I have always been a doer and banked on working my way through anything, but how effective that is change throughout life. My first hint was at 41 years old and a few weeks away from delivering my first and only child, when my midwife was packing up her bag from our visit, she looked over her shoulder to say, “You know it’s good for moms to have things to do that are just theirs.”
“You, know,” she mindfully continued, “some Moms have to work, and some moms choose to work and it’s not so much the money at times, but what you get back for doing something that you really love to do, or just like to do, but it is something for you.”
“Uh-huh,” I smile. I am so naive in this moment I can only esoterically nod at what she was saying; I cannot really understand the lifeline she has thrown me before she walks out the door that day, but I bet she did.
My son came into this world fully loaded with fire and change; his arrival opened a new era, and all change brings some dissolution. We can be surprised in the form, but as we journey forward in years we can start to sense those waves of change coming.
“You should start a podcast,” my sweet and reliable friend Joe told me one day out of the blue.
“What? I have a baby. I have no time,” I retorted.
“It’s not that hard and I think you would really enjoy it. Our podcast together has the highest ratings,” he continued. “And I could share my equipment with you..”
“What do you mean highest ratings?” I listened as Joe talked about the numbers on our one off show, and the details of microphones, and the help he was going to give me to get going. Our decades-old friendship had this swinging cadence of uplifting each other, so I was able to entertain this perplexing thought of me starting a podcast with only internal scrutiny because I knew his intentions were pure.
I hemmed and hawed over it. Crafted an intention and an arc, reached out to inspirational people I knew and the Rebirth podcast was born. You know what? I loved it. I loved talking. I loved the microphone. I loved sharing people’s stories. It brought me so much joy. Even when I had to record episodes in my car because the baby was sleeping, and there was no reception in the basement to record. Even when someone asked me how many listeners I had, and I didn’t know 50 downloads an episode was low, because 50 people was a great number for a local talk, which was how I looked at it. The podcast became a respite of creativity in a sea of self-less motherhood.
Life wasn’t in the easiest flow otherwise, and someone said to me, “You spend a lot of time on that podcast and it doesn’t make any money.”
I was sitting at a table eating, legs crossed, fork in hand; I blinked. I felt a small dip in my stomach, when a voice inside—who I hadn’t heard for awhile—quietly cautioned me that this was not the thing to let go of. Her quietness gave me pause, even as my mind agreed that the podcast was not producing monetarily. I kept a solid face. I gave a non-verbal acknowledgment of the statement and decided to stay the course, with or without support.
About six months later, and I tell this story in the book, an acquaintance calls and tells me she is starting a publishing company and she wants to sign me as an author. I say yes, and again tell no one. If I had no time for a podcast, I certainly didn’t have the resources to write a book, but a someday-author doesn’t say no when the call comes.
A good six months after the call from my now publisher, I have moved out of the house where I held my fork and my tongue, and I am sitting at a new coffee-table, a single parent with a book contract, immense writer’s block and deafening pressure. I keep going though, unseen and well loved hands, helping along the way. I invite my publisher on to my podcast to share her story of leaps and faith.
She calls me the next day, “Kate, the podcast is the book.”
“What?” I echo.
“You are so good at asking the questions and distilling the essence. I was thinking about it last night and I woke up this morning and realized, the podcast is the book.”
I felt a full body rush of agreement.
The podcast began on a borrowed microphone in 2018, and the book hit #1 in New Thought on its release day (purposely set on Fall Equinox, a day of balance and harvest) in 2022. The book started as a postpartum project in agreement that sometimes it is good for a person to have and create what they love, to not get lost in the waves of sacrifice. The fire of change and dissolution that came through in my son’s birth, also created fertile soil for the lifelong-someday dream of being a published writer. If I had planned it, I would not have lived the process of growth to become it.
Do not let go of that which brings you joy, for in the moment when you think there is no way possible, the innate roadmap of your rebirth has already begun making its way to you.
About the Author
Kate Brenton, author, teacher and mother, helps women connect the dots between their purpose and their passion. Her first book Rebirth: Real-life stories about what happens when you let go and let life lead hit #1 on Amazon for New Thought, and can also be found at your favorite bookseller. Once a high school English teacher, Kate spent seven years in Hawaii learning holistic healing and now braids the power of story — whether in the bones or on the page — to inspire and uplift. She teaches online classes and retreats for spiritual development and inspiration. She also hosts a cohort, Sit & Write for mission-led authors.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
The lives and struggles of three different women through different eras of history are revealed in author Kurt Hansen’s historical fiction novel, “Daughters of Teutobod”.
Daughters of Teutobod is a story of love triumphing over hate, of persistence in the face of domination, and of the strength of women in the face of adversity.
Gudrun is the stolen wife of Teutobod, the leader of the Teutons in Gaul in 102 BCE. Her story culminates in a historic battle with the Roman army.
Susanna is a German American farm wife in Pennsylvania whose husband, Karl, has strong affinity for the Nazi party in Germany. Susanna’s story revolves around raising her three daughters and one son as World War II unfolds.
Finally, Gretel is the infant child of Susanna, now seventy-nine years old and a professor of women’s studies, a US senator and Nobel laureate for her World Women’s Initiative. She is heading to France to represent the United States at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of southern France, at the commemoration site where her older brother, who was killed in action nearby, is buried. The site is very near the location where the Romans defeated the Teutons.
As a history buff and advocate for feminism and equality in life, I loved this narrative. The balance of emotional storytelling and captivating and engaging character development was so great to see unfold in this story, and the vivid imagery the author deployed in this novel expertly brought the reader into these various periods of time.
