Weather Report, Dec. 7

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “ROBIN’S BLUE,” BY PAM ALSTER, “PAISLEY MEMORIES,” BY ZELLE ANDREWS AND “WALKING OVER EGGSHELLS,” BY LUCINDA E. CLARKE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

So far, the response to our Christmas promotion has been very gratifying – on least on one level. Two days after the list of discounted books went out, we received more page clicks and visitations than ever before in a 24-hour period.

Of course, that’s just the first step, and it remains to be seen how many book sales will come from this. Still, I feel compelled to thank all of you who showed an interest, and I have no doubt you will find something in our diverse inventory that will appeal to you.

If for some reason you missed the list I sent out, drop me an e-mail at writersbridge@hotmail.com and I’ll send you another.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, WEEK OF DEC. 8-14

I think it was Burl Ives who once proclaimed in a wine commercial: “I don’t host my parties  – I cast them.”

And just like it’s fun to invite very different people to the same event to see how they interact, so it is with books. This week, we have three that couldn’t be more different – Matt Dojny’s whimsical journey to a make-believe country, Elizabeth Moore’s history-based tale of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, and a book by Monica Sharman on how to read the bible.

Enjoy.

“THMattDojny 3E FESTIVAL OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS,” BY MATT DOJNY

Boyd Darrow is a young American living in Puchai, a tiny Southeast Asian country that tourist brochures refer to as “The Kingdom of Winks.” In a series of letters written to a mysterious recipient, Boyd tells of the delights, humiliations and brain-bending misadventures he experiences while adjusting to life in the small college town of Mai Mor. He and his somewhat less-than-faithful girlfriend, Ulla, were hoping to start their lives over in Puchai, but Puchai has an agenda all its own.

“Ulla’s been hired to organize the talent show at the town’s annual “Festival of Taang,” but she seems more interested in the possibilities of cultural exchange with a local revolutionary. Meanwhile, Boyd grapples with a culture in which baby owls are considered a delicacy, turtles are worshipped as deities, and a wink can have one of 379 possible meanings (including “You’re fired,” “There’s something in my eye,” and “I want to kiss your lips!”). He’s also falling for his boss’s daughter, a half-Puchanese girl with a black eye and a troubling past. Lines are crossed, secrets are revealed, and, as Boyd’s life inevitably spins out of control, the Festival draws closer with each day…”

“THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE,” BY ELIZABETH MOORE.

Writes Elizabrth: “I grew up in the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey, a setting very familiar and special to me. After moving to Boston (where I now live), I began to feel its absence and to realize just how deeply it had affected me. In the simplest sense, The Truth and the Life is a labor of love for the home I left behind, an attempt to find meaning in its unique ecology and history. But it’s also a larger exploration of how history resides in landscapes both real and imagined, and how the forces of history—despite what we may or may not know about them—can ultimately come to affect us here in the present.”

“BEHOLD THE BEAUTY,” BY MONICA SHARMAN

Monica received some nice reviews for this book on how to better appreciate the Scriptures. Here’s one of them:

Holy bible“Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading” is like a warm invitation to dinner with close friends. Completely free of dogma, or guilt, is provides the encouragement and direction newcomers need to discover the delights of reading the Bible for themselves. Monica Sharman never talks down to her readers. Instead, with warmth, intelligence and joy, she writes as if she was intimately sharing over coffee.”

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1. Robin’s Blue

OUR OTHER FEATURED BOOKS THIS WEEK, “PAISLEY MEMORIES,” BY ZELLE ANDREWS AND “WALKING OVER EGGSHELLS,” BY LUCINDA E. CLARKE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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TPam Alster 4HE BOOK: “Robin’s Blue.”

PUBLISHED IN: 2012

THE AUTHOR: Pam Alster

THE EDITOR: Edan Lepucki and Les Plesko edited different drafts through the Master Writer’s Workshop at UCLA.

Pam AlsterPUBLISHER: Plexigirl Media – Indie Books, Television and Film Development

SUMMARY: Robin’s Blue, Pam Alster’s debut novel, is an epic coming-of-age story set against the disco 70’s through the Reagan-era 80’s, when divorce was the norm and casual sex and recreational drugs were ubiquitous. Robin Daniels, a runaway from a violent and emotionally desolate upper middle-class home, repeatedly navigates her world without guidance. After a failed marriage, she discounts love as an option and moves through a series of jobs and men. A futile attempt to live as a kept woman compels her to become a high-class call girl. She searches unsuccessfully through the resulting transient experiences and escalating drug use for the one lesson that will resolve her omnipresent question of purpose.

Before AIDS and addiction became household words, Robin’s Blue speaks to a generation that basically raised itself. Robin’s journey takes her from suburban Philadelphia to Miami to the South of France and ultimately to New York City where she is obliged to make peace with the girl inside she left dormant at sixteen.

THE BACK STORY:  Back in the day, we didn’t bother walking to school uphill – both ways – in the snow, we simply hitched a ride and ran away.

Coming of age during the late 70’s and 80’s makes today’s lifestyles look tame. AIDS didn’t exist, most people thought cocaine was non-addictive, beating a children sending them to boarding school to “get them in line” was commonplace. Addiction, therapy and 12-Step Programs were almost non-existent, so growing up was something many kids figured out on their own.

I am a survivor and product of the 80’s. Like many teenagers, I ran away from a loveless family, but, thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones. Despite experiencing the drug culture and living in the fast lane, I figured it out and found my way. I discovered people can survive the worst of themselves and rise above the ashes to find love and happiness.

The journey of writing about Robin’s life began with an idea based on a collection many characters I met on my journey. I started with the question of what happens to the still-young girl who finds herself in a too-early marriage for all the wrong reasons. Without a family and money, where does she go, where does she end up? Robin and her accomplices are all fictional compilations of thematically-based characters. It is not autobiographical, however, some things and experiences I have re-created from the book. As a writer, I am compelled to draw on anything absurd or fantastical I’ve come across or imagined.

Robin’s Blue took me 10 years and as many drafts to complete. One of the challenges I experienced was the first person narrative. To be an adult with hindsight and wisdom who is writing as a teenager who knows nothing of the world, through her eyes, was very limiting for me. I almost had to remove my adult brain and to “see” what Robin saw at every turn. What her choices, with her inadequate sense-of-self, low self-esteem (for which there was no definition at the time) and lack of worldly knowledge would produce for her. Without the available psycho-babble we have available to us now, it was a particular struggle, since there were no words for the themes of loss, depression, addiction, abandonment. Everything in the book is created through that restricted lens.

The book I’m currently writing is in the third person. I have so much freedom. I highly recommend it.

WHY THIS TITLE? At first, I kept seeing the book cover. Black and white, awash in robin’s egg blue. Robin’s egg blue is the signature color of Tiffany’s. I felt Robin ultimately struggled with deep loss and sadness who hid behind a Tiffany lifestyle. And, she was very blue. First, the working title was Robin Blue. I had a lot of feedback throughout the process. One person advised that I title it “Call Girl” but I believed it was so much more of a character study and it would also be pandering to the salaciousness of it to be so “on-the-nose.” A friend of mine read a later draft and suggested Robin’s Blue. It spoke to many themes throughout the story that it stuck with me. So that’s why the title.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?

#1 Amazon Bestseller Contemporary Coming of Age Fiction

Robin’s Blue, is a page-turner that immerses readers into the life of a teen run-away during the 1980’s as she unapologetically looks for the answers to love and happiness through drugs, men, and a series of jobs that leave her choosing between life and love.

Timeless, poignant and controversial, Robin’s Blue, explores and evokes themes such as the indelible influence life in the 70’s and 80’s had and is continuing to have on today’s children, how guilt or victimization can become a driving force behind one’s poor choices and the impact an absent parent – through death or emotional detachment can have.

Robin emerges as a girl and woman who is her own best friend and worst enemy, but I believe every woman can relate to her doubts, fears and insecurities as they follow Robin’s life journey to find a family where she belongs.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The philosophers say ‘know thyself’ but the admonition carries its own dangers for the heroine of Pam Alster’s stunning novel, a brutal yet compassionate exposé of her protagonist, Robin, a paragon of honesty and self-deception, a cunning dissector of her own foibles and those of her lovers, friends and enemies. Under Alster’s sure touch – a mash-up of a calibrated literary eloquence with the punk directness of a sucker-punch – Robin emerges as a girl and woman who’s her own best friend and worst enemy: a tender masochist, an unrepentant liar and fearless truth-teller – or maybe the other way around – a subversive infiltrator of her own heart. Read this book. It may be trite to say: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. But I did.” –Les Plesko, author of Slow Lie Detector

“Robin’s Blue is a brilliantly vivid time capsule of blank generation 80’s decadence fused with a poignant and sensitive coming of age tale that’s totally timeless.” — ~Erik Himmelsback, Contributor, Los Angeles Times

“The colorful characters in Robin’s orbit help bolster the coked-up story, and the final part proves to be the best. Realistically captures the rough road to rock bottom.” ~Kirkus Book Review

AUTHOR PROFILE: Pam Alster studied Master Fiction Writing at UCLA under the tutelage of the great late Les Plesko and is a former television writer who created the ABC/Lifetime TV show Girl Club. She wrote and performed the critically-acclaimed plays Shop Bloomingdales, Find Mother and Millennium’s Eve, both workshopped and staged in Los Angeles at the HBO Workspace, Hudson and Black Box Theaters. A former stand-up comedian, Alster performed with Gotham City Improv in New York City and is currently a contributing blogger to Elevate and BlogHer.com. She is an original member of Tertulia – a salon of professional writers and artists based in L.A. and has been honored to read at Lit-Crawl L.A. She lives in Southern California with her patient husband, old-soul daughter, baby girl, and two well-fed mutts.

AWARDS: Robin’s Blue, Pam Alster’s first novel was honored as a FINALIST for a 2014 International Best Book Awards in the categories of Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction, a FINALIST for the 2014 Indie Excellence Awards in the category of Chick-Lit, a FINALIST for the 2013 USA Best Book Awards in the categories of Chick-Lit/Women’s Fiction, a 2012 FINALIST for a Kindle Book Review for Literary Fiction and recently honored for an indieBRAG Medallion in the category of Contemporary Fiction award.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “It’s my hope to offer an experience of what it was like to be in the head of a young girl during the changing and ignorant times of the 70’s and 80’s, that the scenery is painted with authentic imagery and that the reader is fully absorbed in the era.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Robin’s Blue

by Pam Alster

Chapter 1

I waited in the designer living room for my boss to surface from the recesses of his house. He told me to come by after work and pick up inventory. Though I was technically the hotel lifeguard, my duties included manning the suntan oil sales cabana. I got the job two weeks after coming to Myrtle Beach, despite Melanie’s insistence that I’d make more money at my first job slinging disco cocktails with her. But I wanted my nights to go out and the gig allowed me to be paid for being in the sun all day.

“There’s vodka in the fridge,” Joe called from the down the hall.

For some reason, I called him Joe McClure instead of just Joe like everyone else. The whole name fit him, and it was our private joke. I’d say, hey Joe McClure! whenever he came by my pool. He

was well-liked and popular, the big daddy of the beach and I felt at ease with him, more of a friend than an employee.

I wiped a smudge off the framed picture of him and his wife holding clubs in front of a golf cart and put it back on the end table. She was attractive for an older woman. She looked confident, deserving and rich. Prettier than my stepmother, but she reminded me of her just the same, how she possessed the Kodak moment the way her leather-gloved hand held the irons. I shuddered at the thought that I might become that.

I found the vodka in the well-stocked bar and smiled at the mirror behind the sparkling bottles. My hair was in a greasy ponytail and I was still in my shorts from work but I felt sophisticated retrieving the sturdy highball glasses, even stood a little taller when I walked to the kitchen, as if cocktail hour was as natural an occurrence for me as breakfast cereal.

The refrigerator was full and there were Tupperware containers with celery and carrot sticks. I thought I’d eat healthy too if I had a nice house. I found the tonic and poured it over ice.

I was squeezing a lime when Joe emerged, showered and changed, renewed, like he’d molted. His golf shirt had drip spots from wet hair, and it was tucked, as usual, into belted Bermuda shorts.

“Hey there, Joe McClure,” I said, smiling.

He took the drink from me, stirred it with his finger and drank half of it. “Ah,” he said, grabbed cigarettes, then sat at the kitchen table.

I took a sip from my glass and the lump of ice splashed the cocktail on my face. I thought how silly I must have looked but laughed as I grabbed a napkin. I knew more than to be embarrassed by my klutziness, it worked better to let stuff slide, anything else seemed childish.

“You don’t have to be nervous, I’m not going to attack you,” Joe said, his chuckle neither harmless nor threatening. He smiled, patted the chair next to him, lit a smoke, offered me one. “You’re eighteen, aren’t you, Robin?” he said.

I’d worked for Beach Buff for a month and the issue of my age had never come up. I was suddenly nervous and thought about lying, but then decided that it didn’t matter. I was selling suntan oil, not booze. “You know I’m sixteen,” I said. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-six,” he said.

That explained the golf. It’s what grown ups did. It was their religion. My father not only played, he designed courses. It’s how we first found Myrtle Beach. For years, he traveled weekly back and forth from Pennsylvania to South Carolina overseeing whatever project.

Joe was only a couple of years younger than Daddy, but a hell of a lot more fun. Every week he held a barbeque for all his employees at the Pool Boy house, a kind of dorm for the beach and pool lifeguards. There was always a keg and live music. Joe partied and danced with everyone.

Here, he seemed fidgety and preoccupied, exhaling smoke over his shoulder, tapping ashes in the crystal.

Maybe his wife was on the way home. I’d heard she was an interior decorator. “Where’s the Missus?” I said, retying the string of my bikini top which was digging uncomfortably into my neck from under my t-shirt.

