Monday, February 29, 2016

Nancy Lynn Jarvis Writes Humorous Book - Mags and the AARP Gang - With Betty White as Mags... Fun Stuff!

“Mags. What kind of name is that to be calling our girl, George? It sounds like she’s a larval stage of some unpleasant biting insect. If you must give her a pet name, what’s wrong with calling her something more conventional like Maggie or Meg?”
 “You’re looking at Mags the wrong way, Henrietta. Think of Mags as the name of a girl whose life will be full of freedom and possibilities. It would be perfectly acceptable for a girl named Mags to have skinned knees and learn to kick a ball as well as any boy does. She can become a scientist or live her life as an explorer who studies Egyptian pyramids. Why, one day Mags might go to the Valley of The Kings and discover a tomb that’s grander than King Tut’s.”
...Possibly it was having three older brothers around during my formative years that made me the way I am, still a tomboy at the age of eighty-three, but more probably it was because my second husband, Jack Benson, saw me as the Mags of my father’s imaginings. With my hand in his, and my name forever Mags Benson, I became a true adventurer and a world wanderer.

I do have female friends who count as more than mere acquaintances, but they are few in number and all are past sixty, a requirement for me to feel close to them. Women younger than that trouble me. They aren’t old enough to have been aware of what it was like just a few decades ago when women weren’t allowed to control their bodies or their purse-strings. Their lack of years isn’t their fault, but they should read some history so they understand. A quick little look at recent history and they’d never have stood for some talk-show natterer who thinks his opinion is as weighty as he is, saying stupid things about how he’d never vote for Hillary Clinton for President because he couldn’t stand to see her age in office. They’d boycott his show, and they’d be right to do it. Of course, it’s possible I prefer the company of men because they generally seem less well suited to learning patience and acceptance than women are. You don’t hear “long suffering” ascribed like a badge of honor to men like you do to women. I think that’s because men don’t bear children: they’ve never had their bodies taken over by a being growing inside them and been acculturated to think of it as a normal part of life, a blessing as it were. And since I’m what in the old days was
called barren, maybe that’s why I’ve never learned patience and acceptance, either. 
That’s probably why I’m sitting here staring at the Great Seal of the State of California displayed on the courtroom wall behind the judge’s bench, wishing the jury would come back, rather than counting my blessings that they haven’t...

Mags and the AARP Gang

By Nancy Lynn Jarvis

The knock on my door came just as I flipped a grilled cheese sandwich and it caused me to glance at the clock. 12: 05. Harvey is never late or early and he always knocks politely before calling out the same greeting as he lets himself in, “It’s me, Mags. What’s for lunch?” 
We have our rituals, Harvey and I, the same ones we’ve shared for the past six years, just shy by five weeks, the length of weeks it took us to become best friends after I married Jimmy Hooper and moved into my third husband’s coach as the caregiver he needed but couldn’t afford. Every day Harvey brings me his newspaper and I make his lunch. We share the newspaper to save money. He’s finished reading it and done the crossword puzzle in ink by noon, but he’s careful about refolding the paper so it’s neat and seems untouched. I’m not a great cook. Lunch is usually a grilled cheese or tuna sandwich, a piece of fruit, and strong coffee; but the kind of friendship we have and our lunchtime companionship makes what we’re eating unimportant. “Today you get grilled cheese and a tangerine.”
 “My favorite.”
 “Have you noticed you always say what I’ve made is your favorite?” 
“Must be your special touch,” he grinned.
 Harvey had a mischievous smile that could fill up my whole little home with sunshine and possibilities, even in dreary February, and he flashed it regularly and proudly because, as he liked to remind everyone who lived in the park, all the teeth in his smile were home grown, not store bought. “There’s another story about this place in the paper today. I’ll shut up and let you read it as soon as you hand me my sandwich. Page eight below the fold. That location means most people don’t consider what’s going on here a big deal.” 
I traded Harvey his plate for the paper and sat down opposite him. The article was short and placed in the worst spot on the page, at the bottom left, one column in, where it could be easily missed by readers who weren’t worried about losing their homes like the twenty-two of us in Dawn Redwood Mobile Home Estates were. I read quickly. The story didn’t add much to what we already knew. Foreclosure on the park looked inevitable unless the mortgage payments were brought current and interest and penalties paid — something the owner couldn’t do, now that he had been laid off for more than fifteen months — and something the residents here couldn’t do even if we all chipped in every penny we could scrape together and then some.
The story briefly touched on the fact that the park had been established in 1953 and was the last mobile home park remaining within the city limits. The report didn’t include anything about how Raymond Persh, the owner since his mother died and left Dawn Redwood Mobile Home Estates to him, promised her he wouldn’t raise the rent or sell the park until the last of the residents who were over seventy-five at the time of her death, either moved away or passed. Except for Raymond and Betty, that was all of us. The reporter must have considered that bit of information uninteresting. I would have used it, though, if I were writing the story, because it would have added a great human interest angle.