Yet to me, what stood out the most was how immersive and adrenaline-fueled the narrative itself was as well as the settings of these different eras of time. The author did an incredible job of bringing these chaotic, violent, and brutal periods of history to life in a natural way, and yet honed in on the personal and quiet yet profound strength of the women that each era focused on. From the fight against enslavement against the Roman warriors to the staunch battle brewing within a German-American family at the height of WWII and how these two eras come weaving together in the more modern-day made this story shine so brightly.
Thoughtful, entertaining, and mesmerizing, author Kurt Hansen’s “Daughters of Teutobod” is a must-read historical fiction novel of 2022. The twists and turns these characters and their arcs take meld perfectly with the striking imagery the author’s writing utilizes and the strength and impactful journey of these women made this one story I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Kurt Hansen is from Racine, Wisconsin, and has lived in Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. He has experience in mental health and family systems as well as in parish ministry and administration. He holds degrees in psychology, social work and divinity. Kurt now lives in Dubuque, Iowa with his wife of 44 years, Dr. Susan Hansen, a professor emerita of international business. Kurt is the author of Gathered (2019). Daughters of Teutobod is his second novel.
Enjoy this Excerpt from Kurt Hansen’s “Daughters of Teutobod”
The smoke of the grist fires rose incessantly, grey black against the cloudy blue sky as the day meandered toward its middle hours. It was the season of harvest, and those konas who were able were out among the plantings, gleaning grain or digging turnips, carrots, or beets out of the black, loamy soil. Some ground grain into flour and some baked bread, while others tended the fires and the fleshpots. Still others were about the business of tanning hides, mostly of deer, raccoons, rabbits, or fox, occasionally from a bear. The smells of death intermingled with the breathing life and beating heart of the sveit.
Gudrun liked this time of day best. She grabbed another handful of golden wheatstalks, slicing off the grain heads with a strong whisking motion and dropping the grain into her tightly woven flaxen gathering bag. She paused for a moment, wiping the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. The sun was bright today, making the air steamy. Gudrun looked out across the hills, down the valley, past the wooded glades where she could see dozens of other kǫngulls like her own, and she knew there were even more beyond the reach of her eyes. Most of the kǫngulls contained about 100 persons, but some had more. As she fixed her gaze closer, to the kǫngull where she lived, she could see the jungen, chasing one another, some wielding sticks or branches, others seeking to escape the assaults of their aggressors. The jungmädchen were variously helping their mothers with cooking or cleaning vegetables or sewing hides; the kinder simply hid in corners or clung to their mothers’ legs.
Several hours passed, and now the sun was receding, thankfully, because its blazing, yellow glare kept breaking through the billowing clouds all day, intensifying the laborers’ fatigue. Gudrun emptied her grain bag into the large, woven basket at the edge of the planting. The basket was filled to the brim, and as she plunged both hands into the basket, letting the harvested grain sift between her fingers, a smile of satisfaction softened her face. Filling up her basket all the way to the top was for her, a measure of the goodness of the day. She hoisted the heavy basket, glad for the leather strap she had fashioned to carry it. Before she designed the strap, two women were needed to carry the woven baskets—one on either side—especially when full. But Gudrun decided to cut a long strip from the edge of a tanned deer hide and, with a sharp bone needle she affixed the strap to her basket, allowing her to shoulder the entire weight by herself.
When she first showed her invention, one of the men—Torolf—chastised her for taking the piece of deer hide. He pushed her to the ground and threatened worse, but Teutobod intervened, bashing Torolf on the head with his club and sending him reeling. Teutobod, Gudrun’s mann, was the undisputed leader of their sveit, and he had been their leader long before he took her for his wife, ever since the sveit’s earliest days in Jutland. He ordered that all the grain baskets be fashioned with straps for carrying, and Gudrun won the admiration of all the konas (and even some men). Torolf avoided her from then on.
As evening approached, it was time to prepare for the return of the männer. Most hunting excursions were a one-day affair, bringing in meat for perhaps a few days at best. But as the harvest season proceeded, the männer would leave for days at a time, seeking to increase supplies for the long winter to come. This foray had lasted nearly a week, but Gudrun was told by Teutobod to expect their return before seven suns had passed, and she shared this information with the some of the other konas. By now all the kongulls were preparing for the männer coming home.
As the sun began to set, the konas started pulling out skins from their bærs, unfolding them and laying them on the ground about the fire pits. The flesh pots were stirred and stoked, and a hearty stew was prepared with deer meats, mushrooms, yellow beans, potatoes, turnips and carrots, seasoned with salt and fennel and black peppercorns. Flasks of beer that had been cooling in the stream all day were brought to each firepit and hung on a stake which had been plunged in the ground for that purpose. Various dinner ware made from carved bone or fashioned out of wood or clay were laid out. All was in readiness.
An aura of anticipation and anxiety tumbled around the kǫngull, shortening tempers as the waiting lengthened. Finally, about an hour after the sun had fully set, the sound of the ram’s horn distantly blasted out its announcement: Die männer komme! The jungen were hustled away to the kinderbærs. One never knew the mood that might accompany the hunters when they returned, and things could and often did get ugly. The konas sat or knelt respectfully beside the firepits, twitching, nervously swatting insects away from the food, inhaling excitement and breathing out fear.
Soon the rustling of leaves and the snap of twigs underfoot grew louder and closer until the shadows brought forth the whole troop of men, bustling in to the kǫngull, carrying or dragging the meat they had procured, pounding their chests, howling, pulling on their scraggly hair or beards, banging the ground with clubs or spears and smelling of the hunt and of the forest. Similar sounds of triumph and dominion could be heard resonating throughout all the kǫngulls below as the männer clamored in across the entire sveit.
