First Tuesday Replay, August 6

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

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Picture Bride by [Hsiung, C Fong]“THE PICTURE BRIDE,” BY C. FONG HSUING.

Following the India-China war of 1962, the Chinese Indians (the Hakka), fearing suspicion and hostility, begin to emigrate. In Picture Bride, set during a period of changing times and changing values, twenty-year-old Jillian Wu leaves Calcutta to marry a man she has never met—Peter Chou, also a Hakka—with much anticipation, only to discover that he is gay. Forced by her husband to keep up the charade of a “normal” marriage, and pressured by her in-laws to have a child, she flees back to Calcutta, only to be disowned by her conservative family. A moving story with political overtones, Picture Bride confronts the politics of family, culture, and women’s rights.

“WHALE FALLS,” BY CECIL BOTHWELL.

Writes Cecil: “The idea for this book started when I learned of whale falls — the carcasses of ceteceans that sink to the deepest depths of the ocean, where wholly different life forms have evolved. The food chain is based on methane instead of oxygen (scarce at such depths). Then I read that some scientists theorized we could inject such organisms into the upper atmosphere to consume methane, the most potent of greenhouse gasses, and the symmetry struck me immediately.

“Whale oil began our addiction to combustible liquid fuels (and whales were only saved from extinction by dint of an oil gusher in Pennsylvania), and now the fruit of their carcasses might save us from extinction due to warming. That seemed a metaphor for so many situations in which a problem and a solution are linked in unexpected ways. Midway through the year-long writing I was elected to City Council, outed as an atheist and suddenly acquired my 15 minutes of international fame (long story). But I realized that this book had to be about a much bigger picture of ethics and choices about how we examine and live our lives.”

“GRAVITY,” BY ELIZABETH ROSNER.

Composed over a period of some twenty years, Gravity is Elizabeth Rosner’s profoundly searching account of her experience as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. In an extraordinarily powerful mix of poetry and prose, Rosner traces the earliest remembered resonances of her parents’ past and her dawning awareness of the war history that colored her family home during her youth in Schenectady, New York. She recounts her false starts in raising the subject with her father (a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp), his piecemeal revelations, and their eventual travels together to the sites of the nightmare in Germany. And she evokes, courageously and heart-wrenchingly, her search for identity against the gravitational pull of her parents’ experience and the traditional upbringing they’ve given her.” (quoted from Atelier26 website) The book also features exquisite artwork by Lola Fraknoi.

“HOBO’S REVENGE,” BY BILL DELOREY

Hobos and High Finance have little in common until the day an investment scammer deceives Gina and Mickey McGee, steals their retirement savings, and forces foreclosure on the family farm. Evicted along with her grandparents, Ellie McGee drops out of college and ends up homeless, living in a hobo encampment amongst a group of vagabonds.

BillEllie hooks up with Tick Simmons, and together they plan revenge on the scammers that stole the farm and also killed Tick’s twin brother, a resident of the hobo camp. Tick and Ellie team up with the odd-ball drifters, recruit a senator and a rogue intelligence agent and an ex-Special Forces veteran, then reverse the game and scam the scammers,

 

“ECHOES OF TATTERED TONGUES,” BY JOHN GUZLOWSKI

In this major tour de force, John Guzlowski traces the arc of one of the millions of immigrant families of America, in this case, survivors of the maelstrom of World War II. His narrative structure mirrors the fractured dislocation experienced by war refugees. Through a haunting collage of jagged fragments―poems, prose and prose poems, frozen moments of time, sometimes dreamlike and surreal, other times realistic and graphic―Guzlowski weaves a powerful story with impacts at levels both obvious and subtle. The result is a deeper, more visceral understanding than could have been achieved through descriptive narrative alone. This is the story of Guzlowski’s family: his mother and father, survivors of the war, taken as slave laborers by the Germans; his sister and himself, born soon after the war in  Displaced Persons camps in Germany; the family’s first days in America, and later their neighbors in America, some dysfunctional and lost, some mean, some caring and kind; and the relationships between and among them all. As Guzlowski unfolds the story backwards through time, he seduces us into taking the journey with him. Along the way, the transformative power of the creative process becomes apparent. Guzlowski’s writing helps him uncouple from the trauma of the past, and at the same time provides a pathway for acceptance and reconciliation with his parents.

Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts on Aging I Remembered to Write Down by [Eastman, Cindy]“FLIP FLOPS AFTER 50,” BY CINDY EASTMAN

Flip-Flops After 50 is a wry, witty collection of essays through which Cindy Eastman tackles the ups and downs of midlife. From her 30th high school reunion to her daughter’s wedding to running away to a cabin in Maine, she comes to terms with aging and change with insight and humor. The lens of humor does not make these essays less meaningful, however, as stories about the loss of an old friend, self-confidence and aging parents are included here.

Flip-Flops After 50 is a wonderful opportunity to remember that we’re not alone in our advanced years and that many of us go through similar changes and challenges. Reading the essays is like spending time with a close friend in the celebrations of life as well as the transitions.

Weather Report, August 5

(Tina Mozelle Braziel’s glass cabin)

Our currently featured books, “Andermatt County: Two Parables,” by Pam Jones, “The Hour Wasp,” by Jay Sheets and “Sparks,” by Maren Anderson, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our authors page.

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I think my favorite part of the Snowflakes in a Blizzard questionaire is the author profile.

Over the last four years and 550 or so writers, I’ve learned that the lives of many authors are even more interesting than what they’re writing about. Some keep their profiles fairly close to the vest, but a lot of others gladly offer up their diverse personal stories. We’ve had representatives from most of the 50 states and quite a few foreign countries. We’ve had a standup comic, a psychiatrist, a woman who has dedicated her life (besides writing) to saving endangered penguins, a defuser of land mines. a ballerina, a hospice worker, a homicide detective, a software engineer for the International Space Station and a classical literature teacher at a maximum security prison.

And then there’s Tina Mozelle Braziel, whose poetry collection “Known by Salt” is one of this week’s Snowflakes offerings (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com). She and her husband James live in a glass cabin in the woods of Alabama that they built themselves.

Writes Tina: “Cooking on a hotplate among tools, lizards, and doing without running water brought back some familiar feelings I had had while growing up: joy and a defensive pride. I wanted to describe the beauty I’ve found in homes (trailers and houses without plumbing) that are often the butt of jokes about the south and / or the working class. Building a home by hand also deepened my respect for the construction work my Meanwhile, father, uncles, and grandfathers did. “

Meanwhile, this week’s other featured writer, Nancy Gerber, is a psychoanalyst with a PhD in English, which helps her interpret the motives of her fictional characters.

UPCOMING IN SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 6-12.

“KNOWN BY SALT,” BY TINA MOZELLE BRAZIEL.

Again, from Tina: “ As a nation of immigrants and displaced people, much of American history and culture focuses on finding and creating a place for one’s self and family. One of the first material markers of the American Dream is ownership of one’s home. Many people I’ve encountered have told me that building a house has been or is a goal of theirs. Known by Salt gets at what that literally feels like. It also speaks to our universal desire to belong while talking back to the demeaning ways some people use class and gender to make us feel like we don’t.

“A WAY OUT OF NOWHERE,” BY NANCY GERBER.

A collection of nine stories exploring the rites of passage of being female:  a college student coping with date rape, a young woman discovering her sexuality, a new mother grappling with postpartum depression, an unhappy teenager developing a surprising friendship with an elderly woman patient in a nursing home.  The protagonists oscillate between isolation and connection as they struggle to find meaning in environments that are often hostile or dangerous.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

This month, we will revisit “Echoes of Tattered Tongues,” by john Guzlowski, “Whale Falls,” by Cecil Bothwell, “Hobos Revenge,” by Bill Delorey, “Flip Flops After 50,” by Cindy Eastman, “The Picture Bride,” by Fong Hsiung, and “Gravity,” by Elizabeth Rosner.

