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VEENA NAGPAL




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BOOK EXCERPT

OF

RADIUS 200

A Novel

By Veena Nagpal


In the aftermath of a nuclear attack on India, a huge, totally devastated area – 200 kilometers in radius – has been declared an Exclusion Zone. Inside the Zone, a tiny band of survivors is somehow trying to eke out a living. Yet, even in these bleakest of circumstances, the power struggle for command and control over the most meager of resources, is as intense.
Read on…

Veena Nagpal, Author



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Kill, kill, kill...
Club Foot was walking fast. Quick, rhythmic thrusts of his body leveraged hard with his pole. Past the creaking gate that Rangawas trying to fix with a rusted hinge he had found on one of his scavenging trips.
“We’re off lizard hunting,” Chief called.
Club Foot did not look back. He hated the sight of Ranga’s raw-meat face.
Chief hurried after him.
“Hey, slow down! What’s the hurry?”
Club Foot flashed bright, feverish eyes on Chief and continued silently striding ahead. Out through the ghost streets. Past buildings, pockmarked the way erupting heat boils had once marked everyone’s bodies, oozing yellow pus, then drying out into dark scabs.
Beyond. Where no buildings stood. Only a barren, white, sandy landscape broken by patchy vegetation.
Now, now, now!
Tumultuous raging thoughts in his mind, Club Foot saw nothing.
Your end...  it’s here. Been coming a long, long time, Chief. Every time Jiji caressed you with her hands then kissed her fingers. Every time all those others looked at their hero with lovelorn eyes. That dim wit Shanno and that...  all of them. You think I can’t see? Envy corkscrewing my stomach. Churning, building pressure...
Every time your eyes seek my Mina, your fingers tremble to touch... You think I’m blind? Don’t notice? Lust, longing lingering in every breath? Jealousy crouching in my heart ready to pounce. Explode your insides out. Terminate. You.
Envy. Jealousy. Anger. Childish emotions. You think I’m a weak little kid? Still? Oh, brother, you have no idea what’s coming. Yes, was born with a Club Foot. Hunch-backed. That makes me weak?
Dear, dear brother of mine - you don’t know a thing. Weakness empowers with an explosive power, you have to experience to believe. Understand this. You may be Chief in name, but I - I alone, am Chief-of-the-commune. And I can’t bear to see you alive.
His hand went to the dagger at his waist. Caressing. Smooth. Like Mina’s brown body. The touch sent a thrill through his thin frame. Heady feeling... Power intoxicating. Only the commune leader wore this dagger.
You think I’ll let go? Ever?
His eyes narrowed thin lips pursed into a smirk. My prowess with the dagger is something no one can match. Not even you, my...
“Stop!” Chief hissed. “Stop, Club Foot. I’ve just spotted the largest lizard I ever saw.”
Club Foot stopped. Silently Chief beckoned. Club Foot crouched by his side.
“Best to lure it with some food,” Chief whispered. “Sit still and watch.”
He took out a dead grasshopper from somewhere on his person and dangled it. The lizard turned. Beady eyes on the bait, it hesitated. Turned away. Returned. Quick as lightning it darted. Chief was quicker. He had grabbed its tail and dumped it into a bag before the lizard could react.
“Easy, wasn’t it?” he grinned.
Within minutes he had caught four more. Now he put his hand into the bag and held out one to Club Foot. “For you!”
Club Foot shook his head.
“Go on! Eat. It’s fresh and juicy.”
Club Foot opened his mouth taking in the head first, crunching, chewing… As a child, whenever Chief had returned from a lizard hunt, he had always saved the juiciest one for him.
Gruffly, he thanked Chief.
His shoulders sagged. Kill? This brother who had always been there for him? How could he kill him?
His steps slowed. Weary. Minutes later, he stopped.
“Should we go back?” he asked. “You already have half a bag full.”
Chief laughed.
“What’s happened? You were so peppy till now and suddenly, you’re dragging your foot as if you don’t want to move forward another step. Changed your mind? Don’t want to show me your tricks with the catapult? You’re a clever one - not wanting to share your secrets!”
Club Foot stiffened. He tightened his hold on his pole.
“No. No change! I’ll show you.”
“Where are we going?”
“Towards the stone statue. Follow me.”
He was striding forward, purposeful, pole striking ground sharp and stern, his face turned away from Chief.
“Remember how we used to shout into it and wait for our voices to return?” Chief asked. They were standing at the dry well near the stone statue. 
“And Jiji!” He continued with a laugh. “Remember how she used to tell us there was a time when it was brimming with water? What imagination she has! When we asked her point blank whether she had ever seen the water, she had been so evasive...  where’s your catapult?”
Club Foot turned his back on the stone statue which Jiji claimed was a Goddess.
“Forgot it,” he said nonchalantly.“The dagger will do.”He ran his thumb over the sharp edge, suddenly thrust it forward, pointing at Chief.
“Feel it!”
Chief stepped back.
Club Foot laughed. Shrill.
“Scared you, did I? Oh boy! Our great hero is scared!”
His eyes were sharp. Bright, focused lizard eyes on the grasshopper.
“No, feel it.” He placed the point of the dagger on Chief’s neck.
Before Chief could protest he had whirled around, the dagger went flying out of his hand and at the base of the platform on which the statue stood, a huge rat lay pinned.
“Wow!” Chief whispered. “That was absolutely awesome. You really are a master marksman!”
Chief’s eyes were thoughtful on him as Club Foot retrieved the rat, plonked it in Chief’s lizard bag.
“I’ve been meaning to say something to you.” 
Frowning in concentration, Club Foot continued wiping the dagger he had retrieved, on his own clothes. 
“Share some thoughts really...You know before I went on that long journey, hunting for water, I was such an arrogant fool. I really thought I could do what I wanted. No one could stop me.”
Ruefully, Chief shook his head.
“So much happened on that journey, it made me grow up.Made me realize that what I thought was power, was actually like walking on sand. It could disappear from under my feet anytime. I thought I was the most powerful person on earth but what could I really do? I couldn’t stop time, could I? Couldn’t stop the water in our well from depleting... I was just so helpless.”
“It made me realize that we can’t bend God’s will. Like Jiji keeps singing, there truly is a daayara, a limited circle within which we must live out our life’s choices.” 
He looked searchingly at Club Foot. “Sometimes, I think you, who were so sensitive, so - so humble earlier, have become the kind of person I used to be. Club Foot let me tell you...”
With a thrust of his open palm, Club Foot silenced him.
“I still have more dagger tricks to show you. Stand here.”
He pulled out the dead rat from the bag and put it on Chief’s head.
“What are you trying? Want to kill me?”
“Quiet! Just watch.”
A bubbly excitement was rising inside him. Effervescent. They had been in competition since they were kids. He had always been the loser. Now, with the dagger in his hand, he was a conqueror. He was Chief.
With a sure aim, he swung his arm. Chief winced. Once again the rat had been pinned.
“Actually...”
“Don’t move!”
Club Foot brought out a lizard, stupefied from its stay in the bag, and placed it on Chief’s head.
“I think you always envied me. Because I was Chief and you... but believe me, you’ve got it all wrong, Club Foot! Power is not so simple, in fact, it is painful - comes with so much responsibility. Its pleasures are all imaginary.”
Club Foot walked back wiping the dagger once again.
“True power, the kind of power that has any meaning at all, is not something you can seize, Club Foot. It has to be given to you by others – as a gift of love. Someone has to love you... until that happens you are no one. You don’t mean anything. You... Club Foot it’s love that you haven’t been able to earn and keep. That is why...”
With a strangled cry of rage Club Foot turned. The dagger flew from his hand.
The stunned lizard jumped. Ran for its life.
 Club Foot dumped the lizard bag in front of Jiji.
“Where’s Chief? Ranga was telling me he went out with you.”
Jiji was sitting on her haunches, outside her dwelling. She did that every evening when the sun started going down and their day’s work was done. That way, when the others started gathering around her, to talk and sometimes sing, the old man could see and hear, feel he was part of them all.
Near her, Ranga had his head down. He was still working. On one side, he had a heap of twisted rusty nails, on the other a tin in which he was collecting those he had retrieved by patiently hammering them straight with a stone.