“Clients in Charleston. She’ll be there for a few days,” he said, impatient.

I was worried I’d done something wrong, when he pulled an amber bottle from his pocket. “You do coke?” he said.

“Sure,” I said, hoping he didn’t see the lie on my face. I was flattered he trusted me.

He spilled the vial of white powder onto the table and used a credit card to divide the pile into thin lines. Then he dug in his pocket, produced a short straw and handed it to me. “Ladies first,” he said.

“You go ahead, I’m going to have a little more of my drink.” I wasn’t afraid, I’d done plenty of other stuff. Various pills, pot. But I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do and hoped to stall long enough to fake it.

He held one nostril closed and inhaled the powder through the straw up the other, then he snorted hard. His eyes watered and he shook his head like a dog. “Good stuff,” he said. He stuck his finger in the residue, rubbed it on his gums and licked his lips.

Low orange sunlight reflected off the toaster, making me squint. I took the straw, pretending I’d done it a million times before, it was how I got by hanging out with college kids all summer. The coke burned a little but I didn’t feel anything except awake. I was relieved that I wasn’t instantly addicted and I didn’t feel like jumping out of a building. I copied what Joe did with the gums. It tasted bitter and my mouth got numb.

Joe’s expression changed, he was a greedy cat and I was the bowl of canned food. My face got hot with embarrassment. In spite of his thin frame, his pot-belly hung over his pants while he straddled the chair. “You’re very pretty,” he said.

It wasn’t a revelation but I’d never heard it from him and I vainly liked that he thought so. I drank the rest of my drink and a relaxed dizzy haze settled in with the liquor. The curtains ballooned from the open window and I held my up hair for the faint breeze to dry the day’s stickiness from my neck.

He tilted his chair toward me, then reached over and brushed the inside of my thigh. I wasn’t shaken, but we’d never touched beyond a friendly squeeze. “I see how the guys fawn over you. You’re getting around this summer.” He said this quietly like a secret he knew about me.

I hadn’t realized my recklessness was so obvious. I let go of my hair, fanned myself with my hand, tried not to look at him.

“You’re a horny little girl, aren’t you?” he said, tossing his allegation at me like a basketball from the free-throw line. His usually bland marble eyes turned feral.

I blushed at his directness. No one ever talked to me this way before. Despite the privacy of the house, I looked over my shoulder. I didn’t feel safe, uncertain where it would lead. “Maybe,” I said, unable to think of anything clever to deflect his confusing scrutiny.

I tasted the coke settling in the back of my throat and went for the cigarettes but before I got to them, Joe reached over and pinched my nipple through the shirt.

“Nice tits,” he said.

I batted his hand away. His vulgarity shocked me. But it was my own fault for assuming he wouldn’t put the moves on me. That he should’ve been looking out for me was immaterial.

I got up, filled my glass with ice, tried to act casual. Would it be unbearable? It’s true, I wasn’t hot for his body but maybe since he was experienced he’d know how to make me come. Up to now, I’d been with boys my own age and they didn’t know any more than I did. Sex had hardly been the explosion I’d expected.

Joe put out his cigarette, finished his drink, stretched.

“What about your wife?” I said.

His arrogant smirk suggested I had already consented. “We have an open relationship,” he said, shrugging, as if I should know what he meant.

I hoped it implied secrecy. There were sure to be some advantages to it. A better deck assignment, drugs. He was clearly a liar and a letch, but not dangerous. Otherwise, why would all my co-workers have stuck around? The thing that scared me the most was the seediness of it all, but maybe he’d let me drive his Mercedes. I poured more vodka than I needed and took a gulp.

Classical music from a passing car floated in and then disappeared down the street.

Joe came from behind me where I stood, stuck his hand down the front of my pants, moved the crotch of my swimsuit to the side and shoved a finger in me. I tried wriggling free but he was persistent, and I realized I’d finally got myself into a mess I wasn’t getting out of. Whatever was going to happen, I’d deserve it. I should have run right then. He was disgusting. But what if he wouldn’t like me anymore, or worse, fired me? I’d have no way of explaining it. Melanie would love that. And, shamefully, it felt good.

I resisted, turned my head so he couldn’t kiss me but I let him pull me to the floor and open my legs on the kitchen tile. The crickets chirped beyond the screen door in the waning daylight.

He was presumptive, pushy, lacking self-consciousness. He shoved his face up in it. “You’re so clean,” he said.

I thought: wasn’t everyone? I hadn’t even showered.

The year before I was sent to boarding school, my best friend Donna and I hitched to Center City. We walked into a head shop and I danced in my brown corduroy Levi’s and a pink angora sweater to Play That Funky Music for the stoned Indian owner while Donna lifted a pipe and some incense from the front of the store. The guy didn’t touch me but I saw then how easy it was.

I hovered like my ghost, eyes squeezed shut, while Joe dined on the remains of my innocence. And though I thought how a nice girl wouldn’t dare give herself to a married man with twenty years on her, or use her body for personal gain, I also knew nice was boring and I never wanted boring. I felt brave for permitting this and surviving it. It was like ripping off a bandage to minimize the pain of what I knew the adult world held for me. Men whose cruelty could only be managed if weakened at the altar of my sex.

BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble PRICE: Paperback $15.99 Kindle $4.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Find Pam Alster on Facebook, Twitter @plexigirl and in between writing, editing and producing, my blog can occasionally be read at Posts From the Evolution at http://www.pamalster.com

2. Paisley Memories

PUPaisley MemoriesBLISHED IN: November 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Zelle Andrews.

THE EDITOR: Gina Hogan Edwards, Melisa Taylor.

THE PUBLISHER: Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing.

SUMMARY: At seventeen, Tess Zelle AndrewsCooper was a high school drop-out, an orphan, and a single mom to a baby girl with Down syndrome. The next two years didn’t turn out like she thought it would.

After her dad’s death, she flees Brooksville, Alabama, in his beloved 1957 Thunderbird before the red clay on his grave can settle. A year of traveling from place to place brings Tess and Paisley to the deep fried, southern town of Panacea, Florida, where her money runs out. A stranger, named Butterball, takes them in and gives Tess a job taking pictures at Wakulla Springs State Park and the annual Sopchoppy Work Grunting Festival.

Afraid to trust these people, Tess plans to leave, but the T-bird is stolen and she is forced to stay. Paisley is thriving on all the attention. Tess weighs her options. Can she give her baby what she needs? Should she put down roots in this place where she has found friends? Or should she give Paisley up for adoption and head out on a life of her own?

THE BACK STORY: This novel started on a scrap of paper. A few weeks later my husband and I were cleaning off the kitchen counters of clutter when he found it. I was embarrassed and yanked it away. He had no idea I was working on a novel until that moment. He has been encouraging me ever since.

Shortly after that I joined Tallahassee Writer’s Association, and I haven’t looked back. The novel took about four years to write, but I’ve been writing for fun off and on since I was a child. I didn’t get serious and consider it something that could be a career until I joined Tallahassee Writer’s Association. The research for my novel was considered more fun than research. I visited Wakulla Springs, the Sopchoppy Worm Grunting Festival, and Wakulla Historical Society.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I wrote the type of book that I would have enjoyed as a young woman that had just given birth to a physically and mentally challenged baby. I was scared when my daughter was born and far away from my family. There was very little reading material available on the subject of Down syndrome. What I was able to find was more like a textbook. I needed something to read that showed me life would continue, and be filled with spontaneous laughter.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“I started this book yesterday and couldn’t stop for the life of me. Wonderfully written, Paisley Memories is a heartwarming story. It breaks your heart and then puts it back together.” Carolina Godinho, Blogger thebookisonmytable.blogspot.com.

AUTHOR PROFILE: My first endeavor at writing was at the age of twelve. It was a short poem I wrote in middle school that was selected to be published in the Tallahassee Democrat. Many years later when I was grown and had children of my own I found the yellowed newspaper clipping that my mother had saved.

Paisley Memories is my debut novel and was four years in the making. It was a great day when it found a home with Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. I live near the Florida coast with my family. When I’m not writing or reading I’m being entertained by our two boxers, Ruby and Cooper, collecting peacock and beach décor or collecting books for my Free Little Library by our house.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

The weight of Paisley on my hip caused my high heels to sink slowly in the soft, Alabama red clay. Many people came to pay their respects. They lingered for a while, hugging and consoling each other, but when the first one decided to leave, the rest followed like a stampede. Potted mums were removed and placed to the side. The uncomfortable, gray metal chairs were folded and placed in a waiting truck to be returned to the funeral home. I held my breath as they lowered my dad’s casket into his new home. With each inch the casket descended in its red tomb, my heart descended too.

The last guest reached out to touch my shoulder as she shook her head. No words came to her. I didn’t even know who she was. She drove away without saying a word. Everyone left, but their whispers lingered and became a dark, oppressive cloud-whispers of what would become of my daughter Paisley and me, now that my dad had died. The sting of their words still circulated: out of wedlock, orphan, retarded, unemployed, uneducated, high school dropout. I blinked to stop the tears flowing from my eyes and stood in silence as clay was dropped on top of his casket. The funeral director attempted to persuade me to leave, but it didn’t work. I had to see this. The grave digger placed a large mountain of red clay over the grave that made me think of a gigantic ant bed. He patted it down, reminding me of patting someone’s back when saying good-bye. Well, this was good-bye.

When the last person left, I pulled my heels free from their clay prison, heaved Paisley a little higher on my hip, and walked to the headstone. Without a thought, I raked my hand over the engraving of George Daniel Cooper and Margaret Rose Cooper. My mom’s engraved date of death only three days after my birth was green with algae and smooth to the touch. My dad’s date of death, April 5, 2013, felt new, rough, and sharp on my fingertips.

“I hate you,” I said as my fingertips lingered on his name. Then my fingers curled into an ugly claw. I walked toward my dad’s 1957 Thunderbird, my escape from this place, and fastened Paisley in her car seat.

The Samsonite luggage was stacked so high it bulged under the dry-rotted convertible top. Duct tape covered a previous rip from when our neighbor’s overweight cat decided it was a nice spot to catch a few rays. It was the only waterproof part of the top.

His car, which was now mine, rattled to a start. After making sure I was alone, off came the depressing black dress. My high heels were next. There I sat, in my cutoff jeans, gray tank top, jade-colored toenails, and flip flops on the floorboards. The house was already sold, so the only place to change would have been in a fast-food stop. I didn’t want to stop anywhere on the way out of town. I just wanted to get the “heck out of Dodge.” So done with this town and the people in it. The gears moaned in protest when I lowered the ragtop.

A few memories of my life here traveled with me: Paisley, in the car seat beside me, my dad’s lucky wheat penny in my pocket, and the family album I grabbed on the way out the door. Dad always said that family albums should be filled with treasured photos of fond memories. I stopped putting pictures in it when Dad died. There wasn’t even a photo of Paisley, and she was a little over a year old.

While driving through the iron-gated entrance of Goodbread Memory Gardens in Brooksville, Alabama, I purposely knocked the rearview and side mirrors out of place, so I wasn’t tempted to look back. Someone once told me not to look back when leaving for a journey, as it was bad luck. I’d had all the bad luck one person could stand in this life, and I wasn’t going to take any chances. This was going to be a journey of epic proportions.

LOCAL OUTLETS: My Favorite Books WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: http://www.syppublising.com, Amazon, Nook, and Kindle PRICE: $13.95 CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

twitter – @maryleigh1967

Facebook.com/ZelleAndrews

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3. Walking Over Eggshells

Walking Over EggshellsTHE BOOK: Walking Over Eggshells.

PUBLISHED IN: 2013.

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda E Clarke.

THE EDITOR: Me, but the one and only time, I learned my lesson!

THE PUBLISHER: Self published, through Createspace.

SUMMARY: This is the true story of a young girl brought up by a mother who never showed her any love. This left her an obvious target for the charismatic man she met and married, a Walter Mitty clone. For the next 25 years he took her to live in seven different countries, (mostly in Africa) often one step in front of the creditors. Trained as a teacher, she took various extra jobs to put food on the table. She bred small animals for pet shops, worked on a local radio, ran the worst riding school in the world, finally she ‘fell’ into the media world, first writing for radio and television and then later into production. Eventually she set up and ran her own video production company. She went from poverty to having millions in the bank and back to poverty, before eventually meeting someone with whom she could share a more ‘normal’ life.

Lucinda E. ClarkeTHE BACK STORY: I originally wrote down my life events to try and explain to my children what made me tick and how my background had shaped my life. When I discovered the reasons and causes for my mother’s behaviour, and I realized that many families also suffer under similar circumstances, I decided to share it. If I could help even one person understand why they were rejected by a parent, then my book would had achieved its purpose. By the number of emails I’ve received from readers, it has achieved far more than I thought.

I wrote the first draft over a period of years, and then completed the manuscript in a few months. The only research I did, was from the letters I’d written to my mother which she returned to me. At the time the gesture was a deliberate insult, but in retrospect it provided a lot of material for the book. The rest was from memory, although I did write in the front that the story is as I remembered it, other players may remember events quite differently.

WHY THIS TITLE? Originally I called the book “Walking on Eggshells” – exactly how you behave when you are living with a human time bomb. However there were several other books with that title, so I changed it slightly to “Walking Over Eggshells.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT: If you have one family member who is constantly disrupting family life and relationships, my book might well give you an insight into why they behave as they do. It may validate your lack of self esteem if you have experienced this and since it is now suggested that 9% of the population suffer this syndrome, maybe it is a book everyone should read.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Lucinda undertook almost anything to make ends meet, from teaching in schools to teaching horse-riding; from book-keeping to script writing and film production. Although she doesn’t boast at all, she must be an extremely talented and gifted woman to have achieved what she has, especially under these circumstances, and I can only take my hat off to her. As a read, I found it slightly slow at the beginning, but once the pace picked up, it was a roller-coaster ride and I could hardly put it down. Very very compelling! Lucinda ends the book with the discovery that her mother suffered from narcissism, a realisation that does at least give her some peace. I think that everyone who has experienced a narcissistic parent, husband or close relative should read this book. It might not save them from suffering, but they will almost certainly recognise the behaviour, and it could help such sufferers to at least understand what they have been going through. I found it immensely inspiring, not at all depressing and full of colour and life. A really great read.

