Book Review: Lawrence Davis’s “Blunt Force Magic”

By: A.E Santana

Janzen Robinson has been trying to forget his past and move forward with a boring, mundane life as a delivery man. This intention is interrupted when he saves a young woman from a Stalker—an evil from the Abyss—and is thrown back into a life of magic, monsters, and the pain he was trying to forget. With help from old allies and new companions, Janzen does his best to save the life of an innocent while not getting everyone killed in the process.

Blunt Force Magic is the debut novel of Lawrence Davis, a U.S. Army infantryman who served three tours overseas. This novel is the first in the Monster and Men

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The Red Shoebox Guitar

By: Roy Dufrain

On hot Saturdays the neighborhood men took refuge in their garages. They opened their garage doors and ran portable fans, and they turned up the Giants game on the transistor radios that sat on their workbenches. The men fixed things and made things and drank bottled beer out of old round-shouldered refrigerators. Wives and children were generally not invited.

That summer of 1966, Bobby Highfill and I were both eight years old. Our mothers were forever shooing us out from under their feet and into the great outdoors, which in our corner of suburbia consisted of a few square blocks of housing tract and one dead-end street of undeveloped lots known to local kids as the Trashlands, where Bobby and I both served honorably in the Great Dirt Clod Wars of Concord, California.

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Buddhist’s Kiss

By: Tobie Helene Shapiro

The Buddhist would not kiss me. He courted me; that is true. And during our courtship he regaled me with Buddhist stories, Buddhist parables, Buddhist lessons and teachings. And I know that he felt very wise. I decided not to test his hypothesis. It didn’t seem right, or fair, or even kind.

He expounded about the awful and soul-disfiguring injuries of his childhood. His father, the son of a famous and revered early twentieth-century artist, was evil incarnate. His mother watched soundlessly, sweetly failing to protect him. His older sisters—crazy, jealous, deranged, angry—all hated him, plotted against him, wanted him silenced in all matters of inheritance from the trust established by the famous-artist grandparent. His younger brother was the only salvageable human being in the lot of them, because his younger brother understood him. His brother, alone, was not a member of the family cabal, the terrorist cell pitted against him.

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Mummy

By: Marie-Andree Auclair

My first mummy,
I stared at so long
my father wondered
where I was.
He did not see

I was with herin the glass cage
sitting compact
arms holding my knees
staring back.

What had they done to me
that I lingered undissolved
leather on stone
prisoner of time
not allowed to fade?

She found my dreams.
We ran on the sand of her river
wove baskets in the reeds
laughed, rarely disobeyed.
In the dark, I feared her
loneliness matched mine.


Marie-Andree Auclair’s poems have appeared in many print and online literary publications such as Apeiron, Gravel Magazine, Canthius Literary Journal, Harpur Palate, The Windsor Review, The Maynard, Qwerty, filling Station, Contemporary Verse 2, Structo UK, HCE (IRL). Her chapbook, Contrails, was released by In/Words Magazine and Press/Ottawa. She lives in Canada and is working on another chapbook.

Red Princess

By: Barbara Westwood Diehl

Let us be a diocese
of two,
not parishioners,
but a confessional
of cardinals,
each of us
red as papal slippers,
a clergy plumed
in tongues.
Let us be our own
absolution,
our liturgy a litany
of your hymn singing
to my psalm,
your hallelujah a chorus
to my every verse.
You and I,
we are a rapture
adapted for flight.
Let us be red princes
of our own northeast
Let us be whistling priests
in the sacrament of air.


Barbara Westwood Diehl is founding editor of the Baltimore Review. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of journals, including Quiddity, Potomac Review (Best of the 50), Measure, Little Patuxent Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gargoyle, Superstition Review, NANO Fiction, Per Contra, Thrush Poetry Journal, Tishman Review, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Blue Exhaust

April 4, 1968
BY:Janet Reed

At eight, sunk in the back seat
of my dad’s red Corvair, yawning
into my pink flannels, I lost faith fast,
the way a bandage ripped from skin
tears the weave of wound it’s tended.

