This week’s other featured book, “Made by Mary,” by Laura Catherine Brown, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or find it by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.

THE BOOK: Tucumcari
THE AUTHOR: Patrick Parks
THE EDITOR: Jesi Buell
SUMMARY: A man wakes up one morning and believes he remembers he has a wife who lives in Tucumcari. Uncertain why this occurs to him, he decides nonetheless to go find her. His journey takes him through landscapes—both remembered and imagined—and through memories—again some remembered, some imagined—of his father, who helped build the atomic bomb; his mother, who wrote short stories he feels compelled to rewrite; and Boyd Delmarco, a radio personality whose lung are turning to glass.
THE BACK STORY: I started this novel more than 20 years ago when I was a full-time teacher but set it aside for a decade until I retired and did not have to worry any longer about lessons plans and grading papers. During my hiatus from writing, a number of significant events in my life—the death of my parents being the most traumatic—gave me new insights into my narrator and the track of his life.
Image result for Patrick Parks + author + Tucumcari + photographsWHY THIS TITLE: The title actually came before I started writing the book. I picked Tucumcari because it appears in the song, “Willin’” by Little Feat (“I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah”) and a scene from the Spaghetti Western, A Few Dollars More, when Lee Van Cleef steps from a train in a place identified by a wooden sign as Tucumcari. Those two references made me think that the little New Mexico town might be a place someone would travel to, but I didn’t know why. I wrote my book to figure that out.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Even though this book is somewhat experimental in structure, I wanted it to be a story about a character that people would come to know and care for. It is rooted in memory—both individual and cultural—and in dreams. The narrator is a guileless man who decides he has a quest to complete, one that may not make much sense to anyone else, but gives his life purpose. If I’ve done my job, when readers get to the last page, they will be sorry to have to say good-bye to the man and will hope that he will be all right.


“This exquisite novel transcends prose. It is a prose-poem, an incantation, a musing on youth and age, memory and symbol, dreams and reality. Each word has been carefully selected. Whilst the style remains spare, the sentences possess a captivating, rhythmic power, which taps directly into the reader’s subconsciousness.” — Andrew Hansen, Managing Director, Prestel Publishing

“Everyone wants to get away from the falling ash of this life. Everyone wants to get away from the threat of nuclear bombs, away to some far away, imagined safe place. Rootless, fugitive, we want love, a place to call home. In Tucumcari, Patrick Parks takes us there in a novel so clearly written, so lucidly poetic, it breaks the heart.” — Richard Jones, author of The Correct Spelling and Exact Meaning.

“What a strange and wonderful novel Patrick Parks has written!  It’s a road trip novel without an actual road trip—the narrator imagines a trip he will take to Tucumcari, NM, to find the woman he just remembered he married years ago—but except for floating above his bed at night or teaching English to immigrants in a city that rains ash, he almost never goes anywhere.  But his mind goes everywhere, and it’s a bona fide delight to ride along with him on his mental road trip.  Written in brief fragmentary sections that often read like prose poems, this is a narrative as delightfully disjointed and digressive as Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and as darkly comic and magical as Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” — David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories and Nice People: New & Selected Stories II.

“Patrick Parks, in this relentlessly quantum mechanical rendition of the novel, Tucumcari, combines the traumatic rhythmic keenings of Philip Glass’s World Out of Balance or Einstein on the Beach with a deeply poignant Buster Keatonian deadpan.  The book percolates and permeates through the entire electro-magnetic spectrum of mid-century modern dystopia.  Tucumcari accumulates emotional heft like the sad ash that falls, layer after extinction layer, through the book, predicting red weather that is general all over the many deserts you drift through.  Before you know it, you are buried alive, heartsick and sunk up to your eyeballs by this masterful precipitate of murmuring meditation.” — Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Winesburg, Indiana

AUTHOR PROFILE: In addition to Tucumcari, Patrick Parks has had fiction published in a variety of journals including, among others, The Chattahoochee Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Clockwatch Review, Farmer’s Market, and B City, and had a story in the anthology, The Breast. He was editor of Black Dirt, a literary journal, and Sarajevo: An Anthology for Bosnian Relief. His reviews have appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Lit Pub and Literary Magazine Review. Recipient of two Illinois Arts Council awards, he is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. He lives with his wife near Chicago.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: As noted above, I did not want Tucumcari to follow a traditional narrative arc. This decision was based on my realizing that the story was less about a plot and more about the narrator. I did provide a skeletal chronology to keep the reader (and me, too, as I constructed the novel) anchored in a specific span of time, but the real framework comprises the already-mentioned memories and dreams of the man telling us about his life.

SAMPLE CHAPTERhttps://www.patrick-parks.com/read.

LOCAL OUTLETS: TownHouse Books, St. Charles, IL; Harvey’s Tales, Geneva, IL; The Book Shop, Batavia IL; Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago IL; The Book Cellar, Chicago IL; Prairie Lights Bookstore, Iowa City IA; Read Between the Lynes,  Woodstock, IL

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon; KERNPUNKT Press; Small Press Distribution.

PRICE: $14.95.

Website: patrick-parks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrickparksauthor/
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38392057-tucumcari
Email: pparks1141@gmail.com

Made by Mary

Made by Mary by [Brown, Laura Catherine ]THE BOOK: Made By Mary.


THE AUTHOR: Laura Catherine Brown.

THE EDITOR: Dina Guidubaldi.

THE PUBLISHER: C&R Press: We love books. Literature matters because words lets us explore and share the best of what we think, and who we can be. Good fiction, nonfiction, and poetry grow our knowledge and imagination, take us into new lives, and illuminate truths we never knew. https://www.crpress.org/

Laura Catherine BrownSUMMARY: Made by Mary is a black comedy that uses magic realism to blow up myths about womanhood. When 50-year-old Mary, a jewelry-making, pot-growing, goddess-worshipping hippie, offers to carry her daughter Ann’s baby, since Ann was born with no uterus, they plunge into the morally complex world of reproductive technology, where they’re forced to confront the calamitous consequences of pursuing their deepest desires.

Between a daughter’s debt, and a mother’s due, there is a whole territory of resentment, love, fury, devotion, and mutual incomprehension. This is a novel about the way we get born, and reborn, and surrogately born. The way we make fun of our foibles and fads without losing sight of what is eternal and earnest: the desire to sustain the species, to love our family no matter how it came to be, no matter how it spirals into the infuriatingly silly or the inimitably sublime.

THE BACK STORY: I think almost all literature begins with a question, something I’m curious about, haunted by, or something I want to imagine more fully.

The questions I had when I began writing Made By Mary were about childbearing and motherhood. At a certain point in a woman’s life she switches from trying not to get pregnant to maybe wanting to get pregnant. Then it’s a question of how bad does she want to get pregnant? Will it happen? Won’t it happen? If it doesn’t happen, what transpires from that? What do you make of your life? In retrospect, I realize I was living those questions. Everyone in the book is me, including Joel, Ann’s husband. There’s magical thinking, denial, anger, fear, generosity, love and just a lot of stuff I was going through around the question of bearing children and being in relationship.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I went through hundreds of titles. Made By Mary stuck because Mary is an artisan, a jewelry-maker. She’s needy and flawed, and wants to take credit for making worlds and lives and meaning. And she does all this, but not in the way she imagines.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you liked books by Starhawk, and if you’re interested in Paganism and modern-day animism in rural America at the turn of the century (aka 2000), you will like this book. If you have ever wanted, had or struggled with fertility and children: bearing them, raising them, neglecting them, loving them, grappling with the consequences of their actions and yours, you will like this book. If you have a sense of humor and enjoy larger-than-life people who, by their very nature, disrupt the world around them, you will like this book.


