For Love of Charity

THE BOOK : For Love of Charity


THE AUTHOR: Wanda Parker

THE EDITORS: Lindsey Marder, Saundra Kelley and Terri Gerrell

THE PUBLISHER: Terri Gerrell of Southern Yellow Pines Publishing, 4351 Natural Bridge Rd, Tallahassee, Fl. They promote southern writers and stories about the south.

SUMMARY: Charity, raised with wealth and privilege has her world shattered when her fiancé runs away before the wedding. With determination, she reinvents herself from a lady to a frontier lad, to join a trader to find her fiancé Robert. During the long journey carrying a heavy pack, and masquerading as a young boy, she learns the hardships and dangers of frontier life, from bear attacks, rogue white men, and fierce Indians. She also learns she has the inner strength to be a survivor.

THE BACK STORY: Most history is dry and lacks the colorful details of the Colonial people and their considerable strengths. My research began as a passion for knowledge about my ancestors, the Scots-Irish, and that passion developed into the many stories I have written. My research is a combination of oral history, internet research, and a vast collection of historical non-fiction books.

It takes me roughly three months to research and write the story, with another month or two of rewriting and editing.

WHY THIS TITLE: I grew up in the 40s- and 50s among many strong-minded women, all independent and full of grit. My “Charity” is a composite of women in my family, and others that I knew. A few were not particularly charitable, but they were full of grit. So I made my heroine, Charity, a combination of such strong independent woman.

WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO READ IT? This book should interest anyone who likes a good story that is historically accurate, has action, bravery, adversity and romance.

REVIEW COMMENTS: The book has not been released so no reviews have been done at this point.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in Oklahoma so close to the Texas line we could have spit over it. I was the youngest child of nine and one of my earliest memories is of me, from the time I could walk, carrying a book, and feeling grown up. I spent hours pretending to read while my siblings poked fun at me. When I finally learned to read, I devoured westerns, adventures, magazine stories, and not the normal fare for kids my age; but my passion was history. I read in between chores feeding chickens, dishes, hanging clothes and walking a quarter mile sandy road to get the mail with an evil bull watching me over the fence. I always found time to read, even when an older sister criticized me for having my “nose in a book.” This made me feel guilty for reading but I’ve never stopped enjoying a good article or book. While raising a family and having a career I wrote stories in my mind and occasionally wrote one down. After I retired I had

time to devote to writing full time and 16 stories later For Love of Charity is my first novel being published, and another is under contract.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: What I hope to show is how middle class Scots-Irish who fled from English tyranny were not the dregs of society as they were portrayed by the plantation owners, but they were better educated than most immigrants. They were God fearing, clannish, fiercely loyal to their own, contentious, and deadly toward their enemies. Ignoring settled areas they preferred the privacy of secluded hollows and lofty mountains. They might as well have invented the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me!


For Love of Charity

By Wanda Parker

Holding on to the splintery wooden rail, Charity climbed up stairs made of hewn logs. She stood outside the door, fighting the urge to throw up.

“A lady doesn’t throw up in public,” she mumbled, repeating what her mother once told her. “Nor does a lady keep going into places like this,” she said to herself, taking another deep breath. “A place like this. Ha! This is one of the nicer places I’ve been to in the past few months. I hope this is almost over and I find Robert inside. Then we can go back to civilization and have the wedding we planned.”

Squaring her shoulders, and stiffening her back, she walked into the dingy roadhouse with her head high. Unshaven, buckskin clad men nudged each other and stared at her, as the hard wooden heels of her city shoes clicked across the uneven split

log floor. Cheeks aflame, she looked around for the owner; a portly man wearing a soiled apron approached her.

Miss, you shouldn’t be in a place like this,” he said. “There’s a nice inn just down the road. I can get someone to escort you there.”

“Thank you, you’re very kind,” she answered, “but I’m already staying at that inn. Have you ever heard of Robert Larkin?”

“Robert Larkin?” He said, wrinkling his brow and scratching his nose. “Nooo, I can’t say as I have.”

Taking another deep breath, she bolstered her courage. “Then how about John Mason? I heard he was staying here so may I see him? It’s very important that I talk to him.”

“Yes miss, he was staying here until he ran out of money. Now, I think he’s sleeping in the stable out back. Sit down and I’ll send for him. It wouldn’t be proper for a lady like you to go out there alone.”

Sitting down at a rough table, Charity thought if the innkeeper knew what she intended to ask John Mason to do, he wouldn’t think that proper, either. Ignoring the stares of the men, Charity dusted off the log bench, and sat primly in the corner. She tried to look out the window, barely seeing through the wavy glass, dirt and spider webs. All the houses were similar, built of heavy logs, weathered, with no apparent thought to property lines or directions. The chinking between the logs, needed so badly in the winter, was already pushed out for ventilation in the coming summer heat. How appropriate that the name of the roadhouse was Mud Flat.

What am I doing here alone, she thought to herself. This is insane for me to even attempt. What would Mother and Father think if they were alive and saw me here? Well, for one thing, if they were alive, I wouldn’t have to be here. Now, if I can get this man to take me to Robert, maybe my life can settle down without having to chase my future husband across mountain ranges. Then I can be a proper wife.

While she waited, she thought back on the events that had brought her on this journey. Her parents owned a small farm that provided the family a modest living. They insisted Charity be raised proper so she would be able to marry well, educating her far better than most girls her age. Her manners and her clothing had to be spotless, and her father even taught her to handle finances and accounts.

Their closest neighbors were the Larkins, owners of the largest plantation in the area. A motherless child, young Robert Larkin liked to come over and spend time at Charity’s house when they were young. He said her home was warm and inviting whereas his was cold and impersonal since his mother died. With so few children in the area, she was his only friend and they spent many hours dreaming of things to come when they grew up. Robert was going off on some adventure and maybe sail around the world. Charity was going to meet Prince Charming and live in a castle.

Charity’s life was uneventful until her parents died in a carriage accident when she was thirteen. Her parents had ridden into town to get supplies for the party they were hosting for Mr. Larkin and Robert. When word came that an accident had taken the lives of both her parents, she was left in a void filled with terror.

According to workers in the fields, something spooked the normally calm horses. They started an uncontrollable gallop, veering off into a deep ditch with no thought to the

carriage they pulled behind them. Her parents had been tossed from the carriage like rag dolls, leaving her forever.

As she had no other relatives and he considered her part of the family, Mr. Larkin moved Charity into their palatial home, handled all of her legal affairs and set up a trust for when she reached maturity.

Suddenly the Larkin house came to life with the sounds of two teenagers getting into mischief and running down the long halls giggling at the latest prank they just played on the servants. With others to do the housework, Charity and Robert spent most of their time together, studying the classics or playing the piano. Charity was able to help Robert, who struggled with his lessons, until even the tutor was pleased with his progress.

Mr. Larkin hinted many times over the years that he hoped she and Robert would marry when they reached eighteen. When the day was approaching Charity, who was always fond of Robert, convinced herself that she really loved him and began to plan the wedding.

Three months before the wedding, however, they woke to find Robert gone. He had packed a small valise, took what money he had from his mother’s inheritance and left home, leaving no note, no explanation, nothing. Mr. Larkin’s health seemed to deteriorate from that day on.

She had begun her search by questioning Robert’s acquaintances and that was where she first heard of John Mason. It appeared Robert had a partner and John Mason was a man she and her future father-in-law knew nothing about.

It took weeks of asking questions at frontier settlements to track down anyone who knew how to find John Mason. Mostly, she got only blank stares, or disgusted looks

at the mention of her search for two men who evidently didn’t want to be found. She kept going from settlement to settlement, each one smaller than the last, until by a stroke of good fortune she stumbled on Mud Flat. It was her first hint of luck. Grimy floors and judgmental stares were nothing to her now if only John Mason would point her in the right direction.

Now, remembering the embarrassment of having her fiancé walk out on the eve of their wedding, she thought it strange that she did not think of it so much as losing a fiancé, but of losing her best friend.

The wait seemed like hours. Ignoring the stares of the other customers, she waited patiently until the innkeeper re-entered, guiding a drunken man with one arm around the man’s waist, holding the drunk’s arm over his shoulder. When he plopped the man down right across from her, the stout log table wobbled when his body bumped against it.

“Here he is, miss. I knew he was drinking but I didn’t expect him to still be this drunk. I’m sorry about this, but you did say it was important that you speak to him, and I couldn’t let you go talk to him in the stable! Get some coffee in him and maybe he’ll sober up, but it may take awhile. That rotgut he’s been drinking would kill a mule.”

Watching the man go limp, then start sliding slowly toward the table, her eyes widened. When his head slammed down on the hard wooden tabletop, his dirty blond hair tumbled way too close to her, but the table held him in place.

