Period mystery tantalizingly reimagines Dickens’ death

A thrilling tale of secrets hidden in the literary legend’s half-finished manuscript

SPRINGFIELD, VA – Death strikes England’s foremost novelist Charles Dickens, his latest tale only half told. Was he murdered because someone feared a ruinous revelation? Or was it revenge for some past misdeed? Set in the Kent countryside and London slums of 1870, Lyn Squire’s “Immortalised to Death” (Level Best Books, September 26th, 2023) reveals the ending to Charles Dickens’s unfinished “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, while diving deep into Dickens’ evolving and ultimately tragic double life.

Debut author Lyn Squire kicks off his electrifying Dunston Burnett Trilogy with legendary Victorian novelist Charles Dickens dead at his desk, pen still in hand. The mystery unravels as Dickens’ nephew and unlikely detective Dunston Burnett, tries to find the solution of his uncles’ unfinished novel. Convinced that the identity of Dickens’ murderer lies in the book’s missing conclusion, Dunston becomes obsessed with investigating those closest to Dickens. A stunning revelation crowns this tale about the mysterious death of England’s foremost novelist, and the long-held secret hidden in his half-finished manuscript.

The deft plotting will remind readers of Agatha Christie and the evocative prose will have them questioning which parts of the book are fiction and nonfiction. Squire seamlessly reimagines Dickens’ untimely death and final unfinished story while tying it neatly into a thrilling whodunnit. Is Dunston Burnett, a diffident, middle-aged, retired bookkeeper, able to crack the case of his uncle’s murder, or does he only find buried secrets in his brilliant continuation to Dickens’ novel?

“Immortalised to Death”

Lyn Squire | September 26th, 2023 | Level Best Books | Period Mystery 

Paperback | 978-1-68512-358-1 | $16.95

Ebook |  978-1-68512-359-8 | $5.99

LYN SQUIRE was born in Cardiff, South Wales.  He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wales, his master’s at the London School of Economics and his doctorate at Cambridge University.  Lyn is now an American citizen living in Virginia. During a twenty-five year career at the World Bank, Lyn published over thirty articles and several books within his area of expertise. Lyn also served as editor of the Middle East Development Journal for over a decade, and was the founding president of the Global Development Network, an organization dedicated to supporting promising scholars from the developing world.

Lyn has always been an avid reader of whodunits and has reviewed scores of mysteries for the City Book Review (Sacramento, CA), but it was the thrill of solving Charles Dickens’s unfinished ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’ that convinced him to put aside his development pen and turn to fiction. Finding a solution to the mystery has attracted massive interest since the author’s death in 1870.  A 1998 bibliography lists over 2,000 entries, with continuations ranging from the obvious (a Sherlock Holmes pastiche) to the absurd (The Mysterious Mystery of Rude Dedwin).  Lyn’s version of what happened to Edwin is revealed in his first novel, Immortalised to Death. The adventures of his protagonist, Dunston Burnett, a non-conventional amateur detective, continue in Fatally Inferior and The Séance of Murder, the second and third stories in The Dunston Burnett Trilogy. Find more about Lyn on his website.

Advanced praise for Lyn Squire and 

“Immortalised to Death”

Immortalised to Death’s ingenious solution to fiction’s most celebrated unfinished mystery holds the key to the secret life, and murder, of legendary author, Charles Dickens himself.  This novel’s cleverly wrought combination of fact and fiction will grip fans of historical mysteries from the opening death scene to the last astounding revelation.

– Herta Feely, award-winning author of

Saving Phoebe Murrow and founder of Chrysalis Editorial.

“Lyn Squire mixes the novels of Charles Dickens with real events, adds a bit of his own fiction for a kick, and creates a true old-fashioned cocktail of a book that keeps the reader desperately turning the pages to find the resolution only to be met by yet another twist in the story. Dunston Burnett is the perfectly flawed protagonist who is continuously underestimated as he charges forward looking for the killer of Charles Dickens by piecing together the end of the legend’s latest novel, which was only half-complete when he died. Weaving fact and fiction together, the novel enmeshes you in the small-town setting and time of 1870 England. Immortalised to Death by Lyn Squire is a historical mystery that will keep the reader guessing until the last pages before returning to the present day and realizing that it was only a book, and not time travel, that they had just experienced.”

– Matt Cost, award-winning author of twelve histories and mysteries,

most recently, Velma Gone Awry

In an interview, Lyn Squire can discuss:

  • How this book was inspired by a story contest of everyday readers and writers trying to finish / “solve” Dickens’ last mystery story “Mystery of Edwin Drood”
  • The widespread fascination with Dickens’ death and last novel, and how Squire worked to uphold Dickens’ legacy with his book
  • The importance of historical accuracy when referencing real people, and the process Squire undertook to ensure the accuracy of his book 
  • His plans for the upcoming novels in the Dunston Burnett Trilogy
  • His upbringing in South Wales and how his childhood in the UK influenced “Immortalised to Death”

An Interview with

Lyn Squire

How did the thrill of reimagining the ending of “Mystery of Edwin Drood” lead you to the main idea for “Immortalised to Death”?

It was a process. Once the excitement of my Eureka moment had passed, my first thought was to write up my solution as non-fiction and be done with it. But then, the more involved I became, the more I saw that my ending to Dickens’s mystery, the only one he ever wrote, suggested an overarching story-line encompassing the author’s liaison with Ellen Ternan and the much-debated question about a possible offspring from that illicit union.

When was your first introduction to Charles Dickens and why did you choose to use his legacy as the cornerstone of your upcoming novel? 

Apart from the novels themselves, what I find most interesting about Charles Dickens is his writing technique. Because installments of his books were published every month, he was constantly under the pressure of a thirty-day deadline, but he was such a natural writer that the words just flowed from his pen. To begin with his stories (The Pickwick Papers is the best example) were just a series of loosely connected incidents with no underlying plot which made the monthly cycle easier to manage. Then later in his career as his stories became more complex, he laid out the entire arc of the plot in notes before starting to write. Interestingly, his notes for the second half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood were numbered but otherwise blank.

To what extent is historical accuracy important to you and your writing process? What did the research look like for “Immortalized to Death”? 

Historical accuracy is not a must for me. If one is writing fiction, then surely it is acceptable to adapt incidents and descriptions to fit a story’s needs. That said, I do try to stay close to the facts. For instance, I visited Gadshill Place, Dickens’s home in Kent, to make sure that the book’s description of his home was as faithful to the original as possible. For me, though, the goal is to provide readers with a convincing impression of place and time, and not overwhelm them with detail.

You grew up in South Wales, to what extent did your upbringing in the UK influence your writing of “Immortalised to Death”?

Wales is known for its cultural life and especially its eisteddfods, festivals of music, dance, and song. Wales also lays claim to great writers like Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl. When I moved to America, I very much wanted to keep my Welsh heritage alive. Since I can’t hold a tune to save my life and have two left feet, I turned to writing. Cymru am byth! (Wales forever).

What’s next for you as a writer? 

The immediate goal is to complete The Dunston Burnett Trilogy. His second adventure – Fatally Inferior – is complete in draft but I have only just started writing The Séance of Murder. If this effort receives favourable attention, I will explore new options. If not, I’ll take up golf!

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Happy National Best Friends Day! Reviews from our Books Forward Friends

June 8 is National Best Friends Day, and here at Books Forward, we’ve got the best friends around! Our Books Forward Friends support the ever-expanding network of fellow book lovers and changemakers. And we’re highlighting some of our BFFs with reviews they’ve recently shared on social media!


The Lies of the Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi

“In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city.  … The book reads like a folktale and is full of compelling characters, edge of your seat action and deep emotion.”

See the full review here.


The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

“Wow. This book goes hard and is really about WAY more than homecoming. I really enjoyed this one and it’s twisty and deep. What a great combination.”

See the full review here.


The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap

“Adelaide did not have an easy life. Married to a total dirt bag of a man, she ends up separating from him and moving home with her father so she can get established as an artist. She takes lessons and eventually begins to gather her own students and provide them with lessons. I liked reading about how she took in other women and how they became a family of sorts. I loved that she fell in love again and despite not being able to marry until much much later, the two had a happy life together.”

See the full review here.


Secrets of the Moon by Andrew Osiow

“Secrets of the Moon was a fascinating very well-written book filled with both the familiar and lesser well known facts about the moon that will leave the reader in awe of our nightly celestial orb.”

See the full review here.


Photo Finished by Christin Brecher

“This one’s got all the cozy vibes, with a charming cast of characters. It’s got a satisfying mystery – mixed with a bit of romance – all the rich people behaving badly, and a fun look at the life of a photographer.”