From The Lit Pub (https://thelitpub.com/sins-of-the-mothers/):

“Made by Mary gives us tremendous insights not only into the feminine and maternal journeys but into human nature as a whole…It asks us to examine what we sacrifice for others and why… What does it mean to give life? To have life inside of you? Do we have no life if we do not bring another one into this world? What does it mean to live one’s own life? There’s a fine, delicate equivalence between outrageous humor and very serious subject matter…Brown is successful in achieving that balance. Her astute observations give depth and clarity about the misguided ways in which we interpret our own lives and sacrifice them at the altar of external acceptance and norms.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: My debut novel, Quickening (https://www.amazon.com/Quickening-Novel-Ballantine-Readers-Circle/dp/034543773X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=), was published by Random House and featured in Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” series. My short stories have appeared in several literary journals. I’m also a graphic designer. I received a BA from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and support my writing habit by working as a graphic designer, which I love because the medium keeps changing from print to web to video. It’s exciting. I’ve been a dedicated yoga practitioner and instructor for over 20 years, having studied a variety of styles and traditions of Hatha Yoga. These three pursuits: writing, graphic design and yoga; have a common thread. All three require practice, dedication and constant, ongoing surrender. There’s a yoga concept called “effortless effort” that I think applies to any creative or spiritual endeavor, or just life in general, no matter what you’re doing.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My life is filled with powerful complicated women. I really like writing them, and very much wanted to approach these characters through the experience of being embodied, navigating existence in a woman’s body. As women, we often take an outside look at ourselves, a very critical look at how we fall short. I also hope to address everything with humor. The saddest situations can sometimes give rise to the most hysterical hilarity. The line between laughing and crying can be porous. Finally, I’m compelled by life’s mystery. Despite incredible technological advancements, at the heart of pregnancy and birth lies a mystery. I wanted to get at that mystery.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Made By Mary is divided into five parts, based on the elements (in the following order): Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit. Here is an edited excerpt from the opening of Air, that can give the reader a sense of both Mary and Ann (and a bit of Joel, too, whose voice gets a section in the novel, though not in the following excerpt):

Made By Mary (excerpt)

“Our success rate stands at 45%, the highest in the industry,” said Dr. Godwin, the director of the Center for Human Reproduction. “We’ve had sister surrogates, friends, strangers—but you’re our first mother-daughter team, and we’re very excited.”

They sat across from him, three in a row, Mary in the center. With his prominent ears and boyish smile, Dr. Godwin resembled a leprechaun, a trickster, capable of magic, the kind of man who had turned Mary on before she’d declared herself a lesbian.

“A 45% success rate sounds like a 55% failure rate.” Joel perched on his chair as if any second he’d vault to his feet, shouting, Put up your dukes!

“We look at cycle percentages and factor in retrieval rates resulting in live births.” Dr. Godwin rattled off numbers and criteria, things Mary spaced out on. She splayed her fingers to examine her rings, her force-field of strength, with a ready explanation for each, in case anyone should ask: gold with tiger’s eye to guard her spirit, Mother-of-pearl and onyx yin-yang to balance her chi. Jade for healing, lapis lazuli for love and, of course, her mother-ring, identical to Ann and Joel’s wedding rings, an expression of solidarity.

She caught Ann’s gaze, her daughter’s pale blue eyes almost transparent, rimmed by short, blunt lashes as bleached as her straight blond hair. Somehow in the light, enhanced by the mauve upholstery and carpet and walls, Ann was illuminated in a lovely pink aura. I made you! Mary wanted to shout. And I can make another you!

“How long will the process take?” Joel cracked his knuckles. “Or are you going to throw out smokescreen numbers on that, too?”

Typical man. Mary tried to catch Ann’s eye again, to exchange a private communion about men’s need to dominate, but Ann was leaning forward, utterly engrossed. “What about the chances of having a baby like me, without a…?”

Mary broke in. “Without a uterus. Good question.”

“I don’t think the research bears out a genetic component.” When Dr. Godwin smiled, dimples appeared in both cheeks. “As for the timing, let’s say everything goes smoothly. Once cycle synchronization begins, we’re talking about four weeks for egg stimulation. Then we harvest the eggs and fertilize. A few days later we transfer the pre-embryos. Two weeks after that, a positive pregnancy means you’re in the hands of your obstetrician. Which comes to seven weeks. I suggest we work aggressively for the transfer. At your age, we don’t worry so much about multiple births, we just want a take-home baby.” He aimed his boyish smile at Mary. How appealing he was, even when calling her old!

“What about Mary’s weight?” said Joel. “It’s not just the age factor. She’s carrying some extra weight.”

He got her with that one. Count your blessings, Mary’s mother used to tell her, fat women stay youthful-looking longer than slender ones. More flesh, fewer wrinkles, it works in your favor now. Mary grabbed her blubber through her shirt. “Are you calling me fat? More to love is what I say.”

“You shouldn’t grab yourself like that,” said Ann.

The scolding made it worse. One hundred eighty-three pounds at five feet, four inches, Mary was aware of moisture seeping into the folds of her flesh. Her hip creases were damp. She nudged Ann. “I think I’m power-surging!”

“Too much information, Mom.”

“You’re not, as we say, morbidly obese,” said Dr. Godwin with his quick smile. “You’re a healthy woman. And a little extra weight seems to improve the chances of implantation.”

“If only my mother were alive to hear this,” said Mary. “All these years, I’ve been healthy, not fat.”

Ann jiggled her foot, bumping rhythmically into Mary’s chair. “When you said multiple births, did you mean we could have more than one?”

“Twins are not uncommon. I’ve heard them referred to as ‘the jackpot,’” especially if they’re one of each gender,” said Dr. Godwin. He rubbed his palms together so briskly Mary imagined sparks flying out.

“That’s crass,” said Joel. “The jackpot.”

“Let’s think twins. We’ve got yin on one side…” Mary grabbed Ann’s hand, then clasped Joel’s sweaty one. “…Yang on the other. And I’m the circle to hold them.” They both tried to disengage but Mary had a strong grip. She shut her eyes to call on Demeter as the goddess appeared in the marble likeness on Mary’s altar, with her torch and sheaf of wheat. But, instead of Demeter, a vision of Dr. Godwin with the hind end of a goat materialized, consort and son of the universal mother. She opened her eyes. “I’m going to call you Dr. God.”


Ann remembered her childhood in fragments, each memory an island surrounded by a void. She didn’t recall leaving Peace Ranch but she recollected arriving at the yurt with Mary and Lars. At the end of a dirt road with a mound of grass in the center, bordered by bushes that scraped the sides of the car, the yurt stood in a field, a giant cylindrical tent with a mounded top.

It was beautiful, with its three-layered walls, rafters, and tension cables. The apex of the roof was covered with a clear dome. The space inside was circular, with dividers to separate the kitchen and the bathroom. No doors but a cozy nook with a single bed for Ann.

Boulder, Colorado. Outside of Boulder. West, if you want to get technical, said Lars.

Annapurna likes getting technical, don’t you? Mary’s smile dazzled. Her happiness was contagious. An island.

Ann remembered watching Lars’s long fingers press guitar strings, sliding from fret to fret along the neck as he taught her how to play. He called her a quick study. Another island.

