Teaching moments

Kristen Tsetsi, the author of the novel Homefront and the short-story collection Carol’s Aquarium, reveals how a father’s subtleties, added together, amount to something big:

My father has the color hair I hope mine grays into when I’m in my sixties. It has the shade variations of a rain cloud backlit by the sun—dark blue-gray at the roots, but at the tips and circling his face, it’s perfect, brilliant white. Two years ago, when I first saw him trapped by a breathing tube and induced into a coma (one I watched him hiccup, squirm, and wince through over the next month), I touched his hair and was surprised by how soft it was. I almost couldn’t feel it. My sister, standing over him on the other side of the bed that day, touched it, too.

Touching his hair isn’t something one does. In high school, the days I overslept and missed the morning train, my dad—who worked just across the street from my school—would drive me. (Had he not worked so close, my missing the train would have been tolerated just once.) He would have a cigarette on the way, and I’d watch him roll down the window: half a rotation of the knob. Just a crack, maybe a centimeter or two. Enough to pull the dancing stream from the cherry, but not so much the wind would mess up his hair.

We also don’t touch his hair because we’re just not a physically affectionate family—we don’t generally touch, unless it’s a brief hug after a long absence, and then another before saying goodbye again. When I was younger and still living in his house, before there had been many opportunities to say goodbye, I hugged him once after his father died. I felt shy about it. It didn’t come naturally. Not only had I not grown up in a hugging, touching environment, but I was also one of those teenagers who kept as much distance as possible from authority figures, and that included my dad. I would hide out in my attic bedroom, listen to music, and sneak my own smoking habit by standing on my bed and sticking my head—and the cigarette I was holding—through the open skylight. I was scared of my dad when I was a teen the way I think all teens should be; a parent’s authority, a tone or even a facial expression, should inspire nauseating anxiety.

The morning my dad caught me smoking, I hadn’t put too much effort into being careful. I’d thought I would hear the hinges of my heavy, metal door groan and would have plenty of time to toss the cigarette and pretend I was looking outside. Our house sat at the top of one of the many hills in our neighborhood, and from my skylight, I could see blocks of snow-topped terra cotta-tiled rooftops. I used to climb onto the roof pretty regularly to do my teenage brooding while looking out as far as the Neckar river, and to the bike path on the other side that circled the base of the lush, tree-dotted, hill crowned by the walled-in city of Dilsburg.

I was reasonably confident he wouldn’t come upstairs, because he never had, before, in the morning. Also, I was confident simply because I was seventeen. A high school senior, no less.  Hell, for months I’d been stashing a bottle of Amaretto and a shot glass between my bed and the wall so I could catch a buzz now and then, and he hadn’t found out about that. I was pretty sure I was getting away with just about everything.

But because—like most teenagers—I was just as certain I was clever and invincible as I was scared to death of getting caught, when I heard the hinges of my bedroom door croak that morning, I flicked my cigarette with immediately shaking fingers. In what seemed like slow motion, I saw the butt fly, but not far enough. Not only did it not make it over the edge of the roof, but it landed short of the gutter. I felt the way a horrified cartoon character looks—eyes bugging huge, lower jaw hitting the ground—when I saw the red cherry glowing bright in the thin layer of snow, a frigging beacon. By the time I turned my head, my father was standing beside me in his bathrobe, his hair brushed and styled, looking out onto the roof.

He said, “What’re you doing?”

I tried not to breathe. “Nothing,” I said. And then—and I will never know why I did this—I contorted my mouth to the side and exhaled the smoke I’d been holding. Pffoooo.

We held our positions for a good half minute. Those silent moments, when his nostrils would flare and he’d look at me with his unwavering, hazel eyes—he gave me his eye color—were often the worst.

But then he turned to leave, stopping at the door on his way out only to tell me to write an essay about the benefits of smoking. The next day, I found an ashtray in my room and a note that said, “Quit putting your butts on the roof, eh?”

