Weather Report, Feb. 1

 

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “NOT ANOTHER SUPERHERO” BY TARA LYNN THOMPSON, “SWIMMING WITH MAYA,” BY ELEANOR VINCENT AND “EMERGENCY ANTHEMS,” BY ALEX GREEN, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 2-8

The integration of E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Va in 1962 was not a national story — no irate white protestors, no police intervention, no drama.  Yet as Patricia Wild describes it, the psychological and social pressures on Lynda Woodruff and Owen Cardwell were the stuff of adolescent nightmares. At an age where most teen-agers desperately desire to be like everyone else, Woodruff and Cardwell made the choice to be completely and obviously different. At a time when the peer group is everything, that choice left them virtually friendless.

This is not a just book about civil rights and race, but about high school, and adolescence, and the price that must be paid by those daring to defy the status quo.

Meanwhile, our second featured book, “In Her Mother’s Shoes,” highlights the work of a literary late-bloomer, Dawn Lajeunesse. Dawn writes:

“After years in the health care field, I finally pursued my writing passion. I published my first novel, Autumn Colors, after my fiftieth birthday, followed a few years later by In Her Mother’s Shoes. I’m currently hard at work on my third novel, working title Gram and Me. I live north of Saratoga Springs, NY with my husband, Dennis and Border Terrier, Nala. We can be found frequently paddling our canoe on Adirondack lakes and rivers, biking the roads of northern NYS, cross country skiing, or climbing one of the beautiful mountains surrounding us.”

For our third entry, it’s time for another “First Tuesday Replay.”

“WAY OPENS,” BY PATRICIA WILD.

Eight years ago, Patricia Wild began to wonder: whatever happened to the two African Americans who desegregated her high school in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1962? That question became a quest; Way Opens tracks her journey. She finds Dr. Lynda Woodruff, now a college professor, and Reverend Owen Cardwell, a Baptist preacher, she finally learns the history lessons never taught in her segregated high school, and gently guided by Lynda and Owen, her Quaker meeting, and the people she meets along the way, examines her White privilege and the spiritual underpinnings of social justice.

“IN HER MOTHER’S SHOES,” BY DAWN LeJEUNESSE.

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.

When Meredith finds a journal she kept in her twenties, she is reminded of the love she once felt for Keith, and the extent of her loss settles in. A series of crises forces them to confront their relationship, but will it be enough to put Meredith on the path to mending her shattered family and life?

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FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

This month, we will re-visit “Clog!” by Dan Smith, “Refuge,” by Melinda Inman, “Hannah, Delivered,” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, “The Last Best Thing,” by Kate Sebeny, “Showing Up,” by Eric West, and “Mad Max: Uncharted Territory,” by Betsy Ashton.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Kellan Publishing Company http://kellanpublishing.com will hold an online discussion this month around Kate Sebeny’s “The Last Best Thing.” There will be opportunities to discuss the book online throughout the month of February. To participate, go to https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/981868-a-look-into-the-last-best-thing.

Israeli writer Richard Steinitz, whose “Murder Across the Border,” was featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard last Aug. 21, is offering the e-book versions of both that novel and another, “Kaplan’s Quest,” for a total of 99 cents from Feb. 1-7. Click on http://ravenswoodpublisdhing.com/bookpages/kaplansquest.html or http://ravenswoodpublishing.com/bookpages/murderovertheborder.html. He would appreciate a review.

 

 

 

 

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Not Another Superhero

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “SWIMMING WITH MAYA,” BY ELEANOR VINCENT AND “EMERGENCY ANTHEMS,” BY ALEX GREEN, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.


THE BOOK:
Not Another Superhero.

PUBLISHED IN: November 2015

THE AUTHOR: Tara Lynn Thompson.

THE PUBLISHER: Create Space.

SUMMARY: Samantha Addison remembers the mugger. And his gun. How he pointed it at her head. When he pulled the trigger. She remembers everything, except how she survived.

But it’s only Monday. She’s embarking on a week of near misses and a mystery growing with each attempt on her life.

Why would anyone want to kill the editor of a puff piece magazine? How could she be a threat to anyone? Will the attacks stop? Or will one finally succeed?

Through all the hair-raising events, a man in a black hood keeps saving the day before vanishing without telling her anything. Including his name.

Who is this guy? What is his connection to these events? And can he keep her alive?

It’s a race against the clock to solve a mystery more outlandish than a faceless hero in a hood. In the end, her survival may depend entirely on whom she can trust. And whom she absolutely cannot.

THE BACK STORY:  It was during the vampire craze, initially. That’s where the first seeds of it came. I honestly didn’t understand the obsession with an immortal being that drank blood. The darkness of it bothered me. The death surrounding it bothered me. The fact he probably had a serious case of halitosis really bothered me.

There were appealing elements, for sure. The mystery, the eternity, the abilities. But, again, the feeding on life part. Not give life. Not sacrifice for life. Absorb it. And this is what women want? This is what they desired to find?

Nah. I didn’t buy it. What women wanted was true romance. Adventure? Yes. Danger? Sure. Fun? Yep. Blood? My bet was they could do without it.

Women want to be loved. They long for true devotion. So, what does that look like?

I set out to define love, in a way. At least to define it according to me. As I began to meditate on the subject and watch it in others who lived out true devotion over decades, the answer came to me and it was far simpler than imagined. Love mean sacrificing yourself.

That’s love. That’s what it really is.

Now was the hard question for a writer: How did I illustrate that? Also, while illustrating it, how did I make it fun and exciting and humorous and entertaining? How did you take a reader on an adventure about love? How did you help them that love and darkness do not coexist? They are diametrically opposed.

Well, minus the tights, how about in a superhero story?

WHY THIS TITLE?:  This is Not Another Superhero story. Not like what we all expect. The premise sets the different tone immediately – focusing on the love interest of a superhero instead of the superhero personally – but that’s only the plot. It’s about more than that. It’s about what comprises a superhero. Beyond the abilities. Beyond the flash. What’s at the heart of it all? The heart. Of course. Always. It’s about love. And what, truly, is love? It’s self-sacrifice. Complete and total.

What I hope to inspire in my readers is, not only a desire to experience that kind of love, but to exhibit it. To be their kind of superhero to someone else. To their spouse or children or family or friends or neighbors or strangers or community. To not be just another superhero, but to be a different kind of superhero. Their kind. To define that term for themselves. To stand out with those qualities we all associate with the superhero character – giving of themselves, involved in the lives of others, serving others to great personal consequence.

This is NOT Another Superhero story. This is YOUR superhero story.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It’s beautifully sarcastic. Maybe I find sarcasm beautiful because I am sarcastic. These odd, rather out of place, thoughts are always striking me at the most awkward and inappropriately timed moments. What would happen if I shared them? Hopefully some laughter. Some fun. And some bonding because I know I’m not alone here.

Admit it. Your inner voice is sarcastic, too.

Beyond that, the story is fast-paced, it’s adventurous, it takes us into a journey of life, love, ridiculousness and splendidly likable characters, all while being free of any excessive vulgarity, sexual explicitness, and, really, harsh darkness. This will leave you hopeful, smiling, and, as one reader told me, ready to get back into that world and read it again.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Amazon Reviews:

“Wow. I don’t like cliffhangers but this was worth it. Amazing dialogue. Mysterious man in black. Sarcastic heroine. This book has it all.”

“The main character in the book, Samantha Addison, is just living life until one night, everything changes, and it’s never the same. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, it kept me guessing. I also loved Samantha’s personality; funny, no-nonsense and believable. My only problem with the book is that it ENDED! I must have more! This is the first non-fiction book I’ve read in 10 years and I absolutely cannot wait for another from this author. And although the book has ended, I have a feeling there is way more to this story. I need to understand why, how and what’s next. This book made me laugh out loud and kept me flying through the pages. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery, romance and living on the edge. This book was well worth my Saturday.”

“I loved this book and sincerely can’t wait for the story to continue! Its witty dialogue and mysterious plot kept me laughing and intrigued. It’s a great read!”

“What a fun, suspenseful, interesting and entertaining read! From the first pages till the end I was captured, intrigued, and drawn in. The dialogue, the thinking, the action…all superb. I’m looking forward to many more stories from Tara Lynn. She’s got the goods.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Life is a great story, one that requires verbs, adjectives, and a few made up words just to keep people guessing. I get a sharp, rather devious zing, when I keeping people guessing.

From early on, during my way, way, way back days as a 19-year-old beat reporter, I’ve been confounding people with my descriptive writing. At first I thought the confounding was a compliment. Mostly, I think they were just annoyed.

“I don’t appreciate needing a dictionary when I sit down to read my paper, young lady,” one reader once complained, which only made me feel exuberant (adj., means “intensely happy”). It wasn’t that I had an abnormally, or even that impressive, vocabulary. I just loved mixing words into a heap of puzzle pieces and seeing who wanted to dive in and find the corner.

My early beginnings in print taught me many things, two of which I’ll point out now:

1) People are fascinating.

2) Writing rules are for the timid.

For over a decade, I honed my interviewing skills until I had developed a canny, if not at times creepy, way of reading people. Or at least observing them. Their personalities, quirks, oddities, passions, language, all of it I recorded in my head like an unhackable Cloud. One day I knew it would all come rushing back out again.

One day.

Throughout my career, as I migrated into the neatly stacked boxes of business communication, the unquenchable thirst of marketing strategy, and the tight squeeze of advertising writing, I never lost my love of the character. Of their story. And of their gripping adventure, if I could ever toss them into that heap of puzzle pieces.

This is my one day.

Not Another Superhero, for me, is an adventure of love, honor, and danger, if it happened to the quirkiest girl in the neighborhood. She’s our heroine. And the culmination of what fear, doubt, and hesitation does to our life when we give it value. Or even a breath to speak.