Here in Gudrun’s kǫngull, the konas kept their gaze to the ground, their eyes fixed on the fire, and as the hunters’ swagger slowly abated, one by one the konas silently lifted their plates above their heads, each looking up to her mann as they all found their respective places. Once the providers were all reclining on skins beside the firepits, the konas stood and began to prepare plates of food for them. The men ate loudly, hungrily, slurping the stew from the lips of the bowls and using hunks of bread to grasp chunks of meat and vegetables.
The food having been consumed, skinflasks of beer soon followed, and before long the sated belches and grunts of the eaters gave way to boisterous banter, the proud providers reliving the thrill of killing a stag or the bravery of facing a bear. The konas scraped up the leftovers to take to the huts for themselves and the children, after which the cleanup tasks commenced. The women worked in groups of three or four, tending two large boiling pots to soak the dinnerware until all remnants of the food floated up to the top and were skimmed off. A little more soaking, then all the dinnerware was stacked and stored for the next use. Gudrun, along with two other konas, took the job of drying the cleaned dishes, swinging a dish in each hand to move the air. They playfully swung the wet plates or cups at one another, spritzing each other in the process and giggling like little meyas.
This being the end of a prolonged hunting venture, the children were tucked in early in the kinderhäusen, and the konas prepared to receive their husbands. For those unlucky enough to have brutish men, their wifely duties were not at all pleasant. Others were more fortunate. Gudrun was happy to be among the latter, hoping only that the beer ran out before Teutobod’s love lust. She retreated to the bær she shared with her husband, glad for the privacy his role as leader provided. This entire kǫngull was comprised of the sveit’s leadership and their skuldaliðs, and as such it claimed luxuries not generally known throughout the sveit by underlings. The leaders camped furthest upstream, and therefore got the cleanest water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The leaders claimed individual space for themselves and their vifs, while others down below had to share living space with two or three other skuldaliðs.
Gudrun removed her garments and lay nude on the soft deerskins in her bær to prepare herself for her husband. Covering herself with another skin, she began to move her hands over her thighs and abdomen, softly, back and forth, her rough-skinned fingertips adapting to their more delicate uses. She moved a hand upward, swirling around her breasts and throat, teasing each nipple at the edges, holding back from contacting the most delicate flesh.
Her stroking and probing continued, a bit more urgently as she felt her breath rise and grow more heated. The muscles in her abdomen began to pulse, and as her hands found the sensitive spot between her legs, she felt the moisture beginning to flow inside her. When she was young Gudrun had learned from the older konas how to help her husband in this way, to ease his entrance and hasten his joy. Along the way, over the years, she also learned to enjoy herself more in the process. As the instinctive rocking motion in her pelvis began, she eased her manipulations, not wanting to be prematurely excited. Breathlessly, she looked toward the bær’s entrance, hoping Teutobod would hurry.
Fraser Sherman has a new steampunk mystery book out: Questionable Minds.
In Victorian England, 1888, there are those who say Sir Simon Taggart is under the punishment of God.
In an England swirling with mentalist powers — levitation, mesmerism, mind-to-mind telegraphy — the baronet is unique, possessed of mental shields that render him immune to any mental assault. Even his friends think it’s a curse, cutting him off from the next step in human mental and spiritual evolution. To Simon, it’s a blessing.
Four years ago, the Guv’nor, mystery overlord of the London underworld, arranged the murder of Simon’s wife Agnes. Obsessed with finding who hired the Guv’nor, Simon works alongside Inspector Hudnall and Miss Grey in Scotland Yard’s Mentalist Investigation Department. Immunity to mental telegraphy, clairvoyance and mesmerism are an asset in his work — but they may not be enough to crack the latest case.
A mysterious killer has begun butchering Whitechapel streetwalkers. With every killing, the man newspapers call “the Ripper” grows in mental power and in the brutality of his attacks. Is murder all that’s on his mind or does he have an endgame? And what plans do the Guv’nor and his army of agents have for Simon and the Whitechapel killer?
Questionable Minds is set in a Victorian England struggling to preserve the social hierarchy while mentalism threatens to overturn it. The cast of characters includes Dr. Henry Jekyll (and yes, his friend Edward Hyde too), Jack the Ripper, and multiple other figures from history and fiction.
Warnings: Graphic violence. Victorian sexism and imperialism.
Simon Taggart’s plunge into the abyss happened in an instant.
Col. Moran, seated at the dining table on Simon’s left, had said something to the Duke of Falsworth about a fellow hunter Moran had known in India committing suicide. Falsworth snidely observed that given the man’s debts, hanging himself had been the only possible solution.
And suddenly Simon was standing in the drawing room again. Staring up at Agnes in her white nightgown, hanging from the ceiling with her tongue protruding, her face blackened. Rage consumed him at the memory, rage at the men who’d brought about his wife’s death. Pearson Bartlett, mesmerist. The Guvnor, who’d given Bartlett his orders. And behind them, the unknown man who’d paid to have Agnes slain.
It was the scent of mutton that snapped him back to the Montworths’ dining room, a scent rising from the porcelain serving platter levitating through the air before him. Steered by Amanda Montworth’s vril, the platter bore the roast saddle of mutton down the long dining-room table. Her grey eyes were fixed on the platter, of course, as levitators depended on sight to focus their vril. The eyes of her parents and eleven uneasy guests were also watchful as the dish approached the epergne, the massive candelabra at the table’s center. Simon knew he wasn’t the only guest imagining what a shower of spilled gravy would do to their formal black waistcoats, jackets and white gloves, or the women’s elegant dresses.
