NEWS!

This week’s other featured books, “Suburban Death Project,” by Aimee Parkison and “Seeing Eye Girl,” by Beverly J. Armento, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

——————————————–

THE BOOK: NEWS! (all caps, exclamation point)

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022 (July 31).

THE AUTHOR:  Dan Smith

THE EDITOR
: Susannah Smith (president of Propertius Press)

THE PUBLISHER
: Propertius Press, a small, excellent non-profit publisher (whose books have won a ton of awards)

SUMMARY:  NEWS! is the coming-of-age story of a young reporter in Asheville, N.C., beginning during the summer of 1969. It was a period when both the country and journalism were in a state of dramatic change and journalism’s importance had rarely been as pronounced.

The novel contains 65,660 words.

Eb McCourry is a 23-year-old sportswriter who is pressed into newsroom service when a commercial jet is split open by a small Cessna at the nearby airport, killing 82 people. Eb finds a war zone at the crash site and reacts viscerally, then goes about learning his craft from the pros around him, eventually moving out of sports and into the near nonstop action of the newsroom.

Eb finds a friend and sometimes mentor in young Ella Sikorski, a tenacious, deaf rookie reporter who has been stuck in the society section where women have traditionally been placed. But she wants more and the new diversity initiative of the newspaper, along with a newly-focused features department gives her–and Eb–their chance to shine. 

Though this is not a memoir, much of the book comes from my experience as a newspaper and magazine journalist over a number of decades. I have been a writer, editor, photographer, designer, and magazine owner during that time. In 2010, I was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame for my work. 

The issues in NEWS! are real and in many cases, they remain concerns that have frustrated solutions through much of our history: abortion, Vietnam, the women’s movement, civil rights, NASCAR, minor league baseball, rape, drugs, etc. 

NEWS! is a hopeful book, one presenting problems, solutions, ethical considerations, failures, successes, and memorable characters. 

THE BACK STORY: I lived it. It is historical fiction, based at least in part of what I’ve observed.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title is pretty self-explanatory.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Strong sense of time (1969) and place (Asheville, N.C.) and a look at how mid-sized newspapers were once a healthy and vibrant part of a community. This gives you the why in a fast-paced, character-driven novel based on real events.

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

Nancy Agee, President/CEO Carilion Clinic and an avid reader:

I read a lot.  So, when I say, ‘Read this book,’ I mean it. NEWS! grabs you from the first page. The raw, painful beginning introduces a young journalist asked to cover a horrific event. The story unfolds as a coming of age in 1969. At times, rough and tumble and a bit salty it’s also, tender and genuine. You are transported to a newsroom and the ‘behind the scenes’ are illuminating.  Mostly, you root for this young man, you love his story and you are reminded of your own story.

Rachael Garrity, journalist, owner of Penworthy LLC:

WOW!  It’s been a good, long time since I have begun a book, and refused to stop reading it until I finished. I am being neither kind nor effusive when I say this is GOOD — as in John Grisham kind of good. 

Bill Kovarik, author (“Revolutions in Communication”), journalism professor at Radford University:

In a crazy-assed mountain town where they still speak Elizabethan English, a bored sports reporter takes on the story of a double homicide against a backdrop of corruption, jealousy and newsroom politics.   [Dan Smith has] a warm, decent writing style. No rhetorical tricks or sophistry. Just a good human story. Told with sympathy and insight. 

For anyone who wonders what it was like to work in the heyday of regional newspapers, or who might appreciate a human story told with sympathy and insight, NEWS! Is for you.  [Dan Smith has] a warm, decent writing style. No rhetorical tricks or sophistry. Just a good human story. Told with sympathy and insight.   

Roland Lazenby, author (“Michael Jordan: The Life” and “Showboat”), journalist, former Virginia Tech journalism professor:

Dan Smith has spent much of his life delivering all sorts of news to readers. NEWS! is a fictionalized account of his early days in the business, when news reporters roamed the culture for local papers. He delivers a vivid tale of the shock and awe that a big news event can bring into everyday life and how those moments long remain indelible for those who cover them. News work was his path to the world, laced along the way with the addictive rush of adrenaline and the incomprehensible terror those moments can bring. He had me from hello.

Linda Kay Simmons, novelist (“Lightning Shall Strike,” “Lamb on a Tombstone,” etc.)

Journalist and novelist Dan Smith can never be silenced as he champions the darkhorse and undervalued segments of our society. Such is the case with Smith’s novel.The reporting presented by Eb, Smith’s alter-ego, is inwardly satisfying and educates readers about life in mid-sized Southern city’s newsroom in 1969. NEWS! represents a time when reporters gave us the whole truth, as they knew it, and is a valuable insight into the times—a voice for social consciousness. Savvy readers will recognize and value the importance of this work.

Dwayne Yancey, editorial page editor Roanoke Times, author (“When Hell Froze Over”), playwright:

Dan Smith is a masterful story-teller who has the ink of an old-school newsman pumping in his veins. NEWS! rings with all the authenticity of a return bell on a manual typewriter.

Doug Cumming, author (“The Southern Press”), journalism professor, George Polk Award winner:

NEWS! speeds along and rumbles like the rolls of newsprint zipping through a Heidelberg printing press. I was caught up in the sport and details of chasing great news stories around Asheville in 1969. The time and place are nicely evoked. I know, because it’s not far from the city rooms that taught me journalism in Raleigh after I came fresh out of college in 1974.

AUTHOR PROFILE:Award-winning journalist and photographer Dan Smith is a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is the author of seven previous books, including the novel CLOG! He was the Virginia Business Journalist of the Year in 2005 and has won statewide awards in nearly every newspaper and magazine discipline. He has also won Virginia Association of Broadcasters awards for his Public Radio essays. His magazine work has won state and  international magazine awards, as well. He is passionate about the role of journalists in a civilized society, which shows through in NEWS! The Asheville, NC, native lives in Roanoke, VA. He has two children and two grandchildren.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 NEWS! tells you how newspapers covered the events of the day at a time when newspaper profit margins were about 14 percent, budgets were generous and staffs of suitable size. It is a book about innovation, equality and an explosive society at a time when newspapers were strong and changing. 

SAMPLEhttps://www.propertiuspress.com/our-bookstore/NEWS-by-Dan-Smith-p435663561.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes & Noble, Book No Further in Roanoke. 

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Propertius Press, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4GFQJGN.

PRICE: $18.99 (no shipping charge) from the publisher for paperback; $7.99 for ebook. (Price varies with retail and online outlets.)

CONTACT THE AUTHORpampadansmith@gmail.comDan SmithUpcoming Novel, “NEWS!” (Propertius Press)Freelance Journalist, Photographer, AuthorVirginia Communications Hall of Fame, 2010
Founder, Roanoke Regional Writers ConferenceCell: 540 556 8510
Blog: https://editrdan.blogspot.com/

“And the unicorn said to Alice, ‘Now that you believe in me, I can believe in you.'” Lewis Carroll, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Suburban Death Project

THE BOOK: Suburban Death Project.

