Haunted at a writing retreat.

I moved aside the wooden block holding up the ancient window and carefully lowered the heavy pane, not wanting to smash my fingers. I was in my bedroom at The Porches in Norwood, Virginia—an antebellum farmhouse lovingly transformed into a quiet, contemplative writers’ retreat.  I’d come to work on a difficult chapter in my nonfiction story about the murder of John W. Funkhouser, the geology professor who discovered the earthquake fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant back in 1970. With the heavy window closed, I turned on the air conditioner.  It was almost ninety degrees outside.  I opened my laptop and placed the binder with my files from the courthouse beside me. I clicked the only photo I had of the killer— from his senior high school yearbook.

Ray William Cook, Jr. was a good looking boy. Dark hair, sincere eyes, and perfect lips.  Hollywood lips.  Lips that could have been outlined by a professional makeup artist. I turned the page to the photocopy of his signed confession:

December 3, 1974

I, Ray William Cook, Jr., do make this statement to Det. H. M Shelton, Chesterfield County Police Dept., after having been advised of my constitutional rights and understanding these rights I make this statement freely and voluntarily…

I flipped page after page, recreating the crime. After a couple more hours with this murderer, it was time for dinner. A shared meal with three other writers followed by a settling stroll in the lush Virginia countryside. Weeks of rain had finally ended and the results were spectacular.  Colorful coneflowers, ubiquitous Virginia creeper, and trees competing for every inch of sunlight. I walked to a small church with a few gravestones. One or two cars passed by, the drivers waved and I waved back.

I returned to my room, to my computer, and to my binder. My chapter on Ray Cook’s family life, his physical and mental health, and his jumbled reasoning for shooting Dr. Funkhouser in the head was inching into existence.  Outside, the long June day finally gave in to the night.  The deeper I dove into the life and crimes of Ray Cook, Jr., the darker the windowpane became. Moths banged against the wavy glass. I dragged my fingers through my hair. His yearbook photo was still on my computer screen. My face was in the windowpane, lit by the screen. His face. My face.  I rubbed my arms.  It was too cool in here. I adjusted the temperature on the wall air condition.   Just a tad warmer, please.  I sat on the corner of my bed. The locked armoire beside the bed had a full length mirror.  I was tired and should have gotten some sleep, but I returned to my computer instead.

VIRGINIA:

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE COUNTY OF CHESTERFIELD COMMONWEALTH

VS.

RAY WILLIAM COOK

The defendant, Ray William Cook, having been charged in this court at the March term 1975, on two felony charges; to-wit: Armed Robbery and Murder, and pursuant to the Order of the Court, having been conveyed to Central State Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia for observation and reported to the Court, at which said hospital he was received and the Superintendent of the said hospital having reported to the Court that the said Ray Willian Cook is not mentally ill, it is, therefore ORDERED that the Sheriff of Chesterfield do proceed to Central State Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia and take into his custody the said Ray William Cook and commit him to the Chesterfield County Jail, Chesterfield, Virginia to be there confined until he shall be ordered by this court to be produced before the Court for the trial of the crime of which he stands charged.

A deep quiet had settled over The Porches.  The other writers had gone to bed. Even the moths had stopped their suicidal banging. I had to get my mind off murder.   I showered, brushed my teeth, and changed into my nightgown. The brass bed was as soft as feathers with a half-dozen pillows.  I read for a while then took off my glasses and turned out the light.  The room glowed. I looked up.  I’d left my computer on. Mr. Cook’s high school yearbook photo was staring at me. I tried to ignore him. I built a fortress of pillows to block the light. But there he was.  I turned the light back on and walked to the desk. I closed the file and shut down the computer.  I returned to bed and turned off the lights.

It was too dark. It was too quiet.  I strained to hear anything beyond the rumble of the air conditioner. I couldn’t get Mr. Cook out of my head. Robbery. Murder. Prison.  Someone was watching me.  I sat up.  I switched on the light and grabbed my glasses. The mirror on the full-length armoire.  That’s all it was.  I stacked the pillows so I couldn’t see the mirror and turned off the light.

Mr. Cook was standing beside my bed.

Lights back on, glasses back on, I picked up my book and read until I heard the birds singing.  At breakfast, I told the other writers of my sleepless night. I returned to my room and my white binder, and wrote about a killer’s ghost stalking me in this lovely antebellum farmhouse.

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My bedroom at The Porches.  I should have put my robe over that mirror!

 

 

Carolyn O’Neal is a Charlottesville author.  She highly recommends The Porches writing retreat. This historic farmhouse built in 1854 on the James River offers a unique experience for authors and artists.

 

 

 

 

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2018 Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair! Saturday, October 27th, at City Space on the downtown mall, Charlottesville!

Come for the books, stay for the events! Crafts, workshops, author readings, and music!  Need a map?  Click here!

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Almost time!  Come to downtown Charlottesville for the 2018 Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair!

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Don’t miss it!

Show your support for local talent!    Help spread the word everywhere you go by wearing the Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair t-shirt.   Premium quality, multiple colors, men’s and women’s sizes.  Only $19.99.   Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G4JXSB6   A1D5DcuV7CL._CLa_2140,2000_A17jwu6+vqL.png_0,0,2140,2000+0.0,0.0,2140.0,2000.0

A Mind of One’s Own

The act of writing, getting words down, can feel like a fragile feat of magic—a meticulous balance of time, space, and solitude, and those even more unpredictable ingredients that comprise inspiration. If it sounds convoluted, sometimes it feels that way too.

A lot of writers form a ritual for this: a schedule, a place, and a set of tools or totems—some magic words—all of which, together, unlock the doors to their work. In contrast, there are the brilliant and prolific that purportedly produce with ease, like William Carlos Williams, who changed the landscape of modern American poetry while tending a thriving medical practice—whipping out poems on his typewriter between patients. Maybe there’s a middle way, something reasonable, something modest, perhaps along the lines of Virginia Woolf’s criteria for a good writing practice: a little money and a room of one’s own.

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The question of territory is critical—for the women writing in Woolf’s day and now. Carving out and claiming a space for thinking, for writing, for painting, can be a radical act, an audacious move, a declaration of independence. I find that it’s not just a question of taking ownership of rooms, but of guarding boundaries around selfhood too—body and mind.

More and more, the mind space is assaulted. Constantly steered by outside forces, shuffled into ever narrowing corridors of thought, directed to look this way or that, to feel this or that, I find it’s getting harder to know what really needs my attention, where my focus might truly do some good and where it merely feeds the frenzy.

If I want to write something of my own, I have to defend myself against the words that come in waves, entreating me to spend, own, or act; to hate, or to hate the other haters; to speak up, or to shut up; to get out there, or to get out of the way; to prepare for weather that is or isn’t coming; to declare my allegiance to the superficial; and to bow to the pretty packaging masking a destructive hidden agenda.

It helps to have a physical room of one’s own, but if I really want a safe space, I’ll need locks that work against these messages, as well as traps for ads, sound-proofing to keep out political rants and propaganda, and firewalls and Faraday cages to guard against texts, tweets, barbed comments, and non-news. I might as well build a moat.

