Porcelain Keys

Porcelain Keys, a lyrical debut novel by Ms. Beard, introduces us to the world of Aria, a musician who cannot play, and her relationship with Thomas, a man who cannot live, but has yet to find the means to die. They build together a means of recapturing themselves, of being human and whole, but one night shatters the fragile connection.

Picking up pieces of something intangible as one’s soul, Aria begins with the pursuit of her music. Through her fingers, she can speak what cannot be expressed in words, except that what she unleashes is hard to stopper up once the final notes fade away. Thus forced to qualm the healing effects of her music, friends – and a new relationship with fellow musician Devin – step in to offer her the guidance, love, and warmth that, like mortar, give her the strength to build again.

The sudden reappearance of Thomas in Aria’s home threatens to knock her walls down, sending what little semblance of balance and healing she has achieved tumbling into a place that cannot be recovered.

Will Thomas prove her true love and mortar? Can she be his healing force, offering him a means to live once more? Or are some things like Humpty-Dumpty, and too broken to piece together again?

A gorgeous sweet romance, Porcelain Keys has clean, tender love scenes that could work in Christian Fiction; the range of love encompasses the romantic, the familial, and the divine, though there are no outward references to scripture or anything that would confine the heart of that divine love to any one religion or God.

Ms. Beard is a musician, and reading her is something like listening to classical music. The words rise, sway, plummet, dance, evoking emotions and truths beyond what mere words, in combination, can. It was very hard to put her book down and, long after I had finished reading, the echoes of her refrains stayed with me.

10:42pm

Natasha shivered in the corner of the shattered room, racing against the sputtering warmth of her dying candle. She held in her numb hands her last connection to the outside world—the Morse Code telegraph that had been serendipitously stowed with the emergency supplies in the one corner of the room not destroyed. Or perhaps the devices had been placed everywhere, in the event of catastrophe, but there was no one left to ask.

She worked her telegraph furiously, blowing on her hands. SOS 12. 50 N. 23. 0 E. Find me. Alive. 12. 50 N. 23. 0 E.

The candle gave its last cough of light, warmth and comfort, plunging Natasha into darkness. The stars were obscured behind the lingering haze of death—dust, ash, and particles of things she would not name. Beyond the waist-high ruins that were her shelter, there was nothing but sand, rocks, night, and leftovers of a people who felt make-believe and yet vibrant in her memory.

It was impossible to gauge time in this place of everlasting darkness, cold and ghostly vibrations of a once-life. Even the sun would not deign to shine here like in her homeland, and mornings were marked by skies of gray, brown and almost-blue. The echo of bombs, screams and concrete blasted into pieces still haunted her ears. It was hard to determine what was worse: the chaotic noise or the desperate silence that followed in its wake.

Natasha waited for a response, counting each breath to mark time. A hundred breaths. She worked out her message like a prayer. SOS 12. 50 N. 23. 0 E. Find me. Alive. 12. 50 N. 23. 0 E.

The stars peeked through and she gazed at them, throwing out an invisible tether to connect her to something real.

Delicate fingers of twilight teased the edge of the horizon. Morning approached, but she had no candles left for when night fell again.

Natasha had a watch with a backlight she could activate with a push of a button, but how long would the battery last? Even solar-powered, it too would eventually expire.

Her rations had run out some time past, and scrambling for sustenance in this barren landscape would not get her much further. If she hadn’t injured her foot, she could have attempted to walk beyond this plateau of obliteration, but she had to preserve her strength.

A hundred breaths. She repeated her plea.

Somewhere, far beyond this place, people still lived and remembered her; someone would hear her, someone would come.

Without the basic warmth of her candle, the frost of winter crept over her, entering the crevices of her lungs and seizing her breath, but she forged on with her focused in-out, in-out, counting.

Alas, she had counted on her Ronald to have her back, but she hadn’t expected that to work out literally—he had been her shield against the flying debris, grabbing her from behind and throwing her down, absorbing the battering instead.

She had held him with her whole body in the aftermath, as if she could funnel her own life back into him, allow him to live a little longer, but even Superman couldn’t have healed from those wounds. Not even if he had flown clear into the sun.

Ronald had smiled at her, and squeezed her hand. Even though he could not speak, she had known how deeply he loved her, and with the smallest squeeze in return, she had conveyed fifteen years of unspoken conversations; the things she had wanted to say but had never had the chance to, and at least, they had had that moment where they didn’t need any words. There was nothing, in the end, left to say.

Often she had felt him with her, holding her, keeping vigil with her across the realms that separated them.

How long had it been, really, since she had heard the sound of another in happiness? How many nights had she passed in this broken solitude?

A hundred breaths. She fumbled through her message, unfeeling fingers clumsy. SOS 12. 50 N. 23. 0 E.

