I had crossed the sea and sky to find Evander. I had unraveled my body of its last, frayed edges of strength. I had torn across the vales and battled the demons of time to save him, to save our people, and here at last, we had reached the end of our bonded tapestry—the Gods in their envy had stolen him from me. And they weren’t giving him back.
The Faie King, Evander, has saved Anwen from weeks of torture at the hands of Envy, but the danger is far from gone. Erinyes ravages the vales with merciless wildfires, and the three entities Fury, Envy, and Ruin will stop at nothing to bind the mortal to their side again. Starving creatures follow Anwen and Evander as they race through the vales to reach their people, and even the Gods themselves conspire to steal the Faie King and undo everything they have worked for. Anwen must survive in a world of stolen faces, trust a devious selkie prince with hidden motives, and solve the prophecy that would return Evander’s power to his hands. If not, the mortal princess will forfeit her power to Envy and succumb to the bonds that creep around her from the darkest edges of the Faievales.
See my previous review of the first book of this series, Faie and Fury. The continuation of the story from the first book is seamless. With the characters of Anwen and Evander well established, Devon Atwood expands her world vision allowing the reader to further explore the fantastic, multi-layer world of the Faie. Her descriptive detail lends an underlying substance to the story that transcends imagination. At one point she casually mentions how magic is integrated into the world and how it can be accessed. This becomes a critical underpinning of the conflict and between the elements of good and evil that drives the story as it offers both potential and limitation. It is exceptionally well done, resolving the major questions a reader of fantasy may have before suspending disbelief and accepting the story’s premise.
Anwen struggles with inner turmoil and guilt throughout her travails in the Faie world. But has she forsaken her family? And will she accept what appears a fated marriage to Evander? The latter continues to be the major question that prevents her from pursuing what her heart is telling her to do. Was she created to be who Evander would have her become? Does she have an individual purpose apart from him? Will she lose herself if she consents to become his queen? This is a particularly poignant point of contention between the two main characters who despite the love they share for one another remains a wall between them. All this is operating in the background of the major conflict as the three aspects of Fury continue to destroy the Faie world and threaten Anwen’s world as well. This is fantasy at its best, perpetuating the growing legend behind the tale Atwood has conjured for us to share. Bonds and Envy takes us on a wild and thrilling ride through several portions of the Faie world, granting a glimpse of the complexity that underlies this magical universe. It hits on all cylinders delivering a compelling read from start to end. Although it might stand alone, providing the reader with enough background to understand the story, why limit yourself to only knowing half of the story? Start at the beginning with Faie and Fury. Order it now! And while you’re at it, preorder Bonds and Envy so that you’re ready to continue the story when it is released on August 29, 2022. You won’t regret it.
About The Author:
Devon Atwood lives in the mountains of Wyoming with her husband, their seven children, and a menagerie of animals. Devon’s favorite thing is writing in silence with a good playlist on in the background, but she will settle for her usual ambiance of bickering children, barking dogs, and Cheerios crumbs under her butt.
HOTDOGS, CRACKER JACK, BEER, and MURDER. PLAY BALL!
MADELINE BOUCHER is still reeling from her first few weeks of working for her family’s Independent League Baseball Team, the Abington Armadillos. She found a dead body and survived a kidnapping before finally clearing her brother of murder. She didn’t think anything could be as dramatic as that, but she was wrong.
Her parents have given her more responsibility in running ballpark events in the hopes that they could retire and leave the team in her hands. Her brother is moving on to the big leagues, so this is her time to shine. Her first task? Deal with a concession stands kerfuffle. Redmond Brewery heiress, Alaska Redmond, storms her way into the ballpark making demands.
The next day, the son of the concessions manager finds Redmond’s body in one of the beer stands along the ballpark concourse. Again, Madeline finds herself immersed in an investigation. While the suspects start piling up, including a promising young player on the team, Madeline knows she must get involved. With the help of Davis, her new love interest, and head of the security department, she delves deeper into the death of the heiress.
Trying to run team events, solve a murder, and have a normal life takes their toll as Madeline comes to depend on those in her baseball-loving community, including Bronia, her old family friend who runs a garden center and helps her make sense of things. She even chances a psychic for advice while at a Salem Warlock’s away game. Will anyone help her untangle the mess of suspects including the victim’s family?
