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:

Weather Report, Dec. 7


So far, the response to our Christmas promotion has been very gratifying – on least on one level. Two days after the list of discounted books went out, we received more page clicks and visitations than ever before in a 24-hour period.

Of course, that’s just the first step, and it remains to be seen how many book sales will come from this. Still, I feel compelled to thank all of you who showed an interest, and I have no doubt you will find something in our diverse inventory that will appeal to you.

If for some reason you missed the list I sent out, drop me an e-mail at and I’ll send you another.



I think it was Burl Ives who once proclaimed in a wine commercial: “I don’t host my parties  – I cast them.”

And just like it’s fun to invite very different people to the same event to see how they interact, so it is with books. This week, we have three that couldn’t be more different – Matt Dojny’s whimsical journey to a make-believe country, Elizabeth Moore’s history-based tale of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and a book by Monica Sharman on how to read the bible.



Boyd 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…”


Writes Elizabrth: “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.”


Monica received some nice reviews for this book on how to better appreciate the Scriptures. Here’s one of them:

Holy bible“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.”

1. Robin’s Blue



TPam Alster 4HE BOOK: “Robin’s Blue.”


THE AUTHOR: Pam Alster

THE EDITOR: Edan Lepucki and Les Plesko edited different drafts through the Master Writer’s Workshop at UCLA.

Pam AlsterPUBLISHER: Plexigirl Media – Indie Books, Television and Film Development

SUMMARY: Robin’s Blue, Pam Alster’s debut novel, is an epic coming-of-age story set against the disco 70’s through the Reagan-era 80’s, when divorce was the norm and casual sex and recreational drugs were ubiquitous. Robin Daniels, a runaway from a violent and emotionally desolate upper middle-class home, repeatedly navigates her world without guidance. After a failed marriage, she discounts love as an option and moves through a series of jobs and men. A futile attempt to live as a kept woman compels her to become a high-class call girl. She searches unsuccessfully through the resulting transient experiences and escalating drug use for the one lesson that will resolve her omnipresent question of purpose.

Before AIDS and addiction became household words, Robin’s Blue speaks to a generation that basically raised itself. Robin’s journey takes her from suburban Philadelphia to Miami to the South of France and ultimately to New York City where she is obliged to make peace with the girl inside she left dormant at sixteen.

THE BACK STORY:  Back in the day, we didn’t bother walking to school uphill – both ways – in the snow, we simply hitched a ride and ran away.

Coming of age during the late 70’s and 80’s makes today’s lifestyles look tame. AIDS didn’t exist, most people thought cocaine was non-addictive, beating a children sending them to boarding school to “get them in line” was commonplace. Addiction, therapy and 12-Step Programs were almost non-existent, so growing up was something many kids figured out on their own.

I am a survivor and product of the 80’s. Like many teenagers, I ran away from a loveless family, but, thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones. Despite experiencing the drug culture and living in the fast lane, I figured it out and found my way. I discovered people can survive the worst of themselves and rise above the ashes to find love and happiness.

The journey of writing about Robin’s life began with an idea based on a collection many characters I met on my journey. I started with the question of what happens to the still-young girl who finds herself in a too-early marriage for all the wrong reasons. Without a family and money, where does she go, where does she end up? Robin and her accomplices are all fictional compilations of thematically-based characters. It is not autobiographical, however, some things and experiences I have re-created from the book. As a writer, I am compelled to draw on anything absurd or fantastical I’ve come across or imagined.

Robin’s Blue took me 10 years and as many drafts to complete. One of the challenges I experienced was the first person narrative. To be an adult with hindsight and wisdom who is writing as a teenager who knows nothing of the world, through her eyes, was very limiting for me. I almost had to remove my adult brain and to “see” what Robin saw at every turn. What her choices, with her inadequate sense-of-self, low self-esteem (for which there was no definition at the time) and lack of worldly knowledge would produce for her. Without the available psycho-babble we have available to us now, it was a particular struggle, since there were no words for the themes of loss, depression, addiction, abandonment. Everything in the book is created through that restricted lens.

The book I’m currently writing is in the third person. I have so much freedom. I highly recommend it.

WHY THIS TITLE? At first, I kept seeing the book cover. Black and white, awash in robin’s egg blue. Robin’s egg blue is the signature color of Tiffany’s. I felt Robin ultimately struggled with deep loss and sadness who hid behind a Tiffany lifestyle. And, she was very blue. First, the working title was Robin Blue. I had a lot of feedback throughout the process. One person advised that I title it “Call Girl” but I believed it was so much more of a character study and it would also be pandering to the salaciousness of it to be so “on-the-nose.” A friend of mine read a later draft and suggested Robin’s Blue. It spoke to many themes throughout the story that it stuck with me. So that’s why the title.


