Excerpt with Giveaway ~ Watermark by Elise Schiller

watermarkPublisher: CreateSpace (April 8, 2016)
Genre: Coming Of Age; Mystery
ISBN-10: 1530252369
ISBN-13: 978-1530252367
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


Through swimming, Angel Ferente found relief from the troubles of home—a refuge from the responsibility of caring for her three younger sisters. But now, instead of being scouted by schools and getting ready for college, the talented high school senior in Elise Schiller’s debut novel, Watermark, has disappeared without a trace.

Raised by a drug-addicted mother and criminal step-father, Angel became her younger sisters’ only hope—and the rock that held her family together. Now, Angel is nowhere to be found. Last seen on public transit in the middle of the night, the talented competitive swimmer with an independent streak could have ended up just about anywhere. But on the rough streets of inner-city Philadelphia in the early 90’s, in a community plagued by drugs and violent crime, her family and friends are finding plenty of cause for concern.

“Narrated by Angel’s troubled younger sister Jeannine and her swim teammate Alex, Watermark explores the challenges of growing up in the inner city in the midst of the crack epidemic and how one girl found refuge through swimming  and the steadfast support of her team,” says Schiller. “Alex and Jeannine form a bond as they find ways to cope with Angel’s absence.”  

With the help of their coach, CJ, and his local church, Angel’s teammates must work quickly to unravel the mystery of her disappearance and locate the talented young teen before it’s too late.

Watermark offers a unique exploration into many timely and poignant themes, including:

  • Problems with our child protective services
  • All young people have assets and strengths to be nurtured, regardless of race or economic status
  • The difference in education in the United States based on the economic status of the community is unconscionable
  • Social investments need to be made on the front end because the stresses of poverty and the resulting trauma are much harder to address, often impossible
  • The importance of youth sports and other youth development activities

Shedding light on the unique challenges of growing up in the chaos of poverty within a damaged family, Watermark, part captivating mystery, part coming-of-age story, in not to be missed!

post-divider rightThanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of Watermark to give away.

Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on July 27th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will have 48 hours, from the time of notification to confirm their win or another winner will be chosen.

post-divider left

eliseA lifelong resident of Philadelphia, PA, Elise Schiller has spent more than three decades providing education and youth services in inner-city communities through her work in non-profit organizations, including her most recent 16-year position as the associate executive director at EducationWorks. Though she has published several short stories over the years, Watermark is her debut novel.


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post-divider rightExcerpt ~

The thing I remembered best about that night was how the dogs kept barking.

            They were two mutts with a lot of pit bull in them, one a dark creamy brown and the other a nutty beige.  They had come to us with names from some rap song, but the names were meaningless to me, so I called them Chocolate and Butterscotch. They weren’t huge dogs, in fact they were mangy and skinny, but they seemed enormous to a tiny girl like me.  I’d never had a pet, having a pet had never even occurred to me, and they hadn’t been raised with us nor with any other children, so we ignored each other.  They liked Angel, though, because she fed them.

            We inherited the dogs when Pic’s boyfriend went to jail.

            At first they were barking because they were hungry. Angel had already fed them all the food she could find. Pic had been gone for a long time, had left late at night, and then another night went by.

            We didn’t know she was gone until we got up in the morning.  It was a school day, and even though Angel walked me to school every day, and I knew perfectly well how to get dressed, and we could always find something for breakfast, she decided we should stay home and wait for Pic.  She let the dogs out back in the little fenced-in place where the trashcans were kept. The dogs knocked them over, making a noise like cymbals clashing, and a man raised up his window and started yelling.  Somehow Angel got them back inside.

