#BookSale “The World Doesn’t Require You: Stories” by Rion Amilcar Scott

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Finalist • PEN / Jean Stein Book Award

Longlisted • Aspen Words Literary Prize

Best Books of the Year: Washington Post, NPR, Buzzfeed and Entropy

Best Short Story Collections of the Year: Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, the New York Public Library, and Electric Literature

Welcome to Cross River, Maryland, where Rion Amilcar Scott creates a mythical universe peopled by some of the most memorable characters in contemporary American fiction.
 
Set in the mythical Cross River, Maryland, The World Doesn’t Require You heralds “a major unique literary talent” (Entertainment Weekly). Established by the leaders of America’s only successful slave revolt in the mid-nineteenth century, the town still evokes the rhythms of its founding. With lyrical prose and singular dialect, Rion Amilcar Scott pens a saga that echoes the fables carried down for generations—like the screecher birds who swoop down for their periodic sacrifice, and the water women who lure men to wet death.

 

Among its residents—wildly spanning decades, perspectives, and species—are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God’s last son; Tyrone, a ruthless, yet charismatic Ph.D. candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who obeys his Master. Culminating with an explosive novella, The World Doesn’t Require You is a “leap into a blazing new level of brilliance” (Lauren Groff) that affirms Rion Amilcar Scott as a writer whose storytelling gifts the world very much requires.

 

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#BookBlitz “Everyday Magic” by Charlie Laidlaw

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Great news! If you pre-order a copy of Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw and you will receive a signed edition! But you have to order before May 26th!

Everyday Magic Front cover FINALEveryday Magic

Expected Publication Date: May 26th, 2021

Genre: Literary fiction/ Contemporary Fiction/ Humour

Publisher: Ringwood Publishing

Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.

Pre-Order HERE!

About the Author

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Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.

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#BookTour “Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside” by Stephanie Harper

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Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

Date Published: October 26, 2020

Publisher: Propertius Press

 

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When an agoraphobic man develops a relationship with a vivacious grocery delivery woman, the order he prescribes to his apartment, and his world, begins to crumble around him. Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside explores the life of Wesley Yorstead, a thirty-three year old graphic novelist who suffers from a severe case of agoraphobia that has kept him shut inside for over five years. When he meets Happy Lafferty for the first time, delivering groceries on behalf of her father’s neighborhood market, Wesley can’t shake the inherent magnetism between them and seeks to get to know this young woman who invades his space—both physical and mental. As their relationship grows more intimate, the restrictions of his situation become an even greater obstacle. When Happy’s past comes back to haunt her, Wesley must decide if he can finally leave his apartment to help. A meditation on anxiety, fear, and human connection, Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside asks the reader to consider what our fears take away from our lives, and how we might overcome them.

Finalist for the Colorado Book Awards in the general fiction category

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EXCERPT

Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside

Part One: Inside

Inside my apartment, I have everything I need. For a single inhabitant, it’s more than sufficient, with a bedroom large enough for a queen bed, a spacious bathroom, and an open living space with a full kitchen. It has several windows and a door. People tell me the building’s in a prime location in the heart of the Mile High City. They tell me this is important. It’s not a terrible city. I’m certain there are worse.  I remember a field trip I took in grade school. I stood in awe on the steps of the State Capital, with a round marker set into the marble, showing the exact elevation of 5,280 feet.  How Denver earned its nickname. A strange sense of accomplishment overwhelmed me as I planted myself on that stairway, above so much of the world.

I haven’t been to that bronze domed building in years. The stainless steel supports have eroded under decades of weathering and the uppermost portions have begun to crumble in structural decay. I haven’t seen this myself. I haven’t seen a lot of things. My apartment is on the third floor of an old brick building and if I look out the large window along the east wall of my living room, I see a park—a fragment of grass and trees imprisoned by towering condos on all sides. Concrete pathways weave through the area, with a bridge over the river. When the weather permits, these walkways convey people on bicycles, couples with clasped hands and disposable coffee cups, and lone women walking small dogs on florescent leashes. If I look farther I can see the Denver skyline hovering over brick buildings in the distance, glowing yellow-green against the night sky. If I look.

