#TheYearOfPublishingWomen's Short Stories Series: "Skin-Deep" by Julia Figliotti

During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the nine (nine!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we'll be publishing short fiction here. If you would like to submit, check out the information HERE.


by Julia Figliotti


TRIGGER WARNING: implied human trafficking, enslavement, abuse, mention of rape, and suicide.

"Skin-Deep" is incredibly gripping and deeply mesmerizing from start to finish. Shelly's somber narrative voice leads the reader through the unfolding of her tragic life, sucking the reader deep into the unimaginable. This dark tale engrossed me completely, showing the truly spellbinding power of Figliotti's writing. -Sydney Culpepper, Assistant Submissions Editor


Her name had been Shelly for as long as she could remember. But then again, she had been his for as long as she could remember. Her previous life was not important, nor was the name she used to go by.

She was Shelly, and she was his. That was all she needed to know. That was all she had ever known.

When he first came to own her, he took her to a tattoo parlor and told her to agree to whatever it was that he said. She only nodded; following orders was not new to her. Pain was not new to her. He spoke with the tattoo artist—a friend of his, she guessed, judging by the lack of questions that the man seemed to have concerning the art and its canvas—and beckoned her over. The man asked her if she knew what the tattoo process was and if she was ready to begin. Again, Shelly only nodded. Pain was not new to her.

The man who owned her watched as she calmly removed her shirt and bra and laid herself face down on the artist’s table. Her russet hair swirled around her face, resting on the pillow that her head now claimed. The whir of the needle started, loud and low and constant, and she took a deep breath and closed her mind to it. But for the first time, she was brought sharply back to reality by a piercing, dragging pain, so acute yet so overwhelming, on the right side of her lower spine. She was shocked at the pain she felt. This pain was new to her.

For the next few hours—or was it only minutes? or was it days?—Shelly gritted her teeth against the ache that traveled slowly, methodically, up her back with the artist’s needle. Long, straight lines were being etched into the skin that covered her spine, making her want to cry out in pain, though she knew that would not end well for her. She did not yet know the man who owned her, but from what she had seen of him so far, she knew that he was not a man to cross, and he was not a man to forgive.

When the needle reached the back of her neck, Shelly had to bite her tongue to keep herself quiet. She tasted the preface to blood in her mouth and her saliva turned hot and sour. Pain blossomed from the trails that the artist’s tool left in her skin and she took the time to wonder how long it would take for her back to heal. She didn’t even want to know what it looked like, and as long as she never turned her back to a mirror, she wouldn’t have to. She tried not to concentrate on the curves and lines being torn into her unblemished skin. Instead, she concentrated on her new name. Shelly.

It appeared in writing in her mind, and she hated it. It looked stupid to her, and sounded childish. What kind of man was this, anyway, to own her and mark her and call her by a name that belongs to a young girl? Shelly. Her mind was brought sharply back to the pain in her body, the whir in her ear, the taste in her mouth. Shelly.

Finally, blessedly, the whirring stopped. The artist put down his tools and rubbed a joltingly cold gel on the newly stained skin of her back. She winced with a passionate mix of joy and pain—joy from the reprieve of the artist’s needle, which had dug so mercilessly into her skin, and from the healing qualities that she could feel as the aloe seeped into her pores; pain from the harsh mixture of her open wounds and shock of the cold ointment against her feverish skin.

Gently, the artist asked her to stand up slowly, telling her that he would show her to the mirror so she could admire the work of art that her blank canvas had become. She barely heard the pride in his voice that came from creating a masterpiece. With pleading eyes, she looked at the man who had brought her here. He stared blankly back at her, and she truly saw him for the first time.

He was tall, taller than her own five-foot-ten by at least four inches. His dark moustache was trimmed hastily around the top of his small mouth and down the sides, meeting up in a goatee with a strip of facial hair that began below the center of his lower lip and connected in a beard at the chin. His hair was raven black and down to his chest, thin but beautiful, with a streak of blonde that highlighted either side of his pale face. His eyes were a deep brown, chilling and exciting all at once, lower lids lined with a dark smudge. His nose was straight, a complement to his pronounced cheekbones and thick eyebrows.

He wore a fitted black suit jacket that covered a tight black shirt. A thick silver chain graced his collarbone and the base of his neck, shown off by a slight dip in his shirt. His leather fingerless gloves were worn with use, the fingers protruding from them long and clean. The man’s long legs were clad in tight leather pants which boasted silver chains from pocket to pocket. His boots were as black as the rest of him, military style and untied. Shelly swallowed hard as he blinked once, seeming to come out of whatever trance he had been in.

“Get dressed,” he told her, his low voice reeking of an unfamiliar accent that sent chills down her newly inked spine. “We don’t have time for this.” He turned to the artist, handed him some money—quite a lot of it, from what she could see—and turned back to Shelly, who had forsaken her bra and tight blouse in favor of a loose T-shirt the artist had given her. “We’re leaving.”

She followed him out of the small tattoo parlor, reading the instructions the artist had handed her on her way out. Do not pick at the tattoo. Do not scratch or rub the tattoo. Pat the tattoo dry after bathing. Apply ointment daily for seven days. Her bewildered mind struggled to process all of this while simultaneously wondering how on earth she would be able to reach the middle of her back in order to apply the ointment. This was all so new to her.

For the next week, he hardly spoke to her. She had assumed that he would use her in ways that she had been used before: cleaning, cooking, grooming, a quick fuck every now and then. But he asked nothing of her, except to come to his bedroom every morning when she woke so he could apply the ointment to her back. He did it with care, his long fingers sweeping wetly up and down her spine, caressing the raised, blackened skin that scarred her back. She got chills every time he touched her, but she knew she could not show it. A man was a dangerous thing, especially when she didn’t know what it was that he wanted from her. When she left him every morning, his eyes were alive, shining with a hidden pleasure. When she saw him under any other circumstances, they were far off and empty. She got chills then, too.

For those first seven days, it took all of her willpower not to drag her nails across whatever skin on her back her long arms would let her reach, not to slam her back against the nearest wall corner and drag her body back and forth. But she had been warned about what could happen to her new art if she did that, and she didn’t know what kind of reaction that would elicit from the man. And that was something she didn’t want to find out.

The man had given her a room of her own in his house. It was not a dingy chamber in any way, but an actual bedroom. She had a spacious four-poster bed with canopy drapes and a firm mattress, a closet for her few clothes and belongings, an armchair and a loveseat, and a picture window that framed a beautiful little lake and a weeping willow tree. Across from the window was a floor-length mirror that beckoned to her daily, calling at her, begging her to see how the man had marked her as his own. Instead, she would look at her face, her hair, her body, noting that her brunette hair was still full of color, her hazel eyes were still bright with life, her cheeks were still pink, her lips full, her figure a small hourglass. These were the things that kept her sane. These were the things that kept her alive.

She went to him on the eighth morning, expecting to feel the chill of the ointment and the burning of his eyes on her back. But when she walked into the room, he didn’t motion for her to turn around. He didn’t tell her to remove her shirt. He only stared at her with his dull brown eyes, almost unseeingly. Shelly looked back at him, growing increasingly nervous at his lack of participation, debating whether or not to retreat from his darkened bedroom. She had just decided that her presence was not welcome when he spoke to her.

“Does it still itch at all?” He hadn’t spoken so many words in her presence since the tattoo parlor. Shelly shook her head. “Does it hurt?” She shook her head again. “Good.” His eyes began to heat up, though her tattoo was shrouded entirely. She never thought she would see that fire begin to kindle; she had only ever seen it at full strength. His dull, dead look turned slowly into a tight interest, though his facial expression remained the same. Shelly had a moment to marvel at the power that the man’s eyes held before he stood up abruptly, almost tricking her into a startled jump backwards. He began to walk towards her, slowly, staring at every part of her that he could see.

“Do you know why I chose you?” Shelly’s eyes widened; no one had ever asked her that question before. No one had ever spoken to her so softly, yet so dangerously. But then, she reminded herself, she had never belonged to anyone else. She stood rooted to the ground in dumb silence. “Do you know why I had to have you?” She blinked and shook her head. She didn’t trust herself to speak at a time like this. Even the air around them seemed fragile, as though one wrong word would shatter it and send shards of ambiance into their skulls.

“It’s your shape,” the man said, taking another fluid step in Shelly’s confused direction. “Your shape…and your hair. Your hair is like mahogany.” His voice was shaking slightly with anticipation, making his thick accent almost unreadable. He held out a quivering hand towards her as he came within reach of her body. She had prepared for this. Pain was not new to her.

But he did not hurt her. He seemed afraid to even touch her. When he finally closed the distance between them, he lowered his hand to his front pocket and extracted a thin brown ribbon that reminded Shelly of her own hair color. His eyes were on hers now, and she did not look away.

“Turn around, please,” the man said, his now-even voice carefully controlled. She did as she was told, her instincts screaming at her not to turn her back on a man like this, her practiced mind ignoring the warning. She felt expert hands run through her hair, twisting it into a low bun and securing it with the ribbon. The man turned her around so she was facing him and began to remove her shirt. She did nothing to dissuade him, nor did she assist him; this was the kind of man who did things his own way, the kind of man who would tell her when he wanted her to act. Deft fingers blindly unclasped her bra, the leather of his gloves scratching against her scarred back as her mind wandered just far enough that she could still hear his orders and read his eyes.

As Shelly was being undressed, her wandering mind focused on a tall wooden chair in the center of the man’s bedroom. It was ancient and scuffed, a deep oaken color, carved with precision and care. The chair had no arms, no comfortable qualities that the eye could see. Its back was tall and straight and menacing. He led her to it slowly, his eyes still glowing with their secret flame. Along the way he removed his own shirt, revealing tattoos that covered his arms and shoulders and much of his slim chest. His fingerless gloves remained on his hands. He sat in the chair with his back rigid, his right arm worming behind the seat as though it were searching for something. When he brought it back to the front of his body, the man’s hand grasped a long, thin strip of wood that boasted what seemed to be taut, fine white fibers. Horse hair, Shelly realized. She pushed the thought easily away. The man’s legs were spread now and he stared at her intensely, the fire in his eyes hotter now than she’d ever seen it.


She slid easily onto practiced knees, the transition natural, the position comfortable. She knew what would come next—what else could it be? This man had just taken a little bit longer to get there than the others.

The man extracted another long, mahogany ribbon from his pocket and took both of her wrists gently in his left hand. With his right, he wove the ribbon around her slim wrists, tight enough that she couldn’t free herself, not so tight that it cut into her skin. He tied the ends of the ribbon in a careful knot that hung gracefully from her bound wrists. When he looked at her again, she saw raw passion in his wide eyes. The liner that smudged his lower lids seemed to sweat and glow as he slowly raised her arms above her head with his left hand and picked up the strip of wood with his right. And when the music started, a lone sweet string melody, Shelly knew what it was that she had become.

The man drew his bow across her back, sliding perfect symphonies against the silent strings tattooed into her skin. His eyes were closed and his head was tilted back, and she could feel the power that lived inside of him. She could feel it in the grip of his left hand on her wrists and forearms, his swift fingers moving across her skin, pressing down on imaginary strings, moving in perfect time with the music that came from outside of them. She could feel it in the movement of his body as he swayed with the music, swayed with his music, around her body. She could feel it in his legs, firm with years of practice and performance, cradling her curved figure the way a musician held his favorite instrument. For the second time in her life, Shelly was unable to remove herself from her situation. His bow whipped back and forth, frenzied across the instrument that her body had become. She was enthralled by him, enraptured by his fervor, intoxicated by his music. Their music.

Skin-Deep Symphony.jpg

She didn’t know how long she knelt there, a tool of passion between his knees. But when the music finally came to an end, the man simultaneously dropped his bow and her wrists and his head sagged onto his chest, his breathing heavy and harsh. For several minutes, Shelly couldn’t even move. She had never been used like this before, never felt so objectified in her entire life. But then again, wasn’t her life with this man all she had ever known?

When he raised his head from his chest, the man’s eyes were dull and empty once more. Drying streaks of wetness traced the skin from his eyes to his chin and he stared at her blankly, registering her presence with a blink. “Please go now.” His voice had lost its tremor and its obvious restraint; he once again spoke softly through his heavy accent. “You will come to me again tomorrow.”

