The Revlon Slough

This week’s other featured book, “The Islands of Iros,” by L.M. Brackley, can be found by scrolling below, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

THE BOOK: The Revlon Slough.


THE AUTHOR: Ray DiZazzo.

THE EDITOR: Sean Dillon, Design by Gabrielle David.


SUMMARY: The Revlon Slough is meant simply to explore
the people, creatures and situations that we all experience. It is not
an activist or confessional collection, but rather a group of poems
that focuses, through powerful imagery, on the often unnoticed and
unusual perspectives we navigate continually.

THE BACK STORY: Several years ago, on an afternoon drive through the farmlands in my area, I passed a sign that read ‘THE REVLON SLOUGH”. Being a word guy, this juxtaposition of two words that would seem like complete opposites, immediately caught my eye. Revlon: lashes, lipstick, rouge; and Slough: silt, mud, overgrown reeds. Beauty versus ugliness. How could anyone possibly name a slough Revlon? That lead to the beginnings of a new poem and a personal exploration of the difference between beauty and ugliness. After a good deal of thought and writing I ended up with a large group of poems and a simple, time-worn cliché: Beauty and ugliness are not two different states. Either can be considered beautiful or ugly. It’s only the viewer, “the eye of the beholder” that sets them apart.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title seemed to fit the book’s beauty and ugliness theme. Some of the poems are what certain “beholders” would see as beautiful and others would see as ugly. Where they fall on the beauty/ugliness scale is the perception of the reader.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I believe a good deal of the poetry circulating today comes off as aloof or vague and convoluted. The reader has to dig to find the message or meaning. The Revlon Slough is, for the most part, clear and easily understandable poetry. But it also presents some often overlooked and very unusual perspectives. Hopefully these qualities offer the reader the surprising, ah-ah moments that lead to personal revelations and a desire to keep turning pages.


“The Revlon Slough has managed to do the nearly impossible: to
enter into the minds and experiences of the human and non-human world he imagines with both fresh imagery and insight.” — Laurel Ann Bogen, poet, writer and literary curator

“What Ray DiZazzo has written is a series of vivid, emotional experiences coming from the printed page into the readers’ hearts and souls. He has managed to powerfully communicate the intimate thoughts and feelings that many, if not all of us, experience, but never find ways to express.” — Phillips Wylly, writer, producer, director/

“Ray DiZazzo is a wordsmith whose poetry is inspired from a lifelong journey of human experiences. The Revlon Slough lays those experiences bare for his readers with a wide range of poems: Strident and moving, heartfelt and nostalgic, some loving and some cruel and irreverent.” — Ralph Philips, writer, producer, director.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m 76 years old, married for 52 of those years, and having a great time creating what I believe is writing that matters. I have published fiction, poetry, criticism, nonfiction and self-help in commercial and literary magazines, newspapers and 14 books. A few of the magazines include: “The Mid-Atlantic Review”, “Valley Magazine”, “The Christian Science Monitor”, “Inc.”, “The Berkeley Review”, “Poetry Now”, and “The Coachella Review”. I am the recipient of the Percival Roberts Book Award and the Rhysling Award. I am also a Pushcart Prize
nominee. My work has been anthologized in “Contemporary Literary Criticism” and other publications.

A half-hour documentary program scripted by me for KOCE TV won the first Los Angeles Emmy in the Education category. In addition, I’ve published four books of poetry: Clovin’s Head, Red Hill Press, 1976, Songs for a Summer Fly, Kenmore Press (Chapbook), 1978; The Water Bulls, Granite-Collen, 2009, and The Revlon Slough, 2Leaf Press/University of Chicago Press, 2018. My newest book of poems, Tropic Then, will be released in April 2023, from 2Leaf Press/The University of Chicago Press. A search of my name on Amazon, Google, or IMDB will provide more background.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I believe this book will help readers become more aware of, and thus better understand, the life experiences we navigate every day. My hope is that this awareness springs from imagery discovered on the pages of The Revlon Slough.


Four Poems.


With no connection to a rouge or lipstick,
it has hollowed down to a wound of puddles
overhung with bush, and running jagged
through the Camarillo farmlands.

Strings of silt wave in its shallow pools
dank with the smell of tangled roots
and earth gone bad, home to tunnel webs
families of flies and strutting killdeer.

A single heron stands in the curved shallow
distance, where migrants sit along its banks
in the orange afternoons eating boiled pork
and telling tales of spirits in the corn.


The water bulls are wrong.

As round with love
as they may be

as bloated tight
with the tenderness
of weight and dreams

their sun has set for good.

Huddled in the reeds
their crescent horns ringing
with the frequencies of night

they never see, never understand
that stars give off so little
warmth, lunar light is icy

and the calves are
shivering beside them


Over years,
and with the loss of seven fingers

he has learned to swing the cleaver
in the first and third fingers
of his right hand.

His left palm (whitish nubs
and a muscled thumb) is used to situate
and feed the slabs of bleeding meat.

I am waiting for an order
flinching at the blade
as time and time again it sinks

beside the cutter’s last thumb.

He glances up and
reading my expression, chuckles.

“Only thing I know, “ he says
“besides a cleaver and a lean stew
is how to play guitar.

And that’s no way
to make a living.”


At heights like this
horizons bend to haze-arcs
enemy encampments, where
in one today, a tiny general is
stepping from a jungle tent
into the convex gleam of
calibrated glass and cross-hairs.

And far away above this
invisible in face-paint and
a shawl of weeds, you are
lying spread on something like
a precipice in heaven.

Pleased with the lack of wind
tranquil in the solitude of height
and distance, you wrap a finger
on the trigger’s iron curve
brace for the stock-punch
take the breath




LOCAL OUTLETS: Bank of Books, Ventura CA
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Most online book sites, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
PRICE: $18.95

The Islands of Iros

THE BOOK: The Islands of Iros.

