Mommy Writings: Mommy, Would You Like a Sandwich?

Mommy, Would You Lie ...THE AUTHOR: Suzanne McMillen-Fallon.

THE EDITOR: Kathi Anderson.

THE PUBLISHER: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency (SBPRA). SBPRA is a “help-publishing” company that offers book publishing and marketing services for all genres.

SUMMARY: “There’s one thing I know – God exists.” At age nineteen, MaryAnne McMillen severed two vital nerves at the base of her skull when she suffered a near fatal fall. This was followed by an out-of-body experience, life after death, in which she heard the words, “It’s not your time.”

Suzanne McMillen-Fallon IIWhen the two nerves fused together, MaryAnne was left in unrelenting, excruciating pain. Being the mother of a young son and married to a philandering brute of a husband when the accident occurred, the family disallowed the use of any medicine because it was against their religion. After fourteen years of agony, doctors were finally able to perform a unique surgery known as intraspinal rhizotomy. This story weaves together the idea of family and faith, while also creating a sense of longing in the reader’s own life for something bigger than themselves. Mommy’s Writings is the extraordinary memoir of the love between a mother and her young son, and a great-grandmother whose intense devotion to the two of them kept their little family together. It is a story of faith in God, of forgiveness and acceptance, and of gratitude.

THE BACK STORY: As it’s written in Mommy’s Writings’ Conclusion: “With this novel, I’ve fulfilled what I perceive as a heavenly Father’s purposed plan for my life. It gives my soul rest (Ps. 139:13-14).”

While the story reveals an existing intrigue underwent by the McMillen family, some of the characters’ names have been changed, so as not to inflict harm upon people still living.

“Because God is, this story belongs to everyone. (St. Matthew 22:21 [AV]; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). For, as awareness is, so is God consciousness.”

This is a lingering tale of a mother’s head injury and her vulnerable four-year old son’s love for each other. Together they are tethered by an intense unyielding great-grandmother’s love for the two of them that further binds them to their home in Warren, Ohio. As written in Mommy’s Writings’ Preface, “What began as a private writing for my son Chad is now a tie that binds a family’s times and inspires the love of God.”

WHY THIS TITLE? While his mommy lies in bed, and as it’s written in the book, “The afternoon’s sun warmth is felt through the bay window, as its soft radiance brings a pillow to rest over my head. It will ease my eyes from the remaining daylight that somehow adds to the spasm’s cruelty, which is ever more callous today. I accept my thoughts, for God carries me now.

Surely, another pill will do some good.

“Mommy, can I play with my cars?”

“Yes, darling son. I’d love it if you would.”

I won’t sleep, but I’ll probably lose consciousness, as thoughts of a heavenly Father’s loving compassion then cradles us.

Lord, God Almighty, I’m so fragile – as if I’m barely alive – but I’m not afraid. Please don’t let your little child Chad be afraid for his mommy.

My thoughts are on Chad, what little I can think; and as tears well-up and make their presence known, soft facial tissue holds the tears escaping into an emotion of God’s presence, which embraces and helps my precious little boy accept that mommy’s okay. I hear Chad’s sweet, loving voice as he retrieves his toy Matchbox cars from the parking bay he used earlier in his play atop and across the bedcovers, to drive over superhighways and onto their destinations. It is this which somehow has me feel a child’s innocence and compassion.

“Chad, I love you bunches.”

“I know, Mommy! I love you bunches too!”

This is my child. Unexpectedly, my son parks his little Matchbox cars in the parking bay and then stands thoughtfully. Chad looks deep into my eyes as he walks the length of the bed to place his one hand into mine, having his other arm on the edge of the bed that leans in toward me, and all the while our eyes keep within each other’s world.

“Mommy, would you like a sandwich?”

My child, with his little man ways, then places another tissue to catch my tears.

“A sandwich, Mommy?”

Chad’s a child who isn’t even five years old. How does this relate to hope or faith?

“Thank you, Chad. Perhaps a little later.”

“Mommy, don’t you know? I’m here to help you feel better.”

Life isn’t fair—God is. But when a child must furnish compassion to his mother, life is upside down. My thoughts remain quietly within.

Dear God . . . Why?

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The book will change your perspective on life: with enlightenment, as in the words of Sartre’s reality, “I think, therefore I am. No matter, the mindset. ”Does God exist?” “What’s life all about?”

This true story novel does not proselytize. I’m not a religious person. I believe in God. The story is based on my life, what was experienced on February 14, 1969, in an out-of-body experience, life after death, in which I heard the words, “It’s not your time.”

In Mommy’s Writings, it begins with my simple words to a friend, “I’ll help with your gifts, but first let me open the garage doors, Cynthia.”

“MaryAnne, lift up on the center latch to open them.”

I step out of the car and onto the pavement to stand before my friend, whose car’s headlights are bright in the nippy night air against a sky’s brilliant star backdrop, which are now a part of me. I can’t see her through the headlight’s intensity, but knowing Cynthia, she’s smiling. I glance upward, where the stars almost feel like you can touch them in such night clarity, which reminds me of life’s treasures: our friends that are given to us by a higher consciousness whose intention gives such blessings to his creations. I think, Treasure life.

I turn and open the double-door garage, and then, in a single step backward into a cement pit, my life changes forever.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“This book has touched my heart to see what a mother will go through just to make sure her child was safe and raised to the best of her ability. The trials and errors we go through in life can sometimes Feel like we are alone, but always remember God is with you, as Suzanne has taught me.” – Jeffrey Miller.

AUTHOR PROFILE: In Washington State, my second husband, Gene D. Fallon, retired. With our focus then on writing, I worked part time for Hallmark Retail, Inc. (Andrews’s Hallmark, and then Amy’s Hallmark), and attended to Fallon’s failing health. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; with our commuting for his care at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance building, shortly after moving to Mukilteo, Washington in 1996. It’s in Fallon’s latter days, when his strength was little and he slept mostly, that the novel “Mommy’s Writings: Mommy, would you like a sandwich?” flowed through me. It was inspired. As I could see his resting form, a body slowly weakening from a fatal disease, but never removing away from him his loving nature. The injections I gave him finally were of no earthly use, and Gene David Fallon died on 12-1-2003; but not before his reading of my creative work, Mommy Writings Series Book 1.

It’s in my marriage to Fallon, during those years, when the dear Lord had me learning the writing process. “Would I have accomplished this work without my patient husband’s support for his Suz? Let’s just say, with his love and respect that his Suz finds strength in two hearts now released as one.”

Yes, I knew I’d someday write this story. In spite of the head injury, and the permanent brain impairment, I live with. Yet, it’s like author Darrell Laurant shared with me in his October 15, 2015 e-mail, “…there are also the wild cards of prayer and personal determination.” And it’s true, this I know.

When defining who she is, Suzanne McMillen-Fallon writes, “Mother of Chad C. McMillen and author.” In her younger years, she was an artist. After the 1983 surgery, she is a published writer of poetry and prose, and co-authored the book Shadows of Yesterday with her late second husband, Gene Fallon. Her next book, Parallax Crossroads: Finding My Way (Copyright January 25, 2012) continues the Mommy Writings Series.

Suzanne McMillen-Fallon was previous business owner and CEO of the Center for Communication Arts, Inc. in Orlando; having been associate director of Television Workshop, Inc. with Gene Fallon in Cleveland, Ohio. Past business experience includes apartment house ownership and management and a family-owned business affiliation in the oil and gas industry.

Ms. McMillen-Fallon has a background in the performing arts in theatrical production at the famed Youngstown, Ohio Playhouse; developing an amazing role-playing ability than used as a teaching technique in Florida, where becoming the instructor’s protégé, she acted out parts audiences easily related to.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon.

LOCAL OUTLETS: E.G. Toledo-Lucas County Library: http://www.toledolibrary.org; Sno-isle Regional Library System, WA State: http://www.sno-isle.org; NOLA Regional Library System: http://www.neotoday.org;

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Mommy Writings Series Book 1, Mommy’s Writings: Mommy, Would You Like a Sandwich? – A True Story (ISBN: 978-1-60976-456-2) By Suzanne McMillen-Fallon is available for $24.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website: http://sbpra.com/SuzanneMcMillenFallon or at http://www.amazon.com or http://www.barnesandnoble.com.

Wholesalers: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors. Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers, universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email bookorder@sbpra.net.

PRICE: $24.50.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: a.smf@att.net; Google: suzcc88@gmail.com; Twitter handle: Suzanneasmf; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.mcmillenfallon

Weather Report, Jan. 11

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED BOOKS, “AFTERMATH LOUNGE,” BY MARGARET McMULLAN AND “GLASS,” BY KATE KORT, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN DIRECTLY BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE MONTHLY “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.”

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UPCOMING ON “SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD”

This week is about families. All kinds of families — supportive, connected, broken, and in transition. And the subject is examined through three different lenses, ranging from a  collection of short stories (“Relative Strangers”) to a novel (“Close”) to a memoir (“Mommy Would You Like a Sandwich?”).

JANUARY 12-18

Judith Raskin“CLOSE,” BY ERIKA RASKIN.

Close is a novel of family and suspense. Wry single mom Kik Marcheson is dancing as hard as she can — teaching at the university, struggling with the family’s finances (which may soon include having to return the long-gone advance for her unfinished second novel), and coping with her increasingly challenging daughters.

Doone, the oldest, is swimming in the deep end of adolescence; Casey, the middle child-slash-good girl, is slowly coming undone and little Tess, the quirky kindergartner, has somewhat alarmingly introduced an invisible playmate into the family constellation.

When Doone’s activities can no longer be ignored, a TV therapist offers a hand. Caving to Casey, Kik sets aside serious misgivings and agrees to let the family participate.

And then things go from bad to terrifying.

“RELATIVE STRANGERS,” BY MARGARET HERMES.

The characters in Relative Strangers – ranging from a high school valedictorian fascinated by bees to a boy who goes through sexual awakening against a backdrop of bigotry — experience warmth as well as alienation, humor as well as heartache.

The fourteen stories are thematically linked by their close examination of relationships. In the title story, relatives are shocked by revelations about the buried pasts of family members. In ”Transubstantiation,” a long-wed couple discovers they are strangers to each other. In “Meet Me,” a much younger couple is all too willing to believe they are strangers to each other. “The River’s Daughter” explores an uneasy relationship between siblings: “Even though I came first, once Carrie was on the scene I never came first to mind. I bore the distinction of being both the oldest and an afterthought.”

The collection is meant to draw the reader in with characters and settings that might seem familiar but never ordinary. I grew up in Chicago and live in St. Louis and some of the stories are set in those cities, while others take place on a South Carolina farm, in a hospital in Duluth, at a baseball game at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, in a mythical town in the Missouri Bootheel, in a suburban nursing home, or in a nameless village in Eastern Europe where “everything was heavy — the coats, the shoes, the sky, the hearts.”