I loved this book. You could think it was because of my age, and maybe that is true. As Mags says, most people aren't old enough to remember the time when women weren't "allowed to control their bodies or their purse-strings..." For me, I'm constantly amazed that what was accomplished in the last century seems to have been totally put aside and women are once again beginning to fight for basic rights...Oh, you may not realize it if you didn't know our least that's how Mags feels and I certainly agree.

Mags doesn't have too many female friends but I think we would get along very well...I was never the type that was sugar and spice and everything nice. Mags, too, with her father's help, early in her life became independent and adventurous. When she met the perfect man, they began those adventures together! But now he was gone, though her heart was still with him. 

Mags was 83 and fortunate to live in a small group of mobile homes where all the residents were elderly. She had become good friends with a few of the residents. One was her neighbor who brought over his paper to save her money while she fixed him lunch every day. And that day, the newspaper confirmed that they might be losing their homes!

Dawn Redwood Estates was in financial trouble! What could be done?!!!

The owner of the Estates had guaranteed that their costs for living there would be kept as low as possible and his son had agreed... So had the previous mayor who turned his head away on any problems that may have arisen.

But a new mayor saw the potential of the site and immediately started an investigation to enumerate safety violations and other issues that needed to be fixed. Raymond had to take out a loan to do everything, because none of the residents could afford to pay for their share and, besides, his father had promised...
“I’ve got a plan, all right. 
We’re going to rob a bank.”
 “Sure we are,” disappointment 
clung to my words. 
“I hoped you’d have a plan by
 now — a serious plan — 
and not be joking around.”
 “I’m not joking.” Dirty Harry
 disappeared and ordinary
 Harvey with his disarming
 grin reappeared. 
“Robbing a bank is my plan;
 I am serious about it.” 


That day Raymond had called a meeting of the residents. 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this meeting,” I said, frowning as I sat back down across from Harvey. “You jump to bad conclusions easily.”
 “But the newspaper story … suppose what Raymond wants to tell us is bad news?”
 “It probably is,” Harvey shrugged. “And if it is, we’re just going to have to work his news around until we can make it come out to our liking.”

Raymond brought them up to date. They were going to be given more time--so they could find other places to live! Their worst fears were right...They would all 
lose their homes!

We ordinary people who played by the rules got crushed by those who didn’t play fair. Now it seems like the same thing is happening right here at home. I’m not going to watch again and feel angry and old because I couldn’t stop them; I’m sick of watching. This time I am going to do something about it. Putting the kibosh on the Mayor’s plans may get me in trouble, but it’s going to make me feel better. “I’m going to rob the bank — by myself if I have to — but I could sure use the help of my best friend. Are you with me?”

Everybody was depressed as they worried how they were going to find some place to move, at the cost they were now paying... Until Harvey had an idea. And after he had thought about the details, he talked to Mags...

He wanted to rob the town's bank! So after convincing Mags, they proceeded... But the stress must have become too much for him and Harvey had died...

