Jennifer CaloyerasPUBLISHED IN: 2015

 Jennifer Caloyeras

: Midge Raymond

: Ashland Creek Press   Ashland Creek Press is dedicated to publishing books with a world view. We’re passionate about the environment, animal protection, ecology, and wildlife, and our goal is to publish books that combine these themes with compelling stories.

SUMMARY: Sometimes, life becomes unleashed. Sixteen-year-old Iris Moody has a problem controlling her temper — but then, she has a lot to be angry about. Dead mother. Workaholic father. Dumped by her boyfriend. Failing English.

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.

StraysIn 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.

: I have been the dog columnist at The Los Feliz Ledger (a local, Los Angeles paper) for over ten years. While I was researching a column I came across a non-profit organization called k-9 Connection in Santa Monica that places at-risk youth alongside shelter dogs. I thought this would make a great premise for a novel. I also had some personal experience with a pit bull that suffered from redirected aggression, like the dog, Roman, deals with in my novel.

WHY THIS TITLE?: As I got further in to writing the story about Iris and the shelter dog, Roman, I came to the realization that Iris, even though a human, is in many ways a “stray” like Roman. I wanted to explore the ways in which “connecting” can take us from strays status to being part of a community.

I think my story touches on the animal-human bond. Iris overcomes a lot throughout the course of the story. She is by no means perfect by the end, but she does grow. I think that her capacity for change can be inspirational.


“One doesn’t expect humor to evolve from such a serious theme; but, it does. One doesn’t expect Strays to use the intersection of two fearful personalities to explore positive change and courage – yet, it does. And any who anticipate Strays to be a dog story alone may be disappointed only because it’s so much more; it focuses equally on pet and person, and the situations that get them into trouble.

“Young adults who want a story of more than an animal rescue or a sixteen-year-old’s angst will find Strays a compelling saga.” — — D. Donovan, Senior Book Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

 “…an engaging book about a journey of self-discovery that should inspire readers of all ages” – The Bark magazine.

Strays is a quietly moving story about starting over, and the powerful bond that can form betwen animals and humans. Caloyeras’ prose is instantly captivating, and readers will feel for Iris’s agony and her pain. Iris is a multi-faceted character — as are the others we are introduced to throughout the story. T ese fully realized individuals, both people and dogs, are what really bring Strays to life.”  — Novel Novice.

Strays is so much more than a story about a young, angry girl who learns to trust others and accept their help. It’s about grief, compassion, understanding and forgiveness….Strays touched my heart and I would be willing to bet it will do the same for most people who read it.” – Susan Barton, eBook Review Gal

E:  Jennifer Caloyeras is a novelist and short fiction writer living in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. In English from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a M.A. in English Literature from California State University Los Angeles and a M.F.A. in creative writing through the University of British Columbia. She is the author of two young adult novels: Strays (2015) and Urban Falcon (2009). Her short stories have been published in Monday Night Literary, Wilde Magazine, Storm Cellar and Booth. She has been a college instructor, elementary school teacher and camp counselor. She is the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger and the Larchmont Ledger. She is the proud owner of two rescue dogs: Reba, a 12-year old Jack-Russell mutt and Dingo, a feisty 1 1/2 year old corgi / Australian Shepherd mix.
I think that anger can manifest itself in many different ways. In this case, she keeps her angeer buried deep. And she has a lot to be angery about. I think that all readers have dealt with anger and siappointment at some point in their lives. It’s important to know that it’s okay and normal to have these feelings. What’s telling is how you cfhoose to express them.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can download a PDF sample here:

LOCAL OUTLETS: order at your local bookstore!

Barnes & nobl
Apple i-bookstore:

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Facebook author Page:
Twitter: @Jencaloyeras

For educators or reading groups, please follow the link for a set of reading group discussion questions!


Faithfully Yours

Faithfully Yours

THE BOOK: Faithfully Yours: The Amazing Bond Between Us and the Animals We Love.


THE AUTHOR: Peggy Frezon.

THE EDITOR: Jon Sweeney.

THE PUBLISHER: Paraclete Press

Peggy Frezon 2SUMMARY: Heartwarming true stories about amazing animals and the people who love animals, with chapters on devotion, acceptance, compassion, guidance, and more. Meet everyday heroes, such as the husky who escaped his house in order to visit his owner in the hospital, the cat who ministered to stressed-out college students, the gorilla who protected a little boy who fell into his enclosure at the zoo, and the miniature horse who guides a blind teacher….as well as compassionate people who heal, rescue, protect, and care for animals. Faithfully Yours explore “the amazing bond between us and the animals we love” and how that bond mirrors and enhances our relationship with God. For anyone who’s ever experienced the life-altering love of–and for–a furry companion.

THE BACK STORY: I write true stories for Guideposts magazine, and was intrigued by all the inspiring ways dogs, cats, horses and other animals help people. Not only do we rescue animals, but often, animals rescue us. My own dogs remind me of this every day. I researched a lot of stories, and the book took about a year from idea to print.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I initially entitled the book Greetings at the Front Door, because I thought the way dog reacts when his person comes home exemplifies the close bond we have with animals. But the editor changed the title. We tossed around a few ideas and eventually agreed upon Faithfully Yours.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?: The book helps strengthen our connection with all animals. Faithfully Yours is not only true animal stories, but also stories about dozens of people who are dedicated to protect, heal, rescue and love animals.


“Blissfully engaging and full of love. Faithfully Yours beautifully conveys the connection between animals and their people. A heartwarming must-read for anyone who has experienced the power of this bond. —Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” as seen on Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show.

