Jenni L. Walsh - Tor/Forge Blog

$1.99 eBook Sale: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Image Place holder  of - 12The ebook edition of Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh is on sale now for only $1.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today.

About Becoming Bonnie: The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Order Your Copy

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This sale ends May 1.


New Releases: 6/5/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

Placeholder of  -64 The Laundry is the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond spacetime. Now, following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob Howard is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize.

The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch

Poster Placeholder of - 26 Seven years after a financial crisis nearly toppled America, traders chafe at government regulations, racial tensions are rising, gangs roam the streets and corrupt financiers make back-door deals with politicians… 1799 was a hell of a year.

When young lawyer Justy Flanagan returns to solve his father’s murder, he exposes a massive fraud that has already claimed lives, and one the perpetrators are determined to keep secret at any cost. The body count is rising, and the looming crisis could topple the nation.

Roar by Cora Carmack

Image Placeholder of - 89 Legend says that Aurora Pavan’s ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. Aurora has been groomed to be the perfect queen…but she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people. But when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage…

Side By Side by Jenni L. Walsh

Image Place holder  of - 81 Texas: 1931. It’s the height of the Great Depression, and Bonnie is miles from Clyde. He’s locked up, and she’s left waiting, their dreams of a life together dwindling every day.

When Clyde returns from prison damaged and distant, unable to keep a job, and dogged by the cops, Bonnie knows the law will soon come for him. But there’s only one road forward for her.

If the world won’t give them their American Dream, they’ll just have to take it.


Outbreak by Melissa F. Olsen

Place holder  of - 83 The Chicago field office of the Bureau of Preternatural Investigation is facing its deadliest challenge, yet—internal investigation! Alex and Lindy are on the hook, and on the run.

But when all of the BPI’s captive vampires are broken free from their maximum security prison, and Hector finally steps out of the shadows, Alex must use every trick to stay ahead of both the BPI and the world’s most dangerous shade.


My Solo Exchange Diary Vol. 1 Story and art by Nagata Kabi

Satan’s Secretary Vol. 1 Story and art by Kamotsu Kamonabe


New Releases: 5/22/18

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Poster Placeholder of - 97 Moss Jeffries is many things—considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.

But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else—someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.

And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Image Placeholder of - 71 The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

Place holder  of - 30 Jules is a young man barely a century old. He’s lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies…and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.

Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the care of a network of volunteer “ad-hocs” who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.

Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow

Image Place holder  of - 26 Art is an up-and-coming interface designer, working on the management of data flow along the Massachusetts Turnpike. He’s doing the best work of his career and can guarantee that the system will be, without a question, the most counterintuitive, user-hostile piece of software ever pushed forth onto the world.

Why? Because Art is an industrial saboteur. He may live in London and work for an EU telecommunications megacorp, but Art’s real home is the Eastern Standard Tribe.

In the Eye of Heaven by David Keck

Placeholder of  -90 Durand is simply a good squire trying to become a good knight in a harsh and unforgiving world.

After fourteen years of grueling training, Durand’s knighthood and inheritance, the lordship of a small village in his father’s duchy, seemed assured. However, Fate saw otherwise. When the long lost son of the knight of that village unexpectedly returns, Durand must forge his own name and fortune.

Makers by Cory Doctorow

Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it.

The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross

Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.

Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.

Seeker by Veronica Rossi

When Daryn claimed she was seeing “visions” during her sophomore year of high school, no one believed the truth. She wasn’t losing her mind, she was gaining the Sight—the ability to see the future. If she just paid attention to the visions, they’d provide her with clues and show her how she could help people. Really help them. Daryn embraced her role as a Seeker. The work she did was important. She saved lives.

Until Sebastian.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur who moves to a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto. Living next door is a young woman who reveals to him that she has wings—which grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers are sets of Russian nesting dolls.

Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Hubert Vernon Rudolph Clayton Irving Wilson Alva Anton Jeff Harley Timothy Curtis Cleveland Cecil Ollie Edmund Eli Wiley Marvin Ellis Espinoza—known to his friends as Hubert, Etc—was too old to be at that Communist party.

