Lovers and Loners

Lovers and Loners: Stories by [Ryan, Jean]OUR OTHER CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “KAFKA’S ROACH,” BY MARC ESTRIN, “THE LYNCHING OF LEO FRANK,” BY ZVI SESLING AND “GHOST TRACKS,” BY MARK SABA, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Lovers and Loners..

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Jean Ryan,

THE EDITOR: Mark McNease.

THE PUBLISHER: MadeMark Publishing, NYC.

SUMMARY: In Lovers and Loners, Jean Ryan’s new collection of short stories, we meet a richly varied group of women struggling for footholds in a shifting world. In “Parasites” we’re introduced to a widow who agrees to have dinner with a man she fears is a killer. “Manatee Gardens” deftly explores the relationship between a mother and daughter who discover common ground at a marine sanctuary just when time seems to be working against them. In “Chasing Zero” a woman with a mysterious illness loses her hold on the callous man she adores. “Odds and Ends” follows a woman running errands on the last day of her life.

Jean RyanTHE BACK STORY: This book was written over a period of several years. I think the stories have a cohesiveness that invited publishing them as a collection.

WHY THIS TITLE: Nearly every story in LOVERS AND LONERS contains female characters in emotional transition, in love or adrift.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I believe that the accessible nature of my writing, its clarity and immediacy, makes for easy and enjoyable reading, with engaging, and often surprising, subject matter.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

From Amazon readers:

“I have now read every book that Jean Ryan has written and is available to the public and this one — Lovers & Loners — joins that pantheon of books that I cherish (much like her other books, actually.) It is a rare gift to have a voice so clear when a writer touches your soul and opens up your heart and mind. Reading Lovers & Loners was akin to meeting a dear, smart, insightful, witty friend whose company you always look forward to seeing and who is going to tell you things, say things, leave impressions on you that will linger in your memory.”

“In Lovers And Loners, Jean Ryan has given her lucky readers another collection of appealing short stories. She observes human behavior with sensitivity and understanding to create characters and situations that are relatable, even familiar, in their authenticity. With her skillful use of language and impressive knowledge of the natural world, she always manages to inform and entertain me. I look forward to reading her thoughts and hearing her voice in each of her compositions.”

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. Nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize, she has also published a novel, Lost Sister. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners, her second story collection, was published in April 2017. Her collection of nature essays, Strange Company, is available in digital form, paperback and audio.

“There are no shortcuts. Writers must stay on course, figuring out what they want to convey, putting their idea into words, then finding the right words—precise and beautiful at once. Every so often the perfect word or phrase arrives unbidden, but writing in general is hard work. If it isn’t, it probably isn’t worth much.”

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Literary short fiction is the perfect genre for today’s time-crunched readers. Waiting for an appointment, riding the bus, having coffee at Starbucks—these are all great venues for enjoying short reads.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Napa Bookmine.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon PRICE: $4.99 Kindle, $12.95 Paperback.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: lena1000@sbcglobal.net Author Website: https://jean-ryan.com/ FB https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Ryan-Author-177400552374366/

Twitter: @JeanRyan_

Sample Chapter:

Chasing Zero

Garret has a head cold. Naturally he’s in a foul mood. His world has stopped.

His supervisors won’t be happy either. They need his nose, and especially now. There’s a big contract looming and they want the formula he’s been working on: an energy drink for a new company called Game On. Other flavorists could fill in, but when it comes to crafting power potions no one is better than Garret.

Energy drinks, Garret says, don’t have to taste great, they just need something that suggests potency: spikey notes, a punishing edge. Carbonation is not enough. Garret is working with a chemical that makes your tongue tingle, along with another compound that turns your lips numb, at least for a minute or two.

He works for Perception, the biggest company in this city. They’ve been making flavors and fragrances forever, and on days the wind doesn’t blow you can smell all sorts of things. Some days it’s bubble gum, as if there’s a big pink tent of the stuff stretched above our heads; other days, the odor of Peking Duck wafts through our doors and windows.

Most of our friends work at the plant (I say “our,” but they’re really Garret’s friends). Every month or so Randy, Koby, Guy and Christie come over for pizza and beer. Randy is married, though I’ve never seen his wife. Koby and Guy are single—no mystery there. The oddest duck is Christie. Built like a wrestler, she’s a one-of-the-guys kind of girl—swears like a sailor, loves to watch football, uses the word “dude.” Her hair is platinum and she has a fake tan, but she’s a long way from pretty. They always stay late, talking politics or sports or movies—anything but work. Firms that buy flavors from Perception are not keen on people knowing what deals they’ve made with the company, so everything is done on the QT. The smallest slip of the tongue and you’re gone. Secrecy is such a big deal that outside the plant, co-workers don’t mention their work, even to each other. Still, I’ve learned plenty. I’ve lived with Garret for over two years and he’s told me some things you wouldn’t believe, like why a certain company’s French fries taste so good. I’m saving all these tidbits. I write them down in a little spiral notebook that I keep under the bathroom sink in a box of tampons. Lately, Garret hasn’t been sharing any secrets and I bet he wishes he’d never confided in me. I want to think he stays with me out of love, but who knows?

I am at the kitchen counter quartering some nice fat Chandler strawberries. “Do you want some of these?” I ask.

He lowers the newspaper and looks at the bright heap of berries on the cutting board. “No thanks.”

“Well, you have to eat something—you’re sick. You want some toast?”

He frowns, considers. “Yeah, okay.”

Garret is afraid of colds; he’d sooner suffer a broken arm. He starts thinking he’ll never be able to smell again and I have to keep assuring him that he’ll be fine.

The nose is everything, I’ve learned. We taste with our noses. We discover with our noses. We remember with our noses. The brain, Garret says, began with the nose.

My friend Dawna fell in love with a psychiatrist. He made good money and he was reasonably attractive, but she wound up leaving him because she couldn’t shake the fear that he was analyzing her. I know what she went through. Living with Garret, I worry about how I smell, especially, you know, certain times of the month. As you can imagine, I’m extra careful, and not just with that. I get my teeth cleaned four times a year now.

I pop a slice of multi-grain into the toaster and pour a glass of orange juice, and then I use the tip of my knife to turn a strawberry into a little red fan, which I place on Garret’s plate.