Ever since he had come, he had put himself to work scavenging in the empty crumbling shells of buildings, picking up usable things and making stuff people needed, a shelf for Jiji to organize her herbs, a door for Mina’s dwelling area, toys for Shanno’s boy, for Gogi and the other kids.
Club Foot turned away from the raw meat face, the skeptic eyes looking up at him from under sparse brows.
“How should I know?” he snapped at Jiji. “He came back early. And don’t I have enough to do, without having to also keep track of every grown man in the commune?”
“Hey, hey what’s eating you, kid? Look at him, snarling at me for no reason.”
Club Foot shook a sullen head.
Kalia started barking.
“Chief shouldn’t have left him behind. The dog is like his shadow.” Ranga put out a restraining hand, ruffled his neck. 
Kalia crawled forward on his belly, quick black eyes flashing a challenge at Club Foot. Saliva dripped from his fangs. Club Foot made a menacing gesture. Kalia groveled back.
“I’m tired,” he muttered. “I’ll go sleep.”
Kaalia snapped at his ankles. Club Foot kicked. The dog kept barking at him as he walked away. Suddenly Club Foot threw a stone at him. Kalia yelped and retreated.
The whole night, the dog sat tin the open and howled.
Next morning Chief had still not returned. He was absent at the water distribution and no one ever missed that.
“Something is amiss...”
Everyone had gathered in front of Jiji’s dwelling. Inside, the Old Man was furiously blinking his one eye. Club Foot turned his back on him.
“Are you blaming me?” he glowered at Ranga.“Are you?”
“Did I say that?” Ranga’s eyes were calm and penetrating. “All I said was something is amiss. We should organize a search.”
There was a murmur of assent.
As the days passed without any sign of Chief, the silence that had descended on the commune, deepened in the gloom. In the pale white morning sun, their long shadows moved around like silent ghosts.
“He would never stay away even one night and now four have passed - something dreadful must have happened,” Jiji sighed.  “We can’t go on like this. Look at my Club Foot. He’s hunch-backed I know, but now he seems to be shrinking into himself, stooping as if the whole world’s weight is on him. Living dead...  It’s time we got on with our lives again.”
“I agree with you. Absolutely. We’ve been sitting around too long.” Ranga got up, dusted his palms together. “Who’s coming to help me this morning?”
Club Foot stirred stood up suddenly. He thrust his open palm up into Ranga’s face.
“Just a minute! I’mChief here. Only I give orders.”
With an amused look on his face, Ranga backed off and stood watching as Club Foot ticked off people into teams of twos and threes.
“Murli will work with me.” He turned to Ranga. “What do you want us to do?”
“Doors? Maybe the two of you could search the ruined buildings for usable doors. I do want to...”
“We’ll do it,” Club Foot said, his pole already in motion. Murli followed close behind.
They chose a building that looked the least spooky of the lot, climbed up the crumbling stairs. There was only a bit of the landing left, the rest of it, precariously overhanging. Gingerly they stepped onto the portion that was still intact, entered a large room. Row upon row of metal basket like things hanging from metal stands, some upturned, some standing still.
“Sh-shh!” Club Foot hissed as Murli screamed suddenly. He had seen something in one of the baskets.
“Skeleton,” he whispered fearfully.
“Child’s skeleton,” Club Foot whispered back.
“So many children?” Murli asked gazing at the rows of baskets.
“Let’s move... where’s my dagger?”
“What?”
“My dagger! I can’t find my dagger,” Club Foot’s eyes were bright pin points. Unblinking. He spun around. Upset a metal basket. It teetered. Clattered to the floor. Billowing dust. Somewhere, a wall came rumbling down.
“Let’s go! Please let’s go,” Murli caught at Club Foot’s arm. He jerked his hand away. Rushed from one basket to another, crawled under one, upturned another.
“I know it,” he muttered. “I know Chief has taken my dagger. He won’t let me keep it, I know he won’t...”
“Chief?” Murli asked puzzled. “But Chief has been missing for more than four days now. Besides, I saw you using your dagger only yesterday. You...”
He caught hold of the frantically whirling Club Foot.
“Stop! Club Foot stop for God’s sake! Look!”
He pointed at the dagger hanging from its usual rope belt at Club Foot’s waist and started laughing.
Club Foot’s eyes were unbelieving.“You’re laughing at me? At your Chief!You’re... how dare you?”
The sound died on Murli’s lips as he felt the sharp sting of Club Foot’s palm on his cheek. Hurt flooded his eyes.
“My Chief?I thought you are my friend first.”
Leaving Murli trailing way behind, Club Foot stomped away. Muttering all the way back. Soft voice pleading. Inaudible.
“Stop it! You are dead. Dead, dead, dead!”
Whirling around brandishing his pole. “The dead don’t come back. So please! Stop tormenting me.”
He saw Mina near his dwelling and halted.
She was sitting listlessly on a pile of bricks.
“Where’s Gogi?”
She didn’t answer.
“Mina! Look at me. Where’s Gogi?”
She looked blankly past him.
Panicking suddenly, he ran to find Jiji.
“You’ll have to do something about Mina,” he pleaded. “Since Chief disappeared, she’s become extra possessive about Gogi and you know tomorrow is Full Moon. I don’t want her creating any problems this time. Remember how last time, after the medicine man said a blemished child cannot be sacrificed, she tried to chop off his finger?”
“I’ll give her something,” Jiji nodded wearily.
Slowly he walked towards his own dwelling. Could it beMina’s listlessness was a result of Jiji’s ministration? But suppose, just suppose... His heart was racing wildly. If she had done anything to Gogi, he...
He heard Gogi before he saw him. The boy was pulling at a contraption Ranga had made for him - a small cup with paper stretched taut on it and a small stick, so fixed that when the contraption was pulled the stick moved, making a continuous beating sound. Gogi was totally engrossed in it.
“You’re no one until someone loves you...”
Club Foot picked up Gogi in his arms and seated him on his lap.
“Do you love me?” he whispered in the child’s ear. “Do you love your father, little boy?”
“Un-huh.”
Gogi squirmed.
Club Foot tightened his hold, smothered him with kisses.
“Can I go to Jiji now? I’m hungry.”
Club Foot loosened his hold. Gogi slipped away.
“He loves me,” Club Foot murmured at the shadows in the corner. “Everyone else will too... you’ll see that. Once we have water everyone will...”
Water?” the shadows swished.“Where’s the water? You know it’s vanishing. Every day the level is depleting. You know that. Everyone’s happily wasting time making doors and shelves and toys but for how long? When the water finishes, they will blame you. Everyone will curse you. What kind of a Chief are you, they will ask.
True. What kind of leader was he who could not even provide his people with drinking water?
Club Foot glared at the rustling shadows.
“You couldn’t find water, yet they loved you. They did not think you had let them down. Why should they think me a failure when I’m ready, even to sacrifice my only child...”
“Some half-crazed wanderer claims the Gods will shower rain if you sacrifice your child... and you believe it? Nothing will happen. Only Gogi will die...”
Club Foot shuddered.
Little hands. Trusting. Eyes innocent, fearless, secure in a father’s love. That heart-tugging smile...
“Your Gogi will die. Still, it will not rain. What then? Who will you kill next? Jiji? Mina? Or that old man your childhood friend?
Club Foot’s pole clattered to the floor. He crumpled. Crouching, he ground his head on the stones. Tormented soul groaning into the silent night...
The next day was Full Moon. The wandering medicine man arrived at the crack of dawn and joined the gathering at the well to claim his share of water before beginning preparations for the momentous day ahead.
Jiji was coughing, rubbing her chest to ease the pain.
“Where’s Club Foot?” she demanded, as the wheezing subsided.
Everyone was waiting for his or her share of water. Growing restless. Someone offered to call him.
She put up a hand, indicating she would go herself...
Screams. Terrifying. Spine tingling.
Everyone rushed.
Cub Foot lay crumpled on the floor. A pool of blood had congealed around his wrist and on the dagger beside him.
Murli wrung his hands, crumpled beside him. Ranga put a hand on his shoulder.
“What had to be, had to be,” he murmured in a resigned tone. “He’s just hastened the process by inflicting it on himself. Probably believed that, sooner or later, God would have punished him, anyway.”


