The Grief Eater

This week’s other featured books, “Willing,” by Leslie Morris Noyes and “Spirit’s Tether,” by John C. McLucas, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: The Grief Eater

PUBLISHED IN: 2020

THE AUTHOR: Deirdre Fagan.

THE EDITOR: Stevan V. Nikolic.

THE PUBLISHER: Adelaide Books, New York.

SUMMARY: The short stories throughout The Grief Eater reveal various universal facets of grieving through the compulsive and sometimes haunting behaviors of struggling characters who often disregard social norms in order to cope with not only their own suffering, but the suffering of others. The collection includes eight short stories, book-ended by two poems.

THE BACK STORY: When I lost the last of my birth family, my father and brother in 2006, having earlier lost my eldest brother and mother, I became the last member of my branch of the family tree. Neither of my two brothers had married or had children, so I truly was the last one standing. I had one child at the time, a son, three, and my husband. All grief is lonely but having no one left with shared memories of much of my life was particularly lonely. I was an orphan now, yes, as many adult children call themselves when both of their parents are gone, but I was also without siblings or nieces and nephews from my side of the tree. I longed for branches; I longed for a word to describe my position. Telling stories about others whose grief was overwhelming, as I do in The Grief Eater collection, allowed me to imagine a community of grievers and feel a little less alone. It was a way to not only place in the world the sorts of stories I thought might have helped me to feel less isolated, but also share what I have learned about the emotions, albeit irrational or unexpressed, that sometimes seize us when grief unexpectedly bubbles up.

Image result for Deirdre Fagan + author + photosWHY THIS TITLE?: The inscription to the book reads: “…and for all those whom have ever had to eat their own or another’s grief.” I chose the title because we often do “eat” our grief, as in suppress our very human emotions in order to behave conventionally, rather than expressing ourselves freely. It is also a gesture toward the food imagery that abounds in the book.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This book is a collection of sometimes provocative, sometimes cathartic stories of grieving laced with dark, as well as surprising, humor. It is a book about loss but also about understanding. It is a book about struggle but also about release. It is about the love we have had and the love we can keep. If we love, we will grieve. This is inevitable. These stories are a reminder that there are no unacceptable ways to process grief. I hope that these stories offer possibilities for understanding and approaching grief.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The characters in these stories struggle with that most human pain of how to move on from grief and possibly find a livable space. These psychological portraits of characters at extreme crossroads will strike a deep chord in anyone who has thought about mortality or confronted loss. This is an excellent first collection of stories.” – John Cullen, author of Town Crazy

There is so much to admire in these deeply human tales confronting grief, death, loneliness, and despair. Each compelling and complex character reveals an unexpected grace, reveals comfort where one would never expect to find it, and this gives a reader the courage to face the worst. Whether you’re grieving or celebrating the beauty of this life, these stories will speak to you.” –Karen Stefano, author of What A Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath

“The characters’ seemingly unhealthy pursuits concerning their personal grief become utterly compelling to the reader under Fagan’s command. Instead of odd, they are fully believable, reacting to loss in one of a myriad of ways human beings just might—a woman who attends the funerals of people she does not know, another who collects yo-yos and men, a man who dials random phone numbers hoping for connection on the other end, a woman who finds a man living in her basement, and more. In addition, Fagan employs short sentences so effectively. With minimal details she is able to reveal the worlds of curious people. Grief Eater is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories.” –Lisa Muir, author of Taking Down the Moon

AUTHOR PROFILE: Deirdre Fagan is a remarried widow, mother of two, and native New Yorker who has lived in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Maryland, and currently resides in Michigan where she teaches and coordinates the Creative Writing program at Ferris State University. She has been teaching college writing and literature courses since 1996 and began her writing career publishing academic essays. She has a bachelor’s in English from University at Buffalo and a master’s in English and a doctorate in Humanistic Studies (English and Philosophy) from University at Albany. She is the author of a chapbook of poetry, Have Love (Finishing Line Press, 2019), and a forthcoming memoir about losing her husband to ALS, Find a Place for Me (Regal House, 2022). She is also the author of Critical Companion to Robert Frost (Facts on File, 2007), and in addition to her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, has published academic essays on poetry, memoir, and pedagogy. She resides with her charming husband, delightful children, and incredibly friendly golden retriever and tabby in a home surrounded by woods.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Where there is love, there is grief. May The Grief Eater offer solace—and a dash of dark humor—to those who need it.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Opening to “The Grief Eater”:

I wore my black dress. It was sunny. The long sleeved one. It was 84 degrees. I didn’t eat anything. It was a size too small. My hand steady but heart pounding, I signed the guest book Maria, and then I went to the ladies’ room. I looked ghastly. My skin was pale, too pale against my straightened black hair, my eyes were dark, grim. My lips were too red. It was my first time. I took a deep breath and cupped my hands beneath the water and drank. I dabbed my mouth with a paper towel. I inhaled deeply and walked calmly out the bathroom door.

I read it in the paper, the news about the 87-year-old man who went to bed quite literally with a bump on his head and never awoke again. He was going to be at the funeral home on 48th and there would be a memorial service on Sunday, September 2nd.

Once inside Room C, I discovered there were too few seats. One in the center of the second row left, one on the left in the sixth row right. There were fifteen rows, twenty across, nearly full; he was not alone.

I made my way to the sixth row right. I sat next to an old woman with bluish hair that matched her blue dress. She had an embroidered handkerchief in her hand, and a black purse with a large metal buckle on her lap that looked like a doctor’s bag. She made an effort to smile. Our arms brushed as I sat down. “Excuse me,” I said, and she crunched up her mouth in an effort to be kind without words. I sucked on a mint.

The ceremony was also kind. He’d lived a good life. He’d been a son first, then a sibling, a soldier, a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather. It was not an extraordinary life, but it was probably mostly good, or at least he was. He’d prob- ably had watermelon on hot Sundays in summer. I’m sure he didn’t hug much, but when he did, it was fierce. I’m sure he drank occasionally. I’m sure he was a good worker, less so a lover, but that he’d been better with his great grandchildren than with any children that came before. I am also certain that when he died his hands were still calloused.

When it ended, I excused myself again and slipped out the main door. Then I bought a watermelon and ate the whole thing.

Monday afternoon I went to the funeral home on 64th. This time it was for a child, a little boy. He’d accidentally hanged himself on a swing set his parents had just built. His sister had seen it happen. She was six. She was not at the service.

I wore a baby blue dress. Black did not seem fitting for a child.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Books & Mortar, Grand Rapids, MI; Schuler’s Books, Grand Rapids, MI; Horizon Books, Cadillac, MI.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Author signed copies are available on my website: deirdrefagan.com. Books are also available through the publisher, Adelaide Books, NY, Bookshop, Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other online retailers.

PRICE: $19.60.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Website: deirdrefagan.com; Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/deirdrefagan Facebook: @DeirdreFaganDr; Twitter: @drdeirdrefagan

Willing

Leslie Morris Noyes - Willing Book CoverTHE BOOK: Willing

PUBLISHED IN:
2021

THE AUTHO
R:  Leslie Morris Noyes

THE PUBLISHER
: Independently published

SUMMARY: Liz Silver loves her life. She loves her daughter, whom she’s just sent off to college, she loves her work photographing weddings and the optimism it inspires, and she loves her adventurous and carefree dating life. Then, at 45, she loses the creative spark that is the driving force in all these beloved areas of her life. She’s in a rut, a funk that many readers will relate to when disruptions to our normal way of life have left us cut off from many of the pursuits that give our lives meaning. Find a break from the tedium, a new lease on the same old life, and sexcapades aplenty in Willing by Leslie Noyes [Blender Publishing, March 23, 2021].

Willing | Romantic women's fiction with a delicious, erotic edge.On a winter sabbatical to beautiful coastal Georgia, Liz finds inspiration in more than just the scenery. She meets an attractive, far-too-compelling man who has experienced his share of heartbreak. As for Liz, with her own history of heartbreak she prefers to maintain emotional distance from her romantic partners, but her typical modus operandi goes out the window when love casts a spell over them both. Each of them is forced to decide whether one last all-or-nothing gamble on intimacy is worth the risk.

