Blue Ridge Anthology: Poetry and Prose by Central Virginia Writers

Announcing the launching of the Blue Ridge Anthology: Poetry and Prose by Central Virginia Writers, sponsored by the Charlotesville chapter of the Virginia Writer's Club and published by Cedar Creek Press. This anthology of poetry and short fiction and nonfiction includes writings from a range of Central Virginia writers running from Pulitzer Prize winner and former National Poet Laureate Rita Dove, former Virginia Poet Laureate George Garrett, and best-selling author David Baldacci through regional and state writing contest winters. The anthology was launched in a program of the Virginia Festival of the Book on Thursday, 22 March 2007, and it has already sold out its first printing. It is available from on-line bookstores. I am the volume editor of this anthology (as well as a contest winner contributor in both short fiction and nofiction) and moderated the book festival panel-discussion program. I am currently compiling and editing the next, 2009, edition of this anthology.

An anthology of eighty-eight works of poetry and short fiction and nonfiction by forty Central Virginia, approximately a third of which represents the work of established writers, including national-best sellers and premier prize winners, one third regional and state writing contest winners, and one third developing writers, whose work was selected on merit and polished in cooperation with book publication professionals. The introduction of this book follows:

Central Virginia writes. Conventional wisdom says that every literary anthology needs an overarching theme. This is the theme for The Blue Ridge Anthology: Central Virginia writes. We are blessed with so many writers in this region who pump out New York Times best-sellers regularly and/or whose writing receives critical accolades in the form of national awards that we tend not to realize that beyond those stellar writers is an army of other accomplished and developing writers of significant talent living and writing in the area surrounding Charlottesville, Virginia.

This anthology of poetry and prose, which was compiled and sponsored by the Charlottesville Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, celebrates those writers by combining works by talented writers of all stages of development and of a broad range of writing topics and forms between two covers. In this volume, you will find work not only by a Pulitzer Prize winner and former national and Virginia poet laureate, Rita Dove; a former premier creative writing program academician and Virginia poet laureate, George Garrett; and a stellar best-selling author David Baldacci, but also works by a good representation of the published literary community of Central Virginia and by writing contest winners and developing writers who have vaulted the bars of selection and professional editing to appear in this book.

Among the eighty-eight works by forty authors we have collected for your reading pleasure, you will find a scope of writing categories that stretches from poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, and essays on writing and publishing to excerpts from works in progress, memoir vignettes, song lyrics, discussion of screenplay writing, and historical essays. Although many of the pieces deal with Central Virginia itself, some spin off to as far away as Brazil, Argentina, and the cold forests of Russia and as close in as the inner spaces of the mind.

At the heart of the anthology collection are all of the winning entries in the 2006 annual contest of the Charlottesville Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club as well as some of the winners of the 2005 contest, a few of which went on to win honors at the state level. All of these winning pieces are identified in the table of contents. To these we added invited material from published national- or local-level Virginia authors, selections from works presented at club programs, and selected nonwinning entries to the club’s 2006 contest.

The genesis of this anthology extends back into the murky past of the Charlottesville Club, the territory of which extends several counties in all directions from Charlottesville and over the Blue Ridge Mountains as far as Staunton, Virginia. Club leaders for years past have had an ongoing dream of showcasing the breadth and depth of writing ability and categories of the Club’s membership, which is representative of the high volume of active creative writers in Central Virginia. When I became president of the Club, I saw the benefit not only of such an anthology in showcasing the talent of our members but also as the centerpiece for an educational program that could be transported to the outer boundaries of our Club territories and to school venues as well.

We, as a Club, were very fortunate that my own expression of interest in publishing an anthology was met with just the right kind of expertise needed to accomplish this task. In our Club secretary/treasurer, Linda Layne (who also is executive director of the Virginia Writers Club), we had an expert in book production who was willing to volunteer her talents and time gratis to this project. Similarly, professional freelance book editor Gary Kessler, who had previously served as volume editor for an even more complex and voluminous international writers Web site anthology, stepped forward to provide editorial and book organization support. Two past presidents of the Club (and, not incidentally, Club and state contest winners in their own right), Sally Honenberger and Mike Zbailey, rounded out our committee of five on designing and launching the anthology project. Sally served as contest selection editor for fiction, with VMI English professors Kurt Jose Ayau and David Rachels serving as anthology selection editors for fiction. Albemarle artist-in-resident and University of Virginia educator Hilda Ward was our selection editor for poetry, and newspaper community editor Marian Courtney Styles was selection editor for nonfiction. To all of these talented and dedicated writing community personages, I extend the heartfelt thanks of the Club membership and leadership for bringing this anthology to reality.

I also wish to think all of the contributors to this volume, not the least to our illustrious invited contributors, for showing their support for the developing writers in Central Virginia.

Enrique Herrera President Charlottesville Chapter, Virginia Writers Club

(Re)Tell Me the Stories

A self-contained Bible studies, written with my sister, the Reverend Carole Stockberger, (Re)Tell Me the Stories, was released by Outskirts Press on 20 March 2006. The introduction to this book follows:

What many of us remember the most from our Christian education are the stories and parables recorded in the Bible that have helped guide us in making Christian decisions. This book, which is appropriate for both individual and adult group study, builds on that method of study. It recounts several of the Bible’s familiar and troublesome stories and passages and reconnects those studying Christian faith issues with these passages through parallel modern short stories that we hope will renew interest in and discussion of these timeless concepts.

Some of these fresh-perspective “retold” short stories closely parallel the original; some of them combine aspects of two or more Bible stories and passages; and some of them are only inspired by or illuminate Bible stories and passages to help us look at Christian faith issues from a different angle or perspective. The retold stories are very contemporary and reflective of real-life challenges—in both situation and setting—as are the accompanying question and commentary sections. But this only enhances the realization that the problems and dilemmas of today that they depict very often are little different from the problems and dilemmas of biblical times. It also recognizes in a straightforward approach that responding to real challenges facing Christians today isn’t easy, nor are the response options facing a Christian simple and clear cut. Throughout this study, we come face to face with the realization—and the invitation to acceptance—that ours is an awesome God working in God’s time and to God’s purposes, a force that we must take on faith and cooperate and meld with rather than trying to fully comprehend, control, or displace.

This study meets head on and in a realistic way a good many of the “sticky” or rarely explored stories, passages, and issues of the Bible, often comparing and contrasting different stories and passages in the Bible in new, interesting, and thought-provoking ways. But those who come here looking for “the answer” to any of the questions raised will probably leave disappointed. We can only assume that you, as we do, will leave this study with some of the same questions we started with—along with a few new ones. We don’t think this is a bad thing, because we think only God has all of the answers. Each chapter begins with a short introductory prayer, adapted from the text of a hymn. This leads to a retold story set in today’s reality and absent of sugarcoating or convenient avoidances, which is followed by citations of Bible passages that inspired or coordinate with this story. This study does not restrict the Bible text that can be used for the study sessions. Also included are questions for discussion or contemplation, a commentary section designed to help draw out the relationship between the retold stories and the parallel Bible stories and passages, and a closing prayer. An appendix to the book provides teaching aids for group study, including fuller discussion of the general questions posed in the text and suggestions for discussions and exercises more closely targeted to real situations of our daily lives.

