Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories by Charles R. Butts Jr.

Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories by Charles R. Butts Jr.

A compilation of four diverse and entertaining short stories.


The title story, “Running In Plain Sight” chronicles the journey of Leander Sills Jr. At the age of ten, he was forced to flee after the brutal murder of his parents and his subsequent retaliation. Follow his travels as he tries to stay a step ahead of those seeking vengeance.

“If All Minds Are Clear”, tells the story of Reverend Brantley Wilkerson II. A young, handsome and charismatic minister on the rise and newly engaged to the pastor’s daughter. But when a potential indiscretion lurks and could possibly derail his dream of being named pastor of Grace Baptist Church, will he reach his dream, or will he fall from grace?

“Home”, follows the story of P. Randall Spires. Born an albino, he can’t shake the pain of being disowned by his father at eighteen. Now forty-eight and a successful securities trader living in Seattle, he yearns to exorcise a haunting nightmare and reconnect with his family. Can he reconcile the present by healing his past?

“A Balanced Imbalance”, begins with another failed suicide attempt by Zachary Price, who is living with bipolar disorder and cycling from the highest heights of mania to the darkest depths of depression. With his quality of life nonexistent and everything to live for, is he willing to give his doctor, his medications and therapy one last try, or will he end it all for good?


Excerpt: Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories by Charles R. Butts Jr.


Chapter One

June 20, 1902 Attapulgus, Georgia


It was mid-afternoon on a sweltering and humid summer day. The sun was bearing down and I was weeding the crops when I heard what sounded like gunshots. Scared out of my mind, I ran to the house as fast as I could to see what was going on.

When I reached the doorway, I froze; both Papa and Tully Bates were lying on the floor covered in blood, holding shotguns. Half of Tully’s head was blown off, so I knew he was dead. Pa was moaning and trying with all his might to move. Mama, seven months pregnant, was lying on her back near the stove. Her clothes were nearly ripped off, she’d been stabbed a few times and wasn’t moving. I’ll never forget that far away look she had in her eyes. Tully’s son, Buddy, who wasn’t much older than me, was standing near the corner holding a blood-covered knife. Enraged, in one motion, I grabbed Pa’s shotgun and blew Buddy clean across the room. His blood bathed the floor and quite a bit of him splattered all over the walls. Everything happened so fast. I stood there catching my breath and trembling. I didn’t snap out of it until I heard Pa calling out to me.

Covered in blood and gasping for air, he said, “Lee, there’s not much time, I need you to listen to me. Run out to the barn, climb up to the loft, look under the second bale of hay and bring me that box.” I did what he asked, and when I came back, he said, “Open it up, put all the money in your pocket, and the land deed in the bib of your overalls. Take my hat and boots too, you’re going to need them. Mark my x on the back of the deed and give it to Reverend Pope. Tell him I’m donating this land to the church so they can build a school, a separate house of worship and a cemetery. This land’s gotta always stay in colored hands, I worked too hard for it. Tell him to bury me and your Ma’s bodies here, and to save four or five plots for yourself. When it gets dark, I want you to go down to the rail yard, and sneak on the southbound train headed for Florida.”

He continued, “Now go on, get going. I’m sure somebody who heard the shots is probably on their way out here now. You’re big for a ten year old, and you have to be a man now. Your Ma and I love you something fierce. You are a product of our love, and no Ma and Pa has ever been more proud than we are. Give me your hand son, and go with God. Take hold of His hand and keep us in your heart always. Be a good man and be strong. Don’t start trouble, but don’t run from it either. Always be willing to stand your ground and defend yourself. Find work wherever you go and keep moving. You’re bigger and stronger than most men, and I believe you can outwork them too. Never stop looking over your shoulder.” He smiled, relaxed his calloused grip and passed from this world to the next. With tears in my eyes, and a painful lump in my throat, I put on Pa’s hat, slipped on his boots – the first pair of shoes I ever owned, and ran into the woods.

