Spotlight & Excerpt: Folk Songs For Trauma Surgeons + Giveaway

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FOLK SONGS FOR TRAUMA SURGEONS by Keith Rosson

RELEASE DATE: FEB 23, 2021

GENRE: Collection / Speculative Fiction / Magical Realism / Literary

BOOK PAGE @Meerkat Press

With Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson delves into notions of family, grief, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels. In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and in “High Tide,” a grieving man ruminates on his brother’s life as a monster terrorizes their coastal town. With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes a number of Rosson’s unpublished stories, as well as award-winning favorites.

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Excerpt from “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light” by Keith Rosson

Splay-legged in my recliner, I’ve just returned from putting another note under Marcus’s door (In the next life your penis shall be multipronged, insectile, hot and bristling with pustules, gloriously prone to infection) when someone knocks on my door and I choke back a cry, startled. It’s midafternoon and my social life, never strident to begin with, has atrophied in recent months. Who could possibly be knocking? Reluctantly, I rise from my recliner and pull on my robe and, realizing at that moment that it might actually be Marcus, a Marcus angry about the insectile penis-note, and all the other notes, I open the door with a mad flourish, trying to be as intimidating as possible.

The day seems obscenely sunny, garishly so. I wince and blink. The man in the doorway is a stranger, and he takes a step back when