Under Brushstrokes

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “RICKIE TRUJILLO,” BY NICHOLAS BRADLEY AND “EMERSONIA,” BY JOHN SERUGO, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE “SECOND TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR, JUST CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR’S PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Under Brushstrokes

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Hedy Habra

THE EDITOR: William Pitt Root and Pamela Uschuk, Silver Concho Poetry Series Editors.

THE PUBLISHER: Kevin Morgan Watson, Press 53: https://www.press53.com

SUMMARY: Under Brushstrokes is, for the most part, inspired by artworks from different periods and styles, ranging from Bosch, Hokusai, Goya, Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Degas, Chagall, to Guccione, Varo, Tanning, Gmeiner, Ferez, Potocki and other lesser known contemporary artists whose work I greatly admire.

An image posted by the author.I have tried to use paintings as a point of departure for a flight of the imagination; an attempt at transforming a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional, almost cinematic rendition that involves all five senses. The collection alternates prose poems and poems with line breaks.

Most poems in Under Brushstrokes are persona poems that delve into the speaker’s interiority, unraveling at times a stream of consciousness, in which case a fluidity of movement is required. Some poems consist of a single sentence, offering a certain liquidity that allows for a faster pace. Others engage in a dialogue with the artist or represent an interaction between the artist and his subject. The visual impact of a painting is immediate, whereas a poem can offer a juxtaposition of scenes that allows a play with time and space, all of which can be projected on the page, within the framed form of the prose poem, like on a canvas.

THE BACK STORY: I have a passion for visual art and I am also an artist, therefore, I always spend a lot of time in museums or consulting books about art. I also have gathered a great number of paintings from my Internet browsing and archived them in folders. I started writing these poems several years ago, but it took over a decade to complete the collection.

In Under Brushstrokes, I do not aim at offering a mere description of the work of art, but rather to express my response to it. I try to delve under the artists’ brushstrokes to unravel hidden meanings or create a new version of the artwork, using the music and colors of language as tools.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I have painted the cover art for Under Brushstrokes as well as for my first poetry collection, Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013). I have been practicing Chinese ink brush painting for several years, and it has challenged my perception about visual art. For the Chinese, poetry and painting are one, and I can understand why since I have been practicing both disciplines.

I used to work with oils, in which case, superimposed brushstrokes convert the canvas into a palimpsest imbued with mysteries to unravel. But the absorbency of rice paper is unforgiving: it is a hit or miss that gives the painting a poetic quality since it is the expression of the moment’s emotion. I guess that must be the reason why I chose Under Brushstrokes as a title, along with the cover art, which illustrates a woman bathing in the midst of lotus leaves and flowers, with empty spaces that correspond to silences in poetry. The title also suggests that under every brushstroke lies a hidden meaning, yet to be unveiled by every attentive spectator. The combination of brushstrokes, as well as the selection of words in a poem, offer vertical meanings subject to many interpretations.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Under Brushstrokes’ book reviews would answer best this question: http://www.hedyhabra.com/reviews/.

I think that Under Brushstrokes would appeal to readers who appreciate dream imagery and are ready to actively participate in recreating meanings. Readers curious about the intersection of art and poetry would also be interested in the book, especially because of the great variety of artists whose work inspired these poems.

I wanted poems to speak for themselves, so I gradually didn’t accompany poems with an epigraph indicating the source of inspiration. They were all published in journals without mentioning the fact that were ekphrastic poems. But all the artworks are listed in an index with the corresponding poems’ titles, so that readers interested in art and in the creative process could look them up and, as they reread the poem, enjoy a different perspective along with different layers of interpretation.

Every book is unique since it is the expression of an individual voice and the speaker’s experience, which transcends through persona poems. Because I have lived in different countries and learned several languages, I have been exposed to different cultures and literary and artistic approaches that have influenced my writing.

REVIEW COMMENTS: Praise for Under Brushstrokes

In the poem “Brushstrokes,” Hedy Habra writes “the painter raises inexorably the level of the waters, and the woman knows… she will only be fulfilled by drowning in the torrent.” The poems, in verse and prose, in Habra’s new collection, Under Brushstrokes, pay homage to the transformative power of art in the most authentic way possible—by demonstrating it. — Stuart Dybek, author of Ecstatic Cahoots and Paper Lantern

The poems in Hedy Habra’s Under Brushstrokes amount to something more sweeping than simple ekphrasis. She makes no attempt to describe works of art, but instead uses them as points of departure for explorations of the dreaming psyche. The resulting meditations, often adopting the genre of prose poetry, retain the colorful imagery we expect in visual art, expressed in a language as precise as it is vivid. One senses throughout a constructive awareness of literary and artistic culture in several traditions. — Alfred Corn, author of Tables

Hedy Habra’s Under Brushstrokes is a rich tapestry of images, sounds and meanings. Like any tapestry the complexity of weaving, the craft and artistry are often under or subliminal to the larger images, and in this way the book lives up to its title in that there is so much foundation that goes into the building of an image and giving the image not only meanings but breath and life itself. Enjoy Under Brushstrokes, it is meant to be read and read again. –.P. Dancing Bear, editor of The American Poetry Review.

Under Brushstrokes is an astonishing collection of poems responding to art. Through Habra’s accomplished pen, these ekphrastic poems create an immediate world of rich textures and image, giving the reader intimate access to such diverse talents as Klimt, Guccione, Bosch, Tanning, and Hokusai. She explores the stages of art—from thought to modeling to canvas—revealing the layered connections between the individual and art itself. These are poems of depth and skill, of beauty and paradox, of “words suffused / in linseed oil,” as Habra writes—a marvel of a work. — Sam Rasnake, editor of Blue Fifth Review

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Hedy Habra is a poet, an artist and a literary critic. Born in Egypt, she is of Lebanese origin and has lived in both countries. After several years in Europe she made her home in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1980. She has authored two poetry collections, Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015), finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the International Poetry Book Award, and Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013), winner of the USA Best Book Award and finalist for the International Poetry Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink 2013), won the Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award.

Habra has an M.A. and an M.F.A. in English and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Spanish literature, all from Western Michigan University where she currently teaches. Her book of criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa (Iberoamericana 2012) focuses on the visual aspects of the 2010 Peruvian Nobel recipient’s narrative.

A recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Awards, she was an eight-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, her work appears in Cimarron Review, The Bitter Oleander, Blue Fifth Review, Cider Press Review, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Nimrod, Poet Lore, World Literature Today and Verse Daily. Her website is hedyhabra.com

Links to Hedy Habra’s Books:

Flying Carpets: http://www.interlinkbooks.com/product_info.php?products_id=3127

Tea in Heliopolis: https://www.press53.com/poetry-collections/tea-in-heliopolis-by-hedy-habra

Under Brushstrokes: https://www.press53.com/poetry-collections/under-brushstrokes-by-hedy-habra

Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa: https://www.amazon.com/Mundos-alternos-art%C3%ADsticos-Vargas-Spanish/dp/8484896897

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Like most writers, I always work on different projects at the same time. I have just finished a manuscript titled “The Taste of the Earth,” that is currently under consideration; it consists in a ‘memoir in verse,” and a meditation on the current situation in my countries of origin, Lebanon and Egypt. This upcoming book is a sort of extension of my first collection, “Tea in Heliopolis,” which covered earlier years. I also write poetry in French and Spanish and have a bilingual Spanish /English collection in progress. On account of my passion for art, I have also been working on poetry inspired by visual art and I am in the process of finalizing a new manuscript of ekphrastic poetry that has been ongoing for several years. Although in Under Brushstrokes, I dedicated a significant space to women artists that fascinated me, the new collection will consist in its majority of poems inspired by surrealist women.

SAMPLE POEMS:

Broken Ladder:

I am no longer this little boy who ran away at night to milk the moon and stars. What am I to do if the ladder is broken, leaving golden threads dangling in broad daylight, braided rays of hardened light yet fine as silk spun by a silkworm, once linking me to that lost site of fearless joys? But I will send back the stardust I fed on for so long. Now you know why I study the Almanac, awaiting for the right day and time when wheat is ripe, reaching high into those rays of light. You know why I’m here, in the midst of this field, dressed in my Sunday clothes: I will pull these gilded chords as those of a tower bell ringing above beckoning a gift filled with the substance of dreams, wrapped with Queen Mab’s veils. Don’t fear it is too heavy: it weighs less than a breath or a sigh. Let the wind blow softly, watch it rise to the top with your eyes closed.

First published by Pirene’s Fountain in First Water, The Best of Pirene’s Fountain Anthology

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

 

Sounds in the Attic

Fluttering wings wrapped in shimmering muslin veils dance

around the broken planks, a gaping wound in the hardwood

floor littered with scattered down, love letters flying away

from torn photographs. A whisper breaks the rhythm of the

footbeats: a tree is unearthed, its roots bleed, veins sapping

roots of my heart, throbbing as a frightened sparrow held

tightly in a palm. Hungry moon, do not lure me into your

maddened circle. Don’t you see that hole in my chest no

longer keeps a beat?

First published by Cider Press Review

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

Nocturne

While all passengers are asleep, I stay up late, bent over my desk until, rising from the next-door cabin, the woman’s voice begins to lull her child to sleep, attentive to the rise and fall of her voice my pencil runs over the page, in a sinuous way echoing the sound of her humming carrying the stories she will surely tell her child when he grows older but that for now are rocking him in the manner of an empty score filled with inaudible words like notes traced with invisible ink only perceived by me who records them faithfully night after night, stringing words and sound waves together as though weaving a necklace in an unknown language drowning her child’s cries and nightly fears within reefs filled with corals and thick-lipped butterfly fish kissing away the sadness and longing for the home they left behind and the pains yet to come.

First published by Blue Fifth Review

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

The Apple of Granada

Some say Eve handed a pomegranate to Adam, and it makes sense

to me. How can the flesh of an apple compare to the bejeweled

juicy garnets, the color of passion, hidden under its elastic pink skin

tight as an undersized glove, a fruit withholding the power to doom

and exile since the dawn of time. For a few irresistible seeds, didn’t

Persephone lose sight of the sun for months? I mean, think of the

mystery hidden in its slippery gems, of the sweetness of the tongue

sealing the union with the beloved in the Song of Songs. And I

succumb, despite how messy it is to crack the fruits open, invade that

hive, oblivious to the indelible droplets splattering the sink, reaching

beyond the marble counter all over my arms and face, as my

fingertips delicately remove its inner membranes, until the bowl is

filled with shiny ruby red arils. I add a few drops of rose and orange

blossom water, the way my mother did, and my grandmother used

to do, and her mother before her.

First published by Cumberland River Review

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

Brushstrokes

Without any sound, waves permeate the floor, algae cover the curtains with an insidious verdigris patina, and she watches herself, complacent, looking awry in the mirror while she unbuttons her black evening dress, a mirror that remains empty like her own life. Seated in a sofa, back turned, he drowns in his indifference into the surge, and surely, it is his face that is seen reflected in the portrait hanging on the wall, an immersed look, barely visible behind the wide-open newspaper. Waters rise to the rhythm of the notes resounding from the rear window, in which a man with a white wig plays the piano, as though it were Mozart composing his Requiem. The painter raises inexorably the level of the waters, and the woman knows that even in that last moment, she will only be fulfilled by drowning in the torrent furtively surrounding them.

First published by Danse Macabre

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

 

Desert Song

It all started when he set out in his suit and tie, searching for a sand rose in the desert. Wandering through dream’s corridors, he hoped to unearth a treasure that would resist the drought of feelings each millenary facet telling of the innumerable ways love can be immortalized. He must have taken a wrong turn since all he found, erect like a menhir, was a fossil: was it the hip of a dinosaur or rather a Titan’s, lost from times beyond memory, so smoothed by the scorching sun that it bore no signs? Looking closely he saw an open jaw with pointed teeth and a hole where an eye once stared. He feared he had to return empty handed in time for his date, but realized with terror that he had no recollection of the path that led him there.

First published by Danse Macabre

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

The Memory of Unspoken Words

She has landed on the deck of an abandoned wreck, fails to remember how she swallowed the fiery ball that pulled her like a tidal wave into the stillness of a metallic sky steeped in lavender where angry clouds hover around the drowning sun suffused with coral. Her pillow is a melted cloud filled with birds that forgot how to fly and now swim in a pool that overflows the deck, washing the souls of dead sailors from every leak and corner. She presses on her eyelids to find a different ending to their story, sees her body glow with scales and the fish in the pool grow wings. She knows every drop of water will vanish at dawn, erasing with black ink her luminous shape, alive only in the formless night, and the rainbow will soon shine over a boat with discarded bags heavy with the stained memory of unspoken words and broken planks.

