Summer Reads - June/July 2020 - Shelf Unbound Magazine

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


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Lamb to the

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Available at

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

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

Print ISBN: 9780692334805 eBook ISBN: 9780692334812






08 Interview: Chelsea Bieker, Godshot By Sarah Kloth

12 Interview: Sarah Leipciger, Coming Up for Air By Sara Grochowski

SECTIONS 24 Interview: Jay Rayner, Jay Rayner's Last Supper

19 Bookstagram 33 Recommended Reading

By Sara Grochowski

89 Book Shelf

124 Turner Brings Books to the Big (and

96 Indie Reviews

Little) Screen with New Imprint By Lynn Russo Whylly

128 On Our Shelf

ON P G 24



JAY R AYN E R COLUMNS 87 Girl Plus Book

Sara Grochowski

116 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

118 Book Mom

Megan Verway

120 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

140 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki


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We all have that one song that comes on the radio and instantly transports us to an exact moment of summer – a road trip with friends, a family cookout, a summer night concert. Reading is no different. Last year, one of my summer reads was Mosquitoland by David Arnold. I took it on our yearly family waterpark mini vacation and remember sitting by the lazy river where I finished the book in one sitting. To this day every time I see that book on my shelf, I'm instantly taken back to that trip - the memories, the feeling, even the smell of fresh summer air. I hope you find THAT summer read in this issue.

getting lost in a great new book while relaxing in the hot sun. In this issue we have a diverse selection of new indie reads to add to your summer reading list. With Chelsea Bieker we discuss motherhood, abandonment, and cults in her debut novel Godshot. We talk with Sarah Leipciger about her stunning sophomore novel, Coming up for Air. And we discuss last meals with food critic Jay Rayner and his new food memoir Jay Rayner's Last Supper. Be sure to check out the Small Press Review section to see how one indie publisher, is having some fun with marketing during quarantine by challenging their authors to recreate book covers in a hilarious way.

The Summer Reads edition is one of my favorites. There is simply nothing comparable to

Enjoy the issue. î –



Interview with Chelsea Bieker, Author of Godshot. BY SARAH KLOTH



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


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in a very oppressed and patriarchal state and ending with an awareness of feminism and autonomy.

CB: I wrote the book over the span of about

six years, and during that time I had two children and was teaching full time as an adjunct. A lot of the process is a blur, sneaking writing sessions during naps, heading to the coffeeshop on weekends for a few hours at a time. It felt like I was always piecing everything together. A lot of this book was written in that strange zone of exhaustion and determination. But the process of writing the book was a joy to me, and it was a place I could go and escape into another world. But it was anything but organized. This book was often written from a place of desperation. It’s never been an option for me not to write, though, so I did it even when it was very hard because it was such a source of light for me.


experience, but I would say there is a definite emotional truth that is mine. This experience of a mother leaving, I have endured. The feelings around that are true for the narrator and for me. The externals are heightened and transformed by my imagination. Fiction is the best way I know how to approach writing about these difficult emotional truths. It’s a place I feel I have control over the narrative in a different way and I can explore different possibilities. But in terms of growing up a child of an alcoholic and experiencing abandonment, Lacey May and I share that.



CB: A lot of things: the Central Valley of


California is a place I come back to again and again in my work, and the landscapes there remain the most charged for me. And then of course I wanted to explore a motherless coming of age and how young girls are often on their own to figure out things like sexuality, identity, consent, basic bodily information, etc. In the book, Lacey May goes on a real journey of self education and transformation beginning

WAS THE HARDEST PART FOR YOU TO WRITE? CB: I think the interactions between Lacey and

her mother were the hardest for me. I don’t want to give anything away but I rewrote a scene toward the end of the book involving her mother many times. I needed to get the balance between the truth and offering grace and wholeness to her mother just right. I



never wanted to paint her mother as simple or one dimensional. I wanted her to be a whole complicated human because that is what she is.



more compassion and more love for my mother than ever. IS THERE A MESSAGE IN GODSHOT?


CB: I hope readers can leave the book with a


sense that our stories are always evolving. The end is not the end. The end is another open door. I hope it can be an inspiration in some way, that through unimaginable darkness the human spirit perseveres. We are much stronger than we know.

CB: My favorite part of writing this book

was tapping into the voice of Lacey May and exploring the oddities in this town. There is a lot of humor in the book and the characters have their peculiar pleasures that I had a lot of fun describing. For me this is a very desolate world but it’s also a world of screaming color: neon green painted lawns, magenta hearses, golden sequined robes. I loved writing those two contrasting elements in the book. WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING GODSHOT? AND WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST? CB: This book felt like it had to be my first

book. I had to start at the root of things for myself and exploring a motherless coming of age for so long has been at my fingertips, always on my mind. I think for most of my life I’ve needed to understand why things happened the way they did, and writing this book is my only way of exploring that. Real life does not offer any such solution for me in an immediate way: I am no longer a child. My mother will never come back. These are just the facts. But in fiction I can continue to turn the prism over and over seeing it in different ways. By the end of writing this book I had 10

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WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NEXT? CB: I want to continue to explore motherhood

and identity in my writing. It’s too soon to say what is it exactly I’m working on but I sense it could be another novel. I have always wanted to write a memoir but every time I sit down to do it, I want to write fiction instead. Or a short essay flies out and I come up gasping for air. I think it’s because I’m not quite ready to write the memoir, and I’m listening to myself and believe I will know intuitively when the time is right. I know I need more space and time than I have right now (especially in quarantine where I have zero of both with small children). I know it will require a lot. Fiction is so energizing as a process for me so for now I’m exploring the things aren’t talked about very much pertaining to the body and motherhood and I’m enjoying tapping into a different voice. 


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


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



Interview With Sarah Leipciger, Author of Coming Up for Air. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI



On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events.


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In her sophomore novel, Sarah Leipciger channels the voices of three disparate individuals connected through time and space: a heartbroken young woman takes a final breath before plunging into the River Seine in 1890s Paris; a toymaker channels his grief into invention in 1950s Norway; and, in present-day Canada, a journalist battles a terrible disease that threatens to drown her from within. Taking inspiration from the mythology surrounding "L'inconnue de la Seine" (the unknown woman of the Seine), Leipciger gives life to the anonymous and compelling woman whose mysterious story has compelled creators for decades the astonishing happenstance that led to this beguiling face becoming the visage of artificial resuscitation dummies in the 1960s through today. Leipciger spoke with Shelf Unbound about her creating interconnected narratives, writing about Canada, and teaching creative writing.




of research. You’ve got to do the work to write a passable representation of this time period in Paris because it’s so well known and important. The research started to inform the Paris and "L'inconnue" bits and it became quite complicated. I knew I wanted a threepart structure because I like that aesthetic, but I had to make sure that each of the three parts moved in tandem and made sense. I ended up becoming visual with it, drawing lots of diagrams on big pieces of paper on the floor. Of course, the kids were drawing on them and trying to cut them apart, but it was easier for me. ARE YOU A PERSON WHO USUALLY




SL: I’m not much of a plotter. I like to just


write a whole book from start to finish, then go back to edit and rewrite. By the time I’ve finished a book, it’s been a year or more since I’ve looked at the beginning, so there’s tons of stuff that’s no longer relevant, directions I have to change, and character development that needs to be done. I’m a bit messy. I think

SL: I heard about the story of "L'inconnue"

on an episode of the podcast Radiolab a year or two before my first novel was published. I thought, I can’t believe this isn’t a novel yet! I thought about it for a year or maybe even two years, before I started writing it.



some people would look at it and think, “what the hell?” but, to me, it feels organic. DO YOU WORK CLOSELY WITH YOUR EDITOR OR AGENT AS YOUR WORKING THROUGH THIS PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS? SL: I have two writers that I work with, both

friends who I’ve known for about 10 years now. We get together maybe twice a year, but we’re in contact pretty much every day. Whenever I have big problems, I go to them.



SL: The publishers have house rules, so

I leave that to them, but you bring up an interesting point because when I met my editor, Michelle, she noticed quite a few things in Coming Up for Aire that were “British,” even in the Canadian bits. It was fascinating because I feel very Canadian and Canada is home, but gosh, I’ve forgotten things having lived in the UK for such a long time. HOW HAS TRAVELING AND LIVING OUTSIDE OF CANADA INFLUENCED

My agent used to be an editor, so when I have a manuscript that’s ready, she reads it, then comes back with general, overarching suggestions. With both books she’s come with one or two pivotal suggestions that I’ve used in the final books. Then it goes to the editors and, for both books, I’ve had two. With The Mountains Can Wait, I had two publishers, but one contract. Those two editors bought the book as a team, so they worked as a team. With Coming up for Air, I have two publishers who didn’t buy the book as a team, but they still worked quite amicably together.

YOUR WRITING? SL: When I was in my early 20s, I couldn’t

wait to leave Canada. I didn’t intend to leave for good, but I just couldn’t wait to go everywhere and to see and experience it all. I’m so glad that I did all that, but, interestingly, having lived away for so long, what interests me more than anything is Canada and home. I want to inhabit that space and recreate that feeling of home to share it. If I hadn’t left Canada I wouldn’t be able to write about it in the way that I do; I wouldn’t be as interested or have this perspective. CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT








SL: I’ve been teaching creative writing in


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prisons since 2003, but I still love doing it because the students you get are all sorts, people of all ages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic backgrounds. Of all the students I have had over the years, I don’t any of them had ever been taught creative writing or had the opportunity to do much writing. It’s fun to start at the beginning with guys who are so excited to write, who aren’t trying to be prolific; it’s pure and real and natural. When they’re in a classroom, they feel more human than in some other parts of their day. It’s really an honor to spend that time with people. I spend so much time alone, writing books, so it’s great to interact with different people. I have new students every couple weeks because there is a lot of movement through this particular prison. And, because its London prison, there are people from all over the world. It’s never boring.



feels irrelevant, but I don’t want it to be, it’s a book that I care about. I just can’t put my head there right now, so it’s on hold for the moment. WHICH BOOKS OR AUTHORS HAVE INFORMED YOUR APPROACH TO WRITING, LANGUAGE, AND STORYTELLING? SL: I always go back to Margaret Laurence

and Alison Row, as early inspiration. I call Margaret Laurence “Canada’s Other Margaret,” she’s amazing but isn’t that well known outside of Canada. I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer since I was really young, and those two writers really stick out for me as the authors of books that showed me how to tell a story. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite writers, but I don’t think I write like him; nobody but Cormac McCarthy writes like Cormac McCarthy.


lot of distractions: all the worry and not knowing and the fact that we just don’t have any answers. No one knows how this will end and I’m finding not being able to settle hard. I started writing my third book months ago now, but I haven’t been able to write anything more since this began. It

And I’ve loved Deborah Levy these last few years. She’s a British novelist and essayist that is an absolute genius and inspires me to work harder. 


Meet Tommye Blount’s


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


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Buy Online


Available at


P U S W.






M O .C 5s e ag r o F


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










@happybooklovers TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

@happybooklovers: I'm Cassie! I'm a book-lover (obviously!), a dog-lover, and a cheese-lover. I'm also a bibliologist at Tailored Book Recommendations, where I get to tell people all about my absolute favorite books.




@happybooklovers: I originally had a blog way back in the aughts when I discovered I could express my love for books online and to other readers across the world, and that slowly morphed into using Instagram later as my sole platform. I really love it because I can feature the books up close and personal!

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





@happybooklovers: So many! Indie presses are my favorite, and I love discovering new authors and promoting them. Some recent authors whose work I've loved include Lara Prior-Palmer, Abby Geni, and Helene Tursten. I love that so many small presses work with authors around the world and provide new editions and/or translations of literature I otherwise wouldn't have the chance to read! WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUMMER READ?

@happybooklovers: I love a good thriller in the summer—something I can really lose myself in all day and forget how long I've actually been outside in the sun. HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU TYPICALLY READ IN A YEAR?

@happybooklovers: The past few years it's been right around 100, but I'm well on track to beat that this year because of all the reading I've been doing during the COVID-19 quarantine period.  19












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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.

TRIBAL AFFAIRS by Matt Dallmann

It was unlike any other book I’ve ever read. If you’re looking for a story that differs from the majority of the YA market right now, then definitely pick up Tribal Affairs.”

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SUMMER READS Press 53 from

A Small Thing to Want churns with lives that crave and covet, forming an undercurrent of desire. Throughout these skillfully crafted stories of missed opportunities and hidden transgressions, Cawood leans into what is vital. —Jon Pineda

The characters in Clifford Garstang’s House of the Ancients & Other Stories travel the world. But no matter how far they go— Denmark, Mexico, Vietnam—they can’t escape themselves. —Mark Brazaitis

These twelve stories are grounded in domestic detail, but in the vein of Anne Tyler or Elizabeth Strout, each gesture reveals a world of longing. —Kate Geiselman

Clifford Garstang’s impressive collection arrives like a rush of postcards from around the world . . . . and at each stop along the way, we’re greeted by another cast of characters, eager to enchant, charm and delight. —Tim Wendel

In these smart, keenly observed, pitch-perfect stories, Cawood tunes in to the nuances of grief and love . . . . and she does so with wisdom, humor and great tenderness. —Elissa Schappell

Fascinating, insightful, equal parts poignant and disturbing, House of the Ancients & Other Stories will keep you reading deep into the lonely night. —Kim Wright


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Interview With Jay Rayner, Author of Jay Rayner's Last Supper. BY SARA GROCHOWSKI



Jay Rayner's Last Supper is both a hugely entertaining account of a life built around mealtimes and a fascinating global exploration of our relationship with what we eat. It is the story of one hungry man, in eight courses.


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Jay Rayner is food critic and news writer for The Guardian’s The Observer, which covers the top stories and trends in lifestyle, arts, business political, and celebrity news around the world, a television personality, serving as a judge on Top Chef Masters, a radio show host for BBC 4, and an author of 11 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His new food memoir, Jay Rayner’s Last Supper, answers a question he’s often asked in interviews and brings together anecdotes and a thoughtful, in-depth exploration of food. Rayner spoke to Shelf Unbound about his approach to this writing, becoming a food critic, and his advice for those who aren’t as privileged to have the perks of being a food critic, but crave food adventures of their own. HOW DID THE PREMISE FOR LAST SUPPER COME INTO BEING? JR: The one question I’ve been asked is “if

you were on death row, what would your last meal be?” I’d always reply that I thought I’d have lost my appetite, which disappointed the audience hugely. But then I started thinking about it very seriously. What were they asking me? What was this last meal obsession? I realized it wasn’t about the food, but about self. If nobody was looking and you were able to make a meal that defined who you are, what would be in it? Obviously, I’m greedy - I like how things taste - but what intrigues me about food is the way it reaches into every aspect of



our lives. It’s about memory and emotion and family and relationships and politics and big business and small business. In considering forming a last meal, I saw a vehicle for the kind of writerly project that I like, which is one that investigates ingredients, requiring me to get my notebook out and be a reporter, and while also covering a subject very close to my heart, which is myself. THIS BOOK IS A MIX OF FOOD CRITIQUE, MEMOIR, AND GUIDE. WHAT DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS LOOK LIKE? DO YOU FIND THE STORY OR DOES THE STORY FIND YOU? JR: I’m a strong believer that ideas are easily

had, and what matters is execution. At one point, I had written down, in columns, the potential ingredients for a given chapter, and then potential memoir elements, then reportage, then anecdotes. It was a useful process, though I didn’t use it in the end. I was clear that there would be reportage in every section and that I’d have to go out and ask “Where can I find a water sommelier? How can I test different versions of Mont Blanc against each other? Where should I go to try pork?” That section in the pork chapter, when I go out for those ridiculous meals with colleagues, is very knowing. It’s self-regarding and self-important, but, even having been aware of that, I felt it was necessary those set pieces are in there.




regard writing about food as some separate creature over in the corner. In fact, when people ask me about food writing, I say to them, “There’s no such thing as food writing, there’s only writing that happens to be about food.” I have written about almost everything during my career and I think you need to approach all of those things in exactly the same way. What are you trying to say? How are you going to make this readable? I’m very intent that nobody has to read what you write, not even your mother. Your job, as a writer, is to keep people reading until the end of the page, not because it’s intellectually nourishing, but because it’s engaging. That applies whether you’re writing a business piece or a crime story or about your last meal.



In fact, go write about anything other than food. Go learn your craft. Write and write again; there is no better substitute to hone your craft as a writer. In this country, we have seven or eight jobs on national newspapers for food critics. That’s it. And there’s not many more in the US, frankly. I didn’t plan to be a food critic; the job landed in my lap and I decided not to let it go because I reckoned I might have a skill set that suit it. So, don’t ask me about being a critic, ask me about being a writer. One of the key things I always say is that you can’t write anything worthwhile unless you’ve got something to write about. A full notebook makes me very happy, even if I use barely any of it. EVERYONE, OF COURSE, HAS A RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD, BUT YOURS TOOK YOU ON A VERY SPECIFIC JOURNEY. HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR LIFELONG APPRECIATION OF FOOD HAS IMPACTED YOUR WORK




JR: It goes in waves and is something that


I try to be very conscious about. People ask how you avoid becoming and jaded and well, you can’t entirely. There was a time in my life when I would have thrilled about a high-end restaurant knocking out a 12-course tasting menu and, now, I’d rather nail my own hands to the desk than have to sit through such a thing. What I try to remind myself is that


food critic, then you need to be a writer. It’s not about food; go write about everything.


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that doesn’t mean my view of a high-end restaurants or a tasting menu is valid or correct, rather it’s a sign that I no longer have a literal or figurative appetite for that kind of performance around food, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for it. I think that I can tell the difference between good and bad with that type of stuff, it’s just not my personal choice. When you do a job for a long time, you have to be aware that certain things will become less thrilling, but that you have to continue seeing them through the eyes of people who do not do what you do for a living. Experience is one thing, being jaundiced is quite another.




that was applied to me as a small child, which I think you can extend to the entirety of life: You cannot say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it. So, you can’t look at something on a menu and say, “I don’t like the sound of that.” Not liking the sound of something, without having tried it, is a narrow way to experience the world. I would encourage people to head towards the things that they don’t like the sound. If you don’t like it, at least you tried.





JR: It’s the one thing that I admit I find


hard to explain. After 20 years, I still push in through the door of a restaurant with a sense of anticipation. I find the idea of going out to eat thrilling; I’ve always found it romantic and exciting and grown-up. When I was 10, I read an interview with Woody Allen and he said that he ate out every night. I thought, “Oh that’s what being an adult is. How glamorous is that?” Now, even though I am very much a grown-up, I wouldn’t want to eat in a restaurant every night.