Even if I could silence everything coming at me, what about the echoes in my own mind? If I retreat to my retreat, but carry all that noise with me, have I really gone anywhere? If I took someone else’s train of thought into my creative space, I’ve been for a ride, but have I traveled at all? Sometimes a room of one’s own isn’t enough. To find what’s real again, I might need to find a space beyond language, to visit what’s bigger than words, so that I can hear my own mind.

As someone who loves words and studies them, I could wonder why it feels essential to put them down, but sometimes we need a break from what we love. We need to be in the presence of beauty or wonder or power that can’t be shaped or limited by our methods of framing, our attempts to summarize and control. We seek out the ocean at times like this to let the roaring take over, we go to the mountains, the sanctuary, or we try to find a safe, warm spot to witness a storm.

In the presence of what’s bigger than our words, an energetic exchange happens, a settling of questions and of self-contrived debts. Finally, the gnawing stops, the faint pain of background angst that never crescendos enough to be dealt with by the conscious mind somehow gets resolved, handled completely by the beauty and by the wordlessness.

What am I preparing myself for in these moments? I want to be wiped clean, but for what? The ability to discern rightly again and become attuned, more sensitive still? From a stunned state, answers come—the truth about our most guarded wants and needs, about the unfit compromises we’ve made. Solutions to life problems and story problems rise up too—as if they were waiting for uncontested ground on which to emerge.

Maybe I want to hear the quietest sound more clearly. The other gift from this kind of time is the all-too-brief ability to interpret upon re-entry, to hear the clamor that one has acclimated to and to understand it for exactly what it is: noise. Maybe that noise has served as a distraction, diverting us away from what we might do, substituting its messages for ours. But maybe that noise has also done violence, shaping the world for us into its sharpest, most damaging version. If I want to recognize the difference, I need to recover the weight and value of words, to become a better instrument for measuring them. So that I can start again.

Noelle Beverly writes poetry and prose, promotes local writers in the surrounding community, and is a member of the BACCA Literary group. Photo by the author.

Lifelines

It is sometimes in the midst of catastrophe that we find out who we truly are. It is as if some sort of façade is blown off the self, and one sees inside.  I have one sister and one mother, and each of us has had a cancer diagnosis this summer, one after another. There has been no particular family history in this direction—it just happened. They are in New York and I am in Virginia, and we are comforting each other as best we can and blessing modern technology for making that possible.

Right now I have quite a bit of pain, and managing that and the side effects of chemo is more or less a full-time job. My son is here and also working very hard to take care of me and keep me good company, bless the lad.

When you are in a situation in which you fear for your life or the life of those close to you, you enter a kind of liminal space—an in-between state where ordinary rules of consciousness don’t seem to apply. War veterans speak of such a state, and many of them miss it when the war is over.  Maybe that is why I do not seem to feel depressed. On the contrary, I feel I am dwelling now only among the essentials of my life, which I find to be creativity and love.

The only active non-medically related things I’m doing right now are reaching out to friends and futzing around with poetry—submitting and arranging, not yet writing. My current experience is a little too unprocessed, I think, to generate writing. The first people to step up when I was bowled over were the ladies I dance with and the ladies in my writing group—those with whom I share the life-giving processes of creativity. That bond has turned out to be deeper than I realized, as has my passion to create. It’s not that I didn’t know it was there, but that it was covered up by the façade of everyday life, which can make one ignore the most important things.

Women of BACCA, please know how thankful I am for the lifeline of our shared passion..

Turn! Turn! Turn! – A Writer Group Evolves

I could practically hear The Byrds harmonizing to McGuinn’s twanging 12-string, doing their famous rendition of Pete Seeger’s song adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The morning of our annual June retreat, our writer group received the news that one of our own would not be joining us for the weekend. In fact, she was leaving the writer group altogether.

Her note was moving and heartfelt. Good things in her life were superseding her writing in importance. I knew this to be true. I shed some tears and thought about how different the weekend was now going to be. So much depended on the four of us who remained.

I felt optimistic, because we already had some experience with changes. We got started back in 2011, when four of us attended a fiction class at WriterHouse , our local writing nonprofit, and decided to continue as a critique group. We adopted – and then adapted – the critique guidelines from Luke Whisnant that our teacher had recommended to the class, and established a reliable monthly schedule which we all observed.

Gang of Four

We thrived as a foursome for a number of years. We wrote, published, funded our projects, promoted them, and all the while sent in monthly segments of new work for discussion. We grew as writers, and as a group. We even did a series of public presentations on the benefits of committing to a writer group.

the first BACCA logo (2011) with four berries on it

Our original logo, for the four-writer membership

Then one of us made some big changes to her life. She got married, accepted a new professorship at a university far from our base in Charlottesville, and had a baby. The combined distance, responsibilities, and changed focus meant she could only meet with us sometimes, and via Skype, not face to face in the usual coffee shops, offices, and living rooms where we congregated.

Changing Numbers

So, in effect, we were a more often a group of three than four. Undaunted, we put out the word that we sought a new writer to join us. A few interviews later, we wound up with not one but two engaging new voices to join the chorus.

The six of us rallied for one final retreat, all together, last summer in Virginia. Then our far-flung writer announced that it was unlikely she’d be able to join us in future, even by Skype, what with teaching, the baby, and a forthcoming academic book in the works.

It made total sense, and we helped where we could, beta-reading portions of her book, and cooing over photos of the new baby. We missed her, each in our own ways, and welcomed the two new writers to our circle. We evolved.

A new five-member vibe emerged. Then another of our original writers let us know she’d be withdrawing for a time. She had exigent priorities, related to the events of 12 August 2017. Those of you not in the Charlottesville, VA area may not have felt the urgency that the day created among many of us to do something in the wake of the horror and violence. In the aftermath, our writer was drawn to investigate, and withdrew for a time from the rhythm of sending in several thousand words per month to our writer group. We supported her decision, needless to say. In fact, many questions remain, almost a year later, about who did what – and did not do what – to and for whom on that day, not to mention what factors led to the conditions that resulted in so much harm – to individual people and to the community.

So we were, temporarily, four. Knowing that our fifth writer was likely to return, we left an extra seat at the table for six months or so. Sadly, at the end of her leave of absence, she had found no resolution. Like many Charlottesvillians, she discovered the answers to her questions remained stubbornly out of reach.

She rejoined active participation in our group, once again a circle of five writers. It felt good. The number gave us more flexibility. If one of us were out of town, we still had a satisfying foursome at the monthly critique. I remember reflecting that our writer group had its own life force, its own reason for being. In addition, we each demonstrated our care for the group itself, tending to it with kindness and intelligence.

Life went on this way for a little while. Earlier this year, we all anticipated the retreat, scheduled for mid-June. As in prior years, we’d rented a place, planned shared activities, along with ample solitary time, and looked forward to sharing dinners assembled in the kitchen, enjoyed by all.

Then on the morning of what was to be our first day together, we got the email. Our instigator, the person who in 2011 first invited three other writers to do a critique, had come to the end of the road with BACCA. Just as had happened a year before with the new mother / academic transplant, her reasons were overwhelmingly positive and beyond reproach. As I re-read the email, I saw how happy her life had become. A new career, marriage, a home in the country – all these developments were worthy of celebration.

Now We Are Four – Again

When the remaining four of us met up at the retreat, we all had some adjusting to do. Now half of us were old-timers – around since 2011 – and half of us had been involved for eighteen months or so. What effects would that new balance have on our equilibrium?