Shelly stood up in one fluid motion, rocking back onto her toes and taking the weight off of her numb, forgiving knees. Head bowed with vulnerability and submission, she grabbed her pile of clothes from the floor and backed slowly out of the room, arms still tied at the wrists with the long brown ribbon. As soon as she heard his door click shut behind her, Shelly let the suppressed tears come forward. She was afraid of this man, a man who could lose himself so entirely to passion, a man who would use her in such an objectifying, terrifying, erotic way, a man who would vandalize her body for his own disturbing obsession.

She walked as quickly as she could without breaking into a run. She didn’t know how good the man’s hearing was, and she didn’t want him to know how panicked she was. He seemed like the kind of man who played with power, and she didn’t want to give him any more than he already had.

When she reached her room, which suddenly seemed suffocatingly large, she threw her clothes onto the loveseat and walked methodically towards her mirror. The mirror that he had planted in her room to taunt her, to tempt her, to distract her from her strong will. Unable to resist the compulsion any longer, Shelly turned her back to the mirror and stared at the terrible beauty that her spine had become.

What was once smooth skin had been transformed into a canvas for an artist’s musical masterpiece. On the left side of her lower back, an S-shaped ribbon had been etched darkly into her skin. It was mirrored perfectly across the spine, creating a symmetrical design that she was sure represented artistic holes in the wooden instrument. From the base of her spine all the way up to her neck were four thin, parallel lines: C, G, D, and A, according to memories of music classes from a previous life. The skin of her back was raw from being scraped with the man’s bow, his musical symphony etched out repulsively in jagged swipes across the new strings that she boasted. A sudden wave of revulsion leapt up the back of her throat, overwhelming her fortitude, her numbness. She barely made it to the small garbage can beside her bed before her stomach evicted everything that it had been holding. After only a few seconds of vomiting food and bile, Shelly could only hold herself over the wastebasket and dry heave violently. She was vaguely aware of a gratitude for the ribbon that held her hair back in a tight bun.

Unable to breathe in the rancid odor of her own vomit any longer, Shelly made her shaky way over to her bed. When she fell onto the comforter it seemed to consume her, too soft and too spongy to support her weight. She sank into the mattress, dreading the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. This was her existence now. She belonged to the man for the rest of this life. And all of it—the skin-deep pain, the overwhelming bitterness, the obsessive symphony—all of it was so new to her.

The following days with the man were much like the first of his physical musical infatuation. Little by little, from the few words that he spoke, she learned pieces of the man’s life. He had been a musician once, a famous cellist. Through him, she learned the specifics and technicalities of bowing a cello. It was rosin, he said, that actually made the sound when the bow scraped the strings. Without rosin on the bow, the strings would be unresponsive to its light touch. It was the rosin that really gripped, the rosin that created that friction, that sound. Not to worry, though. He wouldn’t use rosin when he played her. Not unless she made him.

Though he was becoming more and more talkative as days passed, he became a single-minded machine as soon as the music began. Shelly was transformed into a mere instrument as soon as the first chord was strung. For hours he would scrape his bow across her strings, his fingers finding their places in perfect time with the melody. Her back began to show lasting evidence of his musical escapades across her skin. Raised ridges crisscrossed the back of her rib cage, welting in a way that would take weeks of rest to heal. But he would never rest. He would never stop. For as long as he owned her, he would play her like the beautiful instrument that she was. “It’s your shape…and your hair.” She was his tool, his instrument, his cello. She belonged to him.

Shelly had always been good at numbing the pain. She had always been able to block out her surroundings, her situations, and the men who owned her. She had stayed disconnected from her world for so long that she had forgotten what it was like to be a part of it. But with this man, she found that she couldn’t shut herself off from what he did to her. She was present at every moment of every symphony, every drag of the inked needle, every swipe of the unrosined bow. She had never been so present in her own body, in her own trauma. She had never been so unable to deal with her life. She had never been so desperate to escape.

Finally, when over a month had passed after her first interaction with the man and the artist and the whirring tattoo needle, Shelly knew she’d had enough. She needed to get out of this prison. She needed to escape from the man’s insane obsession with her shape and her hair, his infatuation with the instrument into which she had been transformed. She waited until he was out—where, she didn’t know, nor did she care—and slipped into his dark bedroom. The chill that always accompanied her entrance into his domain slipped in a familiar minor scale down her marked spine. Without wasting any time, she reached behind his straight-backed chair, his cellist’s chair, and grabbed hold of the bow that had played her so fiercely. A token, she thought grimly, and focused her search onto that which she had never seen, but which had been described to her in such meticulous detail that she would recognize it as soon as it came before her eyes. And after only a few minutes of frantic rummaging, she found it: an amber bar, dusty from years of disuse. The rosin. The rosin that really gripped, the rosin that created that friction. The rosin that would save her from this orchestral hell that she had been living.

Carefully, meticulously, Shelly rosined the bow from tip to tip, scraping the brittle cake against the fine horsehairs that had so often caressed and abused her stained back. After thirty swipes with the bow—she had to be sure that the bow would really grip —she put the rosin back where she had found it and looked around the room with dull eyes, eyes that felt like the man’s. She sat in his chair and immediately felt power wash through her. This was where the magic happened. This was where he tore down the strongest defenses any woman could ever have. This is where he made her feel pain and intoxication, all at once, in one destructive symphony. And this was where it would end.

Shelly positioned herself on the edge of the seat, legs spread to accommodate the imaginary cello that she intended to play. With a poise that she had seen in the man countless times, she lifted her left hand to grip the neck of her instrument and positioned her bow hand at the bridge. Her foot tapped the floor remote that controlled the stereo system, and a beautiful, sad symphony began.

It was slow and deep in the cello’s heart, bringing tears to her eyes as she wove the bow back and forth over strings that she could not see and had never played. As her hands moved with the melody, she felt the ghost of the bow weeping across her back, engaging her entire body in this orchestral dance. The music built in intensity and fell, the tone ever deepening, the volume rising and falling with perfected crescendos and decrescendos. As the piece neared its climax, Shelly lost herself to the music. The rosined bow flew higher and higher up the neck of the imaginary cello, the chords becoming more forceful as her hands worked faster and faster. Finally, with a resonating crest of sound, the bow whipped across her neck in its final draw. The man had been right about the rosin—it really did grip.

In her final moments, as her breath came to her in ragged, bubbling gasps, she felt for the first time in all of her lives a moment of peace. It was finally over. This numbness was a gift, something that she couldn’t control and didn’t want to. She would never belong to anyone again. She would never be beaten, she would never be raped, she would never be tattooed and vandalized and used. She was no longer owned. She was no longer an object. She was no longer an instrument. All she would be from now on, Shelly thought, as she sat dying in his favorite chair, was a symbol.


Julia Figliotti is a published writer with a wide range of publications. She has authored several books and articles on creativity, as well as fictional short stories and poetry. She is the co-creator of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Ignite Your Everyday Creativity.

Julia has a Bachelors degree in Writing from SUNY Buffalo State and a Masters degree in Creativity from the International Center for Studies in Creativity. She spent several years working with facilitators of scientific workshops to encourage creative approaches and output. Now a full-time writer, Julia works to bring visions to life on paper. She is currently working on publishing her first children's story (which is absolutely nothing like this one).

Pre-Order Announcement for Sang Kromah's Djinn

You can pre-order Sang Kromah's Djinn now! The novel will be available on March 20th, but you can reserve your copy now in hardcover, trade paperback, or Kindle, and get it right away when it's available! Just click one of the links below.

Cover art by Mariah Bazan

Cover art by Mariah Bazan

Bijou Fitzroy is strange.

As an empath, she has spent her entire life as a recluse, homeschooled by her secretive and overprotective grandmother, never allowed to stay in one place long enough to settle down and make friends. When Bijou and her grandmother move to Sykesville and she starts to attend the local high school, Bijou's world begins to crumble...

town locals begin to disappear

creatures from her nightmares come to life

and she finds herself at the center of a secret war fought all around her.


"A twisty page-turner rooted in folklore with a 21st century spin. The unfolding tale keeps the reader guessing right to the end."
- Karen Eisenbrey, author of The Gospel According to St. Rage and the forthcoming Daughter of Magic

"Hauntingly captivating. Perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and all things myth and fantasy. I can't wait to read the next one!"
- YA Literature, Media, and Culture Research Network

"Sang Kromah weaves a tale rich in drama and TV melodrama! This is Buffy on acid, with all the colorful characters one would expect and more. Twists and turns - and twin heartthrobs - had me hooked from the start. A saga for the ages, and the teenagers."
- Micayla Lally, author of A Work Of Art

Pre-order your copy from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers (more links will be added as the pre-order appears on more sites):

Amazon: HERE

Kindle: HERE

#TheYearOfPublishingWomen's Short Stories Series: Dearly Departed by Erika Fitzpatrick

During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the nine (nine!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we'll be publishing short fiction here. If you would like to submit, check out the information HERE.

Dearly Departed

by Erika Fitzpatrick

I actually have the pleasure of knowing this author, as we were classmates in the WOU Honors Program together. Fitzpatrick's story immerses you in the mind of a dying woman overcome with memories of her past. The weight of grief and sorrow is palpable, proof of Fitzpatrick's skill in drawing a reader into a character's story. -Sydney Culpepper, Assistant Submissions Editor


She gazed about her surroundings from the curtains, to the machines, and the wall paint all blending into one monochromatic blur as her eyes swept from one end of the room to the other. The window revealed the white gray sky—no change in color or scenery. A typical hospital room, never filled with silence as she would have liked, but constantly whirring with some device devised to monitor a part of her body. She had visited the hospital only four times in her life, once for the birth of her child, two of those instances too painful to recall. She’d refused for so long to relive those agonizing memories. Not that her current situation was painless. Her head ached. She pictured little boys bouncing off the walls of her skull with giant drums vibrating her old squishy brain. Not that it was unexpected, now that she understood the source. She had been battling severe headaches for months now, and only this morning, after she had been admitted the night before due to a life threatening seizure, had she finally gotten her diagnosis. She replayed it over and over: the doctor solemnly informing her of a malignant brain tumor, how aggressive it was, how she only had weeks, perhaps days to live. There was that irritating nurse that came every few hours to offer her a new cup of water, as if water could fill the empty voids that resided inside her. Irene, however, shied away from it.

“If you have any family, I’d contact them,” the doctor had said gently.

But there was no one. She was responsible for that.

Irene gazed up at the ceiling, searching for some sort of strength. So she was going to die, just like her husband, just like her parents, just like—but she stopped herself from traveling down that path.

I’ll be seeing you soon, she thought almost gladly. There was nothing her for to live for. All she had loved had left her long ago, and all she was marooned with were memories that she hadn’t visited in many years. Now that her life was about to go beyond, she allowed the memories to leak from her sealed chest of love and joy. She lost herself for the first time in what felt a lifetime in a memory with her husband and the first of many loving surprises he had given her during their marriage.

She recalled the vast expanse of the field, patched with shadows from overhanging clouds, beckoning to them in their vitality and youth. The fresh diamond sparkled on her left hand as the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and Irene smiled up at her husband.

“I think this is the perfect place,” he said with a sigh, hugging her shoulder tightly against him.

“If only our pocketbooks felt the same,” she replied gloomily. She felt this was one of those too-good-to-be-true moments.

He smiled down at her, humor in the twinkle of his lush meadow eyes. “Money will always come and always go, but how we feel now—that’s all that matters.”

“We can’t afford this,” she said abruptly. “It doesn’t matter how we feel. It can’t be ours. We might as well not get attached.”

He grabbed her hand and led her through the long blades of grass that tickled her legs in the breeze. Up ahead was a sign—a for sale sign—that had a stamp slapped across it: SOLD. Her steely eyes swiveled wide to gaze at him with astonishment.

“But,… how could you afford—?”

“That doesn’t matter, now, does it? All that matters is that it’s ours.” He squeezed her hand in a comforting way. That hand squeeze would come to mean everything to Irene.

“So now what? We build a house?” she asked, facing him.

His eyes twinkled lovingly as the sun peeked out once more. “No, my dear. We build a home.”

