Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: Travel Writer Lyn Fuchs Ventures into the Lesser Known Wilds of Mexico

fresh_windIn Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico ($11.95, 138 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-172-9), travel writer Lyn Fuchs takes the reader to the more primitive and elemental regions of his adopted country, providing historical context and cogent and satirical commentary along the way.  Fuchs’ first book, Sacred Ground & Holy Water: One Man’s Adventures in the Wild, recounted his travels all over the globe. Chris Ord, Editor of Travel Rag, says of Fuchs’ writing, “Grips you, holds you, and leaves you with something profound.”

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“Gonzo tourist Fuchs’s account of way-off-the-beaten-path Mexico makes Anthony Bourdain appear reserved. His approach style is primitive and organic, with no first-world intercession or assistance. Only three pages in and he’s solicited a fake passport, trial-and-errored peyote dosage, and had a tooth extracted with wincing crudeness by a “dentist.” While he’s more author Hunter S. Thompson than travel guide Rick Steves, and certainly sensational in his gleefully gritty pursuit of the real Mexico, he’s not exploitive, cloying, or insincere and more often than not he reveals with acuity and bite a talent for finding the conceit (with prickling quotability). Verdict Though not your standard travel guide—no maps, agenda, index, or even photos are in this book—it is nonetheless vivid, and illuminatingly dense with lost histories of an unconsidered culture. Fuchs rambles (sometimes escaping) from Mayan and Mixtec barrios and villages to cities and towns, and opens up to everything from mafiosos and mystics to moles and iguanas. Fuchs offers unpredictable reading, recommended to those who like travel to challenge their perspective.”

—Benjamin Malczewski, Library Journal

Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is earthy, raw and vibrant. It has the B. Traven authenticity with a Hunter S. Thompson fire. The stories are graphic and well-written. They show you a side of Mexican society that most foreigners and many Mexicans will never know – sometimes seamy, sometimes just alive and real. The author spins his tales with well-written prose and vivid description. Individual cities and towns are highlighted, but more as a backdrop for the human stories. I know nearly all the places the author mentions and (except for the dark sides, which I do not know) he does a good job summing up the atmosphere of the towns. This book is not for those with sensitive imaginations. Some may even find it disturbing. But if you can read graphic modern detective novels and watch modern crime shows, you should enjoy it.”

–Mexico Mike Nelson, Author of Live Better South of the Border

Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is smart, divertido, and so cleansing that I think I can defer a trip to Catemaco for a limpieza!”

–Tony Cohan, bestselling author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days

“A uniquely witty and perceptive take on Mexico, Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico again shows Lyn Fuchs (who previously authored Sacred Ground & Holy Water) to be not just a mere travel writer, but a practical philosopher à la Montaigne, with a dash of Henry Miller’s American humor and sexuality …. One must, however, question Fuchs’ sagacity, and sanity, when he arranges to interview a Mexican drug lord – though he comes to his senses mid-interview and realizes what a dumb venture he has wrought. The sequence, like other episodes, is both hair-raising and hilarious. Bottom line: Fuchs writes of his adopted homeland, Mexico, with love, vigor, wit and a discerning, unsentimental eye.”

—Rick Skwiot, winner of the Hemingway First Novel Award and Willa Cather Fiction Prize finalist, author of Sleeping With Poncho Villa, Death In Mexico, and San Miguel De Allende, Mexico: Memoir of a Sensual Quest For Spiritual Healing

“The writing is almost poetic and the history, philosophy and comedy reek of the human spirit in Mexico. I feel privileged to have read this work as it fulfilled everything I want out of a book. Comedy, suspense and self-reflection. This work demonstrates all of these, and the exemplary writing grasps the ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy that many writers fail to practice.”

—Jairus Reddy, publisher at Hobbes End Publishing

“Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico will appeal to readers and armchair travelers who crave more than an in-and-out experience. Fuchs delivers with his exploration of the dualities of non-tourist Mexico: a largely unknown land that is both intimidating and immensely inviting.”  Read more ….

—Lori A. May, ForeWord Review

Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is just as the title suggests: fresh, original and passionate. Fuch grips the reader, from beginning to end, with his historical detail, humor and socio-political anecdotes. This is a must read for anyone who lives in or aspires to travel extensively throughout Mexico.”  Read more …

—Deanna Proach, News Blaze

“In Fresh Wind & Strange Fire, the intellectual mixes with the traveler while still remaining charmingly down-to-earth. The book might be about high places and lofty thoughts, but it is never pedantic or patronizing …. Apart from his spiritually tinged adventures, the book makes a strong case for legal immigration with a stomach churning account of the slavery that existed in the region, which is now transformed to a traveler’s paradise. It is unusual for a travel book to be this honest and it adds to the book’s character…. All in all, the book is a philosophical adventure through the realm of the Mayans that will make you smile, wince and introspect. A definite winner as far as the genres of both, spiritual literature and travel fiction are concerned.”

—Shweta Ganesh Kumar, writer and travel columnist

Are you ready to travel beyond where even news reporters fear to tread? Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is author Lyn Fuchs’ journey through stranger-than-fiction primal terrain. As an American professor in a Mexican university exploring the southern reaches of his adopted country, Fuchs knows the territory as only a local resident can and is uniquely qualified to convey its essence to English-speaking readers.

Fuchs’ adventures include buying fake documents, eating iguanas, ingesting peyote, scaling glaciers, train-hopping with migrants, splash-fighting with Mayans, joking with narcotraficantes, being exfoliated by fish, having a tooth extracted without anesthetic, and interviewing the last living witness to a Latin American extermination camp. As mystics exalt the lotus for its stately blossoms arising out of muddy waters, Lyn celebrates life by gleaning hilarity and wisdom from bizarre reality.

Says Fuchs, “I think many Americans have a lover’s quarrel with their own culture. Americans living in Mexico often feel great love for their homeland, but also great freedom from the limitations of its worldview. I sometimes tell friends that Mexico offers all the good things in life, plus just enough violence to keep the wimps out. (I’ve suggested this slogan to the tourism department but haven’t heard back.) In Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico, I try to share some of the freedom and courage I’ve found in Mexico with my compatriots, who assume they live in the land of the free and home of the brave. It’s true that newcomers to surreal Mexico often feel vulnerable, but long-term expatriate residents usually feel empowered. Life in Mexico provides fewer safety helmets, but more wind in your hair. If you’d like to take a primal spiritual journey into the deepest heart of Mexico without the infected and scarring mosquito bites, this book is for you.”

Fuchs’ travel writing has appeared in Outdoor Canada, Monday Magazine, Canadian Ethnic Studies, The Dalhousie Review, Eclectica Literary Journal, Rose and Thorn, Gam Magazine, Paperplates Literary Journal, Travel Rag, 3:AM Magazine, artist-at-large, Long Trip Home, Crank Literary Journal, The Kinte Space, Travelmag, Hack Writers, Trip 101, Raging Face, Traveling Stories, The Best of Bluefoot Publishing and others. Click here to find Lyn online.

Fuchs is a professor of communication at the University of Papaloapan and has earned his associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in communication and philosophy. Fuchs’ first book, Sacred Ground & Holy Water, is also available from Coffeetown Press.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Take a bus bound for the Caribbean. The farther we go, the denser the mango trees, the kinkier the hair of boarding passengers and the louder the Cumbia music played by the driver. Our bus ride transforms into a rolling party. At one stop, barefoot kids selling fresh banana chips board the bus. At the next, a fat woman distributes cards inscribed with prayers for donations. Later, an old man strums a guitar and sings love ballads. Finally, a pink, turquoise and purple clown with big floppy feet entertains us with bawdy jokes until we arrive in Tlacotalpan.

This photo-ready village, where the Papaloapan River flows out of the rainforest to meet the Gulf Coast, is a United Nations World Heritage Site. Yet, few tourists seem to know. The architecture and street music reflect Native, Spanish and Caribbean influences. The food is downright sexy.

On the riverfront, I slouch away all afternoon at a restaurant patio table. The Pescado a la Veracruzana (fish simmered with tomatoes, onions, chilies, olives, capers and herbs) is succulent. The empty cerveza bottles in front of me speak for themselves. What should I have next? I order a Dulce de Leche. This handmade milk confection is a pure delight.

Two churches on the town square dominate the skyline behind me. One is aqua-green with a bell tower; the other is cloud-white with sky-blue stripes and an enormous clock. The patron of fishing is the divine avatar of local choice. Many peasants come to these shrines and pray passionately for fish, while I snap my fingers and receive the same in abundance. How ironic.

