Faggot

THE BOOK: Faggot: An Appalachian Tale.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Frank E. Billingsley, PhD

THE PUBLISHER: Harvard Square Edition

SUMMARY: A true story of tragedy, despair, and hope for the future after surviving a childhood of bullying. Debut true story on homosexuality, religion, overpopulation, and a boy’s desire to fit into a society that has marked him as an outcast. A teenager tries to make sense of his life. He has turned cold, withdrawn, and depressed. He is different, and everyone knows. He is gay, living in a town that does not understand him. He lives in a family that does not know how to support him. He is abused emotionally, physically, and sexually for years. No one cares. No one helps. Then on one dark rainy night, everything changes. Share in this story that debates religion, overpopulation, the human condition, and lays the case for the greater acceptance of the LGBT community.

THE BACK STORY: Frank was different, and everyone knew that he was different. His fellow students treated him worse than a criminal. He’s been writing his memoir, Faggot, in his mind, for thirty years. Now is the time for him to tell his story. He tells it, not for himself, but perhaps to save the life of a teen who is lost in a society that gangs up on him or her. Looking back on his childhood, he puts the horrors of growing up in his hometown into perspective. Maybe being gay is nature’s response to our overpopulation and pollution problems. There’s hope for the future.

WHY THIS TITLE?: This was my nickname in Middle-School

REVIEW COMMENTS: “The contents of the book are strong and with a positive message. Well written, very inspirational, this book will keep you entertained for hours. I recommend it to the permanent library of all readers who appreciate a novel with a positive message of encouragement for those who feel different from what is consider by common sense to be normal. Is it about time for us to review our prejudices? This book might make you think about that.” (http://booksandmoviesreviews.blogspot.be/2015/06/book-faggot-appalachian-tale-surviving.html)

Good read and a very true story. I also grew up there and was about 4 years older than Frank. Wish I would of known then maybe we could of been each other’s support. But we survived. God bless you Frank.- Tom Hollinshead.
“An inspirational story. I recommend this book to everyone. The message to persevere and rise above our circumstance is the song this book sings.: — Melissa, on Amazon.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Frank Billingsley, an Ohioan who considers himself a child of the world, spends time between Europe and the United States. Frank holds a Doctorate in Leadership and Administration, a Masters in Management, a Masters in Human Ecology, and a Bachelors in Psychology. He has over 20 years of professional experience in social work, teaching, administration, and as a university professor.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “This is a book of passion. I want young adults to stop taking their lives and to realize that things can get better.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://harvardsquareeditions.org/portfolio-items/faggot/

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.

PRICE: $22.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: frankb@bu.edu.

 

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Weather Report, March 7

 

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “RESTING PLACES,” BY MICHAEL WHITE AND “THE HOLDOUTS,” BY SHERRY CLEMENTS, CAN BE FOUND — ALONG WITH THE CURRENT FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY — BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, MARCH 8-14.

To me, one of the best things about reading is that it often exposes us to situations and ideas that may make us uncomfortable.

For we have to pay attention — that, or put the book down. What we’re reading may not change our minds, but we are forced to hear the author out without any countering arguments.

Therefore, I will always be willing to post books on Snowflakes in a Blizzard that deal with “touchy” issues or agendas. I don’t care if the slant is conservative or liberal, religious or anti-religious. As long as a book is not sociopathic, I’ll consider sharing it.

Which brings us to two of this week’s offerings:”Some Way Outa Here,” by Mark Lauden and “Faggot: An Appalachian Tale,” by Frank Billingsley.

The former may not be all that controversial any more — after all, the Vietnam War has been over now for more than 40 years — but there are still those who bristle at any mention of the anti-war movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Lauden’s book puts us back in that space and time, using a compelling story as its “wayback machine.”

Frank Billingsley’s contribution could be a little tougher to swallow.

To me, though, “Faggot” isn’t about debating or defending the gay lifestyle, wherever you may come down on that. The point is not that Billingsley is gay, but that so many of his youthful peers had such a problem with it. It provides an insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of blatant hostility, for whatever reason, and it says something about the way we treat and talk to each other.

With all the insults being tossed around on the presidential campaign trail these days, Billingsley’s perspective might be instructive.

The third book this week will stretch you in another way. In the long tradition of sci-fi seers, Rusty Coats provides an alternative window to the world with “Out of Touch.”

