Book Tech Trends: April/May 2022 - Shelf Unbound

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& Artificial Intelligence FEATURING





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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The Hive.

By Melissa Scholes Young



Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra Wyatt Bandt Christina Consolino Michele Mathews Anthony Carinhas FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

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


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Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV 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 delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.







SECTIONS 22 Bookstagram 27 Recommended Reading 58 Indie Catalog 70 Book Shelf

FEATURES 9 Interview: Kelly Sullivan Yonce Author of Bayou Liberty By Gabrielle


14 NFT eBooks Can Actually Be Pretty Cool By Wyatt Bandt 38 Interview: Jack Lutz, Author of London in Black By Michele Mathews 48 Interview: Klecko, Author of 3 a.m. Austin Texas. By Anthony Carinhas 54 Sudowrite: The Rise of AI Tools in Publishing By Wyatt Bandt

70 Telling Stories without Words: An

98 Indie Bookstore

Interview with Sophie Burrows By Alyse Mgrdichian

104 Indie Reviews

76 Interview: Anne Ierardi, Author of

122 On Our Shelf

Coming Alive By V. Jolene Miller

84 Magical Food, Latin Deities, & Balkan

COLUMNS 44 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord 74 Small Press Reviews Sean Malone 90 Podster Gabrielle Guerra 94 Pride & Publishing Chrissy Brown 96 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller 100 Book Mom Megan Lord 102 Fit Lit Christian Brown


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Tradition: An Interview with Doina Ruști By Alyse Mgrdichian

118 Interview: Diane Schellhaas Windsor. Publisher at Motina Books By Christina Consolino



NFTs? Artificial Intelligence? You might be thinking, what does that have to do with the world of publishing. Well, a lot lately. "Love it or hate it, it didn’t take long for NFTs to make their way into publishing. The funny monkeys herald the new frontier: NFT eBooks. This new market provides exciting creative and financial opportunities for authors, while readers have a new way to read and get exclusive material found nowhere else." Be sure to check out Wyatt Bandt’s interview on page 14 where he sat down with a few authors who have branched out and begun selling their books as NFTs to get insights about their

experience diving into NFT eBooks and what prospecting authors may want to know about them. Wyatt also got the opportunity to chat with Sudowrite, an AI writing tool, to talk about the rise of AI tools in publishing - a creative augmentation tool that can help writers with the creative process. In this issue we have interviews with Kelly Sullivan Yonce author of Bayou Liberty, Klecko the author of 3 a.m. Austin Texas, Sophie Burrows and her graphic novel Crushing, Anne Ierardi author of Coming Alive, Diane Schellhaas Windsor publisher at Motina Books, and more. Enjoy the issue! 


In This Viral Pandemic Era, Finding A Cure For All Disease Becomes A Deadly Game. SERUM takes the reader on a suspenseful journey from the submarine volcanoes of the Banda Sea into the depths of medical research, intrigue, loss, revenge and corruption that could derail the prospect of a disease-free world. Available Amazon and Barnes & Noble


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Interview: Kelly Sullivan Yonce Author of Bayou Liberty. BY GABRIELLE GUERRA





KSY: I am a mommy to four (three girls, one boy) and a Wesleyan Pastor, concentrating on social media and worship, but I also lead a young adult ministry. I have a day-job in Indie publishing, and love writing about faith in ways that help people see the true character of Jesus and what he can do in our lives. HOW DID YOU GET INTO WRITING?

KSY: I’ve always loved reading and enjoy story-telling in general. There is so much empathy to gain while creating, or while reading about worlds that other people have created. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to walking around in someone else’s brain. I love writing because it’s therapeutic. Sometimes writing can cure triggers and open wounds that years of therapy could not, because you’re working out problems you didn’t know you had. HOW IS THE PUBLISHING PROCESS FOR YOU AS AN INDEPENDENT AUTHOR? 10

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KSY: I adore Indie publishing because I know I have stories to tell and I don’t need to rely on anyone else to provide the vehicle for me to tell those stories. It’s important to acknowledge that there doesn’t have to be red tape for our goals. Traditional publishing is one avenue, but Indie publishing is a viable and high-quality avenue as well. For an author, indie publishing significantly cuts down on the amount of people challenging goals, and drastically increases the amount of those who will be constructive champions for those goals. PLEASE GIVE A LITTLE SYNOPSIS ABOUT BAYOU LIBERTY.

KSY: Bayou Liberty is a story about two sisters who very much lost their identity when they lost their parents. They were forced to grow up too quickly, and they had to change their dreams when life threw them circumstances that they didn’t expect. One lived alone with a cancer diagnosis and the other suffered quietly as long as she could in an abusive marriage, until they both



realized that they had no choice but to speak their truths and rely on each other again. Their story is amplified by the supporting characters who are all connected to their ultimate healing, which only happens after they give grace to themselves and let go of the things that are out of their control. AS I WAS READING BAYOU LIBERTY, IT REALLY FELT LIKE A FRIEND WAS TELLING ME THEIR STORY OR I WAS READING THEIR JOURNAL. HOW DID YOU FIND THE BALANCE OF SOFTNESS WHILE DEALING WITH HEAVY TOPICS?

KSY: I know real women who have experienced these situations up-close and my goal was to build empathy for them while also showcasing their strength. Sometimes I feel like we over-index artistically on trying to paint a picture that gives shock and awe. I wanted to show real women who are going through things that many women go through quietly. For me the story was mostly about how they navigate pain as opposed to focusing on the severity of their circumstances. It was hard to balance because the internal chaos is


KSY: I channeled how I’ve seen my mom behave in her previous situation of dealing with abuse, and how my sister handled cancer. They let walls down appropriately when in the right audience and carried those walls right back up when triggered by things they didn’t even know they’d be triggered by. It’s the invisible triggers (a fear we don’t even realize we have) that create the walls and sometimes we ask ourselves where they even came from but if we pause and question our emotions or why our instincts are pushing back on something, we can learn so much in those moments. SAWYER'S EX-HUSBAND IS AN ABUSER, A GASLIGHTER, AND A NARCISSIST. WAS IT DIFFICULT TO MAKE THE POINT OF HOW 11




KSY: My mom dealt with this type of abuse in her past and I asked her a lot of questions and even had her re-write reactions that I’ve ABOUT THE BOOKS never had to experience. This was the hardest thing to write because I watched abuse happen but have not had to deal first hand with what she experienced. I wanted to show the root of Beau’s character as well – why he was the way he was – so that we’d accidentally gain regretful empathy for him while reading. Giving him the grace at the end was ridiculously hard because I questioned myself and said but why would anyone forgive that? Why? And then I remembered that forgiveness and the ability to set new boundaries and walk away take incredible strength. Sawyer didn’t need to love him again or go back to him, she just needed to let him go and stop living muted or in fear. She also needed to stop living in regret of the hardest choice she’d ever had to make, because guilt was holding her back.


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KSY: I picked Slidell, Louisiana mainly because I have so much love for Slidell, but also because that’s where I have childhood trauma. My eventual escape was to South Carolina, and it changed me through and through. I wanted the reader to understand the love of one’s roots while also understanding the need to separate themselves physically and mentally from things that are trauma triggers. Sawyer ran in the direction of healing and if one person reads this book and does the same, I would be so proud and in great awe of their hard decision. ALL THE MAIN CHARACTERS IN BAYOU LIBERTY ARE IN ONE OR ANOTHER TRYING TO FIND THEMSELVES. THERE IS A LOT OF FORGIVENESS AND GRACE THAT THEY NEED TO ACQUIRE. AS A FAITH BASED AUTHOR,




KSY: Redemption is the word that came to mind while I was writing. We can’t forgive ourselves for some things if we don’t understand the need for forgiveness and redemption for all people, and that’s only really possible through the type of unfiltered grace that Jesus gives. It was actually very hard to write

that way for Beau’s character, but I wanted to make sure Jackson’s character show-cased a parallel story of a good man who previously made terrible choices choices that resulted in destruction. Jackson’s journey through his mom’s letters showed us that this hero we loved had a past as well, and he was ultimately responsible for the largest tragedy in the book. It was really important for me to continue reminding myself that all people follow imperfect paths and all people need redemption. 



From the author of The Thing about Mustard Seeds, this is her latest "emotionally-charged story that highlights the importance of family, following two sister who conquer their past through humor, grit, faith, and big love." Growing up, sisters Maggie and Sawyer were close and carefree. Following their parents’ death when they were teens, Maggie was forced into a caretaker role for her younger sister, changing the nature of their relationship forever. Maggie has always been the brave one, but Sawyer is becoming more surprised by her own strength. Sawyer’s abusive marriage ends, and she and her son move from Louisiana live with Maggie in their parents' old bed and breakfast. But the reunion is bittersweet. Maggie reveals a diagnosis of cancer. As the sisters reconnect and support each other through tragedies, a friend from the past reemerges, and with him, secrets about their parents that could change everything. 13


NFT eBooks Can Actually Be Pretty Cool BY WYATT BANDT

Love it or hate it, it didn’t take long for NFTs to make their way into publishing. The funny monkeys herald the new frontier: NFT eBooks. This new market provides exciting creative and financial opportunities for authors, while readers have a new way to read and get exclusive material found nowhere else. For the skeptics—and I was one of them—there are several things that make NFT eBooks stand out from regular eBooks. Despite a natural predilection toward disliking gambling, crypto, and reading digitally, there is something cool about NFT eBooks, or the good ones at least. For one, you actually own it. Not the copyright to the item, but the copy of the eBook. If you’re a reader, once you’re done with it, you can choose to sell it at a potential profit, all thanks to the way blockchain works. But this is the boring part.


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What’s cool about them is that they are designed to be novelty items. The ‘good’ NFT eBooks are packed to the brim with exclusives not found in other print or digital versions such as animated covers, author interviews, original art pieces, or video and audio files. They’re often bundled with other books too, either an author’s entire collection of a complete series all in one, convenient place. So, even if the book you may already know and love, it provides something new to those willing to purchase it. Creating these additional artefacts takes a little more effort from authors, but it makes the eBook stand out from its contemporaries. Another exciting thing for authors is that NFT eBooks provide more resale income. With Amazon eBooks, an author makes a max of 70% on commissions, while the NFT eBook site has a royalty rate of 85% and the author gets a micro-payment of 10% each time their book is traded. This extra bit of income is a major draw for many, and though the market is small, there is room for growth. Finally, NFTs limited ‘print runs’ can give them the same value as one of Magic: the Gathering’s Alpha Black Lotuses, with one selling in January 2021 for over half a million dollars. At least, it theoretically

can have that value, if the demand for the item is high enough. Some readers may enjoy chasing that dragon, hoping that their eBook will become hot and they can sell it at a profit. If an author gets lucky and their eBook takes off, those 10% payments can quickly add up. That said, gambling inherently comes with risks, and it may not be wise to approach NFT eBooks with a stock market mindset. A CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC All that said, there are some concerns surround NFTs, ones more valid than people simply claiming that it’s a passing fad. The U.S. Treasury published a study in February 2022 that speaks about how NFT platform could easily become an avenue for money laundering and terrorist financing. Though this isn’t an immediately problem, there is a lot of room for it to go south. As we’ve seen with cryptocurrency, with one blockchain company reporting that criminals laundered $8.6 billion of cryptocurrency in 2021. It’s something that makes me raise an eyebrow, though I’m not sure criminals will be using eBooks as their mules anytime soon when other avenues seem to be much easier.




Additionally, NFTs have an environmental impact as many of them are traded on networks such as Etherium. Etherium transactions have a mining process, and each transaction takes energy, in turn increasing carbon emissions. With this in mind, the more popular NFTs become, the worse they are for the environment unless clean energy alternatives for them are found. Finally, NFTs can be easily copied, reproduced, and pirated. Yes, the new items won’t have the same non-fungibleness as the original, but some people don’t care; they will simply enjoy having a copy of an NFT eBook so they have something to read without any plans of reselling it. With the current glut of piracy sites that exist, NFTs are just another product to exploit, and their digital nature makes it easier to copy than an item that’s only seen print. It’s a natural thing to worry about, especially as a creator.

ZIPPING UP I once saw someone describe NFTs and crypto described as “Mary Kay for men,” and while that gets a chuckle out of me, there is something interesting about them. It is a new, exciting market that gives authors a chance to get more money from sales and make something special. It gives


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readers a cool item that they were willing to spend the money one, disregarding the potential for flipping it. While NFT eBooks are a burgeoning market, if an author is looking for another way to get a unique experience into the hands of their readers, NFT eBooks may be worth exploring. As a reader, I don’t see myself buying one anytime soon. I prefer my books in print, and I don’t care about digital collectibles. But if done right, I think that an NFT eBook can totally be worth the money as a stand-alone product.

NFT EBOOK AUTHOR Q&A I met with a few authors who have branched out and begun selling their books as NFTs: Conor Kostick (CK), an author of history and fiction who mainly writes in the genre of LitRPG, and Caitlyn Lynagh (CL), author of the Soul Prophecies Series. They answered a few questions I had about NFT eBooks and what prospecting authors may want to know about them. What made you want to start selling your book(s) as NFT eBooks? CK: I had no intention of selling books as NFT eBooks because of the environmental



harm of many forms of blockchain. Also, some NFTs have an aspect of a pyramid scheme about them. Then I read in a BooksGoSocial newsletter about carbon neutral blockchains and that made me think again. If I'm simply trying to reach readers and give them good value in access to my books, rather than create an artefact with a goal of it becoming a hot, tradeable commodity that might cause someone to lose money, then an NFT is just another tool to connect writers and readers, and it’s one that has some unique benefits. CL: As an artist, I was curious about NFTs but never realised NFT Books were an option until last spring when Laurence O’Bryan from Books Go Social emailed me to ask if I wanted to get involved in an NFT store he was setting up.

Another benefit for some is being able to create the NFT as an interesting bundle for the reader. Assuming you have all the rights, you could not only make a package of eBooks but also audiobooks and other digital content. And then there is the chance that your NFT becomes a tradeable item, not for the content per se but as a collectable item, like a rare, signed first edition of a book. At least if your NFT did become collectable, you'd share in the growth of value. Also, the more ways in which your books are available the better, we live in a frail world where there can be sudden tectonic changes to the commercial landscape and it's not a good idea to be entirely dependent on just one giant online merchant or one physical distributor.

What are the benefits for you, an author, to sell your book as an NFT?

CL: Well, to be honest, the money might not be life-changing, but the concept itself is exciting. It gives a chance to be more open with one reader. It also gives an opportunity to incorporate other creative ideas into a unique package. It’s something I now keep in mind when writing new books.

CK:: The main benefit is that you can get resale income. In the world of physical books, authors get nothing from the second-hand trade, but with NFTs, you can get something (in my case 10%).

What can an author do to make their NFT eBook stand out? (E.g., What can you do to make readers more interested in it than, say, a regular eBook? What do you do to stand out in the NFT area, which is

I jumped at the chance. It was a learning curve for all the authors, but I was pleased the idea worked.




blowing up so fast?) CK: I think it's important that the person who buys the NFT gets worthwhile content. Unlike a lot of NFTs, a bookbased NFT actually does have an intrinsic and measurable value. I don't think authors should try to get in on the goldrush style of NFT. Rather, we should offer books and audio that readers can genuinely enjoy in their own right. Then even if the currency value of the NFT drops, there is no real loss to the owner, who still has the content they want. In this spirit, I made a twenty-minute video discussing the inner connections of the universe of Epic, Saga, Edda, and the Eternal Voyager series, and this video will always be exclusively for the NFT purchaser. At its current price of $24.99 for 5 eBooks and 3 audiobooks, plus the video (and I threw in some wrap-around cover art), I think I've created an NFT that works in its own right as really good value and that's the best way to stand out among the tsunami of NFTs. Having said that, I think writers should remember that an NFT is not a book and not be lazy about the image. Since NFTs can have moving covers, yours will look more credible and valuable with a bit of effort (e.g., an animation).


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CL: I’m forever impressed by the ideas of authors. At first, authors were making alternative covers (often animated) and writing in a dedicated foreword. In my case, I painted a new cover on canvas. It might not have looked quite as professional as digital art but was fun to do. I then destroyed the original artwork. I also added the audio of a song to accompany one of my NFTs. Many authors also include videos explaining the ideas behind their books. How do you promote your NFT eBooks? What platforms do you market them on? CK: The market for NFT books is still small, so I haven't invested a lot of promotion time or resources on mine. It's discovered via the BooksGoSocial website, which I sometimes mention in my social media and marketing. Anyone searching for an NFT of my books would find it right away so that probably accounts for the occasional sale. That's it for my marketing, but of course owners of the NFT can try to resell it via their own marketing. CL: I was lucky with BooksGoSocial as both my NFTs sold within 24 hours. I refused to sell the NFTs as limited editions, only a one-off special edition. I think readers like that idea more, and it’s in



keeping with the NFT ethos. I don’t like the idea of multiple sales, it undermines an NFT to me, it’s just a digital limited edition. Is it hard to convert a book to an NFT eBook? CK: It's fairly easy. You can mint them yourself, just search and you'll find dozens of platforms for creating NFTs out of books. There are different models for paying the platform (e.g., each time you mint an NFT or a one-off fee setting up the account). In my case, for a small commission to BooksGoSocial, I handed over all the files and they arranged the minting and managed the reselling, etc. I think the main hiccup for authors is that most minting platforms aren't geared up to handle the common files for books. They are more oriented to visual images and audio files. So if you are doing this yourself, you'll probably end up creating a .zip file for upload with PNG images of your pages. Or you can put links into the NFT that allow the reader to unlock the books, but I don't like this solution so much. It's a lot quicker, but the purchaser doesn't have the same sense of owning a unique artefact. CL: Thankfully BooksGoSocial sorted out

the minting for me, otherwise I would have been lost. I get how it works in principle but not the mechanics of setting them up. What is your favorite thing about NFT eBooks? CK: As a reader, I haven't purchased one yet! I think I might if it was something I wanted to hold on to for a long time. An Ursula Le Guin NFT of all her books would be fabulous. As a writer, it's the knowledge that I (or my family if it happens after my death) will share in any future growth in value of the NFT. I've a couple of books of mine on Abe Books, for example, listed at over $200. I get nothing from their sale. Some authors have books listed for over $100,000. At least with an NFT, the creator gets a small return when collectors think their work valuable. CL: The fact that they are unique editions. I think they can be collectable and also an investment. My worry is that there seems to be a glut of them. I’m getting involved in a project called the Logged Universe, which is a series of NFT short science fiction stories – a bit like an ongoing series of Black Mirror, but NFT stories written by individual authors. I’m looking forward to doing that as it’s a different spin on the concept. 