Finding Go: Matching Questions and Resources in Getting Published

Coauthored with Carol Kluz and Released by Winterwolf Publishing in September 2004, ISBN: 0975271172

An updated (March 2006) version of this book is now available for free use at (

Cover Endorsements

"There are a million questions every writer has when he or she is starting out. This book has harvested some of the most important and offers up clear, realistic, and objective answers. If more writers starting out read this book, there would be a lot less confusion and disappointment for them."

--M. J. Rose, author and book-marketing guru

"FINDING GO not only points writers in the right direction, it includes essential knowledge as well."

--David L. Kuzminski, author and editor of the Preditors & Editors publishing industry watchdog Web site

Cover Blurb

Finding Go is a practical, no-nonsense resource that provides basic explanations, definitions, print resources, and Internet links to updated information for writers seeking publication of their works. The information stems directly from hundreds of actual initial questions asked of writers’ Web site discussion boards about:

-- how to write and format manuscripts,
-- where and how to submit them to agents and publishers,
-- when and how to self-publish,
-- what should be in a fair agent or publishing contract,
-- how to protect rights,
-- how to promote sales,
-- and how to network with others in publishing.

Included are a concise overview of the process, an extensive list of book genres and categories, and a detailed glossary of common publishing-world terms. This is a gateway resource that will shortcut and accelerate a writer’s journey to a working knowledge of the ins and outs of getting published.

About the Authors

Gary Kessler, former news agency managing editor, newspaper columnist, and movie consultant, is a freelance book editor, credited with nearly 100 published book projects. Published author of a short story collection and two espionage thrillers, he conducted a worldwide, online editorial workshop for the WritersNet writers’ Web site, which resulted in the 2002 two-volume WritersNet Anthology of Prose.

Carol Kluz has worked as a proofreader and edited books for several published and unpublished authors. She is a web publicist and builds author Web sites. She has published poetry, short stories and novels, represented authors Clifford Stevens, Maynard Lehman, and assisted many others with editing and publicity.

Finding Go: Table of Contents


1. The Short Course in Steps toward Publication

2. Writing It
  • Introduction to the Writing Phase
  • Writers Attitude Tips
  • Rewards of Writing: Questions
  • What to Write: Questions
  • How to Write It: Questions
  • How to Get It Evaluated: Questions
  • Resources and Links

3. Book Genre and Category Listings
  • Fiction Genres
  • Nonfiction Categories
  • Resources and Links

4. Preparing It
  • Self Review: Questions
  • Editorial Help: Questions
  • Manuscript Formating: Questions
  • Content Issues: Questions
  • Resources and Links

5. Submitting It: General Questions
  • General Questions
  • Submissions Documents
  • The Synopsis/Outline
  • The Proposal
  • The Query Letter
  • The Bio
  • The Marketing Plan
  • Resources and Links

6. Submitting It: Agents
  • Questions
  • Resources and Links

7. Submitting It: Publishers
  • Questions
  • Resources and Links

8. Protecting It
  • Copyrighting
  • Use Permissions
  • Libel
  • Resources and Links

9. Contracts
  • Questions
  • Resources and Links

10. The Process: What Now?
  • After Landing an Agent
  • After Landing a Publisher
  • Resources and Links

11. Marketing It
  • Prerelease Publicity
  • Postrelease Promotion
  • Bookstores
  • Resources and Links

12. Networking with Other Writers
  • The Internet
  • The Community
  • Resources and Links



About the Authors

WritersNet Anthology

Under the sponsorship of the WritersNet website, I edited a two-volume paperback anthology of prose for the writers who participate on the website's discussion board, The WritersNet Anthology of Prose: Fiction" and The WritersNet Anthology of Prose: Nonfiction and Children's Literary." The anthology was published by iUniverse in October 2002 and is now available for order on as well as from other major on-line booksellers.

The anthology and the writers who contributed to it have their own website at

The anthology includes ninety-five short stories/essays and represents the work of seventy-six authors (half of whom have previously been published; two of whom have multiple best-sellers) from four continents. The foreword and introduction for volume one (those for volume two are almost identical) are provided below.

Foreword: Words from the Silent Majority

By Hamish Gilbertson, Editor and Moderator, WritersNet

Looking for diverse reading experiences between two covers? You have picked up the right book. WritersNet ( ) is proud to introduce the product of a cooperative publishing venture by participants in our on-line discussion forums, The WritersNet Anthology of Prose: Fiction.

Like any book, this book started with a sentence. But you won’t find that sentence in this book or its sister volume, The WritersNet Anthology of Prose: Nonfiction and Children's Literature.

The sentence was posted on a number of the discussion boards of our web site, WritersNet member, Bryan Wolford wrote, “I was thinking of all the writers that post here and began wondering what would happen if we asked if they would publish an anthology of all of us writers.” He wasn’t sure of details but wondered whether the WritersNet community could pool their writing talents to produce such an anthology. Bryan was humble in signing off: “Just an idea. I’m just trying to think of ways that we could all help each other out. But if anyone is interested . . .”

People were interested. Discussion on the topic ebbed and flowed over the following days. Some site members were a little skeptical about the merits of such a project and worried about whether the process of producing an anthology would alienate members whose work didn’t make the cut. There was much debate about the form the process would take and how work would be selected. Then one prominent member of the site made an offer that made the project possible and assuaged the fears of his fellow “writersnetters.”

Professional editor Gary Kessler was prepared to head up the project, handle submissions, edit the anthology, and underwrite its production. While we at WritersNet had always been supportive of the project as a natural extension of the community bonds we had been striving to build, we were scratching our heads as to how we could bring it into being. In one long post to our “Unpublished Writers” forum, Gary made the anthology possible. WritersNet brought writers from all over the world together to share ideas and experiences, tribulations and triumphs and to make writing a little less lonely pursuit. The community created was about to create a testament to what the writing talent that gathers at WritersNet could produce. Only fitting that a member of the community should turn the anthology idea into the anthology you are reading.

Within a week of Bryan’s suggestion, submissions were arriving in Gary’s inbox. I wondered if we would achieve the target of 60,000 publishable words. Thousands of people visit WritersNet every day, but how serious are they about their writing? Most discussion is carried out by a fraction of the site’s audience. Was “the silent majority,” who are happy to read rather than participate in discussion, going to get involved? Well, it seems I underestimated the dedication of our silent majority. Boy did they get involved.