I look at food differently now; I think about the insides, the chemistry. There’s a lot going on in this berry, hundreds of different molecules, some we can smell, some we can’t—unless something is evaporating we can’t smell it at all. In Garret’s lab at the plant there are thousands of little brown bottles filled with different flavors. One time he brought one home for me that smelled just like a Mojito. He was proud of that one. I think they turned it into a breath mint.

It takes a lot of expensive equipment to break down the chemical structure of something and then figure out which molecules matter most. At Perception they call this process “chasing zero” and it can take years. Sometimes it feels like that’s what I’m doing with Garret, trying to get to the truth of him. I listen to everything he says, even when he’s just complaining, even when he’s had too many Bud Lights; I watch how he eats his dinner, which foods he goes for first, what he leaves behind; I study the positions he sleeps in, the way he shoves a fist under his chin; I even open my eyes when we’re having sex so I can see the expressions on his face. He grimaces a lot, makes faces that used to scare me. Sex is strange business.

*

After Garret leaves for work I feed the turtles. One strawberry apiece, plus a turnip leaf, a slice of mushroom and an earthworm. Richard always goes for the live food first; Liz goes for the most colorful—she loves berries.

Garret is not much interested in these turtles. He inherited Richard from a friend who died and I think he’s still resentful of the care involved (even though I’m the one doing all the caring). Richard was a bachelor when I moved in. He spent his days moving back and forth between a shallow pan of water and the clay pot he hid under. The first time I saw him, alone in that big wooden box, I couldn’t understand.

“You just have the one?” I asked, turning to Garret.

“He eats,” Garret shrugged. “He’s fine.”

I did not believe that. I will never believe that. I read an article once about a man in California who wanted to stage a live nativity scene. He somehow acquired a camel for this purpose, which he decided to keep as a pet. This guy had plenty of land, the climate was suitable and there were no prohibitive zoning laws. Below the story was a photograph: this large improbable beast with a chainlink fence in front of him and vineyards in the distance. The new owner was standing a few feet away, pointing at the animal, a wide stupid grin on his face. And all I could think was how awful it would be to never again see your own kind, to be, as far as you knew, the last camel on earth.

Garret wasn’t thrilled about getting another turtle, but when I told him I didn’t mind being the one to clean up after them, he relented. An hour later I walked into The Turtle Club—the pet store where Garret buys Richard’s crickets and cuttlebones—and there she was, a female Chinese box turtle posed on a branch in her tank, waiting for me. I brought my face close to the glass and she pulled her neck out of her shell and we got a good look at each other. She was even prettier than Richard. Her glossy shell was the color of dark honey and vivid yellow streaks ran down her neck from the back of each eye. The top of her head was brown, her cheeks were golden. Her expression was calm, resolute, infinitely patient, and my adoration was swift and fierce. I wanted to know what she knew.

Richard, I assumed, would be thrilled to have a mate, which is why I named her Liz. I wanted to see how quickly he’d come to her, so I set her down a couple feet away from him, stood back and waited. I am still waiting.

Two springs have passed and Richard, to my knowledge, has never approached Liz. When she noses up to him, he gradually turns his shelled back to her. And he does something else now that Garret swears he never did before: Every once in a while he stands up against the wall of his enclosure and hangs there for several minutes, as if asking, in his silent turtle way, for help. I don’t like it when he does this and I tell myself that he is just stretching.

I wonder if he took an instant dislike to her, if Liz is simply not the mate he had in mind. I imagine myself as a pet: a great hand setting me in front of the only man there is. “Mate,” says The Hand. What if that man disgusted me—worse, what if I disgusted him?

Time is what turtles have in abundance and maybe that’s why they’re slow to court. I still have hope for these two. I picture the day when I look into their box and find Richard on top of Liz. I can’t speak for her, but it would mean a lot to me.

*

Washing the breakfast dishes, I manage not to drop or break one. I have a condition, something no one can seem to figure out. My hands will be fine and suddenly they won’t; they’ll start to

twitch and tremble, and I have to stop what I’m doing until they go still again. Sometimes the spells last only a minute or two; other times my hands shake all afternoon. It’s not MS and it’s not Parkinson’s. One doctor said it could be an auto-immune disorder too new for a name. Garret says it’s all in my head.

Naturally I had to quit my job. I made $64,000 a year as a dental hygienist, along with full medical coverage and free dental care. Now I have no insurance at all. If we were married, I could get on Garret’s plan, but he hasn’t made the offer.

When my hands first started to go wrong, he was concerned; he even went to a couple appointments with me. But after three months, six doctors and I don’t know how many tests, he started getting annoyed. Now I don’t dare talk about my hands; without insurance there’s not much I can do about them anyway.

He wants to leave me, but I have this ailment and no income, and he feels trapped. That’s what I think. He was getting bored with me even before this happened. He was all set to dump me, then this.

And the things he’s told me, all those trade secrets he wasn’t supposed to share. All it would take is one measly letter to the editor, a little human interest story about who buys what. You can bet he’s thought about that.

*

Hell’s Kitchen. That’s what Dawna calls the company Garret works for. “No good comes out of that place,” she said, which is something I told Garret one day, kiddingly, and he about went nuts. (He doesn’t like her anyway. Dawna is overweight, and fat people irritate him. Garret himself is lean as a race dog.) I started to defend her, saying that some folks just like to go natural.

“Does the cow know that there is no molecular difference between a synthesized extract and a natural one?”

I turned back to the laundry I was folding. I wished I’d never said anything.

“Does she have any idea what would happen to the vanilla bean crop if that’s all we used? What a stupid bitch.” Garret has told me about vanilla, how it’s the world’s favorite flavor, and thousands of tons of it are made from things like wood pulp waste and petrochemicals. You can even make it out of cow dung. Think about that next time you reach for a sugar cookie. Same thing with citrus—the key ingredient, citral, is found is all sorts of plants. The lemon sorbet in your freezer probably started out as a Chinese mountain pepper.