For two years they labored their lives away, held only a cent to their name, and crafted a home that would house them through every joyous celebration and every storm, every season, every trial that they would come to face. Irene began to remember the day she had realized she was pregnant, a memory that she hadn’t allowed into the forefront of her mind in almost half a century. Her husband had returned from his long day at work, covered in grime and sawdust, his eyes weary and drooping with exhaustion. She had hesitantly approached him, trying to conceal the smile that was fighting to escape. He had kissed her forehead and wandered into the kitchen, searching for whatever dinner she had concocted, but coming up empty handed, turning to look at her with a perplexed stare.

“No dinner?” he had asked.

She could feel the floor rumble from his infuriated stomach.

“I didn’t see the need to make more,” she said, struggling to hold in the smile.

“More?” he asked, confused.

“Yeah… because there’s already something in the oven,” she whispered, placing both hands on her stomach.

His dark, tired eyes suddenly bloomed, shining like emeralds in the shaded kitchen. “We’re having a baby?” he asked quietly, stepping closer.

“We’re having a baby,” she repeated, the smile breaking free.

With a hand on either side of her face, he had lovingly kissed her and chuckled. “We’re having a baby,” he had whispered with joy.

Their son was born nine months later in the very hospital she resided in now. They had spent the prior months preparing the farm house for the arrival their baby. Irene decorated the nursery, and her husband cleaned and patched pieces of the house that had been forgone when building it. And then the time was upon them and they were bringing little Christopher home.

The first six years of his life were wrapped with contentment, punctured by minor trails of finances and discipline. Each month, when they sat down to work out bill payments, her husband was beside her, squeezing her hand whenever she buried her face in her arms with despair.

“Money will always come and always go, but I’m right here,” he always reassured her. He somehow managed to pay each bill with the entire amount on time, every time. He would sacrifice family time to work extra hours at the site, or else lease a few acres of their farm for a year to help bring in a spare few dollars. He never let them worry for longer than a day. He was the master of distraction and gaiety—his remedy for a bad day was always a trip outdoors.
Irene struggled with herself as a memory fought, clawed, its way to the surface. She had meant to keep it buried for all eternity, but it oozed out of her against her will and she was forced to relive the experience.

In spurts, images flashed across her mind—the river behind their property, the reflected sun piercing their eyes off the water, smiles and splashing, bliss then fear. Red. Horror. Scream. Water. Pain. Tears.

It had lasted only seconds, but long enough to carve a wound so deep there was no recovery.

Hours later, her husband held her in a cocoon as she wept into his chest. The same hospital was a blur around them, like flakes in a snow-globe as Irene and her husband stood motionless in sorrow. A nurse attempted to console them. She offered them a private room, she offered them food, she offered them water, but it was the water that Irene shrank from in horror. The doctor appeared and delivered the news, his own eyes shining: Christopher was gone.

The funeral came and passed. Irene refused to eat any more than she needed to survive. Her husband begged her to drink something. He forced a cup of water into her hands, willing her to hydrate, to live.

In anguish, she hurled the cup at him. “You don’t understand!” she screamed. Tears welled up in her stormy eyes. “He’s gone! And it’s my fault!” She struggled to breathe, the weight of the guilt crushing her lungs.

He grabbed her hand, met her gleaming eyes with his own obscured green ones, and squeezed it. “Irene, my dear, it wasn’t your fault. It was an accident.”

She turned away from him, her eyes closing tight, the tears spilling. She tried to pull away, but he held tight to her hand. She’d heard it all before, she didn’t want to hear it again.

“You can’t blame yourself for an accident. It could have happened at any point, to anyone. It could have been me. Or You.”

“But it was Christopher,” she whispered, choking on his name. “He wasn’t even seven yet. He barely got to live.”

“But he did. He lived six spectacular years with you and me. Irene, please. Try to let go of the guilt. We can’t bring him back. We can only move forward.” His own eyes released the tears and they cascaded down his cheeks.

She wiped one of his away with her cool thumb. “I don’t know how.”

“One day at a time,” he said sadly. He stood and offered her a jacket. “Shall we go for a walk?”

Years passed. She remembered how to enjoy food and accepted the adventures he dragged her along on. They traveled across the country, visiting as many national parks as they could afford. She dealt with the pain by burying it. He dealt by distraction. Happiness came and went, staying a little longer each time.

It took the better part of 20 years for happiness to occupy the majority of their time once more. Only Christopher’s birthdays were reminders of the grief, pain, and guilt Irene managed to ignore the rest of the year. The two of them lit a candle on his birthday, the single photo album they had of him propped behind the guttering light.

“Happy 33rd birthday, my son,” she said through shuddering breaths. Her husband squeezed her hand.

It had become their custom to dawn jackets and drive a few miles down the road to visit his weathered grave every birthday. The blood orange sun was fading behind the hills that divided the sky from the earth. “Pretty, isn’t it?” he asked.

She only nodded.

They stood before the headstone, hand in hand, tear for tear, pain to pain. Irene would never admit it to her husband, but her pain was magnified, multiplied by the guilt she harbored alongside her sorrow.

“We wish we could have seen our grandchildren,” he whispered, the smallest of smiles curving his light wrinkles.

“We wish we could see you,” she added. Her hand trembled in his until he squeezed it tight enough to restrict any movement. He kissed the side of her head and said softly, “Let’s go flip through the album. We can see his smiling face.”

Her let her drive back home, hoping that the task of driving would distract her some. But a greater distraction billowed into the sky as they approached their home. They pulled up to find their house aflame. Irene cried out in sorrow. “Our home! Our pictures of Chris!”

“Hang on.” He thrust the car door open and spilled onto the drive.

She screamed in protest, fumbling with her buckle.

“You want those pictures, I’m going to go get them!” he yelled as he ran up the steps.

“You’re going to get yourself killed!” she screamed, stumbling after him, crying in anger and terror as he disappeared into the door and cloud of smoke. She gripped the edges of the door frame and screamed his name into the dense smoke. To her knees she fell, desperately calling his name, sobbing with fear.

She was unaware of time passing, until suddenly she was surrounded. One of her neighbors pulled her up from where she’d collapsed at the door. The fire department had arrived as did an ambulance. They’d found her husband passed out by the dining room table, the photo album charred, but clutched to his chest. Both had been driven to the hospital, her husband admitted and given a death sentence. His weakened lungs were damaged beyond repair, burned from the thick smoke that had consumed the house.

She had remained by his side alone brushing back his once sandy hair now streaked with white, holding his wrinkled, worn hand. He had squeezed hers with what little strength he had left. They talked briefly, spending more time staring at each other, memorizing every wrinkle and blemish, each representing a different memory of the life they had built together.

“You can’t be taken from me,” she had whispered, holding his one hand with both of hers.

“I’m only going on a trip,” he had replied, squeezing her hand once more, refusing to loosen his grip.

“We go on trips together.”

His dim eyes drooped as he registered the sadness in her features. “You’ll join me soon enough.”

“What will I do without you?” her words almost inaudible.

The slightest of smiles disrupted his sooty, lined face. “You’ll live.”

Those were the last words he said to her and she to him. The rest of the hour passed in mostly silence, the whir and beeping of machines filling the empty spaces much as they did now. The scorched photo album lay on its side on the table beside her dying husband. She dared not look at it, yet another reminder that all was her fault. Christopher, her husband, both dead and dying on account of her. She felt the guilt well up inside, threatening to take over. Only on his eyes could she fixate and force herself to remember that this was her last moment with him.
It wasn’t the flat lining of the monitor that informed her of his death, but the release of the hand squeeze.

No one would be there to squeeze her hand when her monitor flat lined.

Her eyes now fell on the solitary window, which was bright with the afternoon sky, but wet with the winter drizzle. It was a typical winter rain, not heavy but constant and light, a reminder that without it, no living thing would thrive. Irene had grown to love the rain--it soothed her, reminded her of home, but no water could save her now. Her time had come. How silly that phrase was: time had come. Come from where? Had it ever left? Was she ever destined to die another way, another day? Such philosophical questions had not come to her the last few times she had been in the same room as death. Instead she had blamed herself. Blamed herself for the death of the two people she’d loved the most. Guilt had ravaged her for the years to come.
Her neighbors had so kindly helped rebuild the damaged portions of her home. It took a few months, but Irene wished it had taken longer. After the house was repaired, she was left alone, with nothing to do, nothing to love, no one to talk to, prepare food for, find happiness with. Alone with her guilt, she gave up baking and travel. She left the house for groceries and basic supplies, but otherwise sat alone. Crocheting was all she had been able to manage for the last few years, sitting in front of the old television or the back window, tuning out the imagined reality of the television set and allowing her hands to create mindlessly. Distraction had never worked for her the way it had for him. She could only bury it, lock it away, keep it out of her conscious mind. The last 15 years weren’t enough for Irene to overcome the grief and guilt. Instead, she let it consume her. She found herself drowning in it, unable to resist the weight of such soul crushing emotion.

She recalled the night of the seizure, routinely situating herself before the back window to see it set once more. Only the sunset would call her soul somewhat back to the surface, the warmth of the fading rays bringing color to her translucent cheeks. Her eyes gazed and shifted almost imperceptibly, tracking the progress of the sun, whose light still pervaded the dense clouds, as it gradually fell from the sky to seemingly hide forever behind the hills. If she didn’t watch it sink, how could she know that another day had passed—another moment in time she had survived, had ended—if she didn’t see it, feel it, with her own still grief ridden body. Only the sun setting indicated the passing of time and the passing of another day, another month, another year.

That was the last thing remembered before she awoke in the hospital. According to the nurse, one her good old neighbors passing the drive had noticed her lights on at an unreasonable hour and had decided to check on her, finding her passed out beneath the window.
Hooked to her tubes, she awkwardly reached for the glass of water from the nurse and took a sip that soothed her dry, withered throat. With nothing to do keep her busy, Irene’s head leaned back, sinking into the pillow propped behind her. Maybe if she slept long enough, the tumor would simply snatch her in her sleep, end her life without pain and without her knowing. She could slip away and not worry about waking up to fight the pain. Fall asleep and stay asleep….

Irene awoke when the door opened and the nurse entered to refill her water cup, the cool liquid spilling, cascading into the small plastic cup. She feigned sleep unit the nurse departed, the panic inside of her building. She had avoided water most of her life, drinking only what she had to in order to survive. Every time she saw it flowing, she fought against the images that threatened to escape her sealed chest. That chest was open now, and the one memory she had refused to relive in all her life, was released from its prison and her vision grew blurred as that day played out, scene by scene.

Irene, her husband, and her son had decided to spend the afternoon down at the little river that ran against the back of their property. The sun was just warm enough to demand that they attempt to cool themselves off. Christopher had a toy truck that he wheeled to the bank of the river, swerving and twisting with screeching sounds emanating from his puckered lips. He paused at the edge of the water, unsure whether or not to make contact with it.

“Go ahead, Christopher. It’s just water,” Irene encouraged. She ran up behind him, scooped him into her arms and splashed into the cool water as Christopher squealed with shock and delight. Her husband sat on the bank, his feet dipping into the water, a smile stretching his young, thin face, the warm breeze ruffling his sandy hair.

Irene placed her son into the river, kissing his cheek as she took a step back. Her husband kicked water up at her face with a devious grin. Droplets slipped off her flattening curls as she splashed him back. Following his father’s example, Christopher splashed his mother, flinging his hands in the air and laughing as she became soaked.

“You think that’s funny?” she teased. She splashed back. They were thrust into a war, water flying through the air, taking turns shielding themselves and then attacking.

Irene threw a huge splash at her son, who squealed and shut his eyes, taking a step back.
All at once, he lost his footing, slipped backward and vanished from sight.

“Christopher?!” Both Irene and her husband ran over to him. The water was swirling red.

“Christopher!” she screeched. Her husband reached down for him and brought him above the surface. A large gouge was bleeding profusely at the base of his head. Irene was crying, stumbling after her husband who was running back towards the house, his son’s body bobbing in his arms.

It was an accident. It could happen to anyone. It wasn’t your fault. Her husband’s voice siphoned through the fading memories and her eyes welled up. It was her fault. She’d splashed him, made him step backward and slip. It could have been you, or me. Only an accident. You have to let go of the guilt.

