This is an interesting collection of poetry and short stories, each with a very particular perspective on American Life. These are not representative of a study in the sociology of American Culture, per se... but rather, several moments of thought expressed through the viewpoint of an "unrepentantly average" American.
Although the poetry doesn't resonate with me... few poets' work does... I was intrigued by the short stories. The range of moments selected was curious to me. These are not topics I would have considered writing about, and I think that's why this collection is unique. These shorts are indicative of things we rarely think of, and they remind of the "background" of what Americana can be: singular wounds with added salt.
These are not the larger than life moments news broadcasters notice. They are the moments that stop time, that remind us of a different era, that end as life frequently does - mostly without clear resolution.
Having said that, I was frustrated with the final piece in the collection, Saying Goodbye To Baby Blue. I found myself drawn in to the narrative, and quickly became interested in the main character. I thought the backstory was well crafted and the set up for a revelation or perhaps a dramatic let down, beguiling. However, the ending lacked a payoff. Neither was I disheartened by the character's own sense of loss, nor uplifted by the progression of time. The end left me at odds... and perhaps that was the point... but it left me feeling as if I'd read a first draft of a deeper work. I'd like to see more done with this piece.
Of all the short stories, the one that pulled out front of the rest, for me, was A Slice of American Pie. Slightly dystopic, and a bit of a political commentary, I found this story to be more familiar than made me comfortable. The details could have been pulled from recent headlines, or last season's contrived reality television... or off the table of a Tarot Card reader's prognostication. Eerie in it's refusal to make an apology, I found the ending reminiscent of a welded rivet against the backdrop of American steel and it's often times questionable values. The psychological twist made the story well worth its pages.
So, looking at the cover, you might not know what to expect... or your imagination might get it, and your brain might say, "How are they going to pull this off?" Well, either way, you'll be taken on a ride you won't soon forget. The collaboration of these writers and illustrators is fantastic. Its a fun romp, melding western and zombie genres, and with each gruesome death, a shout out to the power of feminism.
There is nothing "expected" about the pages of this graphic novella. The story doesn't begin at the beginning; it actually starts someplace in the middle. The plot development doesn't follow the traditional ebb and flow and climactic precipice... instead, the authors dangle you precariously off the shingles of a rickety building, while your blood trickles into the mouths of friends and enemies, alike.
I've enjoyed everything I've read from Peggy Christie, and I'm grateful that she has now introduced me to David C. Hayes and a tremendously talented gaggle of illustrators. There are seven severely disturbed artists that have lent their twisted sense of continuity to this story, and the work is better for it. This is truly a work of genuine collaboration; and it makes me want to ask the question, "Did the words come first, directing the art... or did the art give birth to the words?"
You can be certain that is a conversation we'll be having at our next festival.
This is horror of the absurd. And you need to read it... if for no other reason than to cleanse your palate clean from all the predictable zombie stuff that's so prevalent right now in television... But mostly because it is fun and creative writing.
Watch Peggy Christie on an episode of Indie Reads TV
Watch Peggy Christie's interview from our June 2020 Virtual Book Festival
In preparation for the October Virtual Book Festival, I read three very distinctive works by Chavonne D. Stewart. First up, her chapbook, Getting Started: A Quick Guide To Become A Self-Published Author.
As an Indie Author of nine books of varying genres, and several more in process, an editor of over 80 books, and a writing workshop instructor, I am always interested in another author's journey. I believe we should never stop learning from one another, and help each other to find the "tips and tricks" that work best for us. Being part of the Indie Writing Community is incredibly valuable to my writing process; and I'm open to new ideas and approaches to the craft and business of writing.
However, I was disappointed with Chavonne's offering on this topic. As her biography describes her as a life coach who holds multiple degrees (MS in Management, BA in History, and currently a PhD Philosophy candidate), and she is the CEO of her own business, my expectations for content and professionalism were beyond the scope of this chapbook.
This is an elementary approach to the topic, and reads more like a blog post than a helpful guide. It is scant on details, and offers no real "meat" or actionable steps that aspiring authors can embrace and move forward with their goal. A great overview, to be sure, but not much more than that.
Even more troubling was the large number of editorial errors, as well as formatting problems within the twenty-two pages. This begs the question, what of her other work? So I went on to read an essay included in an anthology, "Dear Depression".
