Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone, a Collection of Poetry by Mary Anne Morefield

Earth_stoneEarth, Grass, Trees and Stone ($11.95, 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-321-1), is a collection of 65 poems by Mary Anne Morefield. The final poem in the collection, “Requiem,” will be set to music for the Susquehanna Chorale in 2015 by Bob Chilcott.

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“Mary Anne Morefield’s debut collection overflows with the primacy of living, with the most elemental actions of groundhogs and lambs, with the exuberant colors of cholla and prickly pear, with what she rightly calls ‘the ache of prayer.’ Here is a writer offering wisdom and beauty, humbly teaching us how to live, how to journey toward death with a loved one, how to find strength, even joy, despite grief’s shadow. These poems chant both praise and lamentation. They show us the way toward an earthly resurrection of sorts. They admonish the reader to ‘Let yourself be air.’ With a hard-earned gladness, they say ‘Amen.’ ”

—Todd Davis, author of In the Kingdom of the Ditch and The Least of These

“Mary Anne Morefield’s collection reflects the poet’s meticulous observation of the natural world, but the poems belie their sometimes beautiful surfaces. Their subjects are as various as the forms they take (haibun, sonnet, ode, and more) and encompass vastly different geographies. This is true of the physical worlds the poems evoke: Pennsylvania’s woods, hills, and farmlands and Arizona’s desert landscape. This is also true of the psychic space they conjure, one often marked by loss, both personal and public. Beginning with the opening, title poem and extended in the third, the book contains a number of elegies and could be read as a moving lament for a lost spouse. Yet inside the elegy resides the ode, and these poems insist that we remember the full range of human experience: ‘Rain or Sun? Must I Choose/between them?’ the poet asks at the conclusion of one of her poems. The answer the collection overwhelmingly suggests is: No. The point is not to ‘choose’ but rather to learn to live ‘in the space between/the nothing, the everything, the all.’ ”

—Shara McCallum, poet

“These poems celebrate and mourn, ache and ask. Morefield has received her life, moment by moment, in all its fullness, and she gives it back to us in a voice of gentle and reflective contemplation.”

—Margaret Gibson, author of Broken Cup

With eyes wide open to the world around her, Mary Anne Morefield explores hedgerow and pasture, the plants and animals and humans that inhabit an 18th-century Pennsylvania farm. She broadens her search to the wider world of ideas, to other cultures, to Aleppo and the West Bank. She looks directly at Hurricane Sandy and sits beside death. She examines the region of widowhood, laces up her hiking boots and explores new territory in the flora, fauna and mountains of Arizona. There new colors catch her eye, new sounds enchant her ears. The poems speak to living deeply and fully in the world.

Born and raised in the Mid-West, Mary Anne Morefield lives a tri-partite life in Central Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Chautauqua, New York. She served as Vice President of The Writers’ Center, and as President of the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends. Mary Anne is a member of the Seminary Ridge Foundation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which oversees the Seminary Ridge Museum. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Poet Lore, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, The MacGuffin and Chautauqua. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt from the poem, “Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone”:

For the first time since we left you

in this place of earth, grass, trees and stone,

 

I’ve come to hear its silence and its sounds,

to learn the beauty of granite, its veins

 

lakes and rivers on which seed boats float,

and on whose banks, a fly dries itself after bathing.

Dash in the Blue Pacific, by Cole Alpaugh: A Guy from Vermont Versus a Volcano

dashA guy from Vermont crashes in a tropical paradise ruled by angry gods. It’s a long way home.

Dash in the Blue Pacific (5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-252-8, 256 pp., $14.95) is Cole Alpaugh’s fourth novel. A lone survivor of a plane crash in the South Pacific is held captive by a tribe of shabby natives. As he heals, Dash learns what it truly means to belong to the human race.

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As in Alpaugh’s first two novels, Dash in the Blue Pacific contains elements of magical realism.

Alpaugh’s third novel, The Spy’s Little Zonbi, and his second, The Turtle-Girl from East Pukapuka, were finalists in the 2014 and 2013 Foreword Book of the Year Awards, respectively. Alpaugh’s first book, The Bear in a Muddy Tutu, set in a ragtag traveling circus, garnered eleven five-star reviews on WorldCat.

“The weird parts work because Alpaugh integrates them into a story that is physically raw and wickedly funny. Dash is as incredulous about all that is happening as anyone, and his self-conscious skepticism keeps the magical elements from seeming off-the-wall. Little by little, Dash’s conversations with Willy reveal Dash’s deeper emotional wounds, and offer another interpretation for his dreamlike visions. Taken simply as a comic adventure story, Dash in the Blue Pacific is thoroughly entertaining. When you consider the other elements—racial tensions, human grief, and spiritual redemption—it takes on new levels of meaning. Book clubs will be talking about this one.”  Read more….

—Sheila M. Trask, ForeWord Magazine

“Cole Alpaugh is a grand comedian, and the conflicts and themes which exist in uncharted territory for traditional novels work well with his droll craft. The novel is full of magical wonders, melancholic gods, invasive spiders, and hilarious blunders from both Dash and the natives. ‘Boring’ and ‘predictable’ would be the last two words you’d use to describe Alpaugh’s novel.” Read more….

— D. A. Wetherell, Necessary Fiction

“Cole Alpaugh provides another fascinating read with Dash in the Blue Pacific. A young man is the lone survivor of a harrowing plane crash. His life to date has been a series of hard luck events, and now he is facing the prospect of human sacrifice if he cannot impregnate a local in order to bribe slave traders. This is why I read Alpaugh’s books! I was reminded of Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast, with its beautiful descriptions of brutal nature, and the impending sense of doom. I am also reminded of the relationship between the main characters of Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. My head was spinning as I came to the end of this book, and I was also in tears. The despondent god Dash befriends is a wonderfully constructed character who challenges the reader’s belief system. This is a relatively quick story, although with its many levels, it begs to be read more than once. Dash in the Blue Pacific is laugh-out-loud funny as much as it is raw and disturbing. Even though I’ve compared this book to two others, it is truly a one-of-a-kind literary experience. I highly recommend it for book club reading.”

—Jennifer Wong, Toronto Public Library

Dash does not feel lucky. When his plane crashes in the South Pacific on a honeymoon flight to Sydney, Australia, he is already a broken man, having left his cheating fiancée at home in Vermont. Dash is the crash’s only survivor, and the natives who find his battered body blame him for poisoning their fish with spilled jet fuel. Once he has sufficiently recovered, they plan to offer him as a human sacrifice to their Volcano God, who they believe downed his plane and cursed them with drought and hardship.

While Dash awaits his fate, he abandons all hope of rescue. But his new life has its moments. He meets ten-year-old Tiki, daughter of the chief and an innocent who dreams of being “chosen” by the soldiers who occasionally visit their island. He also conjures up an imaginary friend, Weeleekonawahulahoopa—Willy, for short. Willy is half-man, half-fish, a sometime god who resigned his lofty status after failing to save his people from drowning.

As Dash comes to understand the natives who hold him captive and confront his own unhappy past, he suspects that he might not be so unlucky after all.

Says Alpaugh, “This has been my favorite story to write—a little quirky and a little dark. The main (human) character is a well-meaning, ordinary guy whose plane crashes into what seems to be a tropical paradise. I drew on my experience as a total outsider while working overseas, where fear and uncertainty heighten senses and can lead you to make bad decisions. Dash’s journey toward atonement is eased by fellow travelers he meets along the way. A big chunk of this story came together while I was standing on a section of lava very similar to the one described in the book. Ka Lae, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the southern-most tip of America, on the most remote island chain on the planet. I wanted to capture the feeling of finding hope while looking out at thousands of miles of vast nothingness.”