My dad wasn’t foolish enough to think yelling at me, telling me to stop, would stop me. I would have found a different way to sneak cigarettes, and there’s little he despises more than lying. The ashtray was one of his many gestures that, over the years, have epitomized the nature of our family’s style of affection and that have made me feel more loved and respected as a daughter than any hug possibly could. With that single ashtray offering, my dad showed me acceptance, love, understanding, and the value of honesty.

While he was in his induced coma, my sister and I both touched him more than we probably had our whole lives. Checking his arms for sores, moving his feet, holding his hands, combing his hair away from his forehead, and even hugging him now and then those first few days. But when he got better, the physical affection—minus the rare, signature hair-strokes he gives as we walks by—stopped, and we were quickly reminded that overtly sentimental expressions, physical or otherwise, are as unnatural to us all now as they’d always been. That kind of thing doesn’t automatically change after thirty years just because of one little coma.

“I don’t say ‘I love you’ very often,” he said once. “But you know I do without my saying it, right?”

Yes. Yes, I do. And in fact, it’s the not hearing it, but knowing it anyway, that makes it mean that much more.

*****

Homefront

312 pages, Penxhere Press

(Kindle version)

“By alternating plot with a slices-of-life format, Tsetsi gives dimension to her book in a subtle and masterful way, contrasting her clear, precise, concrete prose–which makes up the majority of the book–with a quasi-stream-of consciousness style interspersed throughout. Her solid, seamless and detailed writing has the power to bring us into each scene. The result is an engaging, realistic portrait of a lover’s life at the homefront.” | Bookpleasures.com

Carol’s Aquarium

Kindle edition, Penxhere Press

“There isn’t a bad story in the bunch. Mortality, depression, desperate delusional love, jealousy, insecurity, envy, guilt … actually, I think all the 7 deadliest are represented here. These are real people in real pain, self-inflicted or otherwise, and they hit the page with a subtle vengeance.” | POD People

Learn more about Kristen Tsetsi and her writing at KristenTsetsi.com and BackwordBooks.com.

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Hard lessons learned

I got so caught up in the descriptions of Janet Muirhead Hill’s books that I neglected to see the essay she sent along with them. It’s just as well; it deserves to stand alone in its description of a father many of us know — the one whose ways inspire us to want to be like him even as his aloofness keeps us at arm’s length.

*****

In many ways, I’m like him. I take a great amount of pride in some of the traits we share, and, as I discovered late in life, those very traits wrought not just the rift but also the deep chasm in our relationship. Sadly, I didn’t realize that until he was dying.

Tough, proud, stoic, untouchable, and in control, enigmatic in his quiet restraint, he kept his thoughts and feelings hidden. That’s the dad I knew as a child. Stubborn, stern, and hardworking, and uncomplaining of pain or setback. It was from his example—and his authoritarian parenting—that I learned not to cry and consciously and inevitably adopted his fierce independence.

I grew up fearing my father as much as I admired him. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to please him, and I never wanted to ask him for anything, or be close enough to experience his quick-tempered wrath, should I do something wrong.

He loved horses, cattle ranching, and the land. He was an expert horseman and horse trainer. I loved the times when he felt free enough and happy enough to sing and yodel in his perfect-pitch baritone voice. Those times were rare in my experience. I loved when he smiled with pride in his eyes at the antics and accomplishment of his children. I caught few glimpses of those as I grew to adulthood.

What I missed seeing was his devotion to his family, his stalwart love and protectiveness for every one of his six children. He wasn’t long on praise. Had I known how much he loved me, I would have confided in him when I was about to make one of the worst mistakes of my life. And he would have told me it was okay not to go through with it even though a church full of people and an expectant groom awaited me. But I didn’t know. I let him walk me down the long aisle to what I could feel was impending doom.

I made a lot of mistakes both because of the ways I was like him, and because I didn’t know what was in the secret recesses of his heart and mind. As I was swept away by the current of my life choices, I put geographic space to match the existing emotional one between us.