PUBLISHED IN: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Aimee Parkison.

THE EDITOR: Patrick Davis.

THE PUBLISHER: Unbound Edition Press. At Unbound Edition, the deeply human experience of reading, holding, sharing, and collecting books feels more important than ever. Readers prefer printed books for the undistracted focus, intimacy, and quiet they help create, and for the proud accomplishment of closing one when completed. Bookshelves become memory archives of the people and places, the challenges and delights and ideas, introduced on the page. We believe in the power of real books, and choose to make them our primary focus. More information can be found at Unbound Edition Press https://www.unboundedition.com/

SUMMARY: The twelve stories comprising Suburban Death Project sparkle with disturbing brilliance. Suburban Death Project breathes life into what is barely surviving: ill-fated families, dangerous relationships, and frightening loves.

In average American households, families haunt each other while still alive as they recompose into dragonflies, peach trees, squirrels, ducks, owls, shadows, tunnels, and zoos of endangered species. Pinned to boards for study, peered at by voyeurs, videoed by neighbors, or vivisected for the greater good, each body in these riveting stories undergoes an unflinching examination.

With a dark humor serving to make unimaginable traumas both tolerable and knowable, Parkison delves into marriage and mourning, lust and loss, and violence and its aftermath. She exposes the horrors of life in its bodily form and relieves them with a passionate wonder burning so brightly it outshines age, death, and family secrets.

THE BACK STORY: I follow my characters down pathways that turn from familiar to unfamiliar. When I find the voice of a story, I follow it like breadcrumbs in a forest, but breadcrumbs sometimes disappear, leading to unexpected discoveries—real and surreal, incredibly human: resilient yet fragile, gentle yet dangerous, tender yet elusive.

WHY THIS TITLE? Suburbia is a landscape of in-betweens, a liminal space between country and city, not quite rural and not quite urban. This family-oriented landscape of fenced backyards, churches, assumed safety, privacy, and security is often misleading because inside houses are secrets and dramas of families struggling, couples falling in and out of love, the daily routines of life and death, hope and despair behind closed doors.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you enjoy unexpected character-driven stories in slipstream, fabulist, surrealism, magical realism, or speculative fiction that is as horrifying and strange as it is lyrical, you should pick up a copy of Suburban Death Project

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Extraordinary, character-driven tales from a sublime voice that resonates.” –Kirkus Reviews

The thrill of this collection comes at you in the very first story, when you realize you are going to be completely unable to predict what will happen next or where Parkison’s imagination is going to take you. (And that feeling lasts through to the end of the book!) –Lovely Bookshelf

These compelling and memorable fictions will surprise you, and, yes, disturb you, but they will also move you, and reawaken you to the strangeness of the familiar world, and in so doing they will allow you to return to it as if for the first time, as if it were once again a garden. –George Looney, author of The Worst May Be Over

Nothing is left unmined through this explosive collection packed with subterfuge of gaslighting, stalking and what keeps the game of predator/prey interesting and provocative. Suburban Death Project scrapes the nerves and pierces the heart. –Meg Tuite, author of Meet My Haze

AUTHOR PROFILE: Aimee Parkison loves candy and coffee and collecting. A collector of books, dolls, teapots, vintage jewelry, and stories, she arranges historic photographs and found images in curated albums. Widely published and the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Parkison lives in a woodsy neighborhood surrounded by owls, squirrels, songbirds, opossums, and old growth trees encircling her sunset balcony. She watches fireflies in summer, leaves fall in autumn, and snow fall in winter. Her children are beloved cats she spoils beyond reason.

Author of seven books of fiction, she has won awards for her writing, including: the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize; the Kurt Vonnegut Prize from North American Review; the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction; a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, a Writers at Work Fellowship, a Puffin Foundation Fellowship, and a William Randolph Hearst Creative Artists Fellowship. She currently teaches creative writing in the MFA/PhD program at Oklahoma State University.

Her previous books are story collections Woman with Dark Horses (Starcherone), The Innocent Party (BOA Editions), Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman (FC2), Girl Zoo (FC2), a historical novel called Sister Séance (Kernpunkt), and a short surreal novel about kidnapped girls in a secret theater called The Petals of Your Eyes (Starcherone).

AUTHOR COMMENTS:

No one knows what is hidden in a person’s heart, until a story becomes a window to a character’s soul.

A book is an eye that reveals the “I.”

SAMPLE: Here’s a story from the collection published by Big Other magazine online at What Goes on Near the Water, by Aimee Parkison – BIG OTHER

https://bigother.com/2019/02/19/fiction-by-aimee-parkison/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Independent Bookstores across the US and online at Suburban Death Project a book by Aimee Parkison (bookshop.org)

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, direct from Unbound Edition at Suburban Death Project | Aimee Parkison | Short Fiction – Unbound Edition Press, and Small Press Distribution

PRICE: $ 27.95 (hardback) 

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  

Email: aimee@okstate.edu 

Twitter: @AimeeParkison 

Author Website: www.aimeeparkison.com 

Seeing Eye Girl

THE BOOK: Seeing Eye Girl: A Memoir of Madness, Resilience and Hope

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022.

THE AUTHOR: Beverly Armento

THE EDITORS:
Developmental Editor: Don Weiss with The Writers Ally (Ally Machate)Copyeditor: Krissa Lagos with Warner Coaching (Brooke Warner)

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press, an award-winning hybrid publisher for women authors.

SUMMARY: As the “Seeing Eye Girl” for her blind and mentally ill mother, Beverly Armento was intimately connected with and responsible for her, even though her mother physically and emotionally abused her. She was Strong Beverly at school—excellent in academics and mentored by caring teachers—but at home she was Weak Beverly, cowed by her mother’s rage and delusions.

In this emotional memoir, Beverly shares the coping strategies she invented to get herself through the trials of her young life, and the ways in which school and church served as refuges over the course of her journey. Breaking the psychological chains that bound her to her mother would prove to be the most difficult challenge of her life—and, ultimately, the most liberating one.

THE BACK STORY
: All my life I wanted to write about my early years, the growing up years with my mother, but my busy career as an educator filled my time and consumed my energy. Upon retirement, I took a Creative Nonfiction class where I wrote a poem that shocked me into the awareness that “the time had come” to write a memoir. The actual creation of the book and locating a publisher took about a decade, believe it or not. During much of that time I took courses to build my writing skills for applying the tools of fiction to nonfiction with each class offering critique opportunities. A group of about a dozen of the class members remained intact as an on-going critique group for several years, and it is through these relationships that I learned how to hone my writing to convey the emotional impact of my coming of age years.