 

 

 

 

Andermatt County: Two Parables

This week’s other featured books, “The Hour Wasp,” by Jay Sheets, and “Sparks,” by Maren Anderson, can be found by scrolling down below ths post, or by clicking the authors name on our author’s page.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglassesTHE BOOK: Andermatt County: Two Parables.

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Pam Jones.

THE EDITOR: Aaron Joel Lain, Ericka Arcadia, and Lance Umenhofer.

THE PUBLISHER: The April Gloaming. From the website: “April Gloaming Publishing is a Nashville-based independent press that aims to capture and better understand the Southern soul, Southern writing, and the Southern holler. In the words of William Faulkner, to be Southern is to, “Tell about the South. What do they do there. How do they live there. Why do they live at all.” April Gloaming seeks to arrive at the conclusions to these questions through amplifying the voices of the unbridled holler.”

Andermatt County: Two Parables by [Jones, Pam]SUMMARY: Welcome to Andermatt County. Hill country. South-central Texas. The residents walk the terrain and feel the air as if in a haze of their own self-interest. The children live in a mystical void of wonder mixed with downtrodden hopes of their lives to come. In YE SHALL BE AS GODS, meet Emmett Anhalt, a young, curious boy who lives with all women, none of them giving him the time of day, so he embarks on a walk through the brush and woods where he is introduced to the alluring ways of Rex Henry Burr–a serial killer. Emmett and Rex’s journeys together are chronicled in this story, along with the lives and hopes and dreams of their victims and other residents of Andermatt County, each with his or her own personal quirks and downfalls. In HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR BITSY, we are introduced to the proverbial paradise of living in Andermatt County’s social circles. Esther Fielding, or Bitsy, is turning six years old, and her mother only wishes for her to replace her love for dead squirrels and rodents with a love for dolls and teatimes. But is she doing this solely for herself? Or is Esther already limpidly trudging down the right road?

THE BACK STORY: The book began as two separate short stories that grew and grew and then merged. Since the late-2000s, my family has lived in a small town in the Texas Hills, where they think nothing of erecting crosses on hilltops and where you often forget what season you’re in because everything retains some measure of fecundity year-round. You have live oaks and cedar, lots of tall, green grass and cactus, bluebonnets in spring, sunflowers in the summer and fall. And underneath all that, you’ll find bones picked clean by vultures. It’s an atmosphere with a lot of layers and a lot of stories, and I wanted write about what can happen in a place that’s so visceral.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I chose to name the setting Andermatt County after a story I came across about a bridge in the Andermatt region of Switzerland, cutting through the Alps. It is known as the Teufelsbrucke, or the Devil’s Bridge. There is a legend in which the people of that area called upon the devil to build the bridge. When the project was finished, the devil wanted a soul for his payment. The people, thinking that the devil could be tricked, sent a dog across the bridge instead, which the devil then tore apart.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you like morality stories that are visceral, very dark but a little light, you might like it. My inspirations are people like Flannery O’Connor, Jeanette Winterson, Jamaica Kincaid, and Shirley Jackson. If you’ve read everything by them and want to see what else in a similar vein is out there, you can put this on your list.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The comparisons to Faulkner’s Yoknapawtawpha County are obvious, but justified. A dark, at turns quirky, and very real microcosm is contained within this volume, spanning two novella-sized narratives. Jones’ more fitting fellow travelers, of theme and prose, are Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers, and not because of their gender, but because of their shared brilliance, economy, and sensitivity to the place of outsiders, believers, and misfits.” — Jordan A. Rothacker, author of Gristle: Weird Tales

“A perfect gothic pairing written with precise and spectacular beauty. Cruel and delicate, these parables are fearless explorations of the mysterious nature of loneliness, grace and human connection. Jones has a style and grit that is all her own.” — Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under

“Jones has a gift for drawing beauty out from brutality, even when it’s of a lopsided and unexpected sort. Her descriptions trade between being winsome and petrifying, and the situations imagined in the course of these two tales will haunt their audiences.” — Michelle Anne Schingler of Foreword Reviews.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m an East Coast native, born in New Jersey, raised in Connecticut, and now transplanted to Austin, Texas with my husband. I’ve been writing more or less steadily since I was about 9 or 10, and studied creative writing at Hampshire College.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Ninth grade was as far as Emmett had gone in school, and that was enough for him.

One day, he just did not go.

There was Emmett, not so much playing hooky as following a smoky train of thought, going the opposite side of the street than the one he usually went to school, going along the road that ran beside the Canadian River until he got to its sandy edge. And he thought he knew what called him there.

The Standing Rock, which rose like the twist of a great tree trunk from the middle of the water, was going to disappear. In a few days, some mysterious collection of workers, all big talk and concrete, were coming to dam the river. Eufaula Lake, they would call it, after the town. His

mother had read it aloud from the paper that morning. At the time Emmett had thought she’d said they were going to damn the river. Fire, brimstone, all that.

But after thinking about it, he knew that didn’t make sense.

Still, he realized that it would be something to see something before it was gone.

At the river’s shore he got comfortable. He slipped out of his shoes, knotted his socks and balled them in his hip pocket. His mother was not there to shout at him, and so he removed his school corduroys, his shirt. As it grew warmer, his hair paled from mousy brown to white. He was long, lean, his skin crosshatched with tiny scars. Clothes were a burden, one more layer of skin than he felt he needed. He was never cold, and he often paired colors incorrectly, green with blue or brown with black. What little scrapes he got in his nudity he took without flinching. He spent his time out of doors this way.

He piled his clothes on a bench, anchored them with his schoolbooks. Then he dug a pit into the sand and defecated, and watched, with eyes that caught the world around him in quick, sharp edges, for anyone who might be coming.

Emmett spent the day at the lake, and thus far he’d not seen a soul. He slept when he needed it. When hungry, he swiped crappies from the water and ate them with his hands. On the shore he draped the shirt, warm flannel, over his shoulders like a cape and read one of the books that weighed the rest of his clothes. What Maisie Knew.

“Poor kiddo,” he said aloud of the title’s heroine. These were the first words he’d spoken in hours. When he wasn’t out of doors, he was reading. He learned things about people from books that he could not in face to face circumstances. People never came out and exposed themselves. He didn’t know what he would do without books; very likely, he would feel nothing at all for his fellow man. Very likely, he would not see himself, and they would not see him. And even if he got to a point at which he had read every novel, every history, every diary in every library, he would never shake the notion of the schism between what people felt and what he was supposed to feel for them. They hurt, but he did not. They wept, but he could not.

That must have been roughly the time the older man appeared. He looked to be taking pictures of the land around them, for he stood behind what seemed to be an old-timey camera, boxy atop a tripod. He was too far away to tell.

When the lens of this device veered Emmett’s way, Emmett himself could think of nothing better to do than to sit and to stare.

And now there was a camera on him.

He hadn’t tried to cover himself. He had said, “Don’t take my picture.”

The older man coughed and told him that he was not taking pictures. “I’m a land surveyor. This is a theodolite.”

“What do you do with it?”

“You measure angles. Oughtn’t you to be at school?”

“I didn’t go.”

“I see that.” At first, because of his complexion, Emmett had thought the older man to be one of the Creek Nation people, here to protest the dam. But he could have been anything; he might have been the first fellow that Emmett could not pigeonhole as simply white, black, or Indian. He looked to be fifty, maybe sixty, and a cigarette perked from the corner of his lip. Emmett’s mother had told him to look at his Aunt Jennie: “She smokes like a chimney. Guess how old she is. Well, she’s forty. And it’s because she smokes like a chimney she looks eighty.” If this was true, the man could have been Emmett’s own age, and not a man just yet. He wore men’s clothes, sure enough, hard boots and a khaki windbreaker, a flat-topped cap of the sort you might wear on a golf course.