It didn’t take long to find out. By the next day, at our scheduled critique meeting, we found ourselves already functioning as an effective, collegial, purposeful, compassionate, and committed group of four.

Happily, as do the other BACCA writers, I remain connected to the two writers who have departed from active involvement with the group. It is a great pleasure to know both of these fellow writers, now friends, and to enjoy the conversational styles and senses of humor unique to each of them. I am filled with admiration for the ways each of them has designed a life that gives them joy.

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We’re keeping the six-berry logo.

Turn, Turn, Turn

And as for BACCA, once again, our shared intention to serve the group overcame the uncertainty. As the song goes, to everything there is a season. Once again, BACCA reconfigured itself and evolved. May your writer group do the same.

— A M Carley writes fiction and nonfiction, and is a founding member of BACCA. Her company, Chenille Books, provides creative coaching and manuscript development services to authors. Decks of 52 FLOAT Cards for Writers are available from Baine’s Books in Scottsville and Appomattox, VA, at the Chenille Books website, and on Amazon. Anne’s writer handbook, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is available for purchase at Central Virginia booksellers and on Amazon. #becomingunstuck 

Searching for Dr. Funkhouser

Finding Fault

All I wanted was to research manmade earthquakes.  I was pulling together ideas for a new novel about villains  triggering an earthquake under a nuclear power plant.  I had visions of them rubbing their hands together as they watched chaos unfold. But how could I research such a thing?  Where would I go to find something as unlikely, as farfetched, and as absolutely insane as a nuclear power plant built on top of an earthquake fault? Well, lucky for me, there’s one in nearby Louisa County, Virginia.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station

North Anna Nuclear Power Station. Photo is from image of the North Anna Nuclear Power Station at the front entrance of the visitor’s center in Louisa County.

The North Anna Nuclear Power Plant was announced in The Daily Progress in 1968 and a couple of years later, after clearing and excavation had begun, a geology professor named John W. Funkhouser discovered the earthquake fault. That was in February, 1970.  I found many interesting articles about the building of the nuclear power plant and the discovery of the fault but one that really stuck out was a small piece about what happened to Funkhouser three years after he discovered the fault.  He was murdered on December 3, 1974 via a single gunshot to the head.

Professor Funkhouser taught geology at John Tyler Community College in Chesterfield, Virginia. He was scheduled to testify before the Atomic Energy Commission (now called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) in early 1975, but his murder quashed that appearance.  Twenty-four year old unemployed electrician Ray W. Cook, Jr. was convicted of his murder. The more I read, the more questions arose.  What brought Funkhouser to the power plant’s construction site back in 1970?  How did he uncover the fault?  What happened after he told the Virginia Electric and Power Company?

I tried to return to researching for my novel. I found reports of certain human activities triggering earthquakes. Activities such as damming a river to create a massive lake on a previously quiet earthquake fault. This is what geologists call reservoir-induced earthquakes. The construction of Hoover Dam, for instance, created Lake Mead in a part of the country with no previous record of seismicity. Even before the lake was completely full, people reported feeling the ground shake. Another suspect is fracking. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “wastewater produced by the hydraulic fracturing process can cause induced earthquakes when it is injected into deep wastewater wells.”  I contacted geologists and a couple of engineers to ask about the plausibility of my villain’s dastardly scheme. Yes, they speculated, a lake on a fault line plus fracking might trigger an earthquake, so I was rather pleased with myself as I moved forward with writing the first few chapters.

But this man, this Professor John W. Funkhouser, the man who discovered the fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant and was murdered, kept surfacing in my mind.

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Photo from the Washington and Lee University yearbook, class of 1947. Taken when Dr. Funkhouser was 21 years old.

Who was he? What was his background? I searched the internet and found articles about Funkhouser and about his murder, including a copy of his death certificate.  I faced the fact that I had to set aside my fictional story.  I had to investigate the real one.  I printed out the death certificate.  Funkhouser was murdered in his home at the Chester Town House Apartments in Chesterfield, Virginia.  I searched online for Chester Town House Apartments but found nothing.  Since the murder was back in 1974, the apartment complex could have changed its name or may have been torn down.  That led me to contact the Chesterfield Planning Department and the Chesterfield Historical Society.  Indeed, the name of the apartment complex had changed.  I typed the new name into Google Maps. There it was.  I typed in John Tyler Community College. The apartments were about eight miles from the campus.  Professor Funkhouser was slowly becoming a real person.  This was where he lived. This was where he taught. This was where he died.  Each new discovery made me want to learn more.

Court Records

I’d never asked for court records before.  I’ve been on a jury but that was my only brush with the world of judges, prosecuting attorneys, and witnesses.  I had to do a bit of research even to know where to start. I wanted detail about the trial of Ray W. Cook, Jr.  Maybe trial transcripts would give me insight into why he shot Professor Funkhouser. I went to the Chesterfield County website and found what I needed.  I contacted the Clerk of Court, The Honorable Wendy S. Hughes, via email and quickly received a polite reply from Karla Viar, Criminal Division Supervisor/Pre-Court, Chesterfield Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. She told me that they’d pulled the files from the murder trial and had them available for me. I emailed Karla. I’d be there the next afternoon.

The drive from my home in Charlottesville to the Chesterfield Circuit Court took a bit over an hour.  I parked, grabbed my purse and notebook, and headed to the door. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they hand me a small file with one flimsy document? Would they have a thick file with stacks of evidence?  My plan was to take photos of each page with my cell phone. That seemed the easiest.  I stepped into the courthouse and was greeted by baggage scanners and armed guards.  “No cell phones. No cameras of any sort allowed in the court house.”  I returned to the car and dropped off my purse.  I returned with only my keys, my notebook, and a pen.  That’s all. This time, I made it through security.

Chesterfield County Court Building

Chesterfield Circuit Court

Ms. Viar was good to her word. The file was waiting for me.  I opened it and began writing.  I wrote down every word.  “Form No. 716 (REV) Virginia: In the Chesterfield General District Court January 29th, 1975, Commonwealth of Virginia V. Ray William Cook, Jr. Order This day came the Attorney for the Commonwealth, and ….” after writing a few full pages my hand began it cramp. The clerk assigned to sit with me while I had the file must have felt pity on me.  “Um, you know we can make copies for you,” she said.  “Fifty cents a page.”

“Do you take credit cards?”

“Yes.”

I ran back to my car for my wallet.  It took an hour or so for her to make and compile all the copies. She copied over fifty pages, most letter length but a few legal papers.  There was also a brown envelope taped closed in the file. “What’s that?” I asked.

“Sealed documents.”

“What do I have to do to get a look inside?”

“You need approval from the judge.”

“What judge?”

“Judge Hauler.”

I wrote down that name.  The information I had in my hands was already pretty incendiary. The copies I held contained details of the crime, a handwritten confession, and a photo; I could only imagine what the sealed documents might hold.  Looks like I had some more legal research ahead of me. How to request a judge to unseal court documents?  I’d work on that when I got home.