See the full review here.

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Feminist detective dances with murder and adultery in Christie-style ballerina mystery

Award-winning YA author debuts first adult police procedural

LOUISVILLE, KY – The curtain rises on a  new murder mystery from award-winning author of Deadly Setup and Leisha’s Song. Lynn Slaughter’s Missed Cue (Aug 8, 2023, Melange Books) finds Lieutenant Cailtin O’Connor in a theatrical mess when a prima ballerina fails to awaken during the final act of Romeo and Juliet. With multiple suspects, infidelity, and a twisted plot of romantic entanglements while also dealing with Caitlin’s personal love life, Missed Cue is a fast-paced Agatha Christie-style mystery that twists and turns to the final act.

Winner of multiple awards including the Silver Falchion Book Award, Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Imadjinn Award and recognized by the Agatha Christie awards and the CIBA awards, Slaughter is no stranger to creating captivating narratives shrouded in mystery. Now she takes her expertise in young adult writing reaching a new audience with her first mystery novel for adults.

When star ballerina Lydia Miseau misses her cue during a performance, Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor encounters the most complicated case of her career. The autopsy reveals no clear cause of death, so Caitlin must not only figure out who killed the ballerina, but how the killer did it. Her investigation uncovers an intricate web of betrayal, infidelity, and revenge. When the medical examination reveals that Lydia was a few weeks pregnant with a child who could not have been her husband’s, Caitlin discovers painful parallels between Lydia’s life and her own illicit involvement with a married man.

For fans of Lori Robbins’ “On Pointe” Mystery Series and Girl Most Likely by Max Allan Collins, readers will love spinning through Caitlin’s thrilling mystery as she seeks the true murderer and the truth about her own illicit romance.

“Missed Cue”

Lynn Slaughter | August 8, 2023

Melange Books | Police Procedural/murder mystery

Paperback | 979-8-88653-153-4 | $16.99

Ebook | 979-8-88653-154-1  | $5.99

Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking. Her family tree is peppered with musicians, and like Caitlin, she’s a huge jazz fan. Music has always made her want to move, and she ended up becoming a professional dancer and dance educator. When injury meant it was time to find a new dream, she earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her previous young adult novels include: Deadly Setup, published by Fire and Ice/Melange Books, which was a Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards silver medalist, a Chanticleer International Awards finalist, and an Imadjinn Award finalist; Leisha’s Song, also published by Fire and Ice/Melange Books and an Agatha nominee, Moonbeam bronze medalist, Imadjinn Award winner, and Silver Falchion Award winner; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and While I Danced, an EPIC finalist. The ridiculously proud mother of two sons and grandmother of five, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is at work on her next novel and is an active member and former president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She loves hearing from readers and hopes you’ll visit her website,


Advanced praise for Missed Cue

“With Missed Cue, author Lynn Slaughter offers a riveting portrait of a female police officer on the trail of a killer and in search of herself.  Watching Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor unravel the case, as she seeks to better understand her own foibles, and help her alcoholic partner, made for an exciting read full of insight and suspense.”  

Ellen Birkett Morris, Award-winning author of Lost Girls

“Lynn Slaughter’s latest tour de force, the suspense novel MISSED CUE, draws on her extensive background in the field of dance. The story opens in a rehearsal for the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and it is the perfect venue for a terrible crime. Lynn’s seamless storytelling carries the reader right into the action, and she keeps us guessing as we meet all of her colorful and interesting characters. You should definitely pick up this book, but just be warned, you might not want to put it down!”

Connie Bergstein Dow, author of the picture book TAP AND RAP, MOVE AND GROOVE, and other books about dance

“In Missed Cue, the star of the show isn’t the dazzling ballerina Lydia Miseau, but the appealingly flawed police detective who investigates her murder. As Lieutenant Caitlin O’Connor begins the process of sifting through clues and interviewing suspects, she finds herself entangled in a double journey: to uncover both the identity of a killer and her own sense of self. Political scheming in the dance world is mirrored in her complicated relationships within the New Haven police department, and writer Lynn Slaughter renders both with precision and grace. Competing motives of fame, fortune, and family feuds all have their moment in the spotlight, but it’s the backstage intrigue that propels this narrative to its satisfying conclusion. Well written and tightly plotted, Missed Cue is a showstopper.”

Lori Robbins, Award winning author of the On Pointe and Master Class mystery series

“Homicide Detective Caitlin O’Conner has a very full dance card: a murdered ballerina, a tango with a lover and a partner trying to tap dance around his problems. Missed Cue is a compelling story of a tough but vulnerable woman as she navigates her complicated life.”

E.M. Munsch, author of the Dash Hammond series, the latest being A HAUNTING AT MARIANWOOD

“Don’t let the title fool you. Lynn Slaughter doesn’t miss any cues in this gritty mystery featuring a smart, ambitious, and emotionally flawed detective investigating the suspicious death of an otherwise seemingly healthy dancer. Set in the world Slaughter knows well, Missed Cue will keep you on your toes until the curtain drops on the final clue.”

Valerie (V. M.) Burns, Agatha, Anthony, Edgar, and Next Generation Award Finalist

“You’ll be rooting for whip-smart detective Caitlin O’Conner as she searches for the killer of a star ballerina while also trying to untangle a complicated personal life. A stunning debut for the author’s first adult mystery.”

Victoria Thompson, Bestselling author of Murder on Bedford Street

Praise for Deadly Setup

2022 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Silver Medalist

2022 M Chanticleer International Awards Finalist

2022 Imadjinn Award Finalist

Deadly Setup is “​​…a perfect legal thriller.” – Readers’ Favorites

“In the dramatic thriller Deadly Setup, a teenager is accused of murder, testing her friendships and resulting in tumult.” – Foreword Clarion review

“Deadly Setup starts quietly and then crescendos to shock after shock. Readers will root for Samantha, trapped and brave and facing a terrifying fate. Outstanding story!”

Caroline B. Cooney, internationally renowned author of more than 90 young adult novels of mystery and romance, including The Girl on the Milk Carton

“Deadly Setup takes on the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship amid a captivating murder mystery. Slaughter’s page turning prose and insightful look at family relationships are a winning combination. Deadly Setup is a deeply engaging and satisfying book.”

Ellen Birkett Morris, award-winning author of Lost Girls

“Lynn Slaughter is a master at the romantic, young adult mystery. Her spell-binding story follows Samantha as she negotiates the complexity of teen friendships, tries to find out who killed her mother’s fiancé without getting in the way of the adults who are trying to help her, and grapples to understand why her own mother refuses to believe she is innocent.”

Frances Schoonmaker, multiple award-winning author of The Last Crystal Trilogy

Praise for Leisha’s Song 

Nominee for Best Children’s/YA Mystery Novel, Silver Falchion Award winner for best YA mystery, Imadjinn Award winner for best YA Novel, and Moonbeam Children’s Award Bronze Medalist

“Lynn Slaughter’s knowledge, love, and passion for music are evident in Leisha’s Song. Adept at striking the right balance between tough social issues and young love, Slaughter orchestrates a tale that harmonizes issues of racism, abandonment, and abuse with the power of love and beauty of music in this young adult romantic suspense novel where two young lovers must dig through generations of hatred and intolerance to uncover the truth and solve a mystery with life and death consequences.”

– V.M. Burns, Agatha Award-nominated author of The Plot is Murder

“Suspense, tender romance, and a thoughtful exploration of racism make this page-turning coming-of-age novel a winner. An academy setting and focus on the creative arts add appeal, and Leisha’s growth from people-pleaser to independent woman will resonate with girls and women everywhere.”

– Lee Tobin McClain, U.S.A. Today Bestselling Author of Home to the Harbor

“Heartfelt, wise and relevant, Leisha’s Song is a compelling murder mystery wrapped around a romance that propels the reader along a ‘must keep reading’ journey. Leisha is a protagonist we come to care for and cheer on as she faces a mystery that must be solved. A romance that must be navigated, and a world that must be grown into. It is a testament to Lynn Slaughter’s immense skills as a writer that she has produced another wonderful adventure story.”

– T. Lynne Singleton, contributing author, African American Alphabet, A Celebration of African-American and West Indian Culture, Custom, Myth, and Symbol

In an interview, Lynn Slaughter can discuss:

  • Making the leap from YA author to adult fiction and the opportunities and  challenges of writing for a more mature audience
  • Her creative use of her experience as a dancer and how it sets the scene for her book
  • The use of alcoholism and adultery in her book to convey dynamic and flawed main characters
  • Her previous works, Deadly Setup, Leisha’s Song, It Should Have Been You and While I Danced

An Interview with

Lynn Slaughter

1. You went from being a dancer to a writer. What are the similarities and differences between the two?

I think the role of “choreographer” (the creator of dances) is most akin to the role of a writer (composer of stories). Both engage in acts of expressive communication—nonverbal in the case of dance and verbal communication for stories. Both art forms take years of practice and study. Both require perseverance and resilience in the face of rejection and setbacks. In addition, for both art forms, there is always “more” to discover and work on.