I never open the window in my living room. I did once, the first year I moved. I’d begun to spend more time inside by then, aware that when I went anywhere, I’d become overwhelmed by the utter unpredictability of people and places. Anything could happen out there. This expectancy that something would happen tightened down in the center of my chest and made it harder and harder to endure any kind of new situation. Still, I had occasional moments when I longed to participate in some small way. And in a quiet instance of contemplation, I entertained the notion that if I opened my window for some fresh air, the sounds of the city, even a breeze, might ease the cabin fever. But the Platte River has always been rank with human garbage and the swampy aroma of moss and mildew, the noise of rowdy people traversing the sidewalk below, grated on my nerves. I haven’t opened my window since. That was five and a half years ago, six months to the day before the last time I left my apartment, the day I realized I’d never leave again. October 27, 2004.

I have everything I need inside.

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About the Author

Stephanie Harper is the author of Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside (Propertius Press, 2020), as well as a poetry collection entitled Sermon Series (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. She’s written personal essays and articles for many publications online and in print. She currently lives in Littleton, CO.

 

 

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#Excerpt “A Lifetime of Men” by Ciahnan Darrell

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Literary Fiction

Date Published: August 26, 2020 (ebook); September 22, 2020 (print)

Publisher: Propertius Press

 

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Tolan has always let her mother have one secret — how she got that scar on her face — playing along with her mother’s game of inventing outlandish tales to explain the wound away. But when she finds a manuscript on her mother’s computer that promises to reveal the true story, Tolan only hesitates for a moment before curiosity compels her to read on.

She’s hoping for answers, but instead, she finds more mysteries tucked away in her mother’s past. Her mother appears to be associated with Bo, a feisty photojournalist who flies to Cuba in pursuit of a story and becomes embedded with Castro’s rebels, but Tolan can’t quite work out their connection. She’s more clear about the relationship between her mother and Michael, a man twelve years her senior. They bond over their shared outcast status, and their friendship quickly becomes intimate, but the relationship antagonizes the self-appointed moral watchdogs in their small town, who start to convert their threats into
action. Tolan is pretty sure that Michael is her father. Her mother told her he died years ago, but the book suggests their story had a different ending.

Almost overnight, everything Tolan thought she knew about herself and her family has changed. She wants answers, but to find them, she risks destroying her closest relationships.

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EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE

Tolan’s been sitting at her mother’s computer long enough that the fat blocks of sunlight on the carpet have withered to emaciated fingers. She just needs to print her paper, but the essay is fifteen pages long and their printer secondhand slow. Boredom sends her eyes wandering over the photos that cover the walls, pictures of Tolan and her mother, mostly, and some of Tolan with her best friend, Tori. Tolan likes to pretend that she wants her mother to take them down, from time to time, so other people won’t see them, but her mother never does, because she knows that Tolan not-so-secretly loves them, even if she’s being silly and making faces.

Tolan looks at a picture of the three of them from last Halloween, and smiles. She and Tori had talked Tolan’s mother into dressing up with them so they could go as the witches from Hocus Pocus. Her mother hadn’t seen the movie, and wasn’t exactly cool, so she didn’t know that women’s Halloween costumes tended toward raunchy, and she came out of her room in the one the girls had picked out blushing scarlet. Tolan shakes her head, chuckling. They’d taken pity on her eventually and let her hide in the car, but not before they asked one of the men handing out candy to take a picture of the three of them.

Tolan actually thinks the picture came out really well, all things considered, and there was the added comedic bonus of placing Tori, who was 5’3”, between Tolan and her mother, who were 6’2” and 6’4.” Even her mother, who hates having her picture taken, and probably hadn’t even heard of foundation until Tori did her makeup that night, admits to liking the picture, in large part, Tolan thinks, because Tori had used concealer to hide that scar that runs from her mother’s right cheek to her eyebrow.

