Letters From Limbo

This week’s other featured books, “The Book of Changes,” by Jack Remick, and “Swirled All the Way to the Shrub,” by Tom Bentley and Rick Wilson, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: Letters from Limbo

PUBLISHED IN: November 2016

THE AUTHOR: Jeanne Marie Beaumont

THE EDITOR: Joan Cusack Handler, Baron Wormser, and Teresa Carson

THE PUBLISHER: CavanKerry Press, Ltd, Fort Lee, NJ

SUMMARY: Letters from Limbo is a collection of poems in three sections and multiple modes. The poems provide windows into lost worlds and connect the realms of the dead to the living in various imaginative ways. At the core of the book is “Asylum Song,” a documentary sequence that brings a long-buried family secret to light using research that includes case records from a state mental hospital. Through epistles, elegies, ekphrastic poems, found poems, and dramatic monologue, Letters from Limbo explores poetry’s capacity to discover, document, transform, and lament.

Jeanne Marie Beaumont

THE BACK STORY: The book has a dual back story. I had begun to “receive” the mysterious poems that are the letters from Limbo and saw that they were accumulating into a series. Around the same time, documents from my maternal grandmother’s history were uncovered, which answered many questions while also presenting more puzzles about my family’s history. These two divergent connections to the afterlife, so to speak, began to weave together and to encompass other poems in which the membrane that separates the realms of the living and the dead could be penetrated, at least imaginatively.

WHY THIS TITLE: The fourteen letters themselves constitute the skeletal structure that frames the work of the book, so Letters from Limbo seemed the obvious title. Although, of course, there are ways in which all of the poems might be thought of as messages from that intermediate region of consciousness.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The poems grapple with very essential human predicaments and mysteries: What happens after life? What relations do we or might we have to the past, to our ancestors? What meaning can we draw from artifacts left to us? How can we dwell in uncertainty? How can the art of poetry help lead us through difficulties and cope with loss? How can the imagination find a richness of experience and feeling to dwell in that carries us beyond the mere facts?

REVIEW COMMENTS: “Jeanne Marie Beaumont writes the sort of poetry that causes page-turning hands a split second of hesitation–oh, lord, what will we face next? Limbo, in these pages, has physical borders and a ministry of culture where Beaumont issues visas for the length of time it takes to both forgive and forget the self.” Foreword Reviews

“When reading these poems, there are times when it is necessary to pause for more than breath. They generate unusual power though this rarely seems their aim. They honor the immigrant grandmother, I feel, without the slightest moral mis-step. They are born of blood and retrospective devotion.” Tim Liardet in The Manhattan Review

“Beaumont crafts these moments of revelation skillfully, allowing their “planned luminescence” to gather gradually, luring us with sound and image until the pivotal, almost casual detail takes hold.” Salamander Magazine

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jeanne Marie Beaumont is the author of three previous collections: Placebo Effects, a winner of the National Poetry Series, Curious Conduct, and Burning of the Three Fires. She was also the coeditor of The Poets’ Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales. She is a past winner of the Greensboro Review Prize and the Dana Award in Poetry. She has taught at the Frost Place, Rutgers University, the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine, and the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd St. Y. She grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and moved to Manhattan in 1983, where she currently resides.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I honestly feel that Letters from Limbo was the book that I was born to write. In handling the materials of this book I had to draw on all my accumulated knowledge of poetic craft, forms and techniques. It was a challenge to find the right way to present each piece of the story. I felt a grave responsibility to do justice to the family documents that had fallen into my hands. At the same time, the “letters from limbo” poems themselves, which arrived unbidden and at surprising moments, and had moments of play and humor, helped to balance the more difficult and painful events depicted in the book. I hope the reader will feel this balance as well. In giving readings from this book, I have encountered many who have similar skeletons in their family “closets,” and I have found that bringing the secrets out into the light, shaping them into art, can help provide moments of reflection, catharsis, and healing. That was why I wanted this book out in the world.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Here is one of the Letters from Limbo poems:


WHERE TO BUY IT: Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or check IndiBound for local book stores. Or buy directly from the publisher CavanKerry Press https://cavankerrypress.org/product/letters-from-limbo/

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Through website: http://www.jeannemariebeaumont.com or directly at jeannembeaumont@nyc.rr.com.

The Book of Changes

The Book of Changes (The California Quartet 3) by [Remick, Jack]

THE BOOK: The Book of Changes


THE AUTHOR: Jack Remick

THE EDITOR: Catherine Treadgold

THE PUBLISHER: Coffeetown Press

Image result for Jack Remick + author + photoSUMMARY: It’s 1971, Berkeley. Beast comes to the Cathedral of Learning in a time of political upheaval, hallucinogenic drugs, group sex, and electric, acid, psychedelic, mind-bending rock and roll. On his quest for meaning he hangs out with a Harley-riding dwarf, a raven-haired Gothic artists’ model, a sorority girl just discovering her nymphomania, and the heir to a family of French aristocrats with a bloody history dating back to Joan of Arc. Beast soon discovers that he can’t live in the past but has to embrace the present with its traps and land mines and the horrors of contemporary society—death by motorcycle and bad acid trips. The world is exploding, but students still go to classes, fall in love, get laid, study in libraries, win awards, even graduate. The country is on fire, and Berkeley supplies the fuel.

THE BACK STORY: “When I went to Cal, there was no tuition. Education was free. You paid a $76.50 student fee, and you paid for your books, your room and board. Anything that was left you spent on booze and motorcycles. Then Ronald Reagan was elected governor and the good times ended. The Free Speech Movement (FSM) came along and the rebellion that started in Sproul Hall grew into a firestorm of protests and death and destruction. Education took a hit, tuition blasted off, leaving only the rich and well-heeled in the classrooms. After Ronald Reagan, California was never at peace again. This novel, The Book of

Changes doesn’t purport to be either a sociological thesis or a history of anything. It is a fictional record of a sort filtered through time and the consciousness of young women and men who were looking for a new definition of America, of California, of the world. We didn’t succeed.”

WHY THIS TITLE: The Book of Changes sets you down in a time when change was not just in the wind, but burning in the streets and in the minds of an entire generation bent on re-defining culture, art, sex, and education.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The Book of Changes gives a reader a snapshot of a cataclysmic time in America. Much of what we are reaping in the world of contemporary politics was sowed in the tumultuous time of rebellion known as the ‘60s.


“What is born from a nine-month gestation at Cal, Berkeley? A medievalist? A poet? A biologist? What is Mitch studying? Before we hit the midpoint of Jack Remick’s The Book of Changes (Book Three of the California Quartet), the reader cannot be faulted for believing Mitch is studying how to fit the most sex into the least time. But once we pass the midpoint, the reader sees Death wants equal time, and Mitch might be studying the many ways humans meet their ends. The wonder is that Mitch stays at school after witnessing any one of those tragic/horrific deaths. Drugs, rock and roll, political protests, many fancy and familiar smokes, motorcycles, and the most erudite friends a boy could ever want also fill Mitch’s college days. The company Mitch keeps is brilliant, arrogant, scofflaw. For example, his friends write papers for their private education, over and above assignments from their classes.