JR: I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s changed


me, but it’s probably made me more annoying to live with because I feel like I have a license to fetishize ingredients in a way that my other half doesn’t really get into. You can practically hear her eyes rolling around in their sockets when I start banging on about something. In the home, you have to remember that you’re just him, that bloke, regardless of the fact that, somewhere in the world, someone might be enthused by your writing. But I think I’ve always been like this. That’s the extraordinary thing, that I didn’t



have a plan to be a restaurant critic, but it fell into my lap and I was perfectly suited to it. I used to spend good slabs of my money in restaurants and I’m just the same chap, just with a license to be him. Sometimes, even I look at myself and go, “Ugh, you are so annoying,” but there is a place for toast and peanut butter in my life – and it’s the mass market stuff. Sometimes I just want a bag of chips. I am promiscuous around food, but I am not some gourmand, or what I call napkin sniffer. YOU’RE ALSO A MUSICIAN. DOES THAT TIE INTO YOUR WORK AS A WRITER AND CRITIC, OR IS IT



JR: The late Tony Bourdain was a massive

influence. I think, prior to him, there was this whole idea that food writing had to be nuture, love, and domesticity, which had always struck me as slightly odd because, if you’ve ever been in a professional kitchen, you know they are not loving, domestic places. Johnathan Gold. I don’t know if I saw him as an influence, but I saw him as a fellow traveler, if that makes sense. I love the nerdiness of Jeffrey Steingarten, the food writer for Vogue magazine, who attacks everything with an absurd intensity.

SOMETHING YOU TRY TO KEEP SEPARATE? JR: There is some overlap because what

drives the jazz gigs is the storytelling. Performance is now a large part of my life; there’s one man shows and the radio show I do for BBC Radio 4, The Kitchen Cabinet. But the actual music is itself ? That’s about me in a room fighting the good fight with the harsh lover that is my piano. It sometimes gives and sometimes takes, sometimes rewards me and sometimes doesn’t. WHAT OTHER WRITERS HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR APPROACH TO STORYTELLING AND WRITING? MUSICIANS?


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In terms of prose style, I adore David Sedaris. He does more with fewer words than any writer I can think of; there’s a blissful control and brevity to the way that he tells a story that leaves me breathless. I don’t care whether what he writes is true or not, but it’s compelling in every regard. I’ve been reading Michael Chabon recently, too, and am feeling a bit like, “Why have I waited so long?” There’s a very British style of fiction that seems to disapprove of narrative, believing it should all be internal monologue, but I’m a believer in narrative and Chabon does that very, very well. 

Teetering On Disaster. By Michaela Renee







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


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

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


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



The Middle Ground. BY JEFF EWING

Stories | Into the Void | February 2019

An Excerpt from Ice Flowers Another calf had died. It was Kauffman, his neighbor to the north, who’d found it. The calf had been dead at least a week; there wasn’t anything left of use. “Ok,” Wilton said. “I’ll make a note of it.” “It’s winter. You’re aware of that?” Kauffman said. “I certainly am.” Wilton held out his gloved hand to catch a cluster of falling flakes. They melted almost immediately. Kauffman patted him on the shoulder. “Keep an eye out, Wilt. Things die awful easy.” It was an unnecessary warning to Wilton who, simply by turning ninety 34

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degrees to his right, could take in the graves of his wife, his daughter, and both parents on the little birch-tufted hill above the house. Death was a sure thing, yes, but it didn’t deserve the level of attention it re-ceived. Not in his reckoning. When he was in fourth grade, he was dragged to five funerals in the span of three months. The Black Summer, he called it. Everyone sweating black stains through their black suits, black curtains on the windows, black fabric draped across the big chair his father slumped into at the end of the day. Wilton didn’t keep a single black thing in the house now. At some point—that summer or another like it—the two processes, dying and mourning, had switched places. Death became in

his mind the aftermath of grieving; and of sun. So when the Black Summer gave way to the white night of winter, he welcomed it. He watched the snow come from the north, heard a thudding like horses as it broke against the house. On the windows, individual flakes hung briefly in stark outline before falling away. Without thinking, he ran out into it—the first blizzard of the year—with only a shirt and thin


shoes, and nearly died. His father found him sitting against the side of the barn, his hands cupped in front of him full of snowflakes. He held on to them as long as he could, but the heat of the house dulled their edges quickly, blurred their outlines and stole their singularity. Still, he knew there were more where they’d come from. The doctor’s announcement that he would lose two toes to frostbite was only of passing concern—there were more where those came from too. Kauffman’s daughter, Flora, waved as Wilton passed along the section of fence that ran closest to their

house. She was sitting on the porch with a book in her lap, content as could be even with the snow coming heavier and filling in the folds of the blanket draped across her legs. The influenza that had taken his wife and daughter had almost taken her, too. She’d been weakened by it, Kauffman said. Had to quit her job in the city and come home to recover. Wilton didn’t know how it could possibly be healing, sitting out like that in all weather. He lifted his hand to wave back, then let it fall again. She wasn’t looking at him anymore; she was gazing up into the falling snow. When she stuck out her tongue to

catch a snowflake, he looked away in embarrassment. He was familiar with the taste— it was nothing, or nearly nothing. He herded the remaining cattle into the barn and pushed a hay bale out of the loft. He wasn’t much of a farmer, never had been, but you inherited most of your life, like it or not. The part you could decide for yourself was a small wedge you had to pull aside from the larger pie and save for later. 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE MIDDLE GROUND The middle ground is a place we've all crossed, the halfway point between who you are and who you want to be. In Jeff Ewing's collection of stories, his diversely American characters call it home. From a story of a man living in the shadow of an abandoned missile silo that may hold the answer to a mystery of vanished children, to one of a small-town beauty tentatively courting stardom, Ewing's sparse, musical prose illuminates lives lived in that space between fear and courage, hope and regret, life and death. 35


Driving in Cars with Homeless Men. BY KATE WISEL

Fiction | University of Pittsburgh Press | Oct 2019

Mariah had been straightening her hair the first time I showed up to babysit. She opened the door in maroon scrubs, and when she went to hug me, I felt the heat from the iron transfer to my cheek. “Hey, babe,” she said. “Come see the babe.” She took my wrist through the discount-candle-scented living room, past a flatscreen, hundreds of DVDs spread across a bookshelf. TV series in boxes stretching like accordions, romantic comedies, R&B concerts, aerobics videos. At that time, I not so secretly despised assholes who worshipped books like The Fountainhead, any jackoff intellectual’s wet dream. You could say I admired the sincerity of her collection. I followed Mariah up to Sadie’s room, dimmed by a thick pink blanket tacked over the window to drown out the sounds of the beeping garbage trucks or the downstairs neighbors 36

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who leaned off the deck with Solo cups. Deep in her crib, Sadie was obscured, her fists covering her face. “I love to wake her up,” Mariah whispered, her lash line rimmed with white glue that gave her eyes an unnatural intensity. She scooped her out and instantly set her in my arms. She watched as Sadie twisted, opening her eyes, glossy with the complicated look of being held by a stranger upon waking. I walked to babysitting from Jimmy’s place in Fenway. Three miles in the heat down Comm Ave, past brownstones that sat like gingerbread houses. The gardens were trimmed with the look of military crew cuts, a cotton-candy smell rising from the hypergreen grass. I’d walk the Common through Downtown Crossing, hopscotching junkies who slept on the cobblestone under the shade of Payless awnings. Towards the harbor, gray skirts and

ties flitted into buildings, and it was salty and cool by the waterfront bars where stools were flipped over tables. Christian and Mariah lived in Southie before Southie realized it was on the water and big signs for luxury condos appeared by the T, driving out the scally-capped Irish townies and their opposites, college kids in Izod seeking cheaper rent. Their apartment was on the top floor of a tripledecker on a lettered block, which meant I learned to


clutch Sadie in one arm and haul her stroller in the other, a move that slimmed my hips. My mentality was that of a soldier. I was never once late, and I didn’t complain when other people were. Straightaway Christian took advantage and came rushing through the door three hours past five, a water-fight of sweat on his collared shirt. He’d insist on paying for my cab home. I knew it was to shut me up, so I wouldn’t say anything to Mariah, which I didn’t. Christian’s black hair was perfectly faded on each side. He wore aviators no matter what and carried the waft of fresh sneakers through the door. He sold time-shares to lonely victims at the Prudential mall. He was a liar.

An attorney’s letter left folded on the Formica revealed that he owed upwards of twentyfive thousand dollars to a debt collector. This coupled with a video I came across on his laptop of him speedily jerking himself off into a T-shirt, his jaw slack to the camera, confirmed he was a cheater. I had no desire to, but I had to watch until he came. I watched and I watched. “They’re taking advantage of you,” Jimmy said. “What’d you say?” My mind was always elsewhere, feeling around for words. Brady panted between us, then lowered himself down, resting his chin on crossed paws. Jimmy caught his breath, hocking spit into a grassy patch by the Charles. Fif-

ty-one had snuck up on him. We were running but not fucking. Jimmy wore a faded Rangers hat at all times, and beneath it his chest was steady as an ox. For being so broad, I liked his contained nature, his belly, and tried to pin his weight on top of me. “Took you long enough to get your degree,” he said. “Use it.” I listened to his advice but didn’t take it. I guess being taken advantage of was okay with me. It meant I didn’t owe anyone anything. It meant I was earning something other than money, though I couldn’t say what. 

ABOUT THE BOOK DRIVING IN CARS WITH HOMELESS MAN Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is a love letter to women moving through violence. These linked stories are set in the streets and the bars, the old homes, the tiny apartments, and the landscape of a working-class Boston. Serena, Frankie, Raffa, and Nat collide and break apart like pool balls to come back together in an imagined postdivorce future. Through the gritty, unraveling truths of their lives, they find themselves in the bed of an overdosed lover, through the panting tongue of a rescue dog who is equally as dislanguaged as his owner, in the studio apartment of a compulsive liar, sitting backward but going forward in the galley of an airplane, in relationships that are at once playgrounds and cages.



Possess the Air. BY TARAS GRESCOE

Biography | Biblioasis | March 2020

The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola is a confection of the high Baroque, built around five niches—divided by columns of red granite and topped by high-perched griffins, lines of stone-cut Latin, and a gossamer iron cross—out of which water gushes into a cerulean basin, as shallow as it is enticing. The pet project of a seventeenth-century Pope, it is fed by the same ancient aqueduct that once filled Trastevere’s naumachia, the artificial lake where the Emperor Trajan staged mock naval battles using galleys rowed by real slaves. Taxi drivers know it simply as the fontanone, the big fountain. The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, however, is merely the backdrop to a far more impressive spectacle. Crossing the paving stones of the semi-circular piazza, the fortunate stroller approaches a curved stone balustrade, which projects like a proscenium over the most sumptuous of playhouses. Just beyond 38

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the high canopies of thintrunked umbrella pines, the first metropolis of the world unscrolls to the limits of peripheral vision. Ecco: Roma. In the foreground, quadrilaterals of weathered stucco in hues of ochre and pink form a Cubist jumble, jostling around the bend in the Tiber that snags Trastevere, the most ancient and authentic of Rome’s rioni, or central neighbourhoods, like a bishop’s crozier. Across the river, the hemispheric roof of the two-millenniaold Pantheon, the largest dome in the world until well into in the twentieth century, protrudes from Rococo cupolas, a concrete barnacle cemented fast to the medieval and Renaissance city. And, white as sun-bleached baleen, the Brescian marble of the Vittoriano, that pretentious monument to the earthiest of Italy’s kings, rises against the Impressionist smear of blue on the eastern horizon, the foreboding Sabine and Alban Hills.

The Latin satirist Martial, who owned a villa near the crest of this hill, the Janiculum, wrote of the vista: “From here you can see the seven lordly hills, and measure the whole of Rome.” The only reminders that this is the second decade of the twentieth-first century are the cellphone masts that bristle from certain strategic eminences, and the occasional contrail of an airplane that scumbles a sky notably unscraped by towers of glass and steel. It is a view that has consoled generations of visitors,


suggesting that humans and their problems come and go, but Roma—the Urbs Aeterna, the Caput Mundi, the Città Eterna—will always abide. The city’s persistence across the centuries seems to offer a salutary rebuke to an unhealthy obsession with the present. But Rome has never been exempt from history. From the balcony of the Janiculum, observers have watched the flames that leapt up from the Temple of Jupiter as Sulla sacked the Forum, the cannonballs that burst in the Piazza Barberini after French gunners dislodged General Garibaldi from the Villa Aurelia, and the columns of smoke that rose from the rubble of the San Lorenzo district after it had been carpet bombed by Flying

Fortresses in the darkest days of the Second World War. On a warm autumn evening in the Ninth Year of the Fascist Era, families that had wandered up to the Janiculum were witness to another dramatic episode in the city’s history. As the sun set on October 3, 1931, a dot appeared in the western sky. In the gathering twilight, it quickly resolved itself into a fuselage that sprouted crimson-tipped wings. People stopped to watch its progress, for aircraft were no longer a common sight in Rome. The Fascists liked to boast that not even a swallow dared to penetrate the sky over the capital without their permission. Whoever the pilot was, he was flying silently, in a controlled downwards glide. Heads

swivelled as the plane passed above the treetops, and crossed the Tiber on what seemed like a certain collision course with the palazzo where—as the day’s newspapers had announced—Il Duce and the leading members of the Fascist Grand Council had gathered to work late into the night. In the cockpit, a young man looked out over the rooftops of his hometown and wagged the wings of his little plane in triumph. Through a daring act of bravado, he was about to reveal what, for almost a decade, the dictatorship had been striving to conceal from the world. Mussolini didn’t know what was about to hit him. 

ABOUT THE BOOK POSSESS THE AIR Set in Rome during the spring of 1970, and in Cape Cod and Wisconsin over the course of the summer of 2009, The Wanting Life lays bare the private stories people tell only themselves— stories that justify lives of passion or compromise, service or joy. Three members of the Novak family are in crisis. Paul is a dying priest haunted by vivid memories of his past and Britta, Paul’s self-destructive sister and caretaker, struggles to find meaning in a world without her beloved second husband. Meanwhile, Maura, Britta’s daughter, is an artist no longer in love with her husband and she finds herself stranded between a future with her family, and the man she believes is her one, true love. 39


To Make Room For The Seas. BY ADAM CLAY READ Poetry AN |EXCERPT Milkweed Editions | March 2020

When the Whale Becomes the Wave Within the confines of metaphor, the florist drives the same route to work daily, sunshine melting to perfect flakes of snow. Ultimately we must manufacture our own importance. Without much guidance, I learned at an early age that time de!nes most of our words and actions with a tinge of terrible and calm perfection. The ocean does one thing well—if it were you or I, it’d be called stuck. And gravity seems level on the surface: a train married to its parallel tracks. But look deeper: we don’t mean to talk to ourselves when we talk to ourselves, but no one listens the way we do. If words could be worth more than their meaning, I’d believe colors—and not just their names—were capable of great and greater things.


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Found in Translation What starts out as nihilistic inside the folds of my thinking

marvel at what the body will do to survive. To delay the inevitable

usually ends up as stray unkempt optimism. Not a happy accident,

can seem heroic under some circumstances, reckless under others.

but more a blur of accidental happiness smudged with a tone I can’t quite name.

Did you see the Appaloosa in the sky? A horse made of clouds? No, it was a horse

It’s evening, and I number how many unread books remain unwritten,

turning into two horses. What were they doing? I don’t know. There was one for each eye. 


To Make Room for the Sea reckons with the notion that nothing in this world is permanent. Led by an introspective speaker, these poems examine a landscape that resists full focus, and conclude that “it’s easier to love what we don’t know.”




Fiction READ AN | Inanna EXCERPT Publications | October 2020

“I always thought Mama would like me better as an adult. She laughed at my jokes sometimes, Hedy, even when she told me not to say such things. Get away from me! I told you I don’t want to be hugged.” “Not everyone liked those jokes.” “I did. I liked the way people were shocked, and then laughed, like they forgave me everything. Stop talking to me. I told you not to talk to me. I don’t deserve to be here, Hedy.” Maybe I do, I thought. When I was younger, I thought all the time about what I would do when I was a grown-up. How I would be acclaimed for my art, even though I wasn’t sure what that art would be. When I travelled, crowds would assemble to welcome my arrival. Nicely dressed men played a role in those fantasies, escorts for me and my sister. I chose and changed my mind about locations, about what my 42

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sister and I wore. Susannah was always with me in those elaborate daydreams. Now she was with me here in this nightmare where I got to choose nothing. If I didn’t do what Frau Kreutzel said, Susannah would be sent away. I had no choice but to please Mischlinger. I hated him, and I longed to see him. Not just because he talked to me. I knew that was pathetic, but it was not as shameful, not as disgusting as the truth. I liked the feeling in my body when he touched me. He hasn’t been to see me for three weeks, and I wish he would call. I am a terrible person. The next time he visited, he was distracted and didn’t answer when I talked to him. Finally I asked him if he still liked us. “Of course I like you.” He pinched my nipple. “But it is the fall season, and my hotels are keeping me very

busy.” December snow was blowing against the windows when Susannah finally talked to me. She put her hands, palm to palm, by her cheek and warbled like a bad actress, “Do you still like us?” in a high, bleating voice, and then laughed. She was mocking me, but she was also trying to make Herr Mischlinger into a joke. I mustered a half-smile. I had a plan. If we had seen the last of him, this sojourn in our lives might be over. I asked to


speak to Frau Kreutzel, alone. “Do you think we could leave, since Herr Mischlinger isn’t coming to see us anymore?” She leaned back in her chair and laughed at me. It was my day to be mocked. “With what? And to where?” She called to Hans and told him to bring Susannah down to her office. She opened a long green book and showed us a page with our names on it and what we owed her. Lodging, meals, laundry, clothing, medical care, dental care, sundries. It even listed “protection,” which she said was Hans, barring riff-raff from the door. She said that we could easily go once we had paid off our debt. All we had to do was be nice to

a couple of gentlemen, with very nice manners, she said, who paid well. Susannah said she didn’t care, that she didn’t notice if a man was in her room or in her. She didn’t care. Frau Kreutzel smiled as though she liked her response, its vulgarity. Susannah didn’t respond. Instead she looked directly at Frau Kreutzel, her eyes dead, and then left me with her in the vestibule office. “What if we were to leave but paid all we owed a week or so after we left?” We could leave here, and say nothing about being here. We could tell people we had been overcome with grief, lost, taken in by a woodsman and his wife, succoured by wolves, anything, and even if

Mama and Papa’s finances were in terrible shape, there would be some money, surely, and we could pay Frau Kreutzel, and be free. But we couldn’t tell anyone where we had been. I didn’t tell Susannah what Frau Kreutzel said, so calmly, as if she had said the same thing a dozen times before. She would report us as thieves to the police, she said, if we tried to leave. She yawned. We would be shamed, jailed, and have our hair cut off. We would be beaten by the prison guards who would hire us out for the pleasure of their friends, or worse. And, she said, shooing me out the door, without medication, Susannah could die. 


LOOK AFTER HER Upon the death of their art-loving parents, two young Jewish adolescents are kidnapped by a family friend and taken to a brothel. There they are held captive by their shared shame and by the younger sister’s forced addiction to morphine. Love and psychodrama gives them the courage to finally escape Vienna. Once in England, however, Hedy discovers her younger sister Susannah longs to be independent— and in Italy. But in 1938, despite the safety they each have found among the privileged, they return to Vienna just before Hitler arrives, putting their own lives and those of two children in danger.



Girls Lost.