Many of us pray for pregnancies in our forties and managerial jobs in a recession. When our desires remain unfulfilled, we sometimes become bitter. We complain “No one is listening up there!” Still, we tell children “No means no!” and “Stop that tantrum!” Meanwhile, multitudes ask humbly and submissively for fish. Who do we think is up there—a god or a lackey? If it’s all right to demand a heavenly server, is it okay for me to demand the kind they hire at Hooters?

I set off, walking along the cobblestone streets in the evening light. Every house has a colonnade but a different one. Each is painted in its own cheery tropical color. Above me are green-algae-covered terra cotta tile roofs and soaring coconut palms. As the sun sets, lamps come on in the garden around the central plaza. A din of food and fellowship rises in sidewalk cafés. The smell of lechero (coffee with steamed milk) plus anise liquor makes all seem right with the world.

Stroll under a full moon toward the Teatro Nezahualcóyotl. This opulent theater has four balconies stacked on top each other, constructed of carved wood and wrought iron. The stage has olive satin drapes and a mustard silk curtain. Men in khaki pants and red cotton shirts play fast and furious eight-string guitars of various sizes. A watery, soothing harp accompanies them.

Girls come out in flowing white-lace dresses to swirl, as boys stomp in orbit around them. Background singers wave ornate black fans to the beat. Red scarves are used to enact a human bullfight with undertones of mating and fertility ritual. Jarocha and Fandango dances alternate like a woven tapestry with whoops and whistles erupting. House lights extinguish. A soloist performs a haunting melody about the solitude of a fisherman. Women revolve in cross formation with burning candles balanced on their heads. Full lighting and fancy footwork resume, then hats fly off. Viva Mexico!

While exiting, I pass a Tiffany stained glass window and a bronze sculpture of the fifteenth century indigenous poet for whom the building is named. On the wall are a few lines of his verse: “I love the song of the cenzontle bird and the color of Jade and the perfume of the Copa de Oro flower, but most of all I love my fellow man.” Can’t say I totally relate, but after my time in Tlacotalpan, it’s definitely three down and one to go.

Loving one’s neighbor is a lofty goal. Maybe one should start by simply acknowledging their existence. Most people in the world have it rougher than I do. Walking to work daily or cooking family meals constantly isn’t cruel and unusual punishment. It’s life on earth as most folks know it.

In Mexico, one finds that not all respond to hardship or injustice with trauma and drama, as if the laws of the universe have been violated. This is strange to gringos. When I see how hard many people struggle, it’s almost a relief that the heavens don’t jump to my privileged demands. I don’t wanna be that spoiled. Having more is nice, but enjoying what you have more is better. Give us this day our daily bread … and some fish would be cool, if that works for You.

I spend the night at the airport hotel with planes keeping me awake. Actually, it’s a grandmother feeding a baby and making airplane noises as the spoon approaches the infant’s mouth. Tlacotalpan has no airport. However, if I complain about grandmas and babies, I’ll go straight to hell. The hotel is lovely at sunrise. A courtyard has marble floor and columns, inlaid tile arches and cornices, plus green ferns and a yellow wishing well. Mesh-backed cedar rocking chairs fill the breezy alcoves.

Writing Matters, Second Edition: Peter G. Beidler's Invaluable Guide to Writing Essays

writing_mattersFor several years, Peter G. Beidler’s Writing Matters has been a popular textbook for high school and college students. In the revised second edition of Writing Matters  ($13.95, 230 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-174-3), Beidler improves on the first by presenting an expanded section on editing.

Many students dread writing essays because no one has bothered to break down the process in a clear, down-to-earth fashion. Writing Matters is the remedy. Beidler offers both good and bad examples, explaining why the writers succeeded or why they went astray.

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“What I like most about Writing Matters is that it really speaks to my students. Beidler’s refreshing strategy of giving the rudiments of essay writing in twenty-six mini-essays which exemplify the very precepts he is advancing is particularly helpful. After all, some students learn better by precept, other by example. Writing Matters gives them simultaneously both precept and example. The ‘Editing Matters’ section comprising forty-seven rules (deftly keyed in a Quick Reference Guide at the end) is a wonderful bonus. And all of this at a price that students can easily afford. I have recommended Writing Matters to various colleagues and have yet to hear a negative word.”

—Professor John de Oliveira e Silva, CUNY: LaGuardia Community College, New York City, NY

“I have been using Peter G. Beidler’s Writing Matters for fifteen years because I prefer it to all other how-to writing textbooks that cross my desk. Writing Matters is far more accessible to students than the typical composition text. Each succinct chapter is itself a persuasive essay that shows (simultaneously as it tells) how to focus and develop an argument, how to write clearly and concisely, and how to anticipate and “deal with” probable reader objections. Although Beidler’s book is simple, direct, and sometimes humorous, it does not condescend.  Clearly Beidler understands not only writing but also student writers—their fears and misconceptions and common complaints. May this inexpensive but invaluable little book remains forever in print.”

—Professor Kathleen Mayberry, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville, PA

“Although he wrote this book for college writing classes, the simple, direct advice it contains would help anyone in the business world. Writing Matters should be in the desk drawer of every manager and executive, if only so that they can recommend it to those whose limping memos and cloudy reports they have to read.”

—Charlie Liekweg, recently retired President & CEO of AAA Washington and former Vice President, Operations, GTE Corporation

Award-winning English Professor Peter G. Beidler offers solid advice that includes, in part:

  • How to find a topic
  • What constitutes a bold thesis
  • How to select and organize evidence
  • What to include in an introduction
  • How to develop a voice
  • How to doctor a sickly paragraph

Although originally written for first-year university students learning composition, Writing Matters has also been invaluable to ESL students and those in high school preparing for the SATs.

PETER G. BEIDLER has recently retired from the English department at Lehigh University. He has published widely and has won many teaching awards. He was named National Professor of the Year by CASE—Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Baxter’s Friends, a Novel About Three Men in Crisis, by Ned Randle

baxters_friendsBaxter’s Friends ($13.95,  218 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-162-0), by Ned Randle, is a work of literary fiction about three middle-aged male friends whose lives are spinning out of control.

Baxter’s Friends is a finalist in the ForeWord Firsts Contest, sponsored by ForeWord Magazine.

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“We want our writers, our poets, our storytellers to make rainbows, not black or white or even varied shades of gray. Ned Randle paints in hues we often don’t want to see, but occur in nature, human nature …. In Baxter’s Friends, we come in at the present, return to the past, where there are always echoes weighing, weighing down on Baxter, Ferguson, Mary Ann, Mitch and everybody we meet in this fantastic novel.”
– Mr. and Mrs. Garbanzo, Garbanzo Literary Journal

“Middle age is where we wonder if there’s more to life than what we’ve seen. Baxter’s Friends tells the story of Jerry Baxter and his associates, as they struggle with the burden of entering the second half of their lives, dealing with their families, how they’ve treated others, and what awaits them in the uncertain decades to come, as well as what they can change. Baxter’s Friends is a riveting look into the crisis of midlife, so very much recommended reading.”

–Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Bookshelf

“Shows real promise…. Baxter’s Friends left me hoping Randle spends more time at a keyboard than he does in a courtroom.”  Read more ….

–Harry Levins, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“You might think, from reading the back cover, that you know what Baxter’s Friends is all about. You might be wrong. Mr. Randle will skillfully take you on an intimate journey through the mental meanderings of two different men who, perhaps, aren’t so different after all …”
– Robin Tidwell, Rocking Horse Publishing

“An interesting plot that commands the reader’s attention. Randle’s acute attention to detail; carefully wrought, fluid prose; and vivid, sometimes even lurid, details help create a compelling story. The novel is also laced with what can only be described as a rough masculine sense of humor…. Baxter’s Friends is entertaining and worth the reader’s time.”  Read more …

—Matthew W. Larrimore, Four Ties Lit Review

Jerry Baxter’s father liked to sing the old cowboy song, “O bury me not on the lone prairie …” when he drank. Ironically, Baxter and his two good friends, Hugh Ferguson and Al Mitchell, are soon to be buried alive, and the hole they are digging for themselves is getting deeper all the time.