In his last days, after the stroke disabled him, I came back to help with his care. He couldn’t speak intelligibly then. But he didn’t have to in order for me to detect what I’d missed as a child and young adult. I’d seen hints of it on my brief visits home and his and Mom’s annual visits to see me and my family. I heard with some skepticism the positive comments he made to others about me. That was his way. He bragged about my siblings to me, but I doubt he ever thought to tell them. It wasn’t his way.

His last days at home confirmed what I was gradually coming to believe. He loved me. Always had. Was sorry for the things he had done to alienate me. Still, we didn’t talk. Because of his stroke he couldn’t. My pride and reticence, even at this last stage of the game, caused me to miss opportunities to communicate what I knew we were both feeling. I’ll always regret the moments I shrunk from opportunities when something meaningful could have occurred between us. But I finally understood him; what he had become in his old age and what he had always been. And I knew that he understood me. And, finally, it’s enough.

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Dads and dragons

In each of the middle-grade and young-adult novels by Janet Muirhead Hill that have been published so far, there is a father — either missing and missed, (Miranda and Starlight, Kyleah’s Tree, and especially Danny’s Dragon, in which the missing father, killed in war, is the story’s focus.) or ominously present, as in Kendall’s Storm.

Danny’s Dragon was a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award and won the Notable distinction for the Eric Hoffer Book Award in 2007.

When his father is killed in Iraq, nine-year-old Danny is lost in a fog of disbelief, anger, shame, and blame as he tumbles helplessly through the typical stages of grief.  Guilt consumes Danny, because he believes his father joined Montana’s Air National Guard in order to buy a horse for Danny. Danny employs his imagination to turn his horse, Dragon, into the kind that could fly to Iraq to save his dad. Danny’s mother takes him to a counselor, but he refuses to share his grief with anyone. He withdraws from friends and family. In emotional and financial desperation, his mother decides they must give up their Montana ranch, the only home Danny has ever known. They move to Denver, crowding his grandparents in their  already crowded house in a house-crowded urban neighborhood. His attempt to adapt to a large school is complicated by having to sit behind “the enemy,” an Iraqi classmate.

Danny’s Dragon is about coping with loss, mending relationships, and about a child’s resilience and growth.

“While it is something we don’t want to face, death is a fact of life and we should be prepared so that we can help our children through it. This book is well written. The story flows smoothly. The characters are endearing. Their lives are too real for comfort. Danny, Mindee and Mom are true to life. The illustrations add to the story line and are well done. The cover made me want to delve inside.” — Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for Reader Views, November 2006

“Janet Muirhead Hill is a gifted as a communicator and storyteller. Her message is important and timely. I was deeply moved as the plot concluded with a climactic surprise ending. This book is an important resource tool for counselors, teachers, and anyone dealing with the issue of grief. It is especially helpful when dealing with grieving middle school children. The book opens the way for introducing important dialog. “Danny’s Dragon” is a book that should be available in middle school libraries. It is an excellent addition for suggested reading lists provided by crisis counselors.” — Midwest Book Review, Reviewers Bookwatch, Richard’s Shelf

“Danny’s Dragon is a critically important book that needs to be a part of every school and community library collection in the country as thousands of children find themselves in a similar position to Danny with their fathers (and sometimes their mothers) going off to war, being wounded, and even killed, their lives and families savaged by war and the death of a parent.” — James A. Cox, editor-in-chief, Small Press Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

“I finished reading Danny’s Dragon, and I loved it. I felt like I knew Danny’s feelings very well, and from my own experiences, this book made me feel like another person had been through the exact same hard time as me. Reading Danny’s Dragon helped me a lot. I recommend this book for anyone, but especially someone who has lost someone very close to them. Danny acted exactly like I did when I lost my father. I didn’t believe that he was actually gone. I felt like the only thing I could go to was Dash, my horse. I told him everything because I knew that he could keep my secrets”. —  Katie Wade, age 13

Danny’s Dragon and other titles by Janet Muirhead Hill may be purchased at http://ravenpublishing.net.

