Passion, ambition and escape, in the colorful artistic underworld off-Broadway.
Cammie, a dancer in her mid-thirties, has just landed her first part in a show since coming to New York City. Yet the tug of familial obligation and the guilt of what she sacrificed to be there weigh down her dancing feet. Her lover, Tom, an older piano player, came to the city as a young man in the 1980s with a story eerily in tune with Cammie’s own. Through their triumphs and failures, both learn the fleeting nature of glory, the sweetness of new love, and how a dream come true isn’t cherished until it passes. The bright lights of the stage intoxicate, while degradation and despair lurk close behind the curtain. Their sagas are marred by two pandemics, AIDS in the 1980s and COVID-19 today, which ravaged the performing arts community, leaving a permanent scar on those who lived through them. The poignant intersection of their stories reveals a love affair unbound by time, reaching across decades through the notes of a piano’s remembered song.
Praise for A Season in Lights
“Possibly one of the most important odes to New York City’s artists and the fragility of life since Rent.” – Nicole Evelina
“A heartfelt and moving love letter to New York City and it’s artistic community.” – Geoffrey Owens
About The Author
Award-winning author Gregory Erich Phillips writes stories with strong characters whose lives, with their many challenges and joys, resonate with a wide audience. Raised in a literary family, Gregory began writing at the age of fourteen. Also an accomplished tango dancer and musician, Gregory has impressed audiences from the West Coast to New York City with his drama and grace on the dance floor.
“Gregory is a force with the written word, a force with his knowledge of the arts and surely a gift to all of us who love these crafts!” – Annie McDonnell
And Other Tales of Reverence and Revolution by a Very Young Man
Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Published: January 2021
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
“Dark and twisted a bit like Stephen King,” is how one reader recently described “Jenny on the Street: And Other Tales of Reverence and Revolution by a Very Young Man.”
A desperate young woman lost on the drug-infested streets of London, an insane revolutionary holding the devil in a jar, an indifferent truck driver forced to run over cats and a reverent grandmother looking for God in a rock. All of them are among the unforgettable characters inhabiting these 13 short stories set amidst the magic, majesty, mystery, and mayhem of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a surreal era of extreme idealism, exaggerated exuberance, ferocious fearlessness, and foolish folly. A period in which the scent of change permeated every tree, town, and tent. A time, in other words, much like our own.
THE SUN’S TRUMPETER
Mornings you could see him from the boardwalk. See him, that is, if you happened to be up that early. A tiny, upright silhouette bathed by the endless orange of the sunrise over the sea. You couldn’t tell what he was doing all alone on the beach at that hour. Probably nothing, you’d think. Perhaps he was just walking. It’d make a nice photo; wish I had my camera, you’d think. And then you’d hurry on your way because it had been a wicked all-nighter and you were eager to get home for some much-needed sleep.
But long after you had gone, long after you lay dreaming comfortably in the mahogany bed next to your wife, the sad silhouette remained on the beach. Remained, outlined by the increasingly brilliant sunrise, like a stubborn matchstick in the corner of a fireplace refusing to be consumed by the fire it had kindled.
The first time Sean ever saw the gleaming trumpet, it had been sitting in the window of George’s Loan & Music Co. on King Street. The boy’s eyes had lit up, but he said nothing. Sean seldom did say anything. But it was enough to catch the attention of his grandfather, who stayed finely attuned to virtually any emotion that clawed its way to the surface of the young boy’s face. “Do you like that trumpet?” the old man asked. “Would you like to take it home?” As usual, nothing erupted from the boy’s mouth. But the light in his eyes seemed to flare for an instant, just long enough to spark a decision on his grandfather’s part. “Let’s go in,” he said. “Let’s take a look.” And that was the beginning of Sean’s obsession with the ancient trumpet someone had hawked, and his grandfather had bought.