Four months have passed since the project got under way, and Gary reports receiving 254,000 words for consideration. After this huge response to our call for submissions was processed, the two volumes, necessitated by that response, total 207,000 words or, more aptly, hours of reading enjoyment.

In some ways the end result is less important than the process that created it. The anthology project was designed to give writersnetters a chance to work with a professional editor to produce publishable work, a chance to be part of a publishing venture and hone their writing skills. The only way this book differs from most books you will read is that its editor has approached submissions with a view to making pieces publishable rather than deciding whether they are publishable. Even those authors whose work did not make it into the published volumes benefited from work shopping with an experienced editor.

This anthology has its origins in snatched moments, weekends, and late-night writing sessions. People crafted the sentences it contains in special, and not so special, writing spaces around the world-the spare room, the kitchen table, the study, or, maybe, the commuter train carriage. Some contributors you may have heard of, most you won’t have. WritersNet made it possible by providing a place in cyberspace for these people from four continents and various places in various time zones to meet. But the achievement belongs to the participants.

WritersNet’s purpose is to provide a forum for writers and publishing professionals to discuss writing and publishing realities in a way that reduces misinformation and debunks myths. Stephan Spencer-president of web design company, Internet Concepts ()-founded WritersNet in 1995 to provide writers with a place to connect with other writers and the publishing industry on line. Married to a writer, Stephan knew that there was often an invisible but very real wall between writers and the publishing world. He never imagined that connections made at WritersNet would lead so directly to a published book.

People say published writing represents but a fraction of the great writing produced every year. The WritersNet Anthology Prose: Fiction and its sister volume show that you should never underestimate the talent of the silent majority or, as we call them in the world of on-line discussion forums, lurkers.

Enjoy the anthology. And drop by our site sometime. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn. Don’t worry, you will find us very tolerant of lurkers. But you may find active involvement more rewarding. ;-)


The two-volume set of the WritersNet Anthology of Prose likely is far different from any other anthology you have encountered. The seventy-six authors from four continents (North America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia) whose work appears in this collection have shared writing critiques and tips, strategies for submitting to literary agents and publishers, and dreams and aspirations for publication with each other in cyberspace on the WritersNet discussion board. But their work, as demonstrated in these two books, is as diverse as is their own background and nationality. This anthology is not held together with the thread of theme, as is currently popular with such collections. Rather it is held together by a sense of community and common interest and purpose through the incredible shrinking of isolation offered by Internet science and by the determination of the individual authors to hone their writing skills and to reach their reading audience.

What all of the short stories and essays appearing in this anthology share is that they all were submitted to an on-line evaluation and editorial workshop sponsored by the WritersNet web site. Writers were invited to submit one or more works of prose. To maintain focus poetry was excluded from this particular workshop, even though many poets are active on the WritersNet discussion board. The combined total of each writer’s submissions was restricted to 4,000 words, and submissions that were graphically violent or sexual in content or that simply did not hold together--or that couldn’t be refocused--as integral works were not accepted. The purpose of the workshop was for the author to work directly with a professional book editor to bring a sample piece to a publishable quality level in content and presentation, if possible. Those works that could be brought to this level were to be published in the WritersNet Anthology of Prose. Any profits above actual book production costs for this project will be donated to the Salvation Army in remembrance of the September 11th terrorist attacks at New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

What came as a surprise to those of us working on the project, however--and a tribute to the ever-striving nature of writers--was not only the high number of submissions for the project but also the overall high quality of the work submitted and the professionalism of those who submitted. As noted by WritersNet web site moderator Hamish Gilbertson in the foreword, we had hoped we would receive as many as 60,000 total words in submissions. But more than 250,000 words of material had been submitted when the submissions were closed, and much more was offered after that. Thus, the anthology has had to go to two volumes: this one on fiction and volume two, The WritersNet Anthology of Prose: Nonfiction and Children's Literature. Over 80 percent of the submitted works were cleared for inclusion in the anthology, and although this was intended as an web site community--building educational project for beginning and intermediate writers, half of those who submitted work were previously published authors. Two of these authors, A. C. Crispin and Michele Wallace Campanelli, whose work appears in the nonfiction volume of this anthology, have best-seller credits. A few of the short stories in this volume of the anthology have already won recognition in literary contests.

Because of the nature of the workshopping project that provides the base to this anthology, the resulting fiction collection of sixty short stories by fifty-three separate authors provided in volume one is much more eclectic than is normal with such works. The stories have been organized into loose categories, as marked in the table of contents. But they defy the normal “common thread in content” rule. Thus, you can find something here to entertain you whether you are looking for a coming-of-age story of a young woman trying to relate to boys--or, for that matter, of middle-aged or older woman trying, or not trying, to relate to middle-aged or older men-or a malicious eyeball in a rooftop pipe trying to lure young victims to their deaths. You can also move in time from an evil master’s medieval castle, through topical concerns with acts of terrorism, to a futuristic superheros’ battle with baddies and in dimension from the inner mind to fantasy kingdoms. There truly should be a surfeit of satisfaction for any and all tastes in fiction between these covers. Enjoy.

On the Downtown Mall

My short story/historical essay/photography paperback On the Downtown Mall, published by Gorgias Press, was launched at the 2002 Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a reading and signing on 20 March at the New Dominion Bookstore on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall (cosponsored by the Albemarle County Historical Society). Formal launching was on 1 March 2002 in conjunction with a photo and art exhibit (with Charlottesville Downtown Mall theme) at the Bullseye Art Gallery on the Downtown Mall. The exhibit ran from 1 through 31 March.

Provided below are the cover blurb, the preface, and a sample story from the book. It may be ordered from your on-line bookstore or directly from the Gorgias Press web site by clicking on Order.

Cover Blurb for On the Downtown Mall

On the Downtown Mall celebrates the vibrant center city of historic Charlottesville, Virginia, with thirty-six integrated short stories, a gallery of both contemporary and vintage photography, and a historical essay. Charlottesville was home to three Founding Father presidents. In the bicentennial year of 1976, its seven-block central Main Street--once a Native American trail, surveyed by Thomas Jefferson's father as a gateway to the American West, and the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Northwestern Expedition--was bricked over to create a commercial pedestrial mall. This urban renewal project has been so successful that it has been named by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change as one of the nineteen "Solutions for America." The success of the Charlottesville Downtown Mall is not so much a result of its architecture, location, and amenities as it is of the homogeneity within diversity of the people who have congregated here for the past 25 years. This book reflects the spirit of those people.

Preface for On the Downtown Mall

This volume of short stories is anchored in a real place, the Charlottesville, Virginia, Downtown Mall, and in time, a single unseasonably warm day in mid-April in some near-future year. But it is too much of an unruly collection to be limited by the realities of the actual Charlottesville Downtown Mall or of its regular inhabitants, or to be pinned down on a particular date.