Baxter is racked with guilt by the sight of his father sitting semi-coherent, blind, and barely mobile in the dismal nursing home he put him in. Fearing a fate every bit as grim, Baxter finds refuge in stark rituals from his Native American heritage that animate his fitful dreams. Ferguson has found religion, or rather had it forced upon him by his wife, who otherwise wants nothing to do with him. The tedium of his job as an accountant is slowly driving Ferguson around the bend. His one solace: fantasizing about an attractive female co-worker, while Mitchell, who has lost his zest for wheeling and dealing and womanizing, looks for a new thrill.

The three longtime friends are approaching middle age kicking and screaming, if only on the inside.

That is about to change.

Says Randle, “I learned as a young man that the theory ‘it’s a man’s world’ runs wide, but not deep. It is true that men of my generation, and those before me, had easier access to the superficial trappings of the world such as education, wealth, power and success. That is slowly changing. There is, however, another world that underlies the superficial; it is a world of emotions, relationships, family and friends. As inhabiting this world, I ascribe to Thoreau’s theory, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ Right or wrong, in this nether world,  men desperately squirm and struggle under the weight of relationships, incessant  physical and  emotional cravings and insecurities in view the societal strictures of organized  religion, monogamy, heterosexuality and expectations of success. I wrote this book to shed a little light on this whole other world. I did not want to go to the grave with my song still in me.”

Ned Randle resides in Southern Illinois, where he writes fiction and poetry. He has a law degree from St. Louis University and studied writing at Washington University, Webster University and Southwestern Illinois College. His short story “The Amazing Doctor Jones” recently appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine, Summer 2012, and another, “The Boston Tar Baby” will be published by Prism Review in Spring 2013. His poems have appeared in a number of literary publications such as The Spoon River Quarterly, Circus Maximus, Seven Stars Poetry, Poydras Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, The New Poet, Hamilton Stone Review and Four Ties Literary Review. His chapbook, Prairie Shoutings and Other Poems, was published by The Spoon River Poetry Press, Bradley University. Coffeetown Press published Randle’s poetry collection, Running at Night: Collected Poems 1976-2012, in April, 2013. Baxter’s Friends is his first novel. Click here to find Randle online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

No matter what outfit Grandma had on, she always wore her necklace. When he was little he liked to sit on her lap and play with it. He remembered it well. It was simple—a heavy silver chain with a pendant in the shape of a turtle. Grandma would sit patiently and he would walk the turtle across the hills and valleys of her chest, up through the ripples of her fleshy throat to rest on her chin. He would hold the turtle at her mouth and tell her to give the turtle a kiss, which she always did. She would kiss the turtle and smile.

They buried her with the turtle necklace around her neck.

He thought about his grandmother now, as he lay in bed with his wife and looked down his left arm to his freckled hand. His own fair complexion glowed eerily in the dark. He regretted that he didn’t look more like her, more like an Indian. More like his mother and her mother and less like his old man and his mother.

Sure, his old man called him an Indian. That and worse. He had called him and his sisters his little papooses. Pagan babies. His heathens, he would say, and laugh like crazy.

His wife raised her head from his chest and looked at his face. He breathed heavily and she smiled. She was growing impatient with his distractions.

“Jerry?” she asked.

He tried to put his grandmothers out of his mind. He tried to focus on his wife and what she wanted from him, but her voice led him back to his visit with his father earlier in the evening.

“Jerry?” the old man asked. “You still here?”

“Yeah, Pop?”

“I’m hungry.”

“Sure, Pop. Open up. I’ll feed you.” Jerry tucked a towel into the open neck of his pajama shirt. “Here.”

The old man shrugged his shoulders and worked his ashen cheeks. Jerry put a spoonful of food in his mouth and his father clamped down on the spoon with his hardened gums. Jerry tugged at the spoon gently and the thin paste oozed out of the corners of his mouth. Jerry dabbed at it with a corner of the towel.

“Pretty good stuff, Pop?”

“No potatoes?”

“You want potatoes?”

“Goddamn yes, boy.”

“Sure, open up.” Jerry spooned in some potatoes, now cold and set. There was an uncomfortable silence around him. The other residents had finished their meals. Some stared at Leroy Baxter while he ate because they knew he could not see them stare. A few with full bellies nodded off to sleep in their chairs. Jerry could feel the eyes of the residents sitting behind him, those who wouldn’t sleep or visit or work their way back to their rooms. They sat and stared and amused themselves by watching him feed his father. Jerry reached over and straightened his father, sitting him upright in his chair. He wiped food off his old man’s chin.

Three Novels by Barbara Pym: Civil to Strangers and Other Writings, An Academic Question, and Crampton Hodnet

When Barbara Pym died in 1980 she left behind several complete but unpublished novels, half-finished works, short stories and many other papers. These were only available in the Bodleian Library in Oxford to scholars. Thanks to Pym’s friend, biographer, and colleague Hazel Holt–author of the much-loved Mrs. Malory Mysteries–three of these complete novels and assorted excerpts were published posthumously in the 1980s. In recent years they have only been available in the UK. Now Coffeetown Press is proud to bring them back into print in the U.S.A. and Canada.

In her introduction, Hazel Holt writes, “With the publication of these novels I am delighted to say that now all Barbara’s novels are back in print (and as eBooks) in the UK, the USA, and Canada. In 1977, the magic year of her rediscovery, she wrote in her notebook, ‘Who is that woman sitting on the concrete wall outside Barclay’s bank, reading the TV Times? That is Miss Pym the novelist.’ That is the only legacy she would wish to leave behind. I hope, in some small way, I have helped to achieve it.”

civil_strangersCivil to Strangers and Other Writings ($14.95, 294 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-180-4)

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Thanks to his wife’s money, Adam Marsh-Gibbon leads a charmed life writing poetry and novels celebrated mostly by his fellow residents in the town of Up Callow in Shropshire, England. His lovely wife Cassandra caters to his every whim, although perhaps not as enthusiastically as five years earlier, when she first married her handsome yet difficult and unappreciative husband.

Into their lives steps Mr. Stefan Tilos, the new tenant of Holmwood, a dashing Hungarian who puts the whole town in a flutter. How alarming then, that he should become so visibly enamoured of Cassandra. Mrs. Marsh-Gibbon is certainly above reproach. Or is she?

Barbara Pym wrote Civil to Strangers in 1936. It was first published posthumously in 1987, thanks to her friend and biographer Hazel Holt.

crampton_hodnetCrampton Hodnet ($13.95, 226, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-176-7)

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“The rare charm of Crampton Hodnet is in the glimpse it offers of Pym’s imagination as it pauses for a moment in perfect understanding of a character. That sympathy stretches beyond the horizon of comedy.”

—Time

Life has a certain reassuring if not terribly exciting rhythm for the residents of North Oxford. Miss Morrow is content in her position as spinster companion to Miss Doggett, even if her employer and the woman’s social circle regard her as a piece of furniture. Stephen Latimer, the new cleric and Miss Doggett’s dashing new tenant, upsets the balance for Miss Morrow by proposing the long discounted possibility of marriage.

Miss Doggett’s nephew, Mr. Francis Cleveland, is a handsome, middle-aged professor not destined for greatness in his field. He has a complaisant wife and an adoring pupil, a dangerous midlife combination. The town gossips witness an impulsive declaration of love between Francis Cleveland and Miss Bird and conclude that Mr. Cleveland is willing to sacrifice marriage and respectability for the sake of passion.

Caught in a potentially compromising situation with Miss Morrow, Mr. Latimer clumsily refers to a nonexistent town: Crampton Hodnet. His lie is harmless. In this town appearances are much more deceiving.

Barbara Pym began writing Crampton Hodnet in 1939. It was first published posthumously in 1985, thanks to her friend and biographer, Hazel Holt.

academic_questionAn Academic Question ($12.95, 168 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-178-1)

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‘Authentic Pym, with the true depth of exuberance in it.’

London Review of Books

Caro is the wife of Dr. Alan Grimstone, a lecturer at a provincial university in a West Country town in England. She knows her circle believes that she should be doing more with her life. She is the mother of a young daughter but relieved to be able to leave the girl in the care of an au pair. Her one selfless act–reading aloud to a former missionary at a rest home–is sullied when she allows her husband to ‘borrow’ some of the old gentleman’s papers in order to get the better of a colleague. Caro’s sister is a social worker disinclined towards marriage and children, but is she happy? Despite appearances, Caro is content enough. Until she learns that that her husband Alan has a wandering eye.

What is happiness? The knowledge that one is loved? Academic renown? Or is it friendship with eccentric friends and the sight of the first crocuses of spring or the Virginia creeper in autumn?