That Lucinda E Clarke can write and write well is not in question. This memoir left me breathless at times. She writes of her adventures, mis-adventures and family relationships in an honest but entertaining manner. As each chapter opened I could not wait for the continuing saga and adventures to recommence. I think the success of this memoir is the authors sense of humour and determination to press forward despite suffering a childhood (and indeed adulthood) at the hands of a mentally abusive mother. I was never depressed by her story but sometimes saddened and almost angry on her behalf. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, buy it, delve in and lose a few days, well worth it.

I have spent years learning about antisocial behaviors. When this book was suggested read, I thought, oh no, not another memoir of dishing Mom or Dad. But no, Ms. Clarke is right on. A gifted writer, Ms. Clarke tells her story so well I really could not put the book down. As a victim of a psychopath (with narcissistic tendencies) she nailed the disorder of narcissism PERFECTLY. Her book is a MUST READ for those who are trying to understand “What happened?’ “What did I do to make this happen?” “Why are they like this?” Why doesn’t anyone believe me?” Again “Walking Over Eggshells” is a MUST READ for those who have been parented by a Narcissist. Ms. Clarke is a superb writer, sharing everything with the reader about what her life with a narcissist parent was like. You must read this book to understand narcissism. I learned so much from her memoir, which I cannot praise enough. A must read! Thank you Ms.Clarke!

Wow. This book is fascinating and helped me a lot to understand my own relationship with my mother which has always been difficult and has resulted in little contact and a lot of guilt. I now feel redeemed and not such a bad person after all. I think this book is an amazing revelation and will help a lot of women. It is well written and a real page turner. Good luck and thank you Lucy, what an amazing courageous person.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’ve had a roller coaster life. Lived in 8 different countries, had too many jobs to remember, was headhunted and fired, lived in a mansion and on a boat. I’ve had a million and been below the poverty line. The highlights include meeting Prince Charles, heads of state and Nelson Mandela, the low points, crawling over rubbish dumps and cleaning other people’s toilets. If I went to the big study in the sky tomorrow, I would have no regrets. My biggest fear is that I won’t live long enough to write all the stories which are still jumping around in my head. My other worry is whether they will put up a shelf in my room in the old age home so as I lie helplessly in bed I can gaze at them, and read them to remember who I was and what I’ve done.

I’m writing my 6th book right now. Walking over Eggshells was the first biography, (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E8HSNDW) followed by two books about my career in the media, hilarious, sad and real eye-openers Truth, Lies and Propaganda (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QE35BO2) and More Truth, Lies and Propaganda (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VF0S3RG).

As that is quite enough about my life, I decided to try a novel and the result was Amie an African Adventure which has been #1 in genre on both sides of the Atlantic (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LWFIO5K) and due to popular demand, yes really, I wrote Amie and the Child of Africa (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015CI29O4)

I’m working on a political satire right now, and then I will go and rescue Amie again and put her through more hell – we have this love hate relationship. She wants a quiet, settled life and I have no such plans for her.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Do I write books to make a million? Not exactly, that is SO unlikely to happen! Some people are alcoholics, others are drug addicts and I’m a writerholic. I’ve been writing professionally since 1984 – yes, that long – and I couldn’t stop if I tried. It’s an obsession and if I don’t write I get these terrible withdrawal symptoms, I’m bad tempered, I shake and the ends of my fingers tingle. I’m pretty much a lost cause and my own worst enemy. It’s hard work pretending to be retired! But every review makes all the hard work so worthwhile. During my lifetime I’ve written thousands of programmes for radio, television, the corporate world, in fact anything that needed words, I was there to put them together. It’s just as well, I’ve not yet discovered if I have any other talents.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

10 KENYA

I could only cry as I looked at my small seven week old daughter lying on the sofa. I had just fed her and as before, she had been violently sick. She wasn’t getting any nourishment and she just lay there staring at me with her big blue eyes, making soft whimpering noises, willing me to help her. But I didn’t know what to do. How had I got into this crazy situation in the first place? Was my daughter going to die because of my reckless and foolish behaviour? Was my mother right about me all along?

We were in a small bungalow near Kikuyu an area way out in the bush, thirty miles from Nairobi the capital of Kenya. I had no friends, no family, no transport, no phone, no electricity, hardly any food, very little money and no one to turn to for help and I was trying hard not to panic. I had only been in Africa for a few weeks and I’d never traveled far from England before. Everything was still strange and unfamiliar and I was very scared.

I had Elizabeth, a twenty year old girl from the Kamba tribe, but she spoke very little English and we’d hardly got to know one another. In theory, she was my maid; in practice, she was just as helpless as me.

I dried my eyes, feeling sorry for myself was not going to accomplish anything. Somehow, I had to get to the city and find Randy the company representative, and persuade him to help me. I was twenty six years old, married and life hadn’t been easy so far, so this was just one more problem to solve wasn’t it?

The only way to get to town was by public bus. By now, I didn’t even have enough bus fare for Elizabeth to come with me, but I wasn’t leaving my daughter behind, so I grabbed Kylie and went to stand by the side of the main road. There were no bus stops, all the local buses stopped for people who waved their arms and the ancient and decrepit vehicles screeched to a halt to pick up more and more passengers, even if there were no seats left. There were as many people standing inside the bus as there were outside clinging to the top of the roof, along with the odd goat or cage of chickens. I was lucky enough to get a real seat, but maybe the other passengers made space for me, because from the incredulous looks on their faces, I soon realized that Europeans traveling by public transport was unheard of.

We arrived in down town Nairobi, certainly not the area near the Hilton or New Stanley Hotels frequented by the tourists. Now, I had no money left at all. I eventually found the circular tower that’s the Hilton Hotel landmark.

At reception, they told me that Randy was on safari, but as far as they knew, he would be back that night. I left a message for him and just to make sure, I went up to his room and knocked loudly on the door. No reply. I sat in the coffee shop, where I had the audacity to order a glass of water and watched all the rich, safari tourists as they compared wildlife notes and swapped stories of their exciting encounters with dangerous African animals. What would they think of me? I felt so ashamed. I was in a foreign capital, nursing a sick baby with not a penny to my name. It was a far cry from the private school girl, who only a few years ago, danced until dawn at the May Ball. I returned to Randy’s room several times and eventually he appeared.

“I need help, I have no money, and now the baby is sick.”

Randy looked alarmed. I’m sure that his job was not to go on safari and just leave all the families to fend for themselves, even if I was the only one there. He’d not come back once to see how I was getting on. I’d tried to be brave, I really had, but it was all too much. I had no idea where Jeremy was, I only had a post box number to write to in Dar es Salam, but I even if I wrote to him, there was nowhere for him to send a reply. Suddenly I burst into tears, much to our mutual embarrassment.

Randy grabbed my arm and marched us back down to the coffee shop, where I ordered several slices of cake

and sandwiches and cups of coffee. It was so good to eat familiar food again. Reluctantly, Randy handed over a wad of money, with the warning that it was not company policy for him to pay out without Jeremy’s sanction. A little difficult to get, since as far as I knew, he was well out of range somewhere deep in the Tanzanian bush. I was told in no uncertain terms, that Randy was doing me an enormous favour and I had every reason to be grateful to him.

I thanked him profusely and it was not until several years later I realized how I had been duped. He’d not been doing his job and yet he ended up on the attack while I ended up apologizing, it was a habit it took years to break.

I pushed my luck and pleaded for a ride back to Kikuyu. Despite not being keen, I don’t think his conscience would have allowed us to travel back on the public bus service, as by now it was dark outside.

Next morning I set off bright and early, long before eight o’clock, for the clinic Elizabeth had found close by. Close by, was her description, it was actually five miles away! I joined the end of a very long queue. If the British Empire accomplished only one thing during its long reign over the majority of the world, it was how to form an orderly queue. You have to admire the inordinate patience of the African who will queue all day in the boiling hot sun waiting patiently. They never complain, they never make a fuss. Should facilities close before they get to the front of the queue, they simply walk away and plan to return another day. They stand or sit quietly, staring into space, rarely talking to the people next to them, for they are neither close friends nor family.

I was very reassured to hear the Sister’s broad Scottish accent as she processed one baby after another. When I eventually reached the head of the queue, I explained that after feeding, Kylie was regurgitating her milk and I was worried about her.

“What a beautiful baby, she’s a perfect miniature adult. So, how old is Baby?”

“Baby is five weeks.”

“Where’s her inoculation card?”

“I don’t have one.”

“Why not? What jabs has she had?”

“Well, nothing, I mean…”

“But she’s had her BCG of course?”

“Don’t you only get that at about twelve, in senior school?”

“Not in Africa my dear, we jab them as soon as they appear. I’ll do her right away.”

“But wait!” I cried, I wanted to explain that I’d had TB and maybe she should check to see if Kylie should have a TB inoculation. But it was too late, Sister disappeared round the corner. I tried to follow her, but the throng of people didn’t make way for me as they had for Sister. Five minutes later, she was back, and I explained my medical history.

“She’ll be fine, don’t you worry about it,” replied Sister. “Now, let’s sort out this feeding problem. We can start her on solids and I can give you powdered milk as well. It’s possible your milk doesn’t taste too good if you’re not used to the heat.”

I took her advice and I persevered, I really did, but Kylie was a European baby, and she did not take kindly to mashed up African fruits and vegetables. It seemed the more I stuffed in her mouth the more she vomited, but she liked the baby milk formulae. She never cried but I continued to fret about her state of health. She didn’t seem to get any fatter, but she didn’t lose weight either and she stopped whimpering and seemed more cheerful.

The following day I set off for the post office and joined yet another long queue. When I finally reached the window, the smiling black face asked how he could help.

“I would like a post box please.”

“Oh dear, there is a waiting list, a long, long waiting list,” replied the smiling face.

“How long?”

“Several years.”

“But I need one urgently!”

“Maybe, for a small consideration?”

“How small?”

“Two hundred shillings?” Reluctantly I handed over the money.

“When can I have the post box?”

“Now.” The post office clerk scrambled under the counter and re-appeared with the key.

“And I also need to have the phone re-connected.”

“There’s a very, very, long waiting list I’m afraid, for phones.”

“But the phone is already in the house, it just needs to be connected.”

“But that will be difficult.”

“Why?”

“There is a long waiting list, very long.”

“But for a small consideration?” I’m a quick learner.

“Ah, yes, that could be arranged.” More money exchanged hands. In Africa, it was obviously all a matter of money, but the problem was that I didn’t know how long the money I had wrestled from Randy would last.

The days went by. Faithfully I wrote to Jeremy every day and posted the letters on my daily trip to the post box, it was the highlight of the day. Each time I inserted the key into the little mail box door, I prayed there would be a letter, but as the days went by, it remained empty. I even wrote to my mother and all my friends and distant relatives as well, but it was a long time before I heard from any of them. I learned that it took weeks for a letter to travel in both directions and even if post arrived in the capital, it took many more days for the letters to find their way the extra thirty miles to the rural area of Kikuyu.

There wasn’t much to do. Elizabeth kept the house clean, which was not difficult as there was minimal furniture and the floors were tiled. Two of the three bedrooms were unused, as Elizabeth insisted on sleeping outside in the servant’s quarters, or shamba, but during the time we spent together, I think we became very firm friends.

From our initial decision to leave England, everything had happened so fast. It seemed only yesterday that I had been living a normal life, in a normal house, in a familiar country. After a twelve hour plane flight, which felt more like twelve days, the wheels touched down at Embasaki airport and as they opened the doors, I got my first taste of Africa, the sheer heat that hits you like a sledgehammer. I had never experienced such heat in all my life, it felt like walking through a gigantic oven, and I loved it. The light too was so different, here it was sharp and clear. Brilliant blue skies and a sun, which was brighter than anything I had seen before.

Next shock was the preponderance of armed soldiers at every turn. They lined the walkway from the plane steps to the terminal buildings and there were more inside. I hadn’t the faintest idea what kind of guns they were clutching, but they were big and black and looked very dangerous, and the owners looked quite keen to use them too.

A hand came out and grabbed my passport. I finally had a real British passport courtesy of being married to Jeremy, living and learning and teaching in UK for sixteen years hadn’t cracked it on its own! I made to grab it back, but it was only our welcoming party, Randy the American company representative.

In two minutes, he had us through immigration and customs and we were speeding towards Nairobi. More culture shocks. The houses on either side of the road were just sheets of corrugated tin and bits of wood and cardboard. Children covered in flies sat by the side of the road, and elderly wrinkled women were bent almost double under great bundles of firewood. There were younger people simply hanging around, while I wondered naively why they weren’t in school. The levels of poverty, even in our poorest days paled into insignificance as I gazed at the shack lands, which seemed to stretch for mile upon mile, as we negotiated the narrow tar road, which was shared by motorized traffic, goats, sheep, and chickens alike. Pedestrians too, had little regard for the rules of the road, they wandered where they pleased, and the pedestrians themselves were a surprise. I expected them to be black, but I didn’t expect the miniskirts and platform soles.

Then there were the billboards by the side of the road, advertising the familiar Sunlight soap, Omo washing powder and Embassy cigarettes. It was all so similar and yet so very, very different.