Never say “artificial” around Garret. He hates that word. He says that’s where all the trouble started. “Crafted” is the term he and his buddies use. Another thing that makes him mad is when people assume that all they do at Perception is make bad food taste good. I came home one day with a package of white cheddar rice cakes and he poked a finger at it and said, “You know what these would taste like without the flavoring? They’d taste like baseboard.” I don’t blame him for being prideful. Along with creating the magic behind French fries and Easter candy, Perception makes good things taste better, which is pretty significant when you consider how hard it can be to get old people and cancer patients to gag down anything.

Dawna doesn’t care that Garret doesn’t like her—she feels the same way about him, which is why she only comes by when he’s working. She thinks he doesn’t treat me right. She says I have self-esteem issues from being a foster child and that’s why I put up with him. I have my doubts about that. For one thing, my foster parents—I had three sets—were not terrible. In fact, after hearing what some kids suffer at the hands of their real parents, I’m glad I didn’t come from one of those Leave It To Beaver homes. I lived in apartments here in Cincinnati, and yeah they were kind of crummy, but I had enough to eat and decent clothes, and I liked my last mother a lot. Her name was Bonnie. She was good at making the most of things. One day I came home and found her cutting up the newspaper. She was folding the pages into little fans and cutting notches to make snowflakes; the living room window was covered with them. She looked up at me and said, “You

have to make your own fun in this world, Emily. It’s nobody’s fault but your own if you don’t.” I have a brother but I don’t know where he is—I do feel sad about that. The other thing that’s hard—especially when I’m filling out medical forms—is not having a clue about what diseases my parents had. (On the other hand, maybe it’s better this way: if I knew what ailments I could get, I might start waiting for them.) I wonder sometimes if my mother’s hands shook like mine, and if so, did anyone find out why.

I’ve told Dawna that Garret has a tender side she doesn’t see. When his dog Ace had to be put down last year, Garret cried for three days; and he calls his mother every other week no matter what; and when I talk to him he listens, which is something most guys aren’t good at. Garret isn’t the best sex I’ve ever had, but we do pretty well—except for lately. I’ve been renting porn to spice things up and it helps a lot. Say what you want about porn films—they’re demeaning to women (I think they’re demeaning to both sexes), the actors have pimples, the acting is awful—all that’s true, but a lot of people have jobs thanks to this industry and if it puts people back in the bedroom, well what’s wrong with that?

I did tell Dawna that Garret’s been acting more remote, not talking very much, and she shrugged. “Doesn’t surprise me,” she said.

“I’m worried that he might want to break up with me but he feels bad about me losing my job. And, you know, my hands.” I looked up from the dishwasher I was unloading. “What do you think?”

Dawna leaned back in her chair and shook her head. “I don’t think his conscience is that keen, sweetheart.” She gestured at the dishwasher. “You cook his meals, you wash his clothes, you do the shopping—you even take care of his damn turtles. Why would he want you to leave?” I didn’t say anything. I’m used to how blunt Dawna can be. “I wouldn’t count on him marrying you though,” she added.

I shoved the dishwasher door shut. “Who says I’m looking to get married? I’m not. Things are fine the way they are.” This is a lie. I’d marry Garret in a heartbeat, and not just for his insurance. I love him beyond reason.

“Good.” She folded her arms over her ample bosom and studied me with a small, knowing smile. Dawna is my best friend and nobody’s fool.

*

In the summer Garret puts the turtle pen outside so that they can get some sun on their backs. Even though box turtles hibernate in the winter, it gets too cold here for the Chinese variety, so in the fall they have to come back inside and sit under basking lamps to make up for the sun. The lamps and other lights keep their enclosure at 75 degrees—any lower and they’d “brumate,” which is like a false hibernation where they stop eating but keep using up fat and energy, meaning they could die. Keeping box turtles inside shortens their lives, but what can you do? It’s not a perfect world for any of us.

Turtles are not near as rugged as they look. They get parasites and respiratory infections and funguses, and they dehydrate easily, which is why Richard and Liz spend so much time in their water pans. I have to wash out these pans every day and mist the pen with spring water, and every other week I switch out the bark. I don’t mind any of this; I like giving the turtles a fresh start. They have to live their whole lives in a four-by-three-foot box and keeping it nice is a way of apologizing. In the fall I tuck in a few pine cones, also rocks and branches. These objects may not fool them, but deep inside their leathery bodies, where the healing happens, I think the turtles are soothed.

I am partial to Liz. I love her face. I know that turtles don’t really smile, but the way Liz’s beak is shaped, you’d swear that’s what she’s doing. I look at her and smile myself, and every so often I place my hand on her back and let it rest there. Liz is just under six inches long and her plated

shell fits sweetly in my palm. Maybe some of what she knows is being transmitted into my skin. Maybe touch is a language we don’t know the half of.

Richard is an inch longer and he never smiles. I guess he can’t.

*

I finish the vacuuming, then sit down at the kitchen table and look over a community college catalog we got in the mail. I’m thirty-six, still young enough to pick and choose. Garret told me one time that I should do something different with my life. “You’re smart,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to clean teeth for a living.” Garret never gave me much credit for being a dental hygienist, even though I made plenty of money and liked what I did.

“Doesn’t it gross you out?” he said, not long after we met. “All those rotten mouths.” He shuddered.

“They’re not all rotten,” I told him, “and no it doesn’t gross me out.”

Garret gave me a long look, his dark eyes pinning me —he’s a handsome man, no one would argue that. He shook his head and frowned. “That’s just weird.”

I turn the pages slowly, overwhelmed by the range of careers, the fact that I can sit at this table and pick a life out of a catalog. Hazard one and I ruin the rest. I might as well put on a blindfold and choose with my finger. Only I can’t. I have to think about jobs that don’t ask too much of my hands.

Bakery Chef. Accountant. Teacher’s Assistant. Hotel Manager. I like to cook but I suppose that’s off the table. Accounting? Too much typing. Just as I start to imagine myself looking after children on a playground, my hands start to quiver. I hold them out in front of me and watch them move on their own. My heart pounds. It’s happening more. This is the fourth time in the last three days. I shove my hands under my thighs and take deep breaths, try to think of something else.

It feels like I am lost and there is no one looking for me.

