Writing: The journey continues

Hello, Writing Friends and the Merely Curious:

Write Now

My Personal Poem a Day Challenge is only in its sixth day, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve written a poem every day since May 1, after having written – along with a bunch of other writers – 30 poems in April. The May 6 poem was inspired by the aroma of cut grass and dandelions that wafted through the window as I drove home from town.

SPRING HAIKU
The smell of cut grass
shot color into my world
and my whole self smiled.

Being inspired in this way reminds me of the recent Dreams and Creativity seminar featuring Jan Beurskens sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon. Writing inspiration comes from many experiences. Dream symbolism is something I’ve been trying to explore since the seminar, but I have yet to remember a dream after the fact.

Sight, smell and emotional response to something seen or experienced is more likely to get my brain firing with ideas.

Mary Rose Henssler, one of the Lit Salon team members, wrote a great “kick-in-the-pants” article on the Salon website. Sometimes, that’s what we need, a little jog to get our writing out of a self-created rut.

Prompts are great ways to stimulate one’s thinking. You might not even use the prompt, but it’s food for your fertile brain so you can come up with something more, something different. If you are stuck, Google ‘writing prompts’ or ‘poetry prompts’ and be ready for the deluge of websites that have tons of them.

Here are a few links to get you started:

700+ Creative Writing Prompts to Inspire You Right Now
500 Writing Prompts to Help Beat Writer’s Block
125 Of The Best Poetry Writing Prompts For Poets | Writer’s Relief
101 Poetry Prompts & Creative Ideas for Writing Poems

I know, daunting, isn’t it? But when you run through these, you see they represent a myriad of life experiences or ideas you’ve probably already had. It becomes doable to give the basic idea legs by adding your own experiences or creative thinking to the mix.

Writing is most often spurred by simply sitting down, and going at it. Writing is work. The more time you put into it, the better you get. You can spend a lot of time getting down the basics of grammar, plot development, character profiles, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad girl (or vice versa), but until you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, all that know-how will be for naught.

The greatest deterrent to writing is – I hate to say it – being afraid your work will never see the light of day, or laziness, only you can decide.

So, write, but after that – or in the process, look for outlets for your work. I have a writing friend who doesn’t believe writers should give their work away, that payment represents validation. “If you don’t value your work,” she says, “how will anyone else?” She has a point. And her next point is as important: getting published is hard work and you have to work hard at it.

Why am I writing a poem a day for 365 days? It’s writing practice, but my plan is to indie publish the best of the poems in a collection. Entrepreneurial publishing is gaining ground and I already have experience in the field. See my author page on this site. Click on the Books tab in the menu for links to the books I’ve written.

It matters not what you’re writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – the satisfaction you derive from creating a work from start to finish, is a reward all its own. Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written after the fact. You did it, maybe you made some errors or your work didn’t get the recognition (sales) you hoped for, let it be. Move on. Learn from your fumbles so your next project is an improvement over the last. Every new book, or article, or poem, or short story is its own creation.

There is a book on the market called Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I’m not recommending this book because I haven’t read it, but I like the title’s message. Write. Publish. Repeat.

What are your writing tips and tricks? What fires you up for writing. Enter your thoughts in the comments and I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

Happy Writing!

KQRE Website interview

Thanks to my Southwest Writers membership, Anna Padilla connected with me for this interview. Click on this link to read an interview KL Wagoner did a while back. I’m so appreciative of these opportunities.

On the Shelf: Northern New Mexico author encouraging others to ‘write that book’

 

Lit Salon celebrates writing

ToolsLas Vegas Literary Salon hosted its first event Sunday, July 12, thanks to the Las Vegas Arts Council and the Las Vegas NM Community Foundation. A special thanks to Susie Tsyitee who walked us through the Zoom technology and acted as host for the event. Below is a video about the event we hope you will watch. It features Patti Romero and me talking about Las Vegas Literary Salon in a broad sense and giving our thoughts on this premier event. Please note that this is a first “video interview” either of us has done and I was at the tech wheel, which in and of itself speaks of disaster! But, all things considered it gets our message across.