But after watching the breakdown of modern society, he really has no where left to be—except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society—and walk away.


American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

In 2017 Sarah Gailey made her debut with River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, two action-packed novellas that introduced readers to an alternate America in which hippos rule the colossal swamp that was once the Mississippi River. Now readers have the chance to own both novellas in American Hippo, a single, beautiful volume.


The Dungeon of Black Company Vol. 1 Story and art by Youhei Yasumura

Himouto! Umaru-chan Vol. 1 Story and art by Sankaku Head

How to Treat Magical Beasts: Mine and Master’s Medical Journal Vol. 1 Story and art by Kajiya

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Vol. 3 Story by Makoto Fukami; Art by Seigo Tokiya

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Kanna’s Daily Life Vol. 2 Story by coolkyousinnjya; Art by Mitsuhiro Kimura

Saint Seiya: Saintia Shō Vol. 2 Story and art by Chimaki Kuori

Ultra Kaiju Anthropomorphic Project Vol. 1 Character designs by POP; story and art by Shun Kazakami

Yokai Rental Shop Vol. 3 Story and art by Shin Mashiba


New Releases: 5/9/17

Here’s what went on sale today!

A Dog’s Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron

Poster Placeholder of - 7After Bella is picked up by Animal Control because pit bulls are banned in Denver, Lucas has no choice but to send her to a foster home until he can figure out what to do. But Bella, distraught at the separation, doesn’t plan to wait. With four hundred miles of dangerous Colorado wilderness between her and her person, Bella sets off on a seemingly impossible and completely unforgettable adventure home.

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Place holder  of - 39Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Deadmen Walking by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Placeholder of  -52To catch evil, it takes evil. Enter Devyl Bane—an ancient dark warlord returned to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the New World. A man of many secrets, Bane makes a pact with Thorn—an immortal charged with securing the worst creations the ancient gods ever released into our world. Those powers have been imprisoned for eons behind enchanted gates . . . gates that are beginning to buckle. At Thorn’s behest, Bane takes command of a crew of Deadmen and, together, they are humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms.


Killing Gravity by Corey J. White

Image Place holder  of - 41Before she escaped in a bloody coup, MEPHISTO transformed Mariam Xi into a deadly voidwitch. Their training left her with terrifying capabilities, a fierce sense of independence, a deficit of trust, and an experimental pet named Seven. She’s spent her life on the run, but the boogeymen from her past are catching up with her. An encounter with a bounty hunter has left her hanging helpless in a dying spaceship, dependent on the mercy of strangers.


Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Vol. 3 Story and art by Coolkyoushinja

There’s a Demon Lord on the Floor Vol. 2 Story and art by Kawakami Masaki


What if ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ was ‘Connie and Clyde’?

Place holder  of - 56 Written by Jenni L. Walsh

Show of hands, who has seen the television show Timeless? If you haven’t, I’ll give you the gist. It’s a time-travel drama where the main characters go back in time to stop opposing characters from changing a moment in history that’ll impact the present day. It’s a lot of fun. One of the episodes (Timeless Episode 9: Last Ride of Bonnie & Clyde) features none other than Bonnie Parker, the protagonist in my novel, Becoming Bonnie, and it got me thinking: What if Bonnie never met Clyde Barrow?

It’s plausible, if one little moment in time never happened. As a boy, Clyde suffered from a sickness, either malaria or the yellow fever. As a result, his hearing was impaired. As a result, in the 1920s, when teenager Clyde tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy he received a medical rejection. As a result, as depicted in Becoming Bonnie, Clyde realizes that, in life, he’s going to have to take what he wants.

Now, before this medical rejection, Clyde had already been arrested. He was headed for a life of crime after a tough upbringing, one where his family lived under a wagon for a period of time. But considering Clyde had USN tattooed on his arm before he attempted to enlist, it’s likely he saw the U.S. Navy as an escape from his hardened life. So, what if Clyde Barrow never got sick as a boy?

