” she decided to do her own research and get her books in the hands of readers at her own pace. AS WRITERS WE GIVE TO OUR READERS. WE GIVE OUR WORDS, EMOTIONS, STORIES. DO WE TAKE AS WELL? DO WE COLLECT THINGS FROM OUR READERS OTHER THAN ROYALTIES AND REVIEWS? DA: I think, for me personally, I write

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

vulnerable, raw, delicate. HAVE YOU ALWAYS ENJOYED READING SHORT STORIES? WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INTEREST/LOVE FOR THEM?

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DA: I started off with short stories.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was six years old. My mom used to buy me journals and I wrote every day, which later turned me on to writing short stories and poetry. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE THEME(S) OF YOUR COLLECTION(S) AND THEIR ORIGINS. DA: “You Are Enough” … Said

me: This collection contains stories about my childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I grew up in the inner city and was raised by my parents and babysitters. I wrote this collection as a coming of age piece--what I saw, heard, experienced, dreamed of, and the women in my family. I had to figure out how to be a woman on my own because the women in my family worked so much they didn’t have time to talk to me about boys and sex and other womanly things. After awhile, I started to see myself as better than those women and in my book I talk about coming to the realization that I’m no different from the women in my family. That whatever they didn’t teach me wasn’t because they didn’t want to but because they had no one to teach them. The book helped me heal and helped me realize I am enough. I no longer had to look for my mom or cousins or aunts to tell me I’m enough. 15


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I no longer need that validation. Room 317.: This collection has stories written in essay form. It’s about dependency and how it feels to depend on someone else. How we often rely on others because of a lack of self-esteem. There are essays on love, intimacy, and family coupled with poems. You can connect with Divya on Instagram @ iamdivyaadu.To purchase her poetry inspired merchandise, check out her website: h t t p s : / / divyaadu.bigcartel.com.

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

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

Remi Carrington Remi Carrington, author of the Bluebonnets & Billionaire series has made a name for herself in the romance genre and in November 2020, she plans to make her debut in short stories. After having a short story accepted in an (upcoming) anthology, she worked with a group of sweet romance authors to put together a Christmas

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DESCRIBE YOUR COLLECTION IN THREE WORDS. RC: Satisfying, memorable, connected.

You can learn more about Remi Carrington, her series, and upcoming collection by visiting her website: h t t p s : / / r e m i c a r r i n g t o n . com/christmas-anthology 


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

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW 02

Interview with Melissa Marr

Author of self published Tales of Folk & Fey: A Wicked Lovely Collection. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI

Melissa Marr’s young adult first novel, Wicked Lovely, was published in 2007 by HarperCollins and she’s since published standalones and series for adults, the middle grade audience, and children. In recent years, Marr has continued to publish through traditional means, but has also successfully self-published and connects with fans through Patreon. She spoke with Shelf Unbound about the appeal of self-publishing, what she’s learned, and what’s next.

Author Photo Credit: Sara Tiberio 18

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WHEN WAS YOUR INTEREST IN SELFPUBLISHING PIQUED? MM: When friends started trying it years ago.

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WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE PROCESS OR THAT YOU WISHED YOU’D KNOWN EARLIER?

I’m always interested in new things. Literally, I’ve tried short fiction, manga, screenplays, middle-grade, YA, adult fantasy, adult romance, co-authoring, editing anthologies, prose NF, poetry, and am currently working on a book with my photos and words for Penguin… In my not-work, over the last 3-4years, I took up kayak, rock-climbing, historical sword fighting, Pilates, as well as yoga and traditional metalwork jewelry making (silver, not beads). I like learning. Some stick (kayak, sword). Some don’t (yoga, rock climbing). Literally, I think it’s why I am in the world: I need to learn and try new things.

research. Asked questions. Listened. I adjusted mid-stream, too. I’ve always paid for an external copyedit, so I already did that. I was always actively involved in my covers, so I still do that. It’s in my last decade’s worth of contracts that I get a voice in selecting voice actors for my audio. I’ve charted where my books sell well, and suggested tour stops and events based on it. I’ve been hands-on since my second novel, so that really helped.

AS SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED, WHAT APPEALED TO YOU ABOUT SELFPUBLISHING?

MM: I’m not opting out. It’s like diversifying,

MM: Learning how it works. Marketing and

then seeing the numbers move or not. I actually tried this with a group of friends in 2015 or so. We used the collective name of Payge Galvin to release one book a month. (RT Booklovers and other outlets covered it.) Before that, I had a Bookscan subscription to chart the efficacy of marketing efforts. I organized group tours. I experimented with where and how I advertised. I’m all about understanding the ways things work—or don’t.

MM: Not really. I did scary amounts of

DO YOU FEEL ANYTHING IS LOST BY OPTING OUT OF THE TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING?

I think. I still have novels coming out of NY. Penguin will release a children’s novel in 2021, a picture book in 2021, and my photographic book in 2022. I’m at the “greenlight” stage for a graphic novel with DC Comics. I have an Audible Original psychological thriller in 2020—as well as a Wicked Lovely prequel novel I’m doing indie. I like trying different things. And I think it varies by genre. In children’s literature, libraries are critical. I don’t think I’d want to do my kidlit books indie because of that. Romance has more of an ebook market, as do books with established readership. Doing 19


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a Wicked Lovely prequel, as I am, in indie lets me reach the readers interested in that without worry. A photographic book on wild horses? That’s more NY. Audible—which is between NY and indie in my mind—is great for my thriller. I may sell print or go indie. NY thought it was “too dark!” so I intended to do indie, but then Audible said, “Well, hello there!”

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND SELFPUBLISHING TO AN AUTHOR JUST STARTING OUT? DO YOU FEEL HAVING BEEN TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED GIVES YOU AN EDGE WHEN IT COMES TO SELF-PUBLISHING ENDEAVORS? MM: It depends on the objective. I teach PT

and I recommend both indie and traditional. I suggested one student writing paranormal romance consider indie, whereas another one writing a middle-grade magic realism I thought would be better suited in trad. There is no “one answer.” Like cooking…each week, I use my stove, oven, instant pot, and slow cooker. It all depends. This week, I had a short story release in a print journal. In November, another released in an online journal. Both found readers. In February, I’ll be in an indie anthology with about twenty other fantasy writers. I’m proud of all three. The edge part, I think, I answered in an earlier question. I’ve spent fifteen years learning about all sorts of parts of the industry, so that helped. I, quite literally, would attend conferences to collect ARC to read the marketing plans for 20

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lead titles, draft grids, chart results and apply that to my own publishing requests. I’m very data-centered. I’m not precious about it. I’d bet I could’ve learned a lot of it if I was in strictly indie, too. Experience helps. SINCE JULY 2018, YOU’VE UTILIZED PATREON TO REACH FANS AND READERS. WHAT APPEALS TO YOU ABOUT THIS PLATFORM? MM: Accountability. I love the sense that I owe

pages to readers. It makes me feel pressure, which is great for me. After my stroke (2018), I was depressed. I’d adopted in 2012, and my son was very sick. Then in 2016, I had six hospital events (for me not him!), and then I had the stroke in 2018. Patreon was a way to ease myself back out of my anxiety. I sold assorted picture books (2013, 2015, and 2018) and my middle-grade duology in 2017, but I was worn down by my health. I considered quitting writing entirely, and I had to live entirely on my savings and odd gigs from 2016 to 2019. I couldn’t produce novels quickly, and my limited mobility meant I had to focus on health—hence the Pilates, kayak, sword, rock climbing. I didn’t want to die. So, writing was secondary. Indie and Patreon have been part of finding my way back to writing longer works and more frequent work again. HOW HAVE READERS RESPONDED TO THESE NEW VENTURES? HAVE YOU TWEAKED YOUR APPROACH BASED ON FEEDBACK AND DATA?


CONTINUED

MM: Initially, I wrote because of my

kids, who asked for a new chapter. Then it was editors. Now, I’m creating deadlines because of Patreon. So, I don’t think it’s new. It simply is another route to create pressure I needed—and let me know there are readers. And I’m not sure that readers care how they get story as long as it’s in the format they want and via the vendor they want. I need my picture books in libraries, and my Wicked Lovely stories available in print as well as ebook. I tweak in that I offer stories in standalone e-format, bound in paperback print, and in a few cases, a hardcover. With my clean YA faery book (The Faery Queen’s Daughter), I also sold audio rights because readers asked for that. I’ll get some of it wrong, but . . . I am human. WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU IN 2020? MM: My thriller, Pretty Broken Things,

comes out as an Audible Original. I have my indie Wicked Lovely adult prequel out in June (ebook pre-order live now, print pre-order links to come). I just finished a weird adult fantasy book (A Half-Dead Witch) that may start a series. (I initially wrote it to cope with stress after a rattlesnake bite this year that caused some very vivid

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INTERVIEW

nightmares.) I’m finishing photography for Wild Horses (Penguin 2022) and awaiting the verdict on my DC Comics graphic novel. After that, I work on my contracted middle-grade for Penguin. And, you know, avoid rattlesnakes and strokes!

Tales of Folk & Fey Read an all-new Dark Court short story. “Love Hurts” catches up with Irial, Niall, and Leslie—and offers clues about the upcoming Wicked Lovely prequel novel, Cold Iron Heart. Tales of Folk & Fey also includes “Old Habits” and “Stopping Time” (previously published Wicked Lovely Dark Court stories) and two previously published selchie short stories (“Awakened” and “Love Struck). 

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BOOK REVIEW

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

LITTLE LOVELY THINGS BY MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY

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

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

AWARD WINNER

Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly was named a Finalist in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 22

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020


BOOK REVIEW

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

BEFORE WE DIED BY JOAN SCHWEIGHARDT

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

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

AWARD WINNER

Before we died by Joan Schweighardt was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 23


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

The Rise of Short Stories. PAUSE AND REFLECT ON SHORT STORIES BY V. JOLENE MILLER

In today’s hectic world, few things give time for pause and reflection. Though some might say tragedy, illness, and new love are reason enough, dare I suggest, short stories make it on that list? Many believe short stories are on the rise because of a reduced attention span. In a world of social media scrolling and information bombarding us at a high speed, why wouldn’t something short and sweet hit the spot as delightfully as an ice cream sundae on a hot summer day? After all, we can TiVo our favorite television shows to watch whenever we have spare time and, in the process, fast forward the commercials so that an hour long episode is easily pared down to fourteen point six minutes, leaving us breathless and satiated before we move on to the next activity.

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In Brandon Taylor’s December 16, 2017 LitHub article titled “Against the Attention Economy: Short Stories Are Not Quick Literary Fixes”, I agree with his sentiment: “ ... I take exception to the idea of a short story as a kind of quick read. I read books of stories slowly, because each story requires a different negotiation. You can’t get all of a story on a single pass.” 24

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For me, this has proved true in all my short story reading endeavors. It was true when I read Jo-Ann Beard’s Boys of My Youth, Amy Hempel’s Tumble Home, Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking, and Ron Carlson’s A Kind of Flying. In fact, I have yet to read a collection of short stories and find Taylor’s sentiment to be untrue. So which is it? Short attention spans require short stories over novels and other long literary works? Or do we, in this period of fast paced living, require short stories to allow us to pause and soak up the storyline? The elements of a short story, much less a collection of them, are magical in a sense. Stripped away are the purple prose of longer pieces. Gone are the switchbacks of the novel where multiple characters, protagonists and antagonists alike, might frolic in intricate twists and turns. Replaced instead with succinctness that comes with the selection of the utmost perfect verb, noun, and piece of punctuation. Metaphors and allegories balance and contend with one another, each a whipsaw to the crux of the story. Still the question remains. Is the short


story coming back? Rising to the top? Outdoing its archrival the novel? And if so, why? If the start of this literary trend took place back in 2013 when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in literature for her collection, Dear Life, what’s helped short fiction stay on the upward curve? Even if the so-called shortened attention span is partly to blame, is there more to it than that?

in less than two hundred pages? How? I wasn’t sure. Yet they were there, weaving their storylines and using eloquent phrasing in The Women of Brewster Place and “Hills Like White Elephants”, leaving me better for the experience and hanging still on the thoughtful word choice long after Mattie Michael and Etta Mae Johnson were gone and long after that train left the station in Spain.

Low residency MFA programs have cropped up across the country over the last few decades as literary artists enroll in order to enrich their creative skillset amid the rigors of adulting. Have kids? A career? A partner? But still have a desire to be the next J.K. Rowling, Amy Tan, or Kristin Hannah? Or perhaps you’re interested in the YA market and have your sights set on becoming the next Jodi Piccoult? Though there’s still a great debate as to whether you need an MFA or just a whole bucket of luck and a serious work ethic (and perhaps a napkin?), MFA programs are competitive and compelling as they strain to scoop up the best and brightest literary potentials.

They got under my skin, those short stories. Burrowed their way into my bloodstream and, like an addict, left me craving more. I was (am) haunted by the characters, their tales. And like a good MFA student, I took my shiny new degree and collection of award winning linked short stories and headed down the literary road in search of publication. My stops along the way? Traditional publishers and literary agents.