“SOME WAY OUTA HERE,” BY MARK LAUDEN

Writes the author:

“We all tell stories about growing up. I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to grow up in a time when young people took on the job of leading a battle to stop a terrible war. Some of the things that happened seem unbelievable now – even to people who were there. I wanted to capture the color and spirit of this era, along with the turmoil and confusion we all went through.
“Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower —  and Jimi Hendrix’ apocalyptic cover version —  epitomized the end of the 1960s. For me, the idea that ‘there must be some way outa here…’ drew me in from the first hearing. It’s the vision of being on the rampart in the middle of nowhere, with wildcats prowling, riders approaching, and the wind blowing hard…there must be some way out. Who hasn’t been there?
“The passage of years helped me understand that in 1969-70, I needed a way out of a time when nothing made sense, a place that was oblivious to the madness. Life in the late 1960s was like the place you would find if you fell down a rabbit hole, where nothing was quite real, and you wanted to find the way out, back into the sunshine. Dylan’s words and Jimi’s anguished voice and thrashing guitar said it best.”
“OUT OF TOUCH,” BY RUSTY COATS
The summary:  “For Jonah Morgan, the past and future run through people like lightning, throwing sparks on everything they touch, and Jonah’s hands catch those sparks — an ability his grandfather called ‘wicking.’ In Out of Touch, Jonah confronts his own gift — and the ambitions of a phony psychic named Perry Jahn — while saving a small Indiana town when its basketball team boards a flight doomed to crash.”
Rust writes: “This novel wrestles with fate and free will, ambition and redemption, grief and hope. It takes place over 24 hours, and I wanted to show how the lives of the protagonist – and everyone surrounding him – can be irrevocably changed in a day. “
“FAGGOT: AN APPALACHIAN TALE,” BY FRANK BILLINGSLEY.
To quote the author, the book is “a true story of tragedy, despair, and hope for the future after surviving a childhood of bullying.
“A teenager tries to make sense of his life. He has turned cold, withdrawn, and depressed. He is different, and everyone knows. He is gay, living in a town that does not understand him. He lives in a family that does not know how to support him. He is abused emotionally, physically, and sexually for years. No one cares. No one helps. Then on one dark rainy night, everything changes.”

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NEWS AND NOTES

I would love it if you would share these weekly updates, as well as the Tuesday posts, on your social media. That would amplify our voice considerably.

Last week, i mentioned that author Dean Robertson is willing to do free long-form book reviews. Mark Lauden, author of “Some Way Outa Here,” was one of Dean’s “customers.

Her e-mail (which I left out previously) is pdroberts1@gmail.com.

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Deborah Teller Scott, whose novel “Downfall” was featured on Snowflakes last year, just came out with a sequel. Her e-mail:

“Just wanted to let you know that the sequel to my novel Downfall is available. Titled Breakdown, it follows our intrepid Scotland Yard inspector to the Pacific Northwest in pursuit of romance and, of course, a mystery or two. I went with Smashwords this time, since it’s less restrictive than Amazon; but both books are now available for Kindle as well as Smashwords’ distribution outlets. For another two weeks, the books are on “pre-order” status, which Smashwords recommends to build anticipation and to promote your book in advance.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Resting Places

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED NOVEL, “THE HOLDOUTS,” BY SHERRY CLEMENTS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE MONTHLY FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

THE BOOK: Resting Places

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2016

THE AUTHOR: Michael C. White

THE EDITOR: Jennifer Geist

THE PUBLISHER: Open Book Press

SUMMARY: After receiving the devastating news of her son’s death, Elizabeth ekes out a lonely and strained relationship with her husband, Zack. While he takes comfort in support groups, Elizabeth becomes withdrawn and seeks solace from the only thing that helps her forget: alcohol. A chance meeting with a man on the side of the road spurs her to travel cross-country to the site of her son’s death in the hope of understanding what had happened. During the trip, she undergoes a transformation, one which allows her to confront the demons of her past but also to acknowledge the possibilities of her future. Through the wisdom and kindness of a man she meets along the way, she finds a means not only of dealing with her pain and her guilt, but of opening herself to the redemptive power of love, and of faith in something. Resting Places is an inspiring, upbeat story, a tale of real faith in what we cannot see except with our hearts, a novel that follows a character from despair to hope, from despondency to renewal.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Elizabeth, grieving the death of her son, meets a mysterious man along the side of the road who is placing flowers near a “roadside memorial.” She stops and he tells her about “descansos,” Spanish for “resting places”—those roadside memorials that were called resting places for people carrying their loved ones to their final resting place. With this she goes on a spiritual and physical journey cross country, to the site of her son’s death, in part to answer questions about his death.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT?  While the story is about the terrible loss of a child, it is also about how one survives such a loss and comes to deepen their love and understanding for the child she lost. It is a mystery as well as a spiritual journey.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“This is a beautifully crafted novel of unbearable loss and earned forgiveness. Elizabeth, a middle-aged lawyer, crosses the country in search of her son’s final resting place. Along the way, she uncovers the best and the worst of herself. Michael C. White has wrought a remarkably moving tale of love and redemption.” —Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot’s Wife and Rescue

Resting Places takes readers into that most feared of landscapes: the difficult terrain where a parent must grieve the loss of a child. But Michael C. White is a masterful storyteller and a deft tour guide who interfaces this meditation on sorrow and death with a classic but contemporary quest story. Traveling alongside the author’s complex, sympathetic, but not always likable protagonist as she searched for the meaning of her son’s life and death, I read compulsively and voraciously. Elizabeth Gerlacher is a character I will long remember and Resting Places is a story I will not soon forget.” —Wally Lamb, author of She’s Come Undone