THE AUTHOR: L.M. Bracklow

: Anita Salzberg

: Self Published

SUMMARY: Three close friends-Luke, fearless, optimistic, outgoing; Damien, steadfast, self-contained, loyal; and Kaori, smart, strong-minded, determined-journey across the sea with the Crimson Raiders, their island’s fearless champions, to find the sorcerer’s finger, rumored to bestow unimaginable power on the one who consumes it-enough power to vanquish their island’s enemies. This fast-paced, engaging story mixes vicious pirates, seductive sirens, gruesome monsters and so much more as it weaves magic, mayhem, and adventure into a tale of deep friendship told with great style and good humor.

: The idea for The Islands of Iros came to me while I was watching three different animes at the same time. One Piece, Attack on Titan, and Jujutsu Kaisen. You could say my book is a combination of those shows, except I made it kid-friendly! One Piece inspired me to write about all these dangerous and mysterious islands you’ll get to read about in my book. The soldiers/military aspect of The Islands of Iros came from Attack on Titan. And the sorcerer’s finger was inspired by Jujutsu Kaisen. I had a lot of fun playing around with these ideas and creating something that was completely my own. The Islands of Iros took me about five months to write, and almost two years went by before I could finally hold a finished physical copy in my hands! 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think something that makes The Islands of Iros stand out is its nuanced emotional arc, as well as the characters and their complex personalities! Who doesn’t want to read about kids going on big adventures? Identity is a big theme in my book. My characters’ identities are tested when they must make hard choices. With every decision my characters make, they become more themselves. I also explored some much darker themes like the loss of a family member and how dangerous revenge can be. I have a lot of faith in kids – they’re smarter than they’re often given credit for! – and I know that my readers will be able to make sense of the sometimes complex themes in the book.


Karen Hammond, 5-star Review – “A great well rounded magical fantasy adventure story full of tension to keep you reading into the wee hours.” 

Kathryn McLeer, 5-star Review – “I really enjoyed reading this, it was I was hoping for a young adult fantasy novel, I was invested in the world and did what I hoped for from a good fantasy novel. The characters were really unique and did what I was expecting. I enjoyed getting through this novel and was hoping for more in this world. I really enjoyed the way L.M. Bracklow wrote this and look forward to reading more from them. “A  man with a long beard and a tattered robe walked out of the shadows, but something about him wasn’t right. The man’s appearance was spectral. Luke could see right through him. A ghost. The old man was a ghost. What had Luke gotten himself into? He needed an escape plan, but how was he supposed to run when he couldn’t even stand?”

Alison Kinsey, 5-Star Review – “Loved it loved it loved it.

“I definitely will be buying this book. This author knows how to write a story. 10/10 recommend!”

AUTHOR PROFILE: L.M. Bracklow is a Peruvian author who loves dogs, traveling, and reading as many books as she can get her hands on. She has a degree in sports journalism, but her true passion is writing books for children. Enthralled by fantasy since she was a little girl, Bracklow has now written a fantastical story of her own. The Islands of Iros is the book of her heart, and she hopes kids everywhere will enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it! Bracklow is eager to continue unfolding Luke, Kaori, and Damien’s stories in what may ultimately be a five or six book series.
 I hope readers can relate to my characters! That’s one of the most important things to me. When I was younger, I’d always look for personality traits in characters that were like my own. It made me so happy to read about a character I could identify with! I really hope kids can relate to Luke, Kaori and Damien. I also want readers to get caught up in the world I created, and I hope my characters stay with them for a long time. If my book makes them


Weather Report, January 23

(Photo from Rose-Conn).

Our currently featured books, “Larvae of the Nearest Stars,” by Catherine Carter and “Remembered,” by Yvonna Battle-Felton, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the Monthly Replay.  Or click the author’s name on our Authors page.




Writes Ray: I believe a good deal of the poetry circulating today comes off as aloof or vague and convoluted. The reader has to dig to find the message or meaning. The Revlon Slough is, for the most part, clear and easily understandable poetry. But it also presents some often overlooked and very unusual perspectives. Hopefully these qualities offer the reader the surprising, ah-ah moments that lead to personal revelations and a desire to keep turning pages.”


Three close friends-Luke, fearless, optimistic, outgoing; Damien, steadfast, self-contained, loyal; and Kaori, smart, strong-minded, determined-journey across the sea with the Crimson Raiders, their island’s fearless champions, to find the sorcerer’s finger, rumored to bestow unimaginable power on the one who consumes it-enough power to vanquish their island’s enemies. This fast-paced, engaging story mixes vicious pirates, seductive sirens, gruesome monsters and so much more as it weaves magic, mayhem, and adventure into a tale of deep friendship told with great style and good humor.

Larvae of the Nearest Stars

This week’s other featured book, “Remembered,” by Yvonne Battle-Felton, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the Monthly Replay. Or just click the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: Larvae of the Nearest Stars

: 2019.

THE AUTHOR:  Catherine Carter.

: Neal Novak

: Louisiana State University Press (LSUP).

SUMMARY: One reader described this book as “finding ways to keep on loving the world in the face of endless shit”, and that’s not a bad description.  Some of the ways include considering and  re-seeing our origins (and the privileges they may have given us) in the light of maturity and mortality, working our way through various anguishes, living as fully as possible in the best moments as they pass, and, in the words of one poem, “making and mending, choosing to be kind.” Despite the anguishes, which are real and bitter and sometimes last longer than our lives, this is basically a book of praise and joy. 

THE BACK STORY: I didn’t exactly decide to write a book, or this book; my books tend to come together poem by poem, like stalactites or stalagmites slowing accreting calcium.  Most of my poems are one-offs, you might say, until they’re not.  But when I submitted this book to LSUP in 2016, the reader’s recommendation was not to publish it; the reader felt strongly that it didn’t have a strong enough arc or hold together coherently enough.  So I had to revise it pretty hard to make (what I thought was) the arc more visible to readers…and while I was very reluctant at first, the irony was that it made a much better book.