Natasha lit the backlight on her watch. It was set to the time of her old life, and she had not yet changed it to match the current zone. It reminded her there were other people, other places, which still possessed the innocence of youth, the simple joys of being alive; those brief memories had acted as her sustenance but would not hold her much longer.

It was 10:42pm in her homeland. Parties would be winding down, children would be sneaking out, young lovers plotting secret rendezvous. She smiled to herself, her fingers telegraphing her farewell of their own accord. 10:42pm. Ronald. Find me. I love you.

Natasha curled into herself and drifted into nothingness. The stars reached for her and embraced her with their warmth, carrying her away.

Hunter’s Moon

Joanna Celeste:

I also enjoyed Lisa’s “Across the Veil” short story.

Originally posted on You Read It Here First:

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When Were-shifter Aren discovers his mate, Sasha, is the Jaguar shifter who got his father killed, and threatened the lives of his twin and alpha, loyalties are called into play. Unfortunately, his heart and his head won’t agree on the matter, and the instinct to protect his mate is too strong. As Sasha unwittingly calls upon him to help her save her sister from a nefarious organization, Aren is forced into close quarters with her, and instinct gives way to something even stronger—love. Too bad Sasha doesn’t have the same inclination to mate for life, and she’s forsworn men. But then again, her heart and head may not get a say in the matter in the end, as the relationship between them deepens amidst a life-or-death struggle against a crazed, juiced-up Green Beret Were-shifter who can shift in broad daylight with vengeance on his mind.

As the second book in…

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Originally posted on You Read It Here First:

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A Conversation with Sara Wiseman

Drawing from her own experiences, and the wisdom of her teaching experiences with many others, Ms. Sara Wiseman crafted an eloquent description of a life cycle from a spiritual perspective with her book Living a Life of Gratitude: Your Journey to Grace, Joy and Healing.

I had the pleasure of conversing with her on the subject of her awakening, her teachings, and the subtle ways we are part of a beautiful, spiritual community that is rarely seen but often felt. She has an innate care and elegance of expression that reflects her work.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: Your training, podcasts, and series of mini e-books (Soul Immersion Mini Series) seem geared to help people achieve their own spiritual awakening. What was the moment of your awakening?

A: In 2000, I had a near death experience, and that was when my life began to shift…

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I had a conversation with MaryAnn Kempher who has also traveled widely, and writes with the full support of her family.

It is great to meet such a wide variety of writers, from all over the world, right from home.

Joanna Celeste:

    With some people, conversation flows very easily and due to our current need to keep things short, I had to edit out some of our interview. Here are some of the highlights that I wanted to share:

    For more information on Loulou, please check out her website. Her son also has a website, and he is currently seeking a publisher (at the age of 17!) I think it’s awesome that she encouraged him to write, and now he is encouraging her to find a traditional publisher.

    Loulou is currently working on revising some of her romances, and fans of her work will be happy to know that she has the sequel to The Diary of Arnmore all worked out in her head. Now, if she can only find the time to write it down… :) Her short story, a true tale about her father in law, may be published sooner.

    At the moment, she can’t write full time because she is teaching full time but the stories are all in her head, “safe and waiting to be put into the written or typed word, which I look forward to doing” she says.

    Something she does that may be useful to other teachers: “One thing I loved to do as a teacher was rewrite fairy tales with the kids, or get the whole class to write a story, adding one line each, then illustrating it and stapling it together.”

    Loulou also encouraged her children to keep a diary of their day during their extensive travels.

Originally posted on You Read It Here First:

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Loulou Szal, a teacher and homeschooling mother, is passionate about advancing the vocabulary of children and teenagers, and inspiring the same love of reading that has been part of her life through a wide range of experiences. She makes a point to personalize the books she signs, to engage young readers in the story from the first page. She believes that “as adults, we should show children how precious books are” and she follows through on that philosophy in many ways. It was a pleasure to talk with her and discover her perspective.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: What inspired you to self-publish The Diary of Arnmore?

A: I had had my writing published in my high school newspapers and university papers. I loved having my work out there. After I graduated I went straight into teaching and so was busy.  I didn’t write as much ‘till my husband and I…

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Originally posted on You Read It Here First:

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I was introduced to Hollye Dexter through her work on Dancing at the Shame Prom (my review: http://blogcritics.org/book-review-dancing-at-the-shame1/). I gathered the courage to start sharing my writings, and pursuing my own kind of healing, from that collection, and as a fellow editor I could appreciate how much Hollye and her co-editor, Amy Ferris, put into bringing us Dancing at the Shame Prom.

When I met with her (via email), I was not surprised to discover that she has a huge heart, and a passion for empowering others and standing up for those who can’t always stand up for themselves. Some people have a way of expressing experiences so that others feel they are not alone, and they can get a new perspective, a chance to catch their breath, on something that previously felt suffocating and inescapable. It is an honor to converse with her, and to introduce her to…

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