I also consider the acts of writing and dancing to be wonderfully inspiring experiences. As a dancer, there were so many times that I really went “into the zone,” and it has been the same in writing. It is such a gift to be involved in creative, life-affirming work and to share it with others.

2. Your previous books have all been YA novels. What led you to writing for adults? What was the process like to switch from one age group to another?

I consider myself an “accidental” author for adults. An author friend who knew I’d been a dancer challenged me to write a short story for Malice Domestic’s anthology, Murder Most Theatrical, which I did. But I felt frustrated that I hadn’t been able to develop the detective’s personal life within the limitations of a short story, so I decided to expand “Missed Cue” into a novel. By the time I was done, the identity of the killer had changed, and it became a much more layered tale.

I was actually a little surprised that it didn’t feel like a huge leap to switch to writing a book for adults. For both young adult and adult fiction, it’s vital to immerse yourself in the heads and emotions of your characters. While teenagers have developmental challenges and struggles, so do adults. We are never fully done with growing up. In Missed Cue, Caitlin has finally gone into therapy to try to figure out why she keeps getting involved with married men. Meantime, her partner at work is trying to drown his troubles in alcohol after his wife leaves him.

3. Your stories are always more than just a murder mystery to solve. What was your motivation to include Caitlin’s questionable romantic situation?

Well, perfect people not only don’t exist, but they’re pretty boring! Caitlin is basically a hard-working and caring but flawed character. Rationally, she knows that getting involved with a married man is unhealthy and wrong, yet she keeps repeating this pattern. As adults, I think we’re often dogged by echoes from our childhood and adolescence, and Caitlin struggles with parental messages she received that have affected her personal life as an adult. 

Caitlin’s extra-marital affair is also an issue in the life of the ballerina whose suspicious death Caitlin is investigating. Like Caitlin, the ballerina has many fine qualities as a person but she, too, is flawed, and was deeply affected by her childhood experiences.

I also wanted to show that it’s possible to grow and change and mature as an adult. By the end of the novel, Caitlin is in a much healthier and more self-aware place. 

4. The story also features Caitlin’s partner, who struggles with alcoholism. What dynamic did you intend to bring with this aspect of the story?

Alcoholism is a disease that has affected several family members and dear friends of mine. Inadvertently, caring bystanders often enable the behavior. Caitlin doesn’t want to rat out her partner whose drinking is out of control, and he nearly dies. I also wanted to portray that while recovery is difficult and often uneven, it’s possible.

5. You went back to school to earn your MFA late in life. What was that experience like, and do you recommend that writers pursue MFA programs?

I had a very positive experience in grad school, and I think our shared interest in growing as writers transcended our age differences. I certainly know tons of wonderful writers who did not earn their MFAs. But for me, I found a wonderful learning community. Our teachers were all multi-published professional writers committed to mentoring aspiring writers. 

I do think it’s important to find a good match. Not all MFA programs are alike. Seton Hill is geared toward novel writing and popular fiction, which was a great fit for me and my interests.

6. I love that this story feels very Agatha Christie-esque and also has less of a thriller aspect. After writing so many books, what have you learned about your writing?

I am above all fascinated by people and their conflicts and struggles—and how their challenges interact and collide with the issues of others in their lives. 

All of my books involve people involved in the arts, because that’s the world I know and feel passionate about. And a theme running throughout is discovering who you are and who you want to become, as well as the importance of finding your tribe and intentional community of support.

I’m also very interested in exploring larger issues through fiction, such as:

  • alcoholism in MISSED CUE
  • dysfunctional families in DEADLY SETUP
  • racism and childhood abandonment in LEISHA’S SONG
  • the impact of the death of a favored sibling in IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU
  • the destructiveness of family secrets and parental abandonment in WHILE I DANCED.

Finally, I like to leave readers with a sense of hope at the end of my novels that things can get better, and at any age, we can change, grow, and mature.

7. What’s next for you writing-wise?

I’m currently working on another YA coming-of-age romantic mystery, in which the mother of seventeen-year-old Noelle suddenly disappears. The circumstantial evidence points to suicide, but Noelle is convinced her mother was not suicidal and is determined to find out what really happened. Threaded throughout Noelle’s story is the narrative of a young woman two decades earlier whose escape from an abusive marriage turns out to be related to what happened to Noelle’s mom.

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Award-winning steampunk fantasy gets thrilling 2nd book

Los Angeles, CA – After winning a First Place award in the OZMA Book Awards for Fantasy Fiction for his debut dieselpunk fantasy, “The Sightless City,” (July 20, 2021, Tiny Fox Press), Noah Lemelson is back with the newest, gripping continuation of his  steampunk-apocalyptic-noir trilogy, “The Lioness and the Rat Queen” (August 29, 2023, Tiny Fox Press).

“Sure to entertain any fan of gritty speculative fiction.” 

– Publishers Weekly

A city burning, a murderous tycoon on the run, and three vigilantes out for revenge…

Marcel never thought his investigations would lead to this; his once-friend Lazarus Roache turned slaver and cruel puppet master. For the good of Huile, and to salve his conscience, Marcel must take Roache down, even if that means following him into the desolate and savage reaches of the Wastes.

Yet when winds of the Wastes grind their hopes of justice to dust, the three must make common cause with the hardened “Lioness of Vastium,” a disgraced Principate General who wants Marcel’s head just as much as Roache’s. To survive and take down the tycoon, they must find a way to fight as one–but blood begets blood, and old vendettas cannot stay long buried in the blasted soil of the Wastes.

“The Lioness and the Rat Queen”

Noah Lemelson | August 29, 2023

Tiny Fox Press | Steampunk/Dieselpunk Fantasy

Hardcover | 2370001-690943 | $29.99

Paperback | 978-1946501-53-0  | $17.99

Praise for

The Sightless City

“A gripping mystery with an exceptionally fleshed-out world.”

-Kirkus Reviews

“Take one step into The Sightless City  and you’re pulled into a crackling adventure of intrigue, danger and mystery until the very last page. Lemelson builds an intricate steampunk fantasy world and sets it ablaze with haunting characters and deep moral questions. It’s a thrilling debut!”

-Amanda Silver, writer and producer of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World

“Lemelson melds industrial revolution with powerful magic; and, like all revolutions, this one isn’t a tea party.”

— Dave Higgins, author of Seven Stones: The Complete Series

“Stellar worldbuilding and quick pacing. This is sure to entertain any fan of gritty speculative fiction.”

-Publishers Weekly

“With one foot in the seemingly magical and the other in SF, The Sightless City hits that same sweet spot that Tamsyn Muir mines so successfully in Gideon the Ninth. Lemelson revives and updates the gestures of science fantasy to make it a truly 21st century form. Funny, dark, irreverent, and endlessly entertaining, The Sightless City is a rustpunk wonder and a first-rate debut.”

     — Brian Evanson, award-winning author of Song for the Unraveling of the World and The Warren

“Feast your eyes on Sightless City, a world no one had ever seen until Noah Lemelson transported us to his exotic crossroad of fantasy, dieselpunk, and sci-fi.   It’s a book for all ages: past, present, and future.  At the same time.   Venture inside and this new author will be a part of your future.”

— Gary Goldman, screenwriter of Big Trouble In Little China, Total Recall, Navy Seals

Reviews from Readers

“Noah is an incredible writer. He has done what most sci-fi writers cannot. He wrote a believable sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk/thriller.”

— Anne Hart, Instagram Influencer

“Big fat 5 stars for this book and a massive congratulations to Noah Lemelson for writing an exquisite debut novel.”

— Melina’s Blog, blogger

“A longer read and I finished in just 2 short days.”

— Lost in a Book Erin, Instagram Influencer

“Five stars for this fast-moving, fascinating steampunk/fantasy/mystery adventure! The world building was nearly flawless.”

— Ellen Z Reads, Instagram Influencer

“…Fascinating and engaging read! Don’t miss it!”

— Goodreads reviewer

Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has had several of his short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology.