The man asked Emmett’s name.

Emmett told him. He thought of giving him a throwaway name, Barabbas or Hercules, but nothing leapt to mind.

“That a family name?” the man asked, shifting the cap on his head. He plucked the cigarette from his mouth to ash it.

“No. I don’t know anyone by that name in my family. I’m the only fellow.”

The man craned his head back, nonplussed. “The only one?”

“Me, my mother. Aunts, too, but neither of them married.”

Aunt Jewel had what she called “beaux”. Sometimes she lived with them, sometimes she came storming back to Emmett’s mother’s house and told him to “Keep out of my damn way. Have you nothing else to do but look at me and make my skin crawl?” She read auras and claimed Emmett brought bad mojo: “Anyone who looks at someone and has nothing to say to them—it’s unnatural.” His Aunt Jennie was a suicide, but she wasn’t dead. She’d jumped off the roof of her apartment house last April and landed in the street: fractured backbone, shattered right femur, kidney trauma, and sourness in her gut. Emmett’s mother made up the TV room for her, and she lay on the couch, ashing cigarettes into her water glass and watching What’s My Line? She had difficulty moving her right side and liked Emmett to be the one who dressed and bathed her. “No man’s going to touch me again,” she would tell him. “But you’ll do.”

The older man asked, “Don’t you get lonesome? Being the only fellow?”

“I don’t know.” Emmett had long ago reasoned that there was the world and there was him, and thus all would remain divided. It wasn’t something he thought he ought to feel one way or the other about.

“What say you come along with me?”

Here was Emmett with color in his face. “Come along to where?”

“Home,” the older man said. “With me.”

“You live around here?”

“No.”

“Then, where do you live?” Emmett had been as far as Tahlequah, where the traffic signs were written in English and in scrolling Cherokee letters.

“Andermatt.” The older man flicked his cigarette into the grit and smeared it with the toe of his boot. “County seat of Andermatt County.”

“Where’s that?”

“Texas, in the hill country. Real pretty down there. Bluebonnet season now.”

Emmett wanted to ask how it came to be that the man was surveying land up here and not down there, but he kept quiet. He reasoned that if he were to go with this man to Andermatt County, he would never have to go to school again. Perhaps he would never have to dress again, either, as the man did not appear unnerved by Emmett’s nudity. Fleetingly, he reasoned that his mother might wonder at where he was, or one of his aunts. (Maybe Aunt Jennie would miss him, but he felt that, to her, he was really a means to an end.) He did not see any reason as to why they ought not to be relieved at his vanishing; it was a small house. These two years past, he’d been made to give up his bedroom for one of the aunts, and bunk with his mother.

He would never have to smell her again.

He could smell this man from here, the bitterness of the cigarettes layered upon the man’s person, his clothes. Emmett had always loved the smell of cigarettes.

“Ought I to get dressed?” Emmett asked. Grit had collected between his legs.

The man nodded, slow. “Yes, you ought to.” The man knelt and collapsed the tripod on which the theodolite stood. “For now. It’s an eight-hour or so drive back to the hill country. When we get there, you can let loose.”

“May I bring my books?” Emmett’s schoolbooks, his required reading for this semester’s English, jittered with a passing breeze.

“If you want. I have quite a library at my place. Homer, Shakespeare, all that. The scriptures being my favorite.”

“You’re faithful?”

“No, not as such. But it helps to keep in practice.”

Emmett dressed and followed him.

Behind him, through the rear window of a ’49 Chevrolet pickup the color of a raw heart, he watched the Standing Rock shrink, smaller and smaller, until it became a crumb on the flat horizon. In another hour, the sun would set, and in that hour they would cross the state line.

In that hour, his mother would begin paring fat from pork chops. Aunt Jewel, peeling carrots, would peer between the curtains at the gloaming. “Well,” she would say, “it’s finally happened.”

“What’s that?” his mother would ask.

“He’s flown the coop. Your boy.”

“How do you know that?”

“Trust me. He’s gone. I feel lighter between my shoulder blades. It means he’s not looking at me.”

“What?”

“Just trust me, hon. He’s gone.”

His mother would never admit to herself that the following sigh was one of relief. The beagle sat, fat and pitiful, at her feet and emitted piggy grunts. The old thing drooled and stank, but you could always guess what she wanted when she looked at you. “Give me those scrapings when you’re through,” Emmett’s mother said to Aunt Jewel, and added them to the plate of pork trimmings.

The beagle, delighted, bent and ate, and she hardly chewed to get it all down.

Time passed, and the land’s curves flattened and remained that way for so long that Emmett wondered if the rest of the country was going to be like this. Plano, Dallas, Killeen, Johnson City. But, little by little, the road met some resistance as they reached the hills. There were trees, too, shrubby ones and spindly ones with branches like witches’ paws, twisting out of the craterous ground. The older man mentioned that this part of the country had once been at the bottom of an ocean.

A sign, carved from cedar and painted in the bright, fancy Dutch style, read, “Wilkommen!” And beneath that, in larger letters, “Welcome to Andermatt County!” And beneath that, a list of all its incorporated villages: “Home to Andermatt, El Velo, Elam, Himmel Creek.”

Emmett did not volunteer much about himself, and nor did the older man, save to inform Emmett that his name was Rex Henry. “Rex Henry Burr,” the older man said, his hands firmly gripping the wheel at ten and two. “My family wanted nobility in it, but I doubt there was any.”

Emmett eyed the constant beyond the window, the long, thin line that separated the highway from the grass and the mud. Every now and then, the sameness was interrupted by a bunch of flowers, a pile of rag dolls, pairs of shoes arrayed along the edge of the road, a cross hewn out of wood and painted purple. When Rex Henry slowed according to the speed limit, Emmett could see a wavering procession moving up the edge of the road. At first, all he could make out were sparks, shards of light that were there and then not, moving up the road as though on an assembly line. When they drove up a bit further, faces emerged in the glow of these sparks, which were the flames from small candles. Emmett turned in his seat; one by one each of these marchers approached the roadside trinkets, the dolls, the shoes, the cross, to lay their candles, to bow their heads.

“What’re they doing?” Emmett asked.

“Girl gone missing.” Rex Henry shifted in the captain’s seat and plucked the knob for the radio. Chet Baker, who sang, “I fall in love too easily…”

“Is she dead?”

“I don’t think so. Just missing.”

“All that, and she isn’t deceased?” Emmett liked to use the better words from his vocabulary when the moment warranted.

Rex Henry pursed his lips. “I believe they’ve given up. That’s why the parade.”

This was good. Emmett made a note to himself that this was the first conversation he had conducted between himself and another. He didn’t count the talks he’d had at home with the beagle, who looked at him from the corner of her eye, as if to say, I don’t have many years left. Please let me alone. His mother and his aunts barked, and he could never quite make out what they said.

Outside, up the highway, the marchers began a hymn. Their voices, caught in the air, gathered and wafted, like smoke, in all directions.

“Art thou weary, art thou languid

Art thou sore distressed?”

Rex Henry let his eyes drift away from the procession, its participants reduced in the dark to the flickering of their candles. When he drove, his posture became gnomish, his head retreating between his shoulders so that he peered over the top of the steering wheel. “We ought to be near Andermatt by eight or so.”

“Okay.”

“You like movies?”

Emmett thought. “I don’t know. I suppose so.”

“Well, we’ll go see the stars,” Rex Henry said. “My treat.”

“Okay.”

The line of sparks continued, at least a mile more down the highway. Through some method not unlike Pass It On, or perhaps by catching the spectral hints of the melody on the wind, the marchers farther on echoed the first lines of “Art Thou Weary?” Not a one of them had a trained voice, and the hymn was better for its roughness. It made Emmett shiver; he bit his forefinger to contain it.

“How long is she gone for?” he murmured, like someone in church.