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





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@everything.carrie.reads TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU. @everything.carrie.reads: I am a 39 year old single mom living in Las Vegas, NV. I am originally from upstate New York, and I moved to Vegas in 2005 to pursue my career in advertising and marketing. I have worked for various ad agencies and in house marketing teams throughout the city. I recently purchased my first home! I went to college studying painting, graphic design, and photography. I love to write as well, and be creative in any form. I have a 7 year old daughter and I love to read! TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED. @everything.carrie.reads: I've always been an avid reader, and one day I had heard of something called "Bookstagram" somewhere and I decided to do some digging on Instagram. I ended up creating a separate account almost 2 years ago. I like to post a little of everything, challenges, reviews, things about my life. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE/SMALL PRESS AUTHOR AND WHY? @everything.carrie.reads: My favorite indie author is a woman named Denali Day. She wrote a fantasy series that was just incredible, and she selfpublishes. I was immediately sucked into her world and never looked back. WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE INDIE BOOKS? @everything.carrie.reads: The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J. Church is probably my favorite indie book. It's the story of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage in from the 1940s to 2011, and how she rediscovers who she is. It was one of my favorite reads of 2019. 















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.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2022.




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




Bookbaby Publishing | January 2022

“Dad, I found you the best jacket. You’re gonna love it!” (For the record, you must know that “the best” was a term I used for many things, so naturally, my father was already fairly skeptical.) Out of a shopping bag I lofted a black, racing style jacket, with white stripes down each sleeve. I waited for approval. Dad inspected the jacket from side to side, top to bottom, and checked the number of pockets. The heavy silence while he performed his inspection was deafening. He put the jacket 28

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on, ambled unstably to the mirror, and declared, “We have a winner!” Fireworks of joy went off in my head. A few days later, Dad asked, “Deena, where did you get that black jacket?” “Ross (Dress for Less).” The inquisition continued. “Deena, what department did the jacket come from?” “Why?” I asked. “Because Deena, this is a woman’s jacket and the zipper is on the wrong side. Where did it come from?”

“Well, it came from women’s, but I figured it would be OK. Who looks at zippers? It fits.” “Deena,”—he always invoked my name in advance of a joke or lesson—“it matters to me. I’m not wearing a women’s jacket. What section did it come from in the women’s department?” “Well, it kinda came from the girl’s


section.” And there it was: the black jacket elephant in the room.

Dad asked, “Deena, is that my jacket you’re wearing?”

“Jesus Christ, Deena! Do me a favor and stop shopping for me! The sleeves are up to my wrists and the girl’s section . . . really? Now I’m wearing little girls’ clothes?”

“Well, yeah. It was only $10 dollars, and I kinda liked it, so I kept it.”

He did have a point, I thought, but if he didn’t want the jacket, I’d keep it for myself.

With a smile, he said, “That’s nice. So now we wear the same size clothes. I feel much better!” 

A few weeks later, I breezed into my parent’s family room.


In the world of Little Bird, three siblings experience the same father differently. Navigating stringent rules, cantankerous family dinners, unfiltered commentaries, and lots of love, OK, Little Bird takes the reader on a bouncy ride from laughter to tears. Everything is funny till a seemingly invincible father succumbs to a terminal illness amidst the Covid19 pandemic. Little Bird sets out to make things ok for her father one last time. Through a lifetime of wry banter, voicemails, letters and bad gifts, fly with Little Bird as she learns that even in the worst of times, the gem of laughter is the best coping tool of all. 29


The Honeybee Emeralds. BY AMY TECTOR

Keylight Books

Alice Ahmadi slowed her headlong run. The dark tangle of hallways was a different world to the shabby yet bright magazine office somewhere above her head. She stopped and blinked. The sharp, toothy panic that had driven her to flee into the pitch blackness was easing. She couldn’t see a single thing. Bloody hell, why was this basement so mindbendingly vast? She remembered the stories she’d heard about the Parisian catacombs. How befuddled tourists would get lost in them for days before being retrieved by the exasperated gendarmerie. Did Bonjour Paris’s basement actually lead into the catacombs? Was she about to be confronted by the bones of a nice couple from Wichita or the ghosts of some Tokyo schoolgirls? She took a deep breath, her first since the lights had unexpectedly turned


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| March 2022

off and plunged her into blackness. Well, her and Alexander. Oh God. He must have thought she had gone stark raving mad. When the lights snapped off , she had bolted like Alexander was Dr. Jekyll. Or was Mr. Hyde the monster? Bugger. So much for her degree in literature. Alice turned to make her way back to where she had abandoned him, keeping one hand on the slightly damp brick wall to her right. In her defense, it was unnerving to be down in this absurdly creepy basement with a man she had only met half an hour ago and who was, let’s be honest, decidedly rude. Alice remembered how last night, her boss, Lily, had told her to come into the magazine’s offices early today. If Bonjour Paris still didn’t have heat, Alice was to go next door and in Lily’s parlance, “shoot the breeze” with their

neighbor. Like many large Parisian blocks of flats, theirs had several streetfacing offices, including Bonjour Paris. Alice should get the “dealio” from their right-side neighbor on why the building’s heating was, according to Lily, “kaput.” “Shooting the breeze” was not in Alice’s repertoire. She didn’t have Lily’s easy American confidence or tendency toward aggressively slangy expressions. She couldn’t even summon a smidge of British arrogance, despite having lived in the UK for so many years.


Still, Lily was the editor, and her word was law. Well, Madame Boucher, their terrifying office manager, actually ruled the roost. Either way, as the magazine’s intern, Alice knew these types of tasks fell to her. So this morning, when it was clear the heat still didn’t work, Alice had ventured outside to the neighboring office and knocked on its black door. No answer. There was a light rain and a woman wearing a beret with a poodle on a leash sauntered past, needing only a baguette and a cigarette to complete the Parisian stereotype. Alice had banged harder, smashing the heel of her palm against the door. There was something satisfying about pounding away at an immovable object.

The door was wrenched open. Alice had taken a step back. An enormous man, at least six foot five, stood before her—not just tall but heavyset and thick bodied. Even his hair seemed big— brown, curly, and wildly uncombed. “Bonjour,” she had said. She’d never actually talked to the neighbor before. He had simply been a shape she occasionally passed on her way into the office. “What do you want?” he growled in English. “I’m sorry, but I was wondering if you—” She stopped. The most amazing scent, like honeysuckle and tangerines, wafted out from behind him.

when the whole family, her mother, Dale, and her two halfsisters, would drive out to visit her grandmother in Skidby. Well, technically Florence wasn’t Alice’s real grandmother, but she never made a fuss about that. Alice had always been grateful that she had one granny to lay claim to, given that all of her blood grandparents had been wiped out by ill health, stress, Revolution, and state violence. “What is that smell?” she blurted. “You like it?” he asked, his scowl softening. His English was inflected with a slight accent that wasn’t French. “It’s brilliant,” she said. 

It reminded her of the hedgerows in summertime


Alice Ahmadi has never been certain of where she belongs. When she discovers a famed emerald necklace while interning at a struggling Parisian magazine, she is plunged into a glittering world of diamonds and emeralds, courtesans and spies, and the long-buried secrets surrounding the necklace and its glamorous former owners. When Alice realizes the mysterious Honeybee Emeralds could be her chance to save the magazine, she recruits her friends Lily and Daphne to form the “Fellowship of the Necklace.” Together, they set out to uncover the romantic history of the gems.



Kiss Kiss For Real. BY CHARVET CLARK

Motina Books | January 2022

My brain scrambled to process a highly unlikely, unexpected scenario as it played out. Did he just nod at me? Whoa, he did. He actually noticed me. I was rewarded with a tough-guy-gangster-style chin jerk complete with a snobby glare down his nose as he and a couple of his friends strutted past me and the girls I was walking with down the athletics hall. I slightly lifted my chin back, returning a quick hint of an unsure but polite thank-God-for-afamiliar-face smile back. And that was it. We passed by one another and I didn’t swoon, have a hissy fit, freak or anything like my new compatriots were for me. But it did seriously warm my newkid-at-school nervous heart that he chose to sorta say hi. The small amount of relief I felt that I actually


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kinda already knew someone here at this school was so welcome. He, my new next-door neighbor who I’d only just met over the past weekend, had just chosen to acknowledge my existence here. And it felt good. I mean I’d already pegged him as the elusive egotistical type, so already knew it was probably pretty exceptional that he had. “Oh my gosh Rico Alvarez is so fine!” Alicia gasped in a rush after he’d walked far enough away from me, her and the other two girls from P.E. that she’d introduced me to. “Too bad he’s going out with that trampy skank, Jodi.” The other two emphatically agreed and gushed about how his friends were majorly cute, too. Then they all started explaining that Rico was one of the most popular boys in the ninth grade and, therefore, the entire school and was the best basketball and

the best baseball player either Varsity team had. He was totally elite in their description and they wouldn’t shut up about how hot he was and how any girl that hooked up with him would totally gain instant it-girl popularity. I just listened and didn’t say anything. Then Alicia halted her girly-girl sashay as we left the athletics hall. “Wait, he nodded at you, Diana. Oh my gosh!! You are so lucky. Like getting noticed by him is like…it.” Then her hazel eyes gave me an insecure once-over; a tight pouty frown on her perfectly glossed bubble gum pink lips as if she was


trying to see what made me so great. “Oh, it’s not like that,” I quickly explained shrugging it off. “We’re just next-door neighbors, that’s all. I’m sure he was just being nice.” “Nice?! He does not just say hi to someone to be nice,” Alicia stated authoritatively. “He’s sooo picky about who he associates with – like he’s super snobby but he can totally get away with it. Oh my gosh you have to tell him I love him – please! I swear I’d give my left boob to go out with him,” she sighed. The four of us broke down into hysterics over that. “I can tell him you like him. I don’t care,” I casually offered after we recovered. But she looked stricken when I did.

“NO! Oh my gosh, really? I’m so not like cool enough for him!” she exclaimed selfdeprecatingly. But then her face morphed into a wicked grin. “However, since you offered, try to find out what he thinks of me! Okay?” “Sure. I don’t know if he’ll talk to me, but I’ll do what I can. I only just met him the other night,” I explained with a shrug. “Oooh! What was he doing?” Lindy asked with an eager metal-mouthed smile, her round face and bright blue eyes poking into my personal space. The others eagerly leaned in, too, practically smacking their lips in anticipation. I couldn’t believe they were

this hyped up on the guy and didn’t seem to care in the least that he had a girlfriend. “Shooting hoops off his garage,” I answered indifferently. “Was he sweaty?” Summer asked, her eager green eyes getting wider. “‘Cause sweat on guys makes them shiny. And shiny things are pretty…” “Uhhh, I guess?” I answered a little warily, taking a step back from her. They all giggled and then Alicia exclaimed, “Ooh, I bet he looked so good! Did he take his shirt off? I’d fuh-reak if I saw him with his shirt off!” 


Mean Girls meets The Kissing Booth! Kiss Kiss For Real is a fun, slow burn teen romance. Hang on for the ride as you find out how the good girl gets the "bad" boy! It takes you through a roller coaster school year of cat fights, hot guys, chickening out, sneaking around, a secret admirer, making friends and losing a few. Join Diana as she tries to stay sane, look her cutest, figure out who she is and what her heart wants in the midst of it all. 33


The Essence of Nathan Biddle. BY J. WILLIAM LEWIS

Greenleaf Book Group Press | June 2021

On the first anniversary of Nathan’s death, we went to the sea. We may have been looking for the ungraspable image that Melville said is visible in all rivers and oceans, but I didn’t see it. Maybe I wouldn’t have recognized it if it were floating like flotsam on the surface of the water. In any case, I didn’t see the image and I didn’t find the key to it all. We spent two weeks in a little cottage my mother rented, walking on the beach in solemn silence and sitting on the deck in the evenings while the sun sank into the ocean. We talked some about Nathan but not really that much. Neither of us mentioned his death. We had exhausted ourselves in hours of anguished fretting over a death that in any sane world was inconceivable. The ocean didn’t provide any answers but it did envelop us in an almost mystical caressing balm. The beach house stood a couple hundred yards back from the water, built on


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pilings among the sea oats and bordered on the beach side by a large wooden deck. At twilight, when the sun left nothing but an orange tint on the waves, the ocean flooded the deck with a pungent fragrance and gentle gusting breezes. Even in the half-light, you could see the whitecaps cascading along the line of the beach. The hush of the evening was punctuated only by the incessant, rhythmic pounding of the surf like a gigantic heart. The last night we were there, I was sitting on the deck looking absently toward the surf when I noticed a great blue heron standing alone about twenty yards from the deck. The bird stood on one leg at the edge of the area lit by the flood lamp on the beach side of the house. The wind off the ocean moved the lamppost gently to and fro, so that the ring of light on the ground moved back and forth and the solitary fowl was alternately bathed in light and sheathed in darkness. The bird never

moved while I watched him. The light came and went but he just stood there looking wary and maybe perplexed. I still think about that strange, gaunt bird standing on one leg in the pulsing light. It seems unbearably sad to be totally alone and uncomprehending: The heron had no way of knowing and no one to explain why the light came and went or why the ocean throbbed and the wind moaned along the shore. I don’t worry all that much about Nathan’s death anymore, but the bizarre monopode randomly


sneaks back into my mind and roosts there like a spirit from another world. Maybe because he first showed up in the summer, the hint of warm weather always invites him to return. He seems always to be lurking in the shadows but in the summer he is a constant intruder, yawking wildly if I try to elude him or chase him away. As far back as I can remember, I have expected summers to be wonderful. I don’t know why I delude myself with that notion but I don’t seem to have any control over it. It begins with a giddy sensation in the spring, and I can feel the anticipation rising inside me like a providential tide. But summer is never anything like the images I create in my mind. Last summer was particularly disappointing. My friend Eddie Lichtman’s father hired us to deliver furniture

again, and I was tired almost every weeknight. Also, Anna was gone the last month and a half of the summer, working as a counselor at a camp. We had not been getting along very well when she left, and then right before school started everything collapsed. She wrote me a letter in early August saying that she just wanted to be friends. I was already getting more and more nervous and strung out worrying about the meaning of things, and I couldn’t make the “friends” thing work in my mind. It was probably an illusion to begin with, but everything had seemed to be pretty much on track. I had been clacking along, more or less trying to stay with everybody’s programs and schedules, and all of a sudden the trestle seemed to give way under me. My last day of work at the furniture store was on

Wednesday of the week before the start of the fall semester. I was tired Wednesday night, so I decided to stay home and read instead of going out. But I really didn’t do much of anything. I fell asleep on the couch. I don’t even remember moving, but I was in my bed Thursday morning. The house was quiet and it was already nine-thirty when I woke up. My mother had left early because she had teachers’ meetings, so I just lay there for a while. I thought about staying in bed all day but, after about thirty minutes, I started getting restless and my thoughts began to roam. 


The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, "is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again." Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit's angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is forced to carry: his intelligent but unstable Uncle Nat has committed an unspeakable act on what, according to the Uncle's deranged account, were direct orders from God.




Morgan James Fiction | March 2022

Judith exchanged her fancy pumps and business suit for something more comfortable. She still looked chic, though. Always did. Pouring a glass of her favorite red, Judith savored a few sips before she settled on the sofa. The tranquility of the scene was a stark contrast to the storm within. She took some time to prepare herself emotionally. “Call Mimi,” she instructed Alexa and took a long sip of the wine. “Calling Mimi,” Alexa replied. Judith knew the sound of her grandmother’s antiquated, pink, princess phone well. In her imagination, she could hear its peculiar ring. And she could see Mimi walking as fast as she could to get to the phone sitting on the end table, next to the photo of her grandparents. “Judy honey, you called at the perfect time,” Mimi 36

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answered just like she usually did, no matter the time of day. “Hi, Mimi. I just spoke with Rachel.” “Isn’t she a dear?” Judith was not about to make small talk. “This was quite a surprise you sprung on us,” she said. “I’ll have to admit, honey,” Grace responded with spunk in her voice, “even though I knew something was going on, this kinda caught me by surprise too.” “Rachel told me about your prognosis.” Judith swallowed hard to get rid of the lump in her throat. “Five or six weeks?” “The good Lord’s got a plan for us, Judy. You know I’ve always trusted him. Still do.” At that moment, Judith was more ticked at God than trusting him, but there was no sense telling Mimi that. Not now, at least. “I’ve started making arrangements to be away from the office for

the next month or two. I’ll fly in the day after tomorrow, Sunday, to be there with you.” “Honey, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Grace responded. “You remember when Granddaddy took me down to Chattanooga to see Rock City and visit Ruby Falls and the Tennessee Aquarium? We even spent the night in one of them Pullman cars at the Chattanooga ChooChoo.” “I remember, Mimi.” Judith was confused why Grace felt it necessary to reminisce at this very moment about a trip


she and Virgil had taken thirty years ago. Still, she humored her grandmother. “That photo on your end table of you and Granddaddy is from that trip, right?” “Sure is, sweetheart. You know that was the farthest I’ve ever been from Nashville, don’t you? I’ve always been such an old homebody.” “I know, Mimi. And you know how many times I’ve tried to convince you and Granddaddy to come visit me in Los Angeles.” “I’m going to tell you about something you don’t know, Judy.” Mimi paused. “Ever since Virgil passed, my dream has been to get on the bus and visit you.” “Mimi, I’d have sent for you, had I only known.”