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Beth McCue

Author of Oceans Ending

BOOK EXCERPT

SAMPLE CHAPTER

 |

Elliot didn't come home last night. His keys are still on top of the dresser where he left them. It's not the first time, but, something doesn't feel right. I make a few calls, friends, hospital, but nothing turns up. Maybe I should call the police, but why whack that hornet's nest? I have had a couple of disputes in the past which required their intervention, and I know already the looks and the questions
I would get.

Instead, I decide to get dressed and head over to the beach, see if I run into anyone who might have seen Elliot last night. Checking outside I see it's misty. I put my hand on the window
and feel the chill, typical weather for late October here. I throw on a sweatshirt and jeans, cover up with one of Elliot's hoodies and head out the door.

The growling in my stomach reminds me, I have forgotten to eat or even have a cup of coffee. Stopping at Matt's, I do a little fishing.

“Hey, mornin' big brother. Did you by any chance see Elliot last night? After we had a little disagreement, he left and never came back.”

Matt answers, “I saw him around 10, headed towards the pier. I was here late doing inventory. I haven't seen him this morning, though. Are you worried? He's done this before, hasn't he?”

 “Yeah, but, it wasn't that big an argument. It just seems a little strange. If he stops by, let him know I'm going for a walk then I'll be heading home.”

“Sure, no problem.”

I shove a bagel into my pocket and wrap my hands around the hot container of coffee. The beach is not crowded. A few yoga ladies are showing off their form; my neighbor is walking her dog; some kids are tossing a football. There is nothing out of the ordinary. Still, something is scratching at the back door of my brain, trying to get in.

I sit at one of Matt's tables. The coffee is horrible as ever, but at least it is waking and warming me a little. Last night's argument comes into clearer focus as I drink. It was not very big, no punching walls or screaming, just a stupid argument. Aren't they all? I wanted him to come with me to my parents' house for the weekend; he wanted to stay home and watch the game. It didn't matter which game was going to be on; he just didn't want to visit my parents. More specifically, he didn't want to see
my father.

 Usually, I would shrug and say, “Fine. It's more comfortable without you there anyway.” Not nice I know but true. Last night I just couldn't let it go. I kept poking until the anger came and he went.I have a habit of doing that, pushing until he blows. It's my way of making him prove he loves me enough to put up with my nonsense.Now I am afraid for no reason I can name. I'm afraid I will
never see Elliot again.

I head down the beach towards the pier, still clutching my coffee. I make a bargain with the fates. If I reach it before the yoga ladies finish, everything will be copacetic. If not I pick up my pace a little as I notice the women are suddenly packing up and heading out. I look towards the sky and realize
why. The clouds are piling up, and in minutes the mist will turn to pounding rain. I run for the cover of the pier. I don't quite make it and reach my destination soaked, miserable and alone. Unable to hold it together any longer, I begin to cry.


The rain is coming down in windblown sheets. The weather is a perfect reflection of my mood. The downpour finally stops, and I leave my shelter to walk back home. I trip over something. I look down. It's Elliott's shoe still attached to Elliot's foot. This time, I lose it for real.

The next thing I know, there is a small crowd gathered around me. Matt is kneeling down next to me looking pale and shaken.

“Are you all right? I'll take you home. Can you walk?”

“I think so. What happened to the…what happened to it?”

“The police are coming. They will take care of it.”

Someone in the crowd speculates out loud that it was probably a shark, “a damn big mother by the looks of it,” that had taken the body previously attached to the foot. Maybe, I think, but, there it is again, that nagging feeling that this is something major, something awful, something bigger than
just a shark attack. Matt helps me to my feet. The crowd makes room for us to pass. I know shortly the feeling of disbelief and numbness will wear off and be replaced by waves of sorrow. I need to be in my house when that happens.

Barely able to make it the last few feet, I open the door and crumble to the ground for the second time. This time, when I wake up, it's Elliot, Elliot…

“Elliot you son of a…do you know what I have been going through??”

“I know Dana. I'm sorry I didn't call, but I can explain.”

“Didn't call? I thought you were dead you idiot. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Dead? It was just one night.”

I go on to explain the saga of the shoe with the foot still attached and bloody. I can see the look of shock on Elliot's face.

“Do you have any idea who it was or what happened?”

“How would I know? I just told you, I thought it was you.”

Elliot then fills me in on his evening. He visited a few of the beachside bars after our argument. Apparently, he visited them pretty hard. He fell asleep on a bench outside his third stop.
When he woke up his wallet, phone, jacket and yes, his shoes, were gone, apparently taken by a thief with bad taste.

“So where did you spend the night?”

“At my sister's apartment.”

He had walked, gingerly, back to a more familiar bar and used the phone to call his sister, not me. But then I guess he figured I would have told him to drop dead at that point. If so, he
had figured right.

“I guess whoever took my stuff is the guy who got attacked by the shark, or whatever it was.”

“I guess.”

The knock on the door startles us all. It is one of the policemen from the beach. He wants to ask me some questions about my poor husband. I point to Elliot.

“Have him explain; I'm going to take a shower.”

Matt is gone, but the officer is still there when I come out. He has a few more questions about last night.

“Were you home all night?”

“Yes.”

“Were you alone?”

“Yes.”
“How good is your eyesight?”

“Excuse me?”

“If you were looking for Elliot and you saw someone his size, wearing his jacket and it was dark, would you know it wasn't him?”

“Probably not. Why?”

He explains these are “routine questions and there is nothing to worry about.” After all, they don't even have a body, just part of one. When we are finally alone, Elliot begins apologizing
again.

“It was as much my fault as yours, maybe more,” I say. “Let's just forget about it. I'm going to pack a few things and head out.”

“You're still going to your parents' house?”

“Yes, I need to get away from here. Are you sure you don't want to come? It could be the cops have the right idea and last night wasn't an accident. Maybe someone is out to get you,” I
say, doing my best Bela Lugosi imitation.

It doesn't take long for Elliot to pack and we head out for what I hope will be a relaxing weekend.

The fall foliage along the Garden State Parkway is a treat, even though it is past its peak. The rain has finally stopped. Elliot plays his favorite collection of “driving on a fall day in clear weather” songs. By the time we get to my favorite jazz duo performing Autumn Serenade, I am almost in a good mood.

“My mom will be happy to see you. I don't know why, but she likes you.”

“The older ladies always do,” Elliot says.

“You're an idiot,” but I smile, then shudder as I recall just a few hours ago I thought I might never see him again.

The funny thing is, though, he's right. The older ladies, as well as younger ladies and in between ladies, all love Elliot. Maybe it's because of the way he stares straight into your eyes when you talk to him; or the way he listens and responds in a manner that says, “I am hanging on your every word.” It took me a while to figure out his look of rapt attention was just zoning out. He was off in his private world. He knows how to pay enough attention, though, always inserting the head nod, the smile, the commiserating sigh, at just the right moment.

I can see the house now as we make a final sharp turn. Seeing it always makes me breathe a little easier as if my continued existence connects to the house and all that's in it. House still
here equals Dana still here.

My mom is in the kitchen when we walk through the front door. The aroma of something wonderful is everywhere.

“Elliot it's so good to see you. I didn't know if you would be joining us this time or not.”

“I wouldn't miss a chance to have one of your home-cooked meals. I love your daughter, but she didn't exactly inherit your skills in the kitchen.”

“Thanks, sweetie. I do try you know.”

During dinner I tell the tale of the previous night, leaving out the “Elliot didn't want to come” part. I just say our argument was over what type of pet we will eventually get. I want a dog. He wants a cat. I base this on disagreements we have previously had.

They have a thousand questions. We have no answers. I am overcome by exhaustion as the day takes its toll, and I'm ready to crawl into bed. I promise to tell them everything I know, which is
next to nothing, at Sunday breakfast.

After cleaning up, Elliot and I head upstairs to my room. My mother has preserved it in a pristine state since I left for college 15 years ago. Dana's Shrine is Elliot's name for it. I have to admit
I still love the feeling of walking through the door and seeing all my belongings exactly as I left them.

Usually, when we visit, we engage in a little silent sex, pretending I am 16 and afraid of my parents catching us in the act. Usually, it's fun. Tonight we are both too tired to do anything

but crawl under the covers and fall instantly asleep




Beth McCue and her daughter. Don't they look like best friends?

Beth, you have an extensive writing background. When did you first start writing and did you continue to write for a living?


I really began writing when I was around five years old. I started a newspaper for my street called the Anding Avenue Press. My first big story was about a neighbor who lost his glasses.



I wouldn’t say I have earned my living as a writer. I owned a weekly newspaper for many years, but, most of the writing was done by my reporters. At my most recent job, I did some copy writing, as well as ad design and website maintenance. I learned several different computer coding languages, so I guess you could say I was writing, just writing in code.



Do you think there are opportunities for writer freelancers nowadays? Why or why not?

Due to the fact so many newspapers and magazines are cutting back on their full-time staff positions, I think there are many more opportunities for freelancers than there were 10, or even five years ago.