He was an artist. To paint from nature, he would roll up his sleeping bag and mat, hoist his backpack on his shoulders with his paints, easel, and canvas, and trek high into the hills. He stayed away, sometimes overnight, sometimes a couple of days.

In his absence, Mary let Ann sleep with her, spooning her in a soft, warm hug. Play our cards right and he’ll adopt you, she whispered. And we’ll travel all over the country: Oregon, North Carolina, Arizona. That’s the beauty of the yurt, we can set up anywhere. We belong together. Me and Lars are soulmates. And soon, I hope to give you a sister or a brother, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Ann was happiest then, in bed with Mary, listening to their beautiful future.

Lars left one afternoon while Mary was at work. She worked at a self-serve gas station in a little booth, collecting money. When she wasn’t doing that, she was sitting at her drafting table with her silver and her beads and her semiprecious stones. Tell your mother the winds are changing and I have to go.

Ann was trying to learn chords on the guitar, his guitar. Lars stroked her beneath her chin, forcing her to look into his fierce blue eyes, like an icy lake. Tell her I’ll be back when the north winds blow.

He left behind his tubes of oil paints, an unfinished landscape drying on an easel, clove cigarettes and two gallon jugs of chlorophyll. His saucepan and his Coleman stove hung off his backpack, clanking as he walked away.

When are the north winds supposed to blow? Why didn’t you stop him? When Mary came home, she threw a fit, overturned her drafting table so all the beads and stones lodged in the rug. She ran around screaming, then she curled into bed and refused to get up.

For days, as she watched Mary sleep, Ann strummed the guitar and practiced Travis picking until her fingers hurt. It sustained her through those endless, frozen hours. First, they ran out of milk and eggs. Then they ran out of rice cakes. In the morning the school bus stopped, honked, and moved on.

When the truant officers came, they shouted and knocked but Ann wouldn’t let them in. By the time the police arrived, there was no food left at all. When’s the last time you went to school? a policeman asked.

They found half-smoked joints in the ashtray and seeds embedded in the rug. Get up, you’re under arrest. Magic words, they broke the spell. Mary got out of bed, donned her clothes, and laced her boots.

Ann remembered being driven to a big, shabby house in the center of town. An aproned woman led her down a hall to a bedroom crowded with bunkbeds. On the wall hung a picture of cherub-cheeked children in a meadow with the words: Suffer the little children to come unto me.

The woman was wearing rubber gloves. She was always cleaning something. Ann recalled the contoured texture of rubber against her palm when the woman shook her hand, and remembered how the woman peeled off the gloves to kneel on the floor by the bottom bunk. This is your bed now. Shall we pray?

Twelve children lived at the house. For breakfast, numerous cereals were lined up on the counter. Before every meal, they bowed their heads and prayed: Bless us our Lord for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through thy bounty and through Christ our Lord, amen.

The man in the house wore thick glasses, magnifying his eyes so they seemed to float away from his face. Before dinner he added a lengthy sermon to the prayer and the meatloaf would be cold by the time they were allowed to dig in.

On Sunday, no one was permitted to eat until they had been to church. A blue cotton dress was presented, ironed and starchy and too small for Ann; it dug into her armpits. Standing, kneeling, singing, she felt her soul rocked in the bosom of Abraham, as the lyrics of the gospel song went, and she remembered feeling that she would survive. Another island.

Evenings were predictable: Chores, homework, prayers, bed. Chores were designated on a chore wheel. Drying dishes: Annapurna. The sight of her name brought a strange thrill, and she took great care in drying, pressing the towel edge between each fork prong until the woman said, We don’t abide laziness here. You must learn to be more efficient.

Ann wasn’t unhappy except at night when she lay awake, not knowing where Mary was, fearful that Mary was afraid, painfully aware that Mary needed her. Then she sobbed into her pillow until she drifted off to sleep, waking again only after she had already wet the bed.

Even now, as an adult, Ann could conjure the cold fear churning in her stomach, the harshness of the blanket and the crinkle of the plastic sheets, the shame of bedwetting. The other kids jeered. They said she smelled like pee. They called her Cooties, broke her crayons, and pinched her arms.

She missed the yurt then, and Lars. And she began to miss Peace Ranch, too, not sleeping in the children’s room, but the brook where everyone swam on hot afternoons, the sweat lodge and full moon rituals when they joined hands and danced in a circle, when Mary was happy, her laugh deep and infectious.

In the morning, Ann felt okay, or, rather, she didn’t feel anything, and that became okay. When a letter arrived from Mary she opened it slowly, easing the flap, so as not to tear it. I love you Annapurna Peace and I miss you. A drawing of a sad-faced sun. We’ll be together soon, I promise. I love you very much, Mom. Intricate swirls and doodles of flowers decorated the border. Ann pressed the paper to her face, smelling Mary’s patchouli with a longing so deep it suctioned her breath right out of her.

Later, she had no idea what might have happened to those letters. They had slipped into the void between islands. Then came a viscerally memorable moment: Annapurna, you have a visitor. And there stood Mary, horribly out of place in her brightly embroidered denim skirt, her hiking boots and Heidi braids interlaced with purple ribbons.

They were ushered into the visiting room, a first for Ann. She had seen the other kids walking in there with adults, closing the door. Now it was her turn. The parlor was wallpapered with faded pink roses. Two sofas faced each other with two armchairs on either side, a rocking chair in the corner. A stack of Bibles sat on the coffee table.

Wow, a rocking chair! Mary went straight for it, while Ann sat stiffly on the edge of the sofa.

Do you like it here? Mary rocked back and forth with peculiar urgency.

The inchoate, incommunicable immensity of an answer lay beyond Ann’s skill. It’s okay, she finally said.

Well, I’ve come to give you a choice. You can stay here for a little bit longer, or you can ride on an airplane to Gran’s house. Mary stuck the end of one of her braids between her teeth. She was sucking on it while she rocked.

I want to stay with you.

I’m sorry. It’s foster care or Gran’s, just for a short time. I promise. Mary burst into tears and Ann jumped up, hugging her head, her soft brown hair, stilling the rocking chair. She clung. I want to stay with you.

Gran met her at the airport, a stern woman with a sharp gaze and blue eyes the same shade as Mary’s. Your mother makes a virtue out of chaos but I hear you’re the levelheaded one.

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

PRICE: $19.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: lauracatherinebrown@gmail.com

FB: @Laura Catherine Brown

Twitter: @lauracbrown


Website: https://www.lauracatherinebrown.com/

First Tuesday Replay, Dec. 3

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 “Author” page, then on that author’s name.

The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison by [Brottman, Mikita]THE MAXIMUM SECURITY BOOK CLUB,” BY MIKITA BROTTMAN.

Writes Mikita: “The book recounts the three years I spent running a reading group with nine male convicts in a maximum security prison in Jessup, about ten miles outside Baltimore. Since I’m a literature professor, I wanted to see what they would make of my favorite works of literature. We read Conrad, Melville, Nabokov, Shakespeare, Poe — a lot of heavy and serious books. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it was a struggle. But it was always fascinating — for me as much as for the men.”



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

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


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


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

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

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


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



Jacqueline Chevalier is an unusual teen. Not only is she an international figure skating champion, she is also… royalty. Her life is basically one huge press junket. Her only release from the demands on her her family is found on the ice. Not only does she try to conform to her family’s demands on her time, she is worn out with the need to look and act the part of a perfect princess. When she meets a set of twins, Jacqueline is shown a different world, one that she longs for. She finds herself in an unusual situation, where she has a decision to make. Will she chose freedom in Christ or will her life continue to be lonely and empt

Weather Report, Dec. 2

Image result for Tumcari, NM + photos = free(Dinosaur museum, Tucumcari, NM. Photo from Tripadvisor).