It was also a big shock to see people begging on the side of the road, something I’d never encountered before. I saw real poverty for the first time in my life, so very different from the Welfare State in England. The first time a beggar screamed at me and demanded money I froze, not sure what to do, it scared me as even though I was happy to part with a few cents, there were just so many of them, there was no way I could have given to

everyone.

Randy was staying at the Hilton, while we would be staying at the New Stanley Hotel only a few blocks away. We were to find ourselves accommodation as soon as possible, as we only had six days to settle in before Jeremy was due to leave for Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

“How much do we spend on rent?” we asked.

“It’s up to you really. Everything is done on a salary advance, so just tell me how much you need. It should be pretty easy, all the newspapers are in English and are filled with advertisements,” Randy replied.

He dropped us off at the hotel, helped us to register, and then dropped the bombshell. He was off on safari for five days, contact him at the Hilton on Friday and he’d take Jeremy to the airport.

Where was the colonial compound I was expecting? Where were all the other families?

“Well you’re the first to arrive, the rest are expected in a month, or so, you’ll be well settled in by then,” Randy told me. He drove off and we were left standing in the lobby of the hotel totally confused.

Jeremy left Kylie and myself in the room, and went down to the Thorn Tree Restaurant and the Long Bar, famous in literature and home to many famous and infamous old colonials. Ernest Hemingway, the Blixens, Edward the Prince of Wales, Clark Gable, Steward Granger and Ava Gardner had all been there before us.

Jeremy returned with a newspaper and the promise of a car with a driver for the following day. A driver, just for us? Yes, apparently it was quite common for all companies to have several cars and drivers to run errands for managers.

We combed the papers and ringed all the advertisements for houses to rent which we thought sounded promising. We had no idea what to expect per hundred shillings, but we were soon to find out.

Our smiling black driver cheerfully drove us around and around and around. Areas that we thought sounded not too expensive were little more than squatter shacks and I was horrified to learn that people actually paid rent to live in them! We asked our driver to take us to where the white people lived and we toured the suburbs of Karen and Langatta, where we saw small palaces, with sweeping lush green lawns but no To Rent signs.

The next day we tried further out of town, and then further and further as the days went by. We were forced to spend the majority of our remaining few shillings on hiring a car, as we couldn’t keep borrowing a driver.

We began to get desperate as Friday approached. Jeremy didn’t think we could afford more than a certain amount on rent and to keep within this budget we finally found a place thirty miles out of town on the Naivasha Road, next to the Sigona Golf Club and three miles from the village of Kikuyu. It was a three bedroom, stone built bungalow with a tin roof, owned by a local businessman called Mr. Karanda. It was surrounded by an attractive garden with exotic plants I’d only seen before in picture books. I was a little nervous about taking it as it seemed so far away from anywhere, even though there was a main road at the bottom of the garden.

We moved in on the Thursday night and the landlord kindly offered to phone the Hilton for us to tell Randy where he could collect Jeremy the following day.

The man from the car hire place insisted I couldn’t live without an Ayah, and presented us with his sister.

“If she does not work well, then you beat her hard,” he instructed me. Beat her? Was he serious?

Elizabeth was short, round, plump, and also very shy. She had come to the city to look for work, for her home was south of Nairobi in a town called Machakos. She had never seen a real lion, which I found encouraging, and in school, they had taught her that the sea went away at night to feed and returned each morning.

We went to bed early that evening since there was no electricity and Randy was on the doorstep before seven the next morning to whisk Jeremy off to the airport. He promised to pop round later, which he never did, and I was left standing on the verandah, with a tiny baby in my arms, an African nanny I had known for a day, thousands of miles from home. I felt totally and utterly lost.

Food seemed to be the first priority and luckily, the stove worked off gas so I took my few remaining shillings and gave them to Elizabeth and asked her to buy food. She disappeared, I had no idea where, as there wasn’t a shop in sight. Perhaps there was a local market?

She returned carrying some indescribable things. I would recognize them now as chicken beaks and claws and large green, knobbly pumpkins. While I didn’t think I would have to worry about Kylie, who was getting good old British or Irish breast milk, I had problems forcing the food down, even though I was ravenous.

The good news was that Elizabeth brought change. I couldn’t believe how much change, food was really

cheap, if you could learn to eat like the locals, but I doubted my ability to do that.

The next few days passed slowly, we rose with the sun and went to bed as night fell. Kylie did not need much looking after and Elizabeth was reluctant to put her down at all. I often lay in the garden and read a book, but I was very nervous about the snakes I felt sure must be everywhere, and held a stick out behind me to tap the ground to keep them away. In hindsight, it could have attracted them instead. There were lots of insects and strange flying things, and I had no idea which were dangerous and which were harmless.

Mr. Karanda appeared one afternoon about 4 o’clock and I was so pleased to see him that I had to stop myself flinging my arms around him. Yes, he could get the electricity connected, for a small consideration. Yes, he could also suggest I go to the post office only a couple of miles away to get a post box and the phone re-connected. And would I like fresh milk delivered to the door each morning? Do planes fly?

“And one other thing….” He paused.

“Yes?”

“Maybe you will not be as safe here as you should be, you will need a guard. Don’t worry, I will send Kimani round before nightfall and he will stay on guard all night.”

Unsafe? A guard? It’s true that I’d noticed several guards or askaris, standing around outside the houses in the suburbs, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I would need protecting out here. I nodded and Mr. Karanda drove off in his Mercedes, assured that he had one cash cow tenant sitting in his bungalow just down the road. The only problem was that this cash cow, was almost totally broke, and didn’t know where or when the next Kenyan shilling was coming from. Somehow, I would have to pay for both the guard and the milk.

Kimani duly arrived long after dark that night, blind drunk. He ran round and round the outside of the house banging on the burglar bars with his knob Kerrie making a terrible racket. Elizabeth and I cowered on the floor by the sofa. We were terrified, and it was only the next morning that we discovered it was our guard who had almost scared us to death.

The milk boy also arrived, carrying a real metal churn such as I had only ever seen in history books. Elizabeth took an instant liking to him, and would warble loudly “The Lord is coming to take me away,” as he walked up from the front gate.

“I only wish he would,” was my response, for Elizabeth’s singing was truly awful and if she thought that her musical abilities would attract the milk boy, she was badly mistaken.

Yet I did have reason to be thankful to Mr. Karanda, since the following morning I woke up to see a queue outside the gate which stretched for miles down the road as far as the eye could see. News travels fast in Africa and it seemed the whole of Kenya knew that a white Memsab had moved in and surely, she must want a plethora of servants? The crowd at my gate would have been sufficient for a re-enactment of the ‘Flight from Egypt’, and little did they know, I had no money to pay them either. With a sigh of relief, I sent Elizabeth out to tell them that I had all the staff I needed, since Kimani, somewhat more sober, had pleaded with me to allow him to double up his duties as a night time askari with day time duties as gardener.

Elizabeth assured me that she counted herself lucky to work for me. Kimani never seemed as grateful though. He looked about seventy, but with some interpretation from Elizabeth I discovered he was only thirty five. He had three wives and numerous children, which is possibly why he looked so worn out. He would see them once every few months and seemed quite content. He saw his new job as a way to pay for another wife. I would have thought he had quite enough to cope with already.

How different it is in Africa. A man may have as many wives as he can afford, or not afford as the case may be. Marriage often takes place, if at all, after the woman has given birth to at least one healthy male child to prove she is worthy of the bride-price. Payment could vary, from one mangy goat to a herd of prime cattle among royalty, and take many months or years to pay and often leads to disputes among families.

Despite the low cost of food, the little money I had wasn’t going to last too long and just as it ran out, Kylie got sick which resulted in my frantic trip into Nairobi. Thinking about it a few days later, I thought I had coped quite well under the circumstances. I’d found a clinic and knew that Kylie didn’t have some weird African disease, I’d got a post box and after providing Mr. Karanda with the ‘small consideration’, the following day the electricity was connected and a couple of days later I lifted the phone to hear a dialing tone. I was ecstatic! I phoned the Hilton, to be told that Randy was away on safari again and was only expected back the following weekend. I was determined that as soon as my first salary advance ran out I would track him down again and demand more.

Kylie began to put on weight, and appeared to thrive. She stopped vomiting and the days passed in quick succession with only a few uncomfortable incidents.

There was a leopard in the garden at night which made me a little nervous. I freaked the first time I heard African drums, recalling old movies with boiling pots full of white men and women, and I was forced to call Kimani into my bedroom the time I saw a snake’s tail sticking out of the wall vent.

At last, the day dawned when I opened the mail box to find a huge pile of letters, all from Jeremy, each one carefully re-sealed with brown sticky tape.

They had been opened and read by the censor’s office, I think, in Tanzania. I’m not sure if they censored every letter sent out by foreign nationals, but after reading the first one, I could understand if they honed in especially on Jeremy’s. He was missing me so much, enough to describe what he would like to be doing when we celebrated his first leave, all of which he described in lurid detail. I blushed with shame and immediately sat down to write to him and ask him to tone it down. I was so relieved to hear from him and to learn that he would be home in two weeks time for his first leave.

With my new found wealth from Randy, I decided to hire a car and do some real European food shopping and then fetch Jeremy from the airport when he flew in a couple of days later. With a new determination I didn’t know I possessed, I succeeded in bargaining with an Indian dealership in Nairobi, and drove away in an elderly Datsun with Kylie lying on the back seat, no car seats or seat belts in those days!

I sat for ages in the hot car as I saw my first presidential cavalcade go by. Jomo Kenyatta stopped for no one.

I returned home with two steaks for supper, large, tender and really cheap and I gave them to Elizabeth to cook. She boiled them. I chewed my way bravely through the boot leather. I explained carefully to Elizabeth how to cook steaks under the grill and told her to do that in future.

The following day, I purchased a boil in the bag bacon joint and told Elizabeth how to cook it and I showed her how to make a white sauce and how to prepare the cabbage and the potatoes to go with it. Yes, she grilled the joint, still wrapped in the plastic, which eventually caught fire. Another meal ruined!

I did receive letters from my mother. I was so lonely and scared that once again I thought that maybe we could make an effort to get on better. After all, we were both married and I felt that Paul was a calming influence. She replied, and maybe I imagined that she was less caustic than before, but it was safer corresponding from a long distance.

Jeremy was due back and I commuted between both Nairobi airports, but no Jeremy. He wasn’t on a flight the following three days either and in despair, I returned the hire car.

Two more weeks went by, no letters, no phone calls and no Randy. I did my best not to panic. What would happen if Jeremy were dead? What would I do? Randy had the return air tickets, and who knows where he was? Probably off on a nonstop safari? My imagination worked overtime. What if Randy was gored by a lion or trampled by an elephant while on one of his famous safaris? Who even knew where I was? Would the office in London remember I was here? Even if I did get back to UK, where would I go? How would I cope with no money, no job, and Kylie to look after? Most people would rush back to the safety of their families, but for me that didn’t bear thinking about.

Eventually, I opened the post box and there was a letter postmarked Tanzania. I ripped it open. Jeremy and the rest of the crew had just set up camp in the night when they were surrounded by armed soldiers and accused of being in a ‘no go’ area. They were herded into a large hole in the ground and left there without food and water for several days, with guards whose itchy fingers caressed the triggers on their guns. They had all been released, but it had delayed the time off rotation and he would be arriving in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Once again, I dashed into Nairobi, braving the dangers of the public transport system and haggled with the owners for an even cheaper price on a hired car. I think they couldn’t quite believe that I was in Kenya all on my own, with no back up and they took pity on me. I drove away in the ancient Datsun again and commuted between airports. No Jeremy that day, nor the next and it was not until Thursday that he finally stepped off the plane.

I don’t think I have ever been so glad to see anyone, and I clung to him like superglue as we walked to the car. As we drove to the bungalow at Sigona, Jeremy casually remarked that he wasn’t returning to Tanzania.

“But didn’t you sign a two year contract?”

“Yes, but I’ll take advice about that. I think what they’re doing is illegal.”

“What! How is it illegal?”

“Well, a couple of the guys were arrested in Dar es Salaam last week as they tried to come home. They’d been told to say that they earned two hundred Tanzanian shillings a month and neither customs nor immigration believed them.”

“My God, you’re earning more than that aren’t you?” I felt sick, had I taken over a year’s salary advance from Randy?

“Of course I am, but they’re going to pay it overseas, so no money comes in, except for the salary advances that is, but we’ve been told to lie about it. Frankly, I don’t fancy being thrown in one of those jails, if you come out alive, they tell me your indigestion is shot from the local food.”

The next day, Jeremy went into the British High Commission and chatted to one of their people, and they agreed, that the company was skating on thin ice.

For once Randy, was ensconced in the Hilton, and Jeremy phoned him and told him he was quitting. There followed a series of phone calls, each more aggressive than the last, but Jeremy refused to budge.

So there we were again, unemployed and next to broke, but this time, thousands of miles from home with no Social Security backup. However, a small matter like this was not going to get Jeremy down, and he was off bright and early the next morning to look for work.

It’s quite possible he would have found something, but we clashed with a current drive for Kenyanization and affirmative employment, and try as he would over the next few months, it was simply impossible to get a job.

In the meantime, I spent many happy hours exploring Nairobi, managing to make a Kenyan shilling stretch by shopping in the down town markets, going where no self respecting tourist would be seen dead. I never felt threatened, and I don’t know if this had anything to do with Kylie, who looked more adorable than ever, or it was just sheer naivety on my part.

We visited Nairobi National Park, which is situated very close to the city, and I saw my first real wildlife. We were charged by an elephant who looked a million miles away on the photo and we drove down to the coast and broke down in Tsavo East game park, miles from civilization. We also went to visit Amboseli, gazing with awe at the snow covered mountain of Kilimanjaro standing over 19,000 feet above sea level. We also managed to explore some of the fantastic countryside including the amazing rift valley, where the land drops sheer away from the side of the road as if it had been cut with a gigantic knife. I got badly burned lying for a couple of minutes by Lake Naivasha, watching the clouds of bright pink flamingoes taking off and landing on the salt pan. We even got caught up in a tear gas attack in the city.