What is your opinion of the state of journalism nowadays?

I think there are still excellent journalists and publications out there, but they are decreasing in number every day. I’m afraid social media and catering to the public’s desire for instant news has diminished the overall quality of journalism. These days anyone with a cell phone can become a citizen journalist. There is very little respect for the craft of journalism. Being able to present a fair and unbiased look at what is happening in a way people can understand is a highly underrated skill.



Do you think news agencies should be banned from the White House Press Conference?

Of course not.


What do you think of the President’s claim that the news is a bunch of lies? Have you ever seen lies or embellishment of the truth in journalism?


I think we have all seen lies and embellishments. There are so many news outlets now with very obvious agendas. If you want to be an informed citizen you have to get your news from a variety of sources, not exclusively from Facebook or Twitter. In truth, I would say don’t get any of your news from social media but I know that’s not realistic.


How long did you live in New York? What kinds of jobs did you have?


I grew up in New York but moved to Florida for the first time when I was 18. I moved back and forth several times, but, when my daughter started school in 1978, I moved to New York and stayed there for 20 years before moving back to Florida, then South Carolina.



I owned a weekly newspaper, then, after selling it, I went to work as Editor of three weekly newspapers that were part of a larger chain.


Did you ever work with, or deal with, publishers in New York?

Not really.


I see that you moved to Charleston, South Carolina.? Why did you move there?

We moved for my husband’s job.


Is there a literary community there?


There is but I haven’t really explored it yet.


What are you involved with in Charleston? 


I’m not really a joiner. My husband and I both work from home. He’s a journalist and I retired from my job last year to concentrate on writing. 



Beth, when did you take up fiction writing? What inspired you?

I wrote my first short story when I was a teenager. I also wrote many, many poems. I published an illustrated children’s book in 1982 and published my first novel last year. I don’t know why, I just always thought of myself as a writer.


How many books have your written?

Only two, and I guess ½ since my new book is about half finished.


What are they about?


One is a children’s book about crystal steeds and unicorns. The novel is science fiction. It’s about genetic engineering and mutant, killer jellyfish.



Beth, in Oceans Ending, your plot is otherworldly. Do you get your ideas from dreams?

No. I usually come up with ideas in conversations with my daughter or husband. The idea for Oceans Ending came up when Rachel and I were on the beach.



The cover of your book is both beautiful and disturbing. Will you tell us about the photo?



The photo was taken by a very talented photographer named Dave Sandford. He has taken many photos of Lake Erie and they are all fantastic.



How did the photographer capture the shoot?

I don’t know. You would have to ask him.

The world in your book becomes chaotic and troubled at one point. Is that a reflection of where you believe the real world is headed now?


No, I don’t think the world is any more chaotic and troubled now than it has been in the past. The threat in my book is not based on anything real, although I suppose something like it could happen. It is sort of a modern day Frankenstein story.


Are you hopeful?


I would say I’m optimistic. I don’t know if hopeful is a word I would use to describe myself.



If you could wake up tomorrow and have the world any way you wanted it to be, what would it be like?


It ‘s hard to answer that question without sounding like a Miss America contestant. I would want peace, prosperity, and equality for all.


What do you do in your own life to move towards the world you envision?

Not enough I’m sure. I try to be accepting, understanding and willing to listen to and respect other people even if their beliefs conflict with mine.


What about happiness? What is your definition of it?

Happiness is family and a sense of purpose.


I notice in your book, that behind many of the relationship facades, there is much unhappiness? Do you think this is true in real life? 

I think it’s true for many people, yes.


What is your formula for a happy relationship?


Accepting the fact that everything changes. The philosopher Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”


For a fulfilled life?

See above answer.


What is something you want to change in your life?


I would like to live closer to my daughter.


What is something you are most grateful for?


My family.


What is something you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?


How unimportant so many things were that seemed so important at the time.



Back to writing: what is your next writing project?

I am working on a novel called Darker Demons.


Where do you want to be as a writer ten years from now?

I just want to keep writing and publishing novels people will enjoy reading.


What is the hardest part of being a writer?


Being a writer is not hard for me. Being an author, coming up with interesting ideas, is hard.



What is the best?


Just being able to do what I love.


Do you have advice for writers who are starting out?


I wish I did but, each person’s experience is different. If I had to say something it would probably be, just write. No matter what, if you don’t take the first step you’ll never get to the finish line.


Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you would like to say?


Not really. You came up with many interesting questions!



     PURCHASE OCEANS ENDING ON AMAZON:




    BETH'S WEBSITE:




W.W. LILLY

Author of EYES OF A VALLEY GIRL




Author

Bio:

M.W. Lilly


Many years ago, before becoming a Kona Girl, M.W. Lilly was a Valley Girl. At the age of seven, she left Hollywood with her family and moved to Encino in the San Fernando Valley. 


In 1968, she graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, at the peak of the Counter-Culture. The unmistakable importance of this period, when the innocence and prosperity of the booming ‘50’s segued to the Vietnam War and the assassinations of three key American leaders, this period, coupled with her attempt to understand her family’s alcoholism, prompted her to begin writing.

She went on to Raymond College at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California where she was blessed with small, outdoor classes providing intimacy and focus. In 1971, she pursued a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology at San Francisco State University. During this same time she married her college sweetheart and set up house in the Bay Area. In 1978, she moved to South Kona, her home ever since.



During her Kona sojourn of rainbows and volcanoes, the author has indulged nearly all of her fantasies. One of her proudest achievements was having developed an estate coffee business called Ali’i Farms, in Honaunau. Where else might a Valley Girl be able to do that?



In such an environment of immense natural beauty, and with a social atmosphere of acceptance and island living, the author has been able to pursue her heart, both in writing, and in working as a therapist with West Hawaii families. She has also taught piano over many years, and, finally, recently took up the ukulele. 



She continues to work as a therapist, and is writing Part II of Eyes of a Valley Girl. She plans these first two books as a prelude to a series featuring the main character, Tita, and her adventures in the Valley, Hawaii, Egypt and France. She hopes to connect with you in the matrix on the Lilly Pad at http://www.valleygirlpublishing.com


EYES OF A VALLEY GIRL by M.W. Lilly


Synopsis: Eyes of a Valley Girl is the first of 2 books about life as a Senior preparing to graduate from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California in 1968. It is the story of a 17 year old girl, the product of a French/American alliance, and how she navigates a very complex world. She must integrate her idiosyncratic family culture with her external environment, not always an easy proposition. Luckily, she stumbles upon many kind-hearted mentors along the way. This is an embellished personal history.


Excerpt from Shore Thing: The girls were singing “Surf City Here We Come” with Jan and Dean on the radio when I returned to the car. We packed our treats and cruised out of the parking lot, turning right, onto Ventura Boulevard. Our neighborhood landmarks rolled past, the sun catching the various marquises in prisms of dazzling light, the mundane reflected in the divine. Being out of the house, away from the consuming madness, was to escape prison, a delirious freedom, every drop to be savored and stored away for times when there would be no escape.


At Ventura and Haskell we caught the on-ramp for the 405 San Diego Freeway South. Windows down and hair streaming, we laughed and talked. We chimed in with The Rascals singing “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” on the radio, and shouted out Sly Stone’s “Dance To The Music.” Judy navigated across traffic, and at the I-10 made our connection, getting off in Santa Monica. We found a parking space just across the street from the beach, and within minutes settled onto a broad patch of hot, fine, sand. Judy and I laid out 3 bright towels. Renée set the radio on top of the cooler, and tuned the dial to 1110 KRLA as Jim Morrison belted out “Light My Fire.” Girls’ day at the beach. Heaven!

We lay down and warmed our skin in the rays of that famous California sun. Then we applied squares of cocoa butter all over so that we smelled divinely like chocolate and glistened like jewels delivered from the sea. We tanned for an hour or so, absorbing the intensity of the sun into the deepest layers. There was a point when every pore of skin, every fiber of tissue, pulsed with the heat radiating all around. Bodies, ground shells, and coral were all the same essential material. There was no separation, no I and Thou, sand; there were only shared molecules of heat.


Then came a sprint to the ocean, where white foam and opalescent waters lap the sand into a cooling clay. My toes tickled the lacework of receding undulations. I ran another yard or two and dove into the rolling sea. Turning onto my back and looking toward shore, I could see Renée headed my way, launching the beach ball. We started laughing, spurting seaweed and water, tossing the ball at each other as we ourselves were tossed by the waves. Judy joined us. This freedom to revel in Mother Nature’s paradise, was a gift almost beyond bearing in its munificence, in its gentle, easy, and all-encompassing embrace.