“I can’t,” she croaked. “I don’t know how. I told you that. And then it was my fault that you died,” she sobbed.

The sun was just setting behind the distant hills, visible from behind a final cloud that had drizzled rain hours ago.

“I can’t, I can’t…” Her eyes released the dammed water.

It was only an accident. An accident.

“Christopher, I’m so sorry,” she whispered in the empty hospital room.

The fire was an accident. An accident.

“I’m so sorry, my dear,” she sighed. Her eyes closed and the waterfall descended faster.

Alone in the bed, acceptance began to shower upon her. He had slipped. Slipped and hit his head on a rock. It could have happened while she and her husband sat on the shore. Her husband had chosen to chase after the album. Chosen to be engulfed in heavy black smoke that ravaged his lungs. She had tried to stop him. She’d tried. Tried and tried to relinquish the guilt that had pervaded the majority of her life. Only now, as she faced her own demise, did she see the truth, the light of realization: it hadn’t been her fault. They were accidents—calamities she’d had no true control over. Chance events that had just happened to take place around her, taken dear ones from her. But she had not caused them.

Irene’s steely eyes fixed on the beautiful spectacle that was assembling outside her window, allowing herself to feel the warmth of life one final time before it sank out of sight. The room slipped into a cool, heavy darkness. She felt the weight of it bearing down on her wizened body. In the unyielding night, she felt Clarence’s warm hand squeeze hers.

Erika Fitzpatrick.jpg

Erika Fitzpatrick is a budding young author who lives in Salem, Oregon. Her most recent work includes her novel, Saving All That Remains, and a poem, The Lizard or Octopus, which was published in an anthology for emerging Oregon poets. She particularly enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction but dapples in other genres as well, including creative nonfiction. She is always working on something new and enthralling for ravenous readers to devour.



Cover Reveal and Pre-Order Announcement for Kate Ristau's Shadow Girl

It's here!

The cover of Kate Ristau's

Shadow Girl

Shadow Girl eBook.jpg

We're so pleased with the great art by Portland's own Lee Moyer

Áine lives in the light, but she is haunted by darkness, and when her fey powers blaze out of control, she escapes into the Shadowlands. But she cannot outrun her past. Fire fey and a rising darkness threaten the light, burning a path across the veil. Her fiery dreams come to life, and with the help of Hennessy, an uninhibited Irish girl, Áine dives into the flames to discover who she truly is. Her mother burned to keep her secret safe, and now Áine wields the deadly Eta. She must learn to fight in the shadows — or die in the flames.

This is not a fairy tale.

Pre-order your copy from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers:

Powell's: HERE

Barnes & Noble: HERE

Amazon: HERE

Kindle: HERE

Want to meet Ms. Ristau? Pre-order your copy and bring it to be signed at "Love for Women Writers," a party at Taborspace on Saturday, February 24th from 2 PM - 3:30 PM. It's free and open to the public. We're kicking off the Year of Publishing Women with a big celebration with authors LeeAnn McLennan, Susan Hill Long, Kate Ristau, Maren Anderson, Jessica Mehta, Mikko Azul, and many others! We will invite female-identified writers to the stage and celebrate them with readings and love letters from authors and fans. We will profess our love and finish the day with truffles and book signings. You'll have a chance to have your copy of Shadow Girl signed by Kate Ristau herself! Sign up for the event on Facebook HERE!


And check out what the critics are saying about this amazing novel!

 "A determined girl from Faerie meets a frank, funny Irish girl in a delightfully fresh fairytale of old meeting new." 
--Tina Connolly, Nebula-nominated author of Ironskin

"A fun, engaging, and unique magical adventure." 
--Jen Violi, author of Putting Makeup on Dead People

"This is a coming of age narrative involving fairies, but it's no Disney movie. The magic is considerably nastier and relationships more realistic and slippery. The folklore that Ristau pulls from is older, darker stuff; a heady mix of British Isles mythology, cosmology, and history." 
--Librarian and Folklorist Charlie McNabb

"A fast-paced adventure with a fresh voice." 
--Molly Ringle, author of Persephone's Orchard

"Fantasy braided with Irish folklore, making the reader's journey not only entertaining, but rich with fascinating detail." 
--Blythe Ayne, author of The Darling Undesirables

"This is not a fairy tale. Don't expect fairy wings, but it is filled with magic, folklore, witty dialogue and epic storytelling." 
--Librarian Robert G. Monge

"An entertaining, magical read." 
--Joanna Bartlett, author of The Awesomely Amazing Adventures of Cherry: Butterfly Buddies

"I love it when a book surprises me. Shadowgirl kept surprising me all the way to the last page." 
--Maren Bradley Anderson, author of Fuzzy Logic

"Fast moving and witty, Shadow Girl pulls on a journey from fey lands into our world through the eyes of Ainé , a mysterious girl on a mission."
--LeeAnn McLennan, author of The Supernormal Legacy series

Cover Reveal and Pre-Order Announcement for LeeAnn McLennan's The Supernormal Legacy: Book 1, Dormant

It's here!

The cover of LeeAnn McLennan's

The Supernormal Legacy

Book 1


We're so pleased with the great art by Portland's own Randy Kintz! 

We're so pleased with the great art by Portland's own Randy Kintz

The Supernormal Legacy tells the story of Olivia Woodson. When she was just seven years old, she already knew she was a supernormal, someone with super powers who must protect normals. Then she witnessed her supernormal mother die fighting terrorists, and fear and guilt drove Olivia to cut off all contact with her mother's family and reject her destiny as a supernormal. Now, at 14, she just wants is to live her life as a teenager with her normal father, maybe grow up to be an environmental lawyer or a photojournalist. But when Olivia and her boyfriend, Jack, get caught in the middle of a bank robbery, she must choose between using her supernormal powers or watching the robbers kill innocent people. Olivia's powers awaken, saving the day. She tells herself this is the only time she'll ever use them, but her powers refuse to be contained, forcing Olivia to do what she dreads most - connect with the supernormal side of her family and awaken the power that has been lying dormant inside her.

Pre-order your copy from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers:

Barnes & Noble: HERE

Amazon: HERE

Kindle: HERE

Want to meet Ms. McLennan? Pre-order your copy and bring it to be signed at "Love for Women Writers," a party at Taborspace on Saturday, February 24th from 2 PM - 3:30 PM. It's free and open to the public. We're kicking off the Year of Publishing Women with a big celebration with authors LeeAnn McLennan, Susan Hill Long, Kate Ristau, Maren Anderson, Jessica Mehta, Mikko Azul, and many others! We will invite female-identified writers to the stage and celebrate them with readings and love letters from authors and fans. We will profess our love and finish the day with truffles and book signings. You'll have a chance to have your copy of The Supernormal Legacy: Book 1, Dormant signed by LeeAnn McLennan herself! Sign up for the event on Facebook HERE!


And check out what the critics are saying about this amazing novel!

“The characters are so well developed and realistic that I feel I know them. The plot speeds up to a frenzy for the thrilling conclusion. A thoroughly satisfying read for any fan of YA or superheroes.”
-Benjamin Gorman
author of Corporate High School
“Fun, fast-paced, and a great read! Lots of Portland connections here, and I loved finding out about their superpowers. I can't wait to find out what happens in the next book.”
-Kate Ristau
author of Shadow Girl
“The heart of this story is familiar; its hero is our neighbor or classmate or even our own self. Olivia is at a crossroads: on one side, her comfortable, normal high school life. On the other, a world of secret power waits for her to tap into…Set against the cloudy, quirky backdrop of Portland, Dormant is a compelling read and a balance or light and dark, just like life it.”
-Sarah Jilek,
author of Jaidia
“Dormant is a look into the life that may be hidden right under our noses. Olivia’s struggle between fitting in with the normals and supernormals resonates beyond her abnormal abilities, reaching even those without bulletproof armor…sending readers on a thrilling ride.”
-Chelsea Bolt,
author of Moonshine
“Dormant had me hooked right from the start. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Action-packed and full of life’s struggles, like trying to be someone else or accepting yourself. When I book this book down, the only thought in my mind was, “There has to be more.””
-Abigail Hernandez,
author of Viper’s Legacy

No, promoting women's voices is not "sexist," Earl.

We got an email today from a guy (let's just call him "Earl") that said, "Just a thought… Isn’t that sexist?" That's all. That was the whole email. We're guessing he's not a fan of #TheYearOfPublishingWomen


Our reply: "Is that a thought ...or half a thought? Ponder what it is you're trying to say and decide if you really want to articulate it completely."

Crickets from Earl.

sex·ist /seksist/ adjective -relating to or characterized by prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

We're only publishing women this year. It's just for one year. We published novels by men last year, and we'll publish men next year. We are not prejudiced against men, nor do we stereotype men, nor do we discriminate against them. One of our co-publishers, Benjamin Gorman, is also one of our authors, and he read about Kamila Shamsie's challenge to publishers first, brought the idea to his co-publisher, Paige Gorman, and together they decided this was something Not a Pipe Publishing should take on. All our male authors have been extremely supportive. We're doing our (very small) part to push the publishing industry towards equality.

Promoting equality doesn't mean waiting for equality to happen on its own. It demands taking action. And that action, when it favors any historically oppressed group, will not seem fair to the people who benefit from inequality. Do not be dissuaded from doing the right thing by childish gotchas like "If you won't tolerate intolerance, doesn't that make you intolerant?" or "If you are trying to be sensitive to the concerns of People of Color, doesn't that make you a racist?" or "Isn't promoting equal rights for the LGBTQI anti-straight?" or the Earls of the world asking if promoting the voices of women makes you sexist. As Stephanie Herrera wrote, "When you are accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression." The Earls of the world are frightened by equality and want you to stop pushing for it. They know, on some level, that it's their privilege you're pushing against. They hate that. The hate even being reminded they have privilege. It means the game they thought they won wasn't fair, and that takes away from their feeling of superiority. 

Equality is a direct threat to superiority.

Don't stop pushing.


#TheYearOfPublishingWomen's Short Stories Series: A Flood of Memories by Ramona Scarborough

During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the nine (nine!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we'll be publishing short fiction here. If you would like to submit, check out the information HERE.

A Flood of Memories

by Ramona Scarborough

A sobering picture of life in 1940s America, made even made even more important by today's political landscape, this story is told simply, with no fuss or flounder, as it recounts the events of a tragic day and calls attention the value placed on the lives of people of color. Do not be fooled by the gentle lilting of the southern accent; this story packs a punch. -Sydney Culpepper, Assistant Submissions Editor



Deep water rolled lazy-like past our apartment house. We trusted in dikes.

Every spring, folks said, “The river’s pretty high this year.” But they were just talkin’.

My family had special reason to pay no heed to our whereabouts, on dredged up land smack dab between the Columbia River and the Slough. We’d moved from Carolina, where we barely scraped by. Most of the white men had gone to the war, so my Daddy landed a job in the shipyards and we could live someplace without people hollerin’ at us or worse. We had enough money for Mama to put ham hocks in with the beans and make cornbread drippin’ with butter.

Four, I was and my brother, Virgil, seven, when we moved to Vanport in 1944. When I played stick ball or jump rope on the street, I couldn’t even see the river, the dikes were nigh onto twenty feet tall or so. I had to stand on my tippy-toes and peek out the front curtains of our top story apartment window to see the water.

So you see, I was busy being a happy youngun’ with plenty a’friends and goin’ to school right along. We didn’t have no trouble, cause Mama made sure we stayed in the black section a’ town. School was a mix of white and black kids, but hate is a learned idée and some hadn’t been overcome by it yet. I never gave thought to us bein’ in a dangerous place.

Yesiree, I may be an older now, but I don’t forget the date-May 30, 1948. A sunny Sunday mornin’, we was eatin’ high on the hog, some grits and sausage and my daddy heard a bunch a people talkin’ outside. He got up and went downstairs.

When he came back upstairs, he had a paper in his hand.

“So, what’s goin’ on?” Mama said.

“Oh, I guess the river’s floodin’, but this here paper says the dikes are holdin’fine. They’ll warn us before somethin’ happens.” He waved the paper around, “Some high-ups in the housin’ authority says, ‘don’t get riled up.’”

