On the outside forty-year-old Jules Kanter seems to have the perfect life—a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, and a successful career as the arts and entertainment editor for an award-winning newspaper. But, Jules also has well-hidden secrets.
While celebrating the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s recent Pulitzer Prize win, Jules meets Erin, a thirty-four-year-old musician/bartender who instantly catches her attention. As a talented performer who rose to stardom in Nashville, Erin’s career faded almost as soon as it began. After using drugs and lying about her sexuality, Erin lost her record deal and narrowly escaped jail, only to find herself back in her hometown, working at a bar and caring for her ailing mother. Intrigued by Erin’s checkered past, Jules becomes a regular patron at the bar and consistently hounds Erin for permission to write her story. Though repeatedly turning down her attempts for an interview, Jules begins to pique Erin’s interest as well. Soon the pair finds themselves in the midst of an illicit (and very secret) affair.
Then, on a snowy January night while driving home from Erin’s apartment, Jules is tragically killed in a car accident. Weeks later, her husband, Will, who is struggling with grief and sobriety, discovers evidence of her affair on her cell phone.
Attempting to understand how his wife could be involved in a same-sex affair, Will uncovers an article Jules wrote about Erin, as well as poetic and confessional letters she addressed to herself. Needing the truth, Will tracks Erin down and angrily confronts her, but the pair begins to realize just how much Jules hid from them both. But, another unexpected twist surfaces when Jules’ editor comes forward with an unpublished column in which Jules intended not only to publicly admit her affair with Erin, but also explain her long-denied sexuality—a truth, she says in her own words, that must first be admitted when facing yourself in the mirror.
On Burning Mirrors has received the following awards and recognitions:
The Eric Hoffer Award - 2019 Honorable Mention
The Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Award - 2019 Finalist for cover design
Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award - 2018 Finalist for LGBTQ Fiction
American Fiction Awards - 2018 Finalist for LGBTQ and General Fiction
What readers are saying about On Burning Mirrors:
"Wow is all I can say about this book. It's bittersweet, tragic, and even difficult at times, but I can honestly say I haven't read a story quite like it before."
"The character development of Will and Erin is beyond reproach and left my heart aching for them both."
"The story bounces back and forth from past to present, I love how the author did this beautifully with no loose ends."
"A thought-provoking character study on sexual identity, marriage and family, and self-authenticity."
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Erin watched as Jules pulled back the curtain and then slipped her gray knit sweater over her head. From the comfort of the bed, Erin felt the vibration of a snowplow as it thundered by on the street below, shaking the ground beneath them. She inhaled slowly and held her breath as Jules glanced toward the clock and then down at the cold hardwood floor beneath her bare feet.
"Are you leaving already?" Erin asked. She pulled the blanket over her chest and propped her head on her hand as Jules moved toward the bed.
"Already? I've been here all afternoon, Erin," Jules said in a low voice. She ran her fingers through her smooth, dark hair to pull it out from her collar. Her eyes scanned the floor and she reached for the black pants that were lying in a crumpled ball near the chair.
"It's snowing like crazy," Jules said. "I need to go before the roads get any worse. It'll take me over an hour to get home in that mess."
"You know, you could stay," Erin said snidely before falling against the pillows.
Jules tilted her head and shot a disapproving look in Erin's direction. She sat on the edge of the bed and fumbled for her clothes in the dim light. Erin rolled over and looked toward the window. She didn't want to watch Jules get dressed. When Erin turned back, she could see Jules' face in the faint light from the half-open curtain. She was illuminated in a way that made Erin want to reach for her again. Her mouth went dry, and an acute pain drifted across her forehead. It traveled down her face and then settled, like it always did, directly in her chest. The ache was abrasive. It came from somewhere deep inside and pushed against her with the force of tumbling rocks. A fault line formed inside of her every day. Its jagged edges opened wider and wider every time Jules left the room. Erin knew she was an earthquake waiting to happen as the rumble built beneath her own skin.
Jules reached for her boots. Hoping to stop her, Erin sat up and moved close to her. Erin pushed the hair back from Jules' face, breathing in her warm amber and vanilla smell.
Goose bumps rose on Jules' skin, and Erin was gratified in knowing that even her light touch could have such a profound effect.