Tolan listens to the printer rumble and reset, her knee bouncing and her hand jiggling the mouse and sending the cursor careening about the screen, document titles and program names flashing as it moves over them, spreadsheets and inventory lists for her mother’s bookstore. Then a file catches her eye: ‘The Tall Girl.doc.’ Tolan opens it:

Sarah woke when the window shattered. She’d fallen asleep on the living room floor. The brick landed thunderously and cartwheeled, catching the meat of her cheek as it ripped over her brow, crashing to a halt against the couch behind her. The clock ticked, baseboards creaked. She heard a car, a dog, nothing, pushed herself off the ground; a shriek of pain ripped through her as a shard of glass bit deep into the flesh of her palm.

The last three pages of her essay have slipped off the printer tray and onto the floor, but Tolan doesn’t notice. She feels like she’s been struck. Her mother’s name is Pan, not Sarah, but that brick, the way it caught Sarah’s cheek… Tolan looks back at the pictures, the one from Halloween where her mother’s scar is hidden, then at the others.

It had been a game between them, the scar. Tolan would ask how it happened, and her mother would invent a wild story: she fought off fifty cannibals in the Amazon, was abducted by homicidal aliens two Fridays in a row; she got into an altercation with a conspiracy of angry lemurs.

But they’d never play that game again, now, because they couldn’t, because the scar had become a brand that marked her mother as a stranger and a liar, as a woman with a secret past and false present.

The church bells are tolling six o’clock; her mother will be home soon. She emails the file to herself, collects her paper, and walks back to her room.

Her guitar is in the corner, waiting; she plays every day, especially when she’s confused or troubled or frustrated. She always starts by tuning it, though it’s never really out of tune. The ritual soothes her, helps her think or not think, silences the rush and babble of voices in her head.

Tolan takes it from its stand, gently, as always, but quickly, too, because she doesn’t want to think anymore. Her guitar is a Patrick James Eggle Parlour Cuban that Tori gave her for her birthday. Sometimes Tolan says it to herself, repeats the five names over and over until she feels calm again. Tolan has memorized snatches of the write-up the guitar received: “impressively grown-up… open timbre: warm, smooth… richly textured… counterpointed by a sweetly sustaining bite in the highs.”

If her mother knew what it cost she’d make her give it back, but Tori said it was no big deal. Her parents have more money than they knew what to do with.

Tolan is wondering why her mother never told her she was writing a book as she strums the first chords, but she’s lost in the music by the second bar, words stealing from her lips, meek as children.

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About the Author

Ciahnan Darrell’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, most recently in The Columbia Review, and his story, ‘What Remains,’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a contributing editor at
Marginalia, an international review of literature along the nexus of history, theology, and religion. He holds an MDiv from the University of Chicago, an MA in philosophy and the arts from Stony Brook University, and an MA and PhD in comparative literature from the University at Buffalo. A Lifetime of Men is his first novel.

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#BookBlitz “Jenny on the Street” by David Haldane

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And Other Tales of Reverence and Revolution by a Very Young Man

Literary Fiction, Short Stories

Published: January 2021

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

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“Dark and twisted a bit like Stephen King,” is how one reader recently described “Jenny on the Street: And Other Tales of Reverence and Revolution by a Very Young Man.”

A desperate young woman lost on the drug-infested streets of London, an insane revolutionary holding the devil in a jar, an indifferent truck driver forced to run over cats and a reverent grandmother looking for God in a rock. All of them are among the unforgettable characters inhabiting these 13 short stories set amidst the magic, majesty, mystery, and mayhem of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a surreal era of extreme idealism, exaggerated exuberance, ferocious fearlessness, and foolish folly. A period in which the scent of change permeated every tree, town, and tent. A time, in other words, much like our own.