And what is our message? Writing is an art. We want to encourage emerging, young, established, genre, literary, nontraditional, fiction, nonfiction, poetry – basically writers and writing across the spectrum. We will do this through workshops, events like the Zoom Writers Roundtable, book fairs, tapping into the skills of experts in areas related to getting the book, essay, memoir, novel, whatever it is, from your brain to the page.

This is not for everyone. Some writers want solitude and choose not to network with other writers. I get that. But for those who do want to be part of a learning and networking community, come on board! And we want readers as well. You are important to the process. You consume our words and make them a part of your story from the time you start reading until you reach the end, and sometimes beyond. Along the way, we hope we’ve made you laugh or cry, pissed you off or lifted you up, perhaps even broadened your horizons.

The Sunday event was a success largely because of our five readers: Joy Alesdatter, Kathleen Lujan, Ray John de Aragon, Tim Hagaman, and Beth Urech. We thank them for the time and effort they put into preparing for their readings.

What’s next? We will be scheduling an event with former Las Vegan, Vera Jo Bustos in the near future. Look for details to be released soon.

We have a lot of ideas, and now we need bodies to help implement them, and come up with more. Join us! Fill in the form below the video and let us know if you’re ready to join, or whether you need more information. Also consider donating to one or both of the organizations working through the pandemic to figure out ways to keep the arts alive and thriving!

Las Vegas Arts Council
Las Vegas NM Community Foundation

Patti and Sharon talk about LV Lit Salon #1

zoom_0 from Sharon Vander Meer on Vimeo.

Please sign up below to join Las Vegas Literary Salon or to find out more.


 

And now for the next adventure

Yes or No

I’m in that battling through ideas stage, wondering what thread of excitement engages me enough to begin story development. It sounds easier than it is. Some ideas will be best expressed as poetry, others as a short story and others in a novel.

How does one get past the muddled mess and move forward? Here are five questions to help you determine how you want your inner storyteller to tell the tale.

Is this a story with interwoven plots and subplots?

  • Complex stories can be told in any form, including poetry. Think of The Iliad by Homer, a marathon Greek poem about the Trojan war, or Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, a story about freedom. Could these tales have been told in a different way? Probably, but not as poignantly. That said, if you have a story that’s deep and wide, consider writing a novel, or at the very least, a novella. You have more time and space for compelling characters and intriguing plots.

Is this story a shovel or a knife?

  • A shovel digs deep and uncovers what is hidden; a knife is more precise and goes to the central theme without a lot of lead in. Deep is best handled in a novel; precision in a short story or poem. O. Henry was the master of short form writing with satisfying – often unexpected – endings. Remember The Gift of the Magi?

What audience is the story geared toward?

  • I don’t like to bring it up, but yes, you do need an audience for your work, no matter what you write. Children’s books are written in a certain way for very good reasons. Consider carefully the profile of your reader and forge ahead accordingly. One of my favorite authors is David Baldacci.  This is a writer who knows his audience and creates powerful characters in compelling situations. His novels sell worldwide and have been translated into many languages.

How much do you love your idea?

  • Writing a story is a process. The seed is just that, a seed. For it to grow into something that will inform and entertain requires nurture (creativity), weeding (editing), and feeding (revising).

But – as writer and literary agent Lisa Cron would ask – how much do you know about your  character before you push him or her onto page one of your novel?

  • Cron, the author of “Wired for Story” encourages writers to understand their protagonists’ deeply and well before proceeding. This isn’t pre-writing; it’s exploring the lead characters backstory so, as the author, you know going in the “inside intel” that drives the character and mucks up his or her life as they make their way forward. It sounds easy, does it not? Well, it isn’t. It is probably the most difficult thing a writer must do. Is it worth the effort? Cron says, yes, citing authors in her acquaintance who – by way of this process – went from rejection to seven-figure book sales.

My stumbling block is focus. To write, one needs to set everything else aside an focus on the goal, and be willing to do the work.