Rex Henry swallowed. And he smiled. “Only a few weeks.”

“Seems like they gave up on her quick enough.”

“Yes.”

“Everyone must’ve liked her a lot.”

Rex Henry reached to snuff the radio, inviting the ghost of the hymn to slip between the window cracks and through the radiator. There was no escape, nor did the two men want to. Finally, Rex Henry said, “I don’t know about that.”

Emmett nodded, a bit fuzzily. He’d been rooting in the wastebasket bolted to the passenger-side door. With reverence and a steady hand, as though he were handling artifacts at a museum, Emmett lifted each item to his eye and put it back without a sound. A pencil. A hydrangea blossom, blue and made of something like silk. A Canadian penny. A note on lined paper, folded and tucked into a square; it read: “Would you rather A) Lose your virginity to the man of your dreams, but in front of an audience? B) Have the best first time, but never Do It again? C) Be hot and bothered 24/7, but only for Mr. Powell?” A finger ring set with a dot of amethyst, a birthstone.

And the last token.

Emmett held it between thumb and forefinger, a pearl.

A tooth.

“It’s pretty,” he whispered.

It was sharp and milky blue, spotless, incorruptible. It would survive the elements, the years. Emmett put it into his shirt pocket.

Rex Henry nodded, for although no permission had been asked, it had been accepted. Of course, Emmett could keep it.

They reveled in it, the way you do when you have found, at last, your Other. That instant when you know, for sure, that there is not only one of you, and that another will, one day, make the recognition. The feeling was golden. A life could be made, for Emmett and Rex Henry.

Miles passed, three or four, and the line of mourners and their candles dwindled and disappeared. The echo of the hymn drifted into the air, a single note rising and wafting away, then becoming swallowed by highway babble. The last line stuck with them, “…Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs/Answer, Yes!” They let it burrow and make them its host for the miles that came, so much so that Emmett switched off the radio to let the silence make the words clearer. He fingered the tooth in his breast pocket, not believing it now belonged to him. He felt that a great bit of something like luck or a blessing had been given him; something in him had shifted.

Rex Henry waited until they reached the city limits of El Velo to ask if Emmett was hungry.

Emmett nodded. He’d been going through the wastebasket a second time. An eraser. A hair ribbon. A piece of chewing gum, still mint-flavored, Emmett found when he put it in his mouth.

Rex Henry said, “I don’t know if she was liked, but she was a good girl. Of that I am certain. No one would have known it, otherwise. Isn’t that sad?”

Emmett agreed, it was sad.

“Think what might have happened if this had never come to her. She might have just vanished.”

Emmett chewed and nodded.

“She’s got friends now, as you saw back there. Lots of them.”

Emmett turned to look, though they were a long way now from the procession. He half-expected, even this far away, to see the tail end of the mourners’ parade, one more flickering candle. He dug out the note again, opened it. A title was scrawled across the top, “PERSONALITY TEST…FOR YOUR EYES ONLY!!!” He scanned it. Mr. Powell must be a fusty old teacher. The test itself was unmarked.

Emmett was familiar with these things, made out for, it seemed, the low bird on the pecking order, the one in class who sat, did not talk, did not laugh or cry. The rock you may squeeze blood from, if only you knew how to crack it. Emmett was never given any of these tests himself; no one could crack him, and no one dared try. He had always been one of the hands that passed the note, back, back, back, to the rear of the class where the good girls always sat. Was it the same all the world over? Did good girls everywhere sit in the back? At any rate, he’d gotten a peek at one or two questionnaires. One had read, “How Stacked Are Yoo-Hoo?”, the Os in Yoo-Hoo dotted in the middle to make breasts. The girl who got them (a prim little thing with a virtue name, like Anne Faith or Anne Truth) let her eye flick over the words, and then, po-faced, she would put it away.

Was it meant to be funny?

He recounted the story for Rex Henry, whom he felt ought to know a thing or two.

Rex Henry said, “I’ll bet you they don’t know the half of what they’re talking about. To them, it’s the forbidden fruit. They don’t know what it’s all about, what it tastes like, so they’ll slime it up to make it into something they can understand.”

“What about the good girl? Does she know what it’s all about?”

Rex Henry paused, slowed according to the speed limit, for they were entering the center of town. Lights, pink and green, advertising hamburgers and ice cream. Then he intoned, “I think so. I think she does. Or at least, she can imagine it. She can—she can sympathize. That’s what makes her blush. To her, it’s a serious affair.”

“Is that good?”

“I would say so.”

“Like me getting unclothed wherever?”

“Yes. Just like that. Now, The Carnelian Café and Rock Shop. The Rock Shop’s closed, but we can still get a bite in the café part. How’s that sound?”

Emmett nodded.

He wanted to know what made the difference between a thing that was quiet and a thing that was ordinary.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

PRICE: $19.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Instagram, Twitter: @panimaljone

The Hour Wasp

The Hour WaspTHE BOOK:  The Hour Wasp

PUBLISHED IN:  2017

THE AUTHOR:    Jay Sheets

THE ARTIST: Robyn Leigh Lear illustrated and created all of the art for the book. I thought that her vision was perfect for this collection.

THE PUBLISHER:  April Gloaming Publishing, a small press in Nashville, TN

SUMMARY / BACK STORY / TITLE: The title of the book is from a poem I’d written and had published in  Sundog Lit.  The “hour wasp” is an action symbol for this desert-dwelling muse of mine. The poem is a mythical journey into when and how this particular muse awakens, buzzes, and stings.

Image result for Jay Sheets + poet + photographI began crafting these poems in 2015 while an undergrad in the BFA program at Goddard College in Vermont. The book began as the creative writing portion of my senior study. As the number of poems grew to a full-length manuscript, the symbol of this “hour wasp” continued to hold the collection quite well through each revision, naturally solidifying itself as the title of the book.

During the crafting of these poems, I was studying mystical experience, alchemical symbolism, and hermeticism while investigating how poetics played a role between the three. This research bled into these poems, revealing themes of nature coupled with metaphysical concepts of creation and Being alongside explorations into the enigmatic “she” and “you” relation between speaker and reader. The theme of the book is nature or Spirit-based, while the collection as a whole is an immersion into the mystic-surreal.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think that fans of surrealism, fantasy, or magical realism would appreciate this work. Given that it is heavily inspired by nature and spiritual identity, I feel that those interested in theology and mythology would also appreciate the experience of some of these images. My goal as a poet is to shift a reader’s consciousness into a space of theopoetic experience, of wonder and awe. If only one reader experiences this from only one of my poems, then the book has done its job.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “The Hour Wasp  is a literary collection of poems not meant for the uneducated, the non-dreamers, or the faint of heart. It is raw, it is dark, it is honest. This collection is made of otherworldly imagery that will transport you to another time and place, one you only wish you could reside in forever. And when you come back to your suddenly sullen reality after the last page, you’ll be tempted to leap back into that dream state of chaos created by the elegantly occult poems.”  — Korynne, Goodreads

“If poetry is religion, The Hour Wasp is a sanctuary; a temple in which Sheets guides us to the altar. He gives us room enough to worship, seek absolution, or call forth ecstatic visions. Throughout he tries on the cloak of monk, prophet, and shaman before settling effortlessly into the mantle of modern mystic. All of this feels as deliberate as the intricacies of each work.

There is nothing nominal within the pages of this vital collection. Even the ephemeral – ‘to explore beauty’ – is gravid. Sheets has generously given himself over to his craft and the result is indoctrination into the non-denominational theology of words.

