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Friday, May 31, 2024

Excerpt: Faeries Don’t Lie (Heart of the Worlds Book 1) by TF Burke + giveaway

Can Two Worlds Survive an Augury?

by TF Burke
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Can Two Worlds Survive an Augury?

Releasing a Chandarion’s god-like magic into the world isn’t what sixteen-year-old Aunia, the village’s outcast, intends. She only wants to impress Mathias, a visiting seventeen-year-old pegasus flyer, who fiercely believes the choice—either Faery or Mortal world surviving—has come.

Her action calls forth the Boggleman, a soul-sucking ghoul, who abducts her dad, eats her faery friends, and sets Dagel demons on her isolated village. And worse.

The worlds of Ahnu-Endynia are full of faeries, pegasi flyers, myths, secrets, and themes of belonging, despite being misunderstood. And if you don't watch carefully . . . You might be pulled into the Betwixt. . . the space between the worlds.

Excerpt 1 – FAERIES DON’T LIE – TF Burke

Explaining true love to a garden faery wasn’t easy. Aunia tapped her pitchfork against the stone-slabbed floor and wrinkled her nose against the golden dust while her faery friend, Jennium, landed between a nanny goat’s ears. The escaped animal froze in place in front of the long wooden goat pens while the faery sat cross-legged on her furry perch, folding her iridescent wings, purples, blues, and yellows.

Another of Jennium’s mind-pictures arose in Aunia’s head. This one was of the villagers, old and young, dancing arm-in-arm in twisting steps around a bonfire—fiery sparks rising to the stars.

“That’s the party afterwards. True love is how you feel. How your heart would give away every constellation to see your beloved smile.” Aunia flipped her blond braid over her shoulder and wished she could disappear into the slithering crack along the stable’s high-vaulted ceiling—or, better yet, fly away to the faery world . . .if that doorway wasn’t watched. “But like I said, there’s no one here for me.”

Unlike the two lovers exchanging mating beads this night, she would stand in the shadows as an outcast, too different to be accepted. At sixteen years of age, she needed to accept this would be her life. She scooped another pitchfork of dirty hay onto the dung heap.

Jennium propelled another image—Aunia’s father standing, back turned and shoulders slumped, at his favorite fishpond. The faery tipped her raven-haired head as if to ask, “And where’s your father’s true love?”

Aunia’s hands slid on the pitchfork. She couldn’t answer that. Her father refused to talk about her. But it was obvious he clung to her memory—whoever she was. And he had to have loved her real mom desperately. Why else would he have treated Nehla like a sister. A sister he couldn’t save from being skewered by a wild boar. An accident. An awful, terrible accident.

Stomping, Aunia passed the long pen of bleating goats and turned up the middle junction of horse stalls to the quadruple-sized hay-less stall that had been Nehla’s pottery work area. She frowned at the grain buckets lining the shoulder-high wall where clay boards used to stand. She padded to Nehla’s pottery wheel, draped with a green and yellow blanket, and pressed her knuckles against the scratchy wool. Three years later and it still hurt.

With a light jingle, Jennium landed on Aunia’s head and projected another image—a woman’s silhouette, but not Nehla.

Aunia pulled her hand away from the pottery wheel. For a moment, she made out the curve of the woman’s left cheek, so like her own. Then, the silhouette was gone.

“I don’t remember my mother,” Aunia said. “But she probably had faery sight like me. Maybe she could even see people’s glows.”

A whiny buzz brushed against Aunia’s hair and a shiny green bug dove behind the stall’s black walnut wood.

Jennium launched up, and Aunia winced at the tug, reaching to free the faery’s tiny feet from her braid. Jennium yanked through, chittering, and landed on an empty pottery shelf—one that rested on iron spikes nailed into the wall. Those spikes had been made from Nehla’s sacrificed pot hooks to keep faeries from breaking freshly made bowls.

“How are you—”

A screech from the stable’s front door sent Aunia crouching behind the pottery wheel.

“The bottle in the back ought to muffle the evening proper,” said Sigmus with his deep wheezy voice.

Aunia tensed. Her father’s closest friend would still be livid about the faeries shoving tadpoles in his boots from yesterday’s yesterday. But it had been his own fault. He had insulted the water fae.

Aunia tiptoed forward and peeked over the stall’s wall. These two were supposed to be stacking wood for the cooking fires. Her father’s head and shoulders, glowing with his usual brick-red aura, seem to float above the horse pen-wall—or did until he dodged a buzzing insect.

Sigmus swiveled, cracking his hands together, presumably squashing the bug. “Ain’t no grace-fall smushing your own pest.”

Dad jutted his jaw. “I can’t do that.”

“And you get a grumping every beading.”

Dad’s red glow dulled. “I am happy for them.”

“Sure. It makes all the sense you hankering to sneak off to the sheep cave.”

“Fish pond,” Dad clarified.

“Well, I’ve a better idea. Wait here.” Sigmus waddled up the middle aisle toward her.

Aunia ducked, pressing a hand over her mouth. Her sigh filled her palm when his footfalls veered toward the nearby tack and storage room.

Sheep-cave? No one was allowed near them. Dad himself had told her the Boggleman lived there now. She eased to a trousered knee and considered. Sigmus was probably just saying that for shock and her father was looking to wander off to be alone.

She had wanted to sneak away earlier, too. Sneak past the gate-minders to the woods for a game of tag with the moss-gnomes or maybe cajole a dryad into playing a whistle-tune. She had almost made it through the gate but got caught, so she ran and hid in the stable.

Aunia leaned against the chest-high wall. It would be better to stay with faery friends instead of being in the village.

The tack room door grumbled open, followed with chalky scuffles from dried leather and thud-clack of ceramics. Sigmus hooted. He probably stashed another bottle of the apothecary’s cider brandy.

Sigmus exited the tack room, popped the bottle, and shouted, “Figure you’ll get a fair healing, spilling out your sorrows.”

“There’s nothing to spill,” her father called back.

Stars. How long am I going to need to hide while they drink?

Sigmus pranced past her stall. Aunia inched forward. Her father stood about ten yards from her in the middle aisle and close to the dung heap.

“Ah, so you say,” Sigmus said. “But I knows these beading ceremonies remind you of yer Tamorian lady wife.”

Tamorian? Lightning crackled in Aunia’s belly and erupted against the back of her throat. “You’ll tell him about my mother but not me.”

Dad whirled in her direction, his glow retreating to a scant fingers-width around his head. She marched out of the pen while Sigmus stepped in her way.

“Move, Sigmus,” she said. “I’m talking to my father. My dad, not yours.”

Sigmus raised his hand. “You’re supposed to be stirring them stew pots.”

“Like you gathering wood?” Aunia tried sidestepping him but Sigmus’ elbow clipped the side of her head. She hunched-over, wishing she could melt Sigmus “Sourling-Beast” into pudding ash.

