Textual Healing

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Few people have to deal with a haiku-speaking flower-shop-owning ninja every day on their way to work. Unfortunately for Andrew Connor, he is one of those people.

And poor Andrew, his week has been a rough one. His former bestseller, Chasing Fireflies, is on clearance at Barnes & Noble for $1.37, his girlfriend left him for a corporate America action figure, and he's been tricked into joining Textual Healing, a support group for writers who...

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Few people have to deal with a haiku-speaking flower-shop-owning ninja every day on their way to work. Unfortunately for Andrew Connor, he is one of those people.

And poor Andrew, his week has been a rough one. His former bestseller, Chasing Fireflies, is on clearance at Barnes & Noble for $1.37, his girlfriend left him for a corporate America action figure, and he's been tricked into joining Textual Healing, a support group for writers who can't seem to write anymore.

Dealing with his employees at his failing used bookshop, a strange new love interest from the Midwest, and a pet sugar-glider that has somehow managed to destroy his entire apartment... when will he ever find the time to put pen to paper again?

A quirky comedy set in present day New York and New Jersey, Textual Healing follows the story of Andrew, a self-deprecating, once famous author, his small bookstore in Hoboken, and the colorful characters that surround him.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452062457
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 11/19/2010
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Read an Excerpt


By Eric Smith


Copyright © 2010 Eric Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4520-6245-7

Chapter One



Every book has a fragrance. This is not limited to the common "old book smell" that may immediately come to mind, the sweet scent of yellowed ancient pages, grainy between your fingertips. For some, certain books smell like a former flame, a lost love, of violet body spray still clinging to the pages, others like an abandoned, homeless child; damp, dirty, carrying the smell of sadness and loss. Most carry the scent of promise, bright pages shining white against the fluorescent light of the local bookstore, gleaming, like hundreds of large, pearly teeth bound together in a paperback smile. The occasional few, despite their unblemished pages, maintain a frown of defeat, holding on to one another, tightly pressed together in the dollar bins of Barnes & Noble, the ink held still, like unshed blackened tears.

"Can we just ... sit down and talk about this?" I asked Daniela as she storms around the living room of my apartment, her wild and fiery red hair tossing about with every quick turn of her head. She's dressed in her favorite tight blue jeans and wearing a Bruce Springsteen t-shirt that she cut herself, in an obvious and successful attempt to show off her firm, toned stomach. God, she even has that belly button ring in, the one that is just a long stream of silver with small faux diamond bits jingling around, sparkling as they sway back and forth, as though her navel was crying. She tosses her various possessions into a large, paper shopping bag; a framed photo of her parents, various CDs which show off her amazing taste in music (Springsteen, The Eagles, Gin Blossoms, Bon Jovi pre-1990 ...) and assorted DVDs that reveal her horrific taste in film (movies by Joel Schumacher, the talentless hack who put nipples on Batman's costume), an alarm clock, scattered bits of clothing, and a hip, trendy lamp with a stained glass lampshade that we picked up together while on vacation last summer ...

"I paid for half that lamp, you know," I said with a slight smile on my face, joking.

She turned around, her hair dancing over her shoulders, green eyes burning and blazing, cauterizing holes into my chest. "Fine," she said, with a smug look on her face, "you can keep your half." With that, she took the lampshade off, placed it in her bag, and left the naked lamp sitting on the night-stand she took it from, the light-bulb looking cold and lonely, strung up by two thin bronze wires.

"Wow," I said, my eyes blinking in disbelief at her cruelty towards me and the innocent lamp, "thanks." Stopping only to smirk at me and take another look around the room, appearing satisfied, she made her way towards the door, where I had been standing the entire time, as though my presence there would delay her further.

Stop her from leaving.

Prevent the inevitable.

She stood in front of me, giving me an annoyed look as I blocked her only way out, save for the window, which judging by how things were going, I would probably be leaping from later this afternoon.

"Move," she said forcefully.

"Do you still love me?" I immediately asked, swallowing what I believe was going to be a sob. I look down at the hardwood floor, unable to meet what was, no doubt, her patented angry stare, complete with wrinkled nose and lightning sharp eyebrows. My eyes drifted towards the black and white vintage Converse sneakers she had bought me for our three-year anniversary last month, already dirty. I looked back up at her, her face still hard, frozen like an alabaster statue in an eternal look of accusation.

