In 1982 on an island off the coast of South Carolina, the racism and ostracism bubbling just beneath the surface of daily life make it feel more like the Jim Crow South of the 1950s. Cast into this setting is fifteen-year-old Ash Howe, a boy who appears counter to everything the locals consider “normal”: his hair is long, he loves heavy metal music, and he’s socially awkward. The target of relentless verbal and physical bullying, he has, due to undiagnosed ADHD, endured being held back twice by an indifferent school system.

Two girls further complicate his life. The first is Ally, who Ash has a huge crush on but is part of a popular clique that makes her seemingly unobtainable. The second is a ghost of local legend said to haunt a neighboring uninhabited island and its abandoned lighthouse that Ash and his friends use as a refuge.

Two events alter Ash’s life: his band’s performance at the annual school talent show and a horrific blunder when he finds himself alone in the lighthouse on a dark night. The choices Ash makes set in motion events that prove that the miraculous is closer than he realizes and that magic is not only real but has the power to transform.

Available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle

5 Star Reviews

Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

There is so much that I loved in Mike Shannon's A Ribbon of Sand. Ash is a flawed protagonist that readers will root for.

The setting is wonderfully accomplished, written with fine details about the locales.

Shannon excels at exploring strong themes, including racism and the social tension that simmers beneath the façade of a seemingly serene community. The author melds magical realism and strong elements of coming of age to provide entertainment for readers. I enjoyed the robust characters, the crisp writing, and the setting that comes to life in the minds of readers.

Pikasho Deka, Readers Favorite

A heartfelt coming-of-age tale with a slight touch of the paranormal, A Ribbon of Sand is a nostalgic ode to the 80s and all it entails. Mike Shannon tells a beautiful story about first love, friendships, and facing one's fears.

K.C. Finn, Readers Favorite

Author Mike Shannon brilliantly captures the complexities of adolescence in this emotive and well-penned dramatic work, addressing themes of bullying, identity, and the supernatural.  

The juxtaposition of real-world challenges and mystical elements adds a new layer of intrigue to the story, creating a unique coming-of-age experience that’s a little ethereal but still feels powerfully real.

Excerpt from the novel: The Band

"“I’ll be back just after four to pick you up,” my mom said as I grabbed my bass. Then as I passed the open front passenger-side window, she added, “Hopefully, you won’t be deaf by then.”

With a sudden thunder crash of Carlo’s drums joining Scott’s racket, it struck me that she might have a point, even though it was moot. The smile that plastered itself across my face was the visible manifestation of the adrenaline that coursed through my body, siphoning the sound from that garage into fuel for my young brain.

"After playing Ritchie Blackmore’s iconic opening riff, Scott half sang, half spoke into the microphone some impromptu lyrics set to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” His voice echoed from the speakers, “Ash came out to Scott’s place, near a Leggatts Island shoreline… to practice songs for a talent show; we didn’t have much time….”

“We have to finally decide which two songs we’re gonna do,” Carlo interjected with a tinge of exasperation. I plugged my bass into my Peavey tnt amp that I’d left behind at Scott’s the previous week and plucked out the repeated motif of Rick James’s “Super Freak.”

“I was thinking about gettin’ funky.”

Excerpt from the novel:

The Lighthouse

It would have taken more than a bit of water to dampen my good spirits that day because Carlo and I were going over to the abandoned lighthouse on Declaration Island. The trip was far from ordinary because the island could be reached only by a land bridge at low tide. My discovery of the place had given me somewhere to escape, be alone, daydream, and do things I shouldn’t be doing, like smoking cigarettes and a bit of grass. Declaration was avoided by most locals. Concerned parents insisted that their children avoid the dilapidated buildings, most prominent among them the lighthouse, at all costs. The skeletal framework tower of cast iron, ninety-five feet high, was an adult’s nightmare. Parents imagined morbid scenarios in which the 112 steps leading to the cypress watch room were booby traps that led to everything from broken bones to death. If visitors reached the top, they found two rickety galleries to tumble from. I always found the galleries solid and completely stable, but adults hinted at other more mysterious reasons I had yet to uncover.

Excerpt from the novel: The legend of the ghost

As we retreated, I related stories of the few who, on dares or bets, had attempted to spend the night—only to flee when an ominous knocking came from deep within the crumbling hulk of the lighthouse or keeper’s house. The select few who managed to stay after sunset described an unnatural blue light seeping like liquid from the long abandoned lantern room, followed immediately by a spectral woman wearing a dress from an earlier era emerging onto the gallery to stare at the person below with a twisted, unhinged smile and two black voids in her head instead of eyes. One particularly hair-raising tale detailed how the vengeful spirit would point and cackle from the gallery before disappearing into the tower. Immediately, the sound of her frenzied footfall descending the spiral staircase would become audible. I’d never heard of anyone sticking around to see what emerged from the door at the bottom.

Even more outlandish accounts detailed a hideous, deformed apparition darting mockingly among the foliage, scampering down gnarled oak boughs like a giant spider, its mouth a bent black hole emitting an unearthly howl. The most embroidered descriptions suggested the body was human, with the head of a wild boar or even that of a toad or reptile. Each retelling was embellished, growing more macabre with each passing year.

About the Author

A Ribbon of Sand is Mike Shannon’s first novel, but before turning his attention to fiction writing, he had poetry published in various literary journals in America and the U.K. Spending several years of his youth growing up in the South Carolina Low Country, the culture and natural wonders are woven into his soul. Mike’s fascination with folklore and the supernatural stretches back to his boyhood days and he’s had paranormal experiences signposting his life’s journey. Finding music as essential as air, he listens to everything from Black Sabbath to Bartok. He’s had articles in several publications, including a major piece in English music magazine Shindig. Mike has a bachelors degree in anthropology from Loyola University, Chicago and presently lives in Westmont, Illinois with his wife Julie and cats Scrimm and Magers.

Contact Mike Shannon through email. Hit the link below!

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