About the Author

Bookbub-Amazon Goodreads
TF Burke currently works with NYT David Farland’s Apex-Writers as an admin and marketing specialist, where she schedules industry leaders for weekly multi-Zoom calls, provides content for social posts, and hosts several writer-focused Zooms.

Her published works includes hundreds of newspaper articles, blog posts across various platforms, anthologies, including MURDERBUGS, the second volume of the Unhelpful Encyclopediam a collection of short stories in WHIRL OF THE FAE, and the first book of the Heart of the Worlds Series, FAERIES DON’T LIE.

When not writing or wearing other hats, she can be found with a sword and a dagger in her hands for medieval-style fencing tournaments and melees, something she’s been doing since 2010.

$30 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons (Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Book 2) by Sybrina Durant + giveaway

No Metal No Magic. . . and No Technology.

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Elemental Dragons
Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Book 2

by Sybrina Durant
Genre: Childrens Chemistry, Middle Grade Fantasy Educational
In this unique alphabet book, members of the Elemental Dragon Clan, present 26 Magical Elements of the Periodic Table in alphabetical order. Each member of the clan has an element tipped tail. They also have magical powers based on the properties of their metals. There are no more perfect groups than unicorns and dragons to familiarize with elements from the Periodic Table. Their theme is "No Metal, No Magic. . .and No Technology".

In this book, Antz starts out the book by introducing the very necessary metal, Antimony on his element page. Zora rounds out the alphabet by presenting scientific facts and other fun information about the metal, Zirconium, on her elemental page. In all, readers will get some great insight into the properties of 26 elements from the periodic table. Each Page is Full of Amazing Facts and Tons of Fun.

There's A Magical Elemental Themed Periodic Table, Too!

This unique book will help tweens, teens and anyone else quickly absorb the elements of the Periodic Table.

No Metal,
No Magic
And No Technology.
It's Techno-Magical.

Amazon-Author's Site-B&N-Bookbub-Goodreads

Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by the Metal Horn Unicorns
Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Book 1

Get this book in soft cover print to experience it fully.

Metals and all the other elements from the periodic table make everything seem magical.

You can see it everywhere… in buildings. . .transportation…communications. . .medicines and even in the food you eat!

All technology and everything that makes life modern come from the magical elements in the earth, water and the air.

Think of it like this, “No Metal – No Magic…and No Technology.”
You can learn about all about it in The Magical Elements of the Periodic Table Presented Alphabetically by The Metal Horn Unicorns.

26 techno-magical elements are presented from A to Z by the magical metal horn unicorn tribe from Unimaise.

Every element page shows you

1. Where the featured element comes from.
2. When it was discovered.
3. Scientific info about the element.
4. Everyday uses for it.
5. Plus a bunch of interesting facts!
6. Last but not least, each element is represented by a unicorn who wields its magical powers.

The theme of “No Metal, No Magic” flows throughout the entire book. Ultimately, if there’s no metal, there can be no magic. Any metal-horned unicorn will tell you that. Without metal and all the other elements of the periodic table there would be no technology for us modern people, either. Now, that’s “Techno-Magical!”

The book also has an amazing unicorn themed periodic table plus special pages featuring
elemental compounds and alloys. Trading cards representing each of the 26 unicorns and their elements plus fun lesson cards and more are also available as printable downloads. Kids will have fun singing along with the No Metal, No Magic song, too. Learn more about all the elements in this book at

Amazon-Author's Site-B&N-Bookbub-Goodreads

Get a FREE printable Magical Elements Periodic Table Poster from the author here!

About the Author
The books Sybrina Durant has written span a wide range between illustrated picture books, coloring books and YA novels; to technical and how-to books. Her latest efforts are fanciful illustrated periodic table books that help kids visualize the importance of the elements that make up our world. As the dragons and unicorns say, “No Metal, No Magic. . .and No Technology”.

$30 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cover Reveal: The Ocean Hugs Hard by Eric Avedissian


The Ocean Hugs Hard
by Eric Avedissian
Releases: June 24, 2024
Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing

Surfside City, New Jersey. 1966. Cub reporter Harman Bass is cutting his teeth in the fast world of local journalism and getting out-scooped by the competition. Facetious, cocky, and always quoting Nietzsche, Harman isn’t making any friends both in and out of the newsroom.

All that changes when the daughter of a prominent family is found dead on the beach, handing Harman the juiciest news story of the year. But she wasn’t any old beauty pageant queen; she was his high school girlfriend. Harman’s dogged reporting into the young woman’s death reveals pushback from the authorities and pulls the newshound into the resort’s darkest corners.

After one of his sources is murdered, the routine story becomes dangerous and personal. Something watches Harman from the shadows, something ancient and hungry, worshiped by powerful men who kill to keep their secrets. Harman’s job and life are soon threatened, and the once brash reporter must battle his boss, rival journalists, and his own sanity before filing what could be his last story.

THE OCEAN HUGS HARD is a mystery with the salty whiff of the ocean, a tinge of nostalgia, and a dollop of mind-shattering eldritch horror.


About the Author
ERIC AVEDISSIAN is an adjunct professor and speculative fiction author. His published work includes the novels Accursed Son, Mr. Penny-Farthing, Midnight at Bat Hollow, and the role-playing game Ravaged Earth. His short stories appear in various anthologies, including Across the Universe, Great Wars, and Rituals & Grimoires. Avedissian received a 2024 Fellowship in Prose from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and a ridiculous number of books. Find him online at if you dare.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

One Little Nightmare (Of Gods and Monsters Book 1) by Dawn Darling

We are thrilled to be working with Dawn Darling and her Of Gods and Monsters series. Check out what our readers are saying about One Little Nightmare and One Saccharine Dream!

One Little Nightmare (Of Gods and Monsters Book 1)

by Dawn Darling
October 2023
Genre: Dark Romance/ Dark Romantic Fantasy/ Greek Mythology
A paranoid schizophrenic with a dark passenger lurking in the shadows.
A broken Siren who would give anything to end her curse.
A mystery girl with the traumas of her past written on her body.

A Beautiful Nightmare

Brooks wakes in an insane asylum with a broken wristwatch and no memories. He spends colorless days ignoring beautiful hallucinations and adrenaline-inducing nights fighting the monsters inside, but they’re only the beginning. After a mystery girl shrouded in secrets and painted with scars appears in the asylum, Brooks wakes from a vivid nightmare to discover that not all is as it seems. As plague looms and patients disappear, Brooks works against the clock to uncover the shattered pieces of his past, but what he finds may mean the downfall of Olympus.

A Sinister Dream

Damned to a glass prison, Xia has never known a life of freedom. The Gods of Olympia covet her Siren song and when she's not dancing for them, she's feeding The Lord of Nightmares her soul. Solace is found only with the man she meets in her dreams, but he doesn’t even think she’s real. Pity, because Brooks is the only one who can save her.