#1 Amazon Bestseller Contemporary Coming of Age Fiction

Robin’s Blue, is a page-turner that immerses readers into the life of a teen run-away during the 1980’s as she unapologetically looks for the answers to love and happiness through drugs, men, and a series of jobs that leave her choosing between life and love.

Timeless, poignant and controversial, Robin’s Blue, explores and evokes themes such as the indelible influence life in the 70’s and 80’s had and is continuing to have on today’s children, how guilt or victimization can become a driving force behind one’s poor choices and the impact an absent parent – through death or emotional detachment can have.

Robin emerges as a girl and woman who is her own best friend and worst enemy, but I believe every woman can relate to her doubts, fears and insecurities as they follow Robin’s life journey to find a family where she belongs.


“The philosophers say ‘know thyself’ but the admonition carries its own dangers for the heroine of Pam Alster’s stunning novel, a brutal yet compassionate exposé of her protagonist, Robin, a paragon of honesty and self-deception, a cunning dissector of her own foibles and those of her lovers, friends and enemies. Under Alster’s sure touch – a mash-up of a calibrated literary eloquence with the punk directness of a sucker-punch – Robin emerges as a girl and woman who’s her own best friend and worst enemy: a tender masochist, an unrepentant liar and fearless truth-teller – or maybe the other way around – a subversive infiltrator of her own heart. Read this book. It may be trite to say: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. But I did.” –Les Plesko, author of Slow Lie Detector

“Robin’s Blue is a brilliantly vivid time capsule of blank generation 80’s decadence fused with a poignant and sensitive coming of age tale that’s totally timeless.” — ~Erik Himmelsback, Contributor, Los Angeles Times

“The colorful characters in Robin’s orbit help bolster the coked-up story, and the final part proves to be the best. Realistically captures the rough road to rock bottom.” ~Kirkus Book Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Pam Alster studied Master Fiction Writing at UCLA under the tutelage of the great late Les Plesko and is a former television writer who created the ABC/Lifetime TV show Girl Club. She wrote and performed the critically-acclaimed plays Shop Bloomingdales, Find Mother and Millennium’s Eve, both workshopped and staged in Los Angeles at the HBO Workspace, Hudson and Black Box Theaters. A former stand-up comedian, Alster performed with Gotham City Improv in New York City and is currently a contributing blogger to Elevate and She is an original member of Tertulia – a salon of professional writers and artists based in L.A. and has been honored to read at Lit-Crawl L.A. She lives in Southern California with her patient husband, old-soul daughter, baby girl, and two well-fed mutts.

AWARDS: Robin’s Blue, Pam Alster’s first novel was honored as a FINALIST for a 2014 International Best Book Awards in the categories of Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction, a FINALIST for the 2014 Indie Excellence Awards in the category of Chick-Lit, a FINALIST for the 2013 USA Best Book Awards in the categories of Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction, a 2012 FINALIST for a Kindle Book Review for Literary Fiction and recently honored for an indieBRAG Medallion in the category of Contemporary Fiction award.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “It’s my hope to offer an experience of what it was like to be in the head of a young girl during the changing and ignorant times of the 70’s and 80’s, that the scenery is painted with authentic imagery and that the reader is fully absorbed in the era.”


Robin’s Blue

by Pam Alster

Chapter 1

I waited in the designer living room for my boss to surface from the recesses of his house. He told me to come by after work and pick up inventory. Though I was technically the hotel lifeguard, my duties included manning the suntan oil sales cabana. I got the job two weeks after coming to Myrtle Beach, despite Melanie’s insistence that I’d make more money at my first job slinging disco cocktails with her. But I wanted my nights to go out and the gig allowed me to be paid for being in the sun all day.

“There’s vodka in the fridge,” Joe called from the down the hall.

For some reason, I called him Joe McClure instead of just Joe like everyone else. The whole name fit him, and it was our private joke. I’d say, hey Joe McClure! whenever he came by my pool. He

was well-liked and popular, the big daddy of the beach and I felt at ease with him, more of a friend than an employee.

I wiped a smudge off the framed picture of him and his wife holding clubs in front of a golf cart and put it back on the end table. She was attractive for an older woman. She looked confident, deserving and rich. Prettier than my stepmother, but she reminded me of her just the same, how she possessed the Kodak moment the way her leather-gloved hand held the irons. I shuddered at the thought that I might become that.