I still had a couple hours of daylight left so I drove over to the John Tyler Community College campus, where Professor Funkhouser had taught. It was winter break. I asked a guard where the geology building was and he sent me in the right direction.  I had researched enough about John W. Funkhouser to know he was a brilliant man.  Magna Cum Laude at Washington and Lee and a scholarship to Stanford University for his PhD where he was an Atomic Energy Fellow.  After graduation, he was hired by Carter Oil (part of Esso/Standard Oil) and was sent on expedition to South America where he revolutionized the field of paleopalynology.  In the mid 1960’s, he left big oil for small academia.  Peeking through the windows into the dark and empty classrooms I couldn’t help but be struck by the loss.

I still had one more stop before heading back to Charlottesville. I wanted to see the old Chester Townhouse Apartments. I wanted to see where Professor Funkhouser had lived and where he had died. At the very least, I wanted to drive the route he’d taken when he left work at John Tyler Community College and headed home on that final day in 1974.

The apartment complex was laid out like a tree with a road down the middle and cul-de-sacs branching out on either side. I drove down the first cul-de-sac.  Some of the two-story townhouses were larger than others, perhaps an extra bedroom.  I wanted to take a photo so I’d remember.  I didn’t want people or cars in the photo so I found a quiet townhouse and snapped my cell phone camera. I drove to the next cul-de-sac and saw a sign for the apartment complex’s office.

The young woman who greeted me wasn’t even born when Professor Funkhouser died. The office was a converted townhome, a showroom for potential renters to see before they sign.  I asked when the complex was built and she guessed in the 70’s or 80’s.  I asked if I could look around.  She encouraged it.  I wandered through the kitchen as if it were Professor Funkhouser’s, touching the surfaces as if he had touched them.  He was shot in his kitchen. I’d seen the photo in the court records.  He was killed at 4:30 in the afternoon, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, his pocket protector neatly in his breast pocket, still filled with pencils and pens.  I returned to my car and drove to the next cul-de-sac and to the next one after that.  Up and down the streets, not knowing what I was looking for.  Clues to which townhouse was his, I guess. Something that looked different from the rest, something that would say a genius once lived here.

I was ready to set my GPS for home when it dawned on me that somewhere buried in the court records had to be his apartment number. Yes, the name of the apartment complex had changed and maybe the numbering had too, but I had to give it a try.  I found his address in the Virginia Uniform Traffic Summons, a report filled out by the detective who arrested Mr. Cook.  The number was there.  Five digits.  I started reading the townhouse addresses. They fit the same five digit pattern. I retraced my steps, winding back through the apartment complex, carefully reading the addresses until I returned to where I had begun at the very first cul-de-sac.   I looked at each number. Not that one.  Not that one.  Then I found it.  There it was. The address was on the front door. I rechecked the summons.  Yes, it was the same number.  Wait a minute.  I checked my cell phone. There was something familiar with that particular townhouse.  I opened up the photo gallery. I enlarged the photo I’d taken when I first arrived.  Could this be Dr. Funkhouser’s townhouse?  There must have been forty or fifty townhomes in the complex, how did I happen to take a photo of his? What were the odds? I reread the number on the front door and immediately felt a connection.  All the time I had spent searching for Dr. Funkhouser and he had found me.

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Photo taken from my car window.

Carolyn O’Neal is continuing her research on the life and death of Professor John W. Funkhouser.  She wrote Judge Hauler of Chesterfield County and did indeed receive permission to open the sealed files.  From those files, she was able to track down a witness and interview him face-to-face.  She has also interviewed (via phone) Dr. Funkhouser’s daughter and one of his John Tyler Community College students.  Carolyn would like to connect with anyone who had worked at the North Anna Power Plant when it was under construction or lived nearby.  She would also like to find anyone involved with the North Anna Environmental Coalition.  And of course, she would like to talk to anyone who knew Dr. John W. Funkhouser.  Contact Carolyn at carolynoneal@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding yourself in new country

 

egg and book

It’s time to get serious about writing a second novel. Well past time.

I have been warned by other writers, and now I know it’s true: just because you’ve written one novel doesn’t mean the next one will be easy to write. Starting over is hard, especially at first. It’s much more comfortable to just keep tinkering—to keep honing and shaping that first world you have created.

It makes sense to finish before you start something new, but polishing for years, that’s a different story… a cautionary tale, in fact. In college, I remember hearing of a professor, who, after a brilliant start, frittered years of his career away rewriting that first book over and over, never declaring it finished. I can’t let this happen. I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and find I’ve written nothing new. Fortunately, a deadline looms. (I’ve learned to love deadlines in that way you love a person who tells you the truth, no matter how hard). In a few months time, the writers of BACCA will have finished reading what I’ve written. Soon, I’ll need to deliver something new.

I’ve known some artists and musicians that somehow always seem to have seven pots simmering on a four-burner stove, but that’s not me. I can only pour my full creative energies into one concoction at a time. I’m learning that both creative methods have merit and both have challenges. While idea wranglers never have to ask “what’s next?,” they might struggle with focus, follow through, and knowing where to begin. They might also have trouble ever finishing any one thing. Idea monogamists, on the other hand, might toil happily on and on, right up until they start to see that quiet dark at the end of the work, looming like the vast unknown of space. Then, watch us as we cling, lingering over what’s left to do.

Some compare the creative process to giving birth, but for me it’s more like allowing myself to be born into something new, reincarnating, or dropping myself into unknown territory. Leaving the comforts and familiar details of my first novel to explore something foreign feels a little like leaving a city I’ve loved and moving into a place that hasn’t made space for me yet.

I’ve packed up and moved over a dozen times: across towns, across states and across the short side of the country more than once. Allowing one’s self to be a stranger in a strange land is difficult medicine, a conditioning of a certain kind. My great-grandmother used to say—three moves equal a [house] fire, and I’ve puzzled over this bit of wisdom. I assume she was calculating losses: items broken, misplaced, or left behind. Before bubble wrap and packing tape, the potential for breakage during a move must have been great, and the consequences severe. Before moving vans, whatever possessions didn’t fit in the truck probably had to be given away. Perhaps it felt better to some people to just stay put.

After changing my scenery so many times, I’ve learned to pack well—things rarely break, and if I give stuff away, or leave it behind, I’m usually glad. Still, there are losses, intangible ones, that somehow always get left out of the equation: familiarity, job connections, roots, the ease of well-known routes and roads, and those casual, comfortable acquaintance-ships that make life feel just a little warmer and more welcoming. When determining what I’m leaving behind, I always forget to factor in the barista, who starts making my drink before I order, the neighbor across the street who always waves, or the cheese monger that I worked with once, who’s going to lead me straight to the wedge of triple-creme brie, which has just been freshly cut, but not a second before it had ripened. And none of this begins to cover the long-distance tax placed on real friendships, which inevitably erodes all but the strongest of connections. On the other side of a move, these losses don’t seem so intangible after all. Knowing and being known, being remembered—these are powerful elixirs that bolster hope, purpose, and connection.

 

Gifts come, too, from learning how to move: resilience, humility (being the new girl over and over is tough), map-reading skills, perspective, and, very often, some good stories.

After so many transitions, I should be an expert by now, and I do have some of it down: packing and lifting, finding a great space, and setting it up quickly. Learning how to feel at home, though, and knowing how to let go of what I’ve had to leave behind without a long mourning period—these challenges are sticky every time.