*

This summer Garret went on another “Flavor Hunt.” Every three years Perception’s key players get to go to places like Indonesia and South America, where they rifle the jungles for the next great taste sensation. I can understand Garret’s participation in this; what I can’t figure out is why they asked Christie to come along. Christie works with soy products, tries to make them taste like the burgers or sausages they’re pretending to be. Last year she supposedly hit a homerun with “Wonder Dogs”—I tried them and, believe me, she’s not there yet.

With scientists around the world ransacking what’s left of our rain forests, searching for everything from treats to treatments, you might think there’s not much left to work with. You’d be wrong. Garret says we have barely begun. Finding a new fruit isn’t the hard part. Turning it into something you actually want to eat or drink, that’s where the real work starts. Garret says that most exotic fruits taste awful. If they are not rejected right away, they are stripped down to zero and paired up with something we know and love—strawberries, peaches, bananas. Lots of exotics wind up nameless, used to bolster other products. That’s what happened with wild ginger—they figured out that it intensifies the pungency of spicy foods and cools off your tongue afterward.

I would love to go on one of these Flavor Hunts, travel over forest canopies in a hot air balloon, see how lemurs live. No way they’ll let me, though. Garret won’t even ask.

*

By the time Garret gets home my hands have stopped shaking and the chicken pot pies I made from scratch are ready to come out of oven. I pour him a beer and myself a glass of wine, and we

sit down in the living room like we always do before dinner. He coughs a couple times and blows his priceless nose.

“How’d it go at work?” I ask.

“Fine.”

“How do you feel? Can you taste that beer?”

“A little, yeah.” He takes a long pull on his Bud Light and sets it down on the coaster. Garret is neat, which I appreciate. He never leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor or whiskers in the sink. Actually there’s nothing out of place or extra in this sleek high-rise apartment. “He has no soul,” Dawna murmured the first time she saw it. Without looking up at me he says, “I need to tell you something.”

I can feel my heart speed up, my cheeks getting red. This is it, I tell myself, trying to prepare the part of me that will be hurt.

He lifts his gaze my way but can’t hold it there. He looks back at the bottle he is spinning on the coaster and tells me, in a rush, that he is in love with someone else.

My spine stiffens; already, thank god, I’m beginning to hate him. “Do I know her?”

“Yes, you do.” He looks up, almost defiant now. He aims, pauses, delivers. “It’s Christie.”

Christie? For one startling instant I see her: big thighs, gutter mouth; hair and tan just as fake as her hot dogs. I’m not exactly gorgeous but I’m a whole lot prettier than Christie. It takes me a moment to get my voice back.

“How long?”

“Since June.”

My mind does a fast calculation. June. That was the month they were in Paraguay. Screwing in the jungle. Screwing here too, evidently—next week is Thanksgiving.

“I wanted to tell you…” he trails off, takes another swig of beer.

“I understand.” I say. “You were chicken shit.”

His eyes narrow at this and he stands up and heads for the kitchen. “You know we haven’t been good for a long time,” he says, his voice accusing.

“At least since June,” I reply.

*

“Big surprise,” Dawna said when I told her about Garret’s confession. “Who is she, do you know?”

“Christie. His co-worker.”

Dawna’s mouth opened. “The one who comes over? The butch?”

I nodded. “That’s the one.”

Dawna frowned and looked out the window. “Guys will screw anything.”

Loathing moved through me when she said this. All I could think about were those adult films I’d been renting the last couple months. The bastard had been getting Christie, me and porn.

We were sitting at the table in her kitchen, a large warm, rather messy room that comforted me—the plants rooting in jars over the sink, the hanging wire baskets with their browning bananas and sprouting potatoes; the canisters of rice and noodles, grains I couldn’t name; three or four loaves of bread on the shelf—raisin, sourdough, pumpernickel. There was bounty in this room; the kitchens I grew up in were nothing like this.

It took Dawna about half a second to invite me to move in with her.

I shook my head, “That is so nice, Dawna, but I can’t let you do that.”

“Oh? Where are you going to go then?”

“I don’t want to be in the way.”

“I have this whole house,” she said, “and look at you—you’re no bigger than a minute.”

“I don’t have a job.” I said. “Not at the moment anyway.”

“Yes, you do—if you want it. I need someone to help with the dogs. I could teach you.” Dawna owns a mobile pet grooming service; considering the five employees she already has and this house she bought last year, she must be doing pretty well for herself.

“You don’t like it, no big deal. You can do it till you find something else.” She reached out then and touched my arm. “And don’t worry about your hands. The dogs shake so much they won’t even notice.” She smiled at me. “You’re going to get better, kiddo. You just need to get out of that apartment.”

*

There’s not much of mine at Garret’s place and leaving doesn’t take long. The only thing I need help with is the turtle pen, which Dawna helps me carry into the elevator, across the lobby and down the steps. Carefully we shove it into the dog grooming van. Richard and Liz are hiding in their flower pots. His back is facing out, but Liz is looking at me, her head tucked partway in her shell. She trusts me. I’m moving her life someplace else and she is willing to cooperate.

The turtles were all I wanted and Garret had no problem letting me have them. At first I was only going to take Liz. I didn’t want her to live in the same box with a male who ignored her. I would get her a new box, a real mate. Then I thought: What if Richard is ready? What if two years is not so much time for a turtle to make his move? So I decided to give him another year. If he doesn’t come forward in a year, I’ll put another male in there and let him take over. Then I thought: maybe that’s what Richard needs, a contender. Maybe it’s not his fault that the urge to reproduce hasn’t kicked in—he just needs to fight for Liz.

Dawna doesn’t give me a chance to get weepy. We are in and out of Garret’s apartment in less than half an hour. I clear out my drawers in the bedroom, my clothes from the closet, the stuff I keep in the bathroom. The last thing I do is pull that little spiral notebook out of the tampon box and prop it against the mirror. Then I take a piece of note paper out of my purse and write: Yes, I made a copy. I draw a happy face and beneath that I write: Best of luck! Emily.

I didn’t make a copy—turns out I’m not that sort of person. I couldn’t resist writing the note, though. It’s like Bonnie said, you have to make your own fun in this world.