WHY THIS TITLE?: My mother, diagnosed with a serious eye disease as an infant, was totally blind by the time she had me, her first child. When I was nine, my mother’s eyesight was restored with two corneal transplants, which were unheard of in 1950. Given these “miracle” surgeries and Momma’s artistic talent, she became “famous” overnight, with many articles appearing in newspapers around the country. Woman’s Home Companion, 1953, featured Momma’s fascinating human interest story, and she told the editor that “Beverly was my Seeing Eye Girl.” Indeed, Momma seldom went out of the house without me, her guide as we went grocery shopping, or walked around the community. As I thought about alternative titles for the memoir, the one I continued coming back to was Seeing Eye Girl, as it has both literal as well as metaphorical meanings.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I wrote this book for the “Invisible Walking Wounded,” folks like me who present themselves to the world with a smiling face and who hide their grief and sadness and for all those teachers/mentors who ever doubt the impact they have on children. Anyone who experienced Adverse Childhood events will find that my experiences resonate with them, and perhaps they will reflect on their own lives in new ways. Educators, coaches, youth leaders, and really all of us (who mentor those around us, whether we are aware of it or not) will find the book encouraging of their efforts to empower children and other adults. “Seeing Eye Girl” focuses on resilience and hope, and should leave the reader with positive clues for surviving conditions beyond one’s control. 

REVIEW COMMENTS

“An engrossing read…Sublime writing brightens an unforgettable, harrowing personal account.” Kirkus Reviews

“Is it possible that a story of chronic abuse at the hands of a mentally unstable mother can be beautiful? ‘Seeing Eye Girl’ proves that the answer is yes.” –Sue William Silverman, author, How to Survive Death and other Inconveniences

“Between the pages of heartbreak, shimmers a compelling story of courage.” –Melissa Cistaro, author, Pieces of My Mother“This unforgettable personal journey will make you tear up… Heartbreaking yet so empowering!” – Reader’s Favorite

AUTHOR PROFILE:
 Inspired by the many teachers who mentored her, Beverly J. Armento became an educator and enjoyed a fifty-year career, working with middle school children as well as prospective teachers. Retired now, she is Professor Emerita at Georgia State University, and holds degrees from The William Paterson University, Purdue University, and Indiana University. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her memoir, “Seeing Eye Girl,” was awarded a bronze medal from the IPPY awards. For more information, please visit: www.beverlyarmentoauthor.com  

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 We know that today’s youth are unusually depressed, fearful, sad, and isolated as the effects of the pandemic and recent school shootings highlight the trauma in many children, families, and communities. All of this is in addition to the things psychologists usually think of as Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, losing a parent through death or divorce, or living in a household where drug/alcohol addiction, or violence present dangerous situations for children. Untreated or unresolved childhood trauma often leads to health or behavioral issues in adulthood. It is important for all of us, as a caring human family, to be aware of these issues facing young people and to work consciously to create healthy and supportive environments in homes, schools, and anywhere youth gather. In addition, we need additional attention to improving mental health and the ability to be resilient. 

It is my hope that “Seeing Eye Girl” might prompt such discussions. 


SAMPLE: Please refer to the Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Eye-Girl-Madness-Resilience/dp/1647423910/

LOCAL OUTLETS
Francie & Finch: https://francieandfinch.indielite.org/book/9781647423919
Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/seeing-eye-girl-a-memoir-of-madness-resilience-and-hope/9781647423919
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781647423919

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Eye-Girl-Madness-Resilience/dp/1647423910/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seeing-eye-girl-beverly-j-armento/1140033047
Target: https://www.target.com/p/seeing-eye-girl-by-beverly-j-armento-paperback/-/A-84913666

PRICE: $16.95CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Contact me: 

www.beverlyarmentoauthor.com (see my website for ways to reach me)Email me: 

beverly@beverlyarmentoauthor.comFacebook: beverlyarmentoauthor

Weather Report, July 4

(Photo from Stocksnap)

Our currently featured books, “The Ladies,” by Sara Veglahn, “Humble Fumble,” by Libby Belle and “You Are Still Alive,” by William Stobb can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.

————————————————————————–

NOTE: I’m taking next week off for vacation, so these books will be up for two weeks.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JULY 5-18

“NEWS!” BY DAN SMITH.

NEWS! is the coming-of-age story of a young reporter in Asheville, N.C., beginning during the summer of 1969. It was a period when both the country and journalism were in a state of dramatic change and journalism’s importance had rarely been as pronounced.

Eb McCourry is a 23-year-old sportswriter who is pressed into newsroom service when a commercial jet is split open by a small Cessna at the nearby airport, killing 82 people. Eb finds a war zone at the crash site and reacts viscerally, then goes about learning his craft from the pros around him, eventually moving out of sports and into the near nonstop action of the newsroom.

Eb finds a friend and sometimes mentor in young Ella Sikorski, a tenacious, deaf rookie reporter who has been stuck in the society section where women have traditionally been placed. But she wants more and the new diversity initiative of the newspaper, along with a newly-focused features department gives her–and Eb–their chance to shine. 

“SUBURBAN DEATH PROJECT, ” BY AIMEE PARKISON.

The twelve stories comprising Suburban Death Project sparkle with disturbing brilliance. Suburban Death Project breathes life into what is barely surviving: ill-fated families, dangerous relationships, and frightening loves.

In average American households, families haunt each other while still alive as they recompose into dragonflies, peach trees, squirrels, ducks, owls, shadows, tunnels, and zoos of endangered species. Pinned to boards for study, peered at by voyeurs, videoed by neighbors, or vivisected for the greater good, each body in these riveting stories undergoes an unflinching examination.

With a dark humor serving to make unimaginable traumas both tolerable and knowable, Parkison delves into marriage and mourning, lust and loss, and violence and its aftermath. She exposes the horrors of life in its bodily form and relieves them with a passionate wonder burning so brightly it outshines age, death, and family secrets.

“SEEING EYE GIRL,” BY BEVERLY ARMENTO.

 As the “Seeing Eye Girl” for her blind and mentally ill mother, Beverly Armento was intimately connected with and responsible for her, even though her mother physically and emotionally abused her. She was Strong Beverly at school—excellent in academics and mentored by caring teachers—but at home she was Weak Beverly, cowed by her mother’s rage and delusions.

In this emotional memoir, Beverly shares the coping strategies she invented to get herself through the trials of her young life, and the ways in which school and church served as refuges over the course of her journey. Breaking the psychological chains that bound her to her mother would prove to be the most difficult challenge of her life—and, ultimately, the most liberating one.

NEWS!

THE BOOK: NEWS! (all caps, exclamation point)

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022 (July 31)

THE AUTHOR:  Da Smith

THE EDITOR
: Susannah Smith (president of Propertius Press)

THE PUBLISHER
: Propertius Press, a small, excellent non-profit publisher (whose books have won a ton of awards)

SUMMARY

NEWS! is the coming-of-age story of a young reporter in Asheville, N.C., beginning during the summer of 1969. It was a period when both the country and journalism were in a state of dramatic change and journalism’s importance had rarely been as pronounced.

The novel contains 65,660 words.