Just like that, we fell back to eatin’. After helpin’ my Mama with the dishes, I went out to play. After lunch, I did the same.


I hear tell now, a little after four in the afternoon, the dike on the railroad side broke down and water came gushin’ out. I didn’t see the wall of water a comin’, it poured in behind our apartment and burst out onto the street. I was hollerin’ and so was a bunch of other kids. Virgil grabbed ahold of my arm and dragged me along toward the front of our apartment. Higher and higher, the flood was pullin’ me down. I was breathin’ hard and bobbin’ like a cork. Dirty water splashed over my head and I’d go clear under. When I come up for air, I spit it out as best I could. But Virgil never let go a’ me, not even when we started climbin’ up the stairs. Our daddy was running down toward us.

“Thank the Lord,” he said.

Mama wiped her eyes on her apron when we came into the kitchen. We put our arms around her. She didn’t care we was all wet. She smelled heavenly, like the chicken she’d been frying for supper.

“Stay here now,” my daddy said to us. “I’m going to go see if the Washington’s or Brown’s below us need help.”

Mama bit on her lower lip, “Be careful, Jasper.”

We shucked our shirts, pants and underpants. Mama toweled us off and helped us put on dry clothes. She put a blanket around my shoulders. Even though it was warm, I was still shakin’.

Daddy came back with our neighbors, Beulah and Otis Washington, who lived on the first floor.
The Brown’s had gone of a morning to visit their kin in Vancouver on the Washington side of the river. Beulah was crying.

“Everything we got’s all ruint, even them fiberboard walls is all soaked up with water.”

Otis, put his arms around her, he was tryin’ to comfort her. “Baby, be glad we ain’t dead.”

Daddy, Virgil and me looked out the window. “The water’s still a’risin,” Daddy said.

A man’s body was a floatin’ down the street. Nobody we knew, but you don’t fergit the sight ever. I didn’t want to see no more. I went to Mama and she rocked me back and forth in her arms like I was two instead a’ eight.

Now we was glad we hadn’t got a house like we’d wanted. The ones close to the ground was bein’ washed away. Both Daddy and Mama had complained about the stairs, but right now being high up seemed like a mighty good idea.

A boat came for us in the night. Daddy opened the window and handed me down to a big man. I didn’t want to let go a’ Daddy.

“I gotcha now, little girl,” the man said, putting his arms around me tight.

The boat rocked a bit and I screamed, thinking I’d be dropped down in the deep black water. One by one, us and our neighbors got into that boat, seemed awful small on the big river.

Even goin’ across to dry land was fearsome, waves lickin’ up against the sides of the boat like they wanted to swallow us down. We all made it safe, but some folks didn’t.

I’ve heard tell different stories. Some even say the gov’ment tried to cover up how many drowned. Somebody tol’ me when the river started gettin’ high that mornin’, they skedaddled six-hundred horses outa’ the race track to higher ground. I guess we wasn’t as important as those fancy racehorses.


The town we’d lived in for four years was under water. For a spell, we had to bunk in with Aunt Ella in the Albina district in Portland. We’d lost everything we owned. We moved just a few blocks away once Daddy got a job as a night watchman and we got back on our feet.

Even as young as I was when the flood happened, I never was as free an’ easy as I was before. For awhile, I dreamed I was back on the street, the water rushin’ in around my waist, creepin’ up my neck, ready to carry me away.

My Mama always read us the Bible. One verse makes me think of what happened to us that day so many years ago and how I feel now that I’m older. “For you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. Your life is like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”



Ramona Scarborough is the author of ten books. Her stories and articles have appeared in over 80 magazines, anthologies, and online. During her childhood, she lived near the site of Vanport and heard stories of what happened. Vanport, a hastily constructed city for shipyard workers, many of whom were African-Americans, was destroyed in a flood on Memorial Day, May 30, 1948. The Federal Housing Authority issued a notice to tenants that morning informing them not to panic; they were not in danger there.


Great Press for #TheYearOfPublishingWomen!


Yesterday, January 30th, The Oregonian published a great article by reporter Jenn Knudsen on Not a Pipe’s endeavors:

Oregon publisher accepts challenge to sell only books by women in 2018




Then story was then picked up by Bustle thanks to reporter Sadie Trombetta:

An Indie Publisher In Oregon Is Only Publishing Books By Women In 2018





This morning, an interview with one of Not a Pipe’s co-publishers, Benjamin Gorman, aired on  Portland’s KXL-FM by reporter Madeline Hall. Listen to the two clips below!


All this happened on the same day that author Mikko Azul's novel The Staff of Fire and Bone hit store shelves! Quite a day for Not a Pipe Publishing!

#TheYearOfPublishingWomen's Short Stories Series: "Buzzards and Bathtubs" by Jessica Mehta

During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the nine (nine!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we'll be publishing short fiction here. If you would like to submit, check out the information HERE.

Buzzards and Bathtubs

by Jessica Mehta


Note on this story: This is part of an unpublished book titled Gimme the Familiars. Each chapter (and in this case, the story) begins with a "mini chapter" that's a re-telling of a Native American myth in contemporary settings. The following story mirrors the myth, and addresses a sexual encounter of the protagonist.

Editor's Note: I believe it takes a lot of skill to effectively mix myth with modernity, but Mehta does it so gracefully that it suddenly looks easy. The writing and story are equally captivating. If the rest of Gimme the Familiars is as good as "Buzzards and Bathtubs," I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. -Sydney Culpepper, Assistant Submissions Editor



The Buzzard of the Highways

He watched from his post on the evergreen top, that one good tree that was could carry his pride. The other branches, the weak ones of the pear trees and the hybrid apples, they shook and wailed under his hooked feet like scared things. Desperate things. The types of things he glanced over, flipped his top knot like they were so ridiculous in his presence, but they were. They couldn’t help it, those struggling branches, and not even the Oregon moss gave them a coat thick enough to act tough. Not like the buzzard would have noticed anyway. Not like he cared.

The four-wheeled monsters, the two-wheeled ones, they whipped by fast along the asphalt, as fast as he could fly. But they were scooted along in the filth, and sometimes their bellies scraped the bumps. Pathetic little things. Sometimes they were just as useless as the prey he watched sprint across the yellow, dashed lines.

Buzzard tousled his top knot over his scapular, glorious atop the world. Death was beneath him, bits of snake pancaked from a worn-out wheel. An hour ago, he’d watched it happen and for just a moment—he swore it, just a slip of time—he’d thought about snatching the slithering miniature beast for himself. Then it wriggled of course, spilling over with life and energy. He hadn’t even been hungry, wasn’t even thinking of slipping scales and long, long bone between his beak today. Snake was tough, not his favorite. But the eyes he could imagine popping in his throat, juices sluicing quick into his belly. And the tongue, the tongue. He liked to think of it splitting all the way to its other end, filling him with ribbony pieces of pink that soaked into his hollow bones.

Just look at them down there, pitiful and shrieking at each other. Crow bounced around ridiculous, pecking between wing flutters of the Vultures. “You’re pathetic,” he called down from his perch, waiting between the highway horn blows to rain down his judgments.

“Says who?” Young Vulture asked, tiny entrails spraying from his beak. “The one who thinks he’s too good for us, sitting fat like a god in his tree?”

“Disgusting,” said Buzzard. “All of you, the lot of you. Eating deadness. Eating trash.”


Young Vulture fluffed himself, rolled his eyes as his elders shushed him. Crow, he never spoke to Buzzard, pretended like he couldn’t hear. Stupid, Buzzard knew he heard all.


As dusk slid its slippery black fingers over the pines, Young Vulture played the afternoon over and over in his head. Idiot Buzzard, so prideful. So vain. Him and his stupid pile of hair-feathers balanced like a crown in the sky. “Why’s he gotta do that?” he asked his elders, but they quieted him like always with no answers. And he was sick of it.

Young Vulture, he knew where Buzzard slept. Knew the tree where he buried down in the night, the one with the wires wrapped around it and the bed made of dried grass and decaying pine cones. And he knew Buzzard slept well, slept hard, stomach full and heavy with the dying animals he’d snatched that day, their blood keeping him warm ‘til morning.

He waited until the nests in his own tower were quiet all around him, nothing but the dream-induced fluffing and quivers in the purple sky. Grabbing the old knife from the storage branch, the rusty one that still held sharpness, he tucked it into his claw and delighted in its weight. He’d never touched it before, though he’d loved it the minute his brother had carried it home. “What are you, a magpie?” his mother had laughed. He’d always adored the shiniest things. Only then, with the slicer cradled like a scared rat below him, did he leave the roost, hop in silence from the commune before taking a wobbly flight into the deep.
Buzzard’s nest wasn’t far, and Young Vulture knew he’d be back before anyone would miss him. I thought I’d seen a mouse. Today’s carrion made me feel ill. He ran over the excuses, rolled them across his tongue to make them taste natural in case any elders saw him come back and required an excuse. Something believable.

He’d never seen Buzzard’s nest up close. The smell was different, the acid from the pines making it softer and warmer than his own. And he slept different than Young Vulture’s elders, not curled up nearly as tightly. He slept alone, could spread out and let his feathers fall like grace across the branches. Now, in this moment, he looked almost peaceful.

His top knot, it really was beautiful, thick and grand. Young Vulture didn’t really get the point of such a vanity, but like everyone else he admired it. Not that he’d ever tell Buzzard that (nobody did), but it was Fact. His own head was clean and bald, not a single feather to be found. It’s what made him ugly.
The snip was over fast, but the memory burned into his brain. The sound the top knot made when the knife flashed through it. How it felt so much lighter than he’d imagined clutched in his talons. Buzzard didn’t even move and now—now—now, now, now …

Buzzard was ugly, too.


Fear gripped Young Vulture on the brief flight back, even as the river beneath him glistened like the shiniest of all greatness. And the top knot grew heavier, heavier in his grip, so heavy he couldn’t keep hold. So he let go, let all that beauty get wrapped up in the winds and scattered like droppings to the earth below. The knife, too, the evidence of his badness.

Young Vulture slept late, a rarity for him. Like the rest of his family, he was often up early, eager to see what treats had been broken, beaten and splayed open like a gift on the black flattops below. Why didn’t anyone wake him? Why was everyone lined up like dutiful soldiers on the big wire?

“What time—“ he began to ask his mother as he settled next to her, his eyes still full of sleep.

“Shh,” she said, motioning to the earth.

What seemed like miles below, Buzzard was hunched, looking bald and naked, amongst the empty cans and discarded sandwich wrappers. In his feet, a smashed squirrel’s head lolled backwards. Young Vulture could smell the wheel-death of the big-tailed animal from way up here.

“Is he … why’s he eating carrion?” he asked his mother. She shrugged, eyes embarrassed for the poor thing, and nudged her son back to the nest.


Sex starts small, I learned that young. I was four, and (like most inching towards Kindergarten), I don’t remember much. I remember this—standing on the autumn leaves while my father built a little house for me in the backyard. Years later, it would be home to the big pool pump even after the water had dried up and the lining got cracked. I remember finger painting with my mother on the rickety metal card table in the living room, her screaming at me to be happy and enjoy myself. I hated finger painting, it made me feel dirty. I remember the eyes of the Indian woman in the hallway painting, how they’d watch me no matter which way I walked, and how she’d only do it when nobody else was looking.

And I remember the time in the bathtub.

Our water came from the well, and I hated the taste. Like metal gone bad. Sometimes it had a rusty color, and I didn’t want to bathe in it, but my mom didn’t believe in showers. Demanded that baths were relaxing and, like her, I was only allowed to soak. But I’d throw a fit when the water was too brown, so she’d squirt in half a bottle of blue food coloring to bury my silence. “It’s like a lagoon! A tropical paradise. Hawaii,” she’d crow, even though she’d never been anywhere beaches were warm. She’d only seen the sands of Oregon, and we called them coasts here. And once, once, I’d been told we’d seen the blinding white sands of Florida, but I wasn’t sure that was true. She said I was still in diapers and didn’t remember, and the people in the pictures looked like they were in a play. My mom looked too young, my dad didn’t have his moustache, and the baby they held had nothing of me in it. Those blue eyes in the photos had long turned to Cherokee green.

