The Sinking of the Angie Piper, by Chris Riley: Turmoil Aboard a Crab-fishing Vessel in Alaska

sinking_angie_piperThe Sinking of the Angie Piper ($14.95, 240 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-389-1), is Chris Riley’s debut novel. The audiobook was produced by Blackstone Audio. A commercial fisherman learns about compassion and courage from his slow-witted best friend as the two men fight for their lives during a major storm at sea.

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

The Sinking of the Angie Piper is a superb short novel that blends the best of literary and suspense fiction with dramatic themes of man vs. himself and man vs. nature, with redemption in the end.” Read more….

—Amy Rogers for ScienceThrillers.com

4 ½ stars: “This is one intense book! You might have seen some of the reality TV shows about those that fish or crab in Alaska or that general area. This book brings the harsh reality of that what those men (and possibly women) endure in this profession. But the book is about a little bit more than that. It is also about a relationship between Ed and Danny. While it takes awhile to really figure out what is wrong with Danny (mentally challenged), the relationship between these two men has many facets. From Ed’s guilt at not protecting his friend as he should have growing up, to Danny’s loyalty to Ed. There are some harsh realities that Ed has to learn and face to become a better man.” Read more….

—Storybook Reviews

“Chris Riley’s debut novel The Sinking of the Angie Piper does everything right: great-and-complicated characters, shining prose, and a story of emotional and physical conflict that will resonate long after you turn the last page. Both literate and heart-pounding at the same time, it’s the perfect pairing of a coming-of-age story and a gripping adventure set amidst the unforgiving seas off the Alaskan coast. Here is the debut of an exciting new voice that you must not miss.”

—James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Labyrinth

“A compelling tale of survival against the odds—highly readable.”

—William Napier, international bestselling author of the Attila Trilogy

“Against a richly textured backdrop of Alaskan fishing culture, a crew of mentally and spiritually flawed men clash with each other and the elements in Riley’s gripping debut novel. Themes of tenderness and regret play out even amid a desperate struggle for survival. You’ll feel the icy spray as The Sinking of the Angie Piper sucks you in and doesn’t let go.”

—Amy Rogers, ScienceThrillers.com

“With eloquent prose, Chris Riley’s The Sinking of the Angie Piper tells a gripping coming-of-age story about friendship, loss, and the events that forever transform a young man—all in a setting rendered so perfectly I can practically feel the cold salt water of the Bay of Alaska during tanner crab season. This is a terrific debut by an author well worth watching.”

—Chris Culver, New York Times bestselling author of the Ash Rashid Series

“Whether it’s casual details about crabbing the frigid Alaska sea or exploring the boiling maelstrom of the human heart, Chris Riley knows his stuff. The result is entertaining, illuminating and a fine ride.”

—Robert Ferrigno, New York Times bestselling author

Ed and his childhood friend Danny are gearing up in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to join the Angie Piper’s crew for another season of crab fishing. Ed is a relative newcomer, but despite the perils of the trade, he sees no reason to fear for Danny’s safety. The Angie Piper has always been blessed. She has a stalwart captain, Fred, a crack engineer, Dave, and two time-tested pros to keep the rest of the operation running smoothly, exuberant Loni and the more reticent Salazar.

Every season has a greenhorn, the one who works for a pittance in order to learn the ropes. This time around it is Ed’s friend Danny, no ordinary crewman. Their shared history is complex. Though strong, brave, and hardworking, Danny is a simple soul, and Ed is weighed down by guilt, dark memories of the many times he failed to defend his friend against the inevitable bullying. And cantankerous Dave believes Danny is a bad omen, so much so that his bitter opposition may endanger them all.

The season starts off strong, and the crew is elated by the bounty of their catch. Then their luck turns. The skies grow dark, the waves swell, and Mother Nature bears down on them with her full arsenal. When the storm finally abates, who will live to tell the tale?

Says the author, “I have yet to set foot on a crabbing vessel, let alone work its deck. But I’ve been to Alaska, and I have met my share of Danny Wilsons. Along the way, each of these elements somehow came together in my mind. The result is this novel.”

Chris Riley lives near Sacramento, California, where he teaches Special Education. He has had dozens of short stories published in magazines and anthologies, and across various genres. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Look out! Look out!” Salazar’s scream rode the top of the forty-foot wave that slapped over the deck. The seas were high and came up on us almost without notice. Our last string of this run, and we were nothing but shivering men on a steel slab in the darkest of nights. The wind howled down from the north at sixty-plus knots. Rain pelted us like bullets. We were all eager to get inside the boat. But damn if there weren’t ten more pots left in the string.

“Look out!” Salazar screamed again.

From the sorting table I’d been clinging to, I swore in disbelief at what was now transpiring before us on deck.

“Everybody, take cover,” shouted the captain, over the loudspeaker. Apparently he had seen it too, and it sure as hell wasn’t a wave.

Loni pitched his body to the side. Dave tucked under the rail, the swells of a black ocean pouring over him like a waterfall. An errant crab pot swung madly across the Angie Piper’s deck. The pot was attached to the picking crane. Salazar was in the process of transferring it to the main-stack for chaining down when our boat abruptly careened portside.

Every deckhand’s fear had become a reality. The thousand-pound cage swept past me, nearly clipping my head as it crashed into the stack of pots to my left. With almost all our gear onboard, there was little room to evade the monstrous block of steel. And if it nailed any of us, we’d certainly be dead or messed up beyond repair.

“Drop it!” shouted Dave, from under a curtain of rushing water. He had a point—releasing the pot could possibly help stabilize it. But then the thought occurred to me: who would be in the way once that thing came down? Like the weapon of an angry giant, it smashed haphazardly across the deck. Salazar worked madly at the hydro controls in hopes of ending the chaos, but twice he had been knocked down by the surge of saltwater that had turned our deck into a small pond.

And then it dawned on me: where was Danny?

“Danny!” I hollered. No one seemed to hear me, my voice drowned out by the cacophony of smashing steel, crashing waves, and howling wind. “Where’s Danny!?” I repeated.

For a brief moment, the pot wedged itself between the portside rail and main-stack. It was a moment of tense hesitation, allowing just enough time for Salazar to take some slack out of the picking crane’s cable. I saw Loni at Salazar’s side, holding him steady, keeping the deck boss from falling down once again. I still couldn’t find Danny, and I continued to scream out for him.

All eyes scanned the area, and then panic set in.

No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins, a New Poetry Collection by Mary Anne Morefield

3nosNo Bridle, No Bit, No Reins ($13.95, 168 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-633-5) is a collection of 64 new poems by Mary Anne Morefield.

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In this collection, the author continues to widen her search to see the beauty in the world around her, tiny trout lilies beside a creek, a slender palo blanco in her sister’s garden, or in the sky as she tries to name its color. But even as she sees beauty, she struggles to understand the world’s brokenness: mistreatment of native peoples, the murder of Jesuit priests in El Salvador, war and terror across the globe. She writes from the solitude of the desert while her heart and mind travel in the world of ideas.

In 2015, Coffeetown Press published Morefield’s first poetry collection, Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone. The final poem in that collection, “Requiem,” was set to music for the Susquehanna Chorale by Bob Chilcott.

“This inviting new poetry collection by Mary Anne Morefield is the achievement of a sustained, sweeping attention that offers such precision of insight and affectionate observation that it necessarily produces discovery and, ultimately, the risk and sacrament of wonder. This unbridled poetry of witness has earned all the attention you may wish to give its haunted, galloping ride.”

—Gregory Donovan, author of Torn from the Sun

“In Mary Anne Morefield’s new book, No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins, her poems proceed by a series of built-in tensions: past richness of husband and family balanced against present-day freedoms of solitude and self-exploration; past faith in a traditional Christian worldview balanced against her current desire for a World Spirit that blesses all life. These finely honed, linguistically dexterous poems also balance aesthetic and sensory pleasures (for writing, painting, eating, hiking in the world’s textures and colors) against the bitter recognition of the world’s deprivations and suffering. And finally, her desire and determination for more life, more life, bumps up against her acknowledgment of time’s undoing: ‘The mantle clock chimes the quarter hour and ticks the next second …/The earth keeps spinning./I try to hang on, at least this minute.’ And as she hangs on, she writes poems that range far and wide through space and time, or as she says in ‘What Are Your Poems About?’ ‘They’re large/as the world, small/as a pebble, high/as clouds, humble/ as humus.