“MOMMY, DO YOU WANT A SANDWICH?” BY SUZANNE McMILLEN-FALLON.

“There’s one thing I know – God exists.” At age nineteen, MaryAnne McMillen severed two vital nerves at the base of her skull when she suffered a near fatal fall. This was followed by an out-of-body experience, life after death, in which she heard the words, “It’s not your time.”

When the two nerves fused together, MaryAnne was left in unrelenting, excruciating pain. Being the mother of a young son and married to a philandering brute of a husband when the accident occurred, the family disallowed the use of any medicine because it was against their religion. After fourteen years of agony, doctors were finally able to perform a unique surgery known as intraspinal rhizotomy. This story weaves together the idea of family and faith, while also creating a sense of longing in the reader’s own life for something bigger than themselves.

Mommy’s Writings is the extraordinary memoir of the love between a mother and her young son, and a great-grandmother whose intense devotion to the two of them kept their little family together. It is a story of faith in God, of forgiveness and acceptance, and of gratitude.

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Aftermath Lounge

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “GLASS,” BY KATE KORT, CAN BE FOUND BUY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST. THERE, YOU WILL ALSO FIND THE JANUARY EDITION OF “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.”

Aftermath Lounge

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Margaret McMullan.

THE EDITOR: Martin Woodside.

THE PUBLISHER: Calypso Editions. Calypso Editions is an artist-run, cooperative press dedicated to publishing quality literary books of poetry and fiction with a global perspective. On their website, they write, “We believe that literature is essential to building an international community of readers and writers and that books can serve as a physical artifact of beauty and wonder in a world of digital saturation.”

Margaret McMullanSUMMARY: Set primarily in the small coastal town of Pass Christian, Mississippi, Aftermath Lounge is a novel-in-stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed 95% of Pass Christian. With a 28-foot storm surge, the highest recorded in U.S. history, 55-foot waves, and winds reaching 120 mph, the town was wiped off the map—temporarily.

Calypso Editions released Aftermath Lounge on the 10-year anniversary of Katrina.

THE BACK STORY: Katrina hit my parents’ home in Pass Christian, almost destroying it, but not quite. Immediately following the storm, my father was among the first to rebuild. During this time, we witnessed so many unusual and small acts of heroism that inspired me to write about the community and its people, and how tragedy shapes our character. In 2010, I was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship to complete the project.

WHY THIS TITLE? One of the first temporary buildings that went up in Pass Christian after the storm was a restaurant to feed volunteers and any locals still there. It was called Kafé Katrina. Many folks wanted a bar as well, so the owner of Kafé Katrina added on a Karaoke bar called The Aftermath Lounge.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It’s a great book about wonderful and bizarre southern characters. Older women still write to me wanting to meet Catch, the handyman. One reviewer wrote that the place comes to life in Aftermath Lounge, suggesting what it really means to be from a place, how place stays with us, despite its transformations, because of the versions of us it keeps as we move on. There are also a lot of dogs in this book.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Aftermath Lounge is a masterpiece.” – The Huffington Post

“The work of Katrina fiction I have always wanted to read has arrived.” — The Sun Herald

“This is a wonderful and devastating book about damage both manmade and natural.”– Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“Each entry is a shot to the chest…Writing a good short story is no easy feat. Writing one consisting of a few paragraphs that not only fills the frame but paints a heartbreaking picture is an awe-inspiring talent.” – Malcolm Avenue Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Margaret McMullan is the author of seven award-winning novels including In My Mother’s House and Sources of Light. She and Phillip Lopate recently curated Every Father’s Daughter, an anthology of essays about fathers by great women writers such as Alice Munro, Ann Hood and Jane Smiley. Margaret received a Fulbright to research and teach in Hungary for a new book Where the Angels Lived. She was the Melvin Peterson Endowed Chair in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Evansville in Indiana where she taught for 25 years. Now she, her husband Pat O’Connor, and their dog, Samantha, live in Pass Christian, Mississippi, the setting of Aftermath Lounge, where she writes full time and serves as a faculty mentor at the Stony Brook Southampton Low-res MFA Program.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I have always been interested in how ordinary people behave during extraordinary times — what they do and what they don’t do is the story. In 2005, I was working on a young adult novel set after the Civil War in Smith County, MS when Katrina hit. That book, When I Crossed No-Bob, is about how a little girl reconstructs herself during the reconstruction era. I couldn’t help but turn to Pass Christian’s reconstruction as well.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

The Swing

            He lit a joint and smoked it as he drove past the Gulf Coast Pak & Ship, which still had its sun-faded WE SHIP FOR THE HOLIDAYS sign up from last year. It was Friday, Christmas Eve, and he was going to fetch his holiday bonus from Mr. Zimmer in the big yellow house, his last paycheck for the week. Squinting from all the light coming off the Gulf, Catch smiled, and his fingers slid along the steering wheel, anticipating those crisp, new bills Mr. Zimmer would count out from his silver money clip.

            He passed the old-people’s home, and through his open window he could smell the stuffing and sweet potatoes cooking. He always did like mushy food, and he laughed thinking about what a good old person he would be. He snuffed out his joint, slipping the charred nub back into a Ziploc bag for later, and reached into the passenger seat for some cheese crackers and beef jerky. He still had the open box of Satsuma oranges and divinity candy from Mrs. Gimbel and the sugared pecans from Mrs. Anderson. He’d save those for later. A man on a bicycle wearing a Santa hat waved, and Catch waved back.

In the Zimmers’ drive, Catch slammed his truck door shut, straightened his hat, and laughed out loud looking at the Christmas display on the lawn next door: Santa was riding his sleigh, holding a whip to the reindeer, while two white wire angels with flashlights stood in front of the sleigh, looking like those people who guide planes in for landings. The Zimmers didn’t go for outdoor holiday decorations, and this, combined with their last name, had made Catch think at first that they were Jewish, but it turned out they were Lutherans.

Around back the Zimmers’ grown daughter was swimming laps in the heated pool, steam dancing off the surface of the water. She slogged back and forth without once stopping or looking up. The daughter’s young son sat in the wheelbarrow parked next to the pool, reading a science book bigger than his head.

“Hey, partner,” Catch said.

“Hey,” the boy said, his mouth going back into the little green scarf someone had wound around his neck. What was his name again? He was tiny and blond, his eyes were big like his mother’s, and his mother’s mother’s. He looked like he wanted to smile but couldn’t; like he thought he had to ask permission.

“Excited about all the presents you’re going to get?”

The boy nodded. There was silence, and then the boy asked, “How are you?”
Catch wasn’t accustomed to a seven-year-old talking this way, and he had to get used to the boy again. Teddy – that was his name. This kid wasn’t stupid and not a bit shy, but if the Zimmers weren’t careful, he was going to turn into a wormy, womany sissy. Catch liked to give it to him straight. “How am I? you say? Could be better. Could be worse. I’m still standing. Still breathing. I call that a victory.”

Teddy looked curiously at Catch, then tucked his mouth back into his scarf.

Catch inspected the green yard he’d seeded with rye grass a month earlier. He’d learned to anticipate what homeowners needed. There were a lot of house-proud people in this neigborhood. Catch could fit five trailers inside the Zimmers’ house. He didn’t know where all the money that had landed on this street came from, but he figured either out-of-state sugar or oil. Nobody ever made that kind of money in Mississippi; you had to leave, make your money, then bring it back with you. Some of these folks lived on the Gulf year-round, but there were others, like the Zimmers, who came down for the winter. They needed a local to keep up the house and the lawn. Catch often wondered why the Zimmers kept coming back here, why they didn’t keep a place in, say, California.

The little porch on the martin house was rotting off. The birdhouse was made to look like the big house, and Catch felt obligated to make it look as nice, but Mr. Zimmer wanted him to concentrate on the big jobs: trimming the boxwood around the tennis court and cutting back the line of bamboo. Last Christmas, Mrs. Zimmer had ordered a fancy swing from a catalogue, but with so much on her mind, she’d left it outside on the ground for a month, and after several heavy rains, the seat had cupped and split. Catch had told Mrs. Zimmer he could make a better swing himself anyway. Leave it to him; he’d get around to it. He’d even picked the perfect live oak to hang it in.

The Zimmer’s kitchen door opened, and oniony smells wafted out; there was Mrs. Zimmer, looking frantic.

“Catch,” she said. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.” She gave him an envelope. “That’s for the month and there’s your bonus, too. Now, I know it’s your day off, but I need you today and tonight. Could you help? Please? The lawn needs mowing again, and we can’t put up the tree by ourselves. We’ve got guests coming over at six. And tomorrow’s Christmas. I just don’t know if I can manage. Do you want to come in for coffee? Have you had breakfast?”

She was on up in age, but Mrs. Zimmer wasn’t quite like the other old women down there. Lady up the street wouldn’t even let Catch inside her house; at lunchtime she opened up a can of Vienna sausages and dumped them out on a paper plate, then handed the plate to Catch with some saltines, like she was feeding a cat. Catch was a white yard man. He wondered what that woman had fed the black men who’d worked for her before him.

Catch tipped his hat, said he’d had breakfast, and sure, he could take the mower for a once-around.

Riding the John Deere, he lit the rest of his joint: just enough to make the morning feel like a celebration. The air was cold and hurt Catch’s teeth. At least it wasn’t August or September, when he would have been sweating into his eyes. Riding a mower and smoking some weed the day before Christmas suited Catch just fine. Pot was the only drug he liked to mess with. His former boss at the lumber yard had had a bad cocaine habit. Catch could deal with just about anything but that. One morning his boss had knocked the cowboy hat off Catch’s head and lit into him, yelling and waving a knife. Catch punched him in the face, good and solid, then picked up his hat and left. That was the end of that job.

After Catch had finished mowing, he went back up to the house to see what else Mrs. Zimmer needed. She stepped outside, holding on to the screen door so it wouldn’t slam. Catch thought she seemed to be she was moving much better after the hip surgery. She had put on a few pounds, but the weight looked good on her. So did the tangerine lipstick and the blue flowered dress. Mrs. Zimmer didn’t study Catch the way the other old women did, the way Catch was used to being studied. He knew what they thought of him. He lived alone; he drank. Some knew about the dope, but most didn’t. Everyone knew he was quick to anger. He got into fights. He got kicked out of places. Some might have felt sorry for him. He knew he wasn’t happy happy. He knew people studied his kind of not happiness — he didn’t want to call it “unhappiness” or “depression” or “post- traumatic stress disorder”: he’d been like this before and after the two tours in Vietnam.

“I know this is your day off, Catch, but can you help with the tree too?”

“Help” meant put it up. Mrs. Zimmer liked to tell people Catch “helped” with the yard and the gardening when, in fact, he did it all. He never bothered correcting her, of course.

The tree lay on the back porch, or what Mrs. Zimmer called “the gallery,” and Catch knelt down on the cold marble and screwed last year’s stand onto it. Upright, the tree was small and bushy. He wondered how much the old lady had paid. She’d probably been ripped off.

