Through fallen hair I peered at him as I awoke on the floor of his dorm, his chin was abnormally chiseled like a Greek god. Real, yet not real at all.

All I could do was ask “What have you done Esther, what in God’s name have you done?”

The urge to empty my gut became as real as regret. Despite limbs of lead, I sluggishly walked to the bath and relieved myself the burden of drink and promptly collapsed again, sliding ungraciously onto the dirty tiled floor.

So this is it I suppose, my freshman year at university. I thought I was smarter than this, after all, the scores said I was.


Heat Seekers

Heat Seekers

My friend and colleague, writer Steve Lambert, has just released a link to pre-order his HOT new poetry collection entitled Heat Seekers.  This collection of original and thought provoking work is worth owning.

Pre-order yours today for a discounted price at the link below:

Heat Seekers by Steve Lambert

My Father’s Laugh

My Father’s Laugh
Grey at the temples
is a recent thing.
Before he was all
ash brown hair
with a mustache
that put Tom Selleck’s to shame.
His laugh though…
I didn’t hear it often,
that’s what made it memorable,
the rarity of it.
It mirrored his sister’s.
At family gatherings
we tried,
in vain,
to copy it,
without success.

A-Minor Online Literary Magazine Review

A Humble Literary Gem
Review of A-Minor, Fall
Conventional (i.e. not experimental),

Publishing three times a year in January, May and September and entering its 7th year of publication, A-Minor is a literary gem that has an air of humility I can only describe as being quietly content.

Founder Nicolette Wong is the Hong-Kong-based editor-in-chief of the publication as well as A-Minor Press, a notable press that publishes chapbooks and poetry collections. Ms. Wong is also a dancer, writer and translator. Per her bio, she has recently been “a recipient of a Hong Kong Arts Development Council Project Grant (Literary Arts), and has been featured at the Hong Kong Book Fair and Hong Kong International Literary Festival.”

A-Minor features poetry, prose, short fiction and artwork. Guidelines for submissions are standard. They ask that you submit to one category only for now, submissions are received via email. No fee is required.  They welcome collaborations of artwork paired with poetry/prose.  They are partial to “surrealist, experimental and quirky writing. For poetry, (they) lean toward the lyrical, eccentric, ambivalent and wildly imaginative.” Researching back issues is always a good idea to see editor preferences and to ensure the work you submit is a good fit with this literary forum.

In November of 2016, A-Minor received a great shout out from BOOKFOX which is a website “designed to help writers get from the shoebox of rejections to (their) dream publication.” BOOKFOX listed them as one of “30 Small but Awesome Online Literary Magazines.” With more than 100,000 monthly visitors to their page I have no doubt that A-Minor traffic will increase given this recognition.

While they do have a Facebook and twitter page, they are not routinely active on either account. As a proponent of keeping your audience engaged through social media, I found this to be unfortunate. Nevertheless, I always believe in following any publication you regularly read or submit to so click that FOLLOW button.

A-Minor is your average online publication. The site is user-friendly, clean and visually soft on the eyes. Their list of contributors is extensive and inclusive of everyone from international beginning writers/artists to seasoned published ones. At least a dozen names were writers I actively follow on Twitter and are well-known for their publications in other print and/or online literary magazines.  My notable favorite bio was this one:

Jarrid Deaton lives in Eastern Kentucky. He once painted his face in blood during a softball game.

Not sure if I liked it due to its simplicity or clear commitment to the sport. Either way it intrigued me enough to click on his name and check out his contribution to the site. I wasn’t disappointed. His work was archived but it was worth the search.  If I am not mistaken he was published in the magazines inaugural issue in June of 2010. His story, entitled “Answer for Red Question,” was a well-crafted piece that caused me to scramble for more of his work and is also a great example of the kind of poetry/prose the editor is looking for.  The piece is a smart, quirky and slightly dark, soul-searching work of exceptional prose.

