Posted in fiction, Literary, Spotlight on July 14, 2017

Synopsis

What can an award-winning Nashville singer-songwriter learn about himself by agreeing to a best-of tour in a beat up old van? If it means getting out from under the thumb of a label that considers him washed up, he’s willing to find out.  At least until an ex-lover wants to come along for the ride.

Carl Mahogany’s not your average protagonist. In the practiced drawl of the aging country singer, and echoing Edward Abbey’s Henry Lightcap, Boddicker takes us across the country in an Americana-steeped journey through Mahogany’s roots. Encounters with old friends and lovers, including the Eisenhower Interstate System, a firecracker tenured professor, former bandmates, and a down-to-earth small town mechanic, shake the dust out of Mahogany’s creases to revision his life.

If a lifetime of travel, songwriting and performing equates to learning to work with the monsters inside us, The Essential Carl Mahogany is that journey. Grab a six pack, settle into the cushions, and come along for the ride.

Interview with Zach

What inspired The Essential Carl Mahogany?

The answer to this may be lost to history. I do remember having gotten to the point where I refused to watch any more musician/artist biopics and documentaries. So many of them follow the rise-fall-redemption paradigm, focused on industry pressure and substance abuse.  There are so many other ways to depict the complex trials of a successful, working artist. Having written several short stories in college, and unaware of any novel written about a professional songwriter, I decided it was time to go for it.

Where did the moniker and personality of Carl Mahogany come from?

The name “Carl Mahogany” came from a quip made at a backyard 4th of July horseshoe tournament I attended in 2005, and it just stuck. When I started the book, I wanted an artist-protagonist who could feasibly reach the top of their game with no college degree, trust fund or traces of nepotism; someone who could still move about the general population without being noticed. If I were to run into a real version of a songwriter like Carl, I’m not sure I would recognize them – even with being familiar with their work.

The Essential Carl Mahogany  is the first novel published by M12 / Last Chance Press. How did you two connect – and what made them decide to publish your book?

Richard Saxton (Creative Director of M12) happened to be at a 4H Royalty show at the Lion’s Lair several years ago. I didn’t meet or speak with him that particular night, but we eventually connected, and with their company focus on rural art and artists,  I insisted that we collaborate. I contributed a short story to their first publication A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier. After Carl won an unpublished novel contest a few years ago and made the finals in another, Saxton said “why don’t we put out your book?”

Do you see yourself in any of your characters in the book?

Definitely – there’s some aspect of all of the main characters, except Lloyd. Bill, Carl and Rhonda are all pretty good improvisors when it comes to handling the disruptions and chaos of life. Their sense of humor enables this more than anything. Carl takes several more beatings than anyone else in this story, but he keeps grinding forward with his new project. Bill and Rhonda have gone through their own messes previously and have earned their ability to see the humor and absurdity of all of the knuckleballs that have come their way. I suppose this is why I identify with these characters the most. It’s an ongoing aspiration, at least.

Are any of those six a favorite of yours?

It depends on my mood. I’d probably choose Rhonda as my go-to character. She’s naturally non-judgemental, an improvisor, focused, highly-skilled and unapologetically passionate about what she does.

You’re a musician, as well as a writer. How long have you been a musician and what type of music do you play?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10, and then picked up pedal steel at 19. I started playing bars at 18 with a “modern country” cover band, which led to me starting a “classic country” band with Ben O’Connor (Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams, Matt Skinner Band). No one was doing that up in Fort Collins at the time, so people started coming to check it out.

One of these individuals was Karl Alvarez of Descendents / ALL fame. He brought me on board with Drag the River, which to that point was just an acoustic duo. We got the full-band version of DTR going, and I spent about five years recording and touring with them.

My main project since 2008 or so is a four-piece band called 4H Royalty. It’s been more of a long-term art project than a working band. People have described our sound as a combination of the Replacements, Billie Joe Shaver, Thin Lizzy, Meat Puppets and late-seventies Springsteen.

So, given your history in music, were any parts of your story inspired by real-life events?

From the start, I anticipated receiving accusations that this story is just a thinly-veiled autobiography, so I over-compensated by making sure nearly everything that happens in this book is made from scratch (to the best of my ability). None of the major plot points have happened to me, or to anyone I know personally, but several minor plot points, characters, details, and locations are based on, or influenced by, real-life experiences, hearsay, and unreliable memories. Several!

What do you think will surprise readers most about your book?

The depiction of small-town/rural humans as creative, dynamic individuals with complex lives and diverse opinions.

About the Author

Zach Boddicker grew up living the country life north of Laporte, Colorado.  Ever more interested in rock bands and art than hunting, sports and other traditional red-blooded American activities, it was when he finally got his hands on a guitar that his journey into a life of music was catapulted into action.