But before he'd died, he'd made one major mistake....He'd ask a woman who was already in the stages of Alzheimer to drive the get-away car...

Mags was not only upset by losing one of her best friends, she knew she'd never have the money to find some place else to live. She decided to go ahead with the robbery, with her leading the plan. Besides if she got caught, she would do what Harvey had said he would...Give himself up to the law. Mags figured she'd at least have the jail to live in...
Sooooo, get ready to see what happens when a small group of octogenarians plan and executive the AARP Gang Heist! Think something like the Keystone Kops scenes....slowed down due to the gang's ages...  Right?

Actually, there turns out to be much more drama in getting the money needed to save their homes! A few twists and turns and you have everybody moving faster than they knew they could. And the final ending was ingenious, due to Mags, of course. While I'm not sharing much about the other gang members, let me just say that their relationship was based upon love, friendship and loyalty and makes the ending all the more sweeter! Mags deserves a series! You just got to check this one out! 

The author has done a fantastic job in creating the variety of elderly characters within a small community. The Gang members were was the setting... The appointed lawyer was also a special character who I would be happy to have as my own! Kudos to Nancy Jarvis! All in all a wonderfully delightful read!


Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for twenty-five years but was having so much fun writing that she let her license lapse in May of 2013.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz. Nancy's work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure. 
She put Regan, Tom , and Dave from the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries Series on hiatus to write Mags and the AARP Gang, a comedy/adventure about a group of octogenarian would-be bank robbers, but she missed her characters, so they're back to solve another murder in recently released "The Murder House."
Nancy squeezed in editing "Cozy Food," a compilation cookbook in which 128 cozy mystery writers contributed recipes from their books and their lives. What she will work on next is unclear. She has ideas for a sixth Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries book, a complete departure book of historical fiction, and an idea for a new cozy series called Geezers With Tools about two old guys who encounter murder while working as handymen and pursuing widows.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Character Like No Other! Call her Shame... Liv Hadden Blog Tour! Come Share Your Thoughts!


Do You Believe in Shame?
Do You Believe in Shame?
I am here to tell you my story as I
see it, before the hands of time sweep
it beneath the rug. As I said, this is
not born of an ill-begotten need for
redemption, but of my belief that
there are always two sides to
everything, and without both there
is no truth. You have heard one side.
Now you must hear mine.
And so, I begin.
I am ugly. I don't say this in an ironic, emotional, "I really want a compliment," kind of way. I say this in a matter of fact, "I've crunched the numbers," kind of way. I am not ugly because of a few extra pounds or a couple of unwanted blemishes; I am ugly because I am rotten on the inside. The rot inside, no matter how well disguised on the outside, spoils the whole fruit. Any logical person would say this should be fixed. But how do you fix something you can't see? Cut it open, shine a light into the darkness, examine, diagnose, and then fix it. I believe I have gotten as far as diagnosis, but when forced to take scalpel in hand and remove the rot, I couldn't do it. Who am I without it? I don't mind being ugly, is it really so important to remove it? At the very least I am comfortable. Life is short and comfort is hard to come by. So, instead, I choose to cope with the rot, make it my friend, and embody the ugliness. There is a certain beauty in that, I think.
Society would tell you it makes me dangerous. I would agree. I am dangerous, and I am powerful. What I am not is blind. I see the way the world works. I know I do not belong. I have come to embrace that face. And this they say is what makes me lethal...perhaps it does. I am not here to debate what you've already heard with "the truth." Truth is all about perspective anyway, isn't it?

The Shamed:
In the Mind of Revenge

By Liv Hadden

Immediately I must say that this novel is incredibly stunning. It will capture you but you will not become part of this story. You will not fall in love with the main character and wish the best for her throughout the book. What you will be is caught in her web. She spins a web tightly; even captured, you will not try to escape.. She's telling you her story and as dreadful as it might be, still you read on. You cannot help yourself. You may shiver at some of the book, sometimes even tears will come to your eyes. You will wonder how could this happen? Yet, in the back of your mind, you know it does, or it could, and that is what captures you. You need to learn what happens to this character... You pray for her, because you cannot love her...

