Publication Date: January 3, 2018
About Gregory Erich Phillips
Helen wasn’t just born the devious vixen of New Day Temple of Faith. There has to be something rooted deep within her to make her feed off of the pain she inflicts on other people. Perhaps it is her own pain that she has suppressed for so many years. Its an unimaginable pain that creates an internal prison in which her mind is the only captive. Whatever the cause, once the demons within her break free, those around her better beware. Helen feels no shame about the fact that she hasn’t been saved all her life. Will the divas of New Day Temple of Faith think Helen is worth saving? More importantly, can God save Helen from not only her evil past, but from herself?
Man, I hate the cleaning guy! Why does he have to do his job so well? Can’t he ever leave just one spot, smear, or smudge on this dang stripper pole? Something so that I don’t have to see myself so painfully visible like this? What makes him think I want to be able to see myself twirling around this pole like some skilled monkey—caught up in the powerful grip of the almighty dollar; a grip known to have choked the life out of many while leaving others gasping for their last breath?
“That’s for you,” Damon spoke out over R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Calling.” With his chestnut brown, bald head and facial hair that was edged up nice and clean, Damon licked his thumb and used it to flick a twenty-dollar bill off the stack of money he was palming.
I swiveled my body down to the ground, the same way the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream at the DQ makes its way from the machine to the cone. “Baby, you know it takes gas to keep a Cadillac like myself going,” I said to Damon. “As long as you keep filling up the tank, I’ma go-go all night.” I swiveled my body back up to a standing position while adding, “In any direction you want me to go.”
Damon’s lips parted into that sexy signature smile of his.
“Whatever you want,” Damon said. “It’s your Caddy. I’ll drive, ride, heck, I’ll even be a backseat passenger. Just know that I got you, Ma.” Damon began to flick off bills like he was the dealer in a game of spades.
I was very much content with the hand I was being dealt. So much so that I wanted to drop to my knees and begin scooping like a kid standing under a piñata that had just been busted open. But I didn’t want to appear too desperate. Resolving to strip in the first place was out of desperation. At the time of making the decision I had felt trapped, like Jonah in the belly of the big fish. I was always trying to make ends meet, but neither of my ends were the least bit interested in getting to know one another. Bills were due. I weighed some options on my immoral scale of desperation, and stripping was a less load to travel with in my mental carry-on. I mean, at least I wasn’t selling my whole self—just bartering off a piece of me.
“Go on, Go-Go Girl. You know you wanna bend that thang over and pick up that loot.”
Once again, Damon licked his thumb and lightened his pile of money as he flicked a couple more bills onto the stage at my feet. “Come on, just show me a li’l sumpin’-sumpin’,” Damon urged. His eyes perused my body from head to toe, wetting his thumb in preparation to keep making it rain.
And this was rain, might I add. Ones being flicked off; that’s a chance of rain. Fives being flicked off; that’s a little drizzle. Tens being flicked off; that’s a scattered shower. Twenties; that’s rain. Benjamins; an all-out thunderstorm!
“Come on, Damon, you know the rules. You don’t want me to break the rules and get put on punishment do you?” I asked, making a puppy dog face.
“Forget the rules,” Damon barked like the big dawg he was. “And if all that is worthy of just a peek,” he said, referring to all the money he’d laid at my feet, “I can only imagine what this will get me.”
I froze on the stage, which meant the bill Damon was now displaying must have triggered some type of ice storm. Until that very moment, I had never even known that such a bill existed.
“What’s the matter, Go-Go Girl? You ain’t never seen a five-hundred-dollar bill before?” He chuckled. “So what do you say you make tonight a first for a lot of things?”
All of a sudden, I was starting to think about church, kicking myself for not having paid my respects (or tithes) to the house of the Lord in a couple of months. At the same time, I was trying my hardest to recall one of those messages that had to do with temptation—a scripture or something— because to tell the truth and shame the devil, I was beyond tempted to take Damon up on his offer.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches . . .” That wasn’t exactly the scripture I was grappling for, but it still seemed fitting.
My name; Helen Lannden. How much is it worth today? Twenty-five year old Helen Lannden. How much will my name be worth tomorrow, especially if I trick for this money today?
BLESSED selling Author E. N. Joy is the author behind the “New Day Divas,” “Still Divas,” “Always Divas” and “Forever Divas” series, all which have been coined “Soap Operas in Print.” She is an Essence Magazine Bestselling Author who wrote secular books under the names Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY. Her title, If I Ruled the World, earned her a book blurb from Grammy Award Winning Artist, Erykah Badu. An All Night Man, an anthology she penned with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Jackson, earned the Borders bestselling African American romance award. Her Urban Fiction title, Dollar Bill (Triple Crown Publications), appeared in Newsweek and has been translated to Japanese.
After thirteen years of being a paralegal in the insurance industry, E. N. Joy divorced her career and married her mistress and her passion; writing. In 2000, she formed her own publishing company where she published her books until landing a book deal with St. Martin’s Press. This award-winning author has been sharing her literary expertise on conference panels in her home town of Columbus, Ohio as well as cities across the country. Now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, she also conducts publishing/writing workshops for aspiring writers.
Her children’s book titled The Secret Olivia Told Me, written under the name N. Joy, received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. The book was also acquired by Scholastic Books and has sold almost 100,000 copies. Elementary and middle school children have fallen in love with reading and creative writing as a result of the readings and workshops E. N. Joy instructs in schools nationwide.
In addition, she is the artistic developer for a young girl group named DJHK Gurls. She pens original songs, drama skits and monologues for the group that deal with messages that affect today’s youth, such as bullying.
After being the first content development editor for Triple Crown Publications and ten years as the acquisitions editor for Carl Weber’s Urban Christian imprint, E. N. Joy now does freelance editing, ghostwriting, write-behinds and literary consulting. Her clients have included New York Times Bestselling authors, entertainers, aspiring authors, as well as first-time authors. Some notable literary consulting clients include actor Christian Keyes, singer Olivia Longott and Reality Television star Shereé M. Whitfield.
What advice would you give to those going through similar situations in your book, I Ain’t Me No More?
The entire theme of the domestic abuse the main character, Helen, who is based on my own life, endures is the fact that it started off when she was just a teenager in high school. So I really want my readers to make note of that. I want parents to look at their child’s homecoming or prom picture and ask themselves “Is that person standing next to my daughter smiling with his arm around her abusing her?” or “Is my smiling son abusing that girl he has his arm around?” And vice versa, because although underreported, males suffer domestic abuse as well. And young ladies, your choice to keep company with a guy who will put his hands on you is a matter of life and death. I survived, but not every abused woman does. Choose life . . . choose to leave!
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of your family.
Hands down-THE READERS. #Readersarethebossofme. What I need people to understand is, yes, as an author, a part of me wants to write stories that I myself want to read. But the moment an author begins to make it all about them and not the reader is when the author needs to rethink their purpose for doing what they do. Ultimately, when a product is created, it is created to please and satisfy the consumer. Well, if you are a writer, your product is your written word and the reader is your consumer. Readers are my literary heartbeat. Every time they turn the page of one of my books, they are flying with me.
My readers inspire me to challenge myself. I don’t write for myself and I’m absolutely not one of those authors who you will hear say, “If I could just sell one book and reach one person, then I’m happy; I’ve done my job.” No ma’am and no sir. I’m grateful to reach one person, but that is not my goal. I do not put all that I put into my work—sacrifice all that I do—to sell one book or reach one person. Did Jesus set out to reach one person? Did Jesus die, go through all that He did and die on that cross just to save one person? I think you get my point.
Introduce us to your book and the main characters.
I Ain’t Me No More is book one of my three book “Always Divas” series. The main character, Helen, is not only the newest member of the New Day Temple of Faith Singles Ministry, but she quickly becomes the vixen with all her evil ways and antics. Helen is not one of those church folks the members love to hate. They just outright hate her! But is there something more to Helen than the hard, nasty exterior she puts up? Lord knows she wasn’t saved all her life, but was she born evil? Why else would someone set out to intentionally inject turmoil into the lives around her? Well, the women at New Day don’t know, and most don’t care. But when Helen decides to let them in on her past skeletons, it may change a few minds (or not). The women just might find that Helen is worth saving. Question is, though; Does Helen want to be saved?
What are some other titles you have written?