In his formative years, Boddicker listened to and learned from everything he could get his hands on, but found direction one Monday night at a poignant performance at The Continental Club in Austin, Tex. by country guitar legend Junior Brown. This steered the author and musician toward honky-tonk, country and western swing.

Boddicker holds a B.A. in English and a MFA in Fiction from Colorado State University, which have proven useful for his endeavors into publishing. In 2014, his short story “Equipment” was published in “A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier(Jap Sam Books / M12 Studio). His first book “The Essential Carl Mahogany” (2017), which has been deemed evocative of Nick Hornby, Hunter S. Thompson and Don DeLillo, is the first novel to be published by M12 Studio / Last Chance Press.

In addition to his work as an author, Boddicker has been a staple of the Roots Music scene along the Front Range for 20 years as a member of 4H Royalty, Cowboy Dave Band, Drag the River, and many others. He currently resides in Denver with his wife and two daughters.

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Posted in Giveaway, Literary, Short Story, Spotlight, Texas on May 17, 2017

NOWHERE NEAR Stories

by Teddy Jones

  Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction / West Texas

Publisher: Midtown Publishing, Inc.

Date of Publication: May11, 2017

Number of Pages: 206

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Characters in the eleven stories in Nowhere Near act in ways that some might call “divinest madness.” Some of them have been pushed near their limits by years of stress. Others mourn and grieve and discover feelings they can’t admit aloud. A sense of duty drives another to believe in aliens, at least for a while. Some of their behavior is simply laughable, other flirts with death, and the rest ranges from dangerous to near heroic. These characters vary widely, yet all have in common that they live in or come from West Texas, where spaces are wider and tolerance for strangeness seems just a bit greater. Whether readers agree these characters are nowhere near crazy, they may admit they all are doing what humans do—what makes sense to them at the time.

Praise for Nowhere Near

“Teddy Jones writes about plainspoken people whose lives are entangled and wrought and marked by routine—routines they cherish, routines they wish to escape—and who glimpse, now and again, a sense of something beyond their ability to reason. The stories in Nowhere Near are deep, honest, and unsentimental, and they pierce you to the bone.—Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown & The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

“There’s so much goodness in these stories, the kind of goodness that grows out of characters who endure hard lessons leading them to revelations and deep understanding. You’ll find real people here, with real heartaches and mistakes and regrets. With language as true as music, a steady and perceptive eye, and at times a blazing humor, Teddy Jones creates fully imagined and realized worlds. Subtly, she makes strangeness ordinary and the ordinary strange. You will recognize the people in this book the way you recognize your own neighbors and friends and co-workers and family: full of annoying quirks and surprises and, finally, a saving grace.”—Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell From the Sky

“Teddy Jones is the real deal. With her characteristic wit and goodhearted characters, Jones draws a bead on West Texas life as it’s currently lived. Her precise ear for the rhythms of life and language guides the reader confidently from dry land farming to the double life of dreams and secrets. These stories stuck with me and left me wanting more.” –Summer Wood, author of Raising Wrecker

Teddy Jones has been a nurse, nurse practitioner, university professor, college dean, and occasional farmhand. She grew up in a small north Texas town, Iowa Park, and gained college degrees in nursing at Incarnate Word and University of Texas, a Ph.D. in Education at University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. She held nursing, teaching, and administrative positions in Austin, Denver, and Lubbock and as a family nurse practitioner in Texas and New Mexico. Writing fiction was her “when I know enough and have the time” dream all those years. Now she and her husband live near Friona, in the Texas Panhandle, where her husband farms and she writes full time.

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Posted in Book Release, fiction, Literary on April 1, 2017

The Path of the Wind: A Novel

By James Misko

Publisher: SquareOne

Publication Date: April 2017

 

Synopsis

The year is 1957 and Miles Foster is a newly minted teacher who dreams of getting a teaching job in the highly respected and financially stable Portland, Oregon school system where everything is available, and where he and his wife call home. But the only opening for his talents is in a remote lumber mill town in central Oregon, two hundred miles away. It is a poor school with forty students, and is controlled by a jealous superintendent and school board who tolerate no thinking outside the box and who conspire to destroy his teaching career. Miles must find a way to educate students who have been passed along in the system regardless of what they learned, and defeat the damaging control that the school board and superintendent have without losing his marriage or his job, or both.

About the Author

Jim Misko grew up in Ord, Nebraska, moved to Oregon, and then to Alaska in 1974. He has worked as an oil field roughneck, logger, forest service lookout, planer mill hand, truck driver, mink rancher, journalist, school teacher and real estate broker.

His previous novel, As All My Fathers Were, has won the FOUR GOLD’s AWARDS from the Benjamin Franklin Awards, Nebraska Book of the Year Award, 2016 Feathered Quill Award, and Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. Jim and his wife Patti live in Alaska in the summer and California in the winter. You may find out more about the author here www.jimmisko.com.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Literary, Spotlight on March 28, 2017

Title: BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139
Author: Howard Jay Smith
Publisher: SYQ
Pages: 385
Genre: Literary Fiction/Biographical Fiction

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.