Kendall’s Storm, a companion novel to Kyleah’s Tree (which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award in the fiction category in 2009), is not yet in print. It is available as a e-book at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ravenofmany. Until it comes out in paperback, you may set your own price (i.e., you may download it for no charge if you so choose). The only favor requested in return is a short review sent to Janet@ravenpublishing.net and/or posted on Smashwords.

Kendall knows that when Dad won’t answer, it’s bad news. He won’t tell Kendall why they move from town to town, always leaving in a hurry. Mostly, Kendall wants to know why Dad took him from his twin sister and his mother when he was only four. At age ten, he still pines for his sister but knows not to ask, not even whether she even exists. A storm-bedraggled puppy helps brings comfort to his lonely life as his father takes him west, finally stopping on the Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington. Danny is forced to face his fears; fear of the 4.2-mile-long Megler Bridge, fear of the ocean, fear of storms, and fear that his father is the worst kind of criminal, fear that he will never see his dog, Stormy, again when he is placed in a not-so-nice foster home. In the end, he is reunited with Stormy and with Lani, a woman he believes is an angel. Through it all,  he conquers his fears and feelings of shame and guilt with newfound hope and integrity.

“It was a good thing I started reading this book on a Sunday morning, because once I started I could not stop. This narrative absolutely kept me riveted right to the end. “Kendall’s Storm” was truly a great read, even as it kept me on the edge of my seat and took me places I didn’t always want to go. This book may be fiction, but it has a sincerity and ring of truth throughout. Through the characters’ eyes and personal experiences, one learns (again) just how badly we, as a society, treat our youngest and weakest members. Through the empathetic storytelling of Janet Muirhead Hill, we also experience a coming of age with the certainty that love, affection and attention can make a profound and positive difference in a child’s life. This was a wonderful, thought-provoking, and intense book, and I sincerely recommend it.” — Review by Wilson James on May. 18, 2010

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King of the Hill

My friend Adrianne Hurtig, who originally posted this on her Facebook page, calls it “one of those odd memories that haunt an old mind.” While I disagree with the “old” bit, I thank her for allowing me to republish it here:

When my brothers and I were growing up in a small town in Washington, we lived on a ranch. The Ponderosa Ranch, my father called it. His piece of America. Immigrant-minds take an over-abundance amount of pride of land ownership. You were a man if you owned land, animals and had sons. In that order. So, in order to fit in and claim my piece of my father’s stern heart, I behaved like a son.

My father rodeo-ed. Brahma bulls, the bad boys of the arena, is what he fell off of. Said he ate a lot of dirt, but that was modest talk that cowboys say to each other to remain humbled. He actually claimed many purses or else putting your body through it for nothing was just insane. That’s also what cowboys said to each other to test their theory of sanity, when they all knew they did it for the rush of it. Maybe some rodeo-groupie with steak-house- hostess-hair on a Saturday night.

All of us kids rodeo-ed. Whether or not we wanted to. Mostly we didn’t. My dad didn’t make it a whole lot of fun. It was work. Hard work, that you never got right, and had to do it all over from scratch each time. “Climb up on that damn horse and quit your god damn crying!” I’d heard more than enough to last a lifetime. My dad only brought home green broke horses. He figured he had enough kids to break them for him. Thankfully, I did cry harder than my brother’s and didn’t have to break but one in my childhood. My brother, David, younger than me by fourteen months, didn’t fair as well. He broke quite a few of my dad’s horses on our front lawn. Closer to the fridge for my dad. He liked his whiskey cold, and there was no electricity down by the round pen.

Down by the stables is where we spent most of our time. Thoroughbred horses and Appaloosas. We raced the Thoroughbreds and rodeo-ed the appys. “They’ve got a better disposition for you dumb kids,” he’d told us. Since we lived on a racing ranch budget, meaning basically steak one year and food stamps the next, he did everything to keep his overhead low. Enter the kids again.