Barbara Pym completed the first draft of her satirical “Academic Novel” in 1970, ten years before her death. It was first published posthumously in 1985, thanks to her friend and biographer Hazel Holt.

Barbara Pym (1913-80) was born in Shropshire and educated at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. When in 1977 the TLS asked critics to name the most underrated authors of the past 75 years, only one was named twice (by Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil): Barbara Pym. Her novels are characterized by what Anne Tyler has called “the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life.”

Running at Night, a Collection of Poetry by Ned Randle

running_at_nightRunning at Night: Collected Poems 1976-2012 ($10.95, 106 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-164-4) is a collection of fifty-nine poems from the past thirty-three years of poet Ned Randle’s life.

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“At their best, Randle’s poems evoke a connection with the land that reads as true and absolute. He solidifies the thoughts and lives of imagined earlier inhabitants with grace and empathy, such as in his series ‘The Illinois Poems.’ … The book has a settled consistency of tone and pace that clears a way for readers to navigate an expansive world of corners and hills. And readers may find themselves compelled onward, much like the runner in the titular poem, by the steadiness of Randle’s composition.”  Read more …

—Theodosia Henney, Cactus Heart Literary Journal

“Among my whip-poor-wills, I heard [Randle’s] urbane songs, poems fresh with haiku spontaneity, burnished bright as ‘a gypsy’s glass eye,’ seasoned with maturity of vision and understated beauty–a friendly scholar’s voice with tongue a little in the cheek, never sentimental, never giddy, never cute, yet seasoned with self-effacing humor and a somewhat jaundiced eye, the ‘saddest eyes’ one young woman ever saw, seasoned by 40 years of memories gathered up in ‘burlap bags’ or raked in piles for ‘boisterous boys’ to ‘romp asunder.’ ”

—O. Victor Miller, novelist, humorist, and naturalist

“A courageous book of witnessing. It takes the reader through dark paths on fast foot. The poems are written with a sure hand, the images right, the word choice sharp, the line breaks masterful.”

—Ariana D. Den Bleyker, award-winning poet and editor, Emerge Literary Journal

“When we read through Running at Night, we are reminded that while we all feel each and every one of these illustrious emotions, it is still a gift to know how to pull forth the words to describe them. This is why writers such as Ned Randle are so integral in this day and age—and we ought to honor that gift. We honor such gifts to help lift the poet’s burden as the poet lifts our own …. This is a book that should eventually grace our bookshelves, after taking a fair turn upon a coffee table and most specially, in our hands.”

—Mr. & Mrs. Garbanzo, The Garbanzo Literary Journal

“Ned Randle’s poetry collection Running at Night often touches upon the most humdrum aspects of life, and yet somehow Randle always manages to communicate the sheer beauty and wealth of possibilities we find in the everyday. His collected poems from 1976-2012 find the extraordinary in the ordinary, even reassurance in the grotesque, and nourishment in both simple and humble spaces…. With muddy rivers full of fish, grassy banks, lazy dogs, and a cat slinking out of the barn, the sense of place resonates vibrantly in these pages. Randle creates powerful images that both dazzle and revolt.”  Read more …

—Sarah Rae, Executive Editor, Poydras Review

“In recognizably American fashion, [Randle’s poems] reach from the ground on which he lives to dreams earned and known.”

—Mark Lofstrom, Hawaii Literary Arts Council

Here is an excerpt from Randle’s poem, “Graveside”:

He conjures up a prayer but lets it fall
unspoken onto the sod, into the
soil, jealously hating heaven after
death where strange souls are urged to love his love,
and briefly hoping for hell for her, where
no love survives the crucible, where she
melts in the heat of his lust forever.

Says Randle, “Poetry is the dry distillation of feelings that produces a tangible product to be shared with others. Although the process requires a very high heat and is not without risk, it is worthwhile when readers tell you they can feel the residual warmth rising from the page holding a poem they really like.”

Ned Randle resides in Southern Illinois, where he writes fiction and poetry. He has a law degree from St. Louis University and studied writing at Washington University, Webster University and Southwestern Illinois College. His poems have appeared in a number of literary publications such as The Spoon River Quarterly, Circus Maximus, Seven Stars Poetry, Poydras Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, The New Poet, Hamilton Stone Review and Four Ties Literary Review. His chapbook, Prairie Shoutings and Other Poems, was published by The Spoon River Poetry Press, Bradley University. Coffeetown Press will release Randle’s first novel, Baxter’s Friends in June of 2013. For more information, click here.

Badges, Bears, and Eagles, an Action-Packed Memoir by California Fish and Game Warden Steven T. Callan

badgesBadges, Bears, and Eagles: The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden ($13.95, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-158-3), by Steven T. Callan, is a fascinating and often humorous collection of stories from Callan’s eventful and unusually successful career as a California fish and game warden.

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BADGES, BEARS, AND EAGLES is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. For wholesale orders, please contact orders@epicenterpress.com or call 1-425-485-6822.

Read a feature article about Steve and his book in the Record Searchlight newspaper.

Click here to read a story from Steve’s childhood. His father was also a game warden.

“This engrossing memoir by debut author Callan lets readers in on highlights of his 30-year career as a California wildlife officer. With a healthy dose of bravado, he always gets his perps, though he credits his fellow officers, like long-time partner Dave Szody, and the roles they’ve played in cases brought against poachers and other law-breakers. He recalls stories from back into the 1970′s, his memory matched by a knack for pacing and recognition of how much information readers need to understand the dynamics of the cases. From beer-swilling poacher flunkies to ‘entrepreneurs’ dealing in black bear gall bladder for use in Chinese medicine, Callan and his partner sent a lot of wild characters to jail. The vignettes are jaw-dropping, funny, tragic, enraging, exciting, and hopeful—sometimes all at once. An avid outdoorsman with respect for the land and its inhabitants, Callan shares some of the ecological and social history of each California region he’s worked; while those without knowledge of hunting will soon learn the intricacies of California’s byzantine regulations. Never wavering from his ideals, Callan demonstrates an enviable love of his life’s work and has plenty of adventure stories to share.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Exceptionally well-written …. The writing style is almost flawless, and reading this gem is pure effortless joy ….”

—Gerry Lister, International Game Warden magazine

“A thrilling ride into the heart of bad guy country. Which is pretty much anywhere in the state, any place that people can abuse wildlife and habitats for a profit …. The author has reconstructed his and other cases from memory, interviews and court documents. The result is a series of suspenseful, well-written procedurals in which good triumphs, but not without a lot of foot work and tense dealings with well armed scofflaws …. It’s compelling reading about true public service.”  Read more …

–Dan Barnett, Chico Enterprise-Record

“Steve Callan has written an honest and compelling memoir of his career as a warden for the California Department of Fish & Game. Game wardens usually work alone, rarely with backup, and often must deal with men carrying loaded firearms. It’s not a calling for the faint of heart, but one requiring high intelligence, tact, and insight into human nature. Californians are fortunate to have wardens of Callan’s distinguished character protecting their wildlife.”
—Boyd Gibbons, former Director of the California Department of Fish & Game, retired President of The Johnson Foundation and former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Interior

“Most people do not think of a game warden as a detective. In Badges, Bears, and Eagles, Steve Callan—Californian, detective, environmentalist, wildlife protection officer, and outdoorsman—takes the reader on a thrilling adventure, providing an inside look at what a dedicated game warden truly does.”
—Randal Hendricks, Sports Agent, Attorney, and award-winning author of Inside the Strike Zone

“Always alone, with backup (if any) an hour and a half away, the game warden is usually dealing with people carrying guns. This book is a genuine chronicle of the very unusual and exciting life of a California Game warden. Steve Callan always managed to bring me the most unusual cases any prosecutor would ever see.”
—Larry Allen, District Attorney, Sierra County, CA, and former Shasta County deputy DA and Environmental Prosecutor

“Callan is John Grisham for the Outdoorsman. Conservationists will applaud his sometimes ‘unique’ efforts to protect our natural resources from those who would abuse them. Whoever knew there was so much intrigue in Fish and Game cases?”
—McGregor Scott, former Shasta County District Attorney and former United States Attorney-Sacramento

“Callan’s chronicle of the life of a California Fish and game warden stands out because in addition to the typical illegal hunting and fishing cases, he provides the reader with real life examples of wardens protecting wildlife habitat and conducting exhaustive undercover operations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.”
—Donald Koch, retired Director of the California Department of Fish and Game

Over his thirty-year career as a wildlife protection officer for the California Department of Fish and Game, Steve Callan and his longtime working partner, Dave Szody, conducted some of the most fascinating, complex and highly successful wildlife investigations in California history. They also collected a wealth of true stories—action-packed, suspenseful and often humorous.