Jay Sheets’ debut collection is revelatory. In its pages we witness the stellar evolution of the literary artist. He establishes himself as a formidable poetic force. And though his words are enough to conjure vivid images of the impossible, the earthly, and the holy, illustrations by Robyn Leigh Lear add another striking dimension to this already complex and significant work. I’m keeping this one on my bedside table. You should too.”  — Claudine Cain, Editor,  Black Elephant Lit

“In all, it reminds me of the way knowledge was passed down through the oppressive hands of the church in the middle ages. It’s heavily coded, and it’s up to the reader to decide if the act of deciphering and entering into the secret chambers is worth the extra time. For me, it was.”  — Elizabeth, Goodreads

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jay Sheets is a poet, writer, and researcher. He received a BFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and is currently a graduate student at Harvard, where he studies the poetics of religious experience and spiritual identity.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Poetry has the power to activate, interpret, and prognosticate religious experience, thus helping to shape one’s spiritual (or religious) identity. If one views poetry as a gateway to the divine, then what does it mean to write to a flower in the window that isn’t there? I believe deeply that every problem humankind is facing stems from a modern, collective disconnect from Spirit and Self, and I believe that language—inner and outer—when chosen carefully, can help us to bridge this disconnect and aid us in remembering who we are and why we’re here.

I write poems to remember why I’m here. They are conversations between nature and I. They are byproducts of curiosity. I am lucky when they are published, when a publisher believes enough in them to put them out into the world. Knowing that a poem or two has connected with a reader is the ultimate gift; it lets me know that the poem has done its job.

SAMPLE  (Two Poems) :

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WHERE TO BUY IT  April Gloaming Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

PRICE:   Currently on sale through Amazon for $5.80

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  jsheets@hds.harvard.edu

Sparks

Sparks by [Anderson, Maren]THE BOOK: Sparks

PUBLISHED IN: 2019

THE AUTHOR: Maren Anderson .

THE PUBLISHER: Not a Pipe Publishing. Not a Pipe Publishing is a small, independent publishing company formed in 2013 and located (fittingly) in Independence, Oregon.  Working with groups like the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Literary Arts, and Project GirlSpire, Not a Pipe Publishing is committed to supporting fine literature in our region, across the country, and around the world. Focusing on high quality genre fiction for young adult and adult audiences, Not a Pipe Publishing seeks to both entertain and enlighten readers by bringing diverse voices to the market, engaging in the struggle for human rights, and giving voice to deeper truths best expressed through fiction.

Maren Bradley AndersonSUMMARY: Sparks is a contemporary paranormal romance set on a horse ranch. It’s a horse romance, but there is an “amoral barn sprite” under the barn.

All Rosie wants is to tear down the ancient cowshed on her horse ranch, but the old-timers tell her that she can’t because it might anger the cowsprite that lives underneath. Rosie thinks this is ridiculous. That’s why, after too much whiskey one dark night, she and her new boyfriend, Patrick, knock the shed down with the tractor. The next morning, the tractor is on its side, its tires are shredded, and the cowshed has been rebuilt.

Rosie is plopped into a world of magic she didn’t know existed. Patrick can talk to animals. His aunt is a witch who owns an “herb shop.” The cowsprite is deadly, won’t leave, and requires a cow to keep him company. Rosie throws Patrick off her ranch because they fight about the sprite. Rosie has to figure out how to save her ranch, her love, and even her dog, as she struggles to accept her place in a world far more magical than she cares to believe.

THE BACK STORY: This goes back all the way to 2008. I raise alpacas, and I was on the ranch of another alpaca rancher. He was this old farmer type—old ball-cap, overalls, most of his teeth. His ranch was on his family’s original Oregon Trail homestead, so each building had this rich history, not that history mattered a whole lot to the old farmer. As we walked by one of the old buildings, he said, “I wish that old milk barn would just fall down. It’s dangerous for the grandkids.”

“Why don’t you just tear it down?” I asked.

He looked at me like I’d just fallen out of the sky and grew three more legs. “I can’t do that!” he cried. “It’s bad luck to tear down a barn!”

I just nodded like I’d forgotten that very basic, common-knowledge fact, but I didn’t follow up. I’m kind of glad I didn’t because it means that I kept wondering about it for years, and I never found a good answer to why it’s bad luck to tear down a barn. The closest I got was folklore in Scandinavia about sprites that protect animals and punish people who hurt them. Voila! My Cowsprite was born.

The main characters came from another book, Fuzzy Logic. They were supposed to be the “B” love story, but they were so dynamic that they demanded their own book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: This book was difficult to title because it’s a weird genre: romantic, monsters, magic, but not YA, and no one turns into a werewolf. So I had to find something that didn’t signal those things. “Sparks” came to me because of the way the characters actually magically zap each other. It’s like static electricity, but not.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
What makes your book unique, and what niche audiences might it reach?

Sparks is a paranormal rural romance with horses, magic, and other urban fantasy elements. People who would enjoy this book like romances with horses, but wish they had magic, too. People who would enjoy this book like paranormal romances, but wish they had horses, too. People who would enjoy this book like books with magic and love, but wish they were written from an adult’s point of view.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Sparks is a fresh and playful love story, told with wry, laugh out loud humor … Anderson uses a –mischievous twist of magic to take her characters, and readers, on a cozy but exhilarating ride.”

— Therese Oneill, NYT Bestselling author of Ungovernable

“…a story comprised of romance, folklore, and the paranormal which made me feel safe and scared… [Anderson] did a fabulous job of portraying life in the barn, the riding scenes, and the horse characters. Fun, intriguing story!” — Brittney Joy, author of the Red Rock Ranch series

“Romance, monsters, and magic … for grownups? Yes, please!” — Karen Eisenbrey, author of Daughter of Magic and Wizard Girl

“An upbeat, witty paranormal – Anderson’s Sparks is deliciously addictive with touches of sizzling chemistry, zany twists, and quirky turns that simply leave you wanting more. Fast-paced and entertaining, Rosie and Patrick’s simmering romance, mixed with a little magical mayhem, heat up this romantic fantasy, creating a wonderfully amusing read. Clear your day because you won’t want to put this book down!” == -Heather S. Ransom, author of the Going Green trilogy

AUTHOR PROFILE:

Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, editor, and alpaca rancher in Oregon. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Timberline Review, the incoming Managing Editor of PURE Insights, and has written three plays for the Apple Box Children’s Theater including Beowulf for 2019. Her writing has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Alpacas Magazine, and The Timberline Review. Her sex strike novel, Closing the Store, and alpaca ranch romance, Fuzzy Logic, are available online and through your local bookstore.

I write about the town I live in, only with more fantastical elements, because I love it. I love living on our ranch. I love our little college town miles from “anywhere.” I love animals, whether wild, or domestic, inside or outside. And I like writing about people I would like to hang out with.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:

The characters in Sparks began life as characters in the “B” plot of another book, but they were too strong to stay in the secondary story. They demanded their own book. I’ve already told the story about the old farmer guy who told me it was bad luck to tear down a barn. With characters and a set up like that, the rest fit into place. This just goes to show that you can’t ever know what little bits will end up being interesting when put together.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Copyright © 2019 by Maren Anderson

CHAPTER ONE

Problem Children

The ancient cowshed tumbled down so slowly only an immortal could see it collapsing. Rosie was not immortal, so she merely noted every month or so that the roof had sunk lower or another board had twisted loose. Blackberry vines thrust between the slats like tentacles, so the shed had spidery legs at twilight. Even with prickly appendages, the structure leaned heavily against a more ancient oak tree as if it were tired from collapsing and needed a rest.

Rosie stood in front of the old building. It was low and long, designed for milking ten cows at a time as they munched hay or grain in the troughs. She suspected the cowshed was actually the oldest building on her property. The original farmhouse might have been older, but Rosie had no way of knowing. It had burned down eight years ago.

Ed stood next to her, eyeing her crowbar. “I sure wish you’d think about this,” he said. He pushed back his tattered ball cap and rubbed his eyes again. “It’s bad luck to tear down a barn.”