Businesses and buildings that are mentioned in the book are not necessarily located where a particular story puts them and are not necessarily real businesses or buildings on the actual Mall. And in all cases, even the real businesses and buildings appearing in the short story section of the book are populated by an entirely different set of characters than those you would find on the real Downtown Mall. The goal of the short story collection is to capture the spirit and essence of the vibrant Charlottesville Downtown Mall, not just to faithfully mirror its actual buildings and people.

The book even wriggles out from underneath a label as fiction as opposed to nonfiction. It includes, in an afterward, an essay on the origin and development of the real, historically significant, Charlottesville Downtown Mall. In addition, the short stories are accompanied by a photo montage by two talented Charlottesville-area photographers that has been inspired by Charlottesville's current center city. The concluding essay includes photographs from the past.

This book is, in fact, meant to be taken as a salute to all of those towns and small cities across the United States that have, as Charlottesville, Virginia, has done, managed to revitalize and beautify their downtown centers as rejuvenated meeting and activity grounds for their citizens of all ages. If there is a general theme for this collection, it is that, in life, things are not always what they seem to be (and the Downtown Mall of the short stories is slightly askew from the actual Mall precisely to add emphasis to this theme). Some of the stories come right out and scream this as their central theme. Some let that theme creep in gently and in subtle tones. Some just play with that theme as a side issue. And some, since this is an unruly bunch, blithely ignore the general theme altogether.

The book structure itself plays with this central theme. While the stories are anchored, to a lesser or greater degree, in the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, many stray far afield from that place and from the established time frame of the book. Both the characters and story lines have refused to stay within bounds of set pieces. Rather, they often break out of their homes and intrude on their neighbors. Some stories insist on being arrayed in integral sets. At least one story doesn't reveal its irony within its own bounds but is illuminated by the stories around it. One story refuses to impose an ending, leaving the choice to the reader. And one story refuses to stay together in one piece and scatters itself around the book, bringing in a story-within-a-story-within-a-story dimension to the work.

I didn't make any of these decisions in putting the book together. The stories just appeared and found their own zones of comfort. From time to time, characters refused to be developed as new characters but, rather, informed me that they really were a character I had used incidentally in an earlier story. And some characters told me that it would be all right if I used them as a minor character in the story I then was writing, but wouldn't I really like to know about, and include, their own fascinating story at a later point?

Even the development of the book defied conventional rules of organization. The stories simply materialized in a poof of realization, in nearly complete form, when and as they saw fit. They popped up when I was trying to sleep, when I was helping the cat make the bed, when I was making the long drives home from visiting my mother. They intruded when I was cleaning up in the garden, when I should have been listening to sermons (although it could be argued in these instances that the appearance of the story simply meant that the essential point of the sermon was sinking in), and even when I was working hard to develop a different story idea altogether.

Above all, the collection attempts to be a study of the human condition in all of its fairness, foibles, and follies and of the isolation and connectedness, or both together simultaneously, that bless or plague people, depending on how they are prepared to deal with what life has offered them. I was delighted to find, after the stories had made their own way onto the pages just as they wished, that some favorable traits seem to override all else in the unfolding of daily human activity. These include simple nobility, common decency, a rejection of pomposity and self-indulgence, and an empathetic concern for the well-being of others. I hope this collection will leave you with the same feeling that human civilization is, overall, indeed progressing toward a higher ground. As you may guess in reading the stories, as muddled about as they were in construction to protect both the innocent and the guilty, nearly all of them are grounded in real stories of real people.

Sample Story from On the Downtown Mall

Good Customer

“Here comes your good customer, Trixie. Right on the dot. Just remember that I’ve got him the first week in May. We’ll see if he’s as good a tipper for me as he is for you.”

“I don’ know, Becky. Maybe I’ll just have to come back into town every morning just to serve Mr. Turner his breakfast.”

At 8:15 sharp, just like for the last seven years, Mr. Turner appeared from around the corner, walking briskly toward The Nook Restaurant.

“Oh, Gawd. There’s that girl again in her motor contraption. She’s going to do some serious harm if she don’t slow down.” Trixie didn’t want Mr. Turner to wind up on the disabled list rather than sitting at his favorite table for his usual. But it looked like he was safe for another day. He had seen the girl coming down the bricked walking street and had turned to greet her. But she was staring off through the trees and across the Mall at one of those young business-suit types and had barely missed Mr. Turner in passing. Good, Trixie thought. She had enough on her mind not to have her schedule thrown off.

Trixie couldn’t imagine why Mr. Turner had become one of her breakfast regulars here at The Nook, as he owned his own restaurant up away on the Downtown Mall. They didn’t serve breakfast there, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t serve it to their owner.

He shuffled in the door and pressed those big hands, with those long fingers, on the tabletop and eased his considerable bulk down into a little round-bottomed chair that hardly looked strong enough to hold him. Just the imposing--she once would have thought, intimidating--appearance of him reminded Trixie of just how amazing it was that she now looked forward to his appearance every weekday morning. Where she had been raised up in the hollows between Crozet and the Shenandoah National Parkway running across the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she had been taught to run for the barn to get her pa and her brothers whenever a black man dared put a foot on their property. And Mr. Turner was one mountain of a black man-and as old as the hills in whose shadows she had grown up and whose embrace she had fought so hard to escape by coming down to Charlottesville for a job.

“Morning, Mr. Turner. Strong coffee with cream and sugar as always?”

“Thanks, Trixie. Yes, as strong as always. Nobody can make strong coffee like The Nook.”

He said the same thing a good four days out of five. It meant he was in a good mood. A good tip this morning. But, it had been years now since Trixie had salivated after those great tips Mr. Turner dropped on her table. There was much more to Mr. Turner than his tips. They had become the best of friends, comfortable with each other without going to any special pains. She had to admit that to herself, although she certainly wasn’t going to go up in the hollow and scream it at her pa’s barn. Didn’t even think she’d be able to admit it to Evan over at the sawmill on 250 west near the Crozet turnoff.

“Two eggs over easy with sugar ham and toast, as usual?”

“That’s right. I’ve got to gather up the energy to limber up and do some practicing for this afternoon.”

“You don’ need no practicing, Mr. Turner. You’re the greatest there is already.”

“Thanks, Trixie. That’s why I come in here every morning. You’re the best picker-upper for an old man that could be.”

“Oh, go on. You come in here for The Nook’s strong coffee, and you know it.”

“That’s why I came in here for the first four years,” Mr. Turner admitted, “but for the last three it’s been because I don’t think I could have made it by Veta’s passing without good, steady friends like you to meet up with every morning.”