“You know you’d never get me on a plane, sweet child. But the bus? That has been my dream. I’ve imagined all the people I would meet and places I would see,” Grace shared with a hint of mischief in her voice. “Did you know the I-40 runs all the way from Nashville to Barstow, California?” “I do.” “Well, there’s a bus service that stops over in some of the major cities so you can see places along the way.” “Can’t say I knew that,” Judith responded, puzzled by Grace’s “confession.” “Well, that has been my dream, honey—to take that bus.” Is this some joke? She listened to Grace continuing to lay out her dream. “I should have done it

before now, but now I’ve run out of time.” “I’m so sorry, Mimi. I wish I had known.” “Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about it since our call this afternoon. You said there’s nothing under the sun you wouldn’t do for me. I know that’s true, but Judy, you know I’d never ask you for a favor.” “That is true.” Pausing briefly, Grace gathered herself. “Well, that is about to change, sweetie pie,” she said. “I’m sorry, but not too sorry to ask. I want you to catch that bus in Barstow to come home to Nashville.”

ABOUT THE BOOK Grace Lee calls her granddaughter, Judith, with a dying wish…for Judith to travel from Los Angeles to Nashville to come visit her. But there’s a catch. Judith must make the journey by bus. The award-winning novel Finding Grace shares Judith Lee’s transformative, cross-country journey, revealing what truly matters. Each day of Judith’s journey becomes a story on its own, as the people she meets and places she visits along the way challenge her to rethink her life. Finding Grace is about Judith’s transformation back into the real world during this journey as a result of the people she meets on the bus, how she deals with the imminent passing of her grandmother, and how all this changes her life’s future plans.



Interview: Jack Lutz Author of London in Black




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On June 6, Pushkin Press will release Jack Lutz’s debut novel, London in Black. I had the opportunity to interview Jack and get some insight into the background of his novel as well as the story itself.

to focus on writing a novel as part of the course. But I couldn’t pull myself away from Lucy’s story, so I decided to keep telling it, even if it meant switching from one form of writing to another.


I think the screenplay origin actually comes through a bit in the novel – in pace and structure, and in little nods to film throughout (for instance, Lucy is repeatedly mistaken for an actor). There are echoes in the writing style, too. In the screenplay, I used short, choppy sentences and omitted pronouns to trim page count, and it just felt right to carry on when I switched over to the book. I’d love it if, when readers read London in Black, they feel a bit like they’re watching a film – like they’re on their sofa, watching a gritty, fast-paced thriller…except they also get to hear what the main character is thinking.

JL: Thrilled. It’s a bit surreal, to be honest – I’ve been a fan of my publisher, Pushkin, for years, and I have loads of their books on my shelves. So seeing a Pushkin book cover with my name on it really does feel like a dream come true. But more than anything, I can’t wait for readers to meet the book’s hero, DI Lucy Stone! WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WRITING LONDON IN BLACK, IT STARTED OUT AS A SCREENPLAY. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO CHANGE IT TO A NOVEL?

JL: I was happily working away on the screenplay when I realised the start date for a writing course I’d signed up for was fast approaching – and I knew I’d be best served by putting the screenplay on hold


JL: Honestly? Everything. Its people. Its history. Its culture. Even the geography is fascinating – the hidden rivers, the traces of long-vanished buildings and walls. 39



The way dozens of little villages have been absorbed over time into this massive global metropolis, but if you stand in just the right place, it’s like you’re transported back in time. I love exploring London on foot…there’s always a new place to visit, a new corner to check out. I hope that my love of the city comes through in the book. I live in the East End, and so I’ve set a fair chunk of the action here, in places I know well, places I find especially interesting – and that I hope readers will, too.

platform. One early part of the writing process for London in Black – and the part that surprised me most – was prepping Lucy’s character background. In the past, I’d used character builder worksheets, where the idea is to answer a long list of questions to help flesh out your character. But since Lucy had arrived in my head pretty much fully formed, I thought perhaps I’d try just sitting down, starting to type, and letting her tell her life story in her own words. It felt like a dam bursting.


JL: Yes, that’s right! I was at Canada Water station, switching from the Overground to the Jubilee Line. Switching Tube trains during the morning rush hour can be a bit of a grim experience, so perhaps that’s why the idea for a dystopian thriller popped into my head? But it actually wasn’t the plot or the setting that appeared first – it was Lucy. She just sort of showed up in my mind as I stood there on the Tube


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I typed at top speed for hours over the course of two days, just trying to keep up with Lucy’s voice in my head. I even wound up using parts of it, word-forword, in the book. I wasn’t expecting that! EVEN THOUGH LONDON IN BLACK TAKES PLACE A FEW YEARS INTO THE FUTURE, HOW MUCH OF OUR CURRENT EVENTS WERE IN YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS AS YOU WERE WRITING IT?

JL: I really was primarily focused on a



future London as I wrote, but at some level, I suppose the world I was living in couldn’t help but influence me. For instance – in the novel, terrorists use drones to deploy nerve gas over London. I didn’t consciously think about it at the time, but looking back, I’m sure the Gatwick drone disruptions helped inspire that idea. But then again, I’m sure the Blitz was lurking in my mind as well – so it wasn’t just current events, but more remote history as well. THE MAIN CHARACTER, LUCY STONE, IS A SUPER RECOGNIZER. WHAT DO THEY DO, AND HOW DOES THE LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE USE THEM?

JL: In the story, Lucy is a ‘Super Recogniser’ – someone with an extraordinary ability to recall faces. If she sees your face, she’ll recognise you instantly when she sees you again – even if she’s only seen you once, briefly, years earlier. And in the story, the Met employs a team of hundreds of supers. They’re used to trawl through massive quantities of CCTV footage, hunting for the faces of suspects they’ve been shown, faces they’ll

recognise instantly if seen again. Since the book is set in 2029, I wouldn’t blame readers for assuming that I’ve made this all up, in a sci-fi sort of way. But I haven’t! Super recognisers like Lucy are real. Researchers first identified the ability in 2009, and a few years later, the Met began using a squad of supers to search CCTV footage. Supers helped identify the suspects in the Skripal poisonings, and German police recently used them to identify people in CCTV footage of riots. Lucy avoids talking about her ‘Party Trick’ – it makes others uncomfortable, and she’d rather just be known as a good homicide cop. But it is a part of her, and I hope readers will be interested to know her ability isn’t just something I’ve dreamt up! YOU’VE WOVEN BITS OF LONDON’S HISTORY INTO THE STORYLINE. TELL US THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING THIS IN LONDON IN BLACK WHEN IT’S A SUSPENSE THRILLER/ DYSTOPIAN CRIME NOVEL.]

JL: Writing a near-future dystopian story meant I had to do a bit of world




building, and I thought it would be interesting to look to London’s past in coming up with its fictional future. Plus, that felt like it fit with Lucy herself – she suffers from horrible PTSD flashbacks, all linked to events that happened two years before the book opens. So, since I had a hero who has difficulty keeping her past out of her present, I thought it was only fitting to have her inhabit a 2029 London filled with murky echoes of London past. One way I did this was to adapt little details from historical sources – tiny things, like having the graffiti that Lucy passes on the street be inspired by graffiti mentioned in a 17th century book. I also set scenes in locations where something

similar to the scene’s action had actually happened long before. None of this was meant to be obvious – I just thought perhaps the hidden history might bleed through somehow, that it might make the story feel that much richer. And I do love London history, so if nothing else, it was fun to do. WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE WRITING PLANS? WILL THERE BE A SEQUEL TO LONDON IN BLACK?

JL: I would love to write a sequel – and I’ve spent quite a bit of time on plotting already! 

ABOUT THE BOOK THE ATTACKS WON’T STOP. NEITHER WILL SHE. LONDON 2027. Terrorists deploy London Black, a highly sophisticated nerve gas, at Waterloo Station. For the ‘Vulnerables’, exposure means near-certain death. A lucky few survive, aided by Boost injections. LONDON 2029. Copy-cat attacks plague the city. DI Lucy Stone, a guilt-ridden Vulnerable, is called to investigate a gruesome murder of a scientist, who might have held the key to an antidote. But is the antidote real? And can Lucy solve the case before her Boosts stop working, leaving her defenceless once again? The clock is ticking – and London Black is in the air. .


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


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“We’re all made up of stories, the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we tell each other.” Was Anastasia one of your favorite childhood movies? It was one of mine! That’s what drew me to this book. It’s a super interesting take and investigation into the famed princess. Jess finds her Aunt’s late diaries and dives into the mystery of if she really was the princess or if this is just an elaborate story. She recruits a captivating partner fluent in Russian to help her translate the diary passages and the mysterious journey begins. This book jumps back and forth over two time periods - the 2000s when Jess finds the passages, and then the years in history before the supposed assassination of the Romanov family where Anna’s voice tells all. You explore the idea that Anastasia really did escape and lived a secret life. You get a glimpse of history. You get a coming of age, finding oneself and finding love story for Jess. And when you bring the two tales of two intriguing women of the same lineage together - you get a really good book. The main character, Jess, is super relatable. You can’t help but to fall for Evan, the main man. And Anna’s passages! Those are the BEST part of the book. You have to like a dual timeline (which I do). If you do - you will love this one. And you may just want to watch the movie Anastasia again when you’re done.


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.








This story follows a teenage girl’s quest to uncover the truth behind her secretive great aunt Anna, who just might be the long lost Russian princess Anastasia. It’s not every day you discover you might be related to Anastasia…or that the tragic princess actually survived her assassination attempt and has been living as the woman you know as Aunt Anna. For Jess Morgan, who is growing tired of living her life to please everyone else, discovering her late aunt’s diaries shows her she’s not the only one struggling to hide who she really is. But was her aunt truly a Romanov princess? Or is this some elaborate hoax? With the help of a supremely dorky, but undeniably cute, local college student named Evan, Jess digs into the century-old mystery. But soon Jess realizes there’s another, bigger truth waiting to be revealed: Jess Morgan. Because if she’s learned anything from Aunt Anna, it’s that only you can write your own story.


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

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Interview: Klecko Author of

3 a.m. Austin Texas.



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K: To me, Texas is holy, I’ve always believed it’s the most confident place on the planet. The people of Texas planted an attitude of confidence in me that I would never have found had I remained in the North. I’ve always wanted to write about Texas but to be honest, I realized I owe Texas a debt I don’t know how to repay. I guess before I took on this topic I wanted to go into the literary world and prove myself. I wanted to pay tribute to Texas as an established player. AS LIBERATING AND DARING AS IT WAS TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME WHEN YOU DID, THE MESSAGE IN YOUR STORY IS A POSITIVE ONE. LOOKING BACK, HOW FORTUNATE DO YOU FEEL KNOWING YOU GOT TO SEE THE OPEN ROAD OFF-GRID WITHOUT A CELL PHONE?

K: Nobody enjoys being on the run, but some people are better suited for the trials. Some people are just wired to handle isolation better than others. In

fact, I’m guessing you’d see the beauty, Anthony, since you don’t own at TV. That says a lot about you. People who prefer books to television are more likely to listen, or find satisfaction and beauty in any surrounding. YOU MENTION HOW YOUR MOTHER’S SECOND HUSBAND GAVE YOU CASH BEFORE DROPPING YOU OFF AT INTERSTATE 35 IN THE DEAD OF WINTER. IT’S IRONIC HOW HE TELLS YOU “PROBLEMATIC SITUATIONS HAVE A TENDENCY TO BE FORGOTTEN WHEN THE DUMB ASS WHO STARTED THEM STAYS FAR AWAY.” HOWEVER, BY THE TIME YOU COME BACK, HE’S GONE. WAS THE IRONY SEEN THEN, OR LATER AS AN ADULT?

K: (Laughing) That may be the brightest question I’ve ever been asked. You’re right, Anthony, to point out the irony. It’s obvious, in plain sight. But I never saw it, or realized it. My heart was broken. I loved my mother’s second husband, but our family was so dysfunctional. A FEW REFERENCES TO JACK





K: I’d shave a year off my life to spend two hours with S. E. Hinton. She served as an ambassador to every young person who felt hopeless. I do like The Outsiders – it’s a gateway book – but Rumble Fish cracks the code. It uses concepts just out of reach, but with a promise that if you take the time to consider, you’re going to evolve. As much as I enjoy The Outsiders, it can come across as dated, but Rumble Fish is still ahead of its time.



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K: (Laughing) Yeah, I’ve seen it a few times, and still enjoy how it remains consistently bad. I’m a big Lou Reed fan and every time I hear the song “Baton Rouge” it reminds me of Terri because it’s a song about missed opportunity. God, I wanted to have sex with her. I’m not supposed to say that, I’m supposed to tell you I was searching for intimacy, but I wasn’t. At this point, I was living as an animal, and I knew it. It made me ashamed, so that’s why I left. VARIOUS PASSAGES DEFINE ALL THE HUNGER AND UNTRUSTWORTHY PEOPLE YOU ENCOUNTER DURING YOUR TRAVELS. NEVERTHELESS, YOU STILL END UP ENCOUNTERING MORE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS THAN NEGATIVITY. DID THAT SORT OF COMFORT KEEP YOU AFLOAT WHEN FEAR CONFRONTED YOU?

K: If you are complacent on the road,



more than likely you’ll get raped, robbed or worse. Lots of craziness happened that winter. I received a state trooper beat-down. Got flashed by a half-dozen predators and had weapons pulled on me. But for reasons unknown to me, I came out of these episodes unscathed. I’ve never been a fan of playing the victim card. If an audience is gracious enough to give me their attention, I want to leave them edified. That’s why I framed this book in an optimistic light. ELLIOT CHAZE’S NOVEL BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL POPPED INTO MIND WHEN YOU COMMENT ON HOW A “HOPELESS ROUTINE” IS “VOLATILE” AND “FUELS FRUSTRATION.” ELLIOT CHAZE TALKS ABOUT THE SAME CURSE HIS CHARACTERS WRESTLE WITH AS THEY REBEL AGAINST MUNDANE-LIFESTYLES AND RESPONSIBILITY THAT COMES FROM MAKING THE SELFMADE MAN. BUT ONCE YOU’RE BACK HOME AND ENROLLED IN COOKING SCHOOL YOU– LIKE THE CHARACTERS IN BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL– SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY


K: Wow, what an honor to be compared with a book off Gold Medal Press. I’ll bet I read that book twenty years ago. An escaped convict and an East Coast hooker? What makes risk inevitable when somebody is trying to get clean? For me, it was a simple choice. I didn’t have any aspirations. I didn’t want to be good. I just didn’t want to be bad. WHEN YOU VISIT TEXAS, IT BECOMES APPARENT YOU RAN AWAY TO RECONNECT WITH A GROUP OF VERY CLOSE FRIENDS. NOW THAT YOU’RE SETTLED IN ST. PAUL, ARE THEY STILL PART OF YOUR LIFE?

K: I wish they were. I wish I knew how to do that, but that would require intimacy. I find it easy to be brave on the page. Or presenting in front of a large crowd. But if I love somebody, I don’t like to use words. I prefer to share silence. Over the years, I’ve found this 51




K: That’s the “big money” question. A question that deserves to be supported with empirical evidence I can’t provide. But yes, I believe a spiritual force paved the way for me. Interestingly enough, at this point in my life, I was a white suburban kid who never experienced diversity until this journey when most of my guardian angels were people of color. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER THOSE TOO FRIGHTENED TO BECOME THE PERSON THEY WANT TO BE?

K: Recently I was lucky enough to 52

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have George Saunders help me on a book project. Throughout our conversation, he shifted from our topic to Buddhist principles. He spewed all kinds of wisdom but the one thing that stuck hard was when he said, “when you make a mistake, if you are brave enough to renounce it and move one, you can return to a place of beauty, immediately.” Like Texas, George Saunders has been a blessing I will never be able to repay. Anthony, thanks for swinging the vine my way. If you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I’ll turn you on to walleye tacos. 


is based on a true story of the author, Klecko. In 1982, when he was a young Minnesota man, still in his late teens, he threw away his life only to reclaim it while hitchhiking to Texas in the dead of winter. Long before the days of cellphones, this journey, made in abject solitude, save for a few people he met along the way, taught him how to be resilient and gain confidence.




Sudowrite: The Rise of AI Tools in Publishing. BY WYATT BANDT

“If Scrooge had been a man of a weak and timorous nature, he might have been at once scared to death by the apparition of his own face, looking out of a window at him with an indescribable menace. But Scrooge was not frightened easily. No, he was a man of a sturdy countenance.” If I told you that this was an excerpt from A Christmas Carol, you’d likely believe me. It’s about Scrooge, captures his sour and haughty attitude, and most importantly, feels like Dickens. The narrator’s speaking style feels the same, and the vocabulary is archaic by modern standards. But it’s not Dickens. It’s a reflection of him created by the AI program Sudowrite, something that started as a passion project because Amit Gupta and James Yu wanted to see what was possible for writers who used AI. Amit Gupta left his previous career in 2014 to begin writing sci-fi, joining a writer’s group where he met James Yu. Several years later, they began working together on what eventually became Sudowrite. 54

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“We didn’t intend to build a writing company,” Amit said. “It was originally supposed to be just for us.” Now, Sudowrite has over 500 users. HOW SUDOWRITE WORKS WITH YOU

Sudowrite leverages several AI models, mainly GPT-3, that use deep-learning to generate believable text that looks like it was written by a human. By scouring the internet for text and open-source books, it can emulate famous writers like Dickens, Kafka, and Woolf.

heart of my writing, developing story beats, characters, and most notably, continuing the introspective and melancholic tone of that particular piece. It felt unfair, putting Sudowrite to the test against a fully realized story, but it made me realize how helpful the tool can be, especially in the early stages of drafting.