“Enlightening. Faithfully Yours masterfully illuminates the spiritual connection between all animals. I loved it!” —Jennifer Skiff, author of The Divinity of Dogs and God Stories

“Peggy is the real deal. She knows how animals can transform a life because her life has been transformed by the animals she loves. She also knows just how to write about those changed lives.” —Rick Hamlin, author 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without More than simply a collection of heartwarming animal stories, Faithfully Yours gives us the chance to experience the courage, compassion, joy and raw wonder that can happen when humans and animals find kinship. Many of Peggy Frezon’s powerful tales carry long after the last page is turned. —Susannah Charleson, author of Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog and The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of Rescues Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing

AUTHOR PROFILE: Author of books about animals. Regular contributor to Guideposts magazine, and contributor to more than a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul™ books. Stories also appear in books such as “Animals and the Kids who Love Them,” “The Ultimate Dog Lover,” “Miracles and Animals,” and others. Blogs at The Writer’s Dog

My husband and I rescue senior dogs, and share our home with a 13 year old spaniel, Kelly and a 9 year old golden retriever, Ike.

Other books include: Dieting with my Dog, Hubble & Hattie (2011) Heart to Heart, Hand in Paw, Guideposts Books (2012), The Dieting with my Dog Guide to Weight Loss, H.S. Brooks, (2013)

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I hope readers will take away from the book a sense of awe at the capacity animals have for loving us. And it might inspire people to go forth and follow through on some desire they may have for rescuing animals, volunteering in a shelter, or helping a cause.

“What I took away from writing the book is that not only are animals amazing in their capacity to care for us, but also so many people are amazing in what they do to care for animals.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Here is the beginning of the chapter on Love.)

Who’d have thought the words would have come out of my mouth: “Whatever you do, don’t get that dog!”

I love dogs! There’s never been a time in my life I haven’t shared my home with at least one canine companion. But the pooch my husband Mike was gaga over on the pet rescue group’s website was absolutely the wrong dog. And this was definitely the wrong time.

Mike had just been released from a lengthy hospital stay with a serious condition. Blood clots lodged in his pulmonary artery had almost taken his life. I finally got him home and couldn’t stop worrying about his condition. He was weak and needed his rest. Instead, he spent all his time staring at a website, pining away for a dog.

An old dog.

I leaned over his shoulder and sneaked a peek at the screen. The large retriever’s golden fur looked like it had been shaved, probably due to matting or allergies. His long limbs appeared knobby and wobbly. His teeth were crooked. His sad eyes told me that he’d been through a lot. His expression was deep. Pleading. Irresistible. But, no! His age! The website stated that he was eleven. I’d never had a dog live past twelve years old. I wanted to help him almost as much as Mike. Then I got practical. Old dogs were more likely to have issues with their health. Brittle hips and bones. Respiratory, digestive issues. Cataracts. I already had Mike’s health to worry about. Although we weren’t senior citizens yet, it wasn’t that far off.

I turned away from the computer. “I’ll get your medicine, honey.”

While Mike took his pills, his focus remained on the screen. “Let’s just go look at him,” he said hopefully. “Just to see.”

When had I ever been able to “just look” at a dog and not want to take it home? Mike knew me well. How could he not after thirty years of marriage?

Then he locked me in his gaze and delivered the crushing blow. “Honey, he needs us.”

The next day Mike arranged for us to meet the rescue worker in the parking lot of a nearby pet food store. He beamed as we left the house, his step livelier than I’d seen in weeks. My step lagged.

“Let’s hurry before someone else claims him!” he said.

Not likely. Slim chance anyone would jump to adopt an eleven-year-old dog. Puppies went fast. Not so for older dogs.

When we arrived, the rescue worker opened her car door. Out crept a lanky, old golden retriever. He stood stock still, as if waiting for permission to move ahead. “He was abandoned, so we have no idea of his past. Where he lived. Medical records.”

His coat was dull and patchy. His ribs stuck out. He averted his eyes, and I wondered if he was even capable of making a connection. He needs a home, to be sure, but we aren’t the right home. I stooped low and he slowly turned his head toward me. When I touched him, he didn’t budge, as if he’d lost all hope. Then I noticed his tail. A tiny movement, a hesitant wag. There was some hope, yet.

“He’d been on his own for quite a while,” the rescue lady explained. “Probably was dumped by the roadside. Then passed around to shelters and rescue groups for more than a year.”

Abandoned. Homeless. Unwanted. My heart lurched. I reached down and surrounded his neck with my arms. “Poor boy. Sweet, sweet boy.” This time he moved. He leaned into my touch. His muscles relaxed against me. It felt as if he melted, fully trusting to become one with me.

My heart melted, too.

I glanced at Mike. He was a goner, his eyes as pleading as the dog’s.

I whispered. “But…he’s eleven, remember?”

Mike put his hand in mine. “Doesn’t he deserve a nice home and some happiness in his golden years?”

I stroked the dog’s head again. When I stopped, he pushed his nose into my palm, asking for more. Mike was right. Even though I wasn’t sure about adopting an old dog, I couldn’t say no.

When we got home, we introduced our new friend to our spaniel, Kelly. She wasn’t thrilled, but she accepted him from a distance. We’d work on that.

We named him Brooks. That afternoon Mike and Brooks relaxed together, Mike in the old recliner chair, Brooks on the floor at his feet. Later, they took a walk. “Not too fast,” I called. Turns out there was no need to worry—Brooks and Mike had about the same pace.

In the evening, Mike stood at the kitchen shelf, preparing his medications. Brooks needed steroids for a skin condition. “Come on,” Mike called cheerfully, “us old men have to take our medicine.” Brooks trotted up and took the medicine right out of Mike’s hand. Mike leaned over and kissed him on the nose.