Crouched down and hidden in the woods about a mile away from the farm, and scared out of my mind, I watched the orange sun set before making my way over to Reverend Pope’s place. I handed him the deed, along with Pa’s instructions. I also told him everything that happened. Short and thin, with kind eyes and a garbled voice, he was extremely grateful for the land. Grateful, but saddened for Ma and Pa, and scared for me at the same time. He and Mrs. Pope covered me, said a prayer for Ma and Pa before he blessed me, anointed my head with oil and sent me on my way. Before sending me on, Mrs. Pope packed some fried chicken and pound cake for me to take along. A bit taller and bigger than her husband – she was really pretty.

Reverend Pope handed me a few dollars and said, “Go with God son, and be forever blessed. I’ll do everything your Pa asked me to, and we’ll always be praying for you. Find a way to let me know how you’re doing from time to time. Your Pa was right, it’s not safe for you here. I imagine those boys will turn this town and county upside down looking for you.”

( Continued… )

Purchase Running In Plain Sight & Other Stories by Charles R. Butts Jr.

About the Author
Running In Plain Sight and Other Stories is a compilation of four diverse and entertaining stories. It’s the second book written by Charles R. Butts Jr., a former soldier of the U.S. Army and a postal employee for over thirty-three years. When he’s not reading or writing, Charles enjoys spending time with Shawanda, his wife of twenty-one years, and his children Amber and Trey. Influenced by Langston Hughes, Walter Mosley and James Baldwin, he hopes to entertain and provoke thought in the reader.



Two-Sided Heart by Patricia Anne Phillips

Two-Sided Heart by Patricia Anne Phillips

For Randal, it is love at first sight when he lays eyes on Leah. After a short, whirlwind romance, Leah leaves all she knows behind in New Orleans and moves to Savannah, Georgia to marry her newfound love, only to exist in secrets.

Now, seven years of bliss, Leah and Randal welcome beautiful, twin daughters—Leanne and Brooklyn. After several hours of intense labor, Leah falls madly in love with her babies. Randal, on the other hand, not so much. With a heart of ice, Randal makes an unconscionable decision that changes Leah’s life forever, and eventually determines his demise.

After Randal being the breadwinner and taking care of everything, Leah now finds herself heartbroken, clueless, betrayed, and alone. With only Brooklyn by her side, she embarks upon a new life, with Randal’s secret constantly haunting her.


Excerpt: Two-Sided Heart by Patricia Anne Phillips

Feeling weak, Leah laid her head on the pillow and rubbed her hands across her stomach. Randal sat back in the chair next to her.

“We have a problem, Leah. We can only take one baby home.”

She tried to lift her head off the pillow, but she didn’t have the strength. She felt lightheaded. “What are you talking about? The nurse said both could go home in two or three weeks. They’re doing fine, Randal. Don’t worry.”

“The darker one has a weak heart and will have to stay until her heart gets stronger. The doctor says there is a slim chance.”

Leah sat up in bed. “The nurse didn’t say anything about her heart. I don’t understand.” She started to cry and Randal gently pushed her back against the pillow and kissed her cheek. He was compassionate with his wife.

“I told the doctor and the nurse that I would tell you, but don’t worry yourself sick about it. Did you get a good look at the child? She looks Black. She doesn’t look White, by no means at all. How can we take her home anyway, even if she does get stronger?”

“You’re not suggesting we leave her here when she has a home to go to. We have two children, Randal, and two will go home with us. I can’t believe you would even think of something so cruel about your own child. What on earth has gotten into you? You need to think about what you just suggested. My babies are going home with me.” Leah wondered what had gotten into him. What could he be thinking? She closed her eyes, but her body shook like a leaf on a tree. Their baby was too dark for him; she felt as though he threw a glass of ice-cold water on her face to wake her up.

Randal kept his voice low, but his tone was cold. “I fell in love with you before I discovered you weren’t White. The baby doesn’t look White at all, and everyone will know we’ve been living a lie. She can’t go home with us,” he said adamantly, his ice-blue eyes hard on her.