Back to basics. Who is my story about? What does she want? What does she fear that will keep her from achieving that goal? How can she overcome her fear and succeed? Therein lies – THE STORY.

Wish me luck!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central



 

Day 132

Alone

Abigail rose from the tangle of blankets, wringing wet. The bedding reeked with her sweat. She staggered to the window, chilled less by a limp breeze, more by what she would see when she looked out.

The barren street mocked her.

She rubbed her thin arms and turned away from the emptiness: empty cars that would never go anywhere again; empty benches where no one sat; empty sidewalks devoid of walkers. The worst? Lack of noise. No screaming sirens, wailing babies, horns honking aggressively, people arguing, the swish of skirts and click of high heels; coughs, snorts, sneezes and wheezes. Laughter. Nothing.

Simply silence.

She grasped the handle of a pan and threw it across the room just to hear the sound as it hit the wall. It thudded unsatisfactorily and clanged unconvincingly when it hit the wooden floor.

Abigail had selected the apartment for the view out the window. The pandemic that wiped out the world population, apparently leaving her the single survivor, had driven people from the neighborhood looking for safety somewhere; anywhere. The stench of death didn’t hover here, as it did in many places she’d encountered in her search for other survivors.

She was it. There were no others, not one.

She picked the pan up from the floor and returned it to the counter, setting it down with more force than necessary, just to hear the sound.

She’d had her pick of places to settle in. The complex she’d chosen wasn’t fancy but it was well-maintained. The studio apartment was on the second floor, facing the street. The higher you went, the better the view and the more expensive the rent. That didn’t matter anymore.

Her selection of the studio apartment came down to one thing – apart from the view; it was the only apartment on the second floor facing the street that stood open. All the other doors were closed tight and locked even tighter. Whoever had lived in 227 B had left in a hurry.

In her wanderings, before arriving at 227 B, Abigail had seen a perplexing mix of evidence that humanity was crazy as hell. She had heard – when communications networks were still functioning – that as bodied piled up in make-shift morgues, people went nuts, burning, looting, killing. Entire neighborhoods were decimated by violence. If the creeping, killing virus didn’t get you, the guy next door might, probably would, and then he’d steal you blind, rape your wife, kill your kids. You gave up trying to decide who was friend or foe. Survival meant you trusted no one.

Now there was no one left. Trust was no longer an issue, was it?

Abigail had plenty of food, most of it in cans with tab-top openers. For the cans that didn’t have tab tops, she had found a manual can opener at a trashed hardware store. At first, she left money on the counter when she took something, until she ran out. By then she’d come to realize she was the only one left.

Why?

It was a recurring and unanswerable question. Everyone in the world – as far as she knew – was gone. Dead. Until she’d come to this town, this neighborhood and settled in 227 B, the stench of rotting corpses had clung to her hair, her clothes, her body. She’d left death behind and was glad to be rid of it.

In her heart she believed – hoped – there were other survivors, but where? In this town, state, country? How did she find them? In the beginning, she’d taken cars abandoned along roadways, driven them until they ran out of fuel and then commandeered another one, searching always, honking the horn, hoping someone would run into the streets to flag her down; to say, “Here! Here! I’M HERE, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!”

But it hadn’t happened.

Yet.

She hadn’t given up hope.

Yet.

And if she came upon someone? What then?

Trust no one. Her mother’s dying voice rang in her head during the day and haunted her dreams at night.

The apartment, at least for the moment, had running water and electricity. The appliances were electric and in working order. If she didn’t know bone crushing loneliness, she would be fine. How long everything would continue to function was something Abigail chose not to think about. She was okay for now, and now was all the mattered.

The apartment also had the advantage of being small, which suited Abigail very well. Despite knowing she was alone, she was terrified of potential unknowns that lay beyond her door. When she was in the apartment, she set the deadbolt and for insurance, lodged a chair back under the knob to prevent anyone from entering. For added protection, she kept an archery set close by. She’d found it in a sporting goods store and taught herself how to use it. It was a skill she practiced every day so it became an extension of who she was.