Let me quickly tell a different story.

Nineteen-year-old Clyde Barrow shows up at the enlistment office. He’s nervous, his hands sliding in and out of his trouser pockets, but he’s there. He’s got all his paperwork. He’s passed his medical exam. A tattoo even peeks out of his sleeve, making him look every part of a naval officer, committed to defending his country. Then it happens, Clyde gets a pat on the back and a strong voice tells him, “Welcome to the United States Navy.”

This is it. Clyde is getting a fresh start, and he’s going to make the most of it. He likes using his hands, he’s had practice working on cars at his father’s service shop, and he takes a job building battleships and airship carriers. He eventually works on the ‘fast battleships,’ the ones that are used to run down and destroy enemy battlecruisers. Clyde always did have a thing for speed, and it’s satisfying work.

Then, when his country needs him, he takes part in the second World War. During his service, he meets a naval nurse by the name of Constance Miller. It’s love at first sight for Connie and Clyde. When the war is over, they can’t bear to be apart. Instead of returning to Dallas, Texas, Clyde settles in Connie’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and they start a family. Two boys and a girl. Their kids have kids. And many years down the road, at a ripe old age, Clyde passes in his sleep, Connie by his side. For a man living during his time, his life is ordinary. It’s a happy one, but nothing remarkable, nothing anyone would think to write a story about.

And it’s certainly not a life where Clyde spends twenty-two months on the run as a fugitive, with thirteen deaths to his name, and a girl named Bonnie at his side, whispering into his good ear.

But, in Becoming Bonnie, after Clyde gets sick, after he receives a medical rejection, after the name Clyde Barrow equates to nothing but criminal, after the stock market crashes, he meets Bonnelyn Parker—a wholesome young girl who was promised the American dream but is given the Great Depression—and the start of a twenty-two month crime spree is exactly where Bonnie and Clyde’s future is headed.

Order Your Copy

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Follow Jenni L. Walsh on Twitter, on Facebook, and on her website.


On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in May

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in May! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Robyn Bennis, The Guns Above

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Saturday, May 6
Borderlands Café
San Francisco, CA
6:30 PM
Also with Megan E. O’Keefe.

Sunday, May 7
American Bookbinders Museum
San Francisco, CA
6:30 PM
SF in SF Reading Series – also with Ellen Klages and David D. Levine, books provided by Borderlands Books.

Marie Brennan, Within the Sanctuary of Wings

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Monday, May 8
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM

Tuesday, May 9
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

Thursday, May 11
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM
Also with Todd Lockwood.

W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Way Home

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Sunday, May 14
Alamo Drafthouse
Kansas City, MO
4:00 PM
​Film screening of A Dog’s Purpose and book signing, Books provided by Rainy Day Books.

Tuesday, May 16
Book Passage
Sausalito, CA
6:00 PM

Thursday, May 18
Tattered Cover
Littleton, CO
7:00 PM

Monday, May 22
Alamo Drafthouse
Dallas, TX
6:30 PM
​Film screening of A Dog’s Purpose and book signing. Books provided by Half Price Books.

Tuesday, May 23
Off Square Books
Oxford, MS
5:00 PM

Jacqueline Carey, Miranda and Caliban

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Tuesday, May 23
Schuler Books & Music
Lansing, MI
7:00 PM

Cory Doctorow, Walkaway

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Monday, May 1
Cambridge Public Library
Cambridge, MA
6:30 PM
In conversation with Joi Ito.

Tuesday, May 2
Politics and Prose
Washington, DC
7:00 PM
In conversation with Amie Stepanovich.

Wednesday, May 3
New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
New York, NY
7:00 PM
Celeste Bartos Forum

Thursday, May 4
Fountain Books
Richmond, VA
6:30 PM

Friday, May 5
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC
7:00 PM

Saturday, May 6
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Cincinnati, OH
7:00 PM

Sunday, May 7
The Royal George Theater
Chicago, IL
7:00 PM
In conversation with Max Temkin. Books provided by Volumes Bookcafe.