There, among the scholarly and creative geniuses, students cut their teeth on reading outside their genre, rubbing elbows with some of the great literary icons, and writing short stories. It’s where, I, at forty, was introduced to Gloria Naylor and Ernest Hemingway after decades of reading commercial fiction and staunchly refusing to immerse myself in short stories because, in my mind, it just wasn’t possible to cram a beginning, middle, and end into so few pages. How, exactly, was it possible for a “quick read” to let me escape from life’s reality? Could I begin to sink into a fantasyland rich with characters, plot twists, and thought provoking verbiage contained

It was at their doorsteps that I pitched and queried, lobbying for their stamp of approval on my collection. Rejections followed. Some with constructive criticism, all with apologetic well wishes. In the end, my goal of traditional publication was thwarted despite my education and literary journey, and I resorted to the (somewhat) taboo path of self publication. It was there among other wordsmith hopefuls that I found my place. My niche setting that both welcomed me and allowed me to be myself without regard to my trad-publication foibles. It’s where I unearthed a hidden gem of information about short stories and those self-published authors. The self-published have taken the book world by storm. Identifying as independent authors, these bookish enthusiasts are educating themselves on the gamut of getting the written word into the hands of potential 25


CONTINUED

readers. Everything from writing, editing, cover design, and marketing, indie authors are on the rise. One of their stepping stones? The short story. Perhaps they’ve entered a flash fiction contest (and won) or dabbled in writing a novelette after receiving resources like a subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine or a copy of James Scott Bell’s book How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career from supportive friends and family. Then, like any well intentioned student, the indie author applies the knowledge gleaned, summons up whatever courage she’s been blessed or born with, and hits ‘submit’. Not on an entry form or a magazine submission portal. Not on the email button for some notable literary agent; but on her own work via an avenue like KDP or Draft2Digital, two of the giants in the selfpublishing industry. Just like that, her short solo or collection of themed short stories is real. No longer a hope or a wish, no longer a pipe dream waiting for the approval of someone else. Instead, she’s decided it’s good enough for the eyes of the world. Now that she’s out there, no matter how small the corner she stands on, this newly minted author has to garner followers and somehow tow the line of her new endeavor. After all, she might just have a novel in her blood waiting to bleed onto a handful of blank pages. Through a flurry of selfteaching, writers groups, and blogs about writing, she finds her way to venues such as BookFunnel and MailChimp where she

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03

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

learns about a new term: reader magnet. She polishes those short stories she’s crafted and as time allows, while chipping away at that behemoth of a novel, she writes a few more. In her MailChimp newsletter, she offers a single short story in her welcome letter. On BookFunnel, she offers her short story collection for a song as a teaser to her upcoming release. In between chapters, she puts together another dozen short stories, perhaps releases a novella. Her novel may not be ready yet. She may not be able to quit her day job. But she’s out there, putting pen to paper, and jotting down the lives of characters who live inside her. Are short stories a rising trend? Have Flannery O’Connor and Ernest Hemingway paved the way for the indie author? Or are people so caught up in quick reads that fit neatly into their busy schedules that lengthier tombs are relegated to the past, when times were simpler and books were created for leisure reading on the back deck with the sun beating down on you? The only way to truly answer this question is to crack open a collection and decide for yourself. Pick up a copy of The Best Short Story Collection of 2019, or The Moths and Other Stories by Helena Maria Veramontes, or continue reading in this edition of Shelf Unbound to learn about some debut indie authors who’ve recently published their own collections of short stories. Then, ask yourself, are short stories on the rise or a cherished, secret gem that requires unearthing by the most curious of readers? 


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”

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Through the story of mean and obnoxious bees that fly around in Mrs. Busy’s classroom,

like a double-shot versus disrespect and aggression. Being a bully is not the correct in ofbehavior Irisheither whiskey”

young minds will begin to understand the contrast between a kind and loving attitude school or outside of school or anywhere. Mrs. Busy tells the children to do their best in

school and play together nicely as bullying hurts the feelings of others. Mrs. Busy lets the children know they should use only kind words and their indoor voices, they should be good listeners, and they should not punch, kick, shove, hit, spit, and grab one another. Bullying hurts others. The ten bees were wrong to hurt one another. No More bullying! Bullying Books By others is not an acceptable behavior. Bullying hurts!

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Colm Herron


BOOK REVIEW

Amazing Things Are Happening Here. Jacob Appel Is a Master at Balancing Contrasts In the eight short stories that make up Amazing Things Are Happening Here, Jacob M. Appel’s characters will entangle you in typical, relatable dilemmas, yet all of them very different. They struggle with contrasts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and life and death. They agonize over whether the lives they ended up with are better than the lives they had wanted to live, and whether they have any regrets over what they missed. Some characters are plain while others are beautiful, some are smart while others are simple, and some are stubborn while others are understanding.

AMAZING THINGS ARE HAPPENING HERE BY JACOB M. APPEL

Canvassing is filled with irony between love lost and love found. In Grappling, hearts ache from rejection but still have hope for the future. In Embers, he writes of the similarities and differences between families from opposite sides of town, and boys longing for girls they can’t have. His detail of places like Creve Coeur, Cormorant Island, Narragansett Bay and Amity Cove make you feel like you’re there, while his endings will leave you wanting more and wondering what would have happened next. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jacob M. Appel is a physician, attorney and bioethicist based in New York City. He is the author of more than two hundred published short stories and is a past winner of the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the William FaulknerWilliam Wisdom Award for the Short Story, the Dana Award, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the North American Review's Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review's Editor's Prize, the Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review's Short Fiction Prize, the H. E. Francis Prize, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award in four different years, an Elizabeth George Fellowship and a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant. 29


Available at

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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.


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@bookslifehome TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

@bookslifehome: I’m a lifelong avid reader and book hoarder who is currently living in the sunshine state. I’m happily married to the love of my life Charles, and we both enjoy traveling, going on road trips, spending time out in nature (especially the beach), and we love watching movies. Professionally I work in radiology and reading has always been my way to decompress and open my horizons. I'm also enjoying working on an indie bookstore project called BIBLIOFINDER and the podcast show Biblio Happy Hour.

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

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

NAME: @BOOKSLIFEHOME FAVORITE CHARACTER:

BATHSHEBA EVERDENE FROM FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD BY THOMAS HARDY

@bookslifehome: I've always been a creative individual - I love painting, designing, floral arranging and just doing anything with my hands. I was searching for another creative outlet and I wanted to document some of what I was doing and reading. I had no idea "bookstagram" even existed but I started an Instagram account in April 2018. After posting a photo of my current read - Sunburn by Laura Lippman, a whole brand-new world opened up, and I haven't looked back.

WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOK AND WHY?

@bookslifehome: Oh wow, I have so many favorites that I have enjoyed over the years and I couldn't possibly select just one. It would feel like I’m personally slighting all the others I've loved if I selected just one. If you ever need a specific recommendation, don't hesitate to send me a message. I love recommending all the books!

FAVORITE GENRE:

HISTORICAL FICTION

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

_ Blueink Reviews

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

www.codenamearcangelbrucejarvis.com


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

can it?

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

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

AVAILABLE


Teetering On Disaster. By Michaela Renee

" YOU'LL LAUGH

AND YOU'LL CRY - SOMETIMES AT THE SAME TIME."

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A VIETNAM JOURNEY AND LOVE STORY An American soldier (Richie) and a Vietnamese woman (Linh) fall in love and have a baby during the war in Vietnam. He attempts to marry Linh but fails to get permission from the Army and is then pulled out of Vietnam. Linh and her son make an incredible journey to potential safety and security in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Richie builds his career and raises a family in the United States. They meet again in Hong Kong two decades later and achieve their ultimate destiny.

Available in Hardcover, Paperback & Ebook at: www.tomwascoe.com


BOOK REVIEW

High Flying. A Dramatic Journey to the Past That Changes the Course of the Future Skyler Haines is a bitter teenager who suffers from depression as a result of feeling completely lost and like she doesn’t fit into the world in which she lives. Who could blame her? Eight years earlier, her father, a pilot and drug runner for a Mexican cartel, is murdered. Her mother, who becomes hooked on drugs and men, is also killed, and Skyler is sent to live with her grandfather, a curmudgeon who lacks compassion for what she’s feeling and only cares about his business.

HIGH FLYING BY KAYLIN MCFARREN

Yet, despite being haunted by her past, Skyler overcomes it all and grows up to achieve her dream of becoming a pilot. Then one day, at an air show where she and her lover Jake are performing aerial stunts, Skyler is caught in a storm that would leave her world completely upside down. Suddenly, she’s given a chance to rewrite history and change all the bad that has happened, not just for her but for her entire family.

As she faces the most difficult decision of her life, she wonders, can she handle it, and does she even want to? Find out in High Flying by Kaylin McFarren. 

AWARD WINNER

High Flying by Kaylin McFarren was named a Long-Listed in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 37


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

BEST

INDIE BOOK

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

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

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

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HOLD YOUR BREATH!

HIGH FLYING IS HERE! “

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

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www.kaylinmcfarren.com

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020


RECOMMENDED READING

EXCERPTS

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

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RECOMMENDED READING

True Ash.

BY ELIZABETH J. COLEN & CAROL GUESS READ AN EXCERPT

If trees could talk, you said. If they could tell us what they saw. But if you didn’t want to talk about it, why would a tree? We walked in the arboretum as if nothing had happened. Past Japanese Maples, Witch Hazels, Legumes. Through Pinetum and across the stone footbridge. The math of it, was what you said. We stopped to eat among Hollies and Hawthorns. When you sliced an apple, the red cored curl made me want to ask questions. The thing that had happened was unlikely to happen again, but you needed to be sure, so you carried a knife. You wanted me to carry one, too, but I was clumsy and sometimes fell. Even in the arboretum I liked to wear heels, the kind most women wear at night. It felt safer to wear heels during the day. At night I wore flats, shoes that could run.

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FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020

When we got back to your apartment, I always cleaned the bottom of my heels with a paper towel. I did this sitting on the floor in my skirt, and sometimes you watched, lifting my hem. After a while I stopped wearing anything underneath my skirt and our walks got shorter. There was nothing unusual about them, you said. Who? I asked. We were eating dinner at your place. The couple, you said. In the arboretum. The couple I saw in True Ashes that day. I thought you said it happened in Hollies. God no, you said. Nothing like that. I sprinkled salt on my salad. Sometimes I ate salty things and sometimes sweet, but never at once. You claimed you couldn’t tell salt and sugar apart. But you said that about a lot of things. I thought about all the

couples I’d seen walking in the arboretum. How the woman sometimes bent into the man as if she couldn’t walk on her own. How the man explained the names of trees while she extended her branches. We’re not like that, you said. But what did you mean? I wanted to ask what it was that you’d seen. I’d avoided the news for a week after that. You saw it first, from the outside, a stranger. On the cusp of True Ashes, and who knew what they saw.


RECOMMENDED READING

Maybe trees bend toward us on purpose. Sunlight, you said. The science of roots. But maybe it’s more. Maybe they feel things. Would you stop eating plants if you knew what they felt? I didn’t answer, just rubbed my ring across my wrist.

walking in pairs? -The next morning you went to work and I worked from your apartment. It was part of our agreement to trade. Sometimes your upstairs neighbor played music, pot smoke drifting down through the vents.

You lifted my hem. Bunched my skirt around my waist and straddled me. My shoes and hands were dirty, but you wanted my mouth, so it didn’t matter.

At noon I walked to the corner store for a sandwich. While I was browsing I noticed a pack of bubblegum cigarettes. I hadn’t seen that kind of candy in years. Something about advertising smoking to children.

The couple, I asked. What was she wearing? Did I mention a woman? I assumed they were straight. You smirked. So it was two men. Or two women? Who else could it be,

Can I have these for half? I asked. The clerk looked at the date on the faded pink wrapper. Just take them. We don’t even carry those here. I put the pack in my pocket. Bought coffee and a loaf of bread.

Walked from the store to the arboretum. Scattered bread, waited for birds. They swooped down from the sky to land at my feet. If you would wait. If you would stand very still. When you came home that night you asked if I’d gone there. Why do you ask? Because of the dirt. It was true. I’d tracked dirt through the kitchen. In the movies you liked, girls licked the floor clean. I scrubbed with a towel while you uncorked a bottle. Then you poured two glasses and we sat on the couch. 

ABOUT THE BOOK TRUE ASH Microchips that don’t know when to stop, pop culture clones poised to take over the planet, a mysterious burial in a popular park, candy cigarettes wreathed in sugary ash. In these interlocked short stories, Elizabeth J. Colen and Carol Guess conjure characters guided by instinct but misguided by technology, longing for intimacy but propelled by desire. Taken together, these stories detail the spectrum of human loss and describe the rise and fall of a fictitious Seattle company governed by unruly appetites, a world of glass windows where privacy comes with a price.

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RECOMMENDED READING

Tacoma Stories. BY RICHARD WILEY

READ AN EXCERPT

“Your profile said you moved down here recently,” he said. “How’s it going so far? I’ve been here for twenty years myself.” He could feel himself pushing, and placed his fingers on the stem of his wineglass. She was actually prettier than her profile photos. When did that ever happen? Angela had told him that he looked like Tony Curtis in his profile photo, while Angelo said he looked more like General Curtis Lamay. Angelo was a World War II historian and also taught at Berkeley. Angelo had bullets from the Battle of the Bulge on his desk, which was what he’d been fighting all these years, Angela said. “It’s an experiment, moving here,” she said. “I thought I could leave Tacoma behind, but I’ve brought it with me. Any fool could have guessed that would happen, but I’m not any fool. As you 44

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020

can see, I’m a very specific one.” Neither of them had any idea what that meant, but it was certainly true that Tacoma sat within her like a bullfrog on a lily pad, croaking away. Now, however, it was her turn to ask him something. That was the unwritten rule of Internet dating. “Have you ever thought of buying one of those rotating eyebrow cutters?” came to mind, but she said instead, “Your profile listed your field as organic chemistry. When I was in college, organic chemistry used to scare the living shit out of me.” She paused, sorry for “living shit,” then added, “You know, I have this theory that scientists often know the arts but that artists never know the sciences. Would you say that’s true? Tell me something artistic, why don’t you?”