She will, however, prove to us she’s an overcomer. But, first, she’s got to prove it to herself.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  For me, this book is more than a book. It’s a belief. It’s the concept of giving and self-sacrifice and being a hero to others. That’s the kind of behavior I hope to inspire. That’s the kind of behavior I hope to practice.

As a first step, I’m giving away a portion of all proceeds to charity. I don’t have only one picked out, but several. I plan to donate continually and to charities as I see need arise.

By purchasing the book, readers can be part of living out the life of a superhero to someone else. And, if they have a charity that is near and dear to them, I want to know about it! I may be convinced to donate there next. Also, I’ll be posting all the donations and the impact my readers make so they can see the huge difference even a small donation can make to a single child, or impoverished family, or suffering individual.

Of all the things I have loved about writing this book – and what I joy it has been! – I am most thrilled at the prospect of using the book to ultimately help others.

Being an author is so cool.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Chapter 1

There are things in life worth dying for. Toothpaste isn’t one of them.

Freedom, justice, truth—these are virtues mankind has sacrificed to obtain. Or protect. Or propagate. They are ideals worthy of blood when little else is.

Wars for these virtues are honorable. Idealized. For higher causes and the greater good. They draw the maiden to the hero, the hero to the battle lines, and the coward to obscurity. And they have nothing to do with toothpaste, but toothpaste is what had me in this mess.

“Scream, and I shoot you sooner than I want. Fight me, and I shoot you sooner than I want. Bore me, and I’ll shoot you now.” The man used the gun in his hand to punctuate each point. When he said “shoot,” a juicy whistle escaped the gap in his front teeth.

It had been a typical Monday night until he grabbed me outside Walgreens and dragged me into a nearby alley. There I met his Russian handgun, Makarov. From then to now, he had been droning on about “fun,” “games,” and “rules” while rhythmically moving his pistol from one of my eye sockets to the next like a music conductor mugging a woman in an alley. Call it shock, fear, or badly timed disinterest, but I couldn’t focus on anything except a painting on the brick wall behind him, advertising “Peterson’s. The City’s Best Ice Cream Since 1954.”

“Stay very still.” He gripped my chin and turned my face from side to side. “I can work with this.”

His loosened his shoulders like a player up to bat. “Time to set the scene.”

I had the momentary thought of That doesn’t sound good before he lit my cheekbone with his hand.

Before I could cover my face, he pop, pop, popped my cheekbone three more times in rapid succession. During the first two, I could still feel the surprise on my face. Seared on there, really. By the third, surprise was over.

In a move uncharacteristically my own, I snarled and sniffed defiantly. I have no idea what I thought it would accomplish. “You son of a—”

“Now, now.” He tapped me playfully on the nose. “Don’t start whining now. We haven’t even gotten started yet.”

Stepping back, the mugger tilted his head in thought while humming a sound like old men gnawing on pot roast. With patches of hair sporadically sprouting from his lumpy head, he looked like a pot roast gnawing on an old man.

There had to be a way to get out of here. Or get help. Or get a weapon. The alley, however, didn’t have rush hour. All the businesses were closed. All the people were home for the night. All the police were in construction zones with their radar guns. I wouldn’t be here, either, if I hadn’t needed light bulbs, laundry detergent, lip balm, and, yes, toothpaste.

I glanced around the geriatric lighting in the alley for anything I could use as a weapon. All I spotted was a crumpled McDonald’s coffee cup and a hailstorm of cigarettes. If I could get him to smoke them, I could take him out with coronary heart disease in twenty to twenty-five years.

“Stand up straight and let me see.” He grabbed my blouse and wrenched me into a ramrod position. He eyes roamed my face while he tsked, tsked. “Not done.”

He slapped my face in the same spot as before, while clucking his tongue to the rhythm of “Wild World,” the Cat Stevens version.

“The tears are good. Keep that going.”

I stopped crying just to be difficult.

“Wait.” He leaned forward and exhaled the pizza he was digesting. “You don’t wear eyeliner? What are you, some kind of prude? Don’t you want sex appeal?”

“I don’t understand.” I spoke now that the Peterson ice cream advertisement had lost my interest. “What do you want from me?”

He answered with a backhand of such force I declared it a home run.

“I need dark smudges under your eyes!” His nostrils flared. “Do you understand me?”

I really didn’t.

“Smudges!”

That’s the last time I ever wear waterproof mascara.

Slumped over, I took short, spiky breaths until the worst of the pain passed. Blood dribbled from my lip down my chin and marched single-file onto the alley floor. Meanwhile, the crazy man pacing with a gun continued pacing with a gun.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t carry a weapon. I didn’t know self-defense. And I was alone. Spitting the metallic taste out of my mouth, I straightened up and glared with my undefined eyes. “What the hell do you want?”

He had a smile that needed my toothpaste. “We’re getting to that.”

***

I blame this entire night on my underwear. They were my laundry day pair, the pair you wear when all others are in the wash. Last year an old college girlfriend had gotten the man of her dreams. Because I agreed to stand next to her wearing a dress the color of phlegm, she gave me personalized undies.

Not that I’m fatalistic, but when I opened her gift, my first thought had been, What if I die wearing these, and this is how they identify my body?

Across the street, the Memorial Park Cemetery’s twenty-pipe Deagan chimes sounded off the half hour. The hollow clang billowed in a fog of sound that settled into the alley.

Memorial Park Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the surrounding five states, had been a work assignment. They were advertising a new crematorium. A nine-foot banner at the gate said so by stating, ever so simply, “New Crematorium.”

They had hired Promotions Magazine to get the word out. Finalizing the client’s contract was my responsibility as managing editor. I’d been brainstorming all day to find an angle for their first article. Here’s the headline I came up with: “Memorial Park Cemetery Buys Oven for Bodies.”

The funeral director, Christopher “like the Peppermint Patty” York, and I had talked late into the afternoon about their advertising budget, the articles Promotions Magazine would produce for that budget, and the slant we’d put on those articles.

Good press is never hard to find when you’ve got the cash.

After our meeting, York invited—commanded—me to walk the cemetery and experience “how peaceful it is.” The cemetery business loves the word “peace” almost as much as it loves roasting bodies at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

I took a walk around their 280 acres. When the late afternoon heat smothered my face, I thought again about the crematorium. Above the entrance gate, the advertising banner gyrated in the wind so I would never forget.

I get it. An oven.

The uneven hills, each one hiding an army of the undead, rose up to meet me. I walked with the hot, heavy wind breathing down my neck, a heat unrelenting even in the month of October. Maybe, even in life, we’re all one flick of a mortician’s wrist from being slowly baked in an oven.

Then I met Gene Andreas. He was buried on a lively slope, his life having ended after twenty-one years on some foreign plot of land during World War II. Taking my sweet time because I believed I had it in abundance, I leaned against a nearby elm with its mournful mouth and sinuous arms and chatted with Gene. He needed the company, and I wasn’t in the working mood.

It was Monday. Don’t expect much from me on Monday.

On my way out, with the sun crushing the horizon, I made the fateful decision to cross the street and run into Walgreens. One minute in. The next minute out. I needed a few essentials, and walking saved gas.

Looking back on it now, walking also made me ripe pickings for a mugging. From now on, screw the planet and my bank account.

***

Movie characters on the verge of being attacked always have this sense of foreboding, as if they unconsciously know someone is behind them. They move faster and walk more aggressively. Glances are thrown over their shoulders. Doors are jerked open. In the background, music cues everyone that danger approaches.

I never felt that. I purchased my items and headed back to my vehicle in idiotic oblivion.

Somewhere an entire theater of moviegoers was screaming, “Don’t go near the alley!”

Walking in the quiet of the cemetery, alone in the city, unbothered or harassed, my day had disabled my usual paranoia. I wasn’t on high alert because of that peacefulness.

Maybe the dead rest in peace because peace killed them.

A “Hot, HOT, Heat Wave Shoe Sale” in one of the shopping center’s featureless windows put my face to the glass and my back to the parking lot. Before I could react, a gun introduced itself to my ribs.

“I’ve got a little cash.” By “little” I meant twelve dollars and change.

The jerk scolded me for being “foreseeable,” but took the money anyway before digging in my pockets for more where even a seamstress wouldn’t know to look. He found a ticket stub and loose lint. “Did you like it?” He held up the washed-out stub.

I couldn’t even remember what the movie had been about. An alien invasion? A national disaster? A not-so-thinly-veiled political statement?

“Sure.” Maybe I could create an emotional connection. We could talk about movies we like and cheese we’ve digested. “It was entertaining.”

“It was dog turds.”

New direction. “Entertaining in its awfulness.” Was he buying this? “What was the worst part of it for you?”

He had squinty eyes. I couldn’t see the color, not in this lighting, but they were dime sized and wrinkled at the corners like they’d been wadded up into a ball and then smoothed back out again. When he got annoyed, like now, they shrank.

“Talking about it. It bores me. And when I’m bored, I end the game. You got me?”

I didn’t but nodded anyway. It wasn’t like I was dying to talk to him, either. Let me rephrase that: not “dying,” “desperate.”

“Now let’s have a little fun, you and I.” He pulled a phone out of his skinny black jeans. He also wore a short-sleeved, black knit shirt, the kind you wear to wick sweat away from your armpits and everyone knows that’s why you wear it. With his right hand, he screwed the gun into my ribs as if he feared the bullet might tucker itself out on the way down the barrel. The phone, in his left hand, went into my face.

“You’re filming me?”

“Of course. But don’t be like everyone else.” The gap in his teeth hissed. “No pleading for your life. No begging. No whines or sobbing or asking me why. That’s all been done before. It’s remake hell,

OK? This needs to be fresh, raw, all your emotions bared. This is your moment. Don’t hold back. Bring everything you are to the front. Let it free. Dazzle the audience. But most importantly, dazzle me.”