Follow Noah Lemelson on social media:

Facebook: @Noah Lemelson | Instagram: @EruditeGoblin 

In an interview, Noah Lemelson can discuss:

  • How one’s own flaws allows for deception and control
  • The nature of evil, ideological evil vs. pure selfishness
  • His unique approach to fantasy with realistic and flawed characters
  • How and why he merged the genres he chose
  • What’s to come in the world of Huile for the last two installments of his trilogy

An Interview with

Noah Lemelson

1. How did you write the evolution of the story you began in The Sightless City? What inspired the continuation of your characters’ journey?

The story started as one big book, before being split into a trilogy, so I always knew where they were headed. My first vision for this story was these four characters, around a campfire, hunting a single man. A big part of the The Sightless City was setting up our “heroes” (I use the term loosely), explaining their relationship to Lazarus Roache, and laying the groundworks for this haphazard quest for revenge, so it’s fun to finally get to see them making their way (mishaps and all) through the Wastes. On a character level, I was excited to explore Sylvaine’s struggles with her powers, and the possibility of losing them, as well as Marcel wrestling with the moral implications of his past actions, particularly when faced with the titular Lioness and The Rat Queen.

2. How can fiction alter one’s own self narrative?

I think fiction allows us to look at the world through someone else’s eyes, and that’s a skill that can be turned inward. Different perspectives let us realize that the way we think about anything, including ourselves, is just one possibility, not the be-all-end-all truth. We all live in our own stories, partially written by us, partially written by others, while we can’t always control the way we fit into other peoples’ narratives, I think we do have some control on how we tell our own story. Fiction lets us practice that skill.

3. How did you decide to set your story in a steampunk fantasy world against the tumultuous backdrop of a partial apocalypse?

For whatever reason, I find industrial decay to be utterly fascinating, and even beautiful in its own way. I think that’s one reason why places like Chernobyl are so fascinating, places marked by civilization but no longer controlled by it. Traditional fantasy loves its ruined temples and forgotten cities, I think it’s interesting to take those same tropes and bump them up a couple centuries.

4. Could you explain your “realistic” approach to writing magical characters?

Though the term magic is never used in the book (besides once in a derisive aside), several characters have abilities or powers that are… basically magic with a fancy name. It’s a fun fantasy to imagine problems that magic could solve, but I think it’s often more interesting to look at what magic can’t solve. Self-doubt, moral quandaries, societal inequalities, relationship difficulties, magic has its limit. Its like anything else, skills or powers in one part of life don’t necessarily translate to others, and I think many of the most interesting stories about magic characters, be they literal wizards, super-heroes, or realty-defying inventors, is to look at where their magic is no longer enough.

5. What exactly is the Calamity, and how did that event influence the ongoing wars and discrimination throughout the book?

The details of the Calamity aren’t discussed much in the book, but in short it was a massive disaster caused by the misuse of ætheric weaponry that turned a big chunk of the continent into desolate Wastes. It’s one of those events that is so big that it paradoxically just kind of blends into the background. For most people it’s just a fact of history, an explanation for a reality that is their mundanity. Yet, like most facts of history, it can be trotted out to win political debate, or to excuse terrible acts. The Calamity is always someone else’s fault, an everlasting causa belli, a parable to support whatever argument is currently being made.

6. What inspired you to create this world?

Honestly I always loved the expanded universes for other novels, games, movies, and a not small part of my motivation came from a desire to have a world of my own, where my imagination wasn’t bound by what other people already wrote. As for why it became what it became, that’s a harder question to answer. I’ll say this, it started with the Wastes, and worked its way out.

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Tantalizing dark academia mixed with gothic fae lore

“A spell-binding mix of magic, myth, and mystery.” — Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of “Wilder Girls”

Stanford, CA – Ava Reid, author of the instant Indies and Sunday Times bestseller “Wolf and the Woodsman,” and the CALIBA Golden Poppy Octavia E. Butler Award-winning “Juniper and Thorn,” returns with her YA debut, “A Study in Drowning” (HarperTeen, September 19, 2023). Sharply written and hauntingly beautiful, this dark academia, enemies-to-lovers tale will immediately enrapture readers. 

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. Since childhood, she’s been haunted by visions of the Fairy King. She’s found solace only in the pages of “Angharad,” author Emrys Myrddin’s beloved epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, and then destroys him. Effy’s copy is all that’s keeping her afloat through her stifling first term at Llyr’s prestigious architecture college. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to design the late author’s house, Effy feels certain this is her destiny. 

But Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task: a musty, decrepit estate on the brink of crumbling into a hungry sea. And when Effy arrives, she finds she isn’t the only one who’s made a temporary home there. Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar, is studying Myrddin’s papers and is determined to prove her favorite author is a fraud.

As the two rival students investigate the reclusive author’s legacy, piecing together clues through his letters, books, and diaries, they discover that the house’s foundation isn’t the only thing that can’t be trusted. There are dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspiring against them – and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

“A Study in Drowning”

Ava Reid | September 19, 2023 | HarperTeen | YA Fantasy 

Print | 9780063211506 | $19.99 | Ebook | 9780063211520 | $10.99

Audiobook | 9780063211537 | $27.99

AVA REID is the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of critically acclaimed adult fantasies “Juniper & Thorn” and “The Wolf and the Woodsman,” as well as the forthcoming “A Study in Drowning,” her young adult debut. 

After obtaining her degree in political science from Barnard College, she moved to Palo Alto, where she continues to haunt university libraries. For more information check out Ava’s website.

Follow Ava on social media: TikTok | Instagram

In an interview, Ava Reid can discuss:

  • Why exploring complex topics such as mental illness, abuse, and trauma are important themes in young adult novels 
  • Why writing nuanced depictions of survivors of sexual assault is necessary
    • Previous experiences publishing a book with similar subject matter in an age of book bans and increasingly dangerous puritanical politics  
  • The overarching themes in her two adult novels and first young adult novel 
    • Stories within stories, mythology, and monsters–both human and not
  • The history, literature, and culture that inspired “A Study in Drowning,” 
    • The real-life authors–and the women in their lives who have been marginalized and forgotten
  • How politics and history have influenced Ava’s writing across all of her novels 
    • Nationalism and identity and recurring themes throughout all three books
  • How and why she honors escapism through literature in “A Study in Drowning”
    • “A Study in Drowning” was written as a tribute to readers–particularly young female readers–who find solace and hope through books 

Advanced praise for “A Study in Drowning”

“Achingly atmospheric and beautifully sharp, A Study in Drowning will draw you in from the first page. A spell-binding mix of magic, myth, and mystery.” — Rory PowerNew York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls

“Haunting and elegantly rendered, A Study in Drowning is a lyrical examination of stories told, cherished myths, and an unraveling of truths held dear. Darkly romantic and unsettlingly eerie.”  — Erin A. CraigNew York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows and Small Favors

A Study in Drowning is everything: a dark fairy tale, a tender romance, a haunting historical mystery, and a quietly furious tribute to the people whose stories have been stolen from them. I absolutely loved it.” – Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Once and Future Witches

“Piling invention upon invention, Reid conjures a bleached-bone jewel box of a tale, full of strange treasures and captured bits of dangerous lore. A Study in Drowning is as merciless as a rising tide and as beguiling as a fairy’s bargain.” – Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

Praise for “Juniper & Thorn”

*Most Anticipated by: Tor, Goodreads, Buzzfeed, Gizmodo, Bustle, Paste Magazine, and LitHub* *An Indie Next Pick* *A Barnes & Noble Speculative Fiction Pick* 

“This riveting, atmospheric dark fantasy unflinchingly explores the disturbing roots of classic fairy tales.” — Buzzfeed

“Haunting and great.” — Paste Magazine

Juniper & Thorn is one of my favorite books of the year and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. Reader after reader has found something in this book that rings true to their heart, resonates with their experience.” —

“Reid fully embraces the darkness of the original tale while adding enough twists to make the story her own. Grimms’ fairy tale fans—and those who like their fairy tales grim—will be thrilled.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Juniper & Thorn is as lovely as it is gruesome…Reid twists the familiar magic of fairy tales into gothic horror, telling a powerful story of surviving trauma that doesn’t shy away from its ugliness…. Reid’s intimate, visceral storytelling, veering at times into body horror, may make this a hard read for some; others will find themselves reflected in its pages with nuanced understanding.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Sweeping, emotional descriptions and scenes of tightly wound suspense brings to mind both Eastern European ballet classics such as Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and gothic horror like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House—a juxtaposition that makes Juniper & Thorn an utterly compelling read.”  — BookPage (starred review)

An Interview with

Ava Reid

This is your debut young adult novel, what themes are consistent in “A Study in Drowning” that can also be found in your previous adult novels “Juniper & Thorn” and “The Wolf and the Woodsman?” 