“This is a lovely, searing book. A son dies in a baffling car smashup, and circumstances hint at the even-worse agony of a suicide. With consummate skill and tenderness, Michael C. White follows his parents onto the broken ground of the unbearable hereafter.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Prologue

The summer Luke was five, they had gone on vacation to the British Isles. After spending a week touring London, they’d taken the train to Fishguard, Wales, for a night-time ferry crossing to Rosslare, Ireland. During the train ride the three of them had played games, like rock, paper, scissors and the find-it game, where the first person to spot something passing by in the countryside—a cow, a steeple, one of those red phone booths—won. They were going to spend another week traveling around Ireland, stopping along the way in Tralee, where Elizabeth’s father had been born. Her father had passed away a few years before, and his death had left Elizabeth with a jagged hole in her heart.

Suddenly she felt herself drawn to her roots, and she wanted Luke to remember his grandfather.

“That’s Poppy,” she explained to her son, showing him the black and white photo in her purse.

It was of a tall, good-looking, raven-haired young man in a seersucker suit standing in front of Sean Ogs Pub in Tralee. Elizabeth had always been told she was the spitting image of her father, tall, with that dark hair and broad mouth.

“He’s dead,” her son said.

“Yes, sweetie, Poppy’s dead. But we’re going to see where he was born.”

“Was he little like me?”

“At one time, yes.”

Weary as they got off the train well past midnight, they lugged their suitcases through a cool, oddly bluish drizzle toward a small café and gift shop along the wharf to await the boarding.

Inside, they dropped their bags, and Zack leaned in and kissed her. “This is going to be fun.”

Glancing over Zack’s shoulder, she asked, “Where’s Luke?”

“He was just right here.”

They hurried back to the train and began searching up and down the aisle of the car they’d been in. Trying to reassure her, Zack touched her shoulder and with that engineer’s pragmatic approach to any problem, he calmly said, “Don’t worry. We’ll find him.” Of course, they would, she told herself. Wasn’t this just like Luke to wander off when she turned her head for a moment–in the mall, a crowded airport, at the beach. Sometimes she thought Luke did it on purpose, an only child vying for the attention of his busy, professional mother.

“Luke,” Elizabeth called in a fluttery voice, at first mimicking those restrained British tones. But then, as the seconds ticked by, louder, more urgently, she cried out, “Luke, honey! Luke!” When he didn’t turn up on the train, they hurried outside, searching among the growing crowd of people assembling for the ferry crossing. As the uneasy seconds spiraled quickly into terrifying minutes, Elizabeth kept telling herself that Luke would show up any second, as he always did; she told herself that everything would return to normal and they’d board the ferry and continue on with their vacation. Wait till I get ahold of that little stinker, she even said to herself, trying to make light of the whole thing. But then she happened to catch the expression on the face of her normally unflappable husband. It was a stiff mask of barely withheld dread. That startled her. If Zack was scared, then it must really be serious.

At that point there was an announcement over the loudspeaker telling people they could begin boarding the ferry. This was followed by a sudden surge of damp bodies en masse toward the ramp.

Elizabeth and Zack felt themselves being lifted up as if on a wave and carried along toward the ship. In such chaos, she thought, how could they ever hope to find Luke? Her mind quickly bounded over all the other possibilities and went straight for the worst, the blackest prospect. What if at that moment their son was being abducted and whisked away. Or what if he had fallen into the murky sea, his little body floating face down in the harbor. This line of thinking carried its own inexorable and brutal logic. A lawyer used to arranging facts in a line of causation, she began working out the implications of Luke’s disappearance. Having to describe her son to the local authorities: age, height, weight, the color of his eyes (a greyish blue, sort of), what he was wearing (she couldn’t remember), the tiny scar beneath his chin he’d gotten from a fall when he was two (her fault, as well). Cancelling the rest of their vacation. After a certain interim, having to imagine the unimaginable plane ride home, just her and Zack, the empty seat between them mocking their loss. Followed eventually by wondering what she’d do with Luke’s things back in Connecticut, his clothes, his toys, his entire bedroom. And finally picturing the interminable days that would stretch out in front of her and Zack to the end of time, and all without their little Lukey. One moment they were a happy little family and the next everything had been ruined. Like that!

But suddenly her mood changed from fear to anger. She’d be damned if she was going to let this happen. No, she was Luke’s mother and she’d move heaven and earth to find him. She would do anything.