Instinctively, she sprang back from him, taking out a dainty handkerchief, which she held close to her nose. Unfortunately, it couldn’t block the smell of alcohol, unwashed hair, horse manure, dirty straw, and chicken droppings spilling toward her. Again she wondered, what am I doing in this situation?

Just then, the innkeeper waddled up with a huge pot of coffee and two beer tankards and plopped them on the table in front of her.

“Here you go miss. I’ll let you pour this down him. I gotta wait on my other customers.”

“But…but how am I supposed to get him to drink it when he’s out cold?” She asked.

“Just lift him by his hair and pour,” was his response as he walked back behind the bar to his customers.

“Fill him up ‘til he pukes!” Said a man at another table. “That should sober him up. Say, ain’t that the feller that’s always trying to hire men to go into Cherokee territory with him? Stupid fool, I ain’t crazy enough to get in the middle of them Injuns.”

Charity’s ears turned red and her cheeks flushed as the men called out; she fought the instinct to run, but she desperately needed information. Holding her breath, she slid next to the inebriated John Mason and with shaking hands she poured a liberal amount of coffee into one of the tankards. Grabbing a handful of his dank hair, she poured the scalding hot coffee into his half-open mouth.

“Holy Hell! I’m on fire!” he screamed, then his eyes rolled up and he passed out again. Well, at least I had his attention for a little while, Charity thought with a smile.

She blew on the coffee to cool it, and then, begging and cajoling, she forced almost a whole gallon of coffee into him. When his eyes finally stayed open, he started gagging. Knowing what was coming, she moved quickly to get him outside, but his deadweight was more than she could handle.

Seeing her struggle, the innkeeper helped Charity to get the man named John Mason to his feet and out the door. They got him outside just as the coffee shot out his mouth and nose. John held on to the rail and retched for several minutes, amid laughter from onlookers crowding the door, watching his misery.

“Isn’t there a gentleman among you who will help us?” she said, hoping someone would take the hint.

“Mam, there ain’t ary a gentleman around here,” said one of the rough-looking men. “We’re all just common hard-working folk, but we’ll help you with him if’n that’s what you mean.” A man with long hair and beard walked over and put John’s arm over his shoulder. “Where do you want him, miss?”

“Over by the well, if you please,” she said with real gratitude. “Maybe some cold water will bring him around.”

Together they helped John Mason to the well, sitting him beside the stone trough. Charity’s helper drew water from the well, and using the gourd dipper hanging on the side, poured water over his head.

“There you go miss,” her helper said. “I don’t know what you want with him. But, now he’s cleaner and a little more sober. Good day to you.”

“My thanks for your help sir.” Charity said, watching him leave with dismay. Now, she was left with a drunken, sodden and barely coherent, John Mason, who was sitting in a mud hole in front of her. She sat still watching cautiously as he tried to focus on her, shaking his head occasionally. She figured he was trying to place her among the women he has known.

Suddenly, he shook his head hard, sending spray, bits of straw and other stuff that had been clinging to his hair all over her. Then he grabbed his head in pain, saying, “hey ladies, why’d jou make me shober up? Who are you three anyway?”

“My name is Charity,” she said, thinking quickly. “My…my husband is Robert Larkin. I’ve been told you are his partner and you know where he is. I need your help to find him.”

“Well, he ain’t lost, sho…sho which one of you ladies need to find him?”

“Me! I’m trying to find him, Mr. Mason,” she said with more force. He’s my husband so will you take me to him?”

Mason’s eyes started to roll again when he hollered, “hell no! I ain’t takin’ shome

helplessh woman out in the woods full of Injuns, wild animals and sssuch. You wouldn’t last a day out there, a del…a deli….” He took a deep breath, “ a delicate woman like you.”

“I can pay you to take me to him.”

“Pay me! Hail, you ain’t got ‘nough money,” he paused, again trying to decide which of the women is speaking, “to pay me to…to…to…” His tongue seemed to stick to his teeth, “take you where few white men hasss ever been. There’s danger all around,” he swung his arm in a wide circle and nearly fell over, “ever step of the way. Beshides, I don’t think Robert wan’s to be found.” His energy depleted, he slumped back down.

“Why do you think that?” She asked trying to keep her voice calm.

“I have my reasons,” He tried to look mysterious, but he leaned too far to one side to keep it up for long.

“So, you hate Robert?”

“Who shaid I hate him? He’s my partner and, an, my bestes fren’. Who shaid that? I’ll whup the bastard!” His eyes closed and he leaned his head against the cool water trough thinking, Wife she said! Robert never mentioned he had a wife back home and he never acted like he had one either.

“And yet you refuse to help me find him?” There was that cool, insistent voice again.

He sat with his eyes closed, wishing this pushy woman would go away and let him sober up in peace.

“We all have our reasons for doin’ what we do. Jus’ tell me what you want Robert to know, an, and when I see him, I’ll tell him.”

“No, Mr. Mason, I have to see him and talk to him myself,” she said. “I must convince him to come home. I promised his father before he died that I would find Robert and …and bring him home. He can’t waste his life out here in this God forsaken wilderness, living with heathens. He should be home where he belongs. Please help me. I’m not used to having to beg, but I’m begging you.”

“Lady, I’m telling you for the las’ time, I ain’t takin’ you nowheres. You wouldn’t last a day carrying a heavy pack and I don’t have time to waste babying you all the way, what with Injuns and all. Beshides, it’s indecent for you to even aash me. Shame on you, a lady like you, wantin’ to traipse off into the woods with me. Now, that’s downright sscandalous. So, you go home and if you wanna send a message to Robert, I’ll take it to him. Now, ‘scuse me, I gotta get ready to leave. Good day to you, miss, and good-bye!”

Charity watched him rise painfully and stagger toward the livery stable. Resting her head against the cool rock of the well she thought, what a disagreeable man. But, he’s my last hope to reach Robert. If he won’t help me then I’ve failed to keep my promise to his father. Failed miserbly!

She watched Mason enter the livery stable to find the stable boy. She followed and stopped just outside the door to listen.

“Did you get word to your cousin? Is he goin’ to be here afore dawn? I need to know he’ll be here for sure since I want ta get an early shtart.”

“Yessir,” said the boy, Charity saw his fingers crossed behind his back. “He promised he’d be here. He’s anxious to earn the money you promised him if’n he carries a pack for you.”

“None of the men aroun’ here has ‘nough guts to leave the clearing, let alone travel for hundreds of miles into Injun country. Jus’ a bunch of gutless wonders all of ‘em. I even off… offer…” he belched, “offered a bonus when we came back loaded with furs, Nooo takers. You sure your cousin is comin’? He’s reliable, you say?” John sat on a pile of straw holding his throbbing head.

“Yessir, he’ll be here.” His hands back on his pitchfork, the boy watched Mason begin dividing his wrapped packets of trade goods into two piles.

Charity waited until John Mason finished dividing the packs and then lay down in the hay to sleep off his hangover. An outrageous plan formed in her mind that made more and more sense to her. What if, what if she went with him, not as a woman for sure, but what if she didn’t appear to be a woman?

Walking over to the stable boy she softly asked, “Excuse me, I overheard you talking with Mr. Mason just now. May I ask you a question?” She watched Mason to make sure he couldn’t hear their conversation.

“Yes miss, can I help you? Having never seen a well-dressed lady on this side of the settlement, he looked her up and down.

She fixed him with a steady stare and asked, “Is your cousin really going west with Mr. Mason?”

His face turned red, he glanced at Mason before giving Charity a sheepish grin and slowly shaking his head. “No miss, I ain’t even got a cousin. I just told him that so he would stop pestering folks about going with him. I was going to make sure I wasn’t anywhere around in the morning when he got ready to leave. Are you going to tell on me?”

“What’s your name?” Charity asked, her excitement growing. This might work after all, she thought.

“My name’s Levi, miss,” he answered, his face grim. What she said next came as a surprise to the boy.

“All right Levi. This will remain a secret between us on one condition.”

“A secret between you and me, miss? What’s that?” Sweat formed on his upper lip, how do I get myself in these messes, he wondered.

“I want some buckskin clothes my size and in the morning I want you to introduce me as your cousin to Mr. Mason. I’ll pay you for that and for the clothes, but you can’t tell anyone else about this. Is that a deal?”

“How much are you willing to pay me?” His already wide eyes widened even more at the thought of having actual money of his own.

“I’ll give you two shillings. One now, and the other when you deliver on your part of the deal. You have to promise not to tell anyone about our arrangement, since this is very important to me.

“Two shillings?” His mind reeling, he thought I’ve never had that much money in my life! “Don’t worry miss, I won’t tell anyone here that I have any money or they will take it from me. I’ll bring you the clothes early so you’ll be ready before dawn, but you’ll have to pay for them.”

