Set amid the red rock beauty of Sedona, Arizona, this is the story of a widowed middle-aged newspaper reporter searching for God and herself amid the rubble of her life.
Kathleen Sullivan Buckley writes profiles for a small newspaper about various characters that inhabit the tourist community. Running parallel to her articles is Kathleen’s own story: She is a fallen-away Roman Catholic attempting to deal with her loss of faith; she feels spiritually buffeted by her married lover’s powerful born-again Christian beliefs and the persistent philosophies of the New Age that constantly swirl about Sedona. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law is working his political machinations to get her thrown off her late husband’s will so he can conclude a devious land trade with the U.S. Forest Service.
Sedona: City of Refugees is a biting look at a modern-day American tourist community caught in the throes of change. Sedona—considered by many to be more stunning than some of America’s national parks—draws more than four million tourists a year. But beneath the surface splendor of the scenery, Sedona is torn by deep conflict, with each political and spiritual faction hustling their individual philosophy.
As the novel moves toward its climax, Kathleen uncovers a scheme by her brother-in-law that will adversely affect land near Sedona. In a race against time and the elements to get the story into print, Kathleen comes face to face with a decision she must make about the value of her own life.
About the Author
Geraldine Birch has been a newspaper reporter most of her life, having worked for various community newspapers in Southern California and Arizona. Her work included a ten-year stint as a free-lance writer for the Los Angeles Times.
In 1991, she moved to Sedona, Arizona, where she worked as a reporter, editor, and political columnist for the Sedona Red Rock News. Birch’s political column “Gerrymandering,” was awarded a first place national award by the National Newspaper Association.
Her writing has also appeared in the Arizona Republic, the Christian Science Monitor, Opium, Six Hens, and Fiction Attic Press. She is the author of three books, The Swastika Tattoo, a historical fiction; Vision of a Happy Life: A Memoir; and Sedona: City of Refugees, a fictional romance set in Sedona, Arizona
When independent student, Beri Baines, is selected to study abroad, she has no idea her independent nature will be challenged by the very charming and conservative Brit, Colin Chapman. Their strong attraction for one another continues to create conflict in their lives as the story leads them along and unforeseen events intervene and transform their future.
Their lives come full circle not realizing the implications of the choices they make.
The unique format of how this story is told, in two separate voices, is captivating. Each page is a stand-alone chapter alternating between characters.
The novel is loved by book clubs for the discussion it creates for readers.
About the Author
Chris Fedorka Tomalin is a published author. She spent thirty-five years as an educator. She holds a master’s degree from the College of New Jersey and a mediators certificate from Rutgers. Chris is a mediator for the Kent and Sussex County Courts with people’s Place in Delaware where she resides with her husband Tim and Roxie, her Cairn terrier.
The Ugly Priest is a telling story of a priest’s missteps with the women who haunt his life, and his struggle to repair his soul and restore his vocation. It is a story of deceit, vulnerability and the loss of commitment. It displays the devastation of human frailty and reveals weaknesses that even a priest can’t escape.
If Father George Bernard had only known early on that the job of being a priest pounds the hell out of a man, his life choices might have been different. That pounding hit him countless times over his twenty years as a priest inflicting considerable damage on his soul and resulting in some bad choices. Jennifer was one, Helen another. He succumbs to the vulnerability every priest battles throughout his lifetime. The temptations of the flesh have a power his vocation is hard pressed to withstand.
The Ugly Priest reveals a vocation in shambles, deteriorated not only because of Father Bernard’s moral lapses but also because of his life’s lack of substance and value. His duties at Immaculate Conception Parish on the West Side of Chicago are tedious and distressing. The sin, dying, dishonesty and infidelity of his parishioners drains him. Deepening his distress is his life at a rundown, disintegrating parish with an outdated liturgy and a pastor who is a rude, spiteful and offensive old man. Father Bernard’s attempt to save himself from his cheerless, desolate life leads him down a dangerous path. Can he salvage his failing vocation and repair his troubled soul? Will he find the strength to restore the spiritual meaning and substance that once guided him as a priest?