THE BACK STORY
: I wasn’t finding enough stories I wanted to read, so I set out to write one. I’d never been a creative writer. I am an art director though, and I’ve collaborated with other talented professionals all my life including writers, photographers, painters, and musicians. Many became friends and then they became my teachers. I decided to try the NaNoWriMo challenge in 2011. I managed 50,000 words. I kept going. My process evolved into writing a chapter, then revising it until I was satisfied enough to move on. When I reached the end, I revised the entire manuscript many times over. I’m a perfectionist, which is both a curse and a joy. Seven years after that first NaNoWriMo challenge, I finally decided I was finished.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The novel’s working title was originally 12 Months. My conceit was that the story would unfold over 12 months—only the months wouldn’t be consecutive. Unfortunately, the plot refused to fit that calendar. I didn’t find the new title, Willing, until I was almost done.The title reflects the heroine’s dilemma. As much as she would rather not, circumstances force her to find the willingness to face uncomfortable truths, gaining insights that open her heart and reignite her dying creativity. The title, however, has other meanings, but I can’t share them without ruining the fun of discovery for the reader.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
I’m circling back to my first statement: I wanted to write a book that women like me—smart, mature, vital women—would enjoy. My goal was to create a well-written novel that deals with the real-life challenges of a creative career and with relationships, as well wanting to explore how our motivations and passions can shift as we age. I think older women and men (those of us over 45 or so) have been tempered by life. That makes us more interesting and more complicated that ingenues, who are the more popular protagonists of women’s fiction and romance.

I meant to write a commercial romance. But Willing ended up as a hybrid. Told in the first person, it has a literary voice. The story itself is about transformation, which should slot neatly into women’s fiction, except that it ended up a bit too sexy. That’s because the heroine, Liz, learns her most profound lessons from the men she takes to bed. Ultimately, what she learns in bed and out allows her to reclaim her balance and her happiness.

By middle-age, we are well acquainted with grief and grit. If we are wise, we have learned a little something about how not to sweat the small stuff. Many of us are more confident about who we are than we were when younger. Best of all, we are getting comfortable with our own power. The challenges of aging make compelling elements for any story, but those challenges don’t stop when you are thirty—they have only begun.

Single or coupled, many of us are hungry for heroines who defy the odds. A good story inspires hope for our own real-life happiness. I’m proud to be riding the upswing of what I believe is a wave of such novels. I can’t wait to write many more celebrations of us!

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

LOCAL OUTLETSThe Bennington BookshopThe Vermont Bookshop is a great resource for finding independent bookstores in VT, The run a literary tour of Vermont’s independent bookstores and offer great prizes!

PRICE: TBD

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Connect with Leslie Noyes at LeslieNoyesAuthor.com and Facebook.com/LMNoyes.

Spirit’s Tether

Image result for John C. McLucas + author = photoTHE BOOK: Spirit’s Tether.

PUBLISHED IN: November 2020.

THE AUTHOR: John C. McLucas.

THE EDITOR: Clarinda Harriss.

THE PUBLISHER: BrickHouse Books, Stonewall imprint. Founded in 1970, BrickHouse is Maryland’s oldest continuously operating small press; Clarinda Harriss has been Editor in Chief since 1973. The Stonewall imprint is dedicated to publishing fiction and poetry from an LBGTQIA+ perspective.

SUMMARY: In 2015, the narrator Jim and his husband Joe prepare to welcome godson J.J. to their home in Baltimore’s historic brownstone Bolton Hill neighborhood. J.J.is starting a graduate program in music composition at Peabody Conservatory. Jim is a professor of Italian, a liberal Christian, and a passionate opera lover; Joe is a successful actor and model. For J.J., a very gifted and very odd young man, they are surrogate family. Death, bereavement, mourning, friendship, love and sex in youth and maturity, and the joys and challenges of life in a close-knit neighborhood, all mark the thirteen chapters which, month by month, chart a year of loss and renewal.

Spirit's Tether by [John C. McLucas]THE BACK STORY: Spirit’s Tether is the sequel to my début novel, Dialogues on the Beach (BrickHouse Books, 2017). Dialogues is a story of gay love in the age of AIDS, complicated by gay-straight friendship and bromance. I wanted to explore the same relationships decades later, as a child has grown and marriages have been tested. Coming out, mourning, and mortality present new challenges to old friends.

WHY THIS TITLE? “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether” is the title of a sacred anthem and hymn by Harold Friedell, with words by Percy Dearmer. The novel’s plot involves music school and church life, and this piece is mentioned by the narrator and other characters. The title suggests the survival of love and communication across distance and time.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It is, among other things, a love letter to Baltimore; a story of gay men’s sexuality from coming out through bereavement and beyond; and a meditation on aging and mourning.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“…a wonderful story about the redemptive nature of profound grief and all the mystery of the new order it creates. These were very real characters to me, and so was the heartbreak and the healing.” Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, author of Friends of the Groom.

“… layered with sophisticated insight into flirty and sometimes sexual interactions between the protagonist and a range of men and women besides his godson, as he searches for ‘a twilight romance of muted fondness and tapering passions,’ not replicating the life with Joe. His writing is worldly and, often, elegant.” Bill Hamilton, The Bolton Hill Bulletin, Volume XLIX, Number 1; January 2021.

AUTHOR PROFILE: John C. McLucas, a Yankee by birth and a Baltimorean by adoption, grew up in Pennsylvania, Washington, and Paris, and was educated in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rome, and New York. Trained as an opera singer, he is also a long-time AIDS and LGBTQ activist, an elder in a progressive Presbyterian church, and a committed Italophile. He is a professor emeritus at Towson University, where he taught Italian, Latin, and – in a pinch – French for thirty-six years. For twenty years, he also taught Italian diction and repertoire to voice students at Peabody Conservatory. His favorite Italian authors are Ariosto and Calvino; his favorite English language novelist is Henry James. The sound track of his life is dominated by Mozart. His cats and dogs always have Italian names.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  “The death of my beloved brother in 2013 moved me to write a novel exploring grief, while I also wanted to continue the story of Jim, Joe, Tony, and Rachel (and the possible child of Tony and Rachel) left hanging at the end of Dialogues on the Beach. I also wanted to wrestle with a structure in which the plot moved forward month by month through a year of mourning, while flashbacks at the end of each chapter reached further and further into the past. This fixed structure was in part a tip of the hat to Italo Calvino, my favorite 20th century Italian author.

SAMPLE CHAPTER

(from Chapter 6)

… One night soon after we moved to Bolton Hill, Joe and I were watching TV together, and unexpectedly an ad for the Red Cross came on which he had filmed a few months earlier and which I hadn’t seen yet. He recognized it immediately, and I heard a tiny hum of surprised satisfaction from him.

“Oh, hey,” he said modestly. I recognized his tone, stopped whatever gabbling I had launched into when the commercial break began, and turned my attention to the screen. Joe had talked about this commercial during the filming; it had been physically strenuous and emotionally challenging. I instantly knew this was it, released and aired at last, and I reached to take his hand. It was only half a minute long. Joe was a father whose house was flooded, and the ad began with him swimming out through an attic window with one of his small children in the crook of an arm. He passed the child to his wife, who was huddling safe in a rescue boat with the rest of their young family. The emergency workers were pulling him onto the boat, when they all heard a cry. A small, dark child was screaming, alone on the roof of a house a hundred yards away, with a torrent rushing between it and the boat. Another boat could now be seen, bearing the appalled immigrant family of this child implacably downstream. Joe and his wife exchanged a quick look. He released the gunwale of the rescue boat and hurled himself back into the cataract.

The look on his face as he took this plunge lasted barely a second. It was a look of pure heroic courage. For that instant, this man didn’t care about his own gene pool; he cared only for the child of strangers, people with no claim on him but their shared undefended humanity. He flailed through the raging water until he was close enough for the terrorized child to jump into his arms; then, holding the child above the water, he let the current sweep them back to the waiting boats. The rescuers fished the child first, and then him from the stream, and he collapsed, exhausted, onto the floor of the boat where the new Americans embraced their rescued toddler and reached beseeching hands to their spent savior. His wife in the other boat, her face streaming with the rain and with tears of pride, mouthed a silent prayer and cradled their children as the two boats raced for high ground. The slogan which flashed on the screen at the end, “We’re all heroes,” was completely unnecessary.

That one fleeting look on Joe’s face… no, on the brave father’s face… completely undid me. Nature’s rage could not quench the goodness of that man. He turned and saw a need, and from the depths of his heart, unsummoned, rose an unvanquishable, self-forgetting strength and generosity. For a moment, it seemed possible that humanity was good and kind and true. I was exalted by a surge of optimism and trust coursing through me. And Joe, the actor who had done this, was my lover, was next to me, was the sustaining force and presence in my life, someone whose daily kindness I ran the daily risk of taking for granted.