It shouldn’t surprise me, then, that instead of mapping out the unknown territory of a new novel, I’ve been hanging out in the first one—revisiting all my favorite spots one more time. I’m already nostalgic, even though I know that every book is a world that can be returned to over and over again.

For the second novel, I’m searching for an un-erodable center around which the rest can accumulate, manifest—a character, a plot, an image—that will not wear out. Something essential will come, something elemental from which I can forge more. While keeping an ear open for the call of the muse, I also find it helps to hang out often by the sacred pools where they congregate, so I’m writing every day. That way, wherever I wander, I’m never a stranger to the page.

It’s time, now. It’s time to get brave, to find myself in a new country, to learn the unfamiliar faces, and to memorize the names.

Noelle Beverly writes poetry and prose, promotes local writers in the surrounding community, and is a new member of the BACCA Literary group. Photo by the author.

Legwork

Legwork

My son is an aspiring actor and was complaining yesterday about having to make fifty copies of resumes and headshots for an upcoming “cattle call” audition. “The art is easy,” he said. “It’s all this crap I hate.” I felt the same way at his age. Submitting work to agents and journals, formatting manuscripts, and even “networking” require, it seems to me, very different parts of the brain from writing, and they are not parts to which I have easy access. Liam is a chip off the old block.  But I find that as I get older I become fonder of those sorts of actitvities.  No, they are not the wonderful rush and wallowing of the creative act, but I feel good when I have performed them.  For me, it’s like the experience of being a mother.  All sorts of formerly repulsive things, from changing diapers to filling out financial aid forms, become more welcome parts of life than one would have thought possible. Also, just as introspective mothers tend to form groups and socialize more when they have children, so I have found that a writing group is a wonderful way to connect with people who are, like me,  performing this difficult-to-describe balancing act, and who think it is worth doing.  “It’s like having a child,” I tried to explain to Liam, but of course he hasn’t had one, and it’s one of those things you really have to experience to understand. I hope he comes to appreciate the pleasures of legwork earlier than I did, but there’s no way I can really bring that about.  I’ll have to settle for trying to be a good example. So, off to get the novel manuscript ready to send of to a contest. Onward.

Happy New Writing Year

BACCA writers, like many writers, want to get our best work out of the shortest amount of time. How do we do that?

Planning

One way is to plan ahead. Like really ahead. A whole year’s worth of planning.

To mark the start of this new year, I worked on a new method to organize the time in a writer’s year. Then, with my colleague and fellow writing coach Ginger Moran, I co-facilitated a workshop on the subject, sponsored by SWAG Writers and hosted at the public library.  We met in Staunton, Virginia with a group of writers dedicated enough to attend our session despite subfreezing temperatures and bleak skies.

 

Staunton Graphic 180106

The poster for our Staunton writer event. Thanks, Maggie Duncan.

Ginger and I talked about how to embrace being a creative person; how to resolve to make changes in the face of our own hardwired fear of change; how to make realistic, doable lists, and how to consider the variety of tasks that make up writing, publishing, and marketing.

We introduced a hierarchy of first choosing one big step for the year and then working backward, identifying medium steps, and within those, tiny, doable steps.

The cover of FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers

A M Carley’s handbook for writers, available at Central Virginia booksellers and online.

After Ginger’s excellent remarks on being a creative person, paradoxically both bold and sensitive, I began by quoting someone – was it Thomas Edison? – who said (more or less), “I haven’t failed. I’ve discovered ten thousand ways that didn’t work.” I love that attitude. It’s on us as creative people to remember the longer view of our projects, goals, and creative intentions. We can learn from all of it, not just the glowing successes. It gives us hope to get up in the morning and reminds us how much value there is in the things that went sideways, and can still be really useful.

The How-To’s

Drawing on some helpful ideas from my writer’s handbook, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, I expanded on a couple of FLOAT tools.

List Hygiene

Lists can be your friends, and they can torture you. The key is that for each item you put on a list, you’ll be able to know with absolute certainty when it’s complete. That means precision and compassion. Being specific with yourself, so that you know when you are done. When we’re looking ahead at the year, list hygiene can make all the difference.

Recap Routine

Remember, counterintuitively, always to look back at what you’ve done. We’re built not to appreciate our achievements, and we tend to forget them quickly. So we can complement our innate dismissals and stop to notice. “Oh, we did some good work there.” Or, “I didn’t get any good work done but I knocked three things off the list and cleared my head for tomorrow.” With a recap routine in place, it won’t feel like you need to flog yourself to keep going. Keep in touch with your basic vision, your channel, your source. Set aside time to appreciate what you’ve done. Then, once it becomes habit, the practice becomes so rewarding it reinforces itself.

I touched on a couple more FLOAT tools that haven’t made it (yet) into the book.

Getting Real

The purpose of our workshop was to encourage each person to develop a 12-month itinerary for their writing journey, beginning with the one big step that mattered most to them for the entire year. In that light, I wanted to say a few words about being realistic when setting goals. I suggested that writers meet in the middle, between grandiose and boringly doable. You want to come up with something that’s stretchy enough, so you hear yourself say, “I’m not sure I can do this,” and also grounded enough that you can say,”It’s possible.” If, instead, you know that even if everything went brilliantly, that goal would still not be possible, I recommend you don’t set yourself that goal. Doing so wouldn’t be fair, and might well stretch to the breaking point, snap, and leave you sad rather than exhilarated.

Clock It

Can you estimate your available time resources? Do you know how much time you actually have to devote to this year’s big step? Before you commit to a stretch goal, it’s useful to know how much time you’ll actually be able to devote to it. If you’re not aware of where your time goes, it’s a good exercise to keep track of everything you do for one week. Although it can feel like really annoying busywork, it’s really informative. Clocking the actual time we spend on all the different parts of our lives helps us see where the time goes. It also shows us what turns out to be important to us. For example, if I underestimate how much time I spend reading, or listening, to the news, I’m not being helpful to myself. And, by the way, I’m not doing this to go, “A-ha! That’s what I’m doing wrong!” It doesn’t need to be about self-criticism. Instead, it’s about getting a handle on what your time resources really are. Once you block out the time you know you don’t have, you’ll find out how much time is available for writing. And that’s part of being realistic.

After Ginger and I spoke, everyone got to work. Judging from the questions and comments from participants, progress was made. And, as Ginger was careful to point out, the next step after planning out the year’s big step, medium steps, and tiny steps is to enter them all into your working calendar. You know, so you’ll remember that big vision and do the incremental tasks that bring it to fruition. Hey, this could work!

Do you have a stretch goal for your writing in 2018? Happy New Writing Year!

— A M Carley writes fiction and nonfiction, and is a founding member of BACCA. Her company, Chenille Books, provides creative coaching and manuscript development services to authors. Decks of 52 FLOAT Cards for Writers are available from Baine’s Books in Scottsville and Appomattox, VA, at the Chenille Books website, and on Amazon. Anne’s writer handbook, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is available for purchase at Central Virginia booksellers and on Amazon. #becomingunstuck 

 

Charlottesville Book Fair

Poster large 2017

The Charlottesville Book Fair takes place on Saturday, November 18th, at City Space on the Downtown Mall, located at 100 5th Street NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902. City Space is near the Charlottesville City Hall and the Sprint Pavilion.  Parking available at East Market Street garage.