About The Author
David Haldane, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, authored the award-winning 2015 memoir “Nazis & Nudists.” In addition to his journalism, essays and short fiction, Haldane has written and produced radio features for which he was awarded a Golden Mike by the Radio & Television News Assn. of Southern California. He currently divides his time– with his wife and two children–between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where he writes a weekly newspaper column called “Expat Eye.”
Date Published: August 26, 2020 (ebook); September 22, 2020 (print)
Publisher: Propertius Press
Tolan has always let her mother have one secret — how she got that
scar on her face — playing along with her mother’s game of
inventing outlandish tales to explain the wound away. But when she finds a
manuscript on her mother’s computer that promises to reveal the true
story, Tolan only hesitates for a moment before curiosity compels her to
She’s hoping for answers, but instead, she finds more mysteries
tucked away in her mother’s past. Her mother appears to be associated
with Bo, a feisty photojournalist who flies to Cuba in pursuit of a story
and becomes embedded with Castro’s rebels, but Tolan can’t quite
work out their connection. She’s more clear about the relationship
between her mother and Michael, a man twelve years her senior. They bond
over their shared outcast status, and their friendship quickly becomes
intimate, but the relationship antagonizes the self-appointed moral
watchdogs in their small town, who start to convert their threats into
action. Tolan is pretty sure that Michael is her father. Her mother told her
he died years ago, but the book suggests their story had a different
Almost overnight, everything Tolan thought she knew about herself and her
family has changed. She wants answers, but to find them, she risks
destroying her closest relationships.
Tolan’s been sitting at her mother’s computer long enough that the fat blocks of sunlight on the carpet have withered to emaciated fingers. She just needs to print her paper, but the essay is fifteen pages long and their printer secondhand slow. Boredom sends her eyes wandering over the photos that cover the walls, pictures of Tolan and her mother, mostly, and some of Tolan with her best friend, Tori. Tolan likes to pretend that she wants her mother to take them down, from time to time, so other people won’t see them, but her mother never does, because she knows that Tolan not-so-secretly loves them, even if she’s being silly and making faces.
Tolan looks at a picture of the three of them from last Halloween, and smiles. She and Tori had talked Tolan’s mother into dressing up with them so they could go as the witches from Hocus Pocus. Her mother hadn’t seen the movie, and wasn’t exactly cool, so she didn’t know that women’s Halloween costumes tended toward raunchy, and she came out of her room in the one the girls had picked out blushing scarlet. Tolan shakes her head, chuckling. They’d taken pity on her eventually and let her hide in the car, but not before they asked one of the men handing out candy to take a picture of the three of them.
Tolan actually thinks the picture came out really well, all things considered, and there was the added comedic bonus of placing Tori, who was 5’3”, between Tolan and her mother, who were 6’2” and 6’4.” Even her mother, who hates having her picture taken, and probably hadn’t even heard of foundation until Tori did her makeup that night, admits to liking the picture, in large part, Tolan thinks, because Tori had used concealer to hide that scar that runs from her mother’s right cheek to her eyebrow.
Tolan listens to the printer rumble and reset, her knee bouncing and her hand jiggling the mouse and sending the cursor careening about the screen, document titles and program names flashing as it moves over them, spreadsheets and inventory lists for her mother’s bookstore. Then a file catches her eye: ‘The Tall Girl.doc.’ Tolan opens it:
Sarah woke when the window shattered. She’d fallen asleep on the living room floor. The brick landed thunderously and cartwheeled, catching the meat of her cheek as it ripped over her brow, crashing to a halt against the couch behind her. The clock ticked, baseboards creaked. She heard a car, a dog, nothing, pushed herself off the ground; a shriek of pain ripped through her as a shard of glass bit deep into the flesh of her palm.
The last three pages of her essay have slipped off the printer tray and onto the floor, but Tolan doesn’t notice. She feels like she’s been struck. Her mother’s name is Pan, not Sarah, but that brick, the way it caught Sarah’s cheek… Tolan looks back at the pictures, the one from Halloween where her mother’s scar is hidden, then at the others.
It had been a game between them, the scar. Tolan would ask how it happened, and her mother would invent a wild story: she fought off fifty cannibals in the Amazon, was abducted by homicidal aliens two Fridays in a row; she got into an altercation with a conspiracy of angry lemurs.
But they’d never play that game again, now, because they couldn’t, because the scar had become a brand that marked her mother as a stranger and a liar, as a woman with a secret past and false present.
The church bells are tolling six o’clock; her mother will be home soon. She emails the file to herself, collects her paper, and walks back to her room.
Her guitar is in the corner, waiting; she plays every day, especially when she’s confused or troubled or frustrated. She always starts by tuning it, though it’s never really out of tune. The ritual soothes her, helps her think or not think, silences the rush and babble of voices in her head.
Tolan takes it from its stand, gently, as always, but quickly, too, because she doesn’t want to think anymore. Her guitar is a Patrick James Eggle Parlour Cuban that Tori gave her for her birthday. Sometimes Tolan says it to herself, repeats the five names over and over until she feels calm again. Tolan has memorized snatches of the write-up the guitar received: “impressively grown-up… open timbre: warm, smooth… richly textured… counterpointed by a sweetly sustaining bite in the highs.”
If her mother knew what it cost she’d make her give it back, but Tori said it was no big deal. Her parents have more money than they knew what to do with.
Tolan is wondering why her mother never told her she was writing a book as she strums the first chords, but she’s lost in the music by the second bar, words stealing from her lips, meek as children.
A little girl, eight, almost nine, shivering, half-asleep, sitting cross-legged on a raft of logs twenty meters wide, northern hardwoods looming on either side of the river as it flowed north into Canada. The girl knew from memory that there were spruce and white cedar, quaking and big-tooth aspen, tamarack, hemlock, and birch, pine, poplar, and maple, but it was an hour before dawn, now, and the trees were indistinguishable.
There was a rust-spotted bucket next to the girl, a fishing pole and a creel basket, a black tin lunch pail with two cheese sandwiches, a hard-boiled egg, and a quart of milk; there was a dog-eared copy of Chapman’s Bird-Lore, and a tattered field guide to New England flora and fauna.
Her father would be back after sundown, sooner if he took a deer early on. In the meantime, she wasn’t to leave the raft. She had a few squares of toilet paper in her pocket, and a feed-bucket to do her dirt in.
It was hard not to fall asleep; they’d left the house just after three that morning, she, her father, and two of his friends crammed into a model A/AA pickup. The last twenty miles of the trip were all logging roads, unimproved, deeply rutted swaths of mud and rock that pitched her about the cab and made it impossible to sleep. They’d arrived at their campsite around four-fifteen and her father had installed her on the raft and left. The wind was coming off the river and she didn’t have a blanket, so it’d been too cold to sleep, and by the time the wind stopped and the temperature rose, she couldn’t let herself fall asleep because her father wanted trout, and trout rise at dawn.
She’d never doubted that she or her father knew what a trout was until she’d started reading the field guide he’d given her and found out that trout were actually char—at least some of them—and also drum. Salmonid: Salvelinus fontinalis and Salvelinus namaycush; non-salmonid: Sciaenidae and Oncorhynchus. Cynoscion nebulosus wasn’t really a trout, she remembered, then she thought about what her father would do if he came back and found her empty-handed and she told him that char were all that was biting, and she’d thrown them back because they weren’t really trout, and quickly decided that she should try for the fish her father called trout, whether they were actually trout or not.
She hoped she’d get a burbot today, too, even though not even her father called a burbot a trout. Lota lota was the only fancy name she could pronounce out of all of them, and though she didn’t want to catch one, she knew Lota lota was the only gadiform freshwater fish and the only member of the genus Lota, and that some people called it mariah, the lawyer, which made her think of a fish with a briefcase and a suit, which was funny.
Her parents argued, which wasn’t funny, especially when it was about her: It’s not normal, Lester, her mother would say. She’s coming with me, Alice. She’s a girl, Lester—a girl!
She’d seen them once, through the crack of their bedroom door. She belongs at home with her sister! her mother had said. Her father had ground his teeth: Enough, he’d said, slashing the air with the blade of his hand. She’s going. End of discussion.
Her mother usually lost: about buying their farm, about Bo going hunting, about Bo’s haircut and clothes. Bo had a dress for Sundays and church socials, but the rest of the time it was pants and a shirt.
Her mother lost even when she won: her father had wanted Hunter or Reese, but her mother had prevailed and named her Beatrix Rose.
Bo lay the pole across her lap and went through the progression her father had taught her: backing to fly line, fly line to leader, leader to tippet, and tippet to the fly. A.N.S.I., he had said. Say it out loud, Bo. Backing to fly line with an Albright knot, fly line to leader with a Nail knot, leader to tippet with a Surgeon’s knot, and tippet to the fly with an Improved Clinch knot. A.N.S.I. Say it again—she had, and again, he’d said, and again, and again: A.N.S.I., A.N.S.I., A.N.S.I., A.N.S.I., A.N.S.I.
She didn’t tell her father, but A.N.S.I. had gone out the window within a month. She still used the Surgeon’s knot to attach the tippet, but she mostly used a Blood knot for the leader, and either a Palomar knot or a Surgeon’s loop for the fly, depending on whether she wanted it tight or loose.
She was fairly certain he couldn’t tie any of those knots.
A drop of blood slid down her thumb, catching in the creases of her palm and spreading laterally; her fingers were clumsy from the cold and she’d pressed too hard on the fly, sinking the hook into her flesh past the barb.
It was just before sunrise—she had to get it out quickly.
Bo looked around furtively—she wasn’t supposed to go near the edge of the raft, but she did now, lying flat for safety and holding her thumb beneath the frigid water. When she couldn’t feel it any longer, she closed her eyes, counted to three, and yanked the hook from her flesh, yelping agony and smelling metal as the world lurched and churned and blood bubbled out over her ragged flesh and down the meat of her hand, and she lunged to plunge her hand back into the icy water to keep from passing out.
Her father had only just started letting her fish unsupervised, and if he saw her thumb he’d change his mind and she wouldn’t be allowed to fish while he was gone.
She pulled her hand from the river and looked down into the flesh. Toilet paper wouldn’t staunch the bleeding. It was nearly dawn. She had to do something, so she unlaced her boots with one hand, holding the other away from her so she wouldn’t bleed on her clothes, tugged at her pants, pulling one side and then the other until she could kick them off. She shucked her underwear; a brace of wind kicked up off the river, biting into her bare flesh. Thumb or pants first? Thumb. She wound the fabric tight around it, tied it off with her teeth, shoved her legs into the pants, leaning back and pulling them up two- handed. She jammed her feet into her boots, tried to tie her laces, failed, unwound the makeshift bandage and tore the fabric into smaller strips, re-tied it, and managed her laces.
She had a fly in the water before the sun broke free of the horizon, and all but filled her creel within the hour. Her thumb was throbbing, but she kept on casting; one or two more and she’d have her limit.
Back home, her sister would be scattering corn for the chickens, feeding the rabbits, and milking their goats.
Cattle are expensive, Bo, her father had said when they bought the farm, goat milk and rabbit meat are the future.
Bo was happier where she was, thumb or no thumb. Her father never said so, but she knew he was proud of her. It was why she got to go away with him on weekends. She wasn’t supposed to know about the beer or whiskey he won off his friends by betting on her, but she did. Mr. Hanley made the whiskey in his cellar, and Mr. Abbott brewed beer in his shed. Bet you Bo can build a fire faster than you, Art, her father would say—bet you she’ll dress our deer quicker than you can dress yours, Bill—bet you Bo catches more fish.
Her father would probably win a few more bottles when they got back and saw she’d made her limit.
She cinched the leather strap on her creel, fastened it to the raft with a bowline and sunk it so the fish wouldn’t spoil, took off her fishing vest and disassembled her father’s pole. He would have returned by now if he’d taken a deer during the dawn window; she had a day on the raft ahead of her.
An eel of nausea slithered up from Bo’s ileum and coiled in her throat as she sat, and her hand throbbed, but the bleeding was staunched, mostly, and the few crocodile tears her thumb wept were no more than a nuisance. She removed the shirt she was wearing over her t-shirt, folded it into a pillow and lay down, letting the warmth of the day and the murmur of the river carry her to sleep.
Bo woke beneath a skin of sweat, hungry. The angle of the sun made it about two o’clock. She opened the lunch pail; her father liked hardboiled eggs so she left them for him and ate a sandwich, then another after she realized he’d want to eat the fish she’d caught when he got back. She halved the milk in a series of breathless pulls, wiped her mouth with her sleeve.
She had to go to the bathroom.
These were the hardest hours, waiting for her father to come back. She wanted to be moving, exploring and swimming and tracking game, but her father would tan her hide if she left the raft. Worse, he’d leave her behind the next time.
She invented games to play, counted and watched and read. She recognized a fair weather cumulus and remembered parts of a book her father had given her. She thought of her sister again, mending now, or helping their mother in the kitchen, having already mucked out the goat pen. Ruby was five years older, and smarter. She’d remember all of the book and understand what thermal convection meant, and what cloud erosion was. The only reason Bo knew the words was that her father brought her with him on his weekend trips and made her sit in one place for hours with only a field guide for entertainment. Ruby never said anything, but Bo knew she was jealous. She wished she could give her a present, but it was hard because her sister liked dresses and ribbons and had a picture of William Haines hidden amongst her things and looked forward to being allowed to wear makeup, and there weren’t any of those things in the woods, and Bo couldn’t make them, and didn’t have any money to buy them. She’d given Ruby an eagle feather, a friendship rock, a bird’s nest, bouquets of daffodils and daisies, an arrow head; Ruby always smiled and thanked her, but Bo knew they weren’t things she really wanted.
Bo felt teeth and slapped at her leg, came away with a splatter of blood on her hand, flicked the crushed carcass into the river.
Ruby hated bugs, though she was wrong about them just like their father was wrong about the trout. Bugs were their own thing, Hemiptera, and the horse-flies and black-flies and deer-flies and mosquitos and no-see-ums that made Ruby frantic were not Hemiptera; Hemiptera were hemimetabolous and usually phytophagous, too, though Bo couldn’t remember what those words meant. Horse flies and black-flies and deer-flies and mosquitos and no-see-ums made her father slap himself and swat at the air and say bad words.
She hoped her father got his deer today, because the flies were thick, and if he got bit all day and didn’t get a deer, they’d ride home in silence, and when they got home he’d wait for her mother or sister to say something, and then explode and yell and pound his fists on the furniture and walls.
He was always sorry afterward. Bo had heard him apologizing to her mother, begging forgiveness —she’d even heard him crying, her mother soothing him, whispering reassurances.
The sun began to set, the temperature drop. Her father’s friends returned, and she was able to go off into the woods and relieve herself while they built a fire. She came back and sat a short distance away; if she were within arm’s reach they’d muss her hair and poke fun at her, which she hated. Her father appeared just after nightfall, emerging from the black with a six-point buck.
“You stayed out any longer, and it’d be the middle of next week,” Art ribbed. Bill cackled. “Guess I’m just not the hunter you guys are—your deer already in the truck?”
“Go to hell, Les.”
Her father laughed.
“Help me get this into the truck, Bo.”
About the Author
Ciahnan Darrell’s short stories and essays have appeared in several
journals, most recently in The Columbia Review, and his story, ‘What
Remains,’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a contributing editor at
Marginalia, an international review of literature along the nexus of
history, theology, and religion. He holds an MDiv from the University of
Chicago, an MA in philosophy and the arts from Stony Brook University, and
an MA and PhD in comparative literature from the University at Buffalo. A
Lifetime of Men is his first novel.
In this indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time, two young pseudo-intellectuals, Beckman and Malany, set out on an odyssey to define the artistic life, and in doing so, unleash a barrage of humorous, unintended consequences. NO BIRDS SING HERE is a multi-layered novel about a Post-Modernist America in which characters are struggling to survive in an increasingly chaotic world.
Beckman struggled with renewed desperation at his bonds;
pulling, jerking, twisting, when unexpectedly he felt them give,
just a little, then more, struggling until he had wiggled a hand free.
Quickly he pulled the rest of the cords from his other hand and
ankles, then untied Honey, who was breathing the way she had in
the back seat of the Model A.
“Quietly now, let’s creep out of here.”
Honey nodded, disheveling her hair. “The keys,” Honey whispered.
Beckman put his finger to his lips. “Go to the car. I’ll get them
from his pocket. If you’ll . . . ”
“No way. I’m sticking with you.”
“All right, but be very quiet.”
Together they tiptoed to the old man. Beckman, with soundless
gentility, picked the man up from the table and leaned him upright
in the chair, retching at the decayed stench that swam up from his
body. The moment Beckman reached into his pocket the man’s eye
popped open with drunken surprise. Beckman jammed his hand
into the man’s pocket again, fingers hunting madly for the keys.
The old man opened his mouth, but before he could get anything
out, Honey grabbed one of the bones off the table. It was sharp and
jagged at one end where it had been broken and gnawed. Holding
the rounded joint end and, using the jagged end of the bone as a
primitive knife, she jabbed it into the man’s one good eye. He yelled
a bubbly, underwater type scream and fell backward. Beckman
quickly found the keys in the other pocket as the old man twisted
in agony on the floor.
About The Author
A retired Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has always had a passion for writing. During his college years, he studied History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW) and American Literature at The University of Maryland Graduate School. In 1980 he published an action/thriller with Leisure Books under the pen name of Vince Daniels.
He also worked for the Washington Business Journal as a journalist and has been a contributing writer/editor for several aviation magazines. In addition to, No Birds Sing Here, he is the author of the award-winning historical novel, The Dung Beetles of Liberia that was released in September 2019 by BQB Publishing.
Dan and his wife live in Owings, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Annapolis and when he’s not writing, they spend their summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.
Date Published: August 26, 2020 (ebook); September 22, 2020 (print)
Publisher: Propertius Press
Tolan has always let her mother have one secret — how she got that scar on her face — playing along with her mother’s game of inventing outlandish tales to explain the wound away. But when she finds a manuscript on her mother’s computer that promises to reveal the true story, Tolan only hesitates for a moment before curiosity compels her to read on.
She’s hoping for answers, but instead, she finds more mysteries tucked away in her mother’s past. Her mother appears to be associated with Bo, a feisty photojournalist who flies to Cuba in pursuit of a story and becomes embedded with Castro’s rebels, but Tolan can’t quite work out their connection. She’s more clear about the relationship between her mother and Michael, a man twelve years her senior. They bond over their shared outcast status, and their friendship quickly becomes intimate, but the relationship antagonizes the self-appointed moral watchdogs in their small town, who start to convert their threats into action. Tolan is pretty sure that Michael is her father. Her mother told her he died years ago, but the book suggests their story had a different ending.
Almost overnight, everything Tolan thought she knew about herself and her family has changed. She wants answers, but to find them, she risks destroying her closest relationships.
About the Author
Ciahnan Darrell’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, most recently in The Columbia Review, and his story, ‘What Remains,’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a contributing editor at Marginalia, an international review of literature along the nexus of history, theology, and religion. He holds an MDiv from the University of Chicago, an MA in philosophy and the arts from Stony Brook University, and an MA and PhD in comparative literature from the University at Buffalo. A Lifetime of Men is his first novel.