“If the free spirit within her dreams of riding bareback among the starry firmament, (or muses about the sleeping horse outside her window who could be dreaming of ‘no bit in his mouth, no saddle/ on his back, no reins,’), the fully mature poet, Mary Anne Morefield, records the various ways that life reins us in for our work on earth—whether doing her daily chores as wife and mother on a Pennsylvania farm, or working within the Christian ministry, or marching in political protest on the streets of Washington—before it releases us again into the solitude of our later years. For this poet, solitude comes in the arid landscapes of Arizona, where she learns to find a new richness and independence, whether hiking in the desert, wrestling with a new spirituality (‘now I am content to let those doctrines fly,/ and simply believe one Great Spirit/ with many names, dwells among us,’) or musing on time’s constraints and releases. If there is solace amidst sorrow, it arrives as “a bevy of quail, a hummingbird, a road runner and eyes to gather them in,/a path that wanders through the desert, legs strong enough to wander/ with it, and strong enough to bring me home again,/the promise of friends around the dinner table.”

—Neil Shephard author of Hominid Up

Mary Anne Morefield was born in the Midwest. Now she spends part of each year in Pennsylvania, New York and Arizona. After graduating from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, she served as Chaplain at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She lived with her husband and children on an eighteenth-century farm where she tended her sheep, rode her horse and wandered through the woods and beside the creek. She often writes of these experiences. For more information, click here.

Sometime it Happens When We Don’t Read Signs

This trail feels too narrow. I’m slipping

on glus going down but I don’t remember

going up.

 

An ant hill, red ants swarming, a hoof print,

horse manure. Surely we would have noticed

horse manure.

 

We’re heading west. We’re heading toward

the water tower. That’s too far north. How did

we get here?

 

How do we get to the trailhead? The sun

is sliding behind the mountain. Will we

ever get home?

 

One Fell Swoop, by David Linzee: Deadly Deeds in London and St. Louis

one_fell_swoopOne Fell Swoop ($15.95, 288 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-577-2), is a work of mystery/suspense by David Linzee. When Renata and her boyfriend Peter attempt to discover the identity of her brother Don’s London billionaire employer, they find their lives in danger.

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“Linzee’s enthusiasm for St. Louis current events, opera and London are evident in the details scattered throughout this twisty tale. [….] This fast-paced tale will have readers rooting for Renata Radleigh and wondering what kind of trouble she will stumble into next.”  Read more….

—Jennifer Alexander for The West End World

“Intriguing from the start, One Fell Swoop is fast paced and action packed [….] The drama, the secrets, the scandals and the unfolding of the mystery are so sublime, one will want to read the book again and again!”  Read more….

—Chantel Hardge for InD’Tale Magazine

“Linzee is a dedicated craftsman who uses his tools with special rare talent and truth. One Fell Swoop is one you don’t want to miss. The word ‘superb’ comes to mind.”

—John Lutz, author of Slaughter

“The second entry in this delightful series moves effortlessly back and forth between the UK and the US.”

—Albert Ashforth, author of On Edge

The Renata Radleigh Opera Mystery series began with Spur of the Moment:

“Mystery lovers will enjoy the intelligent writing, the mix of light and dark, the astute psychology and biting social satire, and the satisfaction of a traditional (but not formulaic) mystery that’s a bit of a classed-up romp.”

—St. Louis Magazine

“An entertaining mystery, full of intriguing backstage details about opera productions and introducing an appealing heroine who is feisty, funny, and deeply loyal to her shallow sibling. Recommend for fans of Blair Tindall’s memoir Mozart in the Jungle and anyone who enjoys crime served up with an aria.”

—Library Journal

“An entertaining novel full of St. Louis references, British slang, and a dab of commentary on the state of medical research. Readers will enjoy this light, quirky tale of fictional intrigue set in our own backyard.”

—West End Word

“A thoroughly enjoyable read and you might just fall in love with Renata[….[ I look forward to Mr. Linzee’s next production starring Ms. Radleigh.”

—David Prestidge, Crimefictionlover.com

David Linzee is the author of several other critically acclaimed mysteries published in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s: Final Seconds (as David August), Housebreaker, Belgravia, Discretion, and Death in Connecticut.

When mezzo-soprano Renata Radleigh stumbles over a corpse on London’s Hampstead Heath, she suspects the death has something to do with her brother Don’s boss, a billionaire speculator who will go to any lengths to keep his identity secret. Don is acting as his front-man in far-off St. Louis, Missouri, buying up a borderline slum called Parkdale. Don has an apartment in Parkdale and claims he wants to save the neighborhood. He’s even having a romance with a local community gardener, the sturdy Hannah.

Tipped off by a long-distance call from his girlfriend Renata, Peter Lombardo tails the slippery Don and discovers he really lives in the fashionable Central West End, where he seems to have a more glamorous lover. Peter is not buying Don’s new image. Not even the drug dealers trust the man.

Between singing engagements at a London mansion and a prison, Renata tries to find out the truth about Don’s employer and ends up pursued by his thugs, fleeing for her life. She flees all the way to St. Louis to join forces with her beloved Peter. Why is the powerful and charismatic chancellor of Adams University interested in Don’s dealings? What is Don up to? Does he know himself, or is he nothing but a patsy who could well pay for his cluelessness with his life, as well as the lives of Renata and Peter?

Says Linzee, “One Fell Swoop is a globalization thriller, about how schemes laid by high-rollers in London have deadly consequences in a rustbelt city in the American Midwest. Readers may note echoes of the visionary endeavors recently launched by leaders of some of America’s greatest universities. That part of the plot was informed by my years at a PR man for one such university. Other ideas came from my experiences as a resident of, and newsletter editor for, an urban neighborhood striving toward gentrification. Residents of St. Louis and London will find themselves on familiar ground. Every location I describe is real, including the neighborhood of ‘Parkdale,’ though it isn’t called that.”

David Linzee was born in St. Louis, where he and his wife currently reside. Besides writing novels and short stories, he has worked in PR, and as a journalist, a science writer, and a teacher. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Renata smiled but kept her silence. He’d almost talked himself ’round. But abruptly he tossed away the cigarette and sat up straight, giving her a hard, sidelong glance. “Look here. How do I know you’re not one of that anti-Putin lot?”

“The demonstrators? No.”

“We’ve had them in front of the house, waving their signs and shouting all sorts of rubbish.”

“Neal, all I want is the guest list.”

“Maybe that’s not what you’re after at all. You know I bring the dogs in here. Now you’re trying to get something else on me. What’s your game?” His chin had sunk into his collar and he was blinking rapidly.

“I’m a singer. Looking for a job. That’s all.”

“Sing something then.”

“No. That’s ridiculous. I can show you ID—”

“What’ll that prove? You say you’re a singer. Prove it.”

“Oh … very well. What would you like to hear?” She searched her memory for the shortest aria she knew that would sound passable sung a capella. “How about ‘Voi che sapete’?”

He wrinkled up his nose. “None of that foreign muck. Sing ‘Memory.’ That’s a good one.”

Her heart sank. She had never seen Cats. Like everyone, she’d heard ‘Memory’ countless times in cars and waiting rooms. But she didn’t really know it. All she could do was an imitation of Betty Buckley, or Barbra Streisand, or whoever was singing it in her head. And it wouldn’t sound like them. She was a trained singer, and had never really figured out the crossover thing—not that anyone else had done it totally successfully, except maybe Frederica von Stade or Dawn Upshaw.

Neal lit another cigarette. Folded his arms and looked at her. Impatiently. Suspiciously.

Renata stood up, faced him squarely, breathed in, and launched into “Memory.”

It was acutely painful. Her breathing was off. She couldn’t quite recall where the key modulations happened. Sometimes she even failed to remember a word and had to slur her way through. And, unable to shake the voice of Barbra Streisand in her head, she could hear herself doing strange pop singer swoops that would make any other classical singer shudder. She hoped he would be satisfied and tell her to stop. But he made her go on to the last note. Perhaps she was butchering the number so badly he didn’t believe she was a professional.

She’d ended up gazing heavenward, which she hoped was an appropriate bit of characterization. Lowering her eyes, she found that Neal was standing with his back to her, shoulders hunched, both hands gripping the balustrade, like a passenger about to be sick over the ship’s rail.

“Sorry,” she said.

Neal turned to her. His eyes were full of tears. A moment passed before he was able to choke out, “That was … beautiful.”

 

Two Mystery/Thrillers by Michael Niemann: Legitimate Business and Illicit Trade

illicit_tradeIllicit Trade (6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-589-5, 244, $14.95) is the all-new second book in Michael Niemann’s Valentin Vermeulen mystery/thriller series. The story takes place in New York City, Newark, Vienna, and Nairobi. When two illegal immigrants with forged UN papers are found dead, Vermeulen is assigned to investigate. The case will take him deep into the complicated and dangerous world of human trafficking.