I’ve written 14 books in my Divas series. What I love about my series is that you can read them in any order. Each book highlights a different main character. What makes it a series is that each character that I write about is a member of the same church. But if you are a stickler for having to read my Divas series in the order of which I wrote them, then here goes: She Who Finds a Husband, Been There Prayed That, Love Honor or Stray, Trying to Stay Saved, I Can Do Better All By Myself, And You Call Yourself a Christian, The Perfect Christian, The Sunday Only Christian, I Ain’t Me No More, More Than I Can Bear, You Get What You Pray For, When All is Said and Prayed, One Sunday at a Time, Lady of the House.
My stand-alone books are Me, Myself & Him, She’s No Angel, and A Woman’s Revenge. Ebook only books are Ordained by the Streets, Let’s Do Summer, Behind Every Good Woman, The Miserable Wives Club, and Flower in my Hair.
You can also check out my children’s books written under the name N. Joy: The Secret Olivia Told me, Sabella and the Castle Belonging to the Troll, and Operation Get Rid of Mom’s New Boyfriend.
What events or projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing or attending?
I believe everyone has a story to tell, that they should tell it, that they should tell it right, then publish it right. So, I’m putting on the first annual Path To Publishing “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” Three-Day Self-Publishing Conference, kicking off September 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. On day one we will focus on building your book (the entire self-publishing process). On day two we will focus on building your book business (incorporating, doing business as, taxes, etc.) On day three we will focus on creating multiple streams of income as an author outside of book sales and royalties. To stay updated, visit http://www.pathtopublishing.com and sign-up for the free newsletter.
Former president, Bill Clinton, years back, right after he had his first memoir published, said, “Anybody over fifty owes it to his family to write down everything that’s happened during his life and pass it on.” I’m in total agreement. But tomorrow isn’t promised, so don’t wait until you’re fifty to begin penning your message . . . your story. This is the reason why I became a literary consultant, a course instructor with Path To Publishing, and the host of the YouTube series, “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business.” Not only do I have a strong desire to help people tell their story and put it in a book, but I also want to teach them how to turn their book into a business. Our stories should be a family legacy . . . in more ways than one. Visit me at http://www.squareup.com/market/writings-by-joy if you are interested in any of my literary services.
What was the pivotal moment or book that inspired you to write?
One day I got my hands on one of my auntie’s grownup books, which was Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines. It was the first book I’d ever read with main characters that looked like me. With characters that walked, talked, and thought like me. I remember sneaking the book out at night time and reading it while lying in bed. I was so deeply enthralled that I felt like I became that black girl who was lost. I remember closing that book upon the final chapter and saying to myself, “One day I’m going to write a book that does that to people. I’m going to write a book that black girls like me can relate to, take something from.” I think I’ve accomplished that in my books.
I hear authors say it all the time: “I write my book for everybody, not just one particular audience.” That’s all fine and well, but the book business is just that; a business. In dealing with business you have to have a target audience that you start off promoting and marketing to. Once you have saturated your target audience, then you have the bull’s eye affect, where you begin to expand outward into other areas. There is absolutely no shame in my game; I write my books for women, namely Black women. If anyone outside of my target audience wants to pick up my books, that is an awesome blessing. But I want to make sure that my sisters—my target audience—can walk right into the book store and know exactly where to find me.
Where do you expect to be in your career as an author five (5) years from now?
Had I been asked this question five years ago (which I’m sure I was) my answer would have been (and I’m sure it was) “I want to be a New York Times Bestselling Author. I want to have “A Million Copies Sold!” stamped on my book covers. I want to be selling out of books after every book signing. In short, five years from now I want to be a famous author.” I know that was a mouthful, but when I first started writing, achieving all of the above is what motivated me. But now, after having my greatest Ah-Ha moment ever, those answers have changed.
A couple years ago I was in a room with some authors who had pretty much achieved what I’d wanted to achieve by that point in my writing career. Their reputations preceded them. All the readers in the room knew who they were. In that moment, I felt so inferior that I felt myself shrinking in my seat. I remember saying a silent prayer: “God, one day I want to walk into the room and everyone knows who I am.” God’s response to me was, “Me too!”
I always say the greatest Ah-Ha moment a person can ever have is when their life begins to make sense. In that moment, my life began to make sense. So, this is how I now answer the question of where do I expect to be in my career as an author five years from now: “I want to be a BLESSED selling author. I want to have “A Million Souls Saved!” stamped on my book covers. I want readers to be sold out on Christ after reading my books. In short, five years from now I want to still be writing, not to become a famous author, but to make God famous.”
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/E.-N.-Joy/e/B001QUZTKO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
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2. My mom is in love (insert eye roll).
3. With a guy who is like 10 years younger than her!
4. My friends think he’s hot. (Gross)
5. I love ballet but our dance studio has a leak and we have to dance in this smelly studio that doubles as an aikido dojo.
6. There’s this Dojo guy who thinks the studio belongs to him.
7. Friends think Dojo guy is cute. (Ew.) (Okay, objectively maybe but still, ew.)
8. I’m failing algebra.
9. Need to quit either basketball or ballet. Or both.
10. Dojo guy keeps showing up! (Fine, he does aikido in the same building but whatever.)
11. Dojo guy is asking me to dance with him. And maybe he is as cute as my friends say.
12. I don’t know what to do anymore!
The fudge that had earlier coated my insides when I decided to stop being mean to him? It began to bubble as a fire lit up within me as well.
Who was this friendly impostor? What did he do with Dojo guy who, only a few days ago, was all frowns, glowers, and snark? Oh wait, that sounded like me. But see, I was here, being my regular self. I wasn’t pretending to be all friendly and charming.
Here I was breaking misconceptions I held all my life. And you know what? It felt so good. Just as good as sinking a basket, one second to the buzzer, breaking a tie. Or maybe even better.
Heidi Tucker won the 2017 Illumination Award for her first inspirational book Finding Hope in the Journey and her newest release is entitled Servie’s Song. Her passion for writing and speaking about light and hope has inspired thousands. Heidi is known as a great storyteller who motivates us to rise up and find new strength. She teaches how to recognize truth and make a difference.
When Heidi isn’t writing her next book, or speaking at a conference, you’ll find her spending time outdoors with her husband, four grown children and eight grandchildren. She loves sunflowers, hiking, and ice cream … not necessarily in that order.
The true story of one mother living in Zimbabwe, Africa who encounters a devastating loss leaving her unable to carefor six children. In a heart-wrenching sacrifice she surrenders to a desperate plan to leave her children and find work in the United States. It is a door which feels impossible to walk through. But perhaps, the only door which holds any promise.
Servie’s Song takes you on an emotional journey of tragedy and heartbreak to an inspiring path of hope. This touching story is complemented by gospel principles which will teach and motivate you to grab onto your faith and move forward trusting that you are never alone. God always hears your prayers.
Dr. Ian Prattis is Professor Emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa, Zen teacher, peace and environmental activist. Born in the UK, he has spent much of his life living and teaching in Canada. His moving and eye-opening books are a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath the polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth. Prattis bravely goes there in his outstanding literary work.
He is an award winning author of fifteen books. Recent awards include Gold for fiction at the 2015 Florida Book Festival (Redemption), 2015 Quill Award from Focus on Women Magazine (Trailing Sky Six Feathers) and Silver for Conservation from the 2014 Living Now Literary Awards (Failsafe: Saving the Earth From Ourselves). His book Redemption is being made into a movie. His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues. A Poet, Global Traveler, Founder of Friends for Peace, Guru in India, and Spiritual Warrior for planetary care, peace and social justice, he offers public talks and retreats all over the world. Ian lives in Ottawa, Canada and encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the planet may be renewed. He mostly stays local to help turn the tide in his home city so that good things begin to happen spontaneously.
The Star Dragon
By Dante Doom
When the real world is threatened, it’s up to the players in a virtual one to save it.
Van Vanyushin doesn’t see the point in ever leaving the beautiful digital world of the game he loves—and for good reason. In the industrial wasteland he calls home, it is often the only way people can experience life’s simplest pleasures. But his allegiance to the game is tested when an ambitious CIA agent named Sang Ngo calls upon him to help as she goes undercover in the game to investigate Draco—the corporation responsible for creating the massively popular role-playing game Dragon Kings of the New World.
Sang is a gifted hacker who feels nothing but contempt for those who waste their lives in what she sees as a false reality…but when people start dying in the game, she must find out why. Van, a talented gamer, is her guide to navigate the world, level up their newbie characters fast and get into some of the most dangerous areas of the game. He dreams of becoming a pro gamer sponsored by Draco one day, but his partnership with Sang threatens to expose secrets from his past that could jeopardize those plans.