I intended to bestow some deep, heartfelt praise that would make up for my years of reticence. I turned to him with my eyes brimming, meaning to say, ‘Divo, how beautiful,’ and I burst out crying. He looked at me amazed. He laughed and caught me in his arms, and I cried into his neck and hugged him. “Thank you,” I finally was able to choke out. “Thank you.”

He cradled me as if I were a child he’d rescued from a flood, his own child or another’s; it didn’t matter to the vastness of his goodness and kindness. He hummed a little, as he often did when he didn’t have the words yet. I could tell how deeply gratified he was, how he savored this one moment when his acting had landed an effect far beyond any of my critical criteria. One of the most spontaneous and unrehearsed prayers of my life went up: a prayer of thanks that he existed, that I knew him, that he loved me, and that he finally knew I could, false as I was, and at least sometimes, admire and adore him without reservation.

“No,” he whispered, suddenly shy, “thank you.”

LOCAL OUTLETS: Ivy Bookshop, Baltimore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble (or ask local independent bookstores if they can order).

PRICE: $20 paper; $7.99 eBook (eBook forthcoming, January 2021).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

E-mail: JCMcL1532@aol.com

Facebook: John C. McLucas

Twitter: @JohnCMcLucas1.

Weather Report, Feb. 22

Angel, Angel Figure, Angel Wings, All Souls

(Photo by Pixabay)

Our currently featured books, “She Wore a Yellow Dress,” by John Cammidge, “From the Edge of the World,” by David L. Carter and “Screens,” by Christopher Laine, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKE IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 23-MARCH 1

“THE GRIEF EATER,” BY DEIRDRE FAGAN.

The short stories throughout The Grief Eater reveal various universal facets of grieving through the compulsive and sometimes haunting behaviors of struggling characters who often disregard social norms in order to cope with not only their own suffering, but the suffering of others. The collection includes eight short stories, book-ended by two poems.

“WILLING,” BY LESLIE MORRIS NOYES

Writes Leslie: “I wanted to write a book that women like me—smart, mature, vital women—would enjoy. My goal was to create a well-written novel that deals with the real-life challenges of a creative career and with relationships, as well wanting to explore how our motivations and passions can shift as we age. I think older women and men (those of us over 45 or so) have been tempered by life. That makes us more interesting and more complicated that ingenues, who are the more popular protagonists of women’s fiction and romance.

“I meant to write a commercial romance. But Willing ended up as a hybrid. Told in the first person, it has a literary voice. The story itself is about transformation, which should slot neatly into women’s fiction, except that it ended up a bit too sexy. That’s because the heroine, Liz, learns her most profound lessons from the men she takes to bed. Ultimately, what she learns in bed and out allows her to reclaim her balance and her happiness.”

“SPIRIT’S TETHER,” BY JOHN C. McLUCAS

In 2015, the narrator Jim and his husband Joe prepare to welcome godson J.J. to their home in Baltimore’s historic brownstone Bolton Hill neighborhood. J.J.is starting a graduate program in music composition at Peabody Conservatory. Jim is a professor of Italian, a liberal Christian, and a passionate opera lover; Joe is a successful actor and model. For J.J., a very gifted and very odd young man, they are surrogate family. Death, bereavement, mourning, friendship, love and sex in youth and maturity, and the joys and challenges of life in a close-knit neighborhood, all mark the thirteen chapters which, month by month, chart a year of loss and renewal.

 

 

 

She Wore a Yellow Dress

She Wore a Yellow DressThis week’s other featured books, “From the Edge of the World,” by David L. Carter and “Screens,” by Christopher Laine, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: She Wore a Yellow Dress

PUBLISHED IN
: 2021

THE AUTHOR:
  John Cammidge

THE PUBLISHER: Gatekeeper Press

SUMMARY: A spark is lit on Bonfire Night in Northern England in 1965, but for John and Jean-Louise the fireworks continue to explode for decades to come. An awkward Yorkshire farm boy with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester, John and Jean-Louise blossom, grow — both together and apart — and find ways to compromise in this coming-of-age story that goes beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops. She Wore a Yellow Dress by John R. Cammidge [February 16, 2021, Gatekeeper Press] is at once nostalgic and contemporary in the themes it explores so deftly. An autobiographical streak runs throughout that lends authenticity and depth of detail.

Since a love story doesn’t end when the couple gets together, we get to experience with the characters the ups and downs of newlyweds growing and changing during an era of social revolution. The couple faces national upheavals like changes in government, growing industrial unrest, strikes over Equal Pay, drastic inflation and Britain joining the common market. These issues affect not just John in his professional role at Ford of Britain, but every aspect of their lives. Each chapter ends with a charming illustration and description of a bird species of Britain that reflects the theme of birdwatching throughout the book, and cleverly mirrors the characters’ development at that stage of the story.

Their personal struggles sometime mirror and sometimes contrast the national unrest. Jean-Louise, now a teacher, feels she’s given up a lot for John, and her expectations of dedicated attention, spontaneous affection and unquestioning loyalty are not always met in the way she had hoped. This leads to acts of stupidity, jealousy and disagreement, but also affection, tolerance and compromise – just like real life. Readers of She Wore a Yellow Dress will relate to and cheer for the dynamic couple throughout.

THE BACK STORY
: It began as a result of writing the historical fiction novel Unplanned which includes the story of my conception as told to me by my mother a year before she died. I needed to know more and better understand why I succeeded in life once I left home. I found the answer complex and it included a very caring wife, experiences from my childhood hobby of birdwatching and the “good luck” or serendipities that presented themselves. It took 5 years to write because of its many themes, its necessary charm and the time needed to knit together all the threads. In some ways the storyline is like a “snowflake in a snowstorm” or, in the case of chapter 2 of the novel, like a “murmuration of starlings”, examples of where you can become lost in what is happening to you.  

WHY THIS TITLE?: It came from my sister who told me my wife had admitted before we were married that she used a very special yellow dress on her first dates. I was the last of those dates. Before that, I had titled the novel Bonfire Nights because it begins and ends on November 5th, the traditional Bonfire Night in the UK to commemorate the failed blowing up of the British Parliament on November 5th,1605. The conspirators that year were “hung, drawn and quartered” unlike the treatment they would face today. 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The novel is a unique blend of British history, ornithology, navigating careers, discrimination against women and the challenges of home life. It should appeal to historians, readers who love love-stories, birdwatchers, professionals in human resources, Ford alumni and anyone else who likes to read a compelling story. 

REVIEW COMMENTS

John and Jean-Louise are complex characters that you will cheer for. They are real, flawed, and make mistakes, making their marriage very realistic and relatable. Great novel! – Goodreads reviewer Jennifer Thomason.

AUTHOR PROFILE: John R. Cammidge grew up on a remote farm near York, England and attended the University of Hull. With an honors degree in Geology and Geography, he joined Ford Motor Company in Brentwood, Essex as part of a graduate trainee program that lead to a successful career in human resources. After nearly 50 years in HR at Ford, Bank of America, Stanford University and the University of California, John started writing. His previous books include Unplanned, with a second edition releasing in November 2020, and the nonfiction title, Abandoned in Berlin.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 Imbedded in the story are contemporary issues that were treated differently back then such as free higher education, panic buying during lockdowns, conditions in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, globalization of businesses and why Brexit might have been  predicted as inevitable.  

LOCAL OUTLETS: Bookshop.org

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. 

PRICE: $15.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

For more information, visit www.johnrcammidge.com, and connect with John R. Cammidge on Facebook.

From the Edge of the World

From the Edge of the World by [David L. Carter]

THE BOOK: From the Edge of the World.

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: David L. Carter

THE EDITOR: Andrew Mann.

THE PUBLISHER: Apprentice House Press, an imprint of Loyola University Press 

David L. CarterSUMMARY: Expelled from school and without a friend, young Victor Flowers is sent by a mother at her wit’s end to spend a summer with his paternal grandmother and work in a family restaurant on the North Carolina coast. As if in spite of himself, Victor finds himself unexpectedly swept up into the concerns of this barely remembered branch of his family; his flinty but welcoming grandmother, his ambitious, intelligent, and indomitable cousin Shelby, and his meek Uncle Buzz, whose health is failing fast. Through coming to care for these strangers who are his kin, Victor comes also to a burgeoning understanding of some complex family dynamics that help to at once explain and dispel his sense of himself as having no real future. From the Edge of the World is the story of Victor’s confrontation with—and acceptance of— his beginnings.