“I’ll pay for the clothes and your second shilling after you introduce me as your cousin. If Mr. Mason sees through my disguise the deal is off. So, outfit me to make a long journey, as if I really am a young man instead of a twenty-year-old woman. It’s a good thing I’m taller than most women or this might not work.”

Accepting his shilling from Charity, Levi thought to himself, I wish I could go with them. He looked at Charity with longing in his eyes.

“When my indenture is up, I intend to head for those hills. I want to see what’s behind that mountain, that one, and the one way over there. I ain’t ever coming back to be a servant to anyone.”

Charity watched the boy run off on her errand, she smiled, satisfied with the deal she made. Suddenly very tired she made her way to the inn. Built of stout logs and rustic with few amenities, the inn was run by a respectable family, and suitable for ladies traveling alone. She had to wonder how respectable the family would think her if they

knew what she planned to do. Cornhusks in the mattress rustled as she climbed into bed in the tiny room thinking how different it was from her home.

Dreading the thought that Levi might renege on their deal Charity barely slept. She had been awake, dressed, and on pins and needles for hours, waiting to see if he’d keep his part of the bargain. It was still dark outside when she heard a soft knock on her door.

“Here they are, miss, Levi whispered, knowing the outrage it would cause if he were discovered inside a lady’s room. “I even found some moccasins for you. You won’t look much like a boy if you wear them shoes you got on.”

“Thank you Levi,” she said. From now on don’t call me miss. Call me…ah, Charles, yes, now I’m Charles. And thanks for the moccasins, I hadn’t thought of my shoes giving me away. Remember now, I’m your cousin. Tell John Mason that I’m thin but I’m strong and I don’t talk much. Do you have it all straight?”

“Yes, mi…Charles.”

“Now turn your back. I know it’s pitch black in here but I’d feel better knowing your back is turned.

“Yes mi…Charles.” Still scared by the prospect of being found in Charity’s room, he turned and pushed against the stout, split plank door to keep it closed while she dressed.

Quickly, Charity dropped the long petticoats and long heavy dress she wore, then pulled on the unfamiliar leather clothing. The soft buckskin pants and shirt clung to her body as she slid them over her bare skin, and she felt almost naked without all the

petticoats and long skirts she was accustomed to. Twisting her long blonde hair into a long rope, she tucked it up under the hat, jamming it down low on her forehead.

“All right, Levi,” she whispered, “I’m packed and ready. I’ll leave my valise downstairs with a note on the table that I met my friends, and I’m checking out early. I will send for my clothes when I find Robert. Now, let’s see if we can convince Mr. High and Mighty John Mason that I’m a strong healthy boy, and just the person he needs as his helper.”

Slipping into the inky darkness of the stairwell, Charity hoped the stairs wouldn’t creak and give them away. She and Levi felt their way to the front door, lifted the latch, and slipped into the night.

They found John busy with his skin-wrapped packets of metal arrowheads, knives, tomahawk heads, ribbons, cloth and beads. He was mumbling to himself, saying, the more I carry now, the more wealth I can bring back in prime pelts. I should’ve asked Levi to find more than one helper.”

“God! I wish my head didn’t hurt so much,” he said, checking his rifle and powder. “That old coot’s white lightning is powerful enough to kick like a mule, and I think the mule is inside my head, still kicking.” He stopped to rest, hoping the pounding would stop. “Not only do I have a horrible hangover, but my tongue is burned raw. That stuff would eat your guts out. When are them two boys getting here?”

Griping about Levi and his cousin being late, he looked up to find them standing beside him. He jumped up in surprise, which increased the pounding in his aching head. “Holy Damn! If we were in Indian country, you’d have scalped me before I knew it. Damn this hangover!”

“This is my cousin…Charles, Mr. Mason. He’s kinda wiry and skinny, but he’s strong. He don’t talk much so he won’t talk your ear off.”

John Mason peered at the new boy in the predawn light, doubtful of his thin, wiry frame. Knowing that beggars can’t be choosers, however, and that he needed the help too much to be picky.

Struggling under the weight of his over-stuffed pack, he said, “Damn! They weigh too much. This will wear us out the first day. Damn! Damn! I got greedy and bought too much! Damn! Come on boy, shoulder this pack and let’s get on the trail.” Charity’s knees nearly buckled when he put the heavy load on her shoulders, but she managed to stay on her feet.

Levi, standing nearby, watched them with envy, knowing they were going in the direction he wanted to go and that they needed more help. He knew few would miss him, especially not the stable owner who wouldn’t leave his still that long. Stepping next to his newfound cousin, he made the most momentous decision of his young life.

“Mr. Mason, my employer said I could go with you as long as he gets a fair price for my services and a share of the profits when you return. I know where there’s another pack we can use. If I carry one, would you let me go with you?”

“You’re hired, boy! Go get that pack, and make it quick, we have a long way to go.” Relieved beyond words the trader took his and Charity’s packs and got to work redistributing the goods into three stacks.

“If you’ll pay me now for finding Charles for you,” said Levi, “I could leave it with my employer. It would ease his mind some about me leaving.” Mason agreed, and adding the pay from John Mason to the pay given earlier by Charity, Levi ran back to the

stable. On his return, he brought a leather carry pack, and set to work helping load the bundles for their trek.

When they were ready, the trader looked at his young helpers and said, “You two will be weak at first. The second day you’re going to be so sore you’ll think you can’t walk. By the third day we should be making good time. Come on boys step lively.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Book store, tourist outlets, two libraries and one museum.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Southern Yellow, Amazon paperback, Kindle e-book, Nook and ePub.

PRICE: $12.95



Them That Go

THE BOOK: Them That Go

PUBLISHED IN: March 2016

THE AUTHOR: Becky Mushko

THE EDITOR: Several Beta Readers provided input regarding events in the story, but Sally Roseveare was the final proofreader.


SUMMARY: A secret revealed, a mystery solved, a life forever changed.

In 1972, seventeen-year-old Annie Caldwell, who has the “gift” of animal communication, wants to be normal, but she’ll settle for being unnoticed. Annie’s brother died in Vietnam, her mother is depressed, and her father drinks. Her only friend is elderly Aint Lulie—who lives in the same holler and understands the gift because she has one, too: “The first daughter in ever’ other generation has always been blest with a gift, though some think it a curse.”

As they sit by the fireplace in the evenings and tell each other stories, Aint Lulie shares family history with Annie, including a relative’s mysterious death and how some of their ancestors came to settle in the area: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.”

When a local girl goes missing, Aint Lulie’s and Annie’s gifts can help solve the mystery—but if Annie speaks up, she can no longer go unnoticed.

Them That Go is an Appalachian coming-of-age novel rich in tradition, superstition, family ties, and secrets.

THE BACK STORY: Eight years ago, Them That Go started as a YA novel about a rural 17-year-old girl in 1972 whose ability to communicate with animals sets her apart from her peers but helps her solve a crime. I submitted the first few pages to a panel of agents and editors at a writing conference and was told YA readers don’t care about the early 70s and my characters were stereotypes. I abandoned the project until a few years ago when I changed it to a book about an animal communicator who solves mysteries both as a teenager and an older woman. That version was a disaster. Finally I realized the story needed to be about more than just a girl’s isolation or special ability—it needed a stronger sense of place, a sense of her ancestors’ lives, a connection to past and present. It needed a richer texture, with more Appalachian flavor. Some minor characters became important to the plot, superstitions and traditions became more significant, a few new plot twists appeared, and Annie grew and matured as a character. I also realized Annie was not only a product of the 70s and a rural area, she was also the product of the generations before her. Aint Lulie, with the family stories she told Annie, became a more important character.

On Facebook last July, I mentioned the 104th anniversary of my great-aunt’s mysterious death that older members of my family wouldn’t discuss, and the Botetourt County Genealogy group provided her obituary that gave a clue. With a little help from cousins and FaceBook friends, I figured out a possible reason for this great-aunt’s death. One cousin said I should write a book about it, but it wasn’t enough for a book. However, the incident fit nicely into Them That Go, so I fictionalized this ancestor’s story and based a character on her.

Them That Go—which evolved into a coming-of-age novel, a mystery, and an Appalachian novel with paranormal overtones—now appeals to a much wider readership than just YA.

WHY THIS TITLE: When I became interested in family genealogy last year, I learned a lot of my ancestors had moved across Virginia—the English ones came westward from the Tidewater area, and others came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania or diagonally across Virginia from Maryland. Some stayed where they originally landed, but some in each generation moved a little farther. After the Revolutionary War, some received land patents and moved their families to the new territory. But in every generation, some would stay and some would go. I used the staying/going idea in Them That Go, when I had Aint Lulie explain to her great-niece how some of their family ended up in the mountains while others stayed back in Botetourt County: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.” While the novel has characters who stay, it also has some who go in one way or another.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Them That Go will appeal to those who like Appalachian culture, who enjoy storytelling and folklore, and who like a paranormal twist. Although set in the early 70s, Them That Go deals with issues that are currently important: parents protesting curriculum, the influences of literature on life, a girl’s disappearance, a presidential election, decision-making, and the importance of taking responsibility.