Now, they will have to put aside their differences to discover whatever—or whoever—is killing players, but the truth they find is darker than either of them imagined….
Dante Doom didn’t touch a videogame or fantasy book until his 23rd year on Earth. He started working at an old-school arcade—hired primarily, he was told, because of his “badass ridiculous name”—and from then his education began.
They started him on the classics, a strict diet of Pac-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Dig Dug, Street Fighter, and Rampage.
Freakish proficiency. Beginners luck, they said.
He was given dog-eared copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and Anne McCaffrey’sDragon Riders of Pern.
Devoured in days.
Finally, he was invited up to the arcade owner’s private gaming room: Battletoads, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES), and Ghosts ‘n Goblins followed.
Defeated, at last—maybe he wasn’t such a wunderkid, after all. But he didn’t give up. And that earned him a seat at the group’s D&D table. Many a happy day has passed since—he even beat TMNT’s Dam level and its health-draining pink seaweed.
Then a year ago, that same group introduced him to the new Fantasy-LitRPG genre—what Dante saw as the final stage in his education. Because, for him, it doesn’t get any better than LitRPG. The combination of an immersive fantasy world, gaming objectives and levelled progression makes for a fascinating storytelling experience.
Inspired, he took two weeks holiday from the arcade, sat down and wrote the Dragon Kings of the New World series.
On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075RF8L83/
The author is giving away a $5 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky reader!
By Lily Iona MacKenzie
Genre: Literary magical realism
When Curva Peligrosa arrives in Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek on the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. With a parrot on each shoulder, a glittering gold tooth, and a wicked trigger finger, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Curva is ready to settle down, but are the inhabitants of Weed ready for her? Possessed of an insatiable appetite for life and love, Curva’s infectious energy galvanizes the townspeople, turning their staid world upside down with her exotic elixirs and unbridled ways. Toss in an unscrupulous americano developer and a one-eyed Blackfoot chief, stir them all together in the tumult of a tempestuous tornado, and the town of Weed will never be the same again. A lyrical account of one woman’s journey and the unexpected effects it has on the people around her, Curva Peligrosa pulses with the magic at the heart and soul of life.
They didn’t think much about it when the wind picked up without warning late one summer afternoon and a dark cloud hurtled towards them over the prairies. Alberta residents are used to nature’s unpredictability: snowstorms in summer; spring thaws during severe cold snaps; hail or thunderstorms appearing out of nowhere on a perfect summer day. At times, hot dry winds roar through like Satan’s breath, churning up the soil and sucking it into the air, turning the sky dark as ink. Months later, some people are still digging out from under the spewed dirt.
But this wasn’t just a windstorm. A tornado aimed directly at the town of Weed, it whipped itself into a frenzy. To the Weedites, it sounded like a freight train bearing down on them, giving off a high-pitched shriek the closer it got, like a stuck whistle. The noise drowned out everything else. Right before the tornado hit, a wall of silence descended, as if the cyclone and every living thing in the area had been struck dumb.
And then a completely intact purple outhouse dropped into the center of town, a crescent-shaped moon carved into its door. It landed right next to the Odd Fellows Hall and behind the schoolhouse. Most people thought the privy had been spared because its owner—Curva Peligrosa, a mystery since her arrival two years earlier—had been using it at the time.
Meanwhile, the tornado’s racket resumed, and Curva sat inside the outhouse, peering through a slit in the door at the village dismantling around her. The funnel sucked up whole buildings and expelled them, turning most of Weed upside down and inside out. Unhinged from houses, doors and roofs flew past, along with walls freed from their foundations. The loosening of so many buildings’ restraints released something inside Curva. Never had she been so aroused. It was more exhilarating than riding the horse she’d bartered for recently, a wild gelding. The horse excited her, especially when she imagined herself riding its huge organ. In the midst of the noise and clatter, just as the tornado reached its climax, Curva had hers.
A heavy rain followed, some of it seeping into Curva’s sanctuary and dampening the walls as well as her nightdress. So much rain pelted the town it created a flood that overran the main street. Protected from the worst of the storm, Curva drowsed and dreamt that she fell through the hole in the seat, landing on the ground with a soft thud next to a pile of bones, each about ten inches long, worn smooth from the elements. She grabbed one and—still aroused—used it, waking to the melting feeling of another orgasm and the sound of rain pelting the roof.
A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (I was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got my legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, co-created The Story Shoppe, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County, CA, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in creative writing and one in the humanities). I have published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 150 American and Canadian venues. My novel Fling! was published in 2015. Curva Peligrosa, another novel, will be published in September 2017. Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. My poetry collection All This was published in 2011. I have taught at the University of San Francisco for over 30 years, and I blog at http://lilyionamackenzie.wordpress.com.
On Twitter: @lilyionamac
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lily.iona.mackenzie/
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tQb5eS
The Quieting West
By Gordon Gravley
Genre: Literary / Western / Historical
This is the story of two cowboys, Billy Colter and Thomas Andrew Benton, in the rapidly changing world of the early 1900’s. Despite the forty-year difference in their ages, they become close friends in a brief time. After losing their jobs as ranch hands in Utah, they head to Denver, once old man Thomas’ stomping ground. There, Thomas spends time with Ellen Marie, a “soiled dove” he’s known all her life, while young Billy experiences the newest form of entertainment: nickelodeons.
Thomas soon receives a job offer from an old friend, and the two head to Arizona, expecting more ranch work. What they discover is a renegade group of silent film makers. Billy and Thomas are hired to protect the crew and their equipment from Patents Agents hunting down the illegal use of movie cameras. Before long, the cowboys-now-hired-guns are involved in the movie-making process. When they are lured to a world of great enchantment and seduction—Hollywood!—they find their lives forever changed. And not necessarily for the better.
It is a story of truth, fiction, and the disillusionment between the two. A story woven of humor, romance, and tragedy.
Gordon Gravley has been making up stories all his life. The dystopian Gospel for the Damned was his first novel. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Gordon moved around – California; Colorado; Alaska; Northern Arizona – before eventually settling in Seattle, Washington. Calling the Northwest his home since 1998, he doesn’t expect to be moving elsewhere anytime soon. There, he’ll continue to make up stories, and live with his wife and son.
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/gordongravley
AUTHOR’S GIVEAWAY: Sign up for the author’s monthly newsletter (via his website) and you will be entered into a drawing to win one of three signed print copies of his book.
Life & Love Volume I
By Taneisha LaGrant
Genre: Poetry, Literary Fiction
Love is a journey. Step 1. Fall in love. Step 2. Experience conflict. Step 3. Move on and heal or heal together. Is love really like this formula though? It all seems so simple.
This volume of poetry is broken up into similar sections where Taneisha LaGrant takes you on the journey of falling in love, fighting to stay in love and learning the most important discovery of it all. The key to what’s missing can’t be found in everyone else but it can be found in this volume of poetry. Stay tuned until the end and you may discover the most important aspect of love there ever was to be discovered.
Taneisha LaGrant is a poet from Florida. She graduated from the American Military University with an English degree in 2015. Taneisha is currently pursuing her Masters in English with a Creative Writing concentration. She resides in Washington with her husband and two children. To her poetry is the language of the heart whether spoken or written.
Facebook: Taneisha LaGrant
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nJkAJ5
At the age of eighty-five, Hans Jaeger finds himself a castaway among a group of survivors on a deserted island. What is my particular crime? he asks. Why have I been chosen for this fate? And so he begins his extraordinary chronicle.
It would be an understatement to say he has lived a full life. He has grown up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl. He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess. After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, finds solace among prostitutes while his wife lay in a coma, and marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her.
By turns sardonic and tragic and surreal, Hans’s story is the story of all of the insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself.
With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.
But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…
This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?
My hopes and aspirations weren’t what typical girls dream about. My dreams were having a good career, someday having a nice husband with the American dream of the white picket fence, but children never entered my mind’s eye.
But for Lucy Carpenter just having a career and a loving husband wasn’t enough. She didn’t feel complete without having that little bundle of joy. What Lucy signified is what being unique and different is all about. For her, having a baby meant everything. It would make her feel complete, but no matter how hard she and Jonah, her hubby, tried, the fates had a different take on the situation. Jonah was a father from his first marriage. And although that made Lucy overjoyed that he had a growing teen living in France with his ex-wife, she still wanted to experience motherhood firsthand up close and personal.