As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

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Excerpt

Prologue:

The Death of Beethoven

Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827  

Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.

Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf  Uhr.  Five O’clock.

Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.

Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.

Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.

Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.

His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone …

About the Author

Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” –  and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.

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Posted in coming of age, excerpt, Literary, Spotlight on March 17, 2017

Synopsis

All families have secrets. Most go untold…

In the summer of  ‘96, Benjamin Hackett has come of age, technically. And in the midst of the celebratory hangover, his world is whipped out from under his feet. His parents have finally shared their lifelong secret with him; he’s adopted.

At the age of 18, the boy still has some growing up to do, and with the help of JJ, his loquacious consigliore and bodyguard, he embarks on an adventure that’ll put to bed a lifetime of lies.

Over the course of five days, they find themselves caught up in the darker side of Cork. But when they sweep through the misfits blocking their way and finally discover the truth of it…now that’s the greatest shock of all.

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett is a tender tale of heartache and displacement told through a wry and courageous voice. Set in Ireland, it’s a timely reminder that the world hasn’t moved on just as fast as we fancy. Now, in this emotionally charged story, Gerald M. O’Connor explores conditioned guilt and its consequences in a country still hiding from the sins of its past.

Excerpt

Life was lived in the quiet moments; all the rest was pure bluster. I was paraphrasing of course. I hadn’t the foggiest who’d said those words, or whether they were ever uttered out of the mouth of anyone at all, and if by happenstance they had it probably was more succinct. But the thought cropped up in my head then, watching my dad visibly stutter less than the width of a jab away from me.

“There’s no way in hell I’m adopted,” I said.

“You are a bit.”

“You can’t be a bit adopted.”

Dad seemed to consider this for a moment, before shrugging and smiling wanly. “No…I suppose you can’t.”

“This is a pile of unadulterated nonsense. You’re both having a laugh, right? Some twisted revenge for me not applying to college?”

Dad reached inside his shirt pocket, pulled out a manila envelope and laid it on the table. “This,” he said, tapping it twice with his index finger, “contains your adoption certificate. We decided to keep calling you by your birth name, Benjamin. Seemed the correct thing to do at the time.”

“Did it?”

He held up his hand to hush me. “It’s the original document we received the day Father Brogan brought you here and made it all official.” He slid it over to me. “It’s yours now.”

I picked up the envelope and tore it open, unfurling the paper inside and laying it flat on the table. My eyes skimmed over the document, flitting from word to word—adoption, adoptees, dates, signatures and the official diocesan insignia on the envelope. They were all there, all the bureaucratic paraphernalia of the state and church.

I held his stare, neither of us flinching. “Am I really adopted?”

“Yes.”

My throat turned to dust. Call it the formality of the letter, or the way the word cut short on his breath. I thought of Mam’s delicate frame and barley-blonde hair. We looked nothing alike. But Dad? He was meant to be the exception. We both towered over her. We both had lanky frames. Hell, we even shared that same terrible torture of walking on long, flat feet that no shoe, no matter the cut or cobbler, could fit comfortably.

Reams of memories of years gone by played on a loop in my head. “Sure, isn’t Benjamin the spit of his old man,” they’d said. “Dug from the same field, no doubt about it. Oh, he’s a Hackett all right, this fella.” And my parents had lapped it up. Like the time in Hay Street, in the bustle of market day, when they nodded in tacit agreement at some hunched-over old coot as she tousled my hair and told them how my curls were the carbon copy of Dad’s.

“But we look alike?” I said.

“Do we?”

“You know we do.”

He leaned in closer, dropped his voice to a whisper. “Truth is, we’ve been secretly dying your hair since you arrived. You’re actually ginger.”

I shoved the table into him and threw my hands up. “Jokes? You think now is the time for messing about? For having a bit of a laugh?”

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, showing his palms in surrender. “It just snuck out…but seriously, you’re not going to make a big deal of this, are you?”

“And why shouldn’t I?”

“Because it’s not what Hackett men do.”

“Well, I’m clearly not one of them, now am I?”

My comment flushed crimson high in his cheeks. He balled his hands twice and relaxed them flat on the table. “You’ve been long enough on the farm,” he said, quieter now. “Long enough to know that animals of all sorts adopt strays and nurture them as their own. And there’s not a blind bit of difference in them when they mature. Attitude is more in the rearing than the genes. You’re my son and a Hackett. Adopted or not.”

“So you’re calling me a stray animal now? Christ, Dad, you’re some piece of work.”

Copyright © 2017 by Gerald M. O’Connor.

Reprinted with permission of Down & Out Books.

About the Author

GERALD M. O’CONNOR is a native Corkonian, currently living in Dublin with his long-term partner, Rosemarie, along with their three children. He writes character-driven novels of various genres by night and is a dentist by day. When he isn’t glued to the keyboard, he enjoys sci-fi films, spending time with his family and being anywhere in sight of the sea. He is currently working on his second novel, The Tanist.