We turned fourteen that spring, Bella, Momo, and I. We kept to ourselves. In winter we were mostly in Momo’s room but during the hot time of year we kept to Bella’s garden, or the greenhouse when it rained. We listened to the insects and to the rain, watched the droplets on the petals evaporate when the sun broke through. Curious, we watched the flower flies mate in the oxeye daisies— a strange and violent dance that sent shivers through the thin petals. During dry spells we watered at night. Bella 1lled the green can over by the house and we helped carry it across the lawn. She never asked us to help but neither did she stop us, wordlessly showing us what to do. She knew the names and types of flowers but she rarely shared them and 44

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I didn’t ask, it wasn’t important to me. Her flowerbeds dazzled like New Year’s fireworks and like all fireworks they were best at night, when the streetlights’ soft yellow glow spread through the neighborhood. You might have thought the velvety leaves would close up when it was dark but they didn’t. They opened up to the night, screaming at the stars: I’m over here! Look at me! The night is black BUT I AM IN COLOR! We lived amidst this sparkle and it made me forget that I was Kim, that I had a growing, bursting body. The greenhouse was a free zone, a space governed by other laws. The school days and hallways and my parents’ house—everything fell

away when I walked through that glass door. Even Bella became someone else in there. Her eyes were calm and sharp as a knife, her movements were precise and confident. At school she was a chubby girl with red hair and freckles, a girl who preferred to sit quietly and stay invisible for as long as possible. And me, I was a sad skinny thing with lanky legs and an oversized head. My skin flamed with eczema as soon as it came in contact with any unknown substance—I


couldn’t handle the hot summer sun or cold winter winds, nor could I eat red tomatoes or golden oranges. They gave me a flaming rash around my mouth and nostrils, and I would have to rub stinky ointment into my skin for days in a row. My girl-skin preferred paperdry air and wallpapered walls, strip lighting and linoleum, and chlorinated water. I hated it. My body clung to me like something foreign—a sticky, itchy rubber suit; but no matter how much I scratched and scraped at it, it was where it was. At night I dreamed of shedding my body. It was so simple, suddenly a zipper appeared in my skin. Sometimes it was along my inner thigh,

sometimes across my stomach, along my back or between my legs. I opened it, I could feel the air flowing toward my real skin underneath, like a vacuum seal breaking. And I peeled off my skin, climbed out of it like a soiled garment and I could feel the cool floor against my new soles. But before I could get to the mirror and discover what I actually looked like, I’d wake up. I told Bella about this dream once, while she was culling her red flowerbed. I was crouching down next to her, handing her the spade and the hand rake, and I told her exactly how it felt—what it was like when my skin loosened and fell o4 me. Bella had dirt on her face, a

blade of grass at her hairline, and she listened earnestly. She didn’t say a word, but I knew she got me. Yes, we turned fourteen that spring and we hid in the greenhouse to avoid growing up. We stayed away from people our own age, we were wary of heeding the call of the hormones in our blood because we suspected that they could overpower us at any time, without our consent. We knew what was waiting for us: one morning we’d simply get out of bed and know that the time for children’s games was done. 

ABOUT THE BOOK GIRLS LOST Girls Lost is a thriller featuring three teenage girls: Kim, Bella, and Momo. The three occupy a challenging limbo between childhood and adulthood, made only more difficult by the steady provocation of their malicious male classmates and pubescent bodies that are changing beyond their control. They are on the precipice of a grown-up world that seems to be broken into two groups: male and female; public and private; assailant and target. Eager to escape, the girls seek refuge in Bella’s greenhouse, a free zone where their imaginations run wild and their talents can flourish. 45


Above Us the Milky Way. BY FOWZIA KARIMI

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | Deep Vellum | April 2020

Home. What we carried with us no matter how often we moved, who and what we left behind. And while we were separated from our larger family, from what was familiar, the seven of us had one another in that space. Home was a world unto itself. A boundless, pulsing universe. And there were enough of us to make it so. There was the outside world, which called and to which we each went dutifully, to school or to work. And the outside world was open and wide and full of wonder, and yet small and precious, ever creating moments like scenes inside a snow globe. We each, awkwardly and tentatively, found our way in the outer world of school and job and market and highway. 46

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And over time found ourselves through the books and films, the friends and play, and the curious objects and experiences that world offered. It was the outside world and it was large and luminous, but somehow, home, however cramped and modest in size, home was always grander and more expansive. During those first years, home is where we knew ourselves for who we were. It was where we could be what we were: a many-limbed, vivid, young thing. Yes, even Mother and Father were new and young. They were young parents separated from their families, their land and language, taking care of a brood of small girls in an unfurling, unfamiliar world. We carried pain and horror always with

us. Deep within us when we were out in the world. And this burden is what turned things inside out, what made the outside world innocent and precious next to what we knew, had brought with us, and carried internally. We were not innocent but we were young, and youth gave us the courage to play, to be still-curious, to grow and take form as a family. We had one another, and it


was all we needed in those first years. But we came with more than knowledge of death and war; we, five girls between the tender ages of one and twelve, arrived knowing already how to cook, wash, sew, knit, saw, hammer, harvest, cut, glue, paint, dream, and invent. We were creators, each of us. Next to our love for one another, it was this, the making of things, that made home so vast, and so formative. We were never without something to shape. Inside the house were needles and fabric and yarn, scissors and pencils and paper, onions and flour and eggs. Outside, were dirt and water and seeds,

tree branches and flowers, bricks and stones, and any tool we wanted in Father’s garage of wonders and supplies. We were forever making alongside Mother or Father, with one another, or off in one or another corner on our own. We made dolls and dollhouses, tree houses and tree swings, guitars and flutes, skirts and scarves, books and pictures, bowls and vases, soups and cakes, masks and swords. And with each creation, the world grew larger, more possible. If things could cease to exist, other things could be brought into existence, to fill our vision and our hearts. With little hands and small weights

thrown into fleshing things out, the world was transformed again and again, endlessly to our great joy and fulfillment. Home was Mother and Father and sisters. And home was a workshop. î –

ABOUT THE BOOK ABOVE US THE MILY WAY Above Us the Milky Way is a story about war, immigration, and the remarkable human capacity to create beauty out of horror. As a young family attempts to reconstruct their lives in a new and peaceful country, they are daily drawn back to the first land through remembrance and longing, by news of the continued suffering and loss of loved ones, and by the war dead, who have immigrated and reside with them, haunting their days and illuminating the small joys and wonders offered them by the new land.



The River Always Wins. BY DAVID MARQUIS

READ AN Fiction EXCERPT | Deep Vellum | August 2020

Rivers do not run in straight lines. Neither do our lives. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but rivers do not bother with geometry. They create their own, carving shape out of resistance, from that which resists them. The river is an artist, raising its hammer and chisel, sculpting its way to the art of its bed, finding the shape of the rock that is its own course, for no two rivers in the world run the same. Neither do our lives. This is how I came to carve my own life and course as an artist and activist. Three main issues guide my path: education, the environment, and human rights. Write. Perform. Create change. I listened to my mother, who did much good in the world. She told 48

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me that protesting was not enough. You have to make it real. Make it last. Change laws. Do the hard work of organizing new structures and winning people over to your side through persuasion and persistence. And so I did. I rejected shape and strictures and limits and found my way into a river headed for a better, more just place. Shape be damned. Movement. If it serves the course of the river, movement defines shape and creates its own. The course of the river is a lesson in the necessity of place and with it the imperative and the ability to adapt. The lush forestation of the Shenandoah Valley both requires and provides a rich diversity of wildlife and plant species while the chalky shallow bed of the White River in West Texas provides a sight line to a vast, distant horizon and a

muted palette of plant and animal life seen and known only by lovers of arid lands. Such linear choices of bodies of water are lessons in diversity. Much has been made of diversity. It has become corporate and political, packaged and sold, discussed and debated, and, in the same moment, welcomed by some and resented by others. If you seek diversity, look to nature. The natural world, over courses of ages so long they are hard to count


and harder to comprehend, adapted. It had to, to survive, and then to flourish. Look to nature. There the diverse and adaptable abound, though threatened now by the promulgation of one species, the one on two legs, unsure sometimes of where it is going. The Trinity River runs south and east from north and west of Ft. Worth through Dallas all the way to Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. Almost half of the population of Texas gets their water from its watershed. It seems to be clear on where it is going, but on the southern edge of Dallas, it suddenly loops back as though it has changed its mind, heads briefly to the north, and then resets its

course, looping south once more and going on its way. The river goes where it can, and then, once it has amassed enough power, where it will. Along its way, the river provides, it gives of itself, its services, quenching and nurturing and transporting, but it is not here for us. It has its own somewhere to go, to run its own course, and we can go with it or not, but whether we choose to travel with it, or not, it will travel its course. It lends drinking water and sustains crops, offers its banks for economic development, it carries barges and stimulates commerce, opens its arms to recreation

and fishing. Yet none of those are the reason the river runs. Its singular purpose is to traverse its course until it reaches the Greater Water, to leave the watershed where it began and move on. That is the course of the river, to constantly leave itself, to move on by leaving behind. The river goes somewhere. Here is not it. Here is not where. It is there, someplace other than here. î –

ABOUT THE BOOK THE RIVER ALWAYS WINS A meditation on movement of both society and nature, based on the author’s experiences as an activist. In short, aphoristic chapters, Marquis explores the power of force and collectivity through the metaphor of water. As an activist, David Marquis founded the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve in Dallas, and has consulted with the Texas Conservation Alliance since 2011. He brings an unerring belief in the connective and healing power of nature to The Water Always Wins.



A Grave is Given Supper. BY MIKE SOTO READ Poetry AN EXCERPT | Deep Vellum | June 2020


In the scorched sands outside of Sumidero, I buried my first toy & a picture of my mother, said goodbye to my father who left determined to get across the wall commonly known as the brow of God. After that, the horizon I gazed at for a grip on what do now, next, for the rest of my life, gave me nothing. All I could do was sit, duck my head into the darkness of my held knees for what seemed like hours, enough to fall half-asleep & dream a section of the wall's shadow came over & clocked a hat into place on my head. I woke & looked up, but the monolith was gone. I stood & scanned the horizon, spotted a horse & a rider. That's when I knew the dream was real. As fast as I could I ran in their direction. The rider, a man in a snakeskin vest, slowed down & told me, Topito, your hat is all black so the brim & the shadow it casts will always be confused. Now a way to go unseen is yours, & the inward journey possible, now you start seeing how the flesh gets tamed. 50

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Fue El Estado In the beginning there was murder, & out of murder shadows & barking ran up to read ciphers on walls, cold-blooded creatures plotted their revenge behind smoke. Under pointy brims names crossed out from grocery lists, fates determined by the jeweled hands of a father who landed his firstborn into a pair of alligator boots

by the age of five. Birds reassembled on the first lines between poles after shots were fired into a Mercury Topaz. In that silence that's always been the silence most alive. Mindless bodies, armless minds, tattooed Marys over scarred wrists, R.I.P. murals for miles. A shopping cart full of prayer candles for students not killed, but handed over, not disappeared, but missing still. Gossip tangled up with

truth from the start. Turf wars over which version of time would survive, mothers bleeding from blown-out windows, sons deaf now for life. Revenge invented because justice was not. The first day a table filled with half-empty cups, set up to be snatched by streets of desperate runners even then. 

ABOUT THE BOOK A GRAVE IS GIVEN SUPPER Told in a series of interlinked poems, Soto’s debut collection follows two protagonists through their lives in an imaginary United States/Mexico border town, chronicling the state and drug-war inflicted violence they must undergo. Through the arc of their relationship, A Grave is Given Supper weaves a narco-tinged “Acid Western” following the narrative arc of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s classic cult film, El Topo.



This Particular Happiness. BY JACKIE SHANNON HOLLIS

READ Memoir AN EXCERPT | Forest Avenue Press | October 2019

In the first years of my marriage to Bill, I tried to wrangle the baby wanting in me back down. I went on as though nothing had changed. And, from the outside, nothing had.

know. If I became pregnant anyway. Would he finally surrender? Or would he push me to end the pregnancy? Would he leave? Would he fall in love with the child?

Each morning, as I’d done since college, I pressed a tiny yellow pill through the tinfoil at the back of its plastic bubble. Cupped my hand to catch it. Bill was asleep or already at work. I was alone in the bathroom.

The me with the pill in her palm caught eyes with the me in the mirror, the woman I would have to face, the child in her arms come to life from secrets and calculation. A child I didn’t want that way. A relationship I didn’t want that way.

This was my ritual, what I had done for most of fourteen years, without thinking of what I was saying yes to. Or saying no to. My periods came every fourth Tuesday in the week of the white sugar pills placed in the packet as markers to keep a woman who didn’t want children in the habit of taking her daily pill. But now, on some mornings, I paused. Me, the mirror, these pills. What if? If I stopped. If Bill didn’t 52

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I wouldn’t do it. Honesty was what we had, Bill and I, what I valued as much as the way he made me laugh, as much as the way he told me, daily, that he loved me. We were not made of secrets and calculations. It was as though there were two parts of me, two separate women. The woman of my logic embraced common sense and plans and agreements. She took pleasure in her life. The freedoms, career, friends. The family

already here. The exquisite moments. This woman said, You have enough. This woman understood the struggles of mothering, the demands and selfsacrifice, the always being torn between work and child, self and child. This woman took in the love of other people’s children and gave it back completely, joyfully. She said, If you have children of your own, you won’t have the time or energy or love for these children already here. The woman of my body pushed against logic. The


woman of my body leaned to the pull of history and family expectation. Leaned so far that her body yearned. This woman said, Now. Before it is too late. The yearning distilled into a singular desire that overwhelmed logic and common sense. I wanted to be pregnant. To be filled with baby and movement of baby. To have my breasts swell, belly grow, to feel the pressure and weight of carrying within. I wanted to run my hands over the taut skin that sheltered a soon-tobe child and know the pains of a baby pushing out. Words I’d once heard Mom say echoed in my sleep. The women in our family have easy pregnancies. In my sleep my belly grew with a dreamed-up baby. I dreamed the special attention that a pregnant woman gets, the

chair given up, the soft eyes and hopeful questions, the baby gifts and baby shower. I dreamed a hurried hospital drive, the birth beginning. In these dreams I never had the baby. Waking was a loss. I ran my hands down my flat stomach, over my small breasts. Next to me, Bill slept, his leg long against mine. Did the dreams mean I was making the wrong choice? Were my dreams my secret truth? I told Bill, “I dreamed I was pregnant.” Or “I was in labor. It didn’t hurt.” I told him how much I loved it. “This is the part I feel like I’m missing,” I said. “I can’t know what it’s like to have a baby in me. To give birth.”

tried to keep my wanting small, to not burden him, he didn’t know how big it was. To him, my dream-telling must have sounded the same as when I told him my dream of driving off a road into a lake and the water was rising; the dream of putting on new running shoes and I could fly; the dreams of the man or boys or killer bees outside the door and me inside terrified. I said, “The women in my family have easy pregnancies.” Bill did not pick up this hopeful offering. The dreams of pregnancy and almost-birth held in me through the day. In the skin of me, the blood of me, the womb of me. 

Bill stayed quiet. Because I

ABOUT THE BOOK THIS PARTICULAR HAPPINESS Knowing where your scars come from doesn’t make them go away. When Jackie Shannon Hollis marries Bill, a man who does not want children, she joyfully commits to a childless life. But soon after the wedding, she returns to the family ranch in rural Oregon and holds her newborn niece. Jackie falls deep into baby love and longing and begins to question her decision. As she navigates the overlapping roles of wife, daughter, aunt, sister, survivor, counselor, and friend, she explores what it really means to choose a different path. 53


Of Green Stuff Woven. BY CATHLEEN BASCOM

Fiction READ AN | Light EXCERPT Messages Publishing | March 2020

Fix the cathedral? Give up the prairie? I sit in a sort of stupor, until I hear the thump, thump, thump and ca-click, ca-click of footsteps in the hallway -- the members of the cathedral staff walking by to fill their coffee mugs and assemble in the nearby parlor. It sends me into a kind of panic. Should I tell them about the offer? It’s hard to keep the possibility of suddenly coming into $3,720,000 under-wraps–especially if you are a transparent, extroverted soul like me… I am pulled from my pondering and paralysis by Simon tapping on my door. He sticks his head in to see if I am ready to join the others. Leaning his head further into my doorway, 54

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I see he looks annoyed and pissy. Simon is very punctual. “Coming,” I say to him over my shoulder and he returns to the parlor. So, do I tell them? I stand, walk over to my desk and take one last look at the graceful numerals: $3,720,000. I fold the Savant letter and carefully stash it in my blazer’s inside pocket. My earlier prayer with the icon imbues me with peace and with a sense that it is wisest to wait. But, I bring it with me just in case. As I approach down the hall I quickly ascertain why Simon looked like he was having acid reflux. Despite the closed double doors I can hear that Roosevelt is on a small verbal rampage.

His oceanic voice comes rolling from under the doors and down the hall. Its full force is probably splashing right in Simon’s face. “CHASING the leaks and patching has to end. FIND the money! New slate. New roof. Not patch it! FIX IT!” Broad, square-footed and stubborn, Roosevelt is the only organist I have ever known who loves tractors, farm equipment, and to trouble-shoot


furnace problems. He is a gifted musician. Every day of the year -- except Good Friday and during his annual camping trip in South Dakota -- he settles onto the organ bench like settling into a saddle. He trots and canters and gallops Mozart and Debussy and Bach around and around the cathedral nave until he gets the music right. Simon hates conflict, but it may be Roosevelt’s middle name. Compared to many clergy, church politics don’t bother me. It’s almost a necessary attribute for being the dean of a cathedral. But if the staff is in a hub-bub, even I can stand in the hall

scared to open the door. Today however, the peace of the icon bathes me and the potential money lining my blazer feels a bit like having on a bullet-proof vest. A steel secret. So I lunge ahead. “Easier said than done,” Simon says with a quivery top lip as I enter the room. “Tell it to the Dean.” As if watching a tennis match between Roosevelt and Simon, my assistant Merlin is looking on with a slightly sardonic brow, while folding church bulletins. “You could always play Handel…” he quips under his breath, “Water Music…”

At this our choir director Samantha Sophia, throws back her head of brunette ringlets and laughs out loud, “Water Music!” she snorts. She takes a stack of bulletins to help Merlin fold them. “Water Music…” She giggles again, perhaps just to egg Roosevelt on. “The WATER…” Roosevelt fumes, “is no laughing matter! Incessant… Dean Brigid, there’s evidence it’s reaching the CONTRE VIOLON!” 

ABOUT THE BOOK OF GREEN STUFF WOVEN Around the globe, small bands of eco-activists are working to save one reef, one rain forest, one river at a time. Of Green Stuff Woven depicts a group of native gardeners who are restoring tall grass prairie on land connected to their historic Episcopal cathedral in the middle of the financial district in Des Moines, Iowa. They are approached by hotel developers and are caught between their passion for the prairie and their need for money to repair their crumbling cathedral.




