Spotlight & Excerpt: Not My Ruckus, by Chad Musick

not my ruckus

Not My Ruckus
by Chad Musick
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Cinnabar Moth Publishing LLC
Date of Publication:  16 February 2021
ISBN: 978-1-953971-00-5
Number of pages: 320
Word Count: 86,000
Cover Artist: Nada Backovic 

Clare knows only bad girls shoot people and set fires. But being good won’t save her best friend.

Folks know 14-year-old Clare isn’t normal, even for a tomboy. She runs too much, talks too little, carries a gun too often, and holds a grudge forever. Only her papa’s job at the bank keeps gossip quiet. It’s unwise to risk the cold anger of the man who knows everyone’s secrets.

Clare feels prepared for everything from fire, to flood, to what her momma calls demon attacks. When her neighbor Esther kisses her, though, Clare has no ready script. Maybe she could write one, given time she doesn’t have. At the moment of that first kiss, Esther’s mom is bleeding out from a gunshot wound.

Clare can read the signs everyone else is determined to ignore. A murder was only the beginning. Esther needs protection, whether she wants it or not, and Clare won’t abandon her friend just because things are hard.

Maybe one day she’ll be forgiven for doing what’s needed.


Esther kissed me once for free, when we were both just girls. We were sitting watching the Rangers play baseball—not the Olympics, because it was the summer of 1980 and Carter was choosing to hide in a boycott rather than fight the communists who were running it—and Gunnar went to the fridge to get a fresh bottle of beer.

“Daddy,” Esther called, “can we have some sandwiches?”

He grunted back, and we heard his breathing punctuated by the clatter of the silverware drawer and the rattle of the jam jar.

Esther swayed back and forth, making fun of how Gunnar had staggered as he walked to the kitchen.

“Usually I get his beers, or mom does, but you’re company.” She winked at me.

I wasn’t allowed at Esther’s house often, even though we should have been best friends all along. We were both 14, we lived across the street from each other, and we would go to high school together the next year, just like we’d always gone to school together. But her family wasn’t our kind of people.

On the day Esther kissed me, though, momma’d had a vision of her and Esther’s mom going shopping together.

When momma had a vision, you didn’t stand in the way, and so she had dropped me off and taken Esther’s mom in the big car to go shopping.

Gunnar came back with a paper plate of peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for us, and a pair of beers for himself. He eased back down into his lounger with the creak of springs and scritch of leather on denim, and opened a beer. He let it dangle from his fingers, and it wasn’t long before he was snoring.

Esther crept up on him and eased the bottle from him.

She held it out, for me to drink. This was one of the reasons they weren’t our kind of people, and I shook my head no at her.

“I’ll scream,” she whispered, and held it out again. “It’s gross. He’s already drank off it.”

Esther pushed her finger into the neck of the bottle and wiped it, just a little pop of sound when her finger came out, then wiped the outside of the top. She made me take the bottle.

I drank some, of course I did. Not much, just a swallow, so she wouldn’t scream, and then I gave it back to her.

She finished the bottle, and then laid it down beneath Gunnar’s fingertips. There hadn’t been much left anyway, I told myself.

We sat on the floor in the Texas summer heat and leaned our backs against the new couch. The plastic on the seats got sticky and uncomfortable when the sun shone on it, but the unglazed terra cotta floor was cool, and her hand was warm when she put it in mine.

She was swaying again, and when she swayed my way, her head rested on my shoulder and stayed there.

“Esther,” I told her. She looked up.

“We’re best friends now.” She nodded.

Good. It was good to have a friend. Even if next year she didn’t join me in softball and running and volleyball and all the other sports I’d been denied in junior high because there were only intramurals, I’d still have a friend. Frank didn’t let me play with him anymore, because he was older and it wasn’t “cool” to have your little sister around, especially if she was better at baseball than you. He could get the bat on the ball sometimes, smash it high in the air with the powerful arms that he’d once used to hoist me on his wide shoulders, but he lacked control. Just about every hit was a foul or a pop fly. Even when he hit it well, he was never ready to run.