It looked as if we would have to leave, the money was running out fast. I should mention at this point that Randy, perhaps a little nervous about Jeremy’s threats to ‘squeal’, had given us a fair amount of cash and our return tickets back to Heathrow. But before we left, Jeremy took part in the East African Safari Rally as a seconder, probably his best memory of Kenya.

Finally we said our sad farewells. Elizabeth and I hugged each other and fought back the tears. As we boarded the plane, I looked back for the last time at the bright blue skies and vivid colours of Africa.

If I was scared when I first arrived on the Dark Continent, I was equally scared of returning to England. I could only hope that my new experiences had made me strong enough to cope with the one person in my life of whom I was truly afraid. Going to Africa was a more adult version of running away from home, and as we flew northwards over the barren wastes of the Sahara Desert, I shuddered at the thought of seeing my mother again.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Walking on Eggshells can be bought from the following outlets besides Amazon, all markets.

Barnes & Noble WoE http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/walking-over-eggshells-lucinda-e-clarke/1120018151?ean=9781501465765&itm=1&usri=9781501465765

Apple itunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id903671089

Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/walking-over-eggshells

scribd. http://www.scribd.com/book/235154402/Walking-over-Eggshells

Inktera http://www.inktera.com/store/title/228cc87f-20f9-4bb6-8abe-d922b034c06f

Walking over Eggshells iTunes store https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/walking-over-eggshells/id903671089?mt=11&uo=4

PRICE: In the US $2.89, £1.91 in the UK and in Europe various prices depending on VAT. Also available in paperback.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I love to hear from my readers and you can read my weekly blog (http://lucindaeclarke.wordpress.com) or contact me on any of the following:-

Email: lucindaeclarke@gmail.com

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

twitter name @LucindaEClarke My Facebook page:- https://www.facebook.com/lucindaeclarke.author My web page:- http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com You can even hear me on this link:- http://www.talkradioeurope.com/clients/lclarke.mp3

Weather Report, Nov. 30

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “SOMEONE NOT REALLY HER MOTHER,” BY HARRIET CHESSMAN, “COLORADO MANDALA,” BY BRIAN HEFFRON AND “FAIRY AND BLOOD: LILAC,” BY WILLIAM CRISEL, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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A CHRISTMAS LIST, CHECKED TWICE

Santa reading

This is not, and never will be, a bargain book site.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – this is, after all, America – but we prefer to let the books we feature speak for themselves, quietly and persuasively. We won’t shout at you about incredible deals and offers you can’t refuse. Ever.

You can get that from Amazon, and other places.

Having said all that, though, it is now the Christmas season — and, I understand, Cyber Monday. Moreover, by virtue of your status as a Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog follower, or the fact that you’re even looking at this post out of curiosity, it’s safe to assume that you a) like to read books and b) have at least some interest in what we’re trying to do here. Plus, of course, books make long-lasting, low-cost Christmas gifts.

Therefore, down below the information about this week’s featured authors (whom we never want to upstage), you will find a list of books, grouped loosely by genre. Besides author and title, you will find a suggested price, established by the author, and a short description of the book. You will also find the author’s e-mail, so you can deal directly with him or her.

We have a wide (and I do mean wide) selection of both fiction and non-fiction, and the price will include having a personalized signed copy mailed to you. The signing, along with the direct connection, makes it special.

So here’s how it works. Go to snowflakesarise.wordpress.com. If any of the teasers we present interests you, summon up the Author page (listed to the left on the opening post) and click on the appropriate name. You will then see the Snowflakes post that describes each book in detail.

This post will remain on our site throughout Christmas – and, indeed, far beyond that, although you’ll need to scroll down to find it. If you have any questions about or problems with the process, you can e-mail Darrell Laurant at writersbridge@hotmail.com.

Merry Christmas!

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THIS WEEK ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD

Pam Alster 3“ROBIN’S BLUE,” BY PAM ALSTER.

Robin’s Blue, Pam Alster’s debut novel, is an epic coming-of-age story set against the disco 70’s through the Reagan-era 80’s, when divorce was the norm and casual sex and recreational drugs were ubiquitous. Robin Daniels, a runaway from a violent and emotionally desolate upper middle-class home, repeatedly navigates her world without guidance. After a failed marriage, she discounts love as an option and moves through a series of jobs and men. A futile attempt to live as a kept woman compels her to become a high-class call girl. She searches unsuccessfully through the resulting transient experiences and escalating drug use for the one lesson that will resolve her omnipresent question of purpose. Before AIDS and addiction became household words, Robin’s Blue speaks to a generation that basically raised itself. Robin’s journey takes her from suburban Philadelphia to Miami to the South of France and ultimately to New York City where she is obliged to make peace with the girl inside she left dormant at sixteen.

Robin’s Blue was a finalist in the 2014 Indie Excellence Awards.

“PAISLEY MEMORIES,” BY ZELLE ANDREWS.

At seventeen, Tess Cooper was a high school drop-out, an orphan, and a single mom to a baby girl with Down syndrome. The next two years didn’t turn out like she thought it would. After her dad’s death, she flees Brooksville, Alabama, in his beloved 1957 Thunderbird before the red clay on his grave can settle. A year of traveling from place to place brings Tess and Paisley to the deep-fried, southern town of Panacea, Florida, where her money runs out. A stranger, named Butterball, takes them in and gives Tess a job taking pictures at Wakulla Springs State Park and the annual Sopchoppy Worm Grunting Festival. Afraid to trust these people, Tess plans to leave, but the T-Bird is stolen and she is forced to stay. Paisley is thriving on all the attention. Tess weighs her options. Can she give her baby what she needs? Should she put down roots in this place where she has found friends? Or should she give Paisley up for adoption and head out on a life of her own?

“WALKING ACROSS EGGSHELLS,” BY LUCINDA E. CLARKE

An intriguing memoir gleaned from a rich and tumultuous life. Writes Lucinda: “I’ve had a roller coaster life. Lived in eight different countries, had too many jobs to remember, was headhunted and fired, lived in a mansion and on a boat. I’ve had a million and been below the poverty line. The highlights include meeting Prince Charles, heads of state and Nelson Mandela, the low points, crawling over rubbish dumps and cleaning other people’s toilets. If I went to the big study in the sky tomorrow, I would have no regrets. My biggest fear is that I won’t live long enough to write all the stories which are still jumping around in my head. My other worry is whether they will put up a shelf in my room in the old age home so as I lie helplessly in bed I can gaze at them, and read them to remember who I was and what I’ve done.”

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OUR CHRISTMAS LIST  (NOTE: ALL THE PRICES INCLUDE SIGNING AND POSTAGE).

ANIMALS/PETS

Donald Ford, “Floyd the Dog.” $10. Children’s tales that focus on animals the world over. The purpose of the writing was to create awareness for endangered animals all over the globe. drewsdad13104@yahoo.com.

Peggy Frezon, “Faithfully Yours.” $18.99. Heartwarming true stories about amazing animals and the people who love them, with chapters on devotion, acceptance, compassion, guidance, and more.
peggyfrezon@gmail.com.

CRIME/POLICE

Joe Broadmeadow. “Collision Course.” $12. Ambition, murder, politics — elements in the tragic collision of two lives. In this novel by a real-life cop, Anthony “JoJo” Machado, decorated marine combat veteran, and Detective Sergeant Josh Williams, East Providence Police Department become inextricably linked by circumstances beyond their control. joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com.

Diane Fanning, “Scandal in the Secret City.” $20 for trade paperback, $30 for hard cover. Libby Clark, a gutsy Bryn Mawr graduate, is determined to find her place as a scientist in the male bastion of Oak Ridge, TN, known as “The Secret City.” What she didn’t count on, however, is being confronted with a murder.

Scott Archer Jones. “The Big Wheel.” $15. Robko Zlata is sprinting across America on a hot red motorycle, on the run with his ex-wife, now a call girl. Robko is a thief, and he has stolen the wrong thing, a device that can guarantee immortality.scott@scottarcherjones.com.

CURRENT ISSUES

“Insights From Inside,” by Tom Gerdy. $10.  This book is aimed at a specific audience — young people who may be on the verge on finding themselves swept up into the criminal justice system. Toward that end, it features stories of life experiences from current prisoners who tell them why that’s a very bad idea. tgerdy@gmail.com.

FICTION, ALTERNATIVE

Matt Dojny. “The Festival of Earthly Delights.” $10. The Festival of Taang Lôke Kwaam Banterng Sumitchanani is a 24-hour water balloon blitzkrieg, a ruthless talent competition, and an earth-scorching, take-no-prisoners bacchanalia. It’s the one day of the year when everyone has a shot at finding true love — even a rapacious, over-sexed turtle god. It’s a celebration of hobos and heartbreak, Lionel Richie impersonators and banana-brandy-flavored rice wine. It’s The Festival of Earthly Delights. mattdojny@mattdojny.com.

Katya Mills. “Girl Without Borders.” $6. Follow the paths of three young lovers — working-class punks and degenerate-labelled youth — as they move across the urban landscape of West Side Chicago. Vivid and imaginative prose from a long-time poet. katyamills@live.com.

FICTION, GENERAL

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. “Hannah, Delivered.” $23. To deliver healthy babies, nurse-midwife Hannah Larson risks jail time, her community’s respect, and her career. The key to unlocking her fear rests in one birth—her own. “Hannah, Delivered” tells the story of how inexplicable passion, buried strength, and professional skill delivers one woman from fear into a rich and risk-filled life. elizabeth@spiritualmemoir.com.

Paul Castellani. “Sputnik Summer.” $15. It’s only a month into the Adirondack summer of 1958, and 17-year-old Kevin Boyle is already in trouble with an older girl and a priest who seems way too interested in his sex life. When he thinks nothing else can go wrong, he sees his best friend’s brother shove a tourist to his death at a lakeside hangout. Or did he? pcastellani@nycap.rr.com

John Chaplick. “The Rivergrass Legacy.” $15.
Set in the Rivergrass area near the Florida Everglades, this riveting novel holds the reader on edge from start to finish as what begins as a routine business acquisition analysis of a tropical fish hatchery turns into the discovery of an international money-laundering plot. jpchaplick@gmail.com.

Bill Delorey, “Shuffle an Impulse.” $10 for paperback, E-book for sale for $2.99 on Amazon. Incarcerated within a high security facility, Walter Ferguson serves out four life terms for murders he committed protecting himself from imaginary demons. Miles distant, a young Olympic contender sprints ever faster along a forest trail in a fruitless attempt to still the malicious voices in his head. A riveting, eye-opening journey through the devastation wrought by delusional minds. wpd44@hotmail.com.

Kate Kort. “Glass.” $13. After a grim but revelatory trip to Las Vegas in his late twenties, Menashe Everett decided to open up a “glass museum,” an underground safe place where clients can vent their anguish by destroying rooms filled with clear glass art. The museum brings hope to those who have not responded to traditional therapy, but also gives Menashe a sense of purpose he desperately needs. katekort@gmail.com.

Andrea McKenzie Raine. “Turnstiles.” $12. In this novel, Canadian author Raine brings together an unlikely trio — Martin Sourdough, a homeless man who rejects the material world; Willis Hancocks Jr., an alcoholic, philandering lawyer, and Evelyn, a prostitute. Through some mysterious alchemy, they become far more than the sum of their parts. mcauthor@telus.net.

Kate Sebeny. “The Last Best Thing.” $15. Sam and Sarah are the elderly owners of a farm in central Iowa that turns into a private retirement community when it also becomes home to a disabled friend, a destitute neighbor and her daughter, and an expatriate artist. Together, this close-knit group confronts the hardships and disappointments of age and infirmity with courage, humanity and humor. But beneath the surface, this rustic “home away from the old folks’ home” is not everything it seems. One of its inhabitants is a killer. Another is her victim. katesebeny@gmail.com.

HISTORICAL

Susan Coryell, “Beneath the Stones.” $18 before Dec. 20. Mystery, suspense and romance flourish against a backdrop of Civil War turmoil and ancestral strife, where immortality (and a vengeful spirit)  infiltrates the ancient air breathed by all who inhabit Overhome Estate. coryel.susan@gmailcom.

Deborah Lincoln. “Agnes Canon’s War.” $10.
Agnes Canon is tired of being a spectator in life, a small-town schoolmarm and an invisible daughter among seven sisters, meat for the marriage market. The rivers of her Pennsylvania countryside flow west, and she yearns to flow with them, explore new lands, know the independence that is the usual sphere of men. This is a story of a woman’s quest for freedom, both social and intellectual, and her education on that journey, set against the backdrop of the Civil War.  agnescanonswar@gmail.com.

Elizabeth Moore. “The Truth and the Life.$10.99. (Limited number available). Set in an imagined, yet historically believable rising paper-making industrial village in the New Jersey Pinelands, this novel is truly worth a read. The author combines her knowledge of the region’s geography and old-time culture and language with the travails of a modern woman seeking answers about her ancestral past. eemoore125@yahoo.com.

MEMOIR/GENERAL NON-FICTION

Camille Cusamano. “Tango: An Argentine Love Story.” $10 through PayPal (ocaramia@me.com). 
Tango is a memoir by a woman who loved, lost, got mad, re-located to Buenos Aires, and decided to dance. The book traces the author’s fall, redemption, and renewal through tango. ocaramia.me.com.

John Maberry. “Waiting for Westmoreland.” 9.99. Surviving poverty and the deaths of loved ones, the author remains hopeful as he exits childhood. then comes the draft that sends him to Vietnam. With innocence lost and illusions shattered, he seeks answers. College courses are intriguing but offer no solutions. Eventually, hope returns in the form of a life philosophy that comes from a chance encounter at a party.  This knowledge comes in the nick of time. wfwjohnm@gmail.com.