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Excerpt

THE SUN’S TRUMPETER

Mornings you could see him from the boardwalk. See him, that is, if you happened to be up that early. A tiny, upright silhouette bathed by the endless orange of the sunrise over the sea. You couldn’t tell what he was doing all alone on the beach at that hour. Probably nothing, you’d think. Perhaps he was just walking. It’d make a nice photo; wish I had my camera, you’d think. And then you’d hurry on your way because it had been a wicked all-nighter and you were eager to get home for some much-needed sleep.

But long after you had gone, long after you lay dreaming comfortably in the mahogany bed next to your wife, the sad silhouette remained on the beach. Remained, outlined by the increasingly brilliant sunrise, like a stubborn matchstick in the corner of a fireplace refusing to be consumed by the fire it had kindled.

The first time Sean ever saw the gleaming trumpet, it had been sitting in the window of George’s Loan & Music Co. on King Street. The boy’s eyes had lit up, but he said nothing. Sean seldom did say anything. But it was enough to catch the attention of his grandfather, who stayed finely attuned to virtually any emotion that clawed its way to the surface of the young boy’s face. “Do you like that trumpet?” the old man asked. “Would you like to take it home?” As usual, nothing erupted from the boy’s mouth. But the light in his eyes seemed to flare for an instant, just long enough to spark a decision on his grandfather’s part. “Let’s go in,” he said. “Let’s take a look.” And that was the beginning of Sean’s obsession with the ancient trumpet someone had hawked, and his grandfather had bought.

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About The Author


David Haldane, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, authored the award-winning 2015 memoir “Nazis & Nudists.” In addition to his journalism, essays and short fiction, Haldane has written and produced radio features for which he was awarded a Golden Mike by the Radio & Television News Assn. of Southern California. He currently divides his time– with his wife and two children–between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where he writes a weekly newspaper column called “Expat Eye.”

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#BookTour “No Birds Sing Here” by Daniel V. Meier, Jr.

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Literary Fiction

Date Published: March 1, 2021

Publisher: Boutique of Quality Books

In this indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time, two young pseudo-intellectuals, Beckman and Malany, set out on an odyssey to define the artistic life, and in doing so, unleash a barrage of humorous, unintended consequences. NO BIRDS SING HERE is a multi-layered novel about a Post-Modernist America in which characters are struggling to survive in an increasingly chaotic world.

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Excerpt

Beckman struggled with renewed desperation at his bonds;

pulling, jerking, twisting, when unexpectedly he felt them give,

just a little, then more, struggling until he had wiggled a hand free.

Quickly he pulled the rest of the cords from his other hand and

ankles, then untied Honey, who was breathing the way she had in

the back seat of the Model A.

“Quietly now, let’s creep out of here.”

Honey nodded, disheveling her hair. “The keys,” Honey whispered.

Beckman put his finger to his lips. “Go to the car. I’ll get them

from his pocket. If you’ll . . . ”

“No way. I’m sticking with you.”

“All right, but be very quiet.”

Together they tiptoed to the old man. Beckman, with soundless

gentility, picked the man up from the table and leaned him upright

in the chair, retching at the decayed stench that swam up from his

body. The moment Beckman reached into his pocket the man’s eye

popped open with drunken surprise. Beckman jammed his hand

into the man’s pocket again, fingers hunting madly for the keys.

The old man opened his mouth, but before he could get anything

out, Honey grabbed one of the bones off the table. It was sharp and

jagged at one end where it had been broken and gnawed. Holding

the rounded joint end and, using the jagged end of the bone as a

primitive knife, she jabbed it into the man’s one good eye. He yelled

a bubbly, underwater type scream and fell backward. Beckman

quickly found the keys in the other pocket as the old man twisted

in agony on the floor.

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About The Author

A retired Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has always had a passion for writing. During his college years, he studied History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW) and American Literature at The University of Maryland Graduate School. In 1980 he published an action/thriller with Leisure Books under the pen name of Vince Daniels.

He also worked for the Washington Business Journal as a journalist and has been a contributing writer/editor for several aviation magazines. In addition to No Birds Sing Here, he is the author of the award-winning historical novel, The Dung Beetles of Liberia, released in September 2019 by BQB Publishing.