The platter clinked against the epergne and shuddered for a moment, but Amanda, brow furrowed, regained her mental grip. The platter ceased quivering, backed away and settled into the hands of one of the footmen, to be served a la russe, around the table. Amanda gasped slightly as she released control.
“There, isn’t that remarkable, Sir Simon?” Buxom Mrs. Montworth flashed a smile at Simon, the wealthiest of her guests. “I don’t know anyone with the strength of mind my Amanda has, do you? Well, not anyone who is anyone, shall we say?”
“Mother, please,” Amanda said. “This is embarrassing.”
“No, you did quite well.” Simon smiled politely, forbearing to point out that for all the money John Montworth’s ironworks brought in, in London society the Montworths were emphatically not anyone. Amanda performing a servant’s duties only confirmed that, as the poor girl undoubtedly knew. “A strong mind is—an asset to the Empire.”
“When the turtle soup comes out, Amanda,” Mrs. Montworth went on, “I think you should levitate—”
“Oh, no, my dear Mrs. Montworth,” Simon said quickly, remembering soup spurting from a shattered tureen at another dinner he’d attended. Besides, Amanda had been embarrassed enough. “A girl as lovely and delicate as Amanda, no matter how strong her vril, should be careful not to overexert herself.” As Mrs. Montworth simpered and nodded, Amanda, who looked as delicate as one of her father’s foundry workers, smiled her thanks at Simon.
“That’s enough entertainment for this evening,” John Montworth said in his north-country accent. “Carmody?” Carmody, the butler, gestured for the footmen to resume their duties; it was a faux pas for Montworth to address a servant during dinner, but the past few minutes had utterly nonplussed the staff.
Simon considered Amanda sensible and good-hearted. It wasn’t her fault her vril manifested as a crude, physical ability, nor that her mother was as blind to the social graces as some men to colors. Fortunately, with several months before the start of the Season, the guests had few people they could gossip with—and there’d be much better gossip by January, when the Montworths presented Amanda at court.
“‘Preciate your help, Sir Simon.” John Montworth said, clipping off the end of his cigar as a servant filled Simon’s glass. The women had left the room moments before, allowing the men a half-hour or so to indulge themselves. “Mrs. Montworth’s dreadful proud of our girl having vril, she is—I try to tell her to be more discreet but—”
“It’s been a new world these past eight years,” Simon said, savoring Montworth’s peerless port. “Too new to have all the polite niceties of psychic usage down pat.” A courteous lie; everyone knew physical manifestations of mentalist power were completely inappropriate in society.
“You mean like yourself assisting Scotland Yard?” Thin, pallid Ronald Carpenter, Duke of Falsworth, smirked and blew a plume of smoke. “A man of your impeccable pedigree, mingling with the lowest orders? Gilbert and Sullivan could make a wonderful comic opera out of it if you ask me.”
“I don’t believe I did.” Simon’s anger surged up again, but the smile beneath his thin mustache stayed coldly formal. “And there is nothing comical about the beasts who use vril to prey upon others.” Like Pearson Bartlett, who could mesmerize a woman to put a noose around her own neck. “I do my duty to England, nothing more.”
His Grace met Simon’s cold stare, then looked away with affected unconcern. Dukes far outranked baronets, but Falsworth’s title was new, and the man was still insecure. A Taggart was never insecure.
“Men like your Inspector Hudnall have my highest respect,” Moran said to Simon. As usual the colonel had stuck with whiskey instead of port. “In the jungle or the London streets, it takes a sharp man to hunt predators successfully. And who’s better suited than you, Sir Simon, to the sport of hunting mentalists?”
“Hardly sport.” Simon replied. “Unlike you, colonel, I consider hunting man-eaters a public service, not an adventure.”
“But men like that are evolutionary dead ends,” Montworth said. “Thanks to Lady Helena, all mankind—almost all—will ultimately be elevated to a higher plane.” His glance had lit upon Simon at the “almost.” “The murderers, the butchers, the Varneys of the present day will become fairytales, like ogres or Bluebeard, in the world that is to come.”
It was a typical Theosophist sentiment, but Simon found he was in no mood to argue with it.
By the time Fraser Sherman graduated college he’d lost interest in his degree field. He tried writing and discovered he liked it. Since then he’s spent ten years as a journalist, sold two dozen short stories and five film reference books. His most recent book was the self-published Undead Sexist Cliches, about the stupidity of misogynist beliefs.
Although born in England, Fraser spent most of his life in Northwest Florida. He’d be there still if he hadn’t met his dream woman and moved to Durham NC to be with her. They’ve been married 11 years and are the proud parents of two small dogs and two half-domesticated cats.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Author and poet Alan S. Kessler take readers on a journey of beauty and melancholy in his book “Damnation and Cotton Candy”.
A book of poetry from Alan S. Kessler, the award-winning author of the 2022 Eric Hoffer Finalist Ghost Dancer, and other books. These are poems best served with hot cocoa, melancholy, and a sharp knife.
This was such a profound and captivating collection of poetry. The author’s ability to weave macabre imagery and atmosphere into the poetry while offering commentary on life itself was so engaging for a reader to behold. The natural way the author is able to weave dark tones with profound emotions was truly inspiring to behold.
Yet to me, it was the way the imagery blended with the deep-seated themes of this narrative. From politics and warfare to hollow niceties between strangers and corporations as a whole, the message of finding hope is not in the materialism of our current world but in the philosophy and spirituality that exists just on the fringes of our society as a whole.