“Oh, it’s perfect,” she said as he hauled it in from the porch.

He would have gotten a bigger one, taller. Why else have twelve-foot ceilings like that?

“Can you put on the strings of lights too? We’re only doing red and silver decorations this year.”

Catch opened the lights and colored balls and put them all on the tree. At the last minute, the old woman gave him one more box to hang: twelve sea-glass ornaments, a gift from some woman named Nelia.

“Oh, that’s perfect Catch, perfect. I don’t know how you do it.” She handed him a package.

“Thank you, Mrs. Z. You oughtn’t have,” he said, thinking the bundle felt too light for a ham.

“I was wondering if you could put it on. For tonight. We’re hoping you could play Santa at the party. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa.”

Catch opened the package. It was a lot of red inside.

“You’ll be a Victorian Saint Nick,” she said, staring down at the red velvet suit in his hands. “It wasn’t a cheapie.”

Outside, the daughter was still swimming laps in the pool. It made Catch’s head hurt just watching her. Why did people make their lives more difficult than they already were?

Catch drove home to eat and think. He lived in a trailer park but was saving up for a nice brick ranch house on the bay. He wanted his own dock and a motorboat, so he could go fishing first thing in the morning, maybe take the boat to Wolf River if he had a mind to.

He boiled three hotdogs, and still carrying the Santa package, took a seat on the lone aluminum chair out front. There was no grass, but he kept the ground swept. He didn’t mind the passing trains so much anymore, not when he thought of how he would have the boat soon enough. Between his trailer and the train tracks, he grew tomatoes and peppers in tires, coffee cans, and milk jugs cut in half. He breathed in the smell of sweet olive, magnolia and pine, then popped open a beer. He knew he drank too much, because lately he felt old in the mornings. One day he’d quit.

Part of the beard hung from the package, tickling his thigh. He opened the box. The beard was big and curly, but they’d skimped on the boots: vinyl flaps that strapped onto a regular shoe. There were some things that just shouldn’t be.

 

 

Mrs. Zimmer was waiting for him on the front porch, and when she saw Catch in the suit but still wearing his work boots, she said no no. She noticed things like shoes. He strapped on the flaps.

Mrs. Zimmer led Catch into the house through the front door. The living room was all lit up, and there were more people there than he’d expected: older people with no kids, neighbors from front and back and sideways. He mowed lawns for many of them, maybe one square mile all together.

“Here they all are and there they all come,” he said to Mrs. Zimmer, and he thought he heard her say, “that’s right, Catch” like they were in on something together.

Shrimp and oysters on the half shell sat for the taking in a big crystal bowl full of ice on a round table covered in white linen. He didn’t know why the Zimmers put out such a fine spread for people he was sure didn’t appreciate it. Why didn’t they just do like that old man down the street did? On Christmas day, he gave any relative who came by a hundred dollars. Catch got fifty and a pie. No fuss, no muss.

“Pardon me,” Teddy said. He had a gap in his smile where his two front teeth were out; the new teeth were coming in crooked. “Are you Santa Claus?’

“You bet, partner. How about you tell me what you want for Christmas.”

“I think you’re supposed to sit down first,” the boy said. Mr. Zimmer came into the room with two drinks. “But not in that chair. Grandmother doesn’t like for people to sit on that chair. It’s from some other century, not this one.”

Mr. Zimmer told Teddy to get Santa some gumbo, and he led Catch to a big leather wing-back chair and put a hot toddy in his hand. Then Mr. Zimmer counted out three twenties, a ten, and a five from the wad of money in his clip. No wallet, this guy.  Catch tucked the cash into his red velvet suit and sipped the toddy. He overheard a lot of talk about the hurricanes they’d had in Florida that year: Charley and Frances. “They had to gut Emma’s condo because of the mold,” some woman said to Mrs. Zimmer. Teddy came with a cup of gumbo. Catch took a taste. Someone in that kitchen knew how to burn a roux good. Lord Almighty! Right now, he could drink up the afternoon.

One wall of the room was all glass, and Catch could see the whole Gulf of Mexico from where he sat. Even though the water was polluted, it was pretty to look at and think on. When he was married, he and his ex-wife Norma would spread out a blanket and picnic there on the beach, smoke a little weed, then lie back, close their eyes, and just listen. It was only a drab little spot of sand, but the sound of the water was just the same as it would have been on some Hawaiian island. Those were the best nights in Pass Christian – you all but forgot about the poisons in the water.

Mr. Zimmer plopped the kid on Catch’s lap. Catch knew he smelled of weed, and what with the hot toddy and the gumbo on his bad stomach, he hoped to God he didn’t get sick.

“It’s Christmas Eve,” the boy said. “Shouldn’t you be working?”

“I am, son. And what do you want for Christmas?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Catch looked around the room, where everything and everyone sparkled. Someday it would all belong to this little kid. He wouldn’t even have to ask for it. It was just automatic, a fact of life. It would be his. “I suppose you don’t have to want anything,” Catch said. “Used to be all I wanted for Christmas was snow.”

“I sort of already know what I’m going to get. Santa always brings me lots of new books and clothes, a new coat, and maybe a ball. And Mom gives me candy and new stationery for thank you notes. Last year it was Curious George.” He sniffled, then reached into his pocket and pulled out some blue Kleenex covered in penguins.

“Well what is it you want? Hell kid, you got everything right here.”

The boy looked at Catch with a you-don’t-get-it-do-you? look. “There aren’t any kids to play with.”

“Maybe you’re just a little homesick,” Catch said as the boy blew his nose. “I heard a nasty rumor. I heard you like Chicago.”

“I live there. You ever been?”

“Once, in 1992. Too many people. Too many people where I’m at now, too. I’ll move further up North.”

“Norther than the North pole?”

“Ah…yeah.”

“You don’t like people?”

“No real need for them. Look. Kid. Ted. Let’s figure out what you want for Christmas, huh?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my Mom. She acts mad all the time, ever since Dad left.”

Catch looked across the room at the kid’s mom, a good-looking woman, her skin saggy, not from age, but from weight loss. She’d married and divorced some Chicago Yankee who used to show up on holidays with all those fruit-named gadgets, like Apple and Blackberry: little computers that turned into phones; phones that took pictures. Now he wasn’t showing up anymore.

“All my life I’ve been trying to get away from rooms like these,” the daughter said to some neighbors, her eyes circled with the red indentations from her swim goggles. Someone needed to feed that poor woman a plate full of red beans and rice with some good andouille sausage, or maybe just a steak.

“She’s just disappointed is all,” Catch said to Teddy. “Haven’t you ever been disappointed?”

The kid thought for a minute. “I went to a birthday party once, and they didn’t have cake.”

“That’s what I’m talking about. Sucks, don’t it.”

The kid showed Catch a clip attached to the buttonhole of his shirt. The clip looked like it might hold a mitten to a coat sleeve. “This is where I keep my lucky rock. I clip it here. Then it sucks out the luckiness, which gets into my coat, which is next to my sleeve, which is next to my arm skin, and I get charged with the luck, and then I am powerful.”

“All right. Now you’re thinking,” Catch said. “Anything else on your mind?”

“Why do people swing their arms when they walk?”

“Jesus, kid. I don’t know. Helps them keep moving, I guess.”

“Making your list, checking it twice?” Mr. Zimmer said, putting another hot toddy in Catch’s hand, God bless him.

“You have a lot of fur on your hands,” the boy said to Catch. His nails were dirty too. They were always dirty from work the day before, and the day before that.

“Yeah well. So what do you want for Christmas?”

The boy shrugged. “A surprise is all.”

“Come on, kid. Ask for something big. Your granddaddy — I mean, I can get my elves to make you anything. How about a BB gun?”

“I’m not allowed.”

Catch could hear an old woman he used to work for giving somebody details he didn’t want to hear about her woman-surgery. She sighed loud, shook her drink, and said, “Really, at my age, all you’ve got left is your posture and your jewels.”

“All right, then. How about a treehouse?”

“Grandmother says it will ruin her view.”

Catch nodded and gulped his drink. Mrs. Zimmer hobbled toward them, smiling. There were lines on her soft, pale face where she’d been smiling all her life. “Santa, please have something more to eat, or another drink.”

“No Mrs. Z. I’ve got too much to do tonight. You and I both know I’m on duty.” Catch winked and then lifted the boy from his lap. The boy whispered in Catch’s ear, “I think my grandmother’s hard of hearing.”

“Well, that happens when folks get old,” he whispered back to the boy. “We lose stuff along the way.”

 

The wind off the Gulf was colder now, and as Catch drove back up the highway, still wearing the Santa suit, he wished he had saved the rest of that joint. He considered going to the casino – maybe he could double the money in his pocket. He pulled off onto a quiet street, stopped the car, and got out to vomit. He puked up all of it: gumbo, oysters, shrimp, everything. A dog came trotting by and started eating up the mess, which made him puke all over again. He got some on his suit, and he wondered briefly how he would clean it.

Catch stopped at a gas-station pay phone to call a girl he knew, but he got her machine. “Hey,” he said into the phone after the beep. “It’s just me. I was wondering if you was at home or what.”  When he got back in the car, he regretted the call and headed for the McDonald’s drive-through, the only place still open at dinnertime on Christmas Eve. Hoping to settle his stomach, he ordered a big dinner, paid, drove off without it. Halfway home, he realized what he’d done, and he went back.

“Pardon me,” he said to the girl taking orders. After he’d said it, he remembered these were the same words Teddy had used. The words sounded strange to Catch in his own voice. He explained to the girl that he’d forgotten his food and tried to laugh at himself. As he waited at the window for her to put his order together again, he looked inside to see his ex-wife, Norma, standing at the counter. She was wearing a blue velour jogging suit and ordering, he was certain, a Filet-O-Fish sandwich. It was what she always ordered when she was high on something. No way did he want to see her now, smelly and dressed as he was.

After he got his food, he parked across from the public park facing the Gulf and he started in on his fries. Used to be he and Norma would swing on those playground swings and walk that very beach. She’d left after she hooked up with her dealer, Catch’s old boss at the lumber yard. She was high and swearing up a mean streak the day she walked out, throwing her things into a big plastic garbage bag, yelling until her voice finally got cut off by the door as it slammed shut behind her.

A car passed on the street, and Catch could feel the thumping rap music in his loins. Some of the kids inside the car threw Mardi Gras beads, which hit the hood of Catch’s pickup. People around there, they got a little money, and they went out and bought cellphones, DVD players, and sound systems for their cars. As far as Catch could tell, it all landed up at the pawnshops near the casinos.

He unwrapped his first burger and then bit into it. Well fuck. There was no meat, just bread, sauce, and lettuce. The other two were the same. Ha ha to you too, he thought, sure this was some damn joke that McDonald’s girl had played on him. Maybe Norma had even had something to do with it. This stuff didn’t just happen on accident. Nothing just happened.