The Charlottesville Book Fair is the second local author book fair I’ve coordinated.  Last year the fair had 12 authors and was held at Writer House.  This year the Book Fair is sponsored by the Blue Ridge chapter of the Virginia Writers Club and has 40 authors, 4 Virginia-based publishers, and hundreds of book!  We needed a larger venue. That’s why this year, the Charlottesville Book Fair will be held at City Space on the downtown mall.

cityspace logo

Click for directions

The list of authors is impressive.  Best selling, award winning, passionate revolutionaries in thought and style. And the range of books is wide enough to entice every reader:  Historical fiction, romance, science fiction, biography, horror, self-help, parenting manuals, children’s picture books, religious, spiritual, and young adult. Books just in time for holiday shopping!

Includes Story Time for preschoolers!

Story time at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm!

Take a look at some of the books!

KINGSLEY by Carolyn O’Neal. After colony collapse disorder finishes off the bees, a mysterious pandemic emerges attacking everyone with a Y-Chromosome.  Fourteen year old Kingsley has more to lose than video games and the attention of the girl he loves.  His mother believes millions of dollars in research can save him and she’ll lie, steal and worse to get it. Can an unscrupulous mother and a spirited girl save the last boy on earth?  Fans of dystopian fiction and eco-thrillers (The Hunger Games, The MaddAddam Trilogy) will love KINGSLEY. 

Ultimate Obsession by Milton Jones. In the aftermath of World War Two, college student Elizabeth Brewer is well aware of the devastation the war had on the available young men. When she meets volatile poet James Campbell, their relationship is passionate yet disturbing. James alternates between tenderness and cruelty to the point of mental illness. Together and apart, Elizabeth and James explore whether beauty and goodness can exist in this post-war world, or will the lust for power destroy all.

 A M Carley’s book, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is a writer’s handbook and reference guide. A useful source of inspiration – and intervention – when the creative juices aren’t flowing, FLOAT provides writers with numerous tools, plus the steps of the FLOAT Approach to becoming unstuck. In one reviewer’s words, FLOAT is “a must have for authors of all varieties. Actually for all artists, as well. Practical yet fun with real world steps to figuring out the next step in your project.”

TERRY AND THE MONSTER-BEATERS, written by Carolyn O’Neal, Illustrated by Pamela Evans.  Terry Book 5_4_17 aWhen Terry’s sunshine isn’t as bright as usual, she seeks the advice of a Blue Wizard, A Magic Scope, and a Green Sage (because it’s always good to get a second opinion.) From them, Terry learns that an invisible monster is nibbling on her.  They tell her to go to the Monster-Beaters to drive away the monster.  Terry travels to a castle and through a mysterious maze to find the masked Monster-Beaters.  Terry is afraid but she discovers that even though the Monster-Beaters look scary, they are smart, helpful, and kind.

 

Finally…Practical advice and resources for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers of preschool age children. The Preschool Parent Primer is a trusted guide of best practices and resources for those who care for preschoolers. Pamela Evans, author of the Preschool Parent Primer, is a veteran teacher of over 30 years.  Beyond her preschool classroom, she has developed curricula for various schools and run numerous Children’s programs. The Preschool Parent Primer is a easy to access, “go to” guide, dealing with the many issues and concerns that arise in the preschool years, including: What is normal behavior for a specific age; What to look for in a preschool; The parent-teacher relationship; Socialization; The importance of routine; Potty-training; and much more.

 

Sometimes the Little Town – Poetry by Sara M. Robinson Sara Robinson’s father, Hobby Robinson, was one of the most important photographers of the 20th century to be so little well-known, at least outside the Shenandoah Valley of central Virginia. He chronicled over three generations of Elkton townsfolk, compiling and self-publishing nine books. Using his vast collection of photographs, his own and those he obtained, he gave us a people and a place. SOMETIMES THE LITTLE TOWN is Sara’s gift of ekphrastic poetry inspired by the portraits in her father’s collection. And like her father’s work as a photographer, Sara’s poetry is a tribute to little towns everywhere.

Patsy Asuncion’s Cut on the Bias (Laughing Fire Press) is an adult poetry collection about her world slant as a bi-racial child raised by an immigrant father and American WWII vet. Powerful debut collection… with passionate imagery and deft rhythms…an American story, the story of immigrants all over the world, says Pamela Uschuk, American Book Award winner. She…blends culture survival with political awareness… accessible to readers of all ages and all backgrounds, says poet Nicole Yurcaba. Spell-binding…stories that grasp much of humankind, writes Author Angela Carter. Post WWII immigrants to today’s world drama, Cut on the Bias, considers universal issues.

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Inspired by her family’s experiences, Amy Lee-Tai has crafted an award-winning picture book, A PLACE WHERE SUNFLOWERS GROW. Mari wonders if anything can bloom at Topaz, where she’s interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. The summer sun is blazingly hot, and Mari’s art class has begun. But it’s hard to think of anything to draw in a place where nothing beautiful grows. Somehow, glimmers of hope begin to surface under the harsh sun – in the eyes of a kindly art teacher, in the tender words of Mari’s parents, and in the smile of a new friend. To learn more about the book and author, please visit www.amyleetai.com. According to U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, Amy’s book “shines a light on what we are capable of penetrating on our fellow citizens, and what we are capable of rising above.”

Tiger Pelt, a historical novel for adult readers, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 and awarded the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award’s bronze medal for historical fiction.  “Korea serves as a perfect crucible for Kim’s expansive and impressive historical fiction debut, in which the characters must struggle against overwhelming odds… her vision is powerfully executed, taking readers through all the important landmarks of 20th-century Korean history, including the end of Japanese occupation and the division of Korea.” – Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

 Clare Sullivan De Lune relives her earlier years and reunites with her family when she goes back to her roots in the South. After an adventurous but unsuccessful campaign for Governor of California her life takes a new turn when she and her heartthrob Henry resettle on the East Coast. Secure in a love that had a risky beginning, they both plunge into challenging new careers. With talent and determination Clare achieves stardom as she turns over a new leaf on the road to happiness. “A very enjoyable read by a novelist who mixes romance, family scenes, workplace scenes, humor, sightseeing info, restaurant meal descriptions and plenty of insight into human nature.” – David Astor, On Literature blog.

 The New York Times bestseller, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, is the story of a courageous man of color who was “enamoured with freedom” and determined to rise. Paul Jennings, born into slavery at Montpelier, was President James Madison’s manservant, and, once free, the author of the first White House memoir. This book sheds new light on Jennings’s complicated relationships with James Madison, the widowed Dolley Madison who broke her promise to free him, and Senator Daniel Webster who lent Jennings his purchase price. It details Jennings’s part in rescuing the portrait of George Washington from British torches, and his later efforts to help 77 men, women, and children reach freedom in the greatest-scale-ever-attempted slave escape.

Heart of a Dragon The Andrachen royal line rests uneasily. King Sebastian’s notorious lust for control spreads trepidation throughout Lismaria as power struggles monger hostility. Kinna’s irrepressible draw to the Dragons seems harmless until a discovery turns her life upside-down. Her search for answers morphs into a movement to overcome repression. But following her heart means danger and death for nearly everyone she loves. Will she choose safety or justice? As Sebastian’s power grows and darkness blankets Kinna’s hopes, her doubts overwhelm. Can she unveil her own heart of a dragon in time to face Sebastian for the ultimate showdown? 