She pressed the fingers of both her hands into the tablecloth. She’d never thought of herself as mean, but there it was. “Actually, I think Beth suits you better than Mary or Liz,” he said. “You have the softness of the th around your eyes.” He’d been thinking of saying that the whole time she’d been talking. He’d never said anything remotely flirtatious on his other dates, but Angela had


RECOMMENDED READING

told him just that morning to loosen up, to tell the woman she was pretty if he thought so, to tell her whatever came to mind. When she peaked her own eyebrows at him, he said, “In Chemistry Th stands for thorium. It was discovered in 1828 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius of Sweden. He named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.” “Glad you cleared that up for me, or I might have thought he named it after John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” said Liz or Mary or Beth. Oh God, she had to stop this. None of it was his fault. Except, of course, for the outdated photos on his profile. There ought to be a

rule about those, some sort of statute of limitations. She said rather wistfully, “You’ve never been married, have you?” “Married to my profession” was his usual reply, but something in the way she’d made fun of Jöns Jacob Berzelius made him turn off the tape recorder in his head. What did it matter what she thought of him? “I had a close call once with the woman who is now my sister-in-law,” he said, “but she chose Angelo and now we’re friends. That is, not Angelo and I but Angela and I.”

if saying, Hello in there, hello? Can we not both simply stop this, act like human beings for once in our lives? “What about you?” he asked. “Are you still in love with your dead husband?” Excerpt from Tacoma Stories. Copyright © 2019 by Richard Wiley. Published by Bellevue Literary Press: www.blpress.org. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

“Here’s to close calls,” she said, once more raising her glass. She reached across the table and tapped his wrist, as

ABOUT THE BOOK TACOMA STORIES

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1968, sixteen people sit in Pat’s Tavern, drink green beer, flirt, rib each other, and eventually go home in (mostly) different directions. In the stories that follow, which span 1958 to the present, Richard Wiley pops back into the lives of this colorful cast of characters—sometimes into their pasts, sometimes into their futures—and explores the ways in which their individual narratives indelibly weave together. At the heart of it all lies Tacoma, Washington, a town full of eccentricities and citizens as unique as they are universal. The Tacoma of Tacoma Stories might be harboring paranoid former CIA operatives and wax replicas of dead husbands, but it is also a place with all the joys and pains one could find in any town, anytime and anywhere.

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Are You Here For What I’m Here For? BY BRIAN BOOKER

READ AN EXCERPT

I was kissing her again, and

when I opened my eyes her eyes were wide open. She looked beautiful and frail: the hollows of her cheekbones, those enormous eyes which, in my memory, would gaze back at me like the eyes of a religious icon or a Keane picture. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “The mono,” I said. “It’s okay,” she said. “We both have it now.” “I don’t feel well. I think I need water or something.” I turned away from her confusion, her disappointment. She must have felt something was wrong with her, something other than mono. I would never know any of this, what she really thought. “I’ll be back in a minute,” I lied. “I promise.” Climbing the stairs I heard Bridgit’s voice drift from the sofa: “You shouldn’t go up there, you know.” When I turned back to look, she’d enveloped herself in a blanket. 46

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The house trembled and the blood throbbed in my head. Beyond that leaden pulse I could hear TV music drifting from the den: a woman singing. I tiptoed to the fridge and cracked the door. It was bright and loud and crammed with food. My eyes feasted on the things I might have: bagels and cream cheese, sliced turkey, hummus. Red peppers like tongues nestled in a jar of liquid. I picked up the jar and turned it in the light, watching the translucent seeds lift off the bottom, twirl and subside as in a snow globe. It slipped from my fingers and smashed on the tile. I froze, listening, watching the liquid pool around my feet. The damage was appalling. A pungent smell expanded in the room like a fart. The song from the den sounded closer now. It was an old melody, like a lullaby. “Amparo?” called a woman’s voice. “Amparo, is that you?” I stood still, and could feel time passing. I heard a soft metallic whir—and a

motorized wheelchair, bearing a female, rolled into the kitchen. Her ghoulish girl’s face emerged from the dimness: eyes set in grayish hollows, a wide pale forehead tapering down to a thin mouth and sharp chin. Her lap was covered with a plaid blanket in the manner of an invalid. The drink in her right hand was balanced on the chair arm; she worked the control with her left. She maneuvered closer and stared up at me. I saw the hardness of her fine-boned face, the dull pallor of her


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skin. She was a woman in her forties. I realized this was Heather’s mother. Mrs. Snoozy. I had thought of her as someone who was dead. But she was a living person, in a wheelchair, in this improbable mansion, which must have come from an insurance settlement. It made sense. All of this was about that plane crash.

of netlike material embroidered with black flowers. Below the hem of the lap blanket her shins were sheathed in tights, and like. Turkey, PB and J . . .” her feet, strapped into shoes of red patent leather, rested on the “No thank you,” I said, “I’m okay.” footpad. “He don’t want it,” said Amparo. “Amparo! Here, I’ll do it myself,” she said, reversing the chair and “He wants it,” said the woman. “PB turning. and J. He wants something sweet.”

When she leaned forward to peer down at the broken mess, I saw the white scalp line in her hair.

Just then a stout woman in a green blouse bustled into the kitchen, muttering and softly chiding the woman in the wheelchair, and began to address the broken jar. I stepped clear and watched from the other side of the kitchen island as Amparo swept the mess into a dustpan.

“Ah,” she said stoically, as if she’d expected this. “Amparo!” she called. Then, turning to me: “What do you need?” “I’m so sorry,” I said. “You’re going to be sorry, boy-o.” Her eyes ran down then up my body. She wore a low-cut shirt

“You’re hungry,” the woman in the wheelchair told me. “How’s a sandwich? I’ll get you a sandwich—”

When Amparo had prepared the sandwich, the woman in the wheelchair took the plate from her and balanced it in her lap. She motored around the kitchen island and handed me the plate. “See. That wasn’t so hard. It’s just a sandwich.” Excerpt from Are You Here For What I’m Here For?. Copyright © 2016 by Brian Booker. Published by Bellevue Literary Press: www.blpress.org. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

Amparo intervened: “What you

ABOUT THE BOOK ARE YOU HERE FOR WHAT I'M HERE FOR? Within these pages, the everyday meets the uncanny as two high school friends go out for one unforgettable night. A boy, haunted by dreams of a catastrophic flood, becomes swept up in an encephalitis epidemic. A hypochondriac awaits her diagnosis at a Caribbean health resort. A disease researcher meets his nemesis on a train. A father searches for his missing son in a remote mountain lodge where nothing is quite as it seems. An elderly pharmacist protects his adopted nephew, who found a mermaid in a bottle, from a coastal village gripped by hysteria. A teenager is sent to a “therapeutic” boarding school with disturbing methods and is reunited with a staff member years later.

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Good People. BY ROBERT LOPEZ

READ AN EXCERPT

We are in a boat but there’s no captain, no crew of any kind. I do know bow and stern and starboard and port and I know the hull and that the captain always goes down with his ship, but you have to know navigation to be a captain and I don’t know navigation. I couldn’t navigate a toy boat from one side of a bathtub to another. I have no sense of direction, other than everything is always going to hell. You don’t have to study navigation at the naval academy or own a compass to know this much about the world, to know where everything is always going. I’ve never owned a compass myself, but my father did once. He never let me touch it, said I wasn’t responsible enough. I lost his pocket watch is why he said this about me, why he never let me touch the compass. He said he hated my guts because I lost his pocket watch and that I’d rue the day. I never did rue 48

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any of the days, but I always regretted losing my father’s pocket watch, which turned out was given him by his grandfather who fought in the Great War. He said that his grandfather held on to that watch through many a hard-fought battle and it was good luck and a family heirloom. He said that watch survived the Germans and mustard gas but couldn’t last five minutes in my feckless hands. I didn’t know what feckless meant back then and I still don’t think I know what it means, but I used to look at my hands to try and figure it out. My hands are small and smooth and offer no clues. My father said I was delicate, called me a daisy. I don’t think my father ever had anything good to say about me, at least not after the pocket watch. I’m not sure how I lost that pocket watch, but I’ve always suspected my brother stole it. My brother was no good and a

common criminal but even still he always outsmarted me. I think my brother is in prison now, which probably serves him right. I heard from some relative that he tried robbing a liquor store but it didn’t work out, that his accomplice gave him up during questioning. It seems right to me because our father gave up on both of us long ago and my brother and I gave up on each other shortly after that. Our father always wanted the two of us to enlist, but neither of us ever did. This is another thing I regret. I


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think I would’ve done well in the service. I’d probably have joined the army because I don’t much care for water. This is another reason I’m no captain. I’m probably not qualified to be a crew member, either. I don’t know what the crew is responsible for on a boat, but one assumes it’s the grunt work. Toting barges, lifting bales, things of this nature. I’ve never been good at anything physical. I can’t even mop a floor properly. I always leave swaths of floor streaked and unmopped. Our father used to admonish me for mopping the floor this way. It was the same whenever I mowed the lawn, which was only that one time. My father came outside and said, this is what you get when you ask a daisy to mow a lawn. He was referring to

certain lanes where the grass was still knee-high. This is why I’d do better as a field general behind the front lines or in front of them, drawing up battle plans on a blackboard, barking orders to subordinates. I suppose field generals are out there in the field, though, inside tanks, looking through periscopes, but I don’t know if they have periscopes in tanks. Surely there are periscopes in submarines, but probably not tanks. I have no idea how they see from inside a tank. I don’t know how they can steer from inside a tank or how they know where to aim the cannon. I don’t even know if that’s what they call the guns that sit atop tanks. To me, it looks like a cannon, but I’ve never seen a cannon in real life so I don’t know what

one actually looks like. Another thing I don’t know is if they had tanks during the Great War or if my father’s grandfather ever rode in one. The only thing my father told us about his grandfather was that he fought in the Great War and had a lucky pocket watch. My brother said that our father made up these stories about his grandfather, that he never did fight in any war, let alone a great one. Excerpt from Good People. Copyright © 2015 by Robert Lopez. Published by Bellevue Literary Press: www.blpress.org. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

ABOUT THE BOOK GOOD PEOPLE In these twenty stories, a motley cast of obsessive, self-deluded outsiders narrate their darker moments, which include kidnapping, voyeurism, and psychic masochism. As their struggles give way to the black humor of life’s unreason, the bleak merges with the oddly poetic, in a style as lean and resolute as Carver or Hemingway. Treading the fine line between confession and self-justification, the absurd violence of threatened masculinity, and the perverse joy of neurosis, Lopez’s stories reveal the compulsive suffering at the precarious core of our universal humanity.

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A Girl Goes into the Forest. BY PEG ALFORD PURSELL

READ AN EXCERPT

We never go dancing anymore—a common complaint among couples who’d been together a while. She and James hadn’t gone back to the park dances in the three years they’d been together. But James loved to dance, he’d said. His enjoyment had been obvious that night, and she’d seen no hint of his intensely somber reserve in the rhythmic stamp of his feet, the exuberant swing of his arms. Yet he’d lost his interest in dancing, while his brooding side seemed to magnify. It was as if he’d become someone else entirely. He insisted, “No one stays the same.” She’d become someone different, too. A section of her left breast had been removed. When you have a lump in your breast, even before you know what it might mean, you begin blaming yourself. Drinking tap water. Drinking wine. Some 50

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way that she hadn’t taken care of herself, had grown slack or not paid enough attention. There were the irrational thoughts, too: too much sex, too little, the wrong partners. “We’re going in,” the surgeon had said on the phone, explaining that the lab results were inconclusive. An excisional biopsy. “Why leave it in there when we don’t know what it is?” He said, “In and out,” and handed the phone over to his secretary for scheduling, details, instructions. Even before the biopsy, from the moment the surgeon made the determination, James began to avoid her: late hours at work, a big game on TV at the sports bar with friends. Each morning he was gone before she arose for work, those last few days in the office before she went on medical leave, though once upon a time he’d enjoyed showering

with her first thing in the day. He wouldn’t make love with her. Perhaps he was afraid, feared taking pleasure in her body while knowing, as she did, that a treasonous mass lay within the pocket of her unbreached breast. Perhaps the best he could do for her, or for himself, was to avoid active demonstrations of loving the beauty of her so as to lessen the later hurt of her not-beautiful, potentially grotesque appearance. He may have feared betraying a repulsion already in the making. Or


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maybe his attraction to her had already diminished; he’d grown dissatisfied, and now the surgery made him feel trapped. Still, she thought James would come around. Before he left on his trip to Atlanta, he’d break down. He’d understand that she needed reassurance, she needed to know that the wounded breast didn’t deter him. She was almost desperate for his attention to her physical being. But even that last day, he focused on packing his suitcase as if it were some complicated strategy to execute and notate for future purposes. She couldn’t be sure but thought he might have left for the airport early.