Pandora's Box has been opened and an evil moves in the asylum that even the gods cannot contain.

For fans of Scarlett St. Claire, Raven Kennedy, and Amber V. Nicole, this gripping tale of ruthless gods and ancient power will satisfy all of your darkest desires. If you love romantic fantasy with a touch of poison, characters coming into their own, and an MMC who would watch the world fall to save her, this tragic tale of longing and destruction is for you.

This is a dark romantic fantasy intended for mature audiences. If you like the ruthless side of the Greek Gods, this series is for you. Please check the author's website for CW's.

April 9, 2024
Genre: Dark Romance/ Dark Romantic Fantasy/ Greek Mythology
“I am the Father of Darkness, the Void Between the Stars, Creator of your Gods, and the Eater of Souls. I am Chaos, the Deathless God, and I will find you.”

Still reeling from his trauma in the Asylum, Brooks is hell-bent on saving the Siren who holds his heart. Fighting the Deathless God lurking under his skin is only part of the battle, though. When Brooks discovers the great cycle of chaos has been broken, he’s left near powerless and out of control.

After a deadly battle in Club Hel with the Lord of Nightmares, Xia realizes he’s no longer the most dangerous monster in the room. She must find a way to balance who she was with who she is becoming, but the path to righteousness is most often paid in blood and her Siren is ravenous for a taste.

Defiance was not obedience, and good girls were obedient.

Raised to be the perfect bride, Persephone lived a life of seclusion and proprietary under the watchful eye of her mother. After a string of handsome strangers claim more interest in her soul than her beauty, the Goddess of Spring finds the cost of disobedience is more than she can afford to pay.

When a scrappy thief with more secrets than truths proves to be the missing link between salvation and damnation, will they wake from a nightmare only to be caught in a saccharine dream?

This is a dark romantic fantasy intended for mature audiences. If you like the ruthless side of the Greek Gods, this series is for you. Please check the author's website for CW's and proceed with caution. You've been warned, Darling. Welcome to the Freakshow.

IG: @dawndarlingauthor @rrbooktours

TikTok @dawndarlingauthor @shannon_of_rrbooktours


#rrbooktours #rrbtonelittlenightmare #onelittlenightmare #ofgodsandmonsters #dawndarling #onesaccharinedream #oneshatteredillusion #pandorasbox #greekmythology #greekgods #mythology #smuttybooks #romantasy #horror #zeus #darkromance #darkromanceaesthetic099

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Excerpt: The Heart of Chenoa (The Black Dove Legacy Book One) by Creole Noir

The Heart of Chenoa (The Black Dove Legacy Book One)
by Creole Noir
June 2, 2023
Genre: Magical Realism, YA, Coming of Age
ISBN: 979-8396415935
Number of pages: 275 pages
Word Count: 44,953
Cover Artist: Creole Noir
Everyone knew she was the belle of the ball, and it was hard to imagine anyone ever taking her crown away from her.

The Heart of Chenoa is a heartwarming tale about a young woman's courage to leave her abusive boyfriend and start a new life in a new town. Along the way, she finds a group of misfit friends who become like family to her, including the inseparable siblings Brooke and Jerald, and the popular but conflicted JC, who harbors a secret love for Jerald. As they navigate high school drama and personal trauma, they come together to seek revenge against a conniving classmate, and ultimately learn to embrace their unique gifts and find strength in their bond.

The story explores themes of love, friendship, betrayal, and redemption as the characters navigate their way through the ups and downs of life. Brooke's premonitions and Lucille's powers add a touch of magic to the story, while Jerald learns to control his trauma-induced alter ego. Ultimately, they discover that they have grown and evolved in unexpected ways and that their bond is stronger than anything life can throw at them.

Amidst the sprawling fields of Chenoa, a small town nestled in the heart of the Texas, a tale of resilience and friendship unfolds. At its core lies the story of a young woman named Indigo, whose journey from darkness to light weaves a tapestry of courage, love, and the transformative power of friendship.

Indigo had known no other reality than the one she shared with her abusive boyfriend, Troy. The shackles of fear bound her tightly, choking the life out of her dreams. But one fateful night, fueled by a flicker of courage ignited deep within her heart, she made the decision to break free.

With nothing but a few belongings and a trembling resolve, Indigo set out on a journey to start anew in a town where nobody knew her name. Chenoa welcomed her with open arms, offering sanctuary from the storm that had raged within her for far too long.

As Indigo tentatively navigated the unfamiliar school of her new home, she stumbled upon a group of misfits whose warmth and acceptance enveloped her like a comforting embrace. Among them were Brooke and Jerald, inseparable siblings whose laughter echoed through the halls of Chenoa High School, and JC, whose inner turmoil simmered beneath his charming exterior.

Together, they formed an unlikely family, bound not by blood but by the unbreakable ties of friendship and shared experiences. Each member of their motley crew bore scars of their own, but together, they found solace in the company of kindred spirits.

As high school dramas unfolded and personal traumas resurfaced, Indigo and her newfound companions stood united against the tide of adversity. They rallied together to seek justice against a conniving classmate, their bonds growing stronger with each shared victory.

But beneath the surface of their idyllic friendship lay secrets waiting to be unearthed. JC harbored a love for Jerald that dared not speak its name, while Brooke's premonitions whispered of futures yet to unfold. And in the shadows, Jerald battled with the demons of his past, struggling to tame the beast within.

Yet through it all, they clung to each other, their hearts intertwined in a tapestry of love and loyalty. As they confronted their deepest fears and embraced their unique gifts, they discovered that strength lies not in solitude but in the unbreakable bonds of friendship.

In The Heart of Chenoa, amidst the spanish moss trees and the whispering winds, Indigo and her friends learned that the greatest battles are fought not with fists but with hearts open wide. And as they embraced the magic woven into the fabric of their lives, they found redemption in the unlikeliest of places: within themselves, and within the hearts of those they held dear.

About the Author:

Creole Noir is an author who has a passion for writing stories that not only bring suspense, but also delve into deeper themes of social justice and class disparities. His debut novel Cry of the Black Dove follows London and her friends as they embark on a mission to get revenge after being wronged by those in power. Creole hopes his work will help readers think about these issues and the marginalization that often follows. Outside of writing, he enjoys hosting a podcast with Kinky Boots. Creole currently lives in Tyler, Texas where he obtained an Associates degree in General Studies from Tyler Junior College before engaging in healthcare labor such as caregiving and teaching life skills. He now writes full-time.

Keep in touch with Creole Noir's work by following him on Instagram or checking out his podcast. He loves hearing from readers about their favorite stories and characters. With Creole Noir’s vivid imagination and captivating voice, each of his novels will keep you hooked until the very end.