I’ve always been ready to run.

Esther didn’t care about baseball, even if she’d watch it on the tv with me. At school, I’d used to watch her when she double- dutched with the other girls, who called me boy like it was a curse word and stopped their ropes when I came around.

“I have a secret,” she said, without lifting her head.
“I want to tell it to you.”

About the Author:

Chad Musick grew up in Utah, California, Washington, Texas, and (most of all) Alaska. He fell in love in California and then moved with his family to Japan, where he’s found happiness. He earned a PhD in Mathematical Science but loves art and science equally.
Despite a tendency for electronic devices to burst into flame after Chad handles them, he persists in working in various technical and technology-related roles. 
Chad makes no secret of being epileptic, autistic, and arthritic, facts that inform how he approaches both science and the arts.


Book Blitz: Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner + Giveaway

Harry Harambees


Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner
A Novel

by Gerald Everett Jones

Literary Fiction

Date Published: 6/29/2021

Publisher: La Puerta Productions



Intrigue on the white sands of the Indian Ocean. From the award-winning author of Clifford’s Spiral.

A lonely widower from Los Angeles buys a tour package to East Africa on the promise of hookups and parties. What he finds instead are new reasons to live.

Aldo Barbieri, a slick Italian tour operator, convinces Harry to join a group of adventuresome “voluntourists.” In a resort town on the Indian Ocean, Harry doesn’t find the promised excitement with local ladies. But in the supermarket he meets Esther Mwemba, a demure widow who works as a bookkeeper. The attraction is strong and mutual, but Harry gets worried when he finds out that Esther and Aldo have a history. They introduce him to Victor Skebelsky, rumored to be the meanest man in town. Skebelsky has a plan to convert his grand colonial home and residential compound into a rehab center – as a tax dodge. The scheme calls for Harry to head up the charity. He could live like a wealthy diplomat and it won’t cost him a shilling!

Harry has to come to terms with questions at the heart of his character: Is corruption a fact of life everywhere? Is all love transactional?

Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner is an emotional story of expat intrigue in Africa, reminiscent of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene and The Constant Gardener by John le Carré.

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Harry Harambees Kenyan Sundowner Blitz

Praise for Clifford’s Spiral (Independent Press Awards 2020 Distinguished Favorite in Literary Fiction)

We’ve seen and noted the comparison of this author by other reviewers to literary giants like Roth and Vonnegut. And we can’t disagree. Yet we feel there may be yet another strata for Gerald Everett Jones, who arguably is doing the best work of his career. We predict that he lacks only a mention in the The New York Review of Books or, better yet, Oprah, to become a nationwide best-selling author. Five-plus stars to Clifford’s Spiral, a true literary novel if ever there was one. We say in all seriousness that if you only read one novel this year, this should be it. – Don Sloan, Publishers Daily Reviews

Preacher Finds a Corpse (NYC Big Book Awards 2020 Winner in Mystery, IPA 2020 Distinguished Favorite in Mystery, Eric Hoffer 2020 Finalist in Mystery)

This is literature masquerading as a mystery. Carefully yet powerfully, Gerald Jones creates a small, stunning world in a tiny midwestern town, infusing each character with not just life but wit, charm, and occasionally menace. This is the kind of writing one expects from John Irving or Jane Smiley.

– Marvin J. Wolf, author of the Rabbi Ben Mysteries, including A Scribe Dies in Brooklyn.


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Spotlight & Author Interview: Where Are We Tomorrow + Excerpt

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Where are We Tomorrow_FRONT

Where Are We Tomorrow?
by: Tavi Taylor Black
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

For a woman working in the male dominated world of rock ‘n’ roll touring, pregnancy is not an option.

Alex Evans, a thirty-six year old touring electrician, discovers through an accidental pregnancy and then the pain of miscarriage that she truly wants a family. But to attempt another pregnancy, she’ll have to change both her career and her relationship; her partner Connor, ten years her senior, isn’t prepared to become a father again.