After a refreshing swim, we hoisted the umbrella to shade our towels and proceeded to ease our way into an afternoon of sheer bliss, punctuated by rhythms of the ocean echoing off the bluffs, and the occasional wolf whistle.


Excerpt from Timothy Leary, the Snatch Breakfast: "Then there’s the roster for the Snatch Breakfast.” There was an edge to Shelley’s voice.

“Yeah. . .” I waited.

“Well, it seems that no one wanted to ‘snatch’ a certain someone. If you know who I mean. . .”

I gave her a puzzled look.

“You know, the same person that no one wanted to snatch last year. The person that, at the last minute, you had to run and grab after his secret sister bailed.”

I nodded, recalling last year’s quirky event: 

In the eleventh grade we girls were Principias and the boys were Squires. Every year the service clubs organized a Snatch Breakfast, a reversal of anthropological evolution. Instead of hairy-chested men in loincloths raiding a village and absconding with fair maidens, we Principias stole, in the wee hours of the morning, into the very bedrooms of our fellow Squires. After dragging them out of bed and into our getaway cars, we then sped off in the darkness. Destination: Dupar’s, on the corner of Ventura and Petit, the Number One coffee shop on the planet. (I lived for their bear claws oozing with marzipan.) 

There, tucked into cushy booths, giddy from the smells of maple syrup, coffee brewing, and bacon frying, our sister Principias chatted away while their disheveled, pajama-clad kidnap victims struggled to wake up. We girls found it very amusing, and honestly, the boys seemed to thrive on the attention, even if they pretended to be embarrassed. 

And then there was Herman. Actually, then there wasn’t Herman. As organizer of this event, I took inventory and realized he was missing. Diane, his secret sister, was there, giggling in a booth with a couple of her Principia sisters and a handsome array of disoriented Squires. It was her job to kidnap him. What happened??

“Diane,” I had posed the question, “where’s Squire Herman?”

“Oh. Um. Oh. We went to the house. All the lights were off and the doors locked.” 

“That’s odd,” I countered. “I talked with his mom last week to make sure we had a way to get in.” The protocol for this event included enlisting parents as accomplices and swearing them to secrecy. This precaution insured that we weren’t taken for burglars, and allowed for a robe to be discreetly available if needed. Herman’s mom, Dottie, had said that he would love to be spirited away by a couple of beautiful junior girls.

“She must have forgotten. The whole house was dark.” 

“Well, we can’t leave him home when everyone else has been successfully kidnapped! I’m gonna go get him.”

“Fine. Good luck with that.” Diane had seemed contemptuous. I thought to ask her to come with me. We were supposed to work in teams of two or more, but decided against it. I didn’t appreciate her attitude. I also couldn’t call on the other girls who had fulfilled their mission and were now in full party mode with their victims, their breakfast orders up. I quickly let Shelby know my plans and ran out the door. Time was of the essence. Very soon there would be no mysterious darkness within which to work, a serious complication! 

Fifteen minutes later I arrived at the house and jumped out of the car, heading for the bright light over the side door. Passing through the kitchen, I bounded up the stairs, and remembering Dottie’s instructions, opened the first door on my right. There, in the glow of an orange lava lamp, rose the bulky outline of a figure in bed. I ran over and started shaking the lump under the covers. 

“Herman, get up, get up. I am kidnapping you for breakfast. You’ve been snatched. Up. Up.”

As I poked, prodded, and shook, he started groaning and slowly elevated into a sitting position, feet on the floor, eyes closed. As he sat there on the edge of the bed, he looked remarkably well groomed, sporting neatly pressed blue silk pajamas, with his hair smoothed down.

“Herman, open your eyes. We’ve got to go. Everyone’s waiting. Come on!”

“What’s happening? Where are you taking me?” 

“Put on your glasses, Herman. We’re going!” I had commanded.

Suddenly Casey’s voice interrupted my musings. “Oh yeah. I heard about that. The guy who came to Dupar’s in a smoking jacket and leather slippers?”

“It was a silk paisley robe, not a smoking jacket. And yes, he wore slippers made of Italian leather.”

“Yeah. I heard he had a pink rose for his secret sister and everything. That he was waiting to get kidnapped.”

“That’s true. His mom apparently told him what was up. He said he waited in the darkness for a long time, pretending to be asleep, and no one came. He thought he had the wrong morning or something. He was so stoked to join the party. You should have seen Diane’s face. When we introduced him to his secret sister, he gave her the rose.”


           Contact M.W. Lilly:
           www.valleygirlpublishing.com




Author of A Cat Came Back

Check out this author's spunky writing and her wise understanding of what makes a relationship work. She talks about the obvious and the not so obvious, as she takes readers behind the scenes and changes their minds and hearts. This author, an excellent writer, sprinkles her prose with gems of visionary intuition and timeless awareness of partnership dynamics.

AUTHOR SIMONE MARTEL BY THE IRISH SEA


Simone, you’re probably going to get this question a thousand times, but here goes: how did you come up with the idea of a woman switching bodies with a cat?



As you might expect from the author of a book called, A Cat Came Back, I’m a cat person. Ruby, my little tabby cat, stares at me a lot, and I often ask myself what she’s thinking, what’s going on inside that little head. Sometimes she looks at me with such intelligence, I can imagine there’s a person in there. So I thought—what if there really was? What if you were stuck in the body of a cat? How would you let anyone know? A Cat Came Back is my playful response, a sort of “what if” story that blossomed from that watchful gaze of an ordinary house cat.




Eliza, the main character, finds herself trapped in a cat’s body through a freak accident, so she faces some very serious limitations! Only her lover, Stu, knows what’s happened to her, and that she’s still “alive.” This results in some funny misunderstandings with other characters, as well as some sad moments; for instance when her parents visit and she’s unable to communicate with them. Also as Eliza watches Stu interact with his own family, her perceptions of them change. She learns new things about people, but she can’t express what she’s learned. It’s all internal.



As the novel goes on, Stu’s attentions become increasingly unreliable. So she is really on her own in this situation. Eliza’s experience challenges her sense of self, her person-ness in a very fundamental way. How do you hold on to who you are, when no one sees you as human? Coming to terms with who we are is the most fundamental challenge we all face, as human beings, and I hope this is a story many readers can relate to and enjoy.





Was it difficult for you to imagine what it felt like to think and feel like a cat? Do you have a cat you studied as you wrote this book?




Writers take other points of view all the time, allowing the reader to inhabit other people’s minds and bodies. Animals’ bodies, not so much. Though there’s a Virginia Woolf story I love that briefly takes the point of view of a snail. Imagining being in a cat’s body was fun for me, especially thinking about being a cat in a garden, creeping through plants, climbing trees. I observed my cats for sure. I did some research, too, about how cats see color differently and hear more sharply than humans do. I also imagined how vulnerable cats are, how little. Eliza doesn’t always enjoy being manhandled by Stu, having her claws trimmed, being acted upon by him.



                          RUBY SUNNING BY THE POND



You do a good job of describing Stu without purposefully describing him. He’s many things rolled into one man. Is he based on someone you know, or is he boyfriends rolled into one embodiment of a man?


There’s a double transformation occurring in A Cat Came Back—the way she is seen, but also the way she sees. Stu in particular. You could say she gradually loses sight of the man she loves and focuses on the animal reality of him. Gradually she loses track of what’s going on outside in the real world. Work, parties. All that becomes almost a story to her. Meanwhile, her relationship with Stu becomes more and more physical. Nonverbal. About the food they share, the bed they share. Smells and touches and tastes. Stu is a composite man, including traits from boyfriends and male relatives, but also he’s a sort of basic male animal. 

Physically, he’s a bit like my spouse. I observed him in his habitat—the way I observed my cats!—the way he hunches over his newspaper, mumbles sometimes, can be spacy. But Stu’s much more conventional. He works in an office! His stability and, you could almost say, his ordinariness is what attracted Eliza to him in the first place. She was scared of not fitting in, of being an outsider. At one point she says, “I wanted to fool Stu into thinking I was uncomplicated and normal—a regular girl. More than anything, I wanted him to scan the horizon and say, ‘Yes, this all is as it should be,’ and include me in his survey.” 


What is the most important characteristic you want to convey to the readers about Stu and why?