“Mitch, “Beast,” like Eddie Iturbi of The Deification (Book One of The California Quartet), wants to be a poet. When he learns he has to bleed, in part from a cameo by Eddie, he abandons the idea. Until Eddie’s reappearance in the quartet, we can believe the story might happen—it is full of Cal campus landmarks and local street names, mentions of Grace Slick and Camel cigarettes—but Eddie brings myth in his wake. He lives in the swirl of it, so when he is on deck, magical blood-letting poems materialize from his veins. The reader is reminded to shake off conventional standards–Remick shapes his novels around mythic cores. Nine months may host several life-times’ worth of experience rolled into one. A college campus may also be a medieval landscape peopled with vassals and knights. And a 9-1-1 call may be a slippery message between here and the other side. (Pamela Carter, playwright, poet).

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jack Remick is the author of twenty books—fiction, poetry, non-fiction, essays, screenplays. His novel Gabriela and The Widow was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal as well as a finalist in Foreword’s Book of the Year Award. He maintains three blogs: http://bloodthenovel.com; http://jackremick.com; http://bobandjackswritingblog.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: The Book of Changes is the third volume of The California Quartet. You don’t have to read the novels in order because I wrote them to stand alone. The entire State of California is one of the protagonists. Here’s the prologue to Valley Boy: When they came out of the dustbowl, they carried everything they owned on their backs. The things they couldn’t carry they left behind for the thieves and the looters of antiques. When they came out of the dustbowl, there was nowhere to go but West because there was fruit in the West and ranchers needed hands to pick it.

And they had hands.

When they came out the dustbowl, her mother was 3 years old and she had one pair of shoes and one dress and the dress was sewn from a Gold Medal flour sack.

They came out of the dustbowl into the West to get to the sea, to get to wet land, to get to the oranges, to get to peaches and pears and apricots, to get to grapes and almonds and the cotton.

California was as far West as they could get…

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://bloodthenovel.com/book-of-changes

LOCAL OUTLETS: Third Place Books-Ravenna. Seattle, WA; Village Books—Bellingham, WA; Barnes and Noble; Powell’s in Portland, Oregon.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Alibris.com; amazon.com; University Bookstore, Seattle

PRICE: $15.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: jackremick@gmail.com twitter: @jackremick

Swirled All the Way to the Shrub

Swirled All the Way to the Shrub by [Bentley, Tom, Wilson, Rick]THE BOOK: Swirled All the Way to the Shrub

: 2018

  Tom Bentley and Rick Wilson

: The editors were (he squirms) Rick Wilson and me. I have years of editing experience, but of course, that’s no excuse for editing my own work. You may begin the lawsuit now.

: The Write Word Publishing and Gack&Bacon Publishing Ltd. (Our publishing “houses,” respectively)

SUMMARY We wanted to write a novel that starts at that precise moment when the Roaring Twenties were crushed down into the Whimpering Thirties by The Crash, the biggest single economic tragedy in American history. And this ignoble setting allowed us to take a flawed but generally likable fellow who was just on the cusp of fantastic success after years of noble effort and crush him down right along with the Market. Then we get to see if he ever bounces back again. Our hero, Pinky DeVroom is a sozzled society reporter and would-be novelist who spends many an hour at The Shrub, the speakeasy that’s often the focus of his off-work life. He suspects that life has more to offer, but he can’t seem to find the offering. The book follows his search (and a few tributary story lines as well).

: If you read the title info below, you see the work’s genesis. I had edited Rick’s first novel years ago, and he wanted another project together. And quite a project it became: we wrote it, in alternate chapters sent by email, over the course of a couple of years, and futzed over it another to refine its language and themes. 

WHY THIS TITLE?: The logic behind the title is quite illogical: a friend of Rick’s emailed him to express her delight in seeing a giant icicle that had swirlingly formed from her rooftop to a nearby shrub. She told him, “It swirled all the way to the shrub!” Rick thought that would make a great short story title, which it was before it became a novel. That that obscure remark resulted in a collaborative novel is one of those life whimsies that couldn’t have been plotted out, even in a novel.

Our hero, Pinky DeVroom senses that his soul has been stifled by writing fluff for years about the gilt-edged Boston society mandarins. He’s hoping the novel he’s written will turn fortune to his favor. Fortune will soon turn a different direction, since it’s late October, 1929. The book works its way through Pinky’s travails with weavings of Prohibition history, actual historical figures, corporate malfeasance, and love’s losses and gains. 


There are many humorous encounters and moments, and an equal number of moments you will say, “Pinky, no!” But he rarely listens, poor fellow. Plenty of thorny subplots about the publishing industry of the time, corporate politics and outrage over those politics, and the best way to stomach bathtub gin.

REVIEW COMMENTS: No reviews yet—it was just published yesterday, as of this writing.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m a business writer, travel writer, editor and fiction writer, all of many (some days too many) years’ time. Shrub is my third novel, and I also have a book of short stories and a how-to writing book. Words, can’t get enough of them. (Well, they have to be the right words.) 


Rick Wilson is a dentist, and the author of The Man Who Wore Mismatched Socks, a WWII novel of great panache. We might write a sequel to Shrub, unless someone emails Rick with a line on a completely different topic, and he thinks the line might make a good novel title. These things happen.
 There are a few secondary plot lines that examine the ill treatment of workers by lead poisoning at the hands of General Motors, and by exploitation and even murder at the hands of United Fruit. These are blended into Pinky’s strivings and that of his best friend, banana messenger Unctual Natchez. 


Chapter 1 – Mr. Pinky DeVroom, Oct 1929

Pinky DeVroom, in his cups, stared into his brandy. His lips appeared to be having a complex argument, flexing and jutting without a clear rhythm. The argument’s fulcrum was the removal of his characteristic sneer from those lips, but the pivot came to rest: the sneer won.

The sneer had never been shy of like company on Pinky’s face. But he had to try, didn’t he? You have to practice something to get good at it, correct? So, he’d been practicing various smiles—a winsome grin, a lopsided smirk, a publicity-shot starburst—for the past hour at the bar, but every effort made his face feel like a thing possessed. Blessedly, The Shrub had no mirror behind the bar—Pinky was sure his conjured rictuses made him look like he was being garroted with piano wire.

Pinky shot a glance around at the other patrons of The Shrub. Even though the groaning arm of Prohibition had snaked its clutching fingers around many a bottle, there were still many establishments willing to play for pay behind the drawn shade. Particularly when the monitoring authorities might be swizzling a tipple themselves, thought Pinky, seeing that a lieutenant from District D-3 was sitting at a table along with a big palooka with a three-jointed nose. Maybe a boxer. The big guy had five or six empty mugs of beer in front of him, with the lieutenant keeping pace with some undoubtedly sour gin.

Pinky swiveled. There were a couple of Boston’s toffs ensconced at another table, slumming it in the lowly journalist’s bar that was The Shrub, but so lightly ensconced that their silk cravats screamed that they’d be leaving for higher callings soon. A heavily flapperized member of the demimonde atop a stool to his right, slanting on her way off said stool, her bobbed hair nearly longer than the short, glittery-gauzy red dress, she one more martini away from ruin. A man with gruesomely pomaded hair stood to her right, leaning toward her with large lips rubbery enough to lift her glass, with her holding it, from the counter.

Pinky shifted fully around to take in the whole of The Shrub’s barroom. The dark walls with their faded varnish, the once-elegant leather banquettes, the herringbone-patterned parquet floor, insulted by thousands of hardy souls with hard soles for sixty years. The crowd tonight was pretty composed, though it was early. He saw a couple of other newspapermen he knew, and gave them a tilt of his brandy glass. Paper pimps, he thought. And what does that make me?