Rosie tried not to grin. She knew Ed believed this superstition and took it seriously. He lived next door and had adopted Rosie as family after Ben had died, even though her own father only lived ten minutes away. She accepted Ed’s friendship and his help, but not always his advice. For instance, Ed had tried to give her a rabbit’s foot like the one he had in his pocket to try to protect his calves from the cougar that had been prowling the hills that winter. She didn’t think a rabbit’s foot had been so lucky for the rabbit.

“Ed,” she said. “It is not bad luck to tear down a barn.” Still, she took one more opportunity to knock the dirt off of her boots with the curve of the crowbar.

Ed pulled his cap back over his white hair. His eyes wouldn’t stay still.

“This is the best place to build the round pen,” Rosie explained again. She swept her arm to show her horse ranch and boarding facility, the place she’d been developing for years on her own. “There is no place else.”

“I know,” he said. He shuffled his feet and then turned. “It’s getting late.”

Rosie shoved her cold hands into her pockets as she watched him go. Ed readily shoveled manure and fixed frozen pipes for her, but today — indeed, every time she’d tried to remove the shed — he excused himself at the last minute and went home with hunched shoulders, kicking rocks. She sighed and let herself believe the early spring afternoon was growing dimmer. She leaned the crowbar onto the side of the shed and stood a moment in the doorway.

It was dark in the shed, made gloomier still because the weak spring twilight merely glowed between the warped slats. Today, there were no bright shafts of light slashing through the dark making the dust motes dance like pixies. Her biggest hay barn had light like that sometimes, but the cowshed never did. It always seemed dark, especially in the back near the floor. The blackness and the cold draft that breathed out of the doors made the building Rosie’s least favorite, and she had never used it for anything but storing broken machinery.

She cleared out the old tractor and broken long-handled tools last winter when she couldn’t go out on the trails with her horses and the lessons had dwindled. Rosie busied herself those cold months planning the new round pen where she would train mustangs. She had always wanted to try her hand at taming a wild creature but had never had the correct facilities to do it properly.

Of course, the money she could make selling beautiful, well-trained horses would help a lot toward paying off the bills accrued from her father’s heart attack last year. His meager health insurance had been affordable because of its outrageously high deductible. Rosie had taken out a HELOC on her ranch, but the added payments had stretched her finances very thin, indeed. She needed more income from more boarders and lessons, and the mustangs represented another badly needed source of revenue.

A round pen was one crucial step in that plan. At fifty feet across, it wouldn’t be too big, but finding a place for it on her hilly property was nearly impossible unless she knocked down the cowshed. Even though she liked the romance of having a 150-year-old building on her property, she wasn’t going to allow nostalgia to stop her from moving forward.

That back corner was very black this evening and looked even more ominous than usual because it was empty. Cold air wrapped around her ankles, and she shivered. She wondered again if the perpetual cold was from a hidden well or spring at the back of the shed and if that would mess up the ground of the round pen. She shook her head and leaned against the doorframe. An endlessly muddy pen would annoy her.

“You certainly are a thorn in my side,” Rosie said to the building. She ran her hand over her head and drew her long ponytail across her shoulder so it draped down her front. “It would be so much more convenient if you would just fall down on your own.”

A puff of cold air on her calves seemed to acknowledge her departure as she turned, but Rosie had long ago discounted any thought of anthropomorphizing the creaky buildings on her property. If she had spent the last fifteen years guessing what each creak and groan, what each dropped nail or swinging door had meant, she’d be in the loony bin by now.

Still, she said, “Goodnight, Cowshed. I guess I’ll tear you down tomorrow,” as she turned to go inside.

Bobby, her cattle dog, waited for her on the steps of the triple-wide modular home that she and Ben had chosen to replace the burned-down farmhouse. They had only lived in it a few months before Ben was killed. Still, Rosie thought of the house as “theirs.” Bobby was only five years old, so he was “her” dog. Ben would have liked him, though.

She patted his head. “You chicken shit,” she said smiling. Bobby refused to go anywhere near the cowshed. He had never liked it. Rosie assumed that a board had fallen on him or something when she wasn’t around, but she was only guessing. Whenever Rosie went to the shed, Bobby waited for her on the porch, sometimes whimpering, never venturing closer than the bottom step. She shoved her cold fingers into his fur to warm them for a moment before she stood up and opened the door.

They went inside the house, and Bobby bounced and laughed with his dog mouth and dog tongue until Rosie put his food down on the floor. Then she contemplated her own supper by opening the freezer and regarding the stack of TV dinner boxes. She only cooked when she had company, and she had not had company in a long time. She chose her favorite — Chicken Parmesan — and popped it into the microwave. She rubbed her hands together and then sorted the mail as she waited for the ding. Bills, bills, bills. She wished that she just once she’d get something other than a bill in the mail.

Across the room, her cellphone rang. “Damn,” she said as she looked around for it. It rang again from somewhere near the door. Rosie stepped around Bobby as she navigated around the dining room table to the coat tree. She fumbled through the pockets with fingers that all felt like they were thumbs as the phone shrilled again. Finally, she found it in the breast pocket, and even though the call was from an unknown number, she answered it.

“Hello, this is Rosie.”

“Oh! Hello. This is Patrick.”

“Hi, Patrick,” she said. “How can I help you?”

“Let’s see. This is Equestrian Heights, the horse training and boarding facility on Highway 223, right?” He sounded like he was reading from one of her cards.

The microwave pinged. Rosie decided the food needed to sit for a while, anyway.

“That’s me,” she said. After a moment she repeated, “How can I help you, Patrick?”

“Oh, yes!” Patrick said. “I just bought a horse, and I need someplace to put her. I found your card at the feed store, and thought I’d give you call.”

Warning flags leaped up in Rosie’s head. “You bought a horse before you knew where you’d keep her?”

“Well, yes. It was a little spur-of-the-moment,” the caller Patrick admitted. “She’s at my aunt’s place until I can find a stable.”

“I see. So, you will require boarding. Do you think you’ll need training for her or perhaps lessons for yourself?”

“Well, yes. I was thinking of both of those things,” he said.

Don’t do it, a little voice whispered to her. Don’t take on another novice who bought too much horse. He’ll just blame you when it doesn’t work. Just like all the others.

Rosie shook her head, but her eyes fell on the pile of bills she’d been sorting through. It had been a lean winter. “Can you come visit tomorrow?” she asked.

“I’ll be there with bells on,” Patrick said.

Rosie hung up and sighed. Another problem child to take care of. She patted her cowardly dog and took her pre-packaged dinner out of the microwave. Problem children seemed to be her specialty.

****

The sprite watched the woman who loved the horses lean the metal bar on his shed and walk to her house where the canine waited for her. The sprite didn’t mind the canine, but when it had been puppy the sprite had needed to frighten it once.

If he could have sighed, he would have, but he was not a creature that needed to breathe. Instead, he pulled back into the quiet darkness of the corner of the cowshed nearest the biggest root of the oak tree where the tree spirit faintly pulsed. Turning the woman away from the shed was tiring, but necessary.

He continued his vigil, checking the animals within its territory. This included the horses in the barn and also the beef cattle in the field next door which belonged to the cattle-loving human named “Ed.” These animals were not dairy cows, the sprite’s favorite, but since there were no milk cows, he watched the other domestic livestock.

The sprite could tell that the neighborhood cougar was miles away, but the cat was hungry and possibly injured after a long winter. The cat knew better than to bother the animals near the sprite, though.

All was quiet, so he sank deeper into the damp and waited.

Section Breaks for interior

Patrick was due “first thing in the morning,” in his words. When he pulled up in a white pickup, Rosie — already done with morning chores — was sitting on her porch with Bobby, her hands wrapped around a mug of coffee, enjoying the warm steam as much as the hot drink. He hopped out, smiling, and strode over to her, hand extended. “Hiya! I’m Patrick!”

Rosie stood and shook his hand. “Hi, yourself,” she said. Then she handed him the other mug of coffee steaming beside her and sat down again.