Funny story about that:  the anonymous reader who gave that first report didn’t scrub her name out of the document properties, so I was able to see who it was right away.  And in the first waves of feeling bitter, self-pitying, and cruelly misunderstood, I thought wistfully about sending that reader a roadkilled possum by mail—book rate, so it would have extra time to rot in transit.  Fortunately, I didn’t do that.  But eventually I was able to figure out how to make the changes she’d suggested; the book DID turn out much better for it; and then I thought, “well, I’m glad I didn’t send that possum, and now some locally-made chocolates would be a lot more appropriate.” But I didn’t do that either…until, a couple of years later, I saw the reader’s name on Facebook and sent her a friend request with a message explaining my better and worser impulses, thanking her (very belatedly) for the feedback that had made the book better, and asking if she’d still accept a box of fancy chocolates and, if so, what her preferences and aversions in chocolate might be.  She responded so kindly, forgiving my horrible thoughts and telling me how she’d struggled and agonized over that reader’s report; I sent the chocolates; and by and large it turned out much better than I initially thought it ever could.  You might call it a cautionary tale in thinking twice at such moments.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The phrase “larvae of the nearest stars” came from a poem about seining (a seine is a net) for carp in a flooded parking lot; the seine starts out by bringing up usual suspects like grass shrimp, silversides, beer cans, and condoms, but goes on to find baby sea serpents, fingerling mermaids, and bioluminescent copepods, “which, seen close, reveal themselves to be / the sparkling larvae of the nearest stars.”  So that made for a title that would give the designer some scope. The first title was Mortal Minerals, and even I knew that was making things pretty hard on the artist (were they supposed to put a rock on the cover?), but I hadn’t come up at that point with anything I liked better.  So the change of title was also due to the reader who sent the report (thanks again, Alison!) and pointed out that that was a pretty weak title. But it also summed up the book in a secondary way, because everything on earth, including all life, including our human lives, was indeed spawned from materials spun out by the literal stars.  The “elements of life”, or “CHNOPS elements” – carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur – are integral to all life on Earth.  So all the things and people I name and praise and think about in the book really are larvae of the stars. 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The poet Thomas Lux, whom we lost way too soon, once described the poems as “oddball.”  But  Larvae of the Nearest Stars offers quirky, accessible, sometimes-surprising verse that takes on serious topics while also encouraging readers to laugh out loud. It’s light-hearted, often, but not lightweight.  The collection begins and ends by confronting the necessity—and the promise—to bear witness to the world as it is, addressing how we can manage to love the world in the face of everything that makes doing so a challenge.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “Catherine Carter’s poems are Big Dipper fishhooks.  Enter unguarded a subject such as a hornets’ nest, an outhouse, a Sunday afternoon, and then—something else happens, or becomes visible.  ‘This / is us’ it turns out, ‘mortal minerals / in the brief era of stars, this is it.’ “  –Sarah Lindsay, author of Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower

“I’ve been an admirer of Catherine Carter’s poetry for over a decade, but this collection achieves a whole new level with its craft, vision, and urgency.  Larvae of the Nearest Stars makes clear that she is one of our country’s finest poets, and her book deserves a place on the same shelf as collections by Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.  ‘I will / not cease telling,’ Carter tells us in the final poem.  May it long be so.” Ron Rash, PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and NYT-bestselling author of Serena

“…a net of great vision, rich in opulent sound and an inexhaustible willingness to exploit as much finite detail as possible, as we catapult, clamor, scurry, and are transported along with a flood…” –Amber Flora Thomas, for the North Carolina Literary Review, 2021.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I’m the author of three prior books of poems:  The Memory of Gills (LSUP 2007), The Swamp Monster at Home (LSUP, 2012), and Marks of the Witch (Jacar Press, 2014).  I’m a professor of English, specializing in English Education (that means I help to prepare teachers) and professional writing, at Western Carolina University, a regional comprehensive situated in the southern Appalachians on what has historically been Cherokee land. My work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Ecotone, Poetry, PloughsharesRHINO, Tar River Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, and Asheville Poetry Review, among others.  It’s won the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society’s Roanoke-Chowan Award, the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Randall Jarrell Award, and the North Carolina Literary Review’s James Applewhite Poetry Contest, and has been repeatedly nominated for Pushcarts (though without any notable success in actually winning Pushcarts, alas.)I live with a spouse and some animals and a whole lot of bees.  On a good day, I can requeen a hive and roll a whitewater kayak; on less good days, I collect stings, rockrash, and multiple contusions.   

 AUTHOR COMMENTS: My most central concern is probably human people’s interactions with the nonhuman and our participation in interlinked ecosystems in which we participate and which we co-create in concert with many other factors and forces.  I’ll quote from a recent interview which Wilson Wyatt and Anne Colwell were kind enough to give me in Delmarva Review:  ‘People often talk as though focusing on exclusively human concerns were stark realism and “nature” were just some pretty, external thing that’s nice to have: but [I think] that’s only because so many people haven’t [yet] had the opportunity to learn differently.  To quote my father, everything we do, everything we are, and everything we have comes from the earth.  The keyboard on which I’m typing these words, the microchips in which they’re  encoded, the tiny muscles of the fingers which type them, the neurons which carry the impulses that move the fingers, the coffee in your cup, the cup itself, all our conceptions of finance or religion or love or peace or whatever else we think is centrally important:  none of that is possible for us without the elements of life in this world, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and all the rest.  None of it sprang from disembodied human minds; it’s all the result of living on this particular earth in these particular bodies and brains, on a world which contains liquid water. And those who doubt it might want to try explaining all those “higher” and “more important” things while holding the breath they need to speak those words.  “Nature” is us; our bodies, our breath, our hunger, our desire are nature.  What we do to nonhuman nature, we do to ourselves.’