In Badges, Bears and Eagles, Steve provides a vivid first-person account of his adventures. The author and his colleagues outsmart game hogs, thwart fish thieves, and foil outlaws with names like “Squeaky.” Steve is even stalked by African lions and mauled by a five-hundred pound Bengal tiger. One of the most important cases of his career begins with a slain bald eagle dropped on the doorstep of the Fish and Game office, along with a note threatening the life of a fellow warden. A decade later, Callan and Szody conduct the investigation of their lives, uncovering a statewide criminal conspiracy to kill California black bears for their valuable gall bladders.

It’s not all about catching bad guys—in “Saving Lake Mathews,” Steve chronicles how he helped save a beloved wildlife sanctuary from developers.

Says Callan, “My career with California Fish and Game could be described as one big adventure. I investigated every form of wildlife outlaw: deer poachers, elk poachers, bighorn sheep poachers, eagle killers, game hogs, salmon snaggers, fish thieves, reptile collectors, exotic animal smugglers and people who slaughtered bears for their gall bladders. Many of those cases became fascinating stories that I knew one day would have to be captured on paper. Three years ago I told myself I had waited long enough, and started writing.”

Steven T. Callan was born in San Diego, California. With an insatiable interest in wildlife, particularly waterfowl, he never missed an opportunity to ride along on patrol with his father, a California Fish and Game warden. Steve graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1970 and continued with graduate work at California State University, Sacramento. Hired by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1974, he spent thirty years as a warden/patrol lieutenant, starting his career near the Colorado River, moving on to Riverside/San Bernardino, and finally ending up in Shasta County (Redding). Steve and his wife, Kathleen, support many  environmental causes. Click here to find Steven online.

Read on for an excerpt:

Most people didn’t like the idea of big cats moving into their neighborhoods, so we often received calls. An anonymous tip led Warden John Slaughter and me into the strange world of Whitley Milton. According to our source, Milton had recently acquired a leopard and kept it at his new house in Perris. The house was way out at the end of a gravel road.

As we pulled up in front of the house, Warden Slaughter commented that it looked like some contractor had just slapped the thing together, graded a ten-foot path around it and left it sitting out in the weeds.

Although no cars were present, Slaughter and I decided to knock. The doorbell didn’t work so Slaughter tapped lightly on the picture window next to the front door. Sheets covered all of the windows; fortunately the sheet covering the front picture window had fallen partially down. Warden Slaughter peered inside and noticed that the living room was completely devoid of furniture. The floor seemed to be made of dark-colored tile.

As Warden Slaughter was about to tap on the window a second time, a five-foot monitor lizard shot across the living room floor and down the hall. The tile floor was so slippery that the giant reptile had spun out.

“Did you see that?” asked Slaughter.

I laughed. “Unbelievable!” I said. “How would you like to clean that house?”

We left and returned several times over the next few days before finally finding Milton at home. A fortyish dark-skinned man wearing a pink Hawaiian shirt answered the door.

“We are with the Department of Fish and Game,” said Warden Slaughter. “Are you Whitley Milton?”

“Yes, I am,” answered Milton, a puzzled look on his face.

“Would you mind if we come in and talk with you for a few minutes?” asked Slaughter.

Neither of us really wanted to go inside the house, imagining what it might smell like, but we figured it would provide us with an opportunity to look around. Milton asked us to wait a minute while he put his lizard in another room. He finally led us into a dimly lit den, furnished with a couch and a few chairs. A large bird cage containing a scarlet macaw hung at one end of the room.

“That’s a beautiful bird,” said Slaughter, hoping to gain Milton’s confidence with a little friendly chit chat.

“Oh, thank you,” said Milton. “That’s Reggie; I’ve had him for over twenty years. Please sit down. Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?”

Slaughter and I politely declined the drink offer. We sat down on the couch and began asking general questions about the monitor lizard. During the conversation, a jet black house cat was playing with one of my boot laces. “We received a report that you recently acquired a leopard, Mr. Milton.” I tried to pull my foot away, but the cat was quite insistent. “Can you tell us about that?”

“I had a leopard for a few days,” Milton said, “but I shipped it back east. I wanted to get a permit and have a cage built.”

Before either Slaughter or I could respond, Milton began asking a series of hypothetical questions, each one beginning with, “Answer me this, Lieutenant Callan.” Animal Welfare regulations required a certain amount of interpretation by the officers enforcing them. It became obvious that Milton was trying to pin me into a corner on requirements for the possession of big cats. I tried to interpret the regulations fairly and as they were intended, but deep down I deplored the idea of private individuals keeping these magnificent wild animals in backyard cages.

Milton droned on for five or ten more minutes before I noticed something unusual about his kitty—its extremely large paws. The determined little feline was still busy chewing on my right boot.

“Wait a minute!” I said, interrupting Milton in the middle of a sentence. “I think we’ve found our leopard.” John and I had been looking for a typical yellow and black animal, not one in the melanistic black phase. We hadn’t paid much attention to the playful little kitten on the floor. Upon closer examination, we realized that this little black kitty with the oversized paws was actually a very young black leopard cub.

Milton had purposely kept the shades closed, so there was very little light in the room. I picked up the cat and carried it to the window. When I pulled the shades back, the light poured in and exposed the characteristic leopard spots through the animal’s shiny black fur. We might have been concerned about Milton lying to us, but John and I were a little embarrassed about not recognizing the leopard in the first place.

Charges were filed against Milton for unlawful possession and importation of a prohibited species. No zoos or legitimate facilities were willing to take the leopard so it was eventually shipped back east to its original owner.

Gabriela and the Widow, by Jack Remick: A Story of Memory, Immortality and Redemption

Gabriela and The Widow ($14.95, 280 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-147-7), a work of literary fiction by Seattle author Jack Remick, tells the story of a dying aristocrat and the Mixteca caregiver who helps her assemble the jumbled pieces of her past, a process that gives them both love, closure, and the courage to move on.

Gabriela and The Widow is a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, Eric Hoffer Award.

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** Also available in Kindle and in other eBook formats on Smashwords **

“The characters of Gabriela and la viuda have remained with me since I read the last line and closed the book. Jack Remick is a master storyteller, an intuitive man and a writer of the highest caliber. With Gabriela and The Widow, my first introduction to the author, he has gained a new fan. I highly recommend this book to you.”  Read more ….

–Eleanor Parker, author of a A Decent Woman

“A lyrical treasure that paints a magical mysterious world of two women, so close they inhabit each others’ dreams and relive each others’ experiences …. This is a beautiful, horrific, captivating read full of the lights and colors, the smells and music of southern Mexico and central California. The story held me to the screen and that says a lot.”  Read more …

–Arleen Williams, author of The Thirty-Ninth Victim

“Remick laces Spanish and English dialogue, crusted agéd skin and voluptuous beauty, bloody violence and exquisite tenderness. As he blurs boundaries we are sucked into this story, chapter by chapter, until we too transform, we too feel we have glimpsed the answer to immortality’s riddles. Gabriela and The Widow is sure to hook readers who enjoy a well told and fascinating story where all the gem-like details fall together to form a rich and satisfying puzzle.”

—Paula Lowe, Publisher, Big Yes Press, former editor Solo Novo Magazine.

“The plot is complex and filled with revenge, sometimes sadness, and a level of mystery and intrigue that only a well versed and experienced author could accomplish …. A master tale by a master talent.”  Read more …

—Terri Forehand, Writing and Others Ways into the Heart

“Riveting …. This is not a neat morality tale. Remick’s novel invites us to taste the blood and to roll in the sweat. It also invites us to enjoy one subordinated woman’s payback.”  Read more …

—Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home (October, 2013)

“Jack Remick’s words forces the reader to keep turning the pages. The plot is complex and filled with sadness, regret, and a level of mystery and intrigue.”  Read more …

–Blogcritics

“I found the book to be a gripping read. Gabriela is an amazingly resilient and resourceful character….  It’s not an easy book to read at times in terms of the harsh content, but it’s one you can’t put down. You get so drawn to Gabriela with her freshness and uncomplicated approach to things.Jack Remick has a gift with character creation. He portrays everyone sharply, even minor characters that we only meet in passing. We know exactly what makes them tick and whether we like them or not within a sentence or two. There is plenty of action, an intriguing plot and a lot of enjoyment to be drawn from this novel.”  Read more …

–Stephanie, BooksAreCool.com

5 Stars: “A wonderfully-crafted novel that will be very hard for readers of all ages to put down for long. It is a book about pain, hardship, and emancipation. It is mesmerizingly written, just like a well-crafted musical piece.” Read more …

–Irene S. Roth, author and writer

“A book that is deep and more than just a story is a book that will stay in your head for many years. I think I found such a book …. The story is extremely captivating. You want to keep reading to find out what is next is store for the young girl and what new things she will discover with from the widow …. More than a simple story, this is a detailed examination of life.”  Read more ….