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Posted in 4 paws, Giveaway, Literary, Review on March 5, 2017

FOY: ON THE ROAD TO LOST

by

GORDON ATKINSON

  Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Material Media LLC

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Date of Publication: March 1, 2017

Number of Pages: 194

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Gordon Atkinson, of the popular blog RealLivePreacher, brings us Foy, a recently- divorced, recently-resigned pastor in the midst of redefining personal meaning. As Foy travels to New Orleans, hoping to find a new identity separate from the church, he keenly observes the everyday, rendering ordinary moments unexpectedly significant. Atkinson’s own background as a preacher and blogger inspires Foy’s confessional voice, the voice which characterizes this story about how our own experiences impact the universal search for meaning.

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PRAISE FOR FOY: ON THE ROAD TO LOST

“If the magnitude of difference between the stars and humankind is the purest of religions, reminding us of our insignificance (so thinks Foy), then that magnitude is collapsed in the hands of Atkinson, whose words elevate the most insignificant of objects, acts, and characters to startling heights. A key shifted on a desk, a communion cup offered to an old woman despite a philosophical mismatch, a baby’s bottle first ignored and then retrieved for a frazzled stranger on a bus. Each commands, each arrests, each persists. And we suddenly remember that what we create with mere words can be as lasting as the luminaries.”  — L.L. Barkat, author of Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, twice named a best book of 2011

“Few writers can match Gordon Atkinson’s ability to tell stories about the sacred in our everyday lives. Foy is a work of power, beauty, and clarity–I saw myself and the world more clearly after reading it. I think you will too.”  — Greg Garrett, author of The Prodigal and Entertaining Judgment

“I really, really like Gordon Atkinson’s Foy. I like the character Foy himself. He’s Everyman and he’s me and he’s Gordon, all at the same time. Nice trick. I like Gordon’s writing — straightforward, but with a simple elegance. But what I really like is the no-holds-barred honesty. This feels real because it is real. Foy at his worst, Foy at his best, Foy at his most wonderful/awful. It’s an on-going series, just like life. I look forward to the next chapter.”  — Robert F. Darden, author of Nothing but Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City

New Novel by Gordon Atkinson Foy: On the Road to Lost, to be released March 1 from Material Media on Vimeo.

Books in the Literary Fiction genre seem to be hit and miss with me.  However, Foy surprised me and I found this introspective look back at his life very fascinating.  The book starts off and Foy is being let go from the church where he is a pastor.  I think it is something of a shock, and like most people that are let go, he seems to stumble around trying to figure out what he should be doing with his life.  The following chapters are a flashback of his life and how he got to this point.  I liked that each chapter was more of a snapshot of an influential time in his life, whether he knew it or not at the time.  It seems like he was meant to be a preacher from his early days, but was that because he was emulating his father?

This book also peeks inside Foy’s relationship with God and religion, and perhaps it causes the reader to also consider how they feel or what they believe when it comes to God and religion.  One paragraph (or close) made me think a little.  This is from the Bearing Witness chapter – “I think hell is a place where God is not.  And if people don’t want to be with God, then he honors that choice and they can be away from God for eternity.  If that’s what they choose, he’ll give it to them.  But I think hell must be a terrible place if God is absent from it.”  This gave me pause and actually changed my thinking on how to perceive hell (whether there is one or not is a whole other topic!)

Another paragraph that stood out to me is from The Sermon chapter.  “The thing about forgiveness is, we don’t even know what the hell it means.  People are always saying “Forgive me” or “I forgive you”, but we don’t define it.  That’s a problem.”  This is tied to a biblical verse that talks about forgiving someone not seven times, but seventy times seven.  If you think about it, that is a lot of forgiveness.  What could someone do 490 times (70 x 7) that you would forgive them every single time?  For most people it would never get that far before they had enough of the situation.

The only thing I don’t really like in this book is the use of the f* bomb.  Ironically there is a chapter titled F-Bomb and there is a bit of humor in that chapter tied to this word, but there were many other uses of the word in this book that weren’t really necessary.  Maybe I grew up in a sheltered household, but I don’t recall this word being used much in the 70’s and 80’s.  I could be wrong though.

The book doesn’t really end and in the notes from the author it seems that he is working on a Part II that will pick up where this book ends.

Overall I give it 4 paws and if you are looking for a book that will make you think, then check out this one.

Atkinson is the author of the books RealLivePreacher.com (Wm. B. Eerdmans), Turtles All the Way Down, and A Christmas Story You’ve Never Heard.  He was a contributor for the magazine Christian Century and founding editor for the High Calling website, which brought together hundreds of independent writers and featured their work.