I found the vodka in the well-stocked bar and smiled at the mirror behind the sparkling bottles. My hair was in a greasy ponytail and I was still in my shorts from work but I felt sophisticated retrieving the sturdy highball glasses, even stood a little taller when I walked to the kitchen, as if cocktail hour was as natural an occurrence for me as breakfast cereal.

The refrigerator was full and there were Tupperware containers with celery and carrot sticks. I thought I’d eat healthy too if I had a nice house. I found the tonic and poured it over ice.

I was squeezing a lime when Joe emerged, showered and changed, renewed, like he’d molted. His golf shirt had drip spots from wet hair, and it was tucked, as usual, into belted Bermuda shorts.

“Hey there, Joe McClure,” I said, smiling.

He took the drink from me, stirred it with his finger and drank half of it. “Ah,” he said, grabbed cigarettes, then sat at the kitchen table.

I took a sip from my glass and the lump of ice splashed the cocktail on my face. I thought how silly I must have looked but laughed as I grabbed a napkin. I knew more than to be embarrassed by my klutziness, it worked better to let stuff slide, anything else seemed childish.

“You don’t have to be nervous, I’m not going to attack you,” Joe said, his chuckle neither harmless nor threatening. He smiled, patted the chair next to him, lit a smoke, offered me one. “You’re eighteen, aren’t you, Robin?” he said.

I’d worked for Beach Buff for a month and the issue of my age had never come up. I was suddenly nervous and thought about lying, but then decided that it didn’t matter. I was selling suntan oil, not booze. “You know I’m sixteen,” I said. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-six,” he said.

That explained the golf. It’s what grown ups did. It was their religion. My father not only played, he designed courses. It’s how we first found Myrtle Beach. For years, he traveled weekly back and forth from Pennsylvania to South Carolina overseeing whatever project.

Joe was only a couple of years younger than Daddy, but a hell of a lot more fun. Every week he held a barbeque for all his employees at the Pool Boy house, a kind of dorm for the beach and pool lifeguards. There was always a keg and live music. Joe partied and danced with everyone.

Here, he seemed fidgety and preoccupied, exhaling smoke over his shoulder, tapping ashes in the crystal.

Maybe his wife was on the way home. I’d heard she was an interior decorator. “Where’s the Missus?” I said, retying the string of my bikini top which was digging uncomfortably into my neck from under my t-shirt.

“Clients in Charleston. She’ll be there for a few days,” he said, impatient.

I was worried I’d done something wrong, when he pulled an amber bottle from his pocket. “You do coke?” he said.

“Sure,” I said, hoping he didn’t see the lie on my face. I was flattered he trusted me.

He spilled the vial of white powder onto the table and used a credit card to divide the pile into thin lines. Then he dug in his pocket, produced a short straw and handed it to me. “Ladies first,” he said.

“You go ahead, I’m going to have a little more of my drink.” I wasn’t afraid, I’d done plenty of other stuff. Various pills, pot. But I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do and hoped to stall long enough to fake it.

He held one nostril closed and inhaled the powder through the straw up the other, then he snorted hard. His eyes watered and he shook his head like a dog. “Good stuff,” he said. He stuck his finger in the residue, rubbed it on his gums and licked his lips.

Low orange sunlight reflected off the toaster, making me squint. I took the straw, pretending I’d done it a million times before, it was how I got by hanging out with college kids all summer. The coke burned a little but I didn’t feel anything except awake. I was relieved that I wasn’t instantly addicted and I didn’t feel like jumping out of a building. I copied what Joe did with the gums. It tasted bitter and my mouth got numb.

Joe’s expression changed, he was a greedy cat and I was the bowl of canned food. My face got hot with embarrassment. In spite of his thin frame, his pot-belly hung over his pants while he straddled the chair. “You’re very pretty,” he said.

It wasn’t a revelation but I’d never heard it from him and I vainly liked that he thought so. I drank the rest of my drink and a relaxed dizzy haze settled in with the liquor. The curtains ballooned from the open window and I held my up hair for the faint breeze to dry the day’s stickiness from my neck.

He tilted his chair toward me, then reached over and brushed the inside of my thigh. I wasn’t shaken, but we’d never touched beyond a friendly squeeze. “I see how the guys fawn over you. You’re getting around this summer.” He said this quietly like a secret he knew about me.

I hadn’t realized my recklessness was so obvious. I let go of my hair, fanned myself with my hand, tried not to look at him.

“You’re a horny little girl, aren’t you?” he said, tossing his allegation at me like a basketball from the free-throw line. His usually bland marble eyes turned feral.