Trixie turned to the counter in embarrassment. Mr. Turner wasn’t usually this forthcoming with his feelings. She felt flattered that he’d think she had helped him adjust to his wife’s death, but she felt plenty tongue-tied whenever conversations got more than an inch below the surface. She took Mr. Turner’s OJ off the counter and returned to the table, determined to lighten the conversation as best she could.

“Well, I’ve heard rumors that you have some new living arrangements now, and maybe you won’t be coming around of mornings much anymore.”

Mr. Turner put on a big smile. “I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks or so come next month, that’s for sure. Gonna have a little vacation--and not alone for a change. But I don’t plan on any new living arrangements gettin between me and my breakfast at The Nook.”

“Aw, gee, Mr. Turner,” Becky said as she swung by his table. “Trixie’s going to be off the first part of May too, and she promised her best customer to me while she was gone. Now I won’t have nothin to look forward to in the mornings. Bad enough that Trixie’s goin off to get married.”

“Married?” Mr. Turner exclaimed. “Why you didn’t tell me about this yesterday, Trixie?”

“Well, I doubt Evan thought about it much before yesterday, either, Mr. T. He doesn’t do a whole lot of thinking beforehand. But there’s a tractor show down in Nelson County starting May 1st, and Evan decided that the best thing that could happen on this earth was to get married and spend his honeymoon watching tractors pull things around the fairgrounds. I’ve been trying to pull Evan in for more than a year now myself, so I guess this is my best shot.”

“Congratulations to you--to you both. You can tell your Evan for me that he’s getting the cream of the crop. The best of luck to you both.”

“Thanks, Mr. T.” But all of a sudden, Trixie didn’t look all that thankful. She abruptly sat down on, more like collapsed into a chair at Mr. Turner’s table and hid her face briefly with her hands. Mr. Turner let her be for a few seconds, and in time she reappeared from behind her hands, reached into her pocket, and lit up a Virginia Slims. Mr. Turner didn’t much like people smoking around him, but this always was a signal that Trixie was pretty wound up about something. She didn’t do much smoking herself and usually didn’t get near a cigarette while she was working.

“Whatsa matter, Trixie?” Mr. Turner finally asked. “Second thoughts about your young man?” The sad-eyed look she gave him made his heart wrench.

“Naw, thanks. Evan’s the one for me. I don’t have no complaints in that department.”

“Then what is it? I hate to see you sad, especially at a time that should be bringing you the most enjoyment.”

“Yeah, right. Weddings are supposed to be the highlight of a girl’s life, ain’t they? I guess I just always got tied up with the fantasies that every girl carries around about their weddings. Just because I was raised up in the hollows don’t mean I didn’t have the life of a fairy princess mapped out. Evan’s the right Prince Charming--at least in looks and in having a good heart in the right place, and he’s a hard worker--but I was no different from those girls in Farmington and Keswick. I wanted it to be storybook perfect. You know, frilly white dress, three-tiered cake, that wonderful little stone chapel on the Keswick road, a small orchestra, and three nights at the Greenbriar. So here it comes: my only good church dress, a justice of the peace in Crozet, five days at the Nelson County tractor pull, a rented bungalow on the side of the highway, and back to work for both of us.”

“Your dream doesn’t sound all that pushy to me,” Mr. Turner said softly. “You know, Veta once admitted that she had had a fantasy about her wedding too. But we didn’t even have a tractor pull to go to. I was down in New Orleans trying to make a go of it with stiff competition. Seems before we thought of having a honeymoon again, Veta no longer felt up to it. It seems pretty bad planning on the Almighty’s part that when we’re young enough to enjoy life, we don’t have two nickels to rub together, and when we’ve reached a level of comfort, we’re too busy to enjoy life and we just sit on useless bank accounts. Until one day life comes and strikes us down. It all seems so senseless, or maybe God’s just a big joker.”

“Now, don’ let me get you down, Mr. Turner. Evan’s a real hunk. I’m going to have a ball in that rented bungalow with my man. And you’ve got yourself a nice vacation for two planned as well. That’s great. That’s just what you need. You’ve pined away on your missus too long. I met her a couple of times, there toward the end, and she told me she wanted you to get more out of life than you had to that point.”

“A couple of times?” Mr. Turner snorted. “You was over at that hospital more than I was. And you know what, I’m just as good as that orchestra you’ve been fantasizing. So, you got that part covered.”

“No, you’re better than I ever imagined, Mr. T.” I’ll check out whether there’s anything you can play on at or near the Crozet Baptist church’s social hall, and you’re on. But hold up. You can’t play at my wedding. You’re goin on vacation that week.”

“The hell I am until we’ve gotten you married. You don’t think I’d leave town and miss your wedding, do you? I’ll just start my vacation after the festivities have wound down.”

Trixie didn’t know why this gave her such a lift, but it did. She briefly thought about her pa and her brothers, seeing Mr. T. show up at her wedding. But it was past time for them to join the real world, anyhow. She’d just give them a good talking to beforehand, and then they could just decide for themselves whether they would be there.

She bounced up and went for Mr. Turner’s eggs. The morning got pretty busy along about then, and every time she thought of checking on her good customer, he looked pretty deep in thought. He also was doing some figuring with a pen on his napkin, as he often did when he was working on his business plans. Trixie hoped that he wasn’t having second thoughts about his new living arrangements and his coming vacation--or about telling yet another woman that he was putting their plans off to take care of other business. She hadn’t lied about Veta wanting him to get on with his life. They’d been such a nice couple. She decided she’d hate not having him at her wedding--a strange thought, it occurred to her, because up to fifteen minutes ago she had had no intention of inviting him to her wedding--but she couldn’t see him putting off his vacation plans for her. She’d sit down and talk it over with him again before he finished his breakfast and left.

Next thing she knew, Mr. Turner had finished and was gone, and Becky was standing over his leavings with a very strange look on her face.

“Whatsa matter?” Trixie asked, as she ambled over. “Mr. Turner forget to leave a tip for the first time in his life?”

“Not exactly,” Becky said with in a small, distant voice.

Trixie moved Mr. Turner’s plate and saw that he had left a check this morning rather than his usual cash. It was made out to her; it was in the amount of eight thousand, seven hundred, and fifty-seven dollars and twenty-nine cents; and it was marked “one breakfast and one storybook wedding.” On the napkin he had left at the table, Mr. Turner had tallied out the estimated cost for a white lace wedding dress, rental of Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick, rental for the Crozet fire house hall and a baby grand piano, a three-tiered cake from Chandlers, catered refreshments and champagne for eighty guests, four nights for two at a B&B in Nelson County, and three nights at the Greenbriar. The seven dollars and twenty-nine cents was tallied out as the cost of his breakfast.

Newspaper Book Review for On the Downtown Mall

From the C-Ville Weekly of 26 February-4 March 2002

Les Mis of the Mall by Kristopher Rikken

Gary Kessler's On the Downtown Mall is the best kind of name-dropping there is. Leafing through these short stories written about Charlottesville, you smile inwardly with recognition. That's my favorite people-watching bench, you think, or I saw the Hackensaws that day outside the Mudhouse.