Abigail went out every day, bow and a quiver of arrows strapped rakishly over her shoulder. She did not walk openly in the empty streets. She skittered down back alleys, looking for anything she could use to survive. Stores of any kind that had battered down doors were fair game. She pilfered from a Walgreens, stocking up on bandages, over the counter meds, makeup (why makeup she didn’t know; she never used it), paper goods and nonperishable foods, books, magazines, batteries, anything that she could use to make her life bearable. There was also a neighborhood grocery store, not one of the chains, but well-stocked, although the fresh meats, fruits and vegetables had long ago gone bad, the bread products moldy or rock hard. She took sparingly from the freezers, hoping they would last as long as the food in them did. She stocked up on clothing that spanned the seasons, sensible shoes, practical and sturdy. She took what she could, day-by-day, stacking it up outside the apartment when she ran out of space inside 227 B.

How much would she need? She didn’t know, but she didn’t want to find out by not having enough.

Some days she would ask herself, “Why bother? Why not just roll over and die, take the still-functioning elevator to the top floor of her 24-story building and fling herself off the roof? She didn’t know why, but she was determined to survive.

Her restless night clung to her as she put on distressed jeans, found in a trashed boutique; $200 price tag, more than she’d spent on clothes in a year in the time before. She slipped a hoodie over her T-shirt and stepped into her favorite tennis shoes. It was a chilly day, early signs of fall in the air.

As she walked along, she wished she’d stayed in the apartment as she trundled her pilfered shopping cart down the alley, packed full of her finds. She hummed some half-remembered song from her youth to keep herself company.

“HELLO! HELLO! ANYONE? ANYONE?”

Abigail froze.

“HELLO? ANYONE THERE?”

Where was the voice coming from? Abigail darted her eyes side-to-side, not looking for the owner of the voice; she sought instead a place to hide.

Male? Female? She couldn’t tell. The voice was raspy, raw from yelling, as hers had been when she screamed and screamed the same unanswered greeting for days on end.

“HELLO! ANYONE THERE?”

The voice was coming closer. Trust no one.

Abigail quaked. What was she to do? She scurried down the alley like a frightened mouse and hid behind a dumpster that had never been emptied; its sour smell stagnated by time.

Footsteps approached, the sound plodding and dreadful.

Trust no one. Abigail swallowed a gasp of fear  and squeezed her eyes shut, as if she could shut out approaching doom.

“Well, well, well. What have we here?”

Abigail swallowed a sob and opened her eyes expecting something – someone – to be leaning over her.

“Looks like somebody’s been shopping.”

Abigail dared to peek around the edge of the dumpster. A woman, if the long brown hair was an indicator. Still, it could be a man, which worried Abigail. A man would take over. Steal everything, leave her with nothing, maybe not even her life.

The figure rummaged around in the cart and pulled something from the carefully arranged stacks. A Payday. Abigail’s favorite. For one foolish second she thought to leap from her hiding place and snatch the candy bar from the intruder.

Intruder? Isn’t this what she’d hoped for, another survivor, someone to share the burden of survival with her? But she remained still.

“What do you think of that, Chloe?” The voice asked.

Definitely a woman. Who the heck was Chloe? Abigail leaned further around the edge of the dumpster to see if there was another person there. No one, just the woman eating her candy bar.

“I think we found home, Chloe. What do you think?”

Dead silence.

“I agree. Now we have more provisions to add to the store we already found. Let’s go home.”

She started pushing the cart quickly down the narrow alleyway.

Trust no one.

Abigail knew then that she’d been found, that this greedy woman was taking over her life. She wasn’t about to let that happen. She rose from her hiding place, an arrow already notched in place and let it fly just at the woman turned and fired a gun point blank at Abigail, as though she’d known all along where she was hiding.


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

Remix

Awakening

This was originally written as a short story. It is recreated here as a prose poem. For every dreamer who wants to fly.