"You're getting that look again," Erin said as she scanned Jules' face.
Jules laughed and stood up. She zipped her boots and looked toward the clock again. It glared 4:47 p.m. in bold, red numbers.
"I'm fine; you're reading into it, but I really need to get going," she said. "Besides, don't you have to work in an hour?"
Erin scoffed and fell back against the blankets. "Yes, I'm working. But it's a bar, Jules; they don't really give a shit what time I get there as long as I show up."
Jules smirked and walked toward her. Erin reached for her, gripping Jules' fingers tightly while trying to pull her back into bed. She wanted to run her fingers through Jules' soft hair and feel Jules' breath on her skin. But instead of lying down, Jules pulled her hand away.
"I wish you'd get the hell out of that place and stop selling yourself short," Jules said, looking down at Erin.
"Please don't start that again." Erin turned away and tangled herself deeper in the sheets. "I work at a bar. Get over it. But, if it bothers you that much, I could call in sick."
She sat up and leaned back on her hands. The sheets slipped down, leaving her bare chest suggestively exposed. But Jules ignored Erin's proposition. She ran her hands over her pants and then tried to smooth her wrinkled sweater.
Knowing there was nothing she could do to make her stay, Erin sighed loudly, hoping Jules would notice. When she didn't react, Erin sat up and scanned the floor for her own clothes.
"Looking for these?" Jules asked as she picked up the black bra and gray T-shirt Erin had worn earlier. She smiled facetiously and held them just out of Erin's reach, dangling them before her like some kind of twisted reward.
"Very funny. Can I have them, please?" Erin was unable to stop her lips from lifting into a smile.
Jules took a step toward her, but then stopped. "Wait, what will you do for them?"
"Well, Mrs. Kanter, what would you like me to do for them?" She pushed the blankets aside and crawled toward the end of the bed.
"That's very unladylike." Jules laughed. She tossed the shirt in Erin's face and backed away from the bed before reaching for her jacket, which lay on the blue velvet chair that was next to Erin's guitar.
"Don't go yet, Jules," Erin said as she pulled the T-shirt over her head. "I never finished playing you that song."
She felt Jules' eyes on her as she crossed the room in bare feet while weaving her long hair into a tousled braid.
"Next time," Jules said. "I really have to go." She buttoned her coat and dropped her hands to her sides. "Can I see you Friday?"
Erin fell into the chair and pulled the guitar across her lap. "Whatever you say, Jules. You know where to find me."
"C'mon, don't be like that." Jules lowered her chin and looked back at Erin. "I'll see you Friday, and I'll try to call you later, okay?"
"Drive safe, Mrs. Kanter," Erin mumbled while moving her fingers methodically over the strings.
Jules paused. With her hand still on the bedroom doorknob, she turned and gave Erin a somber smile. She stood still for a few seconds, looking at the floor as if pondering whether to stay or whether to go. But then she straightened her shoulders and looked back at Erin. She winked and slipped out the door without another word.
Jules' footsteps moved through the apartment and then down the steep stairs outside. Erin sighed and looked around the room. The cold crept in and a heavy silence filled the air. It always felt that way when Jules left her. The old house, with its small, one-bedroom upstairs apartment, had become a secret sanctuary for her and Jules, but when Jules wasn't there, Erin felt completely alone.
Outside, Jules' car made a distinct "beep" as the doors unlocked. Still dressed in only her long T-shirt, Erin moved through the darkened living room toward the front window. Jules' feet had left a clear path in the snow that covered the quiet street, but with heavy flakes still falling, she knew the footprints would soon disappear. She watched as Jules reached for the car door but then turned and looked toward Erin's window. Almost instinctively, Erin backed away. The familiar ache returned to her chest. Shaking her head at her own stupidity, she stepped back and looked out again. She peered down just as Jules slipped inside the car. Seconds later, her headlights lit the dark street and the wipers pushed a heavy layer of snow from her windshield.
