Guest Post: Reyna Marder Gentin – MY NAME IS LAYLA

Good day, book people! I’m finding it hard to believe that we are more than halfway through the month of January of 2021. Time during this pandemic seems to either fly or go slower than molasses up a hill backwards in the winter time (one of my dad’s favorite sayings). If you’re anything like my mother, you might be struggling with ways to keep busy during this quarantine. Her normal go-tos of reading, working crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles seemed to have failed her after a few months. She’s not big on watching television, other than the news, so even that’s a none issue. Others, like today’s guest, Reyna Marder Gentin, author of Unreasonable Doubts and the recently released My Name is Layla will be sharing with us another approach to the pandemic, school. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say about going back to class, add My Name is Layla to your TBR list (or to the TBR list of one of your younger bookish divas or divos). Thank you, Ms. Gentin for joining us today and sharing your pandemic experiences. The blog is now yours.

 

 

BACK TO CLASS

 

Some of my well-meaning friends have speculated that staying home during the pandemic must be easier for me since I’m usually here anyway, at my desk in my kitchen, alone, writing. Of course, there’s a certain truth to that. There are those hours in the early morning when I can still pretend that I’m not a captive to the virus restrictions–just a person who prefers the quiet of her home, a freshly brewed pot of coffee, limitless snacks (and their unfortunate attendant weight gain), and ample time to try to put something worthwhile down on the page without the distractions of going out, seeing friends, or attending cultural or religious events.

But try as I might to fool myself, I feel as trapped as anyone else. That’s not to say I don’t recognize the distinct advantages. I may be holed up at home, but there’s plenty of space for my husband and children to do work and school and not be on top of me or each other. We’re in the suburbs, where you can still take a walk and stay so far from anyone else that you can ditch the mask. And we count our blessings every day that the pandemic doesn’t take a health or economic toll on us. So it’s not that I’m not grateful that I work from home. My point is only that my need for routine, diversion, and company is no less real because my “usual” reality is solitary and home-based.

So how have I handled the isolation of this crazy time? Well, the evenings are the easiest. Like so many others, my husband and I cruised through The Queen’s Gambit and The Crown, very different programs but both enormously enjoyable. We also watched all of The Kominsky Method, which I found poignant and my husband found depressing. I watched the latest season of Fauda, the searing Israeli action drama, which could give the most hardened viewer nightmares, on my own. Now at bedtime, we’re haplessly choosing indie movies we know nothing about and that we turn off after 25 minutes when we can’t find their redeeming value and sleep is a better alternative.

Television as a method of escape works best for me at night, when it doesn’t feel indulgent but rather a reasonable attempt at relaxation. The days have been harder. Pre-pandemic, I gave my writing and my mind a chance to percolate by breaking up my schedule with volunteering as an attorney and taking writing classes. The clinic where I represent victims of domestic violence in Family Court went virtual in March. I tried to continue remotely, but the lack of interaction with my colleagues and the necessity of relying on electronic filings and appearances were too many new tricks for this old dog to learn. I’ll return when the courts reopen.

So I chose to go back to class, my reliable happy place, although even this took trial and error before I landed on something that works in the bizarre circumstances of 2020.

First, I signed up for a graduate level philosophy class being taught remotely by a local university. The topic was the binding of Isaac, one of the foundational stories in the Hebrew bible, in which Abraham exhibits his complete faith in God by being willing to sacrifice his son and then is rewarded when Isaac’s life is spared. Anticipating that the subject matter and readings might be over my head, I registered as an auditor, and reminded the professor that I would just be “sitting in the back” of the class, gleaning what I could. And, although the class had its fascinating moments, that’s exactly what happened. I took in the gist of the lectures, but missed a lot of the real substance, as my classmates bantered about the sources in their original Hebrew and left me in the dust.

Next, I signed up for an online class at The Gotham Writers’ Workshop. I chose a mystery class because it looked interesting, even though mystery is not my genre. Although I did some good workshopping and cranked out a first pass at 10,000 words or so, I discovered what I already knew deep down: mystery is (likely) not my genre. I don’t create puzzles, drop clues, or weave suspense. I put what I had aside, an experiment worth conducting but probably not worth pursuing.

And then I stumbled upon One Day University, the perfect addition to the pandemic lifestyle for the working-at-home writer. Let me explain.

For a small monthly fee, One Day University offers a lecture every day at 4:00 in the afternoon by a distinguished college professor in his or her area of expertise. Right off the bat, this scores two important points in my battle against Corona monotony. The class happens at the same time everyday, giving me both a routine that I sorely lack, as well as something to look forward to as the day wanes. And the variety of topics is perfect for my COVID-eviscerated attention span that only allows me to concentrate on any one subject for a limited amount of time. With One Day U, I get exactly 50 minutes of science or art or literature, and I make no further commitment. Perfect!