Fiction READ AN | Light EXCERPT Messages Publishing | May 2020

As I climbed the hill to the eleven-mile marker, I started feeling lightheaded. The combination of needing something to boost my electrolytes and the midmorning heat was making my head throb. It was in the low fifties at the start of the race, but the early spring temperatures had quickly nudged their way into the seventies, making me deeply regret my decision not to wear shorts. I knew better. I was lost in my personal reverie of heat exhaustion and the craving for Gatorade, when I noticed a commotion in front of me. A woman was falling. It looked like she was going down in slow motion, her arms and legs floating through the air in cartoonlike gestures that were unlikely to break her fall, in my split-second opinion. She hit the ground multiple times on her way down—


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knee, elbow, knee, elbow, forehead. In my head, a crescendo of symphony music narrated her fall. It escalated as she descended toward the unforgiving pavement. It took a few seconds for me to grasp what was happening. I was just a few feet away from where the woman’s body lay sprawled out on the ground, a mass of bloody, tangled limbs. I had a choice—stop and help her, or move right and keep running, pretending like I didn’t see her. I only had a moment to wrestle with my conscience. I had been training for this halfmarathon for months. It was my first long race since my husband, Adam, died, and I was running in his honor. Around my neck I wore the pendant he had given me on our fifth anniversary, a straight golden arrow. He would want me to finish. But

wouldn’t he also want me to stop and help this woman? I debated both scenarios. After all, what could I really do? I didn’t have any medical training. I didn’t even remember how to do CPR. I had no skills that qualified me to assist. Yet I knew in my heart that I was trying to justify my desire to keep running and temper my guilt. At that moment, my hand instinctively went to my throat and I touched the smooth, flat arrow. Despite the heat radiating from my skin, it felt cool to


my touch. “You’re straight as an arrow, a straight shooter,” Adam used to say to me. I stopped so quickly that I had to steady myself to keep from tripping and falling on top of the injured woman. I wasn’t the only person who stopped. The next few minutes were a dizzying combination of people screaming, running, and yelling into their cell phones, calling for help. “There’s a woman who fell. She’s hurt badly. I don’t know. We’re running the road race. I think it’s around mile eleven. I’m not from here. I don’t know the roads,” a middleaged man in a white tank top that was stuck to his chest with sweat yelled into his

phone. He switched hands and wiped his other palm on his red athletic shorts. “Does anybody know what road we’re on?” People yelled out where they thought we were. […] “Park Street, we’re on Park Street,” the sweaty man finally yelled into the phone after the man who had run across the street to look at the sign returned and confirmed the location. As he spoke to the 911 operator, he stared nervously at the woman on the ground. I did the only thing I could think of. I got down on the ground next to the woman and knelt on the pavement beside her. I gently cradled her fingertips on the hand closest to me and leaned in

close to speak to her as other runners, with towels and water bottles, gathered around to clean her wounds. The road scraped uncomfortably against my knees as I angled to get a better position where she could hear me. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll get you help. I promise. Help is on the way,” I said quietly, but firmly in her ear, glancing up at the man who was on the phone with 911. He nodded at me to let me know I was telling the truth. […] “No,” the woman said to me, in between moans. “No, it’s not. […] This wasn’t an accident. My husband is trying to kill me.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK DEAD LAST Maddie Arnette traded in her hard-news crime reporting for softer, feel-good features after her husband’s death. But her lifelong addiction to the dark side of journalism, bolstered by years of meeting sources in back alleys and visiting grisly crime scenes, still clamors for Maddie’s attention. When Suzanne Parker falls to the pavement in front of Maddie during the Oak City Marathon, Maddie assumes it’s an accident. That is, until Suzanne whispers words that make Maddie’s skin go cold: my husband is trying to kill me.




Fiction READ AN | Light EXCERPT Messages Publishing | June 2020

A cold wave swept over Blanche, even as she sweat in the glaring heat. It was a strange disassociation, like she was untethered and floating. The whiff of a ghost brushed past. When she looked around, she was alone on the edge of the parking lot. She searched the faces in the crowd again. Ernie at the IGA, a couple of waiters, Buzz, the manager at the bait and tackle. All long-time residents. Dwayne from the 307 Pine Deli and Wendy from Hairs to You. Michelle from Soap-a-Pooch. At a murder scene? She knew these people well. All of them. Except for the fellow standing next to a white van. She didn’t recognize him or the van, and his whole getup sent needles down her spine. He was slick, a cagey look about him. He didn’t fit. He didn’t look delivery, and he didn’t look tourist. That was it. That’s


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what threw her off. He couldn’t be a snowbird. Too early for them. Island traffic was up, but the post-hurricane season rush hadn’t started yet—not until after November 30. This guy was not here for a frolic on the beach, all alone, lounging with a boot up against the passenger door. He shifted his head from side to side like he had ants running up and down his neck. Her arms and feet were toasting, and she would just have to take it. She clutched the pen and notebook and kept writing. She crept over to the shade of an awning at a marina kiosk that sold short walking tours to Gull Egg Key. She stood in the shadow and studied him. He didn’t glance her way, and he didn’t talk to anyone. He observed. He smoked. She wrote it down: long brown hair pulled back, hooded eyes darting over the crowd. He wore an immaculate white

T-shirt and jeans. One very smooth dude. Not a single person in the crowd seemed to notice him. So maybe I’m nuts. A few people meandered off and began disappearing into their cars and back to business. But suspicion held her like an anchor, and she had no one to tell. She was alone with him. Would anyone think this odd? Much less, would anyone hear me out? Chief Duncan was still MIA. The police were trying to keep the last of


the onlookers at bay. Most weren’t sticking around. Doors slammed. Officer Buck put two feet on the ground but that was as far as he got. He never looked up, and then he tucked back into the patrol car and drove away. Her mind raced. She dropped back, and wrote furiously. He was young, probably in his late twenties. Short, five foot eight, maybe, not more than 150 pounds. Easily, he pushed off the van with a boot, swung his arms, sinewy with muscle. A tattoo? A vine of thorns, or letters? He was wiry but his movements were graceful. Careful. He opened the passenger door, reached in the glove box, and pulled out a pack of smokes. He tamped it against the palm of his hand, unwrapped it, and rolled the

pack into a shirt sleeve after he withdrew a cigarette. He rubbed his forearm, shifted from one boot to the other, and still, he gazed at the crowd. Smoke curled from the cigarette in his fingers. He walked around the front of the van, each boot landing hard and sure. She looked down at the scribbled mess in her notebook. You never know when a mess will come in handy. The guy was rubbing his arm again. The tattoo of … a snake? The boots with silver buckles. The dent in the side of the van, the skull and flag on the rear window. She needed his license number. The description alone wouldn’t get it. Who would believe her without that number? Who is going to believe me anyway?

She bent to her pages. A loud splat--the thrust of an engine-drew her attention, and she looked up just as the van roared out of the parking lot. He’d been lounging around a minute before. Now he was gone. Just like that. She sprinted from her hiding place, but she couldn’t make out the license number. Tires skidded around the curve toward the bridge. Soon all she saw was a white speck against the blue water of the bay. She tripped in her sandals and again made a mental note about her deficient wardrobe. She needed those running shoes. 

ABOUT THE BOOK SAVING TUNA STREET Blanche “Bang” Murninghan is a part-time journalist with writer’s block and a penchant for walking the beach on her beloved Santa Maria Island. Gran left her a cabin on Tuna Street, and she’s got her friends and family--her itinerant cousin, Jack, and Cap, a lovable old fisherman who coddles her like a grandfather, and her friend, Liza, a realtor who looks like she emerged from central casting. All is well. Until the land-grabbing goons arrive from Chicago. Blanche finds herself in a tailspin, flabbergasted that so many things can go so wrong, so fast.



House of the Ancients. BY CLIFFORD GARSTANG

READ AN Short EXCERPT Stories | Press 53 | May 2020

“In Hoan Kiem Lake” from House of the Ancients by Clifford Garstang Oliver has just emerged from the Metropole’s air-conditioned lobby and already Hanoi’s damp envelops him. Beneath his shirt, sweat trickles. With a handkerchief he blots his forehead, but it’s unstoppable. Unstoppable, too, are the boys who accost him each time he leaves the hotel. “Buy from me,” they shout. Postcards. Pirated copies of The Sorrow of War, The Quiet American. He once thought of them as entrepreneurs, but now 60

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he knows that the boss operates nearby, doling out inventory, collecting receipts. It’s big business, Dickensian. He waves the boys off and crosses the street, dodging cyclists and motorbikes. His negotiations with the Ministry finished for this trip, he can relax and reflect before flying home tomorrow. He passes behind the Post Office and joins the crowd strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake’s appeal to the locals puzzles him. Litter mars its surface. Shore trees are stunted. A crumbling pagoda occupies a tiny, lifeless island. Each breeze carries the smell of sewage and decay. More of the postcard brigade assail him and

now there are boys with shoeshine kits. He points to his sneakers and shakes his head, but the boys are relentless. The heat and damp are finally too much and he claims an empty bench. The black water ripples under a hot breeze. His eyes close. His mind drifts to a dark childhood lake, an unexplained accident. When he opens his eyes he has company, a


woman with a swaddled baby. As if on cue, the baby shrieks. He knows the trick: the woman’s hand inside the blanket has pinched the child to draw sympathy and cash. He’s not heartless, but there’s nothing he can do for her, or for the boys who still hover. A fistful of cash will not help. He’s seen it all, wherever he goes, the beggars and the whores and the boys. What the country needs, he alone cannot provide. The woman shouts over the baby’s cries. She holds out one hand while the other pinches again, screams renewed. He

turns away, but she grabs his arm. She lifts the baby and swings it in the direction of the lake. She holds out her hand again, and when he doesn’t move she points to the lake, swinging the baby over the water. Oliver understands what she intends, knows the bluff. But he knows, too, that poverty here is beyond crushing. It obliterates. What if this woman isn’t a con? What if she’s come to the point where there is no choice: money, or they both die.

an arc that will land it in the lake, beyond reach. Oliver imagines the bundle taking on water, sinking, its cries silenced. In the water he sees the placid faces of the baby and his drowned brother. And in the instant before the woman might let go, he leaps, wraps his arms around her and the howling child, and the three of them sink to the hot, hard ground. 

The woman shouts again and swings the baby in

ABOUT THE BOOK HOUSE OF THE ANCIENTS Nobody’s perfect, but some of us—mostly men—are blinded by our hubris and baser urges. Judgment is impeded. Mistakes are made. The stories in this collection, many of them set outside the U.S., explore some of the consequences of these common failings.




READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | RCWMS Press | November 2019

She smacked Tom’s side of the bed with her pillow. It had been ten years, and Maxine was still angry. They’d been married half a century. Then one night he died—in his sleep. Not just any night, but this very night ten years ago. His heart simply stopped. No warning. No suffering—at least not for him. It was precisely the way everyone here at the Foothills Retirement Community wanted to go. It was the way she wanted to go. But she was still furious with him for going and not telling her, for going without a sign or a sound. She threw off the blankets and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. No point in 62

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lying on her half of a double bed. Far better to watch the sun rise over the mountains that surrounded Tucson than to watch that blasted clock. Even without her glasses she could read the extra-large numbers: 4:00 AM. She rocked herself to a standing position. Her knees cracked with arthritis, but they held. She waited a moment for her hips and back to realign themselves before pulling on Tom’s navy blue bathrobe. She patted the bedside table for her glasses. Instead, her fingers closed around the silver frame of Tom’s photo. Clutching the photo to her chest, she marched through her condo to the sliding glass patio door, tugged

it open, and stepped outside. Neither the moon nor the stars were out. Even the mountains that guarded Tucson’s northeastern perimeter were barely perceptible, black shadows against a black backdrop. The darkness was broken only by the spotlight Fred Grosskopf insisted on using to illuminate his hundred-year-old saguaro. Thankfully, her


own condo was separated from Fred’s by an arroyo, and his light was partially obscured by the tangled branches of two palo verde trees and by the potted plants that she kept on the top of her chest-high patio wall. Tonight the light bobbed and flitted about like an oversized hummingbird. But Fred’s light should be stationary and more to the right. She moved to the wall. Another bobbing light appeared. Beneath the silence of the desert, she imagined human voices. Angry voices. She needed a better view.

Setting Tom’s photo aside, she placed her foot on a large rock and her hands on the wall between two flowerpots. She sucked in her breath, counted to three, and pushed herself up. In the process, she bumped her newest flowerpot. She watched in frozen admiration as the pot danced across the top of the wall, pirouetted over the edge, and crashed to the ground. The light disappeared. Maxine held her breath and waited. The light did not return. She lowered herself to the ground. She could call Security,

but what would she say—My husband died ten years ago, and I saw a light that isn’t there—? She hugged Tom’s robe tighter and reached for his photo. Darkness obscured the details, but she knew the picture by heart. She’d taken it on their first hike up Pusch Peak: Tom’s tanned face against a cloudless sky, thick hair tousled by the wind, blue eyes sparkling with mischief, his smile an invitation that warmed her still. 

ABOUT THE BOOK PLAY ON! In Play On!, eighty-two year-old Maxine Olson secretly applies to become the assistant director of the Tucson retirement center where she lives. She applies on a lark, but when her nemesis conspires to fill the position with her own gerontophobic granddaughter, Maxine pursues the job as if her life depended on it because – in all the important ways – it does.




READ AN Short EXCERPT Stories | Press 53 | May 2020

Excerpt from “Bag of Boots” Miguel’s mother, Samoya, is drinking too much at our winter solstice party. She keeps sliding down into the couch, as if she were slipping from the earth. Her eyes close during conversations. I nudge Miguel. “Go help her.” “Samoya’s a big girl. She can handle herself,” he says. “Clearly she can’t.” “Let her have some fun,” he says. “She’s entitled.” What he means is he’s entitled. His father left Samoya nine months ago, on the first day of spring, and Miguel has gone over to her house pretty much every night since then to check on her. To screw in a loose lightbulb. To fix a fuse. To hold her while she 64

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sobs. To clean the lint out of the dryer because she says she can’t pull out the six-by-four- inch filter. “Fine,” I say. “But I’m not going to stand here and watch.” “So don’t,” he says. “There are plenty of other rooms in the house.” He didn’t used to talk to me this way. I suppose I didn’t talk to him like this, either. Eventually Miguel is the one who stalks out of the living room and into the kitchen. I’m the one who stays. *** Last year, Miguel re-enrolled in school, finally working on that bachelor’s degree he never finished a decade ago. I told him he had

to be able to take care of himself. He dropped out because his mother got cancer, the worst kind: ovarian. How Samoya survived I don’t know. I think Miguel’s father was hoping she wouldn’t, but he’s too kind to ever admit such a thought. Or too smart to say it out loud. Roy isn’t a mean person. He just wanted his freedom, and it seemed easier to do it that way than to let Samoya down. You don’t


want to let Samoya down if you don’t have to because she never forgets it if you do. It took Roy another seven years after she’d recovered to leave. Maybe he wanted to be sure she would be all right once he did. He restocked the wood for the fireplace though it wasn’t the season to do so. He changed the oil in her car the week before, and he planted the spinach and radish seeds in the garden. Miguel says leaving is leaving, but I disagree. I wish I could be all the way on Samoya’s side about this, the way she wants me to be, the way she needs me and everyone else to be, but I knew Roy first.

We worked together years ago when I was just an intern right out of college. Roy was the supervisor you went to if you wanted calm and fair. He was the one who made sure you were heard and seen, and the one who made you believe you could do better, could want more, get more, be more. Roy is why I looked forward to work in the first place, why I showed up a little earlier, stayed a little later, which pissed off the man I was seeing at the time, a man I would eventually give in and marry and, too many years later, divorce. Anyway, Roy is the one, not Samoya, who has that deep belly laugh, who

asks me how I’m doing and doesn’t say a word until I answer—doesn’t interrupt me or glance away like other people do. He’s the one who likes to sit on porches and watch thunderstorms roll in, who refuses to buy new when used is more than fine, who doesn’t fear tomorrow because it will have a perfectly good sunrise and sunset, even if clouds cover them. Just knowing they are there is a good enough reason to sit back with a cold beer and watch the sky moisten with darkness. 

ABOUT THE BOOK A SMALL THING TO WANT A Small Thing to Want, the debut short story collection by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood, chronicles the choices people make about whom to love and whom to let go, their yearnings that either bind them or set them free, and the surprising ways love shows up, without reason or restraint. The characters in these stories long for freedom, truth, friendship, courage, and second chances, but each person will have to grapple with the consequences and costs of their desires. 65



READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | KERNPUNKT Press | February 2020

The light shimmied and snaked about. The walls seemed to crawl with vines and serpents. The patrons were all children to my eyes, goldenhaired youths and girls with mute faces, stranded in green leather booths in their sparkling clothes. I caught Cleo’s hand, certain I’d lose my way in this place. Jazz moaned from somewhere, a saxophone and a trumpet with many mouths lamenting the world’s sins, trading bar for bar and sin for sin. “Here she is.” I thought the voice came from the figure behind the bar, but on this, surely, my senses were mistaken. Furred. Horned. Patches of 66

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brown and white covered his snout, his neck, tapering to his chest and shoulders. His impressive torso was bare. A silver ring gleamed under his wet black nose. “Amelia, meet the Bull.” This was so entirely what I expected to hear that I glanced at Cleo in alarm. When I looked back over the bar again, the Bull was just a tall, broad, enthralling human male. “They call me that cuz I’m stubborn,” said the Bull. His hand gripped mine like warm steel. “And other reasons.” “I knew you’d like him,” Cleo breathed into my ear. A hot, spicy fragrance drifted near and I raised my hand to

my nose. Stopped short of licking the fingers the Bull had touched. “Malcolm,” he said. “It’s really Malcolm, my name.” “I don’t like men,” I said, quietly, to Cleo. “You like this one. You’re sweating.” A warm room. A warm night. Cleo’s hand rested


on the back of my neck. “Why don’t I meet you ladies in the back?” The Bull threw a bottle of bitters in the air and caught it behind his back. “Let’s dance,” I said to Cleo. “No.” “C’mon, one dance.” I needed to get close to her. Remind my body of the shape of a woman, the heat of her. The ring in the Bull’s nose kept catching the light. “Have a dance, Cleo,” said the Bull. “I’ll tell them to

kick it up.” She leaned toward me, toward him. “Yeah, okay,” she said. The band, wherever it was, swung uptime. The Bull hadn’t moved. Pairs of girls and boys emerged from the booths and tottered out to dance, overbalancing this way and that, sinking into the shadows off the floor and hauling their partners back again. Cleo’s hair brushed cool, her cheek warm. She jitterbugged and I kept up, barely. I kept following her instead of myself and getting lost.

The dancers’ eyes rang hollow, and I never saw the band. The back room, later, was odd: dark but golden. Mirrors with veins of fool’s gold marring, or gilding, what they reflected. Clean, but shadowed. Like the Bull himself, who sat in a velvet chair and ran his finger around the rim of a martini glass of viper-green liquid. “What have you brought me, Cleo? Is she sour or sweet?” I dug half-moons into the meat of my palms. Sour. 