Dan and his wife live in Owings, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Annapolis and when he’s not writing, they spend their summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

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#ReleaseBlitz “No Birds Sing Here” by Daniel V. Meier, Jr.

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Literary Fiction

 

Date Published: March 1, 2021

Publisher: Boutique of Quality Books

In this indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time, two young pseudo-intellectuals, Beckman and Malany, set out on an odyssey to define the artistic life, and in doing so, unleash a barrage of humorous, unintended consequences. NO BIRDS SING HERE is a multi-layered novel about a Post-Modernist America in which characters are struggling to survive in an increasingly chaotic world.

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Excerpt

Beckman thought that this would be an excellent metaphor for his first novel, just the thing he had been looking for. Often during that month, the screaming cats got to him. The very first notes would send him raging to the window to fling it open and shout down, “Quiet!” The cats hardly glanced up. It was apparent that they were somewhere outside of his control.

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About The Author

A retired Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has always had a passion for writing. During his college years, he studied History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW) and American Literature at The University of Maryland Graduate School. In 1980 he published an action/thriller with Leisure Books under the pen name of Vince Daniels.

He also worked for the Washington Business Journal as a journalist and has been a contributing writer/editor for several aviation magazines. In addition to No Birds Sing Here, he is the author of the award-winning historical novel, The Dung Beetles of Liberia, released in September 2019 by BQB Publishing.

Dan and his wife live in Owings, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Annapolis and when he’s not writing, they spend their summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

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#BookTour “Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne” by Linda Lappin

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The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

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Paranormal Ghost and Love Story

Historical Paranormal Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Literary Fiction

Published: December 2020

Publisher: Serving House Books

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A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne–wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right — haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne’s work from obscurity. A ghost story, a love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

Loving Modigliani is a genre-bending novel, blending elements of fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery, and suspense.

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Praise for Loving Modigliani:

“LOVING MODIGLIANI is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning pages late into the night” –Gigi Pandian, author of The Alchemist’s Illusion

“Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning the pages long into the night.” – Best-selling mystery novelist Gigi Pandian

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About The Author

Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.

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#AuthorSpotlight “The Bird that Sang in Color” by Grace Mattioli

TheBirdThatSang copy

~ Interview with Grace Mattioli ~

Hello Grace, and welcome to Nesie’s Place!

Your bio says you’re from the Pacific Northwest. Tell us a few things about yourself.

I currently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and two adorable cats. I’m originally from New Jersey and have lived all over the country, mostly in San Francisco, where I was for seventeen years.

The Bird That Sang in Color sounds like a thought-provoking saga involving siblings. What was your inspiration for the story?

Years ago, after my brother passed away, I found a book of sketches he’d made of his life, and it had a profound effect on me. I started to wonder what pictures I would have of myself by the end of my life, and I really wanted to share this insight and inspiration with the world. Incidentally, the cover art for this book is one of the sketches from my brother’s pictorial autobiography.

How did you come up with the very unique title?

I wanted a title that fit the central theme of living free, and I wanted to use a symbol in the title as I did for my other two books. A bird is the best symbol of freedom I know of.  I also wanted to bring the novel’s themes of music and art into the title, and I wanted to illustrate the idea of living in color as opposed to blending into the background of societal convention.

This is your third book involving the Greco family. If I have it right, Discovery of an Eagle is a sequel to Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees. Is The Bird That Sang in Color connected in some way?

Yes, Donna Greco, the protagonist of my newest novel, is the matriarch of the Greco family. All of my books can be read as stand-alones, although I’d recommend reading all three for a richer experience. The Bird that Sang in Color was written as a prequel to the other two, but it can either be read before or after the other two.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I’m self-published and have done everything independently, including formatting my manuscripts for paperbacks and narrating my books for audio recordings.

Do you still work full-time as a librarian?