It can even imitate your own style, so long as it has content to base its generation off of. It will carry recent plot elements forward and even recognizes character’s individual speaking styles. I plugged in the beginning of one of my own pieces, just to see how it treated me. The results surprised me.

A college writing instructor of mine told us to “chase the heat” when drafting, meaning “when you write, keep writing about the thing that’s exciting you in that moment.” That’s exactly what Sudowrite does. It takes hints from your writing and says “What if ?” by giving you a spark that you can quickly cultivate into a fire. Sure, you might not use its suggestion of your character walking into the field with a shotgun, but that same suggestion may mention the character’s troubled relationship with their father, and that may be a story beat you’re interested in exploring.

The “Wormhole” feature, the button where the magic in Sudowrite happens, is aptly name because it was like peering into alternate realities of what my story could have been. While the writing wasn’t how I personally would have done it, and sometimes a little strange, it caught the

Using Sudowrite reminded me of how my friends and I often riff on a hypothetical until it spontaneously develops into a standalone sit-com episode, with characters, plot, and recurring jokes. Much like a writer’s room, Sudowrite takes some of the creative burden from you by throwing informed 55



spaghetti at the wall, hoping to inspire you so you can keep writing. REMOVING THE ‘DRUDGERY’ FROM WRITING

Most anyone who is a writer will agree that it’s a challenging job or hobby. The times when I meet another writer in the wild, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll talk about how we love to write, but we’re taking a break or we’re frustrated with what were working on. It’s a common problem of the trade, and it’s only exacerbated by silly mistakes like realizing a character works better in your head as a girl instead of a boy. This is where Sudowrite can help. Amit said that one best things about Sudowrite is that it removes a lot of the “drudgery” from the writing process by getting rid of a “surprising number of non-creative tasks.” It softens writers block, removes mental strain from always needing to generate ideas from scratch, and it can make terribly mundane tasks like changing a character’s gender a breeze. It frees you up to focus on the things you want to focus on. Amit also debunked, quite eloquently, how using AI to help you write doesn’t 56

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make you any less of a writer. He made an example of graphic designers and photographers. In the past, so much time needed to be spent in a darkroom; now, images can be rendered and edited nearly instantly. It doesn’t make those professionals any less creative. It makes the job easier and leaves them room to work on the parts they love and innovate in new ways. In a sense, using AI or any program for that matter is no different that getting help from friends to do a quick peer-review. “Some writers do it all on their own, some use professionals,” Amit said. “It’s just a spectrum of the type of help that you get from your community. Even an editor is help, but it doesn’t stop you from being a writer.” WHAT’S NEXT FOR SUDOWRITE?

Like all AI, Sudowrite won’t stop here. It will continue to grow and iterate as AI improves and the creators add and improve on the program. When I spoke to Amit, he said that they are always working to make Sudowrite better, namely by listening to feedback from their community. One area they’re actively working on is



expanding Sudowrite’s context window so it can look at a larger portion of your work when generating text instead of only the tail end. They’re also working on implementing an outlining system—like the Save the Cat or the Hero’s Journey templates—to help users who are writing screenplays or novels. They’re also working on improving the Wormhole feature. Currently, Wormhole gives four to five writing suggestions based off of what was previously written, but the hope is that the author will be able to give more guidance to the program so they can more easily find the beats that ‘fit’ into their vision for their story. Amit and James are also working on incorporating Conjure, a digital art app, into Sudowrite. Conjure uses AI to generate images from text, and authors can create images of landscapes, characters, or even dragons based off their own text. While the images can be more surreal, sometimes capturing the essence of the text instead of a vivid image, the AI will only improve, and it doesn’t make it any less fun to use. Eventually, authors may be able to illustrate their own books solely by plugging their text into an AI.

CAPTION: To give an example of what AI images look like, this image was made by WOMBO’s ‘Dream’ program from the text “White sheep grazing in a meadow at sunset.” A LONG OVERDUE TOOL

Other fields have already benefitted greatly from technological advancements, and Sudowrite gives writers a much overdue tool to help them chase the fun in writing. Sudowrite gives writers a much overdue tool to help them. I can’t looking forward to seeing how AI and Sudowrite continue to evolve and help writers. I’ll leave you with one last quote from Amit: “We don’t see Sudowrite as a replacement for writers; we see it as a creative augmentation tool that can help writers with the creative process.” And, in the time I spent playing with it, I can assure you that’s exactly what it does. 




Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing



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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.




The Hive


The Fehler sisters wanted to be more than bug girls but growing up in a fourth- generation family pest control business in rural Missouri, their path was fixed. The family talked about Fehler Family Exterminating at every meal, even when their mom said to separate the business from the family, an impossible task. They tried to escape work with trips to their trailer camp on the Mississippi River, but the sisters did more fighting than fishing. If only there was a son to lead rural Missouri insect control and guide the way through a crumbling patriarchy.

The Fall of Partha


War breaks out between the kingdoms of Partha and Zeiglon. The Young wizard, Celedant and his bonded dragon, Azimuth set out to unite the dwarvan clans against the growing threat as the first small step in a grander plan. The Staff of Adaman, an instrument of good, is miraculously brought into play, but with devastating results. A titan clash with the evil Staff of Adois brings about a conflagration that soon threatens to destroy all.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Tripping Past Om


Jemma, engulfed in selfloathing from a failed romance and boredom from caring for an autistic brother, plunges herself into a dangerous relationship with a head, a proselytizer of LSD. He soon controls her through the drug and her own false perceptions. She emerges into a life of drugs, sex, and violence. The escapades she experiences, both literally and symbolically, roller coast Jemma into self-awareness. She finds that Om (blessedness) is neither out nor in but who and what she is. Tripping Past Om sensually and lyrically pays tribute to the quest for spiritual and personal value in the postmodern world.

3 a.m. Austin Texas" is based on a true story of the author, Klecko. In 1982, when he was a young Minnesota man, still in his late teens, he threw away his life only to reclaim it while hitchhiking to Texas in the dead of winter.

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



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Long before the days of cellphones, this journey, made in abject solitude, save for a few people he met along the way, taught him how to be resilient and gain confidence.



Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

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

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

To The East

The Final Programme

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

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






Omitted Pieces

These Walls Between Us

Omitted Pieces is a quirky, YA SCI-FI mixed with a dash of thriller and a pinch of romance about a girl on a rescue mission.

Two girls meet in a 1950’s kitchen. Mary, who is Black and 15, works as a summer-time domestic worker for Wendy’s white family. Wendy, at 12, is the family’s privileged daughter. Over sixty-five years, the two co-create a deep friendship. Vivid stories in Wendy's award-winning memoir lift up the obstacles, in society and in herself, to this unlikely friendship. These two complex and accomplished women will stay with you. Their story will spark conversation and change.


It is 2164 and the mad scientist Cromwell has kidnapped Sierra’s mother and set up shop on planet Scepter. In order to save her, Sierra will need the help of friends in this place of glowing leaves and a floating capital. On Vortex, Al has shut down the old facility, but will he be able to join Sierra? What about those who made it to Earth? Are they closer to danger than they realize? Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates



Available at Independent Bookstores and Amazon.

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

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

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


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Mildred the Bird Lady

The Talking Drum

A chance encounter in a chicago park between inquisitive 4-year old Mary and the eccentric Mildred begins a lifelong unconventional friendship. Despite her mother's wishes not to engage with Mildred, Mary finds herself drawn to the kind Bird Lady. Impressed by Mary's independence and creativity, Mildred shares the lessons of her gilded life and becomes a mentor for Mary. In their moments together, Mildred teaches Mary about courtship,manners, ethics, art, culture, and life's little luxuries. Through the twists and turns of Mary's life, Mildred's influence is felt time and time again, like a gentle beacon guiding Mary toward her true passion and purpose.

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.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


A Knock in the Attic: True Ghost Stories & Other Spine-chilling Paranormal Adventures BY JOHN RUSSELL

When I was five years old I was awakened by an intrusive ghost who not only scared the wits out of me but who also opened up a portal that activated my psychic gifts and allowed a neverending parade of paranormal manifestations to occur in my life. A Knock in the Attic is my story, not only about my psychic awakening and the abundance of mind-blowing otherworldly confrontations I've experienced, but also about the life lessons those many supernatural encounters have taught me. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Grounded Eagles


An identity crisis triggered by facial injuries, single parenting in the armed services, and PTSD are the focus of three heartwrenching tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more about these three critically acclaimed novellas, A Stranger in the Mirror, A Rose in November and Lack of Moral Fibre at: https:// Buy the collection from amazon in paperback or ebook at: Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 63



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


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Silk: Caroline's Story. Headless dolls, horse races, and arsonthe tools of passion. It's 1899, and Caroline Corbett is ready for the twentieth century. She's excited to find work and meet new people-but gets more than expected when a rough-hewn Lowcountry farmer and a smalltown doctor both engage her affections. The broad-shouldered, genial farmer is clear about his desires, and he's there for her. The doctor is sophisticated, educated, and obviously the right choice-but sees no reason to dwell on certain realities. In trying to decide between them, Caroline fails to consider the girl Jessie. A young sociopath bent on her own way, Jessie Bell sees very good reasons to dredge up unpleasant realities-and to create new ones. Before long, this South Carolina landscape is riddled with the detritus of her intense jealousies, which have set astonishing and horrifying events into motion.


SOPHIA ALEXANDER Sophia Alexander writes character-driven historical fiction that grips readers' emotions and surprises them with unexpected twists. A Lowcountry native, she is the author of the Silk Trilogy. Her writing is inspired by historical fact, genealogical investigations, intuitive guesswork, and fanciful romanticizations. Sophia is a graduate of the College of Charleston and lives with her family in Savannah, GA.





Thieves, Beasts & Men. This stunning debut uses the irresistible scenario of a hermit living in near-complete self-sufficiency in the wilderness, and asks the universally relevant question: what is the value of existing within a civilization when it is fraught with evil? Adelaide has lived a long, solitary existence in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On the verge of ending it all, she discovers two feral children raiding her garden and rescues them in a misguided attempt at a new life. Now she must find a way to care for children who are more beast than human. They only communicate with chirps and grunts, and they pine for their feral mother. When dangerous men and a wild woman emerge from the darkness in pursuit, Adelaide faces a grueling choice. She can release the children back to the wild, saving her own life but losing everything she has grown to love, or fight to defend her new family, risking the death she no longer seeks.


SHAN LEAH Shan Leah is an award-winning fine artist, freelance photographer, and lover/writer of dark literary fiction.

She was inspired to write Thieves, Beasts & Men, her debut novel, because like her protagonist, she has a tendency to romanticize a life of solitude spent deep in the woods. And though not a feral child herself, Shan was born and raised in the Florida Keys, and with more mangroves than streetlights, it was pretty damn close. 66

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Winter of the Wolf. A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality ​ n exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, A and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam's death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam's steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding. Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean's world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth--no matter how painful--in order to see the full picture.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR MARTHA HUNT HANDLER Martha Hunt Handler grew up dreaming of wolves and has always understood that her role in this lifetime is to tell stories and be a voice for nature. She has been an environmental consultant, a magazine columnist, an actress, and a polar explorer, among other occupations. When she and her four children relocated from Los Angeles to New York more than twenty years ago she began to literally hear the howls of wolves. This marked the beginning of her work advocating on behalf of wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center ( Winter of the Wolf is Martha's debut novel. 67




The Girl in the Triangle. When your dreams finally seem to be coming true, it's hard to trust them. It's been four years since seventeen-year-old Ruth set eyes on her fiance. After surviving near-starvation, revolution and a long trip across the stormy ocean, she can't help but wonder: Will Abraham still love her? Or has America changed him? Nowhere's as full of change as 1909 New York. From moving pictures to daring clothes to the ultra-modern Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she gets a job, everything exhilarates Ruth. When the New World even seems to rejuvenate her bond with Abraham, she is filled with hope for their prospects and the future of their war-torn families. But when she makes friends and joins the labor movement-fighting for rights of the mostly female workers against the powerful factory owners-something happens she never expected. She realizes she might be the one America is changing. And she just might be leaving Abraham behind. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JOYANA PETERS JOYANA PETERS grew up in New York and loves exploring—this led to her discovery of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the stories it holds. She got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. She currently lives in the DC area and continues to write narratives that shine a light on empowering women and moments in history.


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Tell Me You Love Me. In 1965 April Toulane's life is turned upside down on her fifth birthday when her mother marries a man she's known for only two weeks. The life she'd known is forever changed with the addition of a stepfather and a five-year-old stepbrother who terrorizes her on a daily basis. After a family tragedy the young siblings are thrust into the Hollywood spotlight, surrounded by people whose very foundation is based on secrets and lies. Struggling to grow up and find their way in a world where child stars are forever manipulated and exploited, the siblings form an unbreakable bond vowing to always protect each other when the adults entrusted to take care of them fail at every turn. "Tell Me You Love Me" is the story of April and Auggie Fairbanks, the most sought after faces in show business throughout the sixties and seventies, maneuvering their way through the lies and corruption to learn the truth about their parents and searching for the love and acceptance they so desperately crave.


KATHLEEN STONE Kathleen has been a freelance writer since 1999 and now writes full time. Her work has appeared in Doll World Magazine,, The Lake County Journals, Trails. com; USA Today (travel), (lifestyle), Essortment, eHow, Answerbag,, Suite101 and YahooVoices. She is the author of the award-winning novels Tell Me You Love Me and Whispers On A String, and the Head Case Rock Novel Series (Head Case, Whiplash and Haven). She also has short stories published in the Secrets: Fact or Fiction I & II anthologies. 69


Telling Stories without Words: An Interview with Sophie Burrows BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN


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Many people are familiar with stories told via words, but telling a story through pictures is a different kind of endeavor altogether. For Sophie Burrows, an award winning illustrator, images step in when words fall short, whether she be working on picture books, covers, comic books, or graphic novels. Her most recent publication, Crushing, strives to explore human loneliness and connection … without actually using words.

She's lonely and searching for connection. He's lonely, but afraid to reach out. But is finding someone else really the answer to their problems? Crushing, an illustrated misadventure in love and loneliness, is a story told in silence — a story about connections in the big city — making them, missing them, and longing for them. Achingly beautiful, subtly defiant, and full of humor and quiet wisdom, Sophie Burrows’ debut graphic novel is a unique meditation on the human condition in the 21st century, and a timely examination of millennial life in an age them, missing them, and longing for them. Achingly beautiful, subtly defiant, and full of humor and quiet wisdom, Sophie Burrows’ debut graphic novel is a unique meditation on the human condition in the 21st century, and a timely examination of millennial life in an age of isolation. Sometimes, words aren't enough.

After reading Sophie’s book (and thoroughly enjoying it), I had lots of questions … and Sophie was kind enough to satisfy my curiosity. Below is our conversation! WHAT, TO YOU, IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TELLING A STORY THROUGH WORDS AND TELLING A STORY THROUGH ART / IMAGES? AND WHAT POWER DO YOU SEE IN THE LATTER?

SB: I suppose that they each require the reader to use their imagination in a different way! I love how both word and image can deliver a story in different ways for a more powerful reading when combined. Despite this, it was important to me that Crushing was mostly wordless. Both of the central characters are spending the majority of their time alone, and even when they are with other people, they often don’t converse with them. I wanted to evoke that strange feeling of floating 71


through a city for a whole day without interacting with another person; and telling the story through silent images was the perfect opportunity for that. I love the power that images give the reader, too – they can spend as little or as long of a time as they like with a detailed image, and can discover more from a story on later reads through its narrative details.

I think that the theme of connection is important to mention, too. Although both of the characters are lonely in their own way, I like to think the book is about connection at its heart, in many forms – to friends, to communities, even to ourselves. I think that many people were affected by feelings of loneliness during the pandemic, but also found new ways of connecting with others. YOUR ART STYLE IN THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL IS GORGEOUS. I’M CURIOUS, WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE RED AS THE BOOK’S MAIN COLOR?


SB: It certainly did. It was a strange time, as I’m sure it was for most. But I found that the themes of the story took on different meanings and lives of their own as I reflected on the experiences of the pandemic. I think the lockdown set the stage for me to consider all of the ways that people experience loneliness. 72

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SB: Thank you so much. I like to think that the content of the story should ultimately guide the way the artwork is approached. I knew I wanted to explore colour symbolism in this book when I first had the idea, and red is such a powerful colour. It’s a very emotive book, and I think we associate red with lots of different emotions – love, passion, anger, embarrassment … so I really enjoyed exploring that in the story and how I could use colours to express those emotions.




SB: Well I’ve been drawing since I was very small, probably as soon as I could hold a pencil! I’ve been a professional illustrator for around 11 years, though. At school, I was interested in all kinds of creative things, but the idea of illustration really appealed to me as it was an opportunity to tell stories with your art, or to say something

meaningful. I went to university at UWE in Bristol to study illustration, and after a few years working in the field I studied at the Cambridge School of Art, which is where I began to find some kind of creative ‘voice’ and develop my own narratives, including Crushing. ARE THERE ANY PROJECTS OR EVENTS ON THE HORIZON THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE OUR READERS AWARE OF?

SB: I’m working on an exciting book at the moment for younger readers – but it’s all top secret for now! To keep up to date with any of my work, you can find me on Instagram @burrowsdraws. I love to post little previews of what I’m up to or upload process videos. 


Sophie Burrows is an award-winning British writer, illustrator, and comics creator. Inspired by the everyday, she loves to tell stories that explore themes of human behavior, mental health, and relationships. In 2019 she graduated from the MA in Children’s Book Illustration course at Cambridge School of Art. Her first picture book as writer/illustrator (Ig Pig and Og Frog!) was released in 2020, and her debut graphic novel, Crushing, received a UK publication in November 2021 and a US publication in January 2022 73

Tailspin (Historical nonfiction) By John Armbruster.