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Kafka’s Roach

Kafka's Roach: The Life and Times of Gregor Samsa by [Estrin, Marc]

Marc Estrin

THE BOOK: Kafka’s Roach: the Life and Times of Gregor Samsa

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Marc Estrin

THE EDITOR: Fred Ramey (Insect Dreams version) Marc Estrin, and two library reading groups.

THE PUBLISHER: Fomite

SUMMARY: Gregor Samsa, Kafka’s man-turned-cockroach, is rescued by the chambermaid, and transported to Vienna to join a carny sideshow. Six-foot talking cockroach! His adventures proceed from there to New York, Washington, D.C, and finally Los Alamos, N.M., where he arrives as FDR’s risk manager for the Manhattan Project. Not a happy ending.

THE BACK STORY: Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” was a short story published in 1915, which sent the literary world into a tizzy. Never before had his image of man turned roach, so captured human alienation, soon to blossom in The Great War. I thought the character had more potential than K alloted him. So I set him free.

WHY THIS TITLE: The “Kafka’s Roach” part is obvious. What makes for such a long book is the fateful history he lived, 1915-1945, from which we are stil reeling.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s fascinating, packed with historical characters accurately rendered, and as Tom Robbins commented on an earlier version, “With its crazy-legged imagination, darting insights, and twitchy wit, [it] is a creation that defies any sourpuss Raid to kill it dead.”

REVIEW COMMENTS:(for its earlier version): “Get ready for a highly imaginative ride through the cultural frontier of the early 20th century. A colossal book of characters and events that inspires tears of laughter and sadness in its rich blend of clever clever metaphor and unsettling facts. This book promises to become a pivotal literary landmark. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (starred review)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Marc Estrin’s world line approximates a cross between a fungal myceliumand a Rube Goldberg device. Writer, biologist, theater director, EMT, physician assistant, puppeteer, political activist, college professor, cellist and conductor, he is baffling, even unto himself.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Kafka’s Roach was submitted at 900 pp, edited down to 600, published as Insect Dreams, transformed from a biography of a roach into a novel about one. The current version restores the original form, not as a corrective, but as an alternate version, packed with more events, and told in the voice of its missing narrator. Fred Ramey (its original editor at Penguin Putnam) and I have published The Insect Dialogues, a book of email exchanges concerning its original metamorphosis, and the general practice of editing in today’s world.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). http://marcestrin.blogspot.com/2017/11/opening-of-kafkas-roach-life-and-times.html

LOCAL OUTLETS: available by special order at any bookstore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, or any of the online bookstores.

PRICE: $26, $4.99 Kindle edition

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: mestrin@mac.com

Novels:

Kafka’s Roach: the Life and Times of Gregor Samsa

Hyde

Speckled Vanities

And Kings Shall Be Thy Nursing Fathers

The Prison Notebooks of Alan Krieger (Terrorist)

When the Gods Come Home to Roost 

Tsim-tsum

The Good Doctor Guillotin 

The Annotated Nose 

Skulk

The Lamentations of Julius Marantz 

Golem Song

The Education of Arnold Hitler

Insect Dreams, the Half Life of Gregor Samsa

Memoirs:

The Insect Dialogues (with Fred Ramey)

Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread & Puppet Theater (with Ron Simon, photographer)

Website:

http://marcestrin.com

The Lynching of Leo Frank

Image result for Zvi Sesling + poet + photosTHE BOOK: “The Lynching of Leo Frank.”

PUBLISHED: 2017.

THE AUTHOR: Zvi Sesling.

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Everyone, Jew and none Jew will learn about anti-Semitism, Jewish history, miscellaneous Jewish issues and read some enjoyable poetry.

The Lynching of Leo Frank by [Sesling, Zvi A.]REVIEW COMMENTS:

1. The poems in this collection also concern other, more wholesale slaughters of Jews – not limited to an isolated lynching. Oceans of ink have been spilled – like wine poured out at Passover – over the atrocities of the mid-20thCentury. Zvi’s writing is a notable tributary, worth traversing.   — Neil Silberblatt, Founder, Voice of Poetry.

2. In the poem “My Jewish Blood,” the poet conjures a fierce pride of heritage reminiscent of Langston Hughes in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and while the tone and tenor of this powerful and potent collection is one of lament, any bitterness is overshadowed by Sesling’s zealous belief in humanity’s goodness and the great godliness of poetic piety.   — Cindy Hochman, Editor, First Literary Review – East

There is also a review by noted poet Eileen Tabios in Galatea Resurrects.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Zvi A. Sesling is Poet Laureate of Brookline, MA the town in which he lives.  Much of his poetry is based on learning from others and real life experiences.  He moved a lot, attending 16 schools in 12 years. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife Susan J. Dechter.  He has a journalism degree from Boston Univ. and a law degree from Suffolk University Law School.  He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.   He has published three books of poetry and two chapbooks. He is publisher of Muddy River Poetry Review and publishes Muddy River Books.  Friends, other poets and people in general find themselves (in different identities) in my poems.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
  I am hopeful that readers will read this poetry book and learn about anti-Semitism in its many forms, learn a bit about being Jewish and perhaps just enjoy a good read.

SAMPLE: See the Amazon  page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: New England Mobile Book Fair, Brookline Booksmith

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Big Table Publishing Co, directly from me:  zviasesling@comcast.net

(use PayPal)

PRICE: $15   (+ $3 postage on orders from me)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

My email: zviasesling@comcast.net       FB: Zvi A. Sesling    Also: wwwmuddyriverpoetryreview

Ghost Tracks

THE BOOK: Ghost Tracks: Stories of Pittsburgh Past.

PUBLISHED IN: 2017.

THE AUTHOR: Mark Saba.

THE EDITOR: None.

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing (Boston). “Publishers of exceptional literary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.”


SUMMARYGhost Tracks, from Big Table Publishing (Boston), contains stories that span more than a century, from the mid-1800s through the 1990s. They bring to light characters and life situations that reflect a unique American city—Pittsburgh, one whose immigrant heritage and Appalachian setting melded to form a culture you won’t find anywhere else. Characters include an asthmatic child, a horny adolescent who tests the limits of his school’s permissiveness, a girl on the cusp of womanhood who works in a biscuit factory, a mill worker who raises canaries in his basement, and a former monk who questions the teachings of his Church. Ghost Tracks provides a glimpse into the rich past of the American city that built all others.