Karen Swallow Prior, “Booked.” $15. A life of books. A life of soul. Professor Karen Swallow Prior poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can’t tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story. kprior@liberty.edu.

Claudia Taller. “30 Perfect Days.” $14. “30 Perfect Days, Finding Abundance in Ordinary Life,” is a story about the author’s quest to live in the moment, make connections, and pay attention to what life has to offer. claudia.taller@yahoo.com.


RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL

Linda Shaylor Cooper. “Embracing the Spirit of Nature.” $16.25. “Embracing the Spirit of Nature” will invite you into a world of magic few have experienced by sharing actual raw photography of fairies, gnomes, and more. Meanwhile, the text may well alter how its readers experience nature and reveal how they directly impact the life of all of nature’s elements. thecrystalgardenfairy@gmail.com.

Burl Hall. “Sophia’s Web.” $10. 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. envisionthisradio@yahoo.com.

Melinda Inman. “Refuge.” $12. A different twist on the dark story of Cain and Abel. With Satan hounding his every move and no idea of the forces arrayed against him, can Cain ever find God after he’s committed a sin of such magnitude? Can he ever be forgiven? melinda@melindainman.com.

Suzanne McMillen-Fallon. “Mommy, Would You Like a Sandwich?” $24.50. At age nineteen, MaryAnne McMillen severed two vital nerves at the base of her skull when she suffered a near fatal fall. This was followed by an out-of-body experience, life after death, in which she heard the words, “It’s not your time.” After fourteen years of agony, doctors were finally able to perform a unique surgery known as intraspinal rhizotomy. This story weaves together the idea of family and faith, while also creating a sense of longing in the reader’s own life for something bigger than themselves. a.smf@att.net.

Patricia Dean Robertson. “Looking for Lydia, Looking for God.” $10. This book is about the study of the Bible that began in the Lydia H. Roper Home, in Norfolk, Virginia and has grown outward from there in the most unexpected ways. It is rooted on every page in the concrete details of the Roper Home and in the lives of the family that built and chartered it. It is, finally, a story about growing older for everyone, everywhere. pdroberts1@gmail.com.

Monica Sharman. “Behold the Beauty.” $10.50. A painting in an art museum. A young boy building a light-bulb circuit. A migraine headache. Searching for thimbleberries. Family rituals, like reading stories aloud. Cooking from a friend’s recipe. Reading a much-loved story from your childhood.  It is in those simple familiar things that writer Monica Sharman finds beauty, and more than beauty. In the beauty of the ordinary she finds metaphors for Bible reading, and has collected those metaphors in “Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading.” monicasharman@yahoo.com.


RELATIONSHIPS/FAMILY

Roberta Burton. “The Burgundy Briefcase.” $12. After the death of her husband, Lee moves forward with her life—or, so she thinks. Instead, she finds herself repeating the same mistakes with Frank that she made in past relationships. While working on her doctorate, she learns about those old patterns and begins to understand her relationship is a sham. Her progression through the doctoral program is threatened by double messages and false promises. She must respond by confronting her professor and Frank’s bizarre behavior. Are they connected? What does it all mean? Will she get what she wants or what she needs? ladybdr@gmail.com.

Harriet Scott Chessman, “Someone Not Really Her Mother.” $12. As Hannah Pearl’s memory of the present begins to fade, she increasingly inhabits the world of her ardent and frightened youth in war-torn France and England, while her memories of life in America with her daughter and granddaughters have almost been erased. Throughout the book each character must negotiate the fraught intricacies of memory, geography, and motherhood.  hschessman@gmail.com.

Dawn LaJeunesse. “In Her Mother’s Shoes.” $12. Author Meredith Fields’ formerly placid suburban existence is shattering, and she’s not entirely unhappy about it. She feels guilty over placing her mother, Katherine, in a nursing home. Her husband, Keith, wants a divorce. She’s emotionally estranged from her children. And her next book is overdue. As she sorts through her mother’s house before selling, she finds clues to Katherine’s shadowy past. She begins to understand why her mother related so poorly to her children and is shaken by parallels in her relationships with her own children.  mtnwriter77@gmail.com.

Gina Roitman. “Tell Me a Story, Tell Me the Truth.” $20. Leah lives in a world trapped between two solitudes. She belongs neither to her parent’s painful generation nor to her own, freshly minted in the freedoms and contradictions of Montreal in the 1950s and 60s. Growing up in a community of immigrants forever bound to the past, Leah tests the boundaries of her independence, explored in nine linked stories that take the reader from Leah’s early childhood to middle age. info@ginaroitman.com.

SCI/FI OR FANTASY

Nicki Brandon. “The Solarbus Legacy.” $10. Farms had become dry and barren outside the city without power that had been deserted after the economic and social collapse brought about by the depletion of the world’s oil reserves. Nevertheless, a thriving dystopian society had formed, leaving the rest of the survivors — called Terfs — as wandering scavengers. But when the 18-year-old daughter of Privileged Solarbus Society members Jeff and Eva Parke is kidnapped, they are lured to the Terf’s mountain encampment. There they uncover a sinister plot for revenge and justice. nickibrandon5@gmail.com.

Kate Hasbrouck, “Homecoming.” $12. Kerana is being sent to Earth to begin her duty as an Eldurian. Hers are a perfect people, without flaw and without sin, never experiencing the fall of man. Created by God to shepherd His people on Earth, they remain in the shadows, unnoticed. Kerana looks human, speaks like them, and has been taught to act like them.  Arriving on Earth, Kerana meets Eli at school, and they find themselves intertwined in a connection that neither can quite explain. When this connection puts the two of them in danger, they find comfort and protection from each other. katehasbrouck27@gmail.com.

SOUTHERN

Darrell Laurant, “The Kudzu Kid.” $10. After hotshot investigative reporter Eddie Fogarty overreaches on a story and is fired by his large metropolitan daily, the only bounce-back job he can find is editing a weekly newspaper in backwater Southside Virginia. In that unlikely and alien setting, he finds culture shock, redemption, romance, and the biggest story of his life. writersbridge@hotmail.com.

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

Margaret Hermes, “Relative Strangers.” $15. “Relative Strangers” presents 14 stories that feature a keen understanding of what makes people tick, but not click, in a dysfunctional America. Her stories, set in various places and times, are sprinkled with tender and provocative examinations of familial relationships. hermes.margaret@gmail.com.

Ava Homa, “Echoes From the Other Land.” $15. These haunting stories beautifully evoke the oppressive lives of modern women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ranging across regions, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and political dispositions, Homa’s characters give us a prismatic portrait of Iran that resists both internal tyrannies and Western demonization. Her style is elegantly spare yet  gem-solid. ava.homa1@gmail.com.

Margaret McMullan, “Aftermath Lounge.” $15
. In “Aftermath Lounge,” each short story, like a homing pigeon, returns to the Gulf Coast to explore how its people struggle with the ghost of Hurricane Katrina. With riveting prose, Margaret McMullan tracks the weblike connections of family and friends haunted by the storm from Pass Christian, Mississippi, to Chicago.” mm44@evansville.edu.

Deirdre Thurston. “Caught.” $20. This is a collection of short stories, literary sketches and vignettes from a New Zealand writer. Each story delves into human themes and is filled with subtle irony, humor and touching observations. The stories also highlight our era of increasing civil disconnection, in which technology is replacing intimacy. deirdre.thurston@icloud.com.

SELF-HELP

Tom Bentley. “Think Like a Writer.” $2.99 (e-book). If language is, as Tom puts it, “a bright bird, uncatchable, but worth every attempt,” this book is the lovingly prepared gilded cage, the single perfect feather caught in the net. If you have wondered what voice is, how to master it, how to free the storyteller within, this is your book. You will come away from it feeling a bright bird yourself, ready for flight. bentguy@gmail.com.

Barbara Trainin Blank. “What To do About Mama?”
$20.Fifty-four million Americans already serve as unpaid caregivers to family members, and that number is likely to grow as the population continues to age. Two-thirds of these caregivers are women—many of them in the “sandwich generation,” simultaneously caring for both children and older family members.

This book offers guidance to present and future caregivers—based on the real-life experiences of the authors and other caregivers who have openly and honestly shared their joys and heartaches. tblankbarb@aol.com.

YOUNG ADULT

Jenifer Caloyeras. “Strays.” $16.95. In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him. With sparkling prose and delightful humor, Jennifer Caloyeras’s novel beautifully portrays the human-animal bond. writing@caloyeras.com.

 

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1. Someone Not Really Her Mother

OUR OTHER FEATURED BOOKS FOR THE COMING WEEK, “COLORADO MANDALA,” BY BRIAN HEFFRON AND “FAIRY AND BLOOD: LILAC,” BY WILLIAM CRISTEL, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

Harriet Scott ChessmanTHE BOOK: Someone Not Really Her Mother.

PUBLISHED IN: 2004 and (newly edited and reissued) 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Harriet Scott Chessman.

THE EDITOR: M. Allen Cunningham.

Not Really her MotherTHE PUBLISHER: Originally Dutton; 2nd edition, Atelier26 Books

SUMMARY: This is a story about a woman with Alzheimer’s, and the ways in which her life inspires and influences her daughter and granddaughters.

Hannah Pearl is a 75-year-old French woman living in assisted living on the Connecticut Shoreline in the year 2000. Although her daughter and granddaughters live nearby and visit often, Hannah is starting to forget who they are, as memories of her girlhood in France and England erupt into the surface of her American world. Having escaped France at the age of fifteen, as the Germans invaded in 1940, Hannah tries to come to terms with her own continuing life, after her family perished in the camps of Drancy and Auschwitz.

This novel is composed of seven tightly interlinked stories. Hannah’s daughter Miranda and American-born granddaughters Fiona and Ida, each hold on to a particular vision of Hannah, whose largely untold life story of love and grief intertwines with and infuses their own. Each family member must negotiate the fraught intricacies of memory and geography, while it is the reader who ultimately discovers and illuminates all the pieces of this dream-like puzzle.

THE BACK STORY: After my second novel, Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, was published in 2001, I decided to write short stories. I am largely a self-taught writer, and I’ve always loved the short story form – something about its economy, its way of holding a whole world in a compressed space, appeals to me deeply.

As I wrote one of these stories, titled “Once, Something” (now the title of the novel’s first chapter), I realized that I might have a larger book on my hands. My character in this short story has lost almost all of her memory, and I started to wonder – well, who IS she? What is she forgetting?

This first story, “Once, Something,” found inspiration in my memories of my grandmother, Dorothy Crowder Chessman. Dorothy had been an English teacher, who loved poetry and fiction – a wonderfully intelligent and articulate woman — and it had been poignant to see her losing her memory and starting to wander from her retirement home.

Gradually, I realized that the various short stories I was writing could all come together into one novel. It was as if they started to send out tendrils, or filaments, to each other. With a lot of shaping and wrestling, I slowly figured out an architecture to the 7-story design, and within about 2 years I had the whole book complete.

One of the most difficult times in this process happened when my editor at Dutton suggested that the story about Ida, one of Hannah’s granddaughters, should be told from Ida’s point of view, and not from the point of view of Ida’s professor’s little girl Dulcie. I had been looking at Ida from the outside, and my editor felt sure that Ida was actually the heart and soul of this novel, and should be brought in more directly. It took me a few months of new writing, and I was really happy with the result. My editor had been 100% right! Ida is the poet of the book, just like the young Hannah, and she is the one who continues Hannah’s legacy most vividly.

WHY THIS TITLE? My original title was “Once, Something,” an allusion to one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, “For Once, Then, Something.” My editor at Dutton thought this title was too abstract, and suggested a line from the novel, in which Miranda thinks about how a woman with Alzheimer’s can turn into “someone not really your mother.”

I like this title, Someone Not Really Her Mother, yet it’s funny how difficult it is for my readers to remember! Maybe this is appropriate somehow, given the subject of Alzheimer’s (!), but it was certainly not intentional.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? As far as I know, Someone Not Really Her Mother is one of the few novels in which a majority of the story is told from the point of view of a person with Alzheimer’s. I gather that for many readers, I have given them insight into how it might feel, to lose short-term memory and to feel puzzled by earlier memories rising up and erupting into the surface of one’s life.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“An intellectual as well as emotional pleasure . . . Powerful . . . One of the best books of the year.” San Francisco Chronicle

“A lovely and poignant story to savor.” Booklist

“An elegant, haunting novel of memory and its loss.” Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Passion of Artemisia

AUTHOR PROFILE: “I am a writer who came to writing as a second career – something that, I think, has given me a balanced sense of this crazy world of publishing, and has helped me cherish each chance I have had to write and to connect with my readers.

My first career was as an English professor at Yale University. Once I stepped (or fell!) off the tenure ladder at Yale, my world opened up in a new way, as I discovered that if I could be patient, stories would come to me — or maybe stories had always come to me, but I had been too immersed in other things to be able to listen.

My first publisher, Permanent Press, took a chance on my debut novel, Ohio Angels, in 1999, and then published my 2nd novel, Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, in a beautifully designed format, with five full-color illustrations of paintings by Mary Cassatt (2001). Lydia gained wonderful distribution, first through Seven Stories Press, and then through Plume, who brought it out in paperback. Dutton/Plume also published my 3rd novel, Someone Not Really Her Mother (2004), while a new independent press – Atelier26 Books – brought out my most recent novel, The Beauty of Ordinary Things, in 2013.