REVIEW COMMENTS: An Amazon review: “Was inspired to keep reading to see what happened next. . . . It reminds me of being back home on the mountain. Check it out!”

Another Amazon review: “A novel that speaks truly of the times and the places in Southwest Va. For anyone familiar with this area, the novel really strikes home.”

From Goodreads: “I believe this book is comparable in quality to Baldacci’s Wish You Well and would be enjoyed by the same readers. I rated Them That Go with five stars and hope others will find this book and have the same positive reaction to it.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Becky Mushko, a retired teacher, is a three-time winner of the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and a five-time winner of the Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest. Her first novel, Patches on the Same Quilt, won a 2001 Smith Mountain Arts Council contest and was self-published with a generous grant from SMAC. Cedar Creek Publishing published her Appalachian folktale, Ferradiddledumday (2010), and her middle grade novel, Stuck (2011). She has e-published several collections of short stories. Her work also appears in A Cup of Comfort for Writers, Vols. I & III of Anthology of Appalachian Writers, and many other publications. As vice-president of Lake Writers, she’s served on the editorial committee for all three of the group’s anthologies—Voices from Smith Mountain Lake, Nekkid Came the Swimmer (the worst book about Smith Mountain Lake ever written), and Reflections on Smith Mountain Lake.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Them That Go was influenced by my interests in genealogy, old-timey stories, Appalachian culture, fairy tales, folktales, ghost stories, and Shakespeare. Although set in the early 70s, the novel involves issues that are still relevant today—a girl’s disappearance, literature’s influence on life, parents protesting a curriculum, a Presidential election, and a student using skills learned in class.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).

LOCAL OUTLETS: The General Store and Southern Roots at Westlake (Moneta, VA); Virginia Office Supply in Rocky Mount, VA.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Kindle version available at; print version available at

PRICE: $10 for print; $3.99 for Kindle e-book.


becky.mushko (at)

Weather Report, April 25






You might not think so, but historians and novelists are actually first cousins.

Even as legions of sci-fi writers are forging ahead to where no fantasy author has gone before, many other spinners of fiction are time-traveling backwards.

For history offers much to a novelist — a ready-made landscape in which to deposit characters, a chance to not only create but re-capture a mood for readers, and a lot of unanswered questions.

Moreover, history flies past us at the speed of light. By the time we realize something is “historic,” it is usually already gone. History classes only scratch the surface — students learn about “when and “who,” but rarely what it was like to be those people.

Which brings us to our three “Snowflakes” books this week, each of them dealing with some aspect of history. Becky Mushko’s “Them That Go” ventures back only a few years, while Wanda Parker’s novel “For Love of Charity” takes us to the American frontier. Finally, Kim Pearson’s “Making History” is a primer on ways to milk history for both family stories and pieces from a writers’ imagination.


In 1972, seventeen-year-old Annie Caldwell, who has the “gift” of animal communication, wants to be normal, but she’ll settle for being unnoticed. Annie’s brother died in Vietnam, her mother is depressed, and her father drinks. Her only friend is elderly Aint Lulie—who lives in the same holler and understands the gift because she has one, too: “The first daughter in ever’ other generation has always been blest with a gift, though some think it a curse.”

As they sit by the fireplace in the evenings and tell each other stories, Aint Lulie shares family history with Annie, including a relative’s mysterious death and how some of their ancestors came to settle in the area: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.”

When a local girl goes missing, Aint Lulie’s and Annie’s gifts can help solve the mystery—but if Annie speaks up, she can no longer go unnoticed.

Them That Go is an Appalachian coming-of-age novel rich in tradition, superstition, family ties, and secrets.


Making History is a comprehensive, easy to use, fun method of exploring the times of your (or someone else’s) life against a backdrop of historic events. It illuminates personal power, providing an antidote to the apathetic assumption that one person cannot make a difference. It contains detailed historic timelines from 1930 through 1989; vibrant true stories full of humor, tragedy, and excitement; thought-provoking questions to help the reader discover how they contributed to and participated in the events of their time; and easily accessible information arranged in eight categories, which are: Economics and Politics, The Social Fabric (race, gender, and morality), War and the International Scene, Technology and Science, Crime and Disaster, Arts and Entertainment, Lifestyle Activities (food, fashion, toys, sports, etc.) and The Weird and Trivial (scandals and gossip, comics, slang, pets, etc.).


Charity, raised with wealth and privilege has her world shattered when her fiancé runs away before the wedding. With determination, she reinvents herself from a lady to a frontier lad and joins a trader to try and find him. During the long journey carrying a heavy pack and masquerading as a young boy, she learns the hardships and dangers of frontier life, from bear attacks, rogue white men, and fierce Indians. She also learns she has the inner strength to be a survivor.






THE BOOK: Indivisible


THE AUTHOR: Randi T. Sachs.

THE EDITOR: Koehler Books.

THE PUBLISHER: Koehler Books.

SUMMARY: The story of twin brothers, who at the age of 22 are orphaned and have no other family. Aaron has just graduated college, David has Down Syndrome. They now have to start their adult lives together, without the help from their parents or older sister.

THE BACK STORY: This is a novel that gives humanity to people with developmental disabilities.

WHY THIS TITLE: Because the twins stick together

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It is a heartwarming portrait of the relationship between twin brothers who have suffered a terrible loss. People who have a family member or friend will find comfort and hope in this book, but any reader will enjoy this story of loss, love, relationships, and family.


“This tender novel explores with depth and sensitivity the unique relationship and the special challenges when your sibling with Down syndrome is your twin!” —  Emily Perl Kingsley, author and parent of a son with Down Syndrome. `

“You will not be able to put Indivisible down. It brought me tears–tears of concern and sorrow to tears of joy and happiness. This will be the one you talk about with your friends.” — David Floyd, Former VP of The Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Randi T. Sachs has a BA in Journalism from NYU and an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from Southern New Hampshire University. Her first novel, Different is Nice, is available through Amazon. She is also the author of several published books on management. Randi became interested in the special needs population when she worked at Nassau AHRC in Brookville, NY. She grew up on Long Island, and lived there with her husband Danny and their sons. She and Danny now live in Virginia Beach with their dog Zac. She currently tutor and teaches writing at Virginia Wesleyan College.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I have worked and volunteered with people with developmental disabilities for years. I believe more people need to see beyond their differences and understand that they are people with emotions, abilities, and the capacity for love.



PRICE: $16.95.


Walking With Trees

THE BOOK: Walking With Trees.



THE EDITOR: Anne Davis McMullen.

THE PUBLISHER: Authorhouse,, Bloomington, IN.

SUMMARY: Urged by the ancient wisdom of trees, the author moves through a reflective journey of the natural and the man made, the innate and the learned. Through signs, symbols and messages, the polarities are woven together into a timely and sensitive message for a new paradigm. A poetic narrative leads the reader into the magic, wonder and mystery of nature, the forest and the luminosity of one’s one being.

THE BACK STORY: It all began with a raccoon and a move to a sacred piece of land, which forever changed my life for the better. The actual writing began in May of 2004, months before Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami of December 2005.It grew, practically on its own, from a journal, scraps of paper I had written notes on over the years and recordings I made after realizing I should keep track of what I was experiencing; especially when my experiences were being verified by outside events, people and information that was coming my way in a synchronized and connected fashion.

“It all began as a seed, long ago when I was a child growing up in rural North Carolina. I often roamed the woods and adjacent fields in those days, free and solitary, often not returning home until well after dark, much to my mother’s chagrin. It was pure magic.

“Much of what I felt, heard and sensed in those days was shelved away as I grew into my teens. It lay dormant for many years until I came to live on sacred land in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Now, in retrospect, it is clear to me that a series of events led me back to walking with the trees.”

WHY THIS TITLE? The title for this book came from a vision I had of actually walking with the trees. I saw myself coming over a large green hill, hand in hand with huge, gnarled, old trees. They were laughing and would occasionally lift me up and swing me so my feet left the ground. I felt as though I could fly. I was totally safe and filled with limitless joy and peace. This vision came at a time when my life seemed anything but, and so it gave me the internal knowing that I required to start listening again — to the sound of water trickling over the rocks, fireflies in flight, snow as it fell and the ancient, wise whispering of the trees. Walking With Trees is a record of this journey. I like to say to those who call it my book, “I was the vehicle that allowed it to come through.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? For the joy of it, a peaceful easy read that one can pick up on any page at any time. I’ve had readers tell me that they have read it more than once and often keep it by their bed or other handy place, a constant reminder that there is something still amazing and wonderful about the world we live in and are sometimes prone to forget.