And sometimes not even the blue food coloring satisfied me. I swear, I could still see the grains of the filth. The well’s underbelly would sneak in through the pipes, deposit a dusting of what I was sure were crushed insects along the porcelain floor. I wouldn’t get in. “Jesus Christ, Justine,” my mom would say, and then glub-glub half a cup of dish soap in the tub. It covered the secrets up, but I could still feel the broken bugs on my too-thick thighs and flat butt. I just knew enough not to complain anymore.

I’d stay in the bathroom for an hour. It didn’t matter that the water went cold or that every last bubble popped. I didn’t care that the dish soap dried up my skin so much that it began to pain, or that I could feel the slime of it seeping into my pores. That my hair, no matter how many times I dunked it, never really got truly clean in the soupy well water. I was told that this was Relaxing Time and it was the only time my mother left me alone. When I was ready to get out, I had to call her. She hated the thought of leaving soap to line and sit in the tub, so I’d have to stand as the water drained and she hosed down each piece of the liner, inch by inch. Once the escaping water reached my feet that looked just like hers, she’d start to hose me down, too. The well, it was running dry, and by then the water from the hose was always almost-cool at best. Usually, it had gone cold. And she’d have me spin, turn, hold up my hair to spray down my slippery neck. At four, I’d already learned fast to hate this process. It was like being one of those hanged, headless, skinless animals at the slaughterhouse down the street. Hooked and waiting for the butchery to be done while my insides, my private areas, were on display.

We had one bathroom in the entire house, and so I wasn’t allowed to lock the door. My mom, in the summer, would always be in the yard, covering our one, long acre in discount perennials. Tending to the marijuana that she planted along with the tomato plants because they looked kind of alike. Pulling up weeds, yelling at my dad to mow the grass, swatting away the latest animal she had acquired, shrieking at it to behave against its instinct and act like she thought it should. Goats, turkeys, ponies, and rabbits. Sometimes, her or my dad would come into the bathroom, pull down their pants to defecate or stream yellow into the chipped bowl. I could only see the flanks of their thighs when this happened, the toilet was on the other side of the bathtub wall with the sawed-off spout. My mom’s white-white jiggly side-butt or my dad’s milk chocolate cream with the sparse black hairs. It always shocked me, how much lighter his Indian skin was on the parts where the sun couldn’t reach. To me, he was Hershey brown, a color that must have run out of me in birth.

Sometimes they’d say something to me, most times they didn’t. Especially not my dad—I don’t think he knew what to say. But this time, when I was squarely Four, I was well-armed. I was always swimming in toys, always used, always garage sale finds he would bring to me in soft, worn-out boxes from his Saturday hunts. My favorite was a plastic alligator squirt gun. My mom hated that, that I often went to the boy toys instead of the cutesy stuff she liked. She hated that I hated Sesame Street and picked He-Man or Thundercats when I had a choice.  She hated that I didn’t like dresses, preferred the black t-shirts with monsters on them. Werewolves, vampires and Frankensteins.

Just a month ago, my mom had painted big, fat blue raindrops everywhere on the bathroom walls. I had to help, and it was obvious which were mine and which were hers. Mine were fast, hurried. I didn’t want to be doing it. She did that, stuff like that. Our house was the weird one, but I was just now figuring out to be embarrassed. Embarrassment is something that comes in random bursts, like a growth. I guess it has to be that way, doesn’t it? Otherwise babies would be way too embarrassed with their poop and vomit and nipple sucking to ever get big. Embarrassment was coming in buckets to me that summer, like it had gotten lazy and was playing catch up.

It had only been a couple of weeks since the last big embarrassment. My mom, determined that I would know everything about sex since she had known nothing, had blasted words like penis and vagina at me since before I could remember. Intercourse, sex, orgasm, sperm. They were as common to me as yellow, blue, rectangle, and square. She didn’t want me to be like her, turn thirteen years old and come home crying because a boy had accidentally brushed his khaki-clad Penis against me in the school hallway and thinking I might be pregnant. So two weeks ago, while I stood on a chair playing with my dad’s long black hair, twisting it into twin mounts on top of my head and giggling, I caught myself when my mom walked by and asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m making him horny.” I heard it, my try at making a joke—horns to horny—turn to filth between my lips. I knew it before I saw the shift in his eyes, before I felt the silence shoot at me from my mother’s presence. And I said nothing, just let go of his locks and scooted back down off the chair.

“What are you doing?”

My dad had come into the bathroom so quiet I hadn’t even heard the footsteps in the hall. He could do that, unlike my mom. Move like a cat, like a big sneaky thing. Her footsteps always announced themselves from what felt like miles away, a lumbering lack of grace before her musky smell announced itself.

“Nothing,” I told him. He stood before the vanity mirror, the one that opened with a soft press to reveal his green Barasol can that turned the shelves dark red. His old razor. My mom’s dull tweezers and silver hair clips. His back to me, he watched me in the mirror as he lathered his face. Like snow spreading across peaks and mountains. Something had changed in him. This mask, the snowy one, I’d seen hundreds of times. But always, I’d known what was below. Thought I’d known. It was my dad, the one who would drink an entire liter of Coke and half a can of peanuts. The one who took me to the Red Barn Auction on Thursday nights, to McDonald’s for their spongy pancakes and warm syrup on Saturday mornings after the first best garage sales had been ransacked. The one who flew me around like I was a plane in the photos, who grew that moustache because I got to watch Born in East L.A. and thought he looked just like Cheech Marin. “Grow a moustache! Grow a moustache!” I’d begged of him, and he had. It came in slow, so we all got used to it together. Now, it was the dad in the photos that looked like a stranger. I couldn’t remember what his full upper lip looked like anymore, but I knew what his moustache looked like after he ate all those peanuts. Dusted in salt and little nut skin flakes.

What are you doing? What are you doing. He said these words for a different reason than my mom. Because it made him sound like he cared, and he knew my answer would be short. My mom asked because she had to know everything, didn’t realize that children came with their own deep-inside personalities that she couldn’t keep choke-collar tight. I’d seen that after the horny incident, saw her face scrambling to contain the wild animal she thought she’d spotted in me. I wanted to explain that it was a joke, that my words came faster than my head could manage, but that would just make it worse. Wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t that just make it worse?

My dad’s face was half white snow now, the top half the same brown skin as always and those green-gold eyes. They crawled over me like insects, and I could feel the itchy dead bodies at my legs again. They had disappeared when I’d first lowered myself into the water. But now that water was cool, the bubbles gone, and the false blue wasn’t enough to offer any comfort. There were dark bits floating at the surface now, too. What body parts might those be? Maybe tiny little alien eyes, or a leg all akimbo. Flecks stuck to my skin where the water licked at my belly. My sides. Right below my nipples. And I was ashamed.
It was like in Sunday School, how they tell you about Adam and Eve. Eat the wrong thing, and you get embarrassed all at once. Not over time like you’re supposed to.  I don’t know if my dad had ever changed my diaper. Given me a bath when I was too little to do it myself. I know he’d never hosed me off—that was my mom’s job.

“You gon’ stay in there much longer?” he asked as he picked up the razor, held the blade to his cheek. It was old, and I knew he’d cut himself. Leave the bathroom with bloody bits of paper stuck like bows at the sharpest angles. His Oklahoma accent spilt something fierce through his snow-flaked lips.

“I don’t know,” I said. Penis. Vagina. I could see the start of my vagina at the depths of the blue, blue water. His eyes kept marching over me. Down my throat to rest in the hollow of my collarbone. Across my shoulders, peeling from the early summer shine. He carved out a piece of brown from the white, the soft scrape-scrape sound echoing in the tiny room. He’d shut the bathroom door. Why had he shut the door? It was too small with two people in here, the raindrop walls moving uncomfortably close. It was pouring.

“Hmm,” he said, revealing another section of skin. His chin, the one unlike mine. Mine was like my mom’s, a slight dimple. Butt-face, that one boy had called me at Vacation Bible School. Jesus hadn’t cared, just kept staring at the ceiling from the big cross up front, eyes faded and looking bored. Not like my dad’s eyes. They moved to my upper arms, the ones I already knew were too big.

“You can always tell when a girl is gonna be fat by her upper arms,” my mom would say, pointing out girls my age, younger, older, it didn’t matter. “It’s all in the arms,” she’d say, with a sad shake of her head. “It’s a terrible thing, to have to watch your weight your whole life. God, what I would give to be thin and rich. That’s all I want in my next life.”

In my water-logged fingers, the hollow alligator nuzzled close. I could fill it with one hand, I’d been practicing. Like an army man, and I hadn’t even known a war was coming. Just knew, like instinct. I had to be able to load this gun one-handed, simple as that. Slow, careful, tucking the alligator against my hip I pulled his orange syringe like I was lapping up all the poison. He grew heavier in my palm, didn’t want to pop up to the surface anymore. He was so full with the water, he was happy to stay weighted and deadly ‘til I was ready.

My dad moved the razor against the long moustache hairs, careful to keep each side equally thick. It must have been hard to do without looking. Or maybe you get used to it. I wanted to see if he’d locked the door or just closed it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t look away, or his eyes could race too fast to somewhere they shouldn’t be.

To my elbows they went, the crooks of them at the water’s surface. The razor slid to his throat. His eyes to my nipples. Now. The alligator attacked.

It was perfect, not a sound or a splash. I took aim like I always did, arm stretched out, trigger ready. But I shot for his face, the one in the mirror with the searching eyes, and the alligator vomited a blue stream all across his back.

“Goddamnit!” he yelled, raking the razor across his barely-there Adam’s apple and it went from white to bright red in a second. “What the—Rhoda! Rhoda!” he yelled, calling for my mom. Her heavy feet slapped against the linoleum in the kitchen, just a few steps away.

“Jimmy? What is it? Is Justi—” she screamed from behind the door, and it flew open. It wasn’t locked, wasn’t locked, wasn’t locked. “What happened?” she asked, scanning him as he clutched a wash rag to his throat, me sitting with my knees drawn up to cover my nipples.

“She shot me!” he said, like he couldn’t believe it himself.

“Justine! What the hell are you doing?” she asked.

“No, I—I didn’t do it. It was the alligator.” It was the truth.


Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, novelist, and storyteller. She’s the author of eight books, which includes six collections of poetry: the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Savagery, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Prize in Poetry, the Potlatch Award for Native Artists, and numerous poet-in-residencies posts around the world including Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, and Paris Lit Up in France. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com

Cover Reveal for Sang Kromah's Djinn

It's here!

The cover of Sang Kromah's


Djinn ebook Cover edit 3.jpg

We're so pleased with the stunning artwork from Mariah Bazan that will help folks notice this amazing novel by Sang Kromah! Fans of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, and Twilight by Stephanie Meyers will love this YA fantasy romance. Bijou Fitzroy is strange. With the unwanted gift of being an empath, she has spent her entire life as a sheltered recluse, homeschooled by her secretive and overprotective grandmother who never allows them to stay in one place long enough for Bijou to settle and make friends. When Bijou and her grandmother move to Sykesville and she starts to attend the local high school, Bijou’s world begins to crumble, town locals begin to disappear, the creatures from her nightmares begin to take shape in her reality, and she finds herself at the center of a war she never knew was being fought all around her.

Djinn (Harcover ISBN: 978-0-9983880-6-9, Trade Paperback ISBN 978-0-9983880-5-2, eBook ISBN 978-0-9983880-7-6) will be released on March 20th of 2018. Ms. Kromah’s novel is the fourth of nine books by women we’ll be publishing during 2018 as part of our commitment to accept Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and only publish women for a year.

The novel will be available for pre-order in late February. Be the first to get a copy!

Update: Check out the full dust jacket for the hardcover edition. So cool!

Djinn Hardcover Dustjacket for Reveal.jpg

#TheYearOfPublishingWomen's Short Stories Series: "Senses" by Nicole Shuey

During 2018, Not a Pipe Publishing has accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to only publish women for one year. Beyond the nine (nine!) novels we'll be publishing, we'd also like to promote even more women's voices, so we'll be publishing short fiction here. If you would like to submit, check out the information HERE.


by Nicole Shuey

Editor's Note: This short story is rich with imagery as it paints a picture of the narrator's thoughts. The story dances through the narrator's mind and pulls the reader in through the stream of consciousness. Shuey has proven herself skilled with descriptive language, and the visions of color all but leap off the screen. This truly is a captivating story. -Sydney Culpepper, Assistant Submissions Editor


Some words are hard to say.