Going through the journey of Lucy’s miscarriages was extremely painful to read. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I felt for this character. You always hear the horror stories in the news about parents killing their babies or harming them, and when you have two people that would give a child the best, it’s just downright cruel that they cannot conceive. She would have been a great mom and you could feel her anguish. It just wasn’t enough for her to be a stepmom, she wanted a baby. When Camille comes to visit Jonah and Lucy for the summer, a strange turn of events emerges. What Lucy was advised and what was were two completely set of circumstances. Camille drives a wedge between Lucy and Jonah and it’s a wonder if they were going to make it out of it alive. Would their marriage stand the test of a stepchild?
I must say this was one of the most poignant books I’ve read in quite some time. Prowse wrote the words off this book 🙂 If you’re not feeling the frustration and mental anguish Lucy experiences, you cannot have a pulse. I was heartbroken for this woman and I personally never wanted children, but I understand women who do. As you read this story, so many questions form in your mind (none of which I will state because of spoilers), but this is a book that defies all trials and tribulations. Lucy was a strong character and handled herself well, under the circumstances, but make no bones about it, Lucy held her own and I love the sensitivity and care Prowse took in writing this heart-wrenching story. Outstanding book!
Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang! gives The Idea of You five bundles of joy! Great characters, a-sensitive, yet compelling story of love, loss and maturing. The Idea of You went on sale, March 21, 2017, so please make sure you pick up your copy today! This is one of those books that will live with you forever. I’m a fan, Amanda Prowse. Well, well, well done! Awesome Read.
Until next time, keep on reading Intellectual Minds!
Literary / Satire
Date Published: October 2016
Publisher: JAM Publishing
Ruth Askew, a minor celebrity, is spouting some highly incompetent philosophy about the end of virtue. Con Manos, a journalist, is attempting to uncover a political scandal or two. Add some undistinguished members of City Council, an easy listening radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper, and any number of lawyers and other professional criminals. In Worthy Of This Great City the compelling stories of two stubborn individualists intertwine in a brisk, scathing satire that invites you to question everything you think you think about today’s most discussed issues: populism and elitism, the possibility of truth, the reach of profound stupidity, and the limits of personal responsibility in these post-truth, morally uncertain times.
Earlier that day, I lay in the shade with only my bare toes exposed to the vicious sun, part of a modest audience similarly disposed beneath the modest fringe of trees surrounding the field. Light fell down through the foliage, thick victorious beams that described powerful angles in their descent inside the usual breathtaking green cathedral. Around me the grass was withered and compressed into a flattened mat over ground still saturated from the previous night’s thunderstorms; everything smelled of baking wet earth, sunscreen, and greasy event food. I don’t remember any intrusive insects or even visible birds except for a couple of extremely distant hawks, dull specks in the otherwise empty sky.
Another respectable scattering of spectators occupied the baking field, most sprawled directly in front of the small Camp Stage, true fans eagerly upright despite the merciless heat. So just as expected, one of those perfectly innocent afternoons you buy with the ticket, monotonous while deeply nourishing, readily absorbed through the whole skin like childhood summers.
didn’t know about the witches yet, but they were out in force. Yeah, it’s a silly description but I don’t know how else to capture the awful effect of those damn women. So they were witches who’d been summoned by a highly demanding assembly of affluent suburbanites, people accustomed to commanding natural forces. And while arguably these were all benevolent females who only meant well, with witches you never know how it’s going to turn out.
Every August for more than a decade I’ve headed out to Schwenksville for this dependable throwback party. And not precisely to enjoy the music, because although it commands my absolute respect I find it too intense for everyday entertainment. It’s a kind of church music, an unashamed church of humanity: pure sound, plaintive and honest, twanging and rambunctious, dulcimer gentle. Fitting, then, for this late-summer pagan rite in honor of righteousness, and I immerse myself in it to perform a spiritual cleansing of sorts, processing across the fields from one rustic venue to another, affirming a succession of bluegrass pickers and ballad wailers and theatrical tellers of old tales. And it’s a mildly uncomfortable ritual in another sense, but that’s because of the mostly undamaged people, the one’s who wholeheartedly enjoy everything and applaud too often.
As with anything religious, there are incredibly subversive undercurrents longing to manifest, easy to exploit by those portending witches. Two of them performed that day, one with such tragic skill and clarity it unintentionally aroused huge amounts of self-loathing and subsequently resentment, at least in me. The second inspired a joy vigorous enough to move the plot. And the third exerted an indirect but equally damning influence courtesy of her own celebrity, her mere idea inciting a shaming nostalgia. In fact it was dangerously stupid to speak her name aloud. All three arrived wearing absolute certainty.
This current festival setting, the Old Pool Farm, is perfectly suited to the occasion. There are wide fields to accommodate the generous crowds, a nicely crisp and sparkly creek, and the requisite gates and groves, all at a situation remote enough to evoke a wholly separate culture despite easy proximity to the city. Although that’s not difficult, because even today you only have to poke your nose outside the nearer suburbs to spot a rusty silo on some decrepit farm with another of those filthy black-and-white, diarrhea-spewing dairy cows leaning against a sagging wire fence, its pelvis practically poking through its muddy hide. Peeling paint and hay bales directly across the road from another mushrooming pretentious development, a slum of dull, identical cheapjack townhouses. So despite the fervent country claptrap the festival is essentially a metropolitan scene, drawing a sophisticated crowd, and therefore in one sense condescending, an insult.
Murmurs of anticipation brought me up on my elbows to discover Hannah Lynch already onstage, a typically modest entrance. I sat up and paid attention, catching sight of her inside an amiable circle of probable musicians, a glimpse of her face and one thin shoulder between competent-looking backs in cowboy or cotton work shirts, all of them endlessly conversing there in surprisingly gentle voices.
Until finally they broke apart and here she came gliding towards the front of the tiny platform, moving within a reputation so illustrious it made her physical presence unlikely and you had to struggle for it. A tiny bird of a woman, an elderly, fragile sparrow with fine gray hair and hazel eyes and translucent skin, nodding to us and smiling nicely with small unremarkable teeth while seating herself on a wooden folding chair. She was dressed like good people, like a decent Christian farmwife in a faded print skirt and cotton blouse of mixed pastels, pink and beige and blue. Only with dangling silver jewelry to be noticed, since after all she was a major star.
With this one unshakable article of faith: that her famously quavering soprano was entirely unrelated to her own ordinary self, more of an imposition or a trust, an undeserved gift from God that in no way merited personal praise. So she has stated. And accordingly she exuded genuine empathy with all of us waiting out there for her, straining forward to better capture the spirit and stamina investing each word. A curve of laughter lit her face, and there was grief there too, but nothing to diminish that serene spirit.
Beside me Crystal, blatantly artificial trendoid in that audience of cosmopolitan pseudo-naturals, for once had the good sense to keep her mouth shut. Crystal, please note, was present only because she suspected this event mattered to me and meant to chain herself to it in my memory. She was an unashamed criminal, and really sweet, and I admired her.
Lynch sat there looking at us and hugging her guitar, once giving it a surreptitious pat like a favorite pet before launching into one of those unexpectedly piercing old songs, a rather shocking rush of raw bitterness and despair – nothing silvered there – railing rather than mourning yet cleanly tragic because without any confusion of entitlement or excuse, in fact totally untainted by melodrama, an expression of rightful fury to upend your sensibilities and make you cringe inside your pampered, complacent soul.
And onward, commanding that summer hour with a repertoire of futile longing, black misery, true love, unalloyed injustice, and journeying away as only the truly dispossessed can journey. How inadequate we were by comparison, what undeserved good fortune to be sitting there vicariously sharing the infinite human endurance of those former generations, thus beatified now. Sharing a deep pride in our good taste and our faultless fundamental values.
And that’s how this festival always goes for me: a fusion of rapture and fleeting realization, of purging and rebirth I suppose. We avid celebrants being served by true vicars, unassuming conduits of grace because essentially craftspeople evincing the unquestioning self-respect of their kind, therefore automatically accepting us as equals and worthy of their respect, refusing to cater. That’s how Lynch and her ilk deliver their deadly blows, how they incite our reckless, self-destructive impulses.
Because the problem is, nothing is enough and never can be, not in any case. And in addition to that, this particular event carries an impossible burden of triumphant civil rights baggage. A weight of expectation, purest gold and just as heavy, presses down on those fields like an approaching storm, flattening the trees, placing an unbearable strain on our moral muscles, making even the most authentic and engaged participant stagger for reasons most often never identified.