Every day I watched Brooks transform from a scrawny, withdrawn, abandoned dog to a healthy, happy golden with a heart full of love. At the same time, my husband was transforming. No longer focused on his health and his limitations, instead his attention turned to caring for

Brooks. When Mike rested in his chair, Brooks curled up on top of his feet. He followed Mike from room to room, and lay down by the door to wait for him if he went out. Even though the old dog had been abandoned and unwanted, he had a heart full of love. A love that helped him heal and helped Mike heal as well.

Watching Mike and Brooks together, the heavy grip of worry that surrounded me began to fade. Life isn’t just about an age, or being healthy or sick. It’s about trusting God with all of it and living fully.

In the evening I heard Mike call to Brooks again, “Time for us old men to take our medicine.”

I went to Mike and gave him a hug. Then I hugged Brooks. He softened against my side, fully trusting. Fully loving.

Brooks lived with us for about a year, until cancer took his life. He was a beautiful example of unconditional love. To me, this means that dogs have a capacity to love fully, even if the world has treated them unjustly.


Barnes & Noble, Wilton, NY.

The Book House.




Bas Bleu catalog

The Paper Store (in New England and NJ)

Signed copies available from the author.

PRICE: $17.99 hardcover CONTACT THE AUTHOR: website: blog: http://www.peggyfrezon.blogspot.ccom

twitter: @peggyfrezon Facebook:

Instagram: Peggy Frezon

Floyd the Dog

Floyd the DogPUBLISHED IN: Year. 2013

THE AUTHOR:  Don G. Ford

THE EDITOR: Self-edited

THE PUBLISHER: My books are self-published, and I have edited and published a few other authors’ books.

SUMMARY: The book focuses on animals the world over. These short stories were accepted for publication by out of Portugal with 7,000 book club readers in 62 countries. The purpose of writing was to cause awareness for endangered animals all over the globe.

THE BACK STORY: Without realizing it from the beginning, I was about to enter an international playing field. After four years of having my stories published on a 3 to 4 month rotation, I decided it was time to compile all of my stories that were published in a sort of commemorative series. During this time of my writing for Floydthedog, the publisher decided to stop in and see me one day. He flew from Portugal to Syracuse, NY to have lunch with me. What an honor! Shortly after this time, he went into the hospital for a year, and is now home recuperating.Don Ford

WHY THIS TITLE?: My title speaks for itself.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Anyone who calls them self an animal lover or activist would find these stories right down their alley. These are all ages tales that would appeal to most general audiences.


From an Internationally known travel writer

“Oh, wonderful story!!!! I almost didn’t read it as I feared there would be a bad ending. Phew, it’s all good. I think you should ‘advertise’ your site as something like, Powerful animal sagas with good endings.”

From an Australian Writer:

“Tell Don that, I enjoyed his story. That was a brave little wolf. And I liked the spirit wolf.”

From the Managing Director of a US Radio Corporation !!!!

“A very kind story which led me to check out the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. It can be a tough world for our animal friends when pelting/poaching still exist. But a renewed sense of hope as those of a kind-heart help to support these Animal Sanctuaries …”

From a USA author:

“I enjoyed Don’s story. It made me smile. What clever animals. Especially that Daisy. And what a marvelous ending.” 🙂

AUTHOR PROFILE: Don lives somewhere between the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits; a storyteller. He shares fiction and non-fiction stories with every age group, while visiting schools, retirement communities and speaking at club events. He is well published with work now that spans 62 countries. He is also known for his digital photography used as covers for his story work. His name pops up everywhere under various titles such as dgford, grassroots08, Greywolf. Don writes in EVERY genre, since he teaches the occasional “Writing For Publication” class to adults. He is also the Poet Laureate of Manlius, NY. He is proud of his Native American Heritage.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Many of these same animal stories were requested by the publishers of Creature Features out of Cyprus. The Spirit Wolf story was a special favorite that was asked for by name. Now the feel of it being unternational was beginning to really click as each story was edited and translated into international English.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: At Amazon site.

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



Weather Report, Dec. 14

Dogs 1


The Dog Days don’t officially begin until next August, but there’s nothing to prevent us from staging a Dog Week well in advance.

When I noticed a confluence of three pet-related Snowflakes books on our selection list, it seemed only natural to put them together for a week during December, a month when more than a few puppies and kittens wind up under the tree on Christmas morning.

Even better, to borrow from the late Yogi Berra, these books have “different similarities.”

“Strays,” by Jennifer Caloyeras, is a young adult novel. “Faithfully Yours,” by Peggy Frezon, is a non-fiction collection of stories about the human/animal bond. And “Floyd the Dog,” by Donald Ford, is a collection of animal-related tales for kids.

By the way, there will be no new postings for the period from Dec. 22-28, because it seemed unfair to feature authors during that week of massive holiday distraction. They will resume on Dec. 29.




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.

Writes Jennifer: “I have been the dog columnist at The Los Feliz Ledger (a local, Los Angeles paper) for over ten years. While I was researching a column I came across a non-profit organization called k-9 Connection in Santa Monica that places at-risk youth alongside shelter dogs. I thought this would make a great premise for a novel. I also had some personal experience with a pit bull that suffered from redirected aggression, like the dog, Roman, deals with in my novel.”


HPeggy Frezon 3eartwarming true stories about amazing animals and the people who love animals, with chapters on devotion, acceptance, compassion, guidance, and more. Meet everyday heroes, such as the husky who escaped his house in order to visit his owner in the hospital, the cat who ministered to stressed-out college students, the gorilla who protected a little boy who fell into his enclosure at the zoo, and the miniature horse who guides a blind teacher….as well as compassionate people who heal, rescue, protect, and care for animals. Faithfully Yours explores “the amazing bond between us and the animals we love” and how that bond mirrors and enhances our relationship with God. For anyone who’s ever experienced the life-altering love of–and for–a furry companion.”