Cole Alpaugh is a former journalist, having worked at daily newspapers along the East Coast, as well as spending several years as a war correspondent in numerous hot-spots around the world for Manhattan-based news agencies. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and writer living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he spends his afternoons watching his daughter hit fuzzy yellow balls and ski through slalom gates. Click here to find him online.

Dash in the Blue Pacific is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. Wholesalers, please contact orders@epicenterpress.com.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The girl’s large brown eyes found him, and he was embarrassed about his drooping underwear and what she must have witnessed.

“Food’s not ready.” She tossed the stick and wiped away her artwork. “I came early. Men are drinking clap-clap and are all piss and wind.”

“My name is Dash. The women said you’d come.”

“I’m Tiki. You looking for your airplane?”

“I don’t know what I’m looking for, but it’s beautiful here. This is an island?”

The girl nodded.

“I’m sorry the airplane killed your fish. I was only a passenger.”

“Not your fault. Manu says the Volcano was angry. She threw a stone and made your airplane fall. There’s another.” She pointed past him, and he turned to look up at shiny hints of distant metal, long contrails beginning to twist apart at their far ends.

He made old man sounds when he dropped onto a mound of hardened lava, knees popping. “Did anyone else survive?”

She shook her head. “You’re the only one. Fish ate what the Sea God didn’t want.”

“The volcano erupted?”

“Just one stone.” She used her thumb to indicate the barren mountain rising from the center of the island, a soaring brown monolith producing a ribbon of white smoke.

“I’ve only seen volcanoes on television.”

She leaned toward him to whisper, “She has a bad temper.”

“It’s incredible,” he whispered back. “I guess the smoke means it really is active. That it’s alive.”

She tilted her head at him. “How else would she throw stones?”

“Right,” he said, reasonably sure the engines had been starved of fuel, or died from a catastrophic failure of a bad wiring job. Or terrorists. “I guess that makes sense.”

“People who hunted for your airplane pieces said we should move far away. They said the Volcano will kill our village soon. Manu told them people can’t hide from a god. God want to eat you, then you will get eaten no matter what island you go to. Manu said those people had nice clothes and fancy boat, but were dumb as shitter bugs.” She wrinkled her nose. “Ever see what a shitter bug does?”

He shook his head. “Has it been smoking like that for a long time?”

Tiki shrugged, got to her feet. A pretty child—maybe ten years old—with wide eyes and smooth skin, she had a mass of thick hair halfway down her back, brushed to a deep shine. She wore the same style underpants as everyone else.

She leaned in close again and lowered her voice. “She smokes when she’s angry, which is most of the time. Her temper is worse than boy warriors who drink too much clap-clap. Warriors get angry because they have nobody to fight. Maybe it’s the same thing for the Volcano God.”

“The volcano wants to fight?”

“She is surrounded by water, has no enemies. Eating people is the only thing left to make her happy.”

The narrow trail of smoke was an unbroken line connecting the mountain to the horizon. Would it bring rescue? How far did it hold together for people to see? If it really came from the mouth of a god, maybe it traveled all the way to where they’d lifted off, the perfect white smoke mixing with the yellow smog over Los Angeles. The thought made him feel less isolated, if only for a few seconds.

“Should be time for food,” said the girl. “You look hungry as a volcano.”

She was looking up at him, smiling with a flawless set of round teeth that he caught himself inspecting for bits of human flesh.

Seattle Chef Trevis L. Gleason’s Memoir, Chef Interrupted

chef_interruptedChef Interrupted: Discovering Life’s Second Course in Ireland with Multiple Sclerosis (ISBN: 978-1-60381-301-3, 288 pp., $15.95), a memoir, is the first published book by former Seattle Chef and popular MS Blogger, Trevis L. Gleason. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Gleason follows his dreams to Ireland, where he rents an ancient cottage for a winter, gets a puppy, and discovers that there is life after the fall.

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The 5×8 trade paperback of Chef Interrupted is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. Wholesale customers contact orders@epicenterpress.com.

In 2012 Dr. Oz of The Dr. Oz Show named Trevis #1 Social HealthMaker on the topic of multiple sclerosis for his Life with MS Blog, Twitter Feed, and other online presence. He was also named the Jimmie Heuga “MS Can Do Person of the Year.”

“This memoir of [Gleason’s] months in the small town of Kelly is a spry and subtly told tale of the remarkable events he experienced and the ‘wonderful, genuine, quirky people’ who welcomed him into their town and helped him achieve a sense of purpose about living with MS: ‘It was my duty then… to live fully the life they had helped me realize.’ His month-by-month narrative is interspersed with a number of his favorite recipes for Irish delights such as steak and Guinness stew and colcannon, and he leavens his joyful account of his sojourn with various displays of his ‘noir sense of humor,’ such as when he lovingly describes visiting a butcher’s shop that has ‘what every chef wants to smell… the fresh, sweet smell of fat mingled with the mineral tones of blood and meat.’ ” Read more….

—Publishers Weekly

“Chef Interrupted is a wonderful book, written superbly, depicts rural Ireland brilliantly, it will give you inspiration, it will make you fall in love with Ireland all over again and we would highly recommend it.”  Read more….

—My Ireland Box

“While many a reader will pick up Chef Interrupted expecting some kind of culinary history or memoir, in fact it’s much more: it’s about survival and living with MS, and about envisioning and forming a new life. Through Gleason’s eyes, more than Ireland comes to life—and more than cooking becomes the focus, making for a recommendation to travel and self-help readers as well as audiences with an interest in culinary memoirs.”

—D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, MBR (Midwest Book Review)

“Trevis is not only a superb chef and a warrior in his quest to live with MS, he is also one of the most generous people I’ve had the fortune to call a friend. In the time I’ve known him, he’s shared tales both funny and serious, sad and happy. He is a consummate storyteller, a magician with words. No matter his subject, he weaves a picture for you to imagine and invites you to join him in the world he’s creating. I have no doubt that his story, as told in this engaging book, will touch readers profoundly, just the way he has touched my life.”

—Kathy Casey, Chef, Mixologist, author of Sips & Apps (Chronicle Books, 2009)

Read Kathy’s post about Chef Interrupted here: “a very well written, funny, honest and inspirational book. I urge you to pick up a copy.”

“This uplifting story (presented alongside a collection of recipes) is full of humor, hope, and inspiration; it is a true must-read.”  Read more….

–Kristie Collado, The Daily Meal

“Trevis weaves magic through his poetic style of storytelling allowing us to, at times, forget that he’s living with a debilitating disease, one that catapulted him to visit his family’s roots so far away. His story touched my heart, and I know it will touch yours. This is not a story about disability but one about finding your joy no matter what life has to offer. If you’ve ever had a dream, you’ll want to take a look at Chef Interrupted. It’ll keep hope in your heart and help you believe that anything is possible.”  Read more ….

—Cathy Chester’s Blog: An Empowered Spirit

“I had previously known Trevis Gleason only as the popular blogger at Life With Multiple Sclerosis. Within the constraints of this platform, he dispenses his wisdom, humor, and charm in 500 word snippets. But in Chef Interrupted Trevis throws off the shackles of forced brevity and reveals his considerable storytelling acumen…. I devoured the book in no time at all. It’s a delightful read for anyone who longs to find meaning by going back to their roots, in this case his ancestral homeland of Ireland…. It’s about the connections he made with the people and with the land, and experiences he shared with folks from home who dropped in and out of his life, and his rented cottage, during that time. It’s about a fondness for good food and drink, and a loyal, furry companion. And yes, it’s about living a full life despite a debilitating disease.”  Read more….

—Mitch Sturgeon, Enjoying The Ride Blog

“When I want to know what’s really ‘cooking’ in the MS community, I log onto Trevis’ blog. He has never failed to provide balanced, candid, thoughtful, and even humorous insights into life with MS. His perspectives about the issues of the day—MS related and otherwise—always enlighten and inform me. The same is true for Chef Interrupted.”

