30 April 2020

Book Review: The Keepers of the Black cave: A Time Travel Adventure by Hanit Pahima

About the book: 

One fine day, I was just browsing my Facebook and came across Hanit Pahima’s profile and came to know about her debut novel The Keepers of the Black cave: A Time Travel Adventure. I was really intrigued by the title; I have a special love for caves and asked her if I can review her book. She gladly said yes and here I am, doing a book review for The Keepers of the Black cave: A Time Travel Adventure. 

Author Hanit Pahima described her book as “Some say history repeats itself. Some even say that events repeat themselves in a timeless loop. 

What would have happened if JFK had remained alive? What would happen if Elvis didn’t really die? What would change if one more boy had died in the Holocaust?

Nicole and her brothers are there for only one purpose, to make sure history repeats itself exactly as it did the first time around. They have done it well, for many years.

But what happens when the rules are slightly bent? When someone chooses to interpret history?”

Book Name: The Keepers of the Black cave: A Time Travel Adventure
Author Name: Hanit Pahima
Print Length: 212 pages
Publisher: Tzameret Books Ltd 
Publication Date: February 18, 2019
Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
Language: English
Purchase Links: Amazon USA | Amazon India

My Thoughts: 

Before I start reviewing this book, I have to come clean about the fact that I am personally to that big fan of time travel. The time travel thing seems to be really vague to me. Hence I have read very few books on this topic and most of them are in my native language Bengali. I tried my best to read the book without any preconceived notion. 

For any adventure book, especially which involves time travel, the flow has to be fast yet steady. Hanit Pahima achieved this goal with ease. The second thing I look for in any book is character development, the main character Nicole and her brother are well described and readers can relate to them. 

Another part that is well described in the book is the background for all the characters, like their family background. One much-unexpected thing from the book is its humor. I didn’t expect it at all and it is really funny at times. 

I really enjoyed the concept however sadly it not the follow-through. The book started off brilliantly and I was amazed. As the book progress, I didn’t much enjoy where the story is moving.  

Overall, this is a brilliant effort from author Hanit Pahima, and it is s very good book as a debut novel. Young readers will enjoy the book a lot. And it would make a good plot for television. I will recommend this book for anyone who is looking for adventure with store family emotion and humor.


Author Bio:

Hanit Pahima is a new author with a debut novel called "The keepers of the black cave". As a child who grew up on a merchant ship and saw plenty of the world before traveling was made so easy, many stories and adventures struck roots in her head and only as an adult did she managed to put them in writing and so emerged "the keepers of the black cave" A time travel fiction book filled with adventures, twists and some romance. A sequel is currently under work called "Fate of caves" and another fiction thriller book is also underwriting. 

Catch up with Hanit Pahima On: 

28 April 2020

Vanilla with a Twist by Peggy Jaeger

Vanilla with a Twist (One Scoop or Two)
Contemporary Romance, Sweet romance
Date Published: 5.20.2020
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

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Tandy Blakemore spends her days running her New England ice cream parlor, single-parenting her teenaged son, and trying to keep her head above financial water. No easy feat when the shop’s machinery is aging and her son is thinking about college. Tandy hasn’t had a day off in a decade and wonders if she’ll ever be able to live a worry-free life.
Engineer Deacon Withers is on an enforced vacation in the tiny seaside town of Beacher’s Cove. Overworked, stressed, and lonely, he walks into Tandy’s shop for a midday ice cream cone and gets embroiled in helping her fix a broken piece of equipment.
Can the budding friendship that follows help fix their broken spirits and lead to love?