I worked as a librarian for over twenty years full-time and am currently working part-time as a shopkeeper. I also design jewelry, which I sell in several local stores.

What is your work schedule like when writing a book?

I get a certain amount of words written as early as I can in the day. I have a minimum word count of 400 words per day.

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

I like to garden, listen to and play music (mandolin, ukulele), spend time in nature, and watch great shows.

I read you have ‘awesome cats!’ Do they ever try to “help” or inspire you?

Yes, in fact I even put my cat, Cosmo, in my acknowledgements. He sat on my lap as I wrote and revised this book.

As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up? 

I had lots of different ambitions, including a writer, an architect, a journalist, and even an art therapist.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I can live without it.

What’s your next project?

My next project will be a novella, and the subject will be the homeless problem in America.

Do you have any advice for new authors?

I have lots. I published a small guide called Tell the World Your Story. It’s available on all major online bookstores for only $0.99.

Anything else you’d like to add, Grace?

As with my other books, this book is intended to give people inspiration and insight for living happily. I believe that happiness isn’t just important on an individual level, but on a global one as well. That is, it’s all the miserable people who are making all the trouble in the world. I’m hoping that readers of The Bird that Sang in Color will be inspired to live free and authentically so that they can create colorful pictures of their own lives.

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Congratulations to author Grace Mattioli on the release of her novel The Bird that Sang in Color!

Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!

BirdColour 1The Bird that Sang in Color

Publication Date: January 17, 2021 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure to ensure his happiness until she discovers a book of sketches he made of his life, which allows her to see his internal joy and prompts her own journey of living authentically.

Thought-provoking, humorous, and filled with unforgettable characters, this book invites readers to ponder what pictures they will have of themselves by the end of their lives.

“Beautifully rendered, hugely moving, brilliant,” Lidia Yucknavitch.

“a refreshing family portrait about interpersonal evolution…presented with affection, humor, and insight…an inspiring slice of life blend of philosophy, psychology, and transformation that draws readers into a warm story and examines the wellsprings of creative force and future legacies…evocative, uplifting,” Midwest Book Review.

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Excerpt

the golden garden bird of peace were the words painted on the wall in Vincent’s room. I thought Dad would have painted over them because he couldn’t stand all that “hippie crap.” Beside the words hung a bunch of paintings he made. He painted trees, mountains, rivers, flowers, and people with real-life expressions that made them more than just pictures. They were alive, and they told stories.

Some of his paintings were abstract, my favorite being one that looked like a kaleidoscope with no beginning and no end and colors that bounced off the canvas like a beautiful neon sign sparkling against a black sky. I could stare at it all day. I went between staring at it and the album cover before me—Let It Be by the Beatles. Vincent sat by the record player, dressed in his usual Levi’s, T-shirt, and Converse high-tops, bent towards the revolving album, listening intently, his head of black curly hair moving back and forth, his right foot tapping the hardwood floor, keeping rhythm to the Fab Four.

Finally, he turned his head away from the stereo and said to me, “I can’t believe this is it.” His face was serious and gloomy, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I pretended that I did because I’d never let my cool down around Vincent. It was because of him that I knew so much about rock and roll, which made me pretty sure that I was the coolest eighth-grade girl in the whole town and possibly in the whole state of New Jersey.

“I know,” I said seriously.

“I mean, I just never thought the Beatles would break up.” He shook his head with disappointment.

“So, this is their last album, then?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, like I should have known better.

“Hey, check this out, Donna.” With the speed of a light switch flicking on, he turned into an entirely different person, no longer sad and gloomy but light and happy. He showed me a drawing he made of an old lady sitting on a chair with half of her body missing, and it looked as if the missing half was on the other side of an invisible door. She wore a mysterious smile as if she knew some extraordinary truth.

“Where’s the other half of her body?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said, grinning. “You tell me.”

“Wow.” I sat there, trying to wrap my head around this while listening to the song playing. Just as I was about to figure something out about the picture, and just as I was really getting into the song, he took the needle off, turned the album over, and put the needle on the first song on the other side, a tendency he had that bothered the hell out of our brother, Carmen.