You see there’s no battle here anymore, a situation as frustrating as it is pathetic. I mean, what’s so pitiable as striving mightily to wage a war already won, or achieve a moral victory already popularly embraced? Like you’re on some lone and dangerous crusade instead of enjoying a mere reenactment, an amusement park ride. As if any real social hazard or physical extremity ever threatened most of these initiates. As if they could face the real front line today. Come to that, what in the world ever sprang from this placid piece of Pennsylvania countryside anyway, or even its nearby metropolis, so far from the bloody front lines of decades past? What justifies this hallowed ambience? Everyone knows the real struggle was over in another state, in the deep South or New York or California, all that televised passion and pain. Yet here’s a similar legacy, an undeserved renown.
Seriously, you have to consider this heritage of the sixties, that era of righteousness and innocence and victory, you have to ponder the connection to the contemporary lives and events I’m describing here. Resurrect that intoxicating scent of possibility. Realize how strong it is, what it can do. Watch any old news film and it’s literally like viewing creatures from another planet, those young people are so alien, their gestures and expressions so certain and strident, an entire new world in their angry, accusatory eyes. What can any of that mean in this age of spent possibility?
So today the Folk Fest is largely a masturbatory farce of self-congratulation, courtesy of this pushy, upscale audience basking in its accustomed sunshine, displaying that forceful amiability that means money, smiling too brightly over bare freckled shoulders. Uniformly pale people displaying their ease on this bucolic faux battlefield, all aggressively self-aware. And meanwhile a barely perceptible, slightly demented energy flutters along at grass level, an intrepid narcissism bent on having a significant experience and more than a little desperate to measure up to itself.
I’m as progressive as anyone, I secretly gloat over my superiority, so for me all this underlying energy eventually manifests as low-grade irritation, and the fact that bad temper is implicitly verboten at this event only makes it that much worse. And then here comes Lynch to further emphasize everyone’s obvious unworthiness and what can you do but silently seethe with frustrated moral ambition. This is the one Folk Fest constant I always dismiss until it’s too late and I’m climbing aboard one of the yellow school buses that shuttle people in from the parking fields, listening to all the boisterous but balanced chatter. Probably a deliberate amnesia, because as I say, for me it’s a religious event.
So by later that Saturday afternoon I was largely disgusted with myself and as you can imagine, wonderful company. Once again stretched out on my back but this time my whole body obstinately exposed to the brutal heat, and while I had a bucket hat shielding my face I’d raised my knees to better facilitate the burn penetrating my jeans. I reached my left hand out past the edge of Crystal’s spongy blue blanket, feeling for the heart of the earth deep underneath the dispirited vegetation, Edna Millay style.
There we greeted the second witch, and for an interlude of spontaneous revelry the whole phony carnival dissolved, wiping away our precious fictions to reveal the one face behind the infinitely varied masks. Rather commonplace moments to underline the supertext, a brief but blessed release from introspective angst, an intoxicated dance that anyway began wholeheartedly but inevitably dwindled into posturing before ultimately discarding us back into isolated, shattered pieces of humanity scattered over a sunlit field.
We were in front of the main stage, the Martin Guitar Stage, a venue that backs into some tame leftover woods. The smaller Tank Stage was to my right, with behind it a private area for performers, and to my left the equally small Craft Stage. Further left was all the familiar festival retail, folkie variety, striped tents selling hippie throwback goods like handcrafted ceramics, carved wooden bowls, tie-dye skirts, hand-strung glass beads, and bad art. In between the main and Craft Stages a tiny dirt path paralleled a shallow creek of sparkling mica and soft mud; both disappeared into the dim coolness of the Dulcimer Grove, a rather precious habitat of jugglers and magicians and others of that Renaissance Faire ilk, a determinedly magical place more or less reserved to scantily clad or frankly naked children, their cheeks painted with stars and moons in indigo and crimson. Either they’re truly mesmerized by these archaic amusements or they’re convinced they should be by the adults and the daycare atmosphere, because they all sit there expending fierce concentration on colored sand and sparkly fairy dust, their little pink tongues extended in effort. I mean, all the world is fake, even the kids. Around them circles a protective hillside of slender trees roped together by string hammocks in bright primary colors, a haphazard effect of beggars’ rags pegged out to dry.
If you follow that same path straight on you come out on field with more dry grass, more distant trees, and another vacant horizon. On the right is the Camp Stage, site of Lynch’s morning concert; on the left an unremarkable gate gives onto the campers’ settlement, one of those ephemeral constructions of funky tent-and-RV fantasies, castles and pyramids and suburban estates complete with lawn furniture and barbeques and anything else you need for rustic comfort. The affable professional performers come here after the regular shows to sit and drink and play their music well into the summer nights, just for these special stalwarts. Notice how everyone’s personal effects are carefully positioned to define private family spaces but without absolutely excluding the requisite hobnobbing community, because that would repudiate the spirit of the thing.
And anywhere you care to look there are all these exceptionally pleasant people, a seasonal confluence of the enlightened: middle-aged, nattily-bearded men with thick hairy ankles showing beneath those long gauzy skirts; visibly well-educated younger couples falling all over each other in reassuring mutual recognition; friendly teens aglow with their own laudable social spirit or familiarity with meaningful music or both; and grimy toddlers in T-shirts and shimmering plastic haloes with their baby curls shining and their fingers to their mouths and their tiny feet covered with dirt. Skimpy tank tops and glittery backpacks, idiosyncratic witches cones and sombreros and straw cowboy hats covered in button collections, pale muscled calves and freckled backs red with sun and damp with perspiration.
All these regulation types navigate cordially across the fields, buying and eating and exercising their approval, until later in the afternoon when the heat is truly intolerable and it’s a matter of claiming a place for the folding chairs and coolers and settling in for the afternoon concert. When for a couple of hours all these enervated devotees create for themselves an enormous patchwork quilt of blankets and tarps, an American prayer rug rolled out beneath the glare.
I among them, hiding under my hat, squinting up from under the brim, intending not so much to watch the performances as to absorb them from a neutral distance. Meanwhile I was relishing the sense of Crystal beside me, resentful at having to endure all this legitimate music.
When here came a second celebrated woman into this extraordinary and disorganized day, an ineffably cosmopolitan presence in a white silk shirt that billowed out over notably slim hips and tight black jeans tucked into cowboy boots. The costume only emphasized the unmistakable sophistication in the sharp angle of her jaw and the sleek black bob swinging at her shoulder. That taut body edged itself onto the stage and into our attention, anticipation suffusing her narrow face, her whole person radiating the intrinsically cool self-content of a magician about to pull off the big illusion and astonish us all.
Lifting fiddle and bow, lowering them to call a comment offstage, bringing them back up to her pointed chin experimentally while a guitarist, drummer, and another violinist fooled with getting into position, and around me an expectant rustle shook off the afternoon lethargy, and once again I sat up and wiped the sweat and sunscreen from my forehead.
She leaned forward a fraction to acknowledge us.
“Hello all you very special people.” Now decisively raising her instrument. “Three jigs.”
Well, you know that kind of tritely manipulative music, but then her exceptional skill, that energy climbing into a frenzy, the first notes reaching us with the adolescent enthusiasm of uncurling spring leaves. Music so familiar and yet astonishingly fresh, something behind the insistence of it transcending its own rather sentimental imagining. Passages as fleet but powerful as pure energy, and you’d actually have to defend against the physical impact but why would you bother to fight off such delirious joy?
They have a reserved seating section in front of the main stage, a modest pen containing rows of wooden folding chairs surrounded by a fence of deliberately rickety palings. It was largely unpopulated for the afternoon performance. A dirt lane about ten feet wide separated this area from the field of common folk. Crystal and I were up front, right near the dusty edge of this path, and close to us, in the lane itself and with one tiny hand firmly grasping the enclosure fence, stood a fairy-slim blonde girl of five or six. Just as I fully noticed her she launched into the familiar steps of an Irish jig, lifting first one exquisite bare foot and then the other into tentative arcs, curving each arm alternately above her head. From her shoulders a pastel summer dress floated out in the shape of a loose triangle, and her movements caused her hair to caress her perfect little back.
With the increasing confidence of the music her delicate feet, fragile pale-pink petals, rose and crossed each other in an assured sequence that bespoke formal lessons, and meanwhile her eyes never lifted from her toes and her pallid face was tense in concentration. Only once did she manage a quick glance up to a middle-aged scholarly type, probably her father, who nodded mild encouragement but displayed, I thought, some slight annoyance.
Now complex annotations around the tune turned tight elegant spirals; it was all self-interest now, you understand, nothing to do with us but instead its own internal voyage. In the path the child reworked her steps, her frown expressing frustration with her own limited expertise.