Before she recognized his intent, Deacon pulled her to his chest, his arms winding around her waist to hold her in place against him. The slow, steady thrum of his heart against her ear went a long way in soothing her frayed nerves and worried thoughts. Without thinking she shouldn’t, she melted into him. She slid her own arms around his waist, crossed them, and pressed in even closer.
Every hard, muscled, and toned inch of him was heaven. Tandy felt comforted and protected in his embrace, two things she hadn’t felt in a lifetime.
If ever.
“Tell me what’s troubling you.” The deep, soothing pitch in his tone had her shoulders relaxing along with the rest of her.
What would it cost her to divulge the worries she had about money, or her fears all she’d built could be taken away with one bad earnings’ season, one financial disaster, or even that her future seemed precarious at best? Her pride? Heck, that had gone out the proverbial window seventeen years ago. Her sense of fierce independence? She was starting to think being independent had more drawbacks than benefits.
She’d spent her entire adult life depending on no one but herself. How would it feel to lean on someone like she was doing right now with Deacon? And not merely physically, but emotionally, too? How would it feel to know you had a partner, someone who had your back through lean times, and one who’d bolster you up when things looked bleak? Who’d celebrate your victories and hold your hand during your defeats? What would it be like to lose yourself, to forget all your troubles and worries with a man? To feel safe and protected and, yes, even loved and cherished?
Tandy had never experienced any of those things. And standing within Deacon’s arms, his chest rising and falling with each calm breath, his heart beating beneath his shirt, and the solid, warm, comforting feel of his arms wrapped around her made her realize how much she’d longed for them.
A simple shift and she slid her arms up the solid wall of his chest.
His brows folded together, his mouth no longer smiling as he stared down at her, concern now dancing across his expression. “Tandy?”
She wet her lips and steeled herself for what she wanted to say. How do you ask a man, and a stranger to boot, to take you away from everything worrisome in your life, even if it’s only for a few minutes?
“Can I ask you something?”
He nodded. “Sure.”
She returned his nod. The right words wouldn’t form, though, so she thought to show him what she truly wanted. The man must possess telepathic powers, because as she rose on her sneaker-clad toes, her gaze locked with his, Deacon dipped his head and tightened his hold around her waist. The black in his pupils dilated, all but obliterating the startling blue.
When their lips were a sigh away from touching, the back door slammed shut.
“Mom? Are you in here?”

About the Author

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes Romantic Comedies about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. If she can make you cry on one page and bring you out of tears rolling with laughter the next, she’s done her job as a writer!

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, she brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she’s created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

When she’s not writing Peggy is usually painting, crafting, scrapbooking or decoupaging old steamer trunks she finds at rummage stores and garage sales.

A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, Peggy is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

As a lifelong diarist, she caught the blogging bug early on, and you can visit her at peggyjaeger.com where she blogs daily about life, writing, and stuff that makes her go "What??!"

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22 April 2020

The Long Way Home by D.L.Norris

Biographical Fiction, Drama
Published: February 2020
Publisher: Outskirts Press

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The Long Way Home is a compelling work of fiction set in 1950s Madison County, Nebraska.

At the heart of the story is Maggie Davis, a middle-aged widow and recent heiress to a grand Victorian manor. The stately home, which Maggie shares with her spirited nine-year-old daughter Jenna, also serves as a bed and breakfast to a once regular, but now transitory, clientele.

The kitchen table is the epicenter of lively, often contentious, dialogue where no topics are off-limits. An outspoken neighbor and routine visitor delights in keeping everyone on guard with her opinionated tirades but is frequently reigned in by an elderly, equally forthright family member who has recently become a permanent dweller at the manor.

Maggie finds herself struggling with the painful memories of her husband’s tragic death, as well as the stirrings in her heart associated with a new house guest. A scandalous scheme to swindle her out of her property rides on the heels of a sudden, unexpected death, pointing to a member of the family as a suspect. Set against an intriguing backdrop of family secrets, scandal, love, and humor, the story culminates with an emotional twist.

About the Author

D.L. Norris is a notable author and motivational speaker who has written numerous short stories and articles on health, emotional wellness, family, and cultural history. Norris’s novel, The Long Way Home, captures in colorful, humorous style the actual events and cultural mindsets surrounding her Scandinavian family and personal life experiences. Norris’s expressive writing style quickly engages her readers and encourages them to sit back and enjoy a nostalgic, magical journey. She and her husband are happily retired in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she continues a passion for writing.

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21 April 2020

Killer Soul Mate by Anne Rothman-Hicks & Ken Hicks

A Jane Larson Mystery
Mystery, Suspense
Date Published: January 2020
Publisher: Melange Books

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Jane Larson is back, and trouble abounds on New York’s Upper East Side!

A new client hires Jane to undo the terms of a matrimonial agreement with her ex-husband, the owner of a prosperous hedge fund who does not like to lose. At the same time, Jane’s landlord is working to evict her from the storefront law office where her mother had practiced for many years, and Jane is forced to fight to save her mother’s legacy. However, it seems there is no way she can win.