THE BACK STORY: It’s really hard to say what the initial inspiration for From the Edge of the World was . . . it began as a short story about my main character grappling with the effects of having been institutionalized by his parents, but it didn’t take long for it to turn into a completely different story featuring the main character, Victor. I know that I am inspired by particular locations, and From the Edge of the World emerges, at least in part, from my fascination with the unique landscape and culture of coastal North Carolina. More than that, though, I think that my own experience of working in a family business when I was very young provided much of the energy that fed my impulse to tell this story. That experience was, for me, much like Victor’s experience of learning to live with and to appreciate and to transcend, when necessary, family history. It took a while to complete. As with all my previous two books, I wrote it during the early morning hours every day before going to work, and it went through several . . . I think three or four drafts . . . before I felt it was polished enough to send out to potential publishers. I found the original beginning unsatisfactory, and it was only after I’d laid the whole thing aside for many months . . . close to a year(!) that I could look at it with eyes fresh enough to detect some rough spots in the narrative and smooth them out. Like most of what I write, From the Edge of the World emerged little by little, one day at a time. I have never outlined a work of fiction, and rarely have a solid idea of what’s going to happen when I get started. It’s as if I have to tell the story to myself as well as to the readers!

WHY THIS TITLE?: The ‘working title’ was ‘Shelby’s Room,’ which was misleading in that it named a secondary character, and on the whole I just felt it didn’t represent the book well enough. Neither did my publisher! It was only when I remembered hearing a good friend of mine, who grew up in the tiny coastal town of Atlantic where much of the story takes place, refer to that town as ‘the edge of the world,’(which, given the location of that town, is apt, as it is located a short swim from the Outer Banks of North Carolina) that I knew I had my title. I felt it made a neat connection between setting and the precarious (at times) emotional state of some of my characters. I’m happy with it, though I generally prefer short, snappy titles.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think that conflict is inherent in every single story ever written or told, and family conflict is particularly rich in possibilities for the development of character. In this book, I found that I was exploring the dynamics within a somewhat unique extended family structure, a family that has undergone a number of disruptions and communication breakdowns, and that in a certain sense is unfamiliar with itself. The process of my main character finding his place within this imperfect, but ultimately loving family fascinated me, and so I enjoyed working it out with him.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“David Carter gets everything right in this tender evocation of adolescence on the North Carolina coast: the landscape (physical and emotional), the idiom, the smell of fried seafood and salt in the breeze. From the Edge of the World takes us to a time and place familiar but entirely new, rendered lovingly by the sensibility of an attentive and assured storyteller.” — Michael Parker, author of The Watery Part of the World.

AUTHOR PROFILE: David L. Carter holds degrees in Theological Studies, English Literature and Library Science, and is a former obituary writer, social worker, and professor of English. Currently and happily employed as a librarian, he is the author of the novels Familiar, From the Edge of the World, The Dead Man and Lustration Rites; as well as the forthcoming The Seven Sacraments, to be published in Spring, 2021 by Apocryphile Press. He lives in North Carolina.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I want the reader to take pleasure in the book, and to feel as if they have made friends with my characters, that the experience of reading has enriched them somehow. Ideally, I guess, the readers experience will reflect that of the writer, that together we experience, along with my main character Victor, the realization that a sense of home and belonging can be found in the most unexpected of places . . . even amongst those strangers who are our family. As the story begins, Victor is something of a lost soul . . . and it’s really through finding himself taken in by his barely remembered relatives that he begins to feel connected enough to make mistakes, make decisions, and accept the challenge to hope. I think we all need the love and support and even the flaws of some type of family to be able to grow.

 SAMPLE CHAPTER:

They watched the television, which his father had tuned to ESPN, for hours in silence as the nurse periodically checked in and Uncle Buzz seemed at intervals to grow restless, then calm. At one point, during a commercial while Victor’s father was dozing with his head lolling to one side, his mouth open issuing short, soft snores, Uncle Buzz opened his eyes while Victor happened to be looking at the two brothers, in turn, noting that, as facial features go, Uncle Buzz looked like an elongated, narrower version of his father with a touch more sand-colored hair left on the top of his head. As he had seen his grandmother do every time Uncle Buzz showed any signs of consciousness, Victor reached over and touched the dying man’s shoulder and asked him if he needed anything.

Uncle Buzz’ voice was cracked and hushed from disuse. The two syllables that issued from him were not clear.

“What?” Victor said, loud enough to make his father stir and look over. “What’d you say Uncle Buzz?”

“What’s wrong?” Victor’s father said, and Victor held up a hand to shush him. “Uncle Buzz?” Victor said again. “Do you need anything? Are you in pain?”

Uncle Buzz shook his head. “Naw,” he said, cracked but clear. His long forehead was for one moment deeply furrowed, then smooth as paper. “Just come to pick up my shit and get the fuck out of here.” His thumbs and forefingers began plucking at the bed sheets in an irregular, deliberate rhythm. His eyes closed halfway. Victor reached for the call button, but hesitated, too timid, too aware of his uncle’s alertness to yell into the speaker on the wall. He slid out of the recliner, stretched upon standing up, and walked down the hall to the nurse’s station.

“Can someone come check on Mr. Flowers in room 716?” The nurses looked up from their charts at him as if he’s appeared from nowhere. “He’s waking up.” One of the nurses nodded. “Thanks,” Victor whispered, and went back to the room. His father was leaning over Uncle Buzz’s body like a child leaning over a dead jellyfish on the beach, anxious to see, but careful not to touch. “Has he said anything else?” Victor drew up beside his father and whispered.

His father shook his head and reached over to touch, as one might touch a slug, his brother’s bare forearm. “He’s cold as ice.”

“Call Gum,” Victor said. All of a sudden he felt as cool and steady as an iceberg, a solid prominence in the midst of a restless sea. His father, reaching in his pocket, turned and half walked, half ran out of the room and down the hall, in his panic forgetting that there was a phone right beside the bed.

A nurse trotted in; this one female, short, fat and young, with lavender scrubs and tightly curled red hair. She strapped the blood pressure cuff on uncle Buzz, squeezes the bulb, waits. “90 over 50,” she said after a moment, “heart rate 130.” She gave Victor a businesslike pat on the shoulder. “Do you need me to call someone?”

“No,” Victor said.

“All right,” she said. “Would you like us to call the chaplain?”

“No.”

The nurse nodded. “Is his mother here tonight?”

“My dad is calling her right now.” Victor reached over to touch Uncle Buzz’s strange, cool, yet unmistakably living flesh. The dying man’s breaths were becoming slower with each inhale, and with each exhalation there issued from deep in the man’s chest a faint cooing sound, like the call of a dove. The nurse did not seem to hear it, but to Victor it filled the room. The

melancholy sound was, in fact, nearly unbearable, but Victor grasped the dying man’s hand, and the steadying sense of being an iceberg returned to him. “Oh my gosh, I need his chart,” the round little nurse said, and she bustled out of the room.

Victor was alone, now, with the gradual diminishment of that subtle yet maddening dove’s call. When this faded into silence the dying man gasped and opened his mouth as if to yawn. His mouth was open so wide that Victor could see the dark fillings in his back teeth, but there was no yawn, only a brief, breathy sound like the pant of a dog. Following this Uncle Buzz’s chest rose and fell a couple of times, but Uncle Buzz was gone. Victor released the still supple, but dead hand and stood up straight. The nurse bustled in with her chart, and Victor turned to her and shook his head.

“He’s passed?” She sounded surprised.

He nodded.

Her eyebrows rose. “I wasn’t even gone a minute!” she said, as if Uncle Buzz had done nothing more alarming than get out of bed and going to the bathroom by himself. She looked up at the clock beside the television. “We’ll say 3:36 am.” She smiled slightly at Victor. “You okay?”

Victor sat down in the chair his father had been sitting in. At that moment, his father rushed back in, and over to the bedside. “He’s dead,” Victor said, and his voice was flat.

“What?”

“He just died.” Victor said. “At 3:36.”

Victor’s father bit his bottom lip and his broad chest swelled. He took a deep breath, held it, and then released a sob. “Oh, Buzzy…” he said to the body on the bed. “Come on, now. Come on.” Victor was reminded of how his father had often tried, with exactly those words and exactly that desperate tone, to palliate Victor’s mother after one of their many fights. The iceberg feeling

melted, and Victor had to leave the room. He brushed past the nurse and stood outside in the hall until he heard the ring of the elevator down past the nurse’s station and his grandmother came running down the hall, with Shelby walking like a convict in tow.

#

As soon as she saw Victor, Gum stopped short and slumped as if she’d been deflated. He nodded his head slowly, in confirmation. “Oh My God!” she said, and with her hand over her mouth, she pushed past him into the room. Shelby, moving as if she was weighted down by some invisible yoke, brushed past Victor without a glance. He followed them into the room. Gum staggered over to the side of the bed, stood beside Victor’s father, wailed, and bent over the dead body of her son. Victor, still standing in the doorway, could see her reach up to touch his face. For a moment her shoulders, her entire body, shook, then the shaking stopped. “Oh me,” she moaned, “Oh me.”