Can she clear the name of the Abington Armadillos and start focusing on the season?
The story is what matters most to the reader. So foremost, an author needs to be a great storyteller. Nicole Asselin is that. For the sake of the cozy genre, though, there are tropes and conventions that readers expect, and for this, an author needs to be a well-read fan of the genre and be cognizant of the work of the best-known authors of the genre. No problem there, either. Nicole Asselin is an avid reader who takes weekly trips to her local library and bookstores adding to the to-be-read section of her home library.
In CONCESSION STAND CRIMES we are reacquainted with Madeline Boucher, the cadre of characters from Book 1 in the series, and some new friends as well. There is even a character based on a real person, an Abington resident who won a contest the author ran prior to the book’s composition. The critical challenge of the story is set early and well-executed, setting up the prevailing whodunit element. The victim is an heiress and local celebrity/socialite whose personality is the opposite of the main character who under other circumstances might be considered a peer, as she too is the daughter of a local business owner. The contrast is significant and lends to the initial conflict between them, setting up Madeline as an immediate suspect, though she is almost instantly learned. So now, she is left with the quandary of what happened and why that plays out through the interactions with the many other characters, and Madeline’s desire to clear one of her team’s players of suspicion.
Fans of the series will find a lot to love in this continuation of the storyline established in Book 1. If you’re new to the series, it’s not necessary to start with Book 1, MURDER AT FIRST PITCH, but it’s probably recommended as you’re going to fall in love with Madeline and her friends.
Nicole Asselin grew up a Navy Brat and spent her formative high school years in the middle of Pennsylvania but always identified with her New England roots. Nicole’s family is originally from Connecticut, and her Grandpa Asselin introduced her into the Red Sox nation where she has been a member for her whole life and her Grandma Asselin introduced her to the world of mystery novels. Now those two loves are combined into her new Ballpark Mystery series.
Nicole graduated from Curry College in Milton Mass with a degree in English/Creative Writing, minoring in Dance in 2004. She also attended George Mason University and received a Master’s in Arts Management. She worked in the Government sector for over ten years before transitioning to Healthcare. Now working just outside of Boston as a Technical Writer, she lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts with her three cats Julia, Jacques, and Madeline (no relation to the main character of her book).
Nicole is a current member of Sisters in Crime (National and New England) and the Mystery Writers of America. She sits on the Board of Directors for the NE branches of both groups as Social Media Liaison. She’s attended several conferences in the past few years to study the craft including Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and the NE Crime Bake. Her short story, “Mile High Murder” can be found as part of Z Publishing’s “America’s Emerging Suspense Writers: East Region” published in early 2019. Asselin is a highly approachable author who makes personal appearances a priority and enjoys meeting her fans or just discussing books in general. Find out more about her and per scheduled events at the author’s website.
CONCESSION STAND CRIMES launches 6.29.22 at Amazon.
Recorded in 2020, the release of ERROR was delayed for two years due to the pandemic leading to a late 2021 release of the MAYDAY EP comprising six of the tracks that are included on ERROR. The new album includes the brief instrumental “INTRO 404” as well as the bonus track “BREATHE” plus six other tracks, beyond the recently released single “MONEY”, the title track and newest single, “ERROR”, “AMOUR” – which features a verse sung in French, “KOOL AID KIDS”, “REVENANT”, and “23”.
If you haven’t yet heard of The Warning (or haven’t read my previous review dated 1.18.22 for their MAYDAY EP) the band consists of three hard-rocking sisters from Monterrey, Mexico who have been performing together for over ten years. They began as children recording videos of music covers from such bands as Metallica, Muse, Foo Fighters, Twisted Sister, and more, several of those videos have long since gone viral. They are currently under contract with Lava/Republic Records. ERROR is their third studio offering, the two previous albums – XXI CENTURY BLOOD and QUEEN OF THE MURDER SCENE were independently produced and financed by their ever-growing legion of fans. They have released two EPs: ESCAPE THE MIND and the aforementioned MAYDAY. Their discography also includes NARCISISTA, a stand-alone single performed in their native Spanish, and ENTER SANDMAN, a reimagining of Metallica’s chart-topping single. The Warning’s version features Grammy Award-Winning artist Alessia Cara and was included on last year’s 30th Anniversary Black List tribute album.