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Legitimate Business (6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-587-1, 218 pages, $14.95), which introduces United Nations investigator Valentin Vermeulen, takes place in Sudan. A case involving the death of a UN policewoman in Dafur puts Vermeulen in the cross hairs of powerful arms dealers.

Illicit Trade: “Intriguing [….] The unexpected resourcefulness that Vermeulen and Jackson each display in dealing with dangerous foes in their respective quests is highly entertaining.” —Publishers Weekly

“Lee Child has Jack Reacher. Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch. Walter Mosley has Easy Rawlins. Patricia Cornwell has Kay Scarpetta. And Michael Niemann has Valentin Vermuelen […]You don’t need to read the short story and the books in order, like I did, to get the most out of Illicit Trade, but it would be a shame to deprive yourself of the experience.”  Read more….

—Alison McMahan, screenwriter, author and filmmaker

legimate_business** Click the cover image to order Legitimate Business online **

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Legitimate Business was a hit with readers and critics:

“A gripping thriller set against the backdrop of one of the most violent regions in the world. Niemann is an excitingly original voice in the genre.” —Michael Stanley, award winning author of the Detective Kubu mysteries

“As soon as I finished this exciting thriller, I wished to start reading again…. Ideology, greed and the other human frailties predominate, while our protagonist Vermeulen is not so much ‘flawed hero,’ as a man who tries to learn from his mistakes and make course corrections: an evolving human.” —The Haunted Reading Room

“Michael Niemann tells a fascinating, highly-entertaining tale amidst the turbulence that is Africa. His knowledge and attention to detail with respect to the inner workings of this UN department rings extremely true and authentic…. A good read!” —Clive Rosengren, two-time Shamus Award finalist

“Michael Niemann’s Legitimate Business is the real deal…. Niemann knows his way around Africa and Vermeulen emerges as a tough and wily hero, backstopped by strong female characters—including a UN peacekeeper and plenty of surprises.” —Ed Battistella, author of Sorry About That. The Language of Public Apology

Legitimate Business: Ritu Roy, a constable with an all-female United Nations peacekeeping unit in Darfur, Sudan, has been shot dead. Her superiors call it a random shooting. Her best friend thinks otherwise. She’s found a bullet casing from a sniper’s rifle, an uncommon weapon in the refugee camp. The case remains closed until Valentin Vermeulen arrives to conduct a routine audit. As an investigator with the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, his job is to ferret out fraud. The casing is the first clue that Ritu may have stumbled onto a major criminal operation.

Solving the mystery of Ritu’s death leads Vermeulen down a perilous path. With the help of journalist Tessa Bishonga, he visits the hidden camp of a notorious rebel leader. On the streets of Port Sudan he dodges a parade of shady characters. In the end, Vermeulen must expose the players in the not so “legitimate” business of supplying weapons to Sudan … before they can hunt him down.

Illicit Trade: Two poor Kenyan men visiting the U.S. are found dead, one in jail, one on the street. Both used forged UN documents to enter the country. Valentin Vermeulen’s superiors have no interest in the plight of undocumented immigrants, but they want him to stop the fraud. The clues take Vermeulen from New York City to Newark, where he riles a woman known as “The Broker,” then to Vienna.

Earle Jackson, a small-time hustler and the last person to speak with one of the dead Kenyans, has taken the man’s passport and money. He also finds a note listing an address in Newark, where his efforts to cash in on the situation go awry. Fleeing for his life, Jackson flies to Nairobi using the dead man’s passport.

Vermeulen and Jackson have chanced upon a criminal network more extensive and vicious than either could have imagined. To survive, Vermeulen must do more than sever a few links. He must find the mastermind at the top.

Says Niemann: “Both novels were inspired by actual events. I wrote Legitimate Business after reading an article about faulty armored personnel carriers that had been shipped to UN peacekeepers in Darfur. Illicit Trade was inspired by a report that a UN employee had sold forged UN invitation letters to individuals who used them to obtain visas to the U.S. Both events led me to stories dealing with weapons trade and human trafficking, cases tailor-made for Valentin Vermeulen.”

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he switched to mysteries as a different way to write about the world. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt from Illicit Trade:

Since moving back to New York, Vermeulen had quickly adopted the empty refrigerator habits of Manhattan residents. That wasn’t a problem on most days, since there was so much prepared food available everywhere. But he didn’t feel like going out again. Besides the beer, his fridge contained a jar of pickles, four eggs, some packets of soy sauce from the Chinese place down the street, and an old bagel. That limited his culinary options. He was in the middle of frying two eggs when his phone rang again.

Without thinking, he answered. “This is Vermeulen.”

A male voice he’d never heard before said, “You wanna talk about why you visited Dr. Rosenbaum today?”

The spatula clattered on the stovetop, then to the floor. He stared out the window as if the mysterious caller were right outside, looking in at him. The eggs sizzled in the hot pan.

“Hold on,” Vermeulen said and put the phone down. Who the hell was this? It obviously wasn’t the woman with the short blonde hair. And it wasn’t the doctor. He reached down to pick up the spatula. He turned down the burner. Nobody else knew he’d stopped by the doctor’s office. He tried to remember faces he’d seen on the street. There was really only one candidate—the black man who’d followed him.

He picked up the phone again. “Who are you?”

“That’s not important. What is important is you visiting the doctor. Why’d you go to him?”

“You’re the black man who bumped into me and then followed me. So don’t think for a moment I can’t find out who you are.”

The silence at the other end told him he was right.

“Okay, you saw me,” the man said. “So did many people. That don’t mean you’re gonna find out anything. But I know you talked to the doctor who’s got things to hide. So I’m thinking you’ve got things to hide, too. And that’s what I want to talk about.”

The eggs were done. Vermeulen managed to slip them onto the plate. He popped the bagel halves from the toaster, pulled over a stool, and sat down. This might take a while, and he wasn’t going to let his eggs get cold.

“Sorry,” he said, after forking a bite into his mouth. “You caught me in the middle of supper, and I hate cold eggs.” He took a sip from the bottle. “Besides, you’re operating on the wrong assumptions. I have nothing to hide. You, on the other hand, sound like an extortionist. Last I heard, that was still a crime in this country. I got your phone number on my display. It’ll only be a matter of time before the police find you.”

The last comment was pure bluster. He took a bite from the bagel and had another swig of beer.

“You’re eating while I’m trying to have a conversation with you? Man, how ’bout a little respect?”

“You’re the one who interrupted my supper. And why should I respect someone who’s trying to blackmail me?”

“I thought you were somebody else. Just forget I called.”

“No, I’m not going to do that. I’m also interested in what Rosenbaum has to hide. You seem to know something. How about telling me why you’re after him?”

He finished the eggs and wiped the remaining yolk with a piece of bagel.

“Nah, let’s just forget the whole thing, okay?” the caller said.

“No, not okay. How’d you like the Newark PD on your tail?” It was an easy guess. “Believe me, I can make that happen.”

“I said forget about it.”

“I won’t, unless you tell me what you know. Right now.”

“I’ll only do it face to face.”

“Fine with me. Be at the Azure Lounge in downtown Newark in an hour.”

And here is an excerpt from Legitimate Business:

The sky had become overcast. The air stood still, and sweat beaded on Vermeulen’s forehead. He didn’t care. The mix of nervous energy and anticipation he knew from his previous cases was back.

“We must head back. It’s too dangerous without backup,” Gupta said.

“Come on, man,” Vermeulen said. “The Bangladeshi women patrol on their own.”

“Yes, and one of them is dead now. Zam Zam is always unpredictable.”

“We’ll leave after I speak to Amina.”

Wambui inched the Nissan along the bumpy dirt until they reached the end of a row.

“Now where to?”

“Turn left,” Tessa said. “Amina’s family lives three rows over.”

Before they reached the third row, they saw people run toward them. Wambui nosed the car to the corner and stopped, half concealed by a hovel. Three hundred feet down the row stood two pickups with heavy machine guns mounted on their beds. Several men stood near the trucks. One of them leaned against the gun on the first truck. Wambui stopped.

“Shit!” Gupta said. “Those are technicals. We gotta get out of here.”

“Technicals are the preferred fighting vehicles of the rebels,” Tessa said, as if Vermeulen didn’t know that already.

“What are they doing here?” Vermeulen said.

“That could be Amina’s place,” Tessa said.

“It doesn’t matter!” Gupta said. “We have to leave. Now.”

Wambui put the Nissan in reverse.

“Wait,” Vermeulen said. “If that’s Amina’s place, I want to see what’s going on there.”