All too soon, the bodies begin to pile up and Jane has to figure out who is responsible before she becomes one of the victims. Meanwhile, a guy named Gary is trying to worm his way into her life, and, even though she thinks he is much too young for her, she starts to fall for him. The problem is that he has a habit of showing up where the murders occur. Can she trust him?

About the Authors

Anne Rothman-Hicks and her co-author, Ken Hicks, have lived and written books together in New York City for over forty-five years. Their Jane Larson Mystery/Suspense novels are set on New York City’s Upper East Side, and KILLER SOUL MATE is the fourth in the series that includes PRAISE HER, PRAISE DIANA, WEAVE A MURDEROUS WEB and MIND ME, MILADY.

Anne and Ken have also created the Alice And Friends series for middle readers, including STONE FACES, BROWNSTONE FACES, and SPLOTCH.

Finally, Anne and Ken have published two books for ‘tween readers, featuring New Yorkers Jenny and James, as well as Whitehair, the talking pigeon they find in Central Park. THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM is set in New York City. REMEMBERING THOMAS, begins in modern-day New York City until Jenny and James step through a time portal and find themselves in the middle of the Battle of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War.

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I Love Me! by LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss

Picture Book
Date Published: 4/21/20
Publisher: Beaming Books

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I love me from my mouth and chin
all the way down to my knees and shins.
This affirming picture book features a diversity of races and ethnicities, physical features, body types, abilities and disabilities. I Love Me teaches all kids they have many, many reasons to love themselves.

About the Author

LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss found that motherhood immersed her in the fascinating world of picture books as she shared in her son's love of story time. Experiencing picture books with varying styles, stories and approaches to themes inspired her to write stories of her own. With a vision to create stories that will entertain, enlighten and empower all children, she ultimately aspires to both author and illustrate her work.

LaRonda is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators as well as Storyteller Academy.  Living in her home state of North Carolina with her husband and son, she participates in a local SCBWI critique group and a regional SCBWI illustrators network. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering.

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20 April 2020

A Stolen Heart by Kayelle Allen

~ Blog Tour ~ 

A Stolen Heart by Kayelle Allen

- 20th to 25th April -

About the Book:

An abandoned half-human child.

An immortal warrior whose villainous past keeps him in hiding.

Two monsters in need of a family.

A Stolen Heart transports science fiction fans to the fantastic Tarthian Empire in the distant future; a wealthy but deliciously seedy corner of the galaxy. Here, powerful immortals comingle with genetically-enhanced humans and animals, aliens and androids, and secret societies are commonplace.

After rescuing a half-alien / half-human child who's running for his life on the planet Kelthia, a glorified space pirate turned entrepreneur named Luc Saint-Cyr stumbles onto a conspiracy at the highest levels of the powerful Thieves' Guild.

Complicating matters, the king--Luc's immortal ex--might be involved.

As if that's not enough, an unseen enemy is undoing every good thing Luc accomplishes.

But, when it comes time to give up the child to a family who can care for him, how will Luc bear to part with the adorable little boy who has stolen his heart?

Goodreads * Amazon

Read an Excerpt from A Stolen Heart

In this scene from A Stolen Heart, Luc Saint-Cyr is dealing with his immortal ex. Those who have read about Pietas in other stories already know he's brilliant, gorgeous, and confident to the max. He's also half a smidgen from being a full-blown narcissist.

He adores Luc, who broke up with him thousands of years ago, but Pietas continually holds out hope for a return. Luc has retreated to a dressing room to calm down after an incident in which Pietas completely misread Luc's intentions, with disastrous results.

A note: Pietas is severely claustrophobic, and he always calls Luc "Cyken,"  his "immortal" name.

DONE. D. O. N. E.

How long Luc stood there, clutching the mangled tie, he did not know. He forced in deep breaths, held them and released, over and over, until self-loathing inundated his shame. He'd put Pietas through more than a year of hell. Luc might not have locked him into the coffin-like pod that imprisoned him, but his betrayal forged every bolt that trapped his king inside. It was his fault Pietas could barely force himself to open a closet or shut a door.

"Over the man but duty-bound to serve the king." Luc stomped over to the recycler, opened the lid, and flung the tie into it. He dragged a hand through his hair. "I hate my life."