First published by Pirene’s Fountain

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

Face à face

When with eyes closed, I face the mirror of desolation, I see myself as a dove fluttering in slow motion like a still mirage while I walk the desert dunes, wondering where I’d last seen the scarce palm trees still erect by the smothered tents where all the ones I’ve ever loved are now buried. I search for ashes shrouded in sand, and only see through half-open lids feathers the color of my hair, lidless eyes staring at their mirrorless reflection, lips pursed in triangular silence, and oh, yes, how can I omit those metallic blue shades making us all one, woman and fowl, in love and loss?

First published by The Bitter Oleander

From Under Brushstrokes (Press 53 2015)

LOCAL OUTLETS: Michigan News Agency, Kalamazoo. Kazoo Books, Kalamazoo. The BookBug, Kalamazoo. Barnes & Nobles, Kalamazoo.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

https://www.press53.com/poetry-collections/under-brushstrokes-by-hedy-habra

https://www.amazon.com/Under-Brushstrokes-Hedy-Habra/dp/1941209238

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/under-brushstrokes-hedy-habra/1121951921?ean=9781941209233

PRICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

HedyHabra.com

https://www.facebook.com/hedyhabrawriter

Twitter @mannouna.

 

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Rickie Trujillo

THE BOOK:  Rickie Trujillo

PUBLISHED IN
: 2017

THE AUTHOR:
  Nicholas Bradley 

THE EDITOR
: Emily Williamson

THE PUBLISHER
: Upper Hand Press

SUMMARY:
Rickie Trujillo is a smooth-fielding, clutch-hitting ball player, and that could be his ticket out of this largely ignored poor neighborhood in L.A., but it’s not.  This place only lets a few get away, and Rickie won’t be one.
 
Rickie Trujillo is a mature YA novel that details a weekend in the life of a talented boy who carries anger about him like a fiery undergarment. He is a good student who is respected by his teachers, even as they fear his sullen anger.  More and more he is becoming dissociated, an outcast and a loner among the students and staff at the high school he attends.  
 
IMG_7956.jpgIt takes so little in this place of poverty and gangs and graffiti and stunted hopes to set Rickie off, and this weekend, a surprise and unwelcome visit by his long-absent father is enough.  This visit and the need to prove himself to his tagging crew, drive Rickie’s impulsive decision to rob an electronics store.
 
Of the two police officers who respond to the alarm, one is a rookie who knows Rickie and his skill as a ball player; the cop makes the fatal mistake of letting his guard down when he apprehends the boy.  They get into a scuffle and struggle for control of the policeman’s weapon, and the weapon is discharged.
 
In a desperate attempt to escape, Rickie runs through the night deep into the neighborhood and seeks shelter in the attic of an abandoned house.  He waits.  He watches and listens, hoping for a miracle that will not come.

THE BACK STORY
: This novel is based on actual events that took place in a poor neighborhood in the east San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  The boy was a student at the school where I taught.  I was puzzled and dismayed by the fact that he seemed to have the baseball skill, if properly guided, to escape the poverty and deprivation of his neighborhood.
 
The book took years to write, partly because I was teaching full-time, partly because it is a first novel and I needed a lot of guidance, and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I thought the subject matter to be too important not to devote the time and energy to making it as accurate in all ways as possible.
  
WHY THIS TITLE? This is definitely Rickie’s story.
 
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  I want politicians to read it, particularly in these times of volatile emotions and actions involving the poor immigrant population.  I want teachers and others involved in education to read it so that they might better understand the students who are seated before them in many of our classrooms.  I want everyone to read so that they might better the issues of poverty in present day urban settings.
 
I am hoping it particularly reaches a Latino population that will recognize the emotional and social truths of the book.

REVIEW COMMENTS
:
 
10 stars needed. Author has an amazing understanding of his subject and the culture in which the story takes place. A 2 hour read has a permanent and haunting effect because I really felt like I knew Rickie Trujillo and the demons he battles. If you are involved with, or care about, our youth today, this is a must read!
 
Excellent book! Bradley’s writing is superb, the characters are memorable and well-drawn. Fantastic read and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Hop on for a crazy ride, so vivid and real writing and impossible to put down. This I can very easily see becoming a major motion picture- it’s that hands on. Once you get involved its hard to stop reading. This book succeeds superbly- and I hope there are more to follow. Loved it madly.
 
Excellent book! Nicholas’ writing paints a vivid picture, & the characters have a strong presence. Enjoyable read and kept me thoroughly engaged throughout the story. I was able to knock it out on a couple business trips. I look forward to future readings from this author!


AUTHOR PROFIL
E:
I taught English and ESL in junior high, middle, and high school in Los Angeles throughout my thirty-year career.  The schools where I taught were in neighborhoods of poverty and crime, gangs, drugs and graffiti, the setting of my mature YA crossover, Rickie Trujillo. Many of the students I taught and tutored during my career were, like Rickie, active gang members and/or taggers.
 
During the ten years in Los Angeles preceding my teaching career, I worked as a road musician, truck driver, messenger, and pianist.
 
I have published fiction in the Red Cedar Review and conducted feature interviews with jazz and classical great musicians such as Med Flory, Pete Christlieb, Tommy Newsome, Glen Johnston, and Leo Potts, all of which were published in the Saxophone Journal.  I has also been recognized in national writing contests for two of my short stories. 
 
Rickie Trujillo was published in September of 2017.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 I hoped to tell the story of the boy’s final weekend without moralizing.  I wanted to tell the story in as straightforward a manner as I could so that the challenges he presented to himself and to those people who dealt with him would be clear and uncluttered.
 
SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon page.
LOCAL OUTLETS:  Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC
                                 Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC 

W0HERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
HTTPS://UPPERHANDPRESS.COM; INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES; AMAZON. DISTRIBUTED BY BAKER & TAYLOR, INGRAM, AND AMAZON.

PRICE: List $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:        nicholashbradley@gmail.com
                                                nicholashbradley.wixsite.com/website
 
 

Emersonia

Second Tuesday Replay, July 10

THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.


“THE SHELTER OF LEAVES,” BY LENORE GAY.

Writes Lenore: “During the Cold War US citizens were preoccupied with the Red Menace and spy novels became popular with readers. Now there is concern about the degradation of the planet and global terrorist attacks. Since 9/11 there has been a growing preoccupation about terrorism. I wanted to write about an event that affected the country.

“In 2008 I decided to take on a big theme: terrorism and peoples’ responses to the fear and deprivation a crisis brings. I began writing Shelter of Leaves that year, and the growing concern about terrorism is reflected in the book’s imagining of a world of chaos. In my career as a therapist, I worked with people who had lived through various traumas and am familiar with the types of defenses people use to protect themselves. I created Sabine from experience with how people work to heal themselves. I put her in a chaotic situation and then created her inner and outer struggles as a way to discover how a previously traumatized person would respond to a crisis that would trigger more trauma. The book explores whether healing is possible and what it takes to heal and to survive.”