“No! We can’t go against two technicals. Those are .57-caliber machine guns,” Gupta shouted.

“He’s right,” Sami said. “They’d tear us to shreds in seconds.”

“Who said anything about shooting?” Vermeulen said. The men with the technicals weren’t shooting. They weren’t even brandishing their guns. They just stood there. It wasn’t an ambush. “You stay here. I’m going to speak with them.”

“Are you crazy?” Specks of saliva flew from Gupta’s lips. “I forbid it. I’m in charge here and we are going back.”

“You can go back if you like, but you can’t forbid me to speak to anyone.”

Vermeulen climbed from the Nissan and walked slowly toward the men. Their guns hung from their shoulders. One gestured to another, and he heard laughter. The machine gunner’s arms and head rested on the gun. They were relaxed. The trick was not to surprise them. He shouted “Hello!” and waved. The gunner on the technical looked up, saw Vermeulen, and cocked his head. Taking his time, he swung the long barrel toward the stranger. The other men turned to look at him. Two pulled their rifles from their backs, also moving at a leisurely pace. They didn’t look like AK-47s, not that it mattered. At this distance even an old hunting rifle would do serious damage.

It was too late to turn around now. That much was clear. The fifty yards between him and the pickups seemed much longer. Raising his hands in the international sign of surrender, Vermeulen kept going.

From the Devil’s Farm, by Leta Serafim: A Ritual Sacrifice on the Isle of Sifnos

Devils_farmFrom the Devil’s Farm ($14.95, 208 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-244-3), is the third book in Leta Serafim’s Greek Islands Mystery series. The discovery of a murdered child on Sifnos saddens Chief Officer Patronas and his colleagues, who are at a loss for a viable suspect among the migrants that crowd the island or the Greek nationals who resent their presence.

“Serafim grounds her tale in Greek history, ancient and present, and provides a brutal and effective resolution to the case that will surprise most readers.”
—Publishers Weekly

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“As with Serafim’s previous mysteries, From the Devil’s Farm combines a clever mystery, a spectacular setting (the island of Sifnos), and Greek culture with a good dose of humor mixed in. The tale takes readers from the Greek Islands to Athens and Turkey as the solution unfolds. Throw in romance as Patronas finds himself attracted to a pretty, redheaded pottery instructor, and the result is an enormously entertaining story.”  Read more….

—Mark Lardas, The Daily News, Galveston County

“Serafim deftly weaves police procedural with a visceral sense of place and a deeply rooted knowledge of Greek history and culture. [….] Atheist Patronas’ interplay with Papa Michalis (“the old fellow who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes”) and the ethical dilemmas faced in dispensing justice are richly rewarding. [….] Another epitychia (success) in this Greek mystery series.”

—Kirkus Reviews

The first two books of the series have received high praise from both critics and readers. The Devil Takes Half was a finalist in the mystery category of the Eric Hoffer Awards.

When the Devil’s Idle: (Starred Review) “Excellent sequel to The Devil Takes Half.” —Publishers Weekly

4 Stars: “Serafim expertly creates the beauty of Greece. However, the real draws of this book are the fully developed, complex characters, and the facts on Greek culture and history. Book two in the Greek Islands Mystery series is sure to satisfy.” —RT Magazine

The Devil Takes Half: (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

“[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

A Greek American tourist, Lydia Pappas, stumbles upon a child’s body in the ruins of an ancient temple, well hidden on the top of a cliff. The boy has been bled dry, though no blood is in evidence, leading the Greek police investigator, Yiannis Patronas, to believe the killer must have collected it. Greece’s financial crisis has reduced the police force on Sifnos to one officer, Petros Nikolaidis, so Patronas has been summoned from his home base of Chios to aid in the case. Accompanying him are his colleagues, Giorgos Tembelos and Evangelos Demos, as well as Papa Michalis, an ancient Orthodox priest with a vast knowledge of detective fiction and an uncanny ability to ferret out the truth. Though eccentric and often irritating, Michalis has been an asset to Patronas over the years in a land where homicide was, until recently, a rare occurrence. But Greece is changing daily, with a tide of migrants straining the country’s already diminished resources and occasionally bringing out the worst in her people.

The child appears to have been sacrificed according to the rules of a pagan religious ritual. Is someone on Sifnos reviving the old ways? Or is there a thrill killer loose on the island? Is the culprit a Greek national or one of the many foreign migrants crowding its refugee camps?

Says the author, “When I first visited Sifnos years ago, I was struck by the almost ethereal beauty of the island, the purity of its whitewashed villages and the lives of its residents, whose days were taken up with family and the rituals of the Orthodox Church. Sadly Sifnos, like the rest of Greece, is no longer the utopia I remember and has entered the modern age with all its attendant problems. I wrote From the Devil’s Farm in part to explore the dichotomy between the two—the idyllic past and the island’s troubled and uncertain future.”

Leta Serafim is also the author of the historical novel, To Look on Death No More. She has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece. Click here to find her online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The priest’s lengthy robe was giving him trouble and he paused for a moment to tuck a portion of it up into his voluminous drawers, exposing his heavy orthopedic shoes and long black socks held in place around his spindly calves by hideous old-fashioned garters.

Patronas looked away, embarrassed for his friend. Normally, he would have made fun of him—the garters alone demanded it, and those drawers, Mother of God, were the size of bed sheets—but today his mind was elsewhere. “I’m worried about this one,” he said.

“As am I,” Papa Michalis said. “The killing of a child? It is an abomination. Who could have done such a thing?”

“A psychopath, maybe.”

“Yes, yes. Someone like Ted Bundy.” Papa Michalis continued in this vein for a few minutes, enumerating the sins of Ted Bundy, who if he was to be believed, had murdered at least fourteen young women and as many as a hundred.

Patronas was sorry he’d brought it up. His friend was fascinated by serial killers and could go on at length, recounting their misdeeds in grisly detail. The names of the men Jeffrey Dahmer had eaten, for example, and which limb he’d usually started with. Or the fact that Jack the Ripper had extracted a kidney from one of his victims and mailed it to a newspaper. While Patronas understood that such people were a challenge for a priest—it was a thorny theological question: how does one forgive the unforgiveable?—he wished his friend would find another hobby. Collecting stamps, maybe.

“However, Bundy didn’t kill children,” the priest was saying. “I fear what we’re after is someone far worse, with the means to lure a child here and slaughter him.”

Papa Michalis fancied himself a great crime stopper, the true heir to Sherlock Holmes, but he tended to get carried away. Today was no exception.

Patronas waved him off. “We will go where the evidence leads us, Father. And I seriously doubt it will lead us to someone worse than Ted Bundy.”

“Bah, that’s what you think. There is evil alive in the universe, Yiannis, and you and I, I fear, are about to enter one of its lairs. To pass through a dark portal into hell itself. ”

As inevitably happened once he got going, the priest continued to speculate—brevity was a concept Papa Michalis had no use for—about the nature of the evil. As was his wont, he thundered off in the wrong direction—that of fiction and fantasy and bad American television shows.

Later Patronas would recall the conversation. Papa Michalis had been onto something that morning in Sifnos; he just hadn’t realized it at the time. Evil was indeed alive in the universe, and like fear, it was contagious and sometimes infected whole groups, spreading like a malignant virus, a contagion of violence and misery.

Ahead, the lava that formed Thanatos shone dully in the sun. A staircase had been cut into the rock, so steep it had been like climbing a ladder. Patronas paused to catch his breath. Nikolaidis and the other men had already reached the top and called down to him to hurry. The steps were deeply worn, cratered from centuries of use. Bending down, he touched one with his hand.

Swab it for DNA, you’d probably find Cain and Abel’s.

Cannabis Use Survey, by Laurie K. Mischley and Michelle Sexton: Uncensored Feedback from Pot Users Worldwide

cannabis_surveyCannabis Use Survey: Confessions, Insights, and Opinions compiles the results of a survey designed by Drs. Laurie K. Mischley and Michelle Sexton ($15.95, 288 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-615-1).

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“Cannabis Use Survey is utterly fascinating to browse from cover to cover.”  Read more….

—Clint’s Bookshelf, Midwest Book Review

Sixty percent of the American public agree that cannabis use should be removed from the criminal justice system and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. However, few public health issues remain as contentious. The information we all hear is conflicting. Is cannabis addictive? Does it interfere with memory? Can it cure cancer? Does it destroy ambition or treat anxiety?

As practitioners of naturopathic medicine, Doctors Laurie K. Mischley and Michelle Sexton hear many first-hand accounts of experiences with cannabis. Curious to see if their patients’ views represented those of the wider public, they sought the opinions of users worldwide.

www.CannabisSurvey.org was developed to give individuals who use cannabis a voice and an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback to researchers, policy-makers, and healthcare providers.