“It is an amazing story —  touching and real on every page — that is universal and speaks to the language of love and connection.” — Kay Montgomery, music imagery facilitator.

Walking With Trees is a remarkable work. I read it last night and remain impressed with its mysticism, its introspection, its resolve, its deep understanding, its gentle kindness and its structure. I’ve never read anything quite like it before.” — Dan Smith, author and editor.

“A wonderful book … poetic, profound, a work of tender significance. The book is a treasure. Dare I state out loud that it of the magnitude of Thoreau’s writings?” — E-mail from reader.

“Lowe’s book Walking With Trees describes her simplified life among the imperiled woods of Bedford County  Long attuned to the call of trees, Lowe decided to “cut off the TV and the AC,” open her windows and ears, and listen to the quiet rustling.” — Lisa Field, columnist, Roanoke Times.

AUTHOR PROFILE: “I grew up in rural North Carolina and now reside near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Although this is my first published book, I have been writing since childhood, incuding short stories, essays and poetry. (I have a Tupperware container filled with matchbook covers, scraps of paper, pretty much whatever was handy to scribble on, going back to childhood).

“I have had poems published in some small publications, an essay on NPR’s Website ‘This I Believe” and currently post my work on my blog at — a work in progresses, as there is no high speed Internet here. I might add that there is no cell phone of television reception either.

“On some level, I feel Walking With Trees is incomplete, as I have a ton of notes and pages … and the journey continues on. I am still learning and processing my experiences here … and am still amazed almost daily. Perhaps at some point I will werite the sequel, titled Deeper Into the Woods.”

AUTHOR COMMENT: “The trees are talking, and I am not the only one listening.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Available on Amazon.

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

PRICE: $7.94 — $14.49.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Via e-mail,, or through her blog.




Fire in the Bones

THE AUTHOR:  Mark R. Harris

: Jaimie Engle

: Black Rose Writing

SUMMARY: Spanning the years 1964-1972, Fire in the Bones follows Luke, an American boy plagued by panic and loneliness growing up in a nominally religious middle class family.  He looks for security and companionship wherever he can, first through daydreams, including a relationship with an imaginary friend named Bob, and then on to sixties pop culture, via TV icon Batman and pop music sensations the Beatles.  As Luke comes to pattern his identity after the Beatles and others, he creates a fantasy world for himself that keeps the panic and loneliness at bay. But when Lonnie walks into his life, he enters a new reality where a flesh-and-blood female offers him tangible security—but at a price Luke may not be willing to pay.

THE BACK STORY: What inspired me to write this? That’s pretty cool.  My son had been doing NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—for a year or two, where you try to draft a novel of 50,000 words in a month. So I decided to do it too.  We went to a little café in a bookstore for the first “write-in,” and I had a song in my mind—I’ve always loved popular music, and I’m an auditory person, so music is often floating around in my head—anyway, I had in my mind this song about fire and how it can actually clean or purify things, make them better.  And I started to picture a scene I vaguely remembered about a little boy sitting in a little country church, fanning himself with one of those rectangular picture-fans on a stick that little country churches in the South used to have (maybe they still do).  And the words started to come.  That turned into the first scene/chapter in the book.  The next three or four chapters of the book I based on other early memories or early stories I had heard.  Then as the plot and the characters started to take shape and develop, it became clearer and clearer where the story needed to go.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I wanted a phrase that would capture the idea of things we feel strongly, whether good feelings, like love, or bad feelings, like fear.  “Fire in the bones,” based on a quote from Jeremiah, fit the bill.

What makes your book unique, and what niche audiences might it reach?  If you like American pop culture, rock music, 60’s and 70’s, coming of age stories, characters most people can relate to or even remember being, you would probably enjoy Fire in the Bones. I take relatable elements like these and weave them together in a way that makes the book different.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “There are few young men and women in life who haven’t felt that immense love for a certain group of musicians in their lives; the kind of fascination that is so strong, every lyric to every song is nearly memorized, even without the usage of Google. Mark Harris captures this fascination excellently in Fire in the Bones, while also delving into the inner turmoil of preadolescence. Luke is a protagonist with many fears and many moments of overanalysis. Throughout the novel Luke finds his emotions channeled and guided through his passion for the Beatles’ music, while also through his crushes on pretty girls. Throw in a pinch of his raising in a church going family, and you get a complexity of character that alone makes this story worth reading. In dealing with his past fears of car accidents, the break-up of the Beatles, or pursuing a lovely gal named Lonnie, Luke’s story is reminiscent of the growing up that all young adults undergo, and written in a manner that makes it feel unique.”

“This is a very well-written gripping coming of age story with lyrical prose and characters you swear are alive and breathing somewhere. Taking place in the 60s, Harris did a fabulous job weaving in songs and events of the time-period into the plotline. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy stories that remind you of life back when you were growing up and trying to make sense of the world around you, including yourself.”

“The book was great. I felt the angst of the main character in his quest to make sense of his world and could even identify with his youthful anxieties in spite of he being a boy and I, a girl. We all go through similar fantasies and struggles as we negotiate our first relationships with the opposite sex. It was comforting to see Christ working in him without it screaming “this is a Christian book.” You wove that in nicely. Also really enjoyed the walk down memory lane with so many great song references from the 60’s and 70’s. Music is such a great connector to places and experiences that make up our lives.”

“A sweet look into the mind of an introverted young boy growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I really enjoyed the teen romance at the end!”

E:  I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, moved to New Jersey as a small boy, and met my wife in college in Pennsylvania.  I now teach English in central Virginia, where I live with my wife and sons, as well as our border collie/yellow lab Emma and our completely antisocial cat Betty. Fire in the Bones is my first novel, and I have just finished a first draft of a second novel. I have also published a short story, several poems, several songs, and several articles on works of literature. When I’m not writing I enjoy playing games, thinking deep thoughts and thinking about nothing, listening to classic rock, making videos, and telling dumb jokes.

Fire in the Bones deals with things most people go through, like trying to find the right person in your life, searching for love, security, a place to fit in and belong.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 24502

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: (paperback), Barnes& (paperback), Kindle, Nook, Black Rose Writing

PRICE: $15.95 (paperback); $6.95 (Kindle)



                                        Twitter:  @mark_r_harris

Weather Report, April 18






Spanning the years 1964-1972, Fire in the Bones follows Luke, an American boy plagued by panic and loneliness growing up in a nominally religious middle class family.  He looks for security and companionship wherever he can, first through daydreams, including a relationship with an imaginary friend named Bob, and then on to sixties pop culture, via TV icon Batman and pop music sensations the Beatles.  As Luke comes to pattern his identity after the Beatles and others, he creates a fantasy world for himself that keeps the panic and loneliness at bay. But when Lonnie walks into his life, he enters a new reality where a flesh-and-blood female offers him tangible security—but at a price Luke may not be willing to pay.


I first encountered this book nearly 10 years ago, and loved it. Urged by the ancient wisdom of trees, the author moves through a reflective journey of the natural and the man made, the innate and the learned. Through signs, symbols and messages, the polarities are woven together into a timely and sensitive message for a new paradigm. A poetic narrative leads the reader into the magic, wonder and mystery of nature, the forest and the luminosity of one’s one being.

Writes Pamela: “It all began as a seed, long aqgo when I was a child growing up in rural North Carolina. I often roamed the woods and adjacent fields in those days, free abnd solitary, often not returning home until well after dark, much to my mother’s chagrin. It was pure magic.

“Much of what I felt, heard and sensed in those days was shelved away as I grew into my teens. It lay dormant for many years until I came to live on sacred land in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Now, in retrospect, it is clear to me that a series of events led me back to walking with the trees.”


Aaron and David have grown up with the strong bond of twin brothers. David has Down syndrome, and looks up to his big brother to protect him. When their parents and older sister are killed in an auto accident, David is the only survivor. Aaron becomes David’s legal guardian, and all his post-college-graduation plans become dust. The brothers learn how to survive their grief and make new lives for themselves. They face many challenges, but their fraternal bond and abiding love gives them the strength to go on. Their story is told with love, anger, despair, and joy. It will touch your heart.



This comes from Lucinda Clarke, whose novel “Walking Over Eggshells” was featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard on Dec. 1.

Unhappily Ever After is my new book, out on April 14th.

“It’s something entirely different to anything I have published before, set in Fairyland 200 years after that famous ball. By now, Cinderella is desperate for a divorce. The other royals have their problems too. Snow White won’t allow her philandering husband near her, while Beauty has turned out to be a raving nymphomaniac with a brood of 28 to prove it.

“As you can guess, it’s a satire along the lines of Tom Sharpe, the Carry On series or The Two Ronnies and early readers have loved it.”