Shelby attached herself to the wall just to the side of the doorway. From the corner of his eye Victor looked at her as best he could. Her face was pale and still, her eyes wide. The palms of her hands pressed flat against the wall as if she were trying, like a child who does not want to be where she is, to sink into it.

After a few moments Gum turned away from Uncle Buzz and held out her arms toward Shelby, who just stuck like a moth against the wall.

“Shelby…” Gum’s voice was an urgent, choked whisper, “Shelby, come here, honey. Come over here to Gum.”

Shelby didn’t move. Victor stepped a bit further towards her, and she warded him off with a look of pure, impersonal fury. He sheepishly avoided her eyes and walked over to stand behind his father. He gazed down over his father’s shoulder at Uncle Buzz. Someone had closed the dead man’s eyes. Victor wondered if his father had done that. The nurse was in the tiny bathroom, emptying Uncle Buzz’s catheter bag. When she came out, she walked over to Gum, and put her hand on the old lady’s shoulder. “Mrs. Flowers,” she said, “I’m so sorry. “

Gum’s reply was warm but distant, as if she’d rehearsed it. “Thank you, honey. Y’all have been a blessing, you have no idea. I appreciate everything you’ve done.”

The nurse embraced her in a formal way, as if they had just run into each other at church. “I’ve put a call in to Dr. Patel. He’s going to come in the morning to sign the death certificate, unless you need to see him tonight.”

“No, there’s nothing he can do now, it’s all in the Lord’s hands now.”

The nurse made a murmured, wordless sound. “I just need to know what funeral home ya’ll are using…”

Gum paused. “Mason’s, in Beaufort.” On the last word her voice broke. “I just can’t believe it,” she wailed.

Victor’s father turned to her and wrapped his arms around her in what was as much a restraint as an embrace. “You did all you could, Mama,” he said. “He’s in a better place now. He ain’t suffering no more.”

Gum’s back heaved as if she were vomiting against Victor’s father’s chest. The heaves subsided after awhile and she broke away. “Shelby,” she said, in a voice of sudden strength and clarity, “come here, child.”

The nurse bustled out of the room and Shelby, unwilling but helpless, approached the bed, winced, then turned away and pressed against her grandmother, with a gasp and a shudder. She moaned while the old lady stroked down the length of her back. They stood pressed together in this way for a long time, until Shelby, her face wet with tears and her teeth clenched, broke away and bent over her father’s body. “This isn’t right,” she wailed, and tears sprung to Victor’s eyes. “Oh, Daddy…”

Shelby pressed her cheek against her father’s face, now lifeless and unresisting. She sighed, and Gum took her by the shoulders, and murmuring into her ear, led her to the door. But at the doorway, it was Gum herself who could not pass through on her own strength. She returned to the bedside and looked down upon the body for a long time, the clear plastic bag containing Uncle Buzz’s personal belongings, his pajama bottoms, the wallet that he called his billfold, his toothbrush, and his key chain with its AA chip, hung like a teardrop from the crook of her elbow. Minutes passed and she did not move a muscle; it was soon obvious that she couldn’t. Victor’s father walked over and led her away, just as she had led Shelby away. Victor was the last one out the door, the last one to look back at the dead body, and he was astonished by the sudden amber glow that filled the room through the window as the sun began to slowly rise way out of the sea beyond.

#

They filed past the unit desk, from which the nurses whispered somber goodbyes. Once in the elevator, Shelby, who had been moving along with her forearm covering her eyes, lowered her arm, straightened up, tossed her hair out of her face, and took a deep breath. “That was hard,” she said, like someone who has just finished a set of exercises. Everyone looked at her, then looked away. Victor recognized, in her voice and her words, the echo of a clinician somewhere in Shelby’s past, some social worker or therapist, or maybe even just a teacher. Someone removed and obliged to be supportive, commenting on some anguishing ordeal that a younger Shelby had to endure; someone who’s real concern, in spite of their professional distance, had come through and made an impression; someone who, deep down, Shelby wanted to be; someone to take the place of her crazy mother, her drunken, unreliable father, and well-meaning, bigoted grandmother. Victor wondered if he will ever know whom that person had been, if Shelby even knew from whom she inherited her self possession, her determination.

In the lobby Gum said to Victor’s father, “I don’t know why you didn’t call us sooner.”

To Victor’s surprise, his father accepted that responsibility. “Because I don’t have ESP, Mama!” he snapped. “One minute he was doing fine; the next minute his pressure was dropping. We got the nurse in there every time he so much as twitched his little finger. What more was I supposed to do? Why didn’t they have him on any monitors or something, so we could have known?”

“They don’t do that with no code patients,” Gum said stiffly.

“Maybe they ought to,” Victor’s father said.

“I knew I should have had him at home,” Gum said then to no one in particular. “God knows I was only trying to do what was best…”

“All right, Mama,” Victor’s father said as they approach the revolving door. “No point in all that, now. Buzzy was taken good care of right up to the end, and that’s what’s important.”

“I’m his mother. I should have been with him.” Gum came to a standstill before the motionless gigantic revolving door, bringing the rest of them up short behind her.

Shelby tool the old lady by the shoulders and looked her dead in the eye. “Gum, he’s your son. He should have had to be the one to be with you at your deathbed.” She gave the old lady a gentle shake. “Nothing about this is how it should be. Let’s get out of here, Gum. Come on.” She put her little hand between her grandmother’s shoulder blades and prodded her forward. They followed her out into the parking lot, which the slow sunrise had not yet reached, and they parted company at the flagpole to go on to their separate vehicles, Victor to ride with his father, Shelby with Gum.

“I wouldn’t mind stopping at Denny’s for a bite,” Victor’s father said as the two of them got in the car he led them to. Victor didn’t recognize the vehicle as his fathers, and once he was settled in the front seat he could tell from the dirt-scuffed flyers on the floor mats that it was a rental. He was so preoccupied with this triviality that he did not reply to his father.

“I guess we better not,” his father said, and Victor was at once relieved and sorry. He could tell his father wanted to talk, but Victor needed to be alone.

“Lets’ go tomorrow,” Victor said.

#

By the time Victor’s father dropped him off at his grandmother’s house, the day had dawned and the pale morning light and the fresh song of invisible birds was like a reproach to Victor’s urge for solitude and sleep. When they pulled into the driveway, Gum and Shelby were standing on the front stoop waiting for them.

Victor’s father did not turn off the engine, but idled while Victor climbed out. Gum came over and tapped on the window of the driver’s seat. “Don’t you want to come in and lie down for a little while? You’ve been up all night.”

Victors father rolled down the window and shook his head. “Martha’ll take the kids to the beach after they get up and have their breakfast. I already called her. I’ll be over later.”

“Well…” Gum’s hands gripped the ridge of glass where the window was lowered. “I appreciate you coming up, son. It means a lot to me.”

“Well I’m not just going to turn around and go right back home, Mama. I’ll be over later today. We’ve got to make arrangements.”

“Well, I’ve taken care of most of it. But I’ll have to call Mason’s and fix a time to go out there. I guess we have to do it today, sometime.”

“Make it around three,” Victor’s father said. “I’ll be by around two.”

Gum reached in and squeezed his shoulder. “Get some rest, son,” she said, “You too, Mama,” Victor’s father said. “Take your pill.” And

who looked bleakly, sullenly down upon them from the front stoop like a gargoyle, he shifted his car into reverse, backed out of the driveway, and drove away.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Quail Ridge Books, Flyleaf Books, So & So Books (all located in Raleigh, NC)

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, Powell’s.

PRICE: $16.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: davidlcarter@operamail.com

Twitter: @DavidLCarter3

Website: https://davidlcarter.wixsite.com/mysite

Screens

Image result for Christopher Laine + author + photosTHE BOOK: Screens (Seven Coins Drowning Book 4)

PUBLISHED IN
: 2021

THE AUTHOR:
  Christopher Laine

THE PUBLISHER: Independently Published

SUMMARY: We have all wondered if our devices are listening to us, or if the government can see into our homes through the cameras on our phones, iPads or monitors. But what if that was the least of our worries? In a chilling and creepy near-future, physical printed manuscripts begin appearing to a select group of suspicious and seemingly unconnected readers. The documents reveal motives much more sinister than advertising or government surveillance in Screens by Christopher Laine [Garden Path, January 26, 2020].