I am always very interested in the deconstruction of fairy tales, the relationship between folklore and nationalism, and the role of stories in shaping identity on both the personal and political level. If The Wolf and the Woodsman is about the pain of being excluded from the narrative, and Juniper & Thorn is about the pain of being forced into a narrative against your will, then A Study in Drowning is about crafting an intricate, epic narrative of your own, in order to protect yourself from the pain of life’s daily, banal cruelties. 

How did the anti-Stratfordian theory inspire you to write “A Study in Drowning?” 

Anti-Stratfordian theory is the hypothesis that William Shakespeare was not the author of the works attributed to him, and that perhaps he did not even exist at all. Though this theory is widely discredited in modern academia, historically, it was given great weight by many influential figures, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and more. It was a fraught and complex issue: people dug up graves and invented whole cipher machines to try and prove it; many of the arguments against Shakespeare were rooted in classism and monarchism. As an ardent fan of Shakespeare, I wanted to create a literary figure that mirrored Shakespeare’s role in Western cultural imagination–he is more than a man; he is almost mythic, and if he were indeed discovered to be a fraud, it would be a devastating blow to English national identity, to the scholars who have dedicated themselves to his life and work, and to all of the people who have felt understood and impassioned by his writing. 

Why do you feel so passionately about representing a nuanced range of victimhood, particularly in young adult novels? 

My experiences in publishing Juniper & Thorn have taught me how deeply and mercilessly stigmatized the topic of child sexual abuse is in literature, that even in an adult horror novel replete with cannibalism, body horror, and other ghoulish acts of violence, the depiction of sexual abuse was what ignited outrage and controversy. It’s upsetting to see the world of literature–where we are supposed to take risks, start conversations, and experience catharsis–have such a puritanical and close-minded reaction to this topic. In YA in particular, we acknowledge how important it is for young, marginalized readers to see themselves and their experiences reflected in books. The vulnerable, courageous teenager survivors of sexual abuse deserve to see themselves reflected with humanity and nuance. Exploring the complex range of victimhood allows us to expand our empathy, and to continue creating meaningful, cathartic, boundary-pushing art. 

How do politics and history play a role in your writing, especially when it comes to worldbuilding and character development? 

All of my books are set in times and places that have real historical analogues–for A Study in Drowning, it’s mid-century England and Wales, where the role of women in society was changing rapidly and dramatically, and institutional sexism began to assert itself in new, often sharper ways. The rigid class system was also, to some extent, breaking down. Effy belongs to a generation who were the first women to attend university–all upper class women, of course, and Effy very much has class privilege, although she is still enormously disadvantaged on the basis of her sex. Also apparent is the enduring legacy of English colonialism, and Wales still chafing under its rule. This was incredibly fertile ground for exploring issues of gender equality, classism, cultural imperialism, and how all of this looks when refracted through the lens of academia. 

What is your perspective on academic culture and how did that perspective inform the plot of “A Study in Drowning?” 

My partner is an academic (a classicist), and over the course of our relationship I’ve lived at Columbia, Cambridge, and, currently, Stanford as he works on his various degrees. Because of this, I’ve occupied a strange position in academia–proximate but not fully embraced. My undergraduate experience was also very unique: I attended Barnard, which is the women’s college of Columbia University–until 1983, it was the only way for women to get an Ivy League education in New York City. Even now, when things are ostensibly equitable, within the larger university Barnard students are both openly and subtly denigrated, seen as less competent and less worthy. Additionally, I chose a degree and a specialty that is male-dominated. Ultimately this all coalesced into a feeling of belittlement and perennial outsider status, which is very much how Effy experiences academia, as well. 

What is next for you in your writing career? 

Up next is my newest adult book, Lady Makbeth. It’s a historical fantasy novel pitched as Circe meets Wolf Hall, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play where Lady Macbeth is given a voice, a past, and a power that transforms the story men have written for her. It’s out next summer, August 2024.

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The twists keep coming: Author puts a new spin on an old classic in this highly anticipated domestic thriller

ONTARIO, Canada – For fans of “The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, and “When You Find Me” by P. J. Vernon, Maggie Giles’ thrilling mystery, “Twisted” (Sept. 19, 2023, Rising Action Publishing Co.) will have readers questioning the motive behind the murders and how exactly one can be found guilty when the evidence doesn’t add up.

Detective Ryan Boone thought the simple jewelry heist was an open and shut case. That is until he discovers an unknown drug, and this minor crime he was investigating may be tied to a string of seemingly unconnected murders. Meanwhile, Mel Parker, unscrupulous leader of a less-than-legal high-end escort service, stumbles across the same pills. On top of protecting her “investment,” she has her own reasons for attempting to unravel the mystery behind the medication. Ryan knows someone has the answers he seeks, and Mel can’t come forward. To complicate things further, five other women are implicated in the murders despite most having never met. As the trail turns up as many mysteries as resolutions, Ryan and Mel must discover the twisted connection — before someone else ends up dead.


Maggie Giles | Sept. 19, 2023 | Rising Action Publishing Co. | Domestic Thriller

Paperback | 9781990253706 | $21.99

About the Author

Maggie Giles is a Canadian author who enjoys creating new connections and experiencing new opportunities. Her writing interests span across a variety of genres, but her favorite is women’s fiction with thriller elements. While backpacking through Europe, she developed an interest in writing and began writing historical fictions from the Tudor era in England. She is an avid participant of Scribophile, an online writing community for serious writers, as well as a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association where she has worked as their Social Media Director Since June 2014. She’s slightly addicted to social media. 

If she’s not writing, Giles is usually bogged down with some other creative project. She has a love for knitting and sewing as well as cooking up a storm. If you venture outside, you’ll find her at the barn cuddling the horses (and probably riding them too) or hiking up the hill. If she had the money, she’d spend the rest of her life traveling the world, staying in AirBnBs and writing about her adventures (always with a twist!). For more, visit

Follow Maggie Giles on social media:

Facebook: @maggiegiles225 | Twitter: @maggiegiles_
Instagram: @maggiegiles_ | TikTok: @maggiegiles_

In an interview, Maggie Giles can discuss:

  • Her goal of taking relatable characters and putting them in extraordinary situations
  • How backpacking through Europe helped her develop an interest in writing
  • Why it’s important for her characters to grow and develop
  • The art of writing a book with twists you won’t see coming
  • Projects she’s working on next, including “Twisted’s” sequel “Wicked”
  • Aphantasia (the inability to create mental imagery) and how she manages it in writing
  • Exploring a different side of crime and mental health, analyzing how much are we responsible for when we aren’t fully in the right mind?

An interview with Maggie Giles

1. You describe “Twisted” as a spin on an old theme — can you talk more about that?

Without giving too much away, the idea of “Twisted” is something that has been used in various thriller/suspense novels and TV. When I first started writing the book, I had a solid idea of what I wanted to accomplish. Through various critique partners and beta readers, we tied in the idea of this mysterious medication to help explain some of the more wild things that occur in “Twisted.” This idea of mental health has always fascinated me so it was natural I fell into writing a story around it. An old Mary Higgins Clark book was the original thing that sparked my interest in this theme. 

2. What inspired you to write the book?

I was inspired by two of my best friends, who hold the place of my Real Life Jackie and Candy. One had suggested I start a story about the three of us as other people, which sparked the characters, Mel, Jackie and Candy. It started as a sexy story about three women just having fun, and evolved from there. While through story development and growth, the characters no longer resemble myself and my two friends, it was a great starting point for the book. The idea of mental health tied in a bit later before I fully knew where I was taking the story. In fact, the original story started about halfway through. It has definitely been something that has developed over the years and with the support of critique partners and beta readers. 

3. Did you do any kind of research to help write the novel?

I read a lot of comparative novels and devoured other media that explored the same theme. I also looked into some of the reasons behind this mental health stigma and spoke with a former drug researcher to plan out the Solydexran drug. 

4. Why is this book important to you personally?

This book is the third book I ever wrote, so it’s been in my heart for a long time. I feel a very vivid connection to the characters (and absolutely love Ryan Boone), but I also feel it explores a different side of crime and mental health. It really asks the question of how much are we responsible for when we aren’t fully in the right mind? I’m excited to see how readers receive it. 

5. What parts of the book did you find most difficult to write? Which did you most enjoy?

My favorite part was definitely adding in Ryan’s awkward humor. When Rising Action first acquired the book, I’m embarrassed to say that while I loved Ryan, he was a bit bland. We discussed how to make him more memorable and not being a particularly comedic writer, I found the awkward dad jokes hilarious to add. 