“THE MAN BACK THERE,” BY DAVID CROUSE.

From the author: “The Man Back There is about a certain kind of male psychology. Although on the surface the men in these stories might seem to be quite different—one is a farmer, another a divorced dog catcher, another a science fiction fanatic, another a United States senator—each of them suffers from an inability to confront his particular past. To look that past in the face would be admitting, that person who did those things, that person is me.  When I was writing these particular stories it struck me that there was something particularly male about that inability of these characters to do that. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but it might have to do with machismo and it might have to do with a kind of bruised male romanticism.

“THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST,” BY LESLIE PIETRZYK.

“The assignment I gave myself as I started this project was to place at the heart of each story a single, hard, true thing about my own experience as a young widow and to go from there. I take a lot of literary license, of course, but this is by far my most personal book. I wouldn’t expect readers to try guessing what’s true and what’s made-up; the book isn’t a puzzle to decipher. But I like to think that the parts of “real me” that are in there give the book a recognizable authenticity.

“And the start of this book came rather randomly: I was at an artists’ colony, chatting at breakfast about the literature of sub-cultures, and that afternoon I decided to write my own story about a sub-culture, which ended up being the young widow support group I had attended. The words spilled out, and I was fortunate to be in a place where I could follow the muse, as they say, and in that week I drafted several stories anchored by that “one true thing” that now appear in the book.”

“ARIEL: THE FIRST GUARDIAN,” BY SYDNEY SCROGHAM.

Abuse survivor Ariel Harte doesn’t need anyone. Ever. But her companion animal is infected with a dark, magical force. Only an ancient purification ritual, the mind link, performed with another human can cure this infection. Ariel must ask her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Tracey, for help.

But she’s racing time. She’s infected, too. All the walls will have to come down so Ariel can heal or she will lose herself to the darkness forever.Ariel: The First Guardian is a story of true love that wins over time, the power of second chances, and redemption from abuse. This is a prequel to Chase in the Guardians of Agalrae series but can be enjoyed as a standalone novel.

Daffodils and Fireflies by [Taller, Claudia J.]

DAFFODILS AND FIREFLIES,” BY CLAUDIA TALLER

When her mother is dying, Betsy Kramer makes the uncharacteristic decision to return to her home at Windy Hill. At her mother’s funeral, Tom, the only man Betsy ever loved, returns and reminds her that daffodils were once her favorite flower. Lingering at Windy Hill, Betsy finds letters from her estranged father hidden in a hatbox and realizes the enormity of the lie perpetrated by her mother. As Betsy and Tom start spending time together, picking peaches and antiquing, Betsy faces her biggest demon, and even the fireflies hovering over the Magical Pond can’t help her. With vivid imagery and deep feeling, Daffodils and Fireflies chronicles one woman’s journey home again while rediscovering love. Although considered literary fiction, the book has a strong romance element to it.

“MANIAC DRIFTER,” BY LAURA MARELLO,

When Harper Martin drifts into a sleepy Cape Cod resort with a mysterious investment plan, he unleashes a firestorm involving the F.B.I., the State Department, the government of Nicaragua, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Laura Marello’s hilarious new novel features a surreal cast of characters, among them the Souza Family (“Provincetown’s version of the Kennedys. They were handsome, glamorous, Catholic and doomed”), Voodoo Woman, and a parrot named Sydney Greenstreet.

We come to know them all—fishermen, artists, drug dealers, owners of bars both gay and straight—through the lens of a winsome young amnesiac whose own past is shrouded in mystery. Marello’s passion for art and film, seen in her earlier work, helps propel the action forward to its riotous conclusion; her love for the glorious foibles of our human nature, rendered with compassion as well as humor, keeps us caring about what happens. (Constance Solari)

 

 

Weather Report, July 9

Mix of paints in a orange bowl with paintbrush sit on a messy background

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED BOOKS, “NOTES FROM MY PHONE,” BY MICHELLE JUNOT, “WAITING FOR YOU AT MIDNIGHT,” BY VICKI SALLOUM AND “SORROW BREAD,” BY MARK COX, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

———————————————————————-

I have a great respect for those who write for the young adult market.  It must be a little like trying to capture a fly with your bare hand.

For young people are definitely a moving target, perhaps more now — with all their electronic distractions — than ever. It’s not easy enticing them to spend a chunk of time with something as static as a book. Moreover, the author must find that balance between writing over their heads or writing down to them. They know a lot, but there is a lot they don’t know, so cultural references must be chosen carefully.

We’re featuring two such author/adventurers this week — Nicholas Bradley (“Ricky Trujillo”) and John Serugo (“Emersonia: Spirit and Body Take Flight”).

This is also a week for international voices. John is from Uganda, not exactly a likely incubator for episodic futuristic fiction. Meanwhile, the multi-lingual and multi-talented Hedy Habra (“Under Brushstrokes”)  is of Lebanese origin, born and raised in Egypt, and now teaches Spanish at Western Michigan University.

Also an accomplished artist, Hedy was named to a list of “10 Remarkable Women in Arab-American Prose” by the Website ArabAmerica. Much of her poetry explores the intersection between writing and the visual arts.

Thanks to both John and Hedy for allowing us to expand the reach of this feature to some new places.

Note: For reasons I won’t bore you with, the first Tuesday Replay didn’t appear last week. Just for this month, I’m making it “The Second Tuesday Replay.”

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JULY 10-16

“UNDER BRUSHSTROKES,” BY HEDY HABRA.

From the author: “Under Brushstrokes is, for the most part, inspired by artworks from different periods and styles, ranging from Bosch, Hokusai, Goya, Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Degas, Chagall, to Guccione, Varo, Tanning, Gmeiner, Ferez, Potocki and other lesser known contemporary artists whose work I greatly admire.

“I have tried to use paintings as a point of departure for a flight of the imagination; an attempt at transforming a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional, almost cinematic rendition that involves all five senses. The collection alternates prose poems and poems with line breaks.

“Most poems in Under Brushstrokes are persona poems that delve into the speaker’s interiority, unraveling at times a stream of consciousness, in which case a fluidity of movement is required. Some poems consist of a single sentence, offering a certain liquidity that allows for a faster pace. Others engage in a dialogue with the artist or represent an interaction between the artist and his subject. The visual impact of a painting is immediate, whereas a poem can offer a juxtaposition of scenes that allows a play with time and space, all of which can be projected on the page, within the framed form of the prose poem, like on a canvas.”