Catch turned the key to the ignition. He had in mind to go back and ram the place with Norma in it. He hit his steering wheel hard, honking the horn. In the distance, a horn honked back. Dogs barked, and someone yelled, “Merry Christmas!” He caught a glimpse of his fake white beard in the rearview mirror, the curls dirty and sagging now around his neck. He took a deep breath and let it out with a cough, then turned off the engine, opened the windows, and looked again at the Gulf.

Back in Khe Sanh, his best friend had had a Zippo lighter engraved with a motto: If I had a farm in Vietnam and a home in hell, I’d sell my farm and go home. Catch had kept the lighter after he’d zipped up his friend in a body bag.

Catch thought about what the Mississippi Sound was made up of. There it was, half the country’s rivers spilling their guts out into the Gulf of Mexico, the ocean waters taking on the world’s poisons, the whole of it creeping back with the tide, inching its way towards land like so many injured soldiers crawling back home. Dying waters, but not dead yet, going back and forth, up and down the beach. And every now and again, a hurricane came along, and those sorry waves partied hard on the land, flattening beach houses, wiping the earth clean.

And slowly Catch started missing his ex-wife; or not so much Norma, as just having a wife. A buddy of his had told him once about how French girls had come in groups came to the Mississippi Gulf Coast back in the 1700’s, chaperoned by Ursuline nuns. They came with trunks and they were called the “casquette girls,” because they came with suitcases to marry French settlers. Better than mail-order brides, these French girls were carefully selected, skilled, and pious, and some of the proudest Creoles trace their ancestry to them. They made a movie about it years ago, a musical in black and white. Looking out at the horizon, Catch felt like one of those early settlers now, and just as those brides had come to all those lonely men, he hoped some big idea would come to him and make his life better.

 

On Christmas morning, in the dark of predawn, Catch snuck into the Zimmers’ backyard, a knife in one hand and his flashlight in the other. He’d gotten a good, solid board, weatherproofed and treated. He had good rope too, thick and sturdy, and he carried all this in the pack on his back. He would have worked faster without the dope, but still, in a little over an hour, he put the swing together right. Recalling how the boy’s knees hit him midshin, he adjusted the height just so.

 

*

            “Oh Catch. Catch.” Mrs. Zimmer stood on her back gallery with a tray of rolls and coffee. She poured him a cup and put it in his hands. “Merry Christmas. I’m so glad you stopped by.”

They watched the boy swing higher and higher, the toes of his red footed pajamas almost touching the tree’s leaves.

“Do you think that branch is secure?” Mrs. Zimmer said.

“Oh, it’ll hold.”

“Santa knew, didn’t he?” Mrs. Zimmer said, smiling up at him.

Catch would always remember this moment. He thought so even then. And when he’d come back a year later to see all the wreckage from Katrina, to see how the boardwalk from the Gulf had landed in the backyard, along with the bits and pieces of furniture and house, Catch would stand there in wonder to find that swing still hanging from that tree, unharmed.

Catch cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted to Teddy, “What’s it look like from up there?”

“You and grandmother look like ants,” the boy shouted back.

“Suits us just fine.”

Mrs. Zimmer touched his arm. “Do you think you could help me throw out all these boxes? The presents I had shipped for everybody came so overpackaged.”

“Now? Won’t the kid see, then start asking questions about… you know, Santa and all?”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. But surely he doesn’t still believe. Do you think?”

They watched the boy slow the swing down, scraping the grass with his toe, then push off again.

“Tell you what. I’ll get those when he goes back into the house.”

“Catch, you’re wonderful. I don’t know how you do it.”

“Mrs. Z., about the Santa suit: I need to get it cleaned before I return it.”

Mrs. Zimmer shook her head. “Keep it, Catch. You’re a natural. Save it for next year.”

He laughed and said, “Now, just wait a minute, Mrs. Z.”

But Mrs. Zimmer touched his arm and Catch put his hand on top of her hand. This was before Katrina took away the Zimmers and the town and all those other people he’d just gotten to liking. This was before. And for that moment, the two of them stood there on the back gallery, smelling the jasmine growing up alongside the house and watching the boy swing.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Independent book stores, http://www.calypsoeditions.org/bookstore/aftermath-lounge/

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. PRICE: $16.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: mm44@evansville.edu; http://www.margaretmcmullan.com; https://www.facebook.com/margaret.mcmullan.96; @MargaretMcMulla

Glass

Glass

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR:  Kate Kort

THE EDITOR
: Carrie Walker

THE PUBLISHER
: Brick Mantel Books. A small press out of St. Louis with quirky taste and wonderful staff.

SUMMARY: Menashe Everett is a tormented man. He’s ruled by depression and addiction.  He’s haunted by his past.  At 37, he barely keeps his job and lives in a haze of blurred reality.

But to many in his life, he’s their only hope. For the past ten years, Menashe has been acting as a counselor to similarly afflicted clients who agree to his unorthodox brand of pseudo-therapy.  After a grim but revelatory trip to Las Vegas in his late twenties, Menashe decided to open up a “glass museum”—an underground safe place where clients can vent their anguish by destroying rooms filled with clear glass art.  The museum brings hope to those who have not responded to traditional therapy, but also gives Menashe a sense of purpose he desperately needs.

Kate_KortMenashe’s work is always challenging, but now he’s taken on a particularly taxing caseload.  Among others, he counsels Austin Gendron, a gruff Vietnam veteran prone to psychotic breaks; Murray Henderson, a timid college student trying to understand his episodes of anger and anxiety; and John Cook, Menashe’s best friend.  As he works tirelessly for his clients, Menashe must also handle his increasingly complex personal life, which constantly forces him to relive his past and question his abilities as a therapist.

.
THE BACK STORY: This book began as a short story for a creative writing class in college. Every day on my way to class, I would walk through the student art gallery, which always seemed so still and peaceful. Elements of the story began to form in my mind. I wondered what it would feel like to destroy something so perfect. Could someone get relief that way? Would it be a catharsis and a pathway to healing, or would it feed those negative impulses? After graduation I knew I wanted to expand the story and develop those ideas. The story itself came quickly and easily, in a matter of a few months, but revising and polishing took considerably longer. I put the manuscript away for a few years after a couple of rounds of rejections (mostly by agents). But I found the motivation once again, completed the final revisions I had been putting off, and placed it with the right publisher.

WHY THIS TITLE?: On the surface, the title GLASS refers to the experimental therapy that defines the story. But more subtly, the glass itself represents the issues these characters are facing. Mental illness is insidious and unpredictable, much like broken glass. It works its way into corners and crevices, coming to light after you thought it was gone for good.


WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
I think an honest, somewhat gritty portrayal of life with mental illness is hard to find in mainstream books and film. I hope to give readers an inside look at these issues, and force a genuine discussion on the topic. The major message of the book is the importance of personal connection and community support, which I know readers will relate to.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Glass is a stunning debut for novelist Kate Kort. The imagery is vivid and the characters complex and well rounded. The story is raw, intense and, at times, hard to read but once you begin it is impossible to put down because you find yourself pulled into this world and you need to know what will happen next. Finely nuanced and exquisitely drawn, Glass is not the kind of book you forget after you finish. Kort has masterfully written a riveting and poignant story that grabs you and draws you into a place where glass isn’t the only thing that’s fragile. A must read.”  –Cynthia A. Graham, author of Beneath Still Waters

Glass, Kate Kort’s debut novel, is told in an artful narrative pattern that goes back and forth from past to present. Though weighty in its subject matter, Glass avoids enveloping the reader in darkness by two means: the shining narrative and descriptive talents of this debut novelist, and the masterfully authentic rendering of a variety of damaged characters who, however undone they perhaps ought to be, still seek a way not only to help themselves but each other. This arresting array of co-sufferers insist on our attention and receive our sympathy, even as that sympathy extends out from this author to all of us, the recipients of this gift of irresistible honesty and insight into our human plight.”   –Joe Benevento, author of The Monsignor s Wife and Saving St. Teresa

“This fascinating novel is written in fragments of time allowing for reader intrigue to build as each new piece of information is collected. The characters are equally as jagged as their stories of broken expectations, misplaced memories, and attempts of reconstructing the past. ‘Glass’ is a remarkable, imperfect puzzle that, once pieced together, creates a fragile and gritty picture of genuine human experience.”  –C. Orwig, Amazon

AUTHOR PROFILE: I was born in St. Louis, MO, but have also lived in Powell, OH, Overland Park, KS, and currently live in a suburb of Portland, OR with my husband and children. I have an English Degree from Truman State University (go, Bulldogs), and worked as a communications intern for Andrews McMeel Publishing after graduation. I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I’m very grateful to be able to share this story as a published novel.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

PROLOGUE:

Menashe drew his hand back quickly. Several drops of bright blood oozed from his finger.

“Damn it,” he muttered as he walked into the kitchen, wiping the blood onto a paper towel.

He didn’t have a bandage so he just wrapped the paper towel tightly around the cut as he moved back into the first room of his museum. After searching the table where he’d cut himself, he pulled a hidden shard of glass from behind a large bowl and threw it into the trash can just inside his office. Looking around, he saw the rest of the museum was perfectly clean. Menashe looked down at his watch.

He left the room and continued through the apartment, getting everything ready in time for John’s arrival. He carefully placed glass vases, bowls, figurines, and statues throughout the four rooms of his museum, wishing he’d had time to pick up his newest acquisitions on Detroit Avenue. They would have to wait until tomorrow. Stepping back, Menashe took in the untouched beauty of the rooms. He felt a tightness in his throat and turned away.

He was walking back to the kitchen when he heard the brakes of the city bus screech at the end of the block. I hope those damn kids are out of the street, he winced. Even the intense annoyance he felt toward the children who lived on West Tenth didn’t prevent him from worrying for their safety, certain it was only a matter of time before one of them was abducted or shot or run over.

Menashe cracked his knuckles and made sure all the blinds were shut. He looked down at his dingy jeans and t-shirt and briefly considered changing, but decided against it. John wouldn’t care.

Menashe smiled to himself, remembering what John had said about not wanting to risk driving his own car into such a bad part of town after dark. It was only a Chrysler, and he’d had it since they were in college together.

            There was a soft knock on the front door. He opened it, letting a gust of the humid air rush past him into the apartment. He was also greeted by the pulsing sounds of the nightclub that occupied the rest of the building. Shouts and waves of laughter echoed throughout the darkened streets as a few motorcycles pulled up to the club.

Menashe closed the door behind his new client. John and Menashe were the same age, though Menashe knew his friend looked much younger. John was athletic and youthfully handsome. Menashe remembered how the girls at school would flirt with him, even after he got engaged. He was dressed casually and a navy Cleveland Indians cap covered his shoulder-length brown hair. Despite the heat he also brought a thick long-sleeved shirt, as per Menashe’s instructions.

            “Hey, John.”