Our currently featured books, “Half-Hazard,” by Kristen Tracy, “Aphrodite’s Whisper” by William Furney, “Catcher’s Keeper,” by J.D. Spero ad “The Eyes Have It,” by Dawn Lajeunesse, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.




A man wakes up one morning and believes he remembers he has a wife who lives in Tucumcari. Uncertain why this occurs to him, he decides nonetheless to go find her. His journey takes him through landscapes—both remembered and imagined—and through memories—again some remembered, some imagined—of his father, who helped build the atomic bomb; his mother, who wrote short stories he feels compelled to rewrite; and Boyd Delmarco, a radio personality whose lung are turning to glass.


Made by Mary is a black comedy that uses magic realism to blow up myths about womanhood. When 50-year-old Mary, a jewelry-making, pot-growing, goddess-worshipping hippie, offers to carry her daughter Ann’s baby, since Ann was born with no uterus, they plunge into the morally complex world of reproductive technology, where they’re forced to confront the calamitous consequences of pursuing their deepest desires.

Between a daughter’s debt, and a mother’s due, there is a whole territory of resentment, love, fury, devotion, and mutual incomprehension. This is a novel about the way we get born, and reborn, and surrogately born. The way we make fun of our foibles and fads without losing sight of what is eternal and earnest: the desire to sustain the species, to love our family no matter how it came to be, no matter how it spirals into the infuriatingly silly or the inimitably sublime.


This month, we will re-visit “The Maximum Security Book Club,” by Mikita Brottman, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up,” by Jacob Appel, “Skating for Grace,” by Ann Perrault,  “The Sanguinist’s Daughter,” by Susan Hubbard, “Glad to Be Dad,” by Tim Myers and “The Hunger Saint,” by Olivia Kate Cerrone.







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This week’s other featured books, “Aphrodite’s Whisper,” by William Furney, “Catcher’s Keeper,” by JD Spero and “The Eyes Have It,” by Dawn Lajeunesse, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page. In deference to the Thanksgiving holiday, these posts will remain up until Dec. 2. 


THE BOOK: Half-Hazard.

PUBLISHED IN: 2018, selected by the Poetry Foundation for the Emily Dickinson First Book Award.

THE AUTHOR: Kristen Tracy.

THE EDITOR: Jeff Shotts (editor) and Susannah Sharpless (editorial assistant)

THE PUBLISHER: Graywolf Press.

SUMMARY: Half-Hazard is a book of near misses, would-be tragedies, and luck. As Kristen Tracy writes in the title poem, “Dangers here. Perils there. It’ll go how it goes.” The collection follows the poet’s wide curiosity, from her growing up in a small Mormon farming community to her exodus out into the forbidden world, where she finds snakes, car accidents, adulterers, meteors, and death-marked mice. These wry, observant narratives are accompanied by a ringing lyricism and Tracy’s own knack for noticing what’s so funny about trouble and her natural impulse to want to put all the broken things back together. Full of wrong turns, false loves, quashed beliefs, and a menagerie of animals, Half-Hazard introduces a vibrant new voice in American poetry, one of resilience, faith, and joy.

THE BACK STORY: Growing up in a small Mormon town in Idaho (Ucon, population 841) I didn’t know a person could be a poet. My big break in life came when I decided to apply and then attend Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. While there, my poetry teacher, Gail Wronsky, told me she thought I had real talent and encouraged me to take her graduate level poetry workshop. I wasn’t used to encouragement, and was only minimally aware of how the writing and publishing world worked. I took this class and took another and eventually decided to go to graduate school and keep studying poetry. I ended up going to BYU, which was a good choice for me in terms of exiting that faith system, because it was clear to me that who I was and what I wanted out of life didn’t jive with that conservative doctrine. Also, I thought all the rules there were bananas. So I left and got an MFA at Vermont College, and I lived in Vermont and became a waitress, an aerobics instructor, and part-time college teacher. I got pretty tired, so I applied for a Ph.D. program. I was writing poetry the whole time. Once I started working on my Ph.D. I looked around and saw that the poets I knew didn’t seem happy. Some of them actually seemed fairly miserable. I panicked. And decided to try writing fiction. I took a class with Stuart Dybek and wrote a short story about a girl who dug up her cat and tried to reassemble the bones for a science fair project. Stu really liked it and encouraged me to write more stories about this quirky Idaho girl. Those stories became the first book I wrote, Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus. From that I got an agent. That was 2005. I sold my first novel in 2006. And I’ve been under contract ever since. All the while I was writing books for a younger audience, I was also writing poetry. It was ridiculously hard to get a book of poetry published. I was a finalist for the Yale Younger Poet Prize and many other first book prizes. I never won any of them. I kept writing. And submitting the manuscript. I felt like maybe I was insane. Maybe the world didn’t need my book of poetry. Who writes poems for twenty years and never gets a book published? Turns out, Kristen Tracy writes poems for twenty years and never gets a book published. In 2017, I got a phone call from Stephen Young at the Poetry Foundation. He told me that I’d won the Emily Dickinson First Book Award. From that call onward to the publication of Half-Hazard with Graywolf Press has been an absolutely magical joy-dream. I feel incredibly grateful. And I’m still writing poems, but feeling more hopeful about it now. I think the next book won’t take as long to find its publishing home.

WHY THIS TITLE?: When Half-Hazard won the Emily Dickinson First Book Award it was actually titled Sometimes This Happens. That’s also a title of a poem about a cow in the manuscript that Billy Collins selected for a prize many, many, many, many years ago. I figured the manuscript should bear the title of an important poem in the collection so I picked that one. Graywolf let me know right away that they hoped to change the title and I was completely open to that idea. Susannah Sharpless, who was an editorial assistant for Graywolf at the time, came up with the title by studying the manuscript for reoccurring phrases and noticing the words “half” and “hazard” and them putting them together. I loved it! Then the problem surfaced that no poem in the manuscript was titled “Half-Hazard.” That really bugged me. I had a few months before I had to turn in a final manuscript so I got to work. I enjoy a challenge so I decided to write a villanelle. I spent weeks tossing ideas around until I remembered a time in my life when I was a waitress in Vermont in my late 20’s and I realized I was never going to go to the moon. It crushed me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When had I made the decision to remain forever earthbound? Was it my lukewarm relationship to math? Was it a lack of role models? Then I realized a woman had never landed on the moon and I could not stop being upset about that. Why were we sending so many men? Fully alive in my frustration, I wrote the title poem. You can hear me read it for the New Yorker here. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/05/half-hazard

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I’m a sincere, snappy, and funny person who spent twenty years writing the best damn poems I could, so of course I hope Half-Hazard finds an audience. One difficult thing that I’ve talked about a little bit on tour and in interviews is that my childhood was pocked by pretty significant tragedies. When I was seven, my younger brother was killed in a car accident. My whole family, except my dad, was in the car and we all suffered devastating injuries. My mother was newly pregnant and the doctors warned her she’d probably lose the baby. She didn’t. Eight months later my younger sister was born perfectly healthy. But fourteen years after that she was tragically killed in a car accident. Those twin tragedies utterly changed my lens on the world. I see the danger, the risk, the sharp edge off of which any of us could fall. But the tragedies also made me funny. I couldn’t handle the sadness in my family, so I became driven to lift the mood. And that’s what my poems do. I realized in editing the book how often unusual tragedies have caught my eye and made it into my work. I see what I see, but then put tremendous work into making the poems feel alive, quick, and sometimes fun.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “The edgy, surprising poems in Kristen Tracy’s Half-Hazard . . . are as readable as good fiction. Tracy, the author of a dozen novels for young readers . . . here delivers a more personal and introspective work. . . .The writing is delightfully crisp and wry, and always walks a tightrope between hope and disaster.”―The Washington Post