“Luke!” she cried out with renewed vigor, abandoning finally the last vestiges of restraint or dignity, no longer caring in the least how absurd she must have appeared to those around her—this loud-mouth, hysterical American parent. She left Zack and ran through the crowd, jostling people, shoving her way past them, all the while crying out her son’s name. Nearly knocking down one man with a cane (“What in the bloody hell, lady!”), she frantically made her way through the crowded wharf. Finally she stopped, spun around, her eyes darting this way and that, the pulse pounding in her neck. Then, beginning as a frail, almost inaudible whisper, a voice rose in her head, a voice that was both hers and that of a complete stranger. It was something she hadn’t done, not in years anyway, something that wasn’t part of her normally pragmatic, rational makeup. Elizabeth was thirty-six years old, someone who hadn’t been to church since she’d gone off to college, who hadn’t spoken a word to God once in all that time. Yet she now found herself offering up a plea somewhere within the darkened corridors of her mind: Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby.

Seconds passed.

Finally, Zack was at her side, his arm around her shoulder.

“It’ll be okay,” he said, squeezing her.

Later, she wouldn’t be able to explain why or how, what made her think of it, but she took Zack’s hand and rushed with him toward the café. Inside, standing in front of a display of touristy trinkets was Luke. He was completely mesmerized by some toy he was playing with, twirling the thing back and forth in front of his face. Seeing him, alive and whole and unhurt, Elizabeth felt herself finally exhale the breath she hadn’t known she was holding, the sour feeling of dread passing from her lungs. The entire ordeal lasted perhaps only ten minutes, but it was the most frightening, most defining ten minutes of Elizabeth’s life.

When he saw his parents, Luke came rushing up. “Can I get this, Mom?” He was holding out a small toy in his hand.

Squatting, Elizabeth grabbed her son roughly by his narrow shoulders and had to fight the urge to shake him silly.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she yelled, tears springing to her face. “You scared mommy.”

As tears welled up in Luke’s eyes as well, she came to her senses, and hugged him, desperately, fiercely, squeezing him so hard he cried out, “Mom, geez! You’re hurting!” After a while, she saw what it was that Luke held: in his palm sat a tiny toy airplane, a diecast model of a British Spitfire, so small it could fit in the palm of his hand. Taking after his father the engineer, Luke had developed a obsession for model airplanes. He loved collecting them, displaying them on his shelf, hanging them by string from the ceiling. Of course, she bought the thing for him—she’d have bought him a thousand toys, anything to show her gratitude. Zack bent down and wrapped his arms around his wife and son.

“Didn’t I tell you it would be all right?”

Feeling suddenly grateful, as if they’d been granted a second chance at happiness, Elizabeth  grasped Zack’s face and kissed him. “I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too. But we’d better get a move on or we’ll miss the boat.”

They hurried out and boarded the ferry and carried on with their vacation. Elizabeth tried hard to push the near-tragedy of that moment from her thoughts. As they toured Ireland, with Zack stressing out every time they came to a roundabout and Luke in the back making zzzzzzouuu flying noises with his toy airplane, she tried to enjoy herself, tried to forget what “might” have been. But she couldn’t, not completely, not in Ireland nor later on the plane ride home, nor in fact, in all their subsequent years together; in fact, she couldn’t hear the word “Wales” or see that airplane on Luke’s shelf back home without it conjuring up that dark memory, that moment of unholy terror of a mother facing the loss of her child. Nor could she avoid the nagging vulnerability that would plague the rest of her days, knowing as she did that in the blink of an eye everything could change. Like that.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael C. White is the author of six previous novels: Beautiful Assassin (Harper Collins, 2010), which won the 2011 Connecticut Book Award for Fiction; Soul Catcher, which was a Booksense and Historical Novels Review selection, as well as a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award; A Brother’s Blood, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers nominee; The Blind Side of the Heart, an Alternate Book-of-the-Month Club selection; A Dream of Wolves, which received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly; and The Garden of Martyrs, also a Connecticut Book Award finalist.

A collection of his short stories, Marked Men, was published by the University of Missouri Press. He has also published over 50 short stories in national magazines and journals, and has won the Advocate Newspapers Fiction Award and been nominated for both a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart. He was the founding editor of the yearly fiction anthology American Fiction as well as Dogwood. He is the founder and former director of Fairfield University’s low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Resting Places is the story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening after suffering a terrible loss. After a chance meeting on the side of the road with a man with whom she confides her loss, Elizabeth decides to leave in the middle of the night on a cross-country trip in hopes of making sense of the senseless death of her son. During the trip, she undergoes a transformation, one which allows her to confront the demons of her past but also to acknowledge the possibilities of her future. Through the wisdom and kindness of a man she meets along the way, she finds a means not only of dealing with her pain and her guilt, but of opening herself to the redemptive power of love, and of faith in something. Resting Places is an inspiring, upbeat story, a tale of real faith in what we cannot see except with our hearts, a novel that follows a character from despair to hope, from despondency to renewal. Elizabeth is a strong female character with whom women readers, I believe, will make an immediate bond.