He’s loyal, at least at first, steadfast and even ardent. His attention is so focused on Eliza that he can shut out other people. His mother, perhaps. Maybe that flatters Eliza. Stu can be detached, remote, with an ironic sense of humor. Eliza depends, or did depend, on being included in Stu’s club, so to speak. Because Stu is older than Eliza she feels that he knows how to be an adult, how to behave in the world. Before her transformation she’s already rather insecure, sensing—though maybe not consciously—that being an adult is a construct, being a woman is a construct, a kind of roleplaying, putting on an act. Maybe even being human is a construct.



What is the most important quality you look for in a man and why?


Honesty. How can a relationship with a man (or your lover, who, of course, may not be a man) succeed without that? Love to me is built on a foundation of trust. Communication is what makes the foundation possible. If there’s no honesty than trust must fail, and without trust, how can intimacy survive? The whole thing collapses. There’s always companionship, of course, but in that case you’re maybe better off with a cat or dog.


Even as a cat, you convey sensual and romantic feelings towards Stu. At one point you describe him when he answers the phone, “...with his bare chest, muscular shoulders, and messy hair, he’s incredibly attractive to me.” This watching and yearning for an unavailable man is akin to being in an unrequited human relationship. Did you base your cat feelings on having been in a relationship like this? If so, will you describe what it was like?


I suppose that sort of straightforward, uncomplicated, yearning comes straight out of an adolescent girl’s first crush. In my case it was the close proximity of a handsome, buff guy in tiny cutoffs, a friend of the family who did carpentry work for my parents. Of course it was unrequited, but I do think he knew I had an intense crush on him, and maybe he encouraged me with just enough teasing and attentions. Plus he read my poetry and talked about it with me. Very flattering. I suppose in a way he was flirting with me, which sounds creepy, considering I was twelve and he was twenty-eight. But it was harmless, the summer was long and I was bored. Before Facebook what was a growing girl to do but read Judy Bloom novels, write bad poems and make eyes at the “handy” man? I haven’t written poetry since then (just as well!), though I did write a story about that summer, called “Stretch Marks” (The Main Street Rag, Summer 2013). Eliza’s longing for Stu, a cat for her man, channels this adolescent frustrated yearning. All that energy has nowhere to go!



How was it for you to write romantically about a man slowly slipping away? Did that happen to you in real life? If so, what did you do as you went through it?


Most of all I think I’m trying to evoke everyone’s fear about losing a lover. In A Cat Came Back, I imagine this trauma as a sort of forgetting. I can’t say this has happened to me in real life, but I don’t think this trauma is confined to love relationships. I think this is a story many people, especially women, can relate to: about being not quite seen, or heard, or taken seriously, denied the dignity of a point of view. To be overlooked, marginalized, and forgotten. For Eliza it’s like a slow death.


You introduce Gladys in this book. She is a new-age mother who is in some ways rejected by Stu. You describe her at one point as being “too intimate.” What should the reader take away from that statement? Does Gladys’s presence and who she is, give more insight into Stu?



Of course all this is filtered through the point of view of our intrepid but sometimes pissed off cat, Eliza. If she describes Gladys as too intimate with Stu, isn’t she really saying in a way that she’s jealous of anyone who can be intimate with Stu in any manner, when she cannot? Also, the scene you mention comes early in the book at Eliza’s memorial, when they gather to mourn her supposed death. So Gladys’ conversation with Stu is observed by a lot of people. Stu is a private person and possibly he considers his mother’s “new age bullshit” a little impersonal. He may doubt her sincerity. Maybe that makes him wary in his relationships with women in general.



At the same time, Gladys has a sort of endearing way of not respecting boundaries. She goes blundering in. As the book progresses, Eliza’s way of looking at the world changes. She’s able to see things she might not have noticed if she were actually “in the scene,” rather than just a passive witness. If Gladys is “too intimate,” perhaps this is Eliza beginning to notice the opposite trait that comes to characterize Stu: his reserve.


You go on to describe Stu and Gladys’s polarities, mixed with their love for each other throughout the book. In what ways do you think their relationship affects Stu’s relationship with other women?



Stu’s attitude toward his mother highlights Eliza’s growing awareness of Stu’s nature. Before the accident, she put a lot of weight on being seen by Stu, on his attentiveness, his attention. She’s the one doing the looking now and she’s seeing him differently, because she’s different. Perhaps Stu’s relationship with Gladys is a clue to Stu’s character. His mother’s love is more than wants to accept, and he retreats into himself. Perhaps he has trouble accepting love from the other woman in his life. 



The cat becomes a voyeur to Stu and Lisa’s growing relationship. At one point the cat sees the change in both of them; Lisa becomes vulnerable and victimized, and he becomes grossly insincere, even as they continue to play out their courtship. Do you think hidden episodes between couples—even if one of them doesn’t know what happened—impacts relationships? Do you think what happened while Lisa was away would eventually impact the future of her relationship with Stu?


Hidden episodes can and will impact any relationship, no matter how strong. The one who knows will feel something about what is hidden. How can that not affect the relationship? Maybe like a bruise on what should be a nice ripe fruit, the rot starts and spreads, no matter anyone’s intentions. Whether Stu and Lisa stay together, I can’t say. At one point, Eliza says she hopes they do. That’s her evolution: from jealousy to letting go. It’s bittersweet. 



One time in your book, the woman in the cat talks about Stu never having been “fully present,” but she realized she let other qualities in the relationship make up for that missing piece. Do you think it is common in relationships for one person “to not be present?” Do you think there is a price to be paid when one person in a relationship is emotionally absent? Why or why not?



I think being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally absent or distant, often or most of the time would be intolerable! How lonely and sad. Though periods of it are probably normal in most relationships. Eliza says, “You made me feel like a proper woman, so I didn’t care that you often did not seem fully present in our relationship. I just needed to have you there beside me, looking at me with your wonderful eyes.” If the accident hadn’t happened, would Eliza have become dissatisfied with her relationship with Stu? I think maybe so. Unless Stu became more emotionally available, and Eliza grew up and became more self-reliant. It’s possible they could have worked it out. I’d like to think so!



The cat, as it is losing Stu, says remorsefully: “The only power I have is negative power, the power of withholding.” Would you say something about negative power and give examples of when it is used and why?



At that point in the book, Eliza chooses not to come running when Stu’s calls her. Considering that what she most wants his is his attention—especially since no one but Stu knows who she is, that she’s there in the cat—to give up what she most wants is very difficult, but it’s important to her, a way of showing her disapproval and rejection of his behavior. It’s a moral stance and also the only recourse of the powerless and the voiceless. Like a boycott, when you have no other power. Eliza is saying, “Enough. I am not participating in what is going on here!”


What do you think true power is in a person? In a relationship?

I think if the question of power comes up in a relationship, there’s already a problem. If you’re thinking about power, it’s probably because you don’t feel you have it. If you want to have power over someone, presumably you feel helpless or not loved for who you are. The give and take of any relationship hopefully means it never comes up. On that note, I’d say having a giving nature gives you a certain power. Maybe it’s the power of loving or being able to love. A generosity of spirit. Believing in yourself gives you a lot of power. No one can take that from you.

Is there anything I didn’t ask you about the book that you would like to add?


Maybe just the question of why this transformation happens to Eliza. Early on she says, “Before the accident if Stu had asked me (though he never would have), ‘Are you at home in your body?’ I’d have looked down at my hands, thighs, ankles and feet and said, ‘No, not really.’ Did I leave it so easily because I never belonged there, because I never felt at home in that human, female form?” Understanding a situation—and yourself—starts with asking the right questions. Eliza’s transformation in A Cat Came Back gets her asking a lot of questions, and hopefully will have the same effect on the reader!





Would you give us an excerpt of your book and how we may find a copy of it?



Excerpt of A Cat Came Back






Stu stops munching, looks up at me from under his shaggy hair.



“So, can you read?” He slides a section toward me.


I cock my head toward the paper. The letters are small, blurry drawings. The alphabet might as well be Chinese or Arabic. Strange that I can’t read or speak, though I still have language inside my head. Words are a consolation, but not a tool.

“Guess not. You want me to read stuff out loud to you?”

I would, but not right now. If I wanted to show interest in the newspaper I could cross the table and rub against his shoulder. Instead I gaze at him over the bowl of milk.

“It’s so weird,” he says in a hesitant voice. “You don’t look like a cat. When you stare at me, you look like Eliza.”