He had Nikko to think about. He must go out. Celebrate the graduation. He must do this. From a drawer, he withdrew another tie and fastened it.

A timid knock sounded.

He stood there a moment, took one step toward the door, but halted. What if it was the child?

"Cyken?" Pietas called out.

Luc shook his head. Oh to be able to portal out of there.

"I know you're in there. I can hear you breathing. I upset you. Let me in."

Why? To take another shot at infuriating him? "Go away."

"Let me talk to you."

"Go away."

"But, if you would just--"

"No!" Luc brought up a fist, but forced himself to set it--gently--against the door. "Go. Away."

"Cyken. Talk to me."

He yanked open the door.

Pietas jerked back.

"Go away. We are done." Refusing to take so much as one step closer, Luc stabbed a finger at the ground. "Get that through your head. We are over. D-O-N-E. Done. Finished. Go. Away."

After clearing his throat, Pietas folded his hands before him, hesitant in his movements. "I crossed a line." From the man's expression, he sought confirmation.

"You didn't even know, did you?" Luc threw up one hand. "I swear, you have the sensitivity of lava. You push your way forward and shove aside anything that gets in your path. Well I'm not budging."

"Technically, lava burns through things, so--"

Seething, Luc slammed the door, shoved his back against it and clenched both fists. He sucked in a shallow breath. "Serve the mission," he murmured. "Serve the mission."

"Cyken." Less timid knock this time. "That lava comment was stupid. I shouldn't have said that."

"You think!" No. Never engage an enemy on his terms. You didn't fight a word battle with a pedantic narcissistic.

"Can you hear me?" Another knock. A pause. "Cyken? Are you still in there?"

Silence. Never give an enemy what he expects.

Pietas heaved an overly dramatic sigh. "Stupid question. You don't have a portal. There's no other door in there." Quiet. "Wait. Is there?"

The sound of footsteps came to him. There was another door, but it led to the bathroom which then led back to the bedroom. No escape there.

More silence. Footsteps back.

Would the man never give up? Luc jammed his fingers against his brow.

Another knock. "Cyken, come out. Please? Talk to me. I'm sorry."

With a resigned sigh, he tilted back his head. This man was persistence personified. Luc opened the door. Stood there. Said nothing.

"Thank you for opening the door."

He made no response.

"You were right." Pietas bit his lips, studying the carpet. Peeking back up, he rubbed the back of his neck. "I was insensitive. I know what I did was stupid, because it hurt you, and I didn't mean to do that. I thought you were teasing. You know, the way we used to when we were lovers, and you'd say no, and I'd--" He broke off, started a new sentence, then another, but completed neither of them.

Luc made no attempt to rescue him.

"I'm sorry," the man said finally. "I was a fool."

"Don't expect me to contradict you."

After showing surprise, Pietas twitched one shoulder. "I suppose I deserved that."

Crossing his arms, Luc remained silent.

"I wasn't trying to force myself on you. Please believe that." A look of such pain crossed his king's face that Luc softened toward him. "Cyken, I would never do that. I wouldn't violate your agency. I wouldn't do that to anyone, even my worst enemy. Certainly not to someone I love."

Luc unfolded his arms. "I believe you."

Pietas looked at him, hopeful.

"But you went too far. When someone says stop, you stop. You don't keep pushing!"

"I was stupid." He held up both hands. "I've missed you so much. I saw what I wanted to see, not what was real. I'm sorry."

Luc gave a single nod.

Pietas took another step back. "Come out of there."


"All right." Pietas studied the room as if searching for written words. "Then... Can I-- May I-- Will you let me come in?"

"You want to come inside a small room like this?"

Pietas peered around Luc, gave a fine shudder. "No," he admitted, "but I want to be where you are."

A Stolen Heart, sci fi from Kayelle Allen

Want to know when this book is available? Like to have a free read before it's out? Join one of Kayelle's reader groups. You'll also get free starter books right away. https://kayelleallen.com/reader-groups/

Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She is the author of multiple books, novellas, and short stories. She's also a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she's tenured.

Sing for Me by Maggie Clare

Tactical Solutions International, Book 1
Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Wave Equation Media
Release Date: April 7, 2020

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Jake Evans isn’t looking for love when he walks into a dive bar while on leave, just a beer and a no-strings hookup. Fiona Flynn isn’t even looking for a date. She’s got a musical career to launch and a past heartache to overcome.