Shivering under the metropolitan cloud cover, I considered my options. I had no weapon, no training, no one rushing to my rescue, and no handy cyanide pill to shove in his tooth, I played along.

“This doesn’t look very believable.” I flittered my fingers around the alley. “A dark alley. Seems expected.”

He squinted what there was of his eyes. “It works for me, but what do you suggest?”

I paused for authenticity. “Something unforeseen. A place you would never expect a mugging. A more dangerous scenario. More daring.” More public. “Like an airport terminal. Or the mall food court. Something like that.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh. You think I’m an idiot?”

Well…

Instead of launching my cheekbone into Wyoming, he laughed. When he did, a whistle accompanied, as if two people were chuckling—one normal sized, the other a mini.

“Spontaneous. Spunky.” His eyes were lost in the crinkles. “I like it. Keep the audience guessing. And now, to the show. I want revolutionary, not cocky. Keep that in mind. Now, before you say anything more, you should know all the rules. First, screaming will get a bullet in your belly. So none of that. Second, be original. If I’ve heard it before, I’ll shoot off your kneecap. Third, don’t bore me. That’ll end the game instantly.” Hard lines around his mouth tightened. “You don’t want the game to end.”

With that, he released that tooth gap back into society. “‘That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.’ John Stuart Hill.” Taking a half step back, he studied my appearance, and his gun nodded its satisfaction. “Your move.”

***

Bank robbers are, I assume, under a time crunch. There are silent alarms to consider, not to mention security guards, cameras, marked bills, and the patience of your average getaway driver.

Mugging needn’t be done in haste. Here was a man with no tomorrow and no end to today. We had all night. All I had to do was not bore him. The first question I wanted to ask was, “If I win this game, do I get to live?” But I assumed that had been asked before, and I loved, I mean loved, my kneecaps.

“Oh, also, saying or doing nothing will also end the game. Because it bores me. Never, ever forget that part. I hate being bored.” He tapped the barrel of the Makarov against my forehead impatiently. “Do you understand this game?”

Couldn’t he give a girl a minute to think?

His head tilted, as if he used his brain like a magic eight ball by shaking the dark liquid inside and seeing what banal answer floated to the top. “Do you? Understand?”

He wanted to play a game? Fine. Let’s play.

“A child of five would understand.” I raised my voice and talked over my shoulder as if to an assistant off stage. “Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

His eyes widened. Before I could brace myself for a gunshot, he laughed, a noise with the cadence and warmth of a machine gun.

“Wait…I’ve got this one.” He dabbed his eyes with the hand holding the Russian. “Groucho Marx, right?”

Give the man a tootsie roll. I had a Groucho Marx desk calendar at work, and that had been the quote for September.

When the laughing stopped, I earned another backhand.

Whenever he hit me, he never sacrificed his phone. Instead, the gun went into his waistband when he needed a free hand. The video was his priority.

Those poker tells will getcha.

“Now, don’t glare at me. You shouldn’t have yelled.” He pouched out his lower lip. “The slap was to spare your life. It was mercy. And mercy only comes on a lark.” He tapped the gun on my nose. “I wouldn’t bet my last penny on a lark.”

I was now officially in the fighting mood. “Yeah, yeah, it’s all fun and games until I shoot you with your own gun.”

“Ah, better!” He smiled a lot for a cold-blooded killer. “Who said that?”

“Me. Just now.” A smile cracked my lip. Here was my plan: I needed him to hit me. Not a great plan, I’ll admit, but it had merit.

If he would hit me, even once more, he would shove that gun back into his pants and free his hand. It gave me only a moment, but without the skill set to turn a discarded coffee cup into a shank, a moment was the only strategy I had. It would give me an opening to attack.

“You’re worried about being bored?” I arched an eyebrow. “Not your biggest problem, you know. That would be your bad breath. There are these little things called mints.”

His pleasure lessened a fraction. Samantha: one.

“This is an interesting tactic.” He tongued his Letterman gap. “Fruitless. But interesting.”

“And what about my boredom? You think I find this fascinating?” I had been winding my plastic bag of goodies around my wrist tighter and tighter until my hand throbbed. This I did in preparation to launch my offensive. Toothpaste, detergent, light bulbs, and lip balm did not a weapon make, but a modern girl understands improvisation.

“Scary.” I blew that off. “Sure.” Hit me! “But so predictable. I mean, a gun? An alley? Really?” Hit me! “You couldn’t come up with a better weapon? At least something more American, like a Colt.”

Now that I needed him to be vulgar and abusive, he slapped his knee with pleasure.

I pushed harder.

“I’ve never been mugged before. This is my first time. And I’m already disinterested. How do you expect to keep the attention of your audience?” Hit me! “My elderly grandmother spends all day quilting and watching The Price is Right, and she would have dozed off ten minutes ago.”

His amusement didn’t end abruptly. Instead, it fizzled out.

“Let me ask you a question.” He scratched his shadowed eyelid. “Did you spend your time wisely?”

I didn’t know where he was headed with this, but I didn’t like it. “What does that mean?”

“Your time. Your life. Did you do everything you wanted to do? Experience all of life, all the flavors. Did you experience the transcendent sleep of the self-actualized?”

Good freakin’ grief.

“In our final hours,” he continued, speaking as if standing in a great lecture hall instead of an alley off Fifty-First and Memorial, “we become the most of ourselves. Our fullness. For those unable to discover it on their own, it’s a gift. Mine to give. Even if you possess it for only a moment. Do you feel it?”

“Look around you. Aren’t the colors remarkably brighter? Everything more in focus? Even the smells—you can detect them all, can’t you?”

Tragically, yes.

“This moment is a blessing. Feel all of it. Feel as much as you can before I take it all away.”

His postulating didn’t interest me. Whatever we was saying, whatever it meant, I couldn’t care less if it didn’t prompt him to hit me.

“You’re delusional.” I spoke without conviction or even interest. Nothing would goad him more than to be dismissed. So I dismissed him. “Look at yourself. You’re pointing a gun to my head. Do you really think you’re holding the moral high ground here?”

I realized too late that I’d given him exactly what he wanted—a last line.

He shrugged, a sure sign I’d overplayed my hand. “It was only a question.” He raised his gun. “Game over.”

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Another-Superhero-1/dp/1515260259/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453829370&sr=1-1&keywords=not+another+superhero

PRICE: $16.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Website: TaraLynnThompson.com

Facebook: AuthorTaraLynnThompson

Twitter: @womanofletters

Email: Tara@TaraLynnThompson.com

 

Swimming with Maya

THE BOOK: Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story.

PUBLISHED IN: 2013 (originally published in hardback in 2004 by Capital Books)

THE AUTHOR: Eleanor Vincent.

THE EDITOR: Mike O’Mary, publisher at Dream of Things, Chicago, IL

THE PUBLISHER: Dream of Things

SUMMARY: Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent – and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter. Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor’s life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya’s fate. Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, in one of the most poignant moments you will ever read about, Eleanor has the opportunity to hear her daughter’s heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as the experiences that shaped Eleanor as a woman and as a mother to Maya. An inspirational/motivational true story recommended for anyone who has experienced tragedy, who is grappling with traumatic experiences of the past, or who wants to better understand the strength and healing power of the human spirit.

THE BACK STORY: Swimming with Maya took ten years to write. After my daughter died, I knew I had been handed my writing assignment for the rest of my life. I did the only thing I knew to do. I set down one hard word after another to tell the story of our life as mother and daughter.

Early in my career I had been a newspaper reporter, trained to take detailed notes. And I had always been a devoted journal keeper. At the time Maya died in 1992, I was in graduate school working on a master’s degree in creative writing.

I put away the novel I had begun a few months before Maya’s accident. Instead, drawing on my journals, photographs, and vivid memories, I wrote the true story of Maya, and my struggles as a single parent. I also began to research transplantation, trying to understand the outcome of my decision to give my daughter’s organs away to save the lives of strangers.

Ultimately, an article I published in the San Jose Mercury News about our personal experience of organ donation wound up in the hands of a man who knew Maya’s heart recipient. He realized the person I described in my article as “a Chilean businessman” could only be his friend Fernando. After Fernando read my article, and learned the details of his anonymous donor’s life, he was determined to meet.

Through my writing I not only began to heal my grief, I also brought into my life a man who had every reason to want to know everything he could about Maya. Fernando felt my daughter as a mysterious presence in his body. He was intensely curious about her. As I poured out our story to him, I simultaneously experienced it in a new way. I began to record my insights.

Those early writings about Maya – and then about Fernando – ultimately became the heart of my book. Since it was reissued by Dream of Things in e-book and paperback in 2013, Swimming with Maya has twice appeared on The New York Times e-book bestseller list.

WHY THIS TITLE?: When I wrote the final scene in the book, a vivid dream I had had about Maya swimming in a pool, I read it to a friend. She was moved and said, “Well, there’s your title: Swimming with Maya.” I instantly knew she was right. Water is a theme throughout the book and there are many scenes of Maya swimming or diving. Ultimately, though, I’m using the term “swimming” in a more metaphysical sense. Maya swims in my memory and in my life. Our dead are always with us. The more we can incorporate them into our lives, the more we will heal our grief, and be able to move on with life in the here and now. In addition, Maya’s physical organs make it possible for others to live and to see, and so she is also “swimming” in them in a very literal way.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? For its humanity and its inspiration. Readers often say it has brought more joy into their lives, although it is a challenging and heartbreaking read in the early chapters. Many people say it has changed the way they relate to their children. It is really a love story and a story of healing and redemption. Few people have written about organ transplantation from the perspective of the donor family – mostly we hear inspiring stories about organ recipients. I wanted to get inside that experience of making the decision to donate and its ultimate effect on our family’s grief and share it with the reader. Anyone who likes a page turner will like this book. I try to leave the reader wondering, “Will this mother survive, or not, and how will the story end?”