His writing career started on Salon where he was among the most read bloggers on the site.  One of his essays was chosen to be included in The Best Christian Writing 2004 (Jossey-Bass) and his book RealLivePreacher.com won the Independent Publisher Book Award in the creative non-fiction category.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Literary, Spotlight on October 26, 2016

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save-the-last-dance

Title: Save The Last Dance
Author: Eric Joseph & Eva Ungar
Publisher: Hargrove Press
Pages: 360
Genre: Literary Fiction

Synopsis

A tale of the power and peril of first love rediscovered.

Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross were teenage sweethearts who grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They set a wedding date when they turned fifteen. The day came and went. For most of their lives the two were out of contact.

With their 50th high school reunion approaching, Adam and Sarah reconnect. Email exchanges – after the first tentative “hi”, then a deluge- five, ten- by the end of the week twenty emails a day. Soon Sarah admits, “All my life I’ve been looking for someone who loves me as much as you did”.

Written entirely in email and texts, Save the Last Dance allows the reader to eavesdrop on Sarah and Adam’s correspondence as their love reignites. It also permits the reader to witness the reactions of significant others, whose hum-drum lives are abruptly jolted by the sudden intrusion of long-dormant passion. Can Sarah and Adam’s rekindled love withstand the pummeling they’re in for?

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Excerpt

From: Adam Wolf <adam.wolf1402@gmail.com>

To: Paul Bishop <Paul.R.Bishop@dewey.com>

October 12, 2014 4:54 pm


Subject: Finally saw Sarah, virtually

Oh Paul — “L’avventura” continues. No pauses for breath or thought. Since the last email, this thing with Sarah has detonated. We are now writing each other all day, every day, sometimes at night, on the way to work, at work, lunch, at intersections, on the back porch. I spend my days longing for her messages and panic when an hour goes by without. No more tentative phrases and innuendo. No more stuff about vague ambiguous longing. It’s full blown, Paul. Jesus H — it’s sweet passion and sexy -particularly exciting because we never had the chance in our first go-round way back when.

The day came. We decided it was the right time to finally see each other — to Skype. I was in Cleveland, alone. Sarah picked a time when I would call. I brought three changes of clothes and tried each of them on before we Skyped — stood back from the mirror and rejected them all. I finally settled on a button-down light blue shirt with one of those newfangled small-ish collars, and a dark blue crew neck. (I remembered that Sarah doesn’t like V-necks.) The pants, Izod chinos with the pleated front and room to grow. I was now prepared with my best Belmondo charm to woo Sarah into bed.

It wasn’t like that, though. I don’t know what it was, Paul. Maybe it was modesty, perhaps fear about what we must look like now to people who last saw us when we were young. The mask of age. Anyway, whatever it was, when the time came we both sat in the shadows in our respective rooms and just peered at the camera. First there was giggling over nothing. Eventually, I decided to thrust my face forward into the light, regardless of the consequences. Sarah leaned forward herself for a moment, her hand over her face, just briefly let her eyes show and stared at me nervously. Later she said she thought me so handsome still. I told her I would recognize those beautiful baby blues anywhere, if only she would let me see them clearly.

I couldn’t really see her face. The light was arranged so only a silhouette was visible. For a while she resembled someone being interviewed in the witness protection program. I expected her voice to sound shrill and electronic. “I foist met Vinnie da Butcher Bugliosi in 1946 at a pizza parlor in Passaic. He showed me a good time. His last words to me were ‘keep your mouth shut’.”

As for the rest of her, I conjured up the worst — telling myself I will love her no matter what. I had visions of Sarah Ross now — cauliflower ears and 7 teeth, four of which dangled precipitously. I feared her neck would show signs of some old rope burns from 10 years ago, when she tried to hang herself in the mental ward.

When Sarah finally spoke, her voice was soft. Softer than I remembered, sweet, more confident, deeper. At first she spoke out of the darkness. She said, “It’s you. It’s really you.” The conversation deteriorated from there. And I said, “It’s you, really you,” but I wasn’t sure. Except for the voice it could have been Golda Meier there, for all I knew.
When she finally leaned into the light, I must have lost my breath. I saw her — and despite the few wrinkles, the face more set in place, she was immediately my girl, her smile now even sweeter. Her gestures were more refined and confident. She was dressed elegantly for me — a silky salmon top and a paisley shawl. The years dissolved, and the fears about age were gone. My Sarah and she beamed at me.

We talked softly, nothing sexually charged about it, just soft remembrance. We imagined that we were back in her sunroom, with the low red love seat — tamely making out — her hand caressing my belly but- ton, just under the belt — how we slept together at 15, quite literally, in that hot room, napping together in the heat — or about her head on my lap when we watched The Twilight Zone Friday nights — or the path we took through Cain Park when I carried home her books after school — or the people we routinely met along my paper route.

At some point, Paul, we stopped talking and simultaneously touched our fingers to our lips and reached toward the screen.