My mother was not rich, but I would consider her wealthy. She had a full, beautiful laugh and a modest, but righteous, manner. She found light in the darkest of situations and made sure that I was well kept and satisfied...In the direst of times, she would become a "lady of the night," pleasing the very men who kept her down and refused her work. Ironic as it was, she never lost faith that her God would provide...
...mothers had no doubt discovered their husband's adulterous acts, and instead of placing their anger where it rightfully belonged, they slandered my mother's name, calling her a whore and a desperate harlot. Ther children would hear these flattering sentiments and repeat them to me, like trained monkeys.
Soon, I became as good as a leper in the hierarchy of childhood society. To make matters worse, most could couldn't tell if I was a boy or a girl. I soon became known by a variety of "clever" nicknames such as Genderless Pig, Bisexual bastard, Shemale and several others. It wasn't until high school that I became known as "The Shamed." 
The truth was, I liked my anonymity. I enjoyed the puzzled looks on people's faces and the whispered bets behind my back. I enjoyed being the anomaly in their lives and frustrating them with my apathy of their social standards...My peers have dubbed me The Shamed in an effort to bring me down, but instead, I fed off of it. I loved the name and wore it proudly as a badge of honor. ...I decided to brand the jacket with my unsolicited nickname by crudely spraypainting it across the back. In big, white, sloppy letters, it read...

The Shamed

I had been beaten up plenty of times before, but the day I dawned that jacket was by far the worst. This time, they used more than just their fists and feet; they used metal pipes, a wrench and someone even had scissors. They cut away all of my clothes to reveal the truth beneath them. I was sodomized by humans and objects alike. With their pipes, they bashed in my legs and arms, and with the scissors, mutilated my genitals and scarred my face. To add the icing on the cake, the leader of my death squad spit in my face and announced triumphantly,
"Now you are exactly what you wanted to be. You're a sexless broken pig...
"Fuck you. My body may die today, but I will find a way to come back, and I will destroy every last one of your evil spawn..."

Pre-release copy read...

For a split second, I could sense the fear bubbling under the surface of my attackers' calm expressions. I had never spoken up before, much less said something so psychotically creepy. Their trepidation was quickly replaced by fury as their leader smashed my face in with his metal wrench, attempting to silence me for good. I do not know how long I was passed out lying in the woods. All I know  is that when I opened my eyes, I was in excruciating pain, and it was ominously dark. I knew I was alone, and soon began to cry.
All I wanted was to die. I did not want to feel every broken bone and every cut on my body. I wanted to be released. This was God's last cruel joke, a slow and painful death...
Thinking of when my mother used to sing to me..."You are mine and I am yours, and I will love you forevermore."

Shame had been given her name by those who had bullied her in school. She had been teased, ridiculed over and over. But it was only when she was attacked and nearly died that she thought of revenge...and began to act on it...

Would you have guessed that one of the ways she began to cope was through poetry. She had cried when abused. She had hidden within a large coat and hood and tried to stay clear. Then one day on the bus, her mother had come to protect her. It may have been her only way out, but she still knew that they had won and that was on her. Until later that day she found a poem by D. H. Lawrence...

I reread and reread those two sentences the entire day. I thought about it all night, and into the next day, trying to dissect its meaning, make it applicable to my life. I thought about it for a week solid, and I was thinking about it when I was sitting in the nurse's office. And just as I was truly feeling sorry for myself, both because I wasn't allowed to watch the growing up video and because I couldn't figure out how to not feel sorry for myself, Cassie sat down... I was thinking about it right before I opened my mouth and spoke to her. And I was thinking about it just as I was using scissors to carve out Carly's dolphin tattoo.
After I had tied her to the chair and revealed my identity, I had decided to continue delivering punishment as it had been delivered to me. Carly had used scissors to cut my face, so I would return the favor, and gladly. I had just cut all of her hair off, and couldn't stop staring at her tattoo. I hated it. It represented everything she was, but after that day she would be someone new. The victim of a heinous crime. It changes you. I can promise you that. I decided I wanted a tattoo, and it was going to be of that poem.