That was twenty-two years ago, the last time he had seen Jennifer, but certainly not the last time she had entered his mind. But now there she was, her face so vividly displayed, her gentle voice, her seductive sense of humor, all of it summoned by a simple yet consuming scent. He didn’t notice it at first, but once it came to him, it was overwhelming.
It began with the pungent odor of burnt tobacco radiating from the driver and flooding the interior of the taxi. Suspended from the rearview mirror, a bag of potpourri made a futile effort at masking the smell. Father George Bernard considered opening the window, but the typical brisk Chicago wind thwarted his wish for fresh air. The temperature was a bit chilly as well, an unusual occurrence for late September in the city. The taxi passed Midway Airport and the rectory of Immaculate Conception Church, his destination, was not much farther.
He could tolerate the smell for a couple of minutes. He inhaled deeply once and then immediately again, trying to decide which scent dominated – the foul odor of tobacco or the sweet smell of…. What was the odor wafting from that bag dangling from the mirror? It was one he knew, something from the past. His past before the priesthood? Before the seminary? Before every part of life became bland, colorless, unremarkable, never leaving an impression on anyone? He drew another deep breath. Yes, that was it. Hyacinths. The now recognized smell filled his nostrils; the image it reconstructed, many times buried and as many times resurrected, took shape, waiting only for the right moment, like the right bouquet, to reemerge.
Jennifer Roland. It was the cologne Jennifer wore. Hyacinths, the scent that overwhelmed him over thirty years ago under that viaduct and ten years later kissing again in front of the A & P when he was visiting his parents before their move to Arizona.
He never forgot. Twenty years a priest and he still remembered countless times; each time those wonderful and bizarre days of his adolescence arose and the thought veered to the viaduct; when from somewhere, or maybe someone who passed or just in his imagination, the smell of hyacinths wafted near him; when his vocation faltered and thoughts surfaced of that second kiss. He raised his face toward the ceiling of the cab and exhaled a noise from his throat that disturbed him. He recognized it; that imperceptible puff of air rising from his chest. That regular sound of embarrassment and shame his body crafted whenever thoughts of Jennifer surfaced. A deep inhale and a rapid exhale. His head shook slightly. Staring out the taxi window at the passing homes, his breath built a vapor on the glass with each heavy exhale. The waft of hyacinths continued to fill his nostrils. Jennifer Roland.
The taxi swerved to avoid something on the road as it sped through an intersection. His head bumped slightly against the window and with the minor jolt he smiled again at the recollection of Jennifer.
Again Jennifer forced the realization that he still had a weakness for that sweet-smelling scent. Images of her advanced to memories, and memories of Jennifer Roland made him perspire and shake. Glancing at his reflection in the taxi window he pressed his lips together and closed his eyes.
The kisses. They were dreadfully amazing. Delightful.
About the Author
A former South Side Chicago boy and seminary student, Stickann’s Catholic upbringing sparked the need to write novels that illustrate the impact religion has on people. His two previous books – Glory Be To the Father, the Son… (2001), and Hobbledehoy Boy (2013) show how a strict religious upbringing can stunt the social growth of a person, particularly young boys. The Ugly Priest looks at the other side of the religious spectrum, the priest, and the religious implications of a weak vocation and unsettled soul.
After growing up heartbroken with an endless series of struggles, Maria Michaels creates a picture-perfect family of her own. But life changes too quickly, and she loses her grip on herself and her two troubled sons. In spite of her desire to give them a better life, they spiral downward on the paths they choose. They must fight through sadness, mistakes and tragedy to find redemption and the love that only a mother can give. Told from a dual perspective of mother and son, we follow the family’s battles with divorce, drugs and depression. You will laugh and cry, and probably want to call your mom to tell her you love her.