I blushed at his directness. No one ever talked to me this way before. Despite the privacy of the house, I looked over my shoulder. I didn’t feel safe, uncertain where it would lead. “Maybe,” I said, unable to think of anything clever to deflect his confusing scrutiny.

I tasted the coke settling in the back of my throat and went for the cigarettes but before I got to them, Joe reached over and pinched my nipple through the shirt.

“Nice tits,” he said.

I batted his hand away. His vulgarity shocked me. But it was my own fault for assuming he wouldn’t put the moves on me. That he should’ve been looking out for me was immaterial.

I got up, filled my glass with ice, tried to act casual. Would it be unbearable? It’s true, I wasn’t hot for his body but maybe since he was experienced he’d know how to make me come. Up to now, I’d been with boys my own age and they didn’t know any more than I did. Sex had hardly been the explosion I’d expected.

Joe put out his cigarette, finished his drink, stretched.

“What about your wife?” I said.

His arrogant smirk suggested I had already consented. “We have an open relationship,” he said, shrugging, as if I should know what he meant.

I hoped it implied secrecy. There were sure to be some advantages to it. A better deck assignment, drugs. He was clearly a liar and a letch, but not dangerous. Otherwise, why would all my co-workers have stuck around? The thing that scared me the most was the seediness of it all, but maybe he’d let me drive his Mercedes. I poured more vodka than I needed and took a gulp.

Classical music from a passing car floated in and then disappeared down the street.

Joe came from behind me where I stood, stuck his hand down the front of my pants, moved the crotch of my swimsuit to the side and shoved a finger in me. I tried wriggling free but he was persistent, and I realized I’d finally got myself into a mess I wasn’t getting out of. Whatever was going to happen, I’d deserve it. I should have run right then. He was disgusting. But what if he wouldn’t like me anymore, or worse, fired me? I’d have no way of explaining it. Melanie would love that. And, shamefully, it felt good.

I resisted, turned my head so he couldn’t kiss me but I let him pull me to the floor and open my legs on the kitchen tile. The crickets chirped beyond the screen door in the waning daylight.

He was presumptive, pushy, lacking self-consciousness. He shoved his face up in it. “You’re so clean,” he said.

I thought: wasn’t everyone? I hadn’t even showered.

The year before I was sent to boarding school, my best friend Donna and I hitched to Center City. We walked into a head shop and I danced in my brown corduroy Levi’s and a pink angora sweater to Play That Funky Music for the stoned Indian owner while Donna lifted a pipe and some incense from the front of the store. The guy didn’t touch me but I saw then how easy it was.

I hovered like my ghost, eyes squeezed shut, while Joe dined on the remains of my innocence. And though I thought how a nice girl wouldn’t dare give herself to a married man with twenty years on her, or use her body for personal gain, I also knew nice was boring and I never wanted boring. I felt brave for permitting this and surviving it. It was like ripping off a bandage to minimize the pain of what I knew the adult world held for me. Men whose cruelty could only be managed if weakened at the altar of my sex.

BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble PRICE: Paperback $15.99 Kindle $4.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find Pam Alster on Facebook, Twitter @plexigirl and in between writing, editing and producing, my blog can occasionally be read at Posts From the Evolution at

2. Paisley Memories

PUPaisley MemoriesBLISHED IN: November 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Zelle Andrews.

THE EDITOR: Gina Hogan Edwards, Melisa Taylor.

THE PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing.

SUMMARY: At seventeen, Tess Zelle AndrewsCooper was a high school drop-out, an orphan, and a single mom to a baby girl with Down syndrome. The next two years didn’t turn out like she thought it would.

After her dad’s death, she flees Brooksville, Alabama, in his beloved 1957 Thunderbird before the red clay on his grave can settle. A year of traveling from place to place brings Tess and Paisley to the deep fried, southern town of Panacea, Florida, where her money runs out. A stranger, named Butterball, takes them in and gives Tess a job taking pictures at Wakulla Springs State Park and the annual Sopchoppy Work Grunting Festival.

Afraid to trust these people, Tess plans to leave, but the T-bird is stolen and she is forced to stay. Paisley is thriving on all the attention. Tess weighs her options. Can she give her baby what she needs? Should she put down roots in this place where she has found friends? Or should she give Paisley up for adoption and head out on a life of her own?

THE BACK STORY: This novel started on a scrap of paper. A few weeks later my husband and I were cleaning off the kitchen counters of clutter when he found it. I was embarrassed and yanked it away. He had no idea I was working on a novel until that moment. He has been encouraging me ever since.