–Rebecca Graf, A Book Lover’s Library

“His characters (from the main characters Gabriela and La Viuda to supporting/walk-ons) are vivid and bring their own background, even if we never learn what it is. The narrative captivates you and plays on all the emotions of each character.”  Read more …

–Alexandra Michele, Family Matters Blog

“Each character in the story feels real, even the ones we only meet for a short time. You can hear, see and feel them moving about as Gabriela slowly finds her way, both in life and internally. You will feel the deepness of this young girl and her desire to find a place to call home …. A truly remarkable novel on many deep levels with symbols to bring you back around full circle.” Read more …

–V.S. Grenier, author and editor

The Widow (La Viuda) is ninety-two years old. She lives in a house filled with photos and coins, jewels and a sable coat. Aware that her memory is failing but burning with desire to record the story of her life on paper, she hires Gabriela, a nineteen-year-old Mixteca from Mexico. Gabriela is one of the few survivors of a massacre and treacherous journey to El Norte.

Gabriela and The Widow is a story of chaos, revenge, and change: death and love, love and sex, and sex and death. Gabriela seeks revenge for the destruction of her village. The Widow craves balance for the betrayals in her life. In the end, The Widow gives Gabriela the secret of immortality.

Remick says, “With Gabriela and The Widow I set out to write a novel about two women. One an immigrant, Gabriela, on a journey to the North, the other a dying old woman, a Widow who lives in the desert. I was drawn to the subject of the collision of cultures that is ripping America apart right now, but I also wished to examine how women relate without men. The men in Gabriela and The Widow are marginal—they are punishing, they are brutal, they are cheats and liars—but this is not a misanthropic book. It is the story of how The Widow makes Gabriela in her own image and sets her free from her bloody past. It is a book about mothers and daughters, it is a novel about women for women, but it is also a mythic recasting of the story of women before men.”

Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. In 2012 Coffeetown Press published the first two volumes of Jack’s California Quartet series, The Deification and Valley Boy. The final two volumes will be released in 2013: The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, in 2011. Click here to find Jack online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

She stood at the window watching the blackening sky. She smelled the dry hot dusty desert air. Heat boiling in through the window made her sweat so she unbuttoned her chambray shirt and rubbed her belly, fingers smooth over her slick skin. In the sky, she saw a flicker of light—a single yellow glowing dot.

Leaning on the sill of the open window, Gabriela watched the sky fill with a swarm of fireflies like the ones she had seen some evenings in the jungle. The swarm grew until the sky framed by the window glowed like light in a mirror. The light was so bright and the insects so many that they lit up the cactus in front of the steel chain fence and under the cactus the stones on the ground. The swarm of fireflies kept getting bigger and with the swarm there came a dry hard clicking like the sound of teeth chattering.

And then across the sky she saw darting bats.

Black and gray bats swooping through the mirror of light, hundreds of them. Where they struck, holes gaped open in the light, leaving long trails of black. The flutter of wings beat against the rattling of the fireflies and chills ran up Gabriela’s arms as the bats turned and swooped, smashing into the glowing swarm of insects until only a few dots remained against the blackness and then there was only the sky, empty, and off in the distance and high up and beyond, stars sparkled. There was silence.

Gabriela glanced down at the table where she had been working on the List—strips of paper overflowing from the box, sheets of paper with long lists of places and objects on them and there, on a strip of yellow paper a single firefly struggled. Its light blinked once, twice, then died. She picked up the strip of paper with the insect on it and walked to La Viuda’s room, where light spilled out into the dark hallway.

La Viuda, as always, sat in her nest of pillows reading and as always without glasses. Gabriela looked in. She said,

“Señora?”

La Viuda glanced up from her book. She closed it, one finger marking the page. She said,

“Come in child. You look … excited and you’re half naked.”

“I have seen death, Señora. There were so many and now they are all dead.”

“Death excites you so you strip off your clothes?”

Gabriela held out the dead insect. La Viuda scooped up the black dot in the cup of the nail of her little finger. She said,

“This time of year the fireflies battle the bats and always the bats win. But look at you. It worries me if you walk around half-naked like a crazy woman. Are you all right?”

“I am sorry, Señora. It is hot in my room. I will go.”

“No, no. There’s a negligee in my closet if you’re … if you need to put it on.”

Gabriela buttoned her shirt and tied the tails in a knot. La Viuda said,

“Come sit with me. What were you doing when this battle took place?”

“The List, Señora. All those pieces of paper. How do I make order out of them?”

“Oh yes, the girls before you—all thieves, illiterate thieves. Not one of them had any idea about the color of my moods. I’d say—I’m not in a red mood, but the silly little fat ones kept on writing no matter how I felt. Have you eaten?”

“Yes, Señora. We ate at seven.”

“Seven? Good god, what time is it now?”

“Eleven, Señora.”

“Eleven? Why have you let me stay awake so late?”

“You were reading, Señora and the List …”

“Forget the List. I’m in a yellow mood and when I’m yellow I like to eat cucumber sandwiches and drink tea.”

Gabriela sat in the armchair beside the bed. She said,

“Señora. If you drink tea this late you’ll have to get up soon.”

“Or wet my bed,” La Viuda said. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? If I wet my bed then you could treat me like a child. I’m hungry.”

“I will bring you crackers and cheese,” Gabriela said.

“Yellow. You see? You understand my moods and my colors and you don’t want me to pee my bed but you’ll constipate me with cheese. What kind? Cheddar? I don’t like soft cheeses. What have you done to my List?”

“The List is very heavy, Señora, and your life is very dangerous.”

“Where is the List?”

“On my bed,” Gabriela said. “It is very heavy now.”

“Heavy? It’s paper, how heavy can it be? You mean the List is very thick, is that what you mean?”

“Yes, Señora. I mean thick.”

“This battle has disrupted your brain, Gabriela. My advice to you is never leave the List alone in your room because it might infect you with what I have and what I have you don’t want because it can only end one way—look at me. Not a wrinkle on your half-naked thin body and you’re still pure as rain but now you want to stuff me with cheese.”

Gabriela patted the old woman’s hand and she looked into her sharp blue eyes that were as empty and distant as the sky. The old woman licked her lips and said,

“Bring me the List, we’ll burn it.”

“I do not think you want to burn it.”

“Don’t try to lift it, Gaby. You’ll break your back the way life has broken me but who am I to complain? I have you and this firefly and there are so many but every year at this time the bats come for them so I think a ham sandwich would be perfect do we have ham such a thin little arm such brown skin but ham is salty and I don’t like soft cheese and a cup of tea.”

Gabriela stood and she tucked La Viuda into her bed of pillows and she removed the book and set it on the chest beside the bed. La Viuda said,

“The fireflies and the bats. Remember that they always fight at this time of year but the emerald ring is in the chest. It’s there and it’s yours.”

“Oh no, Señora. I want nothing but to be with you.”

“Open the chest.”

“If I touch it, I will die, Señora.”

“You will die anyway. So you might as well die with the ring on that lovely slender brown finger of yours. The other girls had no feeling for my colors and they were fat with fat thick fingers and not one of them could see when I was in a red mood and when they tried to put on the ring it was like stuffing sausage in a tube of lipstick. So put on the negligee and pretend that you are a seductress and we’ll have some Ovaltine because Ovaltine reminds me of the year we spent in Switzerland.”

“Sweetzerland, Señora. En castellano que es?”

“Suiza. El Señor took a company there for a large water project in the mountains—I think something to do with glaciers—but surely that’s already on the List.”

“Zurich, jess, Señora. Suiza no.”

“Zurich is in Suiza,” La Viuda said.

“And Sweetzerland is in Suiza also, Señora?”

“Try on the negligee,” La Viuda said, “because I can’t have you flitting around like a naked firefly. And wake me in time, will you? Not a second before, not one minute later. Do you understand time?”