Dany (Daniela Villarreal), 22, the band’s lead guitarist who also plays piano, is the lead vocalist on the new tracks: “MONEY”, “AMOUR”, “ERROR”, and “KOOL AID KIDS”. Her range is well established from their previous releases. She has a powerful, expressive voice well suited for Rock music and the ability to belt it out whenever the song calls for it. She is always busy on the stage, crafting the guitar sound with her pedalboard between stretches of “Dany Dancing”, hopping around, and engaging the crowd with her self-deprecating humor and energetic stage presence. She is a human dynamo that powers the band on stage, not that her sisters aren’t contributing their energy to one another, but you can see the difference whenever she is under the weather, as she was for a couple of shows during the recent Mayday Tour.
Pau (Paulina Villarreal), 20, who is the band’s regular background vocalist as well as the percussionist and occasional pianist, serves as lead vocalist on three of the new tracks -“23”, “REVENANT”, and “BREATHE”. Although she sings lead on other tracks from previous releases and all of them are fan favorites, I find her voice raspier and perhaps more emotional though her range as a belter hasn’t compared to her sister, Dany – or at least not until this album. “BREATHE” is a simple but powerful and emotional acoustic track featuring Pau’s talent on the keys, the same piano on which TW composes their songs. I think the three tracks featuring her voice will introduce her to the wider world as a gifted lead vocalist.
Ale (Alejandra Villarreal), 17, the youngest of the sisters, is the bassist and background vocalist who anchors the instrumental elements of the band, consistently laying down the rhythmic foundation with inventive runs around the chord sequences. Listen to “KOOL AID KIDS” for a great example of what she does to compensate for the lack of a rhythm guitar. Also, listen to the driving bass lines of “Z” that carry the song throughout while for stretches the guitar is intentionally absent under the lead vocal. She is the perfect complement to her sisters for the power trio concept. The Warning would not be as hard-hitting without her. Her work on “ANIMOSITY” is also worth a listen. For whatever reason, the bass is sometimes subdued in the overall mix on this album – meaning you have to listen for it. But if you pay attention you will quickly appreciate Ale’s ability.
Many (if not most) fans of The Warning will claim they are the greatest Rock band ever. Despite the hyperbole, they have impressive skills and a lot of potential to grow. The fact is they write consistently solid songs with catchy lyrics around earworm-quality riffs that hook well. Some comment that they are still so young, as if that is some kind of curse, or that their abilities are so impressive because of their youth. While it’s true, that needs to be reconciled against their experience. They have been playing as a band for over ten years. And being sisters, they have a level of natural cohesion bordering on being telepathically linked.
Historically, most recording artists have achieved their best work well before age 30. So, I rather think The Warning is just now entering their prime creative years. The composition process usually starts with Pau at the piano in their house. She also serves as the band’s primary lyricist. Dany and Ale contribute in the collaboration with their instrumental parts before the trio debates any changes to adjust for nuance to refine the song. You see, they each have specialties though they are multi-instrumentalists. There are some amusing videos out and about on the Internet of each of them attempting to teach their sisters how to play a different instrument. I wouldn’t count any of them out at mastering another instrument, at least enough to perform on stage for a song or two, but none of them are there quite yet. Still, it is a good exercise, to learn to appreciate the subtleties of crafting a song on a different instrument.
The band is certainly gaining attention and frankly, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Will these ladies ever write a bad song? Well, they have over 50 in their current discography and a solid case can be made that there isn’t a single filler tune in the lot. They are adventurous and ambitious, having composed and recorded a ‘rock opera’ when the eldest member of the band, Dany was 17 or 18 years old. A music video that accompanied the title song of their debut album, XXI Century Blood won several awards. It’s debatable whether anything they do is groundbreaking or even earth-shattering except to say that they are rare as an entirely female rock trio, and rarer yet that they don’t overtly play up to the hypersexuality one might expect from marketing an all-female group. They let the quality of their music become the featured selling point and it is for this reason I eagerly look forward to their future. They have four more albums remaining in their current contract and I bet there will be plenty more to come after.