Eb McCourry is a 23-year-old sportswriter who is pressed into newsroom service when a commercial jet is split open by a small Cessna at the nearby airport, killing 82 people. Eb finds a war zone at the crash site and reacts viscerally, then goes about learning his craft from the pros around him, eventually moving out of sports and into the near nonstop action of the newsroom.

Eb finds a friend and sometimes mentor in young Ella Sikorski, a tenacious, deaf rookie reporter who has been stuck in the society section where women have traditionally been placed. But she wants more and the new diversity initiative of the newspaper, along with a newly-focused features department gives her–and Eb–their chance to shine. 

Though this is not a memoir, much of the book comes from my experience as a newspaper and magazine journalist over a number of decades. I have been a writer, editor, photographer, designer, and magazine owner during that time. In 2010, I was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame for my work. 

The issues in NEWS! are real and in many cases, they remain concerns that have frustrated solutions through much of our history: abortion, Vietnam, the women’s movement, civil rights, NASCAR, minor league baseball, rape, drugs, etc. 

NEWS! is a hopeful book, one presenting problems, solutions, ethical considerations, failures, successes, and memorable characters. 

THE BACK STORY: I lived it. It is historical fiction, based at least in part of what I’ve observed.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title is pretty self-explanatory.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Strong sense of time (1969) and place (Asheville, N.C.) and a look at how mid-sized newspapers were once a healthy and vibrant part of a community. This gives you the why in a fast-paced, character-driven novel based on real events.

REVIEW COMMENTS
: (Pick what you want from these:)

Nancy Agee, President/CEO Carilion Clinic and an avid reader:

I read a lot.  So, when I say, ‘Read this book,’ I mean it. NEWS! grabs you from the first page. The raw, painful beginning introduces a young journalist asked to cover a horrific event. The story unfolds as a coming of age in 1969. At times, rough and tumble and a bit salty it’s also, tender and genuine. You are transported to a newsroom and the ‘behind the scenes’ are illuminating.  Mostly, you root for this young man, you love his story and you are reminded of your own story.

Rachael Garrity, journalist, owner of Penworthy LLC:

WOW!  It’s been a good, long time since I have begun a book, and refused to stop reading it until I finished. I am being neither kind nor effusive when I say this is GOOD — as in John Grisham kind of good. 

Bill Kovarik, author (“Revolutions in Communication”), journalism professor at Radford University:

In a crazy-assed mountain town where they still speak Elizabethan English, a bored sports reporter takes on the story of a double homicide against a backdrop of corruption, jealousy and newsroom politics.   [Dan Smith has] a warm, decent writing style. No rhetorical tricks or sophistry. Just a good human story. Told with sympathy and insight. 

For anyone who wonders what it was like to work in the heyday of regional newspapers, or who might appreciate a human story told with sympathy and insight, NEWS! Is for you.  [Dan Smith has] a warm, decent writing style. No rhetorical tricks or sophistry. Just a good human story. Told with sympathy and insight.   

Roland Lazenby, author (“Michael Jordan: The Life” and “Showboat”), journalist, former Virginia Tech journalism professor:

Dan Smith has spent much of his life delivering all sorts of news to readers. NEWS! is a fictionalized account of his early days in the business, when news reporters roamed the culture for local papers. He delivers a vivid tale of the shock and awe that a big news event can bring into everyday life and how those moments long remain indelible for those who cover them. News work was his path to the world, laced along the way with the addictive rush of adrenaline and the incomprehensible terror those moments can bring. He had me from hello.

Linda Kay Simmons, novelist (“Lightning Shall Strike,” “Lamb on a Tombstone,” etc.)

Journalist and novelist Dan Smith can never be silenced as he champions the darkhorse and undervalued segments of our society. Such is the case with Smith’s novel.The reporting presented by Eb, Smith’s alter-ego, is inwardly satisfying and educates readers about life in mid-sized Southern city’s newsroom in 1969. NEWS! represents a time when reporters gave us the whole truth, as they knew it, and is a valuable insight into the times—a voice for social consciousness. Savvy readers will recognize and value the importance of this work.

Dwayne Yancey, editorial page editor Roanoke Times, author (“When Hell Froze Over”), playwright:

Dan Smith is a masterful story-teller who has the ink of an old-school newsman pumping in his veins. NEWS! rings with all the authenticity of a return bell on a manual typewriter.

Doug Cumming, author (“The Southern Press”), journalism professor, George Polk Award winner:

NEWS! speeds along and rumbles like the rolls of newsprint zipping through a Heidelberg printing press. I was caught up in the sport and details of chasing great news stories around Asheville in 1969. The time and place are nicely evoked. I know, because it’s not far from the city rooms that taught me journalism in Raleigh after I came fresh out of college in 1974.

AUTHOR PROFILE:Award-winning journalist and photographer Dan Smith is a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is the author of seven previous books, including the novel CLOG! He was the Virginia Business Journalist of the Year in 2005 and has won statewide awards in nearly every newspaper and magazine discipline. He has also won Virginia Association of Broadcasters awards for his Public Radio essays. His magazine work has won state and  international magazine awards, as well. He is passionate about the role of journalists in a civilized society, which shows through in NEWS! The Asheville, NC, native lives in Roanoke, VA. He has two children and two grandchildren.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 NEWS! tells you how newspapers covered the events of the day at a time when newspaper profit margins were about 14 percent, budgets were generous and staffs of suitable size. It is a book about innovation, equality and an explosive society at a time when newspapers were strong and changing. 

SAMPLEhttps://www.propertiuspress.com/our-bookstore/NEWS-by-Dan-Smith-p435663561.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes & Noble, Book No Further in Roanoke. 

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Propertius Press, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4GFQJGN.

PRICE: $18.99 (no shipping charge) from the publisher for paperback; $7.99 for ebook. (Price varies with retail and online outlets.)

CONTACT THE AUTHORpampadansmith@gmail.comDan SmithUpcoming Novel, “NEWS!” (Propertius Press)Freelance Journalist, Photographer, AuthorVirginia Communications Hall of Fame, 2010
Founder, Roanoke Regional Writers ConferenceCell: 540 556 8510
Blog: https://editrdan.blogspot.com/

“And the unicorn said to Alice, ‘Now that you believe in me, I can believe in you.'” Lewis Carroll, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

The Ladies

This week’s other featured books, “You Are Still Alive,” by William Stobb and “Humble Fumble,” by Libby Belle, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

—————————————

THE BOOK: The Ladies: A novel

PUBLISHED IN
: 2017

THE AUTHOR:  Sara Veglahn

THE PUBLISHER
: Noemi Press, http://www.noemipress.org/

SUMMARY: In The Ladies, a trio of professional mourners contemplates their fate, while their days are consumed by the various rituals of grief and an intense hunger that never seems to be sated. The chorus-like quality of the narrative offers the haunting element of the mythological, where past and present merge and become nearly indistinguishable. In dream-like, crystalline prose, this novel interrogates the complexity of existence, of mourning, of identity, of origins.