Shortly after that I joined Tallahassee Writer’s Association, and I haven’t looked back. The novel took about four years to write, but I’ve been writing for fun off and on since I was a child. I didn’t get serious and consider it something that could be a career until I joined Tallahassee Writer’s Association. The research for my novel was considered more fun than research. I visited Wakulla Springs, the Sopchoppy Worm Grunting Festival, and Wakulla Historical Society.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I wrote the type of book that I would have enjoyed as a young woman that had just given birth to a physically and mentally challenged baby. I was scared when my daughter was born and far away from my family. There was very little reading material available on the subject of Down syndrome. What I was able to find was more like a textbook. I needed something to read that showed me life would continue, and be filled with spontaneous laughter.


“I started this book yesterday and couldn’t stop for the life of me. Wonderfully written, Paisley Memories is a heartwarming story. It breaks your heart and then puts it back together.” Carolina Godinho, Blogger

AUTHOR PROFILE: My first endeavor at writing was at the age of twelve. It was a short poem I wrote in middle school that was selected to be published in the Tallahassee Democrat. Many years later when I was grown and had children of my own I found the yellowed newspaper clipping that my mother had saved.

Paisley Memories is my debut novel and was four years in the making. It was a great day when it found a home with Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. I live near the Florida coast with my family. When I’m not writing or reading I’m being entertained by our two boxers, Ruby and Cooper, collecting peacock and beach décor or collecting books for my Free Little Library by our house.


The weight of Paisley on my hip caused my high heels to sink slowly in the soft, Alabama red clay. Many people came to pay their respects. They lingered for a while, hugging and consoling each other, but when the first one decided to leave, the rest followed like a stampede. Potted mums were removed and placed to the side. The uncomfortable, gray metal chairs were folded and placed in a waiting truck to be returned to the funeral home. I held my breath as they lowered my dad’s casket into his new home. With each inch the casket descended in its red tomb, my heart descended too.

The last guest reached out to touch my shoulder as she shook her head. No words came to her. I didn’t even know who she was. She drove away without saying a word. Everyone left, but their whispers lingered and became a dark, oppressive cloud-whispers of what would become of my daughter Paisley and me, now that my dad had died. The sting of their words still circulated: out of wedlock, orphan, retarded, unemployed, uneducated, high school dropout. I blinked to stop the tears flowing from my eyes and stood in silence as clay was dropped on top of his casket. The funeral director attempted to persuade me to leave, but it didn’t work. I had to see this. The grave digger placed a large mountain of red clay over the grave that made me think of a gigantic ant bed. He patted it down, reminding me of patting someone’s back when saying good-bye. Well, this was good-bye.

When the last person left, I pulled my heels free from their clay prison, heaved Paisley a little higher on my hip, and walked to the headstone. Without a thought, I raked my hand over the engraving of George Daniel Cooper and Margaret Rose Cooper. My mom’s engraved date of death only three days after my birth was green with algae and smooth to the touch. My dad’s date of death, April 5, 2013, felt new, rough, and sharp on my fingertips.

“I hate you,” I said as my fingertips lingered on his name. Then my fingers curled into an ugly claw. I walked toward my dad’s 1957 Thunderbird, my escape from this place, and fastened Paisley in her car seat.

The Samsonite luggage was stacked so high it bulged under the dry-rotted convertible top. Duct tape covered a previous rip from when our neighbor’s overweight cat decided it was a nice spot to catch a few rays. It was the only waterproof part of the top.

His car, which was now mine, rattled to a start. After making sure I was alone, off came the depressing black dress. My high heels were next. There I sat, in my cutoff jeans, gray tank top, jade-colored toenails, and flip flops on the floorboards. The house was already sold, so the only place to change would have been in a fast-food stop. I didn’t want to stop anywhere on the way out of town. I just wanted to get the “heck out of Dodge.” So done with this town and the people in it. The gears moaned in protest when I lowered the ragtop.

A few memories of my life here traveled with me: Paisley, in the car seat beside me, my dad’s lucky wheat penny in my pocket, and the family album I grabbed on the way out the door. Dad always said that family albums should be filled with treasured photos of fond memories. I stopped putting pictures in it when Dad died. There wasn’t even a photo of Paisley, and she was a little over a year old.

While driving through the iron-gated entrance of Goodbread Memory Gardens in Brooksville, Alabama, I purposely knocked the rearview and side mirrors out of place, so I wasn’t tempted to look back. Someone once told me not to look back when leaving for a journey, as it was bad luck. I’d had all the bad luck one person could stand in this life, and I wasn’t going to take any chances. This was going to be a journey of epic proportions.

LOCAL OUTLETS: My Favorite Books WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:, Amazon, Nook, and Kindle PRICE: $13.95 CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

twitter – @maryleigh1967