            We watched television off and on all day, and at every commercial Angel went to the window and looked around the shade to see if Pic was coming.  I played with Angel’s old Barbies and read my books over and over. Do you like green eggs and ham?  Yes I like them, Sam-I-Am.  Angel painted her nails with Pic’s polish, and then she painted mine.  She put make-up on me, sparkling blue eye shadow up to my eyebrows.  I kept skidding into the bathroom and climbing up on the sink to look in the mirror.  Once I didn’t stop in time and smashed into the edge of the sink.  My tooth punctured my lip and it started bleeding, dripping bright red polka-dots onto the white ceramic floor.  We didn’t have any ice, but Angel got a washcloth and ran it under cold water and I held it on my lip for a while.   The bleeding stopped but my mouth was all swollen.

            We had an apartment then, down a long hallway.  We had lived in so many places I have trouble remembering each one, but I remember that our bedroom was in the back, because that’s where we went when the dogs really went crazy.  The bedroom was small, with a single mattress that Angel and I shared.  There was a window that faced the window of another building, and Angel had covered it with a pink sheet.

            When it got dark the second night and Pic still hadn’t come home, Angel called our grandmother, Nannie Lou. There was no answer, even though Angel tried and tried.  She also tried to call her father, but his phone was disconnected. We didn’t know that he had moved.   We ate pop tarts and cereal, a perfect dinner as far as I was concerned.

            We cuddled up on the sofa in the living room where Pic slept, with the television going.  I was freezing, so Angel wrapped me in the blanket from our bed and put me under Pic’s blanket.  Angel herself was never cold—or hot, for that matter.  While Angel slept I lay on the couch studying the headlights from passing cars that skimmed the ceiling, made a right angle at one corner, and disappeared.

            Chocolate and Butterscotch paced around in the night, pushing against us with their cold noses.  Their claws clattering on the bare floors sounded like Pic’s fake nails drumming on the kitchen table while she talked on the phone.  The dogs were in my dreams or I was partly awake all night, I’m not sure.  They woke us up early in the morning with their whining and barking.  We ate dry cereal and gave them milk when we couldn’t find more dog food.  We were afraid to let them out again, and they carried on yelping and thumping their tails on the floor like cavemen banging clubs. Butterscotch finally shit in the kitchen and Angel tried to clean it up.

            Sometime that morning Angel got Nannie Lou on the phone. Poor Angel.  I couldn’t hear Nannie Lou but Angel got very confused and then frustrated trying to answer her questions, and had to keep repeating things, all the while with the dogs barking and whimpering. When she got off the phone Angel couldn’t figure out what Nannie Lou said she was going to do. 

            Sometime later there was banging on the door to our apartment and the dogs went crazy, barking and growling and jumping up against the door, their claws raking the wood.  Angel went up to open the door and Chocolate turned on her, baring his teeth and dripping saliva from his mouth. She yelled and kicked at him and we ran into our bedroom and closed the door.   For a long while we could hear the alternating sounds of knocking and barking, continuous but uneven, like a thunderstorm.

            Eventually the knocking stopped.

            “Shit,” Angel sighed, disgusted, and peeked through our keyhole to see if it was safe for us to go out to the rest of the apartment.  She decided no, the dogs were pacing around the door in a circle, so we curled up on the bed and she braided my hair and then she fell asleep.  I sang songs I knew from school, even the Bingo dog song that I sang loud by the door, thinking the dogs might like it and would calm down.

            Then there were crashing noises, barking, growling, then explosions like cars make on the street.  Then quiet. 

“What the fuck?” Angel said.

She peeked through the keyhole, and opened our door a sliver. 

            “We’re in here,” she called.

            A deep voice was just on the other side of the door, telling us to wait a minute.  We heard voices whispering.

            Miss Evelyn, our social worker, came in our room.

            “What did you do to our dogs?” Angel asked.

            Miss Evelyn said, “The police are taking them.” Then she looked at me and said, “Don’t come out.  Wait here.”

            She came back in with a wet towel and washed the make-up off my face, clucking about my fat lip, and helped Angel put some clothes in a grocery bag.  I got my books.

            “Where are our dogs?” Angel asked again when they let us out of our room. 

            When we were at Miss Evelyn’s office Angel whispered to me that the dogs were dead.










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