Mesmerizing, haunting, and emotionally driven, author Alan S. Kessler’s “Damnation and Cotton Candy” is a must-read book of poetry. The imagery and atmosphere do a great job of portraying the capitalist machine of our world with the truly dark and macabre aspects of life, and readers will be hard-pressed to put this creative, artistic, and chilling book down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Alan Kessler grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He says, “Childhood shapes us. Mine was, ironically, a gift. The sadism of my mother and the violence of my father, a murderer who died in prison, created within me a countervailing force, the ability to write empathetically about characters who, as Faulkner said, not merely endure but prevail.”
“Resilience isn’t an achievement, it exists as a matter of luck. I was lucky. I have a wonderful wife and four caring, intelligent children–even a dog,” according to Kessler. “I am blessed.”
The creative process is mysterious. For me, it often consists of accumulation/distillation/accumulation, sifting ideas through different iterations and genres (art, poetry, performance). Micro-expressions of a central idea frequently become distinct projects and parts of a larger constellation of work. Along the way, much is gained, but also, sometimes, lost.
There are two stanzas from an early draft of Still, the Sky that aren’t found in the published work; although, traces of them remain. They were composed of an image that volunteered itself, left its mark, and vanished:
After the first of seven was plucked for the
Feast, the others would set up camp
Around the twists and turns of the pathways,
And they would plot to meet and spoil themselves,
To love the murder away, but they were kept
Apart, running from the gaze of the creature
Whose shadow you cast.
They would meet us from time to time,
Casual encounters, sometimes taking the time
To say what they thought, or how they felt,
What their days had been.
One even found a pet, an orange kitten
Who would disappear for days and then follow
As we made rounds, both intimate and mundane;
She would outlive him.
The first two stanzas remain. The second two are gone, all that mentioned the unnamed victim and the kitten that survived.
Still, the Sky is the result of a long process of iterative works over the past few years, different expressions of the characters, themes, and ideas which had their genesis during a theater residency/fellowship in the spring of 2019 with the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.
Before I arrived to the residency, I received a commission from La Jolla Playhouse in California to create a site-specific work for their biennial Without Walls Festival, and so I already knew I would be working with themes of sky and sea, flight and nautical culture. My site in San Diego was a desert labyrinth just beyond the tarmac of the San Diego airport (beneath the flight path, divided by a narrow waterway) and on the grounds of Liberty Station, a formal naval training base.
I also brought to the residency outtakes from The Sandpiper’s Spell (my first published volume) as another set of ideas. Most of the writings were coming-of-age themed or more recent explorations that didn’t have anywhere to go yet. In the first few weeks, I wrote something to bind them structurally and then put them aside for later—but as I began to storyboard ideas for the commission, filling up the walls with my Post-It Notes and columns of associations, I started to see a mythology unfolding through archetypes that would benefit from the specificity of personal experience.
The next series of developments happened over summer, in New York, where I worked with performers. We experimented with choreography, film, and art to find the characters and describe the textures and themes, all in an exhibition at the Ace Hotel New York gallery. Then in October, we premiered the site-specific Ikaros in San Diego. After that, I continued to experiment with performance and material culture, mixing these with virtual reality. These explorations took me into early 2020 as I worked with students and faculty at the Olin College of Engineering where I was in-residence.
But then the pandemic hit, and we were sent into lock down. At that time, I circled back to revise the manuscript further, adding the artwork to the pages. At this stage, the three-dimensionality of the world revealed itself. The many previous micro-expressions of the project had rendered complex characters and rich environments—and reflecting upon the spaces in which I had worked, other elements emerged—for instance, the seagulls in Italy, nesting in the cliffs below my studio. Their mating rituals and fierce protection of their nests, their daily patterns, and the endlessness of sky and sea became dominant images of the main plot. And, in San Diego, an orange kitten also left her mark, shaping the timbre of a subplot.
Throughout the grounds of Liberty Station in San Diego, there was a population who made residence, whether temporarily passing through or on a more semi-permanent basis, in tents or lean-tos. As we were making Ikaros, we were careful not to displace, to be mindful, respectful, and in communication with the denizens of the space. Early on, one of the park residents came through rehearsals to chat with us about the work, the mythology, his observations of us in the site. He carried an orange kitten with him. Later, the kitten would come to rehearsals on her own and sometimes participate.
There was a particular section with a long spindle of fabric which was unfurled to make the footprint of a labyrinth, and the kitten would stand threateningly at the edge of the rosemary bushes watching this giant ball of string, little shivers rippling along her spine—adding another layer of drama.
We began to expect her. She started to show up consistently to rehearsals, but by the time we got to performance, she had gone elsewhere, only later to appear in another scene she’d never rehearsed, under full lights and in front of a paying audience.
We rolled with it, but she stole the scene. She even got some social media coverage.
When the performances were finished, I went back to the poetry, and I took her image with me, writing her into the manuscript. In fact, I took the whole of the experience, the denizens of the space, the rosemary, the sounds, the smells, textures, animals, insects, birds, weather, and flight patterns all into consideration. The specificities of the lived experience were folded into the creative mix to further shape the world of the book.
By the time I arrived at a final draft, the overt mention of the kitten was gone, but her paw prints were all over it in subtle and invisible ways within the text and artwork (“a predator moving in right cycles, leaving us unharmed… treachery in the tall grass…”).
Reflecting later on The Sandpiper’s Spell, I realized the image of a pet outliving a companion was already a seed planted in the poem “Day Dreams.” The idea had carried forward, woven itself into the new work, then out again. Perhaps it will return and make more of itself in whatever I create next.
I have begun to meditate on what these little threads mean over time, how a body of work forms from the scraps of previous work, how material moves forward and themes reiterate, or ideas sift and fold back together again to create specificity. It becomes a pattern for world building, one iteration at a time. It makes the work larger through the micro-expressions along the way—allowing for volunteer images that might invisibly imprint upon the eventual narrative.