“Tracy, a prolific author of tween and teen fiction, debuts in verse with an irresistible collection selected for the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award. These energetic poems showcase a writer who knows how to draw readers in―with short sentences, quick turns, and a comic edge that courts disaster.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“When you open this book, the energy pops off the page. It’s a free-wheeling, lack of fear of language. Maybe the confidence that lights up the word comes from years of writing novels, sharpening so many pencils and ideas. Whatever makes for the holy fire, I love it. Tracy is so real you can almost touch her with her observations, mishaps, wry information. There’s sadness here, too. Who can avoid this? But something wonderful holds everything up like a gleaming net under an acrobat’s high-wire act.”―Washington Independent Review of Books “Kristen Tracy’s collection Half-Hazard . . . was twenty years in the making. And so, it should come as no surprise that time plays a pivotal role in this outstanding collection. Time is the medium across which cruelty unfolds towards the plants, animals, and people that we share the world with―and it is the medium through which we bear witness.”―The Arkansas International

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I grew up in a small Mormon farming community in Idaho, near Yellowstone Park, where I learned a tremendous amount about bears. I have an M.A. in American Literature from Brigham Young University, an M.F.A. in poetry from Vermont College, and a Ph.D. in English from Western Michigan University. At one time in my life I was a college professor and aerobics instructor. At another time I was a volunteer gardener on Alcatraz and aspiring bird docent. Now I make my home in Los Angeles with my husband Brian Evenson and our young son. In addition to Half-Hazard I’ve written twelve smart and funny novels for young adults and young readers, including Lost It (girl loses her virginity underneath a canoe), Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus (based on the time I fell underneath my own school bus), Hung Up (boy and girl fall in love through cell phone calls), and Project UnPopular (girl tries to fix middle-school for a few nerds and ruins a bunch of lives). I also have several picture books forthcoming.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I love animals. I love joy. I love music. I hate sudden death. In fact, all death really sucks. My writing looks at the world in a realistic but optimistic way. I’m obsessed with language and don’t mind at all that some reviewers have compared me to Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. I believe that writing can heal wounds and I consider the composition process to be a deep conversation with myself about what troubles and delights me the most at any particular moment. I think some poets are snobs and I dislike it when people try to put poets into different camps. Poetry doesn’t belong to anybody. In fact, I think it belongs to everybody.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/half-hazard

LOCAL OUTLETS: Graywolf has a link for IndieBound on this page. https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/half-hazard

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Graywolf has a link for Amazon and Barnes & Noble on this page. https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/half-hazard

PRICE: $16

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find me on Twitter! It’s the only place I live online. @kristen_tracy

You can also email me at kttypes@gmail.com, but I’m sometimes rotten at writing back in a timely manner. Please don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m haunted by all the emails I owe pe

Aphrodite’s Whisper


Aphrodite's Whisper

THE BOOK: Aphrodite’s Whisper.

PUBLISHED IN: 2018 for Kindle and paperback, 2019 for Audiobook.

THE AUTHOR: William Charles Furney.

THE EDITOR: For the audio version, I would like to credit Deyan Audio, the world’s largest independent producer of Audiobooks.

THE PUBLISHER: Black Hearts Publishing.

SUMMARY: Aphrodite’s Whisper is an epic story that begins in the winter of 1903 with the grounding of a private yacht during a brutal nor’easter on North Carolina’s dreaded Diamond Shoals. Caelyn Canady, a moneyed-class misfit from New York, becomes a castaway forced to save herself and the man who should have rescued her. During her journey home, she finds love on the desolate dunes of the Outer Banks, witnesses man’s first flight, and becomes the woman she knows she is meant to be. Ethan Roberts, her would-be rescuer, is a veteran of the Spanish-American War tormented by the deaths of his best friend and an innocent woman. In becoming a surfman, he has found refuge in the untamed isolation of Cape Hatteras where the next call for help may be the one that finally frees him from his guilt and pain. Whether it be through redemption or death he no longer cares – until the stoic Missourian’s passion for life is rekindled by the slight woman who saves him.

Reminiscent of sweeping historical fiction such as Legends of the Fall and Cold Mountain (with a little Out of Africa woven into its literary fabric), Aphrodite’s Whisper transports the reader to a seldom-explored time and place. Though painstakingly researched, the book’s historical detail serves only as the canvas on which the characters come alive. In short, Aphrodite’s Whisper is a timeless tale of two people who share a love so strong it survives betrayal, war, and even death.

THE BACK STORY: Having spent a lot of time on the Outer Banks throughout my life, it struck me as curious and unfortunate that so little has been written about the members of the U.S. Lifesaving Service who risked their lives saving ship, crews, and voyagers. When I discovered that lifesavers played a key role in the Wright Brothers first flights, the idea of writing a sweeping love story during this time period became an obsession. Twenty years and a half-dozen re-writes later, Aphrodite’s Whisper was finally published.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The relevance of “Aphrodite’s Whisper” has two threads woven into the story’s arc. One is the heroine’s yacht, the Aphrodite. The other…you’ll have to read the story.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? As stated in the promotional blub, this is not a romance (not that there is anything wrong such novels) but rather an epic love story.  Some have accused it of being literary, but that’s just crazy talk. It’s the kind of book that transports you to another time and place with complex characters and motivations. It’s part mystery, part suspense, part adventure, and totally compelling. Really, it’s the kind of story that should appeal to almost anyone.


Amazon Customer Bravo! I can’t say enough about what a fantastic book “Aphrodite’s Whisper” is! It is extremely well-written, and not only is it thoroughly enjoyable – I could hardly wait to pick it back up every evening to find out what happens next, as I felt connected with the characters and what was going on in each of their lives – but it was educational, as well (I feel smarter just having read it!). The author has obviously spent many hours researching his subject matter in order to bring it to life within the pages of this novel. Everything flows seamlessly from beginning to end. What an outstanding story – BRAVO!

Glenn B. A great read! Loved this book from start to finish! It had a little bit of everything, romance, history, heartbreak, and much, much more. This author really knows how to weave a tale and surprise a reader. I will give it 10 Stars if I could.

Janelle W. Excellent Read! I don’t normally give book reviews but I just loved this book, the story line kept me so engaged I could hardly put it down, I won’t give out any spoilers but it’s a heart wrenching story and I was a blubbering mess at the end of this book. You will not be disappointed.

AUTHOR PROFILE: A former soldier, journalist, and communication professional, William tapped into a lifetime of experiences and adventures to craft a pirate tale in the tradition of Captain Blood and Treasure Island.

After graduating high school in Virginia Beach, Va, Furney served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander where he learned how to blow junk up, eliminate bad guys with economy, and lead good men through chemical, biological, and radioactive environments. Whereas these skills prepared him for civilian life in metropolitan arcadias such as Chicago, L.A., and Philadelphia, he instead decided to go to a university of higher learning. After arming himself with a BS degree from the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism in Boulder, he ventured out into the world as a reporter where he proceeded to hone his skills at pissing people off with the written word.