Later, she would learn from his sister that he’d asked his younger brother to look out for Anna while he was away. “He was concerned about your stability,” Janet proclaimed. In that phone call Anna would also learn the family viewed her as a seductress, one who could not help but to betray James, even with his own brother. No one would seem to consider James’s request of Jonathan an abdication of responsibility.

them home, to her home with James who was in Atlanta, and they went inside, and she found herself on her bed with Jonathan. Astonished that he had simply placed her there, and was beside her there, on the downy comforter, the stacks of soft pillows wreathing her head. They shouldn’t be there. She led him to the den. At least she’d been capable of that. 

In the parking lot of the bar, under the engorged moon, Jonathan had steered Anna to her car, his arm around her waist while he unlocked the door. He sat her in the passenger seat and under those magnificent skies drove

ABOUT THE BOOK A GIRL GOES INTO THE FOREST Award-winning author Peg Alford Pursell explores and illuminates love and loss in 78 hybrid stories and fables. A Girl Goes into the Forest immerses readers in the complex desires, contradictions, and sorrows of daughters, wives, and husbands, artists, siblings, and mothers. In forests literal and metaphorical, the characters try, fail, and try again to see the world, to hear each other, and to speak the truth of their longings. Powerful, lyrical, and precise, Pursell’s stories call up a world at once mysterious and recognizable. 51


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White Dancing Elephants. BY CHAYA BHUVANESWAR READ AN EXCERPT

In the back of the house there is a corner room that does not open onto the lush and well-tended garden. Its shutters are indolent eyelids opening and closing with the wind. Light comes in small beams from the courtyard where pots are being washed. A woman is sweeping dirty water away from the steps outside the window. At a certain spot behind the empty teak wardrobe that barricades the door, all noises from the courtyard where and the kitchen it adjoins are muffled by thick wood. Crouching there, it is not possible to hear the women shouting at each other, mistress to servant and back again, scolding and fretting, cramming the small house full of nervous life. Flat on my stomach, facing the wall, I can look at my paintings. They are vivid 52

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miniatures, set low, near the molding. Their tiny faces sport green Kathakali dancing masks, leering with painted lips and yellow hair like aging American starlets, their glossy eyes faded. My paints have dried in large, expensive tubes littered on the floor, strewn in the dust along with tiny sable brushes that were once a woman’s accessories. The mirror on the wall is British, cracked and decadent looking with too many faded gilt curlicues around it. Amid old newspapers and combs black with hair dye, I keep my shaving kit, and my traveling case. The mirror, like the room, is dark. When I look into it I see the sweat on my forehead and chin and wonder how it remains in the air-conditioned coolness. I shelter myself from the

house with second-hand screens, four of them, made of wood that looks better for the dust on it, less costly and more secure. I write after the others have gone to bed, hiding my diaries and papers during daylight hours. Sometimes their faces flash by me in the darkness, as if they were peering in rudely through a space between the screens. Only the visitors are overcome by curiosity; the niece from the States who looks at me with her little


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cat face, jeans curving around soft plump hips; my sister the doctor, talking about leper colonies at tea, bringing medicine and the toasters when she comes, making the house smell of Ben-Gay and bread. Even the trees in the garden move away from the house, as if in disgust. The living room is brightly lit behind embroidered cotton drapes. On each evening of her stay, from behind the screens, crouching. I hear the news on television and listen to loud, excited voices talking above it, nearly drowning it out. The niece is always quiet when her mother and my father shout about corruption and bribery or point to picket signs and angry crowds

when they appear on the oldfashioned screen. No one in this house knows that I listen to a radio hidden in my room, and that I read imported copies of The Herald Tribune. Or that I spend the money given to me by Father on tobacco, and go to the same place almost every afternoon with my pockets bulging. Nixon, Watergate—my sister doesn’t know how much I know, how much I hold fast in my memory from those times. Imprisonment, Emergency. Who wouldn’t have been paranoid then? But it’s my sister who’s the smart one, the doctor lady. She thinks of us as dull witted rice eaters

waiting for her borrowed Anglo china plates and blue jeans, silk ties and pantyhose, perfume in fish shaped bottles, white linen napkins and forks so we won’t eat with our hands, expensive bolts of brilliant cloth—smelling slightly of glue, precious…”The exchange rate is wonderful,” my sister remarks, at least with the grace to laugh uneasily. Once she brought paints on a visit—“Padma picked them out specially,” she explained, handing over a shiny gift-wrapped box. Padma’s gift. They are beautiful and useless now. Exotic. 

ABOUT THE BOOK WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS In luminous, vivid, searingly honest prose, the stories in White Dancing Elephants center on the experiences of diverse women of color—cunning, bold, and resolute— facing sexual harassment and racial violence, as well as the violence women inflict upon each other. One woman’s miscarriage is juxtaposed against the story of the Buddha’s birth. Another cheats with her best friend’s husband, only to discover it’s her friend she most yearns for. In three different stories, three artists struggle to push courageous works into the world, while a woman with an incurable disease competes with her engineer husband’s beautiful android.

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Homesick. BY NINO CIPRI

READ AN EXCERPT

Damian and Amelia had four meetings with production companies who wanted to option the book. The first three studios all pitched different versions of the same story—his story: an intrepid activist/ scientist discovers a cave full of the fossilized remains of an ancient society of large intelligent weasels. The cave is in danger of being destroyed by an Evil Corporation. The intrepid activist/scientist and his team come up with a daring plan to save the cave and the land around it, nearly fail, but pull it off in the nick of time. Huzzah! The studios threw in various subplots. All of them featured a straight love interest. (One of them had read enough to mention Min-Ji Hong by name, though mentioned that they’d try to find an actress “as close to Emma Stone as possible.”) There was also a mother-with-cancer subplot, a gay coming-out subplot— 54

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which intrigued Damian until he realized that they wanted to play it for laughs—and his personal favorite: the weasel society was still alive, living in sewers beneath major American cities, conspiring to take back the planet. After Amelia gently shooed out the last set, Damian took a breath. “I work with activists who start meetings with guided meditations to open everyone’s heart chakras,” he said. “And that’s still less bullshit than what we just sat through.” “Damian,” Amelia said. “I feel dirty. Did any of them even read the book?” “Of course they didn’t,” Amelia snapped. “They read a plot synopsis their assistants typed up for them. They’re not book people, they’re movie people.” “I’m pretty sure they were goddamn lizard people,” Damian said. There was a knock at the door. He looked at Amelia—was there another meeting? But she

looked as surprised as he did. The door opened and… Damian’s first impression was a feminine version of the guy from Ancient Aliens. Tall with unruly hair, an ill-fitting tweed suit, and a pair of narrow, steelrimmed glasses perched on a nose as severe as a Roman senator’s. The woman settled herself into one of the chairs, pulled out a stack of folders, and started talking in an uninterrupted flow that spoke to either a healthy cocaine habit or an unhealthy amount of


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enthusiasm. “I’ve got to say, it’s an honor to meet you, Mister Flores. I’ve been dreaming about this meeting. Literally dreaming about it. Usually it’s an anxiety dream and I’m naked or my teeth are falling out.” She actually looked down, apparently for reassurance. “Hi?” Damian said. He looked to Amelia for help, and she stepped in. “I’m sorry, I seem to have…” She pawed through her notes. “Would you mind telling me your name again?” “Annika Wagner-Smith. From the Smithsonian network?” That got Damian’s attention. “The Smithsonian?” Annika nodded, and a swoop of ashy hair bobbed as she did. “I don’t mind telling you that there’s been a lot of executive interest about this

documentary.” “A documentary,” Damian said. “Not a movie?” “Movies,” Annika scoffed. “The discovery of Megalictis ossicarminis made us radically reconsider sapience, evolution, and civilization. Our network wants to delve into not just the their discovery, but what this means for us, as humans.” She slapped a glossy printout onto the table and slid it over to them. “Holy shit,” Damian said. He’d seen artists’ renderings of ossicarminis before. But these images looked, for lack of a better term, badass. Maybe it was bad science, but it was really cool to see a prehistoric weasel the size of mountain lion dressed like a minor character in He-Man. “Why does it say Space

Weasels across the top?” Amelia said. “It’s just a working title,” Annika shrugged. “A theory that one of the executive producers is interested in investigating.” Annika slid another printout toward them. This one had ossicarminis at the helm of what looked like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, pointing excitedly at a planet through a viewscreen. “It’s not the focus of the documentary, but our audiences are going to wonder why we’d leave out this particular theory.” “Theory that…ossicarminis went to space?” Damian asked. Annika shrugged again. “Our audiences like space.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK HOMESICK Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the nine speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients’ house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species of intelligent weasels.

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The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories . BY WENDY J. FOX

READ AN EXCERPT EXCERPT FROM “TEN PENNY” FROM THE SEVEN STAGES OF ANGER AND OTHER STORIES BY WENDY J. FOX WINNER OF THE 2014 PRESS 53 AWARD FOR SHORT FICTION

M. used to come to me late at night, when he was stinking from the bar, all the alcohol and cigarettes and the heavy smell of desperation on his skin—he was like me and hated going home alone. He would ring my bell, and I would let him in—his smile and those teeth as white and hard as picket; I’d never not let him in. I’d fix bourbon and roll a joint and climb up to the window seat with him, and we’d blow our smoke out at the city, my back against his chest. The 56

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window seat in my small apartment saved me. The window seat kept M. coming back, along with the promise of whiskey on fresh ice and mild narcotics and sticky sex on my low bed, though I think it was the view that held him. Looking onto the city buildings at night, he said to me what he was trying for: the same thing as a highrise—keeping his lights on and reaching toward the sky. I’d push my face into his shoulder and hold my head there until I found it, under all that sweat and smoke, the smell of wood. M. was a finish carpenter, though he could also frame. I admired his hands, which were long and slim and splintery and could feel out all the imperfections. There, at my elbow, the rough

patch of scar from a decade-ago cycling accident—I remember sun and the dirt road and the deep drop down at my left, and then suddenly I was flying, and then suddenly I was stopped. M. knew nothing about how I lay on the road and bled, how I cried and cried at the falling, how I threw the bicycle into the ditch and walked into the little town nearby, how I never rode again, but he ran his


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finger around the ruined part of skin like he was a healer. He found the place on the back of my thigh, a puncture wound I got one day when metal collapsed around me; he touched the tiny dent above my eye, a fall onto a concrete step. He held my hand where it is crooked, outlined the asymmetrical ear. These were the every time things. He couldn’t stop himself from lingering around the broken places. M. was a man who built from scratch, who fit wood into wood without a seam. One night he came, and it was no different, as we got stoned and he recapped his life since the last time I saw him. I gave him my

own summary, and we sat in quiet for a few minutes, watching the traffic and the streetlamps. I knew more about him than he’d like to admit—can’t kid a kidder, that’s what someone said to me once. I had some of the dirty things inside of me too, like M. I could see how his eyes wouldn’t clear, how he sometimes lost a beat between words. I imagined him working, getting every line perfectly straight, angling the nails in to not show. Right here, I wanted to tell him, right up my side. You can’t feel it, you can’t see it, but there’s a row of steel. 

About The Author Wendy J. Fox is the author of The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories, which was the first winner of the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, and was finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Her novel The Pull of It was named a top 2016 book by Displaced Nation and her novel If the Ice Had Held was selected as the Santa Fe Writers Project grand prize winner by Benjamin Percy and named a Buzzfeed top pick for in 2019. Wendy tweets from @ wendyjeanfox and lives in Denver, Colorado.

ABOUT THE BOOK THE SEVEN STAGES OF ANGER AND OTHER STORIES The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories in the first winner of the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, selected by Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher, and Christine Norris, Fiction Editor. Carol Guess, author of Darling Endangered and Doll Studies: Forensics, says, "What happens when a still life speaks? Wendy J. Fox invites us to eavesdrop. These beautiful, lyrical stories describe ordinary lives: speckled eggshells, creeping vines. Here's the threat of fire out east and endless rain when the map meets Seattle. Here are characters so real you know them already. They've misplaced your keys and borrowed your car."