REVIEW COMMENTS: 209 reader reviews on Amazon, plus these professional review comments:

“Vincent’s poignant decision to donate Maya’s organs will resonate with even hard-boiled readers.” Booklist “Powerful prose with a meaningful and memorable message.” Lee Gutkind, Founder, Creative Nonfiction Magazine “Anyone interested in memoirs in general and mother/daughter relationships in particular will find this a moving saga.” Midwest Book Review “Heartbreaking and heart healing, this compelling story of surviving the death of a child will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.” Ellen Bass, author of The Courage to Heal and The Human Line AUTHOR PROFILE: My junior high school Civics teacher summed me up this way: “The most disunorganized person I know.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: With a touch of creative wildness and a soupcon of OCD, I write and live with ordered passion. I’m currently at work on a novel about living in a cohousing community – a lifestyle choice (and long-held dream) that turned into a disaster with hilarious and poignant results for the main character. In addition to memoir and fiction, I also write personal essays and poetry, and have been published in several anthologies and literary journals, most notably by Creative Nonfiction Press, an offshoot of the well-known journal. I blog at http://www.eleanorvincent.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: People often ask if writing Swimming with Maya healed my grief. Honestly, I have to say that working with other grieving parents to share our recovery, going to weekly therapy sessions, journaling, walking, attempting to be a good parent to my surviving daughter, having long talks with family and friends – these are the things that healed me. I did my grief work. And in between I wrote like a banshee. I worked hard to make my memoir a compelling story, rewriting and restructuring the material to ensure the narrative arc of each chapter and the entire book would give the reader a moving experience. That’s why it took 10 years to write. As one of my teachers famously said, “Writing is rewriting.” I’ve found that to be true. Writing is like building. You lay the foundation (the first draft) and then add the studs and walls (early revisions) and then do the finish carpentry (the final polishing). It can take years to get it right.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: My Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Eleanor-Vincent/e/B001K7QXAI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

LOCAL OUTLETS: Can be ordered from any independent or chain bookstore WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the Dream of Things website at http://www.dreamofthings.com

PRICE: $14.00 paperback, $2.99 e-book CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Visit my website and follow my blogs at http://www.eleanorvincent.com “Like” my Facebook author page to receive updates https://www.facebook.com/eleanorvincentauthor Buy the book and post a review http://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Maya-Mothers-Eleanor-Vincent/dp/0988439042/ref=la_B001K7QXAI_1_1_twi_pap_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453237122&sr=1-1 Visit my publisher Dream of Things to order Swimming with Maya directly http://www.dreamofthings.com Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/eleanor_vincent

Or on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/epvinceiam/

Emergency Anthems

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR:  Alex Green

THE EDITOR
: Joe Pan, Debora Kuan

THE PUBLISHER: Brooklyn Arts Press

SUMMARY: Emergency Anthems is, in spite of its title, not about the actual emergencies. The book is about what happens after them. In other words, it’s not about the shark attack, it’s about having been attacked by a shark. I’ve always been more interested in the scar than what put it there.  I’ve watched a lot of I Was Attacked By A Shark documentaries during “Shark Week” and they always are about someone who had some kind of harrowing, awful run-in with a Great White. They go through it blow by blow and in the end, they show the person standing on the beach looking pensive, or poetic, or however the camera angle decides to shoot them. And that’s always the moment that I’m waiting for–do they still surf or have they never gone back into the water? Emergency Anthems takes place in that decision, or that moment where you have to reckon with the facts of your life and you realize that that reckoning happens every single second, even when you think it’s not.  I also wanted to write a book that was a combination of “Slacker,” Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs and parts of “Three’s Company”…


THE BACK STORY
: I started writing Emergency Anthems about ten years ago. After years of bumping through forms and styles (my synth-pop phase was particularly bad) I finally got comfortable with the things I liked to write about–sharks, sad surfers, the singer of The Byrds, my rabbi–and I decided to embrace them instead of resisting them.

WHY THIS TITLE?: One of the first pieces in the collection was “Emergency Anthem” and I decided to make it plural because when I stepped back I saw that every page had people getting struck by lightning, blowing out knees, falling off mountains, getting attacked by sharks, getting thrown through windows–and I thought each piece was a kind of guide to getting through all that…emotional and physical carnage.

 

I also chose it because 50 Shades Of Grey was already taken….

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Because there’s nothing more daring than watching an author write the same thing over and over again, thinking that nobody notices. 

REVIEW COMMENTS: People were rather kind. Here are some of the rather kind people:

 “Anyone who knows his music writing knows that Alex Green knows music, and in this, his first book of poems, he seems also to know how to make it.  Green’s feel for the wheel—not to mention his insistence on keeping the moving parts clean—offers the reader a usefully clarified ride through the various terrains we live in and for; a grand (but never grandiose) tour of both world and word as they give sadly beautiful rise to one another…”

–Graham Foust, author of A Mouth In California and Necessary Stranger

“I salute thee, Emergency Anthems…”

–Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up and We Are Pirates

“Green’s poems read like secrets, someone sharing a passion, a bias, a humiliation, a love.  They crash into your ears like the surf, and you flip the page, awaiting the next beauty, the next set of waves.”

–Joshua Mohr, author of Some Things That Meant The World To Me


AUTHOR PROFIL
E: I got my start as a music journalist. The highlight? Interviewing David Bowie. The low point? Not being on the guest-list for an Eddie Money show. I wrote for CMJ, Magnet, HITS! and Yahoo! Music and then I somehow parlayed that into writing a book on The Stone Roses for the 33/13 series. I was nominated twice for a Pushcart, but that didn’t help me pick up girls in bars. My new novel The Heart Goes Boom will be out in a few months on Wrecking Ball Press.  www.alexgreenbooks.com

  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 I’m grateful that people have been so supportive. I’ve always been out of step with trends (just got a MySpace page, for example) and my writing feels a bit punk rock in that I’m not a part of any movement. However, I’m up for one. So feel free to invite me. Especially if you live near the ocean or happen to be a shark.

SAMPLE CHAPTERhttp://www.amazon.com/Emergency-Anthems-Alex-Green-ebook/dp/B00QL2WOXM/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453180748&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=alex+green+emergney


LOCAL OUTLETS: A Great Good Place For Books and Diesel Books in Oakland

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells

PRICE: $15.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Don’t be a stranger. Or, be less of one, at least: editor@stereoembersmagazine.com, @emberseditor

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee

NOTE: THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “PEOPLE AND PEPPERS,” BY KELVIN CHRISTOPHER JAMES, AND “THREADS,” BY MARY HOWARD WRIGHT, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST.

 

THE BOOK: “The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee.”

PUBLISHED IN: 2016.

THE AUTHOR: Talya Tate Boerner

THE EDITOR: Before I submitted my manuscript, I hired professional editor, Deborah Meghnagi Bailey (www.bookshaper.net), to edit my novel. I would also like to give a shout out to the team of editors at SYP Publishing.

THE PUBLISHER: My publisher is Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing located in Tallahassee, Florida. SYP is a small publishing house that promotes southern authors, which appealed to me.

SUMMARYThe Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is southern fiction set in the Mississippi River delta region of Arkansas in the 1970s. The protagonist, ten-year-old Gracie Lee Eudora Abbott, is the daughter of a hardworking cotton farmer who, in Gracie’s words, drinks too much beer, is mean as the devil himself, and is probably going to Hell. Mature and perceptive beyond her years, Gracie is unwilling to be seen and not heard. Her mind is crammed packed with questions—simple questions about day-to-day things and bottomless thoughts like why she was born to Lee and Anne Abbott instead of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. As Gracie tries to understand and save the world around her, she often lands in trouble, even in a place where nothing exciting ever happens. Themes of Accidental Salvation include coming of age, loss of innocence, man versus nature, family struggles, end of life issues, isolation, and salvation. There is humor too. Regular, real-life, laugh-out-loud humor.

THE BACK STORY: If I go all the way back to the beginning, my book began as a series of short blog posts on my personal blog, Grace, Grits and Gardening. A year or so later, I began compiling the posts into a more cohesive story. In reality, Accidental Salvation began as memoir. It was originally much shorter—novella length—and had a different name. After several rejections and consistent feedback that it wasn’t marketable (read = my real life wasn’t interesting enough), I rewrote the entire story and gave myself permission to go the fiction route. The story and plot line took an entirely different route. The re-write and first few rounds of edits took another year. Although the story began as memoir, there was still a fair amount of research to be done primarily regarding news events and pop culture of the 1970s. Eudora Welty said, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.” The setting for my book, Mississippi County, Arkansas, is my “one place understood”. Although I didn’t have to research the location, I did go home to Northeast Arkansas quite often to write.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title came about quite accidentally. I was attending a writer retreat at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, Arkansas, and I had just finished the last chapter of my manuscript. As I read aloud a certain section of the story to the group, one of my writer friends made a reference to accidental salvation. The title of the book grew from there. I’ve been asked if salvation can really be accidental? Without giving anything away, I encourage my readers to think beyond the strict religious definition of salvation and consider there are many situations from which one needs saving.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? What makes your book unique, and what niche audiences might it reach? My story is real and relatable. It’s poignant, heartwarming and humorous. While we all come from diverse backgrounds and grew up in different time periods, I believe there’s a little of Gracie Lee in all of us. The story will appeal not only to readers of southern fiction, but young adult readers, folks who enjoy mysteries and stories with a strong sense of place.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“There’s magic here, in a wonderfully-told story that will find a special place in any reader’s heart.” –Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author in both fiction and nonfiction.