He scratched his head and looked up, his eyes penetrating the ceiling, deep in thought. He resembled Mom with his olive skin, Roman nose, and black curls, and was the only one of us who got her curly hair. The rest of us had straight hair. Mine was super long—to the bottom of my back—and I wore it parted in the middle and was certain that I was wearing it that way long before it was the style.

Vincent was also taller than the rest of us at over six feet. Dad said he took after his own dad in stature. I never knew Grandpa Tucci because he died before I was born, but I was told he was called Lanky because he was tall and skinny. I was pretty thin myself and had a bottomless pit. People would say that all my eating would catch up with me one day, but that never stopped me from eating ice cream every day after school. Breyers butter almond was my favorite.

Vincent listened to the music with pure attention, like there was nothing else in the world as George sang I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine. He was probably trying to figure out what the song was about or how he could play it on his guitar. His acoustic guitar sat in the corner of his room. He had the smallest room in the house, but it seemed like the biggest because it was its own self-contained universe. I felt like I could be on the other side of the world without ever leaving his room.

His paintings and drawings covered the walls. A bunch of leather-bound cases of albums colored red and black and bone sat on the floor between a stereo and a wooden desk with piles of books and sketchbooks on top. Comic books, pens, and paintbrushes were scattered on the floor like seashells on the sand.

I shared a room with my younger sister, Nancy, and she insisted on having the room be as pink as possible. She was the youngest, so she always got her way. On top of making our room a sickening pink paradise, she had a doll collection with faces that really creeped me out, and she started pushing over my beloved books on our shelves to make room for her dolls. A doll named Lucinda with blond hair and a blue satin dress was shoved up against two of my favorites—Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Check this out, Donna,” Vincent said, emerging from his music-listening trance. He took a skinny metal whistle out of a plastic case. “Got it at the music store in town.”

“Neat. Some kind of flute?” I said.

“A pennywhistle.” He had a big smile that stretched from one side of his face to the other. “Or sometimes called a tin whistle.”

“I wish I could play an instrument,” I said. “Just one.” I was the only one in our family that didn’t play an instrument. Mom wanted me to learn ballet instead because she said I had a dancer’s body. I liked it all right and stayed with it until my teacher put me on toe, and the wooden shoes imprisoned my feet and made them ache hours after class ended.

“Have it.”

“Really?!”

“Sure.” He started fishing in one of his desk drawers for something.

“Thanks Vincent.” No response. He just kept on with his searching. I looked at the tin instrument wondering how I’d learn to play it, when he poked his head up and gave me an instructional songbook for it. I went through it seeing musical notation for simple songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was all new territory for me, but I knew I could learn it and thought I could go anywhere from there. I saw myself playing with Vincent as he strummed the guitar, playing on the street for money, playing in a small orchestra of other penny whistlers. Just then, Mom called out from the kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready!” I didn’t care that my fantasy was interrupted because I was starving. Vincent was always up for eating and was the biggest eater I knew. He seemed especially hungry because he was walking to the kitchen really fast. Even when he walked fast, he looked cool. He walked with a bounce in his step, his head bobbing back and forth like he was keeping beat to a song that only he could hear. I tried to walk like him once, but I ended up looking like some kind of uncoordinated monkey. I walked like Dad who moved fast and forward-leaning, like he was continually running late for something.

The kitchen smelled of garlic and fish. It was Friday, and Mom always cooked fish on Fridays. A big flat bowl with hand-painted flowers was filled with spaghetti, calamari and gravy, which was what we called tomato sauce in our house. My older sister, Gloria was setting the large wooden table that sat in the center of the kitchen. She wore her hair tucked neatly behind her ears and a black-and-tan argyle vest that fit snug on her shapely body. Her face had the usual serious, troubled look on it like something was wrong. Anthony—the oldest in the family—was away at college, and Nancy was at a sleepover, so the table was set for only six.