That’s the nicest thing he could have said. With a happy lightness to my step I move between the bowls, over his napkin ring and spoon, until I stand on the edge of the table and nip at his prickly chin. This is my way of saying: Hi, there. I like you.

The book is available online through Powell’s, Barnes & Nobel, and Amazon. Or readers can ask their local bookstore to order a copy.

Links:


Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3361882.Simone_Martel


Author website: 


http://simonemartel.me/
Amazon author’s page: 

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Simone-Martel/e/B00JUABC6W/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1480536462&sr=1-2-ent












Lana Campbell



EXCERPT FROM:  Forever and a Night


Mia pushed aside her plate and smiled. “I’m Mia Peebles.
Is this your first time at Tavania’s?” She extended her hand.
He gave it a cordial shake.

 “Yes. I drove by tonight and decided it might be a quiet place to do some work. Not so much, but I managed to accomplish what I needed to. I’m Nathan Davenport.”

Mia laughed. “Yes, it was a bit crazy tonight. It’s good
to meet you, Nath—” She broke off and glared at him.
Her heart did a little trip over in her chest when her brain
cells began to fire and comprehend the name the man had
given her.

“Oh my god,” she breathed. Suddenly, his features
began to morph with the memories of numerous news and
other TV show interviews she’d witnessed over the last
ten years or so. Nathan Davenport was a real estate mogul
and currently the richest man in the United States and
possibly worldwide. Also the most sought-after bachelor
on the planet. A playboy. He had a different supermodel
or Hollywood starlet on his arm every other picture or
interview taken of him.

He looked amused. “I guess you know who I am.”

“Duh.” She laughed, picked up her glass of wine, and
sipped. “My biggest question is, how did you end up here?
I thought you lived in New York.”

“I do primarily, but I have a number of homes, and one
of my favorites is here in New Orleans in the heart of one
of the historical districts. Circumstances have brought me
to the city. Unfortunately, I don’t have a private chef here,
just a housekeeper, so I went out for the evening.”

Mia blinked at him. A private chef? Wow! Of course a
man like him would have all sort of household and personal
staff. Her background was redneck, Missouri rural. Just
having food on the table every day for her ex-husband and
children had been a miracle of God for many years. That
kind of wealth stymied her.

In her four years with Joe, she’d had many encounters
with well-to-do folk and had learned to accept and
accommodate their eccentricities. Not every wealthy patron
she’d met were all up in their stuff, but she suspected Nathan
Davenport about as spoiled as a rich person could get.

“What?” he demanded, grinning at her.

“Nothing. Just glad you happened by tonight and
enjoyed your meal. And truly, I hope you’ll visit Tavania’s
again.” She tried for a kind smile then stood, intending to
take her half-eaten plate and wine glass to the dish pit.
He laid a hand on her arm, halting her. “Are you finished
for the evening?”

Mia’s smile faded. There was a hungry look in his eyes,
which had nothing to do with food, and she didn’t like the
implications. “No. I’m closing tonight and have another
hour or so ahead of me. Why?”

“I was going to ask you if you’d like to have a drink with
me when you’re finished. I’d be happy to wait.”

His expression seemed polite enough. Maybe her
thinking was a little harsh. He’d been completely cordial,
but Mia was forty-two years old and wise enough to
recognize a player when she saw one. “That’s very kind of
you, but no. It’s been an extremely long day, and I’m beat,
but I appreciate the invite.”

He appeared disappointed, but Mia didn’t care. She
hadn’t dated since her divorce. Hadn’t had time and certainly
tonight, she had no time for a guy like Davenport.

 The man would have been a temptation for a nun. She’d lived like
one for the last five years because work left her no time
for a social life. However, she wasn’t thinking very sisterly
thoughts at the moment, which solidified her refusal. That
and the fact he was Nathan Davenport. Dating required
commonalities. She couldn’t think of one they might share.
She’d taken several steps away from the bar when she
heard him speak.

"Mia, look at me." His voice had taken on a deep hypnotic tone, which seemed to echo in her head. In fact, it seemed to only be in
her head, not audible. The strangeness of that reality should
have been terrifying, yet something compelled her to turn
and face him. She sat her dishes on the bar.

“Come with me.” He gave her a kind, reassuring smile.

She opened her mouth to say, Hell, no, but the word that
came out instead was, “Okay.” Her heart tumbled over in
her chest.

Mia realized she was seriously losing it because she
allowed him to escort her out the front door of the restaurant
without a peep. As hard as she tried to get her feet to obey
her mind’s order to run back inside the restaurant, they
were useless. They just kept taking her the direction he led
them. Her voice was useless too. Her jaws felt locked. She
began to pant and look around.

"Mia, relax. You have nothing to fear. I’m not going to
hurt you."
+
Her gaze, wild and crazy, she was sure, shot toward him.
His words and voice had been in her mind. She hadn’t
heard them audibly. Oh god, please tell me this is not real, that I’m going to wake up from this any second.

He gave her a reassuring smile and took her hand. She
wanted to yank it away and use both to scratch his eyes out,
but she couldn’t move them either.

"You will be afraid no more. Understood?"

As his words filtered through her head, fear evaporated,
and her breathing and pulse gained normal momentum as
desperately as she tried to fight both. He must have drugged
her. That was the only explanation Mia could come up with,
because her mental and physical control were history.

She looked around to gain perspective. Everything
seemed surreal. All the Bourbon Street noises and smells
were alive to her senses yet distant, all stationed in a tunnel,
contained with her in the midst, separate yet, apart. Nathan
stood beside her, holding her hand. At some point, a long
black limo pulled up to the curb. He opened the door and
gently ushered her inside.

How to contact Lana Campbell:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foreverandanight.lanacampbell

Twitter: https://twitter.com/foreverandanigh

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33894883-forever-and-a-night-dark-experiments


Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/campbell7275/ 

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Forever-Night-Dark-Experiments-Campbell-ebook/dp/B01N9SCRX5/ref=sr_1_1?

s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490447380&sr=1-1&keywords=forever+and+a+nig ht+lana+campbell 











PATRICE FOSTER



AUTHOR OF: MOLDING MY DESTINY



A story of strength, courage, and determination, Patrice M Foster’s moving journey from poverty, neglect, and abuse is a tribute to the human spirit. 

Born in Jamaica West Indies, Patrice and her five siblings endured a barren childhood devoid of love, security, and hope. After both parents abandoned their children, Patrice’s only means of surviving years of mistreatment with uncaring relatives was the hope of joining her mother in America, a country that beckoned with dreams of a better life.

That dream finally became a reality in 1973, but instead of the warm welcome she expected, she was once again abandoned, forever losing any hope of a happy family reunion. Though her eventual descent to the street dragged her to a place of darkness, it never claimed her despite the scars of prostitution, homelessness, arrest and imprisonment, a stay in a mental institution, gang rape, and loveless relationships. 

Fueled by her desire to succeed, Patrice overcame at times insurmountable odds to educate herself. She eventually became a nurse and successful businesswoman while raising three children.

Ultimately, Patrice’s journey in search of love and respect became a search for herself and healing through forgiveness and self-acceptance. 







EXCERPT FROM MOLDING MY DESTINY



I remember another terrible fight when my father came home drunk and attacked my mother. She was expecting him to bring something home to cook, which he promised, but seldom followed through. Yet, he expected to come home to a hot meal regardless. He felt the rice porridge that she cooked, which was all we had in the kitchen, was too cold (it was long before the days of microwaves).

My oldest brother, Jovan, often stood up for our mother, so he was in the line of fire a lot as well, and subsequently bore the brunt of our father’s anger. He was always trying to be the peacemaker and stop our father from hurting our mother.

"It's no problem!" Jovan yelled at him. "It's okay," he said again, pressing his hands against our father's chest, as if our brother, who was only ten-years-old at the time, could have held back someone as strong and aggressively drunk as our father.

Dad slammed his fist against the wall and shouted, "Stay out of this! I’ll be the judge of what's acceptable. I work all day and will not eat a cold supper at night!”

"But it’s ten o'clock, Father,'' Jovan said. “Dinner was hours ago.”


Dad didn't like that comment. His face contorted into an ugly mask, and he grabbed his whiskey bottle from the table and raised it over Jovan's head. Jovan took off down the hall with Dad racing behind trying to club him with the bottle. Jovan ducked into the bathroom and quickly locked the door while Dad cursed and yelled to him about respect and authority. It was dark, and we were all hiding elsewhere in the house, afraid for Jovan and afraid for our mother, who was in the kitchen frantically trying to heat up father's dinner.
 https://www.facebook.com/PatriceMFoster/

blog: https:patricemfoster.com/

https://www.pinterest.com/patricemfoster/




MATT COWPER






Author of: THE CLERK




The Clerk is a story about a middle-aged man named Thomas, who, for the most part, is content, despite not being conventionally successful. The conflict comes from Thomas's friends, family, and co-workers, who involve him in their own dramas or try to change him to fit their own ends.