ABOUT THE BOOK CEREMONIALS CEREMONIALS is a twelve-part lyric novella inspired by Florence + the Machine's 2011 album of the same name. It's the story of two girls, Amelia and Corisande, who fall in love at a boarding school. Corisande dies suddenly on the eve of graduation, but Amelia cannot shake her ghost. A narrative about obsession, the Minotaur, and the veil between life and death, CEREMONIALS is a poem in prose, a keening in words, and a song etched in ink. 67



READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | Forest Avenue Press | May 2020

They got into the car after Amina had moved a stack of papers, fliers, and books from the passenger seat. He sat and buckled himself in. “Hari is from Guyana,” Omar said as they drove toward home. “Do you know where that is?” “South America?” Amina said. He hadn’t thought she would know, and they sat in silence for a little longer. “He’s Indian, though, right?” Amina asked. Omar nodded. “I had a friend from Tobago once,” she said. He turned to look at her, not wanting to say anything that might stop her, but that seemed to be all. “Chachi?” he said. “Sometime do you think 68

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you can help me with a project? When you don’t have too much work?” “Is it your dinosaur project?” His mom had obviously relayed the cover story. “Not exactly,” he said. “I’ll show you when we get home.” But it took a while, because first Amina concentrated on making him dinner. He said it didn’t matter and suggested hopefully that a pizza would be easy, but she insisted that he needed real, homecooked food even though she admitted she didn’t really know how to cook. He decided that it was good for her to learn, and so didn’t mention that most nights lately his mom was so tired she just heated up old

leftovers from the freezer or made him pasta with butter, which he usually ate alone in front of the TV. Amina pulled some things out of the cabinets and looked at various pots and pans, and opened and closed drawers with an air of purpose. He left her there and went to his room, closing the door but leaving the Keep Out sign unhung.


In his closet, he pulled out the CDs, the Hindi exercise books, and two of the more difficult histories he had checked out from the library. He put some music on low and started in on the script. If he showed her that he was really studying, there was a better chance she would help him. When Amina knocked to tell him dinner was ready, the door pushed open a bit from the force of her hand, and she stuck her head in. “Is that sitar music?” she asked. He held his breath and nodded.

“Cool,” she said. “Why don’t you bring it down and play it on the stereo in the living room?” She had made some sort of vegetable-and-nut stirfry with soy sauce, over unintentionally sticky rice. “It’s good,” he said, wanting to encourage her, though it was actually strange and too salty.

he avoided it, because he did not want to add one more thing to the list of things that made him not quite like other eleven-year-old boys.

“I was thinking,” she said, “that maybe we could do some cooking together.” “Okay,” he said. His mother had often mentioned the same idea, but thus far he had escaped untaught. He felt there was something vaguely girlish about learning to cook, and so

“Can we do that?” Indian food was different. He wanted to learn this. “Of course,” she said. 

“How about if we learn to make some Indian dishes together?” she asked him. “Maybe Grandma will send us some recipes.”

ABOUT THE BOOK THE ROYAL ABDULS Ramiza Shamoun Koya reveals the devastating cost of anti-Muslim sentiment in The Royal Abduls, her debut novel about a secular Indian-America family. Evolutionary biologist Amina Abdul accepts a post-doc in Washington, DC, choosing her career studying hybrid zones over a faltering West Coast romance. Her brother and sisterin-law welcome her to the city, but their marriage is crumbling, and they soon rely on her to keep their son company. Omar, hungry to understand his roots, fakes an Indian accent, invents a royal past, and peppers his aunt with questions about their cultural heritage.




READ Poetry AN| Independently EXCERPT Published | June 2019

Sins of the Father Sins of the father does not mean the son shall not prosper For it is well with his soul and he is made whole. My beloved, I am your father. Conceived and shaped in my image. Do not let my downfall become your shortcoming For your deliverance will be forthcoming. I was there when he gave me unto me The trumpets sounded a righteous gospel in your arrival. You brought the light back into me. You softened the exterior of this dark temple. Don’t tear down my walls to build your own. Don’t forge your path on hollow stones and broken bones. Take your pilgrimage. 70

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Find the Zion in you. Take these hollow stones and let them go. I have seen Zion and it has seen me I have lived a life of bigotry and iniquity. Just because this existed within me, Do not let it consume you. Free yourself from this captivity I will not forsake you as you would not forsake me. Sins of the father does not mean the son shall not prosper. For it is well with my soul and I am made whole. Captive Prince I am your past and future. The heir to your throne, alone. I, too, command the earth and winds My nobility and power forged from within. Your tragedy is not of my legacy

You have yet to see the best of me. I was betrothed unto a destiny given by those that came before me. Men of my blood had not forged their own paths Had not taken pride in their strides. Don’t deny me the opportunity to avenge my brethren. To build their dreams on this land they fought so hard to withstand. See me as more than just


your son. Some wastrel sire finagled in lineage. I am the architect of our revolution. Our familiar paths haunt us no more, No blood on this strain. Open your sky and let in my reign. See me in the shadow of your light All that is good and joyous. I am your bequest personified. Love me. Don’t fear me. Black MANifesto I am Manchild in the Promised Land. A native son who speaks of rivers. I am Invisible Man. The Spook who sat by the door.

I am the Water Dancer when Malindy sings the weary blues. The ground on which I stand let the dead bury their dead. I am Tragedy of White Justice. Tongues untied go tell it on the mountain. I am a gathering of old men on a lonely crusade. The audacity of hope for divine days. I am smoke, lillies, and jade in copper sun. Fences with roots in Harlem shadows. I am seven guitars playing my soul’s high song. The wisdom of silence that conceived powerful conversations. I am sons of darkness and sons of light.

Souls of Black folk on fire and ice. I am Black Skin and White Masks in Red Summer. The system of Dante’s Hell somewhere in the darkness. I am in the marginal recesses of our human condition. The hidden marrows of our social tradition. I am letters to a young brother from Birmingham jail. I am tales brought up from slavery. I am ceremonies of the talented tenth. I am messages to the Black Man. Manifested. 

ABOUT THE BOOK LABYRINTH Labyrinth is a collection of poetry that illustrates Black masculinity through lenses of identity, vulnerability, heritage, and resilience. Accompanied by captivating images of the Scottish island of Iona, the anthology uses the theme of pilgrimage to present a lyrical portrait on the Black male experience in America."2019 Best Indie Book Award winner for Poetry"




BY SHERRY ROBINSON Fiction READ| AN Shadelandhouse EXCERPT Modern Press | June 2019

By the time I was in my senior year of high school, my dad and I were distant planets—in the same galaxy but light years apart. Or so it seemed at times. We had established an uneasy truce, erupting into battle only a handful of times. To avoid the inevitable battle, we mostly resorted to mundane conversations like two strangers passing time on a long flight. It’s not that either of us wanted it that way. I know I didn’t. … Maybe, like me, he could recall the bond we shared sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories or singing songs while he played his guitar. For those moments around the campfire, he wasn’t the Reverend Grayson Armstrong, full of righteous obligations. He was just Dad. Sometimes I wondered what my life would have been like if he wasn’t a


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pastor, though the pointless wondering did nothing except make my heart heavier. As the day of the camping trip approached, we prepared for it as if we were preparing for a funeral, dragging out old memories with every piece of camping equipment, as if somehow sensing that those memories could not be recreated. Perhaps we both realized that this trip was the final elegy, a lament for what should have been. I suppose it was that realization that also brought with it a sense of dread. We were both grateful to hit the trail, because the hourlong drive to get there was painfully quiet. … A couple of hours before nightfall, we found a clearing by a stream and made camp. Dad pitched the tents while I gathered firewood. …

“Being down by a creek always makes me think of your Grandpa Armstrong,” he said. I nodded, though it was curious that Dad would be thinking of Grandpa in such a pleasant way. He had always described his father as strict and unyielding. … “Did you love your father?” I said, barely above a whisper. Dad didn’t answer right away, sensing, I guess, the root of the question. “Yes,” he said, “Despite everything, I did.” “Do you think I love you—


despite everything?” “I’d like to think so.” His voice was soft, full of regret. We let the thought settle along with the cold air that hung close to the ground. I picked up a twig and held it in the flames until the end caught fire, and then I pulled it out and watched the tiny flame struggle on its own. All during high school, I had been that tiny flame— struggling, but at least not entirely on my own. … I looked up at Dad and he was staring at me. His face was a play of light and shadow from the fire, giving it an ominous distortion. “You know I love you, don’t you?” he said. I looked back at the twig in my hand. The flame had gone out. “Even if

I’m gay,” I said, not looking back at him, sensing the answer that was coming. My mind—my soul—braced for it. I wish the flames would just consume me as they do the dead branches, I thought as I waited for his answer. “Of course, but—” He stopped himself, perhaps because he realized that there shouldn’t have been any conditions on the statement or perhaps because he was embarrassed about it being a conditional response. “I don’t think you know your own mind yet,” he finally said. “Are you saying that because you’re terrified I am gay?” “I’m saying it because you’re seventeen. You’re too young to really know what you want.”

“That’s a cop out, Dad. Can’t you just admit that you don’t want me to be gay?” “Please don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t want you to be unhappy, that’s all.” “I’ve been unhappy for a long time, but that didn’t seem to bother you—until now. Now that you know the truth.” I looked at him, daring him to say it wasn’t so. “I think maybe we should stop this conversation before we say things we’ll regret.” I wanted to scream at him that he was a coward, but he stood up. “It’s getting late. I’m going to turn in.” 

ABOUT THE BOOK BLESSED Grayson Armstrong’s vision for a dying church has everyone in small-town Mercy, Kentucky, talking. The truth is everyone has been talking about Grayson ever since this dark-haired twenty-eight-year-old preacher with shoulder-length hair and an ill-fitting suit drove into town twelve years before in his silver convertible with his pretty wife and two rambunctious boys. It’s his untimely death, though, that has everyone trying to understand who they thought he was. 73


Us, in Pieces.

BY TASHA COTTER & CHRISTOPHER GREEN Fiction READ AN | Shadelanhouse EXCERPT Modern Press | July 2019

I met Lilly at the airport in Charleston as planned. She sent me a text before I was even off the plane, telling me to meet her on the top floor of the terminal. I’d figured we’d just meet at the car rental place, somewhere practical and efficient. The sort of place friends meet. She seemed insistent, so I agreed. But then the plane was forever late—I didn’t hit the tarmac until 12:30. When I got up to the little Starbucks where she’d been waiting, she looked tired, stressed. She was sitting by the railing overlooking the terminal, staring down, I guess searching for me so intently that she missed my actual approach. And I have to admit that I watched her there, just for a minute or two. Is that creepy? I don’t know. But how many chances would I get to see her like this, in her genuine 74

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state? Before she knew that I was back in her life, before she was changing herself accordingly? This was my only chance to see what had become of Lilly, this girl who had become almost like a character from a book that I had once loved as a child. She was beautiful. Of course, she was beautiful. That was impossible to miss. Her hair was still long and dark, and I wanted, as I always had, to feel it slipping through my fingers. She sat with her legs neatly crossed, a habit she’d never had in college. An expensive wool coat and trendy boots had replaced her ripped jeans and Chucks. I appreciated these differences. They reminded me of some of the ways I myself had grown up. I liked the idea of us being new people together. The craziest thing of all, in

a way, was that she seemed comfortable and poised sitting there by herself. Watching it all. The way she had at the tractor pull. In college she was always surrounded by people, a habit I suspect was at least partly rooted in four lonely years of high school. She had a boyfriend, and me, and our circle. The closest I ever saw her to being alone was when it was just the two of us. But now here she was, back straight, head tilted gracefully toward the


railing, hands steady on the table, or her lap, or her coffee cup. She might have sat there all day if I hadn’t shown up. I smiled at her—this big, helpless, blood-rushing smile that I knew I’d have to ditch when her eyes finally found me. The dopey smile, the betrayer. The one that gives it all away. Then she took out her cell phone, slid her finger around, hit a few buttons. I couldn’t read the screen from where I stood, but I knew what it was: she was waiting for me to text her, saying where I was. She pocketed it again and sighed deeply, this forlorn sound. Not a sigh of impatience or frustration. Something else altogether. Nervousness,

maybe. Or a lot of other things I wanted to hear but couldn’t be certain of. I set my suitcase down. She turned. And there was this ever-so-slight rupture in time, like a record skipping. We stayed where we were for a long second before her face registered me, and then she rose, left her coffee cup and her purse and her great big rolling luggage, and crossed the cafe floor to me. I started toward her, she lifted her arms, and then we were actually touching each other. No more emails, no more phone calls. Just two bodies brought together from two sides of the void. It was everything I had wanted out of our reunion in October,

everything I had fantasized about in those last lonely nights before I boarded the plane. I gripped the wool of her coat, and she lay her head against my shoulder. “It’s good to see you again,” she said, her voice quiet, subdued. “It’s better than that,” I told her. We were a freeze-frame of one of those airport reunion scenes that people whisper about among themselves and cry over in movies. We didn’t care. This was all there was to care about. We stayed in each other’s arms for so long that it started getting difficult to pretend like


Us, in Pieces is a fresh and witty love story that follows two old friends into the unforgiving and wild terrain of the heart. Told in sparkling prose in the alternating voices of Adin and Lilly, this beautifully crafted, tightly woven, debut novel is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. Us, in Pieces is an enduring love story across generations.



Where You're All Going. BY JOAN FRANK

READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | Sarabande Books | February 2020

One afternoon, during our colony time, Felix told me that he knew when he was going to die. He'd been drinking, of course. White wine, middle of the day. Sprawled along the couch in his studio toying, on his chest, with a pack of Lucky Strikes. Long corduroyed legs crossed, sunlight a soft dust over everything. In my mind, reviewing these scenes, it's always autumn: that breathing pocket, warm and soft but excitingly pineneedle-scented, before the big smackdown, the opera of winter. Later, when I walked to my own cabin, the wind was a madwoman in the pines, humming and singing, bending down to stroke my arms, my cheeks. Felix wore an olive-drab T-shirt which for once fit him well, his upper arms muscled in the old-fashioned way, not the gym-cultivated way.


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In the center of the room stood a baby grand piano, its polished top wing open like a spaceship ready to lift straight up. This, I could not help thinking, is where he does it. Against the music holder several scores lay open; behind the hand-notated papers I glimpsed the instantlyrecognizable yellow of the Schirmer's Library sheet-music books beloved from my own childhood lessons: the composers' names and the composition titles outlined in a frame of intertwined, green laurel leaves. Schubert, Scriabin. Beside the piano, on a wicker chair, lay a fine bouzouki, a large one of polished, bark-colored wood, mandolin-like barrel, long neck, face and fretwork inlaid in what looked like mother of pearl, with an intricate pattern of twining stems, leaves, flowers. He told me, as I

touched its shining curves, that the instrument had been bequeathed him by an uncle he'd never met, his father's brother for whom Felix had been named, who died—crushed in a collapsed building in the Athens earthquake of 1999. His widowed aunt brought the bouzouki to New York with her, visiting the also-widowed Sofia. It might have been that same afternoon that, having drunk still more wine, Felix told me, slurring, the thing mos' people don' realizhe is,


consciousness is bliss. At the time, I said nothing. (I can't drink during the day.) I only stared at him. How could I, or anyone, answer such a claim? But I remember later (and for years afterward) thinking about what I should have said: If that is really true, then why do you drink til you can't speak? It was the momentousness of Felix's pronouncements, their self-importance, their fluffedup, now-hear-this auguring, that made me want to burst out laughing, though I was far too unsure of myself then to do that. I'm from the West, where buildings vanish and re-manifest like popped toast; where people and businesses and marriages reinvent themselves around the clock

(often into bigger fools, but at least different ones). I think, looking back, that it was Felix's Old World shtick— the immigrant background he resented and boasted about—that I couldn't yet fathom. (Feckless, polioinoculated, hamburger-fed American that I was.) But I understood enough. When Felix spoke of knowing when he would die, he was implying it was a knowledge given, like hemophilia, to those destined for greatness. Simple as that. Borges, Rodin, Hadrian—the list is long. His own foreknowledge, by Felix's reckoning, was a kind of preordained sign, a markingout of the chosen. When he intoned what he did about knowing the date

of his own death, looking at me with those eyes lit with that woo-woo, entre-nous significance, slightly bugged out—I remember thinking oh for fuck's sake, please say you are kidding me. I changed the subject quickly. It wasn't the first time he'd given me reason to think that, and it wouldn't be the last. He never had an inkling he was being cartoonlike. And I never had an inkling—may heaven and earth forgive me—that he might actually have had it right.  Reprinted "with permission from Sarabande Books, 2020.

ABOUT THE BOOK WHERE YOU'RE ALL GOING In her quartet of novellas, Joan Frank invites readers into the inner lives of characters bewildered by love, grief, and inexplicable affinities. A young couple navigates a strange friendship and unexpected pregnancy; a woman recalls the bizarre fallout of her former lover's fame; a lonely widow is drawn to an arrogant young man; a wealthy spiritual seeker grapples with what wealth cannot affect. Witty and humane, Frank taps the riches of the novella form as she writes of loneliness, friendship, loss, and the filaments of intimacy that connect us through time. 77



READStories AN EXCERPT | Sarabande Books | May 2020

The Wax Museum I rode my Triumph up to the Hollywood Wax Museum. I paid the ticket person and stood in front of the Terminator statue for a long time. I was so high I convinced the statue I was real. The Terminator lunged at me when I reached to touch his cheek and next thing I know I’m in a headlock and he says: “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” It turns out that the statue was Arnold Schwarzenegger in disguise. He was out doing some promo spots for the latest release. There’s footage of it on the internet. People tell me it’s hilarious, but that’s not the way it felt at the time. No, that afternoon, when the Terminator had me in a headlock, I was certain that the uncanny had become sentient and was intent 78

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on destroying humanity, starting with me. I haven’t gone near the Wax Museum since, but now I have Arnold’s autograph on the side of my motorcycle helmet. “Hasta la vista, baby,” I sometimes think as I drive away from people, trying to look fearless. Church The gangs have gone away, priced out to Eagle Rock, El Sereno, and the innards of the Inland Empire. On weekends, they return to their home turf in old Mercurys and souped-up pickups. They do this as a way of reconnecting with their roots. And if it’s true what they say about place giving rise to spirit, then the spirit of Echo Park is positively Western in a cinematic sense. Most Saturday nights culminate in a gunfight. Tonight shots ring out on Preston Avenue

and echo on up to Avalon. Now an aspiring gangster is dead in a stairwell on Armitage. Tomorrow, I will step under police tape on my way to church. My church is called the Gold Room on Sunset. This is back when you could still get a PBR and a shot of tequila for four bucks. The peanuts? Free. I will sit at the end of the bar, drinking and praying for work. I won’t be able to tell if the drinking enhances the praying or if the praying


improves the drink. Amen. Lord, hear our prayer. Coyote Night calls the animals to the streets. I’m on the Triumph shifting gears amid my own shiftlessness. At the corner of Mohawk and Reservoir, a scrawny coyote sifts through the contents of a trash can. In neighborhood newsletter editorials, coyotes are nuisances. In folklore, they are trickster figures— whenever one shows up, watch out: something exciting is about to happen. I’m stopped at a traffic light, watching the coyote lap up leftover malt liquor from a forty of Colt 45. I admire a coyote that drinks. I give my

horn a quick tap of approval. The coyote looks at me with its eyes aglow. I look at the coyote. And for a split second we understand all there is to understand; we understand each other. Nothing lasts. The light changes. Island Time They filmed the television show Gilligan’s Island on a soundstage in Echo Park. Years later, I watched the entire series on DVD in my Echo Park apartment, a couple of blocks from where the soundstage had been. I wasn’t working much, aside from an occasional commercial spot. I had plenty of time to drink and not think and binge old

TV. Gilligan’s Island was my favorite. I’d get deep into gin and watch a dozen episodes in a row. Island Time, I called it. What I admired most about the show was the total lack of continuity between episodes. Zero story memory. It was as if each day was the first day on the island for old Gilligan and company, which was precisely the way my life felt: purgatoried in some zany twilight zone. I also watched a lot of Twilight Zone.  Reprinted "with permission from Sarabande Books, 2020.