—Joyce Nelson, CEO emeritus, National Multiple Sclerosis Society

“Don’t think of this book as a how-to-cope tome. Trevis Gleasons’ Chef Interrupted has widespread appeal and is a joy to read. Certainly his prose abounds in Celtic wit and American audacity—plus a perfectly cooked attitude of use to people who have never heard (lucky them) of ‘multiple sclerosis.’ His recipe is not to devote his life to endless warfare against a nasty incurable disease or to collapse in saintly victimhood. He’s just going on with it directly, indirectly, whatever direction works. I suppose the Irish have known this forever.”

—Martha King, Editor, Momentum, the magazine of the National MS Society (USA)

“What I love about Trevis’ writing is that he makes connections: with his blog followers, with people who have multiple sclerosis or live with other long-term conditions, with foodies, with just about anyone who reads what he writes. Chef Interrupted is, like all of Trevis’ writings, instantly relatable, funny, smart, skeptical, hopeful, and always interesting.”

—Rose Pike, Executive Editor, EverydayHealth.com

“Trevis is one of those truly gifted community organizers. To be able to lead and organize a community you have to have the ability to inspire. Trevis has this down to an art. I’ve seen him transform his pain into humor, humility, and personal growth via his writings, but perhaps even more impressive is his natural ability to relate to and reach people. That means he has the gift to make you give a damn to the point you find yourself repeating his musings to others. That’s the mark of a talented writer and community leader.”

—Natalie Brown, Editor, Health Talk

When Trevis Gleason, a former chef at the top of his professional culinary career, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he lost everything—his job, his marriage, even his perceived persona. Surveying the ruins of his former life, he saw an opportunity to fulfill a long-postponed dream. He would travel from Seattle, Washington, to the wilds of west Kerry, Ireland for the winter.

Renting a rustic cottage in “The Town,” Trevis braved narrow, sheep-obstructed roads and antiquated heating systems to learn that his life, his loves (including cooking), and even his dreams weren’t lost, just waiting to be rediscovered in this magical place.

He acquired a charming puppy named Sadie, who grounded his days and served as a devoted companion as he surmounted inevitable physical setbacks and cultural challenges. All the while, he entertained a steady stream of visiting friends and relatives, including his former wife. The Town’s colorful characters welcomed the American stranger as one of their own, and he soon found himself reveling in the beauty of the rugged countryside, the authentic joy of the holidays, the conviviality of the pubs, and the hearty flavor of the simple food.

Recipes included.

“Multiple sclerosis doesn’t steal away our futures; it steals what we thought and expected to await us in our futures,” says Gleason in his introduction. “My bright flash of the obvious was that my ‘retirement years’ weren’t going to find me seventy years old, in a canoe, fishing in some pond in Vermont. MS had already stolen much of my control of my left side, attacked my vision, and even—showing the true bastard of itself—taken away elements of my sense of taste on a number of occasions. If I was to enjoy any of the things I’d hoped to be doing in my far advanced years after a career, I would have to start identifying what those dreams were and create a plan to make them happen.”

Chef Trevis L. Gleason has been an award-winning culinarian, consultant, and instructor as well as a decorated member of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Goodwill Ambassador to Ukraine. Retired from a distinguished culinary career, Gleason has taken on the challenges of living with secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis since his diagnosis in 2001. He is an ambassador for the National MS Society, an active volunteer for Multiple Sclerosis Ireland and the MS Society of the UK, and speaks to groups, both large and small, about living life fully with or without a chronic illness. Gleason divides his time between Seattle, Washington and County Kerry, Ireland with his wife, Caryn, and their two Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Sadie and Maggie. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I could see past the herd, where there was a short line of four or five cars following at parade pace. My guess is that it wasn’t unlike driving behind horses in a parade, when it came to dodging the landmines they were known to drop in the road. I could only surmise that this was either a) commonplace for the drivers, if they were locals or b) quite the memorable experience if they were tourists.

A few of them must have been on tour, for I could also see cameras sticking out a few windows. I was expecting my experience to be a bit more thrilling as I was to be overtaken by the beasts. I had no idea, however, how thrilling and potentially expensive my half of the encounter would prove.

Smiles of the passing herders were replaced by shock on the face of Your Man at the back of the bunch. After about one third of the flock passed by a parting of the White Sea, one of the lazy buggers decided that going around the obstacle to progress that I had become was a waste of his time and/or energy. Up onto the hood—bonnet, in Ireland—of the car jumped the sheep who couldn’t be bothered to go around. Countless of his fellow pilgrims followed suit. In due course the dogs decided that their charges shouldn’t be taking the skate-ball bag as a ramp. Three of them mounted the car to escort those already in transit from off the bonnet, roof, and boot. One stayed on the bonnet to deter others as his comrades retook chase of their woolly wards.

Stunned beyond words and well into my ability to form a thought beyond “I wish Sadie had been here,” I rolled down my window to greet the man ushering the last of the ewes past.

“Jea-sus, I’m sorry!” said Your Man. “Is it a hired car?” as if anyone in their right mind would buy a car of such poor breeding.

“Aye,” I fumbled out. “Does that happen often?” I was still gob-smacked by the episode.

“No, usually with the ewes,” he replied. He stopped and leaned in my window, smelling very much of musky lanolin from that lack of distance. “But there are a few young rams me da is moving to market. Are ye stayin’ near here? We’ll buff those marks and Dan Dooley’ll never know what happened.” That was the name of the omnipresent Irish rental care agency that I had not used.

“I’m staying in The Town for the winter and don’t have to return the car for about a week,” I said, finally finding my words.

“That’s our house back there,” he said, pointing to the last farmhouse I’d passed. “Bring her by and we’ll clean it up for ye.”

 

Exile on Kalamazoo Street, by Michael Loyd Gray: A Man’s Solitary Retreat Yields Surprising Results

kalamazooIn Exile on Kalamazoo Street ($12.95, 160 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-235-1), a novel by Michael Loyd Gray, a heavy-drinking author decides that the only way to get his life back on track is to stop drinking. To do so, he spends an entire Michigan winter without leaving the house. As a result the world comes to him in ways he never could have imagined.

Exile on Kalamazoo Street is filled with truths large and small. That, and Gray’s dialogue, descriptions, and the opinions he attributes to Bryce make the book delightful. Unlike the typical alcoholic memoir (‘How I overcame terrific odds to overcome my drinking’), this novel is a fascinating fictional account of one man’s experience of internal exile. I was willing to believe every word of it.”  Read more ….

—Wally Wood, BookPleasures.com

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“Together, his isolated moments and his human interaction through a variety of encounters:—religious, personal, professional and artistic in nature—all offer a perspective on Bryce Carter that reveal the different shades of the protagonist to us. But perhaps Gray’s Exile on Kalamazoo Street in truth echoes in literature form the genius of theatre and opera to use a single stage to tell a rich and diverse story at the heart of which is the human character or characters. Exile on Kalamazoo Street is one of those stories that comes along every once in a while. These are stories that have a pleasant feel to them, and yet the feeling of warm satisfaction they provide cannot be expressed in words.” Read more….

—Paul Risker, Pop Matters

“Gray is one of only a handful of current writers who share a strong male voice, telling their tales through mouths of men who, despite being flawed, ugly or even unlikeable, never pander to the reader for the sake of a metaphorical group hug.”

—Ned Randle, author of Baxter’s Friends and the poetry collection, Running at Night

Michael Loyd Gray is the author of four published novels. His most recent novel (August 2013), The Canary, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the winner of the 2005 Alligator Juniper Fiction Prize and the 2005 Writers Place Award for Fiction. Well Deserved won the 2008 Sol Books Prose Series Prize. For more information, click here.