Screens (Seven Coins Drowning Book 4)In a moody and atmospheric entry into the dark sci-fi canon, a manuscript has appeared which describes a horrific presence feeding off humanity through our screens, and their ultimate goal of destroying all life on the earth. Those that read the manuscript have either been murdered, have disappeared, or have completely disconnected themselves from all digital communications. There is no information online about this manuscript, or of any of the surviving readers who have formed an anonymous collective who spread knowledge about what the manuscript describes — known as The Network.

THE BACK STORY
: Screens was the next of my Seven Coins Drowning series, each of the series focusing in on one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  I was up to Sin #4.

I decided to write it in late 2015.  I was back in San Francisco for a conference.  It’d been a while since I’d been back to the states from New Zealand.  I hadn’t really been back to my hometown since 2008 or so.  I’d passed through, but not really hung out, if you catch my drift.  I was back this time not only for a conference, but to just roll around SF, sink back into the world which made me.

So, there I was on this Muni train, rolling outbound for West Portal, when I note it.  Everyone on the train is on their mobile phone.  Everyone but me and this older lady sitting by herself.  Everyone was gawking into a screen.  Eyes kinda glazed; mouths a little agape.  While I watched them, a shudder went up my spine as my messed-up muse came calling with freaky inspiration.

It was existentially unnerving, that little epiphany I had right then.  It was a personal epiphany, a stranger-in-a-strange-land dystopian epiphany.

“They’re all doped to the gills,” the junkie kid in me chuckled.  “Look at them, dude.  Look at how much they look like you did back in the day with your tabs and your powder.”  

And that voice come slithering out of my past was not wrong.  That junkie kid I was decided it was time to return, all in the name of what we were seeing.  Everyone was completely high, totally hooked.  This one guy’s hand was actually shaking.

That right there, that’s some twisted Sin.  Human civilization locked in a cultural addiction, the new Coke of dangerous substances.  Heroin?  Amphetamines? Weed?  Booze and smokes?  These had nothing on this dose, the hit of anxiety and panic and exhilaration and flashing lights that is digital media.

That was the genesis of it, that little Muni moment.  That was when I felt the pieces of my life coalescing around this crackpot narrative, this tale of madness and the end of days.

It took a lot longer than I’d expected, but I gotta say, the results truly capture that messed-up nightmare moment on the Muni train.  Five years all up it took to finally complete Screens, what with the rewrites and the promotion and book trailers and playlist and art to go with the book.  It was definitely a stretch I’d not been expecting, especially considering most of my other pieces usually took no more than a year to finish.  Yet I’d not have it any other way.  It’s all been worth it. It’s been the most difficult, and the most satisfying time of my life.

I love the book, even after reading and re(re(re(re(re))))-reading it ad infinitum.  Why? Because it refuses to say something to make me or anyone else feel comfortable or safe.  It is about discomfort, about the nightmare of addiction, and of the power of digital media over our minds, for good and for evil.  It is a slap in the face, but the kind you want, the slap you get to snap you out of it, to look around, maybe see a different perspective.

That’s not everybody’s bag, but it is mine, and I know people like me who want to get out on the edge where stuff gets creepy and unsettling.  That’s where people like me do most of our growing.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Screens.  The book is about what I call in the book The Rectangular Gods.  Phones, TVs, monitors, movie screens, tablets, digital displays, VR.  All of us bowed down to worship our Rectangular Gods.  Screens, everywhere we turn now.  We love to tell ourselves we are in charge of it all, that it’s technology which we control, yet it is not hard to flip the drowning coin and see the other side.  We are very much at their beckon call, not unlike an addict is with opiods or speed or booze.

Screens have a distinct power over us these days, not dissimilar to the Parlor Walls in Fahrenheit 451, where Mildred sits hypnotised and delusional by the floor-to-ceiling digital displays which are the walls of the living room, all the while feeding her madness, delusion and escapism.

When Bradbury wrote that, people couldn’t have imagined such a thing would ever come to pass.And yet here we are. 😊

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Screens combines science fiction, cosmic horror, punk rock, the 90s messenger scene, drug addiction and time travel.  Weaved through it are a slew of conspiracy theories, found documents, scientific information on lots of things (particularly screen addiction).  All these threads will catch up with each other eventually, though you may not see how as you’re reading.   The book can feel frenetic and yeah, confusing as you get up into the middle of the book, but in the end, it all lands.  I mean all of it.

Every connection, every link, every piece that seems random will come to a head in what I think is a very disturbing but intellectually satisfying way.

Look, I’ll be straight up:  my writing and I are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.  My writing is meant for fringe types, for people who like to push the envelope, people who are often labelled freaks or outsiders or the bottom rung.  People who push for the outer bounds, where there be dragons and unwholesome things. That’s who I am.  I’ve never fit in, and as such felt a kindred spiritual and psychological affinity to people like me who enjoy – as they say – the avant garde. That’s what I enjoy, and clearly there are people out there who share this enjoyment with me.

What audiences might want to read it?  There’s a lot in the book.  It says a lot.  You can read it as an indictment of our addiction culture, or you can read it as a twisted drug tale ala Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  You can read it as Cosmic Horror, or even as a noir faux-detective novel.

It’s good, horrific, trippy fun.  What’s not to love?

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“[Laine] takes full advantage of the frenetic, frantic and fumbling manner in which humanity is flailing about as technology quickly outpaces mankind’s ability to adapt, and some seek solace in nostalgia for decades they were never even a part of.” – Pete Rawlik, Lovecraft Ezine

“It’s different, it’s wild, it’s complex, with lots of good prose bits and interesting science fiction and horror [elements].” – Well Read Beard on YouTube.

Screens is so much more than just a story about a mysterious manuscript. In fact, Christopher Laine has built an entire world within 300+ pages, that not only includes our reality, but others as well.” – Curiosity Bought the Book

AUTHOR PROFILE:

I love writing.

I love the weird.

I love being creeped out.

I live for making people go hush, their eyes a little bugged, then whisper “whoa.”

That’s my real bread and butter. I’ve spent most of my life to date focusing on doing what needed doing. I have a family; I have a job; I have all the bullshit you have. And I’ve got the voices in my head.

I’ve been followed incessantly by the ghosts, gods and daemons which linger at the other edges of my brain. They don’t stop telling me things, no matter how I ignored them. Took me a long while, but now I liten and write down what they tell me.

You know the story. Run from them, hide in the well-lit places. Eventually, we all have to call that game of hide and seek quits.

Now I’m stuck in the wonderland of my own muse, and would welcome guests if and when you’re free for tea.

The world looks mighty odd these days, wouldn’t you agree?

Why deny the madness that has gathered en mass around you. Let in in; let it ignite into fusion.

In an era where we are so far from the centre, I hope my writing will give you the courage to let go, float into the open space where you’ve never been. There is something beyond the periphery waiting.

Come read what I’ve written. Take a step off the edge. How far could you fall?

AUTHOR COMMENTS: When I started writing my Seven Coins Drowning series, I set out to create unique takes on the concept of Sin, as the topic fascinates me.

Each of them has done so, but Screens does it in a way which surprises even me.  We approach such antiquated notions as Sin with bemused humour, and why wouldn’t we?  They do feel old-fashioned, and in many contexts, straight-up oppressive.

Yet we should never imagine any of us (or even ALL of us) are so advanced that we are not just as likely to stumble over our own failings as our ancestors were. We are very much human as they were, and just as capable of doing good or evil as they were, especially evil to ourselves and those around us.

I always want the things I read or view or hear to push me a bit, to make me wonder if I’m not missing something, and so I expect the same of what I create.  And Screens very much does this.  Like I said, it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, and that’s cool.  But for people who want to get pushed a bit, go a little further from shore, it will certainly appeal.

I set out to create a book that – if I was the reader – I’d go “Whoa!”  And with Screens, I definitely succeeded.

LOCAL OUTLETS: He’s a NZ author, so nothing local.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. 

PRICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Connect with Christopher Laine at ChristopherLaine.netFacebook.com/domingoladron and Twitter.com/domingoladron.

Weather Report, Feb. 15

Literature, Book Bindings, Page, Book, Paper, Love

(Photo from Pixabay)

Our currently featured books, “Guesthouse for Ganesha,” by Judith Teitelman, “Developing Minds,” by Jonathan LaPoma and “What Falls Away is Always” by Richard Terrill, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

————————————————————————————

First, I’d like to invite you to take a look at a new Website, We Who Create (https://www.wewhocreate.com). It’s sort of a spinoff from Snowflakes in a Blizzard, with a further exploration into art, music and theater, and I’m always looking for feature ideas and news briefs for it.