When the car didn't move, Erin contemplated slipping on her boots and running after Jules to try, one more time, to make her stay. But she froze. She thought Jules had turned her head to look up again. But this time, Erin didn't step away. Instead, she placed one hand against the window, hoping Jules could see her. The sting of the cold glass against her palm reminded her of all the reasons that Jules couldn't stay. As she pulled her hand away, she hoped Jules hadn't moved the car because she was reconsidering. But then Erin's hopes fell as the black Acura inched forward and she watched Jules drive away down the snow-covered street.CHAPTER 2
Will stared at the liquor bottles behind the bar and took a sip of his soda. Pulling his eyes from the bottles, he looked at the liquid in his glass while the sweet taste still lingered in his mouth. It was unaccompanied by the familiar burn that used to make him clench his jaw.
In a way, he missed that warm flavor and longed for the taste of brandy on his lips, but he knew better than to order one. One would lead to two, then three, and then, before he knew what had happened, it would be ten and he would be passed out in the cab of his truck in the parking lot — or worse, in his own driveway with no recollection of driving home.
The thought churned in his mind as he examined his weathered hands. They were cracked and dry, and they looked almost corpse-like. His wedding band had long lost its shine and was almost like another part of the calloused flesh wrapped over his bones. He shook his head and raised the corner of his mouth in a sarcastic smile, realizing his hands were identical to the way his father's had once looked. Unlike Will, his old man had spent years working in a foundry two towns over. After long hours in that hot, dirty place, Will's father would come home filthy, leaving his black fingerprints on the hallway wall, which annoyed Will's mother so much that she would wipe them away as soon as his father left the room. After showering, he would eat dinner, bark orders at Will and his brother, and then fall asleep in the recliner by the TV, a glass of brandy and water just within his reach. It was the same monotonous routine day in and day out. It was no wonder he wound up killing himself.
Because of his father's size and his loud, domineering voice, Will had feared him when he was a boy. Though Will was just under six feet tall, his father had been a towering man at six foot four. Although Will's hair was wavy and auburn, his father had thick, black hair that was always greased back, except for the Tony Curtis duck tail that fell slightly across the center of his forehead. His father also had a wide, crooked nose, which had been broken in a fight, and he always wore a scowl. Will's face was boyish, though he had a strong, straight jaw, but his father's face looked as if it had been made of weathered concrete that might crack if he attempted even the slightest smile. The only physical trait Will shared with his father was the color of his eyes. They were deep green with a hint of blue, and they were the reason, his mother once told him, that she had fallen for his father when he was just a young man returning home from the Vietnam War.
When he was young, Will would sometimes sit on the floor and watch his father snore while he slept in that old recliner. He looked like a giant, and Will found himself tempted to climb into his lap just to see if his father would wake and devour him. Will wanted to lean his ear against that large, heaving chest and listen for evidence that there was actually a heart beating inside the man. Will's father had the work ethic of mule and was stronger than anyone Will knew, but there didn't seem to be an ounce of warmth inside of him. His virescent eyes always seared through Will with the ease of a sharp knife cutting through flesh. The man's huge, cracked, and grayish-colored hands never offered comfort or a hand-out; they only demanded respect.
As the bar door opened behind him, sending a gust of crisp, frigid air swirling inside, Will shivered and straightened on his stool.
"Snowing again," Ray mumbled. He pushed the door closed and brushed off his hat while shaking his head. "And, it's damn slippery."
Will gave a nod and glanced at his watch. His cell phone vibrated in his pocket before Ray even took his seat.
"Right on cue. Bet that's the wife?" Ray pulled a roll of blueprints from inside his jacket and dropped them on the bar.
Will missed the call as he fished for the phone in his pocket. Squinting at the screen, he was surprised to see it was his mother trying to reach him, not his wife. Before he had a chance to call her back, the phone buzzed again.
"Hello?" He said as Ray unrolled the drawings.
"William, I told you I have plans," his mother began. She was clearly irritated. "Are you coming to get Jillian, or am I supposed to sit here and wait all night?"
"Uh, you mean she — never mind, I'll come get her. I'll be there in a few minutes," he said.
Ray laughed, shook his head, and slid the blueprints back into a tight roll. "Good to see you as always, Will. I guess we'll talk about these plans next week then?" "Yeah. Sorry, man. I'll call you."
Ray nodded and stared at the liquor bottles.
Will dropped a twenty-dollar bill onto the bar, noticing the tense look on Ray's face. "Buy yourself a few." Will gave Ray a friendly slap on the back and then pushed out the door.