About the Authors

eric-johnson-eva-ungarEric Joseph and Eva Ungar (Grudin) were teenage sweethearts in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who set a wedding date when they turned 15. The last time they saw each other they were 21 years old. Three years ago they reunited, around the time of the 50th high school reunion. Although their book is a work of fiction, it’s about a couple like them, who fall in love again, almost instantly, via email.

Eric is in public health, a consultant/educator at hospitals and clinics, concentrating his career on Native American health services across the country. Eva is an art historian who taught at Williams College in Massachusetts for 40+ years. She specialized in African and African-American art; the history of European painting: also Holocaust Studies – memorials and museums; In addition, she has performed in and written Sounding to A, a multi-media work about inheriting the Holocaust. It premiered at the Ko Festival of Performance in 2004.

Learn more about Eva and Eric and their history together by visiting their website below.  At the website you’ll find memories about their time together in the late 50s, early 60s, as well as interviews from today.

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Posted in 4 paws, fiction, Giveaway, Literary, Review on September 30, 2016

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I JUST CAME HERE TO DANCE

by Susan Mary Malone

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: White Bird Publications

Date of Publication: September 15, 2016

Number of Pages: 340

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synopsis

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Paula Anne Fairbanks understands all about the unexamined life. And she likes hers that way—until her world gets ripped smooth apart.

Running from reality, Paula falls under the mythological yarns being spun on Diana Maclean’s porch. Surely Paula’s own choices aren’t to blame for the summer of insanity she spends under the spells of Diana…who is, after all, known as the White Witch of Sociable, Texas.

I JUST CAME HERE TO DANCE, a modern allegory, waltzes atop the line between the creative and the crazy, the sacred and the maligned. Through myths it weaves together the multi-layers of personal Self with that of the collective whole. And finally, Paula Anne and the townsfolk learn the simplest of truths: that the fire’s ashes produce wisdom and courage, just as the stories say.

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PRAISE FOR I JUST CAME HERE TO DANCE

“Malone’s voice is one of the most charming I’ve read.  It brings the story and her characters to life.  I feel like I grew up with Paula right over the hill from the lively little town of Sociable, Texas.”  –New York Times bestselling author M. Leighton

“Susan Mary Malone pens well-crafted characters that are so vivid you can picture them in an award winning movie or television series.” –New York Times bestselling author Mary Honey B Morrison

“. . . a magical story about love ripped apart, a life examined, and then healed.  To be read slowly, to savor as one would a tall cool glass of lemonade, on a hot afternoon, watching the world become new.”  –Ginnie Siena Bivona, author of Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party, made into a Hallmark TV film, Bound by a Secret

Review
This book will twirl you around while whispering secrets of life, love, loss and the future. After all, life is a dance that is always changing. It is up to you to catch the rhythm.

I’m not even sure where to start on my thoughts of this book! The book centers around Paula Anne Fairbanks – a not quite 30 year old woman that got pregnant in high school (or soon after) and has spent her days raising her son while her husband, Marty, was on the rodeo circuit. He was injured and moved home but their life was never really the same. Or perhaps it was but neither wanted to admit that what they had wasn’t what they really wanted from life. It seems that Paula was having a mid life crisis early, or perhaps it was avoidance of life by seeking out good times, flirting with other men and perhaps wishing her life was different. But she and Marty seemed to have an unspoken understanding and would do their own thing and neither would complain about what each other was doing. This was working well until Paula Anne comes in to find her husband in bed with her best friend. I did see that one coming and that was even before a clue was dropped!

This affair seemed to have woken Paula Anne up from her life that was on auto-pilot. However, she can’t seem to make heads or tails of what she wants or how she should proceed. I imagine that it was a lot to take in after catching your husband cheating on you, and from all that we could infer from the book, it was probably a blessing in disguise. It just takes her awhile to realize that fact. Luckily she has the help of Diana, Lola and even Sleepy to guide her and make her face life. Even her mother, Bonita, reveals some tidbits that are wise in their own way.

The book reveals a lot of truths about Paula Anne, her mother and father, Diana (the proclaimed town witch) and even Marty and Melinda. Along with these characters, there is the small town of Sociable Texas that is destined to implode due to a feud – not unlike that of the Hatfield and the McCoy families of TN. And of course being a small town of around 200 or so, everyone is intertwined with each other and no one seems to truly mind.

Overall, the story is engaging and if nothing else, it reminds us to remember to enjoy life while you have it to enjoy. Whether that is dancing, telling stories or finding your true self. But it isn’t always easy and you might have to deal with crazies before you figure out where you are supposed to be in life.

We give this 4 paws up.

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about the author

susan-maloneTexas native Susan Mary Malone has published two novels, co-authored four nonfiction books, and written many short stories. Her happiness is fiction, wine, and Labrador Retrievers, the latter of which she raises, trains, and shows. Literature is her love. In addition to writing, she edits; fifty-plus Malone-edited books have sold to traditional publishers, and one of them was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film (while another is in production, set to be released in 2015). Her stories revolve around the passions and purpose, the myths and meaning of women’s lives. Which often involves wine. She does, however, try to keep the Labradors out of that.

