|Hope, despair, vengeance, terror, or desire is the real and fundamental wellspring of every book written, fiction and non-fiction. Whether one, several, or all of these motivators are responsible for catalyzing the author, every book holds a keystone, a core, that manifests its foundation—something real and evocative, something based on the author’s own experience and perspective, that proves the source. I asked a handful of authors to identify these keystones, then to expose that very private, very personal, source for us. Some are overt; others not so much, but every one proves their authors and their books. This nut, this kernel, when handled well, is what makes a reader care, to maybe weep or giggle; it’s what makes a book worthwhile.D. L. Keur, Guest Editor__________________
Excerpt from …And the Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso
It is evening. I stand by my daughter’s bed. I watch her eyes open and dart about, sensing my presence before I speak. I lean over; kiss her forehead, the only place that she can feel sensation. I stroke her hair. It is time.
“Noelle, I love you so much and always will. But it’s okay, baby, to go toward that beautiful light you see.”
Noelle’s eyes try hard to focus; she seems to relax a little.
“Sweetie, I want you to know that it’s okay for you to go Home if you choose. Everything you need or want awaits you.”
As I watch her slip away from me, I no longer see my daughter trapped in her broken body. I envision her running like the wind down the basketball court, blowing her hair out of her eyes, shooting for the basket, scoring the winning point for her team. I see her ice skating on the frozen pond, gliding in perfect rhythm to the music within her soul. Noelle’s eyes gaze into mine, then close as she slips back into a coma. I collapse against her bed, cursing myself for telling my daughter to die; to let go of hope.
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SAYS AUTHOR MICKI PELUSO: “This part of a funny, sad, true family story is the core of the book. There is no hope for Noelle, whose spinal cord is severed. She can hear, see slightly and has a perfect mind. How can those who love her obey doctors who insist we disconnect her from life support? It’s like murder, since she can communicate by blinking her eyes. Yet she had told me only months earlier, while watching a movie, that she’d never want to live paralyzed. I can not do it, will not. I must let her decide. Given a choice, Noelle stops struggling to live for us and goes Home within 48 hours. She was 14, struck down by a drunk driver.”
Excerpt from Just Toss the Ashes by Marta Merajver-Kurlat
“What have you done, Ma? How did you always find a way to screw yourself? Why didn’t you try it out, before, after, during? I thought you were brave. You said you had the world at your feet, until the world kicked your feet out from under you. I think one hemisphere of the world that really fucked you up was Grandmother Laura, even though you fought her, but at what cost, Ma? And the other was running into this guy, and then you couldn’t stand up for yourself anymore. You’d gotten used to defending yourself on your own. You stuck the dagger in your heart before they could stick it to you first. How you must have hated yourself! And you never asked forgiveness. Remember you taught me NEVER to ask forgiveness? You said it was attitude for beggars. How much fear, Mom, underneath the cocksure manner that made one want to slam you into a wall? ‘If you believe, it exists,’ you told me. I think maybe you loved me, a lot, and you were afraid I’d love you so much I wouldn’t be able to save myself from the darkness that engulfed you, afraid you’d infect me with the shadow of death that materialized next to your crib, calling you, tempting you, until you finally said, yes, ‘I want to.’ Now I know which deaths preceded you and who the dead were you supposedly had to replace. Poor Mom, the shadow didn’t permit you to see the living.”
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JUST TOSS THE ASHES by
SAYS AUTHOR MARTA MERAJVER-KURLAT: “In his journey towards understanding his mother’s painful life and suicide, young Lucas talks at once to himself and to a mother whose mysteries haunt his mind. His train of thought provides the main clues to understanding much of what has happened before this pivotal moment, while allowing a glimpse into Lucas’s future quest for some truth that may reconcile him to Sylvia’s decision.
“The son’s interior monologue puts together the various kinds of discourse I listened to in my office from patients trying to make sense of a parent’s suicide. Sudden switches between accusation, empathy, self-pity, and speculation were frequent in many cases, yet I’d like to emphasize that neither the novel nor any of the scenes in it replicates a real-life case.”
Excerpt from Foul Shot by R. L. Cherry
Even in the dim light, Vince could see his eyes widen. “You can’t,” he pleaded. “You’re a priest. Gawddammit, it’s a mortal sin!”
“Then I’ll see you in Hell.” Vince fired two rounds directly between his eyes. Blood, skull and brains exploded out the back of his head and he dropped back to the floor.