“Time is made up of hours, Señora, and the hours make up the days and the days make up weeks and the weeks make the year.”

“Perfect. In the woman business, we must have time down pat.”

Gabriela waited until La Viuda closed her eyes. Then she turned off the lamp and, taking the dead insect with her, returned to her room, to the desk, to the box of strips of paper.

On the table beside her sat the boxful of paper slips. Small rectangles of paper each written in a different hand—some slanted to the left, others to the right. Still others were printed in block letters. They were written in a rainbow of green and black and red and blue inks, some of the notes so faint they read like fingerprints of ghosts. But all of them were jumbled in a chaotic mess in the box and as Gabriela tried to sort them out she grew impatient.

On the left side of the table, she had laid out the slips with objects written on them—

The Atahualpa
Emerald ring
Bergamot pot

The Atahualpa? And what was a bergamot pot? She had no idea.

On the right she had set out the slips of paper with places written on them—

Lima
Rotorua

—where was Rotorua?

Moscow
Cosala

In the middle, on the table, were the sheets of yellow paper with columns of dates and places, objects and letters, but there was no order to it. The dates were out of sequence—1998, 1970, 1969—and the objects were listed under the dates and the places were listed but there was no connection between the objects and the places. This chaos worried Gabriela because of La Viuda’s obsession with the List but so far as Gabriela could see, La Viuda’s life—if the box of strips was her life—was a mess. How to tell her—“Señora, your life is a mess and the List can’t be put together from the pieces you have here. There is much work to do.”

And so Gabriela began again.

On sheets of white paper, she made units that contained a date, an object, a place. And under that a slot for photo and another for letter. She knew now that with those parts, she could bring some order into La Viuda’s life. She also knew that everything depended on the old woman’s memory.

E.F. Benson's Lucia Lives on in Lucia Triumphant, by Tom Holt

First published in 1986, Lucia Triumphant ($14.95, 262 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-126-2) is the second of Tom Holt’s officially sanctioned sequels to E.F. Benson’s beloved Lucia and Mapp series. Coffeetown released Lucia in Wartime in August.

Lucia in Wartime and Lucia Triumphant can both be ordered wholesale by bookstores and libraries in the U.S., U.K., and Europe through Ingram.

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** Order it in Kindle or in other eBook formats on Smashwords **

In postwar Britain, the quaint town of Tilling is feeling the pull of both the modern world and its Norman past. Elizabeth Mapp-Flint, in yet another bid to wrest power back from her social rival Lucia Pillson—now the town’s mayor—purchases a motor-car. Hoping to improve her shaky motoring skills in private, she makes a significant tactical error by leaving town. Lucia profits from Elizabeth’s absence by putting one of her “ideas” into action: the embroidery of a tapestry depicting the history of Tilling, one that will surely surpass Bayeux’s. All Lucia’s subjects are called upon to labour long and hard in its execution. Meanwhile Elizabeth, stranded in Southampton, happens upon a game of Monopoly in her hotel room, and—minus her broken-winged chariot—hurries home to rescue her fellow Tillingites from the tedium of Lucia’s latest worthy endeavor.

Who will prove the greater master of Monopoly? What will become of the abandoned tapestry? Is Elizabeth really descended from Norman nobility? Is Mallards haunted, and if so, who saw the ghost first—Lucia, its current resident, or Elizabeth, its former owner?

It is not in the best interests of the Tillingites to allow either woman to prevail for long. For in the end, Lucia and Elizabeth’s tactical maneuvering and petty victories and defeats offer the best entertainment in town.

Tom Holt was born in 1961 in London, England. His first book, ‘Poems By Tom Holt’, was published when he was twelve years old. While he was still a student at Oxford he wrote two sequels to E F Benson’s Lucia series. After an undistinguished seven-year stint as a lawyer, he became a full-time writer in 1995 and has published over thirty novels. Tom lives with his wife and daughter in the west of England. As well as writing, he raises pigs and pedigree Dexter cattle.

Read on for an excerpt:

After a long and leisurely lunch had been eaten and properly digested, and coffee lingered over to an extent unusual even in Tilling, the Padre went sorrowing away for what he termed the afternoon shift, while Elizabeth sat and devised in her mind the overthrow of the Tapestry.

She could declare a war of mockery and derision on the project and be sure that the oppressed workers would rise up and defect at her call. Yet to do so would be an overt act of hostility, and Lucia (so vindictive!) would blame her for the collapse of her precious hobby. A harder but better course of action would be to subvert it from within, smiling and smiling and being a villain, so to speak. And it so happened that she had within her luggage a secret weapon of unbounded potential, brought back from Southampton for just such a purpose. But now this mine could be exploded within the enemy’s citadel, rather than simply laid under her walls.

She rose and went to the telephone. A number was demanded; she was put through. Foljambe’s voice answered at the other end.

‘Mrs. Mapp-Flint wishes to speak to Mrs. Pillson,’ she said, and soon Lucia’s voice, shrill and sharp as ever, came through the receiver.

‘Lucia, darling, it’s your Elizabeth here. Yes, dear, a simply lovely time, I must tell you all about it when we meet. But, first, I have just heard from the Padre about your marvellous Tapestry; such vision, dear Worship, so full of praise for your clever idea. Lucia, you naughty one, how could you bring yourself to be so unkind to your old friend as to let her go away on holiday and start work without her? Hello?’ She’s dropped the receiver again, thought Elizabeth. ‘Do be sweet and reassure me that there’s still something left for me to do—that’s if you think that I’ll be up to it, of course!’

Lucia reassured her that there was plenty for her to do; only too delighted.

‘Splendid! Shall I bring my own needles? No? How thoughtful. And thread? That too! Such organisation. But, of course, I forgot, I am speaking to the Mayor of Tilling, after all. Very well, then, I shall run all the way to Mallards.’

Curiously enough, Lucia entirely failed to catch the significance of Elizabeth’s promise to run all the way (surely unnecessary for a motorist), for her mind, like Macbeth’s was full of scorpions. She knew only too well that her own declaration of peace had been Machiavellian policy. What else could Elizabeth’s gratuitous and unprovoked gesture of friendship be but another such? And, if so, what diabolical scheme had that dark intellect devised?

 

Being Fruitful without Multiplying: Stories and Essays from around the World

Being Fruitful without Multiplying: Stories and Essays from around the World ($14.95, 226 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-155-2), is an anthology of true stories by many women and a few men revolving around the elements of nature and nurture that led to their decisions not to procreate.

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Also available in Kindle and in other eBook formats on Smashwords.

Or buy the Audiobook.

The project began as a memoir by three authors with family ties and ended as a conversation that included women and men ranging in age from twenty to sixty-one. Seventeen states and thirteen countries outside the U.S. are represented.

“A terrific resource for expanding our perspectives on parenting, reproduction and the shifting economic and social realities in women’s lives. I recommend it to academic and nonacademic audiences alike.”

—Maythee Rojas, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies at California State University, Long Beach

“A book that will be interesting to all women and the men who strive to understand them.”

—Glenn Ross Caddy, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., F.A.P.A., Chairman, Institute of Clinical Psychology, Mind-Experts International, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“A thoughtful and insightful collection of stories and essays allowing us to explore the diverse lives and experiences of childfree women and men from around the world …. I would recommend this book to anyone who has made this choice or is currently childless and wonders ‘What can I expect if I remain so?’ ”

—Laura S. Scott, Author of Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice and Director of the Childless by Choice Project.

“God’s design and plan do go on for those who do not procreate … as Being Fruitful Without Multiplying so eloquently illustrates.”

—Dr. Lyrica Joy, Bishop and Founder, The International Church for ALL Nations

“Destined to become a valuable social document for researchers, as well as a friend to culturally and socially isolated childless by choice women …. An important work.”

—Jody Day, Founder, Gateway Women, UK

“To abandon motherhood is a decision not fully accepted by much of society. Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is a collection of memoir and thoughts on going child-free, as many women discuss their decision to not choose motherhood, and the other ways they have chosen to impact the world, through step-parenthood, adoption, or other ideas. As the women, and a few men as well present their ideas, Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is well worth considering for those who want to understand the child-free lifestyle.”

—The Women’s Studies Shelf, Wisconsin Bookwatch: October 2012, Midwest Book Review

Childfree, childless … these are the labels society gives to women who do not bear children, due to choice or genetics.