Review by Sean Malone, Editorial Writer with Ten16 Press

“…Cinematically Grand…” – Kirkus Reviews


TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM


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History is always the most compelling when the human characters have a central voice in the drama. John Armbruster’s Tailspin delivers this in spades, chronicling both the dramatic events and the interview process of Gene Moran — an American airman and tail gunner who fell four miles in the European Theater of WWII and survived the fall without a parachute. Gene’s story of service and endurance continued with long months of captivity, interrogation, and the struggle to survive in overwhelming conditions aboard dark ship hulks or on marches hundreds of miles long. Tailspin transports the reader through many decades, with the centerpiece focusing on 1943–44, presenting a vivid narrative of Gene’s wider story. Instantly, the reader is compelled to feel that they are with Gene and the rest of his crew in the flying fortress for the fateful flight, sharing in the sensory, frenetic experience of each tense moment of dogfighting and of the Rikki Tikki Tavi’s plummeting descent. These moments are complemented and contrasted with the quieter moments of Gene’s life outside of his service, such as his time working as a rural laborer and the different methods he employed to convince the drafting sergeant to enlist him. Presented alongside Gene’s history is the more private battle John’s family faces with his wife’s recurring cancer. In that regard, the narrative flow is smartly interspersed, taking the reader back and forth in a chronology that isn’t strictly linear.

By offering the World War II story alongside the more contemporary interviewing and cancer battle, the stakes of everyone involved are represented with poignant sincerity by Armbruster. As readers, we truly go on a journey with the author, yearning for the additional layers to be revealed in Gene’s recollections and ordeal. The heart of Tailspin remains an astonishing account of endurance and service conveyed by thorough research, with oral history expertly framed and

supplemented by the author’s efforts. Yet the sum experience of Tailspin is a complex, emotional investment that takes care to tell the whole “story of the story” — and a reminder to not take for granted the experiences of interviewers, historians, and any who strive to convey essential truths about the human experience. 


TAILSPIN World War II tail gunner Gene Moran fell four miles through the sky without a parachute and lived. Captured by the Germans, he survived a harrowing eighteen months as a prisoner of war, including a six-hundred-mile death march in 1945 across Central Europe. When Gene returned home, he kept those memories locked up for nearly seventy years. His nine children knew little of their dad's war story. But when John, a young history teacher, learns of Gene's amazing fall, he's desperate to learn more. Finally, Gene agrees. So begins a series of "Thursdays with Gene" interviews. Gene, nearing his ninetieth birthday, recounts incredible tales. But John has no idea what wounds he's reopening. Gene's nightmares and grief return. But both men persevere, bonded by their close and growing friendship. As the interviews go on, John faces an ordeal of his own. His wife is fighting brain cancer. What will happen to his wife and his two young children? John must continue uncovering Gene's story of survival as he himself confronts the greatest trial of his life.



Interview: Anne Ierardi Author of Coming Alive



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In 2019, I attended a writer’s conference in New Jersey. Unbeknownst to me, I would sit beside a lovely fellow writer whom I would still be in contact with three years later. When we met, Anne Ierardi was working on her memoir, Coming Alive. During her book launch celebration on March 1st, friends and relatives spoke of Anne’s quiet way of drawing people to her. We eagerly listened as Anne read from the first chapter of Coming Alive and noted that quiet strength evidenced in the pages. ____ YOUR WEBSITE DESCRIBES YOU AS A “RENAISSANCE WOMAN.” SHARE WITH OUR READERS WHAT THAT ENTAILS AND HOW YOU CAME TO HAVE SUCH A LOVELY DESCRIPTION.

AI: I felt a pull in many directions: visual art, music, and writing from early on. After college, I studied Renaissance Art and painting in Florence for three months. I was inspired by the Renaissance period, art, music, and flowering of mind and soul. A chapter in my memoir describes how this trip awakened my senses. Returning to Boston, I studied graphic

design and created a poster of myself as the “Renaissance Woman” – with my face in the Mona Lisa frame. I chose to study painting and guitar in my twenties and later developed my writing skills. About 15 years ago, I visited a magical woman living in the woods near Amherst, Margaret Lobenstine. She wrote a book entitled “Renaissance Soul.” Her book cover notes, “Follow your bliss…but what if you have many blisses to follow?” She helped me figure out practical ways to follow more than one call or vocation. Despite my impatience to achieve my goals and express my creativity, I had to wait a long time to get where I was heading. The challenges included dealing with early family losses and barriers. Recently, a new thought emerged in the shower, “Privilege means you get there faster.” To be a Renaissance woman, I had to tend to several callings and couldn’t do them all at once! It takes a lifetime to develop craft and mastery. I enjoy having “a beginner’s mind.” In addition, I have Italian ancestry 77



on both sides, and I claim Andrea del Verrocchio, whose student was Leonardo Da Vinci! TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO WRITING. WAS IT A JOURNEY YOU’VE ALWAYS KNOWN YOU’D TAKE?

AI: In a sense, it was a journey I instinctively knew I would take. My love of story began with fairy tales and my heroine, “Madeline,” before I learned how to read. My imagination needed expression, but it wasn’t easy for me to speak or write until my twenties when I took a course in journal writing in Cambridge. I started to find my voice in my journals which I continued off and on for the next decades. It helped in recalling various periods as I was constructing the memoir. The Diaries of Anais Nin were very formative and simpatico. I wrote a very sincere letter of my “troubles with the world,” and Anais wrote back just months before she died. The seeds for liberation in those times from the woman’s movement and later gay liberation opened a big door for me. About seven years later, I went to


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seminary to learn pastoral counseling. The last class I chose was preaching from Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, a marvelous teacher, and a prophetic African-American scholar. I discovered my gift to craft a sermon even though it took some courage to preach in the pulpit finally. Fast forward fifteen more years, I joined a Memoir Institute during my sabbatical and got hooked. Writing this book is my desire to share a portrait of the road I traveled – with its difficult curves, human impediments, unexpected losses coupled with people who mentored, loved, and supported me. It is also a kind of transition from past to future; not an ending but a culmination of my experiences and callings. I finally did what I set out to do with the help of God and my friends. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS OR AUTHORS? HOW DID THEY INFLUENCE YOUR JOURNEY INTO AUTHORING A MEMOIR?

AI: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Books were models of what I might become when I grew up. Soul friends. On my dresser in my



adolescence, I had Louisa’s quote: “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Like Jo, I can say what I want, and like May, I can draw and become an artist. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. The tensions between the intellect and faith fascinated me as I felt I was often living out that polarity. Far from the Maddening Crowd by Hardy. The movie with Julie Christie came out in the sixties around the time I read it. Full of romance and pathos to feed my adolescent soul. Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and the work of Simone Weil. Conversion. The winding path to God and the call to make the world more just. Emily Dickinson - I love how her poetry combines simplicity with profound insights and that she lived in Massachusetts and loved what she loved and closed her doors to the rest of it! The Journals of May Sarton, the

poetry of Anne Sexton. Psychological inner struggles, feminist and lesbian foremothers who paved the way for me to express myself. Southern Writers: Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams Superb storytellers of humor and paradox. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The Monastery of the Heart by Joan Chittister – led to groups I facilitated in my healing center. Spiritual and artistic community. I read dozens of memoirs over the past 25 years, including The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer, Glad Farm by Catherine Marenghi, and ItalianAmerican writers, L is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir by Annie Lanzillotto and The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America by Joanna Clapps Herman. AS A FICTION WRITER, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE WHAT IT MUST FEEL LIKE TO SHARE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AND STORIES WITH READERS. HOW DID YOU GET TO THE POINT WHERE YOU KNEW YOUR STORY HAD TO BE





AI: I learned in my twenties from the astrologer Rob Hand – “whatever you fear, run towards it.” At times hidden from view, there is a part of me that needs to push out to say here I am like the musical “La Cage Aux Folles.” “There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit. One life, and it’s time to open up our closets!” Truthfully if I knew exactly what it would be to share all this with the public, I would not do it. If I knew it would have taken so long to get this book done, I would have said, “no way.” I think my story is unique and hope it will inspire and encourage others to find their voices and paths. YOU’VE TAKEN QUITE A DIVERSE PATH THROUGH ACADEMIA, FROM ATTENDING THE BLUE HILLS INSTITUTE OF MEMOIR TO OBTAINING A DOCTORATE OF MINISTRY IN COUNSELING AND A BACHELORS IN ART FROM EMMANUEL COLLEGE. HOW DID FORMAL AND INFORMAL


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AI: I did my academic training in art, psychology, and ministry in the seventies and eighties. I studied art in two Christian colleges: California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and Emmanuel College in Boston. Art and religion became integrated into these environments, which was very simpatico to my nature. I loved Van Gogh’s letters. He wanted to be a minister, but they didn’t want him. I could empathize with him in my early years of ministry! By the time I was in my forties, I was ready to build my structure. I could only do so many hours of counseling ministry at a time without needing to do something expressive like preaching or painting. I took a break and attended the Blue Hill Memoir Writing Institute. I met many fascinating people who let me into their private lives through memoir. I loved hearing their stories without needing to fix or change anything. It was beautiful! We learned to transform stories into an art form. I am grateful to organizations and teachers who mentored me. I joined the IWWG (International Women



Writers Guild) and took workshops with Susan Tiberghein, who wrote memoirs bringing together spirituality and Jungian psychology. I studied with writer Kathleen Spivack on the Cape, and she became a friend and mentor. Fast forward to around 2010 when I joined a local memoir writing group through the Cape Cod Writer’s Center that was invaluable. I also wrote articles interviewing musicians for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper. Just a few years ago, I worked with Diane O’Connell, a developmental editor, who helped me reshape the work for the story to come alive more structurally and emotionally. I am fortunate to live in a place where the arts are valued, and writers and painters are everywhere. I also feared my writing style might be tamed and changed in such a way that my authentic voice would suffer. Even though at times I wished for a more intensive academic experience, I believe that allowing myself the time to mature through mentors and relationships with writers allowed the memoir to emerge in its current form. Fortunately, my 2021 blogs motivated me to paint again, and Shanti Arts welcomed my paintings as part of the memoir.


AI: In my experience, facilitating Artist’s Way groups for ten years, everyone can be artistic in some realm or appreciate artistic expression. The Holy in its essence is not something we can grasp, not really in words unless the words are poetic, suggestive, mystic even and art like poetry and music succeeds when it is released into the whole, the Holy. I would invite a person to seek out places that draw them into the Holy. It may be in an art or poetry class, a chapel or a retreat, or maybe spiritual direction, dance, certainly music. There 81



are many paths. God has many rooms. Thoreau found his path toward wholeness at Walden: I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.


AI: Thank you for this opportunity. I would love to hear from readers! People can visit my website: www.AnneIerardi. com or email me at AnneIerardi@ to sign up for my blog/ newsletter. 


COMING ALIVE: MEMOIR While standing on the seminary altar in Cambridge next to the first ordained Episcopal woman priest, Anne Ierardi was touched by the Spirit with an extraordinary call to ordination. In her inspiring and engaging memoir, Coming Alive, Ierardi writes of her efforts to honor her identity as a Catholic woman while integrating her call to the Protestant ministry. Along the way she invites us into her Italian family, studies art in Italy, and comes out in Boston. She falls in love with a doctor at an astrology party, and together they birth a healing ministry, bringing together people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds. Ierardi recounts her many callings to live as an artist, counselor, and minister while facing challenges in the early days of gay, feminist, and religious change. A story of courage, persistence, and authenticity, Coming Alive will speak to people of all ages and experiences, providing hope and possibilities for living and loving well.


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Magical Food, Latin Deities, & Balkan Tradition: An Interview with Doina Ruști BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN


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Whenever I get the chance, I tell my friends to read translated books. As an American, the idea of only reading stories from traditionally “Western” perspectives sounds a bit boring – the world is bigger than our own personal experiences, and is more varied and beautiful than what we define as our “comfort zone.” With this in mind, I was very excited to hear that Doina Ruști’s historical fantasy, based in Bucharest, would be receiving an English translation.

1798: A magical, dark adventure. Fourteen-year-old Pâtca, initiated in the occult arts, comes to Bucharest, to her uncle, Cuviosu Zăval, to retrieve the Book of Perilous Dishes. The recipes in this magical book can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. She finds her uncle murdered and the book missing. All that Zăval has left her is a strange map she must decipher. Travelling from Romania to France and on to Germany to do so, Pâtca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to the famous and sublime chef, Silica.

Back in September 2021, I had the opportunity to interview Doina Ruști for Shelf Media’s annual “Read Global” issue. However, this first interview had less to do with Doina’s books and more to do with her experience as a translated author. So, after reading The Book of Perilous Dishes and enjoying it immensely, I was keen to have another interview with Doina – and Doina, kind as always, answered each of my questions

with enthusiasm. You can read our conversation below! WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DRAW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MAGIC AND FOOD FOR THIS BOOK?

DR: In my childhood, which I spent in a small village (Comoșteni) in the Danube Valley, all food had magical properties. For example, we would




imprint a star with many rays onto our bread, as a representation of the sun, made by using the bolls of a plant called “velvetleaf ” (attached below). It was inconceivable for us to eat bread without this symbol. Often, we would also add a few drops of holy water in our food. Many of the enchanted dishes mentioned in the book were prepared in our home – we had both an elixir and a dish for any type of disease. There is magical culinary art preserved in the folklore books of Europe, therefore here in my country as well. In one such book I read a 17th century recipe for a Trigonella leaf salad. These leaves need to be added in small quantities, and I remember how we’d prepare that salad in our house to sleep well during the night. Then I found out that these leaves are used in medicine for preparing sleeping pills, but also poisons – hence, caution is advised. Domestic mythology is part of my legacy, and I rediscovered it academically, which revealed to me the complexity of archaic life.


DR: Actually, my approach was rather based on maieutics, moving from question to question. I started by reading a document from the 18th century – it was a complaint made by a noblewoman against the prince. He had kidnapped her cook. Obviously, I wasn't interested in the outcome of the actual conflict, but I started wondering what culinary skills that cook could have had to justify his kidnapping. That’s why I then read a recipe book from the royal court, dating back to 1690. Many dishes were bizarre, and they reminded me of the alchemy of magical elixirs. IN TERMS OF CREATIVITY / IMAGINATION, WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING THIS BOOK? AND WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS OF MARRYING RESEARCH AND IMAGINATION WHEN WRITING?

DR: My fictional world is rooted in my childhood. Everything was possible in Comoșteni. First of all, our house offered various possibilities


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for expanding the fantasy realm: it was a large house, with many rooms, and each of them hid chests, nooks, trap doors leading to the cellar, attic, or ice chamber, numerous objects passed down for several generations, and in the yard there were many other buildings, carriages from the old days, toys of previous generations, stables, the fig plantation, a cherry orchard, and a summer kiosk covered in vines. On top of that, the village is located near a river (Jiu) and the island of Copaniţa, where we’d often hunt coots; the forest was not far. Neither were the ponds, and there was even a stone quarry … all these elements have laid the foundation for my fictional worlds, and every time I write a book, they naturally shape my artistic sphere. I couldn’t have written about Pâtca without my memories from childhood, when I was actually called by that name (a strange word from Bulgaria, meaning "something small"). Only afterwards, having lived in this region, I absorbed the elements of the 18th century, out of a Bucharest which hoped (as did all of Europe) that the great empires would crumble, first and foremost the Ottoman one. My imagination is built on solid ground, which is why I always start with a map, just as I did now (I’ll attach it here). It illustrates the geography of Bucharest at

that time, but also the houses mentioned in the novel, the main characters, and the streets which have endured through time.


DR: I am a Latinist, and that is why I used elements from peripheral Latin mythology in my book. Sator was a generic name for the supreme creator of the world, and was only rarely used in the Latin world. In school, I studied a well-known magical square in Latin, on which is inscribed: Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. Sator was simply a synonym for the supreme god and, historically, there were no 87



Satorines … however, the entire 18th century was full of secret societies and confraternities, like the Rosicrucians, so it did not seem impossible. To prepare, I read a lot about the esoteric societies of the 18th century. The Enlightenment ignited, among other things, atheist movements and a rejection of the Church. As a result, there were groups that advocated a new religion and produced rich literature – these esoteric societies were a result.


DR: She is not a figure from folklore, but she synthesizes several Romanian and universal beliefs about cats. They say that the real name of the cat can never be uttered. There are also many superstitions and myths about the taboo of revealing sacred names. Indeed, it’s comfortable to hide your real name! Moreover, there are symbolic connections between the cat and Friday, seeing as the name of this day, in Romanian (as in all neo-Latin languages), comes from Venera-Venus, the goddess of love and seduction. Last but not least, many dark spells require a black cat. However, Cat-o-Friday herself is a white cat, making her a beneficent witch. COULD YOU TELL ME WHAT THE PROCESS OF RECEIVING AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION HAS BEEN LIKE FOR YOU? I KNOW THAT THIS IS YOUR FIRST (CONGRATULATIONS!).



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DR: Thank you, dear Alyse! Of course,



the process was complicated, and we’ve made several attempts. This time, I was lucky to find an agent who managed to secure a publisher, but it was surely a new path for me. Unfortunately, I’m not confident enough in my English to establish how far James Brown's version strayed from my novel. However, I do know that any translation is practically a new composition, in the same way a screen adaptation of a book is a new composition.

Of course, though, I would like to end by thanking all those who helped me get here: the editors, the translator, you for this interview, but especially my readers, whose support and empathy can be found on every page and in every line of this book. I hope to meet some of you at the London Book Fair, which will take place on April 5-7, 2022! 


