Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Chokecherry Girl Reveal

Chokecherry Girl cover

 

Young Adult, Coming of Age, Multi-Cultural Fiction

Date Published: 2/16/21

Publisher Acorn Publishing

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It’s 1958. Racial tension and class disparities have everyone on edge in a small Montana town. Despite their differences, three women of the community become the unlikeliest of friends.

BOBBI VERNON is a quirky teen, who will do whatever it takes to drive her teacher’s new Chevy convertible. Adding to the already volatile mix, she meets Pretty Weasel, an Indian basketball player, who calls her Chokecherry Girl. She dreams of dating him and wearing his class ring.

PATSY OLSON, after two failed marriages, is desperate to get her life back. After opening a beauty shop with a shaky bank loan, she watches Coach Vernon, Bobbi’s father, arriving for school each day. Attracted yet wary, she needs the business of the town ladies, including the Coach’s wife, Lois.

MARY AGNES LONE HILL, an alcoholic Crow Indian who was sent far away to a brutal Indian school as a child, now cleans houses for the town ladies and longs to end her estrangement with her son, Pretty Weasel.

These three women are drawn together through an illicit love affair, a stolen car, and a shooting that changes their lives forever.

About the Author

Award-winning California author and poet, Barbara Meyer Link, has had three stories aired on KVPR, a National Public Radio Affiliate. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous literary magazines and small presses. She also received the Sacramento State University Bazzanella Prize for fiction. Her memoir, Blue Shy, was published in 2010 and awarded first prize in the Sacramento Friends of the Library First Chapter contest. She co-authored Coffee and Ink, a handbook for writing groups and was a past editor of Sacramento’s Poetry Now. In addition, she was a poet/teacher for California Poets in the Schools for over fourteen years. Most recently, she was awarded second prize for poetry at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s contest.

Partial list of publications. American River Review, Poetry Now, Mindprint Review, Anima, Missouri Review, Women’s Compendium, Hardpan, Earth’s Daughter’s, (2014-2016) Whitefish Review, Dead Snakes, Noyo Review, Piker Press (on Dec 5, Dec 12)

Blue Moon Literary & Art Review (2019, 2020)

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Latch Key Kids Blitz

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Latch Key Kids cover

 

Fiction, Coming of Age, Dark Humor 

 

Date Published: September 2020 

Publisher: Paragraph Line Books 

 

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Latch Key Kids, the long-awaited follow-up to Small Town Punk, chronicles the enduring impact one life can have on another.  

Resilience and the power of sibling friendship combine into a surprising, ingeniously layered comic novel about a boy inventing himself.  

In Latch Key Kids, Sheppard strips the flesh from the bone. He makes you laugh by combining searing wit with keen social observation. 

Latch Key Kids tablet

Also by John L. Sheppard

Small Town Punk cover

Small Town Punk 

Publisher: g Publishing 

Trapped in dreary Sarasota, Florida in the early 1980s—during Reagan’s “Morning in America,”—going to high school with junior fascists by day, working at Pizza Hut by night, his family a dysfunctional nightmare, 17-year old Buzz Pepper feels that nothing matters in life beyond drinking, drugs and punk rock. 

As the country around him is becoming more conservative and corporate, and adulthood seems like the ultimate corrupt existence, Buzz can only find solace within a close-knit group of fellow disillusioned teens, which includes his devoted younger sister, Sissy. As they drive around in Buzz’s beat-up van, encountering redneck cops, mocking the local “geezers,” and wondering if there is any meaning in what seems to be a meaningless world, Small Town Punk perfectly captures how it is to be young, yet feel that you have no future. 

In the tradition of Hairstyles of the Dammed and Perks of Being A Wallflower, Small Town Punk is a brutally funny and poignant coming of age story that brilliantly evokes the surging joy, confusion and rage of youth. 

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 Read an Excerpt 

Years later, Sissy would say, “You remember. Of course you remember. How could you forget?” 

No,” I’d insist. “I don’t remember that at all.” 

The summer we moved to Sarasota, one of the local news anchors shot herself live on television with a gray, little pistol. Bang, went the report, sounding like someone clapping together a pair of wood blocks. That’s the way Sissy told the story. I don’t remember any of it. 