ABOUT THE BOOK NEW BAD NEWS In New Bad News, the frenetic and far-out worlds of fading celebrities, failed festival promoters, underemployed adjuncts, and overly aware chatbots collide. A Terminator statue comes to life at the Hollywood Wax Museum; a coyote laps up Colt 45, as a passerby looks on in existential quietude; a detective disappears while investigating a missing midwestern cam girl. Set in Kentucky, Hollywood, and the afterlife, these bright, bold short-shorts and stories construct an uncannily familiar, alternate-reality America. 79



READ Poetry AN EXCERPT | Sarabande Books | June 2020

Night She crawls to the edge on bright paws, to where humans come to argue with gods as the lampblack hours fill up with the scent of animals. The horizon is a strand of barbed wire shadows shimmy under to look death in the eye, quivering like a seam of flesh unzipping earth from sky. Her quietness is almost vegetable. She owns light & darkness. The unsaid lingers— twofold & then threefold—her 80

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great head beckoning halfway across the abyss. She edges so close her skin is metaphysical, her brain a hive, a hum, a lantern with eyes printed on wings.   Night Song Black cricket, caught in one gear on the cusp, nibbling at an edge of the firmament, you are an afterthought of hunger & belief at twilight, driving the stars ad nauseam. So, you think you

know loneliness, huh? Are you hiding beneath a stone, little coward, or clinging to a dead reed? Your song is the only evidence you’re here, a loop of postmodern jive, the keening of a lonely string across bridge & limbo.


Joy. Woe. A drop of awe craves the lowest note in the tall grass. The night says, Don’t pity the one tuned by obsession, this old begging. Several Mysteries of the Platypus She tries to hide in a swish of wet grass because she remembers the first man like a wound, an old scar, a howl in the hush. Her skin is too tough for the marketplace. Otherwise,

she would’ve fallen under a bullet or knife. She came from an old world, a prototype, the first chimera pieced together by a prankish god that first moment of light seething from the cave, an oath written on her back by the edge of a flood. Before she slipped from the egg, she knew a human face could make her heart explode into a clutch of stars.

Nighthawks They scissor edges of twilight, cutting black shapes into sky. The wet silver of quick wings open against eternity, as if to erase an end with a beginning.  Reprinted "with permission from Sarabande Books, 2020.

ABOUT THE BOOK NIGHT ANIMALS The poems in Night Animals, by Yusef Komunyakaa, climb so deeply into the being of various beasts, from cricket to leopard to snowy owl, that we read them with an uncanny shiver of recognition. Without ever fully abandoning his human skin, Komunyakaa inhabits both the outer and inner lives of these creatures. The images are a brilliant match for the poems, each of Rachel Bliss’s surreal animals populate a realm somewhere between our two species—birds with teeth, men with antlers, a duck wearing suspenders. Both image and word are dense and dark, intensely focused around a kind of hunger.



Tidal Flats.

BY CYNTHIA NEWBERRY MARTIN READ Fiction AN|EXCERPT Yellow Pear Press | September 2019

“Three years,” Ethan said. “That’s all I’m asking.” “We should just wait then, until you’re done.” “I want to belong to you now,” he said. “I want us to shape our lives together. I don’t want to end up ten years from now with nothing but Afghanistan.” The rock beneath her was rough despite its smooth appearance. Running her fingers back and forth, Cass asked, “What are you looking for when you take your photos?” “Too many things, it sometimes seems. Differing elements coming together in one moment, complications, surprising myself, color. Definitely color.” “The words husband and wife,” she said. “Those 82

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words change things.” “They’re just words,” he said. “They’re possessive.” “But I want you to possess me,” he said. “Right this minute.” He rubbed his head back against hers at the same time that he reached his hands behind him and grabbed her hips. “What if I hadn’t found you?” “What if I hadn’t found you?” she said. “Husband and wife aren’t possessive words,” he said. “They’re belonging words. They mean we each have a place in the world where we belong.” She closed her eyes. The possibility of belonging was at the same time too much and still not enough. She opened her eyes and saw houses, the shoreline, the monument and the library guarding

the town. “What do you see your way?” she asked. “A lighthouse, the marsh, uninhabited land.” His bones to her bones. She’d been alone all her life it sometimes seemed. She knew alone; she could control it. This new country, shining off in the distance, scared her even as it drew her toward it. “How about this,” he said. “For three years, I’ll


keep going back and forth to Afghanistan. And you’ll work on imagining our family. After three years, no more Afghanistan. I’ll limit travel to one night, maybe two. And if you don’t change your mind about a baby, then we won’t have any. I get what I want first, but you get what you want forever.” An agreement. She breathed out. The agreement felt safe. It made a space for each of them. She turned to face him— this man who understood her as no one ever had. Even she hadn’t thought of planning for love. “It may always be just the two of us,” he said, “but it

will be the two of us.” And this was more than she could resist. She leaned over and kissed him. He kissed the top of her head. “We need a name,” she said. “A name?” “For the agreement. To make it real.” “We don’t need a name to make it real,” he said. But she knew the power of words. “We’re out here in the middle of this space that is sometimes water and sometimes sand. We’re sitting on rocks that divide the bay from the marsh. Is there a name for out here?” “Tidal flats,” he said and looked at her.

“The Tidal Flats Agreement,” she said. And he held out his little finger, which she hooked with hers. Then he pulled her to him and kissed her and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. They helped each other stand and continued on. Up ahead she was surprised to see that the rocks veered quite dramatically to the left. When they’d started out, it had looked like a straight shot. 

ABOUT THE BOOK TIDAL FLATS This is the story of a marriage.

Mary Cassatt Miller falls for famous photojournalist Ethan Graham, who is equally in love with her. But for months at a time, Ethan’s work takes him to the dangerous streets of Afghanistan, and Cass wants a husband who comes home at night. Then there’s the issue of family—he wants one; she doesn’t.




READ Fiction AN EXCERPT | Bonhomie Press | October 2015

Catarina opened the heavy, black wooden door and squinted against the bright sun. She laughed when she spied her brother Mateo, leaning against the crumbling wall of the stone house across the narrow cobblestone street; waiting for her to emerge at the usual time on shopping day. Just seeing him brightened her mood. She hooked the straw market basket over her left arm while patting her side pocket to make sure the grocery list was tucked safely inside. Going to the market stalls was a task she enjoyed. It was nice to be out from under the eye of Signora Carlucci, her employer, and Signor Carlucci, her employer’s plump, balding, sweaty-palmed husband. “Come stai?” she asked Mateo, tipping her face up and deeply inhaling the fresh spring air. “Bene,” he said, his eyes 84

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crinkling with humor as he fell into step beside her. It felt good to be back outside, walking instead of soaking and scrubbing heavy clothes in scalding water since the break of dawn. She looked down at her red, chapped hands and sighed. When she turned sixteen, her mama had announced that she was old enough for a job and informed her that she would begin working as a maid. Now, days were filled working for Signor and Signora Carlucci instead of helping out with the olives and vines. She missed being outdoors in the sunshine. She even missed the backbreaking drudgery of grape picking, which she preferred to scrubbing other people’s laundry. Day after day, she was stuck inside washing floors, ironing sheets, and cooking. She knew she should be proud to help

her family, but the money she earned didn’t stave off the tedium of her days or the clammy hands of her employer’s husband. Things were fine when she had begun working in the Carlucci house, but changed in an instant after an unexpected request. Signora Carlucci had left home for the day to take a meal to a sick friend and Catarina found herself alone with Signor Carlucci for the first time. “Catarina,” he told her, “la Signora has asked me to instruct you to change the


sheets on our bed before she returns.” Catarina stopped sweeping the floor and looked up at him. There was something odd about the way he was gazing at her and her chest inexplicably tightened with anxiety. It was an unusual request. Signor Carlucci rarely spoke to her and had never given her any type of work instructions, which he left to his wife. And Signora Carlucci had her change the bed linens on Fridays, yet it was only Tuesday. “It’s not the usual day, Signor.” “It is not your place to question, Catarina.” “Certamente, Signor. I’m sorry,” Catarina responded, even as the sense of unease further stole into her mind. She climbed the stairs to

their bedroom and opened the door to the heavy, wooden armoire that held their sheets. When she turned to reach for the second sheet, he was there, standing beside her. She gasped. “There’s no reason to be frightened,” he said. The look on his face was rapt— drinking in every detail of her. She froze with her arms still reaching for the top sheet, not sure what to do. And then he reached over, took a stray lock of her dark hair, gently twirled it around his finger, then let it drop. He ran his hand gently along her arm and looked at her. “I’ll watch you, to make sure you’re doing it correctly.” “I assure you, Signor,” she

stammered, “there’s no need. Your wife has taught me well.” But still, he watched her until the sheets were snugly tucked in, then he turned, and without another word walked out of the room. Catarina exhaled, not daring to turn to make sure he was gone. She grabbed the bedroom door with a shaking hand and quietly closed it behind him. She wanted to latch the lock, too, but thought he might hear the solid click and she wanted to call no more attention to herself. She didn’t want him to know she was afraid. 

ABOUT THE BOOK CATARINA'S RING Born at the end of the Nineteenth Century and nestled in South Western Italy, Catarina Pensbene's life in Perdifumo is full of sun-drenched olive orchards, lush grape vines, delicious peasant food, family and love. Because of an unexpected plunge into an untenable situation, Catarina decides to take a huge risk to become a mail order bride and sets out across the ocean.



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


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Cold Iron Heart. BY MELISSA MARR

Nearly thirteen years after the publication of the first book in her Wicked Lovely series, Melissa Marr has returned to the alluring world of the fey for a prequel set years before the events of Wicked Lovely. In 1890s New Orleans, resourceful Thelma ‘Tam’ Foy struggles to survive, crafting and selling exquisite jewelry and taking on odd jobs to barely get by. Though she would prefer the country, she’s safer in the city, where there are fewer fey to discover that she has the Second Sight, allowing her to perceive their humanizing glamours to see their true forms beneath. Tam knows to that men, especially fey men, must be avoided, but one, her guardian angel, or perhaps guardian devil, tests her resolve. Irial is king of the Dark Court, known for its tendency towards pleasure and impulsivity, and he’s no stranger to passion, but his interest in mortal Thelma Foy is singular. Is the temptation to pursue her so strong because she is unknowingly caught in the middle of a fey curse and, therefore, forbidden, or it is his heart that compels him?


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.


As Tam and Irial begin a flirtatious, ill-advised friendship, the Summer King and Winter Queen draw ever closer, continuing their longstanding, cursed feud. Longtime fans of the Wicked Lovely series will easily sink back into the dark, compelling world of the fey, while newcomers will also find much to love here (and will no doubt be thankful to discover the original series awaits them!). Perhaps slightly more mature than the original series, this prequel is a perfect pick for readers who enjoy Sarah J. Maas and Holly Black. 87






Thelma Foy, a jeweler with the Second Sight in iron-bedecked 1890s New Orleans, wasn’t expecting to be caught in a faery conflict. Tam can see through the glamours faeries wear to hide themselves from mortals, but if her secret were revealed, the fey would steal her eyes, her life, or her freedom. So, Tam doesn’t respond when they trail thorn-crusted fingertips through her hair at the French Market or when the Dark King sings along with her in the bayou. But when the Dark King, Irial, rescues her, Tam must confront everything she thought she knew about faeries, men, and love. 88

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Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing





Moustache & Macintosh BY D.L. GRASER

Three Nails: Adventures of Moustache and Macintosh

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

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

Fantasia for the Man in Blue

Soar! ...Loser: A Novel

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

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


— Diego Báez, Booklist, Starred Review In his debut collection, Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount orchestrates a chorus of distinct, unforgettable voices that speak to the experience of the black, queer body as a site of desire and violence. A black man’s latenight encounter with a police officer – the titular “man in blue” – becomes an extended meditation on a dangerous, erotic fantasy. In these and other poems, Blount viscerally captures the experience of the “other” and locates us squarely within these personae. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 90

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



The Distance Between Stars BY JEFF ELZINGA


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

A courageous love story honoring all who struggle with social persecution because of who they love and how they define family. In 1931 Ruth Thompson defies the expectation she marry her long-time sweetheart, Duke. Instead, she joins a rodeo circuit to earn her college tuition. At university, she meets free-spirited Gisela. Over the years, the lives of Ruth, Gisela, and Duke entwine. As WWII escalates, all three must come to grips with living their truth. Available at Amazon and Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Peyton Brooks' Mysteries Box Set

The Final Programme

Get all eight of the popular Peyton Brooks’ Mysteries in a single box set, including the prequel, Murder in the Painted Lady. Over 1,000 pages of action and adventure from San Francisco’s top detective. The Peyton Brooks’ Mystery series follows the career of San Francisco Homicide Detective Peyton Brooks and her partner Marco D’Angelo as they fight crime in the City by the Bay.

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






But for the Mountains

Mind Riot

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

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

Available at Amazon

Available at Amazon


Feast of Fates



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

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

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

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

Easy ordering at: Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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

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




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Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews



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Spirit of the Bayonet.

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This first installment of Ted Russ’ Okami Forward trilogy is a wildly ambitious science fiction thriller incorporating the Japanese philosophy of Bushido with provocative, modernday themes such as the military use of augmented soldiers and autonomous artificial intelligences. Set in 2062, the story revolves around a prisoner’s struggle to survive on a penal spaceship. Paul Owens is among a handful of lucky prisoners chosen for a program allowing people convicted of nonviolent crimes to shorten their sentences by working in space. A year into his four-year mining mission to the asteroid belt, Owens spends his free time translating into English an ancient text written by a 16th century samurai. He also sips bourbon with his alcoholic captain, who rambles about his life and his concern about the ship’s AI executive officer. PUBLISHER: CHINOOK PUBLISHING

When a group of prisoners mutinies, Owens must try to save the surviving crew members and detain the murderous

prisoners. As a former soldier who was part of an elite corps whose members are augmented with cutting-edge technology, he uses his military experience to combat the mutineers. But another disturbing question arises: Why is the ship millions of miles off course? This masterfully multi-tapestried novel intertwines several storylines, but with that narrative thickness comes bloat. In some sequences, the momentum is slowed by the multiple backstories. Additionally, the novel’s conclusion is merely a respite until Book Two, offering neither resolution nor tantalizing cliffhangers. These flaws notwithstanding, this is an impressive narrative. Russ’s writing is well-matched to the subject matter: straightforward with few frills, yet highly descriptive nonetheless. He creates vivid characters, concocts riveting action scenes and seems to have a good knowledge of the science underpinning his story. The thematic scope of this volume has a decided Golden Age feel (think Isaac Asimov’s Foundation saga). If Russ can continue this level of storytelling in the next two novels, the extended story could go down as pure science fiction gold.  97

The Gringo’s Hawk.

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The Gringo’s Hawk chronicles Jon Marañon’s search for a place in the world, played out in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s on southern Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Now in his late 60s, the author reflects on the fruits of that personal exploration, made possible by family money. Marañon, a pen name, paints himself as a solitary, aimless surfer and diver who came to Costa Rica as a college sophomore for a term abroad. When given the chance to buy 400 acres near the town of Morita, he jumped at the promise of a new, unscripted life in the tropics.


Using copious notes from the time, Marañon recounts violent highs and lows as the young, blond Anglo tests his mettle in a remote, mostly indigenous culture. He weighs epic failures against solutions that often require moral compromises. His cattle herd flourishes with gentle, humane treatment, for example, but is brutally slaughtered at market by buyers wielding sledgehammers.

Eventually, Marañon grows his property to 4,000 acres. He builds an adventure-tourist lodge, starts a family, and advocates for the rights of those less fortunate. As squatters, poachers, corporations and corrupt politicians threaten the country’s pristine environment, he successfully lobbies to protect natural wonders. Marañon is a master storyteller, whether sharing tribal elders’ stories, or painting vivid images of rushing streams and winding oxcart trails. Strong descriptive skills also bring to life friends living simple lives and his closest neighbors: three-toed sloths, ocelots, snakes and the gavilán negro he befriended, known to locals as “the Gringo’s hawk.” In his introduction, the author explains that names and dates aren’t a priority, which may bother readers trying to follow the chronology or find locations on maps. Morita is now named Uvita, for example; other place names may also be changed. But nothing interferes with Marañon’s conclusions about the experience. All his grandiose youthful dreams didn’t come true, nor was he able to save the culture of his tropical paradise, but it’s OK. He did his part, all one man can really hope for.  98

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13 Billion To One.

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Randy Rush’s life was turned upside-down when he won $50 million, tax free, in Canada’s Lotto Max drawing. In this memoir, he details the sky-high euphoria and suffocating misery that followed, the lessons he learned about people, and how he finally found peace and satisfaction. Rush’s journey began on a frigid January day in 2015 when he ran to his corner grocery in Lamont, Alberta, to buy food for his 27-pound cat, Conway Kitty. Heading out the door, he grabbed a pile of old lottery tickets that he hadn’t bothered to check—and soon learned he had hit the jackpot!


“I was a welfare kid who had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks,” he writes, “…so to suddenly be handed $50 million was impossible to wrap my brain around.” He offered gifts of money, homes and vehicles to family and friends, and splurged on travel and a fleet of high-priced cars for himself. Soon, though, the darker side of his fortune revealed itself. He

was convinced by the son of a man he considered his best friend and mentor to invest nearly $5 million in a new software company. The money actually went largely to the scammer, his wife and his parents. After an extensive court fight, Rush recouped his assets, but between his high-octane lifestyle and the pressures of dealing with the con man, he had become a physical and mental wreck. The book details these legal battles while smoothly weaving in other aspects of Rush’s life: his fractured family, employment history, and more. The story is nicely balanced, well organized, and crisply told, and the author is a sympathetic figure who finally seems to have found his purpose. On a trip to Africa, he met representatives from a church group working to help children. He eventually bought land and a school bus for a high school in Uganda, and became a friend and benefactor to others similarly interested. He also founded a website to expose white collar criminals. Ultimately, Rush learned that making a difference is more important than “stuff.” Readers will find 13 Billion to One a delightful read—one that also includes an invaluable cautionary tale about people and money.  99

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Chelsea Bieker's debut novel Godshot is a motherless coming-of-age story where one young girl must navigate adulthood – figuring out things like sexuality, identity, trauma, and resilience on her own. From learning about sexuality from romance novels to navigating morals through a religion cult leader, Godshot is fiercely written exploration of poverty, desperation, abandonment and ignorance.


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

rain everybody is praying for. Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor. But then her life explodes in a single unimaginable act of abandonment: her mother, exiled from the community for her sins, leaves Lacey and runs off with a man she barely knows. Abandoned and distraught, Lacey May moves in with her widowed grandma, Cherry, who is more concerned with her taxidermy mouse collection than her own granddaughter. As Lacey May endures the increasingly appalling acts of men who want to write all the rules and begins to uncover the full extent of Pastor Vern’s shocking plan to bring fertility back to the land, she decides she must go on a quest to find her mother no matter what it takes. With her only guidance coming from the romance novels she reads and the unlikely companionship of the women who knew her mother, she must find her own way through unthinkable circumstances. Through Godshot, Chelsea Bieker shows that our stories are always evolving, even through unimaginable darkness the human spirit perseveres. 