Doina Ruști is one of Romania’s most successful writers of historical and speculative fiction. Known for the originality of her novels, Ruști is the recipient of many major Romanian awards, and her books have been translated into multiple languages, including Chinese and German to date. Ruști is known for exploring aspects of fantasy and the supernatural, as well as tackling darker themes such as political corruption.



Shelf Media Group's digital magazine about podcasts and podcasters.


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About the Podcast BY THE BOOK is half reality show, half self-help podcast, and one wild social experiment. In each episode we choose a different self help book to live by - following every rule, down to the letter - to find out which ones might actually be life changing.

Podster is a column for podcast listeners and serves as a curator for the best of known and unknown podcasts.


Join comedian Jolenta Greenberg and culture critic Kristen Meinzer as they live by the rules of a different self-help book each episode to figure out which ones might actually be life changing. READ THE INTERVIEW ON THE NEXT PAGE.




TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF/ SELVES. BTB: I'm Kristen Meinzer, and along with Jolenta Greenberg, I host the podcast By The Book. On each episode of the show, we choose a different selfhelp book to live by, and follow it to the letter for two weeks straight while recording ourselves, so you can hear how each book enhances or destroys our lives (and marriages). Jolenta is a bit of a self-help enthusiast and a comedian by trade. I'm what you would call a selfhelp skeptic and I'm a culture critic by trade. Together, we offer a perspective on the self-help industry (and our broader cultural values and aspirations) that are personalized, road-tested, and oftentimes hilarious. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH BY THE BOOK? BTB: Jolenta had the idea years ago, when we were both working at the same radio station. She was the department's part-time administrative assistant (on top of being a comedian), and part of her job was going through all the incoming mail, which always included stacks of self-help books from publicists who wanted press coverage. Meanwhile, I was the staff culture producer and on-air film and TV critic. Jolenta approached 92

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me and asked if I'd want to host a show together trying on self-help books, with her comedic approach and my critical approach. We realized while trying to make the pilot that it would just be too much work for two people. We'd need a producer for sure. So we tabled the idea. But then I started working at a different company - a podcasting company called Panoply that was a spinoff of Slate. They had an open call for podcast ideas. I pitched them Jolenta's idea, and entitled it "By The Book" in my presentation. They were intrigued. The rest is history. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PODCAST? BTB: We refer to it as a reality show in audio form. And while we often tap into painful issues (abuse, sexism, classism, racism, mental health), we also make clear that it's a comedy podcast. WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING AND MOST SATISFYING PART OF RUNNING A PODCAST? BTB: The most satisfying part of any show I've hosted (I've now hosted 10+) is the relationship with the listeners. We do our best in my shows to let them know we value them, and several of my shows (including By The Book), have



episodes completely dedicated to their feedback. The most challenging part is probably the work that happens when the microphones are off: research, editing, promotion, etc. Before we even hit the record button, Jolenta and I have already put dozens of hours into each episode of By The Book. HOW DID YOU START OUR AND GROW YOUR AUDIENCE? BTB: Panoply's marketing and promotion team arranged for some press coverage and promo swaps with other shows early on (promo swaps are when a show will play our trailer on their show, and we'll play theirs). In addition to that, Jolenta and I made as many appearances on other podcasts as we could, starting with those at Slate and Panoply. We're now on season 9 of the show, and I still regularly pitch myself to other podcasts, radio shows, and TV shows as a guest. Last year (which was pretty typical for me in terms of promotion), I made nearly 100 appearances on other shows, in print, and at conferences. WHAT’S ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE EPISODES? BTB: I love the episodes when things go completely off the rails - not because we're living by the book wrong,

but because we're doing everything EXACTLY as the book says. For insight into this, I recommend our episode on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up! WHAT IS YOUR UPLOADING SCHEDULE, AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE WORST BESTSELLERS IN THE UPCOMING MONTHS? BTB: We usually have two seasons of By The Book per year. In each season we live by eight books (those are our "main" episodes). We also release an "epilogue" episode after each "main" episode (which consists of feedback from listeners who've also read the book, questions, criticisms, etc. as well as announcing the next book). Between seasons, we have bonus episodes, which include season wrap-ups, sit-downs with our husbands, interviews with authors, and lots of other fun topics related to the show. WHERE CAN LISTENERS FIND BY THE BOOK? BTB: We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and every other podcast platform in existence!


Why writers need to read more. by Chrissy Brown | C.A.A.B Publishing Whether you are a new writer, you want to be a writer, or you are a seasoned pro, one thing that will help you to stand out from the crowd is being a reader.


C.A.A.B PUBLISHING CAAB Publishing Ltd is a traditional, small, indie company helping unknown authors have a voice and inspiring new writers to take that first step into the world of publishing. WWW.CAABPUBLISHING.CO.UK

Those that read are on the path to publishing, they already have in their hands a book that has made it, a book that holds the secrets of how and why. All they have to do is work out the code. Look at the cover, what catches your eye? why? Look at the back cover piece, the first few lines. What makes this book good? What makes it sell? Reading a good novel is like reading a manual on how to do it right, it is a dictionary and a thesaurus, with the beating heart of a narrative keeping it all together. It is a guide to good grammar and to gripping story construction. Look the book up online, how was it marketed? Who has reviewed it? Contact the author, or their agent, and ask them some questions about the book, did they do a launch event? Did they do signings? or send a message to those that reviewed it, why did they buy it? What made them try it? This is all research for you, a way to find out what to do, and what not to do. As a writer, you must be willing to read others' work, if you are not then why should they read yours? Writers need readers. Be a willing and active part of the team. Be a cheerleader for other writers, you never know what might come about from reading another author’s work. Also never forget to leave feedback for the book. This is the golden rule. If you read it and enjoyed it, then let the world know. You will want reviews for your work, so be courteous and leave reviews for others. A few kind words can sometimes lead to a conversation with other readers or even with the author themselves.


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Just as you may want to be disciplined and make yourself write every day, so too should you read, every day. Even just for a short period of time, over lunch, before bed, with a quiet early morning cup of coffee.

Reading can help to overcome writers’ block. You may find that sometimes, taking a break from your work and letting your brain wander as you read can help you to blast through any blank-spots or freeze-ups.

your writing; it could happen when you watch a movie or a TV show. You could be influenced by an article, a song, or even a conversation. To be a great cook you must sample the food of others, so the same can be said for a writer.

What you read can influence what you write. The more you read the more you learn about your genre, and the art and craft of writing. What works and what does not. What you want your writing to be like, to maybe imitate slightly or lean towards, and what you enjoy as a reader. With that in mind, you can put it all into your writing and use all you have learnt from others. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. No great writer can deny their influences and the authors that they revere.

Reading can help you to develop critical thinking. As you read you will start to analyse the writing of the author. ‘Is it a good story?’ if so, why? What are you enjoying? What does the author do to make their characters come alive? How can you make your writing more like this?

Some writers feel that they do not want to read other author’s work in case they find themselves emulating that writer too much. But, as long as you are still writing your own words and in the way you want to write them, then you can never be overinfluenced. And by not reading you do not abstain from outside impact on

Reading can also help to keep your brain sharp and keep it in tip-top condition. As a writer you need to be thick skinned and have a quick mind, so if reading can help with at least one of those then that is a pretty marvellous thing. Happy book buying! 

Reading will help in other ways, you will get to know more about people, and other readers by seeing what is selling, you will also find that reading makes your imagination expand. Not a bad thing for a writer.


WAITING FOR THE WINDS TO CHANGE Her life is pampered, quiet…suffocating. Home is both sanctuary and prison to loyal Emeline, as she tries to fill the void her mother left when she walked out fifteen years before. And her dad might be a bit overbearing at times, but she feels sorry for him. So, she stays. But, he has secrets. When Emeline finds a box of letters from her Aunt Juliana to her mother, she cannot deny anymore that her family is fractured and broken. As she uncovers the truth, she discovers she’s been sheltered from a lifetime of pain and betrayal. And that she doesn’t really know her family at all. As her world caves in, she longs for the winds to change, to bring her a fresh new start. But will she realise that the only person who can change the course of her life, is her?



READING ON THE RUN Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait. ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

In Alaska, I’m a behavioral health instructor by day and a Ph.D. student by night. When I’m not teaching, I have my nose in a textbook or a scholarly article. These days, my writing is nonfiction and my puppy, Omar, is lucky if I can spare ten minutes to play fetch. I still carry a book in my purse because I hope to get a few minutes to read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, in between assignments, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.


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As we transition to spring, another semester of doctoral courses looms on my horizon My mind is on closereading. Take, for instance, a 52-page paper I recently submitted detailing my plan for researching the influence of formative assessment on student autonomy. I spent a week writing it and knew there were inconsistencies regarding the population and potential research sites in its pages. Yet, it was difficult to think about rereading it to make corrections. I took the approach that any exhausted doctoral candidate would. I requested the proofreading assistance of my doctoral student husband. Knowing he too was in the last stretch of the semester and just as tired as I was, I assured him he didn’t have to examine the paper for every grammatical error or misspelled word; all that was required was a close read for flow. My goal was to get some help with the one problematic area of the paper without taxing too much of his energy and time. After all, one thing 2022 has taught me, is that grace must be extended during a close read. I didn’t anticipate 2021 would leave with a vengeance, taking with it my mother-in-law. We were devastated. Two months is not near enough time to prepare for such a loss. As my husband and I traveled two days into the new year, my one goal was to support him, his siblings, and their father. This goal consisted of small tasks like repeatedly asking if they were okay, making sure there were snacks and drinks as the siblings cleaned out their childhood home, helping sort, fold, and sack items for donation, and proofreading some of the paperwork they encountered.

All of these tasks were doable. Difficult, considering the circumstances, but doable. It was the least I could do for my husband and his family. Until it wasn’t. The day before we laid my mother-in-law to rest, we received a call from the nursing home informing us my father-in-law had passed. Keeping a promise he’d made to his children, he had gone to dialysis. Upon returning to the facility, he spoke briefly with a nurse. Then, he settled into his recliner. My father-in-law was one of my favorite people. We loved M*A*S*H. The day I met him, he was watching a M*A*S*H episode, and I am sure that when I disrupted his TV time to watch with him, it was the hour we connected. He had a great smile. Naturally, my goal continued as my husband and his siblings prepared another funeral service. Feed them, sort, fold, sack, donate, and proofread. The tasks were more challenging; the hole in my heart wider still. At the funeral home, proofreading became more difficult as the words swam in front of my eyes, blurred by tears I tried hard to keep in check. In the memorial card, I missed an “e.” Instead of it being tacked appropriately to the end of the word, it was typed as a precursor to the word beside it in the first line of scripture on the page. I didn’t see it. Grace was extended. My husband and his siblings found humor in

the error. My newly-acquired brother-in-law kept one of the flawed copies as a keepsake. I, on the other hand, lashed out in horror. How could I have missed something so simple? Why hadn’t I noticed it? Why were the people I loved going through such a terrible time? Would I meet another person who enjoyed watching M*A*S*H as much as I did? And, what would it matter if I did; reruns won’t ever be the same. February 2022 is drawing to a close as I write this. My heart still hurts, and the cherished keepsakes my husband and his siblings have gifted me remain in a tote while we all take baby steps into this world without their parents. Some day, I imagine it will hurt less. Some day, I suspect that missed “e” will be something I can laugh at. The tears in my eyes tell me that today is not that day. I hope you read your next book closely. Immerse yourself into the storyline and snuggle up with the characters. Okay, don’t snuggle with the villain because that’s weird! If you encounter a typo or a even a glaring discrepancy, email the author. Gently let them know about it so that in a future edition, they can correct it. Then, encourage them to keep writing because you never know what they’re going through. I won’t know the outcome of my 52-page paper for at least a week. Hopefully, between my husband and I, we caught all the discrepancies. If not, it will be okay. 97

A Novel Idea.



BACKGROUND INFO ABOUT YOURSELF AND A NOVEL IDEA ANI: A Novel Idea is a community-minded bookstore and event space with a focus on local authors and artisans. We have curated a cozy bookshop with approximately 3000 titles, ranging from literary fiction and fantasy to small press and children's literature. We are a small, two-person husband and wife team who are passionate about books, community, and everything Philadelphia. Every title in the shop is handpicked by us! The bookstore is our first business together (we got married in October 2018, just six weeks before we opened A Novel Idea). We make up the two halves of A Novel Idea--Alexander bringing over a decade of graphic design experience to the shop, and Christina, as a writer and open mic host, her experience and dedication to literary events in support of Philadelphia artists. Christina is also an author of two books, Creole Conjure and She is a Beast. She even teaches writing and occult-based workshops 98

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through the store! Before we opened, there hadn't been a bookstore in Passyunk for over a decade, and wasn't another bookstore for a mile and a half, which is really far in the city. We regularly hear from folks that they had been dreaming of a bookstore in the area for years. We built a bookstore with this mission of reflecting the community’s interests, while also supporting them. One way we do this is through our Philadelphia Author and Small Press sections. We want to help our customers fall in love with books, either for the first time or the millionth. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A BOOKSTORE? ANI: The idea for the bookstore grew out of frustration regarding where we were with our jobs. Christina was an adjunct writing professor in the Greater Philadelphia area, and Alex was working as a freelance


graphic designer and Twitch affiliate. We felt underappreciated, underpaid, and exhausted. We also were fighting to get time together! One night Alexander suggested we open a bookstore in jest, and the more we thought about it, the more we realized it could be a great opportunity to do something together and give our neighborhood a type of retail that it has been missing. Christina always dreamed of owning and working in a bookstore, and we thought it was the perfect way to blend our passions and talents. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT OWNING AND WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE? ANI: Our customers love small press, books written by local authors, and books off the beaten path. Sections like horror, folklore, sci, and new age have become some of our most popular! We host up to 200 events a year, from monthly book clubs to writing workshops to author events. Most events are suggested donation or sliding scale/pay-what-you-can pricing. In 2021, we started offering A Night Out at A Novel Idea, a private 90-minute date night at the bookstore, which has been very popular! Information about our event offerings can be found at anovelideaphilly. com/events.

also carry other non-book merchandise made by local artisans, such as candles, bubble baths, and puzzles.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE? ANI: We think there will continue to be a push for brick-and-mortar indies, especially after the virtual world we've been living in the past couple of years. People want personalization and connection. We see a post-pandemic world (if that's even a thing) as a hybrid one, with a commitment to accessibility and safety and shopping small. It's important to keep indie bookstores thriving because they foster community and culture. They are a place for inclusivity, conversation, and connection.

In the past year, we've introduced a ton of new A Novel Idea merchandise, all designed by Alex. These products include t-shirts, tote bags, glassware and mugs, and stickers. We 99


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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Because Sometimes Families Change.. It’s become a fairly common thing for families to be split - but it doesn’t make it less confusing for young children as it’s happening. I’m not a fan of the term “broken home”. Just because parents are separated doesn’t mean the relationships or homes for the children have to be “broken”. Co-Parenting in a healthy manner is very doable. The hardest part is getting the young children to understand what is going on, and helping them to adjust. These are a couple books I’ve found that seem to help explain and encourage interaction and conversation with young children going through the adjustment period of their parents splitting up. Dinosaurs Divorce A Guide for Changing Families By: Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown Synopsis: A comprehensive, sensitive guide for changing families,

Dinosaurs Divorce helps readers understand what divorce means, why it happens, and how to best cope with everyone’s feelings. This book allows the child to relate to different parts but also not be thrown off by the unrelatable parts since it is a family of dinosaurs. You don’t have to worry that your child will not relate if the family is not exactly like theirs because it’s just a generally fabricated story of a dino family and separation/divorce. It explains the step by step process and what causes change and what the outcomes may be. It also helps explain emotions they may have and answers some of the more difficult questions. This book is my main recommendation when it comes to helping your child through the big change.

My Family’s Changing A First Look at Family Break-Up By: Pat Thomas

Synopsis: This delightful picture book explores the issue of divorce in reassuringly simple terms. Children’s fears, worries, and questions about this difficult experience are made accessible and approachable. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, this book promotes interaction among children, parents and teachers on an issue that affects many families. This book is also great for helping your young child through this confusing time. Pat Thomas does a good job of asking the right questions to get your child expressing their emotions and asking questions they may have. It also makes sure your child knows that it is not their fault and both parents still love them equally. There is a full glossary to help the child understand new terms they may here, and it has interactive cues on nearly every other page. If you’ve been following my column you know I am very big on using books to help explain difficult and challenging times for children from grief, to adding siblings to the mix, and everything in between. Split families, separation and divorce is one of those challenging topics and these books are definitely good go-to tools if you find yourself in need. 




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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Spring has sprung, and with the turn in the season comes a chance for new opportunities and adventures. While worrying events continue to assail our societies, I cannot stress enough the need to maintain a positive attitude and aptitude for growth. I suppose I should make the distinction between "self-care"—which has become a relatively meaningless dog-whistle for would-be-gurus and narcissists, in my opinion—and fostering wellness, community and kinship. As a culture, we tend to focus too much on a.) ourselves b.) quick fixes and the self-care label easily lends itself concealing, not healing, each of those failings. And no, updating your status or Twitter feed with the latest trendy hashtag does not a philanthropist make. For better or worse, being a "good" person requires a feedback loop of questioning, critique and evaluation between the self and the environment. It involves empathy and active involvement in the lives and welfare of others. Indeed, we learn not only from our own experiences moreover from others who've walked similar or even wildly different paths. To that end, I wanted to share with you my experience with a story sitting on my to-be-read pile since before the pandemic tripled its size. A story that I'd finally got around to starting on a dismal, rainy day where no other entertainment appealed to my melancholic mood. I finished the book in a day once I fell into the pages. You might say that I'd been putting off the read because of its daunting subject matter: cultural divides, oppressive hierarchies, all culminating in a violent assault. I am, of course, talking about: I am Malala.