When Jake sees the stunning singer on stage, he knows he wants her – maybe for more than one night. Fiona can’t deny the chemistry between them, and she can’t ignore her growing feelings for the hot sailor with the easy smile.

Their sweet, sexy, long-distance love affair comes to a screeching halt when Jake is injured overseas. Wrecked body and soul, Jake can’t imagine a different kind of life, for himself or with Fiona. But when the unthinkable happens, and Fiona’s life hangs in the balance, Jake will have to rediscover his inner warrior in order to save her.

About the Author

Maggie Clare is the pen name of award-winning speculative fiction writer, Tabitha Lord. When channeling Maggie, she writes all the sexy things! Sing for Me is the first book in her Tactical Solutions International romantic suspense series.

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18 April 2020

Seeking Glory by Patricia Hamilton Shook

Women's Fiction
Publisher: Outskirts Press

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2019 CIPA EVVY AWARD - Merit Award Women's Fiction

Life is never static. Just when you think you finally have everything under control, that illusion is shattered…and the life you once knew has spun off in unimaginable directions. Seeking Glory is an eloquent novel that explores the complexities of family relationships. With themes of loss, recovery, estrangement, and reconciliation woven throughout, it tells the story of a woman who seeks to uncover the truth about her young granddaughter’s origins.

Kate takes custody of her young granddaughter Glory after the death of Ally, her long missing daughter but soon discovers that Glory is mute and seemingly traumatized. To help her, she must try to solve the mystery of her granddaughter's origins. As she struggles to deal with her own and Ally's past she finds she is not the only one seeking Glory.

About the Author

Patricia Hamilton Shook was born in Massachusetts and while she has lived there most of her life, she also spent twelve years in the San Francisco Bay area where she obtained a B.A.in Psychology and a M.A. in Developmental Psychology from San Francisco State University. Soon after her marriage, Dr. Shook returned to Massachusetts where she obtained a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University while raising the their two sons and working part time. Reading has been a favorite pastime since she first began combining letters into words on a page and while her chosen profession has provided many opportunities to write, she has always dreamed of writing a novel. In writing Seeking Glory she combines her professional expertise with an interest in spirituality and mysteries--along with a love of Cape Cod that dates back to childhood--to inform her debut novel Seeking Glory.

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17 April 2020

Body Language by Marylee MacDonald

Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Publisher: Grand Canyon Press

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Life-changing moments. Impassioned encounters. Twelve stories at the crossroads of heartbreak and desire.

When a long-lost love comes knocking, a loyally wedded rancher is tempted by old passions. A bartender wrestling with sobriety is pushed to the edge by a familiar barfly. After her husband's death, a famous composer struggles to write a single note.

From international flights to hidden grottoes and a nude beach, twelve wayward souls seek to satisfy their deepest hungers and escape their fears.

Body Language explores our often-misguided quest for happiness and connection. If you like vulnerable explorations of carnal cravings, challenging moral quandaries, and transformative self-reflection, then you'll love these heartbreaking and unforgettable portraits of people yearning for the solace of human touch.

Read Body Language to embrace all that binds us today!

About the Author

Marylee MacDonald grew up in Redwood City, California, married her high school sweetheart, and worked as a carpenter in California and Illinois. When she's not writing, she's hiking in the red rocks of Sedona, walking on a California beach, or plucking snails from her tomatoes.

Her short stories have won the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Award, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, the Matt Clark Prize, and the American Literary Review Fiction Award. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE AND BLOOD, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Finalist, and her novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW, was a Gold Medal winner in the Readers' Favorites annual book awards.

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Domestic Abuse - Pandemic or No Pandemic by Shilpa Suraj

Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters 

by Shilpa Suraj

About the Book:

She believes in love, family and…squiggles!

Alisha Rana is not your typical single desi girl. For one, she is on the wrong side of 30.  For another, she is divorced. And last but definitely not least, she is still, gasp, a virgin!

Alisha doesn’t want much. But what she does want is that elusive thing all women search for – A man who gets her…but a man who gets her hot! She calls it “feeling the squiggle.”