            “Hey,” he replied, offering a weak smile. “There were some smashed bottles in the street, so I parked over there.” He gestured toward the train tracks. “You think that’s okay?”

            “It’s fine. Really, nobody wants your car.”

            “Yeah, okay.” John smiled easily now. “You’re right.”

            “You want something to drink?”

            “No, thanks.”

            He led John down the hallway so all four rooms were visible.

            “Now, I know you’ve been here before, but you want to take a closer look around?”

John peered past Menashe into the first room and nodded. He walked around the shining pieces and breathed in sharply.

            “Ash, this really is something,” he said. “It’s just so different now, coming in as a client.”

            “I know this looks like a lot, but we won’t go any faster than you want to.”

Menashe knew it was strange, almost celestial, being surrounded by so much clear glass. There was nothing in the rooms but light—raw light streaming down from bare bulbs affixed to the ceiling. It reflected and refracted in all directions, punching holes in the walls with its white beams. That night, the first room held entirely vases: some were simple and smooth, others were etched with ornate sheaf and diamond patterns or textured with swirls and waves. Most were standard size, about a foot tall, but Menashe always kept his eye out for unusual pieces. The shimmering vases rested on dented stainless steel tables and shelving Menashe had been able to acquire from a foodservice manufacturer at a steep discount. They caught the light brilliantly themselves, causing Menashe to squint. In so much transparency there was nowhere to hide.

John once again drew in his breath. “And you really want me to do this?”

Menashe nodded. “Don’t worry about it.”

They walked back into the hall. John stopped and frowned.

“You okay?” he asked, indicating Menashe’s crudely bandaged finger.

“Yeah. It’s nothing.” He looked away. “You want to sit down?” John shook his head. “We could always go back to my office and talk more,” Menashe continued, indicating the room behind him at the end of the hall. “I mean, if you’re not ready—”

“No, no. I don’t have any problem. I just—I don’t know. It just seems kind of wrong, you know?”

 “Yeah,” Menashe agreed, slightly amused. It was strange to see John nervous, but that only strengthened his confidence in their plan. “I think you’ll change your mind, though.”

 “And you don’t think it’ll be weird?” John asked. “That we’re friends, I mean.”

After nearly twenty years in Cleveland, John retained only the faintest hint of his former Houston drawl. Menashe still noticed it, though. It reminded him of how long they’d been friends, and how far they both had come to be there.

“No, I really don’t. I think you’re in a better position than anyone else who comes in here because I already know what won’t work for you.” Menashe smiled. “And it took you this long to get your stubborn ass down here, so I think we should give it a try.”

“Okay,” John finally said.

“Okay?”

“Yeah,” he nodded.

 “All right,” Menashe replied, putting his hand on John’s back and leading him toward the first room. “Let’s get started.”

Chapter 1

Student Deferment

August 1988

“Dr. Johnston?” Menashe called hesitantly through the slight opening in the doorway. “Should I come back another time?”

“Who is it? Carducci’s friend? Come in, come in!” Johnston barked without turning his eyes away from the television screen. “Can you believe this idiot Voinovich? He’s got a lot of nerve, threatening these layoffs.”

Menashe was not much of a political enthusiast, so he decided to remain silent until Dr. Johnston was done seething. For some reason Menashe had expected him to be frailer, and more refined. The news flashed to sports, so Johnston turned off the television and settled back in his wheelchair, fanning himself with an old magazine.

“You can sit down, you know,” he remarked, glancing at Menashe. Menashe obediently moved out of the doorway and took a seat on Johnston’s worn, brown couch.

“Thanks. It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Johnston.”

“It’s Terry. And you’re Matthias?”

“Menashe Everett. But I go by Ash.”

“That’s right,” Johnston replied, snapping his fingers. “Weird name, should’ve remembered.”

“No problem,” he said.

His restless eyes roamed the room. The place was packed with junk and he sensed a haze in the air. He blinked a few times.

There wasn’t much art on display, but Menashe saw the elderly doctor had brought out one particular piece to showcase: on the coffee table between them sat the largest vase he’d ever seen. Its thin, delicate base opened up into a wide sphere that took up much of the table. An intricately molded lid, topped with a figure of an elephant, covered the impressive piece. It would certainly be a good addition to his museum, even though few people would ever see it.

Menashe sighed. He wished he’d been able to put together that normal life he and Jamie had always talked about, with the good job in some fancy gallery. Flexible hours. A place where eccentricity was expected. He pushed the thought away as Johnston turned to him.

“So, you’ve known Mel a long time, right?”

Menashe nodded. “Dr. Carducci was my advisor when I was an undergrad.”

“Can’t be that long,” Johnston snorted. “You’re still a young man.”

“Thanks,” Menashe replied, smiling uncertainly.

 “Though you do look like you’ve seen some action,” he said brightly.

Menashe laughed and dug his fingernails into his already sweaty palms. What the hell does that mean?

“Actually, I haven’t really dated much since my divorce.”

Johnston’s gruff persona dissolved as he descended into laughter. He then began coughing hoarsely and motioned for Menashe to hand him his inhaler. Menashe picked it up off the end table and gave it to him, his face flushing. The old man took a long puff and sat back, tears sparkling in his eyes.

“No, son,” he began, stifling the last bit of stubborn laughter. “You have the look of a young man who’s seen action in the service. Vietnam?”

“Oh, no, I wasn’t over there. I got student deferment.”

“Ah,” Johnston acknowledged.

He thinks I’m a coward.

“You know, I think it does a man a lot of good to spend a few years in the service. Helps him remember what made this country great.”

Johnston leaned back in his chair with a look on his face that was so peaceful and nostalgic Menashe found it hard to believe he was thinking about war.

Maybe it’s the hair, Menashe thought, self-consciously touching his head. His dark brown hair was thick and disheveled, but in spite of his youth was steadily going gray.

Menashe’s eyes again moved around the room, but the clutter overwhelmed him. It was almost too much for his eyes to take in, a peculiarity he remembered from visiting his grandmother when he was very young. That claustrophobic feeling quickened his heartbeat. He pulled at his shirt collar and tried to focus his attention on something in the room—the gold diamond pattern in the carpet. It was a trick he’d learned as a kid to avoid panic attacks.

“You all right, son?” Johnston asked.

Menashe nodded, fumbling in his shirt pocket. “You mind if I smoke?” he asked, already pulling a cigarette out of its package.

Johnston frowned. “I’d rather you didn’t,” he replied. “But if you want to step outside for a minute, I’ll wait. You seem upset about something.”

“Oh, no,” Menashe laughed. “Just can’t go too long without one. But I’ll be fine; it’ll be good for me to hold off.” He slid the package back into his pocket.

“You ever tried to quit?”

“Yeah, three times. Never lasts.”

The old man grunted but Menashe wasn’t sure what he meant by it. Maybe he’d made a mistake. He could still leave. The place made him nervous, as did most things that reminded him of the past. Just bring in a grungy pink chair and I’m in Safta’s shitty place.

Like Johnston’s, his grandmother’s small house had been musty and completely filled with disintegrating relics, but she hadn’t seemed to notice any of it. She just sat peacefully in that faded pink armchair, asking the same questions over and over. “How old are you now? You in school? What’re you studying?” Then, when Menashe remained silent, she would look up at her son, confused. “Your boy can speak, can’t he, Lewie? You should teach him some manners.”

 “Ma, he’s only seven,” his father would say patiently. But the years went by and Menashe never seemed to find his voice. It was that house. It was the house that was so small yet composed of seemingly limitless dim hallways which twisted and snaked, exposing sad, unoccupied rooms that made his stomach pitch and his voice catch. It was the dank smell of mothballs, old books, frozen dinners, and something else he couldn’t quite pinpoint that weighed upon his throat. The years went by, but as Menashe got older his nervousness only worsened. “He’s only fourteen,” Lewis would say, but quietly now, with less assurance in his voice.

Menashe glanced at Dr. Johnston’s framed photographs clustered together on the wall, trying to make out the people’s faces. Probably all dead. He briefly caught a whiff of mothballs and thought he heard Dr. Johnston’s voice, but from a small, far away place.

 “I’m sorry?” Menashe asked.

“Your museum, son. I was asking you about it.”

“Oh, right,” he said quickly, trying to retrieve some memory of the past five minutes and secretly wishing his father was there to bail him out. “I’m really sorry. I don’t know where my mind was.” He’s only thirty-seven.

            “So what’s it like?”

            “Well, it’s quite small,” Menashe replied vaguely. “And very clean. Only glass,” he said, indicating the vase. “Just a nice, simple place, really. I know a lot of people would probably find the museum boring, but…I don’t know. To me there’s something really beautiful about it.”

Johnston sat back thoughtfully, his chin resting between his thumb and forefinger.

            “I like you, Everett,” he announced. “You know, when most people hear you’ve spent your life as an art historian and’ve got advanced degrees out the ass, they either try to act like the Queen of England around you or they assume you’re too much of a pretentious windbag to waste their time. But you,” he leaned forward, narrowing his eyes. “You are different.”

Menashe was inclined to agree with him. He had his own advanced degree in Art Criticism that at times allowed him to speak about various pieces and movements with a certain authority, but he couldn’t do that with Johnston. Anxiety had choked off his attempts at extroversion, as it sometimes did, and he was grateful that the old man found it charming.

 “And I find,” Johnston was saying, “as I get older, I feel the need to simplify. Though you’d never know it from the looks of this place,” he added. “But you’ve got to start somewhere, and I think by next year I’ll have unloaded all these pieces I don’t want anymore, and I can start sorting through all this other nonsense.” Johnston looked around the room, waving his hand disdainfully. “My goal is to clear everything out of this damned house except for my chair and the TV.”

Menashe smiled at this, feeling a little better.

As evening set in, he walked out of Dr. Johnston’s apartment, staggering under the weight of the glass vase. Menashe was not a particularly large man; he was tall with a medium build and occasionally had trouble transporting larger pieces. He maneuvered the large glass vase into the padded carrier of his Datsun pickup. He was embarrassed for Johnston to see his decrepit old truck, its dull orange paint gouged out by rust and weathering, but it didn’t seem to matter to the old man. He was watching the sky as the low-set sun glowed gray from behind the darkening clouds.

“Gonna rain,” Johnston stated without turning his eyes away. “You got a tarp?”

“Yeah,” Menashe said. He closed up his truck and walked back up the cracked concrete path to the front doorway where Johnston had wheeled himself. “Should I come back another time for the rest?” he asked.

“No need to wait. I’ll be here if you just want to go back and forth. If you don’t mind the weather.”

“Sure.” He smiled at the doctor. “Thank you so much, Dr. Johnston,” he said, shaking his hand.

“Nonsense. Like I said, you’re helping me out. It was a pleasure.”

Menashe stepped off the porch and walked to his truck, small drops of cool, fresh rain spitting at him as he went.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Brick Mantel Books.