But I’m also, as you might imagine, very interested in teaching and education, and I do some volunteer work in local schools sometimes to try to introduce young humans to poetry gently, without perpetuating that destructive sense that poetry is incredibly hard and abstruse, understandable only if you’ve got a teacher’s manual handy with all the answers.  I’m working now on a book of lesson plans for secondary English classrooms to help teachers use poetry and creative writing to address a number of state and national standards which don’t explicitly mention it, and to help them de-mystify poetry…because teachers are often as baffled and intimidated by poetry as the students they teach.  If teachers present poetry as a set of literary devices to be decoded, it’s often because no one’s taught them how to work with its expressive levels or teach it as something anyone can learn to do.  There’s kind of a generational cycle of abuse surrounding poetry, and I’d like to help at least a few teachers and students break loose from it. 

SAMPLE: I wrote this in 2016, when I had occasion to remark that a lot of people like me were “coming late to the party of outrage.”  And once you say something like that, you kind of have to think about it—what’s it like at the party of outrage?  What kind of snacks do they serve?  Who’s there, and why?  And this poem was the result.


It’s not much of a party,
though some of the people are beautiful,
their songs throbbing deeper than rivers,
their door-grate scrolled with an iron tree
of life. Few really want to go
to the party of outrage, all that ugly
knowledge baked into the crackers
like arsenic, dissolved in the water
like lead.  It’s been going on
five hundred years, or ten
thousand; everyone’s tired. 
The toilets are all stopped up. 
The crowds surge thick as blades
of dying grass; a fire of chairs reeks
and smokes on the bathroom floor
where a man in fatigues clutches
himself in his arms, choking
back whimpers.  Stacked against
the walls are half-sized coffins. 
One woman, her ankles fluid-puffed
and her eyes blazing with veins,
holds another, who is weeping
softly with exhaustion.  Like two
great trees propping each other up, black
walnuts, tulip poplars, they keep
standing: no place to sit down. 
We are late to the party and reap
cynical glances: only now? 
Madison makes remarks
about how things are done here,
the crack on the kitchen table, no
Pinot Grigio, slits her eyes
at a teenaged boy shrieking curses
out the splintered window.  Tiffany whispers
that she doesn’t feel very welcome,
while a tattooed girl with a rope
burn on her neck rolls a black eye.
I think that despite my outrage, myself,
I could really stand a night off—
watch CSI Special Victims,
this isn’t the only party in this burning
city, not for us, not yet.  When we leave,
swearing we’ll be back tomorrow,
no one follows; this is where they live.  

LOCAL OUTLETSCity Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC; Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, Asheville, NC.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Direct from LSUP.  If you really want an online empire, it is available through Barnes and Noble,, and such, including a Kindle version.  But I encourage you instead to order it in print or in digital format through an independent bookstore, either one of those I’ve listed above or whatever your nearest independent bookstore may be.  Amazon doesn’t need more support; local bookstores absolutely do. 

PRICE: I think they charge &18.95, and the Kindle version is $6.77, though you can probably get it cheaper used.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: My website is, my email address is, and my Facebook handle is professorchaosWCU


THE BOOK: Remembered.


THE AUTHOR: Yvonne Battle-Felton.

THE EDITOR: Deirdre Curley.

THE PUBLISHER: Blackstone Publishing.

SUMMARY: It’s 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. The Union is threatening to strike. The Company is threatening. Tensions have boiled over and flow through the street like blood, shattering communities like glass.

In the middle of this glass, lies Edward. He was in the streetcar that barrelled down a lane into a shop window of a segregated store. Was. Pulled out of the wreckage by an angry mob, Edward is beaten by them and the police for a crime he may or may not have committed.

Set in 1910 Philadelphia and 1840-1864 Maryland, Remembered is a historical fiction, framed narrative that follows Spring and her sister before they were born, through slavery, and beyond, through stories of Spring’s life and Tempe’s death. Through vivid descriptions, complex characters, and haunting, the novel explores 24 years in America’s slaveholding past over 24 hours in its post emancipation present. Remembered is the story of Spring, his mother, and her dead sister Tempe’s journey to lead Edward home.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote Remembered for my Creative Writing PhD. When I started the program, I knew I wanted to read and write stories about Black Americans finding one another after the Emancipation. I wanted to know how families found one another physically when they didn’t have one another’s names, locations, and when so much time had passed. I also wanted to know how they reconnected emotionally/psychologically and what happened to the trauma and grief, to all that pain they might have felt. Slavery was a horror and we’re still living with its legacy. I needed to write about that. My PhD was four years. I wrote Remembered and also the thesis in that time. So, I found myself writing about mothering, memory, silences, definitions of home, and of course needed to write a book that reminded us all that everyone has a story to tell and that we all have a right to tell our stories and not be judged by stereotypes.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Initially, the initial title was Letters to Edward. The title came to me even before I started writing the book. I “knew” Edward was going to be the main character and that there were letters/stories that he inherited. The book was going to include a life-time of letters written by Tempe, Edward’s biological mother, that were given to him sometime after her death. But, I found myself tied to the letters like who was holding on to them? How had she learned to read? When had Edward learned to read? But also, the more I got to know the characters and their story, the more the book became about Tempe, Spring, and the relationship between sisters. The title weighed down what was possible for the book. Jenn Ashworth, my thesis supervisor, recommended changing the title if it no longer fit. Remembered was a sort of holding title that really captured what I was trying to do and what I needed to do with the book. The book is about the ways individuals remember and carry stories. The title grabbed a hold of me and stuck. It just fit.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I write character-driven prose. I’m interested in people, the choices they make, and what they’re willing to do to get what they want. I write to figure that out. I also write to make sense of what people do and to find/make my own way in the world. Like reading, writing helps me to navigate my way. It makes me a kinder person. Remembered is plump with characters who often do things we as readers don’t like. Like people, they have their own circumstances, reasons, and boundaries. With rich prose and vivid descriptions, I think the book reminds us that sometimes the people we love do things that we don’t like. Set in Philadelphia and Maryland, Remembered is historical fiction. It’s a framed narrative that explores 24-years of America’s (1840-1864) over 24-hours of America’s present (1910).