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9/26 Promo Hall Ways Blog
9/27 Guest Post Country Girl Bookaholic
9/28 Review My Book Fix Blog
9/29 Excerpt Reading By Moonlight
9/30 Review StoreyBook Reviews
10/1 Promo Byers Editing Reviews & Blog
10/2 Review The Page Unbound
10/3 Author Interview Texas Book Lover
10/4 Review The Librarian Talks
10/5 Promo Books and Broomsticks

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Giveaway, Literary, Spotlight on July 26, 2016

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Shadows of an Empress cover

Title: Shadows of an Empress
Author: Carole Waterhouse
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Pages: 310
Genre: Literary Fiction

Synopsis

After the death of her mother, Sylvia is sent to live with her grandmother on an isolated piece of farmland, where she and a nymph-like companion run through the woods creating an imaginary world where her mother is still alive. When Sylvia marries Dan, everyone sees her life moving from tragic to fairy tale.  But when a recurring dream about a city she can’t identify leaves Sylvia feeling especially unsettled, she goes into her living room on a sleepless night and finds the Empress Elisabeth of Austria waiting for her.

Suspecting their lives are somehow linked, the empress helps Sylvia sort through her past and question her present.  She and Sissi, Elisabeth’s younger version, embark on a whirlwind tour of places related to the empress’s past where the Archduchess Sophie tries to arrange a courtship between Sylvia and Franz Joseph, a heart-broken Heinrich Heine laments the empress’s tendency to credit him as the inspiration for her awful poetry, and Sigmund Freud offers commentary on their journey.   As they travel, Sylvia becomes more aware of the empress’s faults. As their paths begin to separate, Sylvia learns from Elisabeth’s mistakes and comes to realize that the answers she has been searching for need to come from within. In a mock ceremony in Vienna, Sylvia is crowned the empress of herself and returns home to start a new life with Dan. She understands then that the city she has been haunted by all this time is the life the two of them built, the one they are finally ready to enter together.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

2002

Sylvia turned up the radios in all three rooms—the kitchen, the bedroom, the workshop—the different locations making it sound as though there were three people talking, one an echo of the other.  Still, it was his voice surrounding her completely, a sound that always gave her comfort.  Dan, Dan, the music man.  Her husband never realized the most intimate words he ever spoke to her had nothing to do with love.

The radios were turned up so high, she wondered how far his voice actually carried, for miles maybe, certainly as far as Zoe’s house.  She came down once, laughing, turning them off, one after the other, diminishing the last to a faint whisper.  “Why do you make him shout so?”

When Sylvia told her the reason, that she loved surrounding herself with the sound of his voice, wanted not to just listen but to be able to feel it in her bones, Zoe stopped and looked at her.  “Don’t tell me after all these years you’re still in love.”

Sylvia could hear the envy in her voice.  She suspected that Zoe, too, listened to Dan’s voice, knew what it was like to have it pulsate through her veins.

Dan, Dan the Music Man.

They had laughed at the name he was given, the repetition meant to sound lyrical, like one of the tunes circling in his head.  Neither of them had ever expected that a radio show about music boxes would become nationally syndicated, even in a niche area like NPR.  He was a celebrity in some circles, even if most people had no idea who he was.  Zoe called him the most famous man no one had ever heard of, and, given the way Dan laughed when she said it, Sylvia wished it had been her comment instead.

“Music boxes can change lives.  There’s no doubt.  I’ve witnessed it many times.”

It was the voice she listened to more than the words, although she sometimes felt his comments were a secret code meant only for her.  At the moment he was describing one of their own antiques, a real treasure they had acquired just a few weeks ago, the one Dan called the music box of his dreams.

It was actually a large automaton with rows of horses that would race across the front as the music played, the device designed so that the winning horse was randomly selected. She knew why he prized it, that it wasn’t just the box itself, as exquisite as it was, but the way it represented their lives together, fitting in perfectly with the Victorian farmhouse, the real horses she loved so, a true home where husband and friend were never far away.

About the Author

Carole WaterhouseA professor of creative writing at California University of Pennsylvania, Carole Waterhouse has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and a Ph.D. in 20th Century Literature from Ohio University.  She’s the author of three novels, Shadows of an Empress, The Tapestry Baby, and Without Wings, as well as a short story collection, The Paradise Ranch.  Her short stories have appeared in an anthology, Horse Crazy: Horses and the Women who Love Them, and numerous literary magazines, including The Massachusetts Review, The Artful Dodge, The Ball State University Forum, Crack the Spine, Blue Lake Review, Ceilidh, Eureka Literary Magazine, Crossconnect, Spout, The Styles, Turnrow, Half Tones to Jubilee, Potpourri, The Baybury Review, Arnazella, Parting Gifts, Pointed Circle, Seems, The Rockhurst Review, Oracle,  and The Griffin.  She has reviewed books for The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Pittsburgh Press and The New York Times Book Review.