It's a breathtaking work, co-written by British journalist and author Christina Lamb, who methodically walks us through the various stages of Malala's life in more significant collections of vignettes—"parts," of which there are five in the book. I am Malala initially focuses on Malala's life pre-Taliban, with her father struggling to open and keep open schools that served the poor. As the Taliban encroached into Pakistani lands and culture, Malala had begun her ascent into the public consciousness, too. Malala's star rose alongside tumultuous political shifts such as the assassination of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Biblical floods and devastation wrought upon Pakistan, and the turning point in her story you already know. Although Malala stated she wants to be remembered not as "the girl shot by the Taliban", but as "the girl who fought for education." I'll leave you to discover the rest of her story on your own since what happens after tragedy is often more important than the event itself.

Malala wasn't attacked for her beliefs fifty or sixty years ago, but ten years ago. The ideas that empowered her attackers aren't an extinct and ancient ideology, but a radicalism alive and flourishing today. Although our institutions have faults, our politicians are as unctuous as eels, and social media seems more and more a mind-sickness than an optimized tool for communication; at least our societies mainly function. We're allowed a baseline of personal freedom and utility that other nations do not possess.

Furthermore, while we tend to fixate on our culture wars, I think it's vitally significant to acknowledge the chaos endured by other nations—the nasty business in Ukraine stands as another topical example of this kind of reminder.

—C 

When I read stories like Malala's, I feel a maelstrom of emotions: gratitude, sorrow, awe, courage (which is infectious). I gain a better perspective on my problems and realize that solutions exist to nearly any crisis. Answers that often involve the hands, minds and hearts of many people. Indeed, you can salvage happiness from even the darkest situations, and almost nothing can stop the determination of a human spirit lit with hope—not even a bullet in Malala's case.




Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews



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Arlen’s Gun: A Novel of Men at War.

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Tn Edgar Doleman’s absorbing novel Arlen’s Gun, an angry loner from Baltimore begins to discover brotherhood through the trials of Vietnam combat. Arlen Washington joins the Air Force to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. But he’s sent to Vietnam anyway, where he’s a gunner in an AC-47 gunship, the aircraft type nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon.”


When his plane, code-named “Spooky 45,” is shot down, he has the foresight to disconnect the undamaged minigun from the wreckage. After the survivors manage to connect with an Army unit, Washington takes pride in the gun, a sixbarreled beast that can fire over 1,000 rounds per minute, and he fantasizes about bringing it home to the ’hood and mounting it on a Lincoln town car. But a friend mocks him for considering stealing it: “Think it’ll fit in your duffel bag?” His devotion to and skill with the minigun earn him respect

he’s not used to receiving. Spooky 45’s copilot introduces him as “Airman Second Class Arlen Washington, gunner, general pain in the ass, and life-saving master improviser.” As the story evolves, Arlen discovers that he and his comrades need each other and feels the sharp pain of losing fellow soldiers in battle. This story is told in clear, credible detail, with comparatively little violence initially. Washington is no coward, but in one case he doesn’t immediately respond when his unit is attacked—“the world just needed to go away for a while”—but then the shouting stirs him to action. Tension builds throughout, culminating in a ferocious set-piece battle with “Charlie,” the Viet Cong. Doleman spares readers the gore while still delivering a fast-paced yarn and sense of the horror of warfare. The author is a two-tour Vietnam veteran and career soldier who shows great empathy for his characters and deep knowledge of his subject. Fans of military fiction will be enthralled with this gripping tribute to the ordinary Americans who fought in Vietnam. 


Lost in The Ark.

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Val Agnew’s absorbing young adult/new adult novel follows a young woman confronting questions of faith and family. Eighteen-year-old Kate Bennett’s difficult mother has just died, leaving Kate’s father and two younger sisters adrift. Kate blames herself, as her mother had a stroke upon learning Kate would be attending an evangelical bible college, against the family’s wishes. Nevertheless, she sets out for The Ark, a church and school run by the charismatic Pastor Steve. She accustoms herself to its strict rules and to her quirky roommates, including glamorous, rebellious Bobbi. Pastor Steve’s handsome nephew, Luke, encourages Kate in her faith journey. Their relationship quickly intensifies, and PUBLISHER: Kate finds herself being groomed for the role of a pastor’s ANGEL HILL PRESS wife. Yet, although she longs for the stability and purpose her new life offers, Kate also questions The Ark’s teachings about the role of women. And faced with Luke’s physical standoffishness in the name of premarital chastity, she grapples with an attraction to Nick, an earthy colleague at her off-campus job. When Bobbi suddenly leaves the school, Kate sets off to find out what happened to her — eventually uncovering disturbing revelations about The Ark that force her to reconsider her path. Kate is a terrific, layered main character, offering a relatable mix of strengths and weaknesses. She possesses a genuine faith in God and desire to do good, but her devotion is entwined with a need to escape the complications of her everyday life. And although a bit of a pushover in her initial enchantment with Luke, she proves herself a strong and loving friend to Bobbi. Agnew also excels at depicting the complexity of Kate’s relationships with her family. For instance, Kate slowly and poignantly acknowledges that her harsh and sometimes unloving mother’s legacy has a positive aspect as well. With its believable, engaging protagonist and multi-faceted plot, Lost in The Ark offers its young- and new-adult audience a fully satisfying read.  106

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The Sommelier: Book Two of the Nosferatu Conspiracy.

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The second installment of Brian James Gage’s Nosferatu Conspiracy trilogy (after 2020’s The Sleepwalker) is a grandscale storytelling tour de force that fuses together elements of horror, dark fantasy, alternate history, and apocalyptic fiction. While many believe Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by revolutionaries, this story posits that his death was orchestrated by a group led by German Emperor Wilhelm II, who sought to ignite a war with France and capture a mysterious figure known as the Sommelier, rumored to possess a vial containing the blood of Vlad Drăculea. The blood can be used to gain immortality, and Wilhelm has plans of ruling the world forever. But others seek the vial for different reasons, such as destroying Drăculea’s line forever and saving the world from eternal darkness. PUBLISHER: KDK12 PRESS

Few writers have the creative courage and literary chops to pull off this audacious epic that rewrites world history to include a hidden narrative featuring vampires, werewolves, demons, and an impressive assortment of nightmarish monstrosities. Gage achieves this in grand style. Enriching the unique narrative further, he includes historical figures like Countess Elizabeth Báthory, the Red Baron, and Calamity Jane, to name a few. Powered by multiple intertwining storylines, the novel’s momentum and intensity never let up as action and adventure hurtle across the pages. One biplane chase—in which a character known as the Death Witch attempts to stop a group of heroes from escaping—will literally leave readers breathless. Main characters are deeply portrayed with their own strong individual story arcs; even secondary characters like the giant Sebastian (a reanimated mix of human, plant, and yeti) and Mary (a shapeshifter who is far more than she seems), are intriguingly complex, adding layers to the story. This genre-hybridized saga is one of the most wildly original and entertaining series readers will ever experience. Fans of grand-scale, genre-blending storylines like Justin Cronin’s The Passage and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower will cherish this dark masterwork.  107

Hotel Magnifique.

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“The legendary Hotel Magnifique is like no other: a magical world of golden ceilings, enchanting soirées, and fountains flowing with champagne…. When the Magnifique comes to her hometown, seventeenyear-old Jani hatches a plan to secure jobs there for herself and her younger sister, longing to escape their dreary life. Luck is on their side, and with a stroke of luminous ink on paper the sisters are swept into a life of adventure and opulence. But Jani soon begins to notice sinister spots in the hotel's decadent façade.” This book takes you on a magical journey – after all, when it comes to whimsical settings, the Hotel Magnifique is as whimsical as you can get. The hotel itself reminded me of a mixture between Hogwarts and the castle in Howl’s Moving Castle, with the PUBLISHER: hotel changing locations and structure while, at the PUSHKIN PRESS same time, seeming almost alive. Reading the story, it is easy to get lost in the enchantment of it all, savoring its vivid details and its glittering, fanciful elements. The story’s premise, world-building, and familial relationships kept me hooked throughout. I found myself wanting to know what happened next, and really wanted the central characters to have their happy ending. My main reservation is that the storyline itself, with all its twists and turns, was somewhat While Hotel Magnifique isn’t a book I would’ve normally picked up, it proved to be enjoyable. I can even see it becoming a comfort read for some – for example, The Hobbit and Howl’s Moving Castle are my two main comfort reads, specifically because of their whimsical elements. They are books I can get lost in, books that are equivalent to literary hugs. They are somewhat predictable, and nothing compares to reading them for the first time – yet I read them anyway, because they’re still magical to me. I can see Hotel Magnifique becoming that for others. 


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The Book of Perilous Dishes.

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“1798: A magical, dark adventure. Fourteen-year-old Pâtca, initiated in the occult arts, comes to Bucharest, to her uncle, Cuviosu Zăval, to retrieve the Book of Perilous Dishes. The recipes in this magical book can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. She finds her uncle murdered and the book missing. All that Zăval has left her is a strange map she must decipher. Travelling from Romania to France and on to Germany to do so, Pâtca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to the famous and sublime chef, Silica.”


For Doina Ruști, this publication marks her first ever English translation. Originally published in 2017 by Polirom Publishing, The Book of Perilous Dishes was re-printed by Neem Tree Press on March 3, 2022, and was translated from Romanian by James Christian Brown. The book itself is based in 18th century Bucharest, with the main character, 14-yearold Pâtca, seeking to solve the mystery her deceased family has left behind for her.

I’m a sucker for historical fiction, especially when folkloric magic is involved (as is the case here) – so, if I’m being honest, I went into this story already biased in its favor. I don’t know what it is about Eastern European occultism, but I tend to enjoy reading about that form of magic more than I enjoy reading about complex, fabricated magic systems – it feels more grounded, I suppose, more possible, because the magic (and the process of achieving it) is tangible. With this in mind, I was very curious to see how Doina would approach food as having magical properties, and I was not disappointed. From start to finish, I was engrossed, and reading some of the recipes actually made me a little hungry (despite their less-than-savory side effects)! Another enjoyable aspect of the book was Pâtca herself, as well as the mysteriousness of the pagan god whose power Pâtca’s lineage draws upon. I do want to make you aware, though, that the book’s synopsis may be a bit misleading – Pâtca does not travel to France or Germany until the end of the book, with the majority of the story taking place in Bucharest. So, if you read the synopsis and go into the book expecting a travel adventure, you may be disappointed. However, this wasn’t a setback for me. With all of these things in mind, it was an absolute pleasure to read The Book of Perilous Dishes – I hope Doina receives more English translations, that way I can read more of her work!  109

Of Myths And Men.

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Of Myths and Men by Catherine Dellosa is a story about 18-year-old Ava who has the responsibility of defending Earth thrust upon her by a menagerie of fantasy creatures, or more accurately, the alien immigrants that inspired said fantasies. With a large cast of characters, saucy romantic sub plots, a world-ending threat, and a dash of fandom and world-building, this novel falls comfortably into the now-booming YA fantasy/ sci-fi genre. Much of the novel is devoted to dialogue as the human and not-so-human characters discuss PUBLISHER: grief, heartbreak, or fear as they prepare to PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE face extraterrestrial takeover. One of the most compelling points brought up in one of these conversations was how there was a denial of the “Chosen One” trope. This culminated in a character saying that what truly mattered was being someone who chooses to make a difference for those they care about, which I found refreshing. If you’re generally die-hard YA fan, you will enjoy your time on this alternate reality. The ending leaves some things unresolved, but fear not! The author confirmed that this is just the first installment in a trilogy and Of Myths and Men is “just the beginning!” 


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The feel of despair, the hope of something better, healing…different permeates Bieker’s collection, Heartbroke. Her characters stumble out of the depths of a miner’s crackhouse, an old beater, and a bedroom filled with feces in a ramshackle house. Each story is situated neatly under the glaring California sun, yet the heat was the last thing on my mind. I was rooting for the underdog. I too wanted more for them. Their stories reminded me of the places I don’t want to go; I wondered what turn of life PUBLISHER: kept me out of the same dire straits. Were the CATAPULT characters always right? No. The raisin farmer’s daughter wasn’t. Could Bobby’s mother have made better choices? For sure. Yet, it’s not a crime to be born to a raisin farmer. Single parenthood isn’t easy; it’s filled with hard choices. When you read Heartbroke, you’ll be introduced to vibrant characters making difficult choices. You’ll be drawn into the underbelly of suburban American life where people trying to eke out a living are cast farther out than most identified as misfits. You might even find that Bobby’s mom’s words haunt you into being sure you are specific… “so the universe can hear you” 



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“She's lonely and searching for connection. He's lonely, but afraid to reach out. But is finding someone else really the answer to their problems? Crushing, an illustrated misadventure in love and loneliness, is a story told in silence — a story about connections in the big city — making them, missing them, and longing for them. Achingly beautiful, subtly defiant, and full of humor and quiet wisdom, Sophie Burrows’ debut graphic novel is a unique meditation on the human condition in the 21st century, and a timely examination of millennial life in an age of isolation. Sometimes, words aren't enough.”


Crushing is a lovely, poignant story, and makes for a unique read since it is told solely through pictures. Regarding the unnamed central characters, they are both very relatable – the way their experiences with anxiety and loneliness are handled is my favorite part of the storyline, as their struggles are familiar to anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowd. The main thematic question I noticed was, what does it mean to find community and belonging in a world

full of strangers? I especially appreciate that Sophie doesn’t present romance as the answer, turning instead to the pockets of kindness that strangers can provide, if you let them. And it’s absolutely incredible that she is able to convey all this through drawings! Speaking of which, Sophie’s art style is beautiful, and the pictures look like they’ve been hand-drawn with colored pencils. Each person that appears within the story, whether they be in the foreground or background, is unique – setting the story in a big city helps amplify the loneliness that the central characters experience, while also making you feel small. Additionally, Sophie’s drawings of human faces are simplistic, but they still convey so much emotion – I find the simplicity really endearing, and I think it enhances rather than inhibits the story. In terms of style, I also think it is really cool that Sophie drew exclusively in black and white, with the exception of red, which is the only color used in any of the drawings (exemplified in the cover art, pictured above). This design choice makes the pictures look very dynamic, and naturally draws the readers’ gaze where it needs to be. Overall, Crushing is a fantastic read, especially if you feel alone in life – because the story and its characters remind you that you’re not.  112

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Bayou Liberty.

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Bayou Liberty by Kelly Sullivan Yonce is a short novel about sisters,Sawyer and Maggie, overcoming trauma. Their parents died when they were both teenagers. As an adult, Sawyer is fresh out of an abusive marriage, and Maggie is coping with the fact she has cancer. Both girls left their home in Louisiana at different times in their lives and ended up in South Carolina, where their parents were from, as adults to help them process their traumas.


Bayou Liberty is a coming of age story for adults. The adult characters each have their own demons and traumas they need to work through in order to live their best lives. There are roadblocks, secrets, and discoveries made along that way that doesn't make this an easy process.

This novel is written in a way that it is as if your best friend is telling you what is going on in their lives. The reader gets invested in the main character’s, Sawyer, well-being and wants her to succeed in her new life. For a short novel, one does get a grasp for what the characters have gone through their childhood up to adulthood. This is helped by Yonce inserting purposeful flashbacks that help tell the characters’ stories. Yonce is a faith based author and a pastor. Because of this, Yonce is able to show the struggle of her characters trying to find grace, forgiveness, and purpose back in their lives. She does a wonderful job in finding the balance of pain and faith in this novel. Even if the reader does not follow a faith or religion, they will be able to relate with the characters in more than one way. Most readers should be able to connect with one or more character in many different ways. 


When You Leave Me.

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When You Leave Me is Susan Wingate’s newest upcoming release. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this suspense thriller/mystery pulls you into the story right away. After a short violent earthquake shakes the remote island where they live along the coast of Washington State, Jaime Michaels’ husband has gone missing. Detective Rob Rimmler and a search and rescue team begin looking for Larry, who has dementia. After three months, the search is called off, and Rob begins his own investigation into Larry’s disappearance. The way Wingate structured her novel is interesting to me. When I first started reading When You Leave Me, the story is set in June 2020, the month Larry disappeared, and the point of view is third person PUBLISHER: DOWN & OUT BOOKS with a focus on Jaime. The second chapter jumps to three months later—September—and the point of view switches to first person with Jaime still telling the story. I felt like I had a better connection to the story when I was reading the chapters told in first person. I felt like I was inside Jaime’s head feeling her struggles as she dealt with the loss of her husband and as she shared her thoughts about dealing with his dementia before he went missing. If you have a relative with dementia or have had one in the past, you’ll feel Jaime’s pain. I know I certainly did. With all of Jaime’s reflections of her husband and their lives together, I felt like I really got to know the character well. And even though at times, her reflections slowed the story down at some points, they made the story seem much more realistic. As the story continued to unfold, the suspense grew, and I wanted to keep reading and solve the mystery of Larry’s disappearance. When You Leave Me is a great suspense thriller/mystery that made me want to keep reading until the end. And having a real-life issue like dementia as part of the storyline made the novel even better.  114

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London in Black.

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On June 6, Jack Lutz is releasing his first novel, London in Black. This crime fiction is not only a suspense thriller, but it will appeal to those who like a dystopian setting. Set a few years into the future, DI Lucy Stone is trying to solve the murder of a scientist, who might have had the antidote to a plague that has been in London for a couple of years. Lucy just happens to be one of the ‘Vulnerables’ who stays alive by giving herself boost injections. As I began reading London in Black, I noticed Lutz’s short sentences, sometimes not even complete sentences and sometimes extremely short. It is important to know that he originally wrote this book PUBLISHER: PUSHKIN PRESS as a screenplay, so that certainly carried over when he changed it to a novel. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked his writing style. However, the more I read, the more I realized how quick the plot moved along, and it made me want to keep reading. Even though Lutz writes the story from Lucy’s viewpoint and in third person, he gives us plenty of her inner thoughts by using italics. This allows us to really get to know her throughout the story. Right away, I noticed Lucy likes the “f ” word, and while that may turn some readers away, I think the word’s usage shows both her toughness and vulnerability. Taking place in 2029, London in Black doesn’t seem too far from what we’ve gone through right now with our own pandemic. It made me think about how real this story is or at least could be. This novel may be futuristic, but Lutz weaves a bit of the history of London into the plot as well. This helps us understand not only the story better but Lucy’s character, too. London in Black is a suspenseful and dystopian thriller and gives us a realistic look into a young woman’s life—both past and present. And it will keep you turning the pages.  115

The Essence of Nathan Biddle.