When she looked in his eyes, so cold and relentless, there was no way to convince him otherwise. They were disagreeing about their children, and as far as Leah was concerned, both babies were going home; both babies were hers.

( Continued… )

Purchase Two-Sided Heart by Patricia Anne Phillips

Women Fiction.  Available in print and ebook.


About the Author
Patricia Anne Phillips currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She has written eight novels, Romance and Women Fiction and is now working on her new novel. Website address:





That Church Life by Teresa B.

That Church Life ( Books 1 & 2) by Teresa B.

“From beginning to end, That Church Life has you on the edge of your pew. What made this book a page turner: Three ladies on different spiritual paths that come to a head at the beginning of a major tragedy. The book unfolds as Missy, the preachers kid and heir to the megachurch throne is broken, bloody and on the run in these Durham, North Carolina streets!

The Church Gal Crew is leading the way to Salvation at Mt. Zion Holiness Church. Feisty Natalia Freemon is the “head” of the crew. Rebellious and outspoken, she has no problems challenging the church status quo. Years later however, her loss of faith will tragically impact her life.

Michelle Hanks, a country girl from a hardworking farm family is the peacemaker and “soul” of the crew. Although struggling with self-confidence she is wise beyond her years and can’t wait to escape the farm life and find success; even if it costs her soul.

Missy Jones, the “heart” of the crew, has the face of an angel and a voice sent from heaven. A pastor’s daughter raised in the church, Missy loves the ministry and her place in it. But the flesh is tempting, especially when it comes in the form of sexy church musician and Mt. Zion playboy Tommy.

These three best friends drift away from each other and the church but come back together through spiritual downfall, relationship crises, drug addiction, and even murder. Can the crew survive the drama involved in That Church Life?


Chapter Excerpt: That Church Life-Teresa B. Howell

“Lord, forgive my sin!” echoed down Burlington Street and off the row of brick tènements. I ran back and forth, screaming the words at the top of my lungs with a preacher’s tone. Is this happening to me? Is this a dream? Help please! Feet red and bruised, where are my shoes? Why wasn’t anyone helping me?

Could they not hear me screaming? Fluttering eyes continued as I looked up at the horizon. I was not surprised to see window shades pulled up and people glaring from their homes. All those empty stares watching me for a story, but not to help. I stood in the middle of the street feeling insecure and paranoid while dabbing at burning ears as my anxiety go the best of me. Tinges of red on the edge of my fingertips confirmed all my fears. Blood! But how? Where? Got to find some place to hide. Numb and still very confused, my chanting became even louder than before, “Lord, my God! Help me, Lord!”

The screams and the crying did not cease. “Lord, please forgive me for my sin.” The scene of violence was stuck in my head: Oxygenated blood gushed slowly out of his body and onto the brown carpet of the pastor’s study. The stranger’s hands were large and strong as he wrestled with the two of us. The handgun concealed in his boot was braced with his second hand before it went off six times. We all fell to the ground simultaneously. The musician laid there, still holding onto the candid smile he had when he walked in. The sound of the gun going off pierced my ears over and over again. The thought of losing someone I loved so intensely created shivers from my head to my toes.


More About The Church Gal Crew

Feisty Natalia Freemon is the “head” of the crew. Rebellious and outspoken, she has no problems challenging the church status quo. Years later however, her loss of faith will tragically impact her life.

Michelle Hanks, a country girl from a hardworking farm family is the peacemaker and “soul” of the crew. Although struggling with self-confidence she is wise beyond her years and can’t wait to escape the farm life and find success; even if it costs her soul.

Missy Jones, the “heart” of the crew, has the face of an angel and a voice sent from heaven. A pastor’s daughter raised in the church, Missy loves the ministry and her place in it. But the flesh is tempting, especially when it comes in the form of sexy church musician and Mt. Zion playboy Tommy.