Mom was at the sink, getting a salad together. Above the sink was a long window that looked out onto our backyard, its ledge covered with little ladybug statues, which Mom loved because they meant good luck. She wore a red-and-white apron over a straight skirt and boots and took long, swift strides around the kitchen. Watching her get dinner together was like watching a performance. She’d put on her apron instead of a costume. The music played: the chopping of vegetables, the clanging of metal spoons against pots and the sweet sound of pouring. She’d dance around, gathering ingredients, sautéing, stirring, occasionally turning towards us—the audience—to say something or laugh with us so that we’d feel a part of the show. She presented her perfect meals like works of art, displaying them on the table, and we’d applaud by eating—grabbing, twirling, chewing—until we couldn’t fit anymore in.

Dad was opening up one of his bottles of homemade wine. I had a sip once, and it went down my throat like an angry snake. He leaned on the table like he needed it to support him with his eyes half-shut and his black-and-gray hair falling forward in his face. In his tiredness, he didn’t speak, but even when he was quiet, he was loud, and whenever he walked into a room, everybody knew it, even if he didn’t say a word.

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About the Author

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Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy. She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie!

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

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#BookBlitz “Loving Modigliani: The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne” by Linda Lappin

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The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

Paranormal Ghost and Love Story

Historical Paranormal Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Literary Fiction

Published: December 2020

Publisher: Serving House Books

A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne–wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right — haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne’s work from obscurity. A ghost story, a love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

Loving Modigliani is a genre-bending novel, blending elements of fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery, and suspense.

Praise for Loving Modigliani:

“LOVING MODIGLIANI is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning pages late into the night” –Gigi Pandian, author of The Alchemist’s Illusion

“Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning the pages long into the night.” – Best-selling mystery novelist Gigi Pandian

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Other Books by Linda Lappin:

Signatures in Stone

2014 Overall Winner DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD for excellence in Mystery Writing, also Winner in the Historical Mystery section of the Du Maurier Awards, from Romance Writers of America.

Seeking inspiration in the timeless Italian landscape, four unlikely misfits find their destinies entangled in the meanders of the mysterious sculpture garden of Bomarzo, peopled with freaks and monsters. Daphne, a writer with a hashish habit, Clive, American gigolo and aspiring artist, Nigel, an English aristocrat down at the heels, and Finestone, a fly by night art historian come together in a decrepit villa looked after by two Italian servants who are not what they seem. To find their heart’s desire, all the characters must descend into the depths of hell, but not everyone will make it out alive. In the hideous sculptures of Bomarzo, Daphne must face up the hidden sides of herself while solving the mystery of murder for which she is unjustly accused. She will discover that her own journey to hell has already been written sculpted by an unknown genius centuries ago in these signatures in stone.

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The Soul of Place

In this engaging creative writing workbook, Linda Lappin, novelist, poet, and travel writer, presents a series of insightful exercises to help writers of all genres — (literary travel writing, memoir, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) discover imagery and inspiration in the places they love.

Lappin departs from the classical concept of the Genius Loci, the indwelling spirit residing in every landscape, house, city, or forest, to argue that by entering into contact with the unique energy and identity of a place, writers can access an inexhaustible source of creative power. The Soul of Place provides instruction on how to evoke that power.

The writing exercises are drawn from many fields such as architecture, painting, cuisine, literature and literary criticism, geography and deep maps, Jungian psychology, fairy tales, mythology,metaphysics,theater and performance art, all of which offer surprising perspectives on our writing and may help us uncover raw materials for fiction, essays, and poetry hidden in our environment.

An essential resource book for the writer’s library, this book is ideal for creative writing courses, with stimulating exercises adaptable to all genres. For writers or travelers about to set out on a trip abroad, The Soul of Place is the perfect road trip companion, attuning our senses to a deeper awareness of place.

“Insightful exercises help creative writers of all levels attune themselves to the power of place.” Amy Alippo, National Geographic Traveler

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About The Author

Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.

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