My bad luck was that I was tall, and thin. I could jockey. My youthful body still bent like a contortionists dream, and I could lay flat over the horses ears and keep my ass down. He kept the mane shaved so there was no cheating and trying to hang on for dear life to a thick, rich, mane. Some horses didn’t realize they were Thoroughbreds and bred to run. My thighs had “natural gripping ability” since I was a girl, he’d say. I learned later what he meant by that. So, I’d pony the Thoroughbreds around and around the track. My leg’s getting damn near torn off at the knee, easing them into the make-shift starting stalls. Having a thousand pounds of scared to shit animal under my scared to shit thirteen year old body was not my way of spending the summer. Or, the weekend.

On the weekend, we mucked out the stalls. It wasn’t something we looked forward to, but there was no grumbling. We thanked our lucky stars that our mom put here foot down and said we didn’t have to muck before school. But, on Saturdays there we were, mucking out the old dung onto a very large, very tall, pile of dung. The Dung Pile, of which I was King!

My brothers and I would grab on to each other and literally toss each other off as we’d scramble to be the first to top the dung pile. Sometimes we’d dig in with our toes and fingers to cling to as we fought for control of our climb. Arms flailing, legs kicking the living crap out of each other. I could scrap with the best of them back then.

In the winter, the dung pile would freeze. If we wanted any peace or fun in our lives, we knew to stay outside. Didn’t matter how cold it was, we’d be out there playing. Like racing ranch kids; before we knew all we know about germs and self esteem. There we’d be, the boys and I, fighting it out to the top.

It was during one of our winter games that we discovered, if we kicked a hole out of the dung pile, warm steam escaped. I grimace now to admit that I buried myself in many a dung hole for warmth. Stuck my frozen pink fingers inside to thaw them before frost bite got them. Warmed my cheeks for a moment, as I caught my breath to scale my way to the top. Once there, surviving the brothers, the near mis-steps that would have broken my slender body to pieces had I ever hit the frozen ground from that height, I’d scream, at the top of my lungs, for all to hear and bear witness, that I was in fact King of the Dung Pile.

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‘I’m Sorry’

From Thief Creek author Jeremy Soldevilla:

His milky eyes looked deep in mine.  Tiny pools of dampness welled in the corners. It had been that way for days, but this time something was different. He needed to connect.  “I’m sorry, Jere,” was all he said, and a lone tear rolled down his cheek, staining the crisp white hospital pillow. Less than half an hour later my father gasped two deep breaths and passed away.

It was an astonishing thing to hear. I squeezed his frail hand and told him he had nothing to be sorry for; but we both knew he did.

Knowing my father’s never-ending wish to not be a burden, it could have been he was sorry for inconveniencing me by dying and making me come from Boston to his hospital bedside in Las Vegas where I sat with him for a week. It was the second time in two months I had made the trip.  The first time he rallied and we thought he was out of the woods. But that was nothing to be sorry for. When you are losing a loved one, you want to be there for them.

No, I took it to be a blanket apology to cover all the things we had never talked about, but had affected me deeply since my earliest memories.

Maybe it was for the lousy way he had treated my mother. The yelling and hitting when they’d both had too much to drink that would keep me sleepless and terrified throughout my youth.  Maybe it was because she died of cancer at 52 , much too young for him to make amends for his abuse over the lifetime of their marriage. Maybe it was an apology for distancing  himself away in his study working on who knows what instead of spending any time with my brother or me. Maybe it was for the gut-wrenching fear his often angry voice and hair-trigger temper would instill in us.

Maybe he was sorry for not being the man, the husband or the father he wanted to be.

Well, I’m sorry too. Sorry that I never thanked him for the good things I got from him that have also shaped my life — his love of books and music, his writing, his wit and sense of humor, his intellect and his vulnerability.