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Abuse of Discretion by Pamela Samuels Young

A Kid’s Curiosity … A Parent’s Nightmare

The award-winning author of “Anybody’s Daughter” is back with an addictive courtroom drama that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile criminal justice system.

Graylin Alexander is a model fourteen-year-old. When his adolescent curiosity gets the best of him, Graylin finds himself embroiled in a sexting scandal that threatens to ruin his life. Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice?

Unbeknownst to Angela, her boyfriend Dre is wrestling with his own drama. Someone from his past wants him dead. For Dre, his response is simple—kill or be killed.

Abuse of Discretion is a 5-Star Read!  Here’s what readers are saying:


The author made this story so real for me that there were moments I was actually sitting on the edge of my seat!!! As a parent there were times I wanted to grab Graylin and just shake him; however, this book served as a great lesson of trust and faith.

Urban Reviews

Pamela Samuels Young gives us a signature courtroom drama and mystery that is anything but typical. You get a bird’s-eye view of the confusing juvenile criminal justice system…This book drives the point home about knowing what your child is doing on their computers and cell phones at all times. Abuse of Discretion is a fast-paced, emotionally charged novel with surprising plot twists that Pamela Samuels Young is known for.

B. Eaves
Abuse of Discretion was a fantastic read…I had pre-ordered and was happy to see it on my Kindle..A page turner couldn’t put it down I loved this series. The stories kept getting better with each read with great characters.

This book took me a couple of hours to read. I could not put it down…This book had my emotions all over the place. I was mad. Sad. Happy. Disgusted. This book is definitely worth reading.

Author Pamela Samuels Young always write about our society’s problems, especially youngsters. She knows intimately what she is writing, always trying to open our eyes and be better parents, grandparents.

Great read! …This story is an eye opener and had me full of emotions. Kudos to Pamela Samuels Young on a wonderful story 🙂

Gloria J. Waldren
You have great characters that keep us on the edge of our seats. It is a wonderful book and I loved reading it. Please never stop writing you are an awesome writer.

Purchase Abuse of Discretion (Dre Thomas Series Book 3) by Pamela Samuels Young

Explore Legal Thrillers by Pamela Samuels Young




Chapter 1


“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”

I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.

Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.

“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”

“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”

I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!

My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.

I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”

“No, there wasn’t a death.”

She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.

Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”

She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!

I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.

Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.

“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”

“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”

“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”

“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I’ve already made the call.”

The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?

The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”

Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.

The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.

Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”

“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”

“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”

“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!

“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”

“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”

“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”

I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”

“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”

I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.

“I also made another call.”

At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.

“So you called my granny?”

“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”

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Black Hearts White Minds: A Novel by Mitch Margo

The year is 1964 and Carl Gordon is an ill-prepared New York Assistant U.S. Attorney who has lied his way into a transfer to Stockville, Alabama, where he is supposed to monitor and enforce the Civil Rights Act.

In a matter of days, the Ku Klux Klan takes aim at him, the outside agitator. Carl has agreed to represent Oleatha Geary, a black family matriarch who has inherited a mansion in an all-white, race-restricted neighborhood. Carl and Oleatha are engulfed in litigation that turns deadly. It’s anyone’s guess who will survive multiple assassination attempts, let alone whose integrity will remain intact.

Carl’s 12-year-old son, John, is unwelcome on Stockville’s white basketball team because of who his father is, and it seems there’s nowhere else for him to play. But ever-resourceful and impulsive Carl makes other plans for John, unwittingly putting John’s life, and the life of his new teammates, at risk. Ultimately, the young players don’t care as much about color lines as they do the lines on the basketball floor.