Guardian of the Vale Alayne Worth, a seventeen-year-old Water-Wielder, enters Clayborne Training Institute along with a host of Elementals her age to hone her abilities. When she discovers that her abilities extend far beyond only Water-Wielding, her fears increase as those who thirst for power seek to strip her of the Vale, the source of her talents.Tension blights Clayborne as the Elemental Alliance comes into power, and a clash between Natural Humans and Elementals threatens to destroy all those Alayne loves. Homework, friendship, and romance turn dark as enemies close ranks on Alayne. Will she survive the struggle that eventually shadows all of CommonEarth?

For six hundred years, Fenear, a land where humans can take wolf form, has warred with Maenor, its neighboring kingdom ruled by a ruthless dynasty. The possibility of peace emerges when the Maenoren Overlord, Rhael, enters negotiations with Fenearen leaders Bayne and Silver, but their niece, Rayna, is skeptical. Yet, when Rhael proposes to her, she agrees for the sake of her country, despite her family’s objections and a blossoming romance with her best friend. Suspicion changes Rayna’s decision, but before she can annul the agreement, powerful forces subdue her with a sinister hex. With Fenear and everyone she loves in danger, Rayna must escape and break the hex to save her best friend and homeland.

A Manual for Developing Humans is the third book PMH Atwater was told to write during her third near-death experience.  Based entirely on threes, each section covers the conscioussubconscious, and superconscious aspects of the topic – every topic – for the Manual contains the basics for becoming fully human.  Being  more spiritual is backwards thinking.  The real goal of life is to become who we already are.  “Hu” was the ancient sound of God.  “Hu-Man” meant “God-Man.” Literally, we are each gods in the making.  Twenty-eight thoughtform drawings illustrate this unusual Manual.  Aliveness jumps from every page.   

 Treason in the Secret City “The secret World War II-era nuclear experiments carried on at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, provide ample incentives for spying—and ample opportunities for amateur sleuths.   The pressure cooker of suspicion that permeates the facility makes it nearly impossible to know whom to trust. This sequel to Scandal in the Secret City (2014), which has some basis in fact, is faster-paced than Fanning’s debut while maintaining the 1940s atmosphere and emphasizing the difficulties of wartime life, especially for educated women.” Kirkus Reviews

Eyes Without A Face is a first-person account from a female serial killer. While her sorority sisters were engaged in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, she finds her true calling when she kills her first victim. She doesn’t have a neon sign stating, “Warning! Serial Killer!” following her around, yet she moves through life carrying a secret: She is a killer and no one suspects her. For her first premeditated kill, she selects a distracted victim, stalks her, and chokes her “to see what it looks and feels like to cause someone to die.”

 Beyond the cemetery gates, rows upon rows of headstones are lined up in military precision. Each is inscribed with a soldier’s name and regiment and each of them has a story to tell.   Stories Beneath the Stones: Richmond National Cemetery by Joann Meaker, newly published by American History Press, Staunton, VA, is the result of years of extensive research utilizing a multitude of documents and a variety of source materials exploring the lives of the Civil War soldiers who were buried in the Richmond National Cemetery when it opened 150 years ago. This one-of-a-kind book details information that will be appreciated and valued by descendants, historians, genealogists, as well as those interested in the Civil War and historic cemeteries. For more details of each book check out my website: www.joannmeaker.com

F.A.C.T.S. (Faith and Commitment Through Scripture) A New Testament Bible Study Series, Book 1:  Journey through the New Testament, exploring the period and setting in which the letters were written, as well as the circumstances of the authors when they wrote them. This uncomplicated and easy-to-follow series of studies begins with the earliest written letters, following the writers through their travels and trials until the last book was composed. Each verse is explained in context with the times in an attempt to stay true to the author’s intent. The series is intended for both personal study and group studies.  Other books by Joanne Liggan include her romantic suspense family saga trilogy spanning a 30 year period beginning in the 1970’s and ending in 2030; Heir of Deception, Air of Truth, and Err at Sea.

Linda Palacios, an undocumented college student, crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he finds a job as a mechanic in the barrio. While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, la migra raids her workplace and she loses her job. Will the three of them allow God to guide them, or will their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?

A lost lamb, a cross, and a conversation with Jesus are the components in this touching, poetic message of forgiveness, mercy, love, and the Savior’s ultimate act of sacrifice. LAMB OF GOD:INSPIRATIONAL STORY AND JOURNAL FOR CHILDREN, by author Christine Maria Jahn, is geared towards ages seven through nine, or second through fourth grades, and includes Bible verses to learn, as well as journal pages for young ones to write their thoughts and prayers. The sketches are black and white to purposely have children concentrate on the story itself and the important message contained within it. However, children can color the sketches if they so choose. There is also plenty of space on the story pages for doodling. A great way to introduce children to the art of journaling without it being overwhelming.

Tabby House presents Virginia-based books for all ages, including Linda Salisbury’s award-winning Bailey Fish Adventure children’s series that combine fiction with Virginia history. She’s also the author of The Sword and the Broom: The Exceptional Career and Accomplishments of John Mercer Langston, which won a silver award in the Young Adult category of Foreword magazine’s national Indies contest in 2017. Langston, Virginia’s first African American Congressman (1888), was born in Louisa County to a white plantation owner and his former slave. It’s a stunning and inspirational story that’s largely unknown today. Jim Salisbury will sell his popular cookbook, Roadkill Roundup, (with samples)—a perfect holiday gift for cooks of all ages.

Elizabeth Van Zandt – Ashes of The Stars: The Stars Series Book 1: Aili Renault doesn’t care that the modern world and billions of people died 200 years ago. She doesn’t care that extremist factions rose up and created another war, but she does care that the war controls her entire life. In a world of kill or be killed, Aili fought back to survive and became what everyone knows as the Reaper. She is feared everywhere she goes, even in her own mind. When Aili meets Kieran, Kai, and Whitestrand, the ghosts of her ruthless, bloody past start fighting back. She is haunted by the memories of those lives she’s destroyed and a dream that never made sense to her before. Now, with eyes wide open, will Aili be able to pull herself out of her crumbling world or will she become ashes of the stars?

Cat Viggolone just can’t get a break. She’d gotten married, but that ended when the husband left her for his younger secretary. She’d wanted children. That flew out the window along with the cheating husband. There’s the career, but working a window at the Virginia DMV can’t really be classified as a great career choice. At thirty-three, her life had become positively dull.   Then the vortex opened. Cat’s life is definitely no longer humdrum and ordinary.

 Judith D. Howell’s SWAMP RITES is a supernatural/horror/romance novel about werewolves. It’s about a reunion weekend for four childhood friends, with love, obsession, secrets, and murder, in a little Louisiana swamp town. SWAMP LEGACY, Book II in the SWAMP SERIES trilogy, is recently published and also available. “Desiring a werewolf might not be so hard, especially when voodoo is involved, but learning to love him could be a lot more difficult.” It is adult reading, scene and language specific.