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The Essence of Nathan Biddle by J. William Lewis explores what it means to exist. In this bildungsroman of sorts, 18-year-old Kit grapples with the idea of his existence while struggling against recent heartbreak, a new and questionable relationship, and the familial trauma that he’s been avoiding. Despite Kit’s obsessive and pensive attitude, he’s a very relatable and sympathetic character. Throughout his struggle to find meaning, you see something very true, and if these are thoughts you’ve been preoccupied with, you’ll likely see a lot of yourself. The novel uses a recurring symbol of a heron standing in the tide beneath a floodlight, and it was an accurate representation of the core conflict: someone standing on the edge, wary, puzzled, and alone, squinting into PUBLISHER: GREENLEAF BOOK GROUP the darkness for an answer. PRESS The author, much like Kit, was clever in writing this novel, especially with the thematic entwining of Kit’s relationships with his ex, Anna, and the new love interest, Sarah. Anna breaks up with Kit early in the story because she couldn’t bear the weight of his unrealistic and idealized perception of her, and he soon begins going with Sarah, a girl who has had her eye on him ever since she first saw him; however, it isn’t long until Kit realizes that Sarah is treating him the same way he did Anna. I found this book to be oddly charming and funny. And as someone who has spent time thinking about nothingness, I found myself relating to Kit as I’ve had many of the same thoughts as he did. Though the story leaves things unresolved, I feel that is part of a continued effort by the author to capture the truth of life. Much of what we fight against in our own minds can’t be resolved in one summer, and whether or not we find answers, we grow as people. This growth was what I believe that author wanted us to focus on, with one line sticking with me upon finishing the book: “Don’t dismiss calamity until you can look over your shoulder and see what it has produced.” 


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Interview: Diane Schellhaas Windsor. Publisher at Motina Books BY CHRISTINA CONSOLINO

Small, independent publishing companies have launched the careers of some amazing authors, and I’m always looking to understand more about how those companies work. While I’ve never met Diane Windsor, the founder of Motina Books, in person, our paths have crossed a number of times over the last year or so, and I knew I wanted to hear more about her company. A big welcome to Diane Windsor and Motina Books.


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DW: Thank you, Christina! I had the pleasure of speaking with founder Margaret Brown in early 2018. I had just discovered Shelf Unbound, and I wanted to learn more. She told me about her leukemia, and at that time, she said she was recovering. She passed away in June 2018 from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the same month that my son (then 20 years old) was diagnosed with that disease. I realized that there are many good writers in the world who just won’t have the opportunity to be published by one of the big publishing houses. It’s practically a requirement to have a huge following on multiple social media platforms. That’s hard to do when writers just want to write! So, I started my little company, Motina Books, in 2016, and it’s just me and probably will be for quite a while. My mission is to give women (especially mothers) a voice. I primarily publish books by women, but I have a couple of really great male authors.


DW: I have always loved books. When I was very young, I read all the Little House books. (One of my authors is actually the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Children's Literature Award for 2021!) In middle school or high school, I remember staying up very late reading Stephen King and scaring myself to death! Later, in a high school math class, I got in trouble for reading a novel and not paying attention to the teacher. I thought I was doing both very successfully, but he disagreed. Movies appeal to me, too, but when I’m reading a book, I really feel like I’m with the characters of the story. I love listening to audiobooks as well. YOU’RE A ONE-PERSON COMPANY. HOW DO YOU GET EVERYTHING ACCOMPLISHED? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO OUTSOURCE? AND HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU AIM TO PUBLISH EACH YEAR?

DW: I don’t outsource anything right now, but I do require that any 119

manuscripts that come to me are very well edited. I feel that once that task is complete, I can get a handle on everything else. I have a process in place that starts months before the launch date. I love to start with cover design because then everything else, like preorders and getting out advance copies, falls into place nicely. Sometimes I make mistakes. When that happens, I do my best to fix the error quickly. And I feel really bad when I make a mistake! My goal is to publish six books each year—one every other month is very doable for me. WE FIRST CONNECTED ABOUT A YEAR AGO, AND I’M AWED (AND INSPIRED) BY YOUR COMMITMENT TO YOUR AUTHORS. WHAT’S THE EASIEST WAY FOR YOU TO SHOW SUPPORT? THE MOST DIFFICULT? IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT YOU HOPE TO DO MOVING FORWARD?

DW: Thank you so much for your kind words! As a publisher, I believe that my relationship with my authors should be a partnership. I do my best to support my authors in different ways. I think the easiest way is to be responsive when someone has a question. They can ask 120

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me anything, pretty much any time. If I’m not available, I do my best to let them know. And of course, I don’t always know the answer to their questions, but I can usually do a little research and figure it out. As for most difficult, I wish I could figure out how to sell a ton of books! I do work closely with my authors regarding marketing efforts. I find that the most successful are the ones who think of outof-the-box marketing ideas. There is no “magic pill.” We have to continuously work at it. Ultimately, readers want to engage with the author, not the publisher. But I do what I can to advise and guide my authors. I recently met a woman who owns The Rustic Moon Bookshop in Wimberley, Texas—it’s a gorgeous store in the Texas Hill Country. She is happy to carry books that I publish, which is really a win-win for both of us. I had a bunch of books just sitting around my house, and now they can be in a bookstore! And I will always send her our latest releases. IN ADDITION TO PUBLISHING, YOU’RE AN AUTHOR YOURSELF. DO YOU THINK THAT EXPERIENCE GIVES YOU A BETTER PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT YOUR AUTHORS REQUIRE?

DW: Yes, I have published a few of my own books. I do think I’m a better publisher than an author. The author experience did help me, though, because I was able to learn the publishing process (KDP and IngramSpark) using my own books and not books by other writers. One of my authors recently asked me if I miss writing. I told her, no. I really don’t. I do enjoy writing a short story occasionally, but that’s about it. WHAT TYPE OF AUTHOR TENDS TO APPROACH YOU? IS THERE A GENRE THAT YOU HOLD MORE AFFINITY FOR THAN OTHERS? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’D PREFER NOT TO PUBLISH?

DW: Since my mission is to help women publish their books, that’s typically who reaches out to me. I’ve published a few memoirs, children’s books, YA romance, and this year I’ll publish my first picture book. I’m really open to talking about anything and seeing if it’s a good fit for both Motina Books and the author. WHAT’S YOUR SUBMISSION PROCESS LIKE, AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR AN AUTHOR TO HEAR BACK FROM YOU? WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT WHEN LOOKING FOR A PUBLISHER?

DW: Many people use the submission form on my website, which is great. If one of my existing authors refers someone to me, sometimes I’ll just get an email, which is fine. I really try to respond quickly. And, if I can, I’ll have a phone call or a Zoom call with the author, even if I’m not able to consider their submission. I believe that authors should do their research when looking for a publisher— don’t just go with the first one who accepts your manuscript. There are many different options available, and the author needs to work with the publisher who’s the best fit. And that can be different for different people. IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE MOTINA BOOKS USING ONLY THREE WORDS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

DW: Creativity, communication, planning. More about Diane and Motina Books: - Motina Books Website - Motina Books on Facebook - Motina Books on Twitter 




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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Detectives Michael and Daniel must try to solve a murder on planet Earth. The victim may or may not be named Jane from Yesterday. And the Man of One Thousand Years, cult leader of the Architects of Q'Noor, may or may not be responsible. As Michael and Daniel hurl themselves inexorably toward a final confrontation with the Man of One Thousand Years through a dreamlike landscape of exploding cacti, cultists, centaurs, spells, river gorgons, lobster enthusiasts, and undulating portals activated by prayer, they collide with a succession of randos and adversaries—Vampyre King, Man with Face Like Fire, Qyumoo'un, Eater of Dreams, Excalibur, Prince Al-Wajeed, and dozens more—sparing few in their frenzied quest for the truth.


THE NEW EXISTENCE by Michael Collins


Moving between the American South and Mexico, these stories explore how immigrant and native characters are shaped by absent family and geography. A Chilanga teen wins a trip to Miami to film a reality show about family while pining for the American brother she's never met. A Louisiana carpenter tends to his drug-addicted son while rebuilding his house after a slew of hurricanes. A New Orleans ne'er-do-well opens a Catholicthemed bar in the wake of his devout mother’s death. A village girl from Chiapas baptizes her infant on a trek toward the U.S. border.

Chicagoan Helen Price, a dying woman, recounts her life while driving toward an oncology appointment. She attempts to take her own life, survives, then dies under tragic circumstances. In death, Helen bequeaths the family home to her only son, gay playwright Norman Price. Father to an adopted Chinese child, and recently broken up with his partner, Norman’s life is in crisis. Helen also bequeaths a series of tapes to Nate Feldman, a Vietnam draft dodger ensconced in the far reaches of Canada, and the son of Helen’s former boss, Theodore Feldman. Nate’s return to America to claim the tapes occasions confronting a history of animus between father and son, but also the nature of the relationship between Helen Price and Theodore Feldman.




BENEFIT by Siobhan

by Frederic Tuten


In fifteen masterful stories, Frederic Tuten entertains questions of existential magnitude, pervasive yearning, and the creative impulse. A wealthy older woman reflects on her relationship with her drowned husband, a painter, as she awaits her own watery demise. An exhausted artist, feeling stuck, reads a book of criticism about allegory and symbolism before tossing her paintings out the window. Writing a book about the lives of artists he admires—Cezanne, Monet, Rousseau—a man imagines how each vignette could be a life lesson for his wife, the artist he perhaps admires the most.

Laura, a student from a modest background, escapes her small town to join the ranks of the academic elite on a Weatherfield fellowship to study at Oxford University. She enthusiastically throws herself into her coursework, yet she is never able to escape a feeling of unease and dislocation among her fellow chosen “students of promise and ambition.”


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Years later, back in the United States with a PhD and dissertation on Henry James, she loses her job as an adjunct professor and reconnects with the Weatherfield Foundation. Commissioned to write a history for its centennial, she becomes obsessed by the Gilded Age origins of the Weatherfield fortune. As she is lured back into abandoned friendships within the glimmering group, she discovers hidden aspects of herself and others that point the way to a terrifying freedom.

PEST by Elizabeth Foscue High school senior Hallie spends her days traipsing from one Montecito estate to the next...spraying ant poison. Between her dad’s pest control company, her mom’s pond cleaning service, and her side gig at a tourist hotspot in Santa Barbara, Hal puts the “work” in working class. But Hal's tired of ditching friends to skim dead fish from fountains, and she’s weary of divorced-parent politics. So Hal has a plan: win the Verhaag Scholarship, go to an east coast school, and never come back. But the Verhaag Scholarship has a proud history of nepotism and a last-minute contender just crawled out of the woodwork. With her college plans rapidly derailing, Hal is forced to enlist the help the dim, infuriating, rich kid next door. Hal’s willing to do anything to win the scholarship, but her side gigs are creating a tangled web that might keep her stuck in Santa Barbara forever, and now she’s wondering if she misjudged the boy next door.


AN ETERNAL LEI by Naomi Hirahara

t's the middle of the pandemic and Hawaii has been virtually closed to tourists. So when Leilani Santiago and her young sisters save a mysterious woman wearing an unusual lei from drowning in Waimea Bay in Kaua‘i, questions abound. Who is she and where did she come from? Leilani suddenly finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when the lei is traced back to her best friend, the very pregnant Courtney Kahuakai, and her family’s flower business. While the woman is in a medically-induced coma at a local hospital, Leilani sets out to discover her identity and her connections to the island. She is drawn deeper into the mystery, only to stumble into secrets that prove deadly. When Leilani’s investigation puts her family in danger, her survival and the safety of those dearest to her will depend on her sense of ingenuity and the strength of her island community.




A Swedish-American midwife is a Best of the Net poet and Pushcart Prize nominee, and has released her bold, life-affirming debut poetry collection.

From the acclaimed author of Before Anyone Else comes a captivating new novel about the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

"A midwife is in the thick of it, she sees it all," Jennifer Worth, author of Call the Midwife.

Bailey thought she’d gotten her happy ending. She is married to the man she loves, she has started a family, and her design business is flourishing. But when Bailey’s ex-husband, a famous TV chef, is found murdered with her DNA all over his apartment and body, she is suddenly facing murder charges in a high-profile case. Already burdened by the demands and challenges of marriage, motherhood, and her career, Bailey now must do everything she can to prove her innocence. But it’s the ones she thought would surely be on her side— her enigmatic lawyer and her husband—who might be doubting her innocence the most.

It is midwifing in its broadest sense—from releasing a newborn’s stuck shoulders or catching a baby in the caul, to Socratic questioning around body autonomy, social justice and climate sustainability. The poems are layered and bi-cultural, rooted in contrasts between America and Sweden, as well as between colonial/ industrial and ecological/ relational ways of caring for each other and the earth. With a sense of humor, love, art and aging, Jordemoder is a collection of midwifed hope.




The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. Patricia Hanlon and her husband built their home and raised their children alongside it. But it is not until the children are grown that they begin to swim the tidal estuary daily. Immersing herself, she experiences, with all her senses in all seasons, the vigor of a place where the two ecosystems of fresh and salt water mix, merge, and create new life. In Swimming to the Top of the Tide, Hanlon lyrically charts her explorations, at once intimate and scientific. Noting the disruptions caused by human intervention, she bears witness to the vitality of the watersheds, their essential role in the natural world, and the responsibility of those who love them to contribute to their sustainability.


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The girl’s body is curled up like a shell and almost completely buried in sand. Only her fingertips can be seen, reaching helplessly up towards an escape she will never find… Seventeen-year-old Shelby Mayfield sits alone on a bus to Fog Harbor, California. Aside from a few items of clothing, all she has with her is twenty-two dollars, the ragdoll she’s kept since kindergarten, and the devastating secret she’s been hiding. How long will it be before her family realizes she’s gone? Can anyone see the fresh bruise on her cheek beneath the makeup? Perhaps she was a fool to believe the person she is meeting in this remote little town could help her…

THE MOMENTS BETWEEN DREAMS by Judith F. Brenner Carol misses red flags about Joe’s need for control before she marries him, dashing her dreams for herself and her family. Trouble escalates after their daughter Ellie is paralyzed by the polio virus and Joe returns from WWII. Carol realizes how brutal waking life can be, and she conceals bruises and protects her children the best she can. The Moments Between Dreams is a captivating story of a 1940s housewife who conforms to the rulebook of society until Joe pushes her too far. His constant intimidation shrinks Carol’s confidence while she tries to boost Ellie’s. Church-going neighbors in Carol’s tight-knit Polish community are complacent, but Sam, a handsome reporter, stirs up Carol’s zest for life. Despite impossible circumstances, Carol plans a secret escape....


CONSTANTINE AT THE BRIDGE by Stephen Dando-Collins

The AD 312 Battle of the Milvian Bridge, just outside Rome, marked the start of a monumental change for Rome and her empire. This battle was the figurative bridge between old pagan Rome and new Christian Rome. And once Constantine had crossed that bridge, there was no turning back. Constantine the Great, after winning this battle against his brother-in-law Maxentius and taking power at Rome, and strongly influenced by his mother, forcefully steered Romans away from the traditional worship of their classical gods toward Christianity, setting Rome on two paths – the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, and the relegation of the city of Rome to obscurity as the Western Roman Empire collapsed within 175 years.


FOOL'S ERRAND by Jeffrey S.



Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall--a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado--from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can't stop thinking about Taya.

Years after the death of his gangster father, a young man discovers a letter that sends him reluctantly defying the mob as he races to locate a hidden treasure.

But Maddie soon realizes there's more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn's doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters. As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything.

It’s been six years since the untimely death of Blackie—a charming rogue who endlessly pursued “The Big Deal”—when his son discovers an enigmatic letter telling of a cache of stolen money. Feeling no choice but to pursue his father’s dream, he embarks on a search that leads from New York, to the Strip in Las Vegas, and ultimately to the south of France. Along this life-altering journey, he is confronted by the dangers of his father’s past as he unravels a decadesold mystery, while revealing other long-buried secrets as well. Poignant and entertaining, humorous and exciting, romantic and mysterious, Fool’s Errand leads him to discover both the treasure and himself.




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She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” – LOUISA MAY ALCOTT


APRIL / MAY 2022


Articles inside

Interview: Klecko, author of 3 a.m. Austin Texas.

pages 48-52

Interview: Jack Lutz, Author of London in Black

pages 38-42

Telling Stories without Words: An Interview with Sophia Burrows

pages 70-73

Indie Reviews

pages 104-117

Interview: Diane Schellhaas Windsor Publisher at Motina Books By Christina

pages 118-121

Fit Lit Christian Brown

pages 102-103

Book Mom Megan Lord

pages 100-101

Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

pages 96-97

Indie Bookstore

pages 98-99

Pride & Publishing Chrissy Brown

pages 94-95

Podster Gabrielle Guerra

pages 90-93

Small Press Reviews Sean Malone

pages 74-75

Magical Food, Latin Deities, & Balkan Tradition: An Interview with Doina Ruști

pages 84-89

Interview: Kelly Sullivan Yonce Author of Bayou Liberty By Gabrielle

pages 9-13

NFT eBooks Can Actually Be Pretty

pages 14-21

Girl Plus Book Megan Lord

pages 44-47

Sudowrite: The Rise of AI Tools in

pages 54-57
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