Shame got her tattoo...and she got her revenge... She was changed, in more than one way after she had nearly died in the hands of those who'd assaulted her. Readers will see her revenge...and perhaps even understand. I seem to have a bit of need for revenge in myself, so I had not only sympathy but great empathy for Shame.

Yes, this book is difficult to read...most of the above is within the first 7 pages of the book! But there is so much more to come. And as I read, I began to form a prediction of how this series was going to move forward... I can't wait to see if I'm close or, maybe, even right!

Hadden's greatest talent is in conceiving her main character and then wrapping her within everything necessary to have a young girl become happy with the name Shame--and then prove it by her actions...

Beware of Shame
When you hurt her, she doesn't die...

Honestly? If I tell the truth on this one, I have to say it's a Must Read... Without saying more about this tragic, astonishing, but unforgettable book, I can only say that I read this book over a month ago but the impact, the emotional suspense, and the final ending are still fresh in my mind... I can't wait for the next book!


“Debut novelist Liv Hadden has been writing ever since she was a little girl. But, it wasn’t until 5th grade when her teacher said she’d one-day write a book that she started taking it seriously. Hadden has her roots in Burlington, Vermont and has lived in upstate New York and Oklahoma, where she went to college at the University of Oklahoma, and earned her degree in Environmental Sustainability Planning & Management. She now resides in Austin, TX with her partner and two dogs, Madison and Samuel. Incredibly inspired by artistic expression, Hadden immerses herself in creative endeavors on a daily basis. She finds great joy in getting lost in writing and seeing others fully express themselves through their greatest artistic passions, like music, body art, dance and photography. “I get chills when I have the great privilege of seeing someone express their authentic selves,” says Hadden. “I believe it gives us a true glimpse into the souls of others.”
Her Shamed series began in college, when Hadden employed her writing as an outlet for her feelings during a serious bout of depression. After a brief, yet impactful first night of writing, she dreamt of a shadowy figure, tormented and demonized by their own mind and realized this was the shadow of pain that hurting people everywhere felt.
She woke from her dream feeling more energized that she had in months, picked up her computer and began to write. "I felt if ever there was a story inside me and a character worth taking the leap, it was Shame and this story," says Hadden. "This one in particular is personal in nature, and perhaps the very reason it's so close to my heart."

Note: Shame is played by Demi Moore, in GIJane

Friday, February 26, 2016

Melissa by Jonathan Taylor - A Quite Extraordinary Novel!

The Spark Close Phenomenon

The real tragedy, of course, happened before the story begins - seconds before. At 2:35 p.m. on Wednesday 9th June 1999, in Number 4, Spark Close, Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent, Miss Melissa Comb, a seven-year-old girl, died of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in her own bed, surrounded by family and nurses.
What followed has been floridly described by Stoke-on-Trent's Poet Laureat as a 'musical efflorenscence of grief' for the dead girl. This 'musical efflorescence' has been raked over endlessly, by poets, journalists, priests, neurologists, psychologists and parapsychologists. Some have called the "Spark Close Phenomenon" a musical form of mass hysteria, others a kind of telepathic psychosis, others a millennial judgment on our modern way of life. If none agreed in their interpretations or conclusions, a general consensus has emerged about the actual events of that strange afternoon.
Moments after Melissa's family watched her die next door...a ringing, humming headache... Suddenly, or perhaps it was gradually, the air-raid siren noise stopped, and instead came this music - like what they play at the Cenotaph, you know. Kind of beautiful, slowish saddish, yet...stirring. Brought a tear or two to my eyes, I don't mind admitting...
There is an extant tape of the 999 call, recorded at precisely 2:39 p.m. in which Miss Adler is heard whimpering: "Make it stop, make it stop, please please make it stop, do something, it's here, Spark Close, it's in my head and everywhere, sschnell, makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop..."