THE BACK STORYThe Ladies came out of a question I had about these characters in my previous book, The Mayflies (Dzanc 2014)—mainly, who were they? What was their story? In The Mayflies, they were somewhat mysterious characters who followed and attended to the narrator. When writing that book, these characters also arrived in a mysterious way—I don’t know how else to explain it except they just appeared on the page—there was no intent or planning. They kept forcing their way in during the drafting process, so I figured they earned their spot. But I still didn’t know that much about them, so I soon realized they needed their own book. The Ladies is their story. And, while it’s by no means a sequel, and you certainly don’t need to read The Mayflies first, they are connected through these characters, but more like distant cousins than siblings.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Long ago, (maybe elementary school?) I was taught that a title shows you have a point of view—and so this title felt both necessary and the obvious choice.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
I approach narrative and language as someone who started off as a poet—sound and rhythm are just as important (to me) as plot or character. This is also a book that required a form that mirrored and reflected the content—there is an element of sparseness that leaves room for the unsaid to exist on the page.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“From the chrysalis-tomb comes this chorus, these ladies, with voices of green fire and river ice. They speak to us, the living, the as-yet-unwept, of the death world behind the glass and beneath the waves, at the end of night, and they lull, and they terrify. Sara Veglahn’s writing gives the crocus a tongue of flame. The Ladies, her latest novel, is a distillate of our dreams and nightmares, a bright offering. To read is to break the surface, to begin the sinking, to find in any moment a great distance opening like a hole in the known.” –Joanna Ruocco, author of The Week and Dan.

The Ladies reads like a fever dream you wake from hungrily and fall to feasting–fall to dreaming again, hoping to return to the birds and the buckets, to rain and stones and confusions of being, to the marvelously muddied frontier between the living and the dead. Sara Veglahn gives us a lush, thingy, ethereal world all her very own. -Noy Holland, author of Bird and I Was Trying to Describe What it Feels Like

AUTHOR PROFILE:As noted, I’m also the author of the novel, The Mayflies (Dzanc, 2014, https://www.dzancbooks.org/our-books/mayflies-by-sara-veglahn )

as well as  several chapbooks, including, The Ladies: an excerpt (New Herring Press, 2013), Another Random Heart (Letter Machine Editions, 2009) and Closed Histories (Noemi, 2008). My writing and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in ConjunctionsFenceCaketrainOctopusFull Stop, and elsewhere. I grew up near the Mississippi River in the Upper Midwest, and earned a PhD in literature and writing from the University of Denver, and an MFA in writing from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. For the past twenty years I’ve taught creative writing and literature at several different institutions and have recently decided to pivot to editing and one-on-one mentorship. I currently live and write in Denver.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I am interested in the ways in which we mourn—and though this book was written well before the pandemic, the ideas that surround grief and loss seem particularly apt and particularly needed now.

SAMPLEhttp://www.noemipress.org/catalog/prose/veglahn/

LOCAL OUTLETS
BookBar, Denver, CO

Tattered Cover, Denver, CO

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

Noemi Press: noemipress.org

Small Press Distribution: spdbooks.org

Amazon

PRICE: $15.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: At Gmail: saraveglahn

You Are Still Alive

THE BOOK: You Are Still Alive

PUBLISHED IN
: 2019

THE AUTHOR:  William Stobb

THE EDITOR
: David Dodd Lee

THE PUBLISHER: 42 Miles Press

SUMMARY: “Each poem in You Are Still Alive introduces itself with wistful, comic nihilism, but grows into a compassionate, fearless friend. It’s as though the reader had been dropped into the mind of a loving, funny, humble, infinitely generous, nimble-minded Buddhist monk brought up on classic science fiction. The monk’s musings honor the marvelous strangeness of each passing moment, never losing sight of the yawning maw of the dubious future. His contemplations are both heartening and sobering. The poems’ animated cosmic hospitality bring our greatest and smallest concerns into perfectly calibrated relation as they ponder consciousness, technology, freedom, the future, the worldly, how to lead a virtuous life without being an annoying prig, how flawed and destructive humans are, how to be inventively fair-minded in at least five dimensions, and what life forms might come after us, stumbling on the ruins of our so-called civilization.” — Amy Gerstler, author of  Ghost Girl, Bitter Angel, and Scattered at Sea.


THE BACK STORY
: No special back story. I write poems all the time, and this is a collection of the poems I wrote between the publication of my 2012 collection, Absentia, and about 2018 or so. The original poems were published in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Kenyon Review, and many other good journals and zines.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title comes from an artwork by Landon Sheely (see landonsheely.com). I contacted him about using the language from his piece as my book title, and he very graciously said “sure.” His work is great.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
The poems are funny, diverse, energized, weird, deep, bizarre. It’ll stretch your head out.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“This book is a rare and beautiful accomplishment,” Bob Hicok. 

“Infused with elegiac hope, the poems hover on the cusp of an enlightened release of all worldly things—and a deep reluctance to give them up. Stobb proves that the profound exists in surprising places and that we may access thoughtfulness even when taking part in thoughtless tasks.”–Emily Wolahan for Colorado Review.

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: William Stobb is the author of five previous poetry collections, including the National Poetry Series selection, Nervous Systems, and Absentia, both from Penguin Books. He works on the editorial staff of the ground-breaking ‘zine Conduit, and its book-publishing arm, Conduit Books & Ephemera, and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. 
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 Check it out. If you don’t like it, send me a nasty email.

SAMPLE CHAPTER

Interval  

It shouldn’t be rare, this ability
to sit quietly in history, a statue
of St. Francis tucked among woody
trunks of old Lilac—a kind of
dopey looking saint my sister gave me
after her husband quit the ministry
left her with the girls
and became an architect over in Ames.

On today’s date, a comedian
and a salesperson of air time
are divorcing down my block.
Their teenage daughter fronts a punk band
so collapse immediately becomes chorus
A looming cloud formation
threatens biking plans, as distant nail guns
fasten down roofs. Prayer,
an idea, circles like birds
as a breeze sets the chime.
Two translucent insects hover
above irregular stalks of grass
and two families down the alley 
\have lost sons in the wars.   

Dogen Marty tells me
“if you’re not afraid of death
you’re afraid of fear.”
I struggle most with the anger
that spills out of me like yesterday
when I yelled at my children for simple carelessness.
Marty’s trying to help me
regain my composure
but I think I pretend, mainly,
to understand my motives.   

I want to learn something
from the stories Betsy writes,
in which the emotional life
inflected by the brightness of wit
puts its arm around the intellect
and leads it back inside. 

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

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: william.stobb@gmail.com

Humble Fumble

THE BOOK: Humble Fumble.

PUBLISHED IN: March 2022.

THE AUTHOR: Libby Belle.

THE PUBLISHER: Pure Luck Press.

SUMMARY: “Prop up a pillow” short stories/novelettes meant for pure entertainment. Brace yourself for a whirlwind of zany and wonderful characters stuck in surprising situations only your spirited imagination can help them survive. Whatever deep messages you find along the way are yours to keep forever.