Little paw prints.
About the Author
Tom Pearson is an artist and poet who works in dance, theater, film, visual art, and multi-media. He is known for his original works for theater, including the long-running, off-Broadway immersive hits THEN SHE FELL and THE GRAND PARADISE and as a founder and co-artistic director of the New York City-based Third Rail Projects and Global Performance Studio.
He is the author of two books, THE SANDPIPER’S SPELL and STILL, THE SKY. More information available at his website and on social media at: tompearsonnyc.com and @tompearsonnyc.
E.M. Hamill has a new queer space opera out (non-binary, gender fluid, pansexual, gay), The Dalí Tamareia Missions book 3: Third Front. And there’s a giveaway.
Dalí Tamareia has the terrorist Skadi in their sights – but bringing her in may cost them everything.
Dalí’s role as an undercover operative is compromised, putting a target on their back and threatening the close-knit team aboard Thunder Child. A new lead on Miriam Skadi’s activities forces them back to Luna, where they must confront everything they tried to run from…including their changed relationship with Rion Sumner, who insists on backing up Dalí for this investigation.
But Dalí is not the only one searching for Skadi. An alien presence hunts the terrorist as well, taking over Sumner’s body to ensure Dalí’s cooperation. With their team on the other side of the solar system Dalí must depend on this questionable ally to complete the mission, which takes a deadly turn when an old nemesis resurfaces.
If there is any chance for a future with Sumner and their chosen family, Dalí must exorcise the demons haunting them, or they will burn in the heart of a star.
The flint-blue curve of Earth filled the transparent alloy of the windshield. Even gravely wounded, humanity’s ancestral home was breathtaking. Phantoms of arid golden continents haunted breaks in the heavy cloud-cover; oceans glinted like winks of mercury in Sol’s light. The atmosphere was beginning to clear, but it would take the surface longer to purge the toxic aftermath of war and pollution from soil and sea
How in the seven hells did we manage to fuck up a whole planet?
“Prepare for drop,” Sumner murmured into his headset. I braced myself.
“In five. Four. Three. Two … “
The magnet released us. Sumner fired top thrusters to quickly maneuver the ship away from the hull and we floated free. “We’re clear.”
“See you soon,” Ozzie said. Thunder Child left us in her wake, heading off to complete the surveillance mission. Sumner throttled the little craft into motion and carved an arc in space, putting the planet behind us.
And there it was.
The moon’s disc swelled before us, painted in silver and ash. In the nightfall of Earth’s passing shadow, the lunar plains of Mare Nubium sparkled with lights, and at the southern horn of the penumbra’s crescent, where light and darkness embraced, lay the place I once called home.
“Have you ever been to Luna?” My uneven voice betrayed the winding tension inside me.
“No.” Sumner glanced at me, but I kept my gaze on the moon, unable to meet his eyes. “I’ve only been to the major space stations before Mars. Where did you live?”
“Kepler. You can just make out a hexagon of complexes north of the crater.”
“I see it.”
“The apex dome, Galileo, is where the Capitol is. The University is under Kepler, at the middle left. That’s where … where we … “
Memories lay bitter and sweet on my tongue, the ache in my throat a hot coal. Oh, coming back was such a bad idea.
“The—” I coughed to clear the suffocating thickness from my voice. “The old city is in the industrial complex at the bottom of Bullialdus Crater, that cluster of rectangular structures near the shuttle port.”
A sparkle of transparent alloy and steel caught my eye as we got closer. My palms grew damp.
Luna Terminal gleamed against the void of space. Intact, as if the explosion that shattered the Earthward docking arm and killed so many innocent people had never happened. As if my heart was still whole and strong, not the bruised piece of meat thudding too fast in my chest.
The restored line of windows where Gresh and ‘Sida once stood to bid me goodbye were blank and flawless. Empty.
The spring-coil of anxiety suddenly exploded into shards and hollowed out my insides. I forgot to breathe, my white-knuckled fingers clenching the edge of the jump seat.
Fuck Kiran Singh. No matter what Mother England wanted to tell me, I should never have agreed to come back.
My breath ran shallow in the heavy gravity of blind panic. I fumbled with the stiff buckle of the five-point harness.
“Dalí? You okay?” Sumner’s quiet voice cut through the noise in my head.
“I can’t … ” The clasp wouldn’t give, my sweat-slick fingers numb and buzzing. “God damn it! I need to get out of the cockpit.”
“Hey, hey.” He extended his right hand and gently laid it over mine where I scrabbled at the release. “We’re in Three. Where are you going to go?”
I gave up trying and gripped his hand, pressing it against my chest.
“I’m here,” he said, his voice low and soothing. “Breathe. A deep breath. Come on, you can do it.”
I drew in a shuddering gasp, filled my lungs with air, and just as unevenly let it out.
The second one was less painful. “I’m sorry,” I managed to wheeze. “I didn’t think it would hit me this hard.”
“You thought you were prepared. You weren’t. Not yet.”
His hand was warm, and I hugged it like an anchor against the free-fall of chaos. I didn’t let go until my breathing was closer to normal and I knew I wouldn’t fall apart. His touch calmed me, and at the same time it created a ripple of longing I wasn’t ready to deal with. That was finally what made me let go.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, releasing his hand with a sheepish press of gratitude, and scrubbed my wet eyes with my palms. It was the first episode in months since I’d started the meds. I was fiercely glad Thunder Child was out of our implanted coms’ range and my teammates had not been remote witnesses to this meltdown. “I feel ridiculous.”