Sissy and I were up early, she told me, eating Cocoa Puffs out of the box, dry. We paused and looked at each other, stopping mid-crunch. Sissy swallowed her mouthful of cereal and asked, “Did that just happen?” 

Did what just happen?” I asked. 

That cereal. I remember that. My teeth were sugary rough. I sucked at my molars. But the dead woman. Was there a dead woman? And why did Sissy insist on watching this woman every morning on some public affairs show called Suncoast Digest? 

Wait. I remember that part. It was because the anchor was clearly weird, for one thing. Like you knew that one day she’d do something odd on the air and if we missed it, Sissy would never forgive me. 

For another, the anchor had a recognizable accent. She was from our part of Ohio. It was like hearing the voice of home listening to Christine. Christine! That was the anchor’s name. 

The picture on the color set wiggled. It made everything orange, or maybe that was the 1970’s. Maybe the 1970’s were particularly lurid. There was this dead woman slumped over in a field of wiggling orange. There was another person screaming. A man wearing a headset ran up. He waved at the camera and then some color bars glowed. They were primary colors. Soon enough, an episode of Gentle Ben came on to replace Suncoast Digest. A boy and his pet bear. Sissy turned the dial, clunking through the channels that we could get from the antenna on the roof. She found nothing satisfying and turned off the set. 

You have so much to learn about life, little brother,” Sissy said. 

I’m your big brother,” I said. 

Sure you are.” 

But I am. I’m almost two years older.” 

Do we have any orange juice?” Sissy smiled, showing off her dimpled cheeks. Adults liked to pinch them. “Do you think she’s really dead?” 

Who?” 

My God, you’re dumb. How’d you get so dumb?” 

I don’t know. I think I got it from Dad.” 

That makes sense.” She stood up, so I stood up, too. She handed me the box of Cocoa Puffs. I rolled up the waxpaper bag inside and clicked the boxtop shut. “That weird anchor lady. You think she really shot herself?” 

I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

She made a little fist and rapped gently on the side of my head. “Knock-knock. Anybody home?” 

Stop making fun of me.” 

You make it so easy, little brother.” She went into the kitchen and I followed her. 

About the Author 


John L Sheppard wrote Small Town Punk. He lives in Illinois.
 

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Blood Branded Blitz

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 Blood Branded cover

 

(The Mix-Blood: Book One)

Young Adult, Coming of Age, Fantasy

Date Published: October 1, 2019

Publisher: Breezy Pages Publishing

Defiance is paid in blood.

Their time is up. The crimsons are coming, marching on Hammerstone to crush the rebellious grays who renounce their rule. The graybacks have defied the ban that forbids trade or alliances with other races.

Frafnar understands intolerance better than most. Every season the grayback settlements send tribute to their oppressive orc cousins, and Hammerstone is no exception. After Frafnar is denied the opportunity to join the tribute guard because of his mixed heritage, he leaps at the chance to prove himself when his father’s signal horn is left behind.

Smoke rises in the distance. Frafnar must warn Hammerstone of the threat and comes to realize that his people are struggling with what he’s faced all his life. Now he must fight alongside those he loves—and hates—to protect his home.

Can Hammerstone withstand the siege, or will it become the final gravesite in a failed rebellion?

When the crimsons strike, always remember… strength in blood.

If you’re a fan of the epic or high fantasy genres, coming of age stories, or action-packed tales with haughty orcs and mysterious magic, then you’ll want to pick up Blood Branded.

Excerpt

Mix-Blood

“I have to win.”

The words pierced the chatter among the gathering, reaching Frafnar and echoing his own thoughts.

“I want to see a crimson!” another hollered.

“Better hope you’re not against me!” someone else shouted.

Then the energy of the group stilled as if everyone held their breath. Frafnar stood on the tips of his toes, but he still couldn’t see past the bobbing heads and shoulders of the other runts.

“Frafnar, son of Armastus.”

His elation was cut short by the groans of the group. The outbursts ceased when Trainer Groth roared for silence.

“His opponent will be…”

The gathering leaned forward.

“Bromh, son of—”

“No!” Bromh yelled from within the crowd. “I won’t be paired against the mix-blood.”

“Then you forfeit,” Groth said, already searching for the next contender.

“I never said—”

“Get over here,” Groth snapped. “Where’s Frafnar? Let him through.”