Bryce Carter was once a novelist with a following. But unlike James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is genius to millions, Bryce’s experimental novel Reflections was genius to maybe three people. After walking away from his teaching job, Bryce was headed on a one-way collision course down Whiskey River, with only one path to survival: sobriety. And for him, giving up drinking meant exiling himself from his former life.

Now Bryce is holed up in his house on Kalamazoo Street along with his cat, Black Kitty, also a refugee from the cold, snowy world outside. The terms of his self-imposed exile make him dependent on his sister and a sitting duck for anyone who cares to drop by, including an officious minister, an old drinking buddy, an alluring former student, and a pair of Hollywood flunkies who offer Bryce a chance to rescue Reflections from obscurity—if only he can write the screenplay. Unfortunately Bryce’s well of creativity has dried up along with his will to drink, and the more time he spends in exile, the less inclined he is to dip a toe into the icy waters of reality.

Says Gray, “At the beginning of a snowy winter in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I heard The Mamas and The Papas singing ‘California Dreamin’ ’ on an oldies rock station. The line that stuck in my head was, ‘California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.’ That song, that line, would play in my head as I looked out the windows at the snow, and soon I began to think of winter as an exile of sorts. Exile might make for a good story, I thought, but what kind of exile? After a few days I began to imagine the life of someone who exiles himself in his house all winter to stop drinking.”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

My sister came back on another day after I called and urged her to try and catch the cat again. I’d seen it loitering around the house across the street all morning, sometimes just sitting stoically on the porch steps, where it could feel the few meager rays of sunshine as the sun, very shy, slipped in and out of clouds. The cat seemed uninterested in much of anything at all and appeared unmoved when my sister pulled up and walked slowly toward it with strips of meat from a chicken breast. She placed the morsels on the ground in a spot where there was no snow and retreated a few yards. The cat picked up the scent of the meat and started toward it, but halted, remembering, perhaps, that the choice was between food and the potential of undesirable human contact. But it quickly concluded, I suspected, that there was no choice at all. It chose food—immediate survival—and devoured the meat.

When the cat was done, my sister, who kept cats of her own and understood the timing involved, immediately scooped the cat up with both hands. It twisted and flailed but she had a good grip. Tucking the dark bundle of fur against her side, a bit like a halfback tucking the football securely, she skipped across the street and handed the cat to me while I stood in the open side door of my house. Then she pulled the blue knit cap off her head, as though catching the cat required a victory lap in the form of freeing her long blond hair to tumble out and cascade over her shoulders, strands dancing provocatively in the breeze. Her blue eyes sparkled. She was just two years younger than me, with fifty threatening to soon appear on her horizon, but still she retained girlishness, lightness, in her broad face.

I cradled the cat against my chest with both hands as it squirmed and tried to claw me. But my grip was solid and it could not move much. I looked up and out the door at my sister, who grinned as I struggled to contain the hissing cat. And because again it was not one of the days to drop off supplies, she coaxed her grin into a smile and nodded what I felt was approval of our cat kidnapping. Giving a thumbs up with one hand, she trudged down the driveway to her car. She drove away and only then did I realize how cold the air sweeping in through the door was. Using my elbow, I managed to pull the door closed. I carried the cat up the stairs to the kitchen and released it, laughing as it hit the kitchen floor with all four feet a blur. It slipped on the linoleum and hit a wall before disappearing around a corner. I did not see it again for three hours.

Stars and Flowers: Informative Talks with Celebrities about Plants, by Evelyn Klahre Anderson

stars_flowersStars and Flowers: Informative Talks with Celebrities about Plants ($22.95, 508 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-242-9), by Evelyn Klahre Anderson, is a collection of interviews that took place in the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s with famous people from many different professions and walks of life.

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“A great read for any gardener or nature lover.” Read more ….

–Sue Scholz, Erie Times-News

Evelyn Klahre Anderson grew up in the company of nature. At a young age, she received gifts of small field guides of wildflowers and birds from her parents, who introduced her to the species growing in their flower garden and Victory garden, as well as those spotted on their many field trips and outings together. In those early years, she and her young friends enjoyed playing with some of the wild plants that they found growing nearby.

In 1975, Evelyn began writing feature articles for the Erie Weekender. In September, 1984, she started a nature column, “Nature’s Way,” for the Erie Morning News, which branched out into the Erie Times-News and ran for twenty-eight years. During those years, she had articles printed in many other publications.

In 1978, Evelyn began interviewing celebrities on the lecture circuit in Erie and nearby Chautauqua, New York, asking them for their personal memories and thoughts relating to plants, flowers, and the out-of-doors. These celebrities included a vast cross-section of American people of interest: Broadway stars, scientists, astronauts, even presidents and first ladies. The result, Stars and Flowers, is a delightful treasury of humorous and fascinating anecdotes and homey insights from the gracious stars whose names and faces dominated the media in the 1980s and ’90s.

While in the area, many of these celebrities, especially those with expertise in horticulture, mentioned in particular the plants and flowers they encountered while visiting the area, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Chautauqua and Salamanca, New York.

For more information, go to www.evelynkanderson.com.

Says the author, “In the late 1970s, when it became possible for me to join reporters at press conferences, it seemed only natural to begin asking the celebrities about plants and flowers. But what a shock it must have been for them to find themselves facing a tape recorder and being expected to respond to questions that had nothing to do with their profession. Amazingly, even though they were totally unprepared and already had much to do that day and much more to do that night, they were gracious.”

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I told the pilot—at least, I presumed he was the pilot—why I wanted to see John Denver, and said that perhaps he, too, could tell me something about plants or flowers. He smiled and said, “I just sent my wife a bouquet of roses, so she knows I still love her.”

What happened next, happened so fast I can’t be sure, but the door opened and, as it did, three men—possibly four—breezed through the door, across the room, and out the opposite door. In a split second, they were gone. So, too, was the man who had been in the room with me.

I jumped up and ran after them. As I paused in front of the nose of the plane I could see men starting to get in the on the left side. John Denver was off to my right, ready to get in on that side. They all froze when they saw me. Quickly, I explained why I was there, and held up my tape recorder, so I could catch John Denver’s answer.

He answered: “So, I love plants. My home is full of plants. I always have plants with me on stage whenever I perform. I just like having that little touch of the earth there.”

What about when you were a boy? Did you grow up in the out-of-doors?

“My father was a farmer, so I was raised on a farm. And so I got a little bit closer to the earth, I think, through my experiences with them—the family. But I always loved being outdoors when I was a kid. I prefer being out in the country as opposed to the city. I love to be out in mountains, especially and—”

Just then, the engine roared, and the rest of his words were drowned out.

What?

“That is where my home is now,” he repeated. By then, he was turning, ready to climb into the plane.

Do you know the wildflowers?

“Yes, I know all of them,” he said as he started to climb in.

What’s your favorite?

“I think the columbine, the Colorado columbine,” he called down to me.

Thank you.

“Okay,” he said and added something else, but the engine drowned him out. Then they taxied and took off.

 

Hush Now, Don’t Explain, by Dennis Must: An Orphan in ’40s Rural America Seeks her Fortune

hush_nowHush Now, Don’t Explain ($14.95, 300 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-201-6) is a work of literary fiction by Dennis Must. A white orphan and two mixed race friends set out from Ohio on a trip to New Orleans, in search of their roots and their destinies.

“Steeped in the strains of postwar jazz and the lonely sound of train whistles in the night, this is a gritty, evocative novel of identity, race, and a particularly American kind of yearning.”

—The Library Journal

Hush Now has earned Dennis the 2014 Dactyl Foundation Award for literary fiction.  Read more. It was also a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.