Keep in touch with Creole Noir via the web:

Everyone knew she was the belle of the ball, and it was hard to imagine anyone ever taking her crown away from her.
The Heart of Chenoa by Creole Noir
#TheBlackDoveLegacy #MagicalRealism #YA #ComingofAge

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Literary Fiction Author Mathias B. Freese: My namesake - Cantor Matyas Balogh

 Cantor Matyas Balogh

I don’t have much to work with. There is a torn photograph and a business card, both over a hundred years old. The card has faded and is foxed much like an old book or print. In the photograph my great grandfather is wearing his cantorial hat and has strong eyes, quite possibly hazel. He was a hazan, Hebrew for cantor. The card is written in Hungarian such as Boldog Ujevet Kivan (in boldface), fokantor beneath his name, Hebrew letters at the bottom left and what I believe is the town of Monor, which is in Hungary, at bottom right. (Anyone who can translate these words?)

I was named after him, Mathias Balogh Freese, which has been a bane for much of my life. Often mispronounced, I grew up detesting it. Bob or Dick would have been better. My mother caved to my grandma Flora who always extolled her father and most likely pressured her to name me after him. The name looks good in print but I wasn’t in print for all my childhood and young adulthood. Who calls a kid “Mathias”? Even today if a nurse calls me in to see the doctor she often mispronounces the name, often in a Spanish lilt, or struggles through the three phonemes. So it is MAYtheeuss, MUHthias, or Monotonous. (Try to mispronounce Steve.)

In Hebrew school I became Mordecai, not too bad. In Spanish class I was called Mateo. Mathias and Mathew are closely related linguistically, for they mean “gift of god” in Hebrew. That I can handle. For years I was called Matty, much a girl’s name and one classmate was called Mathew which made me jealous. Odd to think, that Matty kept me immature in my own self. When I was teaching in my mid twenties an older teacher and friend told me he couldn’t call me Matty and told me to go by Matt, which I did. I liked that. I renamed myself, how unusual, as I look back.

So Shakespeare’s line about what’s in a name is poetically clever, but not psychologically true, not for me. We are defined by our names. Naming is a critical issue, for it is also labeling. So in 2024 Sidney, Sylvester and Beatrice don’t make it, they are punitive to the children who are dubbed in such a tone deaf manner. Kirk Douglas is much more mellifluous than Isadore Demsky Danielovich, and Tony Curtis wears better than Bernie Schwartz. We named our daughter Brett after a character in The Sun Also Rises, only to discover years later that the Navy wanted to recruit her as a seaman.

Several years ago I wrote, “Cantor Matyas Balogh,” a love story from my collection of stories about the Holocaust, in “I Truly Lament,” publication in 2015. I cannot explain why this love story of a cantor with the backdrop of the Holocaust for context arose in my mind. I am curious about my great grandfather. I know that he supposedly spoke many languages, as grandma bragged, some fourteen it was said (really? I don’t think so, but maybe). I heard as a child that he flirted or “fooled” around with some of the women in the congregation. Why not? Hungarian woman are scrumptious — think Ilona Massey. And the Hungarians are renown for being superior mathematicians and physicists.

He died before the Nazis and was not part of the Holocaust, but I wonder if his tombstone was turned over by the Hun. I believe he is interred in Hungary which does not explain why Grandma Flora came over and he remained. All not known to me. I have few details about him that could not fill a thimble, yet he remains in my mind. I would like to go to Monor, only if I research his ancestry and have more to go on before I depart. I wonder how many, many decades have passed without a stone being placed on his coldly unfriended marker. I would do that and in some peculiar way I would make peace with myself. And I would be moved and I would weep a little, for I am of his line. It does give me satisfaction that I had an ancestor of some brilliance.

I stop here to tell the unvarnished truth. I pay homage to him because it confirms that I ,too, am intelligent and aware; that I had a relative who flowed intellectually; that my father was a dunce and I have struggled all my life, in a way, to become Matyas Balogh; his intelligence, his gifts sustain me so metaphorically it hurts. As a retired shrink, so much is latent and manifest here, like a juicy pomegranate, so much to tease out and to reconcile with and to draw much sustenance from.

I am, I am so very much– Mathias Balogh Freese

When Grandma assimilated here, she went into vaudeville and was known as Flo Balogh (pronouncing it Barlow). I once asked a Hungarian woman if she could tell me something about the name. Chuckling, she said it was very common in Hungary and was the equivalent of Joe Smith. So much for exceptionalism.
Americanized, assimilated, Flo always urged me to become a rabbi! And she would give me lunch to encourage that. Often it was a Swiss cheese and ham sandwich with a strawberry milk drink shot with seltzer, which I loved. Ham, milk and cheese, leads to becoming a rabbi — or a goy. Meschuge! And at Christmas time I once discovered a small Christmas tree on top of the television set, probably a residue when she was in vaudeville and everybody was everybody else. I was offended at that, for my conditioning as a Jew had been set in place and the old battleax was a violator. Feed her bulbous ass to Moloch. I wonder if she was a handful for my great grandfather, for as a young woman she was a real beauty. I have a few pictures of her which are portraits from the hand of Mucha, Art Nouveau all the way.
Grandma had the gauche panache of Zsa Zsa Gabor and one hell of a father.

In the Throes
by Mathias B. Freese
March 28, 2024
Genre: Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction, Literary Fiction
In the Throes explores the awakening of intelligence and the coming into awareness of an evolutionary mishap on a forbidding apocalyptic planet.

The story follows eponymic Gruff, the first linguistic/metaphysical awakener of his species, as he navigates identity, mentation, and ontology in relation to the Gruff's natural prey: humankind.

Combining the writings of Freud and the spiritual truths of Krishnamurti, author Mathias B. Freese depicts the Gruff as an evolutionary dark creature—disfigured, maimed, instinct-driven, and grotesque—until he attains self-awareness and transforms into a self of artistic expression and wisdom.

As the title suggests, the reader identifies with self-struggle as it surges toward awakening and is moved by the apotheosis that closes the book. The nuanced theme: each one of us is an artist if only we take our selves in hand and construct a life of artistic expression. The closing chapters sing to us of Isak Dinesen's observation that an artist is never poor.

A metaphor of the evolutionary self, In the Throes is a time-processed journey into awareness—our destiny as a species.


About the Author:
MATHIAS B. FREESE is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored nine books. After his first novel, The i Tetralogy on the Holocaust, his second work, I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust, won the Beverly Hills Book Award, Reader's Favorite Book Award, and was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016, Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards. The following year his second memoir appeared, And Then I Am Gone. In 2019, Nina's Memento Mori, a highly regarded memoir, was published. In 2022, Freese published Again. Again and Again: Awakening into Awareness - Essays and Stories.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Pre-Order: The Closed Tunnel by Anthony Harold + giveaway

The Closed Tunnel
by Anthony Harold
October 8th 2024
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Suspense
Ink & Cinema Official selection Best First Ten Pages 2023, USA.