Image result for Mark Saba + author + photosTHE BACK STORY: I grew up in Pittsburgh but moved away in the 1980s. Now, having lived in New England for many years, I realize just how unique Pittsburgh’s culture it. I had been writing stories about Pittsburgh for 30 years, so I decided to collect them, write a few more, and put this collection together. I consider it my most important and heart-felt work.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title reflects the lives of those who lived in PIttsburgh in the last century, when the city’s character forged itself most strongly.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? With so much emphasis on global issues and the big problems that face us, I wanted to present a book that dives deeply into the personal and local. The more detailed and specific a human situation is, the more it reflects the universal, and can be appreciated by anyone.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

The stories in Ghost Tracks are indeed haunted, but not by poltergeists or any other supernatural monsters. Instead, these beautifully-rendered works of short fiction are haunted by memory and missed opportunities. Mark Saba excavates a city of Pittsburgh where the factories are still producing steel and the men still have to speak in shards of blunt metallic language, where shades of meaning hover like ghosts between the words. ––CRAIG FISHBANE, On the Proper Role of Desire

In Ghost Tracks: Stories of Pittsburgh Past, Mark Saba writes about a Pittsburgh that is neither material, nor historical, but a place of memory. Beginning his collection with a quote from Tolstoy, “Everything is, everything exists, only because I love” he sketches in the “everything” with stories about professors, workmen, children, and nuns told in an amazing range of voices. Some of the narrators relate events as they are occurring; some talk about what happened after their deaths. In the last story in the book, a father who had died when his son was three wonders what his son would have been like had he been a part of his growing up. The father says that the only consolation he can find is that his son uses “his uncommon perspective to bring light to others who may have found themselves in the same circumstance.” Mark Saba has an uncommon perspective and he has used it to connect us to characters that exist for us because of his expert telling of their stories. ––CHRIS BULLARD, Fear

 

Mark Saba’s Ghost Tracks: Stories of Pittsburgh Past serves up twenty-three delightful vignettes arranged in three movements, chronicling the bittersweet lives of men, women, and children of Pittsburgh past. Among them: a chronic illness, seen and experienced by an innocent child (“Asthma”); a Lithuanian immigrant girl’s coming of age (“National Biscuit Company”); and a richly-lived (and told) life viewed through the diary of a blind maid, mother, and crone (“Eva”). In these and other poignant tales, Saba narrates the human condition at its most savory and delicious. ––PHILLIP E. TEMPLES, Machine Feelings and Helltown Chronicles


AUTHOR PROFIL
E: I grew up in a family of Polish and Italian heritage in Pittsburgh, where the whole city celebrates Christmas by eating pierogi. I attended the University of Pittsburgh in the pharmacy school before transferring to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where I ended up an English major and began writing seriously. Other print books of mine include The Landscapes of Pater (a novel, The Vineyard Press) and poetry books Calling the Names (David Robert Books) and Painting a Disappearing Canvas (Grayson Books). I also have some other fiction ebook titles available at Smashwords. My stories, poems, and creative nonfiction have appeared widely in literary magazines and anthologies around the U.S. and abroad. I am also a painter. Please see marksabawriter.com.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 I hope to reach people at a basic human level with my writing, to elicit a range of feeling and emotion that lets them know others may feel the way they do, and we are all in this together.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Tracks-Stories-Pittsburgh-Past/dp/1945917164

LOCAL OUTLETS

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. 

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I think it’s very important to open the door to writer/reader interaction. You could post your e-mail address, Facebook page, or Twitter handle, or all of the above. msaba@snet.net

 

Weather Report, Dec. 11

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “AN INCREDIBLE TALENT FOR EXISTING,” BY PAMELA JANE, “ON THE WAY,” BY CYN VARGAS, “SIT AND CRY,” BY BURGESS NEEDLE AND “THE ICE DRAGON,” BY LAUREN SCHARHAG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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Have you ever spent much time in Pittsburgh? If not, don’t worry — Mark Saba has done it for you, and wants to tell you about it.

“I grew up in Pittsburgh,” he writes, “but moved away in the 1980s. Now, having lived in New England for many years, I realize just how unique Pittsburgh’s culture is. I had been writing stories about Pittsburgh for 30 years, so I decided to collect them, write a few more, and put this collection together. I consider it my most important and heart-felt work.”

Mark’s story collection is titled “Ghost Tracks: Stories of Pittsburgh Past.”

Image result for Cockroach photos + freeMeanwhile, for the second time in a few weeks, we offer you a speculative continuation of a literary classic (following Dawn Sinclair’s “Children of Hamelin”).

We know, from reading Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” that main character Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover that he had been turned into a cockroach. And that, more or less, is where Kafka ends it — a dark metaphor for human alienation.

Enter Marc Estrin, who moves the story forward with his novel “Kafka’s Roach.”

Says Marc: “I thought the character had more potential than K allotted him. So I set him free.”

In this version, Samsa joins a carnival (who wouldn’t want to see a six-foot tall talking cockroach?), becomes an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt and winds up involved with the Los Alamos nuclear project.

Besides Christmas, of course, December shines an annual light on the Jewish community with the celebration of Hannukah. Thus, it seemed a good time to highlight Zvi Sesling’s book of Jewish-themed poetry, even though the title — “The Lynching of Leo Frank” — is hardly celebratory.

“I am hopeful,” says Zvi, who has degrees in both journalism and law and is the poet laureate of Brookline, MA, “that readers will read this poetry book and learn about anti-Semitism in its many forms, learn a bit about being Jewish and perhaps just enjoy a good read.”

Ironically, the lynching of Leo Frank — whose dubious conviction for the murder of child factory worker Mary Phalen has since been brought into serious question — occurred in 1915, the same year “Metamorphosis” appeared.

Finally, we offer Jean Ryan’s “Lovers and Loners,” a collection of short stories primarily focused on troubled women. Jean was previously featured on Snowflakes for her novel “Lost Sisters,” and one reviewer wrote of her current story collection:

“It is a rare gift to have a voice so clear when a writer touches your soul and opens up your heart and mind. Reading Lovers & Loners was akin to meeting a dear, smart, insightful, witty friend whose company you always look forward to seeing and who is going to tell you things, say things, leave impressions on you that will linger in your memory.”