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SAYS AUTHOR R. L. CHERRY: “Vince, my protagonist is a Christian, a faithful Roman Catholic. He tries to live his life along the principles of his faith. However, there comes this scene in the story when a murderer, someone who has persecuted, tormented and assaulted those he loves, assumes that Vince will not act on his feelings, not seek revenge. That Vince will, as he has done in the past, trust in the justice of God and the laws of man. But Vince has reached his breaking point. Like all of us, Vince is flawed. There are limits to his heroic nature. When I wrote the scene, which is so crucial to Vince’s character, I wondered what I would do in the same circumstance. Would I leave the villain to the courts, let the law decide? What if a good lawyer found a loophole and the murderous bastard was set free? Thank God, I have never been confronted with this decision in real life. Yet, fiction gives us a chance to consider the unthinkable. To be honest, I cannot say for sure what I would do if I were in Vince’s shoes, had gone through what he had gone through. Can you?”
Excerpt from L’Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen by T.R. Heinan
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SAYS AUTHOR T. R. HEINAN: “With these words, Marie Laveau confronts my protagonist, Philippe Bertrand, in her effort to get him to risk caring about other people. Philippe has become a recluse after the death of his wife. He soothes himself through prayer and rituals. Within yards of his house, slaves are being whipped, neighbors are dying from yellow fever, and cruelty abounds. Philippe wants to ignore it all and use God as a personal comfort blanket.
“In 1985, while in Portugal, I visited the Catholic shrine at Fatima. Tens of thousands of people were there, each hoping to get closer to God. My travel companion then led me to an orphanage located near the shrine. There, for lack of funds, two dozen little girls, most the victims of sexual abuse, were living without adequate plumbing for lack of funds.
“If prayer can provide spiritual strength, then that same strength must, I believe, be used to meet our duty to the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. That day in Portugal lead to my own efforts to establish a fund to serve orphaned children. Since 1985, this effort has been able to save and change the lives of thousands of kids.”
– T.R. Heinan, Author of L’Immortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen
Excerpt from No Tildes on Tuesday by Cherrye Vasquez
“I thought you forgot your notes, so over the weekend I picked up the pad and thumbed through it. I was very shocked to see what you had written.”
“Abuela. Let me––”
“I believe that if you tried hard enough, you’d probably get it,” Abuela interrupted. “But that’s it. You don’t care to learn Spanish, do you?”
“Isabella, you can come to Abuela’s house anytime you want to, but not for Spanish lessons anymore.”
I don’t care. My lessons with Abuela are finally over forever! No tildes on Tuesday!
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“Over the weekend Abuela learned Isabella’s heart wasn’t in learning her father’s first language, Spanish.
“In the previous chapter, Abuela discovered the pad. Isabella scribbled, “Being here and learning Spanish is a waste of my good time!
“Monday would be the first time Isabella returned to Abuela’s home for a lesson. Abuela confronted Isabella with her findings. Abuela told Isabella not to return for her lessons. The following day would be Tuesday.
“A ‘Tilde’ is a Spanish accent placed over some Spanish words. For example, piñata.
“The ‘play on words’ meaning—no more Spanish lessons.”
Excerpt from Redneck P.I. by Trish Jackson
‘They were right about one thing. I surely didn’t fit into their world, and I didn’t intend to be there for long. I would never let them know, but the truth is, I was homesick—as homesick as you can get. I really missed my previous life. I’m all country, and living in the city just wasn’t for me. The problem was, I couldn’t go home until the recession was over and that didn’t seem like it was ever gonna happen.’
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“Self-professed redneck, Twila Taunton has been forced to relocate to Boston because jobs are non-existent in the small Alabama home town of Quisby. Prior to the recession and the housing market collapse, she worked as a real estate salesperson.
“In my life, my husband and I had relocated to Florida to help our daughter with her new twins. I had been working in real estate for several years, but was forced to change my vocation when the market fell apart. My daughter was retrenched and moved back to California to be close to her brothers. Our house has been on the market four years now and still no sale.
“In my book, Twila is luckier….”
‘The sun was high in the sky when we pulled up outside Pop’s trailer. Home. Nothing, not even crazy Tina, could have wiped the smile off my face. I got off my bike, kneeled down on the ground and kissed it.’
Trish Jackson, Author
Excerpt from The Contrary Canadian by C. C. (Clayton) Bye
“An important lesson was offered to me the day I left my name on that mountain at the top of the world. I learned to walk the unbeaten path, began to understand the importance of taking unique, purposeful actions. And over the years, as this lesson became an ingrained part of my life, it slowly evolved into a guiding attitude I call The Philosophy of The Road Not Taken.”
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SAYS AUTHOR/EDITOR CLAYTON BYE: “This is the second last paragraph in the first essay in a collection called The Contrary Canadian. It refers to a choice I made between climbing a small mountain covered in the scars left by people who were searching for a certain kind of black crystal and a sister mountain that supposedly had no crystals. Even though I was out there for the stones, something told me to climb the undisturbed mountain. I found a cairn at the top of this mountain (visible only from the air) and buried in it was a tin box with paper and pencil so that I could add my name to those who had come before me—going back to the 1960’s. It was one of those life changing moments. Perfect start to my book.”