Based on real materials.

What if we told you that 3,000 feet underground is a network of high-tech cities connected by tunnels? Yes, right now.

The main character of this story, Tony from New York, accepts a job from the strange head of a pharmaceutical company. It takes him first to the National Geophysical Research Lab on Long Island and then—unexpectedly!—underground.

He finds himself in Luxor Ville, the city of the elite, and explores Hearton City with genius scientists presumed dead or missing on the Surface.

Meanwhile, in the ancient tunnels, the world’s greatest physicists are conducting an unbelievable experiment that should redefine our understanding of the laws of the universe…

Why are the richest people buying up the last subterranean luxury apartments? How are NASA and Neil Armstrong connected to the underground world? How does the hostess of the Elusive Cafe predict the future?

And is there a common secret that unites Hearton City’s inhabitants, or is it an illusion?

Feel the forgotten vibe of the TV series Lost, unlock a jar of puzzles in the wave of The Da Vinci Code, and prepare for a journey into the depths like in Wool/Silo!

The Closed Tunnel units author’s own inventions, suspense, fantasy elements, physical experiments connected to Montauk project, mystery and thriller, fashion (!), real underground wonders, and a pinch of spice.

There are diverse characters, multiple POVs, Elusive Cafe, ancient board game, scientifically created oracle cards, and a central question: whom to trust.
Chapter 51. Messages to Die For
Professor Ron Jefferson
Bursting through the front door, Ron immediately bolted it from the inside and pushed against it with all his weight. He felt as if he was being pursued. It seemed to him that they would be here in a minute to take him to a distant underground grave and separate him from his son for years.

With the frenzy of a mad scientist, he tore himself away from the door and dashed up the stairs. Desperately searching through a stack of papers on the desk, he sought that particular notebook. He distinctly remembered placing it on the edge of the desk . . .

No, it must be in the top drawer . . . No, dammit, where is it?

The thought that people from the Consortium might have already rifled through his papers and taken the precious notebook shot through his head.

Oh, here it is, on the coffee table by the chair. I must keep a cool head. I’m still in control.

In a flurry of movement, Jefferson swept the papers from the table, snatched up the notebook, frantically flipped through its filled pages, tore them out, and secreted them in a hidden pocket. Then, ripping out a blank sheet, he scribbled down crucial information in a hurried, nearly frantic script, struggling to maintain his composure. Time was of the essence, and he feared they might arrive at any moment.

This made Ron cast anxious glances at the locked office door after every few lines.

“They don’t even need a key, do they? They don’t even need a damn key . . .” he mumbled, startled by his deteriorating mental state.

After filling both sides of the sheet, he hastily folded it several times and concealed it in a spot that strangers would overlook. Still, its intended recipient would undoubtedly uncover—inside the double bottom of the dracaena plant pot.

They won’t find the letter. They just can’t. It must not fall into the wrong hands.

Jefferson paced the room for a minute, uncertain what to hold onto. Then his eyes landed on a picture of his son on the table.

The boy was smiling, hugging their favorite dog.

“Rover . . .” Jefferson whispered.

He opened the adjacent break room and found a golden retriever sleeping peacefully in the middle of a large bed. The dog perked up and bounded toward his master, then jumped with his front paws on his chest.

As Ron stroked Rover’s back, a new plan crystallized in his mind. He decided not to take the priceless notes with him but to hide them in the house, just as he had hidden his letter, in an even more secure location. Here, in the favorite soundproof room of his ever-barking dog.

“Soundproof . . .”

That word triggered a chain of thoughts. He retrieved his cell phone from his pocket, muttering, “I still have some time.” His eyes gleamed with frenzied determination.

A knock on the door made him wince.

“Professor Jefferson, do you require assistance with your packing? Your capsule departs in an hour. We must hurry.”

Ron locked Rover inside the break room so he wouldn’t witness his beloved master leaving. With three heavy steps, Jefferson reached his office door, slowed down . . . and opened it, fully aware that he would never be back to his cozy house again.

About the Author:
Instagram - Book-TikTok
Anthony Harold is the author of the upcoming sci-fi sensation The Closed Tunnel. This book explores underground cities connected by ancient tunnels and will hit shelves in April 2024.

Anthony holds a Master's degree in Physics and a Ph.D. in Economics. He has an impressive background of nearly 15 years in the space industry, including developing space-based laser systems and managing finances for a leading rocket company.

Anthony dislikes most modern movies due to plot holes, so he prefers to read and, better yet, write. He's passionate about delving into the mysteries of Earth, exploring ancient history, and studying the wonders of techno-civilization.

Currently living in Cyprus with his grown son, a lively Jack Russell terrier, and his talented wife, who doubles as his editor and marketer, Anthony enjoys spending his free time on the tennis court, jogging along the coast, or fishing.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INT)
$30 Amazon gift card

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Historical Fiction: Holliday by Matthew Di Paoli

by Matthew Di Paoli
July 5, 2023
Biographical Fiction, Western
Holliday follows the infamous 1880s gambler, dentist, and gunslinger, Doc Holliday. From the outset, Doc has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and is told to head to dryer climates and imbibe to prolong his life. He has also heard of a spring located somewhere along the frontier that could cure him—what he believes to be the mythical Fountain of Youth. The novel portrays Holliday as a rock star, a living legend, increasingly hounded by paparazzi, enamored by death, cards, booze, and women. Doc is a mixture of Clint Eastwood and Jim Morrison, and though he is able to help his friend, Wyatt Earp, exact revenge, his condition worsens, traveling from Arizona to Denver, and finally dying in a sanatorium in Colorado with his boots off. A slow and unfitting end for such a bombastic outlaw


About the Author
Matthew Di Paoli has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times including 2020. He has won the Wilbur & Niso Smith Adventure Writing Prize for Holliday, the Prism Review, 2 Elizabeth's, and Momaya Review Short Story Contests. Matthew earned his BA at Boston College where he won the Cardinal Cushing award and the Dever Fellowship. He received his MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. He has been published in Boulevard, Fjords, Post Road, and Cleaver, among others. He is the author of Killstanbul with El Balazo Press and teaches writing in New York City. You can find more at

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Unbroken Queen (The Bone Throne Series Book 1) by Terina Adams

We're touring The Unbroken Queen this week, which is the first book in a new enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance series called The Bone Throne!

The Unbroken Queen (The Bone Throne Series Book 1)

by Terina Adams
April 21, 2024
Genre: Fantasy Romance Forbidden Love
  • Burn the World Down Romance
  • Enemies-to-Lovers
  • Vengeance
  • Found Friendships
  • Born illegitimate. Trained an assassin. Crowned a queen.
As an illegitimate princess, I’m bound by duty and betrothed to the crown prince of the House of Tannard, rulers of the nearby realms. However, beneath the royal façade, I serve as a loyal disciple of the formidable Sistern of Silence, the masters of soul voice. The sacred legacy of the death arts, a rare gift, courses through my veins, a heritage from my father’s line.