Obviously, The Warning didn’t have much of a choice about when to release these songs. Not only did the pandemic intervene to thwart the best intentions of a marketing plan, but also twice their North American Tour in support of the release of their MAYDAY EP was delayed a couple of times before finally realizing a successful start earlier this year. Since the EP songs also appear on ERROR, they have been performing half of the new album’s songs live as they have traversed the US and eastern Canada, meeting their fans and performing to adoring crowds. Several of their appearances were sold out.
Of the new tracks, ERROR and AMOUR are likely the most commercially viable candidates for immediate airplay. They feature Dany’s powerful voice and follow the tradition of their earlier singles CHOKE and EVOLVE. However, I find the new tracks that feature Pau’s vocals most intriguing. They are a bit more subdued that the usual fare I’ve come to expect from The Warning. Pau’s voice has always been a refreshing change-up from her sister’s, lending a husky rawness that stands out. But here, Pau’s voice presents a level of softness that we haven’t heard before. Even though the role of her vocals is more often to blend and harmonize, her performance on the three tracks that feature her is a stunning example of her potential for a front person, something I’d love to see more of in the future. Also, having two lead vocalists in the band (as Pau has performed in the lead role on several of their past songs and occasionally substituted for Dany in a pinch whenever her sister was ill) allows Dany’s voice to rest during a concert. As the band’s tour schedule expands in the near future to become even more rigorous, this ability to change things up with the vocals will become increasingly important. Even Ale, who rarely sings lead, has pitched in to help out from time to time. Those unicorn moments are revered among faithful fans and fan musicians who understand the complexities of being able to play an instrument while singing, especially singing lead while playing bass guitar. That must require the use of two different parts of the brain.
There is a special feeling about the ERROR album that belies its lyrics. It is a concept album in the truest sense, though not as overtly as its predecessor, Queen of The Murder Scene. The songs share a thread of continuity and an overall theme. The ladies readily borrow elements of style from their musical influences, but what they produce is distinctly their own take on Rock music – a reinvention of what is still possible in the genre. Several of the new songs have the potential for airplay and even reach the mainstream pop charts. Will that happen? Who is to say? The music industry has been trying to bury the Rock genre since at least the mid-1990s. But what is more Rock’n’Roll than coming back from the dead as a new generation adopts the rebelliousness that allows for the greatest possible freedom to express? The Warning has all of that in spades. Don’t be deceived by their youthful cuteness or diminutive sizes. They are predators, albeit disarmingly attractive ones, aiming to take the world, one song at a time.
We can expect more great things from The Warning as their fanbase continues to expand based on the exposure their music is now receiving through airplay and being featured at sporting events and on TV. I can’t wait to see what they do next. Their lyrics are never ill-guided or meaningless fluff. These young women have something to say and being multi-lingual, they’re able to communicate to the masses on a level that is rare in Rock music. Yes, most of their songs are composed in English, but their fluency allows them to impress interviewers with how comfortable they are at handling the media. Their slight accents are easily overlooked. What is perhaps more impressive is that during their concerts, a lot of native English speakers are singing along in Spanish to MARTIRO and NARCISISTA and the beg ‘otra’ when it’s time for an encore.
Rumor has it they are working on a UK and European Tour for next year. But closer to home, this Summer they are touring with Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, Lilith Czar, and later in the Fall, they will be touring Canada with Three Days Grace. With this level of exposure before larger crowds, expect future US and Canadian tours to be on a grander scale in much larger venues. If you don’t see them on this tour, you may miss your chance at catching an intimate performance in a small club.
I am the dirt. I am the grave. I don’t meditate nor drink. I don’t write manifestos. I turn people into bodies.
So begins the confession of a boogeyman that no one believes in. As he settles into the abandoned Magic River Café, Blue Billy doesn’t care that it has deteriorated into a derelict, filth-ridden shack on the banks of a rancid backwater. This is his home, now. Or it could be, if it weren’t for three women out to prove that he is real.
Crocus Rowe is a parolee with anger issues, who finds herself on the run after she assaults a professor over his unspeakable crimes. When the professor winds up in a refrigerator submerged in the ironically named Magic River, things look bad for Crocus, whose first call is to Alma Bell, a memoirist and much-maligned Blue Billy “expert” from New Royal University’s notorious Crime Writing Program. Haunted by the unsolved 1992 murder of her best friend, Alma will go to any lengths to prove that Blue Billy is responsible. And then there’s Tara Rowe, Crocus’s damaged cousin. As one of Blue Billy’s rare survivors, she’s endured years of experimental therapy and exploitation to become the person she is today: Blue Billy’s stalker.