The hardest part for me was definitely some of the intense trauma that Brielle goes through. She was such a tragic character that I really struggled to make her suffer more than she already had. 

6. What do you hope readers gain from reading the book?

First and foremost, I hope readers are entertained, taken on a journey they didn’t expect and left guessing until the very end. I hope readers connect with my characters and are excited to find out more about Blaine in the upcoming release “Wicked.” And I hope that it makes them question the stigma around certain mental health diagnoses. 

7. What are you working on next?

At Rising Action we are working on “Wicked,” which will be a fall 2024 release. It is a companion piece to “Twisted” and picks up where it ended, allowing some more screen time to my favorite detective and another character I love, Blaine. Personally I am working on a story currently titled “No One Knows.” It follows two best friends who have to keep each other’s deadly secrets. I think it will really appeal to fans of “We Were Never Here” by Andrea Bartz and allows readers a look at the birth of a serial killer.

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Riveting debut domestic suspense hones in on ubiquitous challenges of motherhood, female friendships

ONTARIO, Canada – A fresh take on belonging, obsession and schoolyard politics, debut author Heather Dixon brings a fresh perspective to domestic suspense in her exciting new novel, “Burlington” (Aug. 22, 2023, Rising Action Publishing Co.), perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty.

Mae Roberts never thought she would fit in amongst the beautiful and rich mothers at Riverpark Elementary. But, when she’s accepted into their clique and they ask her to be a part of their unofficial neighborhood watch, Mae finds herself slipping more and more into a world of odd dinner parties, secrets and lies, and even rumors of suicide attempts. When one of the Riverpark Moms disappears, and then another, Mae must decide what’s more important — fitting in or uncovering the truth.

“Burlington” is a suspenseful debut novel that explores the exclusive world of wealthy mothers and demonstrates how privilege can come at a devastating price.


Heather Dixon | Aug. 22, 2023 | Rising Action Publishing Co. | Domestic Suspense

Paperback | 9781990253492 | $21.99

Heather Dixon is a managing editor of a nonprofit website and author of “Burlington.” She spent over a decade in the marketing and advertising industry as a copywriter, and has written about motherhood for a number of established websites. She lives just outside of Toronto, Ontario with her husband, her three young daughters and her Bouvier, Zoey. For more, visit her website

Follow Heather Dixon
on social media:

Facebook: @heatherdixonwriter
Twitter: @hdixonwriter
   Instagram: @heatherdixonwriter
         TikTok: @heatherdixonwriter

In an interview, Heather Dixon can discuss:

  • Why she chose to set the novel in Burlington, Vermont — one of 29 U.S. cities named Burlington
  • The novel’s location and the idea of someone finding themselves in a city or a suburb where they don’t fit in
  • How her experiences as a mother helped her write a novel largely focusing on the theme of motherhood
  • The idea of people struggling to fit in and the lengths they’ll go to in order to belong
  • Analyzing female friendships through her writing
  • Projects she’s working on next 

An interview with Heather Dixon

1. You’re from Burlington, Ontario, but the book isn’t set there. Why’d you choose to set the book in Burlington, Vermont, instead?

When I was first doing some research into setting, I knew I wanted to set the book in a place similar to Burlington, Ontario, because it was where I lived and what I knew. And while I was researching, I learned that there were 27 cities in the United States named Burlington, as well as more than one city in Canada named Burlington, too. It made me think of how the setting could almost be a metaphor for the experience: A mother moving somewhere new, trying to find belonging and looking to find her place in the world — that kind of experience and feeling is something many women feel. Burlington could be anywhere and everywhere, because that search for belonging is a universal thing. 

2. The book focuses largely on the theme of motherhood. What experiences as a mother helped you when writing the story?

Motherhood is one of those things that I wouldn’t say defines me entirely, because I also have many other sides to who I am, but it’s definitely been the most enormous change I’ve experienced in my life. And it’s also had the most significant impact on who I am now. After becoming a mother, I wanted to write about it so much, because that’s how I process my thoughts and feelings — and I had so many thoughts and feelings as a new mother. The intense emotions — both high and low — that came with every stage of motherhood shaped me. And I’ve found in the past, whenever I felt my most vulnerable as a mother and actually wrote about it in a blog, that was when my writing resonated the most with others.

3. You also focus on the concepts of privilege and wealth — why were those themes important for you to touch on?

I think I’m still trying to understand and articulate my thoughts on privilege and wealth. The fact that I live in an affluent neighborhood has a lot to do with it. For me, when I see something about the world that doesn’t make sense to me, I try to write out my thoughts to understand them. But these topics are ones I’m still working to understand.

4. Why is this book important to you personally?

The idea for this book came to me when I would walk my oldest daughter to school for the first time, back when she was in kindergarten. School was new for both of us, and it could have been my own hang up, but I felt out of place. While my daughter was making friends, I was noticing groups of parents and unwritten rules and was fascinated by this new world I didn’t know how to navigate. Also, I’ve always felt like the odd woman out, or like I didn’t quite belong. It’s been hard to find my place, even as an adult, and I wanted to explore that among female relationships.

5. Are there any myths or stereotypes about female friendship that you wanted to focus on specifically?

I’ve actually always somewhat struggled with female friendships and that has always bothered me. When I was growing up, I would make new friends every few years in school, and I never had that one best friend that many women seem to have from when they were really young. It might have been because I had a brother and hung around with boys a lot as a kid, but I always longed for that best female friend and never quite established it in the way I wanted. I’ve had many, many great female friends in my life and have some wonderful friendships now as well that I cherish, but that “ride or die” friend thing was something I missed out on and always wanted, and I think that’s why I focus on the theme of female friendship in this book. I think it’s a very special thing.

6. Are any characters inspired by you or people from your life?

All of the characters I write have little bits of many people in my life. Specifically, the character of Frankie is inspired by my mother. Frankie is just a really good, loving mom, and that’s who my mother is. I wanted to honor her in that way. Also, I gave Drew, Mae’s husband, some of my husband’s characteristics. Any good or sweet thing about Drew is from my husband because I think he’s just a really fantastic person. I also wrote this when my daughters were younger, so some of the things Ruby and Isla say and do, and the way they look, are inspired by my daughters.

7. What parts of the book did you find most difficult to write? Which did you most enjoy?

I found getting the plot right took me the longest to figure out. For a long time, I had to revise and rework so the pacing would be just right. I find I love to write about character development and can get lost in writing details about setting — it’s my most favorite! But I can’t forget that the actual plot needs to be on the page, too.

8. What do you hope readers gain from reading the book?

I hope readers are entertained by this book. I hope that they enjoy reading it and getting lost in the story for however long it takes them to read it. But I also hope, as I always do when I write, that someone will read it and think “Hey, I felt that way, too” or that they’ll see themselves on the pages and it will resonate with them.

9. What are you working on next?

My next project is a book about three sisters who struggle with their father’s death (and his deceit) after learning of a long-held secret. It’s told from each sister’s point of view and it’s a story about the complicated nature of family and the ties that bind us together. It’s coming out in October 2023.

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Survivor of teen sexual abuse by teacher shares stunning story of healing, meditation, and repairing inner child

Boston, MA – After she is seduced into a sexual “romance” by her 8th-grade teacher, it takes years for Liz Kinchen to understand–and even identify–her abuse, and seek healing for the emotional isolation that underpins her adult relationships. Now Kinchen debuts a candid, moving memoir about reckoning with and healing from childhood trauma, in hopes of helping others along their own paths of rediscovery and repair, “Light in Bandaged Places: Healing in the Wake of Young Betrayal” (September 5, 2023, She Writes Press). 

“I cannot rewrite my inner child’s history, but I can provide the care, attention, parenting, love, and safety net she didn’t have back then. Because she lives in me still, my adult self can offer her all those things, so she no longer has to run my life out of her fear and isolation.” –from “Light in Bandaged Places”

As a lonely girl coming of age in the 1970s, Liz has every reason to believe her 8th-grade teacher is in love with her. Because the sex isn’t physically violent and is wrapped in a message of love, she learns to exchange sex for attention. It feels like love, after all. But years later, as an adult, emotional closeness eludes Liz. Even after marrying a sensitive, caring man, she is walled off. Struggling through confusing years, she believes something is deeply wrong with her.

Healing begins when an unexpected event takes Liz back to those formative years, and she sees for the first time that what happened to her was not love but abuse. As she begins to understand how her relationship with her former teacher destroyed her innocence and self-worth, she begins a spiritual and psychological journey that sets her free. Now a meditation teacher and Buddhist practitioner, Liz offers her story with the goal of helping readers understand and pursue their healing.