He’d been the society columnist at the Herald for almost nine years. Boston had oodles of society. In Pinky’s time, he’d covered upcoming socialites, downgraded socialites, the charitable rich, the irritable rich, marriages made in heaven and marriages made on the rings of Saturn. He’d quoted viscounts at funerals, covered discounts at art auctions, and exposed miscounts of inherited riches. He’d newsprinted the highest levels of the social ladder, and the airy, netless heights of social climbing when the ladder fell away.

He felt soiled.

Not that he thought his novel would cleanse him, no. But at least it wasn’t his smothered little column in the Herald, three times a week, the cock crowing about the crowned (and empty) heads. That world was crabbed and stifling, glitter on rancid meat. The novel was a different world, where Pinky breathed a little easier.

His protagonist, the sensationally unreliable Malacong Dall, was an amateur pianist in Trieste. But his profession was burglary, at which he was woefully inept. Pinky rather admired thieves, but only those of some accomplishment, thus his ofttimes shabby treatment of Dall in the book. But Dall had a salesman’s smile, generous and easy. Pinky had selected a series of victims of that smile to people the book. Love came more naturally to Dall than burglary.

Pinky’s man Dall regularly fell down metaphorical elevator shafts, but always bounced. Pinky’s life needed some bounce.

Pinky often sought a bit of bounce in a bit of booze, but since he was going to have his first face-to-face meeting with his agent in less than an hour, the administration of another brandy might result in him crawling around on her office floor, or getting into an argument about Sacco and Vanzetti, or baying at her mooncalf face. Not that he knew if she had a mooncalf face. They’d only spoken over the phone, though it had been more than a few times. She was the fourth agent to whom he’d sent the manuscript, from one of the city’s most respectable agencies: Eckleburg’s, which had been shepherding pages between authors and publishing houses since Dickens’s time.

But what kind of shepherding could come from a woman named Elfred Norcross? Elfred? Was that a father dispiritedly dubbing his newborn “Elfred” because he’d wanted a boy named Alfred? But she’d sounded very collected on the phone, with nary a misplaced fred in her discussion. Mislaid monikers aside, the meat of the matter was this: Apparently, after casting their line into many parts of the stream, Miss Norcross and Eckleburg’s had gotten a fish to bite. Some publisher was interested in doing what they do best: publishing. But not publishing in some neutral, objective sense, no: this discussion centered on publishing Pinky’s book. Gadzooks.

It was for Norcross, dear Elfred, that Pinky had been practicing his smile. Dismal business. But he’d have to make a go of it. He could be half-human when he pulled upon his resources, especially when he’d baptized his brain with brandy. At this point in Pinky’s life, a little fortification was mandatory when he had to muster up a public face. Muster he did.

Pinky had only a passing acquaintance with optimism, but this was a special occasion. The holidays were nigh—and a book, his book, might be published.

No doubt, 1930 was sure to be a banner year.


WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo. All the outlets besides Amazon have buy links for the ebook here: https://draft2digital.com/book/386914

PRICE: Ebook, $3.99, Print, $12.99. Both will go up a bit in early January to $4.99 and $16.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: You can contact me at bentguy@gmail.com and see my Twitterings at @TomBentleyNow. Rick’s email is Rwilson@smilephiladelphian.com and he is occasionally on Twitter at @RickWilsonDMD. The book has its own website at www.swirledshrub.com, which has a lot of info about historical references within the book and about the esteemed authors.

Weather Report, Jan. 14

Our currently featured books, “Breakfast With Neruda,” by Laura Moe, “3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies,” by Townsend Walker and “The Art of Healing,” by Charles and Gail Emnerick, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.


One of this week’s Snowflakes in a Blizzard offerings has a curious title — “Swirled All the Way to the Shrub.”

What about that, Tom Bentley?

“The logic behind the title is quite illogical,” said Tom, who co-wrote the novel with Rick Wilson. “A friend of Rick’s emailed him to express her delight in seeing a giant icicle that had swirlingly formed from her rooftop to a nearby shrub. She told him, ‘It swirled all the way to the shrub!’  Rick thought that would make a great short story title, which it was before it became a novel. That this obscure remark resulted in a collaborative novel is one of those life whimsies that couldn’t have been plotted out, even in a novel.”

Which reminded me of Lisa DeNiscia’s rationale for naming her Snowflakes-featured short story collection “To the Left of the Microwave”:

“The title has nothing to do with the collection,” she said. “One day my partner asked me where something was, and I told him, ‘It’s to the left of the microwave.’ He said, ‘That’s a good title.’”

Actually, quirky labels such as these may well satisfy the goal of all titles — attracting attention to a book, if only to satisfy a potential reader’s bewilderment.

But they also point out that titles are often too easily dismissed. For new writers, especially, a strong title might be the difference between a book being picked up off a shelf or clicked on a Website, or … not.

Looking through the 527 books highlighted thus far on Snowflakes in a Blizzard, I came up with 10 favorite titles. These are, in no particular order:

“Shrink Wrapped,” David Leibert. (For a collection of real-life stories by a psychiatrist).

“Big in Japan,” by Jennifer Griffith. (A novel about an overweight Texan who moves to Japan and becomes a successful sumo wrestler).

“We Take Me Apart,” by poet Molly Gaudry. (Aptly describes the turmoil of a shaky relationhip).

“Girl Without Borders,” by Katya Mills. (A novel about a young woman diagnosed with a “borderline personality.”)

“Under Julia,” by Lauren Scharhag. (Makes you curious, doesn’t it? The book is a fictional account of real life sex offenders forced to live beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami).

“Booked,” by Karen Swallow Prior. (Nice double meaning here — it’s about a teacher’s love of literature).

“Dogland,” by Jacki Skole. A non-fiction look at the plight faced by some American canines.

“Wolf Season.” Helen Benedict’s novel is only peripherally about wolves, but the title invites checking it out.

“An Incredible Talent for Existing,” Pamela Jane. (I just loved this turn of phrase).

“The Martyr’s Brother.” (A novel by Rona Simmons about a Middle Eastern zealot who comes to the United States with bad intent).




Letters from Limbo is a collection of poems in three sections and multiple modes. The poems provide windows into lost worlds and connect the realms of the dead to the living in various imaginative ways. At the core of the book is “Asylum Song,” a documentary sequence that brings a long-buried family secret to light using research that includes case records from a state mental hospital. Through epistles, elegies, ekphrastic poems, found poems, and dramatic monologue, Letters from Limbo explores poetry’s capacity to discover, document, transform, and lament.


It’s 1971, Berkeley. Beast comes to the Cathedral of Learning in a time of political upheaval, hallucinogenic drugs, group sex, and electric, acid, psychedelic, mind-bending rock and roll. On his quest for meaning he hangs out with a Harley-riding dwarf, a raven-haired Gothic artists’ model, a sorority girl just discovering her nymphomania, and the heir to a family of French aristocrats with a bloody history dating back to Joan of Arc. Beast soon discovers that he can’t live in the past but has to embrace the present with its traps and land mines and the horrors of contemporary society—death by motorcycle and bad acid trips. The world is exploding, but students still go to classes, fall in love, get laid, study in libraries, win awards, even graduate. The country is on fire, and Berkeley supplies the fuel.