The night of the murder in Memphis,
we waited in the graveled drive
of a trailer park, my mind on the promise
of ice cream when mom returned.
Engine idling, Dad slumped in his seat,
hand on the Delco’s AM dial,
and hummed a hymn with Loretta Lynn.

I still hear their song, still hear
the motor’s measured piston taps
hollow against the stick in park,
still feel the throttle inhale,
a half-beat of syncopation
in an engine once rebuilt already,
and still unsafe at any speed.

Like the whine of a diesel low on oil,
his voice rose at the news, distinct,
slurs stuttered and steamed
a centrifugal force of words
hot enough to break the block,
and still my mother did not come.

Not daring a breath, my eyes fixed
on the moths kissing yellow bulbs
over the doors of those doublewides,
the oily lights blurring a moving darkness
I did not yet understand, and choked
on the blue smoke of his exhaust.


Janet Reed is a recent second-place winner in Common Ground Review’s poetry contest, judged by Patrick Donnelly, and a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chiron Review, Common Ground Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Avalon Review, I-70 Review, and others. She is at work on her first collection and teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.

Denny’s Grand Slam Special

By: Tatiana Forero Puerta

When I was little I thought people only died at night.
When death came for her at 4pm
the sun still shone blossoms pink
to velvet opening their tabernacle mouths
towards the sky, petals like hallelujah arms.
A bird on the windowsill stared in
opened its beak silent, unable to sing
the piercing song of our sorrow.

After they rolled her pale body away
there were enough hours left to keep living
like running in a dream where no matter
how fast your legs shuffle, you’re never moving:
we could get in a car, go grocery shopping,
play hide-n-seek scurrying behind the abandoned
cars on the lot off Concord Ave
but none of those things
were any longer real.

We went to Denny’s and ordered
The Grand Slam Special. Aunt Luz
told the waiter to bring extra orange juice
because our mother had just died.

With oversized forks we cut our pancakes
into little pieces without eating them,
watched the butter melt into the crevices of dough
and the syrup create a moat that also held our tears.


Tatiana Forero Puerta’s poetry has appeared in Able Muse, Literary Juice, Flock, Juked, and other publications. She is a 2017 recipient of the Pushcart Prize, a finalist in Brutal Nation Prize for Writers of Color, and a nominee for Best of the Net Anthology. Tatiana’s first full-length poetry collection was awarded finalist by Autumn House, Grayson Books, and Two Sylvias Press. She holds a BA from Stanford and MA from New York University. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Tatiana now lives and teaches in New York. For more information on her work, visit www.TatianaWriting.com

TCR talks with Samantha Irby

By: Dein Sofley

Samantha Irby unwittingly began her writing career to impress a dude. This was 2009, when MySpace was the thing. Her little posts entertained him. They dated, and when that thing came to an end, with the encouragement of friends, she launched her blog about the “dumb stuff that was happening to me every day,” Bitches Gotta Eat.

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TCR Talks with Ben Blatt

By: A.M. Larks

In his latest book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, Ben Blatt uses his data journalism skills to tackle writing’s lingering questions and examine adverb usage, gender pronoun tendencies, reading levels, and writers’ favorite and fallback words.

Although Blatt uses statistical analyses to show that writers generally follow their own writing advice, word counts grow in size after the first publication, and co-authors rarely get equal title space on book covers, his work isn’t a math book disguised as a creative writing book. Blatt uncovers interesting insights into style and writing tendencies by looking at rule breakers and followers, including best sellers, critically acclaimed works, and fan fiction, to give the reading public and would-be authors a comprehensive view of what writing looks like by the numbers.

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TCR Talks with Jean Hastings Ardell

BY: Nathania Seales Oh

In Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey, Jean Hastings Ardell co-authors the deeply moving memoir of Ila Jane Borders, a woman shattering gender stereotypes in a male-dominated profession while navigating her secrecy, shame, and eventual acceptance of her sexual orientation.

Throughout the book, Ardell points to transformative moments of struggle in Borders’ life: as a child at home and in the church, as a young woman on the baseball field and in male locker rooms, and at a Christian university where she played before being signed to play professionally. There are moments of levity alongside anecdotes of profound loss and rejection that show the reader Borders’ path to authenticity and success.

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