Praise for Black Hearts White Minds and Mitch Margo

“As I read Black Hearts White Minds, I was reminded by turns of Harper Lee, Willie Morris, and John Grisham. Like Grisham, Mitch Margo is an attorney; like Morris, he’s a former journalist, and like Lee, his writing is evocative with a moral center straight and true.”
-Richard H. Weiss, Former Daily Features Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


“The early sixties are often thought of as a time of lost innocence. Margo reminds us that the era was anything but innocent in the American south. His novel rings with authenticity and his characters’ struggles in the fictional town of Stockville, Alabama foretell the problems we still face today. Stockville is not really so far from Ferguson.”
-Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


“Mitch Margo enriches his story of the institutional and personal conflicts during the Civil Rights era with characters whose responses are always felt and are at times surprising.”
-Kenneth J. Cooper, Pulitzer Prize Winner


“Black Hearts White Minds transports readers to a time and place in American history when the Civil Rights movement was slowly gaining traction, and segregationists, including the Ku Klux Klan, would stop at nothing to trounce the efforts of blacks and whites fighting for justice. Margo has crafted a narrative that is equal parts engrossing, heartbreaking and hopeful, populated with richly drawn, compelling characters, and an overarching essence that captures the enduring nature of the human spirit, no matter the obstacles.”
-Ellen Futterman, Editor, St. Louis Jewish Light


“At once magical and poignant and terrifying… You will be enchanted by this powerful story.”
-Michael A. Kahn, Award-winning Author, Rachel Gold Mysteries Series


“Mitch Margo sets his first novel in one Alabama town, allowing him to explore the era on a distinctly human scale through ordinary people and not so ordinary events. Margo has a knack for dramatic structure and a sharp eye for contrasting, engaging personalities. And his plot twists manage to be simultaneously startling and entirely credible, no mean feat.”
-Eric Mink, Writer, The Huffington Post


“I simply loved this book, the story, the characters, and of course the basketball concept on his first time out, Mitch Margo scores a triple double.”
-Ron Himes, Founder and Producing Director St. Louis Black Repertory Company


“Mitch Margo did an awesome job making me feel the joy, pain, frustration and passion of each character. I felt like I was right there in Stockville experiencing the story myself…”
-Sharonda McMullen Director, Create A New You


“Black Hearts White Minds is a lively, engrossing novel about two families struggling with the brutality of Jim Crow, one black, the other white. The plotting is deft, the characters vivid, and the ambience as thick as Southern humidity. Mitch Margo knows how to tell a story.”
-David Carkeet, Author, The Full Catastrophe


“Mitch Margo tells a story that combines love, painful history, politics, childhood innocence, prejudice and courage. You will want to read it more than once.”
-Lenora Billings-Harris, Author, The Diversity Advantage: A Guide to Making Diversity Work


“Black Hearts White Minds is an important book that lances the boil of prejudice, peels away the crusted layers of historic bigotry, and reveals a purer sense of what’s possible when we see ourselves and each other as whole and valid. Mitch Margo’s own life experiences coupled with his mastery of story puts him in a league with John Grisham and Taylor Branch.”
-Mara Purl, Bestselling Author, What the Heart Knows and Where the Heart Lives


About the Author
A former reporter for The Detroit News and Los Angeles Herald Examiner and a syndicated columnist for 14 years, Mitch Margo is a native New Yorker and St. Louis trial lawyer. He’s witnessed the clash of cultures which are woven into his first novel, Black Hearts White Minds. Much of the story is drawn from his personal experiences, interviews, and hundreds of hours of research. He credits his eclectic law practice for a new storyline every few days.

As general counsel to the Missouri Valley Conference, and a former youth coach, Mitch has an insider’s view of basketball that enables him to write about it authentically. He’s also a member of the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame, at one time holding the school record in just about every baseball statistic. He’s proud of his days as a student/athlete, but hasn’t lost sight of the fact that you can’t get too much farther from Cooperstown and still be in a hall of fame.







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Beautiful Imperfections by Marjorie Vernelle

“Art, like love, redeems, and love, like beauty, is imperfect.” – Beautiful Imperfections

Wabi sabi, a Japanese term for finding beauty in imperfection, perfectly describes Keith James, “the girl with the boys’ names,” who travels from the Midwestern U.S. to Toronto and on into the world of fine art and big money. Like pieces of raku pottery amidst the porcelain, Keith, her mentor, a brilliant Haitian-born art historian, and the handsome Jewish art dealer who becomes her husband, are all standouts in a world that views them as outsiders. Through loss and love, they discover that art, like love, redeems, and that love, like beauty, is imperfect.