I’m also planning a Facebook page to augment the Website, possibly as soon as this week.

I realize that this is the day after St. Valentine’s Day, but since one of our featured books this week, “She Wore a Yellow Dress,” is based on a romance, I thought the photo above was still appropriate.

In keeping with our commitment to diverse material, this week also offers  horror from a New Zealand author and a coming of age story from the coast of North Carolina.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 16-22.

“SHE WORE A YELLOW DRESS,” BY JOHN CAMMIDGE.

A spark is lit on Bonfire Night in Northern England in 1965, but for John and Jean-Louise the fireworks continue to explode for decades to come. An awkward Yorkshire farm boy with few prospects and a sophisticated town girl from Manchester, John and Jean-Louise blossom, grow — both together and apart — and find ways to compromise in this coming-of-age story that goes beyond the wedding where the curtain often drops. She Wore a Yellow Dress by John R. Cammidge [February 16, 2021, Gatekeeper Press is at once nostalgic and contemporary in the themes it explores so deftly. An autobiographical streak runs throughout that lends authenticity and depth of detail.

“SCREENS,” BY CHRISTOPHER LAINE.

We have all wondered if our devices are listening to us, or if the government can see into our homes through the cameras on our phones, iPads or monitors. But what if that was the least of our worries? In a chilling and creepy near-future, physical printed manuscripts begin appearing to a select group of suspicious and seemingly unconnected readers. The documents reveal motives much more sinister than advertising or government surveillance in Screens by Christopher Laine [Garden Path, January 26, 2020].

In a moody and atmospheric entry into the dark sci-fi canon, a manuscript has appeared which describes a horrific presence feeding off humanity through our screens, and their ultimate goal of destroying all life on the earth. Those that read the manuscript have either been murdered, have disappeared, or have completely disconnected themselves from all digital communications. There is no information online about this manuscript, or of any of the surviving readers who have formed an anonymous collective who spread knowledge about what the manuscript describes — known as The Network.

“FROM THE EDGE OF THE WORLD,” BY DAVID L. CARTER

Expelled from school and without a friend, young Victor Flowers is sent by a mother at her wit’s end to spend a summer with his paternal grandmother and work in a family restaurant on the North Carolina coast. As if in spite of himself, Victor finds himself unexpectedly swept up into the concerns of this barely remembered branch of his family; his flinty but welcoming grandmother, his ambitious, intelligent, and indomitable cousin Shelby, and his meek Uncle Buzz, whose health is failing fast. Through coming to care for these strangers who are his kin, Victor comes also to a burgeoning understanding of some complex family dynamics that help to at once explain and dispel his sense of himself as having no real future. From the Edge of the World is the story of Victor’s confrontation with—and acceptance of— his beginnings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guesthouse for Ganesha

Guesthouse for Ganesha: A Novel by [Judith Teitelman]

This week’s other featured books, “Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story,” by Jonathan LaPoma and “What Falls Away is Always: Poems and Conversations,” by Richard Terrill, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

——————————- 

THE BOOK: Guesthouse for Ganesha.

THE AUTHOR: Judith Teitelman.

PUBLISHED IN: 2019.

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press — award-winning hybrid publisher for women recognized in 2019 as Independent Publisher of the Year

 SUMMARY:  Left at the altar, spurned—what does that do to a young woman’s heart? And why would a Hindu God care?

In 1923, seventeen-year-old Esther Grünspan arrives in Köln “with a hardened heart as her sole luggage.” Thus begins a twenty-two-year journey, woven against the backdrops of the European Holocaust and the Hindu Kali Yuga (the “Age of Darkness” when human civilization degenerates spiritually), in search of a place of sanctuary. Throughout her travails, using cunning and shrewdness, Esther relies on her masterful tailoring skills to help mask her Jewish heritage, navigate war-torn Europe, and emigrate to India.

Judith TeitelmanEsther’s traveling companion and the novel’s narrator is Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu God worshipped by millions for his abilities to destroy obstacles, bestow wishes, and avenge evils. Impressed by Esther’s fortitude and relentless determination, born of her deep―though unconscious―understanding of the meaning and purpose of love, Ganesha, with compassion, insight, and poetry, chooses to highlight her story because he recognizes it is all of our stories―for truth resides at the essence of its telling.

Weaving Eastern beliefs and perspectives with Western realities and pragmatism, Guesthouse for Ganesha is a tale of love, loss, and spirit reclaimed.

THE BACK STORY: This novel reflects a range of life-long interests and personal passions, most especially that of eastern philosophies and perspectives, overall, and the Hindu God Ganesha, in particular.

The significant spark that conceived the gist of this story was finding out, at the family lunch following my grandmother’s funeral, that she, Esther, had been abandoned at the altar by her true love when she was a young woman. I only knew my grandmother as a mean-spirited, bordering on nasty, woman. It was difficult and unpleasant to be around her. Trying to be, at least somewhat, understanding, I attributed that her experiences during WWII—having to give up two daughters, leave her husband and home, struggle to survive, etc.—had hardened her irreparably.

But, no, it had been love. More precisely, lost love, devastated love, abandoned love—something most of us experience at one time or another—that had made her callous, unyielding, relentless, and self-absorbed the rest of her life. This informed all her actions. Yet also, and importantly, it made her a survivor.

I was shocked and wished I had known this while she was still alive. It was the first time in my life that I felt true compassion for my grandmother and a clear understanding of her. This new knowledge was especially poignant because I, too, had recently experienced deep heartbreak.

Consequently, though the route—an 18-year journey betwixt and between consulting and teaching and life et al—was quite circuitous and often unwieldy, filled with a lot of internal resistance, I felt compelled to honor her and this all too common, even universal experience. Equally, I felt it important to situate her story in the largest context possible—reflected by, and with the views and insights and perspectives of not just an omnipotent narrator, but a Hindu God.

WHY THIS TITLE?  To an extent, the title, Guesthouse for Ganesha, is illuminated in the Rumi poem, “The Guest House,” the preface to my novel.

This being human is a guesthouse. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thoughts, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Guesthouse for Ganesha’s likely reader is someone who is curious, compassionate, loves language (e.g. relishes looking up unfamiliar words in the dictionary), an interweaving of illusion and realism, layered perspectives, and a strong, relentless protagonist. Also, they are interested in world cultures, travel, and spirituality.

Significantly, I consider my novel much more than the historical context within which the story resides. I feel its theme is universal—love. The thread that unites us. And heartbreak, which also unites us. In essence, it is a novel about what it means to be human.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Teitelman paints an intensely beautiful world in which different cultures merge in surprising ways. . . . A rich and moving story about an unlikely pair.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Readers who are drawn to stories about maintaining faith in challenging times, particularly those with religious views rooted in a pluralist approach to theism rather than any single system’s tenets, will find Esther’s epiphany moving. The relationship between the two strands of narrative, one human and one deity, invites readers to consider the relationship between the secular and sacred in their everyday lives. And the interstices in Teitelman’s narrative, where specific religious systems connect and collide, suggest a comforting movement toward harmony. Most importantly, Esther survives; hers is a hopeful tale.” –Los Angeles Review of Books

“Spiritual, socially astute, politically chilling, and psychologically gripping, Guesthouse for Ganesha is the kind of novel marketers hate and readers love because it challenges simple categorization. . . . Neither a Holocaust story nor Hindu legend, Guesthouse for Ganesha blends elements of both with an exceptional attention to vivid detail and transformation that results in a thoroughly unexpected, delightful dance through life.” –Midwest Book Review

“Poignant and lyrical . . . Guesthouse for Ganesha is a huge literary success, from the skillful handling of plot elements to the meticulous weaving of historical elements into the story to the gorgeous prose.” –Readers’ Favorite, FIVE STAR review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Judith Teitelman has straddled the worlds of arts, literature, and business since she was a teenager and worked her first job as a salesperson at a B. Dalton/Pickwick Bookstore. Life’s journeys took her from bookstores to commercial fine art galleries to the nonprofit arts and cultural sector, in which she has worked as staff, consultant, and educator for more than three decades. Throughout this time, Teitelman continued her pursuit of all things literary. Guesthouse for Ganesh is her debut novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three beloved cats.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: To learn more about my novel’s evolution, please check out one of these interviews:

Judith Teitelman

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

The opening pages can be read and/or listened to here: https://www.amazon.com/Guesthouse-Ganesha-Novel-Judith-Teitelman/dp/1631525212/

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.skylightbooks.com/ https://www.vromansbookstore.com/

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Guesthouse for Ganesha is available in paperbook, ebook, and audio formats wherever books are sold. Some popular links are below. Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guesthouse-Ganesha-Novel-Judith-Teitelman/dp/1631525212/

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631525216

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guesthouse-for-ganesha-judith-teitelman/1129101120?ean=9781631525216

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Guesthouse-for-Ganesha-Audiobook/B07R3D7YZQ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/guesthouse-for-ganesha

PRICE:

Paperback—$17.95 *

Ebook—$9.49 *

Audible—$25.00 *

Most sites offer generous discounts.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: 

jtconsult@sbcglobal.net, https://guesthouseforganesha.com/, https://www.facebook.com/Guesthouse-for-Ganesha-317749368845421, https://www.instagram.com/judithteitelman/

Developing Minds

Jonathan LaPomaTHE BOOK: Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story

PUBLISHED IN: September 2015

THE AUTHOR: Jonathan LaPoma

THE EDITOR: Jed Lewis

THE PUBLISHER: First edition published by LaughingFire Press (September 2015). Second edition published by Almendro Arts (April 2019).