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Hush Now, Don’t Explain is an extraordinary book. Jazz devotee Dennis Must creates an incredibly rich, original, sensual world that reads like a combination of Walt Whitman, jazz improvisation, and the wail of locomotives in the night. The coming of age story of a young woman named Honor, an orphan searching for her roots, and a biracial, fatherless boy named Billy trying to find his tune, Hush Now, Don’t Explain fuses the themes of identity, parentage, sexuality, race, and longing into a haunting refrain that lingers on, long after the last page is turned.”

—Paulette Alden, author of The Answer to Your Question, Feeding the Eagles, and Crossing the Moon.

Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a compelling novel about the quest of an unlikely trio, Honor, Augustus and Billy, and the longing for identity that shapes their lives. Set in late 1940’s America this book sings with jazz as it examines gender stereotypes, race, ambition, and violence. Dennis Must writes with lyrical intensity. He has crafted an evocative, resonate tale in rich, vivid detail. Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a beautifully written book.”

Suzanne Frischkorn,author of Girl on a Bridge and Lit Windowpane

“Dennis Must’s Hush Now, Don’t Explain—a lyrical, impassioned, Biblically-inflected road novel dealing with the adventures of three outcast runaways—goes Barry Gifford’s Wild At Heart one better. Charged with true American grittiness, pathos, and glory, and at times veering dangerously close to total despair, Must’s masterpiece lights up the dark sky of contemporary literature like a Fourth of July fireworks display.”

Andrew Wilson, author of The Luzhang Bridges, Across the Bridge of Straw & Fog, and Osai’s Razor.

“Hush Now, Don’t Explain is a gorgeous novel told in a gentle voice and bearing witness to the true art possible from the pure American language. I have not read such a fine novel—controlled and wild at the same time—in a long while.”  Read more ….

—Jack Remick, poet and author of several books, including Gabriela and The Widow

Honor, an orphan, finds her way to the Victorian boarding house where she thinks her mother might have birthed her. World War II has just ended, which alerted many Americans to the world beyond, but Honor and Billy’s lives are limited to the dead-end town of DeForest Junction, Ohio, and its nearby notcherie, where exotic wemen sell their bodies to the rail men. Alongside her mixed-race “cousin” Billy, Honor grows to womanhood, cared for by Miss Alsada and enchanted by the colorful stories of the shanty store owner, Mr. Augustus Willard, who claims to have traveled far and wide.

One day, an itinerant blues musician shows up at the boardinghouse, electrifying Billy with his skill at the upright piano. He departs just as quickly, leaving behind hints that he might be Billy’s father. Soon after Buster Stanley’s departure, men in white hoods burn a cross in the field behind the boardinghouse and torch a number of shacks occupied by black families. Honor and Billy decide to leave DeForest Junction—a feat they accomplish with the help of Mr. Willard, whose shanty store was burned. With Honor disguised as a boy for safety’s sake, the three friends ride the rails southward, their ultimate destination: New Orleans. Billy is on the trail of Buster Stanley, but Honor is on an intense quest for Honor. How will she escape that fate of those wemen, waiting for a man to fill up the void in her life?

Says Must, “Honor’s story is inspired by my own. As a young boy I spent summers in a boarding house at a railroad junction on the outskirts of town in Ohio. It was run by a distant aunt who had three daughters similar in age to me. The ‘cousins’ and I, seldom interacting with any adults, passed care-free days, fishing for sunnies, smoking, and inventing stories often inspired by the forlorn cry of locomotives transporting passengers to places we could only imagine. Then, from our attic bed one August midnight we witnessed fiery crosses illuminate a field across the road as angry figures in white sheets and conical hats gathered in a circle. It was the night our childhood perished.”

Dennis Must is the author of two short story collections: Oh, Don’t Ask Why, Red Hen Press (2007), and Banjo Grease, Creative Arts Book Company, Berkeley, CA (2000). His first novel, The World’s Smallest Bible, was published by Red Hen Press in March of 2014. His plays have been performed Off Off Broadway, and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary reviews. Dennis and his wife Aviva live in Massachusetts. Click here to visit him online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Just then we heard a salvo of drumbeats and high-pitched coronets from outside. We followed Mr. Willard out the door and saw what looked like a parade. But nobody was standing on the side of DeForest Road watching, except us. The procession appeared to originate up at the Pillar of Fire Tabernacle’s steps. Sunday mornings from our porch, Billy and I watched all white folk arrive mostly by cars to worship.

“Used never to be no tambourine and speakin’ in tongues church around here except the black folks’ Baptist church out on the highway,” Billy said.

Women in crisp white cotton dresses with purple sashes toted ecclesiastical banners at its head. A brass band, kids our age attired in white pants and dress shirts and wearing purple berets, marched stiffly behind. Soot-pocked men wearing red bandanas and snare drums strapped to their chests closed the formation.

The solemn music oddly foreshadowed the automobiles of revelers that would shortly come barreling down DeForest Road toward the tracks.

“What they playing?” I asked.

“A hymn, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’,” Mr. Willard responded as he stepped back into the shadow of his doorway.

As the fair-skinned procession moved closer, I could see that the women color guard all wore lace-ups with heels like Miss Alsada’s. They lifted their legs high in time to the muffled drumbeat. Their heels popped on the macadam like paper caps.

“Look,” Billy said. He pointed to one of the drummers. “Oscar Jakes in his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes.” He, like every other member, kept his eyes unwaveringly focused on the road ahead. Each wore a serious mien. “Some of our neighbors alongside him,” Billy whispered. “They work in the roundhouse.”

Still, not one person came out on a porch or waited by the side of the road.

When the column got within several feet of Mr. Willard’s store, the music ceased. Only then did we see the lone bass drum on a set of wheels. A heavyset man in a white and red velvet sash commenced a solemn, steady beat.

Boom … Boom … Boom … Boom ….

A port-wine stain on his right temple pulsed with each strike.

None of the procession moved. Visibly night began to eclipse the dusk. Heavy shadows swelled across DeForest Road as the ecclesiastical cloths seemed to glow phosphorescent.

Ominously the color guard pivoted their staffs toward Mr. Willard’s shanty … then held them fast until the band struck up the hymn once again. The satin flags bordered in gold fringe bore no lettering.

One of the women blew a silver whistle, and the parade resumed marching toward the tracks.

Mr. Willard was nearly hidden inside the inky pocket of his shanty store.

Billy and I didn’t know what to make of what we had just witnessed. I turned to our old friend for an answer.

“See that drum man?”

We nodded.

“He steal your heart when his no longer beats. Beware.”

At the crossing the white ecclesiastical silks pitched moonlike toward the house of joy.

Mr. Willard pulled the Dr. Pepper sign over the doorway. “Time to close,” he said.

“Outsiders,” Miss Alsada let loose across the supper table when Billy described what we’d seen. “A big storm’s brewing, rising up from the south,” she warned. “They serenaded the call house ladies, too.”

Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb, a Novel by Ian Woollen: Preppies, Hippies, and Spies in Cold War America

uncle_antonUncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb ($18.95, 406 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-231-3), a work of literary fiction by Ian Woollen, takes place in the latter half of the 20th century, when Cold War paranoia led just about every American family of means to build a bomb shelter in the backyard.

Shorted-listed for the Balcones Prize.

Mary weds Ward Jr., heir to the well-to-do Wangerts of Indianapolis, and together they raise three sons. As they negotiate a rocky path through the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, they take turns spinning a nighttime yarn inspired by the idea: what if Anton Chekhov wrote a story about the atomic bomb?