Along the way, he earned degrees in public relations and advertising. He became one of the first five people in the country to become a Certified Communicator in Public Health. He had his own column in the Jacksonville Daily News. He was a director of public relations for private industry and the director of communication for several government agencies. He established two public affairs offices where none previously existed; one for the State Health Director’s Office and the other in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response – the state agency created in 2001 to oversee preparedness efforts associated with biological attacks and pandemic outbreaks.

As a public health communication expert, he coordinated or participated in the media/public information responses to health crises involving AIDS, anthrax, SARS, E-coli, Pfiesteria, Brucelosis, Legionnaires’ disease, SIDS, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Small Pox, West Nile Virus and numerous hurricanes. He also collaborated with the CDC Office of Communication on several health issues and was a certified trainer of their Emergency Risk Communication Program. He was a member and president of the National Public Health Information Coalition – twice.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Although Aphrodite’s Whisper was my first novel written, it is my second novel to be published. It was written, and re-written several times over a 20-year period. I spent about three hours of research for every hour of writing and, according to the critics, it shows. It was a labor of love and the characters will be with you long after you’ve finished the story. But to truly appreciate the story, you have to listen with your heart.




Although the yacht was registered to Jack Canady, the Aphrodite was his daughter’s passion. Caelyn had talked him into purchasing the vessel and she had named her. And though she would not yet call herself an expert sailor, she was competent enough to understand the seriousness of her situation.

The wind was pushing the lifeboat south-by-southwest, driving them ever farther from the Hatteras lighthouse and into the darkness. There would be a steady stream of freighters sailing up and down the coast, but even after it turned light the tiny lifeboat would be hard to spot in the rough waters. Having no food or water, the provision of which was the first mate’s responsibility, their chances of survival were almost zero. She had known from the beginning that hiring Ansel Stick was a mistake but she had had little choice. The Aphrodite required a

first mate who knew steam engines, and Stick had been the only sailor with such skills available. It was not the first time her impatience had gotten her into trouble.

Prying herself out from under the unconscious lifesaver, Caelyn shifted around as much as she dared in the rolling lifeboat and placed his head in her lap. Though the boat’s shallow decking kept them from having to sit in water, they had no protection from the bitter cold and rain. Each swell passing beneath them pitched the boat over on its side so far they came close to capsizing several times. And when she thought their situation could not get any worse, a huge wave breached the port rail, soaking them to the bone.

“Zeb!” the lifesaver called out above the wind after the wave hit. “Zeb! Answer me! I’m coming for you! Hold on!”

Rather than a dream, the desperation of his pleas spoke of a dread memory, and Caelyn wondered at his torment.

If only the wind would die down a little, she thought in frustration. I can’t do anything to help either of us as long as this keeps up.

Later in the night, while lost in thoughts of her bad decisions and things that must be done to survive, the lifesaver startled her back into the moment with a horrifying scream.

“NOOOOOOO!” he shrieked, his voice so laced with terror it was as if he was seeing the Keres reaching out to claim his soul. Caelyn shivered at the thought and grasped his hands to give comfort. But the unconscious surfman gripped her fingers so hard she cried out in pain and fought to pull her hands free.

Fully alert now, she realized that the water collecting in the lifeboat was rising fast. The little vessel was half full of water and would soon start to sink. Shunting the fear that battled to take control, she began a methodical search about the boat with her hands until she found the bilge pump. Several minutes of steady pushing and pulling on the handle siphoned off enough water to stave off the immediate threat. For the next several hours, she alternated between sheltering the lifesaver’s face from the rain and pumping the bilge. It was precious little comfort, she knew, but it was far better than doing nothing and feeling like a helpless child.

Though exhausted from exposure and from the pumping, when dawn broke Caelyn remained undaunted. Once again she left the surfman at the bow, this time to take the seat in the center of the lifeboat. Bracing herself against the cold, she removed her oil skin coat, her wool sweater, and her blouse. In an instant, she slipped back into the sweater and coat. As brief as her nakedness had been, her tolerance was low. Her teeth began to chatter from shivering and the rest of the muscles in her body soon followed. For the next few minutes she was unable to control movement of her limbs. When warmth began to return and the trembling subsided, she returned to the bow and spread out the blouse to catch the rain. Again and again she let the rain soak the blouse, then twisted it above her head so that the water ran into her mouth.

“Here,” she said to the unconscious lifesaver after letting the blouse soak again. Though doubtful he understood, hearing her own voice helped bolster her confidence. “You must drink

this. I don’t know how much longer we shall be out here and I need your help. If you don’t wake up soon I’m afraid it may mean the end of us both…and I’m not ready for that yet. I’ll never be ready for that.”

A sudden tightening of her throat and welling of tears took her by surprise. She swallowed her fear and turned her attention back to the lifesaver. Though not sure he was taking it in, she continued to twist the water from the blouse onto his lips – until the rain stopped. Nature was taunting her.

“Is that the way of it then, fair Artemis?” she asked aloud, the stress of the moment bringing out the crisp annunciations she had inherited from her British-born mother. Even in the face of death she turned to her beloved Greek mythology for inspiration and guidance. “Another setback…another chance to prove myself? You don’t know me! You don’t know me any better than the rest of them! Damn you all! I…WILL…SURVIVE!”

Words that began as defiance had turned to rage. But while the anger might keep her warm, she understood that it would do nothing to help her live. Latching onto the rush that came with the fury, she channeled the energy into finding solutions. It was the way her mind worked when freed from the shackles of those who would limit her.

As she considered and eliminated various possibilities she realized that she had failed to consider the most obvious. She knew that Ansel Stick had not supplied the boat with food and water because one of the last orders he had shouted to the crew was to have them brought up from the galley. But a lifeboat should also have non-perishable supplies stored onboard to help castaways!

For the first time since sunrise she took a careful look around the lifeboat. There were only a few possibilities where survival equipment might be stored – the bench seats being the most obvious. On closer inspection, she saw that the seats were box containers, with the tops serving double duty as places to sit and as hinged lids that covered the boxes. Unfastening the latch on the seat closest to the stern, she opened the lid.

Recoiling in deep-seated terror, she tripped backward over the next seat and fell in a heap in the bottom of the boat! The lid slammed shut with a sharp BANG as she fell, triggering an avalanche of sounds and images from her subconscious she had never experienced before. The shadowy outline of a man, his features unformed and indistinct, wavered before her. His mouth moved as though speaking but she heard no words. Though somehow familiar, she had no idea from where the image had risen or what it meant. Was it a forgotten memory, a long-lost dream, or had it been conjured up by fatigue? And then the image was gone, disappearing as quickly as it had appeared, trailing into nothingness, leaving her too emotionally spent to move.

She remained in the bottom of the boat for several minutes, collecting her breath and piecing together the cause of her hysteria. She hated herself for having such unreasonable fear. For some unfathomable reason, she had always loathed guns. But as much as she hated them, never had she reacted so strongly.

The thing in the seat-box wasn’t even a real gun, she reasoned to herself. It was a flare gun, mounted to the underside of the lid. It must have been the noise the lid made when it slammed shut that had triggered her strange reaction. But why?

Clenching her jaw, she pushed the mystery aside, determined to regain control.

Whatever is wrong…it will have to wait. Now is not the time for such foolishness.

Though her hand still trembled, she braced herself, lifted the seat’s lid again and peeked inside. Her heart began to race as the bulky flare gun came into view. Her face flushed hot and perspiration seeped out on her forehead but she managed to control her fear for the moment.