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Missing Persons. BY STEPHANIE CARPENTER READ AN EXCERPT Excerpt from “Longest Night of the Year”

Sex. That’s all Cameron had really wanted. Uncommitted, internet-facilitated sex and maybe a little conversation. But the woman he brought home—his online date, his supposed match—hasn’t emerged from his guest room since she went into it three nights ago, locking the door behind her. She has access to potable water through the en suite. As far as he can tell, she hasn’t taken sustenance of any other kind since their dinner on Friday. She hasn’t touched the food he’s left outside the door; she hasn’t, by all appearances, raided the kitchen while he’s been asleep. Not that he’s slept much. Over the past sixty-some hours, he’s listened to her footfalls, to the toilet flushing, to tinny voices buzzing behind that locked door. The woman hasn’t responded to any of his 58

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attempts to make contact. “Are you okay?” he’s called to her and “I’m sorry.” No reply. “I’m tired,” she’d said before shutting the door on Friday night. That was the last thing she said to him. “Isn’t this trespassing?” asks Laura, his ex-wife. He phones Laura on Monday morning, once it’s become clear that the woman will not be leaving in time for him to get to work. “Or maybe it’s one of those vampire situations? You invited her in, and now you’re screwed.” Cameron snorts, though he’s considered both possibilities. He responds only to the first: “It would be trespassing if I asked her to leave and she didn’t.” “Wait,” Laura says, “you haven’t asked?” Her voice rises to almost the same pitch as their daughters’, bright in the background on this, the first real day of winter break. A high school guidance

counselor, Laura is off for the week too. “Seriously, Cam? Who is this woman, anyway?” “I met her online.” He’s standing in the southeast corner of the dining room, at the farthest point from the guest room. He rests his temples against the two walls. Like a dunce, which is precisely how he feels. “You think I deserve this.” “Don’t you?” But her tone is gentler. “You brought a total stranger into your home.” Laura hadn’t wanted the lake house; she’d moved the kids to


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town after the divorce. Still, he senses the “our” in “your.” “We messaged for a week. She seemed great.” At least by comparison. Cameron had recently signed up with three different dating sites. He’d hoped to maximize his prospects, see all the singles who weren’t showing themselves in person. So far the local dating scene looked little better online. He matched with women who were too young or too old, with too many kids or pets or lattes in their photos. Women he knew professionally, whose profiles he swiped past, as if looking were tantamount to harassment. But this woman’s profile—Theresa’s profile—was clean of dependents or prior associations. He might have “liked” her just for that. In photos, Theresa had big, deep-set eyes and long, curly

brown hair. A narrow nose and a reserved smile. She was attractive, not hot: someone he could bring without shame to his once-conjugal bed. Best of all, she would only be in the area through the holidays. “Which site?” Laura asks. “I want to see.” “She took her profile down. And you’d need an account to view it.” “You think I don’t have one?” “I think I would have noticed you.” “Right.” Cameron pictures Laura rolling her eyes. She’s not truly jealous. Her tone is just a reflex, a relic of the days when his outside interests still hurt her. They were together fourteen years, married for twelve; they’ve been divorced for three. “I did ask,” he says. “I knocked

on the door yesterday morning and said it was time for her to leave.” “Then what? She ignored you, so you dropped it.” Laura sighs. “Cam, you need to call the cops.” But Cameron does not want that kind of attention: a team of smalltown police knocking down the guest room’s solid wood door, a gleeful write-up in the thin local newspaper. Whether or not Theresa spoke to a reporter, Cameron would seem culpable. How could he seem otherwise, in a story about his wouldbe hookup barricading herself in the guest room? He’s a financial planner, specializing in estates. It’s not in his professional interest to appear culpable. 

ABOUT THE BOOK MISSING PERSONS Stephanie Carpenter’s collection, Missing Persons, won the 2017 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Witness, Big Fiction, Crab Orchard Review and other journals, and she has received fellowships and residencies from the American Antiquarian Society, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Ragdale, the Hambidge Center, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. She teaches creative writing and literature at Michigan Tech University. 59


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The Lightness of Water & Other Stories. BY RHONDA BROWNING WHITE READ AN EXCERPT

Clinton came from good quarreling stock. William and Macie Slade’s bickering, arguments, and barbed debates were the stuff of local legend. After one infamous fight in which his mother had thrown a whole roasted chicken at his father’s head, Clinton had asked his father why he didn’t just leave and marry someone he could get along with. William had backhanded his thirteenyear-old son so hard that Clinton’s jaw momentarily disengaged, and blood spurted from his lip—the only time his father had ever hit him. “I took a vow before God!” his father growled, voice full of venom. “’Til death do us part.” William shrugged off his anger like a wet coat, swiped the blood from Clinton’s chin with a flick of his finger and winked. “Besides, why would I leave the devil’s daughter, only to marry his sister, instead? All women are wicked, son, but 60

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it’s a blessing to marry one, and a duty to stay with her.” Clinton sucked his bleeding lip, wondering if marriage was God’s blessing or His curse. He was too smart to ask. That night, Clinton counted out the months between his parents’ anniversary and his birthday, discovered they must have conceived him in a fit of passion. He was William and Macie’s only child. Their love child. A smile now tugged Clinton’s lips at the twisted memory. “Stop smiling, Clinton. It’s not funny,” his wife Paula said from across the kitchen table. “I can’t stand their constant warring. We should drive into town and get a room. I can’t put up with it all weekend. I told you this would happen.” She huffed. “We should have made a reservation before we left home, like I said.” Clinton glanced at his mother, then closed his eyes. Didn’t Paula realize

she sounded just like them? Is that why he’d married her, the familiarity of conflict? Macie yanked the dish towel from her shoulder and threw it onto the Formica tabletop, where it knocked over Clinton’s nearly empty coffee cup, spilling the dregs in an ugly brown stream across the table. “William, turn down that blasted television! I can’t hear myself talk.” The Ben-Gay commercial spouting from the living room quieted a decibel. “That ain’t stopped you yet,” William yelled.


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Macie slid the Bundt pan onto the wire rack, slammed shut the oven door hard enough to vibrate the table. “Shut your trap, old man!” Paula’s over-plucked brows formed severe angles as she leaned again toward Clinton. “You know they’re miserable. Do you think they’d get a divorce if we paid for it? Maybe they just can’t afford it.” “For God’s sake, Paula.” Clinton yanked the damp towel from the table, carried it to the kitchen sink, rinsed it and draped it over the lip of the sink. His parents’ relentless bickering was the one thing he could count on. He had no idea why or when they’d started arguing, but it had gone on for as long as

he’d been alive. Sometimes he’d caught them grinning at one another during a heated fight, as if they enjoyed it. Nearly fifty years of marriage, and their relationship never changed. He’d be damned if he’d be the one to change it. Paula’s answer to everything was to walk away. She’d walked away from her ex-husband the night of their first anniversary, from her final semester at college two months before graduation, and from three jobs since Clinton had married her. His marriage was a waiting game—him waiting for Paula to leave him. Maybe he was tired of waiting. Maybe he’d leave, first. “I don’t do drama, and I don’t do fighting,” she told him on their wedding day. Said

nothing in life was worth fighting for, anyway. Now he stared out the window at the leafless oak, picking out the last few rotting boards that had once been his tree house, his refuge from the brawling. He didn’t know how much longer Paula would stay with him before leaving, but he knew he’d never ask her to stay. Maybe he couldn’t live happily ever after with his wife, but he didn’t want what his parents had, either. It was only after he and his wife moved away from Hillsville for one of Paula’s new jobs that Clinton realized he’d made a life of doing things he didn’t want to do. Holding on to Paula wouldn’t be one of them. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE LIGHTNESS OF WATER & OTHER STORIES Winner of the 2019 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, the characters in these emotionally charged stories deal with loneliness, loss, greed, and guilt. They, like all of us, wrestle with the people, places, and memories they cling to, belong to, and run from, learning (sometimes too late), that these experiences remain with them forever. The nine stories in The Lightness of Water and Other Stories are bound by a strong sense of place—Appalachia and the South—and prove that no matter where we go, there’s no place far enough to leave home behind.

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Earthly Delights and Other Apocalypses. BY JEN JULIAN

READ AN EXCERPT Excerpt from “We Are Meant for Greater Things” From Earthly Delights and Other Apocalypses by Jen Julian Winner of the 2018 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction

This girl, she’s one of those people you hear about nowadays, living her life for the second time around. She’s a slack-faced, dream-eyed sister, born— twice now—at the end of a gravel road outside town, a stone’s throw from the slaughterhouse. She abides with a skittish mother and two large black boxer dogs, and she knows that one of the three will die suffering from a snakebite, hopes she can stop it when the time comes, but she doesn’t know when it’s supposed go down, or if it’s still supposed to go down at all. The girl is Birdy. Birdy Brightlane. Sunny name for such a sad body. 62

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But I don’t judge her, it’s part of the job not to judge her. You’d be sad too, is what I tell myself, after fifteen years at the institution, and besides, these are often sad people, the ones on their second time around. The agency, they call my visits “conversations” to make them sound less clinical, list them on the paperwork informal-like— Convo #1, Convo #2—but Birdy knows what they are. When I come to see her, we sit together on the mossy deck off the back of her mother’s house, and we drink strong coffee and I offer her cigarettes, but she declines. She knows I am not her friend. I used to smoke, she says. When was this? I ask. Sometime— she pauses to

think a minute. Sometime a while ago. I must have smoked. I remember it. I can see in her big mooneyes that she’s drifting off, and sometimes I try to net her in with questions (Birdy, why don’t you stay here, in the now?). But there she goes, which is to say, she’s dreaming about what it was like the first time around, when she didn’t end up here with her mother, at the end of the gravel road outside town, a stone’s throw from the


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slaughterhouse. She remembers a long drive, she and the man in the fire. She drives; he lights her cigarettes. A cigarette slips, drops down between her thighs. She curses, pulls over, and then, as she’s rubbing spit on the burn, they see the peppery cloud mushrooming from an overpass, spilling out into the twilight—a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Tadarida brasiliensis, she tells me. In college, she wrote a paper about the way their migration patterns affected peach crops. That time? No, both times. Both times she wrote a paper on bats and peach trees, but that time, the first time, she and the man in the fire sat on the hood of the car and

watched until they could no longer see, could only hear the tinny week week week and the beating of batwings in the darkness. Birdy tells me that’s when he said he wanted to marry her, his words all warm and honeyed. That’s happenstance (or is it happiness?): a dropped cigarette and some bats and a confession of love.  About The Author Jen Julian is a writer, artist, and transient North Carolinian. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and an MFA in Fiction from UNC Greensboro. Currently, she teaches fiction and literature at Young Harris

College. Her debut short story collection, Earthly Delights and Other Apocalypses, won the 2018 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction and was published by Press 53 in 2018. Her recent fiction and essays have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, JuxtaProse, TriQuarterly, Beecher’s Magazine, The Greensboro Review, and The Chattahoochee Review, among other places. She is a 2016 Clarion alumna and an enthusiast for all things strange and speculative.

ABOUT THE BOOK EARTHLY DELIGHTS AND OTHER APOCALYPSES In nine stories and one novella, author Jen Julian explores realms of the surreal and speculative: from two sisters cleaning out their father’s house as it grows and shrinks, to an aunt who watches on anxiously as her niece forges an interdimensional connection; from a small town populated by animate sex dolls, to an eerie near-future in which AI co-opt the social media accounts of the dead. By way of ghosts and fish-men, nuclear threats and giant spiders, each story seeks to capture the inherent otherworldliness of feeling displaced, while at the same time illuminating the intimate and tenacious beauty of human beings in constant search of human connection.

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The Universal Physics of Escape. BY ELIZABETH GONZALEZ READ AN EXCERPT

She bends forward, pushing back a cumbersome, invasive purse (which frequently distresses her by banging into people in crowds, ruining her otherwise perfect unobtrusiveness, but which she nonetheless carries because it is a gift, and expensive, and holds an entire magazine without the need to fold it) and sees in the tank before her something foreign but unmistakable: an eye. It pops out from a piece of PVC pipe affixed to the bottom of the aquarium and floats there, bobbing on the end of a slender stalk, swaying in the water. It seems, if she is reading it correctly, to be squinting at her. “Guys,” she says without moving. “Come here.” Another eye springs from the tube and nods in the water, looking 64

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directly at her. “Mom, they have an eel back here,” her daughter says, coming down the aisle. She drops the heavy purse from her shoulder and puts her hand up to the glass as Lily moves in beside her. Several slender white feelers slip out of the hole, tap the lip of the pipe and latch onto it; two more unfurl into the water and reach up toward them. Bubbles shoot from the back corner of the tank and swirl around like space dust in the water. The eyes and, disturbingly, the head of the octopus sway with the currents, never still. A loud clank comes from the next display, which makes the octopus flinch. A worker is changing a piece of equipment. Pumps whir and buzz;

the whole place is working loudly like a ship or a large factory. Water is splashed on the floor, pooling in the low spots under the rows of tables, puddles permanent enough to be sprouting bits of vegetation and scum. The man responsible for the noise is bent over the next tank, examining some mechanism; the back of his t-shirt features a large orange wave with “Instant Ocean: Just Add Water” printed over it in bright


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purple letters. He looks like a seaman—rough beard, green knit cap, big yellow Wellies, a product of his environment, certainly, if a bit out of place, given that the ocean is three hours east of here. Lily jogs down the aisle to fetch her older sister, eager to show something new to her for a change. The octopus is half out of the tube now, several arms reaching out into the water, the rest firmly suctioned to the pipe. It is unmistakable: the thing is eyeing her. When the girls appear the octopus draws back and flushes a muddy olive color. “Cool,” Samantha says. “I didn’t know they changed colors, mom,” Lily

says. “Me neither,” Claire says, moving her hand down. Just then it lets go of the pipe and flows, (it doesn’t so much swim as billow), eyes first, its body hanging from the two stalks, a sack of—what, she doesn’t even know—brain? bouncing behind, and attaches to the glass near her hand. She moves it left and the octopus follows. Its suckers press against the glass like little hungry mouths, pressing flat, then letting go. Lily puts her hand up by the top of the tank and the octopus climbs toward it. Several tiny legs roll and unfurl in the churning water at the surface. 

About The Author Elizabeth Gonzalez’s short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, New Stories from the Midwest, SolLit Selects, Greensboro Review, Post Road, and many other publications. In 2011, she received the Howard Frank Mosher Prize from Hunger Mountain for “The Speed of Sound,” and in 2012 she received the Tusculum Review Prize for “Shakedown.” She works as a freelance writer and editor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. The Universal Physics of Escape won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction and is her debut story collection.