Children still whisper “Blue Billy” around the campfire, but if Crocus, Alma, and Tara can uncover the truth behind New Royal’s darkest mystery, they may just put an end to the legend, once and for all.
In BLUE BILLY, the third book in Laura Ellen Scott’s New Royal Mysteries Series, she has created a monster that is equal parts myth, local legend, and deranged psychopath. As has become a tradition for Scott’s novels, she assembles a cast of quirky, damaged, dysfunctional characters to resolve the essential crime mystery, a thread that strings all three installments of the series together. And she does it with the expected attention to detail of which nightmares are made and carefully crafted exposition that often makes one’s skin crawl. A deviation from the previous parts of the series, this one ventures into the country where the natural decay of nature has intersected with the demise of what was once a recreational hot spot. There is a scene that involves a submerged refrigerator that I guarantee will haunt you afterward.
But this gritty, visceral story is as much about relationships as it is a series of unsolved murders. Crocus and Tara, cousins who share as much disappointment in their lives as DNA, must resolve enough of their past issues to join forces with Alma, a self-proclaimed expert, in exposing a demonic presence that has plagued the surrounding community. It’s no Sunday picnic at the riverside where the drama draws to its climax where the survival of the trio demands destroying their shared nemesis that no one else believes exists.
If you haven’t yet discovered Laura Ellen Scott, Blue Billy is a great place to start. Even though it is part of a series, it stands on its own, though it will compel you to dive further into the weird world of New Royal, Ohio for more of the background.
About the Author:
Born and raised in the tiny Northern Ohio town of Brimfield, Laura Ellen Scott was named after the classic noir film and song, “Laura,” so it makes sense that she enjoys writing dark, quirky fiction in the tradition of Tom Robbins, Kelly Link, and Robert Altman. She started out writing short fiction, and her stories can be found in places like Ploughshares, Pank, Mississippi Review, and Wigleaf, but it wasn’t until she received an out-of-the-blue email from the great Dorothy Allison (BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA) that she started writing novels. That email said, among other things: “Damn you are good. You are just seriously satisfyingly good.” Eventually, Allison would blurb Laura’s first novel, DEATH WISHING (Ig Publishing, 2011), a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
These days she is an author with Pandamoon Publishing, and her latest novel, CRYBABY LANE, is the second book in the NEW ROYAL MYSTERIES, a series set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio. The first book in the series is THE MEAN BONE IN HER BODY (2016). The second book is CRYBABY LANE (2017). Book 3 is titled BLUE BILLY, coming 5.11.22. Prior to launching the series, Pandamoon published Scott’s THE JULIET (2016), a western/mystery about a cursed emerald lost in Death Valley.
Scott is a term full professor in the English Department at George Mason University, and she divides her time between Fairfax, VA and Great Cacapon, WV.
Deerdra Grey is the typical new girl in school. In fact, she’s been designed to be scientifically, perfectly typical. Her mission? Assimilate into Indiana’s Danaville High, 600 light years away from her home planet. While her parents go about the traditional alien business of gathering soil samples, examining crop circles, and inadvertently mutilating cattle, Deerdra’s goal is to find her missing predecessor, Eunice Tiffany.
As she digs deeper into the mystery, Deerdra enlists the help of Gavin and Barb, two high school classmates who are skeptical of the official reports about Eunice’s disappearance. Eventually, Deerdra and her allies will come up against the Reptilians, a predatory advanced species who resemble the Real Housewives and intend to take over the planet for themselves.
The Greys is a fun and propulsive read about what happens when one alien girl is forced to make a choice between following orders and following her heart.
Growing up is a challenging time at best. For most, figuring out where to fit in is a struggle while simultaneously coping with the myriad of physical and psychological changes. Choosing the right friends, the right clubs, the right team sports, whether to be a thespian or participate in a music program helps define each of us not only in our own eyes but also in how others think of us. The risk of not belonging is intense and persistent. Consider all that in addition to being a visitor from a distant planet sent on an important mission. It doesn’t help that understanding of what it means to be young and human is somewhat flawed.