This novel, my seventh, marks a decided change from my earlier novels, the New York Times Notable Book, A Brother’s Blood, and the best-selling historical novel Soul Catcher. Yet as with those novels Resting Places has a dynamic central character who undergoes a dramatic transformation.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). Attached.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Publication Date: March 1, 2016

Format: Trade Paperback, 6” x 9”

ISBN: 978-1-941799-23-9

Retail Price: $16.95

Length: 276 Pages

eBook ISBN: 978-1-941799-19-2

eBook Price: $3.99

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015955821

Classifications: Fiction, Upmarket Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Religious Fiction, Christian Fiction, Mystery

Available: Direct or through Ingram or Baker & Taylor

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: See above

PRICE: see above

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Michael C. White, 235 Summer Hill Road, Madison, CT 06443, 203-521-5748, mcwhite1023@aol.com

The Holdouts

THE BOOK: The Holdouts

PUBLISHED IN:  2008

THE AUTHOR: Sherry Clements

THE PUBLISHER: Drinian Press

SUMMARY: Some girls grow up with Barbie dolls and E-Z Bake ovens, but not Martha. She has Scorpion Tail, Beelzebub, and the seven battles of the Apocalypse to deal with in addition to a mother who reads bedtime stories from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Martha lives in working class Arkansas of the late sixties and early seventies. Her father is a proud and brutal man who can’t always get enough work to keep pinto beans on the table. Her mother, Pixie, in the most creative moment of life, slips into her wedding dress, marches to the local storefront fundamentalist church and marries Jesus. The only redeeming thing about the church for Martha is that the middle Spoon daughter is also forced to attend, and she’s the toughest outlaw girl in town. Martha finds temporary respite through her friendship with Spoon and her strong independent grandmother. Girlfriends, however, get boyfriends and grandmothers get old, but the holdouts survive.

An adult novel told in a child’s voice, readers will increasingly identify with Martha in her search for self. The story resonates with the universal struggle of growing up and finding a place in the world.

THE BACK STORY: When I was a wee girl, my parents joined a fundamentalist Christian church – not an unusual thing to do here in the Bible Belt south. However, this church was like a fundamentalist church on crack. Just about anything could get a girl tossed into the fire, where she would burn for an eternity.

One day my family visited the Boone’s. They had five daughters, all way too old to be my friends, but I was enthralled with them, nonetheless. The adults were sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee when the Boone daddy told a story about the youngest daughter hiding in the bathroom with the radio and dancing to rock and roll. The adults laughed and moved on to the next topic. I looked into the other room where the youngest Boone daughter sat and even though I couldn’t see her face there was something in the set of her body that told me she was mortified at the telling of this story. I was mortified on her behalf also and never forgot. Her fictional counterpart became the center of a short story, except this time the girl was Spoon and not Boone; she was dragged to the front of the church and the people prayed the rock and roll demons right out of her (or so they tried). The short story grew to novel length and became the thesis of my MFA.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ THIS BOOK?  Although rooted in the South and chock-a-block with characters and settings that a Southerner might conjure, this book transcends the description of “regional,” or “Southern.” It is a poignant story of a young woman’s struggle to free herself and her soul. In the particular, there is the universal.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“For Martha, who is landlocked in Arkansas during the 1960s and ’70s, the Gulf of Mexico is a pirate’s paradise of monkeys swinging from coconut trees and Texas girls in grass skirts, shaking their hips to the hula. Martha and her best friend, Spoon, plan to run away to the Gulf and star in an all-girls’ band as soon as they graduate from high school. In Sherry Clements’ debut novel, The Holdouts, it takes more than a dream of hula-ing on the beach for Martha to navigate the religiosity of her whacky, dysfunctional, working-class family and the put-downs of her white-bread peers.

“Spirited Martha is the daughter of Pixie, a born-again Christian so possessed by her love of the Lord that she marches in her wedding dress to the storefront God’s House of Whole Truth to marry Jesus. Martha’s maternal grandmother is one of the few stable family influences, if you can call “stable” a woman who chews tobacco, wears rubber boots and overalls and lives to catch catfish in the Arkansas River, alongside the “born-agains” getting their dose of faith and silt in the muddy embrace of the Living Waters. Martha has a father, true, but he’s a hard-headed man, not moved by his wife’s pleas to come to Jesus nor motivated to provide Martha and her younger brother, Spencer, with a loving alternative to their mother’s religious zeal. He takes off to find his own brand of salvation, leaving Martha and her family with a Bible, a pot of pinto beans, and a refrigerator that only kicks in when the spirit moves it.

“Clements’ characters are so precisely drawn the reader feels he or she could reach out and towel-dry the baptismal water from them. Her setting is as real as a photograph, her dialogue as alternatingly radiant as a light-speckled stream, dancing in the sun, or as biting as a crawdad with a dental problem.

“A coming-of-age story for adults, told in a child’s voice, The Holdouts modulates between the mellifluous voice of the adolescent young woman, longing for a magical world of beauty, and the scrappy tones of the plucky young girl, trapped in a hard-scrabble world not of her making that she describes in the tones of a bewildered junior reporter.