He stood a moment with the mug and then sat one step below her. He rubbed Bobby, and the dog nearly died in ecstasy. Patrick took a sip. “Nice place you’ve got here.”

Rosie smiled into her drink. “Thanks.”

Patrick didn’t seem to know what to do next, so he fondled her dog. “What’s your name, buddy?”

“That’s Bobby,” Rosie said.

“Bobby’s a handsome boy.” Patrick smiled at Bobby and scrubbed him at the base of his tail.

Bobby groaned, and his tongue lolled out and hung to his knees.

“You found his favorite spot,” Rosie said. “It looks like you’ve got the magic touch.”

“Maybe I do,” he said. “I like animals.”

She stood and stretched a little. “I assume you want a tour?”

“Okay. Yes.”

Rosie strode off the porch toward the horse barn, mug in hand. Patrick, Bobby close at his heels, followed, but when they passed the falling-down shed, he stopped and blinked.

“You don’t keep animals in there, do you?” he asked.

“Not on your life,” Rosie said. She stood next to him as they regarded the shed together. She noticed that they were nearly the same height, she five four, he maybe five six. His haircut made her suspicious of a military background, but it wasn’t so short that she couldn’t see that he had been blond as a child. She decided there was something both old and decidedly young about him.

He looked at her, and his gray eyes smiled. “What kind of ghosties live in there?” he asked.

Rosie smiled back. “I don’t know. I’ve been trying to bring myself to tear it down for a while. I need the space for a round pen. Something always comes up, though.” She let her gaze return to the shed. Today it looked as though it were trying to push the oak tree out of its way. She shrugged and turned.

Patrick, with Bobby trotting at his heels, followed her to the twenty-stall barn slash indoor arena that had been Rosie and Ben’s pride and joy. It had taken them years to scrape enough together to buy the materials for the barn, and then it had taken months and every favor from every friend they ever had to put it up. The ordeal never seemed like work, though, Rosie told herself.

Patrick was impressed. “This is way nicer than where Sunny is boarded now,” he said. “My aunt has her behind her house, but there’s no shelter except a tree. It’s really muddy, too.”

“Just a tree?” Rosie clenched her teeth and let out a slow breath. “I do my best to take care of my boarders like they were my own.” Her face brightened. “Speaking of my own…”

A huge horse head swung over the stall nearest the tack room. The pert ears swiveled, and a hearty whinny shook the glass in the skylight.

“Hi, Caesar,” Rosie said. She stepped up to the stall and rubbed her friend’s head between his ears; they drooped, and his eyelids slid down.

“Wow, that’s a huge horse,” Patrick said.

“Caesar? He’s chunky now, but you should have seen him when we were competing.” She slipped the horse a sugar cube from her pocket.

“What did you compete in?”

“Oh, three-day eventing mostly. Some Dressage,” Rosie said as if she were describing a car wash and not a grueling test of horse and rider.

Patrick was oblivious, as Rosie thought he might be. “Maybe you’ll show me pictures someday.”

Rosie smiled and gave Caesar a last rub. “C’mon. I’ll show you the available stall.”

She led him to the end of the row where a stall door stood open. The rubber matting was clean and dry. The last border, Ellen, had been forced to sell her gelding months ago because she had injured her back. The new owner had taken the horse to her own farm in October. The box had been empty since then.

Before Patrick had arrived, Rosie had pulled out the random broken tack and cracked buckets she had stored there and then swept out the stray bedding. As he looked around pretending to know what he saw, Rosie idly pushed on the automatic waterer to make sure the pipe hadn’t frozen over the winter. Water filled the muzzle-sized pan.

“So, um, there’d be straw or something on the ground?”

“I use fir shavings from the mill usually, unless there’s a reason to use straw.”

Patrick nodded as if this satisfied him. Then he looked concerned, and Rosie knew a novice question was on his lips.

“Um, do the horses get exercise, or are they just locked up all day?”

“They spend most of their time in the winter in the stalls,” she said. “In a couple weeks, when the pastures dry out, we turn them out. In the summer, they like to sleep outside. We can exercise your horse if you like, but that’ll be extra. There are different levels of boarding: the most basic is just room and board and stall cleaning. Those owners come in every day to exercise and ride.”

“I’ll be in every day.” Patrick smiled at her like he thought this information would please her. “I love Sunny.”

“Right.” Rosie stepped out of the stall to hide her face. He didn’t know it, but he was lucky he’d worn a knit cap and not a cheesy new cowboy hat or else her head would have exploded with contempt.

Patrick followed her into the arena where a woman was lunging a ropey gelding in a seemingly lazy circle.

“The indoor arena is open all year, but most people only use it in the winter or when it is super-hot.”

“Hi!” called Patrick. “What’s your horsey’s name?”

The woman looked up and smiled a tolerant smile. “This is Talent. Don’t come much closer. He’s a bit testy today.”

“Come into my office,” Rosie said. He followed her into the tack room. On the back wall, nearly hidden among a wall of English and Western saddles, Rosie pushed open a door and went into her office. It was a weird setup, but she kind of liked the hidden nature of the room. It felt like a little safe, hidey-hole.

She had turned on the electric space heater before she had started chores, so it was toasty warm inside. She re-filled her mug of coffee from the coffee maker and topped off Patrick’s, too. Patrick sat in the chair in front of her desk, and Rosie noticed that Bobby ignored both the ratty sofa and his soft dog bed in front of the heater, instead flopping at Patrick’s feet. Patrick smiled and rubbed the dog’s back with his toe.

Rosie sat behind her desk and forced herself to smile warmly at the handsome novice on the other side of her desk.

“Now, what exactly do you think I can do for you?”

“Well, I bought this horse,” he began.

“Yes, tell me about that.”

Patrick shifted a little in his seat. “I was thinking about buying a horse for a while, you know, since I’ve been back, in fact, so I went to an auction.”

Rosie cursed in her head. An auction horse? “And?”

“And there was this guy in the parking lot.”

“Oh.” Rosie set her mug down.

“I know I shouldn’t have bought her on the spot, but she is so beautiful, and we have a real connection.”

“Did you at least ride her first?” Rosie asked, fingers crossed.

“No. I’m too new. I wouldn’t know from straight up. But I watched him ride her. She seemed sound.”

“And where is she now?”

“My Aunt Nan lives outside of town on an acre.”

“And the only shelter is a tree?”

“Yeah. It’s been kind of cold this week, too.”

Rosie picked up her long braid and began plaiting the loose hairs on the other side of the rubber band. Finally, she sighed. “Okay. You have a horse. Now what can I do for you?”

“I like your place,” Patrick said. “I like how clean it is. I like how you treat your horse. I’d like to bring Sunny here.”

“And?”

“And I’d like full board, lessons for me, and training for her.”

Rosie chewed on her lip.

“What’s the problem?” Patrick said. The brightness was gone. “I can pay you for your services.”

“That’s not it,” Rosie said. “I am happy to take your money. I am happy to give you lessons and train your horse, but I need one condition from you.”

“Yes?”

“You have to promise me that you’ll sell the horse if I tell you that she’s going to kill you.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“The only way that I’ll take you on is if you will trust me enough to sell the horse if I tell you that she’s too wild and is going to kill you. If you don’t promise, or don’t sell the horse, I’ll evict the both of you.”

They regarded each other a moment before Patrick nodded and said, “Yes, Ma’am,” without a hint of sarcasm.

That was the first time Rosie thought that they might be able to work together.

Bobby interrupted the moment by thrusting his head under Patrick’s hand. He laughed and rubbed the happy dog’s ears. Rosie sat back with her mug and smiled.

“You’re one of the chosen,” she said. “Bobby is wary of new people.”

“Oh, I have a way with animals,” Patrick said. “Always have.”

Rosie watched him rub Bobby into a drooling coma, and she didn’t doubt it. It reminded her of other men and different dogs. She swallowed the lump in her throat and said the first thing that flew into her head.