The Search For Purpose
Included in an anthology on the topic of depression, Chavonne's essay was lost on me. The words didn't truly address depression, or purpose. The paragraphs "talked around" the idea of discovering purpose and how to manifest greater awareness of a purposeful life. I understand that she experienced a journey that was ardous and exciting, but after reading this essay, I still don't know what her purpose is, how she discovered it, or how she practices and evolves her purpose for a more fulfilled life. It was a frustrating read. Also, there were editorial and formatting issues; but I would rest those responsibilities with those that compiled the book, not with the individual authors.
The Adventures of Amilya Rose: The Lie
At last, I turned to Chavonne's children's work, to discover if perhaps, this is where her literary calling lies. I was pleased to see that she indeed has a strong voice for young people. The story of eight-year-old Amilya, and how she takes risks, achieves a goal, and learns a valuable lesson, is commendable.
The story, told in Amilya's voice, brings children into the adventure of walking to daycare from school, on an unusual snow day in Georgia. Seeing the thought process of a young girl, as she designs an adventure, makes mistakes, and learns from them, I believe, was a strong choice for the narration of this piece.
Certainly, children will relate to the excitement, dread, relief, and understanding that Amilya shares. This book teaches the importance of honesty and honoring adults in a way that doesn't belittle or berate children.
I enjoyed the artwork. The illustrations are imaginative and vibrant. I wish there were more of them!
I read this as an e-book from Kindle, and noticed some formatting issues... the illustrations did not take up a full page, and that would have been far more appealing... but that could have easily been a comparability issue with my device, rather than the fault of the interior design.
This is a book that includes lessons of morality, gently reminding children that sometimes parents' lessons might be difficult, but they are offered out of kindness and concern, with forgiveness to soften the hard parts.
In an early, and ambitious project from Author Troy D. Wymer, "Treasures From Afar" is an intriguing story that intersects science fiction, fantasy, and religion. It's got a little bit of something for nearly every reader. Rich in the details of a society that has yet to evolve beyond its chronology, the curiosity of how the government aligned itself with religious sects, and then somehow fused their combined dogma into an immature galaxy coalition, makes for an interesting study of human (and alien) nature.
I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the worlds that Troy created. However, at one-hundred-thirteen pages, I was left wanting much more... I had more questions than the pages could answer. I wanted more detailed conversations, more tender, romantic bedroom scenes, more despots arguing in the preparation of a war, and more screams of anguish in the heat of battle. This novella is an excellent beginning to what I hope the author will develop into a long saga, one that unpacks all the tension of decisions made, and secrets kept.
I was impressed with the timeline provided in the back of the book. Clearly, there is a lot to this war, this galaxy, and it's inhabitants - they've been around for a while, with a lineage that seems rich and diverse. I wanted to see all those details in the story, and unfortunately, I was left at a loss. I would love to know the history of this story. Perhaps the author will, one day, expand on the novella, and create a series that delves into the layers hidden in between these pages.
I know that Troy has written other books, and they rest patiently on my TBR pile; he and his works will not be forsaken... I can only hope that they expand on this universe and the story that has captured my imagination and left me hungry for more.
Discover more of Troy's work at www.WymerNovels.com.
Watch Troy D. Wymer in an episode of Indie Reads TV.
Watch Troy's interview during our June 2020 Virtual Book Festival
I was tremendously fortunate to have received an ARC copy of "Where All The Little Things Live" by Ian Tadashi Moore. He asked me to read it and give my opinion. So, here goes; in a nutshell... buy this book for everyone you know, and they will be delighted!
Okay, now that I got that out of my system, here's the long version:
Do you remember when you were little, and stories had morals... lessons about life and people that you were supposed to digest and internalize for all time? That concept has been brought into the 21st Century and improved upon dramatically. Naio, a tiny little feather - who, by the way, doesn't quite understand her own origins until she meets a few new friends - helps others to learn inclusion, acceptance, responsibility, and respect for self and others. Now, I know that those seem like pretty heavy topics for a children's book, but Ian Tadashi Moore writes them with such delicacy that the lessons this tiny feather imparts nudges their way into your heart and soul upon the whisper of a soft breeze. You will embrace them fully, and never forget the tiny voice who whispered it all to you, perhaps in a dream.
Okay, perhaps a little moment of melodrama there... but seriously, this is a tender, lovely, exuberantly delicate storybook that reminds one of the true nature of friendship.
The illustrations, which are exceptional in their tiny details, add depth and wonder to the stories; helping you to envision the world Ian writes about... while leaving just enough for your imagination to play with along the way.