PRICE:

$15.95 listed. Less on Amazon (about $14.50), and I’d be happy to send anyone a signed copy (for $14.00) if they want to buy through me directly.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I would love to hear from you! Email me at katekort@gmail.com, find me on Twitter: @katekort543, and/or check out my site and get on the monthly mailing list (katekort.com).

First Tuesday Replay, Jan. 5

THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.

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Diana Y. Paul“THINGS UNSAID,” BY DIANA V. PAUL (JULY 17).

A family saga of three generations fighting over money and familial obligation, Things Unsaid is a tale of survival, resilience, and recovery.

Jules, her sister Joanne, and her brother Andrew all grew up in the same household—but their varying views of and reactions to their experiences growing up have made them all very different people. Now, as adults with children of their own, they are all faced with the question of what to do to help their parents, who insist on maintaining the upscale lifestyle they’re accustomed to despite their mounting debts. A deft exploration of the ever-shifting covenants between parents and children, Things Unsaid is a ferocious tale of family love, dysfunction, and sense of duty over forty years.

“THINK LIKE A WRITER,” BY TOM BENTLEY (JULY 17).

The book’s core is how to see the world as a writer. It supplies tools to find and cultivate your writer’s voice, that unique combination of attributes—sensitivity to language, storytelling and audience—by which writers see and define the world. It discusses writing at a structural level: how words work in sentences and how sentences work in stories, moving to how to use those elements and that writer’s stance to write across genres.

It ends with how to deal with writing distractions, and offers a resources section with takes on practical matters of software, hardware and links to writing resources. And it’s written in a light, entertaining style.

Tom is offering as special deal on this book on Smashwords, explaining: “ I am doing a Smashwords coupon promo, where anyone can download from various ebook formats my “Think Like a Writer” ebook for $2.99, reduced from $5.99 until January 11. They just have to enter the BM85N code on the Smashwords book page.

Skeleton Crew cover“SKELETON CREW,” BY DEBORAH HALBER (JULY 21).

The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes — wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains. In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths. It’s DYI/CSI. The web sleuths pore over facial reconstructions (a sort of Facebook for the dead) and other online clues as they vie to solve cold cases and tally up personal scorecards of dead bodies. The Skeleton Crew delves into the macabre underside of the Internet, the fleeting nature of identity, and how even the most ordinary citizen with a laptop and a knack for puzzles can reinvent herself as a web sleuth.

“THE SOLARBUS LEGACY,” BY NICKI BRANDON. (JULY 21).

Farms had become dry and barren outside the city without power that had been deserted after the economic and social collapse brought about by the depletion of the world’s oil reserves.  In the wake of the catastrophe, just a relatively few fortunate survivors possessed a Solarbus.  They lived in a Cluster on the outskirts of the city.  A cruel futuristic society had formed, leaving the rest of the survivors wretched, scavenging wanderers, feared, but ignored by Solarbus Society citizens, who called them Terfs.

Jeff Parke and his wife, Eva, and their eighteen-year-old daughter, Clarissa, are privileged Solarbus inhabitants.  Because Jeff knows he has no right to be in Solarbus Society, he is seeking a promotion at his job with Computers, hoping it will give him status and security. A friend becomes a deadly rival for the same position, as he tries to expose Jeff’s situation.  Jeff’s wife, Eva, is unhappy as a confined Solarbus wife who wants evidence that Jeff loves her, suspecting that he may have another distraction.  Clarissa faces with dread her duty to marry and become a Solarbus wife when all she wants is freedom.  The penalty for not adhering to the rules of the governing Corporation is banishment.

One day, as they are going about their daily routine, a Terf kidnaps Clarissa.  Lured to the Terf’s mountain camp, Jeff and Eva follow the Solarbus that is carrying their daughter away.  At the camp, they uncover a sinister plot for revenge and justice.  And they discover lifelong harbored secrets, including, most tragically, the deeds their parents had committed a generation ago, during the terrible days of the Scramble, that forged a profound effect on their lives.

Mercedes Wore Black“MERCEDES WORE BLACK,” BY ANDREA BRUNAIS. (JULY 24).

This novel was one of our top five in 2015 in terms of Internet clicks and a finalist for several statewide writing awards in Florida:

After a news reporter falls victim to her daily’s downsizing, Janis Pearl Hawk becomes a “backpack journalist” supported by an environmentally oriented foundation. Her mandate is to cover the “green” candidate running for Florida governor, but her path takes a twist when the murder of a campaign worker stymies law enforcement. Investigating the murder prompts threats to her well-being and possibly her life – or has she angered other powerful people with her reporting on the gaming industry, Big Pharma and a ship-channel dredging project at Port Manatee?

“HOMECOMING,” BY KATE HASBROUCK (JULY 24).

Kerana is from a world without sin, and her people are a perfect people. Eli is a Fallen human who is trying to escape the darkness of his past. Her job is to protect the humans, and when he discovers her secret, nothing in Eden will ever be the same.

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Weather Report, Jan. 4

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “TANGO: AN ARGENTINE LOVE STORY,” BY CAMILLE CUSAMANO; “SHUFFLE AN IMPULSE,” BY BILL DELOREY and “CLEMENCEAU’S DAUGHTERS,” BY ROCKY PORCH MOORE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

 

Katrina II

 

UPCOMING …

WEEK OF JAN. 5-11:

“AFTERMATH LOUNGE,” BY MARGARET McMULLAN.

This book, a collection of short stories, is a wonderful example of how larger-than-live events sometimes meld fact and fiction together.

Margaret writes: “Katrina hit my parents’ home in Pass Christian, almost destroying it, but not quite. Immediately following the storm, my father was among the first to rebuild. During this time, we witnessed so many unusual and small acts of heroism that inspired me to write about the community and its people, and how tragedy shapes our character. In 2010, I was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship to complete the project.

One of the first temporary buildings that went up in Pass Christian after the storm was a restaurant to feed volunteers and any locals still there. It was called Kafé Katrina. Many folks wanted a bar as well, so the owner of Kafé Katrina added on a Karaoke bar called The Aftermath Lounge.”

That brave attempt to return to normal is the incubator for Margaret’s story collection. The author of six previous novels, she obviously did her work well, based on this review:

“Each entry is a shot to the chest…Writing a good short story is no easy feat. Writing one consisting of a few paragraphs that not only fills the frame but paints a heartbreaking picture is an awe-inspiring talent.”

“GLASS,” BY KATE KORT

In this era of copycat plots — romance, vampires, serial killers, international spies — it’s always refreshing to come across something as original as “Glass,” Kate Kort’s debut novel.  And my first question, as always, was: “Where in the world did this idea come from?”

Kate explains: “This book began as a short story for a creative writing class in college. Every day on my way to class, I would walk through the student art gallery, which always seemed so still and peaceful. Elements of the story began to form in my mind. I wondered what it would feel like to destroy something so perfect. Could someone get relief that way? Would it be a catharsis and a pathway to healing, or would it feed those negative impulses? After graduation I knew I wanted to expand the story and develop those ideas. The story itself came quickly and easily, in a matter of a few months, but revising and polishing took considerably longer. I put the manuscript away for a few years after a couple of rounds of rejections (mostly by agents). But I found the motivation once again, completed the final revisions I had been putting off, and placed it with the right publisher.”

This is a story about mental health and the struggle some people go through to maintain it. I applaud her publisher for taking a chance on it and for the cover, which in my humble opinion is one of the coolest I’ve seen.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

I skipped the December edition of this feature because we were already listing all the Snowflakes books as part of our Christmas promotion.

This week, we’ll revisit “Things Unsaid,” by Diana V. Paul, “Think Like a Writer,” by Tom Bentley, “The Skeleton Crew,” by Deborah Halber, “The Solarbus Legacy,’ by Nicki Brandon), “Mercedes Wore Black,” by Andrea Brunais and “Homecoming,”by Kate Hasbrouck.”

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NEWS AND NOTES

I’m not much for ranking books, because the process is so subjective. If 10 of us read the same dozen books and were asked to list them in order of preference, we would probably come up with 10 different rankings.

Moreover, how much attention a book receives can be attributed to a number of factors, not the least of which is the author’s skill in using social media to draw potential readers.

Having said all that, though, I recently received my season-ending “scoreboard” from Word Press on this blog, and these were the five Snowflakes books that received the most Internet clicks. If your book was one of them, congratulate yourself for having done something right. If it’s not, nothing to worry about.

Here they are, in order of appearance (not rank):

“Island Dogs,”by Brian Simpson. “The River Caught Sunlight,” by Katie Andraski; Mercedes Wore Black,” by Andrea Brunais; “Dead in a Ditch,” by Heather Osting, and “Clemenceau’s Daughters,” by Rocky Porch Moore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tango: An Argentine Love Story

OUR OTHER FEATURED BOOKS THIS WEEK, “SHUFFLE AN IMPULSE,” BY BILL DELOREY AND “CLEMENCEAU’S DAUGHTERS,” BY ROCKY PORCH MOORE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

Tango

THE BOOK: Tango, An Argentine Love Story.

PUBLISHED IN: 2008

THE AUTHOR: Camille Cusumano

THE EDITOR: Brooke Warner (formerly at Seal, now at She Writes press)

THE PUBLISHER: Seal Press

SUMMARY: Tango is a travel memoir, the story of a woman who loved, lost, got mad, and decided to dance. She went to Buenos Aires intending to stay three months and stayed for nearly four years. The book traces her fall from grace, hero’s journey, and ultimate transformation.

THE BACK STORY: Camille Cusumano was well-paid editor on a travel magazine and in a long, rewarding relationship when tango upset her universe, at first for the worst, then for the best.

Camille CusamanoWHY THIS TITLE: Tango is more than a memoir about a dance. It has a universal message best expressed in the author’s TEDx Talk in Manhattan, 2013: Tango, the Dance, the Journey, the Transformation. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQe67b9AnGQ ] It’s the story of every woman’s and every man who is looking for happiness outside her/himself.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s an enjoyable read, a feelgood read, according to the many men and women who have read it and written to me. It might appeal most to baby boomers who have always led the charge toward a more expansive spirituality and who have considered feeding the soul as important as feeding the body and mind. It’s also a great travel companion for anyone considering going to Buenos Aires.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “Tango is a remarkable addition to contemporary dharma literature. It reads like a thriller, a romance, and above all it shows the redemptive potential of a sincere spiritual practice.”

— Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness is an Inside Job.

“The transformative power of the tango embrace beautifully captured. Bravo!”

—Marina Palmer, author of Kiss & Tango

Camille Cusumano has lived out many a mid-life woman’s fantasy: packing her bags, slit skirts, and tango shoes and spending a year in Argentina. The result is a memoir that is like the dance itself: smooth, absorbing, and erotically charged.