“The wistful teen Martha, meeting up for the last time with her friend, Spoon, describes, in a kind of prose poetry, the used evening dress that Spoon has brought her:

“‘I watched with delight. A gentle wind touched a ribbon here, the skirt of pearls, the net of lace. Then the wind touched me, and I heard a waltz, and I saw the antique debutante who wore the dress so long ago in the ballroom, and the mama and the daddy who were so proud of their fine daughter, and the naughty little brother who peeked from upstairs. The wind swirled again, and the antique debutante and her friends rose up on ballerina toes, and they didn’t wait for a beau to ask them to dance. They waltzed alone and together, and grace fell down like confetti/’

“The feisty child Martha reports the goings-on at God’s House of Whole Truth when Sheila Spoon’s father, Brother Spoon, tries to cast the demons out of his daughter for locking the bathroom door and dancing inside in her underpants to rock music.

“Spencer and me jumped. The old grandma cried out. The little Spoon crawled into her mother’s lap. The bum who lived in the train tunnel woke up from his nap. The boy tied in a wheelchair wagged his head from side to side….

“The little Spoon broke her mother’s grasp and ran out in the aisle. She clenched her fists and yelled.

“Say you’re clean, Sissy, say you’re clean so we can just go home!”…

All of this got Sheila’s attention. She moved her eyes from the water stains on the ceiling and looked sadly at her baby sister….

“I. Am. Clean.”

“Hallelujah!” everyone cried, and they all broke into a chorus of “Victory in Jesus.”

That night Mama walked home with her head in the clouds and the forecast never changed.

“Yet, it is not only the language and characters that offer sustenance to the reader. Underlying the novel are the serious issues of how young people can carve out satisfying paths for themselves amidst the craziness and mundaneness of everyday life. The book also illustrates the daily humiliations working-class people face while attempting to co-exist and keep their dignity among better-off acquaintances. Martha’s family has to find ways to save their pride when Martha receives a free coat at school and, later, when the principal delivers a Thanksgiving basket of food on their front porch. Martha and Spoon think they’ve scored fashion bargains at the Triple Churches Yard Sale Extravaganza, only to be ratted out at school by the original owner of a white smock blouse with blue, hand-embroidered roses.

“As the book moves toward Grandma’s eventual senility and Spoon’s infatuation with a boy named Dude, Martha must decide whether she can hold out for her dreams or be swept up in the religion, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll claiming those around her.” — Margo Wilson is an associate professor of English/journalism/creative writing at California University of Pennsylvania.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Sherry Clements was born and raised in Arkansas. She has a BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and a Master’s of Fine Arts from Goddard College located in Plainfield, Vermont. Her job history ranges from waiting tables to being an adjunct college instructor. Today she lives in Arkansas with her son, John, and a couple of rescue mutts. A beautiful day in her life would have to include a bike ride along the Arkansas River.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “My goal was simply to tell this story about people who live at the margins of society and are often deemed unworthy of the written word.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.amazon.com/Holdouts-Sherry-Clements-ebook/dp/B006092DYG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453774024&sr=8-1&keywords=the+holdouts+sherry+clements

LOCAL OUTLETS: None.

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

PRICE: Starts at $12.95 with many used copies available when purchased online. Kindle edition is $2.99.

First Tuesday Replay, March 1

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.

ALL THE BOOKS WE ARE REVISITING TODAY WERE FEATURED IN AUGUST OF 2015

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“A REAPER MADE,” BY LIZ LONG

Grace is a Reaper whose life unexpectedly ended three years ago. Her mentor Tully discovers that Reaper are being kidnapped, threatening the Natural Order. When demons threaten her sister’s soul, she decides to risk everything by using magic to become temporarily human. However, it’s not just the demons and lies Grace has to unravel – it’s also the human boy who makes her laugh. Can Grace save her sister and the endangered souls? Or will Tully be forced to reap her soul when she’s desperate to reclaim the life she could’ve had?

“GAP YEAR GIRL,” BY MARIANNE BOHR.

Baby Boomers married for more than 30 years dare more than the ordinary by walking away from their comfortable life to take a mid-life gap year abroad. Marianne and Joe Bohr jump off the proverbial cliff to follow a travel dream: they unload their house, sell the cars, quit their jobs and say goodbye to the US in search of adventure. They start and end their journey in France and travel through an additional 20 countries in-between.

“ROAD GANG,” BY H.V. TRAYWICK  JR.

Some of the Americans sent to Vietnam during the late 1960s and early 1970s were plugged into the infantry. Others flew airplanes and helicopters. H.V. Traywick Jr., better known as Bo, built roads.

And in a sense, he and his fellow engineers in camouflage were fortunate. Much of what went on during the Vietnam War was an exercise in futility, a lot of wandering through jungles and rice paddies in search of an elusive enemy who rarely showed his face, keeping a wary eye out for booby traps and the occasional poisonous snake.

The 20th Engineer Brigade, by contrast, was at least building something.

“Some of the roads we did were in use long after the war ended,” Traywick said.