We wanted to write a novel that starts at that precise moment when the Roaring Twenties were crushed down into the Whimpering Thirties by The Crash, the biggest single economic tragedy in American history. And this ignoble setting allowed us to take a flawed but generally likable fellow who was just on the cusp of fantastic success after years of noble effort and crush him down right along with the Market. Then we get to see if he ever bounces back again. Our hero, Pinky DeVroom is a sozzled society reporter and would-be novelist who spends many an hour at The Shrub, the speakeasy that’s often the focus of his off-work life. He suspects that life has more to offer, but he can’t seem to find the offering. The book follows his search (and a few tributary story lines as well).










Breakfast With Neruda

Laura Moe

This week’s other featured books, “3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies,” by Townsend Walker, and “The Art of Healing,” by Charles & Gail Entrekin, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: Breakfast With Neruda


THE AUTHOR: Laura Moe.

THE EDITOR: Jacquelyn Mitchard

THE PUBLISHER: Merit Press/Simon & Schuster (Originally published by Merit Press, but Merit was acquired by Simon & Schuster in 2016.)

Breakfast with Neruda by [Moe, Laura]SUMMARY: Eighteen year old Michael Flynn chooses to live in his 1982 Ford LTD station wagon, The Blue Whale, rather than his mother’s home. Her hoarding has made the house unlivable. Then Michael commits a crime and is sentenced to community service, where he meets chain-smoking Shelly Miller, who is also cleaning the high school over the summer. What should have been tedious leads to a journey to self-discovery.

Michael begins to fall for Shelly, but isn’t ready to open up to her. Shelly, in turn, isn’t quick to reveal much about herself either. However, it’s a shared love of words and Pablo Neruda’s poetry that brings them closer. Slowly, Michael begins to entrust Shelly with the parts of himself he felt necessary to hide, including the fact he’s never met his father. His honesty eventually coaxes Shelly into revealing her own troubled past. The two forge a bond, and Shelly helps Michael uncover the buried secrets that reveal his identity.

THE BACK STORY: Before I talk about this, I want to clarify that the protagonist’s name, Michael Flynn, was chosen long before our current government debacle.

Michael and Shelly were inspired by a former student who came to me complaining she had to make up excessive absences by helping our custodians clean the building during the summer. Ding ding ding ding ding! I was in the process of writing an early novel draft but didn’t have a compelling reason to place my characters together. In ordinary circumstances the two would not have even met.

I loved placing these two kids together. He comes from poverty and she lives in a sprawling home with a three car garage, yet underneath it all, they have more in common than not.

Since most of my career was spent with high school kids, it’s no accident I chose a high school as my setting. In addition, I wanted to highlight the custodians. Support staff tend to be “invisible,” but as you will see, Earl, the head custodian, is integral to the story.

One of the perils of writing, even fiction is research, and I had to watch many episodes of Hoarders in order to make Michael’s experience accurate. On the plus side, the show always motivated me to clean.

WHY THIS TITLE?:I struggled with the title, and had many variations. One of my writing friends who read an early draft suggested I call it A Whole Lot of Smirking Going On due to my overuse of the verb, to smirk. (I think in the published version I only use it once.) A good title is like a missing puzzle piece. When I aligned the common elements I realized the two main characters both love Pablo Neruda’s poetry and are meeting for breakfast every day.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? A lot of contemporary novels take place in urban areas where life is more exciting, but a large chunk of the population lives in places much like the fictional city of Rooster, Ohio. The novel also focuses its lens on a personal story with universal themes of trust, friendship, and self-discovery.


A summer long punishment becomes a sensitive, thoughtful novel. Kirkus Reviews, May, 2016

Moe gives us a wonderfully written, character-driven novel. Her first love is poetry, which comes as no surprise since the narrative reads like one of Pablo Neruda’s poems. Every word feels as if it was carefully chosen to tell Michael’s story, using simple and crisp prose to convey deep and complex themes. Imagery is used only when it needs to be and actions are described as they are…. Breakfast with Neruda is a true journey of the self, taking us deeper with every turn of the page. It shows us that healing can only take place once we dismantle the walls we painstakingly build around ourselves and that our most vulnerable selves might hide our strongest truths. CLEAVER magazine, June 7, 2016

I really enjoyed this book because it shows you friendship and how people will help others in need without expecting anything in return. We’re in a world that seems to be driven by payment or favors. Many people won’t do things for free, even though giving, even if it’s hard, is always good for the giver. Laura did a great job of balancing romance and secrecy. I would recommend this book for people who want a little slice of both. I would also recommend this book for readers that want to see what really goes on in the house of a hoarder, and how family and friends attempt to handle the situation. Overall, I really liked this book and would give it a 10/10. — Keira S, teen blogger from Glen Ellyn Library, June 20, 2018.

A lot of young adult fiction just doesn’t feel real. I tore through this book, because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. I also loved that it punctured stereotypes right and left. — an Amazon reviewer, July 6, 2018

AUTHOR PROFILE: Even as a kid I knew I wanted to be a writer, but making a living penning books is sketchy. Many of my writer friends work a “real” job, and like me, become teachers. I’m a former high school librarian/English teacher. During the school year I didn’t get much writing done, but during summer time I did. Now that I draw from a teacher’s pension, with a scaled back standard of living, I am able to write full-time. My teaching experience also prepared me for making presentations at conferences on writing related topics.

For two years I hosted a podcast called The Young Adult Cafe where I interviewed a variety of YA writers. Recently I turned the microphone over to another host, but here’s an example of a recent interview.  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheairradio2/2018/08/21/award-winning-ya-novelist-jeff-zentner-visits-the-ya-cafe

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I wanted to open a window into the real-life issues many of my former students faced on a daily basis. Most of my teaching career was in Appalachian Southeastern Ohio where poverty is rampant. Yet even kids like Shelly with material advantages suffer the same confusion of young adulthood.

One of the large themes is the desire for knowing one’s biological heritage. Both Michael and Shelly have a missing parent. I also wanted to portray hoarding and blended families in a sensitive manner.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.amazon.com/Breakfast-Neruda-Laura-Moe/dp/1440592195/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

LOCAL OUTLETS: Seattle area: Third Place Books, Secret Garden Books, The Neverending Bookshop, Edmonds Bookshop. Powells Books, Portland, OR. The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio and bookstores anywhere.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

PRICE: 17.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://www.lauramoebooks.com/




3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies

3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies by [Walker, Townsend]

Townsend Walker

THE BOOK: 3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies


THE AUTHOR: Townsend Walker

THE EDITORS: Beverly Mills, Rae Bryant, Janet Freeman

THE PUBLISHER: Deeds Publishing, Athens

SUMMARY: The sixteen stories are rooted in foreign places, cemeteries, violence, and strong women. The worlds the characters construct are unforgiving. Their paths cross in tangled and sometimes unfortunate ways. In the title novella, five linked stories, three women use wit, seduction, and weapons to master the men they meet. The ribald reverend in “The Second Coming” meets his match in nineteen-year-old Charity. In “Super Secrets,” two women are neighbors and lovers, until one is betrayed and exacts revenge. On a darker note, a crazed horse and a storm at sea shatter a fragile love in “Slashing at the Nets.” Then, in “Storm Painter,” an artist moves in with a writer, but their past destroys his third novel. Place is important. No one other than an Italian detective would find a clue in a singular tortellino. The New York sniper would only be trained by the Israeli Defense Force. This short story collection spans centuries where nothing is as it seems, and twists are as abundant as they are deadly.