Enter Dr. Vivaan Kapoor, cute, hot, squiggle-worthy. The younger brother of her cousin's prospective groom, he’s got the squiggle factor in spades. The only catch? He's never been married and is years younger than Alisha. Basically, completely off-limits.

And then there is Arjun. Widowed, older than her by the right number of years and a genuinely nice guy. He's Vivaan’s cousin and a so-called perfect match for Alisha. The problem is, Alisha’s squiggle-o-meter refuses to budge for him.

What will Alisha choose? A lifetime together with the 'right' man or a chance at happiness with the 'wrong' one?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Domestic Abuse - Pandemic or No Pandemic

“Do you know what it does to a person to be told day in and day out that they’re useless? Ugly, useless, fit-for-nothing. The words merge into each other until nothing is left in you. No confidence, no strength and certainly no fight. You start to question every thought, every decision. You start to question your very existence. Initially, I didn’t have the heart to tell my parents that the guy they’d chosen was a monster and as time went by, I didn’t have the courage. I was 23 years old and my life as I knew it was over.” – Alisha Rana; Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters

Abuse, physical, mental or emotional, is on the rise. In the midst of a pandemic, people are locked in with their abusers, seemingly for an indefinite period of time. To live in fear, to live with hurt, to live without peace…I cannot even fathom the strength and courage it takes for them to endure the proximity and escalation of abuse they’re exposed to.

News articles roll in from across the world about how crisis hotlines are working overtime to help people, to support them and to rescue them. And I wonder about what comes after.

What comes after the pandemic? What comes after the wreckage of a relationship that was meant to keep you safe? When your port in a storm, your safe habour, destroys you, where do you go?

Alisha Rana, my protagonist, leaves her abusive marriage and goes home to her supportive parents. She’s luckier than most. She has a home to go back to. For most abuse victims, there is nowhere to go. The location of abuse is ‘home.’

As we navigate life in these uncertain, unprecedented times, we find ourselves faced with a new normal. Please take a moment out of your own confusion and fear to check on people around you. On the ones who are silent, on the ones who are fearful, on the ones who ask for help and even the ones who look fine. Sometimes, it’s the ones who look fine who are hiding the deepest wounds.
Offer, ask, help, escalate and please, above all else, don’t judge.

As Vivaan the male protagonist of Love, Marriage, and Other Disasters says, “Scarred is a much better word than damaged. You get hurt, you get a scar….it doesn’t leave you damaged for life. A scar shows you’ve healed. A little different, maybe, from whom you were before but stronger. Alisha survived a dead marriage and built a strong, stable life for herself. I don’t see a damaged person when I look at her. I see a survivor. A little scarred, battered and bruised but magnificent.”

We’re all scarred by life in some way or the other, sometimes small, sometimes not so small. We should wear those scars, visible or otherwise, with pride.

We’ve lived. We’ve survived.

We’ll heal. We’ll triumph.

About Shilpa Suraj:

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.
An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Shilpa on the Web:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

16 April 2020

Frank Vaughn, Killed by His Mom by D.Krauss

Family Saga
Publisher: DOA Enterprises

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A dark version of "The Wonder Years," Frank Vaughn Killed by his Mom is "The Great Santini" written by Homer, careening through a coarse world of racism, adultery, abandonment, and even the occasional hope.

It’s summer, 1965. School's out and Butch's birthday is in a few weeks. Perfect; three months of freeze tag, hide and seek and riding his bike way past dark. Well, maybe not completely perfect — Frank Vaughn, a classmate, is beaten to death by his crazy mother for leaving a report card at school. On top of that, Dad is touchier than ever and Mom sadder, so best to hide out next door with his best friend Tommy reading X-Men and hoping for that birthday GI Joe.

But in one night, Butch's summer explodes and he’s now riding across a turbulent and changing Dixie in a white Rambler station wagon, at the mercy of a manic depressive and wildly violent Dad. Like a crewman on Ulysses' ship, Butch encounters a one-eyed evil grandfather, a 12-year-old Siren, the lotus-eaters of Alabama…and Frank Vaughn. If Butch ever sees his beloved sister, Cindy, again, it'll be a miracle. If he's alive at the end of the summer, it'll be a bigger one.