Shivering in the moist, cold air, Will zipped his jacket up to his chin and glanced down the near-empty street. He knew Ray assumed he wasn't taking this prospective job seriously, and he also knew Will needed the work. Ray was already sticking his neck out to help him secure the bid on a remodel that could keep him busy for months, so leaving the meeting without accomplishing anything made Will's resentment toward his wife simmer. Firing the engine of his truck, Will revved it loudly before yanking the phone from his pocket. He tapped his wife's number and waited for her to answer, but when her voicemail picked up after four rings, he hung up. Growing irritated, he pushed down hard on the gas pedal, causing the truck to fish-tail as it slid down the street.
Moments later, while skidding into his mother's driveway, the phone buzzed. Catching it on the edge of his pocket as he removed it, the phone slipped from his hand and hit the floor hard. "Shit," he said, pawing at his feet and trying to grasp it. Again, he missed the call. He expected to see his wife's name appear on the screen when he picked the phone up, but instead it was a number he didn't recognize. He groaned and dropped it into the cup holder before opening the door and stepping into the deepening snow. The front door opened immediately and a light clicked on as soon as he took the first step onto his mother's porch.
"Hi, Daddy," Will's six-year-old daughter said with a wide smile stretched across her Kool-Aid-stained face.
"Hey there, Bug," he responded, mirroring her grin. He opened the storm door and moved inside, shaking off the cold.
The house smelled like toasted bread, as if his daughter and mother had just finished making grilled cheese sandwiches, and he could hear his mother moving rapidly through the house. His daughter smiled and swayed, then reached for the pink snow pants hanging on the doorknob of the nearby closet. "Can we play in the snow, Daddy? Please?"
"We'll see, kiddo, we'll see," he said, quickly wiping his feet on the rug and taking a step forward.
"Oh, no you don't," his mother snapped, waving a finger in his direction. "You get those wet boots off my carpet."
Will smirked and took a step back. Though his father had been gone for years, his mother still ran a tight ship in this house. "Did she call you and tell you she was running late?"
His mother hurried about the room. She mumbled something inaudible under her breath and grabbed her purse from a nearby table before pulling Jillian's yellow jacket up onto her shoulders.
"No. No, she didn't," she said when Will caught her irritated look. "She's been doing this to me a lot lately. I have a life, too, you know."
"You could've called me sooner," he replied, looking away. He slipped Jillian's hat onto her head and playfully pulled it over her eyes, making her laugh and slap at his hands. "She's been working a lot of hours and I'm sure the snow slowed her down."
"Well, I wouldn't want to disrupt her important work," his mother said sarcastically. "If the snow stopped, would you mind clearing my driveway? I have to get going. I'm late for book club."
"Sure, no problem." He gave his mother a salute and winked playfully.
She laughed for the first time and then gave her granddaughter a peck on the cheek before moving around her son and walking out the door.
An hour later, after lugging the snow blower back inside his mother's garage, Will reached for his phone to check, yet again, if his wife had tried to call. Realizing it wasn't inside his pocket, he looked back toward the truck.
He called out to his daughter. "Alright, kid. Time to go." Jillian seemed perfectly content lying in the freshly fallen snow, waving her arms and legs back and forth while gazing at the stars.
"Make an angel with me first, Daddy," she begged. He couldn't resist dropping beside her in the snow. It stung his skin even through his clothes, but he stretched his arms as far as he could to make large, white wings next to his daughter's small imprint.
"You're a huge angel!" Jillian squealed. She sprung up and reached for his hand to pull him up beside her. They peered down at the two figures in the snow, and Will smiled. She always knew how to keep him grounded.
"We better get home to Mom," he said scooping her up and leaning her far over his shoulder.
Jillian giggled when he playfully tossed her on the truck's backseat. His phone, blinking in the cup holder, caught his eye as he clicked her seatbelt. Sliding into the front seat, he swiped his numb fingers across the screen and noticed four missed calls. But, again, none were from numbers he recognized and none were from his wife.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "On Burning Mirrors"
Copyright © 2018 Jamie Klinger-Krebs.
Excerpted by permission of J2K-Creative.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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