Remembered was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Not the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

I’ve copied/pasted these from Blackstone’s website:

“Yvonne Battle-Felton’s Remembered is an enchanting tale of hauntings and redemption. Battle-Felton’s vision is epic, her insight is piercing, and her characters are unforgettable.” — Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of The Revisioners

“It’s haunting and militant and very visceral and compassionate, [a] heart-wrenching story and painful to read. — ”Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People

“Vital, important, and humane. Everyone needs to read this book.” — Jenn Ashworth, author of Notes Made While Falling.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I typically write short stories (contemporary fiction) and historical fiction. I also write personal essays, short plays, animated scripts. I also write for children and have written six creative nonfiction titles for children, a short story, a middle-grade adventure and am writing my first film treatment. At the end of the day, I love stories and I love writing stories that feature characters living, loving, and laughing on the screen, page, and stage. My second novel is about an all-black rural town with sinister practices. The publisher should be announcing that one soon. I’ve started writing a third—or a third has started coming to me in wisps of stories. Here are a few links to some of pieces.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I dedicated the book to my children. It’s important to me that they know they are always enough. I want my children to live happy, full lives, unencumbered by the weight of other people’s prejudices. I want that for all of us. My children, me, and for you too. At its heart, Remembered is also a love story. I wanted each of my characters to have love in their lives for no matter how long (or short) it lasted. I guess I want that for all of us too.

SAMPLE: (There is an audio sample on the publisher’s website. I narrated the audiobook) Remembered on publisher’s website: Remembered on Amazon.

LOCAL OUTLETS: If you’re in Philly, why not stop by Uncle Bobbie’s or Harriet’s Bookshop?

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones/

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I’m on Twitter @YBattleFelton and on Instagram: whyiwritebattlefelton

Monthly Replay, Jan. 17

This feature has a two-fold purpose: 1. To allow those recently added to our followers list to discover books they might have missed and 2. To make sure previously featured authors and their work aren’t forgotten. If you’d like to learn more about any of the books revisited here, simply click on the “Authors” page, then on that author’s name.



Rose Emma Parmlee reflects on her 90 years as she compiles a diary that she began in her youth. As she records the migration of a family from England, to the new England, to Iowa, Rose exposes a family’s deepest secrets, including her own unrecoverable relationship with her mother, cousins a bit too close by blood and water, and an entire lineage her siblings never knew. Through an elegantly accessible, minimalist style, like the silence and whispers of all dark secrets, Rose takes the reader into her confidence to join an epistolary journey through intricate relationships, complicated ancestries, and intertwining lives that shaped a watershed and every woman’s place within it.


Writes on reviewer: “An expert and articulate historical novel. The period details, class protest, and feminist protest are particularly engaging, as is the central character, Marion, whose resourcefulness recalls that of Zola’s Denise Badu in The Ladies’ Paradise. In Marion’s case, her redesign of conventional corsets speaks to humanizing social constrictions for women as well as easing physical ones.”


Writes Kate: “Ghosty Boo is the rowdy, dark, little girl ghost of my own curious childhood. Growing up on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere, sometimes in traumatic and neglectful situations, I was drawn to storytelling as a coping mechanism for both loneliness and keeping my chin up. This book gives the character Ghosty Boo an opportunity to finally speak through her childlike (albeit muddied and grotesque) lens by conversing back and forth with my present, adult voice.”


The Granola Diet promises to turn curvy Sara Rodríguez Bloom García into a svelte, new woman in no time. Once it does, her husband’s rekindled passions will be unstoppable—she hopes. But what starts out as another fad diet, leads Sara on a time travel journey of perilous twists and turns—fraught with double-agents, lusty redheads, and a deadly serum. Sara’s possibly-magical cat, a sexy former crush, tasty meals, and vivid music enliven the darker moments.


From a rebiew: “Sarah Busse’s elegant first book, Somewhere Piano, is filled with music: birdsong that startles from sky and branch, pianos deftly struck in practice or performance, and the sound of human voices, especially those of mother and children, heard in surprised response to the world’s grief and wonder. Busse’s words are entirely original, as accessible as a neighbor’s, yet unique and captivating: “summer’s vowels” are like “a blues refrain,” “the body of a house…wavers and avers,” and the world surrounding us—a place of “trembling and fertility, choices made and/here is a life”— transforms survival, at least briefly, into joy. Restless, wise, and vulnerable, Somewhere Piano asks us to listen carefully, and repays our close attention with poems of lasting force. “


“Walter is tired of his boring job and wants to retire early. He sneaks a bed into his office to save on rent and enjoys free lunch and dinner in the company cafeteria. But then he falls in love with a cute coworker, she becomes pregnant and life gets complicated.”

Weather Report, January 16

(Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington, DC).

Our currrently featured books, “The Boxer’s Mask,” by John McLucas, “Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders?”  by Rose Mary Boehm and “Spooky Action at a Distance,” by David Alpaugh, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page. 




From Yvonne: “I write character-driven prose. I’m interested in people, the choices they make, and what they’re willing to do to get what they want. I write to figure that out. I also write to make sense of what people do and to find/make my own way in the world. Like reading, writing helps me to navigate my way. It makes me a kinder person. Remembered is plump with characters who often do things we as readers don’t like. Like people, they have their own circumstances, reasons, and boundaries. With rich prose and vivid descriptions, I think the book reminds us that sometimes the people we love do things that we don’t like. Set in Philadelphia and Maryland, Remembered is historical fiction. It’s a framed narrative that explores 24-years of America’s (1840-1864) over 24-hours of America’s present (1910).”