THE BACK STORY: When you spend a lifetime with nutty people, starting with your own family, the stories are abundant. We were raised as kids who played outside and used our imaginations to make the day exciting. My imagination has run amok ever since, and I love turning an entire life’s collection of stories into fiction.

WHY THIS TITLE: It’s the title for one of the 17 stories that I particularly like because it highlights Sophia Petrillo, the wonderful wise cracking mother on The Golden Girls. I adore those quirky characters who are similar to the ones I create
in my stories.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I was told by my readers that they loved the stories so much, they never wanted them to end. Now, that’s a darn good reason to read it.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Libby Belle has the uncanny ability to turn a short story into a miniature novel in a style very reminiscent of the wonderful Maeve Binchy” — Monica R. Martyn, author of The Lucky Man: An Act of Malice.

“The yarns Libby Belle spins are original, entertaining, and unexpectedly otherworldly. “—Sam Krymalowsky, author of The Man Who Came to Rent.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I live in Austin, Texas, a city that thrives on weirdness – a perfect place to nurture my wildly active imagination and where all my fabulous children and zany friends live. My stories have been published in NY and UK publications. Humble Fumble, A Woman Always Knows and The Juicy Parts, are available worldwide.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Beginning and ending my life one exciting story at a time! I love my readers and am always thrilled to hear from you!

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.libbybelle.com/take-a-peek.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Austin Art Garage.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Digital and paperback at Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and international book sites.

PRICE: $12.00 print, $6.00 eBook.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: libbybelle7@gmail.com.

Weather Report, June 28

(Photo from CultureMap Austin)

Our currently featured books, “The World Is Not Your Home,” by Matthew Vollmer, “48 States,” by Evette Davis and “The Unsinkable Gus Davis,” by Laurie Trumble Davis, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

———————————————————

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JUNE 28=JULY 4

“HUMBLE FUMBLE,” BY LIBBY BELLE.

Writes Libby: “I live in Austin, Texas, a city that thrives on weirdness When you spend a lifetime with nutty people, starting with your own family, the stories are abundant. We were raised as kids who played outside and used our imaginations to make the day exciting. My imagination has run amok ever since, and I love turning an entire life’s collection of stories into fiction.”

“THE LADIES,” BY SARA VERLAHN.

In The Ladies, a trio of professional mourners contemplates their fate, while their days are consumed by the various rituals of grief and an intense hunger that never seems to be sated. The chorus-like quality of the narrative offers the haunting element of the mythological, where past and present merge and become nearly indistinguishable. In dream-like, crystalline prose, this novel interrogates the complexity of existence, of mourning, of identity, of origins.

“YOU ARE STILL ALIVE<” BY WILLIAM STOBB

One reviewer wrote: “Each poem in You Are Still Alive introduces itself with wistful, comic nihilism, but grows into a compassionate, fearless friend. It’s as though the reader had been dropped into the mind of a loving, funny, humble, infinitely generous, nimble-minded Buddhist monk brought up on classic science fiction. The monk’s musings honor the marvelous strangeness of each passing moment, never losing sight of the yawning maw of the dubious future. His contemplations are both heartening and sobering. The poems’ animated cosmic hospitality bring our greatest and smallest concerns into perfectly calibrated relation as they ponder consciousness, technology, freedom, the future, the worldly, how to lead a virtuous life without being an annoying prig, how flawed and destructive humans are, how to be inventively fair-minded in at least five dimensions, and what life forms might come after us, stumbling on the ruins of our so-called civilization.”

This World Is Not Your Home

This week’s other featured books, “48 States,” by Evette Davis and “The Unsinkable Gus Davis,” by Laurie Trumble Davis, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

—————————————

THE BOOK: This World Is Not Your Home: Essays, Stories & Reports.

PUBLISHED IN: 2022

THE AUTHOR:  Matthew Vollmer

THE EDITOR
: Walter Robinson

THE PUBLISHER
: Eastover Press.

From the EastOver Website: “EastOver Press is an independent literary press with an online journal named Cutleaf. “EastOver Press specializes in publishing collections of short stories, essays, and poetry in a format that honors both the writing and the writer.

“For Cutleaf, we seek the best in contemporary writing in prose and verse from emerging and established writers. We are excited to promote writing that speaks to our commonalities and our differences.”

SUMMARY: Ranging from third person accounts to essays in the form of notes, instructions, and extended meditations, This World Is Not Your Home unfurls like an idiosyncratic playlist of the possibilities available to the writer of creative nonfiction.

The title essay, written in second person, tells the story of Vollmer’s growing up in rural North Carolina, and catalogs the psychological pressures exerted by a little-known religion that, while all-consuming for the author, seemed invisible to the rest of the world. Other essays include:

  • Instructions for how to write a love story that centers two young star-crossed lovers at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school.
  • A trip to a mountain home built to resemble a castle reveals a secret underground bunker that houses tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of Nazi militaria.
  • An essay written in the form of notes takes stock of forbidden music.
  • A husband and wife take a walk after dark, encounter a spectacular cosmic phenomenon, and return home to discover a distraught child.
  • An investigation into NASA’s Symphonies of the Planets, an album of electromagnetic impulses emitted by various planets, which was transformed into sound waves, occasions an extended meditation on space, music, and the meaning of sound.
  • An eyewitness account of the aftermath of the shooting at Virginia Tech considers the surreal and sorrowful reactions to an unfathomable violence.
  • In another essay, a preoccupation with his inevitable death causes Vollmer to imagine who his wife might remarry, and the cataloguing of his potential replacement’s superior characteristics and preoccupations creates a kind of portrait in reverse.
  • An essay that unfolds in a single paragraph recounts the house of Vollmer’s best friend, which has since been razed, and becomes a requiem for the loss of a childhood filled with Nerf footballs, a farting dog, Intelevision track pads, and an obsession with finding hidden messages in rock music.
  • A third person retelling of a trip with his family to visit his parents in their mountain home over Thanksgiving becomes an occasion to grieve a recent miscarriage, while dramatizing peculiar family dynamics and bearing witness to the beginning stages of a mother’s early onset dementia.

Written using a variety of forms and points of view, these immersive, voice-driven essays are a testament to the dexterity of the form.

THE BACK STORY: The book was written over the course of 15 years, focusing on a number of incidents and occasions for composing essays, stories, and reports.

WHY THIS TITLE?: “This World Is Not My Home” is a lyric from a song that I often sang in church. 

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

Lily Hoang, author of five books of prose including Changing and A Bestiary, said, “This World is Not Your Home is a collection of versatile, volatile, and virtuosic essays. Each essay begins with the self and rappels deep inside and then catapults out, out to the mysterious and unfathomable world, and then out further, to the sun, and out further, still, to parameters of space, the limits of understanding, all while challenging any stable expectation for what an essay should be or even look like. From reckonings of God with Science to the near witnessing—how close does one need to be to qualify as witness?—of massacre to the special beauty of boyhood friendship, Vollmer’s essays show us how common the exceptional can be and how the quotidian is really quite extraordinary and profound.”