Praise for The Crossroads of Logan Michaels:
“Sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful, but always gritty and real, The Crossroads of Logan Michaels examines a bright young man’s downward spiral into addiction; the forces that drive him to drinking and drugs, and ultimately the forces that may guide him back out. Thumbs-up for this debut!” – James Frey, best-selling author of A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, and Bright Shiny Morning
AGE OF INNOCENCE
Being in a new town, and leaving all of my old friends, scared me. I knew I was good at baseball and basketball, but I worried whether I would still be good in North Andover.
Summer was ending, but I couldn’t complain. We’d had fun times camping in Maine, while my little brother, Jared, and I got into mischief. My friends from Andover called me and said we should still hang out, even though we would be in different towns.
The summer came to an end and I was ready for third grade at my new school. Monday arrived and I looked out the window at the playground and saw all the kids. Living across the street from the school wasn’t all that bad. I grabbed my bag and kissed my mother and high-fived my dad before walking over to the school yard. There was a steep hill I slowly ran down, and then I ran across a field of kids kicking a soccer ball. I aimlessly walked around, checking out the playground, kicking my feet, and watching the kids play before the bell rang. Our house was so close that I could see my mom staring through the window at me.
The bell rang as I watched kids line up. We “pledged allegiance” outside and then walked to class. Being the new kid sucks, I thought, as I sat down next beside a boy named Grant.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Logan,” I said.
“Got a last name?”
“Michaels. My name is Logan Michaels.”
“You play any sports?”
“Yeah, baseball and basketball,” I replied.
“You any good?”
I laughed and said, “Let’s play at recess and find out.”
Recess arrived; we grabbed the basketball immediately and ran over to the hoops. After a couple of shots, the fifth-graders came over and tried to kick us off the court. Grant and I were not giving up that easily, though, and we said, “Let’s play for it.”
They laughed as they confidently threw the ball to me.
I caught it and shot. SWISH!! The game started out with two people watching, and by the end of recess, Grant and I had the whole recess crowd around us cheering. “ICE! ICE! ICE!” the older kids yelled. My last shot was in the air as everyone was watching: game point and SWISH!
We won by one point, and that day established my new nickname, Ice, because I had taken about twenty shots and had missed only two. The older kids said that we could play with them anytime, and I became popular on my first day. I ran home right after school, ready to tell my mom everything.
I walked in the house and saw Jared playing in the kitchen while my mom prepared dinner. The fall air was warm and crisp, with a sourdough bread smell lingering. I threw my bag down and told my mother about my day. She smiled and looked content as she continued to cook dinner. My mother would always smile when she saw me and Jared. We would hang out until dinnertime, and wait for Dad to come home. We would play video games, run around the house, and play in the yard; we always had so much energy.
My dad would come home, kick off his work boots, kiss my mom, and roughhouse with us. We typically tackled him as soon as he came through the door. Jared and I would lose to Dad, of course; he seemed like the strongest guy in the world.
After dinner, we would rush outside to play basketball with our small hoop in the yard until it got dark. My mom would yell out the window about how we needed to do our homework, and we would come inside once the sun set.
Realizing that I might have a career in basketball, I had Dad sign me up for the North Andover booster club team. We walked into tryouts; he was definitely the youngest father in there, being only twenty-eight years old. Most dads were in their late thirties.
As tryouts began, he introduced himself to the fathers. Everyone made the team, but I guess the tryouts were to see how they could split up the kids to make fair teams.
After waiting a week for the results, I finally received a call from Mr. Stone, the coach of the Hawks. He welcomed me onto the team, told me the practice schedule, and said, “See you there, Logan.” I hopped off the phone and ran into my parents’ room to tell them the good news. I jumped on the bed and then noticed something strange: my mother was crying and my father was rubbing her back with a worried look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. My mom hugged me. My brother walked in quietly, looking unsettled as he hugged my mom and dad.
“It’s my mom, Nana,” she said. “She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is very sick.”
“What’s Alzheimer’s?” I asked.
“It makes you forget who you are, Logan.” I was confused, but just hugged my mother back as she wiped her tears.
We had been a tight-knit family before moving. My mom and dad grew up on the same street and met when they were children.