“I’ve been an admirer of Catherine Carter’s poetry for over a decade, but this collection achieves a whole new level with its craft, vision, and urgency.  Larvae of the Nearest Stars makes clear that she is one of our country’s finest poets, and her book deserves a place on the same shelf as collections by Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry.  ‘I will / not cease telling,’ Carter tells us in the final poem.  May it long be so.” Ron Rash, PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and NYT-bestselling author of Serena.


This month, we will revisit “Marion Hatley,” by Beth Castrodale; “Her Kind,” by Robin Throne, “Somewhere Piano,” by Sarah Sadie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mott,” by Kai Wagenheim; “Ghosty Boo,” by Kate Litterer and “Time Flash: Another Me,” by Lana Ayers.

The Boxer’s Mask

This week’s other featured books, “Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders?” by Rose Mary Boehm and “Spooky Action at a Distance,” by David Alpaugh, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: The Boxer’s Mask.


THE AUTHOR: John C. McLucas.

THE EDITOR: Clarinda Harriss.

THE PUBLISHER: BrickHouse Books (Stonewall Imprint). BrickHouse is Baltimore’s oldest independent literary press. The Stonewall imprint features LGBTQ+ (and, in the case of The Boxer’s Mask, what I would call gay-adjacent) work.\

SUMMARY: A group of British and American expatriates living in 21st century Rome fall under the spell of Aurelio Valenti, a handsome young Roman actor. Some see in him the fulfillment of their image of Italians as theatrical, sexually attractive, irresponsible, and charming. It slowly dawns on the protagonist Paul Truscott, a retired academic widower, that Aurelio is a working artist, ambitious, disciplined, and intensely private. The COVID pandemic closes the theaters but allows Aurelio to further his career through virtual spectacles. His Anglophone admirers – including a society doyenne and her preppy niece, an aristocratic English sculptor, a do-gooder Anglican nun, a pushy gay art historian, and his pet student who has an eye for the daddies – must adjust to the new reality of his stardom and renegotiate their friendships and loves.

THE BACK STORY: As a retired professor of Italian language, literature, and culture, I have often thought of writing a critique of American/Northern European stereotypes of Italy as the homeland of sensuality, spontaneity, friendliness, natural impulse, irresponsibility, immaturity, and questionable honesty. I am also a devoted reader of Henry James. His novel The Tragic Muse interrogates the way several powerful men fail to see the human and artistic autonomy of a charismatic young actress. I realized I could use the bones of that plot to examine how a group of cultured Anglophone expats in contemporary Rome might variously become intrigued by a handsome Roman actor.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I love Mary Renault’s historical novel The Mask of Apollo, about a professional actor in Hellenistic Greece. The actor in my story, Aurelio Valenti, sees in the ancient bronze statue of “the Boxer” a kind of talisman for his artistic vocation – exploring human vulnerability, courage, and honesty. I was halfway through the first draft when the COVID pandemic forced me to rethink the plot, and the “mask” in the title suddenly became unexpectedly relevant.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Boxer’s Mask aims to address issues of affection and attraction which don’t fall neatly into categories of love or friendship, gay or straight. It also looks at the frustrations and joys of learning a foreign language, negotiating life abroad, and forming attachments across barriers of culture and language.


“We wander Rome with a wonderful cast of expats and Italians in this intelligent, wistful, and humane novel of our current strange times. An exploration of the masks we wear, both literal and metaphorical; of the performance of ourselves and of language; and of the ineffability of love.” — Elizabeth Harris, translator of novels by Antonio Tabucchi.

“The celebration of a friendship, an intimate and refined partnership across languages and cultures, against the backdrop of the Eternal City which, page by page, becomes the undisputed protagonist of the novel.” — Michele di Mauro, novelist and journalist.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m a gay man of the Stonewall generation, and my previous two novels (Dialogues on the Beach, 2017, and Spirit’s Tether, 2020 – both from BrickHouse Books, and both available on line on paper and Kindle) directly address the experiences of that cohort. As a scholar of language and literature, an ordained Presbyterian elder, and a trained classical singer, I have always been interested too in linguistic identity, spirituality, and the fine and performing arts. The Boxer’s Mask incorporates these questions. Its epilogue also alludes in passing to my love of sports cars and animals (in this case, an Alfa Romeo and a big black cat).

SAMPLE: [The protagonist Paul Truscott and his new friend, the wealthy American widow Charlotte Preston, have just attended an outdoor play in which the young actor Aurelio Valenti catches their eye.]

He and Charlotte were walking down the hill towards the Ponte Sisto. She was easily able to make the twenty-minute stroll to her door on via Giulia, and from there his own walk homeward would be short and familiar. The brief rainfall and the Ponentino breeze made the air delightful. They had gone only a few yards down the narrow street from the Accademia when she took his arm confidingly. He felt suddenly quite fond of her, as though they had known each other many years.

“Well, our Valenti is not just handsome,” she said. “He has a lovely voice. Musical and manly.”

‘Manly,’ he thought; a word one seldom heard spoken aloud.

“Yes,” he answered. “It must be hard to speak outdoors without a microphone. And even I could tell his open and closed vowels were perfect.” He was afraid of sounding pedantic, or of seeming to have hung on Valenti’s every phoneme. “Anyway, I thought all of them projected beautifully.”

“Except the harridan.” Charlotte seemed to enjoy being occasionally wicked. He chuckled in appreciation of her sally. “But Valenti’s voice and his face seem all of a piece. What other voice could he possibly have? I understood barely a word of his text (bless you for telling me it was old-fashioned and stilted), but that muffled sensuous implication in every syllable – that I understood.”

Paul himself was no sensualist. He had had a twenty-year marriage in which sex occurred several times a year. His wife Gretchen, an adjunct instructor in art history, was no more awake to carnalities than he was, and they both enjoyed the placid intimacy of talks by the fire, books passed back and forth with notes in margins, and a shared rueful smile when new friends asked if they’d ever considered having children. She had died, gently and stoically, of a cancer diagnosed in their mid-forties, sincerely mourned by him and by their small circle of neighbors and colleagues.