The magazine’s fall issue, published in September 2016, features three works of poetry, two prose pieces, two modern art contributions (three if you include the cover art which was my favorite) and two pieces I believe fall under the category of short fiction. Eight in total, which appears to be the norm except for their anniversary issues which have, on average, four or five additional submissions.

The standout poem, for me, was “Trail Mountain” by Andres Rojas. This piece is exceptional in its imagery and use of language. It is if he pulled his word choices right out of Emily Dickinson’s Lexicon. His two stanzas,

                                         as the rough-winged swallows
                                         buzzing the rhododendrons,      

                                         not at play, hunters on the fly
                                         as are we all, each viridescent laurel

are not only coupled brilliantly, they sing, stitching this into a soliloquy that guides the reader down the trail with all the expectations and hope intended.

Hamline University MFA student, Nicola Koh, also contributed a daring piece to this issue entitled The Bride of Christ.  This work of fiction draws the reader in from its prefacing quote:

And I saw a new heaven
and a new earth:
for the first heaven
and the first earth
were passed away;
and there was
no more

-John of Patmos

The quote, along with the enticing title, had me hooked to read on and read on I did (twice). Koh weaves a story that is sprinkled with reality, faith and juxta positioned with the writers hope in God’s existence despite current circumstances the main character shares with anyone who will listen.  The ship she sets sail on is representative of Heaven, but not the definitive one we imagine. One where the wrong people sit in the highest chair in disregard of danger (the devil in the form of black mountains) that looms across the unbalanced sea. Koh also quietly sews in the issue of gender roles in a way that doesn’t force the notion down your throat but asks you to consider what society is suppressing. A true treasure of a choice for publication and set appropriately as the last tale of the magazine because you’ll need time to process what you have read.  A sign of a well-crafted write.

In direct contradiction to some of the magazine’s weaker stories, “This House,” by Nicholas Rys left me breathless. This story moved with emotion fueled waves of imagination entangled with harsh realities. The imagery within this prose is climatic. Mr. Rys pulled me right along with him “down hallways” over the “pulse carpet blood”. I take his hand willingly, and together we explore each nuance of the house with hopeful eyes despite its apparent decay. I, too, am “tingling with electricity” as I watch the mind unfold with the possibilities within the walls of This House.

Despite enjoying most of the work of the contributing artists and writers, I am going to have to give A-Minor three stars out of five, which is hard. I just did not get the “wow” factor I think online magazines need to keep their readers returning. Unlike print magazines, online literary sites need to be sought out by the reader. They are not delivered by post; they are delivered by emails that can be easily skipped over or deleted if the subscriber isn’t getting substance from it.  Other than the cover, the artwork was simplistic and the selected contributions, while many I enjoyed a great deal, didn’t fit together, offering an issue that seemed to be like a puzzle missing several pieces.

Additionally, as an online journal, engaging your online audience through Facebook and Twitter is essential to successfully draw in new readers and keep the ones your already have. Not to mention your contributors, who I feel, deserve invested time in promoting their work through social media sources.  As a former social media specialist, I highly recommend this for all literary magazines, print or online.  In fact, I go out of my way to ensure that the magazines and writers know I am reviewing them. I seek them out, follow them, engage them. This promotes healthy camaraderie within the writing community that relies heavily on encouragement.

Love, Ink, & Sin Review

Poetry by Grace Black

Createspace, February 01, 2017

ISBN : 9781542716666

Available on Amazon  $8.95

Grace Black’s second book of poetry, Love, Ink, & Sin, is a moving collection of remarkable, well crafted poetry and prose that awakens the weary from slumber and swells the heart with a provacative tale of a love lost and a heart-moving to the mend.