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is one of the best books I have read in a long, long while. Integrating themes of substance abuse, lessons in morality, and timeless fears of coming of age, author Talya Tate Boerner has excelled in the brilliance of bringing characters to life in her debut novel. The storytelling rarity of multiple story lines is effortlessly successful in this vividly told tale. Boerner utilizes all of the senses to weave a story filled with human emotion so palpable that the reader is forced to step away from the pages in order to digest the full impact of her words. I enthusiastically applaud this story and the future of this author.” — Lisa McCombs of Readers’ Favorite

“The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee by Talya Tate Boerner is a deeply moving story guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings.”— Faridah Nassozi, Readers’ Favorite

AUTHOR PROFILE: Talya grew up on a cotton farm in Northeast Arkansas. After thirty years as a commercial banker in Dallas, she returned to the state she loves and now lives in Fayetteville with her husband, John, and two miniature schnauzers. Talya loves the South, witty writing, college football, and the Mississippi Delta. She is a regular contributor to Front Porch Magazine, Only in Arkansas, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute blog. She does her best thinking while wearing gardening gloves and believes most any dish can be improved with a side of collard greens. The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is her debut novel.

LOCAL OUTLETS: SYP Publishing

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

PRICE: Hardback $29.95; Trade Paperback $17.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: talya.boerner@gmail.com

Twitter: @gracegrits Author website: http://www.talyatateboerner.com Blog: http://www.gracegritsgarden.com

Instagram: @gracegrits

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC62pG_vnFIWS0EUzkFYyvUQ

Contently: https://talyatateboerner.contently.com

People and Peppers

 

THE BOOK: People and Peppers.

PUBLISHED IN: March, 2015

AUTHOR: Kelvin Christopher James

PUBLISHER: Harvard Square Editions

SUMMARY: Gossipy, intimate, and provocative,set in Trinidad and New York City, People and Peppers gives a diverting peek into the nuances of a Caribbean island’s callaloo of inter-racial and multicultural social mores. James’s main characters are complex, motivated, and fun to know. Tall and handsome, the main protagonist, Vivion K Pinheiro, is the bastard of a half-Portuguese, half Afro- Haitian woman, and an attractive New Yorker with carrot-colored hair who danced beautifully. Accomplished as well, Vivion has earned national prestige as a scholar and athlete. As a young man trying to realize dreams, he can be selfish yet thoughtful, deceptive yet generous—no real villain, just a callow fella getting over by pulling the tricky strings of privilege and personal charm.

An important factor in his dream actualization is Vivion’s doting, wealthy mother to whom he confessed an ambition to construct an ecologically sensitive, self-sufficient house on countryside property she bought for him. He imagines the finished structure to be surrounded by a pepper farm that grows Moruga Red Scorpion peppers—the hottest on the planet.

A significant stubbing-stone to his ambitions though, is a habit of dodging difficulties—when the goings get tough, Vivion’s gone. How he deals with this failing is only one serving of this fine novel. Of other satisfying portions is the influence of the women in his life. In earlier novels, James’s female characters have been admirable stalwarts and he doesn’t disappoint here. Andaluza, the mother, is an indulgent one. Nikki, the lover, is a strong other. This empathetic novel superbly speaks to women’s compassion and tolerances in the name of love. So let’s live with Vivion as he discovers and submits to the sublime effects of romantic love and father issues.

BACK STORY: In the summer of 2014, I had just finished a short story collection that my reader decided was a pippin. I got the opinion while sitting on my terrace where my two potted Habañero pepper plants were showing off some serious produce: twenty-two colorful fruits between the two. Also, the day before that, it was announced that Trinidad had produced the hottest peppers on the planet; Moruga Red Scorpion. So out of the blue ‘Pippin’ and ‘peppers’ connected with a fellow who planted them. The rest was easy.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ THIS? Read it for the pleasure of its lilting voice, the use of language. Learn about a different culture and its mores without spending on a plane ticket. Become acquainted with fun characters with attitudes and strengths and failings and quirks just like people you already know. This story is fit for all audiences.

REVIEWS:

James (Fling with a Demon Lover, Secrets, a novel) turns a love letter to Trinidad into this stylish literary novel filled with sensuous prose and colorful setting. Twenty-something ex-athlete Vivion K. Pinheiro, now a farmer in Trinidad, cultivates a five-acre patch of specialty spicy peppers called Moruga Red Scorpion. He flies off to New York City in search of a distributor to market and sell his prized pepper crop to restaurants. Meantime, his live-in girlfriend, Shanika “Nikki” Grant-Ali, discovers she is pregnant with their child while she’s pursuing her lucrative career as a much sought-after portrait painter. The other strong, independent woman in Vivion’s life is his wealthy mother, Andaluza Ashaki Pinheiro, a real estate mogul, who spoils her only son by deeding him a former cocoa plantation. She also indulges Vivion’s other whims by bankrolling the construction of his “dream palace,” where he grows his hot peppers. While in New York City, Vivion meets and befriends jolly Hideo Arata, “the hot pepper baron of Japan,” and invites him to come and inspect his pepper-growing project. The protagonist’s passion for agriculture and ecological issues help to add the needed character depth to the rich-kid stereotype. “– Pubnlisher’s Weekly, March 2015..

“Vivion Pinheiro is growing a crop of the hottest peppers in the world. However, this charming feckless Trinidadian fellow has a problem. He hasn’t figured out how to market his crop. Known for his lack of follow-through, Vivion is often rescued by his wealthy mother, Andaluza. Sometimes he just takes off. Now, however, Vivion has Nikki, his live-in girlfriend, and he just can’t shuck all his responsibilities entirely. Then, when Vivion takes a trip to New York to try to find a buyer for the peppers, Nikki becomes friendly with Andaluza and the story, like Vivion’s peppers, gets spicier.” — Library Journal.

“James (Secrets; A Fling with a Demon Lover) introduces readers to the crazy quilt of ethnicities, cultures, and religions that make up the island of Trinidad. He writes in a Trinidadian lilt that is catchy, charming, and much like calypso. Following Vivion around New York is like trying to do the limbo. How low can he go without hitting the ground? And observing the group of smart capable women who keep Vivion on track is a salute to feminism at its most delightful. This is a romance with life well worth reading.”—Aandrea Kempf.

“I am happy to recommend Kelvin Christopher James’ latest novel People and Peppers: a Romance to a wide general readership. My enthusiasm is based on two factors. First, the book presents an engaging “problem”: the love affair between an attractive young, unmarried pair, who, it turns out, will soon be parents. This could become, in the hands of a lesser writer, a very turgid business. But James has the knack for telling his story with the quality that Italo Calvino, in his Six Memos for the Millennium, suggests as a primary virtue, i.e. lightness.

It is this lightness that leads the reader into an evermore intimate engagement with the characters and the playing out of their lives. It also permits James to deal with quite

serious material of a personal and social nature – what James Baldwin calls “the price of the ticket” – in a way that acknowledges the vicissitudes of history, including colonialism, without derailing the essentially joyful forward momentum of his tale.

Second, People and Peppers serves as a transparent, and therefore very effective, introduction to contemporary life in Trinidad and Tobago. James conveys a great deal of cultural – and culinary – information by weaving it seamlessly into the “romance.” I finished this volume with a lot more knowledge about this two-island nation, its people and customs, than when I began, without feeling I’d worked hard to gain it.

A third factor, one that arises from the timing of the book’s publication, gives it a measure of added value, particularly in light of the issues raised into public discussion by the recent police shootings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere. Trinidad and Tobago, while hardly free from social conflict, have an entirely different perception of “race” than we are used to in the U.S. It is instructive to find oneself, via James’ culturally-informed writing, living, albeit fictionally, in a society where race, that very real and deadly absurdity, is not the dispositive factor in people’s ways of seeing or dealing with one another. The genetic and cultural “callaloo” of T&T makes reduction to “black” or “white” impossible, so James’ characters, while hardly blind to skin color, hair texture or any other distinguishing feature, must, in the end, come to terms with one another based on – to paraphrase Dr. King’s words – the content of their characters.” — Eric Darton (Divided We Stand: a history of the World Trade Center) Jan. 9, 2015 NY City.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Trinidadian-American, Kelvin Christopher James holds a B.Sc. with honors in Zoology and Chemistry from the University of West Indies (St. Augustine, Trinidad), an M. A. and a Doctorate in Science Education from Columbia University Teacher’s College. He lives in Harlem, New York City.

Kelvin abandoned formal schooling at an early age to support his family. He was the sole assistant to Dr. Gaston. P. Blair, a researcher of Red Ring disease—which still destroys coconut trees at bearing age. Working at the Central Experimental Station in Centeno, these two were first to explain basic data such as life cycles and transmission of the nematodes (Aphelencus cocophilus) which cause the disease. Young Kelvin’s contributions as science photographer, all-purpose technician, and “developer of devices” were duly acknowledged by the scientific community. This appreciation for the ways of science helped him win a full scholarship to the University of the West Indies. another of his high achievements was being selected to represent the nation as an Olympic athlete (400 sprint.)

Always with a love for travel, Kelvin eventually visited New York, found that it offered opportunity as varied as its communities, and decided to mingle. The bubbling New York literary brew he encountered led into actually writing short fiction and some poetry. Several pieces were published in notable magazines, and praise from that medium grew his confidence and soon he was absorbed by the craft. In 1980 he abandoned his supervisory job at the chemistry laboratory in Harlem hospital to write full time.