From Don, who is the poet laureate of Manlius, NY: “The book focuses on animals the world over. These short stories were accepted for publication by out of Portugal with 7,000 book club readers in 62 countries. The purpose of writing was to cause awareness for endangered animals all over the globe. “


The Festival of Earthly Delights

Festival of Earthly DelightsTHE BOOK: The Festival of Earthly Delights

PUBLISHED IN: 2012 (and released in paperback in 2014)

THE AUTHOR:  Matt Dojny

THE EDITOR: Matt Bell (author of Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods)


SUMMARY: What exactly is the “Festival of Taang Lôke Kwaam Banterng Sumitchanani“? It’s a 24-hour water balloon blitzkrieg, a ruthless talent competition, and an earth-scorching, take-no-prisoners bacchanalia. It’s the one day of the year when everyone has a shot at finding true love–even a rapacious, over-sexed turtle god. It’s a celebration of hobos and heartbreak, Lionel Richie impersonators and banana-brandy-flavored rice wine. It’s The Festival of Earthly Delights.

Matt DojnyBoyd Darrow is a young American living in Puchai, a tiny Southeast Asian country that tourist brochures refer to as “The Kingdom of Winks.” In a series of letters written to a mysterious recipient, Boyd tells of the delights, humiliations and brain-bending misadventures he experiences while adjusting to life in the small college town of Mai Mor. He and his somewhat less-than-faithful girlfriend, Ulla, were hoping to start their lives over in Puchai, but Puchai has an agenda all its own.

Ulla’s been hired to organize the talent show at the town’s annual “Festival of Taang,” but she seems more interested in the possibilities of cultural exchange with a local revolutionary. Meanwhile, Boyd grapples with a culture in which baby owls are considered a delicacy, turtles are worshipped as deities, and a wink can have one of 379 possible meanings (including “You’re fired,” “There’s something in my eye,” and “I want to kiss your lips!”). He’s also falling for his boss’s daughter, a half-Puchanese girl with a black eye and a troubling past. Lines are crossed, secrets are revealed, and, as Boyd’s life inevitably spins out of control, the Festival draws closer with each day…

Hilarious and wise and fiercely original, The Festival of Earthly Delights is a no-holds-barred celebration of love, cultural differences, and one man’s reluctant embrace of the sensual pleasures of this world, in all their awkward, enigmatic glory.

THE BACK STORY: When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader and writer; I even wrote a novel when in Sixth grade, and attracted the attention of a literary agent who shopped it around (garnering a stack of very considerate rejection letters). But, in college, I had a creative writing teacher who was deeply unenthusiastic about my work—and a drawing teacher who was very encouraging—so I changed my major to Studio Art.

When I first moved to New York, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make it in the art world, but at some point—about six years ago—I began to grow tired of that particular scene. I found it depressing to have piles of unsold paintings cluttering my small apartment; and, when I did sell work, it made me sad that I was never going to see it again—it felt like selling off one of my kids. I started thinking about doing something different.

A while back, I’d spent some time living in Southeast Asia, and had written some extraordinarily long letters to a close friend. This friend, also a writer, suggested that the letters might be good fodder for a novel. I liked the idea of making a reproducible object such as a book—something that wasn’t a precious singular entity like a piece of art. (Also, I figured that if my writing turned out to be unpublishable, at least it could remain hidden inside my hard drive rather than taking up storage space.) However, by that point in my life, I didn’t really consider myself a writer, and the idea of undertaking a novel seemed somewhat ridiculous. I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I originally was thinking of making some sort of art-book that had a bit of text in it, but, once I began writing, I found that I couldn’t stop. I felt like I was 13 years old again, and could just sit and write uninterrupted for hours at a time. To me, the most exciting thing about writing—when it’s going well, at least—is that I feel as though I’m having a kind of lucid dream, watching the narrative unspool before my eyes. (I realize that this sentiment is probably a major cliche, but, like most good cliches, it happens to be true.)

I also find that the creation of a fictional world makes me more engaged in the actual world. I’m very intuitive when I work, and have a superstitious (and possibly narcissistic) belief that the world is constantly sending me clues as to what should be included in a story. Crafting a fictional universe gives me a satisfyingly god-like sensation. I recommend that everybody give it try.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title, as well as the basic concept for the Festival itself, came to me in one fell swoop while taking a shower one morning (as 99% of good ideas tend to do). I ran through several hundred other alternate titles, but this was the one that stuck.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT: This book is for armchair travelers, armchair detectives—and, really, anyone who enjoys sitting in armchairs.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “…a perfect summer read, armchair travel in a higher key.” —Los Angeles Times

“There’s… no comparison to reading a novel that it’s clear a writer had a ton of fun writing. For a light-hearted book, there’s a lot of heart in The Festival of Earthly Delights.” —The Rumpus

“If Puchai were a real country, I’d be a citizen by now, or at least an illegal alien. What a glorious novel!” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“Matt Dojny’s narrator Boyd Darrow is as poetically drawn as J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, and as intimately hilarious as C.D. Payne’s Nick Twisp. Dojny has created an entire country filled with characters that are so fresh and endearing, you’ll find yourself wishing Puchai were a real place. I love this book.” —Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords, The Daily Show)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Matt Dojny’s debut novel, The Festival of Earthly Delights, was published by Dzanc Books in June 2012 and is now available in paperback. Dojny’s work has recently appeared in Electric Literature, A Public Space, The Collagist, Better Magazine, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Visit him at, or at, where he posts a drawing a day.