Simple words, complex words, normal words. My lips can shape them, my mouth can pronounce them. My tongue tastes them. Hearing the words is one thing. Ignoring them, half-listening to others speak the sounds, I can forget to notice. I can forget to notice how sharp bile trickles down my throat, while everyone else is ignorant of the essence of what they say. I can forget how my toes curl up, my lips rolling inward, when I hear this word, or the immediate reaction to that other one. A liberal lack of concentration is key.

The first word is spelled with letters which are no trouble on their own, or in other words. This word is spelled with navy, dark brown, white, emerald. The navy and the brown make it a dark word, a black word, all the colour left out. It’s troublesome. It’s tiresome. It’s unavoidable.

The second word, the older word, is brown, red, and yellow. It’s musty, sour and old like empty and unwashed milk cartons. Even connected to other words, lined up like train cars, these words will taint my mouth. The more I hear them, the more I want to take my toothbrush to my tongue and scrub. I fight to keep my face from scrunching up. Because no one knows. And no one senses the same thing. They see me, but not the hate I have for these words, these tastes. They use them against me, accidentally, on purpose, again and again, repeat and repeat…

-Pete and Repeat are in a boat. Pete falls out. Who’s left?


-Pete and Repeat…

Or is it Pete and Repete? Maroon red and dark brown, or maroon red and almost-green? Who knows? Do I know? It’s another thing I see that no one else seems to notice. Dark notice, quiet notice, that sees a little with a little openness. Flavorless notice. Flavourless notice? That extra letter does a lot of work.




Knowing it’s there, shading the sound with weight and pale light, my mouth moves differently. It feels different…differently. Definitely distinctive. Dark again, black or brown, and green and white, and maybe yellow, maybe not. Depends on the word, on the context, on the connotation.

Red and brown.

Brown and white.

White and yellow.

Yellow like sunlight. Yellow like summer, the light shining on the sea.

-She sells seashells by the seashore.

Does she who sells those seashells see the red haze in on that seashore? In the sand? And in sandstone, and salt, and…and.

And what does it—black, red, sturdy—matter?

I’m lying in bed, my head on the crook of my arm, and I’m not sleeping. I should be sleeping. I’m tired, so tired my eyelids can’t fight the Earth’s gravity. I’m listening to the deadened night sounds: my little fan humming; the wind pushing on the building, the wall near my head creaking like ship’s rigging; night birds calling in weird voices.

“They sound like cats,” I whisper to myself.

They also sound, sometimes, like they’re being strangled. Concentrating on the hum of my fan, I lose the bird calls. I escape into a blanket of white noise. And why do they call it white noise? White noise. If anything, noise is dark, black, blank. Colourless. Just the same as the ink the word is printed with. White noise… What else is white, really white?


White as the new-fallen snow. Snow is ice crystals shoved into a solid form. True snow, not memory snow, is blue; it reflects the open, vaulted sky. Snow means ice. Ice means cold. Cold means a coming darkness, or a puff of mist.

I roll onto my right side, facing the dim wall. I’ve opened my eyes now and they stay that way. The quiet power of thought gives my eyelids strength. Nothing much to see physically, but with a world of ideas inside me, my attention turns back to that landscape. I decide, this landscape will be vast and low and slightly sepia. I should try to get some rest. What do people usually do…?

“Count sheep.”

My new mental landscape is the perfect habitat for a flock of sheep. The ground’s colour deepens to vivid green, the kind you see in children’s books and in paintings. The sky is the most archetypal blue. Both colours are at once soothing and too good to exist in reality. Hills rise in the background; a nice white fence is in the middle foreground. Maybe not a fence. Just one section of a white fence: two end posts with three horizontal slats. It’s an empty pastoral scene, obeying the rule of thirds—two thirds above the ‘fence’, one section sky and the other green grass. Are there clouds? A quick glance at the sky and the answer is…

No clouds.

Clouds would be nice, especially fluffy cumulus ones, but more white would be distracting from the main focus. Which is the fence segment. Or should it be something else? Something less standard, less generic, might be good. Besides, why would sheep jump just the one slice of fence? Granted, sheep are stupid, but surely they would just walk ‘round it.

The focal element, front and centre, should be a hoop. Oval, floating off the ground, but big so the sheep won’t have troubles getting through. The new oval hoop replaces the fence section, but it’s still white. The surrounding area’s saturation is turned down a tad, to more normal levels, though still picture perfect. There. Now time for the sheep. Time to start counting.

A slightly stylized, soft woolly sheep appears from the right. Its wool is the truest white, but its face and legs are midnight black. It gains speed and, with a ‘baa’, jumps. It clears the hoop with plenty of space all around it, as planned. Then off it goes to the left and leaves the field of vision.


The black and white sheep is gone for the span of a breath. The next sheep is blue, the sweetest of the light blue family. In fact, it almost looks like a piece of the sky. It is just as fluffy, with an equally adorable, if vacant, face. It, too, gracefully takes a run-up, goes through the hoop with a gentle noise, and disappears left.


Then a rosy sheep, the ideal carmine red. (A strawberry sheep?) Here it comes, through the white hoop, and there it goes.


Four is a rich royal blue. It has no trouble with the hoop.

Five is like a living topiary from the rainforest, or a rare emerald cut to resemble a sheep. (Who’s going to want a sheep-shaped gem, though?)

Six has a yellow-orange tint. (Maybe it was a white one who fell into a vat of turmeric tincture.)

Seven: green, like the fifth one, but lighter. It almost blends with the grass.

Eight. This one looks stained with blackberry—or maybe blueberry—juice. (There must be a bramble patch further right, offstage, out of frame.) Dark and purple-red.

Nine is black. The fullest realisation of the colour. Not like the night sky, which is vaguely navy. Not like charcoal, which is vaguely grey. Not obsidian, which is vaguely brown. Sometimes. The ninth sheep is a little sheep-shaped black hole with shining, dark eyes. The contrast between this sheep and the brightly white hoop makes me think that this is the kind of thing people mean with the phrase ‘seeing things as black and white’.

Then the ninth sheep is gone and here come number ten, looking like a cotton ball, almost the same white as the hoop itself.

I am calmer now. Not exactly sleepy, but more ready to dream. I am also tired of counting sheep. Anything else would be better about now. It might have been less tedious—and cuter—with lambs instead.

-Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow. Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, school one day, school one day…


Mary had black wavy hair. She tied it up with a red ribbon, in a loose ponytail like my older sister’s. Mary’s lamb had a red ribbon, too. She’d tied it around the lamb’s neck in a bow, so they’d match. I gripped the crayon tightly; my face was inches from the paper. My eyes were almost closed, narrowed to see better, even if my sister said that didn’t work. Next to me, all around me, the other five- and six-year-olds in the class all colored their work pages. Once we were done with tracing and copying the letters on the front, we could draw whatever we wanted on the back. The letters today were L, M, N, and O.

L is for…lemon, lion, lamb. So I started with the lamb. White crayon on white paper doesn’t work well. I changed to blue, a light one, just so the lamb wasn’t hiding on the blank page.
M is for…mango, mice, Mary. Mary had a little lamb. I wanted her to wear a red dress, to match the red ribbons, but when I was making the lamb’s bow, I broke the crayon.

Debbie, my tablemate, looked up from her shading. “Don’t color so hard.”

She said it with the same tone my sister used. The same tone that all Debbie’s brothers and sisters used, too, maybe. Debbie was the youngest of nine.

I blinked at her, my lips pushed tightly together almost until they hurt. I couldn’t decide whether to tell her to mind her own beeswax or tell her I liked her picture. It was a tree with yellow, red, and green apples in it. Debbie dropped her head to watch her crayon slide around the edge of the tree trunk, outlining in a slightly darker brown. I went back to my picture, too. I decided to color a little bit lighter, not just because Debbie told me to, but because I didn’t want to break more crayons. I gave Mary a blue dress instead. She’d match her lamb even more like that.

When I was done, I had a little more time. Two or three other kids were still tracing and writing their letters. I thought it might be nice to label my drawing. Just in case someone who didn’t know the rhyme saw my picture. Of course, everyone knew the rhyme, but adults could be silly sometimes about drawings. They saw things that weren’t there. I looked over at Debbie’s tree. She was shading in the sky now, and drawing little round-ended V’s for blackbirds. No one would mistake her drawing for anything else.

I picked up a yellow crayon first, again gripping it almost too tight and drew the L. Putting the yellow down, my fingers hovered over the other colors for a second. Then I put my hand up high, so my teacher Miss F would see me. She came over and knelt next to the table. Our heads were almost the same height.

“Yes, Jordan?”

“Miss F, how do you spell lamb?” I asked. I thought I knew, but I wanted it right.

“L. A. M. B.” She smiled. “I see you’ve already got the L.”

I nodded and picked up a red crayon for the A. I was in a matching mood. Not only should Mary and her lamb match, since they were best friends, but the colors should all match the letters, too. Yellow for L, red for A.

“Black for M,” I murmured. M black like Mary’s hair. Mary’s hair black like M. I met Miss F’s eyes. “Then a B?”

“That’s right.”

I frowned, my forehead getting lined. “But you don’t say the B…?”

“It’s silent,” she told me. “What color should we make it? Green?”

I shook my head wildly. “No, no, it has to match. B is orange.”

“There’s no other orange in your picture…” A classmate put his hand up and called for the teacher, so Miss F left my table with, “Keep up the good work.”

I looked over my drawing and wrinkled my nose. Who ever heard of a green B?


A rhythmic buzzing pulls me out of sleep. My hand swats at the bedside table, searching for the source of the sound: my phone. My alarm. Somehow, the night before, I’d switched it to vibrate only. I am definitely lucky I sleep light in the mornings. I tell the alarm to shut up, both out loud and by tapping a button. Then I curl under my blankets, feeling like a caterpillar. (But I don’t want to wake up and try and be a happy, beautiful butterfly.) Or else maybe I’m a burrito. In which case, I’m justified in never moving again. Unfortunately, being human, and being employed, and being alive on a Monday, I have to leave my wrap. Why didn’t I turn the heater up a bit last night? My bed may be warm, and cosy, but the rest of the room is chilly. That’s only all right if I’m a warm burrito.

“You’re not a burrito,” I tell myself. “Get up.”

I turn on my stereo on the way past; the volume is up high enough for me to hear the music in most rooms of my small house. I go on with my morning routine, shuffling around groaning like a zombie. Give me coffee: coffee will give me braiiinsss…

While the coffee is percolating, I hunt for something edible. The bagels in my cupboard are about to expire. I take one out of the bag and throw the rest in the freezer. If the bagels are going bad, then surely the cream cheese is out of date, too. I might just have to melt regular cheese on the bagel if that’s true. The toaster oven browns my bagel while I check the date on the cream cheese. Bonus! Still good. I smell it for extra safety. Yep, still good, smells normal. When the bagel is cooked to perfection, golden brown with darker edges, I slather on the cream cheese. Some melts down the side of the bread; it’s almost too hot to hold.

Maybe I’ll get coffee first.

I watch the dark liquid drip into the glass carafe. ‘Carafe’ is sort of close to ‘giraffe’, but they’re nothing alike. Other than the fact the first is inanimate and the other’s an animal. Carafe sort of blushes red, under the yellow of the C, and the brown of the F. Giraffe’s kind of green. Like leaves in savanna trees. If anything, the word ‘carafe’ is closer to the colour of a giraffe… Once the last of the coffee has gurgled down through the filter, I take the carafe out of its cubby. A spare drop of hot liquid sizzles on the warmer pad.

Mug. I need a mug. My favourite one’s dirty, so I take out a white one instead. The coffee makes a nice contrast as it swirls into the mug. I click the carafe back into place, and grab my bagel plate. Finally, I settle at the kitchen table, bagel and plain coffee before me, and lick some extra cream cheese off my finger. The clock ticks under the music still playing in my bedroom. I watch the second hand while I’m eating, calculating just how much time I have before I need to run out the door.