The circle of bodies parted enough that Frafnar squeezed between them, ignoring the sharp stares from the others. He kept his chin high and broke eye contact only as he passed the runts towering over him.

Trainer Groth and Bromh waited in the center of the ring.

“What’s the matter?” Frafnar taunted when he broke through the crowd. “Afraid you’ll lose?”

Bromh scoffed. “I’ll crush you in an instant, twig.”

Groth’s scowl deepened. Veins popped out of the tight flesh on his arms and neck.

“Fine,” Bromh stammered. “But everyone knows I should’ve had a real challenge,” he dared to add.

“Get into position.”

Frafnar met Bromh in the middle of the circle, a solid wood construction between them.

“Winner moves on to the finals,” Groth reiterated with a huff.

Frafnar mirrored Bromh by grasping the iron bar on the side of the wood platform with one hand and placing his elbow on the leather pad. Bromh glared over their clasped hands and squeezed so hard his knuckles paled. Maybe when he was younger, Frafnar might have cried out because of the pain. Today, Bromh would have to break his hand before he’d let go. When he won, they’d have no choice but to acknowledge him as an orc.

Trainer Groth balanced two thin strips of kindling on each side of their hands to ensure they started at his command. “Prepare,” he said. Then, after a suspense-filled moment, “Go.”

The audience erupted with noise, hollering as the strips fell over. Frafnar met Bromh’s strength with his own. He inched his opponent’s arm halfway down to the wood surface. The notion of a quick triumph crumbled when he heard Bromh snicker.

“That all you got, twig?”

Blood Branded Quote Release

 

JA_Alexsoophoto

J.A. Alexsoo lives in Ontario, Canada, and has forever been a fan of fantasy and science fiction. When not working on writing or imagining new adventures, she tours the lands with her two trusty canine companions. She’s the author of THE KNIGHT’S ORDER and her new book BLOOD BRANDED is scheduled to be released October 1st.

Contact Links
Website: https://jaalexsoo.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jaalexsoo/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jaalexsoo
Blog: https://jaalexsoo.com/blog/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15928109.J_A_Alexsoo
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/jaalexsoo/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J-A-Alexsoo/e/B01LX3D6ZY/

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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Branded-Fantasy-Novella-Mix-Blood-ebook/dp/B07Y9XHNR2

Kindle Unlimited

 

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Blood Branded Teaser

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 photo Alexsoo_Blood-Series_Book1_zpsxa1wbkv0.jpg

(The Mix-Blood: Book One)
Young Adult, Coming of Age, Fantasy
Date Published: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Breezy Pages Publishing
 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png
Defiance is paid in blood.
Their time is up. The crimsons are coming, marching on Hammerstone to crush the rebellious grays who renounce their rule. The graybacks have defied the ban that forbids trade or alliances with other races.
Frafnar understands intolerance better than most. Every season the grayback settlements send tribute to their oppressive orc cousins, and Hammerstone is no exception. After Frafnar is denied the opportunity to join the tribute guard because of his mixed heritage, he leaps at the chance to prove himself when his father’s signal horn is left behind.
Smoke rises in the distance. Frafnar must warn Hammerstone of the threat and comes to realize that his people are struggling with what he’s faced all his life. Now he must fight alongside those he loves—and hates—to protect his home.
Can Hammerstone withstand the siege, or will it become the final gravesite in a failed rebellion?
When the crimsons strike, always remember… strength in blood.
If you’re a fan of the epic or high fantasy genres, coming of age stories, or action-packed tales with haughty orcs and mysterious magic, then you’ll want to pick up Blood Branded.
Excerpt
Mix-Blood
“I have to win.”
The words pierced the chatter among the gathering, reaching Frafnar and echoing his own thoughts.
“I want to see a crimson!” another hollered.
“Better hope you’re not against me!” someone else shouted.
Then the energy of the group stilled as if everyone held their breath. Frafnar stood on the tips of his toes, but he still couldn’t see past the bobbing heads and shoulders of the other runts.
“Frafnar, son of Armastus.”
His elation was cut short by the groans of the group. The outbursts ceased when Trainer Groth roared for silence.
“His opponent will be…”
The gathering leaned forward.
“Bromh, son of—”
“No!” Bromh yelled from within the crowd. “I won’t be paired against the mix-blood.”
“Then you forfeit,” Groth said, already searching for the next contender.
“I never said—”
“Get over here,” Groth snapped. “Where’s Frafnar? Let him through.”
The circle of bodies parted enough that Frafnar squeezed between them, ignoring the sharp stares from the others. He kept his chin high and broke eye contact only as he passed the runts towering over him.
Trainer Groth and Bromh waited in the center of the ring.
“What’s the matter?” Frafnar taunted when he broke through the crowd. “Afraid you’ll lose?”
Bromh scoffed. “I’ll crush you in an instant, twig.”
Groth’s scowl deepened. Veins popped out of the tight flesh on his arms and neck.
“Fine,” Bromh stammered. “But everyone knows I should’ve had a real challenge,” he dared to add.
“Get into position.”
Frafnar met Bromh in the middle of the circle, a solid wood construction between them.
“Winner moves on to the finals,” Groth reiterated with a huff.
Frafnar mirrored Bromh by grasping the iron bar on the side of the wood platform with one hand and placing his elbow on the leather pad. Bromh glared over their clasped hands and squeezed so hard his knuckles paled. Maybe when he was younger, Frafnar might have cried out because of the pain. Today, Bromh would have to break his hand before he’d let go. When he won, they’d have no choice but to acknowledge him as an orc.
Trainer Groth balanced two thin strips of kindling on each side of their hands to ensure they started at his command. “Prepare,” he said. Then, after a suspense-filled moment, “Go.”
The audience erupted with noise, hollering as the strips fell over. Frafnar met Bromh’s strength with his own. He inched his opponent’s arm halfway down to the wood surface. The notion of a quick triumph crumbled when he heard Bromh snicker.
“That all you got, twig?”
About the Author