“RICKY TRUJILLO,” BY NICHOLAS BRADLEY

“This novel is based on actual events that took placein a poor neighborhood in the east San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The boy was a student at the school  where I taught. I was puzzled and dismayed that he seemed to have the baseball skill, if properly guided, to escape the poverty and deprivation of his neighborhood.
 

“The book took years to write, partly because I was teaching full-time, partly because it is a first novel and I needed a lot of guidance, and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I thought the subject matter to be too important not to devote the time and energy to making it as accurate in all ways as possible.”

“EMERSONIA: SPIRIT AND BODY TAKE FLIGHT,” BY JOHN SERUGO.

Writes John: “I live in Uganda and I wanted to create a book that was different from most stories that come from here. It is important to humanity that we find a second home just in case something happens to Earth. Our civilization has many crises but most can be traced back to scarcity. In space everything we fight for on Earth is abundant. If we look at energy, the sun produces a lot of energy which we can harness. Precious metals – a kilometer wide asteroid can contain lots of precious metals like gold and platinum. If we want land to live and work on then Mars has as much land area as the Earth and it’s all available with no humans living on it.”

SECOND TUESDAY REPLAY

This month, we will revisit “Daffodils and Fireflies,” by Claudia Taller, “Maniac Drifter,” by Laura Marello, “This Angel on My Chest,” by Leslie Pietrzyk, “Ariel: The First Guardian,” by Sydney Scrogham, “The Shelter of Leaves,” by Lenore Gay and “The Man Back There,” by David Crouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes From My Phone

Notes From My Phone*: A self-portrait in her twenties by [Junot, Michelle]OUR OTHER CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “WAITING FOR YOU AT MIDNIGHT,” BY VICKI SALLOUM AND “SORROW BREAD,” BY MARK COX, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR’S PAGE.

——————————————————-

THE BOOK: Notes From My Phone: A self portrait in her twenties.

PUBLISHED: December, 2016.

THE AUTHOR: Michelle Junot.

THE PUBLISHER: Mason Jar Press has been publishing handmade, limited-run chapbooks and full-length books since 2014. The Press is dedicated to finding new and exciting work by writers that push the bounds of literary norms. While the work Mason Jar seeks to publish is meant to challenge status quos, both literary and culturally, it must also have significant merit in both those realms.

SUMMARY: Michelle Junot has kept notes on her phone for years—what to pick up at the store, work-out logs, prayers, hopes, thoughts on life and death—all the while creating a snapshot of her life with an honesty that only occurs when not paying attention. In Notes From My Phone* (Mason Jar Press, 2016), Junot opens up her phone and her life to you.

This collection of essays, to-do lists, vignettes, reminders and dreams mixes heart-felt memoir with the everyday marginalia that makes up a twenty-something’s life and day planner. The everyday is placed side-by-side with the universal, and in doing so, transcends to be more than the sum of its parts. If, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” then Notes From My Phone*, celebrates life in all its tedious and troubling beauty.

THE BACK STORY: Publication of Notes was somewhat accidental. In 2014 I was on a plane headed to Louisiana, and as the plane sped down the runway, I realized I needed to jot something down. I couldn’t reach my physical journal, so I grabbed my phone. When I started paging through the notes section, I found a time capsule of my my life since I moved to Baltimore. A lot of the entries were actually quite embarrassing. It was the kind of moment when you glance over at the stranger next to you to make sure they aren’t reading over your shoulder.

I told a friend about the found collection, and I even blogged a handful on my website, but nothing really came of it. The friend urged my not to get rid of it though. I went back to my normal note-taking and kind of forgot about the project altogether. A few years later that same friend started Mason Jar Press. A year after that, MJP approached me with a contract.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ THIS? People will want to read this book because, although it’s about me, it’s not really about me. It’s a self-portrait, yes. It portrays my thoughts and experiences, yes. But more than that, it’s a book about the human condition in its beauty, its devastation, its disappointment, its joy, its struggle, its ridiculousness, its mice, and its authenticity.

It’s both quick and unhurried because of the way it was written (and not written as it were). It mirrors real life in a way that another book couldn’t with straight prose or narration. Because the narrator is largely unaware of the audience, the book is not trying to convince you of anything or “spin” anything.

When people read it, they feel permission to rest in those same unedited feelings of disappointment or even hopelessness in their own life experiences. It’s like going over your problems with a friend who listens and doesn’t try to fix you. From the feedback I’ve received, the content seems to make people feel known. It’s odd really–to read something and feel heard.

That’s been the joy of this book. A handful of people have reached out to me to tell me the book helped. The first one was actually a dear friend who went through a breakup right as the book came out, when I was still uncertain of the project. My loneliness on the page helped her in someway not feel so lonely during those first few weeks because it was a shared “hey…so this sucks and I have no idea what’s next. But I’m not alone.”

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Notes From My Phone is a tender, honest, and hilarious account of a middle-class modern day twenty-something who eventually becomes self-aware. “I have this unrealistic view of my own heart,” Junot reflects. Her insight is emotional kindling to stoke your personal epiphanies. —Diana Mumford, Monologging http://monologging.org/notes-from-my-phone.

The frank, confessional tone of passages like those — and the book’s sparse interior layout — makes the reader feel almost voyeuristic by the end. It’s like finding your outwardly stable older sister’s journal and discovering her hidden frailties; this book genuinely doesn’t read like something that was meant for other people to see. In that sense, it’s unlike any memoir I’ve ever read before. Both in structure and execution, Notes From My Phone* resists the urge to show off, and therein lies its strength. —Dave K., LitPub.

http://thelitpub.com/featured-books/notes-from-my-phone/

Junot’s stream-of-consciousness memoir is clearly for those who appreciate slapdash bursts of humor and unabashed honesty. But even if that’s not your literary forte (though if it isn’t – what’s wrong with you?), Notes From My Phone still offers reassurance for everyone that it’s ok to acknowledge and entertain those temporal fears of ours that the outside world can’t see. Personally, Junot’s book gave me hope that the next young girl I come across while out running errands isn’t just playing on Snapchat, she’s carefully curating her life’s craziest and most mundane moments as well. —Michelle Dwyer, Queen Mobs http://queenmobs.com/2016/11/michelle-junot-notes-from-my-phone/

AUTHOR PROFILE: Originally from Southern Louisiana (although no one believes her when they hear her lack-of-accent), Michelle Junot is a writer, graphic designer, and copy editor living in Baltimore and dreaming of California.