CAIRNAERIE By M.K.B. Graham  Geneva Snow commits the unpardonable Southern sin, forcing her devastated yet steadfast father to cloister her at Cairnaerie, his Virginia mountain estate. After years alone—and desperate to leave a legacy worthy of the father she loved and lost—Geneva engages an unwitting young history professor to help her to leave Cairnaerie long enough to witness the wedding of her granddaughter—a girl dangerously unaware of their shared lineage. But when an accusation of impropriety, a mail clerk’s malevolence, and a colleague’s revenge converge, the long-kept secret is exposed. And for a second time, Geneva faces a calamity of her own making. Only this time, there is no place to hide.

 Freedom Riders by Jean Young Kilby is a middle-school mystery that brings an era of explosive social change up close and personal through the eyes of two girls. Growing up in the racially segregated South doesn’t bother 12-year-old Jan. She’s pretty clueless, always burying her nose in mystery books. Thelma, however, is a girl with a dream. Someday she wants to be a Freedom Rider like her dad so she can make Mississippi a better place. When Jan meets Thelma, they quickly become entangled in a real-life mystery more complicated than they expected. They are thwarted at every turn in their pursuit of truth. But once they learn friends can come in all colors—once they learn dreams can be shared—amazing discoveries follow.

 Alone in the tapestry of a shimmering green forest, standing on a mist covered mountain top, or crossing a rippling creek, we find her majesty. In that place of serenity, nature sends her emissaries. If only we are willing to see and hear her sometimes subtle yet powerful ways. Mystical Animals of Ancient Oak is a series of true stories that chronicles the journey that Cynthia Fain took after her mother nearly died. Along that unchartered emotional path, nature sent Cynthia her finest healers, including a flightless duck, a cat that served as community ambassador and an aging squirrel.

Rain Makes the Rocks Sing, Inspirations from Nature By Louise M. Mitchell, louise-mitchell@comcast.net   A great gift for nature lovers, spiritual seekers, and anyone wanting the relief that humor and wisdom bring. Ever pick up a little stone that catches your attention and put it in your pocket? This collection of inspirations is for you. Captured in a deck of cards with explanatory book (sold as a set), the voice of wisdom that awakens the light within. “While electronic media are common sources for daily information,” the author says, “so too, is the web of timeless knowledge woven through nature.”

 Retired U.N. spy Mai Fisher leaves a diplomatic reception on a cold, rainy night and dashes for the first cab she sees. The driver’s Serbian tattoo makes her suspicious, and she forces him to admit he was waiting for her—to deliver her to the Russian Mafiya.  Alexei Bukharin left the life of a spy behind to spend time with his wife, Mai Fisher, and finish raising his college-student granddaughter, Natalia. When he brings Mai dry clothes after her encounter, he discovers she’s suffered something that can mean death: Someone knows her true identity. A raid on the Russian thugs’ apartment uncovers something more devastating, a photograph of Natalia at her university.   Who burned Mai? Why is the Russian underworld interested in Natalia? When Alexei discovers the answers, he realizes a decision he made in 1974 has come back to haunt him.

Banished as a boy, Damon Blackbourne vowed never to return to his family’s estate, much less London. However, when his father and brother die unexpectedly, Damon must assume the Malford dukedom and introduce his sisters to society–his worst nightmare. He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The debutante stirs him body and soul. Until she discovers his secret. Grace prefers solitude and reading to social anything. Her family may be pressuring her to marry, but she has other plans. And they don’t include the notorious new Duke of MalfordWill she betray him? Or will she be his saving Grace

His love made her strong, her love saved him.  Rebellion  brews inside Milenda’s heart as the date for the Trials approaches. As the heiress to the throne of Natale, she is forced to choose a consort from the survivors of the grueling quest across the desert. Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the Elders—the true rulers of Natale—will not back down. Jaali was brought from the far North as a child slave. His only chance to be with the woman he loves is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much Milenda objects.

Revolutionary new way to look at relationships and marriage that offers a 4-step program for achieving a profoundly fulfilling and lasting bond with a partner.  In a culture of individualism that focuses on the behavior of each individual in a partnership, this book brings in a third entity, “Couple” that is greater than the sum of its parts and is the key to creating and maintaining lifelong love.  Couple is part of a process that is facilitated by completing the 4 tasks of Lifelong Love in the following order: Commitment to a common vision for the relationship, Cooperation to achieve that committed vision, Communication that serves the common vision, not only the needs of the individuals, and a Community of other couples who support and nurture the relationship. Filled with examples based on the authors’ experience as clinical psychologists and co-founders of Couples Coaching Couples, Inc., as well as their 40-year marriage, this book provides the tools you need to have the profoundly satisfying and lasting relationship of your dreams

         

Meghan and Kyle head off to spend some quality mother-son time at a resort along the idyllic Lake Oleander. The picturesque and secluded escape promises a nearly perfect summer vacation. The seemingly placid lake also holds a dark secret; the bodies of those sacrificed to the local deity. Their arrival sets the gears of an ancient prophecy in motion. They find themselves suddenly set against unimaginable forces, ancient and evil, hoping to either forestall or accelerate the prophecy’s fruition. Deep beneath the bedrock of the town of Riapoke, an evil lay festering for hundreds of years. It waits patiently for the inevitable day it will taste freedom and claim what its rightful heritage.  

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson, from drafting the Declaration of Independence until his death, but little was known about our iconic founding father’s first 31 years of life: his adolescence, friends, boarding schools, family deaths, college years, courting Martha, law practice, Shadwell house fire, earthquakes, flood, and more! The 2017 Pacific Book Review “First Place” Award winning biography, Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is a biographical and historical account of Jefferson’s journey to manhood. Written in journal format and supplemented with background text, it includes 65 photos to enhance the reader’s imagination. Now you can listen to Thomas Jefferson reminisce about his youth in the new audio book, which was just awarded “Finalist” in the Multi-Voice Acting category by the Audio Publishers Association! To understand the man, it is important to learn about the boy!

What About Me?  by Marc Boston is the story of a little girl, the youngest of three, who desperately seeks the attention of her two older sisters.  They go about the business of having fun, blithely unaware of their littlest sister’s attempts to join in the play.  This story touches on how discovering our own gifts makes us more self-empowered.

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS Zachary Tamer has published three children’s books, The Story of the Snugglefink, The Return of Foggitytree and The City of Paws2Care. All of the stories follow the same characters and deal with themes such as environmental protection, volunteerism, and seeing more than ourselves in the mirror! The City of Paws2Care can only be purchased online and all proceeds go to the therapy dog company Paws2Care. All stories are for children ages 5-9. Most recently Zachary and his father collaborated on a poetry book, Fleeting Moments, which reflects their life experiences and their unique writing styles

  Exciting Adult Science Fiction Adventure in a Universe of Uncanny Aliens — the Forlani Saga novels by J. M. R. Gaines
Life Sentence — Convicted of three murders, whistle-blower Willie Klein finds himself transported to a penal colony on Domremy where his unlikely job is to kill fellow colonists before they fall into the clutches of insectoid Locals. His gruesome task is only relieved by the growing affection of Entara, an alien pleasure worker from a matriarchal world. Until their brief happiness is destroyed by an arranged marriage and sinister conspirators. Spy Station — When Forlani delegate Entara and her eldest daughter Ayan’we are summoned to the Interzonal Peace Conference, they find themselves in a web of deceit. Preventing an apocalyptic war between the belligerent Song Pai and the mysterious Blynthians seems nearly impossible.