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The Aosawa Murders.

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Mystery in the Branches of a Crepe Myrtle Tree Few books can put the reader in a thunderstorm and cause her to feel the pelt of thick, pouring rain like this one. Cloaked in mystery and scenery, you duck beneath an imaginary awning to escape the downpour. Onda’s spellbinding murder mystery is painted vivid imagery. In this award winning novel, Onda uses interviews to tell the heartbreaking story of the murders of the prominent Aosawa family. PUBLISHER: BITTER LEMON PRESS

Amid the elements, this unique family story is told in first person point of view from the voice of the

interviewees—in a way that allows the reader to cross into the pages. The reader becomes the author of the framed story, Makiko. Later Makiko’s assistant, then Young Master, a friend, and so on. This manner of writing gives the book a rich meaning. It haunts the reader when she sets the novel aside to return to the mundane duties of life. The fact that it’s set in Japan doesn’t remove the story’s plausibility or distance the reader. One doesn’t have to be familiar with the country’s terrain or the language to feel as though they’ve been transported onto the corner where the Aosawa house once sat. Even a foreigner can traverse the sidewalks, talk to the monk, spy on the children at the party, and wonder: who poisoned the Aosawa’s and why. 



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A Teenage Love Story in the Heart of a Hurricane Camille Darveau knows what she wants for her sixteenth birthday--an elaborate bash on New Orleans’ magical Twelfth Night--the perfect backdrop for love. But Hurricane Katrina changes everything when Antoine doesn’t arrive at the safe house and all efforts to locate him end in failure.


Told from Camille’s first person point of view, she employs a late voodoo queen, and her best friends, Beano and Gina, in her mission to keep Antoine from permanently crossing into the afterlife.

While her progressive parents remain oblivious, Camille engages in a variety of daredevil acts to keep her heart from breaking. Drawing on New Orleans’ magic and Camille’s youthful invincibility, the author moves the plot forward with the same reckless abandon Camille displays to get what she wants. Camille must decide whether she’ll let Antoine rest easy or continue to conjure his spirit into a reluctant host body. Her friends are on the brink of severing ties with Camille and her only chance at reconciliation rests on another party on another Twelfth Night. Will she let them go for her last chance at love? Set deep in the bayou along the French Quarter the author explores love, life, and letting go through the eyes of a lovesick teenage girl. 


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Before Anyone Else.

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Escaping Quarantine with a Rom-Com Narrative The premise is a titillating version of life before grownup responsibilities. Before Anyone Else, is one character’s journey through life and love. Bailey (Bae) is a late twenty-something with a trio of devoted men: her father, her brother, and her brother’s best friend, Griffin. Her men wine and dine her and treat her like their queen—a role Bae enjoys. Bae is a restaurant designer in New York City. Her career takes off, she takes a chance on love. I was titillated by the premise. It’s the structure that falls flat. PUBLISHER: TURNER PUBLISHING

Phrases and scenes are repeated throughout losing

their subtlety and charm. Bae may be with a different person or in a different place but the scene is always the same – liquor, food, and a man. The dialogue— perhaps a symbol of Bae’s climb to the top—is choppy and inconsistent. Meanwhile, the foreshadowing keeps you from having to guess Bae’s future. The bonus? You don’t have to worry about what’s coming next. Bae is an on-again off-again hot mess; Griffin is her stalwart constant. They’re the perfect blend of rom-com chaos if you’re tired of life’s responsibilities and expectations. Before Anyone Else is a millennial-esque, easy read if you aren’t hung up on structure, depth, and insight while stuck in quarantine. 


All the Acorns on the Forest Floor.

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The Real-Life Issues and Difficult Decisions Faced by the Characters Will Resonate with Readers Jake is the calm, mellow type. Surprising, considering all that he’s dealing with, including a sick mother, a strained relationship with his father, and having to pretend to like Deborah— yet another new stepmother.


Thankfully, he has Alex, his fiancé—who’s also pregnant with his child—to keep him grounded. He’s looking forward to the future, and all seems as right in his world as it could be under the

current circumstances. But when he and Alex pay an obligatory visit to his father, he receives a bombshell of information, which could turn his calm world into chaos. Meanwhile, Deborah is burdened with a bombshell of her own, after discovering an old newspaper clipping in her parents’ house. Acorns on the Forest Floor is a maze of separate stories in which all the characters’ lives intertwine and weave in and out of each others’ in surprising and sometimes heart-wrenching ways. Each person is dealing with a burden of their own, and how they handle it has a profound and lasting effect on the lives of the other characters. 


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The OK End of Funny Town.

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A Series of Contrasts, Unique Characters and Unexpected Conclusions Reading the short stories in The OK End of Funny Town is like looking in a mirror at what is supposed to be and seeing the exact opposite. A clown is sad. A robot has feelings. A giant is gentle. A science fiction magazine editor meets his reallife alter ego. Students flock to college classes where nothing is learned. PUBLISHER: BOA EDITIONS LTD

A dog appears to be lost but is actually running

away. Adults go back to relive the children’s summer camp they never had to fulfill their need to do childish, foolish things. Restaurant diners bored with the same old cultural eating patterns take meal prep into their own hands in a very primal way. And a mime show coming to a lonely town becomes the one bright light and an obsessive attraction to the local citizens. Nothing about Funny Town is predictable or expected, which is what makes it an interesting read. î –


The Good Luck Stone.

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A Tremendous Way to Honor the Lives of the Real Nurses of World War II Audrey, age 90, is the matriarch of the high-society Thorpe family in Savannah, Georgia. Living in a Victorian mansion, Audrey spends her days planning galas and donating to charitable events. Just the mere mention of the name Audrey Thorpe around town elicits respect. But there is much more to Audrey than everyone knows. She has a secret that she has kept hidden for over 50 years. A secret that goes back to her days as a World War II nurse in The Philippines. PUBLISHER: HAYWIRE BOOKS

During her time there, Audrey and her two best friends, Penny and Kat, worked double shifts bandaging

wounded soldiers while dodging bombs that flew dangerously close overhead. Their friendship was the only thing that helped Penny, Kat and Audrey manage through the horrors of war. But when it came time for Audrey to come home, she had to make a difficult decision. One that would haunt her the rest of her life. One day, after receiving an unexpected letter, Audrey realizes she needs to confess something that happened so many years ago and explain her reasons for what she did. Racing against time, Audrey makes a bold move to eliminate the guilt she has carried for so long. But only one question loomed. Would she make it in time? A novel based on true events, The Good Luck Stone is a fascinating and gripping tale of pain, suffering, loyalty, compassion, dignity and friendship. î –


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The Art of Dumpster

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Jennifer Anne Moses' The Art of Dumpster Diving is an emotionally powerful story of family and a strong familial bond that preserves hope in a moment of hardship and adversity. Moses softens the hard lines with heart-tugging struggles of two young boys finding strength and courage within each other.


Two boys, living in rural Louisiana, in a cozy house with their family of six – grandma, mother, father, and sister – and two birds, lives quickly change after one night's events. It starts when their sister Lila and their mother get into a huge fight which causes Lila to storm out and

runs away. That same night, their father passed of a heart attack. A while later, their grandma passes and what was a house of six is now a house of three. Their mother tires to keep the family together, but find herself in a stuck in a downward spiral. One day James, the eldest son finds his mother lying dead in her bed. James with no one else to turn to, runs to the only friend he has for help, Gabriel. The boys decide to keep their mothers passing as a secret from the world and hide her body to avoid being taken to foster care and becoming separated from each other. The story take off from there as the brothers must bond together to overcome many obstacles and emotional struggles to keep their family together. 


Coming Up for Air.

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In her stunning sophomore novel, Sarah Leipciger transcends space and time to weave together the stories of three individuals whose lives are inextricably linked.


In the late 1800s, L’Inconnue arrives in Paris bound for work as a lady’s maid, both parents dead and only her aloof aunt back home to miss her; in 1950s Norway, toymaker Pieter is father two young children, who are often second to his innovative work; and, in contemporary Canada, Anouk, a young women with cystic fibrosis fights the genetic disorder that promises to cut her life short. Leipciger hooks readers from the start; in the opening scene, L’Innconnue stands ready to throw herself in to the Seine, intent on ending own

life. Inspired by the tale of L'Inconnue de la Seine, or the Unknown Woman of the Seine, a beguiling young woman, who, legend has it, died by suicide after a love affair went wrong, and whose visage was forever immortalized in the form of a death mask turned widely produced wall décor, her enigmatic expression inspiring works of art and invention. Leipciger breathes vivid life into the characters with her powerfully evocative prose, particularly L’Innconnue herself, giving complicated, beautifully plotted depth to a woman who has inspired imaginations for decades. Exploring the tragedies that make up everyday life while celebrating our interconnectedness, this brilliantly conceived story lingers. 


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The Pigs is a fable of greed, waste, and raw human choices. The Lord of the Flies meets The Maze Runner in Johanna Stoberock's bizarre novel The Pigs.


On an unknown island, six large, voracious pigs are the center of the story, where their purpose is to eat all the garbage that washes ashore. These pigs can literally devour anything and everything, including glass and even limbs. The garbage is brought to the pigs daily by four children, ages ranging from teen to toddler, who remember nothing of their pasts or how they came to the island. The children live in fear of

the grown-ups who ruled over the island, known only by their greed and pure cruelty towards the children. The children's life are soon changed by two people who appear on the shore among the garbage and everything changes. The Pigs depicts our world today with no filters – climate change, an ocean flooded with trash, and ruthless human actions. Johanna Stoberock's The Pigs a vivid and cutting exploration of human neglect. It observes how our ignorance can snowball into irreversible destruction of our environment, our children, and our own humanity. î –


The Book of Forks.

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Rob David's The Book of Forks is an outstanding creation that leads the way of just how strange and delightful comics can be. A dark and twisted version of Return to Oz meets Alice in Wonderland. From raining actual knives to the bear park parents, Rob David's The Book of Forks is jammed packed full of imagination and brilliant creativity that is equal parts dark, unusual, and weird.


Castro Smith finds himself imprisoned within the mysterious Power Station, writing his Book of Forks while navigating baffling daily meetings with Poly, a troubled young woman who may be his teacher, his doctor, his prison guard… or something else

entirely. Meanwhile, back home, Vera and Scarper’s search for their missing friend takes them through the chaotic warzone of the Bear Park and into new and terrifying worlds. The Book of Forks is the creative and peculiar final book of Rob Davis’s graphic novel trilogy. Be sure to check out the first two installments in the series The Motherless Oven and The Can Opener’s Daughter. 


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The Adventures of Laffe: Friends Don't Bully Friends.

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This beautifully illustrated children's book tells the story of a young giraffe named Laffe who is bullied by his sister and animal friends. Through his adventures on the savanna he learns to be less sensitive while also teaching others to be kinder. Laffe is the younger sibling to his sister Gigi who in the opening of the story is biting him with what she calls “love bites” but which feel unkind and hurtful to young Laffe, who leaves his family unit to sort out his emotions.


While out on the savanna Laffe encounters a number of other animals who present challenges, some dangerous and others annoying. It is through these experiences that Laffe learns to distinguish playfulness from unkindness. Additionally he develops a sense of self

which assists him as he begins to understand how to help others become more more aware of how their actions impact those who are on the receiving end of their antics. What is especially charming about this book is the lovely illustrations of the giraffe which convey the long-legged awkwardness of this creature are particularly engaging and will certainly appeal to children. Toby and Terri Beaver have done a masterful job of communicating an important message without being overbearing. Children will accept the concept of anti-bullying without feeling as though they were being force fed this message. The Beavers have additional books in the works continuing the story of Laffe, with Book 2, titled, The Adventures of Laffe: Kindness Begins with You. Based on their first book, I look forward to their next offering. 


The Mighty Adventures of Mouse, the Cat.

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Second in Louis Paul DeGrado’s middle-grade series, The Calling of the Protectors highlights a young cat’s courage as she aims to save animals trapped in a shelter. Despite her youth and small size, Mouse is a brave cat and daughter of a Protector. The Protectors are cats of a special lineage whose responsibility is to protect humans from evil. Mouse organizes an ambitious mission to rescue two friends from a shelter whose owners are cruel to the animals.


Scratch and Dazzle are set free, but Mouse worries about those they left behind. She arranges to rescue the other animals. But this time the mission’s outcome is even more uncertain, as the journey to the country, which will be the freed animals’ destination, is full of dangers, from ferocious wild dogs to bloodthirsty raptors. As the story unfolds, readers witness Mouse’s insightful leadership and the team’s courageous acts. The story offers an intriguing group of eccentric characters.

In the first mission, three cats, ten pigeons, a mouse, a rat and a sulphur-crested cockatoo team up to rescue Scratch and Dazzle. Colonel Wellington, leader of The Pigeon Brigade, is hesitant to help cats, but his reluctance is overtaken by his love for adventure. Streets, a shabby, lanky rat is an expert on everything going on around town. Song lyrics, sometimes sung by characters playing guitar and dancing, add excitement and help tell the story or instill lessons. For example, while trying to persuade caged animals to break free, Mouse sings “Don’t give up too easily/ The mighty brave come through/ Win or lose/ It’s up to you.” The story is mainly told through dialogue, creating emotionally impactful moments, such as when Midnight, the cat guiding the group to the country, reveals to Mouse how he left home after discovering his father was not who Midnight thought he was. In all, readers will savor this delightful middle-grade story full of thrilling adventures that impart valuable lessons. 


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Kingdom of the Silver Cat.

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A routine morning ride on the school bus plunges 15 youngsters into a mysterious world in this engaging debut fantasy by Thomas M. Carroll. On a seemingly normal day — except that some students were troubled the night before by bizarre dreams — the old school bus in Annaberry, New York, dubbed “the yellow beast” by the children, suddenly veers off course. A bright blue light flashes in the atmosphere and the children, ages 8 to 13, find themselves in a rather pleasant, earth-like meadow. But the bus won’t move, cellphones are useless, and the driver, Ben, heads off to look for help.


Adjusting to their mysterious new environment, the children begin to experience surreal powers: Gabrielle can fly on her skateboard; Ted can make music by waving his hands; Timmy begins to spout words of deep wisdom, among others. When Ben fails to return, the kids begin to explore in small groups, taking trails that appear and disappear, shadowed by huge

predatory birds. One group encounters copper-hued fairies whose leader alerts them to the dangers they face. Yes, they have new, remarkable abilities, but with each gain comes a weakness. And an evil chieftain, Sidtarr, covets their gifts and has sent his giant birds, the rarewar, to capture them. The only refuge is within the Kingdom of the Silver Cat, but to gain the Silver Cat’s assistance they must bring him a rare sapphire fruit. Carroll’s intricate fable is based on perhaps every child’s wish to be transported, not to school, but to a magic land beyond the blue. The cast is large and diverse in age, color, and ethnicity, and it can be difficult to follow so many. But charming drawings by Jackie Carroll help distinguish them, and other illustrations by Linda Huang lend atmosphere to the overall proceedings. Carroll offers lively dialogue and realistic depictions enliven his story. Kingdom of the Silver Cat is envisioned as the first of a series to be called The Sapphire Fruit Chronicles. His target audience of older children and young adults will surely welcome the sequel.  113

Abracadabra Whoopsie.

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A boy annoyed by his little sister is given the power to make her disappear in the delightfully illustrated children’s picture book Abracadabra Whoopsie. Young Jordy has a great life, except when his toddling sister Keeka gets in the way. When Jordy nearly hits her after she breaks his action figure, he’s put in timeout, wishing she would “just disappear.” That night, a wizard named Perziluzo appears in a dream and gives Jordy a wand that can make his sister vanish with the words “Abracadabra Whoopsie” and reappear with “Whoopsie Abracadabra.” After making Keeka disappear, Jordy enjoys playing alone, allowing her to return only when he sees fit. But when he misplaces his wand while she’s gone, Perziluzo returns and swipes the wand, saying, “I hoodwinked you!” PUBLISHER: MASCOT BOOKS

Faced with his sister’s permanent absence, Jordy appeals to Perziluzo, telling the wizard “I love her” and asking him to

return the wand. Perziluzo relents and Keeka returns, yielding a happy ending with a twist: Keeka gives Jordy a taste of his own medicine, using the wand to make him disappear. Adam Kargman’s framework—a child learning to appreciate a younger sibling—isn’t unique. But he puts his signature on the book, from the names of Jordy’s toys (a “Metal Man” action figure and “Dino Pals” jigsaw puzzle) to those of the characters (“Keeka” and “Perziluzo”). The story is well-written and engaging. Mostly, though, Abracadabra Whoopsie stands out because of its cartoon-style illustrations. TristanTait is a master of capturing expressions, from the sly smile of a boy about to rid himself of his pesky sister to the joy that same boy feels when she returns at book’s end. Tait’s illustrations are often spectacularly funny, aiding the storytelling so well they could have told the tale without words. Perziluzo’s character, a malevolent trickster with a soft spot, might be somewhat confusing to very small children. But that’s a minor hiccup. Abracadabra Whoopsie is a well-polished, dynamic, highly enjoyable picture book.  114

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BlueInk Review offers professional book reviews for independent and traditionally published books. Honest and credible, our reviews are widely respected by librarians, booksellers and readers. And no wonder: the critics behind the reviews are of the highest caliber. Their work has appeared in major publications such as the New York Times and Washington Post; they have served as editors at prominent New York publishing houses and authored books of their own. With millions of books published each year, it is more important than ever to make your book stand out. Differentiate yourself with a review from BlueInk. Because, writing “the end” is only the beginning of your publishing journey. Readers of ShelfUnbound Magazine can receive a $50 discount on the price of a review by using the key code “Shelf” when ordering. Visit:




Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.

With summer right around the corner, I’m as curious as everyone else about what my vacation time will look like. Will I be on the beach, exploring new places and enjoying my books over coffee while I divert my eyes from the work emails that pop up on my phone? Or will I be forced to learn the art of a staycation? For someone who is constantly on the go, the latter option is daunting. How will I limit all of the at-home duties that need to be attended to? If I’m on staycation, do I break from babysitting my grandchildren since I’ll technically be on vacation or do I continue to provide childcare if I’m not somewhere faraway and exotic? One thing I’m certain of is that books will be involved. Yet there’s irony in that proclamation.


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


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Books on vacation are a glorious thing, aren’t they? Every year when my husband’s opportunity to bid on vacation dates rolls around, our conversations begin the same. Me: Wherever we go, there has to be a beach. Husband: Just tell me which one. We love the idea of vacationing on white sand with the surf crashing against the shore, sprinkling us with delightful salt water while the sun shines high in a gorgeous blue sky. We’re romantics at heart. And every year we talk about the rest and relaxation that comes with a beach vacation. As the anticipated vacation time approaches, we begin packing our necessities, which always include the books we’ll read on the beach. That’s where our romantic hearts take different paths. My husband is as avid a reader as I am but he reads...differently. He prefers eBooks and never goes anywhere without his iPad, which he prefers over his Kindle. He likes to brag about how he

can carry hundreds of books in just his carry-on bag. Even his reading choices differ from mine, making our ability to chat leisurely over a cup of coffee about characters and plot lines pretty much impossible.

sun has kissed our skin golden, before we drift off to dreamland on a lounge chair, before the plot of the book thickens, our beach reading is over. Because even on vacation, we’re reading on the run.