My grandparents on both sides were always coming over to visit us, and we would go to their houses. We even went to church with them on Sundays. Jared and I called my mother’s parents “Nana” and “Papa;” we called my father’s parents “Granpy” and “Grammy.” I was closest to Nana.
Sitting in my room that night, I didn’t know whether I should be excited for basketball season, or sad for my Nana. It made me understand that pleasure and pain always went hand in hand.
One minute you’re up, and the next, you’re down, I thought as I shut my eyes.
We all visited my Nana that weekend, and I just couldn’t look at her the same way I had before. She was no different, but when I saw her, all I could think about was the Alzheimer’s and about whether she would one day forget me. It made me sad to see her like this, and to then look over at Papa and see him in the rocking chair shaking his knees; it was nice to see that he was smiling. He would always talk so loudly; I guess he had trouble hearing, but was never afraid to say what was on his mind.
Several cousins and their parents were visiting Nana and Papa. There were so many kids of similar ages on my mom’s side of the family. My mother had two brothers and a sister, and between them they had six kids, all roughly my age. We would spend the holidays together and go camping on the Cape and have a blast playing sports.
I was the closest with my cousin Tim. We would sleep over at each other’s house all of the time, and would often get in trouble together. We would talk about being confused when we found out that Nana was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but agreed that we couldn’t tell any difference in her behavior.
It was always a bit scary visiting my father’s side of the family. Some days, we would go over there after visiting Nana’s and Papa’s house. Dad’s parents’ house was old and scary, but must have had a million rooms. It had an old bar with tools and old rusty cars, which was kind of creepy. There was a large pit underneath the garage and I always wondered what the heck was down there, but was too afraid to go see.
My dad had three sisters and a brother, and they had seven kids between them. I was closest to Ryan, but he wasn’t really into sports like my cousin Tim and me. Ryan was more occupied with playing in the garage with tools, making traps, and playing in the woods. The one thing that really got my blood pumping was the rope swing the two of us had made.
It was attached to a tree above the garage, directly over a pit.
We would swing over the pit, twenty feet in the air; it was such a rush. My brother Jared always wanted to try, but I would never let him. I tended to be kind of hard on him because he wanted to be right next to me all of the time.
About the Author
James M. Roberts wanted to prove that you don’t need to be a college scholar or a perfect writer to put your heart on paper even when it is hurting the most. James’s experiences have inspired him to tell his story in order to reach young readers suffering from insecurity, sadness, and addiction. Not only did James drop out of high school, but he also stumbled into deep depression early in his adolescent life. Although he had been an all-star athlete, he was far from happy. He ended up making regrettable choices in order to feel a sense of belonging and worth, especially following his parents’ separation. Through it all, James knew that one day he was going to share his “misery” with the world. He struggled through life’s lessons and finally put himself through college to earn a business degree and currently has a successful career in sales. James finished his first rough draft at twenty-five while in college. Five years later he erased all 200,000 words and started from scratch. He currently resides in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he continues to thrive and develop his writing.
“Tournament night in a sweltering Las Vegas stadium, and the girl with the gap-toothed smile stood bleeding in her ballet slippers.”
Thus begins Gap-Toothed Girl, the story of Dusty May, a Lakota orphan with an iron will, who runs away from the horrific circumstances of her foster home and her foster father — a man of beast-like brilliance and power — to pursue her dream of lightness and ballet, even as her foster father unleashes an army to bring her down.
Part literary fiction, part thriller, part dance story, Gap-Toothed Girl is at its core a tale of human joy and freedom of will — a “relentlessly paced novel” combining “the surreal imagery of Nabokov with the psychological complexity of Dostoevsky” (Fort Collins Forum) to investigate the depths of the human psyche and the indomitable will to succeed, ultimately plumbing the very nature of human happiness and the human soul.
Tournament night in a sweltering Las Vegas stadium, and the girl with the gap-toothed smile stood bleeding in her ballet slippers. The sodium lights of the arena lay upcast on the low-hanging sky above. An electrical charge hummed through the air: a crackling undercurrent that came neither from the lights nor from the distant heat lightning, but from the galvanized excitement of the crowd.