I’ll admit that some of the lectures have worked better for me than others. I love listening to one professor, a museum curator who’s taken me on an in depth tour of the Metropolitan Museum on one day, the Parthenon on another, and in one lecture demonstrated how she approaches setting up an art exhibit, down to how she picks the colors for those little signs that are posted next to the paintings. One afternoon I learned about sleep science, and was convinced to cut my usual 45 minute nap down to a 20 minute power nap to better accommodate my circadian rhythms. Another day, a film studies professor walked me through the mechanics of how Alfred Hitchcock created suspense in his movies with clips and behind the scenes stories. (Probably should have watched that one before my mystery writing class.) On the flip side, I was entirely lost in an astronomy lecture recently on how scientists look for new planets orbiting other suns, and another day I was intrigued by the life story of Albert Einstein but totally unable to follow the discussion of his various mathematical theories.

But the best part of One Day U comes in the last ten minutes of every program, when the professors answer questions posed by the students in the chat function during the lecture. I always try to come up with something to ask, partly because I want to know the answer, but mostly because when the teacher reads and answers my question, it’s an affirmation that our virtual connection is also a human one. We both exist in that moment, COVID, isolation, lockdowns, and social distancing be damned! We’re still teacher and student, engaging in something new, bridging the cruel gap that this virus has imposed on the world. And silly as it is, on the occasions when the professor comments that my question is excellent or important, that small moment of recognition is all the encouragement I need to continue with my solitary writing endeavors the next day, until 4:00 rolls around again.

 

 

MY NAME IS LAYLA - RMGentin
 
My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin
ISBN: 9781952816086 (paperback)
ASIN: B08D1ZM4FW (Kindle)
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Release Date: January 19, 2021

 

School will never be the same…

On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her– another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.

Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?

 

 

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository

 

Author Bio:

Author - Reyna Marder GentinReyna Marder Gentin grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney with a public defender’s office before turning to writing full time. Reyna has studied at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her work has been published widely online and in print. Her debut novel, Unreasonable Doubts, was named a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award in 2019. Her first novel for children, My Name is Layla, was published in January 2021, and Reyna’s latest adult novel, Both Are True, will be published in October, 2021. Reyna lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York.

 

Visit Reyna Marder Gentin:
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This guest post brought to you by Saichek Publicity

Book Showcase: ENEMIES OF DOVES by Shanessa Gluhm

Enemies of Doves

by Shanessa Gluhm

on Tour June 1-14, 2020



Synopsis:


Enemies of Doves by Shanessa Gluhm

On a summer night in 1932, twelve-year-old Joel Fitchett wanders into an East Texas diner badly beaten and carrying his unconscious brother, Clancy. Though both boys claim they have no memory of what happened, the horrific details are etched into their minds as deep as the scar left across Joel’s face.

Thirteen years later, both men still struggle with the aftershocks of that long-ago night and the pact they made to hide the truth. When they find themselves at the center of a murder investigation, they make a decision that will change everything. A second lie, a second pact and for a time, a second chance.

In 1991 college student, Garrison Stark, travels to Texas chasing a rumor that Clancy Fitchett is his biological grandfather. Clancy has been missing since 1946 and Garrison hopes to find him, and in doing so, find a family. What he doesn’t expect to discover is a tangle of secrets spanning sixty years involving Clancy, Joel and the woman they both loved, Lorraine.

Told in alternating timelines from World War II to 1992, Enemies of Doves is a tale of family secrets, jealousy and deception perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Allen Eskens.




Book Details:


Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Touchpoint Press
Publication Date: March 20, 2020
Number of Pages: 328
ISBN: 1946920916 (ISBN13: 9781946920911)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads



Enemies Of Doves Trailer:





Read an excerpt:



Joel woke up to a white world: white walls, white sheets, a white pitcher of water, and a stranger wearing white. White like Mama’s favorite flowers, white like the coat Daddy wore to work, white like the doves that…

No, don’t think about doves. Don’t think about doves ever again.

The white was better than his last memory: black. Ravenous black. It had swallowed everything.

Harsh light speared into the room, painting sharp rectangles on the linoleum floor. Joel blinked involuntarily. The lady in the white uniform noticed. “He’s awake!” she called. “Mrs. Fitchett, he’s awake!”

Mama and Daddy charged in, talking at the same time, asking the same questions.

“I’m okay,” Joel said.

Mama’s hands hovered a few seconds before settling on his arm. “I’m sorry we weren’t here. I told your daddy we shouldn’t both leave but—”

“Are you in pain, son?” Daddy rarely let Mama finish a sentence.