This book is filled with fascinating tales about feathers, and balloons, and birdsong, and grass, and even the sun and the moon. You may never look at the world in the same way again... and most certainly, you'll be much more careful where you step, and you'll move a little more slowly as you listen to the secrets the world tells you at night.
In no way should this be misunderstood as "just another children's book". This is a book that should be on every young reader's shelf; and adults should read it out loud, even in quiet moments, and secluded spaces, only to themselves. Buy several, you'll be compelled to give them as gifts again and again.
Visit Ian's website and learn about his other books at www.iantm.com
Watch Ian's appearance on Indie Reads TV.
Watch Ian on Zoom during the June 2020 Virtual Book Festival.
I love the Indie Author Community SO much at times, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for their skills and imaginations. This book is another in a stack of scream-it-from-the rooftops-good books that you need to know about.
This is the second book in the Falling Awake series; Revenant, by Kristoffer Gair. After reading the first book, Falling Awake, which I found to be mystically touching, I thought I knew what I was going to get with the second. I was wrong... and never have I been more pleased to discover just how wrong I can be!
This is a supernatural thriller, perhaps occasionally crossing over into horror, and back again... and yet the focus is always on the relationships. This is what I love best about Kristoffer's writing. Everything he writes, even the spooky, creepy stuff, is completely accessible and relatable - well, maybe not the bludgeoning stuff - but everything else is totally relatable (I'm not a fan of bludgeoning; I'm a wimp by nature). In both books, the primary reason for the action is the emotional and spiritual connection that binds the characters... whether that connection is adversarial, cooperative, or innocent.
The evil elements that subvert peace and well-being are scary, to say the least. Kristoffer writes about their misdeeds in such a way that you are given enough details to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and constantly look over your shoulder, but he doesn't dial up the creep factor so much as to make you avoid the scene. You NEED those details, in spite of yourself. You are compelled to turn page after page, no matter the outcome, because you KNOW that there is a bigger, scarier shadow that will follow you, if you don't.
For those of you who think this stuff might be important (it's not, by the way), the main character of this book is a homosexual man in the 70s; who has a special connectivity to people... and can perceive things about them that they may not know themselves. This gift helps him to walk a path that brings him some closure... but not quite enough... to alleviate the nightmares of a tragedy from his past.
Here's what I love best about this book, though... yes, the main character is gay... yes, there are scenes that depict his relationships and encounters with other men... but it's NORMAL. This is not a book that forces a sociological or political agenda. Yes, there is a tender, loving relationship at the heart of this book... a few of them, in fact, both heterosexual and homosexual... and it's a non-issue. I would never classify this book as "gay fiction". To me, that's just a small part of the story, not worth specific attention... the story, however, IS worth ALL the attention!
The spooky parts of the story... the tender tidbits that make you realize these are whole people, not just foils... the weird scavenger hunt the main character must endure to find the answers he seeks... the creepy bits of edge-of-your-seat stuff that pull you through to those last few pages of the Epilogue, where you expect a full explanation, and are delighted to discover those details are withheld... those are the parts that make this book so worthwhile.
But... leave the lights on, and lock the windows... also, you might want to keep a tire iron nearby - just in case.
Thank you, Kristioffer Gair, for an unexpected adventure. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series - which for me, is not a small thing!
Learn more about Kristoffer Gair's work HERE
Watch our episode with Kristoffer Gair on Indie Reads TV
The Healing Star is masterfully written, emotionally penetrating, and an empathetic salve upon the uncertainty of life for young people who have close relationships with their grandparents... and those who want closer relationships with their parents.
This middle-grade book holds messages of love, acceptance, determination, and friendship all hidden in plain sight. Through Julia, we discover powers we forgot live inside of us, and how even the smallest wishes can be connected to greater dream fulfillment... if we take the risks necessary to open our hearts and allow truth to fill the small crevices.
Jacoby's words of wisdom are a mantra we should all carry with us, even in the small spaces, when sometimes, we forget: "Stand your ground from the start. Remember to always think smart. Answer all questions from the heart."
Pete, Julia's Beagle, was the ideal sidekick... loyal, up for adventure (except in his fear), never dissuading her from her goals, and ready to go home when he discovered this was not his journey. Pete is the perfect expression of quiet friendship, and how it endures even when it is not being flamboyant.