By Jonathan Taylor

According to the author, this book is based on true events...perhaps... There are other reportings of strange noises coming out of the sky around the world. However I didn't take the time to research further...Whether based upon true events or not, the story presented is quite extraordinary--even strange. Yet what happens following the phenomenon is not unique--sad, but true.

You see, a young girl, Melissa, died after a long, terrible fight against the cancer that had invaded her tiny 7-year-old body.

Nor, it seemed, was it a matter of worry that they found Leukaemic cells in Melissa's cerebro-spinal fluid. Admittedly, this was "unlucky" on Melissa's part, but the intrathecal injections and, later, cranial irradiation seemed to "do the trick," as one consultant put it...
Through the musical webs, past the linear accelerators, Melissa went straight into the second phase, delayed intensification therapy - hairless, a bit tottery on her feet, but surely getting there. "She will get her hair back, won't she?" asked Lizzie, to half a dozen passing doctors, always on their way to somewhere else, somewhere more urgent. "She had that lovely hair. I was so jealous--much better than my land stuff. I don't want the other children laughing at her. I'd hate that. ...She will get her hair back, won't she? Won't she?"
"All you worry about is her hair," complained Harry.
Lizzie looked at him with narrowed, incredulous eyes. "Of course, darling. Of course that's all I worry about. All I spend every sleepless hour of every single bloody night worrying about is her hair. All I never stop crying about, all I never stop shaking  with horrible terror about, all I ever want inside to scream and scream and scream about is her hair. That's all, nothing else. Nothing bloody else. After all, the doctors, nurses and everybody are always telling me not to worry about anything else..."

 Immediately after she died, neighbors heard strange noises coming from what seemed to be outside, coming from the sky. There were all types of descriptions--whether each heard something different or whether they used different words to try to describe it--there were no neighbors in the community who did not hear the noises and were compelled to go outside. That screeching noise evolved into some soothing music that nobody could identify... (I chose a relevant classical song given the rest of the book).

All of the neighbors said they felt a peace, good feelings when the music started--some even hugging each other, smiling and loving the people in the community, who were previously not close friends. Everybody at home that day had left their homes and joined others outside.  All except the Comb family, who heard nothing, and who stayed in their home, grieving, during the entire time period.

As with many individuals who are caught in some sort of celebrity, soon all types of spectators and news staff were crowding into the neighborhood. I'm not going to go into that except to say that it was very hard on the grieving family to have that kind of turmoil that not even the police could eliminate.

So it was natural that the grieving period of the family continued much longer than could normally be expected...perhaps... Readers do not really learn that from the book.

Those who came wanted, of course, to understand the phenomenon and learn what caused it. Me? I thought it was supernatural. You know, the heavens crying out over the pain of the child... Perhaps...but that's really not what the book is about...

The parents and a step-sister to Melissa are the survivors. What happens to them is really the story.... Initially, they could not help but be caught up in the search for an explanation. Finally, they were trying to identify the music...
...In this paradoxical context, my colleague and I came to the conclusion that the Combs - Harry and Serena - might somehow hold the key to the puzzle; that is, they might be able to help the residents (and, indeed ourselves) discover what exactly the music was which people had heard...Harry Comb, however, refused to help in this regard so I turned to his first daughter, Serena...
We subsequently played the Hutchinsons an LP...of the Enigma Variations. Given that the piece is all about friendship and community...Nevertheless, none of the variations seemed "quite right" to the Hutchinsons.
Finally, Serena Comb tentatively put forward a suggestion which we found rather compelling; that perhaps Spark Street's hallucinatory music was - and we quote - the "Enigma" in the Enigma. There's supposed to be some kind of hidden meaning or mystery or, well, tune which isn't said by the orchestra out loud, but which kind of hangs over the whole piece..."