Upon reaching the distant shores of Tarragona to meet my betrothed, I discover I’ve been manipulated by the Mother of the Sistern. I was chosen to be the future queen for a reason I can’t yet fathom—a reason that could bring catastrophic consequences upon the realms.

As the northern realm’s thirst for power intensifies and its enigmatic Razohan leader aims to reclaim the southern throne and the prized Etherweave, my disdain for my fiancé seems inconsequential, overshadowed by the imminent specter of war.

To protect the House of Tannard and maintain the delicate equilibrium of power, I must delve deeper into the clandestine pillars of the Sistern and awaken the lethal power of the death arts, lying dormant within me.

In a world where treachery and concealed truths dominate, I must remember that in war, love and mercy are luxuries none can afford. I’ve pledged my allegiance to the House of Tannard, but the allure of the Razohan leader, my constant shadow and adversary, tests my loyalty—and threatens to unravel my very soul.

IG: @terina_adamsauthor @rrbooktours

TikTok: @terinaadamsauthor @shannon_of_rrbooktours

#rrbooktours #rrbttheunbrokenqueen #theunbrokenqueen #thebonethroneseries #fantasyromance #fantasyromancebooks #fantasyromancebookstagram #fantasyromancenovels #fantasyromancenovel #romantasy #romantasybooks #enemiestoloversbooks #enemiestoloversromance
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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Book Review: Mind Games by Nora Roberts

Mind Games
by Nora Roberts
May 21, 2024
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250289698
As they do each June, the Foxes have driven the winding roads of Appalachia to drop off their children for a two-week stay at their grandmother’s. Here, twelve-year-old Thea can run free and breathe in the smells of pine and fresh bread and Grammie’s handmade candles. But as her parents head back to suburban Virginia, they have no idea they’re about to cross paths with a ticking time bomb.

Back in Kentucky, Thea and her grandmother Lucy both awaken from the same nightmare. And though the two have never discussed the special kind of sight they share, they know as soon as their tearful eyes meet that something terrible has happened.

The kids will be staying with Grammie now in Redbud Hollow, and thanks to Thea’s vision, their parents’ killer will spend his life in supermax. Over time, Thea will make friends, build a career, find love. But that ability to see into minds and souls still lurks within her, and though Grammie calls it a gift, it feels more like a curse—because the inmate who shattered her childhood has the same ability. Thea can hear his twisted thoughts and witness his evil acts from miles away. He knows it, and hungers for vengeance. A long, silent battle will be waged between them—and eventually bring them face to face, and head to head…


Thea and Rem Fox’s parents are murdered in their Virginian home while the children are visiting their grandmother in Kentucky for two weeks. Thea saw it all in a dream, with her psychic abilities. The same dream Grammie Lucy awoke from. She tells the local police who call the Fredericksburg police investigating the murder and capture the killer at a motel. The man takes a plea and is imprisoned for life twice over. Thea and Rem grow up their grandmother’s charge. Things appear to be all right for them, except for a problem. The murderer is just like Thea--he is a mind reader too and why he saw her in the dream.

If you enjoy Stranger Things where Eleven can dream walk due to her psychic abilities and others like that, adding a thriller and love story to it, then Nora Roberts’ Mind Games might hit the sweet spot for you. I am not sure I cared for the part where it went more into Thea’s and Rem’s childhood—it could have added a bit more past that, but longer then it should have been. Maybe, if needed, flashbacks could have been sprinkled it when Thea is in college and as an adult.

I gave Mind Games 4 sheep.




Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:

Nora Roberts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including Shelter in Place, Year One, Come Sundown, and many more. She is also the author of the bestselling In Death series written under the pen name J.D. Robb. There are more than five hundred million copies of her books in print.

Monday, May 20, 2024

New Release: In Our Stars (The Doomed Earth Book 1) by Jack Campbell

Known for his bestselling Lost Fleet series, Jack Campbell is a must-read author for fans of action-packed military sci-fi and readers of Martha Wells and John Scalzi. IN OUR STARS is the first novel of Campbell’s brand-new Doomed Earth series, following a spaceship lieutenant who has one last chance to save the Earth from destruction.

In Our Stars (The Doomed Earth Book 1)

by Jack Campbell
Book 1 of 2: The Doomed Earth
May 21, 2024
Genre: science fiction, time travel
Lieutenant Selene Genji has one last chance to save the Earth from destruction in this pulse-pounding science fiction adventure, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Lost Fleet series.

Earth, 2180

Genetically engineered with partly alien DNA, Lieutenant Selene Genji is different from ordinary humans. And they hate her for it. Still, she’s spent her life trying to overcome society’s prejudice by serving in the Unified Fleet while Earth’s international order collapses into war.

Genji is stationed on a ship in orbit when humanity’s factional extremism on the planet reaches a boiling point, and she witnesses the utter annihilation of Earth. When the massive forces unleashed by Earth’s death warp space and time to hurl her forty years into the past, Genji is given a chance to try to change the future and save Earth—starting with the alien first contact only she knows will soon occur.

Earth, 2140

Lieutenant Kayl Owen’s ship is on a routine patrol when a piece of spacecraft wreckage appears out of nowhere. To his shock, there is a survivor on board: Selene Genji. Once her strange heritage is discovered, though, it becomes clear that Genji is a problem Earth Guard command wants to dispose of—quietly. After learning the horrifying truth, Owen helps her escape and joins her mission.

Together, they have a chance to change the fate of an Earth doomed to die in 2180. But altering history could put Genji’s very existence in danger, and Owen wonders if a world without her is one worth saving. . . .

Praise for the novels of Jack Campbell

“An excellent blend of real science and space action. I enjoyed myself thoroughly from first to last page.”—Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn Series

“Campbell combines the best parts of military SF and grand space opera.”—Publishers Weekly

“Campbell’s genius is action in space.”—

About the Author 
Jack Campbell is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired naval officer who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before serving with the surface fleet and in a variety of other assignments. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Lost Fleet, the Lost Stars, and the Genesis Fleet series, as well as the Stark’s War, Paul Sinclair, and Pillars of Reality series. He lives with his indomitable wife and three children in Maryland.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

A House Like an Accordion by Audrey Burges + excerpt

A House Like an Accordion
by Audrey Burges
May 21, 2024
Genre: Magical realism, women's fiction
A woman searches for her missing father in order to reconcile the many strange and fantastical secrets of her past before she loses herself completely in this deeply profound and magical novel by Audrey Burges.

Keryth Miller is disappearing.