Even though some buildings may be in slightly different locations, the stories trace one unseasonably warm spring day in the life of what is unmistakenly our community. There's no bridge of San Luis Rey (or coal tower drama, for that matter), no pat finale that brings everyone together, and maybe that's the idea. It's more of a Chinese-puzzle type mosaic that connects the stories, and it's this that makes the collection worth a closer read.

Kessler emphasizes class barriers, which means characters don't just have separate perspectives, but different stories. He seems to be preoccupied with people who have fallen on hard times, whose safety net is thinner than most. Even the care-providers are miserable, as in the itinerent clergyman in "Just Coasting," who ministers his way from coast to coast, ending up in Charlottesville. He's doing the read deal, of course, but can't see the forest for the trees.

A collection of stories--this one published by Gorgias Press in New Jersey--is a good way to introduce an outsider to the charms of a town. Kessler succeeds by elevating local landmarks to a kind of Lake Wobegonian legend status. He does lay on the social issues pretty thick--he doesn't pander to our consciences, but a reader from Peoria, Illinois, can be excused for thinking that our mallrats and gutter scene are a little bit scruffier than they really are. Then again, it's a common tendency to imagine hard-luck stories behind some of the mall's most recurrent faces--I've concocted detailed theories myself regarding what exactly the dude near Higher Grounds is always writing--and Kessler is aware of this. In the two-part "The Game," a nice bit of metafiction, he has his cafe-lounging characters make up life stories about other diners on the Hardware Store's biergarten.

On the Downtown Mall includes photographs, both new ones and Holsingers, and essays about some of the most important businesses along what is now the pedestrian mall.

The Cyprus Intrigues Series Theme

Through the electronics book publisher New Concepts Publishing, I published two light-read espionage thrillers that are based on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Laughter Down the Mountain (March 2001) and Retired with Prejudice, (August 2002). These novels, now out of print, are the initial segments of a seven-volume series designed to explore the themes of espionage and international crime that have developed since the end of the cold war period. They do so through a husband and wife team of detectives, whose own lives and relationship will develop over the life of the series.

Although many international locales are depicted across the series, the books were specifically endorsed by the Cyprus Ministry of Tourism, because they are also designed to introduce the reader to the beauty of the international resort island of Cyprus and to its unusually rich archaeology and history.

Cyprus Intrigues Series Book One: Laughter Down the Mountain

Laughter Down the Mountain Publisher's Blurb

(Paranormal Thriller) Haunted by inexplicable visions from the past, archaeologist Caitlyn Spencer ventures to Cyprus and becomes embroiled in intrigue that could cost her her life.

Laughter Down the Mountain Excerpt

Caitlyn may not have made the most graceful entrance into the Curium amphitheater on the following night. She also might not have arrived with the date of her dreams, and she might have had to lean more heavily on Viktor's arm than she wanted. But Caitlyn was determined to see the annual Curium Shakespearean production. Once she had been painfully guided to her seat, she was pleased that she had come. . . .

They had very good seats–if hard, centuries-old stone could be considered good–at the top of the amphitheater and in the center section. . . .

Caitlyn and Viktor had barely finished their picnic meal and settled under the blanket Viktor had brought to ward off the sea breezes when the lights had begun to dim. The play that had been selected for this year's Shakespearean production had turned out to be delightfully appropriate for Cyprus. It was Othello, various aspects of which were reputed to have been associated with the island. The "Moor of Venice" was thought to have been modeled after an actual historical character, a dark-skinned Venetian, who had come to Cyprus with his wife to serve as a governor but who had inexplicably returned to Venice without her. Even Othello's castle had long been identified with the harbor fortress in the port of Famagusta, which was now popularly referred to as Othello's Tower.

The play was very well acted and fully convincing, and Caitlyn was in a total state of absorption as the last scene was coming to an end and as Viktor abruptly whispered in her ear, "Let us leave now. We can get out before there is crowd."

Caitlyn was a little piqued, as Victor nearly manhandled her toward the parking area. But she couldn't quite get a word in edgewise to indicate she thought they should be able to take a more leisurely pace, especially in view of her injured ankle. She became even more irked when they had reached the car, because Viktor said he had forgotten the blanket and left her all alone in the darkness. At length–after the departing crowd had already begun to surge into the parking area–Viktor returned to the car, embarrassed because he had not forgotten the blanket after all.

As they quickly drove toward the exit road, still a bit ahead of the crowds loading up their automobiles for the trip home, Viktor was emphasizing his dislike of traffic and of waiting in long lines of cars. He was talking so fast–and with such fractured English–that Caitlyn didn't quite catch up with the statement he had slipped in that he "just thought" they might drive up to the basilica ruins complex to enjoy the view from the cliff while the departing cars were thinning out. But she certainly did try to object when, upon clearing the parking area, he actually turned up to the right toward the darkened basilica ruins rather than down to the left to the exit gate.

"That is all right," he said. "There is back gate up this way."

When they got up to the basilica and discovered that, although there was indeed a back gate in this area, it had big boulders in front of it and obviously hadn't been used in years, Caitlyn wasn't fully convinced by his "Oh damn! I know road was open the last time was here."

"Oh, well," Viktor concluded, "As long as here, we might as well look at view."

Caitlyn tried to remain as calm as possible. In doing what she could to keep Viktor from just maneuvering her around at will, she found she was getting out of the car on her own. She hobbled delicately across the mosaic floor of the fourth-century basilica ruins to the edge of the cliff, which dropped off fairly closely to the back of the basilica complex. She did have to admit that the vista from the heights out toward the sea was beautiful. The cliff they were standing on dropped almost straight down for about forty feet and then immediately leveled out to a very flat, rocky margin of a couple of hundred feet that stretched to the sea. A wide beach, composed more of dirt than of sand gently ran down to the sea. Back from the beach perched several shack-like restaurants strung along a coastal road–more of a dirt track. The full moon lit up the area almost as if it were day. Several cars were driving the beach road, all of the restaurants were going full bore, and people, even at this late hour, were running in and out of the surf. Immediately to the east of the Curium cliff, the seaside flattened out to a good mile from the coast before the hills began to rise toward the central Troodos peaks. The lights of Limassol could clearly be seen in that direction. To the west, the cliffs that started at Curium undulated off in a curve that reached toward Paphos. Several ships, sporting multicolored party lights, were running just off the coast, and the sky was clear and packed with bright stars.