Tuesday, May 9
Tattered Cover
Denver, CO
7:00 PM

Wednesday, May 10
Book People
Austin, TX
7:00 PM

Thursday, May 11
Brazos Bookstore
Houston, TX
7:00 PM

Friday, May 12
Doubletree Hilton
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM
In conversation with Brian David Johnson.  Books provided by the Poisoned Pen.

Saturday, May 13
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
4:00 PM
Mysterious Galaxy Birthday Bash, with ticketed book signing.

Sunday, May 14
Powell’s City of Books
Portland, OR
7:30 PM
In conversation with Andy Baio.

Monday, May 15
Neptune Theatre
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM
In conversation with Neal Stephenson. Books provided by the University Bookstore.

Tuesday, May 16
Village Books
Bellingham, WA
7:00 PM

Saturday, May 20
Dark Delicacies
Burbank, CA
2:00 PM

Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth

Friday, May 19
Borderlands Café
San Francisco, CA
6:00 PM

Malka Older, Infomocracy

Tuesday, May 9
Baltimore, MD
7:00 PM
Writers and Words Reading Series – also with Kondwani Kidel, Nathan Hollaway, and Tecla Tesnau.

Veronica Rossi, Seeker

Tuesday, May 16
Kepler’s Books
Menlo Park, CA
7:00 PM
Also with Evelyn Skye.

Jenni L. Walsh, Becoming Bonnie

Saturday, May 13
Newtown Bookshop
Newtown, PA
1:00 PM

Tuesday, May 16
Barnes & Noble
Princeton, NJ
7:00 PM
Also with Lee Kelly.

Wednesday, May 17
Doylestown Bookshop
Doylestown, PA
6:30 PM

Wednesday, May 24
Narberth Bookshop
Narberth, PA
6:30 PM


Interview with Jenni L. Walsh, author of Becoming Bonnie

Place holder  of - 25Becoming Bonnie is the story of Bonnelyn Parker, a young woman who has her whole life ahead of her – until she meets the young Clyde Barrow. We asked Jenni L. Walsh some questions about her upcoming book about half of the famous criminal duo.

Will you tell us a little about Becoming Bonnie and what inspired you to write it?

Becoming Bonnie is the story of how Bonnie becomes the Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. The novel begins with her as Bonnelyn, a fictional name I dreamed up to depict her as a wholesome, church-going gal. By the novel’s end, she’s Bonnie, half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

That transformation is the crux of the story, taking a young girl who was promised the American dream but who was instead given the Great Depression. The circumstances, hurdles, and obstacles she faces all lead to the pinnacle moment where she falls for a convicted felon—and turns to crime herself.

Interestingly enough, this story isn’t the one I first sought to tell. Driven by my desire to write the story of an iconic figure, I first began writing my own version of Bonnie and Clyde’s 1930s crime spree. I quickly put on the brakes, realizing I first needed readers to understand who Bonnie really was. What made her tick? What was her background? Why was she so loyal to Clyde Barrow? So I put what I’d written aside, hoping to one day use it in a sequel, and started over, going back five years to tell Bonnie Parker’s origin story, which also allowed me to drop Bonnie into a 1920s speakeasy in the middle of a foxtrot. Now that was a good time.

What did you enjoy most about writing it, and what was most challenging?

Both these questions can be answered with the same answer: Not much about Bonnie Parker’s background is known.

Sure, we know some things about Bonnie’s upbringing and her passions in life, along with how she met Clyde Barrow, but ultimately, I had a lot of leeway to tell the story I wanted to tell. I took what realities I could find, though one person’s account often contradicted with another’s first-hand anecdote, and I used those ‘truths’ as guideposts. Then I took the reader from point A to point B with whatever my imagination dreamed up. This was a lot of fun, but being Bonnie Parker is an actual person, I also had fears of misrepresenting her—and that I’d get called out for it. Even though Becoming Bonnie is fictional, I want those familiar with her real-life story to feel satisfied with my spin on it.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned while researching Becoming Bonnie?