February 19
9:46 am

Dear Hap:

Our flight from Newark was seventeen hours and twenty-three minutes, non-stop. Ulla took a pill and was unconscious for most of the trip. I spent my time playing solitaire and drinking tiny bottles of Boodles gin mixed with Puchalicious-brand tamarind soda. After a while, I put away the cards and opened up our Pocket Adventure: Puchai! guidebook. I’d meant to read it before we left, but had never quite gotten around to it.

From the introduction:

The Kingdom of Winks” is a phrase that conjures many images: Saffron-robed monks and tantalizing bar-girls—sun-drenched beaches and moss-encrusted mountains—the exotic nightclubs of Dakhong and the picturesque rice farms of Hattanai Province—world-class hotels and soft-adventure experiences in the jungle. Puchai may be miniscule in size, but irregardless, this charming country offers a myriad of cultural and sensual contrasts for the visitor on holiday. Whatever you seek, Puchai’s scintillating blend of age-old tradition and modern amenities makes for the most unique holiday available to date. Truly, this land of contradictions—by turns zestful and tranquil, resplendent and subtle, soulful and hedonistic—never fails to delight your senses… and/or your spirit. 

The Puchanese are a mischievous and happy-go-lucky people who are sure to greet you with a wide smile and their trademark “wink” of the eye. Puchai isn’t known as “The Kingdom of Winks” for nothin’! Winking back at them is a sure-fire way of saying, “I like you, too. Thank you for welcoming me to your country. I’m really excited to be here, and I look forward to experiencing everything it has to offer!”

I put the guidebook down and rested my forehead against the window, barely able to keep my eyes open. The sun was rising and I watched the clouds—thin and feathery and edged with pink and gold—slowly creep across the purplish sky, coming together as if to form characters in some forgotten language. And then, like a film reel stuck on a frame, their motion abruptly ceased. My heart hammered in my chest when I saw that they’d taken the shape of six enormous letters.

My own surname, written across the sky in fire.

The airplane’s engines had come to a complete stop, and we were hanging silently in mid-air. I continued staring out at my name, now grasping its meaning: the plane was about to crash, and in a few moments I would be dead, along with everyone on board.

I glanced around at the other passengers—wondering if each of them saw their own name in the clouds—then squeezed my eyes shut. I was hoping to see highlights from my life flashing by in rapid succession, but all I saw was empty blackness. And then, as if you were sitting in the seat behind me, murmuring the words into my ear—I heard your voice.

Jungle honey. 

I opened my eyes with a start. Ulla was awake now, shrieking wildly. Turning to her, I grabbed her wrists and said, “Don’t panic. Everything’s going to be all right.” My voice had shot up an entire octave, wobbly and sharp, and it seemed obvious that I was lying—that everything was not, in fact, going to be all right. Ulla’s palms were damp and sticky and her shirt was stained dark brown, as if she was already covered in blood. I looked into her face and said: “Goodbye.”

Ulla stared at me with a mixture of confusion and alarm. Several other passengers were watching us closely. She glanced around at them, then leaned in close. “Are you okay, Boyd?”

I looked out the window. The sky was clear, the engines were humming, and the plane was moving steadily through the air. “Weren’t you just screaming?”

“I screamed because you were flailing around in your sleep and spilling soda all over the place,” said Ulla, taking my pillow and rubbing it in her lap.

I searched the sky one more time. “I saw—I mean, I thought that we were going to…” I felt my eyelid give a little twitch as the passengers around us began to whisper to one another. “Never mind,” I said, pressing my hand to my eye.

Ulla patted my arm. “Just a bad dream.”

Our plane was now making its descent into the soupy yellow smog that hung above the city of Dakhong. I saw that we were passing over a railroad junction, and instinctively I lifted both my feet off the floor—either for good luck, or to ward off disaster. I forget which it is.

A driver hired by Mai Mor College was waiting for us at the gate, holding a paper plate with “MR. + MRS. DARROW” scrawled across it. His rendition of my name was reminiscent of the DARROW in the sky—it almost looked like the same handwriting—and the similarity made my stomach tighten.

Ulla and I changed dollars for prik at the airport, and then we were driven to the train station in a pini-mini—a small, noisy, three-wheeled vehicle that looks like a cross between a rickshaw and a Vespa. We rode through the industrial outskirts and entered the traffic-clogged streets of downtown Dakhong, inching past a succession of skyscrapers, markets, exotica clubs, shantytowns, and temples (which are known as mâdans, Ulla informed me—she finished reading the guidebook weeks ago). Blue-black fumes poured out of the tailpipe of the pini-mini, and by the time we reached the train station, I felt another one of my out-of-body experiences coming on.

After some difficulty, we managed to purchase two one-way tickets to the town of Mai Mor. I’d wanted to spend a few days looking around Dakhong, but Ulla is eager to settle in before she starts her new job. She’s been hired by Mai Mor College’s Faculty of Theatre Drama to help organize and stage-manage the big talent show (the Expo Taang) that’s held in conjunction with the town’s annual “Festival of Taang Lôke Kwaam Banterng Sumitchanani.” My own job prospects are sketchy, although Ulla’s new boss—Mrs. Haraporn Leekanchanakoth-Young—suggested in her letters that I might be able to work at the English-language school run by her husband. I’m anxious to start earning some prik: I owe Ulla nine hundred and eighty-three dollars for my plane ticket here.

I’ll bet I can guess what you’re wondering at this point, Hap: What are Ulla and I doing here? Why Puchai?

There are a lot of reasons. One reason we left New York was because Ulla had harbored romantic ideas about moving to a foreign land ever since her junior year abroad in Luxembourg. Another reason was that—apart from my freelance job designing brochures for the Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene—I didn’t have much going on back in the city, and I thought that a change of scenery might do me good.