"When was the last time you wrote anything?" She asked. "Let's think, the last time you opened your laptop was what ... two years ago?" She crossed her arms and cocked her right eyebrow, a trademark facial expression that can either be incredibly sexy or horrifically intimidating. One minute, the eyebrow is reminiscent of Anne Hathaway, the next, she's a torturer asking questions in a prisoner of war camp, Naveen Andrews as Sayid on Lost, and she's not getting the answers she wants. Right now ... she's the dictator, oppressing the peasants and poor sharecroppers of my heart.

"What does that have to do with any of this?" I asked in a voice that tried desperately to sound demanding, while turning my head to the side in a feeble attempt at not really knowing what she was talking about. But I know. And she knows I know. And I know that she knows that I know ... or something. And I know her all too well.

Daniela recently graduated from Columbia with a double major in English Literature and, if they offered this as a degree, an affinity for published authors. I was a published author with a knack for picking up younger women who treat me like crap. At 22, Daniela was eight years younger than I. Slim, elegant, with vivid green eyes and striking natural red hair, she was one of those New York City women who tourists spoke of when they returned home, remembering with a jealous admiration the beauty they had witnessed in the big city. Her favorite places to shop included the various hipster and indie clothing stores around Brooklyn, and she was not above traveling into the urban districts of New Jersey to raid the Salvation Army of its seventy-five cent vintage dresses.

While out walking with her on dates, at parties, wherever, I couldn't help but constantly feel insecure. What was she doing with a guy like me, someone petrified of veering away from his standard-t-shirt-jeans-leatherjacket way of life? My wardrobe hasn't changed since I was 17 years old. And my hairstyle, still the same as it was my sophomore year of college.

She stared at me blankly.

"Daniela. Please. You're my -"

"Don't feed me that muse bullshit," she screamed, swinging her arms down to her sides, each finger blasting out from tight fists, like spikes off an urchin. "I've been hearing it for the past three years and haven't seen a single page written about me." Her lip quivers for a moment, and suddenly there is a rush of nervous excitement at the thought she might cry. She might reconsider and stay. Please ... just one single tear. One small stream of saline trickling down her cheek, leaving it salty, waiting to be kissed away. That's all I ask.


How sad is it that the idea of her crying instills hope in me? Is it some prehistoric instinct built into the fabric of every man, where he finds joy in being the stronger, more dominant sex? This of course, is an extremely rare occurrence in New York City, where the women are more intimidating than Henry Rollins on steroids, and you're more likely to get tenderness out of Janet Reno than a woman out here. Alas, she regains her composure, and stares directly at me. It is almost as if she strained all the emotion out of her face and sucked the oncoming tears back in, the droplets vacuumed inside her tear ducts ... thhhhpppp!

And we're back at where we started.

Those green eyes again.

That sexy and daunting eyebrow.

"That's not true," I said, pausing and then gesturing with my pointer finger in a very matter-of-factly way. I pause for a beat and nod. "There was the sonnet."

And that does it.

Her fury boils over, her rage spilling out in almost visible heat waves. "You wrote that before you met me!" She screamed, looking frantically about, possibly for something in the immediate area to throw at me; a glass, a vase, a Volkswagen, anything that could potentially cause me serious injury and bodily harm. Luckily, the glass objects were across the room, and the only Volkswagen in town was parked a few blocks down the street outside. I was physically safe. Emotionally ... not so much.

I try to speak. I even open my mouth for a moment, as though to make some kind of point ... and I stop. There was no point. There'd be no further explanation. This was finally it, after the months of fighting, weeks not just without sex, but no signs of affection what-so-ever. I had prepared myself for this day. I had rehearsed the speech a million times on the way to work, in front of the mirror, and in the shower we no longer used together. How I was tired of being the trophy boyfriend, the successful one, the sugar-daddy who gave her everything without asking for much more in return. That she could just go, leave, and wouldn't be missed. However here the moment was, and the words had long since left me. I didn't want her to go. I attempt a weak smile and step away from the door. Her face turns to stone and she walks out into the hallway.

Out of the elevator.

Out of the building.

Out of my life.

I open the window, a small strip of New York City in the morning is peering back at me, barely visible between the buildings in front of mine, but there sure enough, with the sun just freshly risen. After a few moments I see Daniela walk out the front door of the building, away, down the street. She stops, looks up, and seeing me in the window, she gives me the finger with a singular, long, glorious back scratching nail, thrusting powerfully into the air, her swear as elegant and sexy as it is hateful and excruciating. She spins around; she turns with the passion of a Marine and the gracefulness of a ballerina, and continues her walk as I close the window, sighing, wordless.