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Giveaway

Carole Waterhouse is giving away an autographed copy of THE TAPESTRY BABY!

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  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
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  • This giveaway begins July 5 and ends on July 29.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on July 30.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

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Posted in 4 paws, fiction, Giveaway, Literary, Review on July 25, 2016

Banner The Lark

THE LARK

by

Dana Glossbrenner

Genre: Humorous Literary Fiction

Publisher: Boldface Books

Date of Publication: June 7, 2016

Number of Pages: 270

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synopsis

The Lark Cover

 

You’re never too old to learn—or too young

Good-looking, good-hearted Charley Bristow’s the most sought-after hair stylist in five West Texas counties. He’s an expert on the dance floor and sharp at the pool tables, too—but when it comes to pick­ing cars, dogs, and women, luck hasn’t quite gone his way lately. And there’s the ever-present worry over his mother, whose own trailer-park plight he’d just as soon steer clear of.

Just when he’s sworn off temptation of the female sort, an evening at the local honky-tonk drives two prime targets right into his path. Weighing the sudden wealth of options in his love life, while also searching for the right choice of wheels to suit his needs, Charley stumbles upon a long-hidden secret and an unforeseen road to re­demption.

The colorful denizens of the Wild Hare Salon, Jarod’s Automotive, and Hopper’s nightclub, along with those of the Briargrove First Methodist Church and the Sulfur Gap Centennial Celebration, will two-step their way right into your heart, to music as familiar as Willie Nelson and Charley Pride. And you just might start to fall in love with an old Johnny Mercer tune, too, as Charley Bristow faces his past and embraces the challenge of his future.

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Praise for The Lark

“Good-time Charley” Bristow is a popular twenty-something West Texas hairstylist who’s already dodged two bullets with two failed marriages (the second time, literally). . . . The Lark invites us to join Charley’s friends, the rural cosmopolitans of Sulfur Gap, and ride shotgun alongside this rogue with an honest heart . . . on a journey into his past.  Dana Glossbrenner has crafted a totally engaging quest for happiness, set it in a totally genuine contemporary Texas, and delivered up great characters for a great read.  — Cliff Hudder, author of Splinterville and Pretty Enough for You

Charley Bristow takes some things seriously–work, dancing, pool-playing, and women, but maybe not in that order. He finds the true importance of friends and family.  — Rick Smith, San Angelo Standard Times

Review

When I started this book I thought it was going to be a romance book from a guy’s perspective which would have been a little different, or at least how this story seemed to start. But as I continued to read it became evident that this was much more than just a romance. It is a story about family, friendships and finding true love.

Charley is a hotshot hair stylist/barber in his small Texas town. He has been married twice and is only 25. He seemed to feel pressured to be in a relationship, but that pressure only came from within himself and not from anyone else. He has a good relationship with his mother, who has become something of a recluse so he checks in on her and picks up groceries and such for her each week.

I felt like this story could happen in any small town. There is the gossip that runs rampant, but also the citizens of the town really watch out for one another. There are times when you really feel for Charley and his childhood, but all is not as it seems. I can’t give away too much, but suffice it to say that Charley is in for a journey that will change his life forever. Charley learns who he really is and what he is capable of and what really matters in life.

We give this 4 paws up!

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about the author

Glossbrenner PicDana Glossbrenner’s debut novel, The Lark, features Charley Bristow, a successful young hair stylist in a small West Texas town. His misadventures provide humor, intrigue, and catharsis, as he discovers a lost family history. Women Behind Stained Glass: West Texas Pioneers, a historical work, recounts the lives of women who helped settle the area around San Angelo, Texas.

Glossbrenner taught high school and university English classes and worked as a guidance counselor. She grew up in Snyder, Texas, earned degrees from Texas Tech, Angelo State University, and Texas State University. She now lives in San Angelo, Texas.

She cites Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, and Elmer Kelton as major inspirations for writing about Texas.

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CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

7/25    StoreyBook Reviews– Review

7/26    The Librarian Talks – Author Interview #1

7/27    Texas Book Lover – Excerpt #1

7/28    Reading By Moonlight — Review

7/29    It’s a Jenn World – Author Interview #2

7/30    Country Girl Bookaholic – Review

7/31    The Crazy Booksellers — Promo

8/1       Missus Gonzo – Guest Post

8/2       Byers Editing Reviews &amp; Blog – Excerpt #2

8/3       Kara The Redhead — Review

8/4       The Page Unbound – Author Interview #3

8/5       Margie’s Must Reads — Review

8/6       Books and Broomsticks — Promo

8/7       Forgotten Winds – Excerpt #3

8/8       My Book Fix Blog – Review

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