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, DEC. 12-18

“GHOST TRACKS,” BY MARK SABA.

Ghost Tracks, from Big Table Publishing (Boston), contains stories that span more than a century, from the mid-1800s through the 1990s. They bring to light characters and life situations that reflect a unique American city—Pittsburgh, one whose immigrant heritage and Appalachian setting melded to form a culture you won’t find anywhere else. Characters include an asthmatic child, a horny adolescent who tests the limits of his school’s permissiveness, a girl on the cusp of womanhood who works in a biscuit factory, a mill worker who raises canaries in his basement, and a former monk who questions the teachings of his Church. Ghost Tracks provides a glimpse into the rich past of the American city that built all others.

“KAFKA’S ROACH,” BY MARC ESTRIN.

Gregor Samsa, Kafka’s man-turned-cockroach, is rescued by the chambermaid, and transported to Vienna to join a carny sideshow. Six-foot talking cockroach! His adventures proceed from there to New York, Washington, D.C, and finally Los Alamos, N.M., where he arrives as FDR’s risk manager for the Manhattan Project. Not a happy ending.

“THE LYNCHING OF LEO FRANK,” BY ZVI SESLING.

Notes reviuewer Neil Silberblatt: “The poems in this collection also concern other, more wholesale slaughters of Jews – not limited to an isolated lynching. Oceans of ink have been spilled – like wine poured out at Passover – over the atrocities of the mid-20thCentury. Zvi’s writing is a notable tributary, worth traversing. ”

“LOVERS AND LONERS,” BY JEAN RYAN.

In Lovers and Loners, Jean Ryan’s new collection of short stories, we meet a richly varied group of women struggling for footholds in a shifting world. In “Parasites” we’re introduced to a widow who agrees to have dinner with a man she fears is a killer. “Manatee Gardens” deftly explores the relationship between a mother and daughter who discover common ground at a marine sanctuary just when time seems to be working against them. In “Chasing Zero” a woman with a mysterious illness loses her hold on the callous man she adores. “Odds and Ends” follows a woman running errands on the last day of her life.

SNOWFLAKES NEWS

From John Maberry:

I have five free days coming up for The Fountain (Kindle only) December 14-18.

I recently published a tenth anniversary edition of Waiting for Westmoreland. It’s on sale through December in both print and eBook but at limited sites. The price and availability details are in this blog post. The main point: the content is unchanged but I have a bright, better looking cover, a great foreword and an expanded epilogue.

K.E. Lanning (kelanningauthor@gmail.com) says “I’ll offer a signed print of my novel, A Spider Sat Beside Her, for $9.99 (it’s normally 12.99)  including shipping for the Christmas event.”

 

 

 

An Incredible Talent for Existing

An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story by [Jane, Pamela]

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “ON THE WAY,” BY CYN VARGAS, “SIT AND CRY,” BY BURGESS NEEDLE AND “THE ICE DRAGON,” BY LAUREN SCHARHAG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR’S PAGE.

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THE BOOK: An Incredible Talent for Image result for Pamela Jane + author + photosExisting:  A Writer’s Story.

PUBLISHED IN: 2016

THE AUTHOR:  Pamela Jane

THE EDITOR: Jennifer Geist

THE PUBLISHER: Open Books Press

SUMMARY:  It is 1965, the era of love, light—and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her husband plots to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills. Their fantasies are on a collision course. And then, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get more explosive, her wilderness cabin burns down and Pamela finds herself left with only the clothes on her back.

From her vividly evoked existential childhood to writing her first children’s book on a sugar high during a glucose tolerance test, Pamela Jane takes the reader along on a highly entertaining personal, political, and psychological adventure.

THE BACK STORY: Behind this book is the immense satisfaction of turning a huge mess into a good story

WHY THIS TITLE? As a child from a family of renowned scientists, without the science gene, I felt my main talent (and I should become famous for it) was existing.  After all kids on sitcoms sat around doing nothing but existing and they were famous.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  It’s a read-in-one-sitting story about overcoming nearly insurmountable inner and outer obstacles to become an author of 30 books, and is both social commentary, introspection, and pure entertainment.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“A five-star read!–Story Circle Reviews

 Pamela Jane’s story unfolds and folds back upon itself…what distinguishes a mediocre or even good story-teller from a great one, is when we find ourselves unable to put a book down.” – Linda Appleton Shapiro, author She’s Not Herself

“As soon as I saw the title, An Incredible Talent for Existing, I knew I was in for something special. And I was. This book has more motivational potential than quite a few self-help books.  bookreviewsanon.com

“[This book] takes us masterfully through this story of a lifelong writer struggling to emerge.”Deborah Heiligman, author, Charles and Emma: a National Book Award Finalist

An Incredible Talent for Existing [is] both social commentary and entertainment. You’ll get the “entertainment” part when you see that this excerpt: There’s A Peanut In My Ear! (Boomer Cafe)

“…a harrowing story that invites the reader to experience the thrill and danger of the Sixties from a place of safety and acceptance. – Tristine Rainer, Director, Center for Autobiographic Studies

“Pamela’s memoir is a lovely, simple, straightforward story that will touch the heart…”  – a comfychair

“…incisive, funny, and touchingly candid evidence of the power of the stories we tell ourselves.” – Howard Rheingold, author, The Virtual Community

“Of all the hundreds of memoirs I’ve read this is the first one I’ve found that takes us behind the flashy images of Woodstock and hippies of the Sixties.” – Jerry Waxler, author The Memoir Revolution

“This coming of age story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming – Allie’s Opinions.com

“…I started and finished the book in an entire sitting, due entirely to the magical way Pamela Jane weaves her story…this is a book not to miss.” – Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl and Lighting Candles in the Snow

“Jane has given us a book that will touch the life of every woman who has ever questioned who she is, where she is going, and what the future holds.” – Matilda ButlerRosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story and Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep

“…a gem, a well-written and powerful memoir. I highly recommend it.” – Sherry Meyer, author

[Pamela Jane] describes her life with an effortless narration…the writing is excellent… it reads as something of an autobiography of an everyman (or everywoman) from the 1960s and beyond” – Inside the Inkwell.