Speaking of doors, do I remember the alarm passcode at work? Wasn’t it coloured like fire? Red, orange, red, white…? Red, white, orange, red. That’s it. White like a zero or white like a one? I’ll have to check. I wrote it down somewhere.

The sharp-sweet of the cream cheese reminds me of something else. What else? I’m halfway through the bagel when I remember. I once read a story about a crow named Morgan. I always liked that name; it put a sort of tart taste in my mouth. Like the cream cheese, but not as…milky? The effect was only for a moment: think of it and it was gone.

Unlike some other words I could mention.

Nicole Shuey has been writing for over fifteen years. In 2016, she earned her MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She currently runs a blog and is writing a fantasy novel series, in addition to her day job and her work as one of the Co-Chairs of the Southern Oregon Willamette Writers.



Cover Reveal for The Staff of Fire and Bone

It's here! Mikko Azul's epic fantasy, The Staff of Fire and Bone, is now available for pre-order. Check out this beautiful cover!

Front cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone

Front cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone

Here's the back cover of the hardcover edition:

Back cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone (Hardcover)

Back cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone (Hardcover)

Here's the back cover of the trade paperback edition:

Back cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone (Trade Paperback)

Back cover of The Staff of Fire and Bone (Trade Paperback)

Pre-order your copy from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers:

Powell’s HERE

B&N.com HERE

Amazon HERE

Kindle HERE

Mikko Azul’s stunning epic fantasy novel, The Staff of Fire and Bone, will hit shelves on the 30th of January in hardcover, trade paperback, and on Kindle. Azul, a former Marine and mother of three, has been working on the novel since 2005, and she gained renewed inspiration when an earlier version of the manuscript won awards and recognition at the San Francisco Writers Conference. She then signed with Not a Pipe Publishing, a small press in Independence, Oregon and the first publishing company in the United States to announce their acceptance of author Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 “The Year of Publishing Women.” Azul’s The Staff of Fire and Bone will be the first of nine novels released by the company in 2018.

The Staff of Fire and Bone is set in Muralia, an elaborate and richly conceived world filled with magic and different factions living in tension. It tells the story of Cédron Varkaras, a young man who is already isolated because he’s the Regent’s son and has a Shäeli demon for a mother. Approaching manhood, his demonic powers manifest, proof of his mother’s legacy. Cédron is blamed for the devastating ground shakes that have begun tearing the world apart and he flees. Hunted by those who would kill him and others who want to exploit his powers, he races against time to find the real cause of the destruction. With little hope of redeeming himself or saving his world, Cédron must choose: become the hero that destiny has conspired to make him or join with the great demon and embrace his true heritage.

The early critical reception has been effusive. Karen Eisenbrey, author of The Gospel According to St. Rage and the forthcoming Daughter of Magic, writes, "The Staff of Fire and Bone is a thrilling tale of a misfit with a destiny to save the world of Muralia - and the power to destroy it. Like the best fantasy settings, Muralia feels both familiar and deeply strange. And the staff of the title? The most shocking and beautiful magical object I have encountered in 40+ years as a fantasy reader."

After so many years of toil to bring this world to readers, Azul has learned a lot about persevering through adversity and overcoming self-doubt. “My advice to aspiring authors is to follow your bliss,” she says, “to find bliss in your writing and your life, and to not worry about anyone’s definition of success. Relax and take the ride!”

Jason Brick on How to Write Query Letters

Jason Brick, your writing sensei

Jason Brick, your writing sensei

Not a Pipe Publishing's own Jason Brick, author of Wrestling Demons) has written a great guide to writing query letters. We're not open to submissions right now (Bonus hint: Sending query letters to agents and publishers who are not accepting them does NOT make you look like a go-getter. It makes you look unprofessional. We close submissions because we're focused on the authors we've already signed, and you should want to find a place that will prioritize you once they've signed you, so honor that). However, when we do open back up, please take Jason's advice. Our only other Not-a-Pipe-specific-addition: When Jason says, "Talk about things they’ve published that you read and loved (especially if they dovetail with your project)," this is particularly important to a small press. If you haven't read any of our books, that tells us you probably won't once we sign you, and that means you won't be able to blurb them, review them, tweet about them, or generally be a good team player. We're building a family of great authors, and we're picky about who gets adopted, so referencing our books tells us you'll take your turns doing the dishes and mowing the lawn in this family. 

Check out Jason's very practical advice, complete with templates, HERE.

SuperGuy Podcast is Here!

The hilarious superhero novel SuperGuy by Kurt Clopton is now being released as a podacst in the run-up to the relase of the audiobook, and the first episode has just dropped. Ruby Faux, of Faux Fiction Audio, has produced this wonderful show with a complete cast of talented voice actors and high quality post production to give the show and the forthcoming audiobook the complete audio experience. Check out the first episode!


Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-960756419/superguy-episode-1


And be sure to check out these interviews with author Kurt Clopton about the novel, the audiobook, and more!


Fat Packs Podcast: 9 - 28 The One With SuperGuy Author Kurt Clopton

Welcome Sydney Culpepper to the Not a Pipe Family!

Welcome Sydney Culpepper, our newest Assistant Editor and Assistant Marketing Director , to the Not a Pipe Publishing family.

Sydney Culpepper.JPG

Sydney hails from Klamath Falls, OR, and is a recent graduate of Western Oregon University with an honors degree in linguistics and American Sign Language.  She’s been a reader and a writer nearly all her life, and she loves reading young adult fiction, especially fantasy and LGBTQ+ subgenres.  She self-published her first novel, Pagetown, as her senior project in high school, and is working on her next book.  Her other hobbies include Netflix, drawing, and petting her cat.

Not a Pipe Publishing's Summer Kindle Book Giveaway!

As we gear up for The Year of Publishing Women and the seven (yes, seven!) new novels we’ll release from five new, amazing novelists, we want to celebrate the books we’ve released during 2017. We’re going to give away four free Kindle copies of our books (in honor of the four new books we released in 2017) to the people who want them the most.


How do you tell us you want one of them the most? It’s totally free and easy. Just choose the link below, quote-tweet on Twitter or re-post on Facebook, and add the right hashtag. Then we’ll search the hashtags and randomly select four winners. The more you tweet or post, the more chances you have to win!

We'll announce your winning on Twitter and Facebook, then send you a copy of the Kindle edition for your phone or tablet. It's that easy!

For Going Green by Heather S. Ransom, quote-tweet or share the link to the Kindle edition and add:

I want to read #GoingGreen


For SuperGuy by Kurt Clopton, add:

I want to read #SuperGuy


For The Digital Storm by Benjamin Gorman, add:

I want to read #TheDigitalStorm


For Wrestling Demons by Jason Brick, add:

I want to read #WrestlingDemons


For Corporate High School by Benjamin Gorman:

I want to read #CorporateHighSchool


For The Sum of Our Gods by Benjamin Gorman:

I want to read #TheSumOfOurGods

A Night at the Museum with Heather S. Ransom, Author of Going Green

On the evening of June 16th, the Museum of Art in Grants Pass, Oregon, experienced its own night of wonder and magic. Three young adults participated in a live art performance, bringing to life a chapter from Heather S. Ransom's YA novel GOING GREEN. Looking 120 years into the future, museum guests watched a trio, two cellists and a violinist, who had been genetically modified with chloroplasts engineered for humans, play beautiful music for all to enjoy. Portraying classmates of the novel's hero, Calyssa Brentwood, the musicians depicted members of the symphony orchestra at SciCity's high school. The three played, unaware of the increasing rebel attacks happening around the city. Interested? Want to know what happens in the story? Check out heathersransom.ink to discover more about this exciting new novel!

The event showcased local authors and illustrators who spent the evening entertaining the public and reading from their published works at the beautiful Grants Pass Museum of Art. Authors sold and signed their books for adults, young adults, & children.

Ransom would like to give a huge "thank you" to an incredible artist, Leslie Macpherson, for helping the trio "go green," and also to the Authors Innovative Marketing group for making this opportunity happen!

A second event and performance will take on Saturday, June 24th, from 1-4pm. Don't miss out on another opportunity as GOING GREEN once again comes alive!

Not a Pipe Signs its First Three Book Deal: Welcome LeeAnn Elwood McLennan to the Not a Pipe Family

Not a Pipe Publishing is excited to announce that we have signed the talented LeeAnn Elwood McLennan to a three book deal! The whole trilogy is scheduled to be released in spring, summer, and fall of 2018. This as-of-yet-unnamed YA superhero trilogy is so fun and so gripping that we know readers won't want to wait long for the next installment. 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is a perfect fit for Not a Pipe Publishing. Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, she was always looking for any opportunity to read – under the covers in bed, in the car, and in class using the book-hidden-in-the-textbook trick. When her father introduced her to sci-fi/fantasy through a book of short stories from Astounding Stories, the possibilities in every word captivated her interest, and her daydreams involved other worlds, magical powers and time travel. Stories permeate her life from her multiple Alice in Wonderland tattoos to the names of her cats (Atticus, Boo Radley, and Finch).  

Though she graduated from Clemson University with a degree in English, LeeAnn has spent her career working in computer engineering related fields. LeeAnn lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Andy, and three cats (number of cats subject to change). Visit her at www.leeannmclennan.com, follow her on Facebook @lemwrites, Twitter @atticusmcl, and Instagram @atticusmcl.


When I read the following piece, I immediately got in touch with the author, Nicola Griffith. She generously allowed me to republish the first half of it here. It illustrates precisely why Not a Pipe Publishing accepted Kamila Shamsie's challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women, and why it's a shame that more publishing houses won't make the same commitment. Of course, when margins are thin, publishing companies aren't going to leave money on the table. But it's just that attitude - that male authors or books about male protagonists are more likely to get reviews, win awards, and sell books - which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no easy fix to the challenge of representation. A book is not inherently more worthy because it's been written by a woman or a person of color or a person with a disability or a person who is LGBTQA or a person who is a migrant or a religious minority. Some are worse than books written by boring old cis straight white guys like me, and a lot are better. But the whole multiverse of our stories is a shallow and stagnant puddle if it is not constantly replenished with the ocean of stories all of us can bring to it. Thanks to Nicola Griffith for running the numbers to illustrate that we still have a long way to go when it comes to recognizing women's voices when we decide which books are most praise-worthy. Next year, Not a Pipe Publishing will be releasing six or seven titles (a significant undertaking for a company our size). Our male authors, Kurt Clopton, Jason Brick, and I will be working on our own projects for 2019. 2018 belongs to our female authors, to Mikko Azul and Sang Kromah and M.K. Martin and Heather S. Ransom and more (announcements to come!), and I'm bouncing up and down in my chair just thinking about the about the quality of the stories they will be sharing with the world. -Benjamin Gorman]



by Nicola Griffith

When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male.

I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal.

* Note: the headline to this graph is wrong. It should read 2000-2014. When I have time I’ll redo the graph and/or amend the headline. Meanwhile, thanks to Liza.

At the top of the prestige ladder, for the Pulitzer Prize women wrote zero out of 15 prize-winning books wholly from the point of view 2 of a woman or girl. Zero. For the prize that recognizes “the most distinguished fiction by an American author,” not a single book-length work from a woman’s perspective or about a woman was considered worthy. Women aren’t interesting, this result says. Women don’t count..

[Read the rest here.]


Welcome Brionna Poppitz to the Not a Pipe Family!

We're excited to welcome a second Assistant Submissions Editor and Assistant Marketing Director, Brionna Poppitz!

Brionna first fell in love with books as a child, when her aunt Diana gave her The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for Christmas. From then, on, her days and summers were filled with stories and adventures, but she never thought much of it until she took a Language and Composition class during her junior year of high school. Learning how to analyse texts in new ways opened up a whole world of meaning and depth that she had never experienced before. These days, she is just a few short weeks away from graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in English and a minor in Writing. She loves reading anything, from the rawest of creative nonfiction to the wildest landscapes of science fiction and fantasy. In the future, she hopes to help others polish and perfect their writing as a copy editor, while she spends her free time writing her own stories.

Follow her on twitter @trpoppinfresh