Before her, some twenty feet away and elevated four feet off the ground, there stretched a long green balance beam, atop which, at the southernmost end, stood eight empty whiskey bottles. The bottles were perfectly upright and in single file. A small springboard crouched in front.
High above her floated a long banner which said, in shimmering red letters:
A CONTEST OF MOTION
She closed her eyes and inhaled. The air was dry. She stood alone upon the stage. She was dusky-limbed, Lakota. She held her breath a moment and then she released it.
When she opened her eyes, her gaze settled on the objects before her: the springboard, the balance beam, the whiskey bottles. The heat hung heavy. A rill of sweat slid between her breasts. She didn’t see the tiny camera-flash explosions igniting everywhere around her from within the darkness of the stadium. She forgot that there were thousands of eyes fixed upon her. She forgot also the pain in her toes and was unaware of the bleed-through and the blood leaking like ink across the entire top part of her slipper.
Offstage in the shadows, a lanky youth in a baseball cap gave a thumbs-up, but it wasn’t directed toward her.
A man with a microphone emerged on stage. He was thin and well-dressed and darkly complexioned.
A hush came over the crowd. The man held the microphone to his mouth. His voice came booming through the speakers with great clarity.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “ladies and gentleman. May I have your attention, please. Thank you. We are finally at the end of the night, and — my Lord — what a night it’s been. What a competition.”
The crowd erupted.
“We have seen — excuse me, please — we have seen tonight some of the very best dancers in the world, and I’m sure you know this is not an exaggeration. We have only one more to go. Did we save the best for last? Need I remind you that there’s fifty thousand dollars at stake here?”
“Now,” he said, “now, then. Do you see this young woman up on the stage with me? I’m told she’s about to do something that only one other person in human history is known to have done, and that was Ms. Bianca Passarge, of Hamburg, Germany, in 1958 — except Ms. Passarge, I am told, was not mounting a balance beam when she did her routine. Can this little girl — all 115 pounds of her — I say, can she do it? Can she steal the money from these big city boys and girls, the Bronx break dancers and West Coast B-Boys and all the others who have astounded us here tonight with their strength and agility and their grace of motion? Folks, we are about to find out.”
The crowd erupted again. The MC turned and looked at the girl on stage behind him.
He lowered the microphone and said in an unamplified voice that sounded peculiar to her:
“Are you ready?”
He smiled kindly.
He gave her the A-OK sign with his fingers and nodded back. Then her lips broke open in return, disclosing, very slightly, her endearing gap-toothed smile.
He brought the microphone back to his mouth and turned again to the audience.
“Here we go!” he said.
The crowd went dead-silent in anticipation.
“Okay, okay!” she thought. All ten of her fingers wiggled unconsciously and in unison.
Abruptly, then, the lights above her darkened while simultaneously the lights behind her brightened, and then the music began: fast-paced and throbbing and happy.
She bolted forward.
She sprinted toward the balance beam and with astonishing speed executed a back handspring onto the springboard, vaulting into a full fluid backflip on one foot upon the beam — which in the very same motion turned into another back handspring, and then another, all to within inches of the bottles at the far end of the beam. This entire process took no more than five seconds. Here she paused for a fraction and then performed a half turn. From there she leapt lightly onto the first upright whiskey bottle, which wobbled only slightly under her weight. She placed her other toe catlike upon the next whiskey bottle, and then she raised herself en point to great heights….
About the Author
Ray A. Harvey, novelist, essayist, published poet, athlete, and editor, son of Firman Charles Harvey (RIP) and his wife Cecilia, youngest of thirteen half brothers and half sisters, was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. He’s worked as a short-order cook, copyeditor, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, pedi-cab driver, bartender, and more. He’s also written and ghostwritten a number of published books, poems, and essays, but no matter where he’s gone or what he’s done to earn a living, literature and learning have always existed at the core of his life.