Chapter 1

Butch sat on the porch watching the girls skip rope:

“Frank Vaughn, killed by his mom
Lying in bed alooone,
She picked up a bat
And gave him a whack
And broke his head to the booone
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…”

…and so on.
Cindy reached the twenties before snagging a toe, but Frank's mom couldn't have hit him that many times. A lot, but not that many.
Immortalized in skip rhyme. Amazing. It had been what, only a week? Frank was still on TV. Pat Jarrod, the Channel 7 news anchor, was all grim last night while narrating the film of Frank's dad escorting Frank's mom, very pretty in a silk dress and beehive hairdo, into the Lawton Court House. Mr. Vaughn was wearing his class-A uniform and dark glasses and looked like the President of Vietnam, and his wife looked like Mrs. President of Vietnam.
"They're Filipino," dad said.
Could've been a state visit, except no one was happy.
Butch had been surprised when Frank's dad helped Mrs. Frank up the courthouse stairs.
Odd. He should be really mad at her, but there he was, being nice. The girls weren’t being nice; they were making fun of Frank, which wasn’t right. Wasn’t like it was Frank’s fault or anything.
Cindy was in again and the others—Lynn and Debbie, Carlafromdownthestreet, Maria and Joseph (who might as well be a girl), and some random passersby—were doing their best to trip her up while staying on the Frank call. You'd think they'd get tired of it, go on to “Spank” or “Battleship,” but no. Butch should go over and tell them to stop, but that would invoke the deadly kid "Ewww!" response and its follow-up, "Go away, you big baby, we'll do what we want!" and even Cindy would join in because this was the herd, although she'd be gentle. He'd be humiliated and might get his suit, the same one he wore to Frank's funeral, dirty, which meant a beating and not going to Dale's graduation.
Best to stay here.
Graduation. Sure making a big deal. All of them dressed up, even Art, with some put-together shirt and skinny tie that wasn't a suit at all, something Butch, with great delight, repeatedly pointed out. Cindy had on a flowered dress with a yellow silk belt and mom had brushed her red-blonde hair until it was full and fluffy and floated like a cloud, as it did now inside the rope…twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six. She wouldn't get dirty.
Never did. Even when they had mud ball fights and slid head first, screaming and laughing, down the crap hills piled up by the bulldozer guys building apartments near the ball fields, only Butch came back with twenty or thirty layers of dirt hiding his identity. She was untouched. She was perfect.
She was beautiful.
Butch watched her, and his heart soared and knew he was lucky to be her brother…okay, adopted brother. All the boys wanted to cut the string on her finger but she wouldn't let them, and all the girls wanted to play with her, just her, but she played with them all, no favorites, her laughter ringing up and down the hallways of B.C. Swinney Elementary.
Because of Cindy, the bullies more or less left Butch alone and the other kids tolerated his goofiness. In any other family, that'd be enough. But she favored him, him, over the smart, handsome boys who pursued her on the playground and the sophisticated girls who called her on the phone. Butch was her sole companion when she ran through the alley and over the crap hills. They rolled down the slopes together until they were so dizzy that earth and sky blurred and then they lay on their backs and made things out of clouds and said their secrets and never, ever, told on each other. She didn't call him stupid or spaz or any of the other names everyone including dad did; she covered for him, even made him look better than he was to the other kids. Even now, somehow she’d disentangle him if he went over there and screamed at the girls for making fun of Frank. Without her, he’d be dead.
Just like Frank.
Tommy walked up the mile-high steps onto the porch and scooted Cha Cha, who lay next to Butch, out of the way. The dog smiled good-naturedly as Tommy sat down and handed Butch a Journey Into Mystery, “To Kill a Thunder God”! Good cover with the Destroyer on it and Butch flipped to "The Crimson Hand," one of the Tales of Asgard. He'd already read it, but he liked to re-read things he liked, and the Norse myths fascinated him. Tommy had X-Men #12, “The Origin of Professor X”! and Butch glanced over. His copy was in the house. He and Tommy had bought probably the last two left at Carl's Drug Store, thank God, before someone else got them. Good issue, but he wasn't sure which origin story, Professor X's or Juggernaut's, was the more compelling. Juggernaut was magic, not a mutant. That made him hard to defeat.
“You wanna read this one?” Tommy had caught his glance and shook the X-Men at him.
Yes, but Asgard first.