I walk into the kitchen, scavenging for food. It isn't much, despite my apartment's coveted address, doorman, and all. Your standard white appliances, since faded to an off-white coloring from age, with a broken tile floor and a countertop that has absorbed the smells of every meal ever placed on it. I open the cupboards, which creak in the silence, empty, save for several vacant food boxes and my only cookbook, A Man A Can And A Plan. Hidden behind the detritus, I find an opened package of Pop Tarts with a single, lonely, stale tart left, the frosting cracked and sprinkles broken off into the bottom of the silver packaging. Before I depress myself even further with my breakfast pastry life, I throw the tart away ...

The way Daniela threw me away ...

Like I was nothing ...

And now I can't stop crying.

I want to apologize to the Pop Tart. Throw open the garbage can and lift it out into the light. Hold it so its shimmering veil of aluminum plastic wrap catches beams of sunshine streaking in through my window. I'm sorry Pop Tart. It wasn't your fault that you were born strawberry, that your delicious frosting didn't last, that your once gloriously colorful sprinkles have faded with age and fallen off. That you didn't live up to the promise of the decorated box you're contained in.

Please, take me back, Pop Tart.

I can change.

The phone rings and I wipe the tears away from my face, grabbing the cool, black cordless phone from off the wall.

"Yeah?" I answer.

"Mr. Connor, are you going to come in and open the shop today?" When I hear Valerie's nervous, always intimidated voice through the receiver, I immediately smack my hand to my forehead. It was Sunday. I had work ... or at least, I had to be at the store I ran that I pretended to call work. Ah, my little bookstore. "Cause I've been here for like, 20 minutes and I don't have a key and neither does Brian."

"I'll be right there," I manage to say. "Oh and Val? PLEASE stop calling me Mr. Connor. It's Andrew. Or Ace? Okay? My father is Mr. Connor. I'm 30 and that is way too young to ever be considered a Mister."

"Sure thing Mr. Conn ... I mean Mr. Andrew. Mr. Ace. Mr ..." she stammered. "No problem."

I sighed. "See you in about a half hour. Go get yourselves some breakfast or something. My treat."

I suppose by New York City standards, the area I live in is nice. My building isn't without its charms and is fairly fancy, housing wealthy single bachelors sitting on stocks and bonds. There are also the occasional young college students whose rich parents pay for them to live the upscale Village life while they attend NYU or Columbia. And of course, there are the small celebrities, such as ... well ... myself, and my friend Stephanie Hart, a romance novelist whose last name isn't just a clever surname. One of the members of Interpol lives in the area as well, and it's often considered good luck if you see him strolling down the street with his guitar. Just don't rub his head. He doesn't like that.

The walk to the PATH feels incredibly long this morning, even though it is only a three-block stroll away. Delicate flowers bloom and blossom amidst the tiny, fenced in trees in the Summer weather, struggling against litter, dogs, and the careless pedestrian to sunburst their colors against the sky. Each fence is a monument to the apartment building's tenements. Some are bronze, others are iron, some are careless bits of plastic that are trampled on everyday, while others go so far as to have epic signs nailed to the trees the tenants seek to protect, lambasting any one who allows a splash of puppy urine on the thin cherry blossom trees. Please note, this doesn't stop puppies or the homeless men. A young couple walks past me, holding hands, probably NYU students, and I scoff as if their coupling was formed this morning, solely to offend me in my current melancholy state.

"Hey boss!" I stop and turn around. Andre, an amusing seemingly-homeless man who sells old, tattered books right near the PATH station, is waving me over to his rickety fold out table, the sort made with faux wood on the top and bend in the middle. I fumble for some dollar coins in my pocket to purchase whatever novel he wants to pitch to me today. He's a nice enough guy, and at least he's trying to make some sort of life for himself, selling these books here. "You always tell me to keep a look out for these, right?"

He holds up a tattered, first edition of Chasing Fireflies ... my novel. He waves it around in his hand with a huge smile on his face, missing a handful of his teeth. I quickly snatch the book from him, looking around to see if anyone has seen this. A small smile lights up on my face for the first time all day, and I shake my head. "How much?" I asked

"Ten dollars!" He exclaims without much hesitation. He smiles, one of his remaining teeth, a gold tooth, sparkling with a dull luster.

"Andre! Come on," I plead. Why, I'm not sure, because I know I'm going to end up paying whatever he asks.

"Come on boss. I know you have the coin. Isn't this you?" He takes the book from my grasp and flips to the back, where my photo and biography are. Whoever owned the book had drawn a mustache and beard on my face, and oddly enough, I actually look better in the photo. Perhaps I should grow a pencil thin, curling mustache, and become the envy of every Brooklynite Williamsburg hipster. Had it really been three years since the photo was taken? My body was thinner back then, sort of like my hair is now. When did the two decide to switch places? Why wasn't I informed?