When Alex is implicated in an accident involving the female pop star she works for, she and three other women on tour rent a house together in Tuscany. While the tour regroups, confessions are made, secrets are spilled: the guitar tech conceals a forbidden love, the production assistant’s ambition knows no limits, and the personal assistant battles mental issues.

Through arguments and accidents, combating drug use and religion, the women help each other look back on the choices they’ve made, eventually buoying each other, offering up strength to face tough decisions ahead.



INSIDE THE CONCRETE arena, programmed lights whirred and spun in rhythm; eleven thousand fans watched, mesmerized, as vibrant magenta and violet beams sliced through midnight black. On stage, the band regurgitated the same set as the night before, and the night before that. They’d performed the set in Mexico City and Guadalajara. As far south as Santiago and Lima. The road crew for Sadie Estrada’s Home Remedy tour knew each dip in volume, each drop in the beat. They knew exactly, down to the second, how much time it required to step outside and suck down a Marlboro. These time-zone travelers planned bathroom breaks by the songs’ measures; no one missed a cue to mute the stage mics, to hand out room-temp bottled water for set breaks, to pull up house lights.

Behind heavy velvet curtains, separated from the frenzied pace of the show, Alex unscrewed the cover of a moving light to expose the core: circuit boards and capacitors, motors connected to color wheels. Deep bass, feedback, and the fevered pitch of collective voices penetrated the curtain, the familiar, almost comforting reverberations of life on the road. Alex continued her diagnosis, removing the light harness as a mother removes a soiled diaper—routinely, with a touch of tenderness. While she located and replaced the broken part, she kept an ear to the music, alert to the final measure of the set, ready to repack her multi-wheeled toolbox, move on to the next city, set up again.

Alex ran the light through all its functions, testing and retesting once she’d replaced the gobo wheel. The body of the light panned and tilted, working fine. A small victory.

“Sure you know what you’re doing, little lady?” Alex turned at the familiar voice of the tour’s production manager.

“Funny,” she said. “Very original. For that, you get to help me put it away.” Alex waited for another barb, one about her not being able to lift the seventy pounds by herself, but Joe simply helped her flip and crate the unit, a harder task for him at 5’2” than it was for Alex, a good five inches taller.

The arena crackled in anticipation of the show’s climax. Thousands of voices swelled and surged, a unified congregation. The body of the moving light settled into the carved Styrofoam, and Alex tucked its tail inside the handle. As she slammed the case shut, Joe’s laminate got caught inside the box, and he was jerked down by the lanyard around his neck. He freed the latches and yanked it clear, smoothing the wrinkles from the photo of his two young children, a wallet-sized clipping he’d taped behind his backstage pass. Joe caught Alex eyeing the photo.

“When are you gonna give in and pop out a few yourself?” Joe asked. Alex breathed slowly, letting a brief sadness settle into her body, though her face wore a practiced, blank expression. She gestured into the smothering dark, into the roar of the crowd and sweat-filled air. “And give up all this?”

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.

The idea for this book came at a writing retreat with some grad school friends almost twelve years ago now. I had just stopped touring with bands because I was pregnant, so I had a bit of distance from the life. I was trying to look at it from a new perspective. I always wanted the story to be about the women I had toured with when I was on the road with Norah Jones. Having several women on a tour was pretty unheard-of at the time (2005-2008), at least in my experience. The first draft was written in all 4 women’s POV, first person.

2.  What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

As my mentor, A.J. Verdelle, often says, “it’s not over until it’s between the covers.” I can’t tell you how many drafts this book went through. As I mentioned above, it changed from 1st person to 3rd person omniscient, but I also revised from past tense to present tense then back to past again on the suggestion of various editors. The manuscript started at 130,000 words. I cut and built, cut and built. It’s interesting because one of the things many reviewers have said is that the novel is short and they would like to know more about the other women in the book (besides Alex, the main protagonist). Well, I’ve got plenty of their stories that have been cut from the final draft. If anyone wants to hear about Kat or Brooke or Lily I’ll happily share their stories!