Along with Bonnie’s background, I also dove into Clyde’s. While his violent and criminal actions are inexcusable, it was fascinating to see how he got to a place where crime was his answer, and maybe, just maybe, how his story would’ve gone differently if life wouldn’t zigged instead of zagged. I don’t want to go into too much detail, as my book touches upon these elements, but as a boy Clyde got a sickness that took some of his hearing. In his teens, he tried to apply to the Navy, however he received a medical rejection. But what if he hadn’t? What if Clyde joined the Navy? Would it have been the structure he needed? Would it have been a way for him to get what he wanted out of life? And ultimately, would he ever have met Bonnie Parker? You’ll see in Becoming Bonnie, that Bonnie has a very large role in Clyde becoming who he is, as well.

What’s your favorite word?

So, there’s one word I had to use when I set my book in the 1920s. Heebie-jeebies.

That word, or maybe its a phrase, has stuck with me for nearly twenty-two years, ever since witnessing this adorable back and forth on Boy Meets World:

Topanga: Why are you looking at me like that?
Cory: I will always look at you like this.
Topanga: Well, stop.
Cory: Why?
Topanga: Because you’re giving me the heebie-jeebies.
Cory: Good.

What’s the first book you remember loving?

One of the first books I bought for my kids because of a vague remembrance was Are You My Mother? My own mom said she used to read it nonstop to me when I was a youngster.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Besides the obvious answer of social media, I procrastinate so much by rereading what I’ve already written, instead of writing brand new words and continuing my story. I’m sure there are worse forms of procrastination out there, but it eats up huge chunks of time, when I already have such small windows of time to write, thanks to my very demanding but very cute one-year-old and three-year-old.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently busy writing the sequel to Becoming Bonnie called Being Bonnie. I’m excited to get the chance to write the story I first set out to tell, and to continue Bonnie and Clyde’s story into the 1930s. The contrast of the settings from one book to the other has been a fun challenge to tackle, along with how I’m going to bring Bonnie’s story to an end.

Order Your Copy

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Follow Jenni L. Walsh on Twitter, on Facebook, and on her website.


Excerpt: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

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The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Becoming Bonnie will be available on May 9th. Please enjoy this excerpt.


But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

Hands in my hair, I look over the words I wrote on the Mason jar atop my bureau. I snigger, almost as if I’m antagonizing the sentiment. One day I won’t be poor with dreams. I’ll have money and dreams.

I drop my hair and swallow a growl, never able to get my stubborn curls quite right.

My little sister carefully sets her pillow down, tugs at the corner to give it shape, the final touch to making her bed. “Stop messing with it.”

“Easy for you to say. The humidity ain’t playing games with your hair.”

And Little Billie’s hair is down. Smooth and straight. Mine is pinned back into a low bun. Modest and practical.

Little Billie chuckles. “Well, I’m going before Mama hollers at me. Church starts in twenty minutes and you know she’s got to watch everyone come in.”

I shake my head; that woman always has her nose to the ground. Little Billie scoots out of our bedroom and I get back to taming my flyaways and scan my bureau for my favorite stud earrings, one of our few family heirlooms. Footsteps in the hall quicken my fingers. I slide in another hairpin, jabbing my skull. “I’m coming, Ma!”

A deep cough.

I turn to find my boyfriend taking up much of the doorway. He’s got his broad shoulders and tall frame to thank for that.

I smile, saying, “Oh, it’s only you.”

Roy’s own smile doesn’t quite form. “Yes, it’s only me.”

I wave him off, a strand falling out of place. Roy being ’round ain’t nothin’ new, but on a Sunday morning . . . That gets my heart bumping with intrigue. “What ya doing here so early? The birds are barely chirpin’.”

“It ain’t so early. Got us less than twenty minutes ’til—”

“I know.”

“Thought I could walk you to church,” Roy says.

“Is that so?” My curiosity builds, ’specially with how this boy is shifting his weight from side to side. He’s up to something. And I ain’t one to be kept in the dark. Fingers busy with my hair, I motion with my elbow and arch a brow. “That for me?”