The premise of this book is immediately engaging. It’s easy to identify with Deedra Grey’s plight. We’ve all felt out of place, forced into the precarious situation of having to adjust to strange situations. But Deerdra Grey is more than just the new kid in school. Her mission is of supreme importance, but in order to accomplish it, she must break some rules and trust a couple of human friends who she discovers are not all that different from her. The Greys is a nice escape into another world that superficially seems familiar but proves to have just enough spicy strangeness to keep the adventure interesting. It pokes some fun at SyFy tropes as well as the traditional coming-of-age story while holding close to what’s expected of a well-told story. It’s a great weekend excursion I fully recommend.
About the Authors:
Dave Housley is the author of the novel The Other Ones. His other novels are Howard and Charles at the Factory and This Darkness Got to Give. He is also the author of four collections of short fiction, the most recent being Massive, Cleansing Fire, a collection of stories that all end in a massive, cleansing fire. He is one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse, a national literary magazine, small press, and literary-based nonprofit. He is also one of the co-founders and organizers of the Conversations and Connections writer’s conference. He is the Director of Web Strategy for Penn State Outreach and Online Education.
Becky Barnard is a book nerd who fell in with a crew of fantastic writers and eventually wrote a book to try to blend in. The Greys is the result, and also her first novel. She’s an editor-at-large at Barrelhouse literary journal and a web project manager in State College, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and their awesome dog.
The Greys is available as of 5.4.22 at Amazon in Print and eBook.
Anwen is pretty sure she loves her future husband. The problem is, he’s not real. When Anwen discovers that she has been under an enchantment for months and that her betrothed, Gresham is a mysterious being obsessed with keeping her forever, she escapes to the forbidden Faiewood after a voice on the wind calls her to safety. She finds herself the captive of a green-eyed Faie king who gives cryptic half-truths to Anwen’s questions and refuses to let her leave the Faiewood. With her family’s life at stake, and the safety of all Faie hanging in the balance, Anwen learns that she is his birthright. They are bound by the strings of fate, and she is left with only one choice: trust him, or watch the vales burn.
Let’s talk about world-building. It is essential for constructing all fiction, even the genres that appear to be close variants of our world. With fantasy, where the existence of magic redefines the relationships between the living and the physics of their universe, the author’s imagination is fettered only by the nature of magic and the level of magic inherent in nature. For example, do all the inhabitants of the world have access to magic? If not, how is its distribution limited? Do only special beings control the magic? Is there one being or group of beings inherently more powerful? How well the author establishes the rules and consistently follows them allows the reader to suspend disbelief, escape into the story, and become immersed in the conflicts and adventure, same as any other well-told story.
Enter the world of Faie and Fury. Here, Devon Atwood has borrowed some character types and themes from the genre while also paving new ground, redefining myth and legend to suit a well-crafted variation of the eternal conflict of good versus evil. Anwen’s family is under attack without knowing it. When she discovers the truth, she takes flight from the source of the evil, escaping into Faiewood, a mysterious place chock full of dark places and stories of enchantment. Even though the wood borders on her kingdom, she knows next to nothing about it, having never been within it because of the suspected dangers lurking within. And it’s there that her adventures truly begin as she discovers that her fate is directly bound to a Faie who would be king. And in order to save her own family, she must enlist the aid of the creatures of a fantastic world who have at least as much apprehension and misinformation about humans as Anwen does about the Faie.
Faie and Fury is the beginning of The Faie King’s Mortal and for lovers of stories about mythical beings and magical powers. This one does not disappoint. Atwood’s imagination reveals her creation through descriptive prose detailed enough to engage the reader’s senses and it compels us to follow the characters’ travails. We cheer their triumphs and suffer their defeats, eagerly turning pages unto the end. It’s always best to get in on the ground floor of a new fantasy series and having read this one, I’m already waiting for the next installment’s release. As I understand it, the raw tale for Book 1 was composed in about a month. Atwood’s prolific writing schedule bodes well for expectations of Book 2 sometime in the near future. But for now, savor this one as your weekend read. Preorder it now and enjoy the spellbinding tale on Kindle starting April 4, 2022.