And another reason I wanted to leave home, if you really want to know, was the White Sikh.

I call the White Sikh “the White Sikh” because he’s a white man who is a follower of the Sikh faith. I also call him the White Sikh because I don’t like saying his actual name—Shawn Talbot-Singh—aloud. He was Ulla’s boss at Gelder & Ventry, and, not too long ago, I learned that Ulla and this Sikh—a married man in his mid-40s, with three young children—had been meeting up in the stairwell during their lunch break for a daily make-out session.

After this revelation, Ulla and I went into a tailspin that lasted for several weeks, though we never broke up for more than an hour at a time. When I had to go to the Catskills for Maury’s wedding in January, Ulla decided to join me at the last minute, and we ended up having an unexpectedly fun time together—it was as if our problems vaporized as soon as we left the city limits. On the drive home, Ulla informed me that she’d heard about a job opportunity in Puchai, and was seriously thinking about applying. We discussed it for a while, and after a stretch of tense silence, she asked me if I’d like to go with her.

You said: Let’s do it.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to hearing your voice in my head—prodding and cajoling me, as if you were looking over my shoulder, judging every decision I make. Usually I’m pretty good at ignoring you. This time, though, an idea occurred to me: as an experiment, I’d try doing exactly what you told me to do, and see if my life improved. The thought of traveling to some small random foreign destination with Ulla terrified me for a lot of reasons. But maybe that was why I had to go. Things couldn’t get much worse.

I forced my lips to move before my brain could second-guess itself. “All right,” I told Ulla. “Let’s do it.”

Half an hour later, I asked: “Where’s Puchai?”


11:02 am

Still waiting for the train. I don’t feel very well right now, probably due to the sleep deprivation, carbon monoxide inhalation, and gin consumption, along with the fact that I haven’t eaten anything for several hours. There’s a food stall near our bench where a man is frying batches of something in a silver skillet—they look like oversized hush puppies. A woman in a dress stitched from sackcloth is standing next to him. She has a large pink basket balanced on her head, and she’s yelling “Fae-dong! Fae-dong!” at the top of her lungs, as though calling to a dog, or a small child. I’ve been watching her and thinking about buying some of whatever she’s selling. It seems like a daunting task, and I’m tempted to just sit here and starve for a while longer—but I can hear you saying: You’re hungry. You have money. She has food. How complicated could it be?

Wish me luck.


11:58 am

Before approaching the snack-sellers, I skimmed our Puchanese Language Dictionary (which is just a hand-bound stack of mimeographed pages that Ulla bought from a kid at the airport). The English-language section didn’t follow the traditional rules of alphabetization as far as I could tell, but I figured out how to say “one” (tûan-nâa) and “please” (gà-roó-na).

I turned to Ulla and said, “Tûan-nâa fae-dong gà-roó-na. One bag of deep-fried food, please.”

Ulla flipped through the Pocket Adventure guide. “There must be a list of phrases in here. Let me see if it says how to order something.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’m just going to go for it.”

As I approached the woman, I saw that she was delicately picking her nose with one hand and holding her other hand in front of her face—to shield her actions from public view, I guess—while effortlessly balancing the basket on her head. Once I’d reached her, I cleared my throat and said, “Hello.”

The woman spun around, removed her finger from her nose, and let out a startled, high-pitched gasp.

I pointed to her basket. “Um… tûan-nâafae-donggà-roó-na?”

Grimacing, she stepped backwards, clutching her goods protectively. “Gà-roó-na?”

“Yes, please. Tûan-nâa. Gà-roó-na. Thank you.” I gave her a big, friendly wink.

The woman watched me wordlessly, straining her neck forward, then said something to the man behind the fryer. He laughed and made a suggestive movement with his hips. “Fae-dong gà-roó-na?” he repeated, smirking.

I took out my wallet, thumbed through my fresh wad of prik, and randomly selected a rumpled bill with an image of laughing peasants flying kites. I wasn’t sure how much it was worth, but it was small and yellow and undistinguished-looking. I thrust it towards them and said, with confidence, “Tûan-nâa fae-dong!”

The man snatched the money from me, held it up to the light, then broke into a broad, toothless grin. I smiled back and nodded serenely. He brought his hands to his forehead, bowed, then reached into his smock and counted out my change: sixteen light-blue bills and nine small coins.

The woman took a step towards me, put her hands on my shoulders, and, with a shy smile, pulled me down until our faces were at the same height. It felt as if we were about to share some kind of intimate moment, and I found myself wishing that I’d taken the time to read more about the local customs. And then—in one deft motion—she removed the basket from her head and placed it onto mine. I reached up reflexively and steadied it as the woman fell to her knees, pressing her chin to the floor.

“Wait, no—I don’t want to buy the whole thing.” I tried to lift the basket off my head, but it was surprisingly heavy and began to slide out of my hands, so I re-balanced it and said, “Listen, I’m sorry, but there’s been a misunderstanding.” I turned to the man, who was sorting the money in his apron. When I caught his eye he looked down and puffed out his cheeks. “No,” I said quietly. “No, no, no.” The woman was rocking back and forth on the ground, murmuring to herself. I suddenly felt dizzy, and knew that I had to go sit down.

As I walked back towards Ulla, I carefully balanced the basket on my head and avoided making eye contact with any passersby. Ulla was reading the guidebook and listening to my Walkman, and for a moment I considered ditching the basket somewhere—but then she looked up, and it was too late.

I lowered myself into a squatting position, gingerly placed the basket on the bench, and said: “Tûan-nâa fae-dong gà-roó-na?”