It’s not really a pistol, she argued to herself. It’s only a device to shoot flares, to signal for help. It could save our lives.

But the thing was close enough in shape and function to a real weapon that the anxiety began to seize control again. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to reach toward it.

I have to do this. Our lives may depend on it.

The closer her hand moved toward the gun, the harder it shook. She had stopped breathing and teetered on the edge of passing out. At the last moment, realizing that she was about to faint, she closed the lid and sank to her knees in defeat. Her aversion was so strong that she could not overcome it, even in the face of death.

She shook as much from frustration as from the exertion. But as her fear began to subside, anger and defiance rushed in to replace it.

If I can’t use the flare gun, then I must do something else. I can’t…I won’t just sit here and let us die.

Unlatching the lifeboat’s oars from their stowage clamps along the hull, Caelyn mounted them in the oarlocks on the gunwales and began to row. A woman of slight build, she struggled with the heavy oars at first, accomplishing little more than to splash water. After several awkward attempts she found her rhythm, propelling the boat a few feet forward with each pull. Though the victory was intoxicating, it was short-lived. Less than an hour later she was forced to stop. Her small hands, raw with blisters, were no longer able to grasp the oars.

Their situation was desperate. It mattered little that the wind was dying and the sky was almost clear. Without fresh water, they would not survive long. Exhausted, she rested against the oar handles crossed in an X before her.

How had things gone so wrong? This time yesterday she had been on her way back to New York, satisfied with the decision she had finally made. No, it was better than that. Her voyage to Florida had been the answer to a prayer.

Her Aunt Frances in St. Augustine – her mother’s twin who had emigrated from England to be closer to her sister – had helped Caelyn work through her concerns and reservations about marriage without making her feel self-conscious about her indecisiveness. She despised being

the way she was. It was the trauma of her mother’s death that had driven her into a shell as a child. As she grew older, her father’s overprotective, obsessive manner had kept her imprisoned behind invisible bars, affording few opportunities to rediscover her true nature. Even her closest girlfriends would be amazed to learn of her secret desires to travel and study, to do something positive with her life. As they had grown older and moved on with their lives as adults, she had remained in place, never growing, never breaking from her shell.

Her infatuation with sailing and later, the Aphrodite, were the only endeavors she had ever been passionate about. It was acknowledgment of a small facet of her true self, a seed that would sprout and grow if given the chance. And though she believed her father saw it as an indulgence that might threaten his plans, he did not interfere. She wasn’t sure why but often suspected he saw it as the lesser of two evils.

When the time had come to leave her aunt, Caelyn was at peace with her decision. As soon as she got back to New York she would meet with Hunter Winslow and accept his offer of marriage. Having resolved her apprehensions and decided the next steps, she had wasted no time departing St. Augustine. As the Aphrodite’s foresail had caught the morning breeze and slowly sailed from Matanzas River into the Atlantic, she waved a sad farewell.

“I expect to see you at the wedding,” she had called out. But the expression on her aunt’s face told her it would not be so. Frances despised Caelyn’s father so strongly that not even the marriage of her only niece would prompt her to suffer his proximity.

Now, as she retraced the return leg of the voyage in her mind, Caelyn cursed her impatience. The prudent thing would have been to sail during the day and anchor in protected harbors at dusk. But sailing by night meant arriving in New York in half the time. Just after nightfall on the third day the failing of such logic became painfully obvious.

Though it had rained for most of the afternoon, the bad weather had been little more than a nuisance at first. Neither she nor the crew had any way of knowing that the storm closing on them was the beginning of a full nor’easter. Soon, the hard winds forced them to lower all the sails and switch to steam power. Running sails during a strong blow could snap a mast, and with the engine to power them, the risk was unnecessary. They would have been better off on the leeward side of a barrier island, but the seas became too rough too fast to attempt a run through an inlet. They had been left with no other option but to ride the storm out on the open sea.

The Aphrodite had made it to Hatteras and the Diamond Shoals a few hours before midnight, guided by the beacon of the cape’s unfailing lighthouse. Dressed in a set of crewman’s storm gear, Caelyn had stood with her helmsman at the wheel. The Aphrodite was her vessel – she would not leave its survival in the hands of others while cowering below deck.

The goal was to make it past the shoals and the relative safety of the northern waters. But as they struggled past the cape’s point the engine had lost power. Drifting toward the shoals and certain death, Caelyn ordered one of the crewmen to drop the sea anchor. It was too late. The Aphrodite’s keel had snagged the sandy bottom of the shoals, bringing them to an abrupt halt. There she had sat, stuck in the shallows and the relentless pounding of the waves.

Caelyn could not remember every detail that followed. The one thing she knew for sure was that Ansel Stick was not on deck when she had needed him most. It was not until they began lowering the lifeboat that he appeared from the engine room. Despite her protests, he had forced her to climb aboard and had jumped in behind her.

“Don’t worry,” he had shouted to the four confused sailors left on deck. “I’ll go first to make sure she doesn’t drown.”

The idea that she needed help, especially from the man whom Caelyn somehow knew was responsible for condemning her sweet Aphrodite, had made her furious. If not for a quirk of fate, Ansel Stick would have been with her now instead of the lifesaver. Caelyn shuddered at the thought, glancing at the man to reassure herself that he was still alive. If he came to, he might be able to help, or at least keep her company. If he did not regain consciousness soon he might sink into a coma. At worst, she might be trapped on the small boat with a dead man.

By mid-afternoon, Caelyn judged that they were four or five miles off Ocracoke Island, drifting with the current. Though the air was cool, the sky was clear and the sun was warm on her skin. If they removed their storm gear and laid low, out of the wind, their clothes would have a chance to dry.

As she tugged off the lifesaver’s gear she saw that his left wrist was swollen and purple and feared that it might be broken. The blouse she had used to catch the rain would now serve another purpose. Caelyn tore off the sleeves to wrap his hand and used the remainder of the cloth to fashion a sling. She was doing everything possible to increase their chances but what they needed more than anything else was water. Unless someone found them soon the lifesaver would die from dehydration, and she would not last much longer.

With nothing left she could do, Caelyn studied the lifesaver’s face, wondering what manner of man he might be. His dark beard hid the more telling features but she could tell he was a younger man, about thirty. His skin was tan and weathered but not yet turned to leather like that of a fisherman. Both his face and his hands were lean and sinewy, no surprise for someone whose profession was rowing a glorified rowboat. He wore no rings or chains or jewelry of any kind. She took him to be a man of simple means and simple tastes as befitting his profession. There was nothing particularly remarkable about him except for the suggestion of an underlying strength. He had an inner strength as well, she sensed, or was it the imagination of a grown woman too long indulged in the romance of classic tales?

Chiding herself for such childish musings, Caelyn turned her attention to the setting sun and the growing sense of foreboding that came with it. It would be impossible for anyone to spot them at night, and by morning they would be far away from the shipping lanes. There would be no passing ships to spot them.

Placing her face in her hands, she sobbed, cursing the strange aversion that kept her from doing the one simple thing that might save them. But only for a few moments. She may not be stronger than the phobia but neither was she weak of constitution and determination. The tears shed were seen by no one and the release of pent-up emotion gave her new hope. Settling in next to the fallen lifesaver to share body warmth against the growing cold, Caelyn prayed to the only gods that had ever afforded her comfort.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Various book stores on coastal North Carolina and New Bern, NC.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, Audible.

PRICE: $20 paperback, $10 eBook, $17 Audible.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.billfurney.com.