Between the growing distance from her husband, the demands of two teenage daughters, and an all-encompassing burnout, she sometimes feels herself fading away. Actual translucence, though—that’s new. When Keryth wakes up one morning with her hand completely gone, she is frantic. But she quickly realizes two things: If she is disappearing, it’s because her father, an artist with the otherworldly ability to literally capture life in his art, is drawing her. And if he’s drawing her, that means he’s still alive.

But where has he been for the past twenty-five years, and why is he doing the one thing he always warned her not to? Never draw from life, Keryth. Every line exacts a cost. As Keryth continues to slowly fade away, she retraces what she believes to be her father's last steps through the many homes of her past, determined to find him before it’s too late and she disappears entirely.

“Burges's A House Like an Accordion is a beautiful exploration of family and the threads that tie them together, whether magical or blood. Through Keryth's eyes, we see a poignant raw portrait of love and faith.”—Roselle Lim, author of Night for Day

“A poignant look at the ties of family, A House Like an Accordion captivated me with its magic. I felt like I’d stepped into a contemporary fairytale I did not want to leave. Audrey Burges' words absolutely sparkle.”—Erin A. Craig, #1 New York Times bestselling author of House of Roots and Ruin


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The House on the Waves
August 2016
I was brushing my teeth when my hand disappeared.

I was thirty-nine and naked, holding myself in a one-legged star pose on the marble floor of my bathroom, looking for balance. My focal point was in the mirror-my pink toothbrush, which was, I suddenly realized, suspended in midair, as if dangling from a length of wire hung from the bathroom's vaulted ceiling. I could feel it buzzing in the hand I couldn't see.

I thought it must be a trick of the light. Our house was full of windows, glass and sun bouncing reflections of the ocean into every living space, as cold as the Pacific sprawled beneath us. But no: I put down the toothbrush, held my hand in front of me, and gazed right through it to my face in the mirror, with its high cheekbones and widow's peak like my mother's. I grasped at my translucent fingers with my right hand and felt them, still solid, but nearly invisible. There was a softness to the skin I couldn't see, as if I could pierce it with the slightest pressure.

I heard the house begin to wake around me. Ellory was rolling her mat out on her floor, ready to force herself through the yoga workout she'd declared last spring she would do every single day because her routines-senior-year AP classes, driving too fast down our winding road along the beach, sniping at her younger sister-were "stressing her out." A summer's worth of classes at the community college nearby hadn't ended her determination. Mindy, fifteen and complaining already about the pace of high school, not yet a week underway, was hitting her snooze alarm for the third time. And Max was bumping into the same corner of the platform bed with the same bruised shin on his staggering path to the kitchen, where the coffee I'd made was waiting.

Max would leave me alone in the bathroom until I was finished, but our mornings had the expected ebb and flow of the mundane, and my disappearing limb was a disruption. I planted myself on the floor, a stump in the current, and flexed my fingers. I couldn't wear my rings at night. The encircling metal felt too constricting and claustrophobic as I tried and failed to sleep. They glinted on the ring keeper on the bathroom counter, and I tiptoed over to retrieve them, closing my eyes to slide them over the knuckle of my left ring finger. The stones-antique emeralds, handed down through Max's family-were sharp and caught on everything. This time, they caught a beam of sun from the skylight, casting greenish rainbows around the room and on the memory of my freckled hand. I willed it to reappear.

I jumped at the knock on the door. "Keryth?" Max's voice was tentative, still wounded from our fight the night before. "You in there?"

"Where else would I be?" I snapped. I evened out my breathing and started again. "I'll be out in a minute."

"Can I get you anything? You want some coffee?"

A peace offering. I don't want coffee, I want you to leave me alone. All of you, for maybe five minutes, just leave me alone. I was being unfair, and I knew I was being unfair, which only made the voice inside me more vicious. The fight had been over the doctor-Max's words, glancing lightly like a stone thrown across water, wondering if it might be worth getting some blood work done. Because surely there must be some explanation for these mood swings, some levels and numbers and precise indicia that could be calibrated, the way Max calibrated everything.

I looked at the vein on my forearm, snaking from the crook of my elbow and fading into nothingness. I thought of the unfriendly nurse who always complained about my treacherous blood, the way it hid from her needle, refusing to yield itself up for tests. Your veins are practically invisible!

The laugh that barked out of me was involuntary.

"I'll get myself some coffee in a minute." I took the rings off my finger and slipped them back over the porcelain hand on the counter, which was cold and unyielding, but tangible. My robe, oversized and ratty, terry cloth stained with the spit-up of babies long since grown up, was hanging from the hook on the door. I put it on and tied it, sliding my hands-present and missing-into the wide pockets, hoping I looked normal as I loped, slouch shouldered, to my closet. Beneath the shelves of purses I didn't carry and shoes I didn't wear, I had a dovetailed drawer filled with gloves the California weather never called for. Kid leather, mostly, in every color, with tiny covered buttons down the sides. Elegant, finger-lengthening gloves like I used to see in ads for expensive cars and perfume, back when such things seemed wildly out of reach.

I selected a Kelly-green pair and shoved my hand and my non-hand into them, breathing a sigh of relief at symmetry restored. I let my robe fall to the floor and dressed the rest of my body, which was still corporeal, for all that Max said I would fade away if I didn't eat. My long-sleeved shirts were mostly flannel, and August blazed over my head, but I was starved for other options. I put a white tank top underneath a green plaid shirt I left unbuttoned, flapping over jeans I needed to replace with a smaller pair, but hadn't yet. Finally garbed but feeling garbled, I strode out of the closet and bedroom and walked, as casually as I could, into the kitchen.

"Are you cold, Mom?" Mindy, long legs folded underneath her on the window seat next to the kitchen table, cocked her head to one side. "The AC is on too high, Dad."

"It's set to seventy-eight." Max turned from the coffeepot and furrowed his brow at my outfit. "Harold," he called to the ceiling, "run a diagnostic on the HVAC, okay?"

"Well, sure, happy to. But I gotta say, kiddo, look who's worried about the thermostat now." The voice that rang out overhead was reedy and puckish, exactly as my father-in-law would have been, if he were alive. Or so I guessed. I'd never met him-only the artificial version of him that Max had spent his life perfecting.

"Yes, Harold, thanks." Max barely looked up from his coffee.

"Have you thought about putting on a sweater?"

"That's enough, Harold," Max and I said in unison.

Ellory ran into the room in her customary rush, heading toward the coffeepot to retrieve the only substance I could convince her to put into her body before leaving for school each morning. "Mom? Are you feeling okay? Why are you wearing gloves?"

I shrugged and delivered the lie I'd already thought of. "I sliced my hands up pretty good gardening yesterday. These'll help the ointment work."

Max shook his head. "It was the blackberries, wasn't it?"

"No." I felt a rush of defensiveness creep into my voice. Max hated the blackberry canes I'd planted in our yard-he considered them weeds and disliked their thorny encroachment on his otherwise manicured garden, not that he manicured it himself. "It was the roses."