Caitlyn had to admit that this was quite a sight. She didn't have long to enjoy it, however. Viktor, who had been standing much too closely behind her for comfort, picked just that minute, when her defenses were down and she was beginning to appreciate the view, to wrap his arms around her and bury his face in the crook of her neck. As she struggled, he seemed to pick her up and to sway back and forth precariously close to the edge of the cliff. Having been caught almost completely off guard, she was initially preoccupied with the thought that this was a very strange, rough, and clumsy sort of a sexual pass. She was incongruously on the verge of breaking out in giggles at the vision of multiple Russian couples–all in this same strange sandwich-like pose–waddling around a small park in aimless, never-intersecting patterns. In other words, she was getting pretty hysterical.

Emitting animalistic sounds, he was ripping at her blouse sleeves now, still with his arms wrapped around her and still swaying toward the cliff edge in his silly dance. His dance of passion or his dance of death? Or both?

However, Caitlyn hadn't been raised to be a victim. She got an arm free enough to be able to punch back an elbow up under Viktor's rib cage with enough force to cause him to drop one of his arms. She simultaneously brought the heel of her good foot down hard onto the top of his foot and twisted toward the side where he had dropped his hold. Despite the bad ankle–and helped by Viktor having lost his balance and fallen off to the side–Caitlyn darted behind a column that had once helped define the altar area of the pagan temple that had been displaced by the later Christian basilica. Not having any idea how long she had before Viktor recovered his balance and started in pursuit, Caitlyn slid off toward a complex of stone foundations ranging from four to six feet in height that were located to the west of the main basilica area.

She was breathing heavily and was moving about so wildly that she couldn't be completely sure whether or not she had just heard an eerie cry from the direction of the cliff side. All she could think of was that she needed to move back through the basilica toward the area where the car was parked but that she couldn't actually go to the car itself. Viktor would, of course, go to the car to cut off her escape and may already have started in that direction. She could not assume that he would not get there before she did. Also, she didn't have the key to the car. Viktor had the key to the car. In fact, Viktor seemed to be holding most of the keys to the situation at the moment. "Gorilla," Paul had called him Gorilla was right! No, she had to move toward the parking area, but she had to reach some high place. Some high place where she could see out over the basilica but could not be seen from inside the ruins. Some place . . .

But, suddenly there was no place to go; no place to hide. Suddenly he was rising in front of her. Suddenly he was wrapping his arms around her again. Strong arms. And he was pulling her toward the wall and deeper into his clutches. She was weakening and she was screaming, but she couldn't seem to even hear herself screaming. She was blackening out, still beating at his chest with her fists.

Cyprus Intrigues Series Book Two: Retired with Prejudice

Retired with Prejudice Publisher's Blurb


When members of a “retired” soviet spy ring turn up murdered, it’s up to American archaeologist, Caitlyn Spencer, to solve the murder before she becomes the next victim.

Retired with Prejudice Excerpt

Turkish Cypriot investigator Safa Ziya shivered as she exited the police vehicle after it had plowed down toward the coast as far as the rocky slope would permit. She was about as far away from civilization in northern Cyprus as one could get. Cold wind was whipping across the narrow Karpas Peninsula, which jutted out of the northeastern corner of the island toward the great underbelly of the Turkish mainland. The isolated strand of seaweed-laced scrabble rock down to the blue-green Mediterranean that took up where the scraggly sea oats ended looked starkly pure and peaceful. But the memories it brought back to Safa were just too painful.

It was in just such a setting in which she had left her family and departed for America to take up her American embassy-sponsored berth at the University of Texas at Austin. She had still been working hard at her studies when the troubles of 1974 hit in Cyprus and had suddenly left her with no close relatives, all lost in the brutal and swift pogroms that the two major ethnic communities on the island had wreaked on each other. By the time she had returned to the Turkish zone of Cyprus, she was all alone in the world–a war-scarred orphan who was not a beauty, who was a little too heavy, and who was terribly self-conscious about a slightly crippled leg.

The detective who had driven her to the scene exited the police car and pointed out the old abandoned Greek Orthodox chapel peeking out of the tall grass at the edge of rocky beach below. The windows of the building had once been boarded up. But most of the boards had been pried off over the past two decades and lay helter-skelter on the ground below the sills, their jutting rusty nails offering better protection against unwelcome entry than the boards on the windows had ever done. Many of the tiles had come off the small rooftop dome, and a corner of the roof had collapsed. Another policeman was stationed at the thick wooden door that now hung precariously on one hinge.

Safa Ziya shivered once, pulled up the lapels of her coat to try to offer her ears protection from the raw wind racing across the sea from Turkey, and then started making her way between boulders and stunted fig trees toward the chapel. When she reached the beaten-down area of weeds and gravel in front the church's door, she looked up only to find herself shivering once more.

For the hundreds of years that this little chapel had served the local Greek Orthodox residents, it's stucco walls had been ceremoniously whitewashed twice a day. This ritual quite obviously had ended when the Turkish forces swept onto the northern beaches in 1974, however, as no one had bothered to whitewash the walls since that time to erase the telltale signs of dried blood along the wall next to the chapel's door. This had obviously been one of many mass execution sites along this forlorn section of the coast.

Ziya, her thoughts very much on the her lost family, almost turned to stumble back to the car. But she was a professional, and she was the chief homicide investigator for the Turkish Cypriot Republic. So, she squared her shoulders, acknowledged the terse, but respectful, welcome of the policeman stationed at the door, and, beckoning him to follow her, entered the building.

The chapel was flooded with light coming from an open aperture at the apex of the dome, between the loose boards on the windows, and from the hole in the corner of the ceiling. Ziya's first impression was of the brilliant colors of what was left of ancient frescoes dancing around all four walls. What hit her next, however, was the unmistakable stench of advanced human decay.

She dug frantically in her coat pockets for a scarf or handkerchief, for anything she could cover her nose with, but before she could pull anything out, the policeman handed her his own handkerchief. Acknowledging his gift with a quick smile, Safa rewarded him with a gesture for him to wait for her outside, and she suddenly was alone with the moldering artist.

She assumed that the body of what seemed to be a man who had been dead for several days was an artist. He had fallen on top of a small pile of seemingly aged slabs of plaster, some of which were painted with figures that remarkably matched the fragments of frescoes that still adhered to the chapel walls. In his fall, the artist had also scattered tubes of paints and paint brushes.

She examined the body from a short distance long enough to conclude that she recognized the victim and that she probably knew why he had been here if not why he had died here, and then she joined the policeman outside the door. As she exited, she waved the just-arrived forensics team into the building. They had come better equipped to work within the close confines with a decaying body than she had.

"Who found Kleist?" she asked the policeman.

He looked startled. It had taken him considerable time trying to pull information out of the locals to determine who the victim was and, in the end, had had to come to terms with the body and pull his wallet to determine that he was Dietrich Kleist. But the inspector had known who the victim was in an instant. Her reputation in the department must be well deserved.