THE GIRL WHO DREAMED

She stood on the very peak of the roof,
finding it not at all odd to be there.
She couldn’t wait
to ride the wind.
It was wonderful. Beautiful.
The sky dark indigo,
dotted wildly
with brilliant stars.
Fear did not touch her.
So much to feel!
A warm breeze fluffed her hair.
A kiss of fragrance,
the honeysuckle vine at the corner.
In this moment, she was sun and moon,
no one to tell her what to do
or how to do it
or when to do it.
She was the power of now,
calm and assured,
not at all like her real self,
fear-filled, tender of heart,
shy, leggy and thin, no one special.
She shook away the thoughts.
Let there be no intrusion.
Peace. Quiet.
Her heartbeat accelerated!
What brought about the change
sweeping over her!
Her victory over mediocrity,
snatched away, robbing her of serenity.
Tranquility fled.
Her heart raced!
The moaning wind
whipped her hair
around her angular face;
it pressed her gown
against her legs.
“Jump,” the wind said. “Jump!”
“I can’t! I can’t!”
“Jump, jump, jump,” the wind wailed.
“I can’t! I can’t!”
“You can, you must!
You cannot know who you are until you try!”
She leaned into the wind and jumped
taking in the arc of the sky,
the distant horizon.
The wind caught the sleeves of her gown,
lifted her gently, softened her descent.
She awoke, safely in her bed,
but the words echoed in her mind:
You cannot know who you are
until you try.
For the girl,
it was the beginning
of who she would become.


Follow Sharon at:
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https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
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The Christmas Gift

Merry ChristmasPenny was a trifle worse for the wear. Not terribly – but lovingly – shabby. Annetta held her close. This would be the last time Penny would be with her. She’d done her job; she’d protected Annetta and absorbed her tears when she was alone and afraid. Now it was time for Penny to be there for someone else, someone more alone and afraid than Annetta had ever been. Annetta still had Mom and Kit. Samantha had no one. Yes, there were grownups around her, including her mother, but they paid Samantha no mind except to order her around or tell her to get lost or… Annetta didn’t want to think what else Samantha had to run from when her mommy was too out of it to protect her.

Annetta’s mom was going to the do the hard thing, the right thing. Today she was going to take Sammy into state protective care. Annetta wasn’t sure what that was, but she knew it had to be better than the life Sammy was living now. Annetta shouldn’t have known about it, but she was an observant little girl, and a bit of a brave one. She had been the one to tell her mom of her worry about Sammy, who often came to school limping, or with bruises or burns. “From falling down,” Sammy would say. “From the stove,” she would say.” Annetta didn’t believe it.

Annetta didn’t know exactly what her mother did, but she knew her job was to protect kids.

She sat Penny on the bathroom sink and retied the bow she’d put in her yarn hair. Daddy had given Penny to Annetta the Christmas before he went to Heaven to be with Jesus. She knew in her heart that Daddy would not be mad at her for giving Penny to Samantha. She placed Penny in the shoe box, kissed her cloth face and tidied the blue gingham dress before putting the lid on the box. She wrapped it carefully and tied red ribbon around it.

“Hurry up in there,” her mom said impatiently from the hallway. “Your breakfast is on the table. You need to get a move on before it gets cold.”

Annetta opened the bathroom door, the wrapped package under her arm.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a gift, a gift for Sammy.”

“Sammy?”

“Samantha, the girl in my class I told you about.”

Her mother got that look she sometimes got when she didn’t know how to answer one of her children’s difficult questions, like, “Can Daddy see us from Heaven?”

“Christmas is tomorrow. I want you to give it to her. She will need Penny more than me.”

“Penny? You’re giving Penny away. But your dad…”

“Mom, Penny is for Sammy.”

“How did you know I would be seeing Samantha today?”

Her mother wouldn’t like what Annetta was going to say, but she couldn’t lie. “I heard you talking to Mrs. Kennedy on the phone. You said there was no other way to protect Sammy but to put her into state custody or foster care until her mother could get better.” Annetta chewed her lip. “What if she doesn’t get better? That’s why I want Sammy to have Penny. She needs someone to love. I have you and Kit; Sammy has no one.”