—Laura Fraser, author of An Italian Affair

AUTHOR PROFILE: Camille Cusumano is the author of Tango, an Argentine Love Story (Seal Press, 2008), memoir of a woman who loved, lost, got mad, and decided to dance. She has written for numerous publications, including National Geographic Traveler, Islands, Country Living, the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. She is the author of several cookbooks and one novel, The Last Cannoli (Legas) and the editor of the literary travel anthologies on France, Italy, Mexico, and Greece. She was a senior staff editor at VIA Magazine in San Francisco, where she covered travel around the world. She has a new book coming in 2016, Wilderness Begins at Home, Travels With My Big Sicilian Family.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Tango was a great experience for me before, during, and after the writing. I had been editing anthologies on France, Italy, Mexico, and Greece for Seal Press, when they decided they wanted a single-author book and the universe provided this experience covered in the book.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon, or http://www.camillecusumano.com

LOCAL OUTLETS: Tango is at all online book sellers. Any chain or indie bookstore can order it. Here is the ISBN: 13-978-1-58005-250-4

Seal Press would also sell it: http://www.sealpress.com

PRICE: about $15 – but much cheaper used and you can get it on Kindle or e-readers.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: ocaramia@mac.com or thru my website http://www.camillecusumano.com

Shuffle an Impulse

THE BOOK: Shuffle an Impulse

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

ABill DeloreyUTHOR: William (Bill) Delorey

EDITORS: J Lacy Coughlan and Susan Carr

PUBLISHER: WordWizard Publications – Green Cove Springs, Florida

SUMMARY: A world-class athlete confronts the Mind Games!

This gritty and fascinating journey follows the struggles of a world-class athlete resisting the brain chemistry dysfunction that provokes violent behavior. He fights for control of his mind while he trains relentlessly in pursuit of Olympic Gold.

Shuffle an ImpulseSonny Bones awakens each morning locked in battle – good on one side, evil on the other. An imaginary voice screams in his brain while his tortured mind struggles with ethical and moral choices only he can make. “Kill a friend,” it whispers, “and we’ll release you from all this pain.”

Unable to dilute the hormone invasion that triggers rage in his mind, his life spirals downward and out of control. Homelessness, drug abuse, jail cells and treatment centers punctuate his journey. With help from a quirky Russian psychiatrist and her unique high-tech treatment plan, Sonny defies the maddening impulse to execute his friends, and never once loses sight of his goal. An extraordinary tale, illustrating one young athlete’s dedication and perseverance, and his will to win.

BACK STORY: Several wartime veterans, myself included, developed and founded a program that worked with the VA clinic in Los Angeles for several years, counseling combat veterans with violent mental and social rehabilitation issues. I’ve also experienced the tragedy of mental disorders in family members and friends as well.

Years later, my companion and I took off across the United States on a camping trip to write about and photograph our national parks and wilderness areas for a nature travel book. While sitting by the campfire one night, I decided to write a short story about violence, and the way a brain controls its chemical and behavioral triggers.

At that time, we were camping in the southeast near the Great Smoky Mountains, and I figured three or four thousand words would tell the story nicely. It didn’t come close. The word count rose every time I opened the laptop as our journey continued cross-country and through more states and in more campgrounds than I can remember. The first draft of a one hundred thousand word novel “Shuffle on Impulse” emerged somewhere in Vermont almost a year later. I simply could not stop writing.:)

WHY THIS TITLE: The title fits the story – Mental impulses control our behavior, and a dysfunctional brain shuffles those impulses into more random physical actions over which our minds have less control.

WHY SHOULD SOMEONE READ IT? Readers grow to love the character, Sonny Bones, his naivety, his struggles and revelations, his sense of self, and his sense of humor in the face of tragedy. And, anyone who has a family member or a friend touched by mental illness in this country will better understand the torture of brain dysfunction, and an individual’s ability to adapt and enjoy life and pursue goals regardless. It also illustrates how one can better assist those individuals to cope in a society that often scorns ‘real folks’ born with an imperfect brain, folks that often lack social skills due to brain biology.

REVIEWS:

“Incarcerated within a high security facility, Walter Ferguson serves out four life terms for murders he committed protecting himself from imaginary demons. Miles distant, a young Olympic contender sprints ever faster along a forest trail in a fruitless attempt to still the malicious voices in his head. A riveting, eye-opening journey through the devastation wrought by delusional minds that grabs you by the seat of your pants and never lets go!!” J. Lacy Coughlan, Author-Editor

“A heart-rending and compelling story of a promising athlete besieged with mental anguish. An imaginary but demanding demonic voice thrives in his mind. Sonny spirals downward into violence, drug abuse and treatment centers. William Delorey paints a poignant picture of a life filled with confusion and delusions that leaves you an intimate connection with a young man and his struggles.” – Susan W. Carr, Librarian

AUTHOR PROFILE: Born in Massachusetts, Bill grew up in California, served in the US Navy on Hawaii and in the Far East, then settled in the Sierra foothills gold rush country. He returned to Cape Cod in 1992, where he lived until relocating to Florida in 2010.

Bill holds a Bachelors degree in behavior from UCLA and a Masters degree in writing from UMass-Dartmouth. He’s worked as a freelance photo-journalist and editor since 1990. He’s published primarily sports, wildlife behavior and protection, nature articles, and images locally, regionally and nationally. He’s also edited numerous books and journals in the natural history and science disciplines.

Current non-fiction project: “A Light in Darkness” – a mental health investigation [2016]

He recently turned his writing efforts to fiction, and has one short fiction collection, “Predators: a six-pack of short fiction” 2015, a novel titled “Shuffle an Impulse” – a psyche thriller 2015, a second novel titled “Operation Crossbow” – a military/espionage thriller 2015, a third novel titled “A Hobo’s Revenge” – a financial thriller due 2016, a fourth novel titled “Paper Cuts” – a medical fraud thriller due 2016.

Throughout his professional life, Bill remains an advocate for wildlife and wilderness conservation and protection. He also supports veteran’s issues and mental health reform.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: As fiction writers, we exercise the purest form of creativity in our artistic works. The expression of our imagination gives birth to characters that live and breathe in worlds we invent. We then can only hope our readers find as much enjoyment and delight in our presentations as we do in bringing our stories to life.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: E-book available at Amazon-Print version due release Dec 1st

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016AKKQLQ?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

LOCAL OUTLETS: Amazon only —or personal contact thru website http://www.billdelorey.com

PRICE: E-book = $2.99 / Print = $8.75 (327 pages)

AUTHOR CONTACT: http://www.billdelorey.com – ail contact available at website.

Clemenceau’s Daughters

PUBLRocky Porch MooreISHED IN: 2015 (Dec. 11 release date).

THE AUTHOR: Rocky Porch Moore

THE EDITOR: Melisa Taylor

THE PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

SUMMARY: The Ballards live in the shadow of July Mountain, one step shy of overcoming the taint of poverty dogging their family since the Great Depression. Even on the cusp of the excess of the 1980s, the Tennessee Valley harbors a passing respect for the unexplainable and superstition. Roots still cling to family trees like tendrils, tangling and tearing to claim not just birthrights, but bloodrights.

FoClemenceau's Daughterslks tend to die around Little Debbie Ballard. She struggles to make sense of a world where an unspoken past and prejudice collide, where truth is no longer as simple as Daddy’s word, and cruel intentions transcend generations. Debbie discovers the insidious legacy that haunts the women of her family one by one.

Tracing the roots of Debbie’s ancestry back to pre-revolutionary France, past and present are interspersed to show how the will of a vindictive woman rots a family tree from within.

THE BACK STORY: As far back as I can remember, I ‘ve always been told I’m the “spittin’ image” of my mother. I was thumbing through my great-grandmother’s picture album searching for some WWI era photos when I found myself looking at what appeared to be my daughter. The resemblance was uncanny and got me to thinking about how not just physical characteristics, but psychological characteristics are passed from generation to generation.

I decided I wanted to write a family saga where the past has a direct and sinister impact on the present, and consequently, on the future. I wanted to juxtapose the beginning of a line of women with the end of the line, having them interact. So, that’s how the concept for Clemenceau’s Daughters was born.

WHY THIS TITLE?: At its heart, the family tree traces its roots to a battle for bloodrights. It’s about the importance of establishing a strong family name. I have always been fascinated by how names and their derivatives seem to “fit” families. I wanted to find a name that would ride the tides of time, changing and progressing, but remaining rooted to the original. The novel traces those connections from daughter to mother to grandmother ageless. Each, at some point, is a daughter moving from innocence to recognition.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?: Clemenceau’s Daughters is an exhilarating romp through the psyche of a young girl trying to figure out if those fears that haunt her are real or imagined. At the same time, she’s growing up in an area where the prejudices of the past are piled up in the corners like old keepsakes. Readers who enjoy southern gothic as well as readers who don’t mind taking a stroll into the macabre aspects of southern life will find the book to be “worth a count”.

REVIEW COMMENTS: http://wellwortharead.blogspot.com

AUTHOR PROFILE: I chose my childhood home of July Mountain, overlooking Scottsboro, Alabama as the primary setting for Clemenceau’s Daughters. Much like the Ballards struggle to escape the past in the novel, Scottsboro’s own past has a way of churning up mud on occasion. The novel was particularly challenging in that I wanted to make the setting as autobiographically accurate as possible while keeping the characters and action fictional. Folks will want to assign parallels to the characters because the family framework is markedly similar. The family dynamic, however, is my creation. If anyone’s part can be “based on the true story”, I reckon the dog comes closest.

I have been living, teaching, and putting down roots in South Alabama for over 20 years. It’s a different climate than where I grew up, and I’m not just referring to the salted gulf breezes as opposed to the pungent backwater bottoms. I consider myself lucky because I have not one hometown, but two.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “In Clemenceau’s Daughters, I tried to capture the feel of growing up in the South on the cusp of the technological boom while familial and societal constraints firmly cling to the past. I wanted Debbie’s story to be anything but nostalgic. I wanted her observations to be unapologetic; while at the same time, I wanted her to begin to recognize the incongruities of what was presented to her as fact. I wanted her to be haunted on multiple levels.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: 1

The tree was old, Mommy said, older than even Mama’s mama, which was about as old as Debbie could imagine. It might even be as old as America, but it was hard to believe something like a tree could have lived that long. Debbie knew trees

themselves were as old as the earth. They grew even before people were God-breathed into the living world. She was five years old and could read whole books all by herself. Her favorites were a set of children’s Bible stories she had received from Aunt Edna, the schoolteacher. Mommy had said Aunt Edna’s gifts would always have to do with school, and that suited Debbie just fine. She would get to go to school when summer ended. She’d be younger than the other first graders, but Daddy told her it would be okay because she would be smarter anyhow.

The Bible stories had beautiful, colored pictures that Debbie pretended she could walk around inside. Some of the pictures were scary, but Debbie would pretend inside them just the same. There was a picture of a beautiful tree in the garden, even more beautiful than her tree in the back yard, a ball’s throw from the porch steps. This was the illustration she loved most.