She is the author of Notes From My Phone* a self-portrait in her twenties, and of and the floor was always lava, a collection of essays exploring childhood and memory.

Michelle earned her M.F.A in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from University of Baltimore and her B.A. in Communication and Dance from Centenary College of Louisiana.

You can follow her on Facebook. Instagram. or Twitter.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In the two years since Notes From My Phone* was published, I’ve developed an appreciation for the book beyond my own pride at having something that is mine out in the world. At it’s most basic, the book is a collection of privileged reflections (and maybe even some whining) that reflects my privilege and bias in ways that are uncomfortable to see in print.

The entire book is a testament to the power of leading through weakness instead of traditional concepts of strength. So often, we try to build ourselves up, or show how we’re the best at x, y, and z, how grand our lives are. But, at least for me, behavior like that always leaves me feeling a little like an imposter. Like I have to keep up the “neat and tidy” facade. It’s exhausting. Aren’t other people exhausted by their seeming “awesomeness”?

This book messy. It’s not polished. It doesn’t even know if it’s poetry or non-fiction…and yet I would argue it has a strength to it. Quiet, subtle power, sure. But it’s mattered to a lot of people who read it, and it’s certainly changed a lot of the ways I cope, write, and connect with other people.

There’s not much that’s unedited in our world today. I’ve said to people before, if what you put on Facebook is your “highlight reel,” than this book is what got edited out. I think there’s power in that, and I think our world would be a little less screwed up if everyone felt like they could admit failure, realize they aren’t perfect and can’t be perfect, and learned to own their faults and have a sense of humor about themselves more.

All that to say, I think it takes strength to be weak sometimes and admit failure. It’s not fun. But it also makes you stronger, and honestly, more relatable to every other person who has ever existed.

SAMPLE CHAPTER

9:37 AM

We often picture an outcome and work backwards from that vision, but creativity is about working forward, not necessarily having a concept of where you’re going.

__

11:58 PM

What I really want to know is how I end up—what’s the end of the story?

But here’s the thing:

Maybe I don’t actually want to know. Maybe none of us really want to know.

Because if I’d known I’d fall in love with a man or two or three who didn’t or couldn’t or thought he shouldn’t love me back, I might have never tried at all.

And then where would I be?

Growing up is critical. Knowing how it will end should be avoided. Because hope is what we run on, and without hope, we’d all be lost.

__

5:45 PM

Waiting is active. Waiting is a whole body activity. Waiting is preparing. Getting ready. Ready to move. To sprint. Waiting is a bending at the knees. A bowing in worship. Waiting is today. Today is waiting and being ready because I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Tomorrow could be moving. Tomorrow could be running away or toward but running all the same. And I wonder,

Will I be ready?

LOCAL OUTLETS: The Ivy Bookstore, Baltimore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

michellejunot.com.

https://squareup.com/store/michelle-junot-writer

masonjarpress.xyz

amazon.com

PRICE:

$15 (ebook is $2.99)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

website: michellejunot.com email: contact@michellejunot.com social media: Facebook. Instagram. or Twitter.

 

 

Waiting for You at Midnight

THE BOOK: “Waiting for You at Midnight.”

PUBLISHED: 2018.

THE AUTHOR: Vicki Salloum.

THE EDITOR: Gene D. Robinson, editor and publisher of Moonshine Cove.

THE PUBLISHER: Moonshine Cove Publishing, Abbeville, South Carolina.

SUMMARY: The novel is about a woman who, following her husband’s death from cancer, realizes she has no one with whom to share her most intimate thoughts and feelings. So she begins writing to her best friend — her dead husband — in a spiral notebook, telling him about her days and nights in the aftermath of his death. She describes in detail how she feels about the three men she variously meets while attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. In words funny, naughty, and moving, she relives the scenes of her romantic encounters and jiltings and crushes that go nowhere as well as beautiful nights spent with one of the men. In the course of her writings, she exposes her ferocious love for her dead husband even as she searches for someone to take his place. This “manuscript with no identity,” as the widow, Arabella calls it, is not only a celebration of her husband’s life but a deeply felt journey into the forbidden territory of an older woman’s sexuality, grief, and alcoholism and her efforts to find enduring love while mourning the loss of her greatest love.

img1THE BACK STORY: Like the novel’s narrator, Arabella Joseph, I, too, was married to a man who died from cancer. I remember several days before he died, some friends came over to celebrate his birthday. As we were eating cake and ice cream in the living room, one friend asked me what I was currently writing. I told him nothing. My husband looked at me. smiled, and then turned to our friend. He said, “The next thing she’ll write about will be me,” meaning I’ll probably write about his illness. He knew that my life experiences had often been the material for my books.

I told him I definitely wasn’t going to write about that, thinking that all we had gone through together since he had become sick was too painful to even think about, much less write about. But in the weeks and months following his death, people would come up to me and ask sympathetically how I was doing or how I was coping. I found that I couldn’t convey to anyone the depth of my devastation, not that anyone genuinely wanted to know. The only person I could talk to honestly about what was going on with me was my best friend — my dead husband.

So, like the narrator in my book, I started writing to him in a notebook, telling him about the things I was doing each day, the people I was with, pouring out my heart to him, baring my soul. Those diary-like like scribblings became the material for Waiting for You at Midnight.

WHY THIS TITLE? The main character, Arabella, met Logan, the man who was to become her husband, more than twenty years earlier. Their first significant time together was on the night of New Year’s Eve, when they slept together, and then the next morning, when they went walking around the city of New Orleans, holding hands and telling each other their life stories.

Fast forward more than twenty years when Logan dies in late September. Three months later, the widow Arabella realizes she will be alone on New Year’s Eve. She thinks of all the past New Year’s Eves that she’d spent with her husband and becomes terrified at the thought of being without him on this night that meant so much to them. She scrambles to find friends to be with and parties to go to and, when her plans fall through and New Year’s Eve finally arrives, she begins to see things in a different light. In her thoughts she speaks to Logan, This is New Year’s Eve. You are no longer with me. Everything I have of you is right here in this house. Grief-stricken, she longs for his spirit to appear to her at midnight and she realizes that on this special night there is nowhere she would rather be than alone with him at home, in the place where they loved each other.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It’s about a woman who shows tremendous courage and integrity in her struggle to find out who she really is and what she is genuinely seeking and how to go about attaining a life worth living. If a reader is looking for something light, he or she may not want to read Waiting for You at Midnight. But for those who would like to know what it’s like when a loved one dies and your world collapses and you realize you may have to change your attitude and old way of doing things to rediscover how beautiful life really is and how joyous it can be this book will give them something to think about.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“ . . . Through concise, elegant prose that hits with great force, [Salloum] engages her readers, bringing them inside the skin of her complex character while at the same time creating believable conflict which results in a satisfying serious novel and a triumph for its author . . . ” — Norm Goldman, publisher & editor of Bookpleasures.com.