 photo JA_Alexsoo_zpsj34k6nka.jpg

J.A. Alexsoo lives in Ontario, Canada, and has forever been a fan of fantasy and science fiction. When not working on writing or imagining new adventures, she tours the lands with her two trusty canine companions. She’s the author of THE KNIGHT’S ORDER and her new book BLOOD BRANDED is scheduled to be released October 1st.

 

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Section Roads – Book Tour

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Coming
of Age / Mystery / Humor
Date
Published:
June 8, 2019
Publisher:
Acorn Publishing
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When
attorney Cullen Molloy attends his fortieth high school reunion, he doesn’t
expect to be defending childhood friends against charges of murder… 
In
a small town on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico, life and culture are
shaped by the farm roads defining the 640-acre sections of land homesteaders
claimed at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Cullen and Shelby Blaine explore
first love along these section roads during the 1960’s, forging a life-long
emotional bond.
  
      As junior high school band nerds, Cullen
and Shelby fall under the protection of football player and loner, Buddy Boyd.
During their sophomore year of high school, Buddy is charged with killing a
classmate and is confined to a youth correctional facility. When he returns to
town facing the prospect of imprisonment as an adult, Cullen becomes Buddy’s
protector.
       The case haunts the three friends into
adulthood, and it isn’t until their fortieth reunion, that they’re forced to
revisit that horrible night. When a new killing takes place, Cullen, Shelby and
Buddy find themselves reliving the nightmare.
  
         Murder is an easy thing to hide along
old country section roads.
Advance
Praise
“An
ambitious, evocative small-town tale located somewhere between Peyton Place and
The Last Picture Show.” –Kirkus Review
 
Read
the Full Review

EXCERPT

July 2009 Friday

 

“I’ll ride with Buddy,” Shelby whispered. “Do you mind? It’ll give us a chance to talk.”

“No, I think that’s a good idea.” Cullen lifted his eyebrows, which Shelby dismissed with a wave.

             Buddy stood a little apart from them at the Enterprise counter. They’d been through the greeting rituals. A hug for Shelby, which she returned with a kiss to his cheek. A polite, interested handshake with Lori.

Cullen and Lori left them and began an hour-long drive through the agricultural blight of West Texas.

“So, what’s the deal with Buddy?” Lori asked. “I know you worked together a long time ago, but you really haven’t talked much about him.”

They drove along a paved road—an impossibly straight line heading north. Deep green alfalfa fields alternated with stubby rows of cotton and weedy, untilled soil bank every few miles forming a pattern replicating itself off into a horizontal infinity. Heat waves shimmered along the pavement. From the soil bank, dust and debris climbed columns of rising, swirling air.