12:36 pm

The interior of this train is a mishmash of different styles: ornate brass luggage racks, Modernist plastic seats, turn-of-the-century light fixtures, and orange leatherette walls printed with a subtle Op art pattern. It’s like an old World’s Fair prototype for the Locomotive of Tomorrow. When I climbed on board, struggling with my basket, the passengers gawked at me as though I held a baby dolphin in my arms.

After consulting the dictionary, Ulla determined that I should’ve used the word tiân—which is defined as “one [single discrete groupings]”—as opposed to tûan-nâa, which means “one [entirety of groupings].” Also, I should’ve said bpròh (“please”) instead of gà-roó-na, which apparently means: “to please [bringing satisfy with touch, eating, feelings].”

“So,” I said, “according to you, I told that woman: ‘I want to pleasure your entire basket’?”

Ulla was quiet for a moment, then asked how much money I’d given them. I reluctantly told her, and, after doing some calculations, she informed me that I’d paid about $67—approximately one-fifth their annual income. The light-blue bills that they’d given to me as change were worth about twelve cents apiece.

I opened one of the bags, plucked out a snack, and popped it into my mouth. It was crunchy on the outside, with a moist center that tasted like walnuts and garlic, but also like French fries and mint. It was delicious. I immediately ate another, and, after some prodding, Ulla tried one. We went through the whole bag in about a minute.

When we were finished, Ulla asked, “What are these things called again?”

Fae-dongs.” I belched, and tasted a strange new flavor rising up from the back of my throat. “Let’s remember that name.”


LOCAL OUTLETS: In New York City: McNally Jackson, Community Bookstore


PRICE: Paperback: $15

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Twitter: @Matt_Dojny


The Truth and the Life

THE BOOK: The Truth and the Life.

PUBLISHED IN: November 2014.

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Moore.

Elizabeth Moore 2THE PUBLISHER: Alternative Book Press.

SUMMARY: Welcome to Cedar Mill, a late-nineteenth century industrial town in the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Rachel Morris—young, outspoken, and impulsive—becomes involved in a consuming relationship with David Cranmer, her long-time friend and partner-in-crime. Set against the backdrop of a vividly-imagined historical town that is itself in the throes of major change, this relationship comes to affect Rachel and David (and all who know them) in ways that are simultaneously deeply-felt, heartbreaking and revealing.

The Truth and the LifeMeanwhile, in present-day Boston, twenty-something Emma Harris is reeling from the recent death of her mother. Teetering on the edge of depression and yearning for the certainty of knowledge, Emma undertakes a journey of discovery that ultimately leads her to the ruins of a Pine Barrens ghost town, where she might come to encounter the curious interplay between what is known and what is not, between truth and life—and, in so doing, find closure.

THE BACK STORY: I grew up in the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey, a setting very familiar and special to me. After moving to Boston (where I now live), I began to feel its absence and to realize just how deeply it had affected me. In the simplest sense, The Truth and the Life is a labor of love for the home I left behind, an attempt to find meaning in its unique ecology and history. But it’s also a larger exploration of how history resides in landscapes both real and imagined, and how the forces of history—despite what we may or may not know about them—can ultimately come to affect us here in the present.

I started writing T&L on a whim during a particularly hot summer in Boston, in an apartment without air conditioning. I didn’t expect those early character sketches to result in a novel, but the story eventually took on a life of its own. The more I wrote, the more the characters began to insist themselves and to demand more attention and thought. I found myself diving deeper not only into my own memories of the place in which I’d grown up, but also into obscure records of late-nineteenth century South Jersey history and dialect. My characters quickly absorbed these new things and constantly clamored for more. They wouldn’t stop acting, and as a result the story kept compounding on itself.

After a little over a year of writing and research, I had a messy first draft. I spent another year or so revising it, sharing it with family and close friends, and eventually posting it to a large online writers group, Authonomy, for additional critique and feedback. The former bolstered my courage to put the story out there, and the latter proved incredibly helpful and eye-opening for the revision process. I eventually realized that I had to let the project go at some point, but after the work I’d put into it, I didn’t want to just let it sit in a drawer. I sent it out to several publishers who were taking open submissions, dropping it directly into their slush piles. Alternative Book Press accepted it and published it the following year.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title was actually one of the last things that came to me in the book’s creation. For the longest time it simply eluded me, and the MS Word doc was named after one of the main characters, “Rachel”, as a kind of place-holder. In hindsight, I think I essentially wrote the early draft in order to figure out what the story was that I needed to tell. When I went back to revise it, I began to notice key themes emerging—common threads that kept coming up and that were relevant to each of my characters (and therefore to the narrative arc) in one way or another. The more I considered these themes—the big questions that my characters were asking themselves and each other about knowledge and history, about coming of age and sexuality, and about the impact of forces known and unknown in their lives—the more that line from that the Gospel of John began to insist itself (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”). While the novel itself isn’t religious or overtly Christian, religion was a very important part of everyday life within the historical setting that I was writing about, and my characters were all engaging with that tradition in some way. In writing their stories, and in trying to merge those into some kind of narrative whole, I found myself thinking a great deal about the concepts of truth and life and considering the relationships and dualities between the two. At the heart of the book is a question concerning how much we can ultimately know about these things, how much we can quantify them. How can the truth of what happened in the past come to impact us in the life of the here and now, whether we actually know about it or not? Can we ever fully come to know what the truth is, or what life is, and predict the ways in which one will affect the other? Are these things the same in the end, or different? Can we ever really know for sure? Each of my characters, both past and present, found themselves wrestling with these questions in their own distinct ways—and in writing them, so did I.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? While T&L is largely a work of local literature, I suspect that its explorations of knowledge and history, of coming of age, of love and sexuality, and of finding meaning and beauty in even the darkest places will speak to many readers. The book also introduces readers to a unique setting which they may not otherwise have had much of an opportunity to explore: a world of ghost towns and unbroken woodland located in the heart of the most densely-populated (and often most derided) state in the US. The NJ Pine Barrens are unique in an environmental sense—a so-called “barren” place that is full of incredible ecological diversity, a delicate forest system that only exists because it constantly catches fire. The dualities that exist in the Pine Barrens between forces of life and destruction, between history and present, and between truth and life are very much at the heart of the novel. In the Pines and in everyday life, storytelling is what contains and unites these disparate elements, what attempts to make some sense of them—and what ultimately helps us come to terms with a lack of sense.