In 1989, Kelvin was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction. Villard Books of Random House published Jumping Ship and Other Stories in 1992, and

then Secrets, a novel, in 1993—Secrets was first runner-up in the Commonwealth Writers Prize that year. A Fling with a Demon Lover was published by HarperCollins in 1996. In 1996, he was granted a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Literature. He has published novels, The Sorcerer’s Drum, Web of Freedom, Meek, the Mooch, and four short story collections through Amazon’s KDP. People and Peppers, a romance by HSE who should also publish Augments of Change next year.

Website is at www. kelvinchristopherjames.com

AUTHOR’S COMMENTS: “This novel’s purpose is to entertain the reader who wants a pleasant vacation from her/his world. The author recommends readers to relax and have fun.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

AT A MOMENTARY PARTING OF THE LADEN CLOUDS, just as Vivion stepped outside, brilliant moonlight illuminated the quiet night. He slid the front door to until the lock clicked shut, then turned for the grass and rubber-tiled path that led to the front gate. Then all at once he was smiling ironic at the cartoon panel a beaming full moon presented him—his shadow on the wall as a humpbacked scoundrel creeping away from a crime.

But hold up right there! This full moon was lime-lighting a false scenario.

True. His backpack was crammed to its over-stressed zippers, and granted, he was sneaking out of his marvelous palace. But rather than villain of the plot, this time he was, more or less, the selfless gallant who—by leaving this most comfortable nest and fleeing into uncertainty—was saving a damsel from distress while, at the same time, keeping a parent sane. All of this valiant action being done with the sole aim of delivering his closest persons from the evils of bitterness and strife.

Yes! To Vivion a ‘Hero’ label sounded just about right.

Consider that practicing selfless restraint, he did not mention his personal need for breathing space. Neither did he bring up a commanding urge to breakout from the physic cage called Comfort in which he felt entrapped. And then standing out like a flare, there was the situation regarding his over-exuberant pepper-farm venture: due in equal parts to last year’s experimenting and this year’s favorable weather, in a few short weeks he’ll be rewarded with five acres of ripe, high-grade produce. Five acres of ripe hot peppers! Hundreds of pounds of produce! All that abundance.

And only couple weeks ago Vivion realized he had no working idea of how to effectively trade them.

As far as getting them off the trees and transport ready, he could depend on Mr. Maharaj, his head gardener, to get pickers and packers, but although months ago he had seen the signs of a bumper crop, in his elation he had not taken the thought a step farther. He had not made arrangements with either wholesalers or large-scale vendors to deal with his experimental successes.

Now, no matter Vivion’s best moves, the endgame seemed doomed. He had one last play to make, but however that might turn out, right now it was time for a break, a reliever. So though disappointed to the max, he was leaving the troublesome scene to an

emergency expert. A veteran who was swift at assessment and solution—who had worked for him since forever used to be an anxious day.

Mother, once more, would have to take care of his mess.

When he got to the gate cut into the two-foot thick hibiscus fence, the smile lines bracketing his broad mouth were curved grim and downward. He tightened his lips as he gently latched the gate and turned left into the moonlit gravel lane through the woods towards the main road. He paused there for a moment, drew in a deep breath and squared up his shoulders resolute, then was fast away.

Above him, black clouds were low and building, erratic beams of moonlight shone through, and a rising wind was playing pitch and toss with overhead branches, making their shadows restless as swelling waves. Quick strides pushing the road behind, Vivion kept best as possible within the branches’ swaying shadows. Branches that rustled with damp whispers forecasting rain. Vivion had figured for that, though. The junction a mere quarter mile on, even if it did rain, he’d still have had time either to get a bus or a taxi—some sort of regular transport—or else get lucky. He did feel that whatever came up, he’d have time to manage it. Although—and he grinned at the thought—he didn’t mind rain at all! Night was bad enough, but a wet night would definitely keep Shanika from coming after him, not his Nikki.

Regardless of weather, he didn’t expect she would though—he had taken steps to make it so. He had left his study door closed, and the overhead light on, and the computer playing light classics as he did when busy. Also, since moving in six months ago, she had shown herself to be a late sleeper. And lastly, in consideration for over-concern at his sudden absence, he had left a note under the computer keyboard that read:

“Nikki, sweetheart, not to worry. Just a thing I have to do. Be back in a few that might take maybe three weeks, hgs&ksss.”

Truth be told, he did have strongest feelings for this fine woman!

Arrived at the junction without incident, Vivion stood sheltered in the deep shadow of a giant mango Rose tree. Long minutes passed with him tense, waiting for what he didn’t know. All at once he was feeling vulnerable. While getting here, not wanting to seem furtive to any who might’ve chanced on noticing, he had worked his will at not looking back. Right now though, just standing still, lurking in shadows, did not at all support that earlier strong-willed poise. Driven by a sudden frantic urgency, he just had to know if he had been followed. So he turned around and as far as squinted eyes could focus, searched the moonlit track he had walked. Then he blinked and closed his dried out eyes, rested them a bit before he had them again straining and staring through the opaque moonlight.

He took good time to check and double check and give tenuous doubts space to materialize. And after all that thorough effort, Vivion sighed and nodded as, in general, he had to agree with himself that everything was everything, that all seemed safe.

The gravel-covered track he had trod made the foot a ‘T’ with the asphalt paved main road, a blacker than black divide that curved to the left around a low rise fifteen or so yards away. From his present position under the aged mango Rose tree he was able to see headlights from traffic in both directions on the main road. On the other hand, anyone coming up the lane would eventually discover him. But on yet another hand, there were

no trees or convenient shadows alongside the main road. He fidgeted for a bit before murmuring “Better safe than sorry” and started up the main road around the low rising curve. Up because that was the direction of the busy town, the nightlife place where taxis would be available even at this late hour. He walked and kept looking back until he was well out of line sight of the junction, and then stood there in the open. Again feeling exposed, Vivion made quick assessment of his surroundings and shrugged. Worse come to worst, he could jump down and hide in the deep roadside drain.

Right now all to do was wait.

His thoughts returned to Nikki and how she’d take his absence. She’d most likely blame Mother, assume the worst. See her as inciter supreme. Or she might paint herself as the thorn that pierced a beautiful mother-son balloon. With her painter’s tendency, she’d create a tragic palette of hopeless colors. And she’d be dead wrong.

Mother wasn’t so.

At the beginning when they first got together, Vivion was showing her some photos of his sweetheart, and as he halfway expected, a main concern was his sweetheart’s coffee brown skin. “She kinda dark, not so?” said Mother as she took the photo and angled and refocused it to suit her critical vantage.

On it right away, Vivion invented: “That deeper color is due to the sheen of Dougla skin. The natural oils from the mix of Indian and who ever. Nikki lighter brownish in real life.”

Mother had moved on, assessing another shot. “She hair look nice though,” she said. “How it so long and black and curly, hmm, it remind me of mih own”—tossing her salt-and-pepper mane back as she added—“when I was younger.”

By the end of that visit Vivion found out that Nikki’s independent spirit also reminded Mother of her younger self. Which was seriously rare respect for a ‘nowadays’ woman, which was Mother’s word substitute for decadent and worse. Another winner was that Nikki’s special talent as a successful artist ruled out her using Vivion as a cash cow, a gullible catch that’d set her and her family on easy street. They were already there.

That sort of grasping woman had no chance with Mother; not with the hardships in sweat and soul she had survived to be who she was, and of which she spoke in aloe-bitter tones.

Vivion’s biggest surprise was his gradual understanding that Mother’s chief objection to his woman had more to do with her preference to them living together unmarried. To his mother’s mind this clearly showed how Nikki had been influenced by slack, foreign ideas she picked up at those New York schools he told her of.

Fact is, it wasn’t ‘foreign ideas’ at all. From what Nikki had related to him, most likely it was the unexpected money resulting from her talent that was sort of the spoiler. On the one hand it firmed up her stubborn, independent nature to do things her way, or not at all. On the other, it spurred her sympathetic spirit making an instinctive generosity casual—she could always sell another painting if needs be.

Which was hardly likely.

Because Nikki’s major cash flow bubbled from kind acts done years before while she part-timed in a nursing home for senior ladies in New York City. There, for fun much more than profit, she painted pleasing portraits of her charges. Developed a technique of invigorating the paintings—pieces which were always well-received, and much

appreciated. Built herself a reputation and a following, too. Then as it happened, with sad goodbyes to all that, she returned home to Trinidad with her parents.

It turned out, though, that financed by one of those elderly ladies, a family member—a brother or a son—opened a business in Toronto making nostalgic portraits similar to Nikki’s. “Memory Lane Portraits” was its name. Two years after being back home, in the packet of legal documents and a postage-paid return envelope they sent Nikki, lawyers explained that since she was the inspiration and model for the business, the original financer had insisted Nikki receive a ten percent share of all profits. The letter went on that the majority shareholder group was eager to have the documents signed, sealed, and delivered ASAP.

A postscript stated that the group regretted being unable to travel to her beautiful island nation and take care of the matter personally.

Nikki’s father Osman, in imam manner, thought he smelled a rat in the urgent tone of business, but hadn’t the energy to pursue his suspicions. So his thinking being that ten percent of anything is better than no percentage at all, he advised Nikki to sign and send the papers.

This backed by an “Okay” from a friend’s lawyer uncle, Nikki signed the papers. Two months later she got a check from Canadian Royal Bank. A cover note explained:

The attached cheque is due part payment of profits from Memory Lane Portraits; Inc. for the last two years. Because of legal clauses regarding payout limitations, checks of similar amounts payable to you, or your legally designated payee, will be arriving on or about the second Monday of every third month. After three years, due payments will then equal the current market value of Memory Lane Portraits; Inc.

Thanks for your business. Have a nice day!

The check was for twenty thousand Canadian dollars!