At the end of the survey, cannabis users were asked “Is there anything else you think we should know?” Cannabis Use Survey is the collection of the first 1324 people who had something to say. This book contains the raw data: uncensored and unedited responses of cannabis users. Readers can experience the full impact of the frustration or appreciation of users, while also getting a feel for the education and life experience of cannabis users at large.

These stories may serve as a means to better understand a loved one’s point of view, make an informed decision about cannabis use, or simply feel solidarity with like-minded users. Drs. Sexton and Mischley offer neither conclusions nor judgments, and they welcome the lively discussion that is sure to follow.

In her introduction, Sexton writes: “These stories point to a larger narrative, that of dissatisfaction with how healthcare is being delivered and the fallacy of single molecule medicine.” Writes Mischley: “The incongruance between what I was being taught by trusted authority figures and what I was observing for myself got under my skin. By college, I was determined to do my part to remedy the miscommunication between those who used cannabis and those who judged it.”

Michelle Sexton (photo by Sam Sabzehzar)

Michelle Sexton (photo by Sam Sabzehzar)

Michelle Sexton, ND, is currently the Medical Research Director at the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy. She maintains a small clinical practice in San Diego, CA. Dr. Sexton served as an editor and technical advisor for the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Cannabis Monograph.

laurie-mischley-photo

Laurie K. Mischley

Laurie K. Mischley, ND, MPH, PhD, maintains a small clinical practice at Seattle Integrative Medicine. Her work focuses on identifying the nutritional requirements unique to individuals with neurodegenerative diseases. She is author of the book Natural Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease and has published on glutathione, coenzyme Q10, and lithium deficiency in Parkinson’s Disease.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

  1. Before I had medical cannabis, my life was a painful existence. I was on a lot of prescriptions (20 different types) that really didn’t help with the pain, nausea, or muscle spasm and kept me very tired/drowsy. my memory barely worked if at all. some of the prescriptions were for side effects of my main prescriptions, but they had side effects of there own. I was in college and a young mother at the time which made it harder for me to do the thing things I needed to do. I found my compassionate doctor through a friend, who thought medical cannabis would help me . I was desperate to get my life back and to be able to remember anything more then a few seconds. So I tried medical cannabis for the first time in my life after getting my first medical cannabis patient card. I was able to eat and keep the food down, I was able to sleep, my nightmares mostly left, my body stopped jerking, and my migraine finally left after 2 years of suffering within minutes. I gained weight which was good since I was 90lbs and dropping before medical cannabis. that’s roughly 40 lbs under weight for me. Within 6 months after starting medical cannabis, I went from 20 Rx pills to 1. I could think clearly once again and remember what I had learned in class and my kids when they were little. One of my conditions is PTSD, medical cannabis has helped me greatly. not just with consuming it, but growing it. In my state you can grow your own or have a grower. In short medical cannabis didn’t only give me back my life, it gave me back the quality of life.

Enter by the Narrow Gate, by David Carlson: A Monk and a Detective Join Forces in Santa Fe

enter_gateJust how far can religious faith go astray?

Enter by the Narrow Gate ($14.95, 244 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-391-4) is the first book in a new mystery/thriller series by David Carlson featuring Christopher Worthy and Father Fortis. After a nun is murdered while on retreat in a monastery, an Orthodox monk solicits the help of his Detroit Detective friend who is in Santa Fe investigating a missing person’s case.

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Bronze Medal Winner, 2017 IPPY Awards, West Mountain, Best Regional Fiction

“Carlson takes great care with his depiction of the state’s history and culture even as he fictionalizes and conflates small details for dramatic effect. Every character receives this respectful treatment as well [….] The novel, while grounded firmly in theological and spiritual themes, is not a Bible-based mystery but an exploration of humanity [….] Lest anyone perceive Gate as a quiet book focused solely on the contemplative and monastic, rest assured that the mystery takes a spectacular twist. Lives are endangered, and the threat of the apocalypse hovers over a few of the characters, putting others high in the mountains at risk.”  Read more….

—Jennifer Levin for Pasatiempo, the New Mexican’s Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment, and Culture

“The novel’s prose is rich with religious references and imagery, which add to the unique depth of the novel….The rapport between Worthy and Fortis is easy and enjoyable, and the double case ensures that Enter by the Narrow Gate never slows in action.”

—Foreword Reviews

“The real joy in reading this mystery lies in Carlson’s exploration of how faith shapes reasoning and actions, rather than simply the action itself. Thus Father Fortis can proudly take his place in a list of religious detectives that includes Father Brown, Brother Cadfael and Rabbi David Small.”  Read more….

—Rich Gotshall, The Daily Journal

“The cultures of New Mexico and its Native American population are explored in depth, offering many insights into the region and its inhabitants while providing a background for this intriguing mystery…. Enter by the Narrow Gate is the first novel in the Christopher Worthy-Father Fortis mystery series, and it gets these two characters off to a chilling but entertaining start.”

— Toni V. Sweeney for the New York Journal of Books

“I didn’t want to let go of Christopher and Father Fortis…. We need sleuths like this. They’re intelligent and not afraid to share that intellectualism with each other. How refreshing!”

—Christine DeSmet, award-winning writer and author of the Fudge Shop Mysteries

“A consistently compelling and entertaining read from first page to last…. highly recommended.”  Read more….

—Mason’s Bookshelf, The Midwest Book Review, October 2016

“Father Nicholas Fortis and Lieutenant Christopher Worthy are both out of their element the instant the two friends get to Santa Fe from the Midwest, and that ratchets up the suspense in this excellent mystery…. Author David Carlson has created a great team in Fortis and Worthy. The priest’s kind, open manner and knowledge of scripture and theology complement Worthy’s hard-nosed pursuit of killers.” —Rich Zahradnik, author of the Coleridge Taylor Mysteries

Enter by the Narrow Gate is Carlson’s first novel. His first work of nonfiction, Peace Be with You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World was selected as one of the Best Books of 2011 in the area of Spiritual Living by Library Journal. His second book on religious terrorism, Countering Religious Extremism: The Healing Power of Spiritual Friendships, will be released by New City Press in 2017.

The cover art is by Carlson’s wife, Kathy, a retired English professor and an award-winning artist.

A teenage girl has vanished in Santa Fe. Nearby, in the Trappist monastery of St. Mary of the Snows, a beautiful young nun is stabbed to death. Father Nicholas Fortis is on sabbatical at St. Mary’s, and when Lieutenant Christopher Worthy of the Detroit Police Department is flown in to help find the missing teenager, the Orthodox monk asks his friend to delve into the nun’s murder as well. The two men make a perfect team: the monk’s gregarious manner opens hearts and the detective’s keen intuition infiltrates psyches.

The Book of Matthew refers to the “narrow gate” that leads to heaven. Each of the key players in these two cases was rattling heaven’s gate in a frantic and even dangerous quest for salvation. Lieutenant Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe Police, with her captivating looks and insight into the Native Americans and cultures of the Southwest, proves both a boon and a distraction for Worthy. As Father Fortis navigates the social hierarchy of the monks of St. Mary’s, he begins to fear their secret agendas. Bowing to the pressure to solve both cases, the investigators let the clues lead them in opposite directions. At the end of one of those paths, Death awaits.

Says the author, “Father Fortis is the opposite of what most people expect of a monk, and his creation for this series gives me a chance not only to put this character into interesting situations and see what happens, but also to educate the public about the Orthodox Church, a branch of Christianity that is more widespread than most people realize. I thought Christopher Worthy, with his cerebral approach and personal demons, would make a perfect foil for this jovial, warm-hearted monk. Add to that the setting of New Mexico, a place I love for its rare beauty and deep spiritual currents. Doing research for this story was great fun.”

David Carlson has a BA in political science from Wheaton College (Illinois), an M.A. from the American Baptist Seminary of the West (Biblical Theology) and a doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland (New Testament Studies). Franklin College, a traditional liberal arts college in central Indiana, has been his home for the past thirty-eight years. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

In the darkness following the night service of Vigils at St. Mary’s, Father Fortis remained in his assigned stall and watched as the columns of monks processed toward the sanctuary altar. Each bowed deeply from the waist before the abbot, then turned to the icon of the Virgin Mary to bow again before filing out into the night.

He picked out the distinctive slap of Father Linus’s sandals at the rear of the line, and the old monk’s parting words from that morning came to mind: “Sister Anna’s murder was terrible, but you need to know that it wasn’t the only attack that has taken place on one of our old moradas. But please. I ask you to say nothing about the santo until next week.”