Roy glances down at an envelope in his hand, as if he forgot he was even holding it. He moves it behind his back. “It can wait. There’s actually something else—”

I’m across the room in a heartbeat, tugging on his arm. “Oh no it can’t.”

On the envelope, “Final Notice” stares back at me in bold letters. The sender is our electric company. Any excitement is gone.

“I’m sorry, Bonnelyn,” Roy says, “Caught my eye on it in the bushes out front.”

My arms fall to my sides and I stare unblinking at the envelope, not sure how something so small, so light, could mean something so big, so heavy, for our family. “I didn’t know my ma hadn’t been paying this.”

Roy pushes the envelope, facedown, onto my bureau. “I can help pay—”

“Thanks, but we’ll figure it out.” I sigh at my hair, at our unpaid bill, at the fact I’m watching my sister after church instead of putting in hours at the diner. Fortunately, my brother’s pulling a double at the cement plant. Ma will be at the factory all afternoon. But will it be enough?

I move in front of the wall mirror to distract myself. Seeing my hand-me-down blouse ain’t helping. I peek at Roy, hoping I don’t find pity on his face. There he goes again, throwing his weight from foot to foot. And, sure, that boy is sweet as pie, but I know he ain’t antsy thinkin’ my lights are suddenly going to go off.

“Everything okay, Roy?”


That yeah ain’t so convincing.

“You almost done here?” he asks. Roy shifts the old Mason jar to the side, holds up the earring I’d been looking for.

I nod—to the earring, not to being done—and he brings it to me. Despite how this morning is turning out, I smile, liking that Roy knew what I was looking for without me having to tell him.

“Ready now?” he says.

I slide another pin into my hair. “Why’s everyone rushing me?”

Roy swallows, and if I had five clams to bet, I’d bet he’s nervous ’bout something. He edges closer to my bureau. He shakes the Mason jar, the pieces of paper rustling inside. “When did you write this on the outside?”

But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

I avert my eyes, being those words weren’t meant for Roy’s. “Not too long ago.”

“Ya know, Bonnelyn, you won’t always be poor. I’ll make sure of that.”

“I know I won’t.” I add a final pin to my hair. I’ll make sure of that.

“So why’d you write it?”

“I didn’t. William Butler Yeats did.”

Roy shoves his hands in his pockets. “You know what I mean.”

I shrug and stare at my reflection. “It inspires me, wanting to be more than that line. And I will. I’ll put a white picket fence in front of my house to prove it.”

Your house?”

I turn away from the mirror to face him. His voice sounded off. Too high. But Roy ain’t looking at me. He’s staring at the wall above my head. “Our house,” I correct, a pang of guilt stabbing me in the belly ’cause I didn’t say our to begin with. “That jar is full of our dreams, after all.”

Really, it’s full of doodles, scribbled on whatever paper Roy had on hand. Napkins. Ripped corners of his textbook pages. The top flap of a cereal box. He shoved the first scrap of paper in my hand when we were only knee-high to a grasshopper: quick little drawings of me and him in front of the Eiffel Tower, riding horses with dogs running ’round our feet, holding hands by the Gulf’s crashing waves.

Our dreams. Plenty of ’em. Big and small. Whimsical and sweet.

But this here is the twenties. Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves. I’m no exception. Sure, I’ll bring those doodles to life with Roy, but I would’ve added my own sketches to the jar if I could draw. Standing at the front of my very own classroom. At a bank counter, depositing my payroll checks. Shaking hands with a salesman, purchasing my first car.

Call it selfish, call it whatever ya like, but after struggling for money all my life, my dreams have always come before ours.

Still, I link our hands. “I’m ready to go.”


The congregation mimics my pastor’s booming voice. The women flick their fans faster with excitement. Pastor Frank shuffles to the right, then to the left, sixty-some eyes following his every movement. From the choir pews off to the side, I watch his mesmerized flock hang on his every word, myself included. My ma is amidst the familiar faces. She prefers to use Daddy’s brown hat to cool herself, holding on to him even after he’s been gone all these years. I can’t say I blame her.