Nikki didn’t bother multiplying by six for exchanged T&T dollars. Past pure astonishment, she was moved to shedding grateful tears as a humbling question overwhelmed her mind, “Who was that sweet and generous old lady?”

When a few weeks ago it first occurred to him that he was unprepared for the expected bounteous crop, he took his concerns to Mother. Found her in the rocking chair on the verandah, cold of eye and standoffish. “You couldn’t see that coming?” she said. “Well I could see it coming like a slap to mih face. But you have eyes for something else. Not so? You like a jackass led by a short carrot,” she goaded. “You not seeing this far ahead!” She snapped fingers for emphasis.

Vivion breathed out his patience as a sigh. “Okay Mother, you’re right. No need to gloat. I didn’t think ahead. I was so caught up in the day-to-day. I just didn’t think—”

Mother interrupted, “So your girlfriend couldn’t remind you? I hear she living there day-to-day too, like a owner. What you having she there for? Eh? Is the saltfish you like so?”

Vivion thought to stop right there. Not say another word. He now realized her heading. A couple months after Nikki moved in, Mother’s displeasure had turned to puzzlement when Vivion bragged that in New York Nikki used to get thousands of dollars for her paintings, that her work was praised in important magazines, and that she had a following of cognoscenti up there.

With furrowed doubting brow, Mother had asked, “You serious, Vivion? Who dream you that dream? Anybody could make up fairy tale. You think everybody who go the New York get a fortune? You think it have gold in the streets up there?”

Vivion had kept check of his temper. He didn’t say that she herself had bragged about the opportunities found in New York. For who had the brains to see, she had proclaimed, a gold mine of ideas was there. It was where she got her idea to build the block of two-storied two-and-three bedroom townhouses that made her rich! It was there in New York that she got the contractors and building plans from Trinidadian immigrants turned US citizens!

And more important than all that, it was most likely in New York that she met the pale-skinned father he had never known!

But though angry and defensive, Vivion didn’t say any of that. Instead he insisted, “This is not old talk, Mother. Is bald truth. I checked on the Web. It there for anyone to see. People, experts, say she paints portraits that capture nostalgia. I could tell you the quotes by heart. One critic say “she returns youth and bright promise to aging faces.” Is about how she uses color and brush strokes and stuff like that. Technique and whatnot. I don’t really know. But clients love what she does. They go crazy for it. They pass over big bucks. Mother, look. You gotta get this. The two years since they moved up to Tamana Valley, Shanika Grant-Ali, yes, my Nikki at twenty-five is most likely the richest young woman in the area. I mean, who you think pay for that eight-room ranch house the family living in. Who you think pay Dr. Mason for the land to build on?”

Mother sucked frothy contempt through her teeth. “So why don’t she take she rich backside and go live she rich life with she own rich kind. Why she have to move in with my gadabout son in the fancy future-house that I build for him?”

“Mother, don’t bring up that stale house stuff. I know what I do same way I know what you do. And about Nikki, we went through that already. I tell you the truth that she moved in because I didn’t mind, because I couldn’t tell she not to, and because I weak for her. That’s it! Simple!”

“So you happy she here then?”

“Yes, Mother, most of the time. Sometimes I still like mih solitude. But listen to me!” he pleaded as she had started for the back door screen. “You gotta listen and believe!” he said earnestly when she stopped and turned around. “We get along. We really do. She is the first woman I know who let me be me, myself. She totally on my side. She at ease around me. Public or private, she bold enough and makes moves I like. We give each other space when we busy into we own thing. When we have to. She like to work upstairs in the back room facing the creek and the forests. The tall immortelle trees swaying mournful. I prefer down here looking at the openness. That’s what I like about her. Plus other things. Like how both a’ we like to cook. She know every Indian dish on the planet. Some she learn from she father, some she invent. To me that’s great. Listen to this. Sometimes we cooking different meals and exchanging with each other to taste and judge. It does be so funny. You should hear what does come up when we try to describe tastes and smells. The comparisons alone, you have to laugh. I telling you, Mother, we does have a good time. Really.”

“So then why you don’t marry up this woman and make she respectable? Why you don’t give me a respectable grandchild and give she a respectable child instead of letting people throw bad eyes at she for living here in sin with a no account man.”

At that, Vivion’s ire fought back. No account! Sin! Who, what was she talking about? She who only believed in Eshu and Haitian obeah. She who has a mudada voodoo doll sitting over her mirror. Who was she to make judgment? In any case, what he cared about sin would prance through a needle’s eye. And as far as no account went, not cent from her, he had earned himself a free University education. He also had had choice whether or not to represent the nation in international athletics. That don’t sound so no account.

Still braking his exasperation, he stood up and said, “Mother let’s not get into that, okay. You might have a thing about people and respect. Especially about bastards. But I don’t. I grow up bastard and I doing fine—“

“—only because of yuh mother’s efforts at the expense of she pride and dignity!” she interjected.

Temper taking over all at once, Vivion got loud saying, “Mother, I say we not going down that road. I know you went through harsh times. You suffered. You went to New York on vacation and come back with a light-skinned baby boy, a Yankee child that is me. I get that. You come back to social disdain and so forth. That was how it was in your day. But that time pass. It ent so no more. It not all the way gone but it on the way out. Look, I understand why Nikki parents abandon ship because she living with me. That’s their choice made from their ancient ethics of their ancient times and religions. In a way they same as you. But since they don’t feed or fend for she or me, I just don’t give a damn! Why should I? Why should we?”

“So is you and she against the world, eh? And that’s why you feeling big tall man enough to shout down yuh own mother?”

And that’s how that discussion had died, or more exactly, passed out from exhaustion, to be revived and contested some other day.

Tuesday a week later Mother surprised him. It was a sticky afternoon and he was staring blankly at the dark green hibiscus fence that shielded the front of the ground floor from the road when, with her white wide-brimmed hat aslant at the usual rakish angle, she pushed open the fence gate and sashayed through. Vivion smiled. A dainty picture in a sleeveless red dress with a shirred full skirt, she looked half her age. Loosely knotted at her narrow waist, accenting her hour-glass figure, was a wide black belt. White socks and black sneakers completed the outfit. From walk to wear he could see her good mood.

Knowing that although she had the password, she’d still ring the doorbell, he sprang up and went to the door so that as she got there he opened it and smiling wide, greeted, “Hey, Mamita. What la Señora en rojo doing looking so fine out here among the forests and farms? Come on in out of the heat.”

Despite his awful, affected accent, she entered, unpinned her hat from her hair and fanned her face with it. She replied, “So I have to explain mih self for taking a stroll?” Her tone, though, was playful.

Vivion turned from the fridge and exclaimed, “Mother! Don’t tell me you walk all the way from the junction.”

“Well, what else to do? After I get off the bus, ten minutes I waiting for a taxi and none ent coming. In this heat to boot. So I start walking and that was that. I end up reaching.”

Vivion handed her a tall glass of cool coconut water with a dash of Angostura bitters. “Poor thing,” he said. “This will make the pretty little lady feel better.”

“Thanks, boy,” she said, “coconut water is a true thirst blessing,” and downed half of her drink. Then she put the glass on the table and gathered up her hair in a bun. “Sometimes this hair could be a burden, you know,” she declared with a sigh as she reclined on the cool leather couch.

As they sat and chatted and drank beverages, it occurred to Vivion that Mother had come by on the only day that Nikki was away socializing with her artsy folks. He got to wondering if it was deliberate, the thought so distracting him that he didn’t hear a question put to him. “What you say, Mother?”

“Is not what I said. Is what have you other minded? What’s on yuh mind?”

“Is nothing, Mother,” he said. Then, as he created an appropriate one, added, “Nothing bad. I was only wondering if you in a mood to see how the peppers thing working out. Would you? Please?”

“In this heat?” said Mother, her raised eyebrows almost joining in protest.

“It will only take five, ten minutes and look at the thermometer. It saying 80. So it cooling down some already,” he returned with a clever cower that was part disappointed shrug and part accusation.

“Well, okay,” surrendered his mother. “But not a minute more.”

Vivion was overjoyed. This was her first visit since more than two years ago when earth-moving tractors had just finished forming beds and banks and drainage canals that converted open land into an organized garden. Now it was a well-functioning farm, a sea change difference from the fiascoes of the first year. The pepper project was all around wonderful, and success was in the air like a happiness buzz. In high spirits he was ready to show off the fruits of his ingenuity and determination.

As they were passing the bee hives, he crowed, “Mother! I telling you straight. Look at them hives. Best investment I could’ve made. Even I was only guessing it’d work. You have to admit you was thinking it wouldn’t. Eh? Not so? Now look at how them pepper plants flowering. Eh! Lavish. Lavish is the only word. And you taste how the honey different, kinda tang—?”

“Vivion,” Mother cut in with a voice dry as dust, “as far as I remember, it was me who buy those hives from a Chinese fella down by the wharf, and it was the same me who had Mr. Ramdeen workmen install them. That’s all I remember ‘bout your wonderful hives.”

At which point, atmosphere and ambience made it clear that the tour should end, so Vivion responded, “You feeling the heat like me? What you say we go back in the palace, eh? It definitely cooler in there.”

Head held high, Mother cut him an ambiguous look, tossed loose strands of her salt-and-pepper mane from her shoulder, and started for the turf-grass track back to the house.

Both of them sweating beads, sneakers off on the back porch, they slid the blind open and entered the air-conditioned living space. Vivion went to the fridge, poured them tall glasses of their preferences; Mother drinking fresh coconut water with a dash of Angostura bitters, he the same with a heaped tablespoon of powered skim milk swizzled in.

