The Hunger Saint

YOU CAN FIND THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, RHETT DeVANE’S “PARADE OF HORRIBLES,” BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST OR BY CLICKING HER NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE. ALSO BELOW THIS POST IS THE 2017 LIST OF SUGGESTED SUMMER READS.

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THE BOOK: The Hunger Saint

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Olivia Kate Cerrone

THE EDITOR: I worked closely with Nicholas Grosso, a wonderful editor.

Fred Gardaphé, Paolo Giordano, and Anthony Julian Tamburri are the founding editors of the press.

THE PUBLISHER: Bordighera Press

SUMMARY: THE HUNGER SAINT is a story of hope and survival set in post-WWII Italy. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as “a well-crafted and affecting literary tale,” this historical novella follows the journey of Ntoni, a twelve-year-old boy forced to labor in Sicily’s sulfur mines to support his family after his father’s untimely death. Faced with life-threatening working conditions, Ntoni must choose between escaping the mines and abandoning his family. Following tradition, his mother has signed him over to many years of hard labor in exchange for a soccorso morto, literally translating to a “dead loan.” This is essentially a system of indentured servitude that exists between the carusi and the miners they will assist in the mines. Ntoni still conspires for his freedom. As a series of unforeseen events soon complicate his plans, Ntoni realizes that all is not what it seems and to trust anyone might prove to be as fatal as being trapped inside of a cave-in. The Hunger Saint draws from years of historical research and was informed by the oral histories of former miners still living in Sicily today.

Olivia Kate CerroneTHE BACK STORY: It took me about five years to research and produce The Hunger Saint. I first learned about the carusi in 2010 while taking a Sicilian language class in New York City. After some initial research, I discovered that so little had been discussed regarding this history that I eventually led me to journey to Sicily in 2013, where I conducted oral histories with those surviving sulfur miners of neighboring towns in the region of Enna. A countless number of children, some as young as six years old, had suffered and died under such brutal conditions. Their story deserves a much larger spotlight, which compelled me to write The Hunger Saint.

WHY THIS TITLE?: While immersed in research for The Hunger Saint, I visited a small museum in Piazza Armerina in Sicily called Lega Zolfatai, which was founded in 1903. Among the tools and mining history of the sulfur mines that were showcased, were also artifacts, photographs and documents detailing the private lives and struggle of the miners and carusi of the region. While very few laborers were literate, some carusi had managed to learn how to read and write, and a few of their poems were displayed inside the museum. These simple but deeply poignant poems offered much painful insight into the private lives of these boys. The same images of reaching the ocean or flying away into the wide, blue sky, appeared again and again, regardless of who wrote the piece or when it was written. That haunted me. There was a longing there that couldn’t be squelched by hard labor or a brutally inhumane system that exploited the most impoverished citizens for countless decades until labor laws become more strictly enforced. This knowledge eventually inspired the book’s title.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Hunger Saint explores a part of Italian history that has gone largely ignored, while immersing readers into a compelling coming-of-age story that speaks to issues of survival, family, faith and human rights. This is an entertaining read as well as an educational one too. Full of suspense, plot twists and vivid imagery, readers will be captivated by this story and its characters.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Cerrone tells her story in a deliberative prose…perfectly evoking both the setting and time period of this piece of historical fiction. The tale brings to mind American literary realism of the early 20th century–Upton Sinclair, Jack London–as well as the books of midcentury Sicilian writers like Leonardo Sciascia. Cerrone uses Ntoni’s experiences to shed light on the little-remembered soccorso morto practice, which held thousands of children in virtual slavery…A well-crafted and affecting literary tale.”–Kirkus Reviews

..”.a powerful survey that brings to life and personalizes the plight of child laborers and their experiences, highly recommended for any who enjoy historical novels in general and, particularly, those who look for cultural insights and social messages in fiction readings.”–The Midwest Review, April 2017

“Cerrone tells this salt of the earth story in raw, blunt terms, via a naturalistic mode worthy of Emile Zola (as in works such as Germinal, his masterpiece about striking coal miners). She digs beneath the facts of exploitation to dramatize visceral sensations and emotions. The Hunger Saint creates a vivid world of appalling poverty and cruelty. But there is mercy: for this boy, slavery will not be destiny.”–The Arts Fuse

“Powerful writing…This is a story that is very moving, and…certainly memorable.”–San Francisco Book Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Olivia Kate Cerrone’s fiction seeks to explore the effects of trauma on families and societies in the shadow of poverty, war and displacement. Her Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction won the Jack Dyer Prize from the Crab Orchard Review. She’s received various literary honors, including residencies at Ragdale, the VCCA, and the Hambidge Center, where she was awarded a “Distinguished Fellowship” from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to teaching college writing workshops, she has also volunteered with various human rights organizations, including work with veterans, refugees and Afghan women based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She currently leads creative writing workshops through Writers Without Margins, a nonprofit organization dedicated to marginalized voices in Boston, MA.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In writing The Hunger Saint, I hope to help shed light on this tragic and little-known history of child labor exploitation in Italy. The story also has unfortunate contemporary relevance too. The carusi of today are the child laborers who work in the cobalt mines of the Congo and the sweatshops of Bangladesh, producing the latest designer fashions and home goods. They are refugee children from Syria overworked in clothing factories or children from Sudan and Eritrea forced into the sex-trade industry by human traffickers. Literature fosters greater compassion and awareness.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Sicily, 1948

The miners draped a soiled loincloth over the face of old Misciu and continued to work. No one was allowed to move the body until the shift’s end. Ntoni adjusted the heavy basket of ore between his shoulder blades as he passed Misciu’s pit.

If he peered close enough inside, he could make out the figure, half-concealed in the shadows. Others appeared indifferent as they clawed at the subterranean walls with their mattocks and picks. An unending clink and scrape echoed through the tunnels.

Ntoni moved ahead, eager to return outside where the air was breathable, not thick with heat and dust. He crouched beneath low ceilings, once more imagining purgatory. Perhaps Misciu’s ghost. had gone the same way as Ntoni’s father—trapped in the farthestreaches of the mine. Tonight, he’d try to discover them both.

He took his place in line with the other boys, who climbed a long staircase of earthen steps, formed in zig-zags to help balance the shouldered weight. An arched doorway stood at the top, emitting bright outside light. From there, they’d transport the minerals to the calcaroni, the fat stone furnaces where the sulfur rocks were melted and refined.

Underground, the stairs felt cool beneath his feet. His soles were thick and crusted over with dirt, numb to the pebbles and hard rocks that once pinched and scraped him. He bent his head further to accommodate the ore basket between shoulders. Its weight bowed him over, forcing his neck into a slight twist. There was no getting used to it, even after a month of transporting countless loads. His slow, dragging steps failed to match the steady, dogged pace of the other boys.

Together on the stairs, they formed a slow-moving cloud of  shared, fleeting intimacies—the pungent whiff of body odors, the grunts and moans that escaped their lips between bits of passing conversation. Everyone had something to say about Misciu. Rumor was that he’d spent his entire life underground with no family in town to visit each Sunday, when the miners were allowed a day off. It was bound to happen here.

How long would it take to remove the body? Misciu’s soul hung in purgatory like Ntoni’s father’s. Perhaps Saint Calogero might give some sign on his behalf too. Ntoni imagined Misciu’s ghost watching them from the mine’s ceiling, still trapped in his pit beneath the earth. Priests never visited the miners to administer last rites. The men worked too deep underground, some as far as six hundred feet, where the tunnels became hot like ovens, forcing them to wear loincloths and thin caps made of linen and soft canvas. Some wore nothing at all.

Another boy pushed Ntoni from behind.

“Wake up, pazzu. You’re too slow,” he said.

Crazy was the name they’d given him. He’d made the mistake of praying aloud, muttering to himself like the broken drifters who passed through Raccolto begging, displaced by the war. Someone might tear up his Saint Calogero prayer card for fun. The others worked with better efficiency. Why couldn’t he be more like them? He tried to move faster.

Malpelo marched ahead of him in line, imitating Misciu’s choking.

“Eck, eck, eck,” he said.