Annetta felt bad when she saw tears in her mother’s eyes. “Mommy, I didn’t mean to make you cry!”

“Oh, my darling child. These are not sad tears. Samantha is going to a safe place, and I have the best daughter on the planet. I’ll make sure your gift gets to your friend.”

Annetta grinned and skipped off to have her breakfast.

Kit stood in the doorway to his room looking at his mother in befuddlement.

“Mom, she loves Penny! Why would you let her give her away?”

She regarded her son in silence for a moment, thinking deeply about his question before answering.

“Because, Annetta isn’t giving away a doll, she is giving away her love. What better Christmas gift can there be?”


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.


Follow Sharon at:
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Quick Look @ Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light

Book signing and reception, 2 p.m., May 4
Paper Trail, 158 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, NM
Tune in to KFUN May 1, 9 a.m., for a preview.


Thunder Prime Hunter's Light


Follow Sharon @
www.vandermeerbooks.com
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Writing is what I do


Thunder Prime Hunter's LightAuthor Sharon Vander Meer: I love sci fi and I love contemporary fiction and I love mystery/adventure and I love poetry. As a writer, I’m told I should stick with one thing or the other, but if a story or poem pops into my head, it will end up getting written. Not everything gets published, but the work of creation is my heartbeat. A writer is what I am; writing is what I do. My dream is that you will enjoy the results of my labor of love.


Character and plot development are like 1000-piece puzzles: you start with the edges and work toward the heart. You don’t get the full impact of the image until the last piece is in. Therein lies the secret of storytelling.

My latest novel – Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light – is now published. The last piece of the puzzle is in place. The book is available as an e-book  ($2.99), or as a paperback ($15). I will have copies available by April 5 if you would like to buy directly from me and get a signed copy.

Sci-fi action and futuristic politics combine in this story of a young woman who is on a quest to find her mother. Pella Soames will allow nothing to stand in the way of her search for Trish Soames, taken from Earth by a known galactic trader in slaves. Not a downed transport, attempts to abduct her and well-meaning friends who want to stop her mad and dangerous search for a woman who may not even be alive will stay her resolve. Fate, unexpected help and Pella’s wily sense of self-preservation keep her out of the hands of abductors… mostly.

When events conspire to bring her closer to reaching Chandor, a planet at the edge of the galaxy, Pella is faced with the difficult choice of protecting the children who have come into her care or using them as a means of reaching the holding of the hated Chandorian chieftain who took Pella’s childhood away.


This is my fifth novel. If you are looking for genre fiction from me, you will be disappointed.  If you’re looking for stories about independent female protagonists, then I have great tales to tell.


 Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light may be purchased from online retailers and directly from the author. For more information contact sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.

Other works include Blind Curve, Finding Family, Future Imperfect, and The Ballad of Bawdy McClure, two chap books of poetry and a book of daily inspirational readings.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central

 

My newest baby!

Thunder Prime, Hunter's LightYea! It is this close to publication! Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, is the sequel to The Ballad of Bawdy McClure (now under the title Thunder Prime, Fog Island),published more years ago than I care to admit. Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, has been a long time in the birthing.

Some readers will receive a print copy in the next week or so. Thank you to those who signed up to receive the episodes one-by-one over time as they posted on my website, www.vandermeerbooks.com. I hope you will all read the final version as some things have changed.

I can’t express how happy I am to get this into print. It’s a good read with strong characters and a story that could be told in any era, this just happens to occur in the distant future. I read somewhere that space novels are really nothing more than westerns with rockets in the cowboys’ pockets.

I don’t know about that, but in most westerns the good guy wins and rides off into the sunset with the girl. In this case, the cowboy is a girl and you’ll have to read the book to find out if she wins the day, and the guy.

Expected publication date: March 29, 2019. If you would like a review copy, please email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com. I will appreciate you posting your review in all the obvious places, and providing me with a link to the review.

The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats.


For more information or to pre-order Thunder Prime, Hunter’s Light, email sharon@vandermeerbooks.com.