But, in the end, in that final moment of naked honesty between us, we both knew the ledger was clean. Despite a lifetime of failings and disappointments on both our sides, we were a father and a son and no bond is stronger than that and nothing else mattered.

*****

Jeremy Soldevilla is the author of the newly released thriller Thief Creek:

Newlyweds Steve and Heather have been looking forward to their honeymoon in a rustic bed and breakfast for months. Nestled in the remote Rocky Mountains of Montana the Thief Creek Inn seems just the place to relax and enjoy the peaceful and wildly beautiful surroundings.

The violent Toomey brothers, on the run after their escape from prison, are looking for a secluded hideaway as well. Butch, the lumbering tattooed harelip murderer; Jesse James Toomey, the cruel leader of the gang; and JP are desperately trying to save the life of their younger brother, Tommy when an accident brings them to the Thief Creek Inn.

Innkeeper Mike Preston is a peaceful man who, with his wife, Annie, a nurse, bought the inn as a retreat from their stressful lives in Seattle.

Now, life suddenly changes for everyone at the Thief Creek Inn.

Learn more about Jeremy and his work at www.thiefcreek.com.

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A stepfather’s literary influence

Author Cheryl Anne Gardner pays tribute to her stepfather and his ongoing influence on her life and work:

Of course, I would have to thank my stepfather for setting me off down the literary path. Sadly I didn’t get to thank him specifically, he didn’t live to see me fulfil this dream, but had he, I am sure he would be pleased with my work. He was an avid reader himself, mostly non-fiction of the historical/philosophical variety, and though not to my particular taste, it did inspire a sense of realism, which I attempt to hold on to in my own writing. I can still smell his pipe tobacco when I think of him reading in his rocking chair every night. I still have the rocking chair and his reading glasses. His knowledge of the classics and poetry spanned far and wide. His appreciation for written thought was incalculable. Not many kids were reading Chaucer or Byron at the age I started reading them. He even made us read and write book reports over summer vacation so we wouldn’t “get stupid.” So I suppose my becoming a reviewer was his fault too. He taught me how to really read a story, how to distill the words down to their subliminal meaning.

I can’t even begin to confirm without a doubt what the first book I read of my own accord was. My grandfather had me reciting nursery rhymes from the time I was one year old. I think my first conscious choice was probably Black Beauty, but up to that point, I had already been exposed to all the prominent fables and fairy tales. I discovered early on that I had a penchant for the macabre and for deep psychological stories exploring the darker depths of human nature. We can see that even in the most classic of children’s stories such as Alice in Wonderland. The first book I ever purchased with my own money was Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the school book-mobile. I was ten years old, a B Horror movie fan, and my father didn’t take issue with the purchase. From that point forward, I shifted my focus to gothic literature. I read a great a deal of what would be classified as Horror or Thriller stories. In my teenage years, I was accepted into an honours Literature program and spent my time reading mostly European writers and poets, many of them I mention directly in my own work. When my stepfather died, I rescued as many of his books as I could from the cold damp garage, and those now reside in my home library to this day. The library my husband built for me from scratch because he knows how important mine and my father’s relationship with the word was.

I even wrote a brief passage about my stepfather in my novella The Thin Wall:

It had been ages since she had thrown herself into a good book, since she had felt the tear of the pages, or since she had caught the indelible scent of the paper and the leather. It had been ages. She couldn’t overlook that fact, and she had plenty of books lying about the flat, too many and too dusty to ignore. It’s not an obsessive librarian thing, either, she claimed. It’s just a love of the written word. To hold a book in your hands, to feel the tear of the pages, to hear the creak of the binding the first time you open it, the first time you set your eyes on the pages and discover their secrets, the secrets hidden within the words, secrets only you can know. There is something so sublime in that. An uncomplicated joy. Yes, that is what Laleana felt every time she opened a book, every single time.