Everyone tried to listen. He was a bit older than the other carusi, and knew a grisù poisoning when he heard one. If the gas seeped into Misciu’s pit, tainting the air around him, then it was possible that the rest of the mine was not only contaminated but on the verge of an explosion. It didn’t take much to ignite firedamp. Even smoking underground was forbidden. Still, someone would have to test Misciu’s pit to be sure, Malpelo  explained. There was no doctor on site to examine the body, no way to sense the gas until it was too late. Perhaps they were already inhaling fresh poison.

Ntoni’s lungs ached as he tried not to breathe.

It’d been an accident with one of the acetone lamps that killed his father almost a year ago. He’d spent the entirety of his life mining, right through the Second World War, until that day the men arrived at their house in Raccolto with their mule-driven carts. Ntoni’s mother knew everything at first sight, even before they carried his father inside—delirious, the entirety of him covered in blood and soot.

“A pezzi,” she’d said.

They brought him back in pieces.

Ntoni still didn’t understand all of the details surrounding  the explosion, though he’d asked other miners about what they knew. He reimagined each detail like a montage of stills taken from a newsreel. His father appeared in each scene, working among the other miners until a fallen lamp splashed acetone into the fume-soaked air. Then the fires, the fallen ceiling and collapsed tunnels. Ntoni’s father was pulled alive from the rubble, but not without having his legs crushed first.

Someone behind Ntoni pushed against him hard, impatient to reach the outside. He struggled to move faster and stumbled into Malpelo, knocking over both of their baskets.

Panic brightened the eyes of the boys behind them, and they were quick to continue, sidestepping the fallen rubble and maneuvering up the steps, away from the scene.

“Idiota!” Malpelo yelled.

He picked up his basket and hurried downstairs to tell the miner he assisted, no doubt.

Sciavelli, Ntoni’s own picconiero, would not be pleased if he found out. Mistakes were for the feeble-minded, the ones deserving of punishment. Ntoni crouched along the wall, his body sore. His eyes brimmed. Before him rested the small prayer card of Saint Calogero. He shot a hand over the Hunger Saint, then pushed himself up and made the sign of the cross.

He brought the saint to his lips before fitting the card back into the folds of his loincloth. His sulfur rocks lay scattered in the surrounding pools of gray light. The thought of recovering them all was exhausting. But to do otherwise would mean a beating from Sciavelli. Perhaps he’d even singe his legs with one of the lanterns. It happened to others.

Ntoni retrieved the basket and began loading the rubble back, piece by piece, as carusi moved around him. Seven years.

His mother had agreed to this bargain of time not long after his father’s passing. She signed Ntoni over to the Miniera Cozzo Disi mines to work off the soccorso morto, a loan given to his family on the promise of his labor. The mine assigned him to assist Sciavelli. Ntoni had already turned twelve that spring. Legal enough to work.

When the basket was full, Ntoni lifted it a few inches off the ground before setting it down again. The throb in his arms was immediate, almost dizzying. His nose and brow dripped with sweat; his thoughts raced in circles. There was no escaping the toil. Even if he somehow managed to escape, his family would still be stuck paying off the loan. His younger brother would also be blacklisted from working in any Sicilian mine when he came of age. Only in death could the soccorso morto debt be forgiven.

Ntoni breathed hard, stifling the impulse to moan. Then he reached for the basket and secured it between his shoulder blades, feeling again the bite of its rough bottom ridge as a white-hot pain shot down the length of his spine.

Through the arched doorway, Ntoni reached the surface. Dozens of workers passed before his eyes, some pushing half-ton carts full of rocks along the two-by-four tracks that wound around the camp and led to the calcaroni. The steady purr of machines strung together the drone of voices, punctured by an occasional, indecipherable shout. Charcoal veins of smoke filled  the air with rot. Built into the earth were shafts with stairways where carusi and miners emerged and descended.

The calcaroni lined the sloping basin of the camp. They stood in rows, appearing like wide triangular stone huts capped with tall, burning domes. Great plumes of bright yellow smoke wafted up from the open-air furnaces, forming clouds thick enough to obscure the sun. A rolling terrain of rock and dirt edged in around them. Nothing grew here. At the entrance to the furnaces, men noted and weighed the carusi’s baskets to keep account of each load processed.

Once approved, Ntoni moved forward, pulling the bandana around his neck up over his nose and mouth. He raised the basket above his head and deposited the minerals into one of the unlit ovens. Working so close to the kilns made Ntoni feel as if he’d catch on fire. The sulfur had to be burned at the right temperature or else it’d turn to dust. Later, the ore would be smelted into liquid and piped out through a small opening near the base of the shack.

Hundreds of mattoni d’oro, blocks of pure sulfur, stood against the walls, waiting to be shipped away. Ntoni rubbed the wet from his eyes, still stinging from the scorching fumes. He choked on the rancid, burning smoke that blotted out the sky in yellow sulfur clouds, and hurried away from the furnaces.

Released from the weight of his basket, Ntoni’s arms became buoyant. Tension lifted from his chest. He made for Ziu Peppi’s workshop nearby. The mechanic appeared in one of the shop windows, turning a screwdriver into the side of some metallic thing like a crude surgeon. Ntoni waved a hand to catch the man’s attention, but his friend was too absorbed in repairs to notice.

Ziu Peppi adjusted the rim of his thick, square-framed glasses against his nose and parted his lips. His mouth always seemed to hang open as if too small for the mass of crowded teeth that protruded rodent-like from his gums. He didn’t have the make of a miner. His build was slight, a mere extension of his overdeveloped mind, honed training as a master mechanic and translator in Mussolini’s army.

Ntoni sometimes heard his friend speaking French with Rosco, who ran the Miniera Cozzo Disi. Ziu Peppi’s abilities were incredible and strange. Perhaps he’d also forged a special pact with the saints.

The mechanic claimed to have been a good friend of his  father’s, and often invited Ntoni to visit his workshop. Once, Ziu Peppi asked what he knew about France.

“Sometimes I heard about the occupation during the war. There’s this café in town where you could listen to the news on their radio,” Ntoni said.

“But your mother never spoke of France? Not with your father?”

“Maybe she did. They never talked about serious things in front of me.”

Ziu Peppi sighed. “Of course not. But eventually you would’ve known. Your father had plans to mine in France.  He paid me to help him leave.”

“Why?”

“He wanted better for you, piccolino. Why else would he go?”

In this way, Ntoni learned about the service Ziu Peppi provided. For the right fee, he arranged the paperwork for those illiterate miners who longed to leave Sicily for better pay abroad. Though some returned after a year or two, most never did. Ntoni couldn’t imagine his mother ever approving of such plans, not with his younger brother and sister to raise.

“I kept the money for you,” Ziu Peppi said. “Your father asked me to hold onto it in case something ever happened to him before he got out. He wanted the same opportunity for you. But you must be quiet about it. Don’t tell anyone. The wrong set of ears could ruin everything. Rosco would have my head if he knew.”

“Do you think he told my mother?”

Ziu Peppi shook his head. “Hard to say. Your father could be so quiet and stubborn. But I wouldn’t tell her anything until you’ve made up your mind first.”

Perhaps his father really had intended to abandon them. The war had broken up so many families in one way or another. Ntoni wondered this now as he stood outside of the mechanic’s workshop, waving again to catch his friend’s attention. Then he heard his own name called from behind.

Sciavelli approached, with a loincloth tied around his waist, and sipped from a canteen bottle. Ntoni flinched.

Aboveground, the miner’s skin took on a bloodless, grayish-white coloring that matched his hair and beard. The whole of Sciavelli appeared hard and swollen—muscles stretched taut along his bare arms and chest—and his shoulders, enormous rounded things, glistened with sweat and yellow sulfur dust. His fingers, thick and curved like banana peppers, curled into fists. Hands made for grasping and breaking. Sciavelli glared at Ntoni and frowned.

“Got a new job for you,” he said.