For me, this book was reminiscent of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web". There was a powerful quest that remained so gentle, one hardly notices the sneaky connection it's making to your soul. I admit freely that this book moved me to tears when I discovered the truth both Julia and I had overlooked for far too long. As I closed the pages, I thought about my grandfather, and the connection he and I will always share. I am grateful for Julia's story, and the reminder that he is still among the stars.
This will be a book I gift to little ones as they enter my world... and to my adult friends on their birthday, when the traditional "pep talk" is too much ingenuous repetition. A gift of this book, to the reader of any age, will stand as a reminder of my belief of who they are at their core being... even on the days when I can't be there to reinforce that understanding in person.
I am grateful to have met Ms. Schimmel, and to have been given the gift of her reminders. Her book will be pulled from my shelves frequently.
Visit the author's website at https://rbschimmel.com/
Watch our interview on Indie Reads TV with R.B. Schimmel!
Once again, I have been thrilled to read the imagination of Andy Lockwood!
House of Thirteen is the first of a series, written around the curious circumstances of an old house run by the Delaney family... an even curiouser group of women who know more about life than you might think.
Once again, Andy has given us characters that are vibrant and a bit unsettling. From energy we can't truly perceive to the literal incarnation of the words... some will become fast, loving friends; and others pull us from the couch, force us to lock the doors, and flip on an extra lamp. Throwing another log on the fire might be a good plan, too.
This book is filled with lead magnets... story that envelops you and includes you, while dangling bait just out of reach. Each new chapter is akin to a meal where the dessert is a surprise, you'll want to have the holes filled, but you're satiated with the palate cleansing end. Slowly, you sip your wine, savoring the anticipation of the next course.
Andy does something especially wonderful with this book. His hero, Ren, isn't a typical hero. I read her as an "unrequited hero"; one who is pulled into the role not because of an overwhelming sense of duty or ego... but because of a strong onus of altruism. This, to me, is the best manifestation of a hero character, and especially unusual in a paranormal/horror novel. Not much in this book is as it seems - except for that which is - and even that, you shouldn't take for granted. Andy's dexterity in storytelling draws you in, eases the tension, then pulls you in tighter for the scary hug you didn't know you needed. His "word-smithery" is ideal for the genre. The emotional yo-yo you become is the best kind of reading adventure. When you open this book, you will leave your real world behind... and you'll be glad for the experience.
Huzzah Andy! Thank you for introducing me to intelligent horror stories.
Watch the interview I had with The Lockwood Literary Team (Andy and wife Bailey) on Indie Reads TV!
One of the best things about being friends with authors is that you get to glimpse tiny little pieces of them through their writing that, often times, they don't reveal in public. Such is the case with my friend and Indie Author, Peggy Christie. If you met Peggy out in real life, you would come to the conclusion that she's a brilliant, kind-hearted, creative, and super-fun person. All of that is true. But... she's also got an overwhelmingly creepy side!
I offer as evidence, her latest short story collection, Dark Doorways. This is a superb romp through the underlying imagination that can make you think, "yes, maybe that's how it works", while simultaneously thinking, "wow... I hope that's not how it works."
This collection brilliantly mixes short story, poetry, and flash fiction together in a wound that sometimes coagulates, and sometimes continues to bleed; depending on how much you want to think about it. The book begins with a literal telling of what might happen if you found yourself "Knocking On Death's Door". I almost burned dinner on the grill one night because I was too distracted. That's twice that's happened - I think I need to stop reading books while I tend the dinner.
"HR" was a piece that I read while sitting at the hospital laboratory, waiting for blood work for an upcoming surgery. The story made me think a little bit deeper into the abbreviations one encounters while doing every-day things... in every-day places. It was a little unnerving. Thanks, Peggy!
"Bending Space" was a weird tale that tugged at the remnants of old ghost stories told around Girl Scout campfires in days past. I thought I knew where it was going... really, I did. I thought I understood the stakes, what the character would find in the end. And then, WHAM! Peggy hit me in the end with that thing I hated in Girl Scouts... an eerie lingering. Stop with the goose bumps and the little hairs standing up on the back of my neck, already, will you PLEASE!
Yes, this is a great book. No I'm not saying that just because we're friends. This is a GREAT book. Just... maybe... don't read it if you're at a hospital lab, waiting to have your blood drawn.
Thank you, Christie, for pulling back the fourth wall of your brain for us.
Watch my interview with Peggy Christie on Indie Reads TV, where we talk about this book and her writing career.
Visit Peggy Christie's website HERE.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!