“Vicki Salloum’s novel, ‘Waiting for You at Midnight,’ is at once a paean to enduring love and the sacrifices that come along with it as well as a tragic tale of loss and survival and hope. Narrated in a voice that is candid, warm, conversational, and familiar, readers will instantly feel at home with this novel’s timeless and universal themes, its flawed but lovable characters, and its gritty and realistic sense of place. Waiting for You at Midnight is truly a book that is not to be missed.” — David Armand, Author of ‘My My Mother’s House.’

“Waiting for You at Midnight is a haunting journey through the land of the living in New Orleans. Arabella is an unforgettable heroine who lifts the veil of grief to reveal the force of life. The writing is seared with passion. I was entranced.” — Christine Bell, auhor of “The Perez Family” and “Grievance.”

“It shook me, this book. Just grabbed hold of me and shook out whatever defenses I’d marshalled against grief. Waiting for You at Midnight is a story of a single year in the life of Arabella, the year following the death of her husband. But this is not a sad book. There is muddling, yes, and missteps, for sure, but there is no wallowing. It is a story of care care set in New Orleans, the City that Care Forgot, a contrast that lays the human condition out bare and honest for all the world to see.” — Barb Johnson, Author of More of This World or Maybe Another.

AUTHOR PROFILE: It took me a long time to find the kind of work that I was passionate about. At various times, I was a teacher, secretary, bookstore clerk, waitress, business manager, editorial c onsultant. At one point in my life, I was so bored by what I was doing that I shamelessly walked out of my  job as a secretary and found my way to a career planning center. I took a series of aptitude tests and was advised that I should be a writer. I went back to college, earned a second degree in journalism, and became a newspaper reporter. It was when I discovered fiction writing that I finally found what I was really meant to do. I feel blessed to be able to take all of my experiences and observations of people that I have known to create fictional worlds which aim tomake sense of our existence and the human heart in turmoil.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Waiting for You at Midnight is a story of loss. The loss of love. The loss of youth. The loss of physical beauty. The loss of someone who sees you and knows your history and cherishes you and respects you. It’s about the loss of everything this is irreplaceable to the narrator, Arabella. I wanted to tell a story about how one rises above all that loss to find acceptance and inner peace.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

XXVIII.

I take the streetcar to my church. A Mass is underway. As I’m walking down the aisle, I see an old man sitting in a pew. There’s blood dripping from the back of his head. I sit in the pew behind him about midway down so I won’t have to sit where I can see the back of his bloody head. Just before Communion, there’s a time when worshippers in the congregation join hands and pray the Lord’s Prayer. I realize too late I’m the closest person to the man, though I’m in the middle of the pew behind him. He’s been using his hand to wipe the blood off. When it comes time to join hands, he turns to me. He looks timidly at me. He reaches for my hand.

I don’t know what to do.

I’m sure he is homeless. There are many homeless people hanging around St. Jude’s, eating in the soup kitchen across the street, dropping in for daily Mass. I know if his blood is on that hand and he has AIDS or hepatitis, I could get a disease if I have an open sore and he touches the sore on my hand. Hesitantly, he reaches out to me. I can’t stand to touch that hand. At that moment, I realize mercy can be as simple as touching the hand of a man who needs me. And still I cannot touch that hand.

I go outside. It’s still light. There’s a splattering of a cloud shaped like a diving pelican. In the shady part of the street, a cool breeze blows past me amid the rustling of the russet tips of the palm trees on the neutral ground. A smell of gasoline permeates the air.

I cross North Rampart Street then take a left and, a few blocks up the road, hang a right at St. Peters. It’s the most beautiful day, belying the feel of tragedy, the rippling clouds hovering over the dormer windows of the cottages and pitched roofs and street lanterns and iron-laced balconies that constitute the Vieux Carre. I keep walking past the Gold Mine Saloon and buildings of pink and green and yellow, past the Maison Bourbon Bar and the Cornet, the sound of jazz blasting the air that smells of pee and stale booze.

I walk past the Krazy Korner and Ali Baba ’til I get to a place I have avoided for the last twenty-seven years of my life.

Pat O’ Brien’s Bar.

It’s where I once had a slip. That was six weeks after I joined the program. That night, I had a craving. I got in my car and drove past the church where I had just been to an AA meeting. And as I was driving past, I had an overwhelming urge to scream: Please, somebody help me! Please, somebody save me! But I kept on driving and continued on to my destination and, at Pat O’Brien’s, ordered three rum drinks famously called a Hurricane. I got drunk, managed to get home, and then went to a meeting the very next day. I never had a slip again.

That was twenty-seven years ago.

And now I’m back at Pat O’Brien’s.

I enter the red, cobbled corridor and walk through a door to my left. It is midnight inside. Or, at least, it seems that way. Rivulets of light filter through squares of window panes facing St. Peter’s. Two couples sit at the bar. They sit five vacant seats away from each other. They are being entertained by a tow-headed bartender.

The name tag on his shirt reads Donnie.

“Decadence is the largest gay festival in the country,” Donnie regales the couples, leaning back against dark wood shelves displaying dense rows of bottled liquor. He laughs, clapping his hands. “Decadence . . . me and my husband go to it every year.”

A massive TV screen stretches across a wall. Decorative mugs hang from the ceiling. A duo belts out a tune from a juke box. The rowdy Donnie is showing off:

“ . . . He ejaculated in the crowd . . .” Donnie’s having a good time, watching his captivated audience. “I had to hear that for a solid year, so I had to say I don’t want to hear it. He just went on and on and on . . . .”

The walls of the bar are brick. Framed photos decorate one wall. They show groups of revelers celebrating. Two jowly men in cowboy hats look like the photo was taken in the ’50s. Most are in black and white.

“It was hot as shit . . . .”

Donnie’s voice. He’s congenial and vivacious, a hot personality and likeable. I can see why they hired him. Perfect for this bar.

“ . . . I don’t know how to play piano, so . . . .”

He sees me and comes over.