Catcher’s Keeper

Catcher's Keeper by [Spero, JD]

PUBLISHED IN: March 1, 2014


THE EDITOR: Sandra Hume


SUMMARY: It’s 1979 and Holden Caulfield, at nearly forty, has yet to heal from his childhood trauma. When his older brother stumbles upon Holden’s teenage “journal,” he believes it will save his struggling writing career. That journal becomes “The Catcher in the Rye” — published secretly under the brother’s name. A stinging sibling rivalry ensues. When Holden fights to win back his authorship, he stumbles into his number one fan: Mark David Chapman. When Holden learns of Chapman’s sinister plans, can he stop the tragic killing of John Lennon?

JD SperoTHE BACK STORY: In 1980 John Lennon was killed by Mark David Chapman, who believed he was Holden Caulfield, narrator of the classic “The Catcher in the Rye.” After the shooting, Chapman remained on the scene calmly reading the book, which he later offered to police as his statement. Years ago as a student teacher at Andover High School, my mentor handed me a VHS tape of an old Dateline video which featured this bizarre story. Every  year I taught Catcher, I would play that video for my class–and found myself equal parts enthralled and horrified with the tragedy again and again. When I stopped teaching after my third child was born, the story for Catcher’s Keeper” came to me and I wrote the first draft in just three months. The book asks the question, “What if Holden could have met Chapman, learned of his plan, and tried to prevent the assassination?”

WHY THIS TITLE:  It’s a play on “Finders Keepers” as it brings up the question of authorship vs. ownership in the publishing world.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Many people have strong feelings about The Catcher in the Rye. Love it or hate it, Catcher’s Keeper could be seen as nostalgia or sweet vindication for readers. Also, fans of John Lennon will be interested to see if his fate changes.


“JD Spero’s thought-provoking novel spins an alternate reality where The Catcher in the Rye is published two decades later, and puts its publicity tour on a collision course with the murder of John Lennon. Through the distinct voices of Holden, his brother and his sister, Catcher’s Keeper keeps us guessing whether they can change history, right up to its unexpected conclusion. A great debut novel.” — Steve Alcorn, Theme Park Designer and Writing Instructor.

“My excitement at finally seeing what would have happened to Holden came home with the publication of Catcher’s Keeper by JD Spero. From the beginning to the end the characters make one comfortably uncomfortable. The MD character was as disturbing as one would have expected and the integration of the three siblings Jerry, Alden, and Fiona make the journey as one would hope; intense, loving, and deeply moving. The novel is one I will be using in my classroom this year and for years to come because of its intensity, compassion, and commitment to truth, innocence, AND reality. An amazing piece of work by JD Spero. Thank you for letting your creativity flow while connecting to the iconic character Holden Caulfield.”
– Steve Malenfant, English teacher, Newburyport High School, MA (Retired)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Johannah Davies (JD) Spero’s writing career took off when her first release, Catcher’s Keeper, was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. Since then, she’s found similar success with her young adult fantasy Forte series, winning recognition from National Indie Excellence Award (2014, 2016), Adirondack Literary Award (2015), and Book Excellence Award (2016). Having lived in various cities from St. Petersburg (Russia) to Boston, she’s now settled with her husband and three sons in the Adirondack Mountains, where she was born and raised.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I guess we all have a soft spot for our first born, yes? Though it’s been five years and I’ve recently published my 4th novel, I will always have passion for this story. I’ve been invited to countless book clubs and schools to discuss this book, and I do believe it’s timeless. The hardest part of writing it was portraying a true-to-life Mark David Chapman. I’m thrilled to be starting work on the audio version of the book!



Not even a week since I moved in with my brother and he’s testing my pacifist nature, butting in on my shit.

The aroma of coffee leads me like Pepé Le Pew to Penelope—right to Jerry. He’s at the kitchen table, all showered and dressed in Polo, going through my file box like he’s researching at the goddam library. He could at least pretend he’s helping me unpack. He’s into my old black binder from school. The thing must be decades old. Why can’t he wait until I’m out of the house to go through my shit like a normal nosy brother? It’s a Catch-22, though, because if I tell him to stop, he’ll know I’m buggin’ out. Can’t give him that.

Besides, he’s allowing my forty-year-old ass to crash here and I have yet to ask my big favor. So I should probably let this slide.

The coffee maker just made its final, steamy percolation. Pavlov’s so right.

I like my coffee black. Jerry has a hodgepodge collection of mugs. Surprising since he’d been married so long. You’d think he’d have matching china and whatnot. But no, I pour my joe into a YMCA mug and check out his lame view. What I’d call “low LA.” Parking lot. Smoke-stacks. Bird shit. Litter. The view is so pitiful I almost forgive Jerry for snooping. But then he reads aloud from my black binder, which is still in his hands:

Now he’s out in Hollywood being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”

It’s familiar, but far away. There’s this tingling behind my eyes—like that time the fuzz found a doobie in my shirt pocket. I’m caught. Ol’ YMCA feels heavy as I take my first sip. It’s hot and tangy and gets my stomach ready. But I can’t find my smokes anywhere.

“Jesus, Alden,” Jerry says. “What is this?”

It’s quiet but for pages turning. Maybe it’s the coffee, but I start to sweat.

“You seen my cigarettes?”

Jerry just keeps reading. He’s all hunched over, rubbing his bald spot. It comes to me all at once, what he’s reading: my journal from when I was sixteen. That thing I wrote for the doc at the funny farm. Watching him read that is like having an itch out of reach.

My next sip of coffee is rushed and traces my esophagus with a nice burn. I would kill for a cigarette. I finally find my box of Marlboros behind the toaster. And it’s empty.

“Don’t you have any goddam smokes?”

Jerry takes his time answering, his eyes never leaving my binder. “Told you, I quit years ago.”

“Doesn’t Janine have some? I mean, did she? Maybe you stashed them away somewhere?”

That sure makes him look up. He glares at me. I feel bad, but it’s the nicotine talking. When he opens his mouth, though, what he says is, “This is good, Alden. All this about Spencer and the Atlantic Monthly and the ducks. You’ve captured something here.”

For real? This is my journal he’s talking about. I’d rather him wear my goddam briefs than read that thing. Word. I gotta get some air, let myself out into the sunshine. It’s like I’m taking up too much space in his pad. Him reading that thing is spreading the cells of my body all around the goddam room, my whole self pinging around, getting bruised, defenseless. Man, this place is gloomy as hell. The lame view is not half of it.

I drain ol’ YMCA. Let him read it if he wants to. I’m going out to buy smokes. Maybe some eggs too. In the spare room, I pull on cutoffs and my favorite Dylan t-shirt with a tomato stain on ol’ Dylan’s face. Where the hell are my kicks? You’d think they’d jump out at you since Jerry’s place is small compared to that stellar crib he had with Janine. Beyond small. Claustrophobic now that I have to wade through the cells of my own body to find my goddam shoes. Not the most Zen feeling in the world.

My Adidas finally appear under the coffee table. I’m putting them on my bare feet when Jerry says, “I knew you had balls, Alden. But not this big.” He laughs, a snicker, as if he’s uncovered my stash of Playboys. “Not this big.”

The last ounce drains out of me. I have to glance over to make sure he’s really not looking at my Playboys. No, still my goddam journal. So my options are this: I either have to rip it from his hands and confront him about it, or get the hell out of Dodge.

I’m a pacifist. And I still need that favor. So I’m out.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Northshire Bookshop, Saratoga Springs, NY






PRICE: Kindle version is only $2.99! Paperback is $11.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: www.jdspero.com