“Readers will become…caught up in the story and the rich tapestry of its setting.” —Kelly-Lynne Reimer, blog owner, Historical Fiction Addicts

“What an articulate, dynamic young writer! Definitely not afraid to boldly go.”

—Charlotte Pierce, President of Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) and producer of Face the Book TV

“Set in an imagined, yet historically believable rising paper-making industrial village in the New Jersey Pinelands, this novel is truly worth a read. The author combines her knowledge of the region’s geography and old-time culture and language with the travails of a modern woman seeking answers about her ancestral past.”

—Amazon Review.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Elizabeth Moore is a fiction writer and poet. She grew up in Indian Mills, New Jersey (population just shy of 6500), not far from the heart of the Pinelands National Reserve. The unique ecology and culture of this region have always had a strong influence on her writing, both poetry and prose. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Nathan, where she works at The MIT Press. The Truth and the Life is her first novel.

Read the first couple pages of The Truth and the Life at the Amazon listing:

The Batsto Village Store (Hammonton, NJ)

​The Book Swap Cafe (Medford, NJ)
Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA) – special order a signed copy here as well:
Harvard Book Store (Cambridge, MA)

The MIT Press Bookstore (Cambridge, MA)

The Book Rack (Arlington, MA)


$14.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle ebook)

Author website (send the author an email using the contact form) –
Author blog, The Running Story –



Behold the Beauty

Behold the Beauty

THE BOOK: Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading


THE AUTHOR: Monica Sharman

THE EDITOR: Charity Singleton Craig

THE PUBLISHER: BibleDude Press

SUMMARY: Do you feel unfamiliar with the Bible and want a friendly introduction? Have you been reading the Bible for years but could use a fresh approach—or a flavorful jolt? Are you thinking of inviting a friend to read the Bible, who has never read it before?

In thMonica Sharmanese pages you’ll find unique ideas such as:

• How to clear up confusing parts of the Bible
• How to read the Bible like a journalist, museum visitor, or doodler would
• How to find words and phrases that reveal more of God’s heart and desires

With each chapter a metaphor for Bible reading, Behold the Beauty gives a warm welcome to the pages of the Bible. Come on in!

THE BACK STORY: I first learned to study the Bible during my undergraduate years in engineering at the California Institute of Technology, using a left-brained approach called “manuscript Bible study” that incorporates inductive Bible study methods and appeals to many students. But as I grew older and made friends away from the college environment, I found that many Christians and churchgoers actually despised the Bible study methods I had been practicing daily for years! So, influenced by my new interests as a poet, children’s fiction writer, and home educator, I developed a class for church called “Behold the Beauty: A Heart Approach to Bible Reading” (purposely avoiding the word “study”). This, along with several years’ experience as a devotional blogger, eventually came together as this book. I kept the original title of that church Bible study, Behold the Beauty, and changed the subtitle to An Invitation to Bible Reading. My friend Jean Fleming, writer and ministry leader on The Navigators staff for more than 50 years, wrote the Foreword.

WHY THIS TITLE: Perhaps churchgoers have always thought of the Bible as something to study or a stagnant book for gaining head knowledge. This book emphasizes reading the Bible to know God better and see His beauty and the beauty of His Word.

The subtitle includes the word Invitation because it is just that: a simple invitation and intentionally not a “how to” or “you should” book.


A warm invitation to the Bible—for:

• readers new to the Bible and want a gentle introduction

• longtime Bible readers who want a fresh approach or a creative kick-start to their Bible reading

• those who want a resource to invite a friend to Bible reading


“Monica Sharman knows her bible, but more than that, she savors it. She has tasted and seen the goodness of the Holy Scriptures, and she doesn’t want any of us to miss it. That’s the heart behind this treasure of a book. Prepare to fall in love with God’s word all over again as you travel through Behold the Beauty, a book that is — at once — full of whimsy and wisdom.” — Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol.

“Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading is like a warm invitation to dinner with close friends. Completely free of dogma, or guilt, is provides the encouragement and direction newcomers need to discover the delights of reading the Bible for themselves. Monica Sharman never talks down to her readers. Instead, with warmth, intelligence and joy, she writes as if she was intimately sharing over coffee.” — Cynthia Hyle Bezek, author of “Knowing the God You Pray To.”

“By way of telling her own personal stories, Monica Sharman invites us back into the Story strong enough to hold us all. It’s an invitation with purpose, that our joy might be full.” — John Blase, poet and author of Know When to Hold ‘Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood.

“Nonfiction with all the color and energy of story, it will pull you right in.” — Jill Case Brown, author of Safe.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Monica Sharman started reading the Bible during her freshman year in college and hasn’t stopped since. She has shared her excitement over Bible reading by teaching it at home, in the neighborhood, and at church. Find out more at

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  One simple way to summarize this book: “I read the Bible. Do you want to read it too?”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Foreword (by Jean Fleming), Preface, Chapter 1, and part of Chapter 2 available on Amazon’s “Look inside” preview:

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: For discounted bulk orders of the print version, contact

PRICE: $3.99 Kindle (print version coming soon)


Twitter: @monicasharman


Web page: