All posts by laelbr5_wp

Flash Fiction Friday: That Little Lock

In the quiet of twilight, when everyone else was gone, I went out to Dad’s garage behind the house. He was working on our old Ford Ltd.

Again.

Sitting on a stool in from of his worktable, I posited, “Daddy?”

“Yes, baby?” He responded while putting parts together. He’d tried teaching me mechanics, but it didn’t take, leaving him so frustrated that he yelled at me to go back inside and learn how to cook. I can’t cook neither.

“Daddy, I need a lock on my door.” The silence expanded to fill my head with his rising anger.

“What the hell do you need a lock for? You’re not locking me and your mother out of that room. We pay the rent here. Whatever you’re hiding we’ll find out anyways.” Holding the part, he dropped onto the creeper and rolled under the car.

“Daddy, I’m tired of Sam coming into my room without knocking. He comes in when I’m dressing and won’t leave no matter how much I scream. I gotta grab my clothes and go past him to dress in the bathroom.”

The creeper flew out and Dad sat up, looking at me with his crazy eyes that scared me, but I held my ground. “Are you serious?”

I nodded.

He stood up, wiped his hands on a red rag, and paced the room, shouting, “That little sonuvabitch! That little bastard! I didn’t raise no son of mine to be a pervert. I didn’t raise him to be peeping at his sister.” Daddy stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and asked, “He never touched you, has he?”

“God, no! Ain’t it enough that he’s looking at me? That he’s coming in my room without permission?” I hugged myself and shivered, having not thought of that possibility.

“Alright, baby, I gotcha,” he reassured me as he looked for a lock in his tool box. After picking up his drill, he left the garage, me following him inside and down to my room. A simple latch lock went onto my door in a few minutes. Daddy kissed my head and returned to his garage.

That evening, I was reading in our downstairs family room when my brother got home from his after school job. Daddy was waiting for him. Soon as the door opened, he launched into him, reamed him out clean. He didn’t even show up for dinner.

Halfway through dressing the next morning, Sam’s voice boomed through my door, “You awake in there, Serena?” A little chuckle turned into a BAM as he hit the door that wouldn’t open. I stood quietly in front of my closet, one leg in my pants, as he pounded the door and hollered to be let in.

My journal is filled with possibilities of what coulda happened without that little lock.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer…pub date April 14, 2020

Believing she is a bad mother, Beth does not address her postpartum depression. After she and her siblings move their father into a care facility due to his deepening dementia, she volunteers to clean out their family home. Behind the padlocked door to their childhood playroom, Beth discovers her father’s mysterious paintings that seem to correspond to notes left by her mother, unlocking a family secret that may provide a connection with her mother and become her saving grace. Rimmer presents a complex family dynamic to which many could relate, and then explodes it with a secret so horrifying, it remained hidden for decades. Anyone who has discovered their family secret will definitely identify with the feelings of betrayal and questioning their identity. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Graydon House through NetGalley.

PROLOGUE

Grace

September 14, 1957

I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that lone­liness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.

Tonight there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on to that prom­ise all day.

He’ll be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.

I should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s 11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.

Beth will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim, Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very same threat.

I have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s hard to dis­tinguish where my thoughts are even coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin to delineate.

Sometimes I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her, I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a love that really does know no bounds.

Those moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed insur­mountable, I survived them.

I’m constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.

Tonight I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.

Tonight the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me altogether.

I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.

Excerpted from Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2020 by Lantana Management Pty Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

Erin Crocker—Novelist, Award-winning Short Story Author, Editor, Creative Writing Coach, Actress, and Women’s Advocate

Erin was born in Missouri and moved to the East Coast in 2007. She holds an A.A.S in General Studies with an emphasis in Police Science, a Certificate of Education from Germanna Community College and a Bachelor’s of English, Linguistics, and Communications from the University of Mary Washington. She enjoys writing, acting, dabbling in the stock market and cryptocurrencies, and playing instruments. An introvert to the core, Erin self-identifies as a doughnut enthusiast and in her free time if she’s not price shopping for lye, she enjoys long walks in dark forests carrying her favorite shovel.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

Most of the time I write between phone conferences with various celebrities while I’m traveling on my private jet. I find that it’s the optimal place to write, up in the clouds, on my way to a tropical coast. Joking…

I can’t say that I have a process. I write. That’s pretty much it—one word and then next and the next. I never force myself to write; I don’t keep a set schedule or judge myself on the plethora of days and times I should be writing and I’m not.

On warm days (spring, summer, early fall) I have an outdoor spot where I write. It serves as fantastic inspiration, but I won’t say where it is.

As far as magical spells go, the fairies keep stealing them. Every single time I concoct a new one those thieving little jerks come along and take it from me. So, I would be more than happy to divulge the spells, but I no longer have them. Perhaps interview the fairies. They will tell you…maybe.

Walk me through the publishing process as an editor of anthologies, from soliciting submissions to marketing the final product.

I wouldn’t call the publishing process ‘walking’. The better term would be stumbling. It’s not an easy feat. Publishing an anthology would be my excuse for turning to alcoholism. But really, I think it’s a matter of being very clear on the submission call…VERY clear in terms of what I’m looking for, what I expect in terms of formatting, word count, content, etc. Doing this seems to help.

It’s working with a large number of artists, all with different tastes, styles, and trying to combine everything into a single volume; it can be fun and challenging particularly because it is multi-genre. I’ve really been fortunate to have worked with extremely talented authors and poets which has helped make publishing both “Cocky-Tales” and “Rejected” wonderful experiences.

Marketing is always a tough one. I approach it a bit differently. I don’t do what they call “link drop”. I’ve always worked to build a relationship with my audience from participating in real-life events to going Facebook Live, I appreciate everyone who takes time to leave a comment or follow my page, and I enjoy interacting with them as much as possible. When I market an anthology, I want my audience to also get to know the authors here and there—bios are important to me. I loved posting the rescue pet photos that a few of our authors had sent in.

Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I feel like I have a larger support system online than in real life. Per the last question, I’ve taken time to try my best to build genuine relationships and express my appreciation because, wow(!), sometimes the interaction blows my mind! I’ve made a number of great online friends who are also authors or aspiring authors, and they are wonderful.

In real life I wouldn’t say I necessarily have ‘cheerleaders’. Although, I’m not opposed to cheerleading uniforms (i.e. Dallas Cowboys…anyways, that wasn’t the question. Was it?) I have a handful of friends, and I think if I ever wanted to quit writing, they’d probably try to talk me out of it, lol.

Purchase series at Amazon

How does life influence your writing and vice versa? Feel free to share anything you want about When She Walked Away. Also, blatantly exploit this opportunity to advertise all your freelance work.

I think every piece of fiction is sourced from bits and pieces of reality. My life influences my writing in significant ways. While the experiences don’t exactly parallel, I think there’s parts of me in overall situations or traits in characters. If it wasn’t personal on a certain level, I wouldn’t write it.

When I write I also find I’m discovering myself. Maybe not in the initial piece, but once I am finished and I step back and see the complete picture, I find something new within me that I hadn’t recognized. Art is cool in that sense.

Purchase series at Amazon

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s a good way to escape. My creativity allows me to process situations in abstract and escapist dynamics; otherwise, I don’t know that I could deal with some things through the lens of “normal society”.

Author Extra: Tell us how you get acting roles! Don’t leave out the unglamorous, hard work parts.

Luck? Accident? I turned down my first role two times. I felt I was gracious and polite about it, having recognized the opportunity to be involved in something as big as Netflix, but it wasn’t where I thought I wanted to go in life. Finally, I ended up taking it.

After that, I decided I’d do some background roles. I only ever meant to stand in the background as ‘popcorn eating patron number 137’, but at my second job which was “Unmasked”, the director pulled me and gave me a speaking role. Then and there I made an important decision: Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t scare the hell out of me.

Acting is practice, practice, practice…it’s investing time and finances into the craft. It’s driving to audition after audition, most are spur of the moment. It’s coming home from the gym, sweaty, at ten o’ clock at night, changing my shirt, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, and self-taping an audition or several.

It’s rejection after rejection, and sometimes you don’t even hear that “no”. What I do is submit and move on. Dwelling and checking email every second of the day is like concrete. It holds you back. Submit, move on, move forward, let go, because if it is meant to be, it’ll happen. And when I do hear a “yes” (YES!) it is so worth it, the entire process is worth it.

Connect with Erin:

http://www.authorerincrocker.com
http://www.facebook.com/authorerincrocker
instagram: @authorerincrocker
IMDb: imdb.me/erincrocker

I Know How This Ends by Amy Impellizzeri

Journalist Rory Garcia struggles in her relationship and her career, seeking stability in both. On her way to cover a protest, she is thwarted by roadblocks, yet she finds herself investing in a story that calls to her despite her skepticism of its veracity. Kate and Ian return in their friend Dee’s tale to Rory of their time-bending romance, as they make their way to their daughter Hope’s graduation, valedictorian of a special class, those born on or close to 9/11. Impellizzeri moves her characters in and out of time and dimensions and lives carefully and credibly, so that by the end, Dear Reader is fully satisfied by not only the romance at the crux of the tale, but by all the connections and possibilities. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the author for an honest review. Although I was a bit confused throughout the story, the ending pulled it all together beautifully and left me with a book hangover.

Flash Fiction Friday: Escape

Gabriella, aka Gabriel, dashed through the alleys and over fences, easily evading the militia. She prised the top off the faux ammo urn, the sign behind it proclaiming it the property of the Fortnite Militia. Inside she shirked the clothes off and whispered the spell. The mercenaries jerked off the lid and peered inside, seeing nothing at first in the darkness. They turned aside and inspected the lid. Gabriella pulled herself out of the urn and slowly backed away, as quietly as possible, completely naked and invisible. Again, the soldiers looked in, and this time, they saw the shed clothing. Snatching up the shirt and pants, they guffawed at the audacity of the young man to think he could escape them, and yet they were at a loss to explain returning with only his clothes and an unbelievable story.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

REVIEW

After escaping an abusive husband of an arranged marriage, Lakshmi has curated a niche life as a henna artist and herbalist, carefully balancing her needs with the desires of her wealthy, high caste clients. Until…her ex-husband brings to her a sister Lakshmi didn’t know existed, along with the information that both of their parents are dead. A sister who can topple her meticulously constructed life, simply by being her naive, adventurous self. Joshi has created a picture of a precarious position within society that is specific to someone who provides a service that’s both decorative and healing, desired for its aesthetics and cultural significance. Although accepted into higher society, Lakshmi is still considered a servant to the most influential of her clients, and thereby afforded no protection against her sister’s impetuous actions. Not only has the author provided a compelling tale, but she has included a glossary of hindi words and a history of henna artistry. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this beautiful novel from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.

EXCERPT

Prologue

September 1955

Ajar, State of Uttar Pradesh, India

Her feet step lightly on the hard earth, calloused soles insensible to the tiny pebbles and caked mud along the riverbank. On her head she balances a mutki, the same earthenware jug she uses to carry water from the well every day. Today, instead of water, the girl is carrying everything she owns: a second petticoat and blouse, her mother’s wedding sari, The Tales of Krishna her father used to read to her—the pages fabric-soft from years of handling—and the letter that arrived from Jaipur earlier this morning.

When she hears the voices of the village women in the distance, the girl hesitates. The gossip-eaters are chatting, telling stories, laughing, as they wash saris, vests, petticoats and dhotis. But when they spot her, she knows they will stop to stare or spit at the ground, imploring God to protect them from the Bad Luck Girl. She reminds herself of the letter, safe inside the mutki, and thinks: Let them. It will be the last time.

Yesterday, the women were haranguing the Headman: why is the Bad Luck Girl still living in the schoolteacher’s hut when we need it for the new schoolmaster? Afraid to make a sound for fear they would come inside and pull her out by her hair, the girl had remained perfectly still within the four mud walls. There was no one to protect her now. Last week, her mother’s body had been burned along with the bones of other dead animals, the funeral pyre of the poor. Her father, the former schoolteacher, had abandoned them six months ago, and, shortly after, he drowned in a shallow pool of water along the riverbank, so drunk he likely hadn’t felt the sting of death.

Every day for the past week, the girl had lay in wait on the outskirts of the village for the postman, who cycled in sporadically from the neighboring village. This morning, as soon as she spotted him, she darted out from her hiding place, startling him, and asked if there were any letters for her family. He had frowned and bit his cheek, his rheumy eyes considering her through his thick glasses. She could tell he felt sorry for her, but he was also peeved—she was asking for something only the Headman should receive. But she held his gaze without blinking. When he finally handed over the thick onionskin envelope addressed to her parents, he did so hastily, avoiding her eyes and pedaling away as quickly as he could.

Now, standing tall, her shoulders back, she strolls past the women at the riverbank. They glare at her. She can feel her heart flutter wildly in her breast, but she passes, straight as sugar cane, mutki on her head, as if she is going to the farmers well, two miles farther from the village, the only well she is allowed to use.

The gossip-eaters no longer whisper but shout to one another: There goes the Bad Luck Girl! The year she was born, locusts ate the wheat! Her older sister deserted her husband, never to be seen again! Shameless! That same year her mother went blind! And her father turned to drink! Disgraceful! Even the girl’s coloring is suspect. Only Angreji-walli have blue eyes. Does she even belong to us? To this village?

The girl has often wondered about this older sister they talk about. The one whose face she sees only as a shadow in her dreams, whose existence her parents have never acknowledged. The gossip-eaters say she left the village thirteen years ago. Why? Where did she go? How did she escape a place where the gossip-eaters watch your every move? Did she leave in the dead of night when the cows and goats were asleep? They say she stole money, but no one in the village has any money. How did she feed herself? Some say she dressed as a man so she wouldn’t be stopped on the road. Others say she ran off with a circus boy and was living as a nautch girl, dancing in the Pleasure District miles away in Agra.

Three days ago, old man Munchi with the game leg—her only friend in the village—warned her that if she didn’t vacate her hut, the Headman would insist she marry a widowed farmer or demand she leave the village.

“There is nothing here for you now,” Munchiji had said. But how could she leave—a thirteen-year-old orphan girl with no family or money?

Munchiji said, “Have courage, bheti.” He told her where to find her brother-in-law, the husband her older sister had abandoned all those years ago, in a nearby village. Perhaps he could help her find her sister.

“Why can’t I stay with you?”she had asked.

“It would not be proper,”the old manreplied gently. He made his living painting images on the skeletons of peepal leaves.To console her, he’d given her a painting. Angry, she’d almost thrown it back at him until she saw that the image was of Lord Krishna, feeding a mango to his consort Radha, her namesake. It was the most beautiful gift she had ever received.

Radha slows as she approaches the village threshing ground. Four yoked bulls walk in circles around a large flat stone, grinding wheat. Prem, who cares for the bulls, is sitting with his back against the hut, asleep. Quietly, she hurries past him to the narrow path that leads to Ganesh-ji’s temple. The shrine has a slender opening and, inside, a statue of Lord Ganesh. Gifts are arranged around the Elephant God’s feet: a young coconut, marigolds, a small pot of ghee, slices of mango. A cone of sandalwood incense releases a languid curl of smoke.

The girl lays Munchiji’s painting of Krishna in front of Ganesh-ji, the Remover of All Obstacles, and begs him to remove the curse of The Bad Luck Girl.

By the time she reaches her brother-in-law’s village ten miles to the West, it is late afternoon and the sun has moved closer to the horizon. She is sweating through her cotton blouse. Her feet and ankles are dusty; her mouth dry.

She is cautious, entering the village. She crouches in shrubs and hides behind trees. She knows an alone girl will not be treated kindly. She searches for a man who looks like the one Munchiji described.

She sees him. There. Squatting under the banyan tree, facing her. Her brother-in-law.

He has thick, oily, coal-black hair. A long, bumpy scar snakes from his bottom lip to his chin. He is not young but neither is he old. His bush-shirt is spotted with curry and his dhoti is stained with dust.

Then she notices the woman squatting in the dirt in front of the man. She is supporting her elbow with one hand, her forearm dangling at an unnatural angle. Her head is completely covered with her pallu, and she is talking to the man in a quiet whisper. Radha watches, wondering if her brother-in-law has taken another wife.

She picks up a small stone and throws it at him. She misses. The second time, she hits him in the thigh, but he merely flicks his hand, as if swatting away an insect. He is listening intently to the woman. Radha throws more pebbles, managing to hit him several times. At last, he lifts his head and looks around him.

Radha steps into the clearing so he can see her.

His eyes widen, as if he is looking at a ghost. He says, “Lakshmi?”

Excerpted from The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, Copyright © 2020 by Alka Joshi. Published by MIRA Books.

Photo by Garry Bailey

BIO

Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family came to the United States when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups. The Henna Artist is her first novel. Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website: https://thehennaartist.com/

Facebook: @alkajoshi2019

Instagram: @thealkajoshi

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18257842.Alka_Joshi

PURCHASE

Harlequin

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagán

Annie has had it with people, declaring that she is accepting no new people into her life after her fiance moved to Paris to find himself, her career stalled due to a sexual harassment incident, and her closest friends have become “concerned.” Told in epistolary style through Annie’s journal and email correspondence, Dear Reader is privy to Annie’s private thoughts—her frustrations and confusions—as she stumbles into new friendships despite her declaration. Pagán infuses humor into the story as Annie faces challenging decisions. Fans of Ann Garvin and Sonali Dev will appreciate Pagán’s delightfully flawed characters and realistic storyline which offers no clear-cut answers to life’s hard questions. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful novel by one of my favorite authors from the publisher Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley for an honest review.

Umair Mirxa—Fantasy / Sci-Fi Author

Ello. My name is Umair Mirxa. I live and write in Karachi, Pakistan. To be a published author is a dream I have long held and cherished, and it has finally, slowly come true over the past year or so. I have the honour of being published in several international anthologies, but there is much yet to achieve, including my first novel, and hopefully, an epic fantasy series. More recently, I have taken up drawing as a secondary creative outlet. When I am not writing, I spend my time on Netflix, reading, and watching football as an Arsenal FC fan.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

The greatest and most ever-present inspiration for me is, and forever has been, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read my favourite passages from The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m stuck with my own writing or even generally if and when something has me down. Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Christopher Paolini are just a few of the other authors who have inspired me.

I don’t really work to a strict schedule unless faced with a looming deadline. I do, however, make a point of writing every single day, even if what I produce turns out to be spectacularly ridiculous rubbish. If the muse is singing, I have been known to write for 14-16 hour sessions without food or sleep. There are, of course, plenty of days when even a 100-word drabble seems like the most horrible chore. I write digitally using a desktop PC, sitting at a desk which has a notepad, a pen-holder, an ashtray, several mugs of coffee, and snacks and smokes in a room which contains my bookshelf, a TV, a PS4, plenty of light, and a couple of extremely comfortable leather sofas.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including services hired as a self-published author, and marketing.

While I have been published in nearly three dozen anthologies recently, I have yet to self-publish a book. Once it is ready, and hopefully the day is not too far off, I plan on seeking out a couple of author friends to beta-read the final draft, and then upload the final product to print-on-demand platforms like Amazon and Lulu. I am lucky enough to have professional experience as a graphic designer and a digital marketer, thus eliminating the need for hired services. I hope to create a decent cover myself, and I will definitely be doing my own marketing, at least for a while yet.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

I feel I have been truly blessed when it comes to having a support system as a writer. My wife does everything possible to facilitate my process and schedule, and has been the greatest, most constant source of motivation and encouragement. My mother, both sisters, brother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law and even their husbands have all cheered and spurred me on, and I have the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for in my corner, always. They have supported me, encouraged me, chastised me when necessary, and contributed ideas and advice for my stories.

Lastly, and most certainly not the least, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a rather remarkable group of author and publisher friends online who have beta-read my work with honest feedback, shown me submissions opportunities, encouraged me to write and submit, and given me excellent advice not only for writing but for life as well. They include, and I apologize in advance if I fail to mention someone I should, authors such as Steve Carr, Shawn Klimek, David Bowmore, Bruce Rowe, Mark Kuglin, Patt O’Neil, Mehreen Ahmed, Pavla Chandler, Aditya Deshmukh, Nerisha Kemraj, Ximena Escobar, Kelli J Gavin, Arabella Davis, and Dawn DeBraal, and publishers/editors Grant Hudson, Dean Kershaw, Zoey Xolton, Madeline L. Stout, and Stacey Morrighan McIntosh.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

In every way possible, I imagine. For most of my life, reading fantasy stories has been a way of escape, and now I write them myself, more often than not, for the very same reason. Yet no matter how fantastic a landscape I portray or how outlandish my characters, the essence of my own personal experiences permeates all of my writing. My characters, therefore, and much like I do myself, will generally hate racism and discrimination in any form with a vengeance, and they’ll tend to be quiet and introverted, with only a small group of close friends. They will have experienced loss and adversity, will enjoy books and food and travel, music and solitude, and the all the simple pleasures of life.

Simplicity is perhaps the greatest lesson taught to me by the art and practice of writing. Too often, we complicate our lives beyond reason by chasing after material and financial gain at the cost of all that is good and pure in our time on Earth.

What do you love most about your creativity?

The ability to bring to life characters and things and places, and entire worlds which I can visit and explore at leisure. To be able to have conversations with people I would never actually meet, to give them lives and loves, experiences and friendships. To dream of a world which has never been and might never come to be but still be able to envision and set stories within, and then to share them with the world that is.

I love how my creativity means I am never, ever bored and can comfortably be alone for days, even weeks on end if necessary. I enjoy discovering potential stories when I’m out at a restaurant, mall or park, and can create characters of the people I see and meet. More recently, since I have taken up drawing, there is the additional joy of studying light and shadows, form and shape and perspective, and then to try and apply all of it to a blank canvas.

Most importantly perhaps, and I know all authors crave an audience, but I absolutely love when someone tells me they enjoyed reading one of my stories. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I believe, when your work is the source of joy for another.

Connect with Umair:

Website: http://umairmirxa.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Umair-Mirza/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show\.Umair_Mirxa

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/umair-mirxa

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UMirxa/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UMirxa12

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mirxa.umair/

Author Extra: Write a 50-word story right here, right now!

Brynhildr withdrew her sword from the fallen warrior’s chest, swayed, and collapsed herself. Slowly, the dark descended, and she felt herself ascending. Strong arms around her. A gentle caress. The weight, the pain, the fear. All of it, gone.

She opened her eyes, and with a smile walked into Valhalla.

Author Extra Extra: Art Gallery

The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green by Erica Boyce

Daniel Green finds purpose in secretly designing and creating crop circles within a secret organization who have field agents across the country. On his significant fifteenth crop circle, he feels drawn to the family of the farmer who hired him, and his life may just find another purpose. Boyce carefully presents the process of designing and making the crop circles, delving into the psyches of those who choose to do this work, and offering very human reasons for their hire. I received a copy of this wonderful story from the author’s agent Eric Smith for an honest review, and I highly recommend this book.

Colombiano by Rusty Young

Pedro’s life on his family farm turns into a nightmare when guerrillas execute his father and banish his mother from their home. Vowing revenge, he joins the Autodefensas, a paramilitary group fighting the guerrillas, discreetly alongside the state military, and inculcates himself into hierarchical politics toward his hidden agenda of vengeance. Young represents a no-win situation for a teenage boy in a village that’s essentially a war-zone based on greed disguised as ideology. The author writes from a well-researched position of direct observation and interviews with real-life child soldiers, though the perspective must remain that of a white westerner. Young co-founded a foundation to rehabilitate and resocialize former child soldiers, using his residence in Bogota as headquarters and tithing royalties from this novel to the foundation. Read about his history and connections here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24214.Rusty_Young. As a novel, this is a compelling story of terror, self-redemption, romance, and familial obligations, evoking awareness of these child soldiers. I received a digital copy of this well-written story from the publisher Bantam through NetGalley.