“Where did you come back from?”

“Huh? Oh, Iraq. The first one and the second.” He was scratching Bobby’s chest and the dog was orgasmic, but Patrick was perceptively more tense. “Retired Army. As a civilian I’m working as an analyst at HP in Corvallis.” He sighed, then half-smiled which made his eyes crinkle. “I’m looking to forget the Middle East, you know?”

As Patrick signed the boarding agreement, Rosie wondered where the idiot who had bought a horse in a parking lot had gone. Who was this man? Patrick was suddenly interesting.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Another Read Through, Portland, Oregon. https://www.anotherreadthrough.com/

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, https://amzn.to/2LLlK26 , Barnes & noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sparks-maren-anderson/1131958226?ean=9781948120302

PRICE: Amazon: $4.99 Kindle, Paperback $19.99, Hardcover $29.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MarenBradleyAnderson), Twitter and Instagram (@marenster) or her website http://www.marens.com.

Weather Report, July 29

Our currently featured books, “Song of Songs,” by Marc Graham, “The Insatiables,” by Brittany Terwilliger and “Echoes in the Mist,” by Karen Batshaw, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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The three books featured this week raise our total to 600 since May of 2015 — novels, short stories, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction, memoir and a few hybrids, from over 550 authors.

Given that, I wanted to remind you of the “Books by Subject” list on our authors page. You can find it there, or try this link:

https://snowflakesarise.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/books-by-subject/.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JULY 30-AUGUST 5

paper wasp image“THE HOUR WASP,” BY JAY SHEETS.

Writes Jay: “The title of the book is from a poem I’d written and had published in Sundog Lit.  The ‘hour wasp’ is an action symbol for this desert-dwelling muse of mine. The poem is a mythical journey into when and how this particular muse awakens, buzzes, and stings.

I think that fans of surrealism, fantasy, or magical realism would appreciate this work. Given that it is heavily inspired by nature and spiritual identity, I feel that those interested in theology and mythology would also appreciate the experience of some of these images. My goal as a poet is to shift a reader’s consciousness into a space of theopoetic experience, of wonder and awe. If only one reader experiences this from only one of my poems, then the book has done its job.”

“ANDERMATT COUNTY: TWO PARABLES,” BY PAM JONES.

Welcome to Andermatt County. Hill country. South-central Texas. The residents walk the terrain and feel the air as if in a haze of their own self-interest. The children live in a mystical void of wonder mixed with downtrodden hopes of their lives to come. In YE SHALL BE AS GODS, meet Emmett Anhalt, a young, curious boy who lives with all women, none of them giving him the time of day, so he embarks on a walk through the brush and woods where he is introduced to the alluring ways of Rex Henry Burr–a serial killer. Emmett and Rex’s journeys together are chronicled in this story, along with the lives and hopes and dreams of their victims and other residents of Andermatt County, each with his or her own personal quirks and downfalls. In HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR BITSY, we are introduced to the proverbial paradise of living in Andermatt County’s social circles. Esther Fielding, or Bitsy, is turning six years old, and her mother only wishes for her to replace her love for dead squirrels and rodents with a love for dolls and teatimes. But is she doing this solely for herself? Or is Esther already limpidly trudging down the right road?

“SPARKS,” BY MAREN ANDERSON.

This is Maren’s second appearance on Snowflakes, following a previous novel, “Closing the Store.”

Sparks is a contemporary paranormal romance set on a horse ranch. It’s a horse romance, but there is an “amoral barn sprite” under the barn.

All Rosie wants is to tear down the ancient cowshed on her horse ranch, but the old-timers tell her that she can’t because it might anger the cowsprite that lives underneath. Rosie thinks this is ridiculous. That’s why, after too much whiskey one dark night, she and her new boyfriend, Patrick, knock the shed down with the tractor. The next morning, the tractor is on its side, its tires are shredded, and the cowshed has been rebuilt.

Rosie is plopped into a world of magic she didn’t know existed. Patrick can talk to animals. His aunt is a witch who owns an “herb shop.” The cowsprite is deadly, won’t leave, and requires a cow to keep him company. Rosie throws Patrick off her ranch because they fight about the sprite. Rosie has to figure out how to save her ranch, her love, and even her dog, as she struggles to accept her place in a world far more magical than she cares to believe.

 

 

 

 

Song of Songs

This week’s other featured books, “The Insatiables,” by Brittany Terwilliger and “Echoes in the Mist,” by Karen Batshaw, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba by [Graham , Marc]THE BOOK: Song of Songs: A Novel of the Queen of Sheba

PUBLISHED IN: April 2019

THE AUTHOR: Marc Graham

THE EDITOR: Kristina Blank Makansi

THE PUBLISHER: Blank Slate Press, an imprint of Amphorae Publishing Group

SUMMARY: Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings.

Marc GrahamWhen Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father’s titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people’s survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people’s prosperity.

On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?

THE BACK STORY: Like many people, I’ve known the Queen of Sheba legend since I was a child. When I joined Freemasonry in my 20s, however, I discovered a legend I’d never heard before. The building of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem is the foundational myth of Freemasonry, where Solomon and his temple-builder, Hiram Abiff, are committed partners in the work. This one legend, however, tells of a love triangle between Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and Hiram Abiff. While my story takes somewhat of a different track, discovering this myth planted the seed for what became Song of Songs.

WHY THIS TITLE: The biblical story of the Queen of Sheba consists of a mere thirteen verses in the book of 1 Kings. It is widely speculated, however, that the rather erotic poetry of the Song of Solomon (sometimes called Canticles or Song of Songs) has its roots in the love story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Again, my story takes a very different track than the traditional stories, but these songs in part laid the foundation for it.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This is not a simple retelling of the Sunday school story. The novel is a distillation of Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopian, and Masonic myths, coupled with the latest in archaeological and epigraphic findings. While the legends that have come down to us have a distinct political or religious agenda, I’ve tried to look back through the lens of those agendas to get at what might be the story behind the legends. Lovers of Wilbur Smith’s or Christian Jacq’s stories of ancient Egypt will be right at home in the pages of Song of Songs.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

  • “A rousing plunge into the power politics of the ancient world, peopled with legendary characters.” — Margaret George, NYT Bestselling Author
  • “With lyrical prose and a keen sense of time and place, Marc Graham sweeps us into this dramatic and unknown tale of rivalry, passion, and the quest for freedom behind the Biblical myth. SONG OF SONGS resonates with historical truth, but never sacrifices the hearts of the fabled women who actually lived it.” – C.W. Gortner, author of THE ROMANOV EMPRESS
  • “A stirring novel of love, lust and vengeance, restoring the lost feminine voice to one of the great Biblical tales.  You will never think of the Queen of Sheba the same way again.”  — Kamran Pasha, author of Mother of the Believers and Shadow of the Swords.
  • “Graham delivers a gripping tale of treachery, betrayal, and hope, perfectly blended with characters to adore and despise. A winning story worthy of high praise.” — Wendy Terrien, international bestselling author
  • “Marc Graham regales us with a masterful retelling of a story we believe we already know. His prose breathes life into ancient characters and serves as a bridge across the gulf of history so we may experience their all too relatable motivations.” — Michael F. Haspil, author of Graveyard Shift

AUTHOR PROFILE: Marc Graham is an actor, singer, bard, engineer, Freemason, and whisky aficionado (Macallan 18, one ice cube). When not on stage, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found traipsing about Colorado’s Front Range with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0ir7biqxlp7mc5l/AACDGUoPXfjmVbCvrK0mnKp7a?dl=0

LOCAL OUTLETS: Tattered Cover, Book Bar, Barnes & Noble

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, IndieBound

PRICE: $17.95 paperback, 12.95 ebook

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: author@marc-graham.com, https://www.marc-graham.com