"A passing laborer had been passing earlier today and noticed the door to the church had been forced open. He knew it was against the law to go into any of the Greek churches, but he knew this one was rumored to have famous ancient frescoes in it, so he decided to check to see if anyone had left anything that might be worth something. He found the body and reported immediately to the local military post. He evidently thought it would be better that he be taken for a possible thief than for a murderer. The people around here are terrified of the mainland Turkey soldiers at the military post. But, if I may ask, could you tell me how you knew the victim's name was Dietrich Kleist? Here is his wallet. I found it beside the body."

"Oh, Kleist is well known to us," said Ziya. "He has been arrested several times on suspicion of forging artifacts for sale to foreign art collectors. From the looks of his work in there, he was very good at his forgeries. It was just a matter of time before we caught him. But it looks like his time ran out before ours did. I didn't have time to notice. Any idea how he died? I suppose it's too much to hope for that it was a heart attack."

"I doubt it, inspector. It looks like there were at least two knife wounds in his back. He probably didn't even see the attacker. His back was to the door, and he may have been focused entirely on his painting when he died."

"Well, there isn't any more we can do here today," said Ziya, as she pulled her coat tighter about her. The lengthening of the late afternoon shadows had heightened the effect of the cold wind whipping in across the beach. "Please tell the lab people that I'll need a medical report on the victim by tomorrow morning, if possible."

"Yes, inspector, I'll tell them. But it's getting late. They probably won't be pleased that they'll have to work late."

"I'm sure when you've told them the victim is a foreigner, they'll be glad to do the work this evening. They know how sensitive the police chief is about foreigners. In any case, they won't be alone. I'll probably be all evening in the Kyrenia area myself, trying to find out about a dead blonde." She didn't notice the startled look on the policeman's face as she struggled back up through the sea oats and to the waiting car.

Lookin' for Luck

Lookin' for Luck is a two-act play containing eight separate vignettes. One of these vignettes was used in the closing events of the former facilities of the semiprofessional Live Arts Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, in late 2003, and another vignette was used in the opening events of the new Live Arts Theater facility a month later.

This is a play in which the personality and proclivities of the major character, who never actually appears, is unfolded in a series of vignettes of the interactions between those who know him. The play takes some of the basic storylines of my 2002 short story book, On the Downtown Mall, and twists them all about into something new and different from the themes in the book.

The following are short descriptions of the full works I am actively working on and will be trying to place with publishers in the future:

What the Spider Saw

At the turn of the twentieth century, the recent mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, became the last person to be hanged in the Charlottesville jail. He had been convicted of the brutal murder of his wife by baseball bat, garrote, shooting, and drowning. A newspaper columnist at the time wrote that he highly doubted that a white mayor would be hanged in a southern town, no matter what the crime--and, indeed, the events of the hanging were so irregular that a legend arose that someone else was hanged in the mayor's stead.

From this legend, I have extracted a murder mystery novel set in modern-day time, which uses the event and character structure of the hundred-year-old murder and trial and weaves a new perspective on this crime. The manuscript for this is in final review and will be offered on submission to agents and publishers in the spring of 2006.

Final Flight/Fowler's Folly

Two interlated novellas to be published together.

Final Flight

A small plane has gone down on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. Two bodies are found in the plane--one man and one woman--but the bodies are burnt beyond recognition, and, at least for the first several days, no one can tell where the plane came from, where it was going, who was in it, what the two passengers’ reason for flying was, and why it slammed into the side of the mountain. No plane markings have survived the fierce mountainside forest fire the followed the crash, and no one can find a flight plan for a missing plane in the region. This novella will provide six separate stories that could explain the mystery of the final flight.

Fowler's Folly

Recluse Samantha Fowler is showing visitors around her family's remote castle-like mansion at the top of Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains to which she recently has retreated. The visitors focus on a series of interesting keepsakes, each of which brings to mind vignettes of the ending of a former marriage of Samantha's, all in foreign climes to wealthy and/or powerful men who met early deaths. Samantha is only half attentive to her visitors and eventually hurriedly bundles them off into a gathering thunder storm as she hears the engine of a small plane, which, she believes, is surreptitiously bringing to her side the two people most central to her life of guile, treachery, and folly.

Lucky's Cafe and Pawn Shop

A companion one-act play to Lookin' for Luck, which also extracts vignettes from my 2002 short story collection On the Downtown Mall and remixes them to serve a new, "nothing happens around here" theme.

Terror from the Troodos

Book three of the Cyprus Intrigue series of espionage thrillers (the first two books in this series, Laughter Down the Mountain and Retired with Prejudice, were released as electronic books by New Concepts Publishing.

The wife of the Russian intelligence chief on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus disappears from a family picnic at a remote Greek ruin. At the same time, reports surface of bands of armed guerrillas sighted in the mountain areas of the usually peaceful island. Although recriminations fly between the separated Greek and Turkish communities, it slowly becomes clear that the Russian diplomat’s wife has been kidnapped by a team of Mideast terrorists training in the remote Troodos mountains, only sparsely inhabited and home to the rare breed of wild mountain sheep known as the Moufflon. The diplomatic community in the capital of Nicosia is up in arms, and attempts to track down the guerrillas are thwarted when it appears they are receiving help from within the diplomatic community itself. Cypriot police International Investigations Unit chief Takis Koniotis and his prescient wife, American archaeologist Caitlyn Spencer Koniotis, become embroiled in the case. Matters become even more ugly when Caitlyn, herself, is kidnapped--apparently to force Takis to abandon his investigation.

White Orchid

A companion novel to the Cyprus Intrigue series of espionage thrillers, which uses some of the key characters of the series in a Florida-based international espionage thriller reaching back to the past in events connected to the present and that provides a fictionalized alternative explanation for President Harry Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur during his service in the Korean War.

From Self-Review to Page Proofing: An Author's Toolkit

A resource aid for a book author from the point of reviewing drafts of a manuscript through the author's responsibilities in the publisher's publication process.

Christmas Card Tales

For nearly thirty years, I have handpainted my family's Christmas cards, using watercolors on rice paper. For the past five years, I've also been including a Christmas short story with these that coordinates with the art work and message on the Christmas card. These are now being collected and compiled for eventual publication, when a sufficient number of them have been written, as the Christmas Card Tales.

Finding Go: Matching Questions and Resources in Getting Published can be ordered from bookstores through Ingram, from an on-line bookstore.

On the Downtown Mall can be ordered from an on-line bookstore or, preferably, directly from the publisher, Gorgias Press, at: &Product_Code=1-931956-00-6

Signed and discounted copies of On the Downtown Mall can also be ordered by check directly from the author for delivery within the United States (at a cost of $15.00 apiece, including tax and shipping). To establish a book order and find out where to send the check, contact Gary Kessler directly at

Hardcover or paperback copies of the two volumes of the WritersNet Anthology of Prose can be ordered directly from:, or the or websites.