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?

The writing didn’t surprise me as much as the response I’m getting now. The book is doing exactly what I’d hoped to do; people–particularly women–are connecting to and identifying with the struggles of Alex, Lily, Kat and Brooke. Readers who have reached out to me have fallen nearly as in love with the women as I have. When you’ve worked so long on something, you start to despair that you are wasting your time, or that maybe your work won’t be as good as you hope. So, what surprised me were the yeses I received. Writers get so used to ‘no’s that when that yes comes, it leaves you a bit dumbstruck. TouchPoint Press really took a chance on me. Somehow, they saw the beauty in the book that many many many others passed over. And the incredibly positive response continues to be a wonderful surprise.

4. What does the title mean?

“Where are we tomorrow?” is a question that is asked nearly every day on a road tour. When you move from city to city, you don’t always pay attention to what’s coming next. Often, you only see the inside of an arena–you don’t get to see the city at all. Like the characters Alex and Kat in the book, I would often try to get out for an afternoon walk, just to get my bearings (and some fresh air). So, at the end of the night, when you’re all packed up and climbing onto the tour bus, a common question is “Where are we tomorrow?” Just so you know where you’re going to end up when you roll out of your bunk in the morning.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

Yes! So many of the characters were inspired by real people. The 4 women are all based on real people who know (see attached photo). The real women aren’t exactly the same as the characters, of course, who are fictionalized. The women they are based on have been incredibly gracious. I did warn them ahead of time, but still, I think it was very strange for them to read this book. For instance, the woman that Kat is based on is a guitar tech (and a damn good one) and she rides horses, but she’s not gay. So there was a bit of awkwardness around that. The woman who Brooke is based on (Mia Adams) is a singer and actress, but she’s not overtly ambitious at the expense of all else!

Other, more minor characters might recognize themselves, at least some traits, but I haven’t mentioned it to them. I guess I’ll find out what they think soon 🙂

For the record, the pop star character, Sadie, is absolutely nothing like Norah Jones, who is about as cool and sweet as you think she might be.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

A lesson or moral? No. Not exactly. I don’t think it’s the job of an author to preach. I think our job (at least for literary works) is to pose questions. To make people feel or think. To let people know that pain and fear, joy and contentment–every emotion–is fairly universal. We are all just trying our best to reconcile ourselves with our past and find a little happiness in this life.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?

No one has ever asked me this before! People have mentioned their favorite parts, but I’m really having to think about this.

Ok, it’s such a small moment, not at all pivotal to the story, but I love the scene where the mothers are dressed in their daughters’ clothing, looking ridiculous and all getting giggly because Sadie is paying attention to them. To me, this says so much about our culture’s addiction to fame. Even these women, these mothers who are there to support their daughters, get caught up and starry eyed around a celebrity.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Alex, the protagonist, was definitely the most challenging because she was too close to home. When I started out, I had another woman in mind as Alex, but slowly she took on my traits. My love of poetry, my search for a home and family. I wanted Alex to be more like my friend, Sharon Huizinga, who I had toured with around the same time. In my mind, she still looks like Sharon, but she acts more like me. I’m not someone who loves to talk (or write) about myself, so I had to come to terms with how much Alex represents my own journey.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

I am really invested in getting out to talk about this book. I have a number of readings and book signings set up and would love to visit with book clubs. I also have two other novels I am trying to place– a historical novel set on an estate in coastal Maine, and a middle grade fantasy that I wrote with my daughter.

About the Author

Tavi Taylor Black lives on an island near Seattle where she designs sets for the ballet, works as the tour manager for a musical mantra group, and has helped found an anti-domestic violence non-profit organization. Before earning an MFA from Lesley University, Tavi spent 14 years touring with rock bands. Where Are We Tomorrow? was the 1st place winner of the 2016 PNWA Mainstream Fiction Contest and was also a finalist in the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature. Several of Tavi’s short stories have been shortlisted for prizes, including Aesthetica Magazine’s Competition, and the Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.

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