About The Author:
Devon Atwood lives in the mountains of Wyoming with her husband, their seven children, and a menagerie of animals. Devon’s favorite thing is writing in silence with a good playlist on in the background, but she will settle for her usual ambiance of bickering children, barking dogs, and Cheerios crumbs under her butt.
Atwood holds a Bachelor of Science from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and her currently published works include Lunula, Inito, and K-Love.
Some of you may have interest in this. It’s for everyone and it’s FREE.
On my Medium account you’ll find the backstory for the Brent Woods character who appears in The Fried Windows series as well as The Thuperman Trilogy. He also pays a visit to The Wolfcat Chronicles which will begin publication later this year with the novel Dammerwald. And Brent is involved here and there along the way in many of my yet-to-be-published manuscripts.
Brent tends to be an alter ego for me, as most of the novels in which he appears are written in the first person POV. He is a lot like me, shares some of my life experiences, but generally, he is more adventurous and less risk-averse than me.
Currently, I am posting chapter installments of FINDING IT, which is part of The IT Series that begins during Brent Woods’ senior year of high school and eventually culminates with his first semester of college. It is important, perhaps, to a better understanding of the events and character interactions in FRIED WINDOWS and NINJA BREAD CASTLES, the latter releases on 4.13.22. You will learn a lot more about what it means to be a wolfcat and how Brent came to realize his incredible abilities. The story is a magical realism/coming of age escape into a world of 70s nostalgia, teen angst, and budding romances. It also provides insight into the illusion that underlies the world and an ongoing battle between those who have the attributes, aka magical abilities, and those who have not.
I invite everyone to follow me on Medium and enjoy FINDING IT, available now.
This is not intended as a hit piece on a former employer, but I think it’s indicative of the corporate mindset in America. And since this happened twenty-seven years ago, the underlying condition resulting in the lack of respect has been around for a long time and likely is endemic in our culture. It came to mind today since a dear friend of mine experienced a similar thing with her employer as blizzard conditions bore down on her part of the country. Some things never change. In the world of business, it is always about the bottom line.
In the winter of 1994, a blizzard was coming. Everyone knew about it for days. We’d been preparing for it at my store, a home improvements center in Connecticut. Customers had been coming in looking for snow shovels, ice melting salt, forget about finding a snowblower, that had sold out well before the first major storm of the season. Despite having ordered more stock of storm-related items, by the day of the storm we were out of everything people might want except for batteries and flashlights and even those were running low.
Earlier that day we had a conference call with the district manager earlier. He said that as soon as the snow began falling we were to cut back our staffing and send our hourly employees home, in the interest of their safety. Anyway, we were not going to be busy, so the general manager and our six assistant managers could handle everything. That all made sense. But it was the rest that kinda irked me.
You see, the general store manager was required, at his discretion, to cut loose the assistants who lived furthest from the store, and to do it in order until there was only the general manager and one assistant – whoever lived closest to the store – remaining to stay until regular closing hours. Under no circumstances short of the police arriving at our doorstep and ordering us to close were we allowed to leave early. The company didn’t want to risk that a single customer would need something we would disappoint them, missing that potential sale.
Guess who was the assistant manager who lived closest to the store?
Here’s ‘the out’ for the company, the absolution of all guilt. They allowed the two remaining managers to split costs on a motel room for the night in lieu of driving home. Oh, and they’d also reimburse us for dinner and breakfast. The problem with all that is that the store wasn’t in the best neighborhood so the accommodations close-by were the sort of fleabag joints that local call girls took their johns. Finding anything better would still entail driving a good bit.
For me, driving home was closer. For the store manager, he lived halfway to Rhode Island. Yet, both of us drive 4X4’s, so driving home wasn’t a huge issue, other than the trip being nerve-racking and it taking a good bit longer than usual at the risk of being stranded if anything bad happened. You never know what you might face during a drive in a snowstorm. Plus, the blizzard would make for whiteout conditions which meant that driving blind was a possibility. And I told the manager that he could spend the night at my place. But he was confident that he would make it home regardless of the road conditions.