ABOUT THE BOOK THE UNIVERSAL PHYSICS OF ESCAPE This award-winning collection of eleven short stories takes readers on a journey both scientific and spiritual. Kevin Morgan Watson, publisher at Press 53, writes, "Elizabeth Gonzalez is a master of dialogue, an artist at creating vivid settings, and an encyclopedia of knowledge about the world surrounding her characters. These stories uncover truths that make the reading experience memorable and each story remarkable." 65


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Jimtown Road: A Novel in Stories. BY DENNIS MCFADDEN READ AN EXCERPT

Alone in his shop, Lena on the phone, fifty miles away in her own lonely shop, she told him they thought it was breast cancer. The silence after was a roar in his head. Cancer in those days meant dead. 1961. “Are they sure?” “How the hell can I get breast cancer?” She was angry. “In these little things? I could see if I had a rack like…like…” “Like Mrs. Chestnut?” he said helpfully. She laughed or sobbed, or both. They’d joked about her little boobs before. Whenever the subject of size came up, D-cup, C-cup or B-cup, she’d always maintained that her size was tea-cup. “Bad things come in small packages,” she said. The May sunshine was cold and sterile, contrary to everything God intended May to be, but then

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everything on the drive to Cranberry, the drive he’d made hundreds of times before, was foreign and unfamiliar, including his own heartbeat, which he couldn’t chase out of his throat. He counted cows for a while to avoid thinking, but there was no fun in that without Georgie in the backseat, without the heat of cowcounting competition. How Georgie cried, actual tears, when they passed a graveyard on his side and he lost all his cows (the rules of the game), and John felt tears in his own eyes, no graveyard in sight, just Lena’s little boobs, and the sight of her walking away with another man. Two or three years after he met her, Lena had dated for a while. She was open about it—he was married, why shouldn’t she date?—and once, a miscommunication, John had arrived just before Vincent, the man she was seeing. John (Lena introduced him to Vincent as an old friend) watched

them walk out the door, watched her walk away across the yard to his car, watched Vincent put his arm around her, snow flurries in the air, Christmas music on the radio, and it was all he could do not to cry. In a field he witnessed a little cow chasing its mother, a little calf, Mrs. Chestnut and her fatted calves, the toilet paper trailing, Lena laughing, the Closed sign in the window of his shop, middle of the day. You must keep regular hours, so your customer can depend on


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you to be there when you say you’ll be: the Gospel according to Bish. No matter, not today. Should Alice, Edna, any of his friends or customers, ask where’d he’d been, he’d say simply that he’d gotten bored and decided to treat himself to a movie at the Harmony Mills Mall. After ten years of living a double life, John had developed an expertise in easy deception. Or maybe today he would tell them his lover was grievously ill and he’d gone to her. Maybe today he just didn’t care. Maybe. “My Aunt Dorothy had it,” Lena said, her pale skin too small for her face. “She had a radical mastectomy. That’s what they call it when they cut off your boobs, John.” A little booger hanging from the front of her nostril

troubled him. It was not the kind of thing easily mentioned in the course of a conversation such as this, so John reached over and snatched it, and she said ouch and juked back. “You had something on your nose,” he said. She frowned at him. “I love you,” he said. “Yeah, right,” she said. “What, a booger?” He’d wanted to hold her, to comfort her, to say something noble and uplifting, words to give her hope. Instead he’d snatched a booger from her nose. The rickety kitchen chair gave a squawk beneath his bulk. In the window, the bluebird light-catcher refused to catch light, the sun behind a cloud. “I’m hungry,” he said. “Want to get something to eat?”

“Haven’t you been listening?” she said. “The biopsy results came back.” His stomach growled, as though it were talking back. “I’m sorry,” he said, but whether he was apologizing for his stomach talking back, or for not listening, or for being hungry, or for the biopsy results coming back, he couldn’t be sure. Neither could she. He said, “I love you,” again when she didn’t say anything else. She made a fist. Her face was a fist that looked away, toward the bluebird that refused to shine, then up to her mud-colored cupboards. “Yeah, right,” she said. 

ABOUT THE BOOK JIMTOWN ROAD: A NOVEL IN STORIES Winner of the 2016 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, Jimtown Road, by Dennis McFadden, takes readers on a years-long journey through the small Pennsylvania town of Hartsgrove by way of linked stories that "offer an unblinking look, illuminated with burning intensity by the ever-present moon, at the darkest parts of the human heart" (Ray Morrison), and reads like "a pageturning mystery thriller" (Donald Ray Pollack). "These stories, these characters, this town," according to Patricia McNair, will "inhabit [you] like an ache, like an exquisite yearning."

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The Gnome Stories. BY ANDER MONSON

READ AN EXCERPT

Excerpt from “Our Song” by Ander Monson Copyright © 2020 by Ander Monson Forthcoming in The Gnome Stories, Graywolf Press, February 2020

I no longer believe

in memory and don’t believe in fire. I hold my hand to the simulated flame and anticipate the pain. Even though it’s digital it still hurts. It still adds up. All pain adds up eventually until it breaks you. It wires into the nerves, which triggers the flinch, so when I want to do it again—to thrust my hand into it to remind myself how the unreal feels—I don’t, not yet. I’m not sure I’m up for it. I’m trying to test my response: Is it consistent with the one just a moment ago? It’s fake, but what kind of 68

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fake? I want to know. Caribou sees me hesitate and laughs, deservedly so, with the awkward repetition of a loop. Just because I know it’s not real doesn’t make it not real, doesn’t make it not hurt. Caribou’s not real either. She wouldn’t understand. She’s been my companion for this extended recon, but she’s not here, not exactly. I mean, she’s present, but when I push on the thought I have to admit that she’s not here, not like me. Still, I respond to her like a little twitch. I can see her heartlight give a signal and I find myself blinking back. My heartlight clicks out a message in return. It says I’m glad we’re here together. It says it’s almost time to go home. There seems to be no

way up to the surface from this system. I thought there was, and Caribou said so too; we’d observed all the signs: light seeping into the room through seams where light would not naturally occur, like out of the back of a book on a shelf, for instance, or from a toilet lid, and so she thought that this room could lead us into the upper level where we knew we could exit without blowing up the


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contract, and that was why we were exploring this set of rooms again. I for one am getting tired of this subdivision: it’s just a bunch of passages that interlock and churn at the same set of difficult, knotted-up memories. We mapped all of them and double-checked our work, except for this room, hoping that on the first pass we were wrong, that we would find an exit here. It took almost a day. So we’re down to this, or else we have to backtrack even farther. Here’s the flame again. I know I have to put my hand back in and so I do.

Caribou’s mouth goes oo oo oo. I wince and wait for the signal to recede. As if to fill the space where the pain just registered, I laugh at it: doesn’t mean it’s real, I say. It’s not even realistic. See here? You can’t see pixels; the system’s too sophisticated for that, but the flame patterns are preprogrammed. The apparent randomness, the occasional little flare-up, is on one of four overlapping loops. When you’ve worked on fire you know the tricks. We watch and it repeats, a heartbeat. See? I say. Caribou looks at me as if to say what do you mean by real? She holds the look for a second longer than is comfortable. We’re

stuck here in this anterior passage, which is a phrase I only believe I comprehend. Underneath? Outside? Interior of an ant? But it’s identified on the work order: anterior passageways B142–171 and connective: workup, map, differentiation, emphasis on error. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE GNOME STORIES The Gnome Stories focuses on characters who are loners in the truest sense; who are in the process of recovering from mental, physical, or emotional trauma; and who find solace―or at least a sense of purpose―in peculiar jobs and pursuits.

With The Gnome Stories, Ander Monson presents eleven unforgettable stories about oddly American situations: as surreal as an urban legend and at the same time perfectly mundane. 69


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

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Short Stuff.

BY ALYSIA CONSTANTINE

This collection of four short stories celebrates the magic of the meet-cute! Edited by Constantine, this anthology featuring LGBTQ+ characters, specifically those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual, includes stories from five authors: Julia Ember, Katie Fierro, Jude Sierra, Tom Wilinsky, and Jen Sternick. Wilinsky and Sternick set the tone for the collection with “I Ate the Whole World to Find You,” a story featuring Will, a budding chef stuck working at a poolside snack bar, and Olympic hopeful Basil, who is tired of the constant comparison to Michael Phelps. Readers will be charmed as the two headstrong characters overcome misunderstandings, finding common ground and romance. In Sierra’s “August Sands,” readers are transported to a small, lakeside town in Michigan where college-bound Tommy expects to spend the summer babysitting his much younger siblings, but finds the cottage next door rented to new friends, including one boy who might even be more than a friend, leading to a summer of firsts. Fierro’s “Love in the Time of Coffee,” a friends-to-lovers romance, follows best friends Gemma and Anya from their meeting as kids through college, exploring the complexity and nuance of falling in love with someone you’ve known your whole life. And finally, Ember’s “Gilded Scales,” a loose retelling of Beowulf and the only fantasy contribution, tells the tale of Fenn, who chafes against the expectations and limitations set upon her as a woman. Determined to rescue a maiden and slay a dragon to earn a place among the male warriors, Fenn soon discovers that the maiden and the dragon are one in the same, challenging her to forge an entirely new path.

WHAT TO READ IN YA FICTION BY SARA GROCHOWSKI

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

SHORT STUFF BY ALYSIA CONSTANTINE

A strong, memorable collection of short stories, readers will be happy to discover that each of the contributing authors have published full-length novels featuring LGBTQ+ characters! 71


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SHORT STUFF ABOUT THE BOOK:

It could start anywhere… At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon's cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight. Short Stuff features bestselling and award-winning authors dialing down the angst for an anthology of light LGBTQ-YA romance.

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Moustache & Macintosh BY D.L. GRASER

Three Nails: Adventures of Moustache and Macintosh

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

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

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

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

The Last Train

Blood Master Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series

BY MICHAEL PRONKO

Detective Hiroshi Shimizu investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. When an American businessman turns up dead, his mentor Takamatsu calls him out to the site of a grisly murder. A glimpse from a security camera video suggests the killer might be a woman. Hiroshi quickly learns how close homicide and suicide can appear in a city full of high-speed trains just a step— or a push—away. Takamatsu drags Hiroshi out to the hostess clubs and skyscraper offices of Tokyo in search of the killer. Hiroshi goes deeper and deeper into Tokyo’s intricate, perilous market for buying and selling the most expensive land in the world. He teams up with ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi to scour Tokyo’s sacred temples, corporate offices and industrial wastelands to find out why one woman was driven to murder. www.michaelpronko.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 74

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BY D.L. GRASER

BY KIRSTEN CAMPBELL

It’s 2052 and Earth has lost two thirds of its population to the Great War. Many more lives were lost to earthquakes, the Clover Virus, and the Death Plague. Years later, survivors were clumped into factions. Two of the factions, the Guild and the Brotherhood, have fought over medical supplies and food for years. The fight is coming to a head as manpower dwindles and the struggle becomes one to gain numbers, even if said numbers are children… Griffin is the only survivor of the Guild’s deadly experiments and they hunt for him because his survival will have dynamic consequences on the world. Will he save the children of the Underground from their tragic life? Only time will tell… www.kcampbell-gods.com Available on Amazon


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Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

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

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

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

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

To The East

The Final Programme

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

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

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

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

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

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Undermining the U.S. Constitution

SHADOWS FALLING

BY DIANE S. VANN

BY CARMEN

As a nurse I have been in situations where patients learned very bad news about the state of their health, news that was not received well by them, their families, or even their medical team. When preparing this book, my feelings were much the same as when I was in those situations.

Elena, a Jewish orphan, is subjected to invasive acts of pedophilia as a youth and later by her father. One night she invites Ernst, a friend and member of the Nazi Youth Corps, into her bedroom. Acting upon her imprinted bizarre lifestyle, she teaches him all of the intimate and invasive actions she is now addicted to. Thus, their spirits bind in a manner that soon transcends into their next lifetime. Elena is sent to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for women. Ernst, now an SS officer, transfers there, where they both meet their demise and thrust into this present world. Upon meeting, she says. “I know you. You’ve come back to me again, and just in time.” www.outskirtspress.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The bad news about the health of our nation is, like cancer in a patient's body, communism (also known as "Marxism" and extremist socialism) has grown in the United States. Like cancer, it started with an unnoticed seed and grew insidiously with little sign or symptom. Now like cancer, communism is on the brink of overwhelming us. Available at Amazon and LitFire

Feast of Fates

A SUMMER OF GOOD-BYES

BY CHRISTIAN A. BROWN

BY FRED MISURELLA

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

Passion in Provence: Ben and Lee Alto follow Van Gogh's 19th century path to Provence, hoping to find inspiration for their own lives and give their adopted son, Misha, insight into a world completely different from their own. They find art, of course, and a world of beautiful landscapes, warm temperatures, and, yes, wonderful food. But they also find a ghost from the past, and it's not Vincent Van Gogh, but a woman Ben once loved and a man, Zach, a well-known jazz musician, who teaches them hard lessons about art and life, as well as the art of life. A Summer of Good-Byes is a vital, romantic story, filled with the tensions of love and marriage, sexual longing and family loyalty, and the struggle to live in the face of impending death and loss.

www.christianadrianbrown.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 76

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Available at Amazon or www.fredmisurella.com.