SUMMARY:  Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story follows a group of recent college graduates who struggle with alienation and addiction as they try to survive a year of teaching at dysfunctional Miami public schools. 

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story by [Jonathan LaPoma]A poetic and insightful coming-of-age novel, Developing Minds is centered on 24-year-old Luke Entelechy, an aspiring writer who sees his creative output suffer when he begins teaching at one of Miami’s most challenging middle schools. As the year progresses, however, Luke begins to relate to the neglect and abuse his students suffer, and is faced with a “haunting” decision: continue to let his dark past destroy him, or rise above the struggle to realize his potential as an artist and a “real” human being. 

Equal parts disturbing and humorous, Developing Minds offers a brutally honest look at the American public school system and the extreme measures many teachers take to cope with working in it. 

*Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is the fourth book in a loosely-linked series, with HammondThe Summer of Crud, and Understanding the Alacrán as books one-three, and The Soul City Salvation as book five. Each novel can be read independently of the others.

THE BACK STORY: After writing my first novel, Understanding the Alacran, which is loosely based on the five months I spent living in Mexico after graduating from college in 2006, I had no intention of writing another novel. But after speaking with a friend about the year we spent teaching in Miami, I realized I had another story inside of me.

I experienced so many profound changes that year, many of which were inspired by my experiences working in an at-risk middle school, so I wanted to share those with others. 

I’d written two screenplays between writing Understanding the Alacran and Developing Minds, so I had experience writing tight action lines and dialogue, which helped me to write a much faster-paced and humorous story. 

WHY THIS TITLE: Developing Minds is more about a young man who is trying to overcome his inner demons than it is about a teacher learning how to become a better teacher. In fact, he desperately wants to get away from teaching and is only doing it until he can make it as a writer/actor, but through his experiences working in this at-risk school, he realizes that he has considerable work to do to improve his mental health before he can reach his potential as an artist.

This is by no means a stereotypical, and offensive, White-teacher-saving-the-Black-kids story. It’s really more about a group of young people who are doing their best to survive their inner demons, and at times they’re great teachers, and at other times, they’re awful.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s raw and real. I didn’t sugarcoat anything, and you’ll see this if you read the reviews. I think many people expected a White guy saves the children thing, but this story is as much about the private lives of the teachers as it is about their day jobs. The novel is filled with cocaine, parties, orgies, fights…There are plenty of examples of child abuse and racism and teachers behaving terribly. A few readers mentioned that I had vastly exaggerated the story’s events, but if anything, I downplayed some of them. I experienced so many things during that year in Miami that I felt were too extreme for even such an extreme novel, so I left them out. Basically, with this novel, I wanted to rip out a slice of life and put it on the page without qualifying anything or rounding the edges (even though I did leave some parts out). There aren’t any heroes or villains in this story—just troubled people doing their best to survive in a hostile world—so if you need a cute, Hollywood-type of story with “likable” characters, I’d suggest you keep looking.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Developing Minds received almost unanimous praise from professional review publications. Here are some excerpts: 

“Inspired by his own travels, screenwriter and author LaPoma’s narrative is raw and edgy, effectively anchored by two protagonists whose brio and “same sense of adventure” keep the story alive . . . Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American educational system, courtesy of two men propelled by perseverance and adventuresome spirits.” Kirkus Reviews, Recommended Review

“Should be required reading for anyone who is considering or has ever considered teaching as a career . . . most highly recommended.” – Jack Magnus, Readers’ Favorite

“Not a read for prudes, but for those with an open heart, mind and admiration of satire. Jonathan LaPoma has adeptly captured the darker sides of teaching in Miami public schools and also experiencing the high (in all senses of that word) life in local bars and beaches. His raw, honest and rhythmic voice kept me going to the very end. I taught in inner city schools for over twenty years and I’m sorry to say that I know many of the stories he tells are not entirely fiction.” — Jill G. Hall, author of The Black Velvet Coat and The Silver Shoes

“Incredibly artistic . . . The vast majority of college grads will relate with themes of alienation, addiction, and misguided hopes . . . Filled with drama and drugs, this novel is raw and endearing. It teeters on the edge of obscene, but really stays true to the life of an early 20-year old, amidst the drama and guise of self-discovery. Instead of idealizing public schools or idolizing functional drug addicts, it just lays out the truth.” — San Francisco Book Review

“Not for the faint of heart, Developing Minds will either have you furiously flipping the pages or fearfully enrolling your kids in home school.” Will’s Weekend Wrap-Up, NoiseTrade

Poignant, engaging . . . a frighteningly accurate depiction of inner-city schools . . . a full-bodied work of fiction that will ring true with both students and teachers and provide a point of hope in an industry that has become increasingly profit-minded and complex.” Red City Review

Developing Minds is a raunchy, yet captivating story of two best friends, one gay, one not, who decide to spend a year teaching in the dysfunctional Miami school district . . . Jonathan LaPoma is an extraordinary writer.” —Stargazer Literary Prizes (Winner: Visionary & Metaphysical Fiction)

“In many ways, the novel was spiritual, as well as coming-of-age . . . plenty of action and adventure, as well as some poignant soul searching . . . Anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, with a gritty edge will enjoy this novel. The characters are extremely well written and believable, and the dialogue is perfect. Despite the serious matter, the book is also very humorous, visual and vibrant to read.” — Chantelle Atkins, Underground Book Reviews

“Sometimes the meat of a title lies not in fire and flames, but in simmering passion. Such is the nature of the coming-of-age experience depicted in Developing Minds, which offers a multi-faceted exploration of growth, maturity, and eventual transformation on the parts of all involved.” — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

When I published the book; however, several readers expressed concerns about the drugs, sex, and rock n roll, so keep that in mind if it ain’t your thing.

-Recommended by Kirkus Reviews 

-Winner of 2015 Stargazer Literary Prizes (Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction category) 

-Bronze medal winner of 2016 FAPA President’s Awards (Adult eBook category) 

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Jonathan LaPoma is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and poet from Buffalo, NY. In 2005, he received a BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico after graduating. These experiences have become the inspiration for much of his writing, which often explores themes of alienation and misery as human constructions that can be overcome through self-understanding and the acceptance of suffering.

LaPoma has written five novels, fifteen screenplays, and hundreds of songs and poems. His screenplays have won over 160 awards/honors at various international screenwriting competitions, and his black comedy script Harm for the Holidays was optioned by Warren Zide along with Wexlfish Pictures (American PieFinal DestinationThe Big Hit) in July 2017. 

LaPoma’s novels have been recommended by Kirkus Reviews and Barnes and Noble (B&N Press Presents list), have hit the #1 Amazon Bestseller lists in the “Satire,” “Urban Life,” “Metaphysical,” “Metaphysical & Visionary,” and “Religious & Inspirational” Kindle categories (USA, Canada, and Australia), and have won awards/honors in the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award, the 2016 and 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards, and the 2015 Stargazer Literary Prizes. He lives in Mexico City.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/3hk5pawj0t

LOCAL OUTLETS: It’s available in several bookstores in San Diego, CA, but your best bet is to find it online:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Developing-Minds-American-Ghost-Story-ebook/dp/B07QNLWS6Q

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/developing-minds-3

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1122192543

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/developing-minds/id1459043906

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jonathan_LaPoma_Developing_Minds_An_American_Ghost?id=_BDMDwAAQBAJ

PRICE:

Paperback: $16.95 

Ebook: $2.99

CONTACT THE AUTHORwww.jonlapoma.com, jon {at} jonlapoma {dot} com