“Light in Bandaged Places”

Liz Kinchen | September 5, 2023 | She Writes Press | Memoir 

Paperback  | 978-1-64742-535-7 | $17.95

Liz Kinchen is a writer, meditation teacher, and Buddhist practitioner. With graduate degrees in computer science and counseling psychology, Kinchen worked in software development management for 21 years before  moving into the nonprofit sector for seventeen years as the executive director of a small organization working with underserved children and families in Honduras. Her passions are her family, meditation, teaching mindfulness, spirituality, writing, talking with close friends, and walking in nature. She is a contributing author to the anthology Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis, published by She Writes Press in 2022. She lives in the greater Boston area with her husband of over 30 years. Find out more about her and check out her blog about mediation teaching at

Follow Liz Kinchen on social media:

Twitter: @lkinchen | Instagram: @lizkinchen

LinkedIn: @LizKinchen YouTube: @LizKinchen

In an interview, Liz Kinchen can discuss:

  • How she learned to identify her relationship with her teacher as sexual abuse–and why this identification took time 
  • How and why abuse is not always easily identifiable
  • How the way a child is parented affects their later adult behavior
  • How she learned to understand and care for her inner child
  • What to do about the all-too-relatable feeling that “something is wrong with you”
  • How she learned to renavigate her relationships with herself, and with others
  • How her practice of Buddhism and meditation contributed to her healing

An Interview with

Liz Kinchen

  1. What were the components that contributed to your healing from your teenage abuse? 

There were many, although it took some time before I found them, or before they entered my life…

The event that really began my journey of healing was watching a video that showed a man gradually seducing a vulnerable teenage boy, and experiencing a visceral reaction that told me, for the first time, that what I experienced with my middle school teacher was not a loving relationship, as I had thought for many years, but one of his grooming me to meet his narcissistic needs. This opened my eyes because it took me abruptly from holding my past experience with him mainly in my head, to feeling it in my body.

That led to years of working intensively with a trauma therapist. Placing myself in the hands of a skilled and loving professional helped tremendously.

Although my marriage was strained by my difficulty being open and honest, my husband loved me and believed in me, nonetheless. His loyalty and commitment to me and our marriage provided a strong foundation to stand on while I learned how to heal.

A very powerful factor in my healing was becoming a mother. I had (and still have) such a strong bond of unconditional love with my children; it showed me what openness and honesty in a relationship felt like. I had it in me all along, but being a mother made it real to me.

Although I struggled with knowing what kind of spiritual path felt right for me, I always had a strong sense of something larger than myself. This provided comfort and an anchor in my confusion and despair. This spiritual searching led me to Buddhist teachings, which showed me how to navigate the challenges in my life.

2. Why did it take decades before you realized and understood the true impact of your childhood and teen trauma?

It is often the case that trauma leads to shutting down or compartmentalizing the emotional parts of us that were hurt. This is what I did. This made being open and loving in adult relationships difficult for me. I had blocked off access to feelings of trust and safety in a relationship. I didn’t even know I was doing this until my second husband persisted in asking me to trust him – thereby bringing to light how much I distrusted everyone. I thought feeling unsafe in the world and in a loving relationship was normal – was how everyone felt.

The emotional neglect I experienced in my childhood made me an easy target for being groomed because no one was paying much attention to me. Additionally, that early neglect taught me that my emotional needs were not important, so I learned to erase my needs.

3. What is the role secrecy played in your story – how did it help and/or hurt you?

My family of origin did not communicate much, particularly about things of importance. My father was an alcoholic, but the kind that drank quietly and was never loud or disruptive, so as a child, it was easy to not understand how this contributed to his emotional absence. No one in my family talked about it, yet even unspoken, it was in the air. It felt like a secret. Then, when I started my relationship with my middle school teacher, he taught me it was important to keep that a secret, that it was just our business. So, at an early age, I learned it was better and safer to keep secrets. I carried this inclination into my adult life, making it easy to have relationships with married men, believing it was alright to do as long as no one knew. Holding secrets became part of my identity. I guess it helped me in a false kind of way by providing a sense of safety by avoiding the judgments of others. But it mostly hurt me and hurt people I loved when I wasn’t truthful with them. It also hurt me because I wasn’t truthful with myself either, so I remained in delusion about my actions. Keeping secrets in relationships is corrosive. 

4. How did you find Buddhism and spirituality as a means of healing?

I was always interested in spirituality and a relationship with a higher power. I was confused for many years about who and what God was, but I wanted there to be a God who was kind and not punishing. When I discovered Buddhism, I was struck by its invitational quality – that we should test ideas out for ourselves and not just believe them because someone said to. I was also drawn to Buddhism’s emphasis on compassion – for ourselves and others. This appealed to my sense of wanting to help people, which I’ve had my whole life. Applying it to myself was a new and healing idea for me. Buddhism teaches not to ignore what is painful but rather look deeply into it – this teaching has been vital to my healing, rather than hiding the truth from myself.

5. Do you think this is a story just for women, or are there messages for men also?

When I decided to publish my book, I was thinking of the girls and women who might have experiences like mine, and who might find hope that healing is possible. However, there are messages for all people in my story. There is something misguided and very harmful to women in today’s patriarchy. Boys should be taught from a young age to respect girls and not view them as less-than, and as they become men, to not exert power over them but treat them as equals – different but equal. This would help men not take advantage of girls and women of any age. Perhaps by reading how damaging it is for a man with greater power to prey on young girls, this can become better understood and no longer done. Men in partnership with women who have experienced similar abuse as mine might better understand the ways they struggle and become part of their healing. It is equally important for us all to remember that boys as well as girls are often the subjects of grooming, betrayal, and abuse at the hands of those more powerful than they, and are subject to its resulting trauma.

6. What do you hope both teenagers and older audiences will learn from your story?

I assume most of my audience will be adult women – particularly women who struggle with self-worth regardless of its origin- and seek greater peace and wholeness in their lives. Some women may have had abusive relationships like mine, maybe even be unaware of its damaging impact, as I was. So I think an older audience may benefit from my story of waking up to my hurt and seeing that healing is possible. I would love for my book to be found by teenage girls considering entering a relationship with an adult man with greater power – girls being groomed. It might give them insight into the long-lasting dangers of such a relationship, even though it can feel very exciting and affirming at the time. I believe many young girls are being groomed by their trusted teachers, coaches, family members, ministers, and others – more than we realize. I would love to help expose this insidious and very harmful practice. I would love to help expose all the cover-ups and colluding done by institutions that help keep this in the shadows.

7. How did the act of writing your story contribute to your healing?

My therapist suggested that writing might be a good way to help me remember events and feelings from the past. I had snapshots of scenes, but once I began writing about them, some gaps were filled in, and I was able to recall ambiance and feeling states from the past. Somehow the creative act of writing opened channels that otherwise might have remained closed. This helped my past come more alive to me, and I could better connect the past to my present. Naming our feelings is an important early step in facing and working with difficult emotions. I continue to find writing to be a powerful way for what lies deep inside me to emerge. 

8. What was the most difficult aspect of writing about your teenage trauma?

I found writing the scenes with Mark, and later with Jason, to be the most difficult. 

In Mark’s case, it was challenging to write the scenes in enough detail to convey exactly how the grooming took place, while not being overly graphic. Emotionally, writing these scenes required me to directly face what happened, and as I pictured the young girl I was then, it broke my heart. 

In the case of Jason, it was difficult for me to relive the pain of the struggle we went through and for me to be honest about the ways I hurt him. I know how I acted with Jason resulted from my abuse and trauma, and at the same time, it saddens me that it played out in ways that hurt him – that hurt us.

9. Are there present-day triggers that can still activate your trauma? If so, how do you handle that?

Yes, absolutely! Most people with trauma histories (and even those without) will continue to be triggered by events in the present. The big difference, however, is in what happens after the trigger. As I described in the book, I used to respond to being triggered by entering a state of emotional paralysis, dissociation, and withdrawal, to the point of being unable to find words to speak and entering a downward spiral of self-contempt. Now, I can be triggered and see pretty quickly what is happening. I have many tools to help me. The primary one is the awareness I can bring to the moment and the recognition of the trigger. This allows me to breathe with it, sit with it, gently regulate myself, and then choose how I want to respond. Sometimes this process happens quickly after being triggered, and sometimes it takes a little while. Either way, I don’t descend into that downward spiral. Truly, my life is very different now, even in the face of inevitable triggers.

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Meet us at Pennwriters: Books Forward May 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the May 2023 newsletter here!