THE BACK STORY: I started writing short stories about ten years ago. Most were published in literary journals, on line and paper. My formal schooling had me reading Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes, so when I started reading and writing short stories I experimented a lot with subject matter and style. From the start, one of my ambitions was to put out a collection of stories, but a collection needs to be held together by a theme. Looking over what I had written the emerging theme was noir with untoward endings. That’s why these stories were put together in one book. The combination of a lead novella and subsequent short stories came about when a close friend gave me Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking, which does just that with good effect.

WHY THIS TITLE? I was initially casting about for the title of the lead novella, looking for something attention getting and words that carried an indication of what the reader would find. At one point, I started counting. Three women, that was obvious. There were four towns, and without knowing aforehand, I started counting bodies. Voila! Five. And though not specific to the other eleven stories in the collection, it worked thematically.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The stories are entertaining and provocative and keep the reader on the edge of uncertainty. They offer an accessible and compelling escape from the here and now. And who doesn’t need that? I think they merge elements of the classic noir genre with the idiosyncrasies of the Gen X and Millennial generations. As a bonus, the stories feature a cast of shrewd, fearless, kick-ass women.


“Written with crisp, precise prose, 3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies is a stylish and modern take on noir fiction. These stories portray a world that is glamorous, mysterious, a bit seedy, and thoroughly compelling. Fans of Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard will love the sparkling dialogue and dry wit.”  –Martha Conway, author of The Underground River

“If you like your plots hard-boiled, your romances illicit, and your beautiful dames worldly and sharp as their murder weapons, look no farther than this fast-paced collection of gleeful tales of trickery, murder and slow-simmered revenge. Set in lush locations as varied as 1960’s NYC, revival tents in 1928 Texas, and a mountain village in 1839 Hungary, these fascinating morally ambiguous stories will be just your cup of tea….or glass of fizzy champagne. Or claret. Or port….”  –M. M. De Voe, author of The Boy Who Loved Trees and founder of Pen Parentis

“An impeccably written collection of stories–each one different, but somehow creating the same effect. The dark tone, the characters with loose moral and behavioral boundaries, and the vivid imagination of the author make this collection worthy of a permanent place on the bookshelf.” –Sheri Hoyte, Reader Views

Book Excellence Awards Winner

Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards Winner

2018 International Book Awards Finalist in Two Categories: Short Story and Mystery/Suspense

2018 Best Book Awards Finalist in Fiction: Short Stories

AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in western Maryland and graduated from Georgetown, New York University and Stanford, Economics and Political Science. During a career in banking I lived in New York, Paris, London, Rome and San Francisco and wrote three books in finance: A Guide for Using the Foreign Exchange Market, Managing Risk with Derivatives, and Managing Lease Portfolios.

My novella, La Ronde, was published in 2015. Short stories have appeared in over seventy literary journals and have been included in ten anthologies. Two of the stories in 3W4T5B were nominated for a PEN/O.Henry Award. I live in San Francisco and in addition to working on stories, I conduct a workshop in creative writing for incarcerated veterans at San Quentin Prison.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My primary purpose in writing is to entertain the reader and to take them out of the world they are in—escape. At the same time, I’d like to think that I’m able to provide useful insights into people and places the reader is not familiar with, or may not want to be familiar with.



New York,


He was a sweet lay. Charlie, that’s what he said his name was, picked me up at The Pub. He thought he did the picking, but then most guys do. The Pub, a neighborhood bar on the upper West Side, heavy on the wood, pretenses of being English, dart board, shepherd pie, cheese and chutney nibbles. I was perched on a stool at the bar with a Vodka Collins. He was at the far end, a lean 6’2”, sandy hair, horn rims. I turned his way once or twice, rested my eyes, not waiting to see if he noticed. He finished his beer, walked toward the door, stopped.

“Looks like heaven’s missing an angel,” he said.

“Think you’ve got that one turned around.”

“I can go either way.”

“If I can’t?”

“Then it’s the devil’s way.”

Light played off his smile and I thought, what the hell. He took my hand and we strolled back to his place, a block away. Nice, but a heavy decorator’s hand: black and white Montmartre street photos, leather, plaid throws.

I liked Charlie, Charlie with the green eyes that told stories of mischief, the kid who peeked while his teenage sister’s friend was taking a shower. He lit the logs in the fireplace, we sipped cognac, and he un-wrapped me, quickly, and a little rough. Sometimes, this time, a turn-on. Then he took his time as his lips moved slowly from my breasts to my belly to below. At each stop, he inscribed little circles of pleasure with his tongue.

In the second act, we traded places and I felt the heat from his smooth skin and savored his cedar smell as I licked my way down his body. After the third act, he fell asleep. I waited an hour, got up, dressed, and left. It had been a perfectly cozy tumble on a rainy night, but I had places to go and people to kill.

K, the guy that saved my ass at Maroun al-Ras, now with Mossad, had called late that afternoon. Asked if I’d do him a favor. A major problem with a Russian named Sergei R. in Brighton Beach.

“Can’t you get the FBI to arrest him?”

“Tried that,” K said. “For the last two years, but they’re not buying the evidence we’ve collected, claim it’s weak.”

“And it’s not?”

“It’s solid, Mia, I promise.” Not something I’d ordinarily do. After my tour, I thought I never wanted to kill anyone again. What good did it do? But I owed K, and there a good reason this Sergei R. should die. He was the state-side link of a sex slave trade triangle run out of Kiev into Tel Aviv on to New York. Roma girls were recruited on the pretext of becoming nannies, then sold off to pimps in the Midwest. K would take care of the Ukrainian and Israeli angles if I’d handle this one. No one else was going to stop this, only K and me.

We need to back up here. Out of Wharton I wanted a job on the Street, had a couple of offers—Morgan, Merrill, but then the market went in the tank, and when the tank broke, it was: we’d-love-to-have-you-and-we’re-sure-business-will-pick-up-in-six-months-but-at-the-moment .

. . So I did what every Jewish girl with an MBA/JD does, went to Israel to do the kibbutz thing. Don’t they? Some do, if their grandparents were kibbutzniks.

Six months in the kibbutz when an army recruiter came through with stories about the exploits of the Israeli Defense Force. I knew the story. My grandparents had talked about being rescued back in ‘49. I signed up for a two-year stint. An added attraction, the training base was near Haifa—cypress trees, rain, lush green hills, beaches, and men.

In basic, it turned out I was a crack shot. Top of the class. Qualified for sniper school. There, I graduated second. A natural talent it seemed. Two things: metabolism of a cat and people with gray eyes have better vision, more light gets through. And to do something with impact. In the lingo, be a force multiplier. Eliminate commanding officers and the people manning the serious weapons.

My first action, Lebanon. Beautiful country – the crenelated landscape painted with deep green valleys and framed by pale gray limestone cliffs, but marred by villages with broken buildings and rubble from shelling. My Recon Company was sent in to Maroun al-Ras with K as my partner. We set up on a high point, a place with good sight lines. K was about 20 feet to my right. The field we overlooked was target rich. Out 500 meters were four Fajr-5 rocket launchers and their crews. I’d taken out the three crew members on the nearest launcher. I could see the faces of the soldiers I killed, but didn’t allow myself to get distracted. I targeted a button on their chest and believed if I didn’t kill them, women and children would die. And I tell myself that every time a settlement takes a round.