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

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

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BOOK REVIEW

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

MY REAL NAME IS HANNA BY TARA LYNN MASIH

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

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

AWARD WINNER

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 78

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BOOK REVIEW

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

A THREAD SO FINE BY SUSAN WELCH

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

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

AWARD WINNER

A Thread So Fine by Susan Welch was named a Top 100 Notable Indie Book in the Shelf Unbound 2019 Indie Best Awards. View this and other award winners in our January 2020 Award Issue. VI E W A LL AWA R D W I N N E RS 79


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

Women & Children First Women & Children First opened in a modest storefront in 1979, owned by Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon, who met as graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Over the years we've been located in several locations on Chicago's northside. In 1990, we moved to our current location in the Andersonville neighborhood. We are one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country, stocking more than 30,000 books by and about women, children's books, and the best LGBTQIA+ literature. Anything we don't have in stock we can usually get in a few days, even if it's a title outside our specialty. We also carry cards, magazines, journals, posters, calendars, buttons, flags, and more. In 2014, our co-founders sold the bookstore to two of their staffers, Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. The change in ownership kept the store “in the family� and renewed the strength and vitality of our mission. We strive to offer a place where everyone can find books reflecting their lives and interests in an atmosphere in which they are respected and valued. Women & Children First believes in the transformative power of literature. As intersectional trans-inclusive feminists, we believe books are tools for liberation. Since 1979, we have celebrated and amplified underrepresented voices. In order for feminism to remain relevant, it must be forever evolving. Visit Website 81


BOOK REVIEW

TORNADO SEASON. Prepare to Be Taken to New, Uncharted Places in Your Mind Courtney Craggett’s vivid imagination will take you to strange and unusual places, but there also is a thread of familiarity that runs through her stories. Kansas Before Oz and Statue provide an escape from reality into a world of fantasy, while Donation and Astromorphosis push fantasy into the macabre. Located in either Texas or Mexico, or both, Craggett’s stories bring to life raw subjects similar to what you might read in today’s headlines, such as the daily struggles of the undocumented immigrant and the sacrifices they make to find a better life; the fear and guilt that envelops a household dealing with domestic violence; the loss of a child; the abandonment of a parent, and the struggles of mental illness.

TORNADO SEASON COURTNEY CRAGGETT

Tornado Season paints a picture of how vulnerable a community can be when climate change and global warming cause extreme weather conditions. Craggett’s stories open a window into the minds of her characters so you can see life’s experiences from someone else’s point of view. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Craggett holds a PhD in English with specializations in creative writing and multi-ethnic American literature from the University of North Texas, where she taught English and served as the American Literary Review's Assistant Fiction Editor. Her short stories appear in The Pinch, Mid-American Review, Washington Square Review, Booth, Juked, Word Riot, and Monkeybicycle, among others, and were featured on Ploughshares' blog.

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STREAM SYSTEM: THE COLLECTED SHORT FICTION OF GERALD MURNANE

BOOK REVIEW

These Stories Paint a Picture of the Australia Murnane Grew Up In Gerald Murnane’s characters and their experiences bear a striking resemblance to the author himself and to his own experiences. In these fiction stories, Murnane paints a picture of places in Southeastern Australia where he himself grew up. His characters lives among the yellowbrown grassland, pale blue skies and grey sea. They are surrounded by dairy farms, hills and rivers. He writes in the third person, often referring to someone as the “chief character” in the story when describing what they’re doing, and while Murnane often uses repetitive language, for him, it is intentional and serves a literary purpose. He writes from the point of view of either a boy or a man, and sometimes both, jockeying back and forth from the present day to the man’s past as a child or young man. His descriptions are easy to visualize, such as “the man with a thick moustache” or “the wooden-faced woman in a white frock.” Like Murnane himself, his characters are avid readers; they quote poetry, and dabble in writing fiction or poetry themselves. By the time you get to the last page, you’ll feel in many ways as if you know the author better than when you turned the first page. 

STREAM SYSTEM: THE COLLECTED SHORT FICTION OF GERALD MURNANE BY GERALD MURNANE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He has been a primary teacher, an editor and a university lecturer. His debut novel, Tamarisk Row (1974), was followed by nine other works of fiction, including The Plains now available as a Text Classic, and most recently A Million Windows. In 1999 Murnane won the Patrick White Award and in 2009 he won the Melbourne Prize for Literature. His 'Memoir of the Turf', Something for the Pain, was published to great acclaim in 2016. Gerald Murnane lives in western Victoria.

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READING TO YOUR KIDS. BY MEGAN LORD

Doesn’t have to ALWAYS be children’s books

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

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

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

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There is a lot of research out there that shows the importance of how many words your young child hears per day. By just talking to your kid, you help them develop obviously their vocabulary, but also their overall language skills like listening, memory, speaking, and socialization skills. It is preached to all parents: READ to your young kids as often as possible, starting right away as newborns. Everyone assumes this means children’s books. My mother happened to be in a college physics class when my older brother was a baby. In order to get her homework and studying done while bonding with and taking care of a baby, she would read her physics text book out loud to my brother. Him being a baby, he was just happy to hear her voice and be held by her, he didn’t really care what words were being said as long as there was love in her voice. The vastness and complexity of the vocabulary in a physics book along with the amount of reading being done out loud meant (without my mom even realizing it at the time) my brother was hearing way more words, and complex words at that, than most children his age. As soon as he entered school, he quickly got transferred into an advanced curriculum school and has proven to have advanced cognitive, memory, verbal and socialization skills throughout his life.


Now, I know the majority of us are

NOT reading physics books on the regular, and don’t happen to be in an advanced type class when our children are babies – but we do read! I mean, that’s why you’re reading this magazine, right? So why not read the books that you want to read out loud to your young children sometimes instead of just the same old children’s books with the same super simplified vocabulary. I am not saying don't read children’s books to your child - do that too. But when you want to get a chapter or 2 in of your own book of choice, it doesn’t hurt to get that in out loud with your babies or young children listening. I guess this advice is given that your book isn’t excessively violent or doesn’t have too adult of content if you catch my drift. But if it’s appropriate enough – exposing your child to the extra words could be highly beneficial to their long-term intelligence and skills. I mean it couldn’t do any harm really right?

it’s becoming rarer for young kids to grow up with parents that read books, not just social media posts on the regular. If your children grow up seeing and hearing you read regularly, it becomes more of a norm for them. Your child will become far more likely to pick up a book on their own and read when they are able to and carry that with them as they get older. Again, it couldn’t hurt could it? Let’s keep the joy of books and reading alive in the generations to come, while potentially increasing our children’s vocabulary and IQ, opening up their imagination, and setting good examples for hobbies to take with throughout life. The amount of words your babies and young kids hear daily matters. Your mental health and sanity matters. Kill two birds with one stone and read your babies the books you want to read, along with the books they want to read. 

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New Year, New Attitude. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

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

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What masters of prevarication people are—if not with others, then often with themselves. And so we have come, once more, to that time of year when we promise ourselves we’ll “do better.” We vow to hit goalposts that seem to retreat farther and farther from us as if pushed by unseen hands. As I look back over this very difficult year—a challenging year personally, professionally, and even physically as we were displaced from our home—I have few regrets. My main goals this year were first, to finish my darn book series, and second, to grow my YouTube channel. Mission accomplished for each. I ended the year on a high note, and because this is a column for sharing, not hoarding, suggestions for self-improvement and happiness, let me tell you how. Foremost, I believe that my background in physical health and wellness has helped me immeasurably in setting and meeting realistic goals. In training, we structure a fitness plan— incorporating and plotting out our client’s goals—into microcycles and mesocycles. The body operates according to scientific principles and protocols that cannot be (naturally) manipulated: “Do X and Y happens” kind of stuff. If you eat X amount of calories, train X amount of days, Y will happen. Simple, right? Well, in theory. Except the same thing can happen in training that happens in real life. We get derailed by unexpected or dire events. When those catastrophic inhibitors come my way, I always try to adopt the mentality shared by some of the world’s most successful individuals, who see failure and misfortune only as stepping stones to improvement and new opportunities. How simplistic and pedantic, you might think. You’d be right if I wasn’t able to share with you a couple of real-life examples. My first ever article for Shelf was about the creation of my dark fantasy series, precipitated by the death of my mother. I used my grief to fuel my creativity and I produced a five-book saga—sweeping and critically acclaimed— of which I am forever proud (and of which Cynthia, my mom, surely is too).


I bring the same attitude to my smaller, day-to-day misfortunes. For instance, I was kneecapped by a cold just this past holiday. I so rarely get sick (the last time was in 2012) that when I do, I’m basically Typhoid Mary—utterly toxic and pouring snot. Which was how I spent my New Year’s Eve: miserable and sick. What’s the term? Netflix and Chill? My version was “NyQuil and the chills.” Although, because of my rest and recuperation, I woke up with a bit more energy on New Year’s Day. Enough to make it to the gym (I never miss a day) and to write this article. Because each step to success begins with either a stumble or another step. Fair or not, the most successful people in the world are not necessarily the brightest, or most talented, or the kindest. They’re the ones who are least likely to give up. So to wrap this up, we can distill my anecdotes into two pieces of advice. One: set realistic goals for the new year while understanding that you will most likely fall short of some if not all of those marks (but hopefully not!). Two: do not fear failure or rejection. Take it in stride; choose to see it as merely one path closing, an opportunity to look for the next. A path will appear, I guarantee you. And if it doesn’t, grab that machete and hack out one of your own. —C 

SCHEMING IMMORTAL KINGS AND ANTEDILUVIAN HORRORS MEET THEIR MATCH IN A HANDMAIDEN.

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her— visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land. With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive. www.christianadrianbrown.com 87


NEW TO SHELF UNBOUND!

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

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

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

“2016 Top 100 Book Review Blogs For Book Readers and Authors” - FEEDSPOT

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

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

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW 05

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Behind the Scenes: Short Answers with Short Storysmiths. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI

One editor and three authors spoke with Shelf Unbound about the appeal of the short story format and give deeper insight into their most recent collections!


CONTINUED

ALYSIA CONSTANTINE EDITOR OF THE FORTHCOMING SHORT STUFF ANTHOLOGY, DUET BOOKS, AVAILABLE JUNE 2020

“Editing this great collection of stories, all of which feature queer characters, gave me hope that our collective imaginary is expanding to include more of us. I hope even more that it will continue to expand. Perhaps this book will be a catalyst; we can look at it and ask, "Whose story is still missing?" And once our imaginary begins to expand, we can listen for those stories. From the start, the idea for the anthology was to have feel-good, low angst stories. We reached out to authors we’ve previously worked with and perhaps not unexpectedly, the stories began to take the form of "meet-cutes.” But one took an unexpected turn when fantasy author Julia Ember, who has an academic background in Medieval Literature, turned in a surprise: a YA reimagining of the epic poem, Beowolf. At first, we thought, we can’t go with meet-cutes. And then we realized that [Ember’s] story is technically just that… except one of the characters is a young woman who is also a dragon.” In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

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BEHIND THE SCENES

PEG ALFORD PURSELL AUTHOR OF A GIRL GOES INTO THE FOREST, DZANC BOOKS

“I’m drawn to the challenge of suggesting an entire world in a short space on the page, in a limited number of words. A story can be read in one sitting while offering the possibility of a complete artistic experience. It asks that the reader become a fuller participant in the experience, and does this through what is left unsaid, primarily. The story expands beyond the page, and the reader is active in that expansion. The more compression and brevity, the more expansion. Ideally, the more potency. My desire in writing the short story—sometimes less than a page long—is to excite the reader’s active engagement. I can’t pinpoint a single inspiration for A Girl Goes into the Forest, since I often don’t know the mysterious source of my writing. This is the magical part of the process, finding out those various currents myself. Eventually, I’m able to discern patterns, motifs, obsessions. This collection is concerned with women and agency, comprised of sections introduced by lines from the Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” a fairy tale in which Gerda (the girl) rescues Kay (the boy).” In forests literal and metaphorical, the

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characters try, fail, and try again to see the world, to hear each other, and to speak the truth of their longings. Powerful, lyrical, and precise, Pursell’s stories call up a world at once mysterious and recognizable. CLAIRE HOPPLE AUTHOR OF TIRED PEOPLE SEEING AMERICA, DOSTOYEVSKY WANNABE

“I've always been drawn to technique, dialogue, and characters more than plot. Short stories allow me to make every word intentional without sacrificing some sort of major buildup in narrative. You never get bored with the characters. It's also more palatable to non-readers or people who have a difficult time focusing. Not everyone needs to know the color of a sweater or the weather outside unless it's relevant to the story, and that's an incredible thing. The economy of words is an art in itself. The story "Grip" came about the summer I kept passing a sign for a reptile show on my way to work. The very fact that something like that existed just sort of lit up my brain. Doing a little research and jotting down a few notes helped me realize this was also a vehicle for displaying vulnerability in a singularly humorous way. The setting morphed into a reptile-themed birthday party for a child.” From historical reenactors to waterbed owners 92

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05

BEHIND THE SCENES

to professional mermaids, the characters in Tired People Seeing America grapple with the postmodern American landscape and its effects on personal identity. DALIA ROSENFELD AUTHOR OF THE WORLDS WE THINK WE KNOW, MILKWEED EDITIONS

“When I write a story, I love the challenge of trying to elicit, in the span of a few pages, a strong feeling on the part of the reader about people they have never met and situations they have never experienced. While a short story cannot claim the expansiveness of a novel, its power lies in its concision and compression, in its ability to evoke emotions through efficiency, and even ambiguity: The things that writers choose to leave out can be as revelatory as what they choose to put in. It is this tension that I’m drawn to, the self-restraint of every sentence that allows for each word to matter, and for a world to unfold through its language. Nothing would please me more than for a reader to linger over a scene in one of my stories—or even a single image in a scene—smile, and say to themselves, ‘Hey, I like that.’” Fiercely funny and entirely original, this debut collection of stories takes readers from the United States to Israel and back again to examine the mystifying reaches of our own minds and hearts. 