Top Amazon Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars By Darlini Martinion
I am so impressed with the writings of Marjorie Vernelle! Not only is this novel a page turner, but the amount of information revealed about the art world is amazing. In some ways, It almost feels like an art class! Not knowing much about Toronto, it was very interesting to not only learn a lot about Canada, but what its like to attend University outside of the USA. Woven in between and all around the story is a beautiful love story. I found Keith to be an amazing character and so admire her courage and strength to overcome all of the obstacles presented to her. Trust me, you will not be disappointed with the ending in this novel.


5.0 out of 5 stars By Galen Hazelhofer
This is a wonderful story especially if you are interested in art. If you are not, there is a lot you can learn here. The references are wonderful and you feel like you are in the middle of the art world yourself as Keith does her gallery work and hangs out in the upper echelons of society from San Francisco to Toronto and her visits in between. It is a wonderful story line and I would love to see the movie!


5-Star Review by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Beautiful Imperfections is a literary fiction novel written by Marjorie Vernelle. Some might think that the Survey of Art History class that Keith James took to fulfill the Religious Knowledge class in her first year at the University of Toronto was the defining moment in her life, and indeed, in many ways, it was.

Dr. Lucien Montreux, the brilliant, assured and enigmatic Haitian professor and art expert, immediately enthralled her with his energy and fire, his intelligence that seemed to gleam from his eyes, like flashes of diamonds. He was the guardian of the mysteries of the art world and, in introducing them to her in his own inimitable way, he became her mentor, friend and inevitably her lover. The young Nebraskan sophomore’s eyes were caught not only by the lovely and charismatic man conducting the class as if it were a symphony, she was also drawn to the very pale and beautiful young man sitting just a few seats away and down one aisle. She was fascinated by his long, dark curls and lustrous black eyes, his intelligent and measured responses to Montreux’s lecture. David and the professor would become the two most important people in her life, satellites orbiting her world, but her defining moment had actually taken place some days earlier when Sadie Lee Celestine James attended the Frosh dinner as a new student, and in a moment of clarity and inspiration, had become Keith James, someone who was “jazz, sharp, modern, improvised, like a cool, clear note blown straight from the trumpet of Miles Davis and well worth consideration.”

Even more than that transcendent first lecture where Keith meets Montreux and David. I was stunned by the passage quoted above relating Sadie Lee’s transformation into Keith.

Marjorie Vernelle’s literary fiction novel, Beautiful Imperfections, is as grand and glorious as the Turner landscapes Keith loves so much and as complex and nuanced as Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. The art lover and aspiring artist in me instantly felt at home in Keith’s world and loved learning with her the intricacies of her craft as an art expert and gallery owner. Vernelle’s descriptions of life in San Francisco had me feeling like I was back there myself, and the spell she weaves about Toronto made me almost consider braving those winters to experience that city first-hand. There’s music in these pages, and not just the jazz evoked by Keith’s brilliant name change — add a bit of Stravinsky and some discordant new classical works and then stir in some rich classical symphonies as those three lives swirl, clash and continue their endless striving to connect. But most of all there’s the art, the Turners, the five little De Koonings that mean so much in so many different ways and cause oh, so much pain, the hidden Old Masters that could save Keith from the total tragedy that befell after the San Francisco earthquake.

And there’s her own art, Keith’s own visions of light and color. All these things swirl and conspire to delight the reader. I love this book. It’s beautiful and perfect. Beautiful Imperfections is most highly recommended.

Purchase Beautiful Imperfections by Marjorie Vernelle
Women’s Contemporary Fiction




Chapter Excerpt: Beautiful Imperfections by Marjorie Vernelle

Keith James, a young black woman and her mentor Lucien Montreux, a Haitian art historian, are at a fundraiser in which people’s valuables are being appraised in hopes of finding some treasure. Keith finds her treasure in Dr. Montreux.