“Why next week?” Father Fortis had asked.

“I want you to meet the hermano mayor, the governing brother at a morada, a Penitente meeting house. Please, it’s only a few days.”

Father Fortis’s heart had skipped a beat at the time, but now he wondered if it would take the police that long to link the murder with the Penitentes. A routine search at the county courthouse should show that the retreat house had previously been a morada. And how long would it take the police to figure out the meaning of the seven wounds between Sister Anna’s breasts?

Sitting alone in the dark, he gazed out of the massive window at the rock face. Moonlight promised to break free of the crest line at any moment and illuminate the room. As he rose from his seat with thoughts of returning to bed, he heard a faint creaking sound from the balcony above. That was the area reserved for guests, but the monastery had closed its guesthouse to all but Worthy and himself until the investigation was over.

He sat quietly, half expecting to see a sneaky reporter’s head peeking over the railing. He saw and heard nothing, yet something or someone was definitely there. He could feel it. Rising silently, he edged his way to the back of the chapel and to the stairs leading up to the balcony.

He ascended cautiously, wondering if he was overreacting. Couldn’t the sound simply be the evening breeze as it flowed down the valley?

He reached the top stair and peered into the dark balcony. He waited, but again heard nothing. At that moment, the moon broke free of the canyon wall outside and flooded the chapel with light. In that flash, Father Fortis saw three things. One, exploding in the clear desert night air, the bands of color on the far canyon wall. How odd, he thought, to see pinks, reds, even browns at this time of night. Two, in the same instant, he saw that the balcony was empty, its rows of hand-hewn benches bare except for a stack of daily missals. And three, he saw the door at the other end of the balcony swaying slightly.

Beauty and the Breast, a Literary Memoir by Merrill Joan Gerber

beauty_breastBeauty and the Breast: A Tale of Breast Cancer, Love, and Friendship ($14.95, 192 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-526-0) is a literary memoir by award-winning author Merrill Joan Gerber. With wit and wisdom, Gerber reflects on her breasts, her life,  and her Jewish heritage as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer.

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“I LOVE IT!!  I could not put it down. Merrill Joan Gerber tells the story without a drop of feeling sorry for herself. She never loses her sense of humor. I’ve read a lot of breast cancer books, but hers is so fresh, so endearing, there’s nothing else like it.”

—Judy Blume, author of Are you There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and In the Unlikely Event

“An intimate, touching, moving portrait of the self in peril and in pain, written with characteristic intelligence & lucidity by Merrill Joan Gerber.”

—Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner

“‘It’s not candy,’ a curt oncologist says to Gerber, a prize-winning novelist and short-story writer, when she is taken aback by what he is telling her about chemotherapy. She finds a new oncologist. Grit is on full display in Gerber’s account of her bout with breast cancer, as are fear, humor, frailty, valor, and—most important—love and friendship. A moving, frank and funny book.”

—Brandeis Magazine

“Merrill’s description of her journey through the strange, new world of cancer is warm and wise. It’s by turn funny and despairing, but always heartrendingly personal.”  Read more….

—Peg Schulte, PegOLeg.com

“Short, easily digestible chapters. [Gerber] also includes clear, black-and-white close-ups of her affected breast during various stages of treatment, among other images…. The featured photographs of the author make this one stand out among the pack.”  Read more….

—Library Journal

“Gerber has penned a primer for holding fast to everything dear in the face of a terrifying diagnosis. The author, a former Stegner fellow (1962-63), handles cancer’s curveballs with candor and a sense of humor, reaching clarity amid the confusion. Her frank and funny narrative of the discovery, biopsy, surgery and treatment makes the experience relatable.”

—Stanford Magazine, Nov/Dec 2016

When award-winning author Merrill Joan Gerber was diagnosed with breast cancer, she set out on a journey familiar to too many women. It began with denial that her precious breasts could become the agents of terror and even death. What followed was a parade of doctors and their treatments, of surgery, the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, and the dangerous but life-saving beams of radiation to her breast. Along the way, Merrill found a new appreciation for the blessings in her life, her beloved husband, their daughters, and their daughters’ children. As she recalled her parents’ illnesses, her childhood in Brooklyn, and her complicated relationship with her own breasts, she reflected on long-held notions of fear and death.

In Beauty and the Breast, Merrill bares her soul and her breasts as she navigates the terrors of cancer and treatment and learns with courage and gratitude what it means to be a survivor. Many have reported on the cancer wars, but Merrill’s memoir delivers a special contribution of humor, passion, candor, real-life photos, and a poetic gift to the reader.

“I read Beauty and the Breast nonstop: the pages turn themselves. Horror, humor, humaneness, fear, fatigue, love, honesty, bravery, and so much more, including even charm—all movingly mingled. The book (science and sensibility) is the triumph of an ordeal overcome and transcended.”

—Cynthia Ozick, author of Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and other Literary Essays

“As much rumination on the mortal predicament as it is testament to the continuous discovery that is life, Merrill Joan Gerber’s memoir of her negotiations with cancer makes for richly provocative reading. And in the hands of a gifted and insightful writer with a penchant for the humorously quotidian, those negotiations are at once profound and entirely accessible. Cancer demands courage. Writing about it may require something like meta-courage.”

—Lynn Stegner, author of For All the Obvious Reasons

“Merrill Joan Gerber is one of the finest writers of our time. There is no way to stop reading this very moving, compelling, sad but affirmative memoir. Whatever she touches, she illuminates.”

—David Evanier, author of Woody: The Biography

“Beauty and the Breast could be one of those books like Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care that just doesn’t quit selling because there is always another group that needs to know. The voice throughout the narrative is so superb. In some ways, the book feels more like a novel than a memoir. The pictures are extremely, extremely important. The interesting thing is that, at the end, the book becomes less about breast cancer and escaping death as it is about mortality and the seasons of life.”

—Dr. Dean Paschal, Emergency Room physician, New Orleans

“While reading Beauty and the Breast, I am close to tears all the time. Merrill’s incredible clarity and honesty is profound and necessary. The details, the photographs, the emotions make me feel as if it’s me going through this. It’s a real page-turner.”

—Mary Trunk, documentary film maker (Merrill Joan Gerber is one of four women artists in her film, Lost in Living)

Beauty and the Breast will pour into a reader just as it poured from the author into her keyboard. It is hard to break away. Her voice is so powerful and intimate … she has borne witness in a voice that is unique and yet will reach everyone who reads it just where they are in their own lives. A beautiful and irresistible book.”

—Charlotte Zoe Walker, author of Condor and Hummingbird and winner of an O. Henry Award

“With fluid writing and pitch-perfect timing, Merrill Joan Gerber has written a remarkable story of a woman’s breast cancer journey. The photos and paintings rendered by the author of her treatments, her doctors, her husband and children add a wonderful visual layer to the tale. The author draws a heartwarming picture of family and friends who stay at her side and from whom she draws comfort, hope and delight. Gerber shares humorous takes on much that goes awry and offers many moments of wonder, joy and gratitude as well.”

—Nancy Levinson, author of Moments of Dawn, an Alzheimer’s Memoir and a two-time breast cancer survivor

“Beauty and the Breast has such a wonderful combination of humor, love of life, and sheer terror. It’s about breast cancer, but so much more. And it is about a long and happy marriage and the cancer that doesn’t interrupt it. Bravo!”

—Dr. Madeleine Moskowitz, Doctor of Psychology and breast cancer survivor.

Says the author, “During my cancer treatment, my husband took me to see a concert of the six Brandenburg Concertos by Bach. As I sat in the darkened church listening to this most transcendent music, as I watched the musicians on stage, particularly the women playing violins, a thought came to me: ‘Breasts are everywhere in Brooklyn.’ I quickly began to make notes on the sides and top of my program, suddenly realizing the enormity of the story that perhaps I was now destined to share. Though I was a writer, I never intended to recount the ordeals of my breast cancer journey. Now, in this illuminated moment, I saw there was a greater story to tell. Perhaps it was the thrilling music of Bach that loosed a flood of words and images in me. Beauty and the Breast was the result.”

Read an interview with the author on the Psychology Today blog.

MERRILL JOAN GERBER has published ten novels—among them King of The World, which won the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and The Kingdom of Brooklyn, winner of the Ribalow Award from Hadassah Magazine—as well as seven volumes of short stories, nine young-adult novels, and three books of non-fiction. She has also published stories and essays in numerous magazines, including the New Yorker and Redbook, as well as literary journals. Her story, “I Don’t Believe This,” won an O. Henry Prize. She earned her MA in English from Brandeis University and was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fiction Fellowship to Stanford University. She presently teaches fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Before I learned I had breast cancer, I belonged to a Jewish book club. Eight Jewish women meeting for forty years, once a month in one of our houses.