I have been lucky with the reception of all of my fiction, which has been translated into 10 languages. Lydia became a #1 Indie Next pick; Someone became a Good Morning America choice and a Best Book of the San Francisco Chronicle. It has been a great joy and honor to discover an enthusiastic readership, and I hope to continue writing fiction for many years to come.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I always hope in my fiction to achieve some insight into people, and into the world – a sense of compassion for my characters’ lives. I think it’s so important to help people connect emotionally with each other, and with themselves. In this sense, voice and character are the two elements that most inspire me, and lead the way as I figure out each of my novels.

“I often write about people facing a great difficulty – infertility, grave illness, grief, trauma – and about the power of love and art, to help a person find a path forward.

“I realize, looking back, that my fiction has always had a contemplative and spiritual element, folded within itself. It is possibly this contemplative bent that helped me discover my character Sister Clare, a Benedictine nun, in The Beauty of Ordinary Things. All of my characters are contemplatives at some level. This is not something I planned! It must simply come out of my own character and yearnings.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: The opening of the first chapter, “Once, Something,” is available on my website:

http://harrietchessman.com/books-harriet-chessman/someone-not-really-her-mother/excerpt/

LOCAL OUTLETS: This title should become available soon through any independent bookstore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: The best place to buy this book is via the website of my publisher, Atelier26 Books: http://www.atelier26books.com/p/someone-not-really-her-mother.html

Of course, it’s also available on Amazon, and at Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, and other spots.

PRICE: Distributed to the trade by Small Press United/IPG ISBN:978-0-9893023-5-7 Retail price:$16.00 158 pages 8.5″x5.5″ trade paperback May 2015

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: hschessman@gmail.com http://harrietchessman.com/ https://www.facebook.com/Harriet-Scott-Chessman-author-229199717227858/

Twitter: @hchessman

2. Colorado Mandala

Colorado MandalaTHE BOOK: Colorado Mandala.

PUBLISHED IN: 2013.

THE AUTHOR:  Brian Francis Heffron

THE EDITOR/PROOF READER: Phyl Manning

THE PUBLISHER: Little House Books:  Los Angeles, London, New York

Brian HeffronSUMMARY:  With refreshing depth, distinct literary merit, and highly original poetic phrasings that spill from the pages like paint, Colorado Mandala is poet Brian Heffron’s debut work of literary fiction. It mines the complex landscape of post-Vietnam America to unearth the deep connections that bind individuals together, and also ferociously rip them asunder. Illustrative, luscious, seductive, and engaging, this rare piece of craftsmanship will stir the senses of any one who thirsts for artistic expression, or who longs for an era in our country now utterly, irretrievably gone.

In the heady, hippie backdrop of Pike’s Peak, Colorado, in the tumultuous 1970s, three souls swirl together in an explosive supernova. Michael is the flinty-eyed, volatile former Green Beret, whose tour in Vietnam has left unbridgeable chasms in his psyche and secrets that can never find light. Sarah is his fair-haired paramour, the ethereal Earth Mother widow of a fallen soldier and single mother to a ten-year-old son Stuart. Paul is a young wanderer, who is drawn in by Michael and soon bears the mantle of both minister and scourge. As they are drawn together, and torn apart, each is changed forever. And our hearts race along with them, through the rocky, raw Colorado terrain amidst the blood sport of man and beast.

Laying bare the loss and acceptance of a pioneering age, Colorado Mandala shines revelatory light on the crazy, glorious, and romantic notion that each generation conceives anew: that love can be a spiritual gift shared openly rather than coveted, or hidden, or hoarded. If you wish to go barefoot again and climb an unspoiled Colorado trail, look no further. If you long for something to wake you up in simple, clean language, a shimmering story awaits. Awaken to what you have always known: simple truths show you the way home. With his gripping and unforgettable Colorado Mandala, it is clear that Brian Heffron knows the way. 
*Portion of proceeds to benefit clients of PTSD charitable organizations.

THE BACK STORY: Mr. Heffron started writing the book as a creative writing assignment during his second year at Emerson College.  He shelved the manuscript for some 30 years to work as an award-winning television writer, producer and director.  Also an established national poet, Mr. Heffron revisited and completed the novel in 2013.  In tune with a reemerging interest in PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, Colorado Mandala is set during the tumultuous 1970’s in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where the main character’s struggle with PTSD is a driving force in the plot.  A gripping flashback to the earlier Viet Nam trauma explains the character’s symptoms of hyper-vigilance, volatility, severe anxiety, and a constant struggle to sustain loving relationships.

WHY THIS TITLE? A mandala represents a serene and settled psyche. The book is the story of three people trying to help each other leave the past behind and become serene.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Colorado Mandala pays tribute to the many thousands of soldiers currently suffering from PTSD across our country, particularly the Viet Nam Veteran, and is being reviewed for possible inclusion in bibliotherapy, the use of literature to heal,” explained Mr. Heffron.  “The thousands of stories I heard while hitchhiking and visiting Colorado in the 1970s, and meeting so many recently returned Viet Nam Vets, created the framework for this story.  I lived amidst these emotionally shattered guys and the hippie community which embraced and nurtured them and their women.  So I feel a deep connection to these wounded warriors and for this reason I am donating a portion of the proceeds from Colorado Mandala to PTSD therapy organizations in support of their client work.  My hope is that this novel will provide a compassionate, creative voice of tenderness to these fractured folk who need far more acknowledgement, kindness, love and support..

Colorado Mandala is a fabulous tale of love, honor, friendship and the psychological morass of Viet Nam Vets; their private codes, their impenetrable camaraderie. Brian understands the life of the nomad, getting a ride here, jumping off there and hoping for peace and new encounters. His understanding of human strengths and failings is impeccably delineated in this marvelous account of Michael, Sarah, her young son, Stuart, and himself.  The plot has been carefully and craft fully drawn and readers of all ages, those who remember Viet Nam and those who have only history to rely on the terror, will appreciate this tale, close to a My Lai experience,” said Stefanie Stolinsky, Ph.D., clinical and forensic psychologist and a nationally recognized expert in the fields of trauma, PTSD, and child abuse.
Colorado Mandala can be purchased in bulk for Veterans of America hospitals and other organizations. 


REVIEW COMMENTS: 

COLORADO MANDALA has won an Independent Publisher’s Award, was a Finalist for the Rone Award, and was Goodreads.com‘s very first Book of the Month in June 2013.” 

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEWS 5 OUT OF 5 STARS:

Colorado Mandala comes from poet Brian Heffron, who departs from his established genre with a novel of the seventies recommended for fans of literary fiction.  The novel opens with an eloquent preface explaining the author’s early attraction (at age twelve) to hitchhiking, an occupation that leads to journeys throughout America:

“This connection to highways, and journeys on them, may be because I was born the summer Congress passed the Federal Highway Act. I came in with the highways and have actually grown up on them; my New Jersey suburb had a major national highway route running right alongside its border. This meant that total geographic, continental freedom was only one bold, usually cold, thumb ride away.”

Each new ride leads to encounters with strangers,  new fables and legends, and different perceptions of love and connection which form foundations for the fictional experiences (based on fact) described in Colorado Mandala.

This book is all about shared connections, different visions of love, and a journey through America that vividly connects strangers and places.

Its dialog and descriptions are exquisite, pairing a sense of place with a sense of character and linking the two with a fine mesh of intricate, accurate and sensual description:

‘A narrowing canyon: deep, long and slim, with fluted columns of red sandstone and brickish dented walls. Yellow cinquefoils blooming from niches bob in the noonday breeze. Within the canyon is a fast stream so filled with rocks and boulders that the water can hardly find a course. The bank is clay and has retreated with the burden of the spring run-off. Along the southern shore is a roadbed; beside it a flock of brewer’s blackbirds feed on ticks and water spiders. Their hollow white eyes snap to at the first rumble of an approaching vehicle.’

Heffron’s use of the first person is an added bonus, taking full advantage of the protagonist’s observations of and experiences with his world and its various interactions, and will delight readers looking for a ‘you are there’ feel in their reading.

From canyons filled with climbing, nature, and water adventures to bars, drinking, and bad debts, Colorado Mandala moves swiftly and easily between very different atmospheres, carrying readers like a river through the eddies, undercurrents, and compelling mystery of human interactions.

There are cave explorations and cockfighting, there’s debt and repayment, wilderness encounters, and the coming together of different peoples and personalities – all set against the backdrop of Colorado’s natural wonders.

As the story evolves, readers become immersed in the journey, changing relationships between very different protagonists, and an evolving pressure of past upon present which eventually transforms lives and personalities alike:


‘I never believed it possible, but now, in this high wilderness timber clear-cut, there was something I had never seen before in my former partner’s eyes: murder…as he approached, I remembered another clearing, a clearing not in my life, but in his. A far away jungle clearing that he fought in a long, long time ago. A clearing he had never really left behind. And I thought, ‘Here is my best friend. My finest, and most loyal friend, even if there are occasional fisticuffs, here he is out of his mind with a toxic dose of long-held, misplaced guilt: a killing in the past that so devastated him that he is willing to commit a murder in the present to cover it up. Madness.’

“Gripping writing, solid descriptions of friendships, relationships and changes, and the vivid setting of Colorado’s wilderness byways: these facets make Colorado Mandala a tapestry of light, sound and color perfect for readers seeking evocative, compelling stories of journey and inspiration.”
— Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Colorado Mandala is an intricate chain of literary fiction…The novel fuses poetic verse with gritty contemporary dialogue and solves conflict with love. From spelunking to cock fights, readers won’t imagine what’s coming next. The author stretches the paradigms of romance by magnifying love as misshapen but uniquely perfect for friend and amour.  At the beginning and end of each chapter, the author holds the reader aloft by a perspective crafted with exquisite diction to foreshadow a scene or thought. Then abruptly the literary rug is pulled away to join his first person perspective. The plot is eclectic. Conflicts are resolved in a true to life way. Those who love the art of the written word will probably agree this work may quite likely be genius, but most definitely not mundane. The pant-o-meter may not be breathing heavy, but it is transmitting a response resembling an unsteady heartbeat .”
—Natasza Waters — In D’Tale Magazine

“Often the value of a book is in the feeling that remains after the last page is turned. Heffron is a gifted storyteller and his poetic voice and melancholic mood left this reader with a feeling of yearning. The story is well structured, and the mood is worthy of comparison to that of John Steinbeck. The author, I think, intends to haunt, as Steinbeck often did, and in this he succeeds, leaving the reader with both a sense of the `sixties-seventies’ high aspirations, and the beginnings of the resulting fall back to earth.”
— Gridley, June 15, 2013, Asheville, NC,

 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Poet and novelist Brian Francis Heffron was a staff writer/director/producer at PBS for 20 years where he created educational programming to assist students and teachers.

After getting a BFA in Writing from Emerson college, Heffron became a professional sailor, working up from deckhand to celestial navigator to delivery skipper, eventually circumnavigating the north Atlantic including a passage from St. Thomas to Gibraltar in a 37 foot sailboat.

He got his first television set experience in the world of Advertising working for WRK, a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam. There he learned the ropes of production and produced his first commercials. Since then has worked at almost every position on a set from grip to props to production design and was eventually the director of photography on the award winning independent feature film, “The Imported Bridegroom”.

Heffron has worked in Los Angles since the early nineties as a screenwriter and TV producer/director. Since joining PBS he has won multiple Telly Awards, Aurora Awards, Videographer Awards, Emmys, and the Davis Award. He is credited with creating the first animated web series on AOL entitled “Hollywood Nights”, and he was the creative director of a software and art company that created the fifty thousand clip-art images contained within MSWord.

Along the way he created a poetry life-blog in his Facebook Notes section that attracted an international audience. On Valentine’s Day 2009 he published a handmade poetry chapbook, Sustain Me with Your Breath, that sold out in three weeks. It then became an ebook sensation. Heffron followed up with a one hour spoken word poetry CD entitled, “Something You Could Touch”. This broke sales records in its category.

He has been writing since he first met Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. “Go, Dog, Go!” was a strong early influence and remains so. His poetry and prose is deeply infused with images of nature, and hopefully, snatches of humor.

Currently a resident of Glendora, California Brian Francis Heffron has distilled his poetic sensibility into a deeply lyrical work of fiction. For more information, please visit brianheffron.net  

AUTHOR COMMENTS: 

Critically acclaimed poet Brian Francis Heffron has written his first novel Colorado Mandala in tune with a reemerging interest in PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event. Colorado Mandala is set during the tumultuous 1970’s in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where the main character’s struggle with PTSD is a driving force in the plot.  A gripping flashback to the earlier Viet Nam trauma explains the character’s symptoms of hyper-vigilance, volatility, severe anxiety, and a constant struggle to sustain loving relationships.

Colorado Mandala pays tribute to the many thousands of soldiers currently suffering from PTSD across our country, particularly the Viet Nam Veteran, and is being reviewed for possible inclusion in bibliotherapy, the use of literature to heal,” explained Mr. Heffron.  “The thousands of stories I heard while hitchhiking and visiting Colorado in the 1970s, and meeting so many recently returned Viet Nam Vets, created the framework for this story.  I lived amidst these emotionally shattered guys and the hippie community which embraced and nurtured them and their women.  So I feel a deep connection to these wounded warriors and for this reason I am donating a portion of the proceeds from Colorado Mandala to PTSD therapy organizations in support of their client work.  My hope is that this novel will provide a compassionate, creative voice of tenderness to these fractured folk who need far more acknowledgement, kindness, love and support.”