He had since been on a few dates with nice women his age, or even, when friends were more daring in their suggestions, with women much younger but serious, steady, and quietly attractive. He had gradually become aware that the people most likely to take hold of his imagination were young men of some conspicuous talent. His interest in them was never sexual.

Of course he knew plenty of gay people. He had read every book in the world, and his academic work had included studies of the homoeroticism of much of the literary and artistic output of foreigners visiting Italy in the previous two hundred years: Baron von Gloeden, E.M. Forster, Farley Granger. He was honest by nature and had asked himself what it was that he felt for these young men. Were they perhaps the sons he had never had? He took pride in their accomplishments, as though he had taught them himself.

An Italian-American tenor, born and raised in Philadelphia and in time presented to the public as a rising star at the Academy of Vocal Arts, had become such a favorite of his that colleagues teased him about being in love. The tenor was of average, appealing good looks, with a muscular, ardent tone which made him, while he sang, something better than handsome. Paul would never forget his shiver during the final “Ah, parais!” in a Baltimore Roméo. He had heard B-flats before, but never anything like this torrent of sunshine. It seemed to triumph over any shadow of doubt or failure; it was pure beauty, courage, force.

He had been the first to spring to his feet during what became a rapturous ovation for this young artist perhaps standing on the brink of a brilliant future. He had even been put on the short list to go backstage after the singer’s début at the Metropolitan in New York, in a part far too small but with promises of Dukes and Alfredos to come.

At the gate to her building, Charlotte leaned in for an air-kiss, first to right and then to left.

“How lovely to have a new friend,” she said as she let herself in through the tall ponderous door. “Now be careful on your walk home.”

“I’m ten minutes from my door,” he said. “I’ll be fine. Buona notte! ”

He was not alone in those ten minutes. With him went a pair of flashing black eyes, a subtle pagan smile, a manly, musical voice, and a shifting cluster of ambrosial locks.

LOCAL OUTLETS: In Baltimore, The Ivy Bookshop, and other stores by order through Itasca distributors.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon (paper and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paper and Nook). PRICE: $25 (paper); $9.99 (Kindle); $7.99 (Nook)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: (please put “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” in the subject line);

Facebook: John C McLucas;;

Do Oceans Have Underwater Borders?


THE AUTHOR: Rose Mary Boehm.

THE PUBLISHER: Kelsay Books, an independent literary press run by Karen Kelsay, an award winning poet.

SUMMARY: 65 poems that take you on many jouneys: to other places, to other cultures, inside yourself and, best of all, engage your imagination.

THE BACK STORY: Why does a poet write? I suppose we all have different triggers, but one thing I think we all have in common: when it’s ready, it’s got to be written. A poem tends to push to be born. I have never been good at explaining what I do or why. Even when I tried to teach a skill I have, I tend to say, ‘Just watch me’.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Do Oceans have Underwater Borders is a real question I asked myself many times. Why would we call different parts of the same sea by different names, and then, thinking about it some more, and thinking about the misery our earthly borders have brought us all, I started to find it funny and speculated on the whales needing passports… the title poem explains it all – my strange sense of humour. Apart from the title poem, the others gradually become more serious. My curious mind is forever wondering about life and ‘ifs’… and then those thoughts become a poem.

Any reader of poetry would enjoy ‘OCEANS’. I have had many emails and FB responses from fellow poets who loved it. That I take as the highest praise.


“Dip into this book anywhere to find a glittering gem formed out of compressed language. The collection is small but its range, like that of the whales in its title poem, is vast, from the perturbations of love, the dark secrets of hotel beds, the agonies of wing-clipped angels, to the crucial role that beetles, those ‘colonizers of death, always first to arrive at a crime scene,’ play in assisting forensic entomologists. Quirky, brilliant, funny—the intelligence at work here is impressive. I’m reminded of Szymborska. But Rose Mary Boehm has staked a beguiling, seductive claim on the English language that is all her own.” — —George Bilgere, Author of Blood Pages

“Rose Mary has visions that can only be seen in a cracked mirror. Or through a broken window that looks all the way inside the heart. These are stained-glass elegies for a woman loved by men who would pay fifteen hundred dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for a soul. The poet retains her soul. Refuses the money. Lives beyond a torn veil, the bridal one and the mourning kind. Moves on from a life of restraining orders, clarifies a vision blurred by alcohol. She transcends. The poem folder may be bleached but the poet gleams. — Alan Catlin, editor Misfit Magazine/

“Rose Mary Boehm has lived many lives in many places, and writes them all, including those that were lived in her imagination. She slips from location to autobiography to persona, mixing secrets, stories and events as if she were dealing cards in the casino of life. This is the work of a mature woman, rich in experience, who speaks several languages, including the language of the heart.” — Ruth Bavetta, author of four poetry collections, including No Longer at This Address.

AUTHOR PROFILE: If I didn’t write, especially poetry, I’d probably be up for autistic in five languages. A German-born UK national, I now live in Lima, Peru. While my heart occasionally rummages in German, my mouth speaks Spanish, my spirit is playing in English, and I often have to look up a French or Dutch word in the dictionary – usually untranslatable, so I ‘write my way around it’.

I am a traveler in time and place. Wherever I go I collect stories, moments, injustices and joy. Every time the box is filling up, they want out and become poems.