This collection is divided into three sections, Lie of Love, Lay with Love and Lain for Love.  Lie of Love introduces the reader–welcomes them with tantalizing stanza’s like,

Soul-drunk echoes

and night-blue passion

licked our naked hips

Midnight in my arms

you were my 

undrunk river

Powerful imagery of a love igniting sets the stage of this first set of poems/prose. An invitation to glimpse inside the intimacy of a fresh romance. Ms. Black chooses her words with care and reveals a tender, yet explosive exchange between lovers. With each turn of the page the reader falls slowly into the well of their love with its ebb and flow, reaching a height so unimaginable it begs to answer the ever curious question, “Is this love?” or as the title of this chapter suggests, is it a “Lie of Love? ”

Lay  with Love, the second “chapter” of this collection, takes the readers captured heart and pulls them all the way in. Welcoming them into a private, secret place reserved only for lovers. She masterfully uncovers an erupting sadness enveloping within the walls of the relationship they thought was so carefully constructed.  Take deliberate consideration of this stanza, its inference subtle while at the same time bold in its hint,

His hands painted intimacy

on the canvas of my flesh,

but his insecurites sank

their teeth into survival

and dawn came again

in the same hue as yesterday,

and the day before,

and the day before that

It’s a loney hue; the color of regret.

The tide is turning, as relationships often do, despite the intensity held within that first wave as it crashed upon the beach.  Sadness slips in as words lie like lovers on wrinkled sheets within the written pages that come next.  The reader is all in now, feeling almost voyeuristic, as the tension builds to a climax, then a page is turned and there it is, the beginning of the final set of poems, Lain for Love, and you read,

This empty air

contains all the missing

of you-

Stopped by the words and remembering to breathe, a hesitation to turn the page occurs. The need for a commercial break becomes apparent as the reader is spent but at the same time so intrigued they push forward with an anxiety so thick the ends of their fingers tingle and their heart lurches.

The concluding prose is so brilliantly laced together with desire, regret, loss and most profoundly…rememberance. It is indescribable, truly. You must read it yourself, I don’t dare rush the words or feelings on your behalf, you must experience it solely.

Without question, the following stanza, for me, was the most compelling.

Graphic marrow of your pain

met with mine

and this reverberant laughter

licked the slow smoke skies

and the rain fell through me

as a sluice to skin and where

I now begin-

This mingling of poetry and prose spread across ninety-nine clean pages is a narrative stitched together so intensely you will find yourself breathless as the end draws near. Even the concluding index appears to be in poetic meter.

Clearly a writer who pours her soul into each and every effort she puts to print, Grace Black is definitely one to watch in 2017.

*An additional note on the book as a whole is the beauty in its utter simplicity. Almost in contrast to love itself, the publication is strictly black and white whereas love is never that simple.  The choice to align left, align right and center the typeset on occasional pages is a bold statement and is a visual descriptive of the notion that often love truly is an unpredictable balance of ‘if only’s’ and ‘what if’s’ for so many.




Like a Penny

Originally posted on March 21, 2016 at Mothers Always Write

Like a Penny


We entered the room in parade formation,

our gait slow and rehearsed.

The silence of the ventilator paralyzes me.

Visible is the incubator, it sits empty.  

The revelation removes the air from my body,

my bones dissolve. I am offered a metal chair. 

Denial embeds itself firmly

within the farthest recesses of thought,

helping my mind move forward.

Various people collect around me, but they 

arrived too late to bar the door from dread.

Fear followed their path through the entrance,

pushing promise aside, disregarding

my pleas to stay at bay.

And, as if fear itself was

a relation, it settled in to observe me,

expecting me to turn and nod.

Reality moved into the sterile, hushed room next,

without invitation or welcome,

its heavy hand on my shoulder.

The last shards of hope strangled by its presence,

slowly building to suffocate me

with a clench that refused to loosen.

A loved one squeezed my hand but only 

my heart felt the grip.

Nestled within my mind

I concealed a scream that was

suppressed by news not yet broken.

And like a penny on the tracks

I lost my shape

as fear morphed into

despair and pushed inside the room.

Without a chance to inhale

the Doctor’s voice spilled into the air.

His gentle whisper sliced my reality

with the words,

She is no longer

and like that penny,

I felt worthless.

Raw wounds exposed guilt of ending a pain, not of flesh but separated existence stitched together w/ faulty paper clips & unimaginable glue.