SAMPLE PREFACE & OPENING CHAPTER: 

    “When I was twelve, I first stuck my thumb out to hitchhike long distance. A yellow Pontiac Bonneville driven by a young Italian girl pulled over onto the dusty shoulder of the Garden State Parkway entrance ramp and I got in. I mention her ethnicity because at that time the Irish and the Italians were like two sides in an ongoing hockey game with lots of checking. I did not really understand this feud other than as two tribes that had not yet merged in the American melting pot engaged in a struggle for resources, jobs, opportunities, and that golden fleece: a solid economic future. Then we hippies came along and rejected all that. Things have never been the same since.
Forever after that first free ride, I could almost never be dissuaded from hitchhiking to any destination that had a highway, or any paved road, leading to it. Seventy dollars was my cash threshold to have on hand to set off on a long hitchhiking journey. With seventy dollars in my pocket in Boston, I could be in the Florida Keys for every spring break, or the Colorado Rockies as spring turned to summer, both within a few days to a week: A week living outdoors in an exterior America. Where a pickup truck bed is a double bed. Where your last ride often offers you a meal and a real bed for the night. A life lived out of doors was once commonplace in America, but now the wild places are occupied mostly by raccoons, possums and squirrels. Twenty to forty rides later I would arrive at my destination not having spent a cent. 

So America’s highways held no mystery for me. Their easily understood system of routes, urban loops, city bypasses and best of all, major cloverleafs, was my friend, even more than they were for the mere “drivers” who also used them. No driver was ever forced to stop periodically (when a ride ends) and examine the land through which they were passing. Hitchhiking is moving in unplanned and unknown duration hiccups. Hopping like a pogo stick in one general direction until you narrow it down to where you actually want to land. The Citizens in the cars that picked me up were very nice to me all over our country, so I went wherever I wanted. 

The truth is, I love the hulking cement “Jersey Barriers” that stream alongside the fast lane, just inches from your rear view mirror, and separating all of us from the on-coming traffic! They are not eyesores to me. They are part of my human infrastructure, my transportation psyche. 

At night, along the highway, I love the dirty-brown light from the cheap sodium vapor lamps cantilevered out over the roadway from giant spindle like aluminum poles. 

I love to examine the pointed advice of previous hitchhikers who have carved their thoughts into the gray metal bases of these lights: “This place sucks for hitchin’!” “No rides for four hours! The Rambler USA72!” “Good luck getting out of here, Oct 1976 Bicentennial!” I love the generic green destination signs that hang out over the highway every few miles. A new universal visual language: “Grand Ave One Mile”. I adore the cold empty concrete; Cowboy boots and engine running gas fumes of any decent truck stop in the absolutely dead black middle of the night.

This connection to highways, and journeys on them, may be because I was born the summer Congress passed the Federal Highway Act. I came in with the highways and have actually grown up on them; My New Jersy suburb that had a major national highway Route running right alongside its border; This meant that total geographic, continental, freedom was only one bold, usually cold, thumb ride away. 

But bundle up, stuff a small pack with an extra T-shirt and jeans and off you go into the darkness. Hitchhiking out into the enormous bloodstream of 41,000 mapped miles that run all over America. Except for the annual 95 South hitch to Florida (for the sun!), I focused mostly on the coast to coast, east/west highways draped across America’s chest like a diverse array of chains and necklaces. The dark slushy snow of industrial Route 80 at the top, the rustic Route 40 bisecting the country along the old the Mason Dickson line, and the sweaty Route 10 loping along the deep south amidst the American Tropics. 

America’s highways granted me access to our entire country via a long entrance ramp that started right at the edge of my own hometown. Aladdin’s Carpet was waiting at the end of that black macadam ramp: all you had to do was stick out you’re your thumb and you were off. 

Admit to the world that you needed a ride. Admit you wanted to travel for free. Admit you were going on an adventure. And I’ll tell you, the world responded. Everyone likes to see another person on an adventure. They wish they were so bold so they admire you. Many people stopped to pick me up. I never waited anywhere for very long.
Exit 172 on the New Jersey Garden State Parkway was my portal to the innards of America. Within a few years, via hitchhiking, almost every remote mountain range, coastal peninsula or Midwest flatland could quickly become a destination for me.

I took Moonshine with grizzled hillbilly farmers in Georgia who teased me about my hair, but then drove me twenty miles out of his way to get me back on track. I met breathtakingly beautiful girls camping wild in the Florida keys with their kitchen utensils delicately suspended in the crooks and branches of a flamboyantly red Royal Poinciana. I met single Moms fleeing unhappy homes: Alice had started to not want to stay home anymore.

Hitchhiking was probably scarier for the drivers giving me rides than it ever was for me. In all the thousands of rides I got I never once felt any true sense of threat, fear or danger. Only a few times, in my naiveté, I got into cars that I later realized I was lucky to get back out of. But mostly it was safe, cheap and fun.

If the driver sounded crazy, then the crazier I pitched my act. No matter how bizarre they became, I always went a bit further. Meet nonsense with gibberish. Meet psychosis with agitation. Treat crazy people with true respect on their own level and you’ll soon make a friend. (But I would stay away from taking a ride in any vehicle once, or presently owned, by a funeral parlor: Just a rule of thumb based on one late night ride through a hurricane in Maine.)

I should say that, right from the start, I never felt any obligation to tell the truth to anyone who picked me up hitchhiking. Each new ride and new car was a new audience and got a new fable about whom I was and where I was going. I simply thought that telling the truth to someone who had gone to the trouble of pulling off the highway to pick me up, would be a great disservice to that person and really letting them down. These tired and weary drivers wanted and deserved a lively story from me. They were not on an adventure and I was, and it was time to pay for my ticket!

So, for each new ride, I invented a fresh, Paul Bunyan size fable about myself and my dire circumstances, troubled past, urgent mission, pursuit by parents (or worse), etc., Stories that would pop their eyes right out of their bourgeoisie heads. I happened to be a very well-trained fibber at the time, and they needed a good story while they drove, so I was really only holding up my end of the bargain.
Out there in the middle of this enormous country of ours soldiers almost always pick you up. When you are stuck in nowhere Ville Indiana on Route 70 it is a lock that when some young man, or now woman, serving our country passes you that they will pull over their (invariably) American Muscle Car to give you a ride…Or a drive, really, because they always immediately slid over into the passenger seat having judged me capable of handling their huge, overblown, over horse-powered, product of Detroit. This was true when I roved America’s national boulevards, and its still  true today. American military personnel simply always pick up hitchhikers. Why? Because they have only a few day’s leave and it is a long way between their base and their hometown. And so they always want to cover that distance as quickly as is combustion-enginely-possible and hitchhikers who can drive facilitate this speedy process. After they pick you up, these soldiers almost immediately fall deeply asleep, so it is important to identify their ultimate destination before they are overcome with an un-wakeable slumber. 

I once met a Soldier very much like the character Michael Boyd Atman, whom you are about to meet within the pages of this book, when he picked me up hitchhiking on Route 70 in Kansas in the seventies. If this is of any use to you: one might even imagine that Paul, the narrator of this story, actually hitchhiked into our tale by meeting Michael in just this manner, as a hitchhiker thumbing a ride somewhere in the high desert of Route 70 in Kansas or eastern Colorado, heading straight for that bright line of snow dusted mountains that splits our country from top to bottom like a spine: the Rockies. Although that mystical meeting between our characters would have had to occur long before our tale begins, when they have already become blood brothers.

#     #      #

This book is about the crazy, glorious and romantic notion that every generation conceives anew: that love can be a spiritual gift shared openly among all who feel it, not coveted, or hidden, or hoarded. That love, in its purest and most universal form can be shared among more than two people and that therefore we can, and should, all simply love each other unhindered in the here and now.
Then each new generation gradually learns how real life involves loyalty and jealousy, sexual loyalty, and the intimacy that can only grow up between two people, and other deeply human traits.

The story is my own. The characters are mine own as well. But, both the plot and the people lived once, in a time of tenderness, rebellious music, and long hair that was quite different from our own.
Do not worry, I will not go on and on about how great it was back then. I will simply say that, knowing you as I do, dear reader, that you might very well have enjoyed living back then. Yes. I feel certain that you would have liked it very much.

Brian Francis Heffron
March 1st 2013

———


CHAPTER ONE

A canyon; long and slim with fluted columns of red sandstone and
brickish dented walls.  Yellow cinquefoils blooming from niches bob in the noon day breeze.  Within the canyon is a fast stream so filled with rocks and boulders that the water can hardly find a path.  The bank is clay and shrunk back with the burden of spring run-off.  Along the southern shore is a roadbed; beside it a flock of brewer’s blackbirds feed on tics and water spiders.  Their hollow white eyes
snap to at the first rumble of an approaching vehicle.

Brown dust; clouds of it rose like a plume from the back of the jeep.  Michael Boyd Atman was lying on one side of the open tailgate with the kid on the other.  Between them lay the pup, Strider, on his side, panting.  They had to keep their eyes closed tight against the dust, but occasionally Michael would open his for a quick glance across the stream.  We were just entering the canyon and here the far bank sloped up steeply covered with thin bristlecone pines.

I didn’t know where I was going, but that really didn’t matter.  The rutted roadbed was unyielding to my steering, and the dried mud creases held the wheels like a slot car.  Driving was more like being a switchman, choosing the route by the ruts at all points of decision.  Beside me sat Michael’s girlfriend, Sarah.  She was also the kid’s mother.  We came around a bend and the canyon was suddenly filled with Cub Scouts.  Dozens of them on both sides of the road, carrying plastic garbage bags and running around cleaning the place up.  On the bank near the water was a mountain of filled sacks.  The scouts were all grinning at us and giving us the peace sign.

“They look like little beavers building a dam,” said Sarah.

The pines began to yield to rock, tall speckled cliffs, seventy feet up and overhanging.  We were now in the South Platte River Canyon.  Ahead, three fishermen, all in tall olive waders, splashed around in the stream like bird dogs.  They looked up as we passed, frowning at the noise of our jeep, as if their own commotion hadn’t already scared every trout for thirty miles.  One of them, the smallest, gave us the finger; the kid thought it was a new kind of peace sign so he flashed, it right back.  The guy must have felt great getting the finger from a ten year-old kid.  Michael sat up between the front seats and looked out.

“The river is a lot lower than when I was here last year.  It was right up to the roadbed then.  You can see where it carried off that shack and left it in the sand.”

“In the middle of the stream on a high sandbar was a grey wood shack on its side, roofless.  The parallel walls leaned far to one side.

I had never been here before.  It was a wide, dusty canyon.  Michael had told us about it the night before, at the Loop Lounge.

“How did you hear about this place?” asked Sarah.

“Alan and I came up here last spring and jumped off the cliffs trying to go through an inner tube; for accuracy.” Said Michael, “Too low for that this year, though.  Bad luck.”

“Yeah, bad luck,” I said.

“This is it. We’re almost there.”

The stream went down and the cliffs rose on both sides.  On our left we looked down steep red rocks to the water.  On the far shore, the cliff rose sheer from the foaming rapids.  The stream thinned and accelerated through the alley-like narrows.  I tried to estimate the depth of the water, to see if there could ever be a safe jump from the top.  No, it seemed much too shallow, perhaps from halfway up.

“This is it,” said Michael.  “Right there, see the white water?  Well, it spills out into a slow pool and then you can ride it all the way down.”

I slowed down and pulled off the road.  We parked in the shade of the forest lip.  The kid, whose name was Stuart, took off as soon as I stopped.  He was only ten, and hadn’t said one word on the whole trip up, but just sat smiling.  I figured he was just shy.

Michael and I were in long pants and had to change.  Sarah followed Strider down to the stream.  After we changed, we got the truck tire inner tube and walked upstream high above the water.  On a huge boulder along the water were about ten Denver teenagers.  Almost all of them were wearing sailor’s watch-caps.  A few were playing guitars, all were drunk and loud.

We left the road down into a crack in the cliff.  It became a loose shale path leading steeply down to the stream.  Michael hurried down, jumping from rock to smooth rock, rolling the wide inner tube in front of him.  He stopped short of rushing in and slowly dipped his foot.
“Ahhh,” he said, “it’s freezing!”

Michael isn’t very big, about five foot six, I guess.  He has a high hairline with twirling blond hair hanging off both sides of his head to his shoulders.  His eyes are small, but shine out from young crow’s feet and over a long drooping mustache.  He jumped on the inner tube and paddled out into the fast current.  He soon left my sight, bouncing down over a roller coaster of water, yelling.

The shore was thick dust that clung to my feet and itched.  I waded in to my knees; the water was chilling cold and shimmering.  The bottom was covered with worry stone pebble and sloped away into a V.  The stream was about thirty feet across.  In the center the current was the slowest, although still fairly fast.  The water rushed along both sides and around my numb, whitening legs.  It felt good and purged whatever was left of my hangover.  I squatted down and splashed my face.

Presently, I heard and saw Stuart coming swiftly from the road.  He slid like a skier in the loose rock.

“Paul, Michael says it’s great.  He says wait till you get past this first narrow part, the next one is even better.”

He rolled me the inner tube nod I jumped on. I kicked my way out into the current and it picked me up like a mailbag.

I was lying on my chest with my arms overhanging.  I tried to keep head first but I was soon spinning out of control, up and down over unseen rocks, my head and shoulders buried in the water.  The stream’s first pass went up over a rock and then down ten feet over two more.  I could see the rich green moss leaning taut on the faces of the submerged stone.  Then the current slowed down into a short slow pool.  I drifted serenely towards the downstream exit.  Just before I reached the edge, feet first, I heard something that sounded like loud applause.  I gradually recognized it as the roar of falling water.

I fell free-fall for about twenty-five feet, landed partially in the water and partially on a rock. My back stung, tearing as the rock bit in. The inner tube took the worst of the jolt, but I lost my grip and went under.

When I came up, spitting like a whale, the inner tube was only about ten feet away.  I swam to it and slowly worked my way on. My legs and arms were bloody though numb from the cold water. Once on, I floated towards the red bank nearby. I gradually perceived the sound of voices yelling over the load roar of the water.  I looked up and could see Michael high above me on the cliff; laughing and dancing around, and pointing down at me, and laughing.

(end of chapter one)

———————-


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