Then they sat savoring the quiet cool as from outside came sounds of Nature going about business. The wind creaking branches that shrieked their glee like school children at recess. A woodpecker knocking out a nest somewhere in the bamboo stool by the creek. It was hammering with a rhythm, four or five volleys of a neat quick rat-a-tat-a-tat beat, then a stop so sudden your ears missed the beat and waited. Hoping, as maybe the working bird took a look around, checking if he had drawn unwelcome attention.

Then he’s back on the job. Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat.

“I wish that bird would stop its confounded noise!”

The protest startled through Vivion’s reverie, “What?”

“That blasted bird is hammering me a headache!” said Mother.

And Vivion realized that she was still vexed. Maybe about the bees. For the first time it occurred to him that this might be the reason she had shunned the palace. But he couldn’t have this. Right away he decided to make amends. Things were going too blue skies nice to have such a slight matter throw up clouds.

“Mother,” he said. “I want to say I didn’t forget how much you did with the bees and the house and everything. Is that I just don’t talk about it. But I does feel about it. And one thing certain, I feel grateful.”

He spoke the last like a plea and watched as she sipped her coconut water while over the rim of her glass she gave him a long complicated look; at the same time soft and indulgent, yet with a tinge of petulance.

Eyes holding his, she sipped and sipped her drink then, finally, looked away as she said, “Look, boy. Don’t take no horrors from me. Okay. Is only the heat that get to me. I know you appreciate what I do. Is just . . .” and she left the thought hanging there in the quiet room.

Even the woodpecker was waiting in silence.

At which Vivion, feeling forgiven, said cheekily, “I know what. Is the smell of them bee-hive honey that you set off. Them bees’ product too sweet even for you.”

Seeing her genuine smile, he went over to her, bussed her head and said, “What you say I give the old Queen a refill, eh?” and took the glass from her hand.

Smile grown wider, she said with mock severity, “You’d better stop that stupidness right there, right now. One thing I too old for is foolery!”

“But Mother you know I ent joking. You know you is the queen around here. You know any and everybody will do whatever for you. Goes without saying. Me! Moi! All I have is ideas. Like putting in we own bees to do we own pollinating. That is part of my Integrated Self-Supportive System for superior ecological management. You know, like using the river for irrigation and hydroelectric energy, like setting up the overflow as a tilapia fish pond. Remember when I tried that? But what ever I think up, I never forget you is the M.M.I.H. My own personal Mistress of Making It Happen.”

Merry as a songbird, he hugged his mother around her neck, and although she made no accommodation to ease the awkward embrace, Vivion could breathe in her pleasure.

Outside, the woodpecker returned to nest building.

WHERE TO BUY:  Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Ingram, Brodart, Baker & Taylor

PRICE: $22.95 (USA)

CONTACT AUTHOR:  yokelvinc@kelvinchristopherjames.com

Twitter @KeloJames

 

Threads


T
Mary WrightHE BOOK: Threads

PUBLISHED IN: 2014.

THE AUTHOR:  Mary Howard Wright

THE EDITOR
: Jamie Rand, Virginia Tech.

THE PUBLISHER
: Xlibris 

SUMMARY: Adventure and necessity calls to Fletcher Broce. He heeds and leaves his familiar homeland, Germany, to go to Virginia to  work in the coal mines. A farmer by trade, he has much to learn. He leaves behind his beautiful bride, Rachel and their two young sons, his parents and a brother and sister-in-law. He hopes to earn enough to bring his wife and children to America. He realizes this move might mean he’ll never see his mother, father and brother again. He goes with everyone’s blessing. Fletcher manages to secure a job on a merchant ship to earn his passage. He longs to be reunited with his family. The few letters to and from his homeland keep him going. Finally, the big day comes when he is able to return to Ellis Island to welcome his family to the beautiful New River Valley that has stolen his heart. What should have been a wonderful reunion turns tragic when he learns of his wife’s dark journey to America.  

ThreadsTHE BACK STORY: On June 29, 2012 a powerful Derecho storm hit our church in Dublin VA. It tore off the roof of the fellowship hall, ripped loose the gas line to the HVAC and dumped water into the building, causing much damage. The building was so severely damaged, services couldn’t be held there much of the time. About half the congregation and the Pastor left in the next six months. A decades old church body was on the brink of extinction with eroded finances, ensuing mold issues, a slow response by the insurer, etc.

And, in the midst of it all, I was given this book, an inspirational, historic fiction to write. It had nothing to do with the church storm, but I dedicated half of any profit from my book sales to the church building fund. I never had writer’s block. The story was a gift. 

While the book is a work of fiction, I wanted to keep the vibrant Appalachian culture and rich history of the area authentic. The research took about 4 months and the story about 5 months. I talked to living history books, people who related their family recollections. I pored over historical register information. This may sound unusual, but I looked at thousands of pictures from various archives. The pictures brought the backdrop to life for me. I studied the faces of immigrants stepping off the ferry at Ellis Island. I observed their attire, their belongings they toted, the children, the elderly. I saw despair and fear in many, but in others that little glimmer of hope…hope for something more.  

WHY THIS TITLE? This book is the first in a series that will be 4 or more books. I see this family’s life and struggles as a part of a Tapestry which is the name of the series. The essential raw material is thread, so Threads became the title for Book 1. Once I got started, I needed a pattern or a design for their story, thus Designs is the upcoming book. From the design begins a pattern or highlights begin to emerge, book 3 will be called Brocade. In the course of anyone’s life, certain events or times stand out and are immediately apparent to both others and ourselves. Those events in and of themselves may overshadow the background. What essential values do we cling to? Who were our ancestors? How did they influence the people we are today? The 4th book in the series will be called Heirloom. All the stories, the rich ancestry, the culture make us an heirloom to future generations. Something precious passed down from one family and cherished by the next.


WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Readers have told me that they can see their own family in the pages of my book, can relate to the local area references and are intrigued by the little known historical nuggets the book reveals. Some have even asked if I wrote about their family home or family member. 

REVIEW COMMENTS

“Fletcher and Rachel’s love spans from Germany to Blacksburg, VA where they move. This first book describes when they fell in love, their journeys on the ship from Germany, and Fletcher getting things together in Blacksburg to have his family come over later. He works in the Big Vein coal mine in Montgomery County, VA in order to save enough money to be able to afford to bring his family over from Germany to be with him. The trials they face, the hardships they endure, and their growing love for each other are realistically portrayed. I enjoyed this glimpse into life in Germany before coming to America and how their life started here in Montgomery County, VA. Fletcher and Rachel’s story is about life, love, sickness, death, faith, and hope.”

“I look forward to reading the other books in the series. Wright drew me in with her story and her life-like characters. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series to see what happens. Each chapter is preceded by a scripture reference. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about their ancestors from Germany and what they went through to come to America, has ties to the Montgomery County area of Va, or those who enjoy a great story about the early settlers. — “Must Love to Read,” on Amazon.

“I finished reading the novel “Threads,” last night, just could not put it down. I must say I loved it. Mary has written one of the best books; I rank it to be equal to the first book I ever read and loved; that kept me reading, “The Covered Bridge over Madison County.” What a masterpiece Mary; so much heart and soul you put into this 1st series. I thought of it all day, you really surpassed talent on this one. The story was so faithful and heartening, it felt real, and surreal. I don’t know how Mary got all those episodes in one book, but she did. She poured out so much of how things were, I could feel it! It was kept so clean in such a Godly manner, even through the hard moments. How Clyde made himself a better life; and the rape assault. How wonderful you turned ugly into something so special. And even managed to get in some Real Estate moments; that was nice. And what the value of a dollar was then. Wow, I sometimes wish it still were. Such a caring wonderful family setting; even though I knew the mother knew; made me smile. Smiling face with smiling eyes It ended so beautiful; I was thrilled they found a home just right. The book touches me also, because my Grandfather worked the mines back then. What a struggle of a life it had to be. And for us who live so well now and don’t even know it; well, they should read this book. Oh how technology has softened us. I found myself feeling like your characters; how they felt; how they hurt; how they kept moving forward. How family had the real meaning “family,” together all the way. I fell in love with the characters and I will always treasure this book! Anticipating reading Series 2. It ended so well, makes you want to follow the dreams of these people and watch them grow. A definite wake up story. Thank You Mary for sharing such a wonderful story. — Deborah Cruise.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up poor in Montgomery County VA, the first of 8 children in 12 years for my mother. With a step-father who was always on the road driving tractor trailers cross country and a mother working long hours to support us, tensions escalated on the home front. All children were removed from the home and placed in either foster care or up for adoption in the late 1960’s. I had the blessing of a loving foster family who nurtured me and made me feel like I could do anything my heart desired. I loved to read and read every book I could get my hands on. Necessity made me a banker and a Realtor but passion drove me to write. I run a real estate company, NRV Gateway Realty and write whenever time and inspiration meet up.    

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 My book is a “good, clean” read. A child could read it and delight in knowing what and approaching snowstorm smells like, a teen could pick it up and appreciate the love story between the pages, an adult or a senior could find themselves reminiscing about bygone times. I think my book manages to evoke nearly every emotion at one time or another. The characters are real to me, and I hope I bring them alive for my readers.


SAMPLE CHAPTERhttps://books.google.com/books?id=3PAuBQAAQBAJ&pg=PP1&lpg=PP1&dq=threads+by+mary+howard+wright&source=bl&ots=jNkbWYqFRJ&sig=UTfWTWDkCTG0P9eBBvhVoN7DK6I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjP8sGGpd7JAhXCYyYKHSRSAdAQ6AEIQDAF#v=onepage&q=threads%20by%20mary%20howard%20wright&f=false 

LOCAL OUTLETS: Directly from the Author, iane’s Hair Care in Christiansburg, Chapters Bookstore in Galax

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

PRICE: $19.99 – Paperback

$29.99 Hardcover

$ 3.99 E-Book

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Mary@NRVGateway.com; 540 392-8908.