When suddenly appeared two barefoot, competent-looking women in their early thirties skipping down the lane, then widely twirling, then skipping again, their hands clasped and arms outstretched to form a traveling arrow. Both flaunting gauzy pastel skirts and silvery tank tops that exposed perspiring firm flesh, both draped with multiple glittering strands of Mardi Gras beads flashing purple and green and mauve. They acknowledged the blond child with an upward swing of their joined hands high over her head, a bridal arch speeding by on either side. It made her giggle but move closer to the fence.
The fiddler was bending practically in half over her bow and the second fiddler not being any slouch either, their hands and arms pushing towards the absolute limits of muscular possibility, straining against themselves to maintain their momentum.
Then four ethereally lithe teenage girls forming two pairs, and they were in regulation T-shirts and shorts except all bore silvery translucent wings that flapped at their slim shoulders; they went whirling around and around each other and simultaneously forward, delightful gyroscopes with their feet stomping hard on the infectious strain yet for all that maintaining the ludicrously disinterested expressions of runway models.
Promptly followed by a young couple charging along in an outright polka, aggressive but a tiny bit shamefaced, too: he was slim and wore a neatly-trimmed dark beard; she was sturdy and short with a pixie haircut and a refined air, like an educator. The little dancer flattened herself against the fence but continued a rhythmic bopping, presenting no less enchanting an image. And she was proved wise, because here came the same young couple back again, being the kind of people who need to underline the obvious.
Passing midway an approaching male pair, seeming now a little more obliged than inspired, their muscular calves flashing below their khaki kilts: one was broad in the shoulders and chest with a thin ass and spindly legs; his partner was entirely slim, remarkably tall, and balding. Presenting the impression although little of the force of a strong wind, they nevertheless managed to turn the little dancer halfway round, her moist mouth open in wonder. She paused there, staring after them.
Now the dancing was everywhere. I stood up to confirm a modest sea of erratically bobbing heads at every side but especially to the right, past the Tank Stage: enlightened middlebrows and emotionally stranded hippies and likeable healthy teens and self-disciplined mandolin players and confident cultural elitists and miscellaneous commonsensical types engaged in a nearly impromptu production number, for one bright second emerged from behind the mask of individualism, openly expressing one joyously creative soul.
Well, we were dancing out in the field as well, all of us to some extent, the more exhibitionist characters gyrating on their bright blue tarps and lifting their hands in the air, and some efficient types illegally occupying the marked-off aisles, prancing with impudent liberty up and back. Patrons excessively enthusiastic or self-consciously hesitant but almost everyone involving themselves in the music. I was dancing too, not to make a spectacle of myself or anything but feeling myself a part of the gala. And about then I realized it was already ending because that’s how these things always go.
Frenzied vibrations, faster than you could believe, and we listeners attended first with our ears and then with our bodies, stilling them now, desperate to capture every last second until inevitably all of it was swiftly and immaculately recalled into one compact point of silence and we found ourselves abandoned to our accustomed exile, returned to the pretense of our separate selves.
She played two more sets, we in her audience dutifully imitating our initial enthusiasm, grateful for the continuing reprieve. I’ve said it before: reality moves so fast anymore, we’ve all become experts at polite deceit.
Folk Fest protocol is to kick everyone out around six, sweep the grounds, then ticket everyone back in for the evening concert. You wait in a cattle shoot, at least if you’re fairly close to the gate, or anywhere nearby if you’re not, until finally the loudspeakers blare a Sousa march and you grab your chairs and blankets and coolers and run like hell to beat the other folkies to a premium patch of grass. Therefore it’s prudent to leave early enough to ensure you’re at the front of the return pack, and that afternoon, as usual, the knowledgeable attendees ignored the high, unrelenting sun, ignored even the name performer just introducing himself, and started unobtrusively filtering out.
I was making my own preliminary moves when I recognized Ruth off to the right, by herself and slightly beyond the audience proper. She was rather elaborately brushing grass off her shirt, and her hair was drifting into her face as usual; her entire aspect projected excruciating self-consciousness. It was the intricate performance of a woman uncoordinated at life yet used to being watched. She was in a lacy peasant blouse that didn’t suit her big-boned frame – it was lavender, too, which didn’t help – and loose black jeans over black cowboy boots. Her attention shifted to getting the blouse centered correctly; when finally she noticed me, that man standing perfectly still and staring at her, I waved a hand over my head in greeting. I have no idea why I didn’t just avoid her.
She assumed an automatic grin but then recognized me back and her smile turned beaming, and with it she transformed herself into a reasonably attractive woman, an odd but intriguing combination of big straight white teeth, thick dirty-blond hair, low forehead, pale freckles, and a long, arched nose that enlivened her profile with an aquiline swiftness.
Behind me Crystal was standing with our blanket gathered up in a big, baby blue synthetic wad; we watched Ruth maneuver through the half-seated, half-moving spectators, visibly enduring our inspection. When she got closer you noticed the deep frown lines between her brows and realized how much older she was than you’d assumed from the juvenile posturing.
A forthright greeting to Crystal and a frankly offered hand, all fraught with the deep disdain of the intelligent, accomplished woman encountering the undeserved self-esteem of the merely lovely. To which assault Crystal responded with her typical flaccid grip and a near shrug, an implied refusal to expend any more of her precious personal energy on uninteresting shit. Ruth turned away from us, towards the stage, where an athletic-looking but otherwise unassuming man of about forty in a tired cowboy hat was inaudibly explaining a song. That duty done, she faced us again.
“This is all new to me. It’s wonderful! That dancing.” She opened her arms wide to encompass the stage, the field, and the discreetly dispersing audience. “Very Caucasian.”
Well. The cowboy strummed an acoustic guitar, meanwhile calmly examining his surroundings for concealed gunslingers. And naturally I remembered our lunch but that was months ago, so surely whatever she was babbling about then was probably old news and anyway too vague to reference or be embarrassed over now.
She was brushing at her jeans for no discernable reason. “Did I tell you about Leticia Rowan?”
Just typical. What about Leticia Rowan? How aggravating when I hadn’t seen Ruth for months! I knew Rowan was the night’s closing act. Meanwhile my brain was automatically playing familiar media images backed by the old uplifting refrains: that bold soprano keening from the Capitol steps, debunking the myth of American justice; the slim, avid girl of the famous photograph where she’s perched on a stool in a Greenwich Village coffee house, radiant with the novel excitement of causing real change. Set on living a validated life, perfectly exemplifying those decisive, glorious years, that age of energy and faith. Today still socially engaged, as you would expect, and while no longer that wondrous sylph just as lovely in the clean bone beneath the motherly padding. But most often appearing during those public broadcasting fund-raisers, programs aimed at prosperous boomers eager to relive a spurious past.
“I’m introducing her tonight.”
“The hell you are.” It was such a stupid lie, not even remotely sustainable. Especially outrageous when you considered Ruth’s musical identity: her morning drive-time show featured one of those feel-good formats: generic soft rock interspersed with headlines, traffic, celebrity gossip, and a few carefully screened listener calls. Media hypocrisy providing a safe harbor for the harried immature listener, carefully friendly and slick and sympathetic and definitely never politically or socially oriented when that might mean causing offense. Also never mind that Gene Shay, comfortably stout folkie radio program host from a very different station, legendary teller of truly horrendous jokes, always introduced the performers here, world without end, amen. Come on.
“Right, you know everything. I forgot. And you’re never wrong.” I suppose that was an ostensibly genial poke at my renowned erudition. I happen to think if someone asks you a question they should have the courtesy to listen to the answer.
“I’m speaking after Gene.” Gene! And she was looking repulsively self-satisfied. “I asked Leticia Rowan if I could say a few words and she agreed, for some strange reason.” Now slipping into her professional mode, that rather arch blend of certainty and faux intimacy delivered with an indelible Lina Lamont slur: cay-unt um-an-jin. Fingering the silver holy medals at her throat, a crucifix and two others piled up together on a single delicate silver chain: Jude of the impossible and the Virgin Mary.
And she laughed at my horrified expression and launched into what I assume was a fairly mendacious account of a reception for Women in the Media at the lovely old Bellevue, where at that sort of event there’s a rigid social hierarchy: the unfed proletariat leaning forward from chairs up on the mezzanine to watch on monitors, and the elite dining at tables down on the ballroom floor. Ruth skipped over who was speaking on what and cut straight to dessert for the privileged few, she naturally among them being her gracious public self, wandering around being affable and networking with vibrant women in suits too bright for an office and intelligent men with refined, open faces, clearly expensive slacks and jackets, and beautifully cut hair.