Like many others, our spring vacation was canceled due to the global pandemic situation but I asked my husband what he would have taken on our trip to California had we actually been able to go, and he cited these titles: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity, Dale Partridge’s Saved from Success, Famine in the Land by Steven Lawson, and If God, Why Evil by Norman Geisler.

Our summer reads are read in the confines of an airplane cabin while we jet across the country to our latest destination. We read on the light rail if we’ve detoured to a city hot spot. We read in the early morning hours on the deck of our vacation rental over hot cups of coffee--not because we know how to relax but because 4am is too early to hit the beach. Or we read in the few minutes before our weary brains and bodies drift off to sleep after a full day of beachcombing, antique mall shopping, shell collecting, and restaurant hopping.

Me, on the other hand? Give me a “real” book. One with paper pages and a cover. It’s true I can’t pack as many for vacation without checking a bag but that doesn’t stop me from trying. The titles I would have taken to California include an eclectic mix of literary and mainstream fiction--Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. See how different my romantic heart is from my husband’s? Then, there’s that irony I mentioned about reading and relaxing on our beach trips. Ironic because we don’t know the art of relaxation. The few times we’ve attempted to read while reclining on beach chairs has ended, quite abruptly, after a mere few minutes. Before the

Beach reads. Bar books. Bahama bibliophiles. Whether you’re a fan of the eBook or prefer the smell of paper and ink, reading is an essential for that vacation or staycation. Unplug from the busyness of work life and fall in love with a literary character. If that’s not an option, and you decide to watch those squirrely grandkids while you staycate, bring the books anyway. Might I suggest, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, or it’s companion, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, or The Family Book by Todd Farr, a few of my grandson’s favorites that I know for a fact he packs whenever he travels. Read on the run. It’s worth it. 



What's Your First Book Memory?

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


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


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Which season do you read the most? I’d say I get the most reading in Winter actually to be honest, because I’m a winter homebody, but this current pandemic may change that dynamic a bit this summer. When I think of “Summer Reads” – it actually takes me back to my school days when I did get the most leisure reading in. I remember reading the Gossip Girl Book Series over the course of a summer I spent in Los Angeles with my mom when I was an early teen. She was sent there for work again and put up in the same apartments a few years later after the TV series came out and I found out that the actor that played Chuck Bass, Ed Westwick, was staying at the same apartment complex! So of course, me and a girlfriend of mine had to spend our college spring break in LA with my mom in hopes of running into him... we did not. But we COULD have, and that’s what mattered at the time. I also remember reading “The Summer I Turned Pretty” series by Jenny Han, one summer while I had a babysitting gig and the not-that-young kids I was watching loved the beach. Beach reading is the absolute best. Now almost 32, with 2 very young kids of my own, I’m hoping to get even just half the summer reading time I

used to get. But like I said, the pandemic might be giving me more opportunity for that as all the usual summer activities continue to cancel or remain closed. I have a TON of books I’m trying to catch up on some reading with as I can to get reviews written for authors. My current read: I just started a book called Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel. I haven’t decided what’s next for my summer reads, I pick from my stack the next read when the time comes to start that next book based on cover art and what stands out to me at the time to be honest. Now the real question for all of us parents out there – how do we get our KIDS to want to read more in the summer? My oldest is about to turn 3, and his love of books and us reading to him is gradually decreasing as his interest in his ‘arts and crafts’, puzzles, and hands on activities increases. Especially since the libraries have been closed so we haven’t been able to attend our story times and other kid activities they had going on regularly that got him more excited about books. I have a feeling during the summer when the yard and playing are calling his name, books are going to get less and less of his attention. There are pros and cons there,

but I really want to keep him interested in reading and want to work on getting a head start on learning to read as early as possible too. How do I plan to keep the book interest over the summer? Well, I’m going to try to read as much as I can myself so he sees ME reading and that sets an example. And I’m going to encourage more naptime and bedtime reading of stories vs. falling asleep to his wind down educational cartoons. I’ve also seen more of those free little libraries popping up throughout neighborhoods and being more actively used during this pandemic when the main libraries are closed. I plan to introduce my son to one of those and have him enjoy picking which books he is ready to share with other kids to trade out as he picks his next read. I think that will get him excited, and it will give us a reason to leave the house even if just for a drive to the outdoor library stand! Well I hope for the sanity of all us book lover parents, we can get some summer leisure reading in, our kids will want to read some this summer too, and the pandemic brings the blessing of time we may not have otherwise had in that aspect. Keep reading when you can!  119

Finding Your Inspiration. BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill


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


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We’re living through tough times—mentally and spiritually. With nations in crisis and an invisible threat stalking those we love, it can be difficult to get out of bed and face the day. Of course, this is doubly daunting for frontline health care workers, essential retailers, and public servants. However, dangerous employment might be preferable to financial limbo and ruin. If you sit and soak yourself in all of the world’s problems, it’s easy to become pickled by doubt, fear, and dread. For most, these forces inhibit creativity and inspiration. While there are certainly artists who mold their creations from the clay of exquisite torments, we cannot—and should not—all be Van Gogh. So how do we separate ourselves from this anxiety and dread and rediscover our joy and our desire to create? I start from a small place, a small joy, and I allow that sense of wholeness to expand outward into greater measures of happiness and gratitude. For example, I engage in a few helpful rituals. I spend at least thirty minutes (sometimes a whole hour) bonding with my incredible Maine Coon kitten. He loves to play fetch (there are videos on Instagram!) and loves attention, baths, and tummy rubs. Hunkering down with a good book is another favorite ritual. Reading relaxes me and provides a necessary escape from the gruelling news cycle, which can show so much death, despair, and negativity. In books, we can see societies and their issues abstractly, and return from our escapes with insights and a dash of hope. I also engage in daily exercise. Through tried-and-tested tradition, I’ve found that exercise gives me the mental and physical fortitude to face anything—from my mother’s death to an assault, to the stress of this global pandemic. I make positive choices regarding food and my expenditures of time (do I watch Netflix or do I work on my article for Shelf?),

even when comforting or unproductive choices (Netflix), ones that undermine my values and virtue, are easier to make in a time of crisis. We grow stronger by challenging ourselves. This is true of the science of muscle growth, and of spiritual growth. The examples above hardly describe a perfect formula. They are merely the routines and structures that work for me. You need to find the routines and structures that work for you, that keep you grounded with at least a passing sense of inner peace. Only then, and when not worrying about money, sickness, or death, are most of us able to tap into our creative well. I don’t mean to say that negative experiences are never a source of inspiration. Indeed, I never would have written Feast of Fates without my mother’s death. Before that terrible event, I didn’t have the depth or understanding of loss required to write something so epic. But still, I wrote the final drafts of Fates (not the harried version my mother read) from a place of equilibrium. Even though I was broken and sad, I still had my routines. I still had hope and a safe haven for my body and thoughts. And that’s what we should all do, during this storm or future storms: we need to build our shelters, our places of security and love. So no matter how dark the night, or how wrathful the storm, we can endure and dream and continue to create. 


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.



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


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

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

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

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



Turner Brings Books to the Big (and Little) Screen with New Imprint. BY LYNN RUSSO WHYLLY

06 If you’re looking for a new voice, a new style, or a book that really jumps off the page at you, look no further than those created by independent book publishers. Unlike larger imprints, “indies” have more opportunity to stretch parameters and think outside the box, which means you may fall in love with new authors, new characters or new genres as often as you can turn a page. You may even be able to discover out-of-print books that are being newly published, previously self-published books that might not have been on your radar, or books that are perfect for the big (or small) screen. One of those feisty, versatile indies is Turner Publishing of Nashville, Tennessee. A 70-year-old company with 5,000 books on its backlist, Turner recently launched Keylight Books, a 124

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new imprint for fiction that will allow Turner to spotlight fiction books that are well suited for film, video and streaming. Turner handles 36 books a year. Twelve of those will now come from Keylight. All the Acorns on the Forest Floor, featured in our review section of this issue, is the first book under the Keylight imprint. Turner spent 2019 gearing up by partnering with film and TV packaging veteran Carey Nelson Burch, founder of My Own Shingle and formerly of WME. Since 2019, Turner has concluded 10 deals with producers including Engage Entertainment, Echo Lake Entertainment, K&L Productions and Sony Television.



established inventories. So why the new imprint? “We are endeavoring to do something different here,” Beard explains. “We wanted to publish across all genres and be open to whatever comes across my desk. Fiction books stand out on their own in finding a place in the film and TV landscape. So we thought, why not create an imprint that shows that these are much more than books? We wanted a masthead that makes our fiction really stand apart. We feel they’re special, so we wanted to have an opportunity to highlight that.”

We recently spoke with Stephanie Beard, executive editor of Turner Publishing, who is spearheading the Keylight imprint. “For me, what makes a book more adaptable to the screen is the characters,” says Beard. “We’re looking for unique new characters, unique new voices, a scene, a setting and a person who jumps off the page they’re printed on.”

Beard feels Keylight’s team is uniquely positioned to find and represent the ideal books for onscreen. “We acquire screen rights to the book along with the print and e-book rights as part of our publishing agreement,” she explains. “When we sit down with a production company or studio to negotiate a deal, we also have a vested interest in this idea, and we stand behind our investment. If the entity on the other side of the table has the same idea, our conversations can take very interesting turns,” she says.

Turner has spent a lot of time in recent years acquiring companies with strong,

Turner gets 150 submissions a day on its website. These include both agented and 125


unagented authors whose books cut all genres (except poetry). When it comes to a book that checks off all of Keylight’s boxes, Beard says there are logistical points that authors need to hit, but she also relies heavily on her gut. “When I meet new authors, I always say my imprint is a little generic,” she says. “What I’m looking for is whatever you’re excited about—thrillers, horror, romance, young adult—as long as the voice is strong and the character unique, we’re not overly analytical about filling specific holes. The most important thing in any medium is to look for new voices and new stories being told by people who have had those experiences. We’re very responsive to the content that comes to us.” As readers become more screen focused, Turner and Keylight are well positioned to plant their feet in that space. “I think this is going to be an interesting year for everyone to expand their idea of how they find out about new books,” Beard says. “We haven’t spent a lot of time in the past explaining who Turner is because we have always liked to put all the attention on the books themselves. It’s always been about 126

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the story, and awareness of the bookstore or the publisher have come second. But it’s definitely time for people to become aware of where the books come from and who is writing them. If people went online or into their favorite bookstore and asked retailers who their favorite indie publishers are right now, that would be a great thing for the industry,” she says. Check out Turner’s full book catalog at 


We publish books curated with strong characters and storylines to be optioned for television, movies, and media. Under the direction of Stephanie Beard, Executive Editor at Turner Publishing Company, KEYLIGHT BOOKS will publish 12 new fiction titles annually with character-driven stories and compelling perspectives.

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!




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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by Maisy Card

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Today, seventeen-year-old Ellie Baker survives in an Iloricontrolled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie still keeps a secret library. When young Ilori commander M0Rr1S finds Ellie’s library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more.

Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.

When a group of social activists arrive in a small town, the lives and beliefs of residents and outsiders alike are upended, in this wry, embracing novel. Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone, and everyone shares the same values-or keeps their opinions to themselves. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr "the most homophobic town in the US" and sends in a task force of queer volunteers as an experiment-they'll live and work in the community for two years in an attempt to broaden hearts and minds-no one is truly prepared for what will ensue.



THE MOUNTAINS SING by Nguyen Phan Que Mai


SUBDUCTION by Kristen Millares Young

by Sahar Mustafah

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart. 130

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A Palestinian American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut. A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter— radicalized by the online altright—attacks the school.

Fleeing the shattered remains of her marriage and a betrayal by her sister, in the throes of a midlife freefall, Latina anthropologist Claudia Ranks retreats from Seattle to Neah Bay, a Native American whaling village on the jagged Pacific coast. Claudia yearns to lose herself to the songs of the tribe and the secrets of her guide, a spirited hoarder named Maggie. But when, spurred by his mother's failing memory, Maggie's prodigal son Peter returns seeking answers to his father's murder, Claudia discovers in him the abandon she craves.





by Margarita Montimore

by Chelsea Bieker

by Eddy Boudel Tan

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

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

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

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

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






by Ellen Meeropol

by Aimee Liu

by Zachary Doss

Rosa and Esther march through downtown Detroit in August 1968 to protest the war in Vietnam. When a bloodied teenager reports that mounted police are beating protestors a few blocks away, the young women hurry to offer assistance. They try to stop the violence, but an officer is injured and the sisters are arrested. Rosa sees an opportunity to protest the war in court. Esther has an infant daughter and wants to avoid prison, which means accepting a plea bargain and testifying against her sister.

It's 1942. The Japanese have invaded Burma and are closing in on India. After five years in the remote Andaman Islands, aspiring anthropologist Claire Durant and her husband Shep, a civil surgeon, must evacuate with their beloved but mysteriously mute four-year-old, Ty. They cannot, however, take Naila, the local girl whose ability to communicate with Ty has made them dangerously dependent on her. The morning of the evacuation, both children disappear. With time running out, Shep forces Claire onto the ship while he stays behind to find their son.

Boy Oh Boy is a collection of queer fabulist stories and flash fictions told via second person, asking readers to share Doss’s explorations of joy and longing. Your boyfriend is many boyfriends, possibly all the boyfriends you’ve ever had or will have. But you must ask yourself whether you have them or they have you. Your boyfriend plays jokes on you—plays jokes on the world. He is forever unattainable, and still you love your boyfriend, even when it hurts you. Doss explores how relationships can be all-consuming, how we transform ourselves to fit within their contour. Eventually, you might change so much that you don’t even fit inside your own body.


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by M. L. Huie

by Tracey Enerson Wood

How far would you go for vengeance?

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally—she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make change. But then her husband Wash asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

by Anika Scott

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

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

Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold and her life transformed when Wash, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. It’s challenging, but the work gives her power and purpose like she’s never known before.




Garden to Glass is a dive into the movement and philosophy illustrating how to incorporate the natural world into the drinks we love to make, drink and share with friends. From the mint in mojitos to the wild botanicals in regional styles of gin, this book will explore the way bartenders, growers and distillers alike are re-shaping the way cocktails are being made, presented and consumed. Learn how to grow your own herbs and vegetables, harvest herbs to make your own teas and tinctures, and make cordials, bitters and elixirs of all kinds, all while learning the basics of making drinks at home. 134

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Don’t Go Crazy Without Me tells the tragicomic coming of age story of a girl who grew up under the seductive sway of her outrageously eccentric father. He taught her how to have fun; he also taught her to fear food poisoning, other children’s infectious diseases, and the contaminating propensities of the world at large. Alienated from her emotionally distant mother, the girl bonded closely with her father and his worldview. When he plunged from neurotic to fullblown psychotic, she nearly followed him.

THE UNSEEN by Roy Jacobsen

Chronicling one generation of a hardscrabble island family’s life, Roy Jacobsen’s novel The Unseen is a pearlescent tribute to the alchemy of the sea. Ingrid, a bright-eyed child whose laughter is her family’s solace, is born on Barrøy, one in a string of family-owned islands that rest like jewels along Norway’s coast. Her family trades in eider down and gull eggs; her father leaves each winter to work on a fishing vessel. The meager products of the family’s mile-long, less-wide farm fill in its remaining needs.


STRUNG OUT by Erin Khar

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


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

THE ESCAPE OF LIGHT by Fred Venturini

Teenage burn survivor, Wilder Tate, begins high school ashamed of his disfigurement. He finds an outlet tapping into his onedimensional basketball talent as a shutdown defender and courts his cheerleader dreamgirl, only to endure heartbreak and setbacks that drive him to have a tissue expander operation to rid himself of his scar tissue for good, but at what price? The operation costs him his basketball career and puts a wedge between him and his best friend, his mother, and his classmates. The only girl who understands him is Lane Makansi, an ostracized and bullied cutter who sees the truth of Wilder's selfloathing. Their unlikely friendship begins to salve their deep internal wounds when tragedy strikes--and Lane is the culprit. 135





by April Ford

by Jennifer J. Chow

by Mary Keliikoa

Margot Wright has led a deliberate life. At 18, she left her unusual and abusive family situation and never looked back, and then two years later she devoted herself wholly to Estelle Coté, her first and only love. But now, at 45, freshly retired from a career in antique firearms dealing, and settling into a new home with her wife, Margot finds herself feeling restless. Bored. She admits this to herself on the day she visits Le Galopant, a historic carousel that has become bafflingly meaningful to Estelle; and, as with anyone wishing to dodge a midlife crisis, Margot sets her feelings aside, intending to ignore them for as long as possible.

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

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


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





by David Heska Wanbli

by Lisa Braxton

by Elle Marr

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi’s dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport.

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


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

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






by Ryan Wick

by Amanda Rosenberg

by Justin T. Call

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

That’s Mental breaks down myths and misconceptions about what it means to be a millennial with mental illness in a darkly funny, but relatable way. In her new book, Rosenberg addresses the overlooked and offbeat issues of mental illness, shedding light on topics that are off-limits, uncomfortable, or just downright embarrassing. This book details every challenging and awkward stage of Amanda’s journey with mental illness and how she manages what she calls her, “garden variety crazy.”

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


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



by Nicole Jarvis

by Jane Gilmartin

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

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


How "Safer at Home" Impacted Indie Publishers. Written by Shannon Ishizaki, Owner of Orange Hat Publishing

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

The publishing industry is fortunate in the sense that many of its positions can be completed from home. The Wisconsin indie publisher, Orange Hat Publishing, said their team was well equipped to use their computers at home to read, write, edit, and design. “We are so grateful for our community of authors for their patience with the endless cancellations for book signings and workshops. These closures can be devastating for book sales and the authors’ marketing campaigns,” said Lauren Blue, managing editor with Orange Hat Publishing. “But we are also seeing that many people are actually finding more time to read, which is something we love, and they are also finding time to write to fulfill that dream of publishing a book. Submissions have gone up considerably in the last couple months. So, we are all enjoying the new writing samples!” The Orange Hat Publishing team also had some fun with the quarantine and challenged their authors to recreate book covers published by Orange Hat using only materials from their homes. The outcome was both hilarious and impressive! We have some highly creative bibliophiles!! Here are some of our favorites.


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Many Orange Hat authors are also finding creative ways to market their books online.

Joy Ribar is also finding ways to promote her book series from a distance. Ribar's first cozy

mystery novel, DEEP DARK SECRETS, was Orange Hat's top-selling book in the fiction genre in 2019, and she just released her second mystery DEEP BITTER ROOTS in April, 2020. Since her release, Ribar has hosted Facebook Live readings, shared a fun video of her opening her box of books, and even posted photos of her sanitizing her books for delivery. All of these social media posts help her audience to grow and help her form a stronger connection with her readers. Managing editor, Lauren Blue explains, “Readers like to see the "real side" of the publishing and writing process, so we encourage all of our authors to take their fans along for the ride! To be real, open, and have fun during the publishing and marketing process!”  141



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The castle grounds were gleaming in the sunlight as though freshly painted; the cloudless sky smiled at itself in the smoothly sparkling lake, the satin-green lawns rippled occasionally in a gentle breeze: June had arrived."





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