Her stepfather had showered her not only with discipline but also with scores of leather-bound tomes containing the most pure and beautiful words she had ever seen: Byron, Keats, Chaucer, Voltaire, and Shakespeare, the list could go on without end or measure.

With his encouragement, and with little complaint, she threw herself into the classics of literature and philosophy, ripping the words from the pages and dissecting their every subtle detail. She found never ending solace in the sad poetry of other abandoned souls. However, solace was not all that she found in the words. Whispered secrets lilted from the pages, shuddered and rolled upon her breath, and then fell sweetly over her skin, for their were muted visions hidden away within those words, visions of beauty, magic, justice, honour, everlasting faithfulness, and most of all—love. Her passion for literature knew no bounds. It mattered not the style or device: she loved them all equally from the short story, to the poem, to the play. For nothing could touch her so deeply as a well-placed word.

In at least three of my novellas you will see very strong father figures: Henry in The Kissing Room, Viktor in The Thin Wall, and in my most recent release The Splendor of Antiquity, I sort of took it to the extreme: the narrator being a 2000 year old Dead Assyrian King who watches over and analyzes our middle-aged and very confused protagonist Joliette and her estranged lover Botton. Of course there is more to the story than the romance. Philosophically speaking, it’s a story about a woman struggling to reconcile her faith in fate and logic, her belief in God and Science. But she is not sure that she can trust in God or the Cosmos or anything. After losing her parents in a car accident and then losing her first love, she believes that love is inconsistent, illogical, and therefore, it can only inflict agony and confusion upon her soul, so she gallivants all over the known Archaeological map, digging up dead things in an effort to understand her conflicted emotions. Love and Death: the two are interconnected, and Joliette discovers this when she uncovers a mysterious burial rite in the mountains of Siberia — and a body. The Splendor of Antiquity blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy. Can faith and science unite to save two desolate hearts? Will love triumph over rumour and deceit, and can a man and a woman put history aside and rediscover just how deep their passion for each other lies? Antiquity follows French Archaeologists Joliette Deneauve and Olivier Botton, as they grapple with the mystic implications of a discovery hidden deep within the Siberian mountains. As Joliette pursues her obsession with death, she becomes bewitched by the spirit of a long dead God-King, and torn with despair, her grip on reality is tested. As Joliette attempts to decipher the incantations of a strange burial rite, painful memories from her own past begin to overcome her, and her faith in Botton is tested. Will she learn to trust him again, or will they slip farther away from one another, into the abyss and beyond?

Reviewers have given it a thumbs up:

“A love story not to be missed.” — Readerviews

The Splendor of Antiquity is an intricate though eerie story laced with a subtle but lucid romance […] exquisitely multifaceted without the conventional angst.” — Pamela from the Erotic Bookworm reviewing for The Pod People

“Will send shivers up your spine.” — LLBR

“A more accurate portrayal of the modern female psyche, and Gardner’s eloquent prose never falters.” — Breenie Books

The Splendor of Antiquity can be purchased in print and in Kindle and ePub format at Amazon, Kobo Books, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Coming soon to the Sony Reader Store. Purchasing links can be found at the Twisted Knickers Publications homepage. Links to free chapters and reviews can be found there as well.

Cheryl Anne Gardner is a writer of dark, often disturbing literary novellas. She is an advocate for independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible prefers to read and review out-of-the-mainstream Indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. Her love of literature began at an early age with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Captivated by the Gothic and Dark Romantic stylings of Poe, Lovecraft, Kafka, and de Sade, her passion for the macabre manifests itself throughout her own work to this day. She lives with her husband and ferrets on the east coast USA, is an enthusiastic gardener, and her weekly blog column titled “Thoughts on The Craft” can be found at The Pod People Indie Book Review and Commentary site: PodPeep.Blogspot

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Welcome to the site

Whether you have a story to share about your father or wish to anonymously post what you’ve always wanted to say to him, we’re here to contemplate these men and the way they shape our lives. Feel free to jump right in.

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