I set up the table for an appraiser, had reference books at the ready, and took the tickets of those who came, making sure that they matched the number of items they had paid to have appraised. Then I observed. It was painful really. The jade dish that someone’s great grandfather had brought back from his adventures on the China Sea turned out to be nothing but soapstone, proven when the appraiser could scratch the bottom of the dish with a coin and leave a tiny mark. The printed picture brought lovingly across the sea from Ireland by a great ancestor in the 18th century was just that century’s equivalent of a calendar picture: no value then, no value now. I had to admit that my aesthetic tastes, still developing at the time, let me know when some of these family treasures were just ugly junk, then, now, and forever.

I performed my duties professionally, though, without comment or expression. Lucien Montreux was there working on Saturday, just across the room from where I was. I was surprised to see him at this more ordinary event, as he had been very present on Thursday evening to work with the wealthy patrons of the gallery. After taking the ticket and getting each client settled for his or her appraisal, I would sit with one ear attuned to what the appraiser was saying and with both eyes on Montreux. I could not hear what he was saying, but I could watch his manner. Each appraiser received the next client in line, but I noticed that some of those shown to Montreux seemed to hesitate, showing reluctance. Obviously, it was a bit odd for them to see a black specialist sitting there, though Hamilton-Colbert only hired the best appraisers. Montreux for his part was completely unconcerned, greeting each client with charming and gracious manners. As he talked about the object they had brought to him, I would see them lean forward in interest. From time to time, an assistant for one of the other appraisers, someone younger and newer to the business, would come asking for advice. Seeing their expert be the man whom others went to for advice seemed to convince the skeptical. I found out later that Montreux always volunteered to be of assistance to those new to doing public appraisals, which created a visible acknowledgment of his talent that smoothed his way with the reluctant public. I marveled at his strategy. “Sly old fox,” I thought.

As I watched Lucien Montreux, a memory came to me of a Japanese raku teacup I had seen at Hamilton-Colbert. It might have belonged to Sen no Rikyu, the 16th century master of the tea ceremony and vassal of Lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Oddly shaped, that cup was far from the static, pure, porcelain beauty of Old Japan. However, its dark surface had an attractive shimmer. The irregular rises and falls in its form pleased the hand, finding a way to fit perfectly no matter how the cup is held. Sitting by itself it attracted the eye by its difference. Among other pieces of raku, it held its own, playing its unique part like an instrument in an orchestra. Lucien Montreux was that masterpiece of raku. He did not fit the porcelain model. The irregularity of his being in this setting caught the eye. The beauty of his talent and expression drew one to him, just like the soft shimmering finish and odd form of that teacup moved one to desire it. He was the prize, the rare object, by some standards imperfect in form, yet beyond measure in its beautiful allure.

I noticed from across the room that Dr. Montreux would look up from his appraisal work and smile at me. I had sent him a formal letter of thank you, but I had not contacted him otherwise since that windy day on campus when our paths had crossed. As things wrapped up on that Saturday, I excused myself for a moment to go across to talk to him. He looked up and watched me as I approached. Read the rest of this entry »


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The Wicker Diary by Wil Harris

From three generations of diary entries, follow the drama and intrigue in the lives of two families as they look to the future in a sometimes unfair America.


The Coffey family begins with black Civil War soldier Tanin Coffey, and his son, Tanin Jr., who struggled to survive as they came to grips with a postwar South, the failures of reconstruction, and the Great Depression.

The story continues with Darius Coffey, a World War II veteran, who moved to Florida to work for a group smuggling drugs from Latin America to the United States. His wife, Leona Mihan Coffey, reveals her family’s lies and secrets.

Daryl Christopher was raised by his Cuban mother and served in the Vietnam War before returning to Miami. After he becomes involved in organized crime, he meets Darius and Leona’s daughter Valarie and both of their lives are forever changed, as the next generation finds a place in the world, while making sense of their family’s tangled web.