Butch finger-waved it away, already back on the Hand. Tommy grunted and turned to the page showing Juggernaut at Professor X's feet, helmet off, surprised by a Professor X-guided Angel attack. Butch abandoned Asgard for Juggernaut’s terrified face. There’s always a weakness. Just had to find it.
"Why you all dressed up?" Tommy asked.
"Dale's graduation."
"Oh," Tommy nodded and looked at the girls. Tommy was in sixth grade now but, next year, moved on to middle school. Next week Butch turned ten, double-digits at last, teenagery mere scattered months beyond, a birthday of grand implications heralded with cupcakes and ice cream and singing and presents and maybe, please God, that longed-for GI Joe. Butch looked forward to it with all the twittery anticipation of a Christmas morning. But their mutual promotions might have a dangerous effect on their friendship.
Tommy lived right next door, very convenient for a best friend, and there were hardly two hours straight in the day that Butch wasn't at Tommy's or the other way around. They played army, with Tommy the Americans and Butch the Germans, or Civil War, with Tommy the North and Butch the Rebs, or Marvel, with Tommy as Dr. Strange or Reed Richards and Butch as Dormammu or Doctor Doom. Occasionally, Chuckie from two doors down joined them when he wasn't in trouble, or Dale (funny that he had Butch's sister's name) from across the street when he was visiting his aunt. But those were interludes Butch really didn't like because, invariably, Chuckie or Dale teased Butch about something stupid he did or said and Tommy let them continue until Butch cried and went home.
The best times were right now, side by side, reading Marvel. Tommy got him started a few years ago, dragged Butch and his weekly quarter off to Carl's. "Don't buy baseball cards, jerko, lookee here!"
Tommy had spun the magazine rack to a slot containing a Fantastic Four #1 with that big green thing coming out of the street.
Butch liked Batman, and Sergeant Rock and the tank haunted by the ghost of General Stuart in GI Combat, but this! He bought the FF and a Two-Gun Kid and still had one cent left over for bubblegum with a Luis Tiant and Tug McGraw inside to trade later.
So who’s the jerko, jerko?
They had raced to Tommy's back porch and Tommy read the comics aloud because Butch couldn't read yet. First grade was still months away, and he hadn’t gone to kindergarten like Cindy and Art. If it hadn't been for those comic books and Green Eggs and Ham, Butch wouldn't have had a clue what a letter was, much less whole words, when he walked into Miss MacDonald's first-grade class that fall.
Now, look at him. He read as well as Tommy, maybe better. Butch had read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer five times already, loving each pass-through. Miss Hale, the most beautiful second-grade teacher in the world, had read it to them during story time. Enthralled, Butch had pestered her to do so again, and she asked, "Would you like to read it for yourself?"
Would he!
"Maybe a little advanced, Butch, but if you think you can do it …"
He sure did think he could do it. Hadn't he blasted through the SRAs, didn't he swap Happy Hollisters with the third graders and wasn't he a Marvel True Believer? She lent him her copy and he finished it in a week, and Miss Hale was so astonished she gave it to him when school ended. He could read anything now, couldn't he?
Call me a bookworm, dad, I don't care.
But all that was in jeopardy. If there was one group of kids with which middle schoolers had no truck, it was elementaries … like Butch. Butch wouldn’t ascend to seventh grade until Tommy was already in ninth, one year away from high school, and ninth graders had even less truck with seventh graders. Their friendship was aging out. It was more than likely that this summer was the very last time that he and Tommy could, or would, remain the best of friends.
That prospect gave Butch the chills, and he glanced apprehensively at his very best friend in the entire universe and, oh my God, look at this, Tommy was still on the girls. Butch frowned. Tommy had the narrowed eyes that dad got whenever he looked at bent-over girls or girls walking by in their bathing suits. Butch always looked away feeling guilty, even though he didn't understand why. Dad, though, stayed on them; smiled, too.
Wait. Wrong word—'leered,' yeah, that's it. An ugly word. But appropriate.

About the Author

D. Krauss resides in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. He has been, at various times: a cottonpicker, a sodbuster, a librarian, a surgical orderly, the guy who paints the little white line down the middle of the road, a weatherman, a door-kickin' shove-gun-in-face lawman, a hunter of terrorists, and a school bus driver (and a layabout, don't forget that). He's been married for over 40 years, and has a wildman bass guitarist for a son.

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