Chris Offutt, author of The Killing Hills, said, “You don’t simply read Matthew Vollmer, you enter his consciousness for varying periods of time. It takes a stalwart bravery on the part of the reader, but far less than the courage manifested by the writer. This World is Not Your Home is a remarkable achievement by a brilliant writer.”

Padgett Powell, author of novels including Edisto, A Woman Named Drown, Edisto Revisited, Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men, You & Me, The Interrogative Mood, and Hologram, said, “Vollmer has great fun here with what I will call periodicity for want of better term. He pushes things to just inside the boundaries of domestication, another dubious term I’m not going to improve upon. The resultant of these forces is a writing that is well reasoned and sharp and so muscly that it surprises and gratifies.”

Stanley Crawford, author of The River in Winter and Mayordomo, said, “The telling of an ordinary life can be made extraordinary through vibrant, innovative writing. This is just what Matthew Vollmer has done in his This World Is Not Your Home. Often hilarious, sometimes grim, his account sparkles with surprising insights.”


AUTHOR PROFIL
E:Matthew Vollmer is the author of two short-story collections—Future Missionaries of America and Gateway to Paradise—as well as three collections of essays—inscriptions for headstonesPermanent Exhibit, and This World Is Not Your Home: Essays, Stories, & Reports. He was the editor of A Book of Uncommon Prayer, which collects invocations from over 60 acclaimed and emerging authors, and served as co-editor of Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts. His work has appeared in venues such as Paris ReviewGlimmer TrainPloughsharesTin HouseOxford AmericanThe SunThe Pushcart Prize anthology, and Best American Essays.  He teaches in the MFA program at Virginia Tech, where he is a Professor of English. His next book, All of Us Together in the End, will be published by Hub City Press in 2023. He enjoys biking, taking long walks, spending time with his wife and son and cats, playing PS4 games (especially horror), and thinking of fun and innovative ways to get people to write. 

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I hope this book helps people understand how important it is to be honest with family about the stories that they’ve told you and which you believe but also how stories are the gods of our world and how indebted we are to language for forming reality. 

SAMPLE: from StoryQuarterly: 

Supermoon

They had just finished eating—the man and woman and their son—at their favorite Mexican restaurant, where, even though they hadn’t quite cleaned their plates, they complained that they’d eaten too much, which was a signal for the man to say, as he always did, “Time to visit the vomitorium.” Though the man knew that feasting was an important part of high culture in ancient Rome and that the wealthy enjoyed slathering wild boar and venison with fermented fish intestines, he also knew, because he’d consulted his phone during a previous visit to this same restaurant, that feasters did not excuse themselves, waving away slaves who’d been enlisted to brush crumbs and bits of bones from their faces, in order to visit a system of tureens reserved especially for regurgitating food, thereby allowing vomiters to return with vigor to their indulgences. The man knew that the word ‘vomitorium” actually described the entryways of ancient Roman amphitheaters. But because “vomitorium” was a word that made both his wife and son shake their heads and laugh despite themselves, he said it, and the trio took it as their cue to leave. 

 On the way home the woman suggested that they should all go for a walk; after all, the dog had been left inside all day and could use some fresh air, and as good as it might sound to lie down, the family might better aid their digestion by perambulating the neighborhood. This sounded like a good idea to the man, but once he parked the car in the driveway, the boy slung open the door and scampered toward the house, and by the time his parents made it inside he had already resumed the playing of whatever video game he’d most recently downloaded to his tablet computer, the one that required him to tap and swipe the screen of the device with the relentless tenacity of a madman. The woman shrugged. The man hooked the dog’s collar to a leash. And, because they had recently agreed that twelve was an appropriate age to leave the boy alone in a house for short periods of time, they told him they’d be back in a little while, and left without him. 

At first, the man and woman walked without talking, and this, the man thought, was fine. Nice, even. The man had always enjoyed taking walks with the woman, and she with him. Though the two were different in many ways, and though she was half an inch taller and her legs were longer, the couple walked at the same brisk pace—the woman often noted that they shared a similar stride—and so walking together, though they never held hands, as this had the tendency to introduce an awkwardness that impeded their gait, felt completely natural. 

At the crest of the hill, the woman sighed heavily, and when the man asked what was wrong, she said she was in a funk. 

Instead of asking her to talk more about this funk, the man said something like, “Me too” or, in a way that suggested he was in the same boat, “Tell me about it.” It would be easy to imagine that the man had good intentions for claiming a funk of his own, and that by commiserating with his wife, he might have been curating a little funk-sharing space, one they might inhabit together and thereby lift one another’s spirits, but the truth was, the man had gotten temporarily caught up—as he sometimes did—in a kind of playful but ultimately self-serving brand of spousal antagonism. After all, it was beyond ludicrous to think that even if he did have a funk to call his own that it could compare to hers, which was a funk that happened to be six months in the making, a funk that, were it a human baby, would soon have the strength and wherewithal to crawl around on its own. This funk had been born, more or less, at the end of the previous winter, when the man and woman went to a local breast imaging center and sat in a waiting room where a bald, goateed man in overalls and a satin Harley Davidson jacket held a little girl on his knee while the old woman next to him—head wrapped in a scarf, eyebrow-less face forcibly placid—drank Styrofoam cup after Styrofoam cup of medicine. 

At this point, the woman squeezed the man’s hand. He squeezed back and said, “It’s going to be okay,” and then a nurse called the woman’s name and she left the room. Two days later, the woman received a call from the radiologist, who said everything was fine, that there were some calcifications in both breasts, nothing major, but something to keep an eye on, which was something of a relief, at least for the next 48 hours, until the woman got another call, and the same guy said that he’d been having some second thoughts, and that he’d given the mammogram to another radiologist, one who had a bit more experience, and this radiologist had said something like, “Well, fifty percent of doctors who know what they’re looking at would tell you that it looks like you might wanna biopsy, and the other fifty percent would be content to watch and wait” and “If it were me, I’d biopsy,” and so a week or so later the doctors removed tissue from one of the breasts and sent it a lab, where it tested positive for a certain kind of non-invasive breast cancer, specifically a kind that begins in the milk ducts.