Debbie remembered things. She remembered things that Daddy said and things that Mommy said. She remembered things she heard other grownups say. But, most of all, she remembered things she read. When she closed her eyes, the stories unfolded like a movie inside her head. She sat down in the well of her tree, where the heat of the Alabama summer couldn’t quite stretch its fingers, and she watched her stories.

Fat Sarah, the woman who kept Debbie while Mommy and Daddy were away at work, watched her stories on the TV every afternoon. They were silly and full of kissing doctors and nurses. Debbie was always glad when Fat Sarah sent her out the back door with a cheese sandwich and orders to stay out of the road.

If Debbie hugged her knees up to her chest, she could disappear into the embrace of the tree. The hollow of the oak was just the right size for a little girl, and she traced patterns in the cool dirt as

she sat. Mommy and Daddy were too big to fit and too old to feel the magic of the tree. Debbie didn’t really believe in magic. She knew most, if not all of it, was just tricks, but there was something about the tree that made her feel safe.

“Why you want to sit in that musty old tree is beyond me,” Mommy fussed. “You’d better watch out for snakes and spiders up in that hollow. They want to get out of the heat just as much as anybody else. If you get bit, you’re going to get a whipping to boot.”

It was when she was sweeping about the hollow with a big stick to make sure no spiders were creeping in the shadows that Debbie found the cache. She almost lost her stick when it plunged into a hole in the upper shaded recesses. She’d never noticed it before, but then again, she’d never really poked all around the higher parts of the hollow. She threw down the stick and ran back into the house to grab Daddy’s flashlight. Up the back steps she flew and was in such a hurry, she let the screen door slam behind her.

“You get back outside and play!” called Fat Sarah from the living room. “My story’s still on. And stay out of that road!”

“Yes, Miss Sarah,” called Debbie dutifully. She had enough sense to know that calling her babysitter Fat Sarah to her face would get her a whipping for sure, even if Mommy and Daddy both called the sitter Fat Sarah any time she was out of hearing.

Fat Sarah was poor white trash. Debbie figured that meant she didn’t have enough money for a car. Every morning before work, Daddy drove across town to pick up Fat Sarah. He brought her

back to the house so that she could cook breakfast for the family before the grownups had to leave.

What Mommy and Daddy didn’t know was that Fat Sarah cooked another breakfast for herself once they were on their way, only she called it snack time. Fat Sarah would set Debbie to looking at her Bible story books or watching Captain Kangaroo while she fried up potatoes and onions, bacon, and eggs. She’d play the radio while she cooked, singing along to the Gospel Hour in a voice that sounded a lot like Daddy’s Patsy Cline vinyl record–mostly clear with scratchy spots here and there–while she dished up a hearty snack for herself. All traces of Fat Sarah’s morning snack went in either her belly or to GodLutherYouStink the Saint Bernard.

“You need to always be on good terms with the family dog, Debbie,” advised Fat Sarah, “even one as godforsaken as that beast. That way the dog will help you if you ever come calling in a time of need.”

Debbie didn’t really mind the dog getting a plate because she abhorred breakfast. She didn’t even like the smell of it. Fat Sarah knew this and handed Debbie a chocolate bar from the recesses of her black patent pocketbook. “You need to always be on good terms with little girls, too,” she simpered. “That way the little girl will love you and keep your secrets. After all, a secret loses half its power if it isn’t shared.”

Debbie knew Fat Sarah’s secret was that she was eating the family’s food, but the chocolate bars seemed to make it okay. She didn’t love Fat Sarah but tolerated her well enough on account of they were both naughty, but it was worse when a grownup was naughty. Who could blame a little girl for liking candy? Plus, she believed Fat Sarah when she bent down low and looked Debbie straight in the eyes. Fat Sarah’s voice was barely above a whisper, but Debbie knew she was speaking the truth. Her eyes looked inside her with an intensity that made Debbie believe Fat Sarah could see her every fear and share her every secret whether Debbie wanted to or not.

“Debbie, I give you the chocolate to shut your mouth. If you tell your mommy and daddy what I cook and what I do, I will tell the Man on the Mountain to come down here. I will tell him to eat your baby brother…, and he will, because the Man on the Mountain is my kin.”

Debbie’s eyes grew big as she glanced at the bassinet where Brent lay sleeping. But Fat Sarah didn’t stop there. Her words dripped sweet as honey from her mouth, but what she said was poison.

“Yes, you know about the Man on the Mountain. Don’t you? He comes into your dreams. I can summon him to come down off the mountain like a shadow or like an angry wind. I can call him. He can take whoever he chooses. It could be that babe sleeping over there. It could be your daddy or your mommy. It could be you. Just you remember that, Little Debbie, and you keep our secrets sealed up sweetly inside. Now, take this candy bar and go sit in that tree of yours for a while.” Fat Sarah’s mouth smiled, but her eyes did not, even when she started singing “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus” along with the Gospel Hour.

Debbie was shaking but obediently took the candy bar and wobbled unsteadily down the back steps. She glanced to her left, past the road and up to the mountain rising beside the little green house that had been pleasant until now. A large cloud cast its shadow on the mountainside, and as it floated across the sky, its shadow crept down the mountain toward her. She squealed and made for the cranny in her oak tree trunk. Debbie slid in and pulled up her knees to hug her legs tightly to her. And she cried.

It seemed like a long time before she heard the scrape of the screen door and Fat Sarah call out, “Debbie, come on in, and get your lunch,” just as sweet as you please with no hint of the evil that had come out minutes before. Or was it hours? She wasn’t sure. She might have been sleeping. She wanted to believe she had dreamt Fat Sarah’s words, but the threat was just as real as the candy bar in her lap. Somehow, sitting in the cool of the tree’s embrace had comforted her, though. Shadow can’t swallow shadow, child. I stand sentinel. The Mountain has eyes. The Mountain has eyes. Shadow can’t swallow shadow.

Whether it was a thought or a voice or a feeling, Debbie really couldn’t tell, but she rose and walked resolutely to the back steps with only a furtive glance at the mountain rising over her like a green ocean wave. The chocolate bar lay like a forgotten offering in the cool of the oak tree.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Forthcoming

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: syppublishing.com; Amazon

PRICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Rocky welcomes you to the following: rockyporchmoore@gmail.com

Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rocky.porch.moore?fref=ts

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Weather Report, Dec. 28

Tango duo

UPCOMING …

Our first three books of 2016 offer something for almost everyone.

Camille Cusamano’s “Tango: An Argentine Love Story” is not only a peek into another culture and way of life, but with a memoir tucked inside. It is best read with Latin, salsa or waltz music playing in the background.

With all the grim reports of mass shootings carried out by obviously deranged individuals, Bill Delorey’s novel “Shuffle an Impulse” goes beyond the sensational and into the tortured mind of one mentally ill person struggling not to become front page news.

I hereby nominate our next contributor for the best Snowflakes author name so far — “Clemenceau’s Daughters creator Rocky Porch Moore. As a longtime teacher in south Alabama, she has immersed herself in the southern mountain culture and artfully bends that knowledge around the story of a young girl struggling to balance the onrushing modern world with the gravitational tug of old myths.

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WEEK OF DEC. 29:

“TANGO: AN ARGENTINE LOVE STORY,” BY CAMILLE CUSAMANO.

From the Amazon  blurb:

“Tango is a memoir by a woman who loved, lost, got mad, and decided to dance. The book traces the author’s fall, redemption, and renewal through tango.

“After a violent encounter with her ex’s new girlfriend, Camille Cusumano decided she had some serious soul-searching to do. She took off for Buenos Aires intending to stay a few short weeks, but when her search for inner peace met with her true passion for tango, she realized she’d need to stay in Argentina indefinitely. Tango chronicles Camille’s experience falling in love with a country through the dance that embodies intensity, freedom, and passion—all pivotal to her own process of self-discovery.

“From the charm of local barrios to savory empanadas, Camille whole-heartedly embraces the ardent culture of Argentina, and soon a month-long escape turns into a year-long personal odyssey. Slowly letting go of her anger through a blend of tango, Zen, and a burgeoning group of friends, she discovers that her fierceness and patience can exist in harmony as she learns how to survive in style when love falls apart.”

“SHUFFLE AN IMPULSE,” BY BILL DELOREY

Writes Bill:

“Several wartime veterans, myself included, developed and founded a program that worked with the VA clinic in Los Angeles for several years, counseling combat veterans with violent mental and social rehabilitation issues. I’ve also experienced the tragedy of mental disorders in family members and friends as well.

“Years later, my companion and I took off across the United States on a camping trip to write about and photograph our national parks and wilderness areas for a nature travel book. While sitting by the campfire one night, I decided to write a short story about violence, and the way a brain controls its chemical and behavioral triggers.

“At that time, we were camping in the southeast near the Great Smoky Mountains, and I figured three or four thousand words would tell the story nicely. It didn’t come close. The word count rose every time I opened the laptop as our journey continued cross-country and through more states and in more campgrounds than I can remember. The first draft of a one hundred thousand word novel “Shuffle on Impulse” emerged somewhere in Vermont almost a year later. I simply could not stop writing.” 🙂

“CLEMENCEAU’S DAUGHTERS,” BY ROCKY PORCH MOORE.

From Rocky’s description:

“Folks tend to die around Little Debbie Ballard. She struggles to make sense of a world where an unspoken past and prejudice collide, where truth is no longer as simple as Daddy’s word, and cruel intentions transcend generations. Debbie discovers the insidious legacy that haunts the women of her family one by one.

“Tracing the roots of Debbie’s ancestry back to pre-revolutionary France, past and present are interspersed to show how the will of a vindictive woman rots a family tree from within.

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Larry Hewitt 2NEWS AND NOTES:

I’m always happy to pass along marketing tips and/or experiences from Snowflakes authors. This comes from Larry Hewitt, whose “The Juno Letters” was featured on this site last Sept. 25.

“Like many independent writers I have struggled finding the right mix of media to promote my books. Lately I have finally found a good use for my private mailing list — promoting my story draft.

“I call my first draft a story draft —  the story is basically complete but the editing and fine tuning have not yet begun. I started inviting readers from my private email list to read the story draft and discovered I hit a responsive chord. I have a couple of rules: 1) I explicitly state I am NOT looking for free editors; 2) while I will always appreciate feedback I ask them NOT to send me information about typos by explaining I have not yet started serious editing; and 3) I do not ask them to buy anything.

“The response has been exciting. I had about a 15% download rate on the first mailing for the V1 story draft. A week later I sent a second email offering version 2 and a briefing on the changes I made through a link to my blog. My blog traffic surprised me and I had almost as many downloads of v2 as I did the first version. I have received an encouraging number of emails and several of my local readers have visited me in my “office” at the Oly Club restaurant in Centralia, WA and told me they appreciated being given a look “under the sheets” so to speak.

“I think this works because it brings readers into the inner circle and helps them feel like a part of the series as it moves forward. I am planning at least a third email before announcing the completed story.”