My work has been published widely, mostly in the US, online and in print, but one of my seven poetry collections, ‘THE RAIN GIRL’ was published in Ireland by Chaffinch Press.
You can find all my books on Amazon when you click on ‘books’ and type in ‘Rose Mary Boehm’. I would like to think that – even though I tend not to write overtly political poems – my concerns and worries for this wonderful planet of ours and the future of my kids and grandkids is the basis for how I think and, therefore, embedded somehow in my work, however hidden, especially in ‘PERU BLUES’, a collection of poems about the so-called third-world country where I live. If you want to find out more about me and my work, have a look at my website:


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

PRICE: on 16.50 US$; on 13.95 Pounds Sterling’


Spooky Action at a Distance

THE BOOK: Spooky Action at a Distance

PUBLISHED IN: April 2020

THE AUTHOR: David Alpaugh

THE EDITOR: Alex Pepple

THE PUBLISHER: Word Galaxy Press (an imprint of Able Muse)

SUMMARY: David Alpaugh’s SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE—a collection of double-title poems—includes irreverent, insightful commentary on subjects both current and timeless. The poetic form is Alpaugh’s invention. Masterfully versified with taut control of form and content, on topics ranging from the high precision of science and mathematics to the vagaries and subjectivity of art, this unique collection contains a seemingly endless supply of wit, witticism, wonders, and revelations.

THE BACK STORY: Some years ago, as I wrote the final word, “for,” in a poem entitled “Against,” that word so spoke to the title that I thought it deserved to be a title in its own right. That’s how the double-title poem was born:


Always makes the scariest face.
Always wields the bloodiest knife.
Strongest crowbar. Bluntest battering ram.
Packs dirty bombs with raspiest nails.
Attaches nuclear warheads to emails.

Against has season tickets to wherever
fans of the status quo gather en masse:
town halls, senate chambers, churches, saloons.
Against is the big bad wolf, howling at the door
to the little lambs within—baa-baaing


The double-title poem is designed to give older forms like the sonnet and villanelle a run for their relevance in the quantum world we now inhabit. Appropriate for just about any mood, emotion, voice, narrative, meditation (serious, humorous, even light) several other poets, including Sherman Alexie, have been giving the double-title form a try.

WHY THIS TITLE: My double-titles and the poems themselves are connected in ways that suggest the mysterious entanglement of quantum particles that Einstein referred to as “spooky action at a distance.” My collection incudes quantum physics related poems on Schrödinger’ Cat and the Higgs boson, along with poems on waves and particles and parallel universes.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Because it is both entertaining and illuminating, Because, as the following reviewers point out, it provides a good read!


“I can’t count how many times I laughed out loud while reading David Alpaugh’s Spooky Action at a Distance. Alpaugh’s wit is so original, so outlandish, so outrageous, that at first it’s hard to believe he’s pulling off one after another of these double-title poems, a form he invented and one that could not be better suited to his brilliant, iconoclastic mind. As impressive as Alpaugh’s poetic skill—his dexterity, musical ear and gift for turning clichés on their heads—is his range of reference. From childhood to history to mythology to politics to literature and back, Alpaugh takes us on a magical mystery tour through a universe of his own making. If you want delight informed by wisdom, humor laced with sharply observed social commentary, and entry into a world you never thought could exist, all you have to do is open this astonishingly inventive book.” — Lynne Knight, author of The Persistence of Longing

“For me, Alpaugh’s wit—in the old high metaphysical sense of that word—is the primary source of his power and virtue. He is an insatiably curious man who somehow manages to get everything into his poems. In Spooky Action at a Distance, Alpaugh is all about serious play and endlessly capable of surprise. Tracking the moves he makes connecting double-title after double-title is its own reward, a pleasure so pure as not to be missed.”— William Slaughter, editor of Mudlark

“David Alpaugh’s Spooky Action at a Distance offers readers a cornucopia of delights, complications, and some truly moving insights—all in an intriguing new form of his own invention. Alpaugh’s double-title form shows how two titles can be separate, like two photons miles apart, yet “entangled” in meaning and intent. Alpaugh is an excellent poetic space travel guide. This collection reminds me of the language used to describe properties of quarks—strangeness and charm. It takes a writer with a deft touch to work in such a structured form without the form interfering with the meaning. Alpaugh’s poems are structured, but still filled with plenty of actual strangeness and charm. And one need not enter a particle accelerator to discover these surprises. Just get this book!” — Kathleen Lynch, author of Lucky Witness

AUTHOR PROFILE: David Alpaugh still thinks of himself as a Jersey boy but has lived long enough in the San Francisco Bay Area to be included in the Heyday Press anthology, California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present, and to have been a finalist for Poet Laureate of California. He holds degrees in English from Rutgers University and the University of California, Berkeley, where he was both a Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation Fellow. His poems have appeared in more than a hundred literary journals from Able Muse to Poetry to ZYZZYVA, and his first collection, Counterpoint, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press. David Alpaugh’s essays, “The Professionalization of Poetry” (Poets & Writers Magazine), “What’s Really Wrong With Poetry Book Contests” (Rattle), and “The New Math of Poetry” (Chronicle of Higher Education)—have been widely discussed online. His musical play, Yesteryear: 3 Days in Paris with François Villon, was recently published by Scene4. Since he debuted the double-title poem in Mudlark in 2016, more than a hundred have appeared in journals and anthologies. He currently teaches literature for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at their Cal State East Bay campus.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In his essay “The Performing Self” Richard Poirier argues that “literary and academic grownups… must begin to ask some childlike and therefore extremely difficult questions about particular works: Is it any fun? How and where is it any fun? And if it isn’t, why bother? Critics think Hamlet and King Lear are among the most serious and profound works in literature. But we are still reading and watching performances of them centuries later because they are great fun. T.S. Eliot defined poetry as “a superior amusement.” I write, above all, to amuse myself and assume that if I am entertained by my poems others will be as well.

SAMPLE POEMS: Poems from this and other Alpaugh books can be found at the author’s website:

LOCAL OUTLETS: Spooky Action at a Distance is available both in paperback and kindle formats from Word Galaxy Press (an imprint of Able Muse) which can be accessed at:

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

PRICE: Paperback: $19.95 Kindle: $ 9.99