SOPHIA’S WEB, BY BURL HALL

Sophia, the Spirit of Wisdom, has woven the multi-dimensional aspects of our lives—personal, relational, cultural, intellectual, scientific, philosophical, and spiritual—into a cosmic web. Burl Hall follows the thread within this web that connects his research in these fields to his personal mystical experience. In Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature, he takes the reader with him ever deeper into the heart of divine Wisdom. Sophia’s Web examines Burl’s individual dreams, visions, passions, and missions, in the light of Wisdom (Sophia) shared by great thinkers in all disciplines. It encourages readers to discover how they can co-create individual, planetary and universal health.

“TWO WAYS TO SUNDAY,” BY TOM STARITA

Chris Marcum was a man who had everything. The perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect life. He was also sure his belief in God did not depend on those successes. So when an angel appeared to him on his deathbed with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith, Chris immediately accepted. Relive your life, with no recollection. This time however, without the breaks. What happens when instead of going right, you go left? What if there are no happy endings? How much can a man endure before he hits his breaking point? And what happens then?

“LOOKING FOR LYDIA, LOOKING FOR GOD,” BY PATRICIA DEAN ROBERTSON

Writes Dean: “Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a memoir. It is also a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended. It is a sometimes unconventional interpretation of some very familiar Bible stories.

“It is, throughout, the story of the transformation of a group of women in their eighties and nineties who have come to live in an assisted living facility. They have not come there for a new lease on life, but that is exactly what they get.

“As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves. This is their story.

“They show up one winter morning for a new ‘devotion’ at their assisted living facility, and there I am, depressed, angry, bruised from a severe fall, hanging on by a thread, proposing to talk about women in the Old Testament, assuring them that Eve was a hero and Adam was a fool. This is my story.”

 

 

 

 

Weather Report, Feb. 29

 

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “THE GORGE,” BY DAVID ARMAND, “AN UNLIKELY ARRANGEMENT,” BY PATTY WISEMAN AND “HUSTLE HENRY & THE CUEBALL KID,” BY JACK STRANDBURG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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“UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, MARCH 1-7.

“RESTING PLACES,” BY MICHAEL WHITE

The first time I ever saw a roadside memorial, it was on a bus trip from Guatemala City to Antigua, up a steep, twisting mountain road with no guardrails.

The man sitting next to me had a machete in his belt, but seemed amiable enough. Of course, I couldn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English, so I pointed at one of the numerous small memorials along the way and made a questioning gesture. He promptly made a sign of the cross.

Since then, I have always been intrigued by these sad little shrines, and thought perhaps one might be a good jumping off point for a novel.

Now, Michael White has done it. His book “Resting Places” makes its debut today, and this is what Michael wrote on his Snowflakes template:

“Elizabeth, grieving the death of her son, meets a mysterious man along the side of the road who is placing flowers near a ‘roadside memorial.’ She stops and he tells her about ‘descansos,’ Spanish for “resting places”—those roadside memorials that were called resting places for people carrying their loved ones to their final resting place. With this she goes on a spiritual and physical journey cross country to the site of her son’s death … ”

Michael fits the profile of a number of Snowflakes authors — a college professor (Fairfield University in Connecticut) who writes during his off-time. And he apparently travels in fast literary company, because he has recommendations from a couple of other authors with bonafide bestsellers to their credit — Wally Lamb (“She’s Come Undone” and Jacqueline Mitchard (“The Deep End of the Ocean.”).

“THE HOLDOUTS,” BY SHERRY CLEMENTS

Sherry Clements, our other featured writer this week, has done some cross-country traveling of her own. A native of Arkansas, she attended college both in Oregon and Vermont.

A description of her novel, “The Holdouts,” promises a full cast of colorful characters:

“Martha lives in working class Arkansas of the late sixties and early seventies. Her father is a proud and brutal man who can’t always get enough work to keep pinto beans on the table. Her mother, Pixie, in the most creative moment of life, slips into her wedding dress, marches to the local storefront fundamentalist church and marries Jesus. The only redeeming thing about the church for Martha is that the middle Spoon daughter is also forced to attend, and she’s the toughest outlaw girl in town. Martha finds temporary respite through her friendship with Spoon and her strong independent grandmother. Girlfriends, however, get boyfriends and grandmothers get old, but the holdouts survive.”

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.

This month we’ll revisit “A Reaper Made,” by Liz Long; “Gap Year Girl,” by Marianne Bohr; “Road Gang,” by H.V. Traywick; “Sophia’s Web,” by Burl and Mary Hall; “Two Ways to Sunday,” by Tom Starita and “Looking for Lydia, Looking for God,” by Dean Robertson.

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SPEAKING OF DEAN ROBERTSON ….

She is willing to review your book — in depth and at no charge. Really.