Watch the video introduction for The Wicker Diary by Wil Harris, go here.



Excerpt: The Wicker Diary by Wil Harris

Hand of the Lord
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you. -Zechariah 3:1-2


Darius D. Coffey: Part I

My name is Darius D. Coffey, and I was born in the heart of the segregated south on September 12, 1923, in Opelika, Alabama. I entered this world disposed to debt bondage, where acquired liability passed from one generation to the next. My story begins with my granddaddy Tanin Coffey Sr. He signed his name with an X on the contract for a piece of land that he would never own but would finally, one day, rest his body in.

My father always spoke of my granddaddy and the wisdom his life left behind. He was a slave who fled the Alabama cotton fields in 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation left the South in an uproar.

There is no record of his birth, but it is believed he was between fifteen to seventeen years of age when he escaped slavery. He made his way to Ohio by underground trails and safe houses, dodging slave trackers, and Confederate soldiers along the way. After shuffling through northeast Ohio for a few months, he found himself in West Virginia, where he got by on Christian charity and the efforts of a local abolitionist movement.

He slept in a bed for the first time in West Virginia. Before that it had been dirt floors and hay. He never knew his mother and father or any other family. He grew up among other slaves, who all spoke with different dialects from their region of the African continent and who all suffered the lash and worked at the pleasure of their owner. Granddaddy often thought about Boss Tom, who, as the overseer of the plantation in Alabama, was a brutal white man. Described as tall and burley, he had no troubles hanging any slave-man, woman, or child.

As rumor of the Emancipation Proclamation spread, revolt was at hand. More than 130 slaves rose up, including my grandfather, and killed the master and his family. My grandfather would tell the story of the main house going up in flames while white bodies hung burning in the apple orchard by the dozens. It was Boss Tom’s death that brought the most pleasure. He was alive when they castrated him with broken glass. Someone cut out his tongue and shoved his gentiles down his throat with a stick. He was finally hung from a banister of the main house before it was set on fire.

By this time the North was losing the war, and there was talk that President Lincoln would be raising a black regiment. When my granddaddy heard this, it was all he could think of. He reckoned if he and other black men fought bravely to end the war and bring the country back together, they could have a new and equal start in America. It was as though the ancestors were calling to him from the other side of the sun. Though he could not visualize it, he knew that it was there. Freedom. He had no one who had gone before him to prepare the way so his path was a mystery.

In 1864 he joined the all-black Twenty-Seventh US Infantry. My father would speak proudly of the time granddaddy heard Frederick Douglass speak at an army assembly: “Your granddaddy told me that when Frederick Douglass walked into the hall, there was a hush throughout. With his fiery-white hair and beard, he looked like a king. He told those in attendance that now was their time, and the future of all Negros rested on their shoulders. And those words had an effect on your granddaddy and he never forgot it.”

My granddaddy’s initial experience with army life was that of manual labor. In four months he went from cooking to digging graves for slain white soldiers. The carnage and blood he witnessed heightened his eagerness for glory and honor. There was a fear growing among the black soldiers that the North may lose the war before their opportunity to prove themselves would come. There was skepticism among some Northern white soldiers on how their black counterparts would fair in battle. Many said they didn’t have the discipline to stand and fight in an organized way or the sense to take and follow orders. Everyone got their answer in Virginia in 1864. My grandfather’s first skirmish was fought on a hillside.

A fresh snow had fallen the night before, which made it difficult for him to get his footing while shelling from the Confederate guns tore through the tall trees ahead as they advanced. Men were being shot down all around him as he marched forward. A Confederate bullet passed through his shirt, nicking his left side. He went down to one knee as the burning sensation took over. They were ordered to load weapons. He had done the drill hundreds of times but never to the thud of bullets hitting flesh. He tore open the powder and poured it down the rifle shaft. After dropping a single ball, he quickly packed it. “Fire,” the officers ordered, and he did. Read the rest of this entry »


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