Of course, I called home to inform my wife that I’d not be home until very late. She was worried, not only about the bad roads but also driving while physically exhausted. By the luck of the schedule, I’d opened that morning, which meant that I’d been there since 4 AM. It would be one of those long days that we who were in management called working an ironman shift, being there for both opening and closing. It happened from time to time due to call-outs for sickness, covering for a required all-store management training session for which one manager, usually the administrative manager, was selected to run the for the entire day. The fact that we had a name for it should indicate that it happened often enough. Anyway, my wife was livid about how the company was treating its managers.
By 6 PM it was dark outside, except that the foot of snow that had fallen over the course of that reflected the street lights making for a fairly bright parking lot. We had four hours left before we could lock the doors and shut down the computers. We had already closed out all the resisters and put away all the money except for one till at the customer service desk where the register was configured to handle any possible transaction. And the manager and I were both fully qualified at all operations. But it had been over an hour since we’d had a customer. We’d locked all the doors except for the main entrance where the two of were were camped out.
Yes, we had a few customers that evening, averaging about one an hour. We knew the customers personally. They were regulars who lived fairly close to the store. It was weird what they came in to buy, though – nothing you would expect someone to come out in a blizzard to purchase. We sold, five 2X4X8’s to one customer, for example. I mixed some paint for another customer. Most of what we did was answer the phone to inform people that yes, we were open. The number of calls received didn’t match the number of customers who showed up at the door, though.
Shortly before closing, a guy showed up wanting to fill out an employment application. Yeah, I’m serious. That happened. The manager thought it showed how much the guy needed a job. I told him it showed how nuts the guy was. Subsequently, the manager decided to hire the guy. He didn’t last long. My gut was right about him.
Once we had closed out the last register, put away the money, and closed down the computer system for the night, the manager and I said our goodbyes and be carefuls. It took him well over 2 hours to get home, a drive that normally took him 45 minutes. It took me 45 minutes to cover 7 miles. As I was heading north the storm was actually worse around my house than it was closer to the store. When I arrived home, my wife was sitting in the family room, watching something inane on TV. Obviously, she had been worried about me. Heck, I was worried about me, too. It wasn’t an easy drive at all. At times it was difficult to know for certain where the road was. But I’d made it. But what she said to me resonated and remained in the back of my mind for my remaining years with the company, especially every ensuing time I was asked to sacrifice my personal time and safety.
A few days ago I finished a revision of an unpublished manuscript. I have submitted it previously to my publisher but initially, I composed it as one book and it weighed in at a hefty 200K+ words, which is just not viable for a print book these days. Yet, after painstakenly condensing it and breaking it into two books, it was still passed over. It is not a critique of the work or the story so much as whether it meets the publisher’s overall preference for genre. You see, it’s a quirky story like Fried Windows, but it is more of a coming-of-age tale with a good bit of romance in it as well. It tells the story of Brent Woods coming to terms with his true nature as a wolfcat and his experiences during his senior year of high school. As you might expect of a book set in the mid-1970’s, there is an overall nostalgic feel to it and, of course, it is also filled with magical realism, since the main characters are wolfcats and witches.
Long books, especially when an author is nurturing a following, are not necessarily a good gamble for a publisher’s investment. However, I feel the story told in the manuscript is essential to understanding Brent Woods, the main character in the Fried Windows series. It even serves as the backstory for Pamela Roberts, a character who appears in the soon-to-be-published Ninja Bread Castles (coming April 13, 2022), the second book of the Fried Windows Series, and Dawn Penobscot, a character who will appear in book 3 of the Fried Windows Series.
There are some other unpublished manuscripts hanging around in ‘limbo’, which is what I call one of my computer’s storage drives that contain lots of my writing which may or may not ever be published. You see, it is a writer’s job to write and in order to do that, sometimes you create character profiles that evolve into background stories that allow for a better understanding of a character’s influences and motivation for a work that becomes published. Still, for those readers who become heavily invested in characters, knowing the full backstory is compelling enough that it merits an author sharing the notes in a story form. For that reason, I’ve decided to publish Brent’s story as chapter installments via Medium.
The process of publishing through Medium may take a year or so to complete. There are currently three books in the ‘It’ series (Finding It, Going For It, and Losing It) that are at a point of being ready to post as chapters for consumption. And, in the future, there is another story that I may bring to the world in this same way. That one goes much further back in Brent’s life, to the time when he was around 7 or 8 years old.