 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Pamela Jane,  an essayist and author of thirty children’s books including Little Goblins Ten (Harper) illustrated by New York Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning.  Her memoir, An Incredible Talent for Existing was excerpted by The Writer.  She is also the author of Pride and Prejudice and Kitties.  Her essays have appeared The Writer, Mothersalwayswrite, The Antigonish Review, and The Philadelphia Inquirer and (coming out) The Wall Street Journal, and Writer’s Digest.  

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  My memoir took me twenty years to write, but, like an angel food cake, it will make light (though sometimes poignant) reading.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).

LOCAL OUTLETS:  The Doylestown Book Store, Doylestown PA

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Open Books Press.

PRICE: $14.46 (on Amazon)

$2.99 on Kindle

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: pamelajane@pamelajane.com

JUST WAIT!  A Short Story Rejected in Grade School Becomes a Cause of Action

On the Way

On the Way by [Vargas, Cyn]THE BOOK: On The Way.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Cyn Vargas.

THE PUBLISHER: Curbside Splendor Publishing.

SUMMARY: On the Way is a collection of stories about childhood, friendship, the elderly, marriage, family secrets, and loneliness. The narrators are haunted by what is missing in their lives, but never play victim to it. Instead, they are tough and explore their ever-changing lives while discovering the world, though never tied with a bow, can have beautiful slivers of hope.

THE BACK STORY: This short story collection was my thesis for my MFA in Creative Writing. It was especially rewarding that it got published because while going to grad school full-time, I also worked full-time and was a mom to an 18-month old. I was on very little sleep, but had a lot of determination. I am grateful that it paid off.

Cyn VargasWHY THIS TITLE?: On The Way is a title of one of the short stories in the collection. The story is about acceptance and change. It’s about taking one’s own journey while recognizing you can be there for someone else, but you can’t go on their journey with them. It felt appropriate because the narrators in my stories are on their way to grow as people, to change their world around them, to quietly be who they are while discovering there is much more to them than they realized.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? My stories don’t have happy endings. I enjoy Disney movies, but I don’t want to write them. I write about real life. A sense that if you are courageous enough to explore and delve within parts of yourself you have never before, that there is where growth lies; to live is to grow. These stories will resonate with those that have fought personal battles and come out stronger. For those going through something right now and are looking for hope. These stories will (I hope) make the reader feel less alone.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“In her debut collection, Vargas invests her characters with heart while ably articulating their missed connections. An American girl cannot accept her mother’s disappearance while they are visiting relatives in Guatemala; a young woman assaulted by her father after her parents’ divorce cannot forgive her mother for failing to intervene; a diffident DMV employee cannot speak out when he falls for a young woman taking a driving test. VERDICT Moving and accomplished.” — Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal.

“Cyn Vargas’s debut collection, On the Way, is marked by a sense of universal heartbreak and hope. In a dozen stories that quietly and considerately follow the lives of displaced, alienated Central Americans whose lives revolve around immigration, expatriation and escapes, Vargas shows how deeply many of the world’s upheavals affect individuals.

“Vargas deftly uses a candid, unadorned voice to frame an often unkind world. Her hopeful conclusion in these tales, though, is that nobody is ever truly alone.” — Josh Potter, Shelf Awareness.

“On the Way is a group of stories that are often about loss, regret, and unrequited feelings. What almost every story demonstrates is the moment in a character’s life beyond which everything will have to change. However, one thing Vargas is willing to show—which many other writers are not—is the painful, often boundless stretch of time between the moment of drama and its distant resonance: her stories echo Alice Munro’s as they leapfrog months, even years, using nothing more than a paragraph break.” — Heavy Feather Review.

“The narrators of Cyn Vargas’s stories tell quiet, deceptively simple accounts of loss, family mysteries, and their earned understanding of their experiences. The stories in On the Way are simple in language and prose style and complex in their emotional freight… Each narrator has a story they know to tell, but a second story bleeds through, a story that speaks of darkness, fear, compassion, or courage, a story that reveals itself in the act of telling.” — Necessary Fiction.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am a first-generation Latina, from El Salvador and Guatemalan ethnicity, also a mom, wife, friend, employee, and taco-lover. Pretty much a smartass for most of the time while also being a sap too. I have been writing since I was six. My first story was about a dog who loves a frog and the frog doesn’t love the dog back. Even then I didn’t write happy endings.

I am currently working on my first novel whose narrator is a 13 year old Mayan girl living in 1980s Chicago. (There are a lot of 80s references. Yay, Knight Rider!)

My prose and essays have been published in the Chicago Reader, Word Riot, Split Lip Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, Midnight Breakfast, Birds Thumb, Chicago Literati, and elsewhere. Last year, I was commissioned to write a Taco Handbook, which I did. Somehow I weaved tacos and depression together (though tacos make me very happy). I also don’t feel like mental health should be taboo to talk about. So I brought the two together. The cover is also super cool, so check it out on my website.

I received a Top 25 Finalist and Honorable Mention in two of Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers Contests, the recipient of the Guild Literary Complex Prose Award in Fiction, and a company member of the award-winning storytelling organization 2nd Story.

http://cynvargas.com/

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My collection has strong female characters. It has stories that span Chicago and Central America. Some stories speak to being 1st generation Latina, to being in love, to detesting a family member, to trusting another person, to trusting yourself. I’d like to think of it as a raw account of what real people go through, but not one that will bog you down or depress you. I hope it gives the reader that kick in the ass to get up and continue being strong.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: An older version of one the stories that appears in the collection, “Myrna’s Dad” was a winner in the 2015 Chicago Reader Fiction Issue Contest. You can read the complete story here, https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/myrnas-dad-cyn-vargas-venezuela/Content?oid=16146907

LOCAL OUTLETS: My collection is available at a number of independent bookstores around the country. To find the one nearest to you: https://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/On-Way-Cyn-Vargas/dp/194043047X , Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/on-the-way-cyn-vargas/1120333721.

PRICE: varies by site and whether it is hard copy or e-book

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Via my website is the best way! Let’s chat: http://cynvargas.com/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23129771-on-the-way