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“This is the Great American Cold War novel. This is a novel of spies and journalists. This is a novel of failures and attempted successes; this is a novel of love and despair and, moreover, this is a novel about family…. Whether it’s the early adventures on Great Tusk Island, the daily work day of He Who Remains Classified, the school years spent at Rokeby School, or the decline of Indianapolis, Woollen keeps the reader occupied but in a way that doesn’t make it seem like he’s fooling or delaying you. They are stories within stories constructed like a finely crafted Matryoshka doll set…. Woollen is able to weave history and fiction in a way that transcends genre. This isn’t a historical fiction novel, it’s not a romance novel, and it’s not even a spy thriller. It’s all of the above and at the same time, none of them. It’s a saga, a personal one stuck in the middle of something bigger…. This is craftsmanship at its finest. This passive thriller, this lengthy epic, may not be for everyone. And that’s fine. But for those readers interested in diving head first into the deepest rabbit holes of our own history, this is one you just can’t miss.”  Read more….

—Nick Sweeney for the Atticus Review

“As I expected, this is a delightful novel, with an eccentric but heartwarming cast of characters you cannot help but like …. The characters are warm and compelling, funny and easy to relate to as they struggle with finding their places in family and in the world at large, and Woollen tells their stories with wisdom, compassion and insight …. Recommended for readers who love Americana, humor, quirky ensembles, and an engaging family saga.”  Read more ….

—Books, Personally

“A thoroughly readable narrative …. What makes Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb work is the way it balances the family’s normalcy and the heightened circumstances. That includes the three sons’ diverging paths as each finds a partner, sees his relationship with their parents change, and becomes a generational archetype while remaining a memorable character. This is a unique work, and one that remains interesting all the way through the reveal of its Chekhovian secrets.”  Read more ….

—Jeff Fleischer, ForeWord Magazine

Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb is a book to be read somewhat slowly (or read it twice). Woollen includes a lot of small details, little musings, quick humorous bites that add so much but require careful reading.” Read more ….

–Catherine Ramsdell, Pop Matters

Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb is smart, mildly ironic, and self-consciously funny. The plot sails along at a clipper’s pace.  And there’s a lot to chomp on from our temporal distance: topics ranging from family dynamics, gender roles, government reach, to sexuality.”  Read more ….

MXDWELL.com

Click here to read an interview with Ian Woollen

“In the grand tradition of Hoosier authors Theodore Dreiser and Booth Tarkington, Ian Woollen’s Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb weaves its compelling narrative in personal, romantic, and historical threads from The Cold War to the present day, linking housewives and counter-spies, disgruntled fathers and rebellious sons, creating an indelible American tapestry.”

—Dan Wakefield, author of Going all the Way and New York in the Fifties

“An absorbing, touching, wise, often funny novel. Woollen is a master at writing about families, people’s vulnerabilities, and about mortality itself.”

—James Alexander Thom, author of Follow the River and St. Patrick’s Battalion.

“Famously, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby concludes that his was a story of the ‘West.’ Ian Woollen, in his grand generational novel Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb, writes another classic ‘Western’ now with reversed polarity. This is a Chekhovian book as well—vivid, epiphanic, rich with secrets intimates keep from each other and then reveal in stunning dramatic fashions. There is a gun too, high caliber, and it goes off. Boy, does it go off with a teeth-rattling BOOM.”

—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter

“Here again with great verve and admirable nerve is the wily Ian Woollen with a wild and curious saga, told as Vonnegut might have, with the strange shadow of a weapon over the carnival of years. Disco, acid fog, prep school, white gloves, and my favorite sentence: ‘How do you think Anthony would feel to know that his father is the Devil’s Spymaster?’ ”

—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies and Return to Oakpine

Spring, 1951. The Cold War. Two fresh college graduates renew a childhood acquaintance on a long train ride home to Indianapolis. Embers ignite. Mary Grace Stark is about to embark on her first State Department posting in Moscow. Ward Wangert III reluctantly returns to his family business, after turning down a job offer from He Who Remains Classified, a powerful friend at the C.I.A. A few months later, while supervising a bomb shelter project, Ward receives an emergency summons from Moscow. He travels behind the Iron Curtain to rescue Mary from a diplomatic debacle. The couple decides to wed, even though Mary won’t say who fathered her unborn child.

Ward and Mary produce two more sons and struggle to maintain their standing in the deteriorating rust-belt city of Indianapolis. Their family saga, which spans the latter half of the American Century, is a tragicomic mix of upper-crust romance, sibling warfare, boarding school drama, and C.I.A. skullduggery.

Says Woollen, “In 1989 I was driving home from work, turned on the radio and heard the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Hit by an inexplicably large wave of emotion, I pulled over. Suddenly it was visible—the insidious Cold War TENSION that pervaded American life for so long that it blurred into normalcy. I began to think about a novel that would capture the charged interweave of big-stage influences with a local, day-to-day family drama.”

Ian Woollen was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shipped off to boarding school at age fourteen, he eventually graduated from Yale University and Christian Theological Seminary. A checkered job history includes house painter, furniture stripper, script reader, psychotherapist. His first novel, Stakeout on Millennium Drive, won the 2006 Best Book of Indiana Fiction Award. His short fiction has surfaced in a variety of journals, including The Massachusetts Review, Juked, decomP, The Smokelong Quarterly, and The Mid-American Review, from which he received a Sherwood Anderson Prize. Click here to find Ian online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

As live-ins with a night-terror baby that even old Meemo couldn’t soothe, Mary felt compelled to participate as much as she could in the household maintenance. Tuesday was silver-polishing day. Wednesday was dusting. Thursday meant the crystal and windows. The main house dated from 1870. Everything was elaborately wallpapered. The wing additions came later. All of it with a baffling internal symmetry, due to separate stairwells, entrances, sleeping quarters, and facilities for the servants. Mary occasionally found herself lost in the wrong stairwell or hallway.

“Miss Mary, you could leave a trail of breadcrumbs,” Meemo suggested.

Meemo instructed Mary on baking K-bars and negotiating other domestic idiosyncrasies, such as how to execute the imperceptibly small faucet turns to adjust water temperature in the claw-foot bathtubs, and which of the thick, swollen doors required shoulder-shoves to open. Mary could not bring herself to tinkle the little porcelain bell on the dinner table to summon Meemo for the next course, despite Constance’s assurances that this was how it was done.

Meemo was the only servant in residence now. She oversaw a small day staff. They were kept busy preparing for the next big Wangert Public Relations party, or cleaning up from the last one.

The house, which loomed above the street from a small rise at the front of a double lot, was surrounded by meticulously trimmed yew hedges. A pea gravel path from the side screen porch meandered to the new bomb shelter, located among the walnut trees along the back alley. At first glance, the bomb shelter appeared to be a square, flagstone patio, carved out of the walnut grove. Flush to the ground at the south edge of the patio, a steel covering, somewhat like an old-fashioned cellar door, opened upward to reveal a marble stairwell. As Ward predicted, the bomb shelter served primarily as a wine cellar. One design flaw was the failure to anticipate the effect of walnuts falling from great heights onto the steel door, creating noise not unlike an artillery barrage.

Constance and Ward Sr. patriotically championed the new bomb shelter. Their parties commenced with guests strolling back into the walnut grove for cocktails and guided tours of the four richly appointed subterranean rooms.

Mary convinced Constance to implement some updating of other Wangert party traditions. They no longer separated the men and women after dinner. Young Ward Jr., white towel on his shoulder, personally indulged his bartending interest, shaking martinis and mixing drinks to order. Another innovation, thanks to Mary, was targeting invitations to select members of certain industries, such as real-estate and construction, rather than a random crop of prominent citizens.

However, Constance held to the traditional format of name card place settings and equal pairings of male and female dinner partners. Mary’s first attempt to invite Rusalka Jones failed because her husband was out of town and Constance did not have a bachelor gentleman available to seat with her.