LOCAL OUTLETS: I AM Books, 189 North St., Boston, MA 02113

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: SPD Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble online

PRICE: $12.00 USD

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Olivia.Cerrone@gmail.com https://www.facebook.com/olivia.cerrone

@OliviaKCerrone

Parade of Horribles

THParade of Horribles by [DeVane, Rhett]E BOOK: Parade of Horribles

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Rhett DeVane

THE EDITOR: Gina Edwards: Editor, Author, Creativity Coach, and Founder of Around the Writer’s Table

THE PUBLISHER: Writers4Higher, Tallahassee, Florida

SUMMARY: Chattahoochee, Florida, a town with a state mental institution on its main drag, seldom slips from its usual relaxed pace. Everyone here knows everybody else, and senior citizen Elvina Houston, head of the little-ole-lady hotline, keeps her nose wedged in the middle.  October typically brings three festivals and a break from summer. But this year, the relentless heat and humidity continue and a parade of horribles cranks up for Jake Witherspoon, his best friend Hattie, and her older brother Bobby, one that will affect their intertwined families, friends, and the entire town. Hattie lives three miles out of town on family land with her husband and adopted Chinese daughter Sarah Chuntian. Sarah is thirteen, barreling into the tumultuous teenage years, and Hattie worries about the dangers she and her husband can’t control, especially online.

When Jake receives a series of odd, suggestive text messages, he fears a repeat of the horrible hate crime fifteen years prior, an assault that nearly took his life and left him with a badly maimed leg. Jake’s longtime partner Shug Presley works as a hospice nurse, with long hours and grinding stress. The texts escalate, but Jake doesn’t share his growing sense of dread. Shug tells Jake about an impending visit from his sister Genevieve. A long adversary of Shug and Jake’s homosexual relationship, Shug’s oldest sister had long ago turned the Presley family against him. Instead of offering acceptance, Genevieve reveals plans to enroll Shug in a reprograming camp in Alabama. Jake strives to push down both his anguish for Shug’s sadness and his own mounting anxiety.

The incidents Jake perceives as a replay of his assault are every bit as real as the twisted man who inches into Hattie’s family. How this group of small town folk handles the clash with hate and crime is a tribute to resiliency, friendship, and hope.

THE BACK STORY:  I had long wanted to pen a follow-up to my first novel The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate. As an author, I cull story line ideas from my life. In late 2016, I received a series of suggestive text messages, and the numbers grew to the point I counted as many as thirty to forty daily. It took several weeks to unravel the mystery with the help of an officer who specialized in cybercrime. Turns out, someone had listed my cellphone number with an ad on an international website known for prostitution.

This made me think: though I viewed the situation as a mystery to be solved, and often hilarious, how would a former victim of a hate crime perceive the same texts? The nature of fear has always intrigued me, both the kind we build in imagination and the tangible threats we often don’t see coming.

At the same time I worked to unravel the origin of my text messages, a friend had issues with her teenaged child and a suspected online stalker.

The combination of these two spurred the plot line for Parade of Horribles. Small town, close-knit folks, and the bump in the night terrors that threaten to derail life.

WHY THIS TITLE?  One of my friends is a respected mental health counselor. She once commented that, like most people, I can take a series of unrelated events and turn them into my own private “parade of horribles.” My first reaction, after I laughed and agreed, was “gee, that would make a great title for a novel.”

I actually had the title tucked aside a few weeks before the text messages started. I believe in kismet; my life is full of similar bread trails through the forest. My job is to follow and record.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  I write with humor, alongside the heavy subject matter. Parade of Horribles addresses PTSD, hate crimes, and the heavy preconceptions that often lead to misunderstandings or worse.

The feel of the Deep South comes through, with insights into human behavior. I pen the kind of book I like to read: one with complex characters who rise above the road blocks placed in their paths. I especially enjoy mixing in controversial issues, in hopes that readers might question their own biased beliefs.

Plus, I believe in hopeful endings. Not happily-forever-after fairy tales, but stories that give a reader a break from the sometimes unsurmountable horrors we face in these times.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Rhett DeVane has done it again. Six times she has transported her readers to her hometown of Chattahoochee, Florida, a town she describes as “a place with two stoplights and a mental institution on the main drag,” and six times she has given them a ride that can only be

described as delicious in its delightful Southernisms, intriguing in its mystery, and moving in its deeper layers, which address themes of social justice…and injustice. Buckle up for ride number seven: Parade of Horribles.

“Many Southern authors have laced their fiction – and sometimes creative non-fiction – with Southern expressions, dialect, behavior, and mannerisms. And compared to Rhett DeVane, many have failed.

“DeVane has a knack for delving deep into her own upbringing in Chattahoochee – a locale that defies description, as it is in Florida, not one of the quintessential Southern states, and yet it has a stronger Old-South flavor than Mississippi mud pie. And DeVane successfully paints a picture of the town that comes alive with her unique description of its vibrant colors, sounds, smells, and tastes. A graphic description of a rabid raccoon in a standoff with a mama cat defending her newborn kittens exemplifies DeVane’s descriptive prowess, which is not always pretty, but is always powerful.” — Liz Jameson, editor and reviewer, from the Tallahassee Democrat

“Rhett DeVane’s novel, Parade of Horribles, could not be more in touch with the mood of many of us. DeVane’s characters seem to be reading the energy around them as if the world was on permanent Mercury retrograde. And yet, this is a novel about forgiveness. For those already familiar with DeVane’s work, yes, there is plenty of laughter. I recommend Parade of Horribles to anyone looking for some relief from the daily news. Join the people from the Hooch. You will laugh and cry with them, but you won’t forget them.” — Roberta Burton, author of The Burgundy Briefcase

“As in her previous books, DeVane highlights the humanity and dignity of her characters, but never denies them their quirks, southern patios or silliness, creating an environment where beehive hairdos, rabid raccoons, gossipy biddies and crazy-ass local festivals provide the laugh-out-loud backdrop for her underlying message: no matter the challenge, you can get through it if you have enough friends, love and cheesy-grits casseroles.” — April Kelly, author of Winged and Valentine’s Day

“The people in Rhett DeVane’s new novel Parade of Horribles are the kind of folks, foibles and all, that most of us wish we knew, wish we could call kin, and when danger and hatred intrude into our lives, wish we had looking out for us. Chattahoochee is a real town in the Florida Panhandle and, as the book’s back cover description tells us, it really does have a ‘state mental institution on the main drag.’ DeVane hints at the danger early on the way Hitchcock would show a trace of something wrong near the beginning of his feature films. But the townspeople’s attention and the reader’s attention are drawn to the mix of daily life and harvest festival duties. The horribles, as Jake thinks of them, steep like tea half-forgotten on a back burner and, as the story moves toward its unexpected ending, grows all the stronger and more foul tasting for the wait.” — Malcolm R. Campbell, author of Eulalie and Washerwoman and At Sea

AUTHOR PROFILE: According to my family, I’ve made up stories since I was old enough to talk. Growing up in the country with no close playmates, I invented my own. I vaguely recall a roller skate I turned into a character, and heaven knows, if you were a cat or dog at my house, you wore costumes and took high tea. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have stories running around in my mind like rednecks at an all-you-can drink keg party. I dabbled with writing in high school and college, but didn’t hunker down to pen a novel until I reached my forties. The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate whet my love for fiction and I took off.

Since then, I have published a total of seven mainstream fiction novels set in the South: The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate, Up the Devil’s Belly, Mama’s Comfort Food, Cathead Crazy, Suicide Supper Club, Secondhand Sister, and Parade of Horribles. I even tried out coauthoring, both a vampire spoof, Evenings on Dark Island with Larry Rock and a political thriller, Accidental Ambition with Senator Robert W. McKnight. Suicide Supper Club received the 2014 President’s Award from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. In addition, a number of my short stories are included in anthologies in the US and UK.

I resist the idea that a writer must drag around a “brand,” producing the same-old-same-old until he or she grows stale. To that end, I stretched my imagination to write middle grade fantasy: Elsbeth and Sim and Dig Within. Seems I always have several projects floating at once. Now, I bounce between Southern fiction, middle grade fiction, and children’s picture book manuscripts. Plus, I’m in the giddy first-draft stage with a young adult fantasy full of dragons and all sorts of creatures. This summer, I plan to release second editions of The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate and Up the Devil’s Belly. Both novels were originally published by a small press in Texas and are out of print.

Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee has been my home since college graduation. I don’t deny my hometown roots, and Chattahoochee is never far from my heart. Through my words, I hope to convey the reality of the Deep South with its quirky characters, humanity, and of course,  food. As a little plus, I include recipes in all of my Southern fiction novels. That has been a huge hit.