Dean writes:
“Here’s the deal: These are long, elaborate reviews, not like anything you’ll get anywhere else.  I am going to attach a few links here to reviews of an assortment of very different kinds of books but the basic format of all of them should give your authors a clear idea of what to expect.  As I work on each review I will be asking the author to do a little work: send me an author bio and several images to include in the review; if they read the ones I’m sending you they’ll see what other writers have sent.
“These reviews go out to Facebook (my timeline, my author page, several authors’ groups I’m in—some open, some closed—at least one of which has members who always ‘share’); Twitter; Goodreads; LinkedIn; Google+. As I share them to each these sites, I always put some little teaser at the top to entice people to read the book.  And I always remind my FB “Friends” to share.
“I also try to put a shorter version of the review directly onto Amazon and Goodreads (it is perfectly fine for them to remind me if I forget-which I have done a couple of times and been notified of my oversight right away 🙂
These reviews are FREE.
“I do want, however, a return favor.  I want every author I review to subscribe to my blog and to read and comment on as many of my posts as possible.  And I mean this.  I will nag them unmercifully if I don’t see their comments on some blog posts.  You may feel free to warn them that I’m a Meanie and a World Class Nag.”
Note: Dean was a long-time English teacher, so she’s good at what she does. Just don’t cross her.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gorge

 THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “AN UNLIKELY ARRANGEMENT,” BY PATTY WISEMAN AND “HUSTLE HENRY & THE CUEBALL KID,” BY JACK STRANDBURG, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

 

 

 

THE BOOK: The Gorge.

PUBLISHED IN: 2015.

THE AUTHOR: David Armand

THE EDITOR: Susan Swartwout

THE PUBLISHER: Southeast Missouri State University Press

SUMMARY: In his latest literary thriller, David Armand weaves together the stories of an eccentric cast of dark, frighteningly realistic characters, each under suspicion of murdering a young girl, Amber Varnado, whose body is found hidden in a deep gorge at the opening of the novel. Set in southeast Louisiana in the small town of Franklinton, The Gorge follows the colliding lives of Tuller, the murdered girl’s boyfriend, whose suspicious past and his discovery of Amber’s body make him the prime suspect; John Varnado, Amber’s father, a Vietnam war veteran whose violent flashbacks cause brutal outbursts of rage and paranoia; Grady, a young man dwarfed by rickets who prowls the night to feed his strange desires; and Euwell, a man who lives in an old shack near the gorge and hunts for young girls to satisfy his lusts and quell his inner-demons. Armand’s spellbinding story explores the universal themes of desperate love and the pitfalls of false assumptions woven into the tenuous threads of coincidence that connect people in a small town. Masterful, profound, and full of spirit, The Gorge is literary entertainment of the highest order.

THE BACK STORY: I was visiting a gorge in Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton, Louisiana, when an image of a dead body being hidden in the brush just popped into my head. As with my other books, I started asking myself questions about this image: who would put a body here? Why? Would the body be found? This was the idea that drove the plot forward.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Mainly because the pivotal scenes in the book take place in a gorge. Also, place is a very important aspect of my fiction. It takes on the role of a character in its own right.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This novel is a literary thriller with lots of dark characters and suspenseful, page-turning action.

REVIEW COMMENTS: David Armand is an exceptionally talented young writer that I’ve had my eye on for a while. His new novel, The Gorge, is a suspenseful tale filled with intrigue and surprises, and he knows his characters inside out, just as he knows the sights, sounds, and smells of the landscape in which their drama is enacted. I really admired this book. –Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances and Safe from the Neighbors

Though original in plot and conception, The Gorge shows the clear influence of Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy in Armand’s creation of genuinely evolved Rough South characters. Grady Bickels emerges, for example, as an even more grotesque version of Lester Ballard from Child of God. Armand’s direct and poetic use of language is quite impressive. –Jean W. Cash, author of Flannery O Connor: A Life and Larry Brown: A Writer s Life Larry Brown meets Tom Franklin in The Gorge, a haunting story that delivers readers a strong sting of southern grit lit. With just the right balance of dark, edgy, raw, and all things lyrical, David Armand dives deep into the sweat-soaked secrets and sins of rural Louisiana. Get ready to enter into the minds of characters you would never want to know in real life, but probably already do. –Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Feathered Bone

AUTHOR PROFILE: David Armand was born and raised in Louisiana. He has worked as a drywall hanger, a draftsman, and as a press operator in a flag printing factory. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press. In 2010, he won the George Garrett Fiction Prize for his first novel, The Pugilist’s Wife, which was published by Texas Review Press. His second novel, Harlow, was published by Texas Review Press in 2013. David’s third novel, The Gorge, was published on October 1, 2015, by Southeast Missouri State University Press, and his chapbook, The Deep Woods, was published in September by Blue Horse Press. David’s memoir, My Mother’s House, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press. David lives with his wife and two children and is working on his sixth book, The Lord’s Acre

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.themonarchreview.org/the-marauders-part-1-david-armand/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Barnes & Noble, Baton Rouge, LA. See worldcat.org for library holdings.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: amazon.com, semopress.com

PRICE: $15.00 (paper) $20.00 (hardback).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.davidarmandauthor.com/contact.html