“Never feel that way.” The gentle admonition made me glance up and meet his eyes. Aquamarine sparks snapped in the depths of his irises as he held my gaze. “What you witnessed can’t be processed all at once. It comes out in pieces because it’s too much.”
“That felt like a huge chunk.” But the empty space had begun to collapse on itself. The void softly filled with a new substrate and covered the scree of old trauma as we stared at each other. Once again, Rion Sumner showed me the side I wanted to know better, and I desperately wanted to know it when I wasn’t a fucking mess he had to prop up.
“Port Armstrong to approaching vessel.” Three’s com blared as Luna Station’s control center registered our presence. The emotionless mechanical voice in our headsets startled both of us. “Verify identity and destination.”
Sumner toggled his mic with what I swore was irritation. “Port Armstrong, Midak 3 requesting approach.”
“Midak 3, transmitting approach vectors,” the artificial controller’s voice replied.
The instrument panel came alive with lights and coordinates. Auto-piloting sequences blinked suggestively on the data screen. Of course, Sumner chose to pilot Three manually, our moment of connection sublimated into preparation to enter lunar airspace.
I silently cursed the cock-blocking AI running the tower and sat back to watch him guide our little craft into the deep well of Bullialdus Crater, a bright path of syncopated flashes leading us into the underground terminal. The small, rocking thump of landing sent a shiver through me.
Luna. The people who had made it my home no longer existed, yet here I was.
Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and wherever she can steal quality time with her laptop.
She lives with her family in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Readers are treated to a practical and thoughtful approach to wedding planning in authors Edna Dratch-Parker and Jeri Solomon’s “Guide to Smart Wedding Planning”.
The Real Deal Wedding Insiders® Guide to Smart Wedding Planning gives you practical and actionable steps to take control of your wedding planning, make the best decisions, and keep your sanity along the way.
You’ll learn how to:
* Navigate stressful relationships
* Create a vision that represents you both
* Understand and build a realistic budget
* Choose the right venue and vendors
* Stay present and enjoy your wedding day
This was such an insightful and engaging book. The authors did an amazing job of taking the reader through the journey of wedding planning in great detail without losing themselves to an overabundance of backstories. The way authors were able to craft an interactive and educational read that has real-world practical applications that the reader will be able to share immediately.
The breakdown of information and reliability of the authors and their work is what stood out to me. The way the authors take the reader through every step of the wedding planning process, from the moment that you become engaged to the moment the wedding is over, was fantastic to read about, as there are so many aspects of the wedding process that the average reader doesn’t even think about. From the emotional side of things like learning how to be present in the moment of the wedding day to the finances and practical side of things that come with setting a budget with the person funding the wedding, this book does a great job of delving into the most important information that readers will be able to apply immediately.
Informative, thoughtful, and engaging, authors Edna Dratch-Parker and Jeri Solomon’s “Guide to Smart Wedding Planning” is a must-read book for the engaged couple seeking help with their wedding this season. The memorable and interactive writing style will keep readers invested in the information the authors have provided, and the brilliant and concise way the authors have collected this information will stay with readers well into their own weddings and beyond. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Authors
With a combined 30 years and hundreds of weddings produced, Edna Dratch-Parker, founder, and creative director of EFD Creative—Event Planning & Design, and Jeri Solomon, owner of Jeri Solomon Floral Design, bring their depth of knowledge and real-life experiences to help couples avoid common mistakes, reduce stress, and truly enjoy the wedding planning process.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A woman fleeing her abusive husband moves into a 19th-century farmhouse, where she meets and soon falls in love with a poet who died in 1917, but as the curse that has kept him bound to the land is running out, they must discover how far they are willing to go for their love in author Amy S. Cutler’s “A Shadow of Love”.
When Annabelle flees her abusive husband and moves into an 1860’s farmhouse, she soon learns that she is not alone; she shares her home with Christian, the ghost of a poet who killed himself in 1917. Christian, wanting nothing but solitude, tries to scare Annabelle away, but once they come together while she is dreaming, they fall in love. The clock is ticking for Christian, for moments after his hanging his fiance magically cursed his spirit to be stuck on earth for one hundred years, and his time is almost up.
With Annabelle’s ex threatening her and the spirit she has fallen in love with on the verge of disappearing, Annabelle becomes obsessed with staying with Christian, and will do anything to be with him.
Being in love with a ghost is bad enough, but for Annabelle, discovering that her true love will be crossing over at any moment pushes her over the edge of reckless behavior.
What a truly brilliant paranormal romance read. The author did an incredible job of finding just the right balance between supernatural elements and the passionate romance that develops within this narrative. Despite the modern era, this book is written in, the tone and style of writing the author utilize almost conjures up in the reader’s mind a gothic romance of sorts as if this story could easily be played out in a Victorian England manor.
Yet it was the author’s blend of atmosphere and character development that really sold this story. The complex backstories of both the protagonists really showcased the trauma and experiences that each of them bonded over. The cast of characters surrounding them helped flesh out this world and kept Annabelle tied to the physical world as her heart drifted to the supernatural romance beckoning her. The setting itself felt very atmospheric, capturing the tone and genre perfectly and keeping me invested in these characters’ stories.