I set up for the next launcher crew, heard the brush crackle on my left, turned, a dark hulk, blotting out the sun, a man, head wrapped in a black scarf, a long knife, a whisper,

“Hot-me-et-un-mote! Die!”

My stomach clutched. I’d been triangulated So fucking stupid, Mia. Lesson one, shoot, move. I was dug in, arms trapped by my rifle. I couldn’t budge. I screamed, but nothing came out. Then, a shot, a knife clanked off my helmet, a man fell on my legs.

“Stay down, Mia,” K yelled. Then ran up and finished off the attacker with his bayonet.

My two years in the IDF up, I came back to the city. The economy still sucked and the Street wasn’t hiring. I had a bit saved, so I hung with some people from B-school, made a serious study of the after-hours clubs and the guys who go there. Some rough characters. Wolves in Street clothing. I hit the gym for a couple of hours in the afternoon and had my weekly mani-pedi.

I interrupted the Sergei R. story for some background. Now back to him. It took a few days to find him in Asser Levy Park. A stocky man, mid 50s, pasty complexion, sour expression, a track suit, finger thick gold chain and black leather shoes—Russian mafia couture. I sat on a bench watching. The first morning, as a mother cooing to her baby swaddled in a blanket. Another morning, as a threadbare homeless woman with an overflowing shopping cart. Sergei had a pattern. At seven every morning he walked his overweight toy poodle. Seemed to love the little thing. Picked him up, nuzzled him, fed him tiny biscuits.

The Park was bounded by high rises on one side, (he lived in 8905), and four-lane Surf Boulevard, behind Coney Island beach. A park saturated by ocean humidity and salt. Sergei walked the same paths, always, the ones between the amphitheater and the road. Not many people and not many cars early in the day, especially when the fog hung low.

I spent time mapping sight lines and covers. Found a grove of trees with the perfect angle. Waited for a rainy day. Bullets shoot flatter (more accurately), and footprints would be washed out. I went to Goodwill and picked up two long raincoats, standard tan and a pair of boots.

The rain started at four Wednesday morning. I was ready. When I saw him at the end of the path, I pulled the rifle from under my coats, lay down in the mud, set the bipod, adjusted the scope, a little to the left, for spin drift. Nailed him at 200 meters. He flopped, fortunately not on top of the little dog. A couple of days later, an envelope under the door. From K. Generous, down payment on a West Side two bedroom. That knife that clanked off my helmet, I hung it over my bed.

A month after the Russian job, K called again. “I hate to ask this, but Mia, one more. Please.”

“What’s it about this time?”

“Guy molesting my cousin. She works for him in the Diamond District, forcing her to do things to him. Disgusting things. Even you, I can’t say the words to.”

“Why doesn’t she . . .”

“Forget the cops, my cousin told me the guy is a big contributor to Orphans and Widows. Is that something?”

“Listen K, some things I can’t kill for. Only one person involved here. Sorry, I know it’s your cousin, but for me it’s got to be proportional. What I will do is put him in pain for a long while.”

My plan, take out his knee. I checked and he didn’t have insurance. Friend over at Aetna ran a cross company search. Thing they did when anybody applied. Made sure people weren’t double and triple insuring for the same thing. This jewelry guy would be forced to sell the business to cover multiple operations. K’s cousin would be home free.

Isaac lived over in Borough Park and spent time strolling in nearby Green-Wood Cemetery after he closed up shop on 47th Street. On a path below a rise covered with poplars, dotted with small crypts. One evening at dusk, from behind a red granite tombstone, Sloat (Rear

Admiral, claimed California for the U.S., according to Wikipedia) was the name on the plinth, at 100 meters, I took out his right knee. The shot was true, but when I turned around, I saw a pale faced man in a green uniform and service cap, cemetery custodian on rounds, about fifty feet away, staring at me. He twisted around to pull a walkie-talkie from the holster on his belt. Where the shit did he come from? Think Mia. Make him forget. I set my rifle down, unbuttoned my coat and my blouse and let my skirt slip down my legs. Then picked up the rifle, walked toward him, unhooked my lacy red bra, opened it, started to slide my panties, red also, over my hips. He gasped, turned, dropped the walkie-talkie, stumbled, pulled himself up, and ran. He won’t remember my face.

Justice frontier style, but justice all the same for the Roma girls and K’s cousin. Talked to a rabbi about the Torah’s “eye for an eye.” It came down to guys who batter their wives, abuse kids, and stalk women. The city needed its modern day paladin, not the Dungeons and Dragons video game variety. Not trying to subvert the legal system, just give victims a righteous response. Why me? I’m smart and educated, dispassionate (some of my school friends have said ‘cold’) and I can shoot. I didn’t want to do it. I had to do it. All that, plus memories of the time I spent on the kibbutz at Yahel. Up before dawn to milk, lead the cows out to pasture, muck out the stalls, bring the cows back in. And repeat. It’s kind of corny, but my milk fed babies. I’d felt part of something larger than my own family. It seemed more important than a career in finance.

* * *

Charlie was gone a month, business trip to the coast. Back in town, apologized for the silence, invited me to Behanding in Seattle. He did a great Christopher Walken low raspy, “I don’t need to be made (pause) to look evil. I can do that (pause) on my own.” Also spent time with his brother who lived in San Francisco. Went on about how his brother had become bearable, even likeable since he’d married and had a kid. Charlie liked kids. Twice a week he coached for the Police Athletic League up on 119th Street. He’d been all-conference guard at Bucknell. Good hands (to which I could attest). They seemed large for a man just over six feet.

Meantime, I decided to become a PI. License to carry. I’d investigate first, fire only if I had to. The PI exam was a doodle and I managed to convince the examiner that my military service met the experience requirements. A friend from Wharton worked for Della Femina, the ad agency, and helped me put together a media campaign focused on women’s issues—cheating husbands, abusive partners. The image: hip, hard, helping.

Over on 47th and Second, west side of the street, gold lettering on a third-story window.

Allan & Monroe

Private Investigators

For Hire

That’s my office. I’m the Allan, Miriam Ivanna. It’s been Mia since I left home. There’s no Monroe, never was, but a double-barrel name is reassuring. That’s what the Marketing prof at Wharton said, though I don’t think he had this in mind.

A couple of weeks later, raining, Charlie and I grabbed a cab to see View from the Bridge. Cabbie missed the turn on 45th. Charlie went crazy. Nearly jumped into the front seat. Thought he would throttle the driver, but I managed to grab his arm. When he sat back, he became all apologetic, to me and when we got out, he gave the cabbie a fifty. A little class to Charlie, more than just good in the sack. Okay, hair-trigger temper, but cooled quickly. Occupational hazard probably. A stockbroker, started with Salomon, now Morgan Stanley. Successful, smooth talker. I wasn’t in a hurry to settle down with anyone, but he made me start to think about it. Never fails when you spend your summer weekends at girlfriends’ weddings.

* * *

Late one afternoon, a woman poked her head in my office door. Late-twenties, black hair, spikey, contrasted with a blue polka dot shirt dress. Nina Silvano seemed both nervous and determined. Sat very straight in the chair

“Had a bit too much to drink after Roger didn’t show.”