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INVISIBLE YET ENDURING LILACS

BOOK REVIEW

Murnane Reveals Himself in These Thoughtful Essays Lilacs is a collection of essays Murnane published over 20 years ago. In Lilacs Murnane reveals his interest in personal libraries and that he reads voraciously, keeping records of what he reads and when he reads them. He fondly mentions his father, who owned a racehorse, and notes that he was raised around horse racing. He also shows a passionate interest in all types of birds. He questions his own interpretation and memory of books he’s read. He evaluates the effect that other writers’ works had on him, either knowingly or unknowingly, and speaks of lessons learned from either the knowledge, or the lack of that knowledge. He also is blunt about things he didn’t see or understand in those writers’ works, and contrasts that with what he knows now.

INVISIBLE YET ENDURING LILACS BY GERALD MURNANE

If you read both Stream System and Lilacs, you will see many similarities between the fictional characters’ experiences and those of Murnane himself. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1939. He is the author of fifteen books, only one of which was published in the UK before And Other Stories started to publish him here in 2019 with his first book Tamarisk Row and his most latest work of prose, Border Districts. In 2020, And Other Stories published his collected stories, Stream System, as well as a collection of his essays, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, though it can be hard to separate story and essay in his writing. 94

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BOOK REVIEW

MANY PEOPLE DIE LIKE YOU Her Characters’ Plights Are Familiar to Those We All Deal With Wolff ’s stories are not as morbid as the title might lead you to believe. Some of them are about real death, but some are about emotional death. And with some of these characters who died, there also comes rebirth, or life in others.

MANY PEOPLE DIE LIKE YOU BY LINA WOLFF

Each story emphasizes some type of human suffering, whether it’s loneliness, old age, regret, a dead-end job or being stuck in a marriage that has run its course. With every sadness, however, Lina contrasts it with someone else’s happiness. As a husband withers and dies in a nursing home, his wife finds a reason for living when she no longer has to bear the burden of her invalid husband. An older woman whom everyone thought was a washed up spinster discovers she has much more life left to live and becomes reenergized. Many of the characters turn to sexual affairs to make them feel revitalized and alive, and while, in the end, they learn that the feeling is only temporary, some are all the better for the experience. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Swedish writer Lina Wolff has lived and worked in Italy and Spain. During her years in Valencia and Madrid, she began to write her short story collection Many People Die Like You. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs, her first novel, was awarded the prestigious Vi Magazine Literature Prize and shortlisted for the prestigious 2013 Swedish Radio Award for Best Novel of the Year. It was published by And Other Stories in 2018, followed by her second novel, The Polyglot Lovers, in 2019. Wolff now lives in southern Sweden. 95


ON OUR SHELF BS

CHECK OUT

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

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ON OUR SHELF

THE ODDITORIUM by Melissa Pritchard

LOVE AMONG THE PARTICLES

WIDOW by Michelle Latiolais

by Norman Lock

In each of these eight genrebending tales, Melissa Pritchard overturns the conventions of mysteries, westerns, gothic horror, and historical fiction to capture surprising and often shocking aspects of her characters’ lives. In one story, Pritchard creates a pastiche of historical facts, songs, and tall tales, contrasting the famed figures of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, including Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull, with the real, genocidal history of the American West.

In a whirlwind tour of space, time, and literary history, Lock creates worlds that veer wildly from the natural to the supernatural via the pre-modern, mechanical and digital ages. His characters may walk out of the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, or Gaston Leroux, but they are distinctly his own. Mr. Hyde finally reveals his secrets to an ambitious journalist, unleashing unforeseen horrors. An ancient Egyptian mummy is revived in 1935 New York to consult on his Hollywood biopic. A Brooklynite suddenly dematerializes and passes through the internet, in search of true love….

Like the memoirs of Joan Didion and Joyce Carol Oates, Widow was largely written after the tragic death of Latiolais’ husband, and her stories bravely explore the physiology of grief through a masterful interweaving of tender insight and unflinching detail—reminding us that the inner life is best understood through the medium of storytelling. Among these stories of loss are interwoven other tales, creating a bridge to the ineffable pleasures and follies of life before the catastrophe. Throughout this collection, Latiolais captures the longing, humor, and strange grace that accompany life’s most transformative chapters.

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ON OUR SHELF

SLEEPING MASK

UNDERSTORIES

by Peter LaSalle

by Tim Horvath

THE BUSINESS OF NAMING THINGS by Michael Coffey

The twelve stories of Sleeping Mask, written in propulsive, fluid prose, introduce readers to remarkable characters. They include a child soldier sent to raid a girls’ boarding school, a Virginia Woolf scholar surviving cancer, a desperate writer living under fascism in a futuristic Latin America, the spirits of recently deceased college students on a tour of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and a middle-aged man transported back to his childhood, where he is led out to sea by his mother’s ghost.

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What if there were a city that consisted only of restaurants? What if Paul Gauguin had gone to Greenland instead of Tahiti? What if there were a field called Umbrology, the study of shadows, where physicists and shadow puppeteers worked side by side? Full of speculative daring though firmly anchored in the tradition of realism, Tim Horvath’s stories explore all of this and more— blending the everyday and the wondrous to contend with age-old themes of loss, identity, imagination, and the search for human connection.

Among these eight stories, a fan of writer (and fellow adoptee) Harold Brodkey gains an audience with him at his life’s end, two pals take a Joycean sojourn, a man whose business is naming things meets a woman who may not be what she seems, and a father discovers his son is a suspect in an assassination attempt on the president. In each tale, Michael Coffey’s exquisite attention to character underlies the brutally honest perspectives of his disenchanted fathers, damaged sons, and orphans left feeling perpetually disconnected.


ON OUR SHELF

HERE UNTIL AUGUST

HUMILIATION: STORIES

FLOYD HARBOR: STORIES

by Josephine Rowe

by Paulina Flores

by Joel Mowdy

The stories in Here Until August follow the fates of characters who, by choice or by force, are traveling beyond the boundaries of their known worlds. These are people who move with the seasons. We meet them negotiating reluctant or cowardly departures, navigating uncertain returns, or biding the disquieting calm that so often precedes moments of decisive action.

The nine mesmerizing stories in Humiliation, translated from the Spanish by Man Booker International Prize finalist Megan McDowell, present us with a Chile we seldom see in fiction: port cities marked by poverty and brimming with plans of rebellion; apartment buildings populated by dominant mothers and voyeuristic neighbors; library steps that lead students to literature, but also into encounters with other arts–those of seduction, selfdelusion, sabotage.

Set largely in the 1990s, the twelve linked stories in Joel Mowdy’s first book take place in and around Mastic Beach, a community on New York’s Long Island that’s close to the wealthy Hamptons but afflicted by widespread poverty. Mostly in their teens and early twenties, the characters struggle to become independent in various ways, ranging from taking typical lowpaying jobs—hotel laundry, janitorial, restaurant, and landscaping work—to highly ingenious schemes, to exchanging sexual favors for a place to stay. A few make it to local community colleges; others end up in rehab or juvenile detention centers. However loving, their parents can offer little help. Those who are Vietnam veterans may suffer from PTSD; others may bear the addictions that often come with stressful lives.

From the Catskills to New South Wales, from the remote and abandoned island outports of Newfoundland to the sprawl of a North American metropolis, these transformative stories show how the places where we choose to live our lives can just as easily turn us inward as outward.

Themes of pride, shame, and disgrace–small and large, personal and public–tie the stories in this collection together. Humiliation becomes revelation as we watch Paulina Flores’s characters move from an age of innocence into a world of conflicting sensations.

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ON OUR SHELF

FRIDAY BLACK by Nana Kwame AdjeiBrenyah

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.

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PORTABLE BLACK MAGIC: TALES OF THE AFRO STRANGE

NOT DEAD YET AND OTHER STORIES by Hadley Moore

by Ran Walker

Stephen King once said that books are portable magic. Ran Walker decided to take this phrase a bit more literally in his third short story collection, bringing to life vibrant new landscapes of both the strange and the familiar.A writer finds himself in a love triangle where one of the women is a ghost. A woman discovers that her cure for alopecia has unintended consequences. An artist paints a woman he has been dreaming about, only to discover his dreams might be closer to reality than he thought. A graduating senior learns the true value of sacrifice. A guy professes his love for his girlfriend through an overwhelming metaphor.

Not Dead Yet studies the uncertainties of loss, turning a gaze toward the often-silenced voices of the infirm, elderly, and adolescent. Rich in humor and honesty, Hadley Moore’s debut collection of short stories presents a contemporary set of narratives from a lush cast of characters. We find the protagonists of her stories tenderly revealing their pain after the loss of loved ones and coping with the voids left by the passing of youth, happiness, and fulfilment. Moore invites us into the lives of characters like Morley, who struggles to adapt to new cultural norms, and Salmon, who confronts the loss of her husband while feeling isolated from his family’s Judaism. The characterdriven prose of Not Dead Yet offers striking detail as it dives into moments of absurdity and tragedy.


ON OUR SHELF

BULL AND OTHER STORIES by Kathy Anderson

COME BY HERE: A NOVELLA AND SHORT STORIES

THE GNOME STORIES by Ander Monson

by Tom Noyes

Fiction. Women's Studies. LGBT Studies. Disorienting and illuminating, playful and often penetrating, the stories of Kathy Anderson astonish. She has already established herself as a powerful new voice on the national literary scene. The stories contained in Bull are marvelous pleasures, whether taken one at a time or gobbled ravenously. -- David Lynn, editor of The Kenyon Review

Tom Noyes’ Come by Here: A Novella and Stories is a remarkable collection of narrative voices, of recalcitrant and uncomfortable souls trying to talk into existence the lives they want. But life, these talkers learn, is a stubborn thing. The novella, a brilliant one(wo)man-band of a fiction, is emblematic of the collection in how it stitches together the past and present to reveal the phony, the fraudulent, the lie, but also in how it dazzles with its compassion for its motley coming-together of characters, who, despite their mismanaged lives, find redemption in Noyes’ prose. –DARRELL SPENCER

The Gnome Stories focuses on characters who are loners in the truest sense; who are in the process of recovering from mental, physical, or emotional trauma; and who find solace—or at least a sense of purpose—in peculiar jobs and pursuits.

With The Gnome Stories, Ander Monson presents eleven unforgettable stories about oddly American situations: as surreal as an urban legend and at the same time perfectly mundane.

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The Unplanned Literary Adventure. By Julia Gimbel About five years ago, I found a 60-page handwritten journal my late father wrote about his experiences in the South Pacific during World War II.

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

During the ensuing months, I found myself looking into the topics Dad raised in the journal. My curiosity about WWII became a passion and I realized that other history buffs might be interested in what I was learning. The topics became the links in the story I wanted to tell – the life experiences of those who served and not the battles, dates, and generals we’ve all studied before. Starting to write is the hardest thing - I didn’t know how to begin so I just chose one of the topics and dove in. I found that breaking down the larger story into manageable pieces and researching them one at a time made it easier to keep going – I had faith that they would gel at some later date. A lot of my research came from online sources, and I compared them carefully to glean the most accurate facts. Be skeptical and review multiple sources before you extract any information for your work. I also took advantage of my local library’s collection of WWII books as well as its free access to online programs such as Ancestry.com. The National WWII Museum was a gold star resource for me, both online and in person, so seek out any organizations or archives for your topic that might be relevant. Reach out to people involved with or interested in your topic. I met people from the Honor Flight, my local newspaper, and most importantly, local veterans willing to share their stories with me. People will encourage you, introduce you to future contacts, and give you new ideas.

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Join a writing roundtable like I did and think carefully about your peer’s corrections and ideas and how they might make your work better. Stay true to yourself but value the critiques offered by others and remember that everyone wants you to succeed. I created an author page on Facebook for my work, sharing tidbits of the interesting stories I unearthed while I researched. Invest in boosting your posts and be sure to interact with your followers who will share and recommend your page with others. Agents will take notice if you have a large following on social media.

Holding the book in my hands will be the fulfilling culmination of a fun and challenging research and writing experience. I am thrilled to see where the journey that started with Dad’s words will take me next, and I am honored and excited to share his experiences, and by extension those of millions of other WWII veterans, with readers. 

Over time I wove Dad’s words with my own and before I knew it, I had a dozen different “chapters” telling his story and by extension, the stories of millions of others who served during WWII. I organized the chapters into a sequence that made sense, adding transitional passages between the sections. I never saw myself as a “real” writer who might someday be published, but my dream came true when Orange Hat Publishing saw the manuscript’s potential. “Student, Sailor, Skipper, Survivor – How WWII Transformed the Lives of Ordinary Americans” will be published and released in March of 2020.

STUDENT, SAILOR, SKIPPER, SURVIVOR

HOW WWII TRANSFORMED THE LIVES OF ORDINARY AMERICANS

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Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.” —

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

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SHELF UNBOUND WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING WWW.SHELFMEDIAGROUP.COM

Profile for Shelf Media Group

Short Stories - February/March 2020 - Shelf Unbound Magazine  

In this issue, we interview indie short story writers, including Melissa Marr, author of Tales of Folk & Fey, Clarissa Gosling, author of A...

Short Stories - February/March 2020 - Shelf Unbound Magazine  

In this issue, we interview indie short story writers, including Melissa Marr, author of Tales of Folk & Fey, Clarissa Gosling, author of A...