Max nodded. "The ones with thorns smell the best, but it's hard not to like the thornless ones better."

"I was just pruning them back and giving them some fish guts, ungrateful bastards."

"Nature, red in tooth and claw." Max stepped toward me and stopped, his eyes seeking permission, and I nodded. He kissed the top of my head. "What have you got going on today?"

Trying to figure out where the hell my hand went. "Some research, maybe."

"What kind?"

Hand restoration. Hand-disappeared-what-do-I-do. Marty McFly Syndrome, you know, when his parents never got together and he started to disappear-

Oh my God.

Two thoughts of equal volume, equal urgency, careened through my head at the same time.

One: my father must be alive. The thought filled me with a peculiar mix of relief and fury, remembering the look on his face as he stepped out of my life and into oblivion as I screamed on the banks of a long-abandoned pond. How many years? I pretended not to know. Nearly a quarter century now, and as vivid as the first moment.

Two: wherever he was, however he was drawing breath, Papa must also have been drawing me. Somewhere, somehow, he was sketching the bones and tendons of my hand as he remembered it. Just the left hand-the one I used to brace the page I drew upon as Papa peered over my head, staring down at my drawings.

He was drawing from life. The way he always taught me not to. And if he didn't stop, I would be as trapped as the Steller's jay I still carried with me in the sketchbook I always kept by my side.


The Thorn House

August 1985

The first time Papa got me a sketchbook of my own, I carried it around for days, its pages blank, its cover as pristine as I could manage to keep it. It wasn't pink or sparkly. Its black matte cover showed me it was real-a real sketchbook, for a real artist. It meant Papa believed in me, and shining under the light of his faith, any lines I sketched could only possibly be a disappointment. I clutched my blank sketchbook while I flipped through Papa's, filled with cupolas and arched windows and low adobe structures, incomplete fragments of stone and wood occasionally interspersed with whole buildings. Some were recognizable, and some we had yet to find. All of them came from the real world, and anything Papa drew from reality bore real consequences. But I didn't understand that then.

I was afraid to draw in my own book, but the images inside Papa's looked stark and lonely, and I longed to give them company. He found me crouched over a page with a red pen, my imagined cardinal already half-sketched atop the graphite needles of a spruce tree he'd drawn, and he bellowed at me with a thundering voice I'd never heard him use before. I dropped the red pen as if it were made of lava. I've never used a red pen since.

He knew I was frightened, and he dropped to his knees beside me, gathering me into his arms. "Keryth. I'm so sorry I scared you. But you didn't know what you were doing."

I sniffed-louder than I meant to-and ordered my tears to stay where they were, burning behind my lashes. "I know I don't know what I'm doing. I can't draw. Not like you. I'm sorry I ruined your picture, Papa."

"Is that what you think?" He smoothed my mousy-brown curls back from my face and looked into my eyes. "Keryth, is that why you haven't used your book?"

"I'm going to ruin it. I'll only draw something stupid."

"You're not going to ruin it. And nothing is stupid when you're creating something new. That's how we learn. I got the book for you because you said you wanted to draw together. I was going to show you some things."

"But I drew in your book, and now you're angry."

"I'm not angry." Papa sat cross-legged on the floor and pulled me into his lap. "It's just that the lines in that book have a price, or at least they do when I draw them. I don't know yet if it'll be the same for you. That's why I wanted to try it together first."

I looked at my scribbled cardinal, interrupted mid-beak. "Your tree was empty. Everything in your book is empty."

"As empty as I can make it, yes. And I still mess up sometimes. Have you ever seen a cardinal in person?"

I shook my head. "Only in Gran's Audubon book."

"Good. That's good."

"Why is that good?"

Papa stood up and reached for my hands, pulling me to my feet. "Follow me, and I'll show you."

We walked through the creaking screen door of our small cabin, and the hiss of the hinge slammed it shut behind us. I followed Papa to the blackberry bushes that ringed the house. The fruit was so ripe that the canes drooped under the weight, surrounded by frustrated bumblebees. No animals foraged the berries, and birds would only swoop down close to investigate and then soar upward again, as if encountering invisible netting that blocked their beaks.

The berries were only for us.

Papa pointed out a determined Steller's jay, the tufted crest on his head cocked to one side as he puffed out his chest on a ponderosa branch high above the blackberry canes. "He's planning his next route of attack," Papa said.

"Why can't he get the berries?" I watched the jay make another V-shaped dive, another perplexed perch on the branch. "Why can't any of the animals?"

"Because we're the only animals I made them for. Now watch." Papa flipped open my blank sketchbook and grasped the pencil he always kept at the ready behind his ear. I watched the line grow behind his hand, curving into a sketched approximation of the jay more rapidly than I could follow, right down to the tilt of his head. I looked up to the ponderosa branch to compare the likeness, but the jay was gone.

I took back my sketchbook and peered at the shaded feathers, the intricate detail capturing even the minute fronds around the jay's eye. And then I looked at the eye, and my heart stopped.

"Papa." I felt my breath quicken, and I couldn't pull my eyes away from the jay's. "Papa. He's trapped."

"Yes, he is." Papa's voice carried a wistful finality as he tucked the pencil back behind his ear.

I kept gazing at the bird on the page. His wings, his tufted head, his curled feet around the branch were all silent and still, but the curve of the page looked like a caught breath, and I could feel his silenced heart trapped in his hollow bones beneath his feathers, all captured in a two-dimensional cage.

"Let him go, Papa! Please let him go!" The tears I'd held back earlier spilled over my eyelashes and burned my cheeks. "He's scared! Let him go!"

Papa knelt again and grasped my shoulders. "I don't know how. I never have."

I was eight, and I was confounded by any reality where my father was unable to do something. Anything. I was named for a princess-an imaginary one, an old family story about a royal girl's adventures in a kingdom full of saints and angels. But a princess nonetheless. And to my mind, that made my father a king. He was Papa, and his powers had no limits.

About the Author
Audrey writes novels, humor, short fiction, and essays in Richmond, Virginia. Her presence is tolerated by her two rambunctious children and very patient husband, all of whom have become practiced at making supportive faces when she shouts “listen to this sentence!” She is a frequent contributor to numerous humor outlets, including McSweeney’s, and her stories and essays have appeared in Pithead Chapel, Cease, Cows, and lengthy diatribes in the Notes app on her phone. Audrey was born and raised in Arizona by her linguist parents, which is a lot like being raised by wolves, but with better grammar. She moved to Virginia as an adult but still carries mountains and canyons in her heart, and sometimes, when she closes her eyes, she can still smell ponderosa pines in the sun. You can read more of her writing at and by following her on Twitter at @audrey_burges, on Instagram at @audreyburges, or on Facebook at @aburgeswrites.