Many literary novels deal with the "malaise" of modern society: alienation, lost opportunities, omnipresent technology, and a broken political system. I wanted to write the "anti-malaise" novel, and have a protagonist who isn't afflicted with a dozen mental maladies that shadow his every thought and action. Also, many novels are written from a middle-class standpoint; The Clerk is staunchly blue-collar.



However, this is no uplifting "chicken soup for the soul" story. There's satire, some harsh truths, and plenty of unlikeable characters. My plan wasn't to inspire, but to present a story from an oft-forgotten segment of our society, and to let the reader ponder its implications.


BOOK EXCERPT:

THE CLERK



Back when Thomas was in tenth grade, someone had nominated him for the International Leaders of Tomorrow Conference (ILTC). Thomas never knew who it was, as his parents (mainly his father) had instantly pounced on the opportunity, signed him up without consulting him, and then bombarded him with a hurricane of details about the program. It was some time before Thomas could retreat to his room and look over the ILTC materials by himself.

The ILTC, according to its brochure, was “an exciting experience that will show today's promising youths how to become tomorrow's acclaimed leaders.” Thomas was intrigued to learn that he was “promising,” as his GPA told a different story. He also didn't consider himself a leader; most “leaders” at his high school thought that tersely-delivered commands disguised as innocent suggestions and appropriation of other's ideas were the cornerstones of leadership.

As he continued thumbing through the brochure, he was edified to learn that the ILTC had “brought together students from 75 countries since our inception in 1980” and that “ILTC participants travel to learning-intensive locales to collaborate on horizon-expanding projects and to hear speeches and lectures from top academics, business leaders, and activists.” It all sounded very sunny and innocent. The Thomas of age forty knew that the whole thing was a money trap, just another vacation-cum-resume-stuffer that middle-class parents foisted onto their children, but the Thomas of age sixteen thought the whole thing sounded mighty swell.

Though he'd called his father a “tyrant” for signing him up, he'd settled down and come to understand the value of the ILTC. The worst part was that it took place during summer vacation, that hectic time of endless beach days and nighttime (mis)adventures with tourist girls. He'd also have to miss work, but he was sure Vernon would give him time off. It was only two weeks, after all...

So, a few months later, he happily flew from Raleigh to Washington, D.C., where the ILTC Opening Ceremony was held. A grinning female staffer met him at the airport; she was even holding a printed sign with his name on it. He was, she explained, the only one she was picking up at the moment; his flight had been later than those of the other Young Leaders. As the staffer pumped his hand energetically, Thomas wondered if her smile was going to split her face asunder. He was also impressed by the tightness of her skirt and her skyscraper-high heels. As she led him out of the airport at a brisk pace, babbling about something or other, Thomas watched the twin mounds of her ass bounce beneath the black fabric.

But the staffer soon dumped him in a dorm room at George Washington University and disappeared. It being summer, the campus was deserted, and the ILTC had acquired an entire dorm hall to house its prodigies. As Thomas unpacked, he tried to chat with his roommate, a tall and flat-faced Lithuanian, but as the Lithuanian's English was poor, he ended up lying on his bed in an awkward silence and counting the ceiling tiles.

The ILTC's Opening Ceremony was spectacular, if one liked endless speeches. It took place in a small lecture hall with strange acoustics, so that every syllable a speaker uttered seemed to have been bellowed by a god. Thomas sat stiffly as a CEO, a senator, the ILTC's President, and numerous other luminaries talked about the immeasurable value of the ILTC's program, and how they wished every participant would do their best.

Finally it ended, and the Young Leaders, after moving to empty classrooms, were placed in small groups to do various exercises, such as determining what Chile should do with its copper resources, although Thomas suspected Chile already had that covered. He breathed easier; now he would get to meet people. He'd never been in such a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and he wanted to learn everything about everyone.

That heady feeling was soon dashed. These leaders, no matter if they were from Madagascar, Germany, or North Dakota, were exactly like the leaders in his high school. They didn't discuss; they pronounced or commanded. They didn't ask questions; they battered each other with pointed interrogatives. If another person made a good point, they would say “That's a good point” grudgingly, then repeat the point using longer and snazzier words so it appeared that it had originated with them all along. Thomas's gaze bounced from speaker to speaker as everyone talked over each other; he felt like a ping-pong ball during a particularly heated match. Once he tried to say something, but a Frenchman sniffed “Well put” and threw a rarified Continental gloss on his words. He even used a quote from Voltaire for garnish. Thomas clamped his jaw shut, crossed his arms, and sat brooding.

Just a few minutes ago, he'd yearned to escape from the endless speeches. Now he yearned to escape from these young titans, with their bottomless self-assurance and indisputable declarations. He wished he was back home, lying on the beach with his friends and watching the young bikini-clad girls saunter by, or at Oxendine's Grocery joking with Vernon and the rest of the guys.

The days passed by so slowly that Thomas wondered if God (or a god) had fiddled with the flow of time. He listened to a speech by a supposedly-heroic Canadian activist, but the only thing he seemed to have done was spent some time in a Burmese prison. He listened to another speech by a different senator, one who talked about “the value of bipartisanship, of dealing with my fellow congresspeople across the aisle.” He listened to yet another speech from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who informed his audience that the key to storytelling was creating compelling characters.

The only decent experience was the walk along the National Mall. The Washington Monument's plain majesty reminded him of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, and the Lincoln Memorial moved him in a way few things had. There was Honest Abe, the hero of his textbooks, looking out from his shrine for all eternity. Hot tears formed, and he wiped them away quickly, lest one of his apparently unaffected peers see them. What would Lincoln think of these callous young strivers marching around his temple? Surely he would be angry and baffled at their arrogance. Thomas wished the exquisitely-carved statue would come alive and humble these fools with a few calmly-delivered yet mountain-shattering words, and then stomp them with his giant shoes.

Then it was off to New York, and another dorm room at some university. Thomas was beyond caring which one. He knew New York was big, but he didn't know it was big. On a normal day in Morehead City, there might be a total of ten people on the downtown sidewalks; here, there were ten people within fifteen feet of him. Buildings towered over him, terrifying in their concrete and brick indifference. Newspapers flew down alley and street, like ghosts that decided they'd come out in daytime just to be cheeky. Dirt was everywhere. Drivers honked their horns. Finally their Big Apple Exploration Group entered a pizza joint for lunch, and Thomas felt relieved to be away from the bustle and whirl, until the mustachioed, portly man at the counter demanded he make up his mind what he wanted cuz he was holding up the line. Thomas stammered that one cheese slice and a small drink would do it, then he sped to a corner booth and ate by himself, like a disciplined child sitting in time-out.

There were, of course, more speeches. Thomas sat glassy-eyed and dreamed of sand and ocean and stocking shelves.

Finally it was time for the Closing Ceremony, which was much like the Opening Ceremony, except drenched in ecstasy-sorrow over “our farewells, although I know each of you will cherish these memories forever.” Like everyone else, Thomas received a completion certificate written in stylized English and affixed with the ILTC's Gold Seal. Then it was over. The same female staffer drove him to the airport, this time with a few others. He didn't look at her ass, nor did he talk to the Young Leaders next to him in the van. He got on the plane, the plane lifted off and headed south, he stared out the window at the Atlantic Ocean and the coastline, and in no time at all he was back in Raleigh, and his beaming parents were waiting for him.

     “How was it?” his mother trilled.

     “Yes, how was it, son?” his father demanded.

     “It was shitty,” Thomas snapped.

     The ride home was tempestuous.


AUTHOR NOTES:



What am I working on now? A new novel, which will be completely different from The Clerk, and of course I'm trying to learn all I can about the self-publishing/indie world. The whole indie experience is daunting, wild, and often frustrating - but still invigorating.




Want to chat about reading and writing, or just shoot the breeze? Or maybe you know a surefire way to sell 100,000+ books in 30 days without spending a dime on marketing? If so, shoot me an email at roguehomebody@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!



Links:


Website: mattcowper.com


Amazon Novel Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MSW66QO


Goodreads: 



























































































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