Before the woman had learned of this new development, she had decided—because it was the most conservative and therefore safest approach—that if the news were bad she would elect to undergo a double mastectomy with reconstruction, a process that subsequently involved visits to a number of doctors, including a family physician, an oncologist, a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and a radiation oncologist, and a regular oncologist, who, after learning that the wife had suffered four miscarriages, surmised that the flood of estrogen of a full-blown pregnancy might have been just the thing to cause the cells in those milk ducts to spread. Other doctors wrote on white boards, drawing normal looking cells and cells that had mutated. They suggested books for the woman to read. They asked the same questions that nurses had just asked. They made inquiries about family history and medications. During exactly zero of these visits had the woman explained that she’d been writing a book about the rhetoric of breast cancer survivors, a project whose origins could likely be traced back to the fact that the woman’s mother had died when she was only 46 years of age, and that the woman had been 14 at the time, and that this event had shaped her life to a profound degree, since, for years afterward, she privately grieved for her mother, filling journals with writing, notebooks upon notebooks she still kept but never read and never showed anyone. It goes without saying, then, that the woman’s diagnosis had been devastating—she had laid for a long time in the middle of the day on the bed with the man, crying and dabbing her eyes and saying things like, maybe there’s a silver lining to all this, because they’d discovered it before it had become invasive, and then thinking of a world in which her son didn’t have a mom, and crying some more, and the man remembered a story his wife had told him long ago about sitting alone on the floor of her living room not long after her mother had died, watching cartoons with tears streaming down her face, while eating an ice cream pie that had been delivered by her father’s new girlfriend. So yes, the news had been devastating. The procedure itself had also been painful—the first surgery involved not only the removal of breast tissue but the insertion of expanders to stretch her pectoral muscles—and exhausting—the woman had to sleep in a recliner for four weeks—and messy—tubes draining blood and liquid from wounds into little squeeze bottles that had to be emptied twice a day—and boring—it turned out a person could only watch so much TV before you felt like you were going insane—and frustrating—she longed to exercise, but couldn’t run for a month, and then, once she’d returned to her previous form, the second surgery, during which the expanders would be replaced with gel packs, she’d had to give up running again. This, more or less, was the extent of the woman’s funk, which, it is perhaps plain to see, the man was foolish to have equated with his own, even—and perhaps especially if—he was joking. 

The couple continued to walk in silence. This silence, though, it wasn’t like before. It wasn’t comfortable. At least not for the man. Did the woman now resent his presence? Did she wish she ‘d stayed at the house—or that he hadn’t come along? He couldn’t be sure. The only thing he could say with absolute certainty was that the evening through which they were walking was, without question, incredibly beautiful. In the distance, unseen children were laughing and screaming happily—the man imagined a game of chase or hide and seek while the children’s parents sipped cocktails or stood over flaming grills. Fireflies pulsed in the air: little intermittent flashes of green. One might even say—as the man couldn’t help but think—that they were walking right through the middle of a quintessential summer evening, as if the night itself was pulling out all the stops to put on the performance of the season. The man and woman turned a corner. A soft breeze rustled the leaves of a tree, which diffused a yellow glow. Past the tree, they could see, in the sky, a low full moon: a bright and impossibly huge sphere hovering above the neighborhood, illuminating the algae-blanketed pond across the street, riming the dark green fields beyond. The man pointed skyward. The woman said, “Wow.” The fact that they had both been rendered speechless gave the man hope; maybe, he thought, the beauty they’d encountered during this little stroll would erase the memory of his ineptitude. He kept quiet, so as not to infringe on an unspoken truce. He thought about taking a picture and instinctively patted his pockets to locate his phone, which he remembered having left in the bedroom to charge. And that was okay. It wasn’t possible to take a good picture of the moon, anyway—at least not with his phone.  

 As the couple approached their house, a light in the living room snapped on, followed shortly by another light downstairs. Initially, the man figured the appearance of a sequence of lights in their house could be easily explained: his son likely wandering through rooms, looking for a cord so he could charge the dying battery of the tablet computer. Then again, the man thought, it could’ve been anybody. For years, they’d left the front door unlocked: they would leave the house for a few minutes or a few hours or an entire day and though they would certainly shut they rarely locked their front door, placing full trust in their neighbors and anyone who might wander into their cul-de-sac (proselytizers and lawn care specialists and meter readers and pizzeria employees placing hang-tags on doorknobs) that they would have the good sense not to enter a home that wasn’t theirs. 

They heard the screams as they approached the front door. It was the boy, screaming—in a way that seemed desperate—their names, as if through force of sheer will—and volume—the man and woman might materialize. The man figured that the boy had somehow injured himself—and remembered once when he was a kid at a church camp and how he’d ducked out of playing baseball, because he hated baseball, and returned to his room, where he’d cut himself playing with a pocket knife, and started screaming bloody murder for help, and how a neighbor had appeared and said, after inspecting the injury, which turned out to be rather slight, “I thought somebody had cut their leg off.” The boy, however, was not injured. He was, as he attempted to explain, between exhausted sobs, scared; he hadn’t known where his parents were. He’d tried to call his mother’s phone and she hadn’t answered, and he’d tried to call the father’s phone, and he hadn’t answered either, and because both of them had never not answered their phones, the boy had become afraid, and began to entertain worst-case scenarios. It was here that the man was overcome with empathy for his son; he could remember having this exact feeling as a kid, and how terrible it had been to not know where your parents were and then imagining that something horrible had happened to them and the more time passed without them showing up, the more real the imagined scenario became, until it had solidified itself in reality and become the only viable explanation: this was it, they were never coming back, they were gone forever. But the man and woman had returned. They were not gone forever. And so the woman hugged the boy and then the man hugged him too and then the man said I want to show you something. He took the boy’s hand and led him outside, knowing that the boy was probably wondering what in the world was he doing, taking him out into the yard at this hour, at night, and then in the space between the houses across the street, the man pointed, and the boy looked into the sky and saw the big bright moon. 

For the most part, the couple had kept their son in the dark about the particulars of his mother’s surgery. He didn’t know that the entirety of his mother’s breast tissue had been removed. He didn’t know that a surgeon had placed expanders under her pectoral muscles and that she’d had to visit the surgeon every two weeks to receive injections that would gradually enlarge them. He’d never seen the drains where red fluid sloshed. He didn’t know that the expanders had been replaced with gel packs. He didn’t know that his mother would be returning to the operating room in December to remove her fallopian tubes, because that was, doctors had discovered, where ovarian cancer likely started. The boy had only known that doctors had found something in her breasts that could turn into cancer if they didn’t remove it. He didn’t ask any follow-ups. He was more concerned about the recliner the woman had to sleep in. Once she was done with it, she’d promised it would be his.

The man didn’t explain that the moon wasn’t really bigger, that its apparent enormity was merely an optical illusion. Instead, he let his son bask in the brightness, hoping that the sight of it would act like a commemorative stamp on his memory, and that someday the man would say, “Hey, remember that time when you thought we were gone and I showed you the moon,” and the boy would say, “Yeah,” and then the man would tell him about how he and the boy’s mother had walked together, each of them carrying silent burdens the boy had known nothing about, and the boy would remember the time when his father,  who could not always be depended upon to do or say the right thing, had shepherded him into the yard and pointed to the huge round rock in the sky that was reflecting the light of the nearest star, and how the boy had wiped away his tears to see it.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Blacksburg Books! https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=blacksburg+books&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

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

PRICE: 14.88 

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

vollmer@vt.edu

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