While that investigation was going on, there were unsettling happenings in the Comb's household. Mr. Comb had felt that some of Melissa's favorite music should be played during her funeral... Finally he decided he should be the one... A little past history is important at this time. Mr. Comb had been called a musical child prodigy when he was very young, but when he arrived in his teens and his skills were not expanding, he was no longer called a genius. His interest in practicing fell as he grew older and soon all he did was listen to his daughter play for he and Melissa... On the day of the funeral, after not even opening the piano and playing over the selections after not having played for many years, he was struck "dumb" and unable to move his hands beyond the beginning notes nor to speak...

Thereafter he kept the piano locked and refused to have Serena play... He also quit his job and sat in front of the television, sometimes even when it was not turned on.

Serena was having her own grieving problems. She and Melissa had spent hours together, especially with Melissa listening to her playing the piano. Now being cut off from the piano intensified her loss and memories of Melissa. Especially when she received a note about Melissa's death.

Seri, my dear older sis, I loved you.
Seri, my dear older sis, I am gone.
Seri, my dear older sis, it is your fault.

An interesting side plot was Serena's time in school and with her best friend, together with Serena's crush on the Physics teacher... which leads readers into a Physics lesson on entrophy. Later Serena brings the possible relationship of music to the laws of thermodynamics...

"Okay, I'll try and explain what I mean," said Serena. Mr. Jenkins started to wonder who was the teacher, who the student. Serena continued: "There are lots of examples I can think of to explain. I mean, there're all those musical collapses in Mayler's Ninth Symphony..."
"Musical what?"
"Collapses. Like, the music builds up to these hute great climaxes, then it kind of falls to pieces - and the tunes and the instruments all sound like they're drifing away from each other, and the energy's draining away to nothing, and it feels really...cold. Do you know what I mean?"
...Anyway, there's this other symphony by Shostakovich - the last one, the Fifteenth reckon, is kind of a music picture of entrophy, if you see what I mean...This one, I reckon, is kind of a musical picture of entropy, if you see what I mean... In the second movement, the music ends up really, like, I don't know the word, 'sparse,' I s'pose, and kinda broken. And in the last movement, the music crescendos to this huge climax, and then collapses - I s'pose a physicist might say, 'diffuses' - amd gradually, everything seems to drift away, till all you've got left is this long-held string chord, going on and on...kind of chilling, like everything, all emotions, even the music itself, have diffused and become this one, uniform sound. It's amazing, and it's dead like what you said about heat death and entropy in the lesson..."

There is a depth of intellectual stimulation you do not normally find in fiction. Let me assure you, however, that the author has expertly incorporated both principles from physics together with music appreciation in a totally understandable and exciting fashion. It did not, however, explain the phenomena of the music that suddenly came out of the sky in Spark Close. It remained a mystery, but one unsolved that didn't bother me.  

From this reader's perspective, it is amazing to say, that the phenomena was secondary to the drama that erupted because of it. There is much to ponder and consider over and over as a result of reading the book. Do humans need something startling to happen to us in order to find the person we really are? Or, like those who came and stared at the places, the homes, where the phenomena occurred, are we willing to sit on the sidelines and watch to see what happens? A perplexing, thought-providing book that, I think, won't be for everybody. Classical music, in particular, plays a significant role in the novel. On the other hand, if you'd like to learn more about classical, this is an exciting way to do it by merging the words with the music itself...which I did with many of the pieces...

If this review sounds the least bit intriguing, I urge you to check this quite extraordinary novel out!  I was enthralled with the unique circumstances and characters! Highly recommended...


You can contact me using the form below or by emailing me at or, alternatively, by writing to me c/o School of English, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
I am author of the novels Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012) and Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the memoir Take Me Home: Parkinson’s, My Father, Myself (Granta Books, 2007). My poetry collection is Musicolepsy (Shoestring Press, 2013); my short story collection is Kontakte and Other Stories (Roman Books, 2013 and 2014).
Entertaining Strangers was shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013, and longlisted for Not the Booker Prize 2013, run by The Guardian. Kontakte and Other Stories was shortlisted for the Saboteur Best Short Story Collection Award 2014, and longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize 2014 and Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2014.
I am editor of the anthology of short stories Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt, November 2012), winner of the Saboteur Award 2013 for Best Fiction Anthology.
I am also Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester in the U.K., and co-director of arts organisation and small publisher Crystal Clear Creators. In this latter role, I am general editor of Hearing Voices Magazine, and the Crystal Pamphletsseries.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Guy Graybill Shares Latest Poetry--Second Harvest