Here is the link just in case you might want to click on it

Unhappily Ever After


I also wanted to announce that my latest, “Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks That Helped Change America” came out in March. You can find it on Amazon, and I’m offering a special $10 price (including the postage it takes to mail the book to you) for anyone on this list. My e-mail is










Never a Hero To Me



THE BOOK: Never a Hero to Me.


THE AUTHOR: Tracy Black.

THE EDITOR: Kerri Sharpe at Simon & Schuster.

THE PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster.

SUMMARY: Tracy Black was only five years old when her mother was hospitalised for the first of many occasions, leaving Tracy in the care of her father. His behaviour, seemingly overnight, changed from indifferent to violently abusive and, for the next seven years, Tracy was sexually and physically abused by her father, his friends and her own brother. All of the men were in the British Armed Forces. Tracy’s father compounded the abuse by sending her to baby-sit for his paedophile friends – whilst their own children slept in other rooms, these men would find excuses to leave later or return earlier than their wives in order to abuse her, with her own father’s blessing. When she sought help and safety the doors were closed as the authorities closed ranks. In this shocking and compelling book, Tracy Black pieces together the jigsaw of a story that has haunted her for the past forty years. She reveals the horrific betrayal of trust perpetrated by men who were considered upstanding citizens and heroes. Tracy’s tale reminds us all of the terrible ways in which paedophiles work and the secrets too many children are forced to carry alone. It is only now that she can tell her full story of recovery.

THE BACK STORY: I had my story all written out in 1995 and didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. It was therapeutic to have put it down on paper then I put it away in the back of a cupboard. For some reason, I have no idea why, I picked up a book about childhood abuse and read it, the author’s story was similar to mine. I contacted her and she gave me the name of her agent and suggested I got in touch. This was in July 2010 and the book was revamped and edited for publication in May 2011. It was all very quick and I didn’t have time to blink. All in all I have had no regrets and feel since the publication I have been able to move on with my life.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title was chosen because my father was in the British Armed Forces and he was there to supposedly protect Britain and its people and as a father protect his children. Shouldn’t every little girl’s father be her hero? Since he was my abuser I can’t give him that title.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? My main reading audience is geared towards those that have also suffered childhood abuse. It not only relates my story but it also shows how you can summon inner strength to get on with your life?


“Hard-hitting and uncompromising biopic that simply has to be read.” — Kato’s Revenge, 23 Aug 2015.

“My love for reading is the same as many of you, I suppose. I want to be thrown into a world of fantasy, of magic, of horror, of mystery. I rarely want to read a book that has elements of realism so potent and strong that the reading experience can actually become a harrowing one. However, the overriding feeling left with me regarding Never a Hero to me is its incredible power.

“It is hard to read in certain sections, but I tell you this – it is so well written you cannot help but flip through the pages. The story of five year old Tracy Black will hit you harder than perhaps any fantasy character you “have invested your time in. Why? Because little Tracy goes through things that no one should have to go through. You’ll have already gotten an idea from the synopsis. So whilst not an easy read, it is essential reading. People need to understand that the monster in this book does not have horns or carries a pitchfork. He’s a hero to some, because Tracy’s father is an Army man, and of course, there are many unsung heroes in the Forces and their sacrifice should always be appreciated. The army fights an enemy, and in this case, Tracy’s father is the enemy.

“He abuses her. At first, the abuse starts at the kind of level that instantly horrifies – but as this happens early on in the book, I suspected worse was to come. Even in my thoughts about how awful it might be, it was worse. I can’t imagine how Tracy coped. Oh, the story takes you through the years, but the main bulk of the book is Tracy from age five to age ten. Her father has her just where he wants her. He almost makes the abuse of his own daughter reasonable, often citing ‘You want your mother to be well, don’t you? So you’ll have to be a good girl.’

“Yes. As children we are told to be good. But when abuse is the centre of your young life, and your feelings tell you that this is wrong on every level, what does good mean anymore? This is a story that literally drags you through the pages. You feel Tracy’s pain, confusion, resentment, and yet I began to cheer when I could see the start of her rebellion. A rebellion she should have never had to start.”Her father doesn’t stop there. He uses the mother’s ‘condition’ as a reason to punish Tracy. I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with the mother, who seemed oblivious to the abuse her own daughter was suffering. At the same time, Tracy’s brother seems virtually impervious to blame. Both parents – especially the mother, lavish him with praise, whilst Tracy is treated no better than something you’d put in the bin.

“Not only are we taken through Tracy’s life, we are taken through several countries. When in Germany, things start to turn for the better, and there are signs Tracy may finally be able to defeat her tormentor. She just needed somebody to listen.

“The cover is very striking. An innocent, beautiful looking child, but there is so much emotion and angst in that face, if one looks closely. So my congratulations to the team behind the book cover. As ever, a book stands or falls on its content. Tracy Black has delivered a hard hitting tome which in its 300 pages deliver more than many longer books.

“Uncompromisingly graphic, it may upset some, but the world isn’t always butterflies and bunny rabbits. I can’t remember a book exhausting me as much as this one. It will leave you absolutely floored, and I have to say, the last two chapters are the real treasure of Never a Hero to Me. We often see those lists – 1000 books to read before you die, and so on. This book needs to be on that list, and yours. Do not miss it.”

Bypalfon 9 July 2014

A must read, shocking reading, very upsetting, but a book all should read to get rid of the myth that when these stories are brought out in adulthood they are sometimes made up, working on the theory that the child would tell at the time. This book tells why a child stays quiet and how the mind and words of the perpetrator work on terrorising the child. A very brave book to write and I hope in doing so it helped the writer put the past behind her.

Byhappy ladyon 27 June 2011

This book is written from the heart and is a moving account of a young girl and her shocking experiences. There is a good balance between detailing events without being too graphic. A must-read for anyone who works with children and young people to raise awareness of the shocking abuse some children endure and gain an insight into the lives some children lead. A real page-turner

AUTHOR PROFILE: This is difficult because for legal reasons the name Tracy Back is a pseudonym. The real me is an advocate for childhood sexual abuse survivors and I like to help others where and when I can. I’m in my youth, well, early *cough* fifties but I still think I’m quite youthful. I’m easy going and approachable and love to interact with readers of my book. Some of them have become very good friends.

Since the publication of Never a Hero to Me I caught the writing bug and followed it up with a second one, Never a Mother to Me. Afterwards I found that I had laid my ghosts to rest. I then turned my writing arm to fiction and wrote Things Fall Apart.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Following the publication of Never a Hero to Me the response was unprecedented. I didn’t expect any feedback but I took my time in conversing with the readers. Some just needed a listening ear and others requested information on groups and forums. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse never ‘get over it’ and triggers and flashbacks are a life time reminder. Some of those I spoke to didn’t/couldn’t cope with their past so I decided to help and present them with a book that details how other survivors find ways to cope. This is great timing because Coping Mechanisms is due to be published very soon.


A respected man

A world blind to what he was capable of

A terrified little girl . . .

Herford, Germany


I looked out of the lounge window, fascinated by the torrential and persistent rain battering the glass. I was feeling pleased with myself, proud that I had finished my homework easily and quickly despite only being at my new school for three weeks. At five years of age, in a strange country with many people speaking a language that I could only understand a few words of, the Army school was a welcome haven for me. In Singapore, I had been in school for a little while, but had never been such a big girl that I was given homework. It feel terribly grown up to bring home my tiny satchel with a reading book, writing jotter, and a note saying what I needed to do for the next day.

The house we lived in wasn’t particularly homely – Army accommodation never was – but, in my bedroom, I had my few toys, my beloved golliwog, and some books. I didn’t want to be in there at the moment though. I had homework to do, and I needed an audience for that as much as anything. I wanted my family to see how grown up I was with my reading to do and numbers to learn. I had my family around me, and I was so sure that I would make friends and have a lovely time here. I had a simple, childlike belief that everything was coming together for me; little did I know how quickly it could all fall apart.

My Dad had been in the Army since before I was born and I didn’t know any different kind of life. We were in Germany, but the camp was really like a little Britain, isolated from local culture and local life, a version of home even although it was hundreds of miles away. I was born in Malta in 1962 where we stayed for a couple of years before going to a base in Germany. After that, we went to Singapore, but I remember very little of my first four or five years, nothing more than snippets really. We were never settled, it could change at any point, but that was just life.

As a child, you absorb so much of what has gone on in the past, of what your parents’ lives have been like, of what their expectations are, without ever being explicitly told and I knew that my Dad had an important job which meant that we often had to move about. I knew this had ‘always’ been the case (in my mind, ‘always’ wasn’t a concept that made much sense – I was five years old and the time between one birthday and the next seemed to take forever) and it was just the way things were. All around me, other children were living the same lives of anonymous houses and a determination not to put down roots, but school was making everything seem much more settled, much more permanent.