Award-winning Florida novelist brings the wacky, weird state to life in a charming and poignant love story

Lives intertwine around the search for stolen snakes and a missing man in novel

Daytona Beach, FL–In award-winning Florida author Ginger Pinholster’s new novel ”Snakes of St. Augustine” (Regal House,  Sept. 12, 2023), stolen snakes and a missing person set off a chain of events ranging from thrilling to romantic to deeply poignant.

The theft of Trina Leigh Dean’s beloved snakes – including a rare Eastern indigo named Unicorn, Banana Splits the yellow ball python, and Bandit the banded king snake – coincides with the disappearance of a troubled young man named Gethin Jacobs. While his sister Serena searches for him, she gains an unlikely accomplice: Jazz, a homeless community college student. Meanwhile, Trina’s friend Fletch, a burnt-out cop, scours St. Augustine, Florida, for the stolen snakes. Fletch’s quest puts him on a dangerous collision course with Gethin, raising questions about community, family, and the power of compassion.

A love story served up with a side of Florida weirdness, “Snakes of St. Augustine” centers around unforgettable characters that will remain in your heart long after the final page.

“Snakes of St. Augustine”

Ginger Pinholster | September 12, 2023 | Regal House | Fiction 

Paperback | ISBN: 9781646033829 | $19.95

GINGER PINHOLSTER likes to say that turtles find her. A volunteer member of Florida’s Volusia Turtle Patrol, she earned her M.F.A. degree from Queens University of Charlotte and a B.A. from Eckerd College. Her first novel, “City in a Forest,” won a Gold Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association in 2020. A resident of Ponce Inlet, she serves as vice president for communications at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Previously, she was the long-time chief communications officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she became an elected Fellow. Long ago and far away, she was a journalist. To learn more, visit:

Follow Ginger Pinholster on social media:

Facebook: @GingerPinholster | Twitter: @gingerpin | Instagram: @gingpin

In an interview, Ginger Pinholster can discuss:

  • What being a Floridian means to her, and how/why she writes about the state’s unique wacky charm
  • What the research process was like for this novel
  • How the true story of Jason Harrison–a man struggling with his mental health who was killed by Dallas police in 2014–inspired parts of this novel
  • How she works to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and neurodiversity in general, and how readers can make a difference
  • What she hopes readers will take away from this story


“I love the snakes in Ginger Pinholster’s new novel, ‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ because the people in her book love them. These snakes do not inspire fear, they do not elicit revulsion; they are powerful, beautiful, strong. As are Pinholster’s characters. This big-hearted novel is inhabited not just by dreamers and misfits, but by people struggling with serious mental illness, with addiction, with homelessness, with criminal behavior. Pinholster challenges our assumptions about their lives, without denying their pain or the harm they inflict. Steeped in a singular Florida charm, the novel reads sometimes like a thriller, sometimes like a love story, sometimes like a family drama. Take the leap: fall in love with Jazz, with Serena, with Fletch, with Rocky – maybe even with a ball python or a dusky pygmy rattler.”

 —Laura McBride, author of “We Are Called to Rise” and “In the Midnight Room”

“Here is a richly textured and compelling novel full of unforgettable personalities who will have you turning pages long into the night. Set in a slice of Florida that exists outside the margins of paradise, Pinholster masterfully spins a tale of humor and tragedy, trial and triumph. A book you won’t want to miss.”

 —Gale Massey, author of “The Girl From Blind River”

 “In ‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ an engaging novel about desperate love and pilfered snakes, Ginger Pinholster writes about neurodiversity with empathy and clarity. Her Florida reflects both the weirdness and beauty of her unforgettable characters.”

 —Mickey Dubrow, author of “American Judas”

“Serena, a young woman searching for her missing brother, finds herself swept up in a bleak and bizarre world of homeless encampments, drug-addled street jesters, and random pet reptiles. The last thing she needs is to fall in love with one of its denizens, until the charming but manic Jazz appoints himself her deputy. Pinholster’s equally wrenching and comic novel takes place against a backdrop of dead-ended despair endemic to northern Florida. Her characters, all of them at loose ends, become bound in a vasculature of feelings that turn them into family. Pinholster is a master of detail, both physical and emotional, and in her masterful hands, even lives tragically touched by mental illness attain poetry and meaning.”

—Jennie Erin Smith, author of “Stolen World”

“‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ Ginger Pinholster’s compelling second novel, deals with young men and women emerging from difficult childhoods and struggling with mental illness. The story is told from multiple points of view and the writing is stunning and deeply engaging. The characters are complex and authentic. They will work their way into your heart and as a reader you will feel an intense stake in the outcome. A mesmerizing story that defines ‘page turner’—you won’t want to let go with the last page. Pinholster is a talented novelist to watch and we’ll look forward to her next book.”

—Carla Rachel Sameth, author of “What Is Left” and “One Day on the Gold Line”

Pinholster describes wacky Florida with compassion and grace. With an ingenious plot and deeply rendered characters, the novel shows us the power of forgiveness, and the things that really matter in a nutty world: strength, love, humor, and hope.”

—Sara B. Fraser, author of “Just River” and “Long Division”

Pinholster compassionately and deftly creates a cast of characters who live on the margin of our social fabric—people who are suffering from mental illness, who are homeless, who are struggling to get by having grown up without family support; yet these characters, some of whom have become largely invisible to society, find a family among one another. And then there is a story of stolen snakes, a missing person, and drug dealers amid the authentic ambience of a beach community.”

—Eva Silverfine Ott, author of “How to Bury Your Dog”

An Interview with

Ginger Pinholster

1. What inspired you to write “Snakes of St. Augustine”?

“Snakes of St. Augustine” was inspired by a real-life tragedy involving the late Jason Harrison. A 38-year-old man living with psychosis, Harrison was killed by police officers in Dallas in 2014 after his mother asked for help getting him to a hospital. When I saw the police bodycam video of the killing, I found it deeply sad and disturbing. It made me think about the people in my own life, including my late brother, who have struggled with being different. In writing my book, I learned that people living with psychosis are rarely a threat to others, and in fact, they are far more likely to be mugged or raped, compared with the rest of us. Yet, discrimination and stigma too often turn those with mental illness into “the others.” And, although we now have a 9-8-8 hotline that people can call when they have a mental health crisis, too many police units still lack the training or personnel to safely deal with people who have neurodiversity – people like the late Jason Harrison.

2. How much of this story was drawn from real life?

This novel is fictional, and so it’s largely a product of my imagination. With that said, as a former teacher once told me, “It all comes from somewhere” – that is, deeply buried memories and life events tend to wind up in the stories that we write. In my case, losing my younger brother to mental illness, and subsequently finding a partner who has neurodiversity, clearly influenced me as I was writing “Snakes of St. Augustine.” When I met my current partner, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was probably subconsciously thinking, “Okay, here’s someone I can help, even if I wasn’t able to help my brother.” All of those feelings certainly wound up in the novel.

3. The Florida setting feels so essential to this story. How did you go about capturing the state’s unique wacky charm?

Many works of Southern fiction have historically treated the physical setting as another character in the story… maybe because of the transition from farmland to industrial land uses, in so many places. As a writer, I feel a need to preserve rapidly vanishing places, at least in the mind’s eye. I love to read immersive descriptions of physical settings, and to do that, I try to engage all five senses.

For her workshops, the wonderful ecology writer Janisse Ray has developed a free-writing exercise called, “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” The purpose of the exercise is to write a scene – moment to moment, through the senses, by showing rather than telling. This is how I try to write about story settings. Florida is a wild and beautiful place, and there’s no end to the state’s weirdness, such as monkeys colonizing a state park, or giant pythons invading the Everglades, or alligators inexplicably strolling through the ocean surf. Plenty of fodder for a fiction writer.

4. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

“Snakes of St. Augustine” is fundamentally about the power of community to help people who are living on the margins of our society. One of the characters in the book, Jazz, describes feeling as if he is “a homeless, potentially dangerous ghost, out of focus and wavy around the edges.” In other words, he feels invisible because of his homelessness and his obvious neurological differences. I hope that readers might look again at people like Jazz – people who are different, or on the margins – and consider the ways in which we are all similar, and all worthy of inclusion and compassion.  

5. What’s next for you?

I’m currently revising a third novel set in New Mexico. It’s a dual-timeline historical novel. It tells the story of a wounded warrior, Jemi, who is fighting to regain her confidence, in parallel with a nursing home resident, Rose, who is struggling to have her Native American heritage verified. The historical story delves into a shameful period of American history when, sadly, many Native American children were removed from their families. I’ve also begun to outline a fourth novel – I can’t share details yet, but suffice it to say, there are sea turtles.

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