My other profession—dental hygienist—seems a weird mix to most. I often joke that I work to support my writing habit. After more than forty years, my patients are friends. They listen to me babble about the latest line-up of characters and plots, and line up to buy my books.

I can’t imagine life without writing. It comes as naturally as breathing. At times it makes me giddy. At other times, I rant—usually in the revision and rewrite stages. God willing, I will be able to continue as long as I am on this green earth. And if I become posthumously famous, I am going to haunt someone, though I will still be pleased, wherever I end up.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  “I’m never happier than when I get the pleasure of meeting my readers. I receive emails, notes on Facebook, and Twitter remarks. Book clubs are a hoot. Love them! I have even discovered a hidden talent for public speaking: it’s like stand-up comedy and since I favor Carol Burnett, I often draw comparisons to my favorite comedienne. Rhett is my nickname and pen name, so folks sometimes think I’m male until we meet or they see my author photo. No, my mother did not have an unhealthy fondness for Gone with the Wind. My real name never suited me. Rhett does.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Excerpt from chapter one, Parade of Horribles:

A cell phone text alert chimed— to most people, a sound as ordinary as breathing.

Jake Witherspoon rested a bouquet of sweetheart roses on his worktable. Had to be his life partner, Jon “Shug” Presley. Few people had his personal cell phone number.

Across the room, Jolene Waters, his partner in business, glanced up from a towering pile of invoices. Her fiery hair stuck out in comical tufts. Reminded Jake of a banty rooster.

He wiped moisture from his hands onto a Dragonfly Florist apron and picked up the phone.

Could be Hattie, but she’d already phoned him this morning and besides, rarely texted. Could be Elvina, with yet another question about the sunroom she was adding onto her house.

He picked up the phone. Not Shug’s number. Or Hattie’s. Or Elvina’s. Or anyone in his limited directory list.

hi babe your hot what u doin

God knows, Shug would never write you’re incorrectly. Wouldn’t chop words to skeletons either, or stoop to lazy text-English. And jumping Judas on a pogo stick, didn’t anyone use punctuation these days? Couldn’t imagine Elvina Houston calling anyone hot, especially not someone forty years her junior, and gay.

Best to stop the idiot on the other side of that babe before they embarrassed themselves for something beyond poor language skills, or heaven forbid, sent some naked selfie.

“Wrong number,” he dictated to the device.

I think you said wrong number. Is that correct? the female automaton answered.

“Yes.”

Okay. I’ll send that now.

Freaking amazing, this technology stuff. Jake lifted one corner of his lips. His best heart-friend Hattie called the lopsided smile his “signature Jakey grin.”

“What’d you say?” Jolene said.

“Sorry, hon. Didn’t mean to interrupt you.” He thought about sharing the babe text with her, but she had her paper-pusher face on. Thank God for her. He detested the business end of things. Jolene was such an organization freak, she barely had to break a sweat come tax time. Left to his own, he would sooner pitch the papers into a shoe box and let the accountant sort it out.

He laid the phone down on the worktable. No time for some stranger’s tomfoolery. Not with three festivals and the holidays looming. People tended to die around this time of year . . . those casket drapes and funeral sprays. And it wasn’t only the kinfolk of the dearly departed clamoring for his services. Christmas brides with their momzillas demanded attention. And end of year parties? Not complete without flowers. Oh heavens no.

Shouldn’t grouse about having a successful business, especially in a place the size of Chattahoochee. A town with two stoplights. And a state mental hospital on the main drag that accounted for the majority of the population. He could be back in New York, living in a cramped one-room. Or in an alley. Or dead.

A shadow fell across the flowers on his worktable. Jake froze. He looked toward the front door.

A man. A giant. Peering through the glass, his beefy face a black, undefined mass outlined by two large cupped hands.

Jake took a couple of steps back, tucked himself behind the threshold leading to the storeroom.

“What are you doing?” Jolene asked.

Jake looked away from the entrance to Jolene’s desk. She watched him with a combination of you’re on my last nerve and do I need to worry about you? When he shifted his gaze back, the man was gone.

“Nothing.” Maybe one day he could spot a stranger and not think he was going to be beaten senseless.

He moved to the worktable. Beneath the clump of roses, plumosa fanned out like a verdigris fern spider web. The baby-blanket pink rose petals drew him in. If he could only spare the time, Jake could stare at a single bud until he fell inside it, lost in the intricacy of color and form. Safe.

Beauty shifted his thoughts from his overreaction to that large man. And from the pain he lived with— for a moment. His damaged left leg throbbed, a hateful heartbeat. Jake shook it. Sometimes that helped the muscles relax.

There should be a phone app for pain management. Those tech geeks had one for everything else. It would come in handy right about now, with PiddieFest weekend coming.

Too bad Hattie’s late Aunt Piddie hadn’t lived to witness these new smartphones. It would’ve assisted her with the latest gossip. Of course, Elvina had put one of the first generation cell phones into the casket with Piddie, at the viewing, before Piddie’s earthly body was turned to ash and crumbles of bone. Wonder if that phone got turned to ash as well . . .

The phone chimed. Another text.

Wont you bad

What the hell? He clenched his teeth. Somebody playing a joke? It wasn’t funny. He keyed in the answer this time. No need to really aggravate Jolene.

He resumed arranging the roses and plumosa. And ruminating. Floral design came so easy after so many years, his mind could go off on tangents while his hands stayed on task. Where had he been before some weirdo wonted him bad? Ah, yes. Piddie’s ashes. Jake pushed aside the image of those crumbly “cremains”— what a bizarre term.

He’d rather remember Piddie Davis Longman as she had been in life: the matriarch with her signature lavender beehive hairdo. That lifted both corners of his lips. Oh, how he wished he could talk, actually talk, to Piddie, hear her voice.

Jake snugged flowers into place, spun the dish around. Tilted his head to check for symmetry.

So much had changed since his elderly friend left for her “great beyond.” Not just cell phones. Everything nowadays morphed at blue-hot speed. Jake struggled to keep up.

Somewhere in the little frame house on Morgan Avenue that Piddie had bequeathed to Jake, a storage box held a growing slush pile of outdated tablets, phones, and laptops. Wouldn’t it be lovely to push delete for that. Except for Shug’s first mobile phone, a flip-top brick that reminded Jake of an overstuffed Star Trek communicator. That one, he’d keep.

Note to self: find that box and recycle some of them. When you have time. Right.

He turned his head toward the rear of the shop. Could store a box or two back there.

Jake reached for another bloom then paused. Perhaps he could slip a few canisters of Shug’s festive decorations into the donation pile, too.

“Christmas. Lord help me through it,” Jake mumbled under his breath.

Jolene shot him the stink-eye. “Tell me you aren’t already stressing about the holidays.”

“You don’t live with Shug.” Jake took a deep breath, let it out. He stood, arms akimbo, glaring at the floral arrangement as if it were somehow responsible for the eight Christmas trees waiting to take over the house. And that didn’t count the two new ones Shug had bought on closeout, end of last year, one meant to hang upside-down from the ceiling.

Except for the soft click of computer keys, the shop grew quiet, until Jolene started to hum.

Jake threw up his hands. “Tell me that’s not Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

She glanced up from the monitor. “Huh? Yeah. Suppose it was. Hey, blame yourself. You brought it up.”

As if she needed encouragement. Jolene was known to hum carols in July.

“You used to like Christmas,” she said without looking away from the laptop.

“Still do. But the last couple of years, the commercial muckey-mucks have worn me out.” He stopped long enough to catch a breath. “Every year, they cram fah-la-lah down everyone’s throat earlier and earlier. I won’t be surprised if people start to order jack-o’-lanterns filled with poinsettias.”

She chuckled. “But your yard is always the talk of town, with all of the lights.”

“That it not my doing.”

“Can’t be that bad, Jake.”

Jake shoved a rose into the arrangement so hard the stem bent. “Crap.” This time of year brought out the cussing man in him.

He couldn’t tamp down the mounting rant. “Blow-up figurines will wheeze to life on our front lawn. Small wonder we don’t torch a transformer.” He whirled the arrangement, stabbed in another rose. This one didn’t break under pressure. But he might.