I had spent so much time looking forward to attending classes. All summer, I had been counting down the days, asking my Mum how many sleeps it would be until I was there. She was exasperated, or perhaps just bored, with my constant enthusiasm, but I was thrilled that every day was a step closer. I would look at my school bag every night before I went to bed, line my shoes up neatly for the hundredth time, and dream about the wonderful time I would have.

For the first two days of my life as a schoolgirl, Mum had taken me and my big brother Gary to class in the morning. The school I was now at, my very first big girl school, was nearby to living quarters and, after those first mornings, she decided it was safe enough for us to go alone. She wasn’t wrong in that sense – for children, Army bases are probably one of the most secure environments they could ever be in. I didn’t have the slightest inkling at that stage of where danger would really lie, or of how close to home it would be. I would have liked Mum to have kept taking me to school for a little longer, but she told me that I was a big girl now – which I always like to hear – and that I didn’t need her. That didn’t feel quite right, I did need her, but she wasn’t the sort of warm, cuddly mummy I saw with other kids at the school gate, so I wasn’t too surprised when she stopped taking me there so quickly.

She passed the responsibility over to Gary, who was a few years older than me. He wasn’t exactly delighted to be in charge of his little sister, but he had no choice in the matter and, for the next few days, took me on his own. I didn’t like that, for he used our time together to nip my arms, pull my hair and push me into puddles. I soon realised that he was only doing this to show off in front of the boys he hoped would be his friends, but I hated it and needed it to stop. I had made friends quickly and knew that some of the other girls walked to school on their own. After my first week, I collared Mum in the kitchen one night to test the waters.

‘Mum?’ I began.

‘What now?’ she sighed, continuing to peel potatoes for dinner.

‘I’m a big girl now, aren’t I?’

‘Why? What do you want?’ she asked, narrowing her eyes at me as she turned round.

‘Well, Sophie and Debbie in my class don’t have big brothers . . . and they get to walk to school on their own.’

‘So?’ she queried, concentrating on the potatoes again now that she knew I wasn’t after anything that would cost money or time.

‘So, can I walk to school on my own? I’d be good. I’d be careful. I promise. Please, Mum? Please?’ I begged.

I was putting in more effort than required.

‘Do what you like,’ she muttered.

I was delighted that I had managed to get Mum to agree that I could go with the others, as it served the dual purpose of getting Gary away from me and making me feel even more grown up. I wasn’t too bothered by the fact that she didn’t seem particularly interested in what I did because, just as I accepted we might move at any time, I also accepted that my Mum wasn’t the most loving person in the world. Of course, I would have preferred things to be different, but I was well aware that she had other things on her mind. The thing was, Mum wasn’t very well. I had no idea what was actually wrong with her, but I wasn’t the only one – I knew from listening to snippets of her conversations with Dad when she came back from the medical centre that the doctors were clueless too.

She was often sick and I would hear her vomiting at all times of the day and night. Sometimes the sound would wake me up at night as it was so loud and she would moan in pain when it happened. I had also seen these weird lumpy things on her body, like boils, and knew that her skin hurt a lot of the time. She would rub horrible smelly stuff into it that she told me was paraffin oil, and the stench of it filled our house. When she was unwell, she would tell me that she couldn’t be bothered with me, and Dad would say that I had to leave her alone, so I knew that she might be in pain or feeling unwell when I asked her about walking to school on my own and maybe that was why she had seemed so disinterested.

Whatever the reason, by the time I was sitting at the table, with my books and jotter in front of me, I was glad that I had been allowed to walk to school with Debbie and the others, because it was all part of becoming grown up. Gary wasn’t able to get at me when I was with other people, and, to be honest, he wasn’t that interested as he could go off with his friends when he no longer had to take care of me.

I was concentrating so hard on my work that my tongue was poking out between my lips and my eyes were screwed up – I couldn’t really read yet and numbers were still a bit tricky, but I was determined to try really hard. I got distracted by the weather and, as I watched the rain pour down the window, all of these changes were floating around in my

head, making me feel so happy – until I heard Gary guffawing over my shoulder. Quickly, my thoughts were dragged from how proud I would be to hand in my work to a sense that my brother knew something I didn’t.

‘What is it, Gary?’ I asked. ‘Why are you laughing at me?’

He snatched up my homework book from my lap, and sniggered. ‘You’re stupid! Anybody would laugh when they saw how stupid you were.’ He waved the notebook around in front of me, dangling it in front of my face as he ridiculed me. ‘You don’t know how to use capital letters or anything – the only thing you’ve got right is your name. And that’s stupid, just like you.’ I looked over to my Dad, sitting in front of the telly, oblivious to everything that was going on. He wouldn’t intervene, but I didn’t want him to anyway, he wasn’t the parent I needed. With tears welling in my eyes, I snatched my book back from Gary and rushed to find my Mum.

I’d tell on him. I’d tell her how awful he was to me, and she’d sort him out. I knew that she was in her bedroom, so I rushed there from the lounge, full of hot tears at how Gary had spoken to me, with a need for my Mum to make it all right. I barged in, the words all ready to tumble out – and froze. My mother was bent in half over a basin, vomiting violently. Her body was convulsing in pain and the sickness was coming fast. As always, I had no idea what was wrong with her, but knew that she was so ill that she was in no state to deal with my childish disputes. She looked up weakly, but had neither the strength nor the ability to even talk to me, promptly bending over the basin again and retching once more.

I backed out of the room, full of concern for my Mum, but also worried. This had happened so many times before, but there seemed to be a violence to the sickness now that I hadn’t been aware of previously. Mum had taken ill the week before and, as young as I was, even I couldn’t help but notice that she seemed to be getting worse as time went on. Ordinarily, she was pretty and well-groomed, a tall woman with long, blonde hair and a radiant glow to her skin. But on this evening, her locks were lank, her skin pallid, and she was terribly thin. My mum was only twenty-eight, but tonight she looked more than twice her age.

I returned to the lounge, where Gary was perched at the window, smirking at me and seemingly unconcerned for my mother’s illness. My Dad was still sitting where I had left him, Senior Service cigarette in one hand, and a can of beer in the other. When he finished, the cigarette butt would join the many others which lay in a full ashtray and the tin would be thrown into an old cardboard box which rattled with empties. The beer cans were always there, a constant reminder of the fact that my Dad drank all the time, yet he never seemed to be drunk. I couldn’t understand this. When I watched television, men would drink beer and then reel around in drunkenness, often falling over, slurring their words, and having a great time. That wasn’t my Dad. That wasn’t how drink affected him. I had concluded a long time ago that my Dad must not drink as much as those men, because, apart from sometimes falling asleep in his chair, I’d never seen him fall prey to the funny antics of the drunk men on telly.

In fact, my Dad wasn’t a funny man at all.

However, tonight, as I came back from seeing my mother look like Death, from watching her retch her very insides out, I would realise just how bad his temper could be. His anger seemed to ooze out of him as he turned to me and barked, ‘for fuck’s sake, stop harassing your mother.’ I was shocked – I couldn’t remember Dad ever swearing at me before, even although he had never been particularly loving or warm. He was a man who believed in standards, he was Army through and through, but now he seemed to have forgotten that he was talking to a little girl.

I stood there staring at him, stunned by the bad words which had come out of his mouth.

‘What are you fucking gawping at?’ he snapped. ‘You know she isn’t well, you know she’s ill, and Christ knows when she’ll get any better.’ I’m not sure that I did know that. I did have an awareness that my Mum was often sick, and that she was being sick more often these days, but, at five years old, I never thought forward and I didn’t put two and two together. Sometime I felt sick if I ate too many sweeties, and I knew that my friends did too. I certainly hadn’t faced up to the possibility that there was something seriously wrong with my Mum that might not get fixed.

My Dad’s words snapped me out of my reverie. ‘Keep the fuck away from her,’ he told me. ‘In fact, clear up your rubbish instead of standing there being useless. It’s your bedtime, so hurry up for Christ’s sake. Get all of your shite out of the way – move it!’

The unfairness of it swamped me. ‘It’s not rubbish, it’s my homework!’ I said, desperately wanting to cry. My Mum was ill, my Dad was swearing at me, my brother was calling me names, and my world seemed overwhelmingly horrible. I grabbed my homework jotter and books from where Gary was sitting, ignoring the fact that he was sniggering at my Dad’s treatment of me, and ran down the hallway to my bedroom.

I threw it all down onto my dressing table and flung myself down onto the bed. Just as I did so, I heard a horrendous crack and saw flashes of light. This was a ghastly night and it was getting worse. I hated thunderstorms and felt a knot in my stomach as the night got threateningly dark. I could hardly see anything. Despite the ominous feeling, I knew that I had no alternative but to go back through to the lounge. ‘Dad! Dad!’ I screamed. ‘I’m so scared. What’s happening? When will it stop, Dad?’