“Happens to all of us. The Pub, the one over on the West Side?”

“Yeah, that one. Anyway, this cute guy, I’d seen him there before, convinced me to go home with him. When I got outside, the rain woke me up and I decided I didn’t want to.”


“When I told him, he went nutso and shoved me against the building, then grabbed my arms, held my wrists above my head with one hand.”

“Which hand?”

“I’m pretty sure it was his left hand.” She showed me the bruises, turning yellow and green. I looked carefully. The marks were from a left-hand clutch. His thumb left a distinctive mark. “He put his other hand over my mouth.”

She stomped on the guy’s shoe, he let go for a minute, and she ran into the street just as a cab passed. I asked her what she wanted me to do.

“Remember, last week in the paper, the girl that was found strangled on the west side of Central Park? I’m afraid it might be the same guy.”


“I’d been to The Pub the night of the murder, saw the girl there, I saw him too. According to the papers she had bruises on her wrists when she was found, like mine.”

“That’s not much to go on.”

“But, when they were sitting in the corner, they argued, waved their hands. After five minutes of this they quieted down, then he kissed her palm and she leaned into him. After that she went to the bar and talked to, I guess, a girlfriend. On his way out, he stopped and said something to her. She nodded, like she was agreeing to meet him because a couple of minutes later, she left too.”

“Okay, let’s start with the basics—Name? What did he look like? Age? What was he wearing? Anything quirky about him?”

“Danny was over six feet, kind of built, sandy hair, horn rims. Maybe in his mid-thirties. And he wore a soft leather jacket.”

“Did you notice the color of his eyes?”

“They were green, beautiful actually.”

She waited for me to say something.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing, nothing at all.”

“One other thing. He left before me. He said he was going to step out of the bar and call his brother. Something to do with him coming to town. Danny wanted me to meet him at the corner. That’s where he grabbed me.”

“Did you talk to the police? The Central Park murder story has been all over the papers.”

“They said they had it under control. The cop heading up the investigation said they’d identified persons of interest. I spent an hour with them but it seemed they only wanted to hear things that confirmed what they already knew.”

I helped Nina to the door, a sisterly hug, and said I’d see what I could do.

I checked out Nina and Charlie, their college and job records, co-workers, past lovers, friends. Spent a month, following them around and digging through computer files. My client was as close as you can come to a convent girl, these days. Sacred Heart for high school, Marymount, and now fifth grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament over on West 70th. And I dug into the background of the woman who’d been murdered—mid-twenties, black hair, pale complexion, graduated NYU in sociology, worked for the city. Seemed Charlie had a thing for black hair, pale complexioned women.

Turned out Charlie’s name was Daniel Xavier O’Rourke. For someone his age, had the usual number of affairs, only one went as far as an engagement. Nothing to suggest he’d beat a woman. And I couldn’t hold a phony name against someone. Well, maybe I could, three months?

I went into the Pub before the crowd one night and talked to the bartender. He remembered that the victim and Charlie/Danny had both been in the bar the night of the murder, but he saw them together for only a minute. Busy night. The bartender did remember Charlie paid his tab and left. Sometime later, the woman hurried out. After a month of sleuthing, I understood the police position. Too much coincidence for them, for me too.

I had to be sure, for me, and for my client. Knew I could bump into Charlie at The Pub without making it obvious what I was up to. I wore my pencil leg pants, heels, and a black silk blouse with a serious V. He was by himself at a table in the corner. Cords, brown bomber jacket, sipping a Guinness. He called out as I walked in.

“Where have you been?” He stood and took both my hands in his. “I’ve missed you.”

“Business trips. Quieted down a bit now.”

“You never told me what you do.” He seemed genuinely interested.

“We had other things to talk about.”

“So, what is it you do?”

“You want to continue the conversation at my place?” I said. After all, he was only a suspect, no proof of guilt, yet.

He threw a fifty on the table and we left. He placed my arm on his and kissed my hair as we walked back to my apartment. Sweet gesture.

Pleasure first. Act One played out as always. Very, very nice. Then business. I went a little mean on him. “Is that all you got?” Poked him in the ribs. He looked startled. “Where’d you leave the big man?” Light cuff on the ear. He turned red.

“What the hell’s this?”

He jumped out of bed, pulling the blanket with him. His back to me. He must be into a new weight routine—the traps had more definition, and his ass was definitely tighter than I remembered. I watched, lying on the bed propped up on my right elbow, sheets pulled up. I could tell he was tense the way his muscles bunched, but he didn’t say anything, not even heavy breathing. He stuffed his shorts into the pocket of his pants, put his left leg through them, teetered a bit as his lost his balance, then stuck his right leg through. Maybe Charlie could control himself. He wasn’t the killer.

“You always leave your women disappointed?”

He continued to dress, reached down for his shirt, put his right arm in the sleeve, hesitated, let the shirt drop, then whirled around, his face livid. Before I could move, his fist smashed into my cheek.


I scurried and rolled across the bed, but got caught in the sheets. With his left hand, he grabbed my right wrist, then the left one, and squeezed them together. Punched me in the stomach. His hands were around my throat, pushing down. I groped for the drawer in the bedside table and knocked the lamp on the floor. He jerked. Cold steel pushed into his gut. My .38.

“Whoa, baby,” I purred. I wanted him to remember I don’t scare.

He stumbled for the door. I think his shirt was on backward and he left his socks on the carpet. Yup. Charlie had a mean streak, deep and ugly. And the mirror said my face wore it. Shit! It hurt. Why Charlie? Why is it you? Why didn’t I see it?

Much later I figured out it was me. Out to have fun, grab it when I could, hell with consequences. That’s what happened with Charlie.

But, his taste in women, his M.O. He was the one, but not enough hard facts to go to the police. But this violence. Couldn’t watch him all the time. Couldn’t risk other women. I had to. Next Wednesday, I’ll be in position on Summit Rock in Central Park. First light. Charlie will jog from his apartment on West 80th, toward the Reservoir. He’ll run towards the Rock. Me, I’ll be kneeling in the shadows, arm vertical under my rifle, I’ll see him, I’ll sight on his heart, I’ll count down, I’ll feel the heat of the target, I’ll remember the smell of the target, I’ll breathe in, let out half a breath, I’ll be in my still place, steady pressure to the very end of my finger.

The bullet will travel through his heart faster than the speed at which his tissues tear, stretching them beyond their breaking points. His blood pressure will drop quickly, but it will take 10 to 15 seconds for him to lose brain function. Time to think about why this is happening to him.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Russian Hill Books on Polk Street and Books Inc. on Chestnut Street in San Francisco.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Deeds Publishing: https://www.deedspublishing.com/store/3w4t5b and Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07B4N8KWN/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

PRICE: $18.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: townsend@aperimus.com

The Art of Healing

THE BOOK: The Art of Healing


THE AUTHORS: Charles and Gail Entrekin.

THE EDITOR: John Peterson.

THE PUBLISHER: Poetic Matrix Press.

SUMMARY: From the publisher — Poetry. Collaboration. THE ART OF HEALING documents in poetry the experience of Charles’ bout with cancer. Poets Charles Entrekin and Gail Rudd Entrekin—husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness—beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. In this collection, both poets were moved to make sense of what was happening in their lives through the writing of poems. Unaware of each other’s content, they continued writing throughout the treatment. Later, upon reflection, they realized that they had been coming to grips with the same events through poems that seemed to complement each other.