Like Hattie’s goofy, optimistic self, he adored the fall. Pumpkins, baskets of russet and golden mums, cinnamon-scented everything. Bring them on. Thanksgiving? Also grand, with lavish Southern dishes shared with the people he called his heart-family.

“Of course, we’ll still have a live evergreen. Why miss the opportunity to scatter my gleaming hardwood floors with spiked needles that poke through even my thickest socks?”

Jolene pushed back from the desk and crossed her arms.

Elvis, Shug’s Pomeranian, used to eat the dang needles then yak up the sludge later. Jake’s chest felt heavy. God, he’d miss that old dog’s green puke this year. He truly would.

“I even have to put up with a rosy-cheeked Santa toilet lid cover. Hell of a place to rest my own butt cheeks while I put on socks.”

Jolene’s lips twitched into a grin. “Sounds like someone needs a vacation.”

“Where would I possibly fit in a vacation?” Oops. That sounded more harsh than he intended.

“Maybe it’s time to shift some of your responsibilities.”

He huffed out a breath. “Right. Like some fool would volunteer.” Who besides him could pull off two huge events in less than three weeks? “I’ve already handed over the fall carnival to a committee.”

The text alert sounded. Seriously? He snatched up the phone.

Got to have u

You moron! Wrong number.

Jolene groped for the pencil she’d stashed behind one ear. “My, aren’t you Mister Popularity today?” She made check marks on several invoices.

He scowled. “Hardly.”

Jake slipped the phone into his apron pocket and picked up his pace on the Welcome Baby basket. He filled in the blank spots with fern, and pink and white sweet peas. The sweet peas— real name lathyrus— added for their color and enchanting scent, fresh, but not overpowering. No baby’s breath fronds. So common.

He turned to take the finished arrangement to the wheeled delivery cart. The text chime chirped again. He set the basket down, palmed the phone. Another one? His heart fluttered.

You cute.

Different number. Same bad grammar. At least this one had a period at the end, and a capital letter at the start.

Jake thumbed in the reply. “People really should double-check before they hit send,” he said.

“Don’t ya know it.” Jolene nodded without looking up. “I hate those robocalls, too. I even went to that Do Not Call website, registered my number. Fat good it did. I get solicitation calls most every day. Especially political.”

“Tis the pre-election season.” Jake frowned. “Politicians. And they say gays are a threat to society.”

Jake selected a cane from a long line of hooks, one of eight fall-themed walking aides. If he was going to limp the rest of his life, might as well make a fashion statement. Elvina— head of Chattahoochee’s little-ole-lady hotline and the social engine of the Triple C Day Spa and Salon— had this one created especially for him. Carved wooden handle, fall leaves shellacked onto the shaft. Tacky enough to charm. Sturdy enough to help him balance.

Since the hate crime that had nearly cost Jake his life, he had amassed two hundred and twenty-eight walking canes, if Hattie’s last tally could be trusted. Sister-girl tended to exaggerate. She was one to talk, with her fifty million refrigerator magnets. And those rocks both she and her sister collected.

Should get rid of some of his canes, but couldn’t. Each reminded him of a few more steps away from that horrible night in ’99. The night two teenaged cousins, Marshall and Matthew Thurgood, wrecked this shop. Then one of them wrecked him.

“I’m heading out for a couple of deliveries.” He loaded the rolling cart. “And I have to make a quick stop by Elvina’s house, talk with Bobby before he installs the sunroom windows.”

“Oh, joy. Better you than me. That guy can be so prickly.”

“Get past the redneck bluster, and he’s not a bad sort.” Besides, I adore Hattie and her family, so Bobby comes with the package.

Jolene tapped figures into the laptop.

“Want something from Mary-E’s while I’m out?” he asked. Hattie and Bobby’s middle sister Mary-Esther owned and operated the Wild Rose Diner a couple of blocks down.

“I would really, really like a muffaletta.” Jolene twisted her lips. “Nah. Better not. I brought a salad from home. I can barely squeeze into my pants now.”

“Okay, Joe-gee. Ding me if you change your mind.” Jake pushed the cart toward the back door.

The phone chimed. Jake paused by the rear entrance, at the same spot where his blood had pooled that awful evening over fifteen years ago, painted over when Hattie and a handful of his townspeople had cleaned and repaired the damage to his West Washington Street shop.

Unknown caller.

This time, the downy fuzz on his nape prickled when he read the words.

Looking at u

LOCAL OUTLETS: In Tallahassee, my novels are available at My Favorite Books on Market Street.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon carries all of my novels in both paperback and Kindle versions. Here’s the link for Parade of Horribles: http://www.amazon.com/Parade-Horribles-Rhett-DeVane/dp/0692860401

PRICE: paperback: $15.00, Kindle version: $6.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: trugrits3@gmail.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/southernmadhatter/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/dixiemadhatter Author website: http://www.rhettdevane.com/ My blog in support of my fellow authors: http://www.writers4higher.blogspot.com

Suggested Summer Reads, 2017

Most of us, whether or not we admit it, are creatures of habit.

We tend to order the same food in restaurants, listen to music from performers we know and watch movies featuring familiar actors.

This makes sense, on one level, but it’s a real problem for new and lesser-known authors. Given the thousands of books on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble and the millions listed on Amazon, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would randomly connect with an under-the-radar piece of work. Why would they?

Yet here’s a more writer-friendly image. Picture someone enduring a long wait in a doctor’s office. The only available reading material is a book they’ve never heard of, but it’s better than staring at the “12 Warning Signs of Colon Cancer” poster on the wall. So they pick up the book, read through it, and like it. A relationship has been formed.

That, in a nutshell, is what Snowflakes in a Blizzard tries to do. By sending individual posts on featured books to our blog followers, we bypass the myriad of other books and create a one-on-one opportunity. And providing a template filled out by the author puts the interaction on a personal basis.

Which brings me to this list of “Suggested Summer Reads.” These 15 books are probably not the same 15 you would choose out of our stash of over 300, nor the same list your spouse or sibling or best friend might compile. They aren’t even the same ones I might choose next week, because there are so many to pick from. This is intended only as a taste, a tease.

Chances are you may find something listed here that appeals to you. If not, however, just stay on our Author page and go to “Books by Subject.” From there, an in-depth description of any book in our collection can be easily accessed by clicking on the author’s name.

So here’s the 2017 list, alphabetically by author (note: I chose different books from those featured in 2016).

Closing the Store,” by Maren Anderson. Liz didn’t mean to start a sex strike, but she’ll use it to end a war and win an election. Liz A. Stratton is running for President of the United States to end the unpopular war in Mesopotamianstan. Everything goes as planned until the first debate when Liz’s competitors patronize her. She loses her temper and declares that if every woman in America withheld sex, the war would be over in weeks. So women all over the country actually “close the store.” Now the fun starts.

“Father Flashes,” by Tricia Bauer. The winner of FC2’s inaugural Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, Father Flashes re-imagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship.

“Lisbeth,” by Marina Brown. Can memory be genetically transferred? Can the quest for revenge remain alive after death?  In 1984, on Buena Vista, a small Mississippi property, Claire Elliston finds herself compelled to rebuild the house her mother, Lisbeth, inhabited 40 years before. But the past and its evils come alive as the ruins are disturbed–laying bare the sins of a time when Jim Crow ruled the South, when depravity took place behind lace curtains, and when cross-race love could get you killed.

“Strays,” by Jennifer Caloyeras. (For young adults). When a note in Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.  In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

“The Great Penguin Rescue,” by Dyan de Napoli. The Great Penguin Rescue tells the remarkable true story of the rescue of 40,000 penguins from Treasure oil spill in South Africa. This historic event, which spanned more than three months in 2000, still stands as the largest and most successful animal rescue ever undertaken. This gripping first-person account is seen through the eyes of Dyan deNapoli, who was a Penguin Aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium at the time, and a member of the first team of penguin experts to fly to Cape Town from the US to help manage the massive rescue operation. In what was an intensely grueling effort, the rescue team and more than 12,500 completely inexperienced volunteers cleaned, fed, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild nearly all of the penguins affected by the oil spill.