He was as still as a statue as I stood beside his chair. I was a five-year-old child, terrified and desperate for some consolation. I couldn’t go to my Mum and my Dad was acting in a way that I simply couldn’t comprehend. He wouldn’t even look at me. ‘Shut up. It’s only a fucking storm. Now get your arse back into bed and stop being so bloody annoying.’

Tears were brimming in my eyes as I pleaded with him. ‘Can I stay up for a little while, just until it stops? Please? Please, Dad?’

He finally turned round and looked at me. It chilled me to the bone. His face was alien and his eyes cold, almost as if he had no recognition of the child before him. Looking back, and knowing what was to come, I believe that something had broken in my father that night. Given how my world was to shatter, beginning in only a few hours’ time, it was as if he himself was unable to react to how he was behaving. The swearing, the aggression, the lack of eye contact – all of these things were part of a personality which he may have used in his day to day life in the Army, but they were not part of the make-up of a loving father.

‘If I have to tell you one more time, you little bastard . . . .’ he muttered menacingly.

He didn’t.

I could feel the atmosphere. I could sense the tension.

As my Mum writhed in agony in her own room, my own body felt a wave of fear. I was filled with a knowledge that this was a battle I couldn’t win. As I scurried back to my room, the storm raged outside – and the one which would rip my life apart was only just beginning.

LOCAL OUTLETS: WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon Author page whsmith Waterstones

PRICE: Paperback £6.99 ebook £3.99


Stealing Cherries

THE BOOK: Stealing Cherries

 PUBLISHED IN: November 2013

THE AUTHOR:  Marina Rubin


: Manic D Press

SUMMARY: 74 heart-rending stories, each in 150 to 300 words. This is literature with an adrenaline rush – each story has a plot, a conflict, a lesson, humor, and a spectrum of characters. Who are they? A family of five arrives at JFK with no English and two suitcases per person. Women searching for love at a local Jewish center with the same zest as in a Jamaican nudist colony. Strippers spending $3000 on underwear. They are looking for jobs, they wear bunny slippers to work, they have sex in the office under the scrutiny of security cameras. These characters are all too human, too familiar, too flawed, and just glamorous enough to be endearing and unforgettable.

THE BACK STORY: I had written three books of poetry and the last one had surpassed even my own expectations in terms of craft, i called it Logic. But when it came out no one cared, poetry was like a corset, constricting and archaic. I made the only logical decision – not to write again. I roamed the city looking for meaning, for a new kind of logic, reading quotes from miniature books in the gardening section until I stumbled on a line from Joseph Campbell “the goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe.” I looked around, the year was 2007, what was happening in the universe? Facebook. The IPhone just came out. The screen got so much smaller. The attention span shrunk to a couple of hundred words. That’s when it hit me – I am going to write desperately short stories, 300 words or so, a mini Babel, a shrunken Chekhov, it will have a plot and a conflict. I remembered the lesson I learned in my creative writing class – in order to write well, write what you know. What did I know? A family of five arrive from Ukraine with no English and two suitcases per person. College boys celebrate their first Shabbat and the two schlimazels forget to turn off the lights. Young women looking for love at the ESL classes, The book, Stealing Cherries, practically wrote itself and sold itself too, there was a fellowship, sold-out venues, the book tour, customers lined up for an autographed copy. There were two older women who approached the table and one said: “Forgive me please, I hope you don’t find me rude but I think your book is perfectly timed for the bathroom.” Her friend objected: “but what if you are constipated?” “So you just read two or more!” the first one replied. “We’ll take three books each, please sign,” the two women sang. Now that was the kind of logic I could understand.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Stealing Cherries is considered a leader in short attention span literature


For the flash-fiction fan, ADD-suffering reader or David Sedaris admirer: Marina Rubin’s collection of micro-stories, hits all the right notes with its humor, mild perversity and warmth…Poetic, punchy and packed with vignettes, Stealing Cherries will pop your brain…”

–Coachella Valley Independent

 “The flash stories are a veritable bushel of stolen cherries, each one is a delight to read, sweet and best enjoyed in bunches. A slight bitterness follows, we’re too old to enjoy stolen cherries, too grownup to snatch virgin fruit and eat it with unconscious abandon, but the memory of the taste, and the echoes within these stories are still delightful to carry within us afterwards.”
–Nano Fiction

 “Rubin is a new voice on the scene and her collection of flash fiction was a revelation…Her writing has such a sharp focus that she successfully captures an event and mood in very few words. While these funny, strange, off-beat works are called fiction, the ones written in the first person read like autobiography. Rubin does an excellent job capturing small, sometimes shocking, moments…”

The Reporter

“…its intimate clash of cultures, political and economic antagonisms, and transgressive sexualities are never very far from the surface of these sometimes nostalgic, sometimes bittersweet, often sensual fictions.”

— Urban Graffiti

“Like Russian-born novelists Gary Shteyngart, Lara Vapnyar and David Bezmozgis, Marina Rubin mines her immigrant experience for her fiction, uncovering the universal. Her writing is sparse and precise, yet also lush, with long sentences packed full of life, drama and artistry…”

Jewish Week

AUTHOR PROFILE: Marina Rubin was born in the small town of Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. Her family immigrated to United States in 1989 seeking asylum. Her first chapbook Ode to Hotels(2002) was followed by Once(2004) and Logic(2007). Her work had appeared in over seventy magazines and anthologies including 13th Warrior Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Dos Passos Review, 5AM, Nano Fiction, Coal  City, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Jewish Currents, Lillith, Pearl, Poet Lore, Skidrow Penthouse, The Portland Review, The Worcester Review and many more. She is an associate editor of Mudfish, the Tribeca literary and art magazine. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2007 and again in 2012. She is a 2013 recipient of the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship. Her fourth book, a collection of flash fiction stories Stealing Cherries was released in November 2013 from Manic D Press and is available on Amazon, B&N and other booksellers nationwide. Her website is

SAMPLE CHAPTER:  link to amazon:

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Manic D Press

PRICE: $14.95

Fan page for Stealing Cherries

Link to photos from Readings and Public Appearances:

Passage Oak


THE BOOK: Passage Oak

PUBLISHED IN: December, 2015

THE AUTHOR: K.M. del Mara

THE EDITOR: K.M. del Mara


SUMMARY: High above the coast of Cornwall, a remarkable tree dominates the woodland. It stands out because it is the only oak of its type and larger than any other tree. Down the ages, it has served as a landmark for thieves and smugglers, lovers and outlaws.

In the small village below, people have a rather obsessive dread of anything that stands out, that doesn’t fit the mold. They like to keep to themselves and don’t like to see their traditions threatened.

But along comes an Italian and then an Irishman, each escaping religious persecution in his native country. A young woman and a small boy follow, fleeing the French Revolution, plus a stranger running from a charge of murder, and a girl of mixed race sent by mistake from a London orphanage.

Imagine this motley assortment of people seeking to build new lives in one hard-pressed fishing village.

THE BACK STORY: Passage Oak is part of a series of books that deal with some of the ways people respond to war. Do they stand and fight, as portrayed in Whitebeam, set in Scotland in Robert the Bruce’s time? Do they flee for their lives, as a Loyalist family does on the eve of the American Revolution in Willow Oak? Or, as in Passage Oak, do they look for opportunities to profit from the chaos? The struggling fishermen and miners provide a subtext as they try to bring the giving and taking of opportunities into balance.

WHY THIS TITLE?: An ancient oak tree stands as a landmark near a small Cornish fishing village. It not only symbolizes the singular, or the unique, as opposed to the status quo. It is also a metaphor for acceptance and tolerance, as it plays host, throughout its life and beyond, to a vast variety of life forms.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT?: This is historical fiction with more emphasis on story than history, and nearly everyone loves a good story. It is a story that “happens” in an interesting time and place but could have happened anywhere and anywhen. It is more relevant to today’s world than I could have imagined when I began to write it several years ago.


Amazon reviews for Passage Oak

1-Delmara sets us securely in time and place to experience the struggles that beset strangers in a strange land. The mystery lies at the intersection of those lives where the drive for survival takes on epic proportions. With a tempo that accelerates to the finale, Delmara keeps the reader’s head spinning in ironic twists of fate and the chaos of lives bent on establishing a place in the world.

2-A beautifully written story that takes place in Cornwall in the early 1800’s. Del Mara brings her wonderfully developed characters to life, thoroughly researching the time period and geography and sharing their riveting stories with us.

3-I loved it and couldn’t put it down!
AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m also a violinist

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’d be very grateful if you would post this on your lovely book site.

Password to open the file: bridgE2hØpE
(The ‘O’ in hope is a zero.

LOCAL OUTLETS: soon to be in our County library

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Ingram, Amazon
(Smashwords eventually)

PRICE: $15.99, $3.99 Kindle