“Amen!” we chime.

Pastor Frank nods at me, and I move from the choir box to the piano. I bring my hands down and the first chords of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” roar to life. Every Sunday, I sit on this here bench, press my fingers into the keys, and let the Lord’s words roll off my tongue. Ma says Daddy would be proud too. I sure hope that’s true.

It’s another reason why I’ll make something of myself. In our small town or in a big city, it doesn’t matter much, but Bonnelyn Parker is going to be somebody. Wherever life takes me, whatever final notice stands in my way, my daddy will look down on me and smile, knowing I ain’t struggling, I’m thriving. I’m more than poor.

I push my voice louder, raise my chin, and sing the hymn’s last note, letting it vibrate with the piano’s final chord.

The congregation shouts praises to the Lord as Pastor Frank clasps his hands together and tells us all to, “Go and spread His word.”

Voices break out, everyone beating their gums at once. I slip off the bench, weave through the crowd. A few people are always louder than the rest. Mrs. Davis is having a potluck lunch. Mr. Miller’s best horse is sick. He spent his early morning hours in his barn, from the looks of his dirty overalls.

Ma’s got more pride than a lion and makes certain we’re dressed to the nines, even if our nine is really only a five. Still, my older brother’s vest and slacks are his Sunday best. And even though we’ve got secondhand clothes, my sister’s and my white blouses are neatly tucked into our skirts. We may be pretending to look the part, but our family always gets by. We find a way, just like we’ll make sure that electric bill gets paid. Though I don’t like how Ma let this bill get so late.

I rush through the church’s double doors, sucking in fresh air, and shield my eyes from the sun. A laugh slips out. There’s my brother, playing keep-away from my little sister with one of her once white shoes. Buster tosses the shoe to Roy. Roy fumbles it. No surprise there, but part of me wonders if his nerves from earlier are sticking ’round. On the way to church, he wouldn’t let me get a word in, going on nonstop ’bout the weather. I reckon the summer of 1927 is hot, real hot, but not worth all his fuss.

“Little Billie, those boys picking on you?” I call, skipping down the church steps, keeping my eyes on Roy.

He takes immediate notice of me, missing my brother’s next throw. “Say, Bonnelyn.” Roy wipes his hairline. “I was hoping to do this before church, but you were having trouble with your . . .” He gestures toward his own hair, then stops, wisely thinkin’ better of it. “I’ve a surprise for you.”

“A surprise? Why didn’t you tell me so? I could’ve hurried.”

He also wisely doesn’t comment on my earlier irritation at being hurried.

“Follow me?” Roy asks, his brown eyes hopeful.

“Not today, lover boy,” Buster cuts in. “Bonn’s watching Billie.”

Billie hops toward me on one foot, her voice bouncing as she proclaims how she’s eleven and doesn’t need to be babysat no more. I bend to pick up her lost shoe, letting out a long sigh. Roy sighs too. But Roy also looks like a puppy that’s been kicked.

“Will the surprise take long?” I ask him. “Buster doesn’t need to be at work for another two hours.”

“Actually an hour,” my brother says. “But Roy here probably only needs a few minutes, tops.” He winks, and Roy playfully charges him.

My cheeks flush, and not ’cause Roy and I have done that. Roy hasn’t even looked at me in a way that would lead to that.

“Let’s go.” I bounce on my toes and push Roy down the dirt-packed street, then realize I don’t know where I’m going and let Roy lead. Buster’s laugher trails us.

We go over one block, passing my house, nestled between the cemetery and the library. An old picket fence that Ma’s been harping on my brother to paint for ages stretches ’cross the front.

Cement City is barely more than an intersection, and there ain’t much farther to go; just the cement plant, a few farms, and the river. Then there are the railroad tracks, separating us from Dallas.

I glance up at Roy, confused, when we stop at a home just past the library.