“Shelter of Leaves,” by Lenore Gay. On Memorial Day, a series of bomb explosions shuts down major cities across the US. Her apartment in ruins, Sabine flees Washington DC and begins a grueling journey on foot that brings her to West Virginia, where she finds safety at an abandoned farmhouse with other refugees. For Sabine, family is a vague memory―she can’t even remember her last name. Without an identity, she hides, but later slowly begins to recall her past and wonders if her family is alive. Even in harrowing times, Sabine’s desires to belong and to be loved pull her away from shelter.

“Echoes of Tattered Tongues,” by John Guzlowski. In this major tour de force, John Guzlowski traces the arc of one of the millions of immigrant families of America, in this case, survivors of the maelstrom of World War II. His narrative structure mirrors the fractured dislocation experienced by war refugees. Through a haunting collage of jagged fragments―poems, prose and prose poems, frozen moments of time, sometimes dreamlike and surreal, other times realistic and graphic―Guzlowski weaves a powerful story with impacts at levels both obvious and subtle. The result is a deeper, more visceral understanding than could have been achieved through descriptive narrative alone. This is the story of Guzlowski’s family: his mother and father, survivors of the war, taken as slave laborers by the Germans; his sister and himself, born soon after the war in  Displaced Persons camps in Germany; the family’s first days in America, and later their neighbors in America, some dysfunctional and lost, some mean, some caring and kind; and the relationships between and among them all. As Guzlowski unfolds the story backwards through time, he seduces us into taking the journey with him. Along the way, the transformative power of the creative process becomes apparent. Guzlowski’s writing helps him uncouple from the trauma of the past, and at the same time provides a pathway for acceptance and reconciliation with his parents.

“Float,” by JoeAnn Hart. When Duncan Leland looks down at the garbage-strewn beach beneath his office indow, he sees the words God Help Us scrawled in the sand. While it seems a fitting essage—not only is Duncan’s business underwater, but his marriage is drowning as well—he goes down to the beach to erase it. Once there, he helps a seagull being strangled by a plastic six-pack holder—the only creature in worse shape than he is at the moment.  Duncan rescues the seagull, not realizing that he’s being filmed by a group of conceptual artists and that the footage will soon go viral, turning both him and the gull into minor celebrities. And when an unsavory yet very convincing local talks him into a not-quite-legitimate loan arrangement, Duncan can’t help but agree in a last ditch attempt to save the jobs of his employees. For a while, it seems as if things are finally looking up for Duncan—yet between his phone-sex-entrepreneur ex-girlfriend’s very public flirtations and the ever-mysterious terms of his new loan, Duncan realizes that there’s no such thing as strings-free salvation—and that it’s only a matter of time before the tide rises ominously around him again.

“Advance Man,” by Steven Jacques. “Advance Man” is an adventure, because just about every presidential campaign advance trip is one. The novel, based on true events, follows the campaign’s top “lead” advance man, Bix, for three action-packed days (one advance trip), as he creates and produces a massive rally, a major endorsement and several side events — all in under 72 hours — for a fictional African-American candidate. Set in and around Charleston, SC during the early days of the 2008 election, “Advance Man” pulls back the curtains on the invisible world of presidential advance.

“Things Unsaid,”  by Diana Y. Paul. A  family saga of three generations fighting over money and familial obligation, Things Unsaid is a tale of survival, resilience, and recovery. Jules, her sister Joanne, and her brother Andrew all grew up in the same household—but their varying views of and reactions to their experiences growing up have made them all very different people. Now, as adults with children of their own, they are all faced with the question of what to do to help their parents, who insist on maintaining the upscale lifestyle they’re accustomed to despite their mounting debts. A deft exploration of the ever-shifting covenants between parents and children, Things Unsaid is a ferocious tale of family love, dysfunction, and sense of duty over forty years.

“Monument Road,” by Charlie Quimby.  Leonard Self has spent a year unwinding his ranch, paying down debts and fending off the darkening. Just one thing left: taking his wife’s ashes to her favorite overlook, where he plans to step off the cliff with her. But perhaps he’s not as alone as he believes. Stark, beautiful landscapes attract all kinds. Artists and gawkers. Love birds and the lonely. Believers and scientists. Seekers and losers. Many have taken this same road past estrangement and loss to healing and hope. Though not all have returned, they can still help Leonard answer whether his life is over after all.

“Conjuring Casanova,” by Melissa Rea. Lizzy has been wounded by the men in her life far too often, which is why she spends her free time immersed in the memoir of the legendary lover, Giacomo Casanova. After a child in her care tragically dies, Lizzy escapes to Venice for a needed break to work through her life crisis. One morning, Casanova appears beside her on the hotel rooftop. The time gap and culture clash sets in motion an attraction that spans centuries. Witty and charming, Casanova is Casanova—in a frenzy of love for women. Who better to teach modern, guarded Lizzy about love and life than an eighteenth-century Libertine?

“Faulkner & Friends,” by Vicki Salloum. Annie Ajami’s book store, Faulkner & Friends, provides not just a book store but a salon and haven for writers, and a beacon of culture in a run-down neighborhood. But just when the fledgling store seems destined to become financially viable, offering a lifeline to a better future for the destitute characters who have become her adopted family, the shop is plunged into a world of violence and Annie’s dream for a literary life falls to ruin, like scattered pages from a broken bookbinding.

“The Last Best Thing,” by Kate Sebeny. Sam and Sarah are the elderly owners of a farm in central Iowa that turns into a private retirement community when it also becomes home to a disabled friend, a destitute neighbor and a recent retiree. Married nearly 50 years, Sam is a former lawyer suffering from congestive heart failure. But he knows there’s nothing wrong with his wife’s heart. Sarah is an ex-English teacher and a resourceful farm wife who flinches at nothing in the service of those she loves. She’s also a “murderer.” Sarah’s “victim” is a lifelong friend more full of mischief than life. He comes to spend his remaining days with Sam and Sarah when it’s clear those days are numbered by a painful degenerative bone disease. Determined to commit suicide while still physically capable of it, he bargains with Sarah to postpone his plan by extracting from her a promise to “help” him when the time comes. He argues that her assistance would constitute an act of mercy similar to that she performed for her cancer-riddled old dog; it would be “the last best thing” she could do for her friend.

“The Passion Thief,” by Anne McCarthy Strauss. Betty and Stan Boomer have been married for just over twenty years. Stan is a terrific guy, but he’s been married to his job longer than he’s been married to Betty. All his energy goes to his work, giving Betty a fabulous lifestyle and leaving Stan snoring upright on the couch by nine o’clock most nights. Despite her job as a freelance globe-trotting journalist, Betty feels lonely and unfulfilled. She fills the emptiness with nightly drinking. As her alcohol intake increases, she finds herself searching the Internet for her college boyfriend Michael, the proverbial one who got away. When she finds him and reaches him by email, memories of their youthful passion reignite a lust Betty thought had dried up long ago. Michael responds to Betty’s cyber message, and temptation calls. While Stan’s idea of excitement is staying up past ten o’clock on a Saturday night, Michael has evolved into a flashy Las Vegas casino manager with three ex-wives. Which man offers stimulation and which one brings monotony coupled with reliability is vividly clear. Written with both torment and comedy, The Passion Thief defines the yearning many women feel to find more passion within or outside of their marriage. Ultimately, Betty must choose staying in her marriage, leaving Stan for Michael, or building a new life on her own.

 

 

 

 

Weather Report, June 19

Image result for Summer reading + photos + free

THIS WEEK’S THREE FEATURED BOOKS, “GLAD TO BE DAD,” BY TIM MYERS, “THE SANGUINIST’S DAUGHTER,” BY SUSAN HUBBARD AND “THE MAN WHO WOULDN’T STAND UP,” BY JACOB M. APPEL, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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When I was working in the newspaper business, my editors always derided the phrase “first annual,” arguing that if something hadn’t been done more than once, it couldn’t qualify for that title.

As of this week, then, Snowflakes in a Blizzard’s “Suggested Summer Reads” will become “annual” in good standing. It will be Year 2.

What I’ve done is pick out 15 books from the 307 we have posted so far and offered them in a list.

Obviously, a good summer read for one person may not be for another.  I think of it as books that are not overlong and can be read in chunks to accommodate other summer activities. Collections of short stories are especially good for this.

Still, inclusion on this list does not mean I consider these as the “best” 15 books we offer, or even the best summer reads for anyone but me. It’s just meant to be a starting point.