At the age of five, Cullen came to believe these thermal dust devils were pathways for souls fleeing to heaven. He believed this because on the summer day his grandmother was buried at a rural cemetery with brown grass and a few gnarled, wind-battered elms, one of these dust devils sprang from an uncultivated field across the road and as it grew—sucking dirt and paper and tumbleweeds along—passed over the mounded red earth marking the new grave. A spurt of dust leaped from the mound, painting a segment of the great undulating pillar a pale rosy shade. This pink apparition climbed as the thermal moved across the cemetery, finally disappearing into a hot, whitish-blue, eastern New Mexico sky.

Dust devils always made Cullen think of the people he loved who were no longer alive. His mother and father rested with his grandmother at that same cemetery.

Cullen had a ready description when his friends asked him about his home town. Arthur, New Mexico, along with hardscrabble oil patch towns like Hobbs, Artesia, Midland and Odessa, was located on a high plane called Llano Estacado which, Cullen originally speculated, was Spanish for something like really windy dry flat place.

Occupying Eastern New Mexico and Northwest Texas, the region is characterized by hot blustery summers and even colder blustery winters. The wet part of the Llano received barely twenty inches of rain during a good year. “Arthur,” Cullen would note, “is in the dry part.”

Bleak as they might be, the Hobbses, Odessas and Artesias of the world were at least plopped down atop semi-vast underground puddles of oil. Not Arthur. Not a drop. If tumbleweeds had been a cash crop, though, the homesteaders would have prospered.

Arthur and Arthur County were named for Chester A. Arthur, America’s twenty-first president. Researching a junior high school history assignment, the most compelling facts Cullen found about him were that Arthur was America’s fifth fattest president and owned eighty pairs of pants.

The community of eight thousand—at an elevation of four thousand feet above sea level—had nothing geographical, like a river or a canyon or an oasis, to warrant its location.

Arthur just was.

The flat monotony spread in every direction. “Given a clear day,” Cullen was fond of saying, “you could climb a six-foot stepladder and see the earth curve.”

He often puzzled over the pioneers’ judgment. Certainly, more attractive locations waited further west. He supposed the settlers might have been tired and stopped to rest, thinking they would wait for a good rain to replenish their water supplies before they moved on. And when the livestock had all died of thirst, they were stuck.

Still, despite this hardship, there grew a civilization defined geographically by dirt roads that formed the borders of all those perfectly square six hundred and forty-acre sections of land claimed by early twentieth century homesteaders.

As Cullen composed his answer to Lori’s query about Buddy, he thought of those section roads, and all the ways straight lines and straight laces had twisted the paths of this small group of friends.

“I told you about Christy Hammond, didn’t I?” Cullen answered. “The girl who was shot to death our sophomore year?”

Lori gave a little gasp. “That was Buddy? Oh, no. And he went to jail?”

“Juvenile detention. He pled guilty to manslaughter. They kept him until his eighteenth birthday. They took him away in November of 1966. He came back May of 1969.”

“At least he got to come back.”

Cullen gave a rueful laugh and shook his head.

“No, that was part of the punishment. A lot of people thought he should have been charged with murder. They thought he should have been sent away for life. When the judge didn’t agree, half the town was furious at the injustice of it all. Christy’s uncle is a lawyer. He convinced juvenile court authorities to make Buddy finish high school here as a condition of his release.”

“But why would they—”

“It was their last shot at punishing him,” Cullen said. “They had a few weeks to give him hell when they knew he couldn’t fight back.”

About
the Author

 photo Author_zpslfaxxb8o.png

Mike
Murphey is a native of eastern New Mexico and spent almost thirty years as an
award-winning newspaper journalist in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest.
Following his retirement from the newspaper business, he and his wife Nancy
entered in a seventeen-year partnership with the late Dave Henderson, all-star
centerfielder for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners.
Their company produces the A’s and Mariners adult baseball Fantasy Camps. They
also have a partnership with the Roy Hobbs adult baseball organization in Fort
Myers, Florida. They love baseball, fiction, cats and sailing. They split their
time between Spokane, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona. Mike enjoys life as a
writer and old-man baseball player.
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