And there was Leticia Rowan already in town and seated comfortably in a corner behind a tortured centerpiece of bamboo and tiny orange orchids, casually chatting with a couple of intimates. So Ruth went up and offered another of those frank handshakes. “I’m truly awed.” Basically insinuating herself into the party, making it clear who was honoring whom.
Then went prattling on in her practiced glib fashion about youthful idealism and her own fictitious activist past, seasoning it with ingenuous regret over her current disengaged state to smooth along the manipulation. Although this with a woman surely inured to dubious approaches? There’s something unconvincing about this I haven’t the time to investigate but the result must hinge on Ruth’s accumulating nervous tension, the months if not years behind the coming explosion. That kind of stress sets you performing impulsive actions, forcing unaccountable outcomes.
In retrospect I think Ruth once again mistook a fortuitous encounter for the hand of destiny and just barged ahead. Either that, or else she fell victim to that common desire to cleave to what one professes to despise.
I was dumbfounded. “Why?”
“Oh, envy I guess. I wanted to be part of it.” Charmingly stated, her forehead furrowed in recollection. And what was I supposed to say to any of it?
Behind us the cowboy mooed through a mild dirge, disrupting nothing; around us the field was nearly empty, abandoned to the insistent sun. And Ruth was standing before me explaining too much and nothing at all, once again too intense, setting off all sorts of warning bells.
Crystal lifted a pastel spaghetti strap from a pink shoulder and raised her impudent big gray eyes, looking at Ruth with that innocent expression women use to express contempt. Her private opinion of Ruth: “Nobody has to be seen looking like that.”
Crystal was another communications major and model manqué hoping to become, of all things, a personality. That ubiquitous blond hair, the pleasant features of no special distinction just slightly out of proportion: another responsibly raised, college-educated harpy bereft of individuality because nature abhors individuality. Instead she emanates sex, it’s in her bones and baby face, her short upper lip and outrageous ambition. Don’t expect her to evolve, because she’ll never be other than she is right now. Fortunately she’s immune to jealous criticism, not being that kind of stupid nor shy to succeed. She held some kind of entry-level management job at the Center City Holiday Inn Express, an occupation that never seemed to seriously impact her real life. Crystal is her birth name.
“Thom here?” I asked.
Ruth’s husband, a frequent guest on her program as either political insider or amiable comic foil, was a local celebrity in his own right, a Philadelphia familiar, a compendium of agreeable ugliness, frightening intelligence, crooked teeth in a moist marshmallow grin, Ivy League polish, loud patterned shirts, genuine charm, horrible posture, an unrepentant gift for outrageous flattery, and an impudent, cutting wit. Outsiders considered him the epitome of Main Line class.
“He’s in Harrisburg.” Acknowledging my disquiet, looking amused for my benefit, but her eyes were shading into wariness. She pushed that uncontrollable hair from her damp forehead. “I’m running around loose today.”
And she gave me a minor, tight smile, raised a few fingers in a little goodbye salute, and strode purposefully towards the gate.
“Hunh!” Crystal said for both of us.
Festival security is handled by costumed volunteers: polite, energetic young people impersonating funky pirates or medieval wizards or just nameless creatures of purely idiosyncratic design. This clean-cut constabulary was now shepherding we stragglers to the main gate with cordial efficiency, their intricate hats, adorned with oversized badges of authority, visibly bobbing over the heads of the crowd. The cowboy singer had vanished.
I stood there in the empty afternoon glare, again hunting around for a rational line of thought but failing to find one. Finally, today, I have an insight: my being there that afternoon helped determine the event.
I navigated us out of the grounds and smuggled us under the rope to a decent spot not too far back in the queue; none of the polite people already there objected. Crystal was perking up now she could catch the scent of approaching evening, her posture opening up to opportunity, her eyes brightly observant. I ducked back under the ropes to get a couple of Cokes from a vending machine and together we waited out the forced restorative lull, letting the afternoon settle down around us, watching the families in lawn chairs eating their dinners, relaxing in public. At length the loudspeakers sounded and we all pushed forward through the gates and launched into the usual painfully hilarious sprint. I got us fairly far up front on the center aisle and bent over gratefully, hands to knees, while from the corner of my blurred vision I saw Crystal plop herself down with her mildly victimized face.
Faint applause, which had to be for the traditional bagpipe welcome; a moment later I could hear the piper myself, and then came Gene Shay with his terrible jokes. By twilight we were enduring a young bluegrass quartet of some nascent merit but an unfortunate air of artsy superiority. Then an enjoyable mambo interlude evoking romantic images out of fifties movies, and by full darkness the Jumbotron screens displayed a close-up of a frail, dedicated Canadian singer-songwriter, another of those admirable females. Insidious damp was seeping through my jeans and sweatshirt, chilling my ass. Disembodied light-sticks moved at random, children giggled, and the kindly scent of marijuana wafted by in sporadic gusts.
Crystal and I outlasted the Canadian over strawberry smoothies doctored with vodka while around us the night coalesced into a blackness that seemed physical and bulky, something you could push aside like drapes. Then there was that huge yellowed moon illuminating the speeding brown clouds, making the entire universe feel unusually sentient.
Gene Shay was back with even more of those horrendous jokes, to be replaced by a middle-aged dignitary in a blazer over jeans, quietly defiant.
“We are the light of truth, the truth the capitalists and the banks and the conglomerates want forgotten. But we’re still here, still burning bright through the darkness.” He actually said that, sure of the personal politics of these many music lovers, all these people who could afford to share his opinion. Declaiming thus in an understated but confident bass, Main Line meets simple country boy to produce unfaltering self-respect. Positions shuffled onstage and there was Gene Shay back, leaning sideways into the standing mike to signal brevity.
“And now let’s talk about one particular brilliant candle shining through the darkness, brighter than almost any other, one of the iconic voices of an era of civil renaissance: the inimitable Leticia Rowan.” Grinning back offstage as if to a good friend, as maybe she was. “And just to underline how special this really is, we have an additional guest, because Philly’s very own Ruth Askew is going to provide us a more personal introduction.”
There was a kind of group shrug but nothing worrisome.
A further positional dance, the screens displaying indistinct blobs and random emptiness, and finally there was Ruth behind the microphone. We observed her taking us in: waving lights skittering over dull shapes, anticipatory shifting and murmurs, a few people in motion pausing on their way somewhere to see if it was worth the wait. Magnified, she looked brutally plain, with noticeable lines around her mouth and those disproportionately large, disturbingly vulnerable blue eyes.
And she just stood there, absolutely rigid, until we all paid complete attention. I think she was overwhelmed by pure contempt, that it confounded her ability to speak, so instead she spat at us
When everyone instinctively recoiled, as you can imagine, but now she was past her initial paralysis. More, she was beyond pretense, out in the wild ether, and you could almost see the crazy. We instinctively coalesced into a tight defensive silence.
“That’s for all you virtue thieves.” She’d struck this theatrical posture of aggressive confidence, all very square and speaking directly down to us.
“But unfortunately for you, we’ve reached the end of righteousness. Not in this electronic age. No more fleeing consequences and calling yourself good. Time itself is nothing but our continual separating away from the primordial dead nothingness of absolute truth and rightness.”
It’s almost over, but I hope you see how excruciating it was. I’m sorry to have to assault your sensibilities with this shit but we were all squirming in unforgivable embarrassment and you should understand.
And to be fair, is your religion less silly? Isn’t every great religion or even philosophy as impossibly childish? And here’s something else: she was handing us a diagram of her own psyche and circumstances, issuing a perfectly clear warning that went ignored simply because it was way too obvious. Because this is, after all, a story about stupidity where everything is fucking clear if you just pay attention.
Ruth put a hand to the mike, still keeping that confident posture.
“This is the next great evolutionary leap. We will claim the future responsibly, and we will become more like God.”
Just at that moment, the words flown, the energy abating, I could sense her dawning comprehension of the enormity of her situation. She looked to her side – for something, someone? And then she sent a little nod out to us, to the compact, alert darkness.
“Then to the elements be free, and fare thou well!”
That’s Prospero, retiring his magic and releasing the slave-spirit Ariel at the end of The Tempest.