My suggestion would be to click on our Author page, then scroll down to “Books by Subject.” If you see something that intrigues you, you can remain on that page and click the author’s name to see the complete post.

This week, we’re offering two very different novels — “The Hunger Saint,” by Olivia Kate Cerrone and “Parade of Horribles,” by Rhett DeVane. What they have in common is that each, in its own way, conveys a powerful sense of place.

In “The Hunger Saint,” Olivia transports the reader to the chaos of post-war Italy and the poverty that followed World War II. “Parade of Horribles” is a wonderful, often humorous, depiction of life in a small Florida town, but with a strong social message embedded in its core.

Enjoy!

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UPCOMING ON “SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD,” JUNE 20-16.

“THE HUNGER SAINT,” BY OLIVIA KATE CERRONE.

THE HUNGER SAINT is a story of hope and survival set in post-WWII Italy. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as “a well-crafted and affecting literary tale,” this historical novella follows the journey of Ntoni, a twelve-year-old boy forced to labor in Sicily’s sulfur mines to support his family after his father’s untimely death. Faced with life-threatening working conditions, Ntoni must choose between escaping the mines and abandoning his family. Following tradition, his mother has signed him over to many years of hard labor in exchange for a soccorso morto, literally translating to a “dead loan.” This is essentially a system of indentured servitude that exists between the carusi and the miners they will assist in the mines. Ntoni still conspires for his freedom. As a series of unforeseen events soon complicate his plans, Ntoni realizes that all is not what it seems and to trust anyone might prove to be as fatal as being trapped inside of a cave-in. The Hunger Saint draws from years of historical research and was informed by the oral histories of former miners still living in Sicily today.

“PARADE OF HORRIBLES,” BY RHETT DeVANE

Chattahoochee, Florida, a town with a state mental institution on its main drag, seldom slips from its usual relaxed pace. Everyone here knows everybody else, and senior citizen Elvina Houston, head of the little-ole-lady hotline, keeps her nose wedged in the middle.  October typically brings three festivals and a break from summer. But this year, the relentless heat and humidity continue and a parade of horribles cranks up for Jake Witherspoon, his best friend Hattie, and her older brother Bobby, one that will affect their intertwined families, friends, and the entire town. Hattie lives three miles out of town on family land with her husband and adopted Chinese daughter Sarah Chuntian. Sarah is thirteen, barreling into the tumultuous teenage years, and Hattie worries about the dangers she and her husband can’t control, especially online.

When Jake receives a series of odd, suggestive text messages, he fears a repeat of the horrible hate crime fifteen years prior, an assault that nearly took his life and left him with a badly maimed leg. Jake’s longtime partner Shug Presley works as a hospice nurse, with long hours and grinding stress. The texts escalate, but Jake doesn’t share his growing sense of dread. Shug tells Jake about an impending visit from his sister Genevieve. A long adversary of Shug and Jake’s homosexual relationship, Shug’s oldest sister had long ago turned the Presley family against him. Instead of offering acceptance, Genevieve reveals plans to enroll Shug in a reprograming camp in Alabama. Jake strives to push down both his anguish for Shug’s sadness and his own mounting anxiety.

The incidents Jake perceives as a replay of his assault are every bit as real as the twisted man who inches into Hattie’s family. How this group of small town folk handles the clash with hate and crime is a tribute to resiliency, friendship, and hope.

 

 

 

 

Glad to Be Dad

Glad to be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood by [Myers, Tim J.]THIS WEEK’S OTHER TWO FEATURED BOOKS, “THE SANGUINIST’S DAUGHTER,” BY SUSAN HUBBARD AND “THE MAN WHO WOULDN’T STAND UP,” BY JACOB M. APPEL, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Glad to Be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood

PUBLISHED IN: Jan. 27 2012

THE AUTHOR: Tim J. Myers

THE EDITOR: Christopher Robbins

THE PUBLISHER: Familius

SUMMARY: A realistic but humorous look at fatherhood, parenting, and family life for husbands AND wives.

THE BACK STORY: I was a stay-at-home dad and lived this life, so I learned all this the hard way. My hope is that I can make it a little easier for you.

WHY THIS TITLE: Parenting is definitely a challenge, but we sometimes forget about the great JOY of it—and some men don’t understand this.

Tim J. MyersWHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: For one thing, you’ll laugh a lot.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “Your book overwhelmed me. I’ve spent the best part of the last two days reading it in its entirety…a piece that makes me laugh and cry and that teaches me something is excellent in my view…” –Mary Dossin, Plattsburgh State University

AUTHOR PROFILE: Tim J. Myers is a writer, songwriter, storyteller, and senior lecturer at Santa Clara University. His children’s books have won recognition from the New York Times, NPR, and the Smithsonian; he has 16 out and more on the way. He’s published over 130 poems, won a first prize in a poetry contest judged by John Updike, has three books of adult poetry out and a nonfiction book on fatherhood, and won a major prize in science fiction. He won the West Coast Songwriters Saratoga Chapter Song of the Year and the 2012 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Fiction. Find him at http://www.TimMyersStorySong.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TimJMyers1.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Family life is at the heart of human culture—but it’s also deeply personal, and regularly hilarious. This book recognizes all three of these truths.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). https://books.google.com/books?id=uMDo2PIhg5sC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes & Noble

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.amazon.com/Glad-Be-Dad-Call-Fatherhood/dp/1938301013

PRICE: 
Amazon: Paper $12.16 Kindle $9.99 Hardcover $34.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: tmyers@scu.edu http://www.TimMyersStorySong.com

 

The Sanguinist’s Daughter

The Sanguinist's Daughter (The Ethical Vampire Series Book 1) by [Hubbard, Susan]

THE BOOK: The Sanguinist’s Daughter.

PUBLISHED IN:  First published as The Society of S (hardcover novel) 2007

THE AUTHOR: Susan Hubbard

THE EDITOR: Denise Roy; Susan Hubbard

THE PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster; Kindle edition

SUMMARY: What if everything you knew about yourself and your family was a lie?

What if, when the lies began to crack, beneath them lay a truth so dark and deep, yet so compelling, that it pulled you inside?

Image result for Susan Hubbard + author + photosWhat price would you pay to live forever? These are the questions confronting Ariela Montero — half-vampire, half-human. The Sanguinist’s Daughter — the first book in The Ethical Vampire Series — introduces Ari and her world, where ghosts and vampires commune with humans; where Edgar Allan Poe and Jack Kerouac are role models; where every time a puzzle seems solved, its last piece changes the entire picture.

When the last piece is murder, Ari goes on the road in search of her mother, who disappeared at the time of her birth. The hunt nearly costs Ari her life, and, in finding her mother, she loses her father. But gradually she uncovers the secrets that have kept the family apart, and she begins to come to terms with her own unique nature and her chances for survival.

THE BACK STORY:  Like many of my books and stories, this one began with a dream—actually with a voice in a dream, narrating the story of how her parents first met. I awoke with that voice in my head, and I wrote down the story, which became the novel’s preface. The book grew organically from the preface. Unlike anything I’ve written before, this book announced its structure and scope to me from the beginning. Of course I made changes as I wrote, but by and large the novel is true to my original vision of it. Did I plan to write about vampires? I did not. They sort of crept in on their own.