“My stomach hurts.” Joel didn’t recognize the sound of his own voice, so small and croaky.

“Nurse! Bring this boy something for the pain,” Daddy yelled.

“A magnesia tablet.” Mama put her freezing hand on his forehead. “He might have a fever too.”

The nurse let out a noisy breath. She didn’t bother with his temperature, but the two bone-white pills she handed Joel appeased his parents, got them quiet at least. Joel raised his head, sweat-soaked hair sticking to his forehead. Or was it blood? He touched the bandage covering his face and winced. The details of the night before seeped into his mind. He could think of nothing that wasn’t contaminated by this memory.

The pills tasted like chalk and made his throat burn. “Can I have some water?” Before anyone responded, two taps at the door drew their attention away from him, away from that perfect pitcher of water.

Mama rubbed her forehead. “Can’t we go ten minutes without a knock on the damn door?” Joel knew Mama must be upset to use a word like that. Nancy Fitchett taught Sunday School and had taken soap to Joel’s mouth for less.

“Oh, for god’s sake!” Daddy threw up his hands. “He just woke up. Give us a minute with our boy.”

Two figures stepped through the door. A cigarette hung immobile in the mouth of the stubby police officer in front. “I understand, Mr. Fitchett, but the more time that goes by, the more victims forget. It’s vital we speak now.”

Forget? Joel knew better. He couldn’t forget, not till heaven anyway, and at twelve, heaven was a long wait.

The other officer stepped from the shadows. Like Dick Tracy, he wore a black suit and fedora instead of a uniform. He looked at Joel like he already knew the truth or could figure it out in the same effortless way Detective Tracy did in the comics. “Truth is,” —he reached into the hallway and pulled Clancy into the room — “we can’t get any information from this one. We hope your other boy will be more cooperative.”

Joel’s head sank into the pillow. So, Clancy hadn’t told. Even now, he only wanted to protect his little brother. Poor kid looked scared out of his skin.

“You all right, Joel?” Clancy’s voice shook.

“Don’t you worry about me, Clancy. I’m as right as rain, good as gold.”

“Nice as nectarines,” Clancy said. They often played this game, but Joel couldn’t think of another simile, so he offered a smile instead. It hurt like hell, but he wanted to assure Clancy he was okay. Joel was only a year and a half older, but the gap felt wider. Joel had always been mature for his age; everybody said so.

“I have nothing to say, sir,” Joel told Dick Tracy. His voice was still high pitched, but he tried to make it boom like Daddy’s. Tom Fitchett had a way of making people listen when he talked.

“And why’s that?” The tiny officer lit his cigarette.

“I don’t remember what happened.” The bed gave a muffled creek as he adjusted his position.

The detective looked at his partner. “Get Clancy out of here, will you? And the folks too.”

“We won’t leave.” Daddy pushed his shoulders back.

“Have it your way. Look here, Joel; we know who did this to you.”

The words made Joel forget his stinging face and terrible thirst. He watched a cockroach scuttle into a floor crack. Did they know? No one was around for miles. He was bluffing.

“Then go arrest the bastard,” his father said. “Don’t waste time traumatizing injured and frightened boys.”

Had Joel heard Daddy right? Had he demanded these important men, lawmen, stop traumatizing his boys? Something he did for sport? How strange to have Daddy in his corner for once.

“You may reconsider your statement when you learn who hurt the boy.”

“Impossible!” Daddy slammed his hand on Joel’s tray and knocked over the pitcher of water. Mama grabbed a towel and sopped it up. Even in crisis, her instinct to clean up Daddy’s messes took over. “Who did this?!” Daddy yelled.

Joel cringed, but at least this time Daddy’s fury flew at somebody else. Joel took a few deep breaths. Maybe if he stayed calm, everyone else would calm down too.

“It was him.” The officer stuck his finger in Clancy’s face.

Mama clutched him tighter, her arms a shield against the accusation.

The detective knelt in front of Clancy. “You did this. The only question I have is why?”

The room spun again. Joel looked for an anchor, but the patterns on the linoleum played leapfrog, and the walls closed in. His parent’s gasps faded into the white surrounding him, and once again, the world went black.

***

Excerpt from Enemies of Doves by Shanessa Gluhm.  Copyright © 2020 by Shanessa Gluhm. Reproduced with permission from Shanessa Gluhm. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:



Shanessa Gluhm


Shanessa Gluhm works as a librarian at an elementary school in New Mexico where she lives with her husband and children. It was during her own elementary days when a teacher encouraged Shanessa to write and share stories with the class. She hasn’t stopped writing since. Enemies of Doves is her debut novel.



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Giveaway!:



This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Shanessa Gluhm. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2020, and runs through June 16, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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