"How's about five dollars?" I asked, fumbling for my wallet.

"Ten dollars!"

"Seven dollars?"

"Ten dollars!"

"Nine dollars and ninety nine cents?"

Andre smiles again as I hand him a crisp, ten dollar bill, a lot for him, no doubt. Most of the novels he sells on his table go for fifty cents, a dollar, and are tattered, ripped, with spines falling apart, almost perfectly matching the actual bookseller. His clientele consist primarily of poor graduate students and frugal literati looking for the occasional rare and valuable book, hoping to take advantage of these helpless men by nabbing a three hundred dollar treasure for thirty cents.

Oh, and let's not forget the stacks upon stacks of old porn magazines in milk crates under the table, their covers filled with women, their faces permanently frozen in a look of pure, complete pleasure, and men who always seem to have shady looking mustaches, cowboy hats, and blue collar jobs like cable men, pizza delivery guys, and the like.

Pizza Man: Did somebody order a pizza ... Cue 1970s era disco music. Pizza Man: ... with sausage? Girl: Oooh!

Where he gets these books and his massive stash of porn, I honestly have no idea. I know a few are donated. I can even see some of the books I've given him, still scattered around the table. But the rest? Who knows? I can't imagine the guy who shows up to his bookstand with a stack of Hustlers under his arm, tied together with twine, ready to donate.

Well ... I suppose I can imagine him.

I just choose not to.

"Thanks Ace," he said, placing the bill into an old, weathered wallet. I can't help but smile warmly at how genuine he is.


Excerpted from TEXTUAL HEALING by Eric Smith Copyright © 2010 by Eric Smith. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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  • Posted December 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Lilac Wolf and Stuff Review

    The fact that this is a self published book always surprises me. The cover is professional and the editing is superb. I only saw one error that I remember.

    The characters aren't too in depth. Really the only person you get to know is Andrew (aka Ace), which makes sense as it's from his point of view. And the timeline is one week. It will shock you as much as it does Andrew when he asks himself if it's really been only one week toward the end of the book. I actually stopped reading and went back. lol

    It's a light fast read. The story is well developed all the way through, and it has plenty of quirky moments. Nothing really beats the haiku speaking, Ninja Orchid lady. She sneaks up on Ace all the time and when she leaves, she always does some Ninja move in the middle of the street. Always good for a laugh.

    The story is complicated but treated with an easy manner. I don't want to give too much away, but really it just illustrates why I was blown away that the timeline was only a week.

    So yeah, it's a fairly light, quirky love story. Romance written by a guy...bromance? No that sounds wrong...LOL. It's good fiction, enough said. I saw a review that said it's romantic comedy...yeah that fits.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    A laugh out loud romantic Comedy!

    How do you describe a book about a once-famous author who owns a failing used bookshop, with characters such as a haiku-speaking ninja, a maniacal sugarglider, and a group of authors who can no longer write? In one word: hysterical. Eric Smith's first work of fiction, Textual Healing, features just that and more. Dumped by his girlfriend, author Andrew Connor never expects life will change. His one rousing success, which was made into a feature film, bring him nothing but painful reminders that he has not written anything since. Anyone who does recognize him drive that point home by assuming that they thought he died. The only excitement in his life is the daily stealth visits from Brave Orchid, a flower shop owner/ninja who enters, delivers a haiku, then leaves with a ninja battle against an invisible enemy in the street. That is, until he's introduced to Hannah, a beautiful backpacking woman who keeps him on his toes and helps him see what he's missing out on in life. I absolutely loved and adored this book. It's not only one of my favorites for the year, but of all time. This feel good romantic comedy had me laughing out loud. I don't mean one of those anemic puffs of air that come out of your nose as you suppress a mild chuckle. No, these are out loud, hold my ribs, dog looks at me funny kind of laughs. I sincerely hope Eric Smith will write more--he has a life-long fan now! I would love to see this as a movie (even though, as we all know, the book will always be infinitely better). His style of writing is engaging, witty, and he is an all-around great storyteller. I loved the book so much that when it was over (I hate it when that happens) I sniffled and clutched the book to my chest. That is a sign of true love for me, at least where books are concerned. I've insisted my husband and daughter read it as well. I give this five stars/ And hope you read this Rom-Com/ It is that awesome. (Sorry Brave Orchid. I tried.)

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