Haunting, emotionally driven, and thoughtful, author Amy S. Cutler’s “A Shadow of Love” is a must-read paranormal romance novel that fits perfectly into the fall season. The rich dynamics between these characters and the twists and turns their journey takes will have readers on the edge of their seats, while the final pages will hit readers right in the heart. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
Amy S Cutler, author of A Shadow of Love earned her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Most recently she was published in Slut Vomit: An Anthology of Sex Work and featured in the Tales to Terrify Podcast, among others. Her writing focus is suspense, horror, science fiction, and ghost stories. She can be contacted through AmysHippieHut.com. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Blog Tour Calendar
October 3rd @ WOW! Women on Writing
Join us as we celebrate the launch of Amy S. Cutler’s book A Shadow of Love. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
On March 10, 2020, I sat down and wrote “Unacknowledged,” but before I ever sat down and wrote that poem, I already had so many poems I wrote while working in the toxic workplace.
I began working there as an administrative assistant after Thanksgiving 2018. I recognized that the place was dark and dimly lit and seemed to be full of problems. After the interview, I realized how much I truly did not want to take that job but felt like maybe the difference I made at my last job by being a force for good by choosing kindness and mercy would be something I could extend to this place.
Everyone I know was happy for me as I finally would be working full time following college, but not everything that glitters is actually gold.
To cope with the harassment and abuse, I would write poems, but a lot of my poems started hinting at something I never saw coming. I was definitely falling in love fast and hard with the young man I had befriended there.
It was therapeutic to work eight hours a day there and try to do whatever good I could while also have this secret love that no one knew about.
Which was how “Unacknowledged” came to be. I had all these feelings that were basically suppressed instead of expressed, which I understood was the key to my healing.
Once I sat down and wrote that poem on March 10, 2020, I knew it was time to let this poetry collection pour out of me.
“Unacknowledged” was 35 stanzas and 738 words. And what came out when I sat down to write this poem is the same poem you read in the collection. I present to you “Unacknowledged.”
I shouldn’t be writing this
A psychic told me that
“Nothing would come from this situation.”
A counselor told me not to feed you
With my thoughts or mental energy
I keep thinking about when I put a novel out
Should I acknowledge you and your seasonal
Part in my story?
It’s this persistent picture that
keeps playing in my head.
I see your nickname on the page
Where you dedicate a book to someone.
How do you dedicate a book to someone who blocked you on Facebook?
Ignores your texts?
Never offered an explanation
About why he no longer wanted to be friends with you?
Were you scared that I would beg you to love me?
I am sorry that I left without telling you
That I would never blame you for the
Bad and evil things I witnessed and experienced
at the hands of someone
with envy in their heart
and greed stuck
between their tongue
and their teeth.
I didn’t know what to say to you
I didn’t know if you would
Tell me to stay or
be angry With me
I saw them
For who they are
Instead of just pretending
I was dumb, deaf, and blind.
Gone is your musical laugh and the sparkle in your eyes
As you would smirk at me
With this synchronicity
You thought it was
All a ringless circus too.
The guy in the top hat
The Greatest Showman
No Hugh Jackman
He couldn’t juggle,
Or tame a caged lion.
Spitting fire was his one and only talent
As the master of Ceremonies,
The elephant he rode
Would spray water from her trunk
Killing dreams, Hopes, and new ideas
Left and right
She was angry because her ringmaster clipped
Her wings and convinced her she couldn’t fly.
Fly she could but he kept her chained.
Chained and dependent on him
for bread, water, and a place to rest her head.
Yet, he would demean her
Keep her feeling small
So she always had to
In his eyes only…
It was a dark and dreary
Tim Burton movie
We were a part of
But like Zac Efron and Zendaya
In the Greatest Showman,
The characters we played
Were not convinced
Their love was enough
To make it.
Were you mad that I cared about you
Or were you mad because
there was nothing we could do about it?
Were you mad that I had the courage
And open door to grasp my freedom
Before they hung me
Like the witch they believed me to be?
I did care about you.
I was so thankful for you.
I think you are a beautiful person.
So ordinary but extraordinary all in one person.
Such an enigma.
To me, you will always be a mystery.
Our timing was neither wrong nor right.
You were good to me.
I encouraged you.
You made me feel heard.
You didn’t look at me
For my body or physique.
Yet, whenever I looked at you
I felt ok to be me.
And for that,
I can’t regret
How I fell for you
With no real
Motive or reason.
I just loved you.
I still love you.
But you won’t talk to me.
So I guess I will write you the dedication
Because it feels better to acknowledge you
Than pretend you didn’t matter to me.
That you still matter to me.
That I don’t think of you when I listen to Billie Eillish
And remember how I made you laugh because I said she may be a Satanist.
Yet, just the notion of that didn’t make you
Flinch or judge me, and you never forget
Someone like that.
Someone who runs towards you and your outlandishness
Instead of away from it.
Someone who makes you repeat what you said
Even if you mumbled it because it deserved to be
Someone who always helped me, talked to me,
And believed in me until you didn’t.
Someone who I miss
Someone who I pray for every single day
Someone like YOU
You have to acknowledge someone like that.
Even if it was only a series of moments
they made an ordinary boring job and
Just the thought of you makes me look back
At those months of my life and smile.
Even with tears in my eyes.
I’ve let you go
but I just had to let you know
that I acknowledge
all you were to me and
all I hope you become.
This is for you
About the Author
Chelsea DeVries wanted to be a writer at the age of 7. Her first publishing credit came at the age of 14 with a poem in a student anthology. She then wrote nonstop while doing IB classes in high school. She published two YA novels while still in high school which after over 10 years she rewrote as a NA romance that she looks to put out as her next publication. She is a seeker of justice and uses her words to free this world’s outcasted, peculiar, and underdogs from the chains that bind them. When not writing she runs and does PR for authors and musicians with her bookish brand The Smart Cookie Philes. Though she’s Florida born and raised, she has New Jersey in her veins. She currently lives in Port Richey, FL with her squad of two dogs. In October 2020, DeVries was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of Autism.