I’ve been looking down at a drink menu. There’s a drink called a Rainbow. It contains Grenadine, vodka, and Blue Curaçao. I order it. He brings it to me. It comes in a tall, slender glass. The liquid is layered in colors of the rainbow, deep red at the bottom then yellow then deep blue and light blue, an orange slice and cherry floating on top.

“Be sure and stir it,” Donnie orders me.

He places a bag of popcorn on the bar and then leaves to entertain the tourist couples.

“If you go to St. Louis Cemetery #1,” he tells them flamboyantly, “say hi to my mamm’mah Pablo.”

And then, “Revolution will be your nice, nice dinner. Your options for tonight are . . . .”

A black man carries in a load of ice. He pours the ice into bins.

My fingers are on the glass. It’s icy cold, feeling good to the skin.

“ . . . I went to Portland, Oregon, and was blown away. There’s a heroin epidemic. That’s what it is . . . .” Donnie pauses to reflect. “I don’t think they’re homeless,” he ruminates. “A lot of them are just bums. They just don’t wanna work.”

Donnie heads my way again.

“You’re not drinking your drink. Why not?” His voice is loud and authoritative, a tone of voice that demands an answer.

I oblige. “I’m taking my time.”

He looks at me determinedly. I’m a little afraid of him.

“Why are you taking your time?” he asks in his commanding voice. He’s a bit arrogant—almost like he’s ordering me. Silly man, he doesn’t need to order me.

I stick the tip of my finger into the icy liquid. Simulate licking it. “Good,” I tell him.

I’m playing with Donnie now. I get the feeling he doesn’t like it. Donnie can’t figure me out. He jerks back slightly, as if catching the drift of things, as if catching the effluvium of my wasted life.

I put the glass to my lips and smile. Donnie looks down at me, perplexed. But for all the meetings I attend it would be so easy making this liquid vanish. In my imagination, I feel it sliding down my throat. The euphoria is intoxicating. I can’t remember the last time I felt this good. And then there’s a moment of reflection when it dawns on me how all the stacked-up bricks of all the years of my sobriety will come crashing down on my head if I do the thing I’m compelled to do. I set the glass down on the bar. Donnie shakes his head. Frowning, he walks away.

In the distance, Donnie and the tourists chatter.

“. . . We went in the courtyard and looked at their menu and it looked very, very good.”

“It is very good. I’ve eaten there many times . . . .”

For some reason, I think of Sea.

The next right thing no longer matters.

It was one of the golden slogans: do the next right thing, do the next right thing. Inch by inch is a cinch. Fake it ’til you make it. Don’t quit before the miracle happens. To thine own self be true.

I pick up the Rainbow, admire its myriad colors. I drink ’til there is no more. I drink and the relief floods over me. I drink and it feels heavenly. It feels good to give up, finally. Not so good but perfectly right. Not so right but perfectly just. Not so just but fair. I order another. And then another.

I stagger down Bourbon Street, a drunken floozy on her way to the streetcar. When I get home, I get in my car. It’s dark beyond the windshield. Dark everywhere. The road is blurry. I’m dizzy but I don’t kill anybody. I go to Sea’s place. Get out of my car. Fall down in the dusty road. It’s like I’m bowing to him in sorrow. On my knees, begging him. There’s a black wreath on the door. Anthony must have put it there. My nose is bleeding, from the fall. I touch my nose. It reminds me of the old man in the church.

“Sea . . . ,” I scream, “you’re an angel! Forgive me. I am sorry . . . .”

Then I hear him yelling back, clearly and in his own voice: he couldn’t stand the land of the walking dead. So he’s finally with his Father. And as if he were standing right there over me, though I know it’s only my guilty heart, he says, “Bitch, get outta here—!”

But it isn’t Sea at all.

It’s a different voice.

Anthony’s sitting in the blue plastic chair, his booted foot propped against the porch rail.

“Bitch, get outta here . . . ,” he repeats. “What are you doing, trying to cause more trouble? It’s not enough what you did to Sea? You gotta come over and rub his face in it?” His voice is menacing, belligerent. My first thought, If I were a foot or so closer I’d probably smell his liquor breath.

“You fucking cunt!” He rants and raves.

And what is he doing here anyway?

“Get outta here,” he calls out threateningly, “or I’m gonna fucking kill you, bitch!” Good grief, he’s really mad. “And if I ever catch you at a meeting again, I’ll kick your ass—you AA whore!”

I do my best to get on my feet. My head is really swimming. I’m nauseated, I can barely stand. I’m aware my nose is bleeding; I wipe the blood off on my skirt. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I stare him down in the middle of the street. But I don’t really see. I can’t see anything, it’s too dark. But there’s something I have to tell him. It’s urgent that I tell him.

Because if I don’t tell him, if I let this stand the way it is, if I walk away believing it—believing him—shamed and cowed and riddled with guilt, I’ll jump off the bridge, I know I will. So this is what I tell him: “Shut up! ’Til you’ve lost someone who’s your whole world, you’ll never know what it’s like being in my shoes!”

“Shut up yourself, you fucking bitch—”

“And, furthermore,” I cut him short. “I didn’t do this to Sea. He did this to himself. I won’t let you guilt-trip me. I won’t let you crush me. I won’t let you make me crawl in a hole and die. And furthermore still, you can take a flying leap. You’re nothing but a shithead, Anthony!”

I head toward him but stop before I get too close. He might have a gun, a knife, a machete. In the ebony night, I feel his eyes. They are burning coals; they scorch me.

“Fuck you,” I yell, the liquor giving me courage. “And so help me God, if you ever threaten me again, I’ll call the cops. I’ll come after you myself!”

I’m a few feet away—I stumble to my car. I turn to him for the final word, “And just for your information, I’ll go to any goddamn meeting I want!”

As the bellowing word “Whore!” reverberates through the night, I get in my car and start the engine. I want to step on the accelerator, foot to floor, and, in my murderous rage, smash through the porch and make confetti of the chair. But God stands before me. The image of Sea himself. A gasp breaks the silence. I turn and drive away.

LOCAL OUTLETS:  Waiting for You at Midnight is slated to be released to the public on July 7, 2018. On that date, it will be available at select independent bookstores.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Following its release on July 7, the book will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other on-line booksellers.

PRICE: $ 13.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Anyone who’d like to get in touch with me can go to my author website, http://www.vickisalloum.com and find my e-mail address on the Contact page. I promise I’ll write back. And if anyone happens to be in that neck of the woods around November 10th, drop by the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, where I’ll be one of the author participants. I’d love to meet you, say hi, and talk about books and writing. Finally, here is the link to my Twitter account:https://twitter.com/VickiAol