The Devil Takes Half, by Leta Serafim: Sudden Violence Rouses a Sleepy Greek Island

devilThe Devil Takes Half ($14.95, 256 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-965-7), is the first book in the Greek Islands Mystery series, by new author Leta Serafim. A police officer with domestic problems and no experience with homicide sets out to find the killer of a beautiful archeologist.

(Starred Review–Featured as a Best Summer Debut) “Serafim’s dense prose is perfect for lovers of literary and scholarly mysteries. Her plotting is methodical and traditional, with subtle nods to Sherlock Holmes, Greek mythology, and historical events.”

—Library Journal, July 1, 2014

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“[An] impressive debut …. Serafim has a good eye for people and places, and sheds light on the centuries of violent passion that have created an oppressive atmosphere hanging over the sunny Greek landscape.”

—Publishers Weekly, June 23, 2014

“The Greeks have a word for it, and in this fast-paced, delightful mystery, that word is murder …. The real buried treasure is pure pleasure in Serafim’s debut novel.”

—Mary Daheim, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Alpine and Bed & Breakfast mystery series

“Whether it’s police procedural genre convention, the exotic island landscape, or the passionate Greek character, Serafim knows the lay of the land, and she confidently guides the reader. Armchair adventurers will get a solid grounding in Greece’s violent and tumultuous past. The quirky pairing of Patronas and Michalis has the makings of an unorthodox investigative team and the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. This immersive escapist mystery should put Serafim on the map.” Read more….

—Kirkus Indie Reviews

“The Greek setting gives this book not only an exotic locale but also characters that have a different way of looking at life and often, motives that wouldn’t exist if this happened in…Cleveland. Take a literary visit to Greece. You won’t regret it!”  Read more ….

—Jodi Webb

At an archeological dig on the idyllic Greek Island of Chios, a severed hand is found lying in a blood-filled trench. Could it belong to Eleni Argentis, a beautiful archeologist who is also the wealthy daughter of a local ship owner? She and her young assistant, Petros, are both missing.

The chief officer of the local police force, Yiannis Patronas, suspects that Eleni and Petros happened upon something of real value. However, his search turns up nothing but handfuls of broken clay, and then, another body—that of Petros, whose throat has been brutally cut. Body parts belonging to Eleni are left behind on a remote beach, confirming her demise. Then an old priest with a fondness for TV detective shows is attacked and left for dead. The dig site is located near the monastery where he was the only resident.

Patronas interviews Petros’ longsuffering grandmother, his flighty mother and her money-grubbing boyfriend, as well as Eleni’s greedy stepmother and her charming son. He also confronts two archeologists, one British and one American …. If Eleni’s find is, as they insist, worthless, what are these men doing on Chios? Although Patronas has little experience with homicide, he is determined to conquer the evil that threatens this formerly peaceful island.

Says Leta, “I have visited over 22 of these islands and spent the equivalent of a decade among the people who inhabit them. Of all the qualities I have come to know, I most cherish the Greek sense of humor, that bittersweet viewpoint, both pungent and cynical, that is so uniquely theirs. In my view, the Greeks are always laughing at the unexpected, whatever adversity is thrown their way, passing along a bit of truth about human behavior as they go. Sages, every last one of them.”

Leta Serafim graduated from George Washington University in D.C. with a degree in political science and Russian studies. While in college, Leta worked at the Washington Post, writing obituaries and doing research for the national desk, and later joining the staff of the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau. Following her marriage to a Greek national, Philip Serafim, Leta moved to Athens. When she moved back to the U.S. seven years later, she wrote for local papers and the Boston Globe. After her mother began to lose her sight from glaucoma, she began designing and launching multiple media campaigns to increase public awareness of this disease. Leta spends at least one month every year in Greece and has visited over 25 islands. The Devil Takes Half is her first novel and the first book in the Greek Islands Mystery series. Coffeetown Press will also be publishing her work of historical fiction, To Look on Death No More.  Click here to find Leta online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

 Uninvited, the priest had followed him and now stood at the edge of the trench, looming over him, his black cassock billowing in the wind. “Chief Officer, with your permission, I’d like to assist you in your investigation.”

“Sorry, Father. You know that’s impossible.” Patronas was measuring the depth of the blood. He wasn’t sure what had happened, if the blood was even human, and he wanted to sort it out before his men arrived, before the day got any hotter. “This is police work and the police and the church, they’re at cross purposes. They don’t mix.”

“Hear me out. I can be of service. I’m familiar with the excavation. No one knows it better than I do. I am also familiar with crime detection. I am a fervent devotee of the mystery novel and of all manner of American detective shows. I know about trace evidence and DNA.”

Patronas waved him away. “You are a man of faith, Father. You’ve no business in a homicide investigation.”

“Faith and homicide are not incompatible. The Bible is full of homicides.”

“Be that as it may, I have no need of your services.”

Patronas entered his measurements in the spiral notebook he’d brought with him next to the date and time. He didn’t know what had transpired here, but he suspected it was a double homicide. He had never seen so much blood. Perhaps the priest was right and he should look to the forensic specialists on television to guide him. Write things down the way they did. As to what those policemen did with it after they wrote it down, he had no clue. As he’d told the priest, he’d never investigated a crime like this before. Assault and battery, sure. Violence against one’s spouse any number of times. But murder, never. As a cop, he was an amateur at best and he knew it.

“I can’t stop thinking about her,” the priest said. “Dead out here someplace.”

“What makes you so sure she’s dead?” There had been no doubt in the old man’s voice, only sadness.

“No one’s seen her. After I called you last night, I checked with Marina and Vassilis, people who were here yesterday. Eleni always said good-bye before she left, and yesterday she didn’t. Petros either.”

“Who was up here yesterday?”

“A lot of people: Petros’ mother and her boyfriend. Manoulis, I think his name was. Eleni’s stepmother, Marina Papoulis and Vassilis Korres, Jonathan Alcott, the American you met. Another archeologist was here, too, but earlier in the day. An Englishman.”

“Do you remember his name?”

“McLean.”

“Anyone else?”

“Not that I know of.”

“You were here the whole time?”

“No, I got a haircut in the morning, did some errands in town. But Marina Papoulis was here, getting lunch ready in the kitchen. She’ll know if anyone came by while I was away.”

“Did she go down to the dig site that day?”

“No. To my knowledge, Marina has never visited the excavation.”

Not a long list. He’d start on it as soon as he finished here. “It seems she was concentrating on this end.” Patronas pointed to a break in the whitened matter, the broad indentation where the shards had been emptied out.

“Eleni kept a log. She told me you have to make a very precise drawing of the site with the elevations and afterwards number each fragment and pinpoint where it was found before you remove it.”

Patronas climbed out of the trench. He’d leave the rest to his men. He’d been in charge of the police force on the island of Chios for over twenty years, and the novelty of violent crime had long since worn off. He’d collected his share of teeth from barroom floors, driven the combatants to the hospital to be stitched up. The sight of blood no longer stirred him. It just made him tired.

What We Take With Us, Poems by Susan Dworski Nusbaum

what_we_takeWhat We Take With Us ($11.95, 152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-233-7), by Susan Dworski Nusbaum, is a collection of 63 poems written over the past 15 years of the poet’s life.

“In What We Take With Us, Susan Nusbaum maps our way home, always unflinchingly aware of those problems never solved, the justice never found, and the way loss too often just begets more loss. And yet she never forgets the grace of our ‘glittering strand of flame-bright days,’ our time spent contemplating the ordinary and extraordinary, tending gardens or a dying husband in need, listening to music or searching for lions in Botswana. These are wonderful poems that demonstrate a love of craft, especially in their command of syntax and the free verse line, and quietly declare a deeply lived, highly self-aware life. Over and over, the poems draw us into the mystery of blessing and destruction that the paradoxically sufficient and insufficient world offers.”