S E C O N D   H A R V E S T

“WE ARE AT WAR!” gazettes proclaimed.
An enemy was boldly named.
We donned our uniforms to train
And learned to crawl through barbed terrain. 
How quickly other nations armed
As placid peoples were alarmed.
Then scared as Hell, we sailed away
To gather in a distant fray. 
The battlefield became our home;
With trenches as a catacomb.
Gray daybreak was our time to kill.
The sergeant’s order harsh and shrill!
 The Reaper had been occupied;
By twilight’s pink we saw who died.
How many comrades made the list?
Who will be next?  Why was I missed?
Some left us rhymes.  They wrote them well:
By Lx 121 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
“In Flanders Fields,” “The Bells of Hell.”
Bad wars produce good songs and books;
As gnarly branches make fine crooks.

No one’s designed a proper trench;
With depth enough to quell the stench…
The stench we daily stirred afresh,
Of Sulphur… gas… decaying flesh!
Just as a scandal’s rumor flies,
Until all hear... and then it dies;
At last, one morn, a rumor flew,
Until all heard; and then we knew.
The whispered word inspired release.
Years facing death; we now faced peace….
Our weapons tossed on scattered piles,
We looked about with tearful smiles.


The decades tumbled.  Pages dropped.
The hourglass grains have never stopped.
In recent years I cringe with age.
I’m but an elder; not a sage.
Our uniforms ~ threadbare and quaint.
The muster’s call is growing faint.
The Reaper stalks o’er field and fen.
He’s out conscripting, once again.
More comrades ~ daily ~ miss the call.
Soon, there’ll be none; no one at all.
The second cutting of the grain
Will cut each stalk, ‘til none remain.
My arms and armor won’t suffice.
I hear the rattling of the dice –
Dice that the Reaper has recast –
So this campaign will be my last….

]]] [[[
                                ©  Guy Graybill      

Second Harvest is tied to the notion that every major war has a "Second Harvest."  Each war loses combatants in combat and then, years later, those surviving former combatants face a final attrition as dying veterans, as America is witnessing now with World War II and Korean War vets.

My poem uses World War I for the initial 'harvest' since I find that war to have some unique characteristics that work well for my rhyming pattern and with my thoughts on the topic.


Guy Graybill is the author of five published books: KEYSTONE, BRAVO!, PROHIBITION'S PRINCE, PRINCE AND THE PAUPERS and FROST and WHIMSY AND WRY!

Guy attended rural Pennsylvania schools and graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in History.

Guy Graybill worked in a Pennsylvania state capital mail room, in a brick plant, in the Geisinger Medical Center (Danville, PA) and in schools in Aguilar, Colorado (one year) and Loganton, Pennsylvania (two years). His career position was three decades in Middleburg, PA as a secondary History teacher. After retiring from Middleburg, he was elected to a four-year term as chairman of the board of commissioners of Snyder County.

Guy married his high-school sweetheart, Nancy Yerger. They have now been married for many decades and are the parents of four grown children.

Guy Graybill is proud of the support he has received from individuals who wrote the forewords to his books. They include a man who is now Budget Secretary to the governor of Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia opera singer, and a former speechwriter to five U.S. presidents.

Other than writing, Guy Graybill's hobbies include travel, amateur archaeology and photography. Guy has traveled in more than 40 of the U.S. states, as well as Japan, Okinawa, Canada and Guatemala. He conducted one local archaelogy project for the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial observance and his photographs have appeared on greetings, postal cards, and more than 100 covers of small magazines. 

Note: I tried as much as possible to stay within WWI, but wanted pics to reflect the words, so some are from other wars...