WHY THIS TITLE: Originally titled The Sanguinist, the book was renamed The Society of S by the marketing wizards at Simon & Schuster, who thought most readers wouldn’t know what sanguinist meant. When I was able to republish the series on Amazon, I changed the title yet again to reflect my main character’s identity–and to please myself. In Ari’s world, Sanguinists are one of several sects of vampires struggling to survive on a human-dominated planet.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  Survival strategies matter more to us today than ever before., and my characters confront many of the same problems that we do. The book has been called an intricate mystery that raises provocative questions about the way we live now.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Elusive, complex, poetic, and sophisticated.” —Margot Adler, National Public Radio

“Hubbard creates an eerie atmosphere that permeates the story.” —The Boston Globe

“Any Stephanie Meyer fan would enjoy The Society of S . . . This is one of the really good reads of the year.” —Charlaine Harris, author of All Together Dead and the Southern Vampire Mysteries

“[Hubbard] reawakens the vampire genre with class and inventiveness. With so many vampire novels on the market, it’s tough to stand out. But Susan Hubbard’s The Society of S does, approaching the whole idea from an entirely new way.” —Malena Lott, Bookgasm

“A triumph of modern gothic storytelling, The Society of S is the most unusual coming of age story you’ll ever read.”  —Carolyn Parkhust, author of The Dogs of Babel

“Equally literate and adventurous, The Society of S discloses its delectable secrets slowly. Susan Hubbard has taken a much-beloved trope and created a coming-of-age novel with real bite.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of Faithful

” . . . the year’s most intriguing fiction debut to date.” The Ft. Myers News-Press

” . . . this beautifully written literary novel works as a touching coming-of-age story about a child in search of her missing mother.” The Sacramento Bee

“Award-winning author Susan Hubbard explores a strange, dark world….” The Tucson Citizen

“Hubbard delineates Ari’s world of innocent and uncertain adolescence with uncommon poignance and forgoes sensationalism for sensitivity . . . . ” Publishers Weekly

“Florida author Hubbard offers a surprising twist on this trend: a vampire tale that reads more like a subtle family drama.” The Arizona Republic

“A triumph of modern gothic storytelling . . . . the most unusual coming of age story you’ll ever read.” Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel

AUTHOR PROFILE: A native of upstate New York, Susan Hubbard has taught writing at Syracuse University, Cornell University, and Pitzer College. She is currently Professor of English at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, where she leads fiction workshops and directs creative theses.

She is the author of seven books, including The Sanguinist’s Daughter, The Year of Disappearances, and The Season of Risks–first published by Simon & Schuster, now available as e-books. The series has been translated and published in more than fifteen countries..

Hubbard’s short story collection, Blue Money, won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best book of prose by an American woman .Her first book, Walking on Ice, received the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Short Fiction Prize. She has been awarded writer’s residencies at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Djerassi Resident Artists’ Project, Cill Rialaig, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In reinventing vampire lore and legend, I enjoyed questioning cliché’s of good and evil, and imagining new incarnations of the monsters that sleep within us all.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). http://tinyurl.com/y7xbf9z3

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

PRICE: $4.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Website: http://www.susanhubbard.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ethicalvampires/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/susanhubbard

email: susanhubbardwriter@gmail.com

 

The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up

The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up by [Appel, Jacob M.]

THE BOOK:  The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up

PUBLISHED IN: 2013

THE AUTHOR:  Jacob M. Appel.

THE EDITOR:  Mark Buckland.

THE PUBLISHER:  CARGO/FREIGHT

SUMMARY:  Arnold Brinkman is a shy and retiring botanist; he loves his plants more than his country. But when his refusal to stand for the national anthem at a baseball game causes a major media incident, he is thrown into a world of pushy patriots, preachers, and press. And it’s not going to get any easier when he refuses to apologize.

Jacob M. AppelTHE BACK STORY:   I attended a baseball game shortly after the September 11th attacks and several fans began harassing a Canadian couple who refused to sing the American national anthem.

WHY THIS TITLE?:  The Great Gatsby was already taken.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  This will give them something to discuss with my very eligible, ninety-six year old grandmother on a first date.

Note from Snowflakes: Or, if she’s too old for you, check it out simply for Appel’s devastating sense of humor.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The whole thing is a marvelously-controlled farce, a funny and insightful send-up of the tinny faux-patriotism and aggressive narcissism of the 21st Century’s first decade.”Steve DonoghueOpen Letters Monthly

“In this inventive and commercially appealing book, Appel sheds a harsh light on a society that allows its most vocal and least tolerant elements to form the basis of public opinion.”Joe PonepintoLos Angeles Review

“A darkly comic satire, full of insight into American culture.”Stephen Fry

“Engaging, funny, ingenious, even charming.Philip Pullman, author of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. 

“A biting, derisive, and thoroughly zany British comic novel that follows in the tradition of quirky British satire….A worthwhile read….”Michael RavenscroftAdirnondack Review

“While [Arnold’s] actions were deemed unpatriotic, he believes he was exercising his basic right to protest a pat neo-McCarthian breed of patriotism that demands of the American citizenry that we all live and think and speak the same way. This, ultimately, is the pith of The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up. It explores what it means to test our freedoms, to express ourselves as we will, even—or especially—when our words run counter to mainstream social and political beliefs. ‘In hindsight,’ Appel writes of Arnold, ‘he wanted his protest to have been directed at anything and everything—against all the perversions of justice that passed for decency.’ So that, by refusing to stand, Arnold in fact stood far taller than the rest of them.”Andrew T. Powers, Prick of the Spindle

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Jacob M. Appel is the author of two literary novels, six short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery and a forthcoming thriller.  His first novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award and was published by Cargo.  His short story collection, Scouting for the Reaper, won the 2012 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2014.  His essay collection, Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press, 2015) won the Eric Hoffer Book Award.  Other recent collections include Einstein’s Beach House (Butler University/Pressgang, 2014), Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets (Black Lawrence, 2015), The Magic Laundry (Snake Nation, 2015), Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana (Black Lawrence, 2016) and The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street (Augsburg College/Howling Bird, 2016).  Four of these collections received starred reviews from Kirkus.  Both Scouting for the Reaper and Miracles and Conundrums were on Small Press Distribution’s best seller list for over a year.

 

Jacob’s short fiction has appeared in more than two hundred literary journals including AgniColorado ReviewGettysburg ReviewMichigan Quarterly ReviewPrairie Schooner,  Southwest ReviewSubtropics, Threepenny Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and West Branch.  His prose has won the Boston Review Short Fiction Competition, the Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction, the Greensboro Review’s Robert Watson Prize, the North American Review’s Kurt Vonnegut Prize, the Missouri Review’s Editor’s Prize, the Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, the Briar Cliff Review’s Short Fiction Prize, the Salem College Center for Women Writers’ Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the Dana Award, the H. E. Francis Prize, the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award for Fiction, an Elizabeth George Fellowship, a Sherwood Anderson Foundation Writers Grant and the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award on four separate occasions. He has been awarded first prize in the annual William Faulkner-William Wisdom competition in four distinct categories—essay, short story, novella and novel—making him the only author ever to achieve such honors.  His writing has been short-listed for the O. Henry Award (2001), Best American Short Stories (2007, 2008, 2013), Best American Nonrequired Reading (2007, 2008), Best American Mystery Stories (2009, 2013), Best American Essays (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015), and the Pushcart Prize anthology (2005, 2006, 2011, 2014, 2015).  Jacob’s stage plays have been performed at New York’s Theatre Row, Manhattan Repertory Theatre, Adrienne Theatre (Philadelphia), Detroit Repertory Theatre, Heller Theater (Tulsa), Curtain Players (Columbus), Epilogue Players (Indianapolis), Open State Theatre (Pittsburgh), Intentional Theatre (New London), Little Theatre of Alexandria and elsewhere.

Jacob is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and an attending physician at Mount Sinai Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.  At Mount Sinai, he designed and teaches the ethics curriculum for the first and second year medical students, lectures in the psychiatric clerkship, and runs the ethics courses for the psychiatry residents.  He also established and supervises a creative writing elective for the medical students.  He serves on the medical school’s admissions committee and the hospital’s institutional review board.

Prior to joining the faculty at Mount Sinai, Jacob taught most recently at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City, and at Yeshiva College, where he was the writer-in-residence.  He was honored with Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2003.   He formerly held academic appointments at Pace University, Hunter College, William Paterson University, Manhattan College, Columbia University and New York University.  Jacob holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown, an M.S. in bioethics from Albany Medical College, an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Columbia, an M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, an M.F.A. from N.Y.U. and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  He also publishes in the field of bioethics and contributes regularly to such publications as the Journal of Clinical Ethics, the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, the Hastings Center Report and the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.  His essays on the nexus of law and medicine have appeared in The New York TimesNew York Post, New York Daily News, The Chicago TribuneSan Francisco Chronicle, Detroit Free PressOrlando SentinelThe Providence Journal and many regional newspapers.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

I will gladly provide sample chapters via email in PDF format:  jacobmappel@gmail.com

LOCAL OUTLETS:

http://www.bookculture.com/

PRICE: $14.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

jacobmappel@gmail.com