He motions toward the house, his sweaty hand taking mine with his. He swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

“What is it?” I ask him. “Why’re we here?”

“My father said they are going to tear down this old shack.”

With its crooked shutters, chipped paint, caved-in roof, I can understand why. No one’s lived here for years, and Ma doesn’t go a day without complaining ’bout its drab looks and how it’s bad for our little town.

I nod in agreement.

“But,” he says, “I’ve been squirreling away my pennies, and I’ve enough to save her.”

A cool heat rushes me, but I’m not sure how that’s possible. I wipe a strand of hair from my face. “You’re buying this here house?”

“I am,” he says, his Adam’s apple bouncing again. “For you and me. Our house.” Roy keeps talking before I can get a word—or thought—in. “Bonnelyn . . .” He trails off, digs into his pocket. “Here’s another one for your jar.”

My eyes light up, recognizing one of Roy’s infamous black-and-white doodles.

It’s our church.

It’s Roy.

It’s me, in a puffy dress.

I look up from the doodle. It’s Roy no longer standing in front of me but down on one knee.

“Bonnelyn Elizabeth Parker,” he says, “I’m fixin’ to take you down the middle aisle.”

I knit my brows. “Are you proposing?”

“Well I ain’t down here to tie my shoe.”

I’d laugh, but I’m stunned. Marriage? With Roy? I swallow, and stare at the drawing, his lovely, heartfelt drawing.

Sure, marrying Roy has always been in the cards. But . . . I’m not sure I’m ready yet. Some people wait ’til their twenties to get married, in today’s day and age, giving ’em plenty of time to make their own mark.

Roy taps the underside of my chin, forcing my gaze away from his doodle and down to him.

“I . . . um . . . I’m flattered Roy. I am. But we’re only seventeen—”

“Not now.” He stands slowly and palms my cheek that’s probably as flushed as his own. “We’ve got some growing up to do first. I know you got dreams for yourself.”

I sigh, in a good way. Hearing him acknowledge my goals relaxes me. Those jitterbugs change a smidge to butterflies. “You really want to marry me?”

“I do, Bonn.” Roy leans down, quite the feat to my five-foot-nothin’ height, and presses his lips lightly to mine. “When we’re good and ready. You tell me when, and that’ll be it. We’ll create a life together. How does that sound?”

I smile, even while my chest rises from a shaky breath. I curse my nerves for dulling my excitement. My boyfriend declaring he’s ready to build a life with me shouldn’t give me the heebie-jeebies. It doesn’t, I decide.

“We’ll finish school,” Roy says.

I force my smile wider.

“I’ll get a good-paying job as a reporter,” he goes on. “You can become a teacher, like you’ve always wanted. You can lead the drama club, be on stage, do pageants with our little girls.”

Now my grin is genuine. “We’re going to have little girls?”

“Of course. A little fella, too. ’Til then, I’ll fix this house up. She’ll be spiffy when I’m done with her, white picket fence and everything.”

“You think?”

“I know it.” He dips to my eye level. “You’re happy, right?”

Am I happy? I roll those five letters ’round my head. Yes, I’ve been stuck on Roy for ages. He made me happy when we were seven and he picked me dandelions, when we were ten and he stopped Buster from making me kiss a frog, when we were thirteen and he patched up my knee after I fell off my bike. The memories keep on coming, and I don’t want that happiness to stop. His proposal caught me off guard, that’s all. But, yes, we’ll make something of ourselves, and we’ll do it together.

I lean onto my tiptoes and peck his lips with a kiss. “Roy Thornton, I’d be honored to be your wife one day.”

He hoots, swooping his arms under me. Before I know it, I’m cradled against his chest and we’re swinging in a circle.

I scream, but it’s playful. “You better not drop me, you clumsy fool.”

He answers me with a kiss on the side of my head, and then another and another, as he carries me toward my ma’s house.

Freeze, I think. I don’t want the secure way he holds me, the way the air catches my skirt, the hope for what’s to come, to stop, ever.

Copyright © 2017 by Jenni L. Walsh

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