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THE BACK STORY: This book documents a transformative and cathartic experience in my life, and it is a natural follow-up to my previous collection of poems, PORTRAIT OF A ROMANCE, a love story to my wife. THE ART OF HEALING also tells a story—a story of discovery and fear, healing, forgiveness, compassion and love. Gail and I had experienced what we called a shared reality for 35 years, but approached my diagnosis of cancer, of necessity, from separate points of view. It became obvious that we were going to have to go through this experience as separate people. We began looking into Buddhist philosophy and thought. As I began facing the possibility of not surviving this experience, I found myself trying come to grips with what my life story was all about. The more I delved into Buddhism, the more I began to appreciate a perspective that questioned my belief and attachment to the story of who I thought I was. After spending some time doing this, I tried to explain to my brother on the telephone one day what about Buddhism interested me and I failed to come up with a good answer. So I set about devising what I call “my elevator speech,” a way of explaining–in a limited amount of time–what attracted me to Buddhism. The short version is as follows: Buddhism gave me a way to let go of my attachment to the self I used to believe in.

This may seem strange to people who are about to undergo chemotherapy, but I found it necessary to “forgive myself” for having cancer. Cancer, for me, felt like I was abandoning my life and my family, even though I knew I had not chosen this path. All of this fed into my poetry because I had always written poetry to discover myself, who I was, what I thought and what were the emotional realities of my life. I had been doing this since early adulthood. Now I found myself writing poems daily that were informed by my own questioning of who I was and what I was doing.

Cancer felt like I was engaged in a war against un-opposable forces and the only path to some level of peace was to surrender to the experience and embrace what was happening to me, no matter where it led. These poems in the Art of Healing mark the progress of my thinking on a day-by-day basis, and I began to gain comfort and relief from suffering from the task of writing and from the philosophical understandings of Buddhism. The first poem begins with the diagnosis and the last poem is about forgiveness.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I have recently been thinking that it could also be called Zen and the Art of Healing because my poems have a very strong Zen influence, and it could also be called Zen and the Art of Loving because this book is about loving and caring and suffering and the relief from suffering. It is a book about confronting un-opposable forces, surviving, and growing.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Art of Healing is unique in that these poems narratively reflect two journeys, from diagnosis to treatment to healing, and the coming to terms with what remains, what it means to be alive and part of a larger web of being. This is a book for anyone who has come to know the meaning of suffering and healing.


“The Art of Healing is a fitting title for this volume that demonstrates that healing is, indeed, an art. It could also be called The Art of Loving because the love between Charles and Gail is palpable and inspiring. And it could be called The Art of Living, for it contains wise examples of how to be alive to each moment. As in the poem, “Prognosis,” which begins with the wonderful line, So, you are not dying today, and goes on to make real the actuality of the day: the open mouths of trees…the fog, the fields, the sea birds…circling overhead. Or in the poem, “After Chemo,” which begins, It is what it is, and describes the green sheen of tree moss in winter rain, growing outside the window because it can. There is such tenderness in these poems. When they both shave their heads, they think about how their parents must have once held their bald infant heads and admired how like/heavy fruit we felt, and wondered who was waiting/inside these…elegant bony domes. Charles and Gail Rudd Entrekin allow us to look inside and see who is there. And in seeing them, we see ourselves.” — Ellen Bass

“A very strong collection. The pairing of the poems works really well. Beautiful contrast happens between the two voices. Charles is expressing very directly what is happening to him, physically and emotionally, the paring away, and the return in the end, but changed. Gail’s poems are full of love and staying present in the face of loss. She expresses intimacy eloquently. Her experience contrasts markedly from Charles’s, but both so clearly celebrate together the re-emergence.” — Grace Marie Grafton (Jester, 2013)

“Poets Gail and Charles Entrekin have navigated Charles’s lymphocytic leukemia for years. Heeding Rumi’s counsel that love turns all pain to medicine, they’ve used their craft to transform fear into curiosity, confusion into inviting mystery, and discomfort into gratitude. Any patient or caregiver faced with a serious illness will benefit from Gail’s and Charles’s healing observations.” —Jeff Kane MD Author, “The New Bedside Manner: How Doctors and Caregivers Can Help Heal Patients and the Healthcare System.” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014)

“The Art of Healing takes a revelatory approach to a topic — cancer — we all thought we understood. Poets Charles and Gail Entrekin — husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness — beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. Patients and survivors will recognize themselves and find solace in these two unique, overlapping perspectives. Poetry lovers will come away enlightened and inspired.” – – Karin Miller ((Editor, The Cancer Project)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Charles Entrekin’s most recent works include The Art of Healing, a transformative poetic journey (with Gail Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2016); Portrait of a Romance, a love story in poetry (Hip Pocket Press, 2014); The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times, a collection of essays and poetry (Hip Pocket Press, 2013); Listening: New and Selected Works (Poetic Matrix Press, 2010); and a novel, Red Mountain, Birmingham, Alabama, 1965 (El Leon Literary Arts, 2008). Charles was a founder and managing editor of The Berkeley Poets Cooperative and The Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, founder of the Creative Writing program at John F. Kennedy University (Orinda campus), and a co-founder/advisory board member of Literature Alive!, a non-profit organization in Nevada County, California. He is editor of the e-zine Sisyphus, a magazine of literature, philosophy, and culture; author of the WordPress blog Rhymes and Ruminations; and managing editor of Hip Pocket Press. Charles is the father of five children and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, poet Gail Rudd Entrekin.

Gail Rudd Entrekin is Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press and Editor of the online environmental literary magazine, Canary (www.canarylitmag.org). She is Editor of the poetry anthology Yuba Flows (2007) and the poetry & short fiction anthology Sierra Songs & Descants: Poetry & Prose of the Sierra (2002). Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Nimrod, New Ohio Review, and Southern Poetry Review, were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry from Nimrod International Journal in 2011, and won the Women’s National Book Association Award in 2016. She taught poetry and English literature at California colleges for 25 years. Her books of poetry include The Art of Healing (with Charles Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press 2016); Rearrangement of the Invisible, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2012); Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award; You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998); and John Danced (Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, 1983). She and her husband, poet and novelist Charles Entrekin, live in the hills of San Francisco’s East Bay.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Having said all this, I return to my earlier point about how my wife and I had lived a shared experience of reality. With cancer, we had begun to diverge. I know that, in many ways, Gail’s experience of being caregiver to her beloved partner, watching him change and sink, must have been harder in some ways than my own experience of being sick. I know at moments she felt deserted, abandoned, and betrayed and her poems reflect her struggles. But they also portray an amazing capacity for love, devotion, and support as we weathered the worst of the battle, an experience which I characterize much like a desert war in Africa, where the Janjaweed (riders on horseback) killers were the un-opposable forces that one could only flee to save one’s life. Her poems show an understanding, an agreement to be with me in this desert warfare/struggle and to lie down with me during the worst of it and help me through the night.

SAMPLE CHAPTER (OR POEMS): https://www.amazon.com/Art-Healing-Charles-Entrekin/dp/0986060070

LOCAL OUTLETS: WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Small Press Distribution.

PRICE: $16.50.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: charlesentrekin.com and gailruddentrekin.com