Being Fruitful without Multiplying started as one woman’s quest to come to terms with her decision not to bear children. In conversation with Renee and Janice—two close relatives from different generations—Patricia found that they shared another, unexpected bond: each belonged to childless or childfree social networks. All three were weary of questions from well-meaning people who wondered why they had not born children. As they began to reach out to others in earnest, they found that many who belonged to their diverse online communities were eager to share their stories. Some had chosen to be childfree and some were childless because of biological factors but grew to appreciate the advantages. Some of those who chose not to reproduce still decided to become stepparents or adopt.

Over sixty women and a few men added their voices to those of the three main authors. The result is this rich and varied anthology, which includes stories from many different countries, cultures and income groups.

Say Yvette: “What began as a family conversation comparing notes about the choice not to bear children soon grew into a worldwide discussion through social networking childfree communities. Who knew virtual communities such as these existed and would be so large, diverse and vocal?”

The primary authors of Being Fruitful Without Multiplying are three close relatives of different generations who began discussing their reasons for not bearing children shortly after a family reunion. Patricia Yvette was raised an Air Force brat and so grew up in various locations abroad. She has a master’s degree in Marketing Strategies, and is currently pursuing her PhD. Her career has been based in a Seattle aerospace company for the past twenty years. Married over twenty five years, she enjoys traveling, culinary art, outdoor recreation, and considers herself a life-long learner. Renee Ann has served as a Christian missionary and traveled extensively through West Africa where she encountered an enlightening way of life. Life-challenging events altered her attitude toward the religion she was raised with and once advocated. She is now an aesthetician. Janice Lynne has worked in the travel business for the past thirty-two years. She was Sales Director with a major cruise line for twenty-eight years and is currently Vice-President of Sales for a small boutique cruise line. She has been named Sales Person of the Year numerous times. Janice is a world traveler, stepmother, and published author of three children’s books. Click here to find the authors online.

An excerpt from Patricia Yvette’s Journal:

Those six years of babysitting adventures were more than enough to help me realize all the time, effort, and money required to raise children. Sure, the kids were sometimes adorable and fun to be around, but they also required major disciplining. Every girl should babysit during her teenage years. Babysitting may well provide the best possible incentive to postponing sexual activity.

During my babysitting jobs I saw a lot of poor parenting. Once I actually called my mother to have her bring over food supplies for the kids I was caring for, because there was nothing in the refrigerator but old take out and several bottles of beer. It was truly pathetic.

Witnessing this kind of neglect made me pity the girls in high school who purposefully or accidentally became pregnant. I was hugely motivated to practice abstinence—not the easiest thing to do when you are surrounded by friends engaging in sexual activity, insisting that you are missing out. One of my best friends discovered she was pregnant by a boy who had also impregnated another teenage girl. Her life changed instantly. It was about this time that I focused my energy on finding work and didn’t look back.

From Renee Ann’s Journal:

Despite these highs I was often shocked by the rife poverty and overpopulation. Although I had witnessed tremendous poverty in other African countries I had visited, I saw Ghana as so much worse. The population density probably made this more readily apparent. It was painful to see the multitudes of young street children who had come to the city in search of employment. Many of these children had been taken from their homes in distant villages and brought to the capital, where they were exploited by their employers. This “employer” was usually a family relative or acquaintance who had convinced the parents that their child would be better off in the city. It was normal to see emaciated, malnourished children, some even younger than five years old, carrying heavy baskets of foods and other goods on their heads under the scorching African sun.

The marketplaces were so heavily congested with people that it was difficult and risky to maneuver through them without getting stepped on or bumped into. The market area smelled profusely of sweaty bodies, raw fish, raw bloody meat, and vehicle exhaust.

The seemingly endless masses of people in such untold poverty never ceased to affect my mind and emotions. There was always a brooding sadness that accompanied my visits to the market and a humble admission that life on this Earth could never be fair. I passed by fathers sitting on squalid, city streets, holding their infant children in their arms. I was told, “People are born on these streets, live their lives on them, and they usually die on them as well; it is a cycle without end.”

I understood that ultimately I could do nothing to even slightly reverse the cycle of poverty I was witnessing. As I wondered if anyone could do anything, I grew to detest what seemed to be a pervasive irresponsibility that dominated the culture.

Children were being born so rapidly that none of them could ever receive the adequate guidance and individual attention they would need, especially during the crucial early years of childhood.

In contrast to what I saw as irresponsible behavior were the Ghanaian women who worked all day long cooking meals, harvesting vegetables from their gardens, and selling the fruits of their labor at the market. Usually they worked throughout the day with their babies wrapped around their backs. African women have always astounded me with their physical strength and fortitude. I have never seen a particular group of women work so long and so hard, and with such patience. Even more amazing was their decision to accept the hardship of their situation with a positive attitude. Complaining, as I found from my own experience, was considered to be very impolite and offensive.

An excerpt from Janice Lynne’s Journal:

After four years in Virginia, my husband changed universities and we moved to Florida, where I found the greatest job in the world as a sales manager for a major cruise line. It wasn’t easy convincing them to hire me. This was the early eighties and the company had never employed a young married woman as a sales representative. The position required a lot of travel and they were worried I would become pregnant. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but I was aware of their concern. I didn’t want to lose this opportunity, so I assured them that I was not going to have children.

Today, it’s laughable that this was even an issue. Many women sales reps have had children during the twenty-five years that I have been with the company. Every birth is a celebrated event, and we welcome a new member to our family. I don’t know whether or not they believed me, but I got the job.

What a job it was! As a child, I would become easily bored. Never again.

Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Through the Eyes of An Ordinary Cavalryman

Peter G. Beidler’s newest work is a slice of history from the American Civil War, as revealed in the letters of his great grandfather, William Cross Hazelton. Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Letters of William Cross Hazelton of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry Regiment (IBSN: 978-1-60381-001-2, 242 pages, $13.95) is an absorbing mix of love letters, historical context, and photographs featuring a man of compassion, humor, and startlingly contemporary moral sensibilities.

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Army of the Potomac was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

William Cross Hazelton spent four years as a brave and devoted member of the Union cavalry in the Civil War. During that time he corresponded with Fannie Morrill, the young woman who would become his fiancée and eventually his wife. His letters describe the life of an Illinois volunteer in the Army of the Potomac, the military unit that fought Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in most of the big battles of the Civil War: Williamsburg, Richmond, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

Hazelton describes the battles from the viewpoint of an ordinary cavalryman slogging through the mud, following erratic orders, surviving for days on enemy turf eating nothing but hardtack, and wondering why the Union army, though superior in numbers and supplies, kept losing battles. After Lee surrendered and Lincoln was assassinated, Hazelton became part of the cavalry posse that chased John Wilkes Booth across the Potomac. His letters breathe new life into a war so devastating that it still scars the American psyche, while exhibiting a moral perspective far ahead of its time.

PETER G. BEIDLER, retired professor of English at Lehigh University and the great-grandson of William Cross Hazelton, has painstakingly researched the historical background of Hazelton’s letters to clarify now-obscure references and explain what Hazelton left out in order to shield his future wife. BEIDLER has published many books and articles and won several teaching awards.

Several books that Beidler either wrote or edited are published by Coffeetown Press: Chaucer’s Canterbury Comedies: Origins and OriginalityThe Collier’s Weekly Version of Henry James’s Turn of the ScrewA Reader’s Companion to Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Second EditionRisk Teaching: Reflections from Inside and Outside the Classroom The Roving Bee: A Peep into Many Hives, Self-Reliance, Inc., A Student Guide to Chaucer’s Middle EnglishWriting Matters.

Read on for an excerpt:

Dear Fannie,

Our forces have evacuated Fredericksburg and we are again on the north side of the Rappahannock. What is to be done now I have no idea. I apprehend that the “good people at home” will find that others fail of their purpose besides McClellan. I would not be surprised if that General was again called to the command of the Army of the Potomac.

If the “Gentlemen” at home who are crying “Forward to Richmond” will come into the field with their muskets we will go forward with them. Yes, more, we will take the front; but while they remain at home don’t let them drive our Generals into attempting that which they cannot perform, thus sacrificing the lives of their soldiers.

Life is as dear to us as to them, and though we have placed our lives at the disposal of our Country, we do not like to be pushed on by those who never saw a battle.

But I am a little out of tune to-day. You will excuse this I think when I tell you I had only half a night’s sleep, and that on a pile of boards with my overcoat on.

Amid all the disagreeable things connected with my present life I never forget you. I love you for your sincerity, your open-heartedness, for your good sense, your wit and because you are Fannie Morrill. For she of all others was the one to captivate the heart of

William