But Ruth stayed out there, holding that same strong, taut pose until a calm Gene Shay was suddenly present and gently thanking her from the stage, sending us a tolerant nod while herding her aside. And there at last was the great Leticia Rowan herself, that vast, benign goddess in a golden caftan, smiling an unrestrained country smile, exuding inexhaustible strength and kindness. Clearly decent people, both of them.
Ruth was barely visible now, but I saw her turn to take a final glance back at us, her face for one moment revealed to the giant screens, then as abruptly absent. Terrified of course, because terror is her resting state, and still insolent, and definitely smug.
If you know my website and Twitter addresses (asmikemiller.com and asmikemiller, respectively), you must realize Mike Miller is only an author name. It’s not a matter of privacy or secrecy; anybody can find me with minimal effort. It’s about keeping things separate. My writing is about what appears on the page. It’s not about my personal politics or religion or history.
Worthy Of This Great City is a B-game book. I’m ambiguous about this, being interested in money like most people, but I don’t want to compete with a slick professional cover or smooth editing so I’ve stuck to a sort of reasonable, human middle ground. I value those things for what they are, of course, but I see them as artifacts, part of a system of publishing that fought like hell for a week’s worth of shelf space, that fought to catch the eye, not the mind or heart.
As my character Con Manos says: “It’s a revolution, isn’t it?” I say: Why fight on the side of the enemy? Why imitate and thus perpetuate a business model that stifles originality? Just to show you can? Unless, of course, you’re fighting to attract the eye, not the mind or heart.
I’ve played a joke with this novel – my first, incidentally. Played with the idea of narration and who can be speaking after all. It’s all very literary.
By Alexander Boldizar
Genre: Satire/literary fiction/humor
Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300–pound boulder–throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists. In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders. His anarchic adventures span continents, from Siberia to Cambridge to Africa, as he fights fellow students, Tuareg rebels, professors of law, dark magic, bureaucrats, heatstroke, postmodernists, and eventually time and space. A wild existential comedic romp, THE UGLY tells the tale of a flawed and unlikely hero struggling against the machine that shapes the people who govern our world.
“A comedically absurd tour de force that examines the complex relationship between words and actions.” – Foreword Reviews (editor’s pick, 5 stars)
“[A] muscular critique of conflicts both intellectual and physical. A surprising treat.” — Publisher’s Weekly
“A full-on satire of contemporary law as mesmerizing and complex as something lost from Foster Wallace, yet as light in tone as A Confederacy of Dunces.” — Goodreads (#1 New Releases, Sept 2016)
“A bold and hilarious satire, a stunning debut.” — LB Book Notes
“This decade’s A Confederacy of Dunces.” — Christoph Paul, Clash Media
Alexander Boldizar was the first post-independence Slovak citizen to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Since then, he has been an art gallery director in Bali, an attorney in San Francisco and Prague, a pseudo-geisha in Japan, a hermit in Tennessee, a paleontologist in the Sahara, a porter in the High Arctic, a police-abuse watchdog in New York City, an editor and art critic in Jakarta and Singapore, and a consultant on Wall Street. His writing has won the PEN/Nob Hill prize and was the Breadloaf nominee for Best New American Voices. Boldizar currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where his hobbies include throwing boulders and choking people while wearing pajamas, for which he won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships and a bronze at the World Masters Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For several years, an online Korean dictionary had him listed as its entry for “ugly.”
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theuglynovel
On Twitter: @Boldizar
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The Benevolent Terrorist
By Danny Wynn
The Benevolent Terrorist is a thinking person’s adventure story, in the vein of various novels by Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and Patricia Highsmith. It tells the tale of a troubled young American named Jack who’s been wandering the world for extended periods on an increasingly desperate quest for excitement and adventure. Jack is traveling with a likable and beautiful Australian woman, who’s quickly getting fed up with him. In Athens, they meet a mysterious loner, an ex-Army guy who recently finished working construction in Tunisia. The unlikely trio travels to a Greek island where a romantic triangle develops. Jack’s deep desire to escape boredom and his theory of benevolent terrorism – ¬fighting terrorists with terror – lead the two men on a dark and violent adventure. The novel explores with intelligence a number of the disturbing aspects of life and artfully straddles the boundary between commercial and literary ¬fiction.
“A fantastic, existentialist thriller with visceral charm…offers a trio of vivid character studies while ¬filling [the narrative] with sinister tension…sharp, philosophical, and occasionally surreal prose.”— Kirkus Reviews
The Benevolent Terrorist is my third novel of publishable quality. Before turning full-time to writing, I worked at CBS Records (later Sony Music) for many years and traveled extensively, rising to the level of Executive Vice President. I’ve lived in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, and now make my home in the West Village with my wife and two children. My second favorite place in the world (after the West Village) is the island of Mallorca, Spain, which I have visited more than thirty times (and is where one of my earlier novels, Man From the Sky, is set). My writing has received numerous starred reviews and garnered very favorable criticism such as, “an enjoyable tale of lost souls colliding in the most unlikely of places,” “conjuring shades of Steinbeck,” “the prose is subtle but vivid, intellectually engaged but never arid, as the author provides readers with a flurry of snapshots that gradually coalesce into a picture of tarnished longings,” and “well written, thought provoking…,stands in a class all by itself.”
On Facebook: http://bit.ly/2fM8tUK
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gnn8t9
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Feast of Chaos
Four Feasts till Darkness
Christian A. Brown
Publisher: Forsythia Press
Date of Publication: Sept. 23, 2016
Number of pages: 698
Word Count: 250K
Dane at Ebookcoverlaunch
Menos has been destroyed. No corner of the realm of Geadhain is safe from the Black Queen’s hunger. Zionae—or the Great Dreamer, as she has been called in ancient tongues—has a thirst that cannot be quenched until all of Geadhain burns and bleeds. She preys on the minds of weak men and exploits human folly for an unhuman end. She cannot be defeated in her current state, but the answer to her downfall may lie in the land of her past.
It is with this aim that a Daughter of Fate, Morigan, and her brave and true companions venture to the mysterious Pandemonia, the land of chaos itself. Ancient secrets and even older power lurk in its swamps and deserts. Life itself becomes uncertain, but the Hunters of Fate have no choice: Pandemonia must give up its secrets if they want to find the Black Queen’s weakness.
Elsewhere in the realm, alliances form and break. Dead men rise and heroes fall. Eod prepares for war. In hiding, Lila, the bearer of its destruction, will be given a chance to atone and answer for her sins. Will her actions save Eod, or has she damned it with her crimes?
Heathsholme was quaint—Central Geadhain’s darling, as the locals proclaimed. Looking down upon it, passengers on skycarriages were often struck by the fact that the realm possessed the look of a joyfully made quilt. Red-leafed orchards, yellow fields of flax and corn, patches of blue brocade that were swimming pools and watering holes…all threaded with brown branching roads. Sweet winds blew down from the North year-round, bearing only cool and refreshing properties until winter rose to claim the throne of seasons. When the North wind came, it froze Heathsholme’s pools into skating circles and decorated the large trees with grand chandeliers of ice. In the depths of that season, the staunch apple trees finally died. Their fruits fell to the ground and were collected. Their blossoms broke from their branches and filled the air like flocks of migrating winter birds. During this season, families came from the West, South, and East to visit Heathsholme and enjoy great outdoor festivals of food, music, mulled cider, and wine—for which the region was also famed.
Partly on account of the season’s coolness, these celebrations happened around great bonfires. At night, when the happily drunk howled at the moon, a primal spirit took hold, and effigies of nameless spirits were burned in the pyres. No one could remember why or how the Vallistheim tradition had been born, only that it was a remnant of the customs once imposed by Taroch. The ancient warlord had been fascinated by the Northmen’s rites, and had introduced many of them to Central Geadhain. Vallistheim—the winter festival—was believed to bring bounty and luck in the New Year. Over time, polite society had done away with many of the less pleasant sacrificial details to make the ritual friendlier to outsiders. Now only one cow from each of the barns and byres that rose on rings in the hilled highlands around the heart of the township was cooked in a great feast, without having been ritually slaughtered first.
In the uncultivated grasses past the city proper and its farmlands, a dedicated explorer could find the remains of crumbled churches that had been built to honor the now vanished religion of Taroch’s fancies. Runes that the sages had translated into such names as Freyallah, Odric, and Helhayr were found chiseled in the mossy arches of these grounds. These sites of an ancient religion were thought by modern minds to be haunted or perhaps protected by the ancient spirits or warriors mentioned in the stones. It was the sort of refuge where a monster, fearful of being seen, could find sanctuary.
About the Author:
Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.
1 signed paperback copy of Feast of Chaos
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