—Robert Cording, author of Walking with Ruskin

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“If poetry is an act of preservation, Susan Dworski Nusbaum’s What We Take With Us is exhibit A in its documentation of an American woman’s life that is fully lived in its spectrum of passions, from reaching back to its immigrant ancestry—filled with bittersweet and wistful old world resonances—to its external and internal travels, to its courageous and passionate poems of mature love, heartbreak, and transformations. What we take with us, in turns out, is orchestral in its multi-vocal tones and tropes. Nusbaum’s voice, in the tradition of Alicia Ostriker and Marge Piercy, is expansive and skillful, preserving her sacred people and places, yet compassionate in its empathic reach into often-ignored others. A voice this large is rare indeed. But what I take most with me in my reading of this extraordinary collection is the way in which it embodies a life that is wholly mature and completely realized or, in the posture of her grandson Matthew’s fourth grade photo: ‘ready to take it all on.’ ”

—Philip Terman, author of The Torah Garden

“I respond so much to the moving and finely crafted poems of Susan Dworski Nusbaum’s remarkable debut collection, What We Take With Us—poems that ‘overflow the silence[s]’ of a richly lived and keenly perceived life. Whether she is imagining two husbands meeting in heaven, the tremors of Haiti—the ripple effects remind us of our own “power failure[s]”—or the sadness of unused things, Nusbaum displays a diamond-cutter’s wit and an empathetic intelligence. Yet no matter her subject, Nusbaum’s work is always about singing ‘the sublime music/Mother herself might have performed if she hadn’t interrupted/her singing career/to do the ironing.’ If, in the end, ‘Love triumphs,’ it is ‘through the ecstasy of [her] music’ in ‘memory’s filtered light.’ Of course, the poet herself summons us best when she says: ‘Now I serve it to you, my love./Eat.’ At a feast as generous and nourishing as this, why wouldn’t we?”

—Rick Hilles, author of Map of the Lost World

Through the prisms of love and loss, memory, individual narratives, and the natural world, this collection of poems celebrates the bounty of life—ordinary human experience as an act of discovery. Our daily encounters with the world, universal and particular, are what breathe life into us—what we take with us and ultimately leave behind. The poems examine the common landmarks of our lives, “the careful threads that hold us together,” joy and suffering, passions and disappointments, the search for identity, complexities of nature, growth and decline, the paradoxes of reality. Meaningful gifts abound in the small and often astonishing details which serve to define the human condition.

Born in Rochester, NY, Susan Dworski Nusbaum received her BA from Smith College and her law degree from the University of Buffalo Law School. She lives in Buffalo, N.Y., where she has worked as a teacher, arts administrator, and most recently as a criminal prosecutor. She has been a frequent participant in the Chautauqua Institution Writers’ Festival and Chautauqua Writers’ Center poetry workshops, and has served on the Board of the Chautauqua Literary Arts Friends. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Connecticut Review, Poetry East, Nimrod International Journal, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Chautauqua, Harpur Palate, Wisconsin Review, The Sow’s Ear, Earth’s Daughters, Artvoice, and The Buffalo News. Her manuscript, What We Take With Us was a finalist in the 2014 Brittingham/Pollack Prize Competition, University of Wisconsin Press. Click here to find Susan online.

Keep reading for two excerpts:

Things so tucked away I can’t reclaim them,

folded into the creases of my brain,

not lost but abandoned, useless as desire

 

for romance, for foolish extravagance,

useless as sweet nostalgia for the

luminous coral roses of Katmandu.

—From “The Sadness of Unused Things”

 

How thrilling the contest we loved as children,

taking in as much as the lungs could hold, gasping

and diving, eardrums pounding, overtaken by clouds

of silverfish swaying with the current, paddling fast

before the air ran out, to surface covered with salt

ready to plunge again into the dark water.

—From “The Length of a Breath”

Satori, Poems by Jack Remick

satoriJack Remick Portrait 4Satori ($11.95, 146 pages, 978-1-60381-196-5) is a collection of poems by Jack Remick, who also writes novels, essays, and short stories. Until now, Coffeetown readers have known him mostly for his novels: Gabriela and The Widow (finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2013 Book of the Year Award and the Montaigne Medal) and his California Quartet Series: The Deification, Valley Boy, The Book of Changes, and the Trio of Lost Souls (coming in 2015).

“Stand in the wind of Remick’s poetry, and it will blow your mind…. Satori is the work of a poet’s life. Under the quilt, the work stings and singes and suckles. Remick bends our minds and plies us with stories told in vivid detail. Remick plucks us out of simple-minded verse and drops us into complexity, intensity, our emotions left clinging to the sure spine of his storytelling.”

—Paula C. Lowe, author of Moo

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Or read it in Kindle, Nook, or other eBook formats on Smashwords **

“Evocative of the Bay Area in the sixties and the Beats, Jack Remick’s poems are consistently on target from the personal onto a sundry of subjects. Beautifully written, simple and direct, eloquent and expansive. A fine complement to all his many novels, particularly The California Quartet.”

—Larry Crist, author of Undertow Overtures

“Jack Remick’s poems are exotic, erotic, visionary, hot, erudite, primal, and intense. Read Satori slowly. Sip the book as you would sip a fine wine. Read the poems again. They move from Okie peach orchard to bohemian San Francisco, from elegy to eros to satori (enlightenment). I commend to you this transcendent volume of poems.”

—Priscilla Long, author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor and the poetry collection, Crossing Over

Satori is a perfect one-word haiku that both defines and, in its simplicity, belies what lies within. These poems, which show a young man awakening, coming of age in the beat era and maturing, are told through highly-crafted language and relentless energy, rhythm and imagery that leave one ‘breathless’ from the first beat. Helen Remick’s quilt, on the cover, is a subtle and stunning visual complement.”

—M. Anne Sweet, author of the poetry collection, Nailed to the Sky

Jack Remick is a writer and teacher. As a young man, he worked as a tunnel rat, a bus driver, a house painter, a social worker, a retail clerk, and waited tables at the UC Berkeley Men’s Faculty Club where he rubbed shoulders with Nobel Laureates, scoundrels of all stripes, and international students from a dozen countries who taught him about cultural relativism. Remick learned to write poetry from J.S. Moodey in Centerville, California, and from Thom Gunn at UC Berkeley. When he was young and idealistic, he dropped out of Cal-Berkeley and spent time chasing rainbows in South America. When that didn’t work out, he repatriated, got degrees from Berkeley, San Francisco State University and UC Davis where he specialized in romance linguistics and French literature. At Davis, while studying with Jarvis Bastian, a psychologist, Remick discovered Claude Lévi-Strauss, psycholinguistics, and C.S. Peirce—discoveries that changed his life, his writing, and his mind. Remick reads and writes French and Spanish. For a short time, he was the only Spanish speaking social worker in Fresno County. Now that he is older and wiser, he has given up travel in favor of the sedentary life of a writing guru to hordes of writers in Seattle. He enjoys that very much and is very proud of the writers who practice the discipline. Remick taught fiction and screenwriting in University of Washington Certificate programs. He served for several years on the editorial board of Pig Iron magazine as fantasy editor, contributing editor and assistant editor.

Click here to find Jack online.

From “In Memory of Mauritz Cornelius Escher—1972”

Twenty-three years into his death-stream

this man still aches his bones

down to the asphalt city

curled like a lizard writhing in rain

he still feeds me his mind heat

his voice says—

build a world of black and white,

of mind-rage and metal

go into that night for the stones

to your fallen dreams

go dig jewels of pain from the word-mine

bone rack boy

you find the other side of black

in the yellow slit at the edge of time.

At my back I hear the click of insects,

the clatter of jaws in the hard white shell.