Thinker. Writer. Storyteller.
Find links to my books, including reviews, short synopses and links to purchase.
Along the way, I will be adding excerpts, comments, and sightings of my readers.
Photo: Simone Boos
A bit about me
Have you ever looked up into the darkness of night and wondered, what if? I have. I've wondered what if ever since I was a youngster. I still do.
Sometimes, I write about what I wonder.
It's that simple.
The Beech Tree
Published May 8, 2018
The Beech Tree introduces readers to those who visited the tree and shared their lives, their loves, their hopes and dreams, beneath the tree’s dark green canopy … and their curious, inexplicable connection to one another.
Readers are introduced to Johnny and Margo, the first characters to visit the tree, just before Johnny ships off to fight in The Great War in 1918. We follow Johnny and Margo, as well as Johnny's lifelong, albeit socially taboo, friendship with his friend, Charles Wilber “Bullet Joe” Rogan, a pitcher in the Negro Leagues.
Johnny introduces his granddaughter, Debby, to the tree in 1957, an era of bobby socks, roller-skating carhops and Elvis music, and Debby meets Mason in 1967's Summer of Love, just before Mason is drafted to fight in Vietnam. For 30 years, Debby wonders whatever became of the boy who changed her life.
Then she finds out.
Readers' Reviews of The Beech Tree
Touching. Tragic. Triumphant.
If you read one book this year, make it this one. Phelan creates a cadre of quirky characters who, despite low expectations of them, rise to the challenges they face in consistently unexpected ways.
The Beech Tree stands witness to these players in life's theater and we are invited to be the audience. You will laugh, you will cry, you will stand up and cheer!
An insightful look at and through the America of the Lake Michigan region in the 20th and early 21st centuries, this sweeping novel follows the lives of several well-developed characters who have as common touch point a great beech tree on the shores of the Great Lake. The interwoven lives of generations of soldiers, baseball players, and activists tell tales of love lost and regained, and opportunities that go by to be captured.
The Beech Tree presents the defining moments of 20th century America seen from the Midwest perspective and also gives practical tips such as how not to drown in Lake Michigan or how to navigate the complex love-hate relationship between Illinois an Michigan. A timely book of redemption and a reminder that all is not ever lost.
"Absolutely Fantastic! Definitely five stars. I'd give ten if that were an option. The characters were so real, I could
see myself in each of them. The trains, the places, the philosophy, and the tree, were so poignant. I cried, laughed,
and cried again. A truly excellent book. This is the kind of book that makes you better for having read it."
Excerpt from The Beech Tree
Where the Rest of the World Begins
She remembered going on walks with Gramps, eating ice cream as they looked past the channel to the Big Lake. She remembered Gramps pointing to the horizon, saying, "That's where the rest of the world begins. You see that sailboat there out past the lighthouse? She's going off to see the rest of the world right now. The rest of the world is out there just waiting for you. It starts right there."
"Is the boat coming back?" Debby could still see the youngster she was back then, worried the boat couldn't find its way home.
"Maybe. Maybe not." Then he would pat her knee, "Don't worry. The captain can find his way back here, I'm sure of that. When he's ready, he might come back. Or he won't. If he finds someplace he likes better. But if and when he sets his course back this way, it will be because he wants to be here."
As a child, Debby seldom understood what Gramps was telling her. Now she knew what he had been telling her all along. Get out of this town. See the world. Take charge of your own life. Chart your own course.
Excerpt from The Beech Tree
Little Man in a Big Man Suit
"Shame on them, them bringing that picaninny baby down here with the whites," a lady with skin the color of pork fat sneered. She made no attempt to hush; she wanted the uppity darkie with the brass to bring his Negro family to the white beach to hear her words.
Johnny turned and glared at the pork-fat-skinned lady and words formed on his tongue.
Bullet Joe -- Charles -- reached for Johnny's arm and squeezed.
"Let it go, Mr. Johnny," he said quietly, "just let it go. You ain't got no dog in this fight."
Johnny looked at Charles. Bullet's smiling face was peaceful as he looked west toward Chicago.
"How can you ....? I don't get it ..." Johnny sputtered, "How can you just sit there and smile and not say anything? Not defend yourself? How can you?"
"Mama useta' say, 'He jus' a little man in a big-man suit.'"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Johnny asked, bewildered.
"Means sometimes people, they real small inside but they wear a big suit, tryin' to fool others to thinkin' they bigger than they are."
Johnny stared at his friend.
"Young pitcher in the Negro leagues now," Charles continued, "Smart young boy. Funny name -- Satchel -- he say, 'Ain't no man kin help being born average but ain't no man got to be common.' I take up they fight and it jes' proves what they already thinkin', don't it, Mr. Johnny? That I'm just another one of them trouble-makin' Coloreds."
"That makes no sense," Johnny interjected.
"Tryin' to make sense of it be like trying to smell the number 6. You see what I'm sayin'? I don't got to defend myself 'gainst stupid, Mr. Johnny," Charles explained, "and you cain't fight my battles. They's gonna' be way too many of them. You gonna' tucker yo-self out you try that."
"How can you sit there and smile about it?" Johnny protested.
Bullet's head didn't move, "Ain't smilin' 'bout that, Mr. Johnny," Bullet nodded toward the shoreline, "Smilin' about that." Bullet's son Wilber and Johnny's Anna were playing at the water line together, digging in the sand with kitchen spoons and piling it up into lop-sided castles. Seagulls soared above the sand then dove toward morsels of food left behind by beachgoers.
"Looky there, Mr. Johnny, little Colored boy and little white girl playin' like they's colorblind."
Books I've Written
Paperback, eBook and Audio Formats
The God Particle Conspiracy
Prominent Princeton astrophysicist John Logan discovers corrupt politicians have hatched a scheme to steal the world’s largest supercollider so they can hold the world’s fossil-fuel economy hostage and plunge civilization into anarchy. Dr. Logan is ready to blow the whistle when tragedy strikes. He runs for his life and hides in a dank New Orleans church abandoned since Katrina, numbing his pain with cheap Bourbon. His protégé, Sarah Carmichael, is left to finish the puzzle, find the professor, and stop the madmen before it’s too late. That is, if the people who want them dead don’t find them first.
The Beech Tree
The Beech Tree
Paperback and eBook
You Gonna' Sell Real Estate or What?
The Guerrilla Guide to Real Estate Today
"A good book has no ending."
Get in touch with me for more information about my previous publications and upcoming releases.