Did we ever read a book? Who knows? Did we ever discuss a book? We had arguments every time:

“Why should I read a historical novel when I’m not interested in historical novels?”

“Then why should I read a book about how Yiddish is coming back from a lost language when my grandparents only wanted that it should be a lost language?”

“They told secrets in my house in Yiddish so the kids wouldn’t know what they were talking about.”

“I think next month we should read a modern romance novel. There’s a new one on the bestseller list.”

“I’m against reading bestsellers. They’re crap.”

“I’m too old for romance. I can’t be bothered with romance.”

“Molly, you’ve had three husbands. How did you manage that without romance?”

“Look at my breasts! They speak for themselves. Also I’m a good cook.”

“Could it be your cooking poisoned the first two?”

“Funny that is not.”

“Sex must figure in somewhere.”

“If it figures, it figures. Remember how in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye sings, ‘Do you love me?’ and his wife answers, ‘For twenty-five years I’ve cooked your meals, washed your clothes, shared your bed …. If that isn’t love, what is?’ ”

“It’s your bosoms, it’s not your cooking, that got you three husbands.”

“They should live and be well,” Molly said, patting her bosoms lovingly. “But you never know. One in eight women gets breast cancer. It could be one of us.”

“Never one of us. We’re not the type.”

We are the type, in fact. We are especially the type. Women with Ashkenazic genetics are especially at risk. If we carry the Braca gene mutation, we have an eighty-five percent risk of being diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, and are also at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Sprinkled over the years among our discussions of life and literature were exchanges of really important information. Who were the best pediatricians? Orthodontists? The best summer camps for the kids? When busing started in our city, most of the neighborhood children were pulled out and put into Christian or Catholic private schools. And since all of us in our book club had been educated in the public schools of New York—the Bronx or Brooklyn—we strongly resisted private schools. Pay for schools? Ridiculous! Didn’t we all feel grateful for our public school educations? And look how smart we were?

Smart we were. There was no argument there.

We and our husbands had all bought houses in our Southern California neighborhood in the late sixties. When our children were young, we stayed home and raised them. Our husbands were out there in the world doing something respectable—being teachers or engineers or working for Xerox or the Jet Propulsion Lab. But when the children were older, all of us women went back to school and finished our degrees if we hadn’t already done so. We went to work. Teaching.

How come we continued to call our group a book club when we practically never read the same book? We fought each other at every meeting. Why not read about gardening, about art? Why not read the novels of Philip Roth? All the women but me claimed they were disgusted by Philip Roth’s books.

“Such a dirty mind.”

“Such a dirty mouth!”

“What he did to that piece of liver!”

“You didn’t have to read it, did you?”

“Such an honest writer,” I said.

Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators, by Priscilla Long

mindingIn Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators ($13.95, 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-363-1), Priscilla Long shares her secrets to harnessing the creative gift, increasing productivity, and handling the business aspects of the creative life.

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Minding the Muse is a practical handbook for the artist or writer—highly experienced, aspiring, or somewhere in between. Long draws from her extensive background as a poet, writer, and master teacher, but also gathers the insights and practices of a wide range of high-achieving artists, including mystery writer Raymond Chandler, choreographer Twyla Tharp, poet and performance artist Patti Smith, and the painter Joan Miró. Beginning with the first sparks of artistic creation—“Gathering, Hoarding, Conceptualizing”—Long moves through the various stages to “Completing Works” and “Poet as Peddler, Painter as Pusher: Marketing.” Every creative worker will find something here to take to heart and into the studio or workroom.

Join Priscilla for a reading at Elliott Bay Books on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at 7 p.m. or at Village Books on Friday, October 28. For updates on events, click here.

“Priscilla Long’s slim handbook for artists suggests ways to reflect on one’s creativity and so become a more effective creator. It is pithier and more intellectually respectful than recent creativity how-tos like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and old standards like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.”  Read more….

—Pamela Hobart Carter, The Seattle Star

“One hundred and twelve pages of pure creative gold are here for the taking. No matter the form your creative gifts take, there’s something in Minding the Muse that will excite, motivate, clarify, or entertain you.” Read more….

—Krysta Gibson, New Spirit Journal

“I found Long’s advice, along with the examples she pulls from other books and studies on creativity, to be reliably fresh and unorthodox. I loved being reminded to strictly cordon my messy drafting stage from the critical revising stage and the gutty purveying stage. I liked her form of telling me flatly what to do without pandering to my ego. I admired her various elegant ways of commanding me to embrace the old-fangled: get back to work, and work hard.[….] The simple fact is that I read these two self-help books and I went sweetly adrift in them [….] and when I came out the other side I felt somehow both richly served and pleasantly on my own again.” Read more….

—Bonnie J. Rough for the Seattle Review of Books

“This is a relatively small book, fewer than 75 pages, but contains many memorable passages…. In addition to invaluable tips, Long includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter intended to serve as guides for artists to use as they explore their own artistic methods and goals to help you forge new work. On days when the isolation of working in solitude can feel overwhelming, it helps to have the wise and supportive voice of Priscilla Long whispering in your ear that making art is a possibility, and that you, like the many artists quoted in this book, have something to say. Her book will help you say it.”  Read more….

—Bruce Black, Wordswimmer Blog

“It’s as if Priscilla Long has sat down on the couch beside me, offering all she knows garnered from a long life as a working artist. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of all my poet friends and students. It’s a book I believe I’ll be using in my teaching and in my own contemplation about my role as an artist for a long time to come.” Read more ….

—The Alchemist’s Kitchen

“Long has done a terrific job of compiling short chapters, rich with fresh quotes from all sorts of creative people. This small but deeply intelligent book contains some savvy messages you’d do well to heed.”  Read more….

Psychology Today Blog

“Priscilla Long has read wide and deep in the practice of artists of all stripes, and she has meditated to good purpose on what she’s found. She is particularly good on the cross-fertilization of artistic methods, with the result that this book is wise, practical and illuminating, a friendly aid to creation.”

—Janet Burroway, author of Losing Tim, A Story Larger Than My Own, Bridge of Sand, Imaginative Writing, and Writing Fiction

“On days when the isolation of working in solitude can feel overwhelming, it helps to have the wise and supportive voice of poet, writer, and master teacher Priscilla Long whispering in your ear that making art is a possibility, and that you, like the many artists quoted in this book, have something worthwhile to say.”

—Bruce Black, author of Writing Yoga

“Like mushrooms, facts must be gathered; like dough; a draft must rest in order to rise. Drawing on vivid anecdotes from a range of artists, this book makes her case that creativity thrives in the balance between spontaneity and discipline. Long’s voice is conversational and witty, seasoned by her experience as an accomplished poet and essayist. Minding the Muse is a gift to anyone ready to take their craft more seriously.”

—Sandra Beasley, author of Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life and Count the Waves

“With stunning freshness and clearmindedness, Priscilla Long explores how to live a life in consonance with one’s creative goals. She offers inspiring advice from many high-achieving creative individuals. Readers are certain to come away with renewed confidence and many practical maneuvers they can’t wait to try. On the balance scales, in terms of usefulness and of being a joy to read, this short book outweighs dozens of others on the topic.”

—Susan K. Perry, PhD, author of the bestselling Writing in Flow, “Creating in Flow” blogger at PsychologyToday.com, and author of the novel, Kylie’s Heel

“Do you get bogged down in creating the works you imagine? Priscilla Long’s handbook pulled me right in, to help me move beyond where I get stuck—making space, dealing with feelings, getting out in the world, and more. This accessible, comprehensive, and, well, creative, book is a gift for anyone who wants a fruitful, creative life.”

—Sondra Kornblatt, author of Restful Insomnia, and A Better Brain at Any Age

Minding the Muse is an artist’s answer to the over-asked questions: ‘Do you write with a pen or pencil?’ Priscilla Long’s new book, rich with real life examples, gives creators in all disciplines concrete ways to shape a personal daily practice that invokes the power of the sleeping muse.”

—Barbara Earl Thomas, painter

“A great short book, suitable for all creative types [….] I gained some really cool insights and practices that I will use to help me in my creative endeavors.” Read more….

—Leigh Martinuzzi, The Hidden Why

Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based author and teacher of writing. Her work includes poetry, creative nonfictions, fictions, history, and science. Her other most recent book is Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Her book of poems is Crossing Over: Poems. She is also author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life and the scholarly history book Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America’s Bloody Coal Industry. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Invitations proliferate; time evaporates. But if you start declining invitations, invitations start declining. You will rightly feel that you are hurting your chances for your work to gain a wider audience.

If you want to keep working though, you must set limits. It’s as if an invitation were a chocolate gelato—good in small bites, bad as a stand-in for leafy greens. Determine the number of talks you will give per year, the amount of money you will charge for a talk, the number of pro-bono presentations you will give per year. If money starts coming in, even in moderate sums, consider employing a part-time assistant to help you plan or to just plain help.

I’m not famous. Still, on some days I get interrupted so incessantly you’d think I’d won the Nobel Prize in Literature. My best help with this problem of distraction and interruption is my intention to get four uninterrupted hours of work per day. The goal of time on the job—the job being the creative work itself, not teaching, answering email, sending work out, applying for grants, or other related tasks—is what keeps me on course. And make no mistake. I am looking with deep envy at the routine of three morning hours and three afternoon hours set up by Chuck Close (and also by the ultra-prolific Joyce Carol Oates). For now, given my other responsibilities, I am usually getting four hours. My timer is my taskmaster.

As your work begins to gain more attention, it’s useful to pay attention to how you want to present it, and to how you want to present yourself in public. As an artist who is visible, what is it that you want to convey? What values do you want others to take away? What do you want to say and what do you want to model about art and about making art? When you serve as a public figure, whether on the radio or in the classroom or in a live performance or at a gallery opening, you stand for art—for the particular form of art you make, as well as for all art. That’s a responsibility.

It may be helpful to take a class in acting or in the Alexander Technique, a body alignment practice developed originally for performers. I’ve done both and both helped me overcome my original stage fright. There are improvisation classes, classes in performing, classes in public speaking.

Look for model creators, past and present, who are visible in the culture, artists you admire. What can you learn from them by way of comporting yourself as a public figure? One I stand in awe of is Twyla Tharp as interviewed (on YouTube) by Norma Kamali. Check it out (youtu.be/atGJkkzVe54). I’m looking at Tharp’s posture, her thoughtful and erudite responses, her dress, her lack of stuttering and stammering, her sincere and extremely professional presentation and the quintessential brilliance of the content she presents.

 

Going Dark: Selected Stories, by Dennis Must

GoingDarkGoing Dark ($13.95, 184 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-397-6) is a collection of seventeen stories by Dennis Must. The cover and interior illustrations are by Rostislav Spitkovsky, who also illustrated Must’s novel, The World’s Smallest Bible.

Must’s most recent novel, Hush Now, Don’t Explain was the winner of the 2014 Dactyl Foundation Literary Fiction Award. It was also shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Award.

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“At the story level alone, Must’s work is consistently intriguing, but his narratives always have much larger import. In this newest collection, we discover several familiar Must themes, among them the nature of being or ontology, the issue of identity, the role of the creative imagination, and the nature of art [….] The richest veins in this collection turn on the interrelated subjects of being, identity, and the nature of the creative imagination.”

—Jack Smith for The Pleiades Book Review

5 Stars: “Dennis Must’s third short story anthology, Going Dark, presents a raconteur a la F. Scott Fitzgerald meditative pretext by transporting the reader into each of the dissimilar accounts be they matter-of-fact or stately, rational or imaginative. [….] Must’s writing is expressive, as he approaches the numerous stages of life we all share as we too transfer from childhood to youth, to conceivably consider marriage or other association, and, at the end face the inevitable death that awaits us all. Lives so unrelated yet very much the same; are the ones brought to life under the pen of this skillful writer. Dennis Must’s assortment of short accounts, is at once a multilayered, thought-provoking psychological frolic in addition to being a deeply seated thoughtful work; brimming with anxiety, as distant, unapproachable, self-absorbed characters usually at odds with themselves, others around them, and life in general[….] Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for those who enjoy a bit of the avant garde.”  Read more….

—The Midwest Book Review

“Dennis Must is a searching writer, able to transcribe madness and instability, the wrack of obsession and the weariness of giving in. Reality, in Must’s hand, is always flirting with the abyss and this gives his prose an expansiveness and wonder quite beyond the ordinary. In Going Dark, Must tenderizes this same hot sense with implements of magic that turn our sentient lives into examples of the bizarre, the wondrous, and the crushing. As the stories move out of their mid-century crucible, amidst engine oil stains and belt buckles, and into the present and back again, the reader can’t help but notice the same amber light.” —Nathaniel Popkin, journalist, editor, member of the National Book Critics Circle, and author of 3 books, including the novel Lion and Leopard

“Dennis Must’s third collection, a complex psychological, philosophical work, is filled with isolated, alienated, self-absorbed characters. Each story in this volume goes dark as Must burrows deeply into the souls of his intricately drawn characters. Overall, the collection becomes a compelling study of the problem of evil, the nature of human identity, and the function of art.” ——Jack Smith, author of Hog to Hog, Icon, and Being

“There are places where I stopped reading for story just to enjoy Must’s words. In the words, in the vocabulary, Must speaks to us living in an age that has turned its back on lexical prowess and seems to seek out the lowest elements in the lexicon. In Going Dark, Must refuses to admit that the dumbing down of America is in full swing.” —Jack Remick, author of the California Quartet and Gabriela and The Widow, for the Dactyl Review

“Writers aren’t exactly people … they’re a whole lot of people trying to be one person.” In Dennis Must’s third story collection, Going Dark, the narrators mirror F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation by drawing the reader into their dissimilar yarns, earthy or exalted, practical or fanciful. An aging actor looks back on his life, but whose life does he recall? A couple finds a novel way to spice up their marriage, but then the fantasy takes on a life of its own …. Middle-aged men struggle to cope with distracted wives and terminal loneliness. They look back on hapless childhoods to come to terms with what drove their parents or siblings to suicide, infidelity, or madness.

Post World War II Midwest is the predominant setting, and Must’s poetic gift captures its moods, textures and odors and gives it form and substance in vivid colors and dramatic shades of gray.

Their author has been variously compared to Franz Kafka, Flannery O’Connor, Nathaniel West, and Nathanial Hawthorne.

Says Must, “Stories preserve the heartbeat of those telling moments in our lives that, for better or worse, distinguish who we are. I write to savor their ardor once again, in hope that they become less ambiguous so that I might revel in their wonder, their mystery, or even mitigate their lingering pain. It’s a journey that began for me upon reading Sherwood Anderson’s ‘I Want To Know Why.’ ”

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 second novel, Hush Now, Don’t Explain, was published by Coffeetown Press in October 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 from “Houseguest”:

The following morning he found a pair of brown leather bluchers squirreled away in the corner of the garage. In the garden shed—alongside a spade whose handle had broken, a rake with several tines missing, and a package of nasturtium seeds—a man’s Elgin watch dangling by its crocodile leather strap from a nail. Edgar shook it, causing it to tick alive.

That second night he placed the timepiece next to his head. He dreamed he heard the former tenant’s heart beating in the upstairs bedroom, the large one with the porthole to the attic where the stoup remained, and that, by some miraculous intervention, he’d learned to play Debussy. That his fingers had taken on a life of their own and astonishingly begun to fly over the keys, producing the lovely sounds.

Would the shoes fit? he wondered. And what did the gentleman look like? (The house sale had been arranged by a lawyer for the former occupant’s estate.) Was there a photograph secreted somewhere in the house?

These items that I’ve discovered are meant for me to puzzle together. They’re talismans of some sort. How could it be otherwise? Why was the piano left behind? The shoes and the watch? Surely there is a photograph lying about somewhere.

The kitchen cupboards lay bare.

The medicine chest in the upstairs bath was sparkling clean. In the harsh overhead light, he spotted a slit in the cabinet’s back for discarded razor blades. How many had fallen to pile up in the cavity of the studded walls? Were they blue steel or silver? Were any stained with blood?

He checked the smaller bedroom closets. Each was empty, the top shelf lined with fading newspaper.

Inside the Bösendorfer!

Moonlight puddled its closed lid. A brittle manila packet lay across its strings. He emptied its contents upon the parquet floor.

A glossy photograph of a nude sitting before an oval dressing mirror accompanied a song book, its pages dog-eared with several missing. The woman stared at Edgar in the mirror, and behind her, a shellacked-hair male wearing a tweed jacket.

Younger … yes, but I swear it’s me. Who is she? The china breasts with plum aureoles. The raven hair spiraling over her left shoulder. The mirror casting a silver light on her narrow waist and willowy thighs.

Edgar lifted the glossy to his face. His double stared at him over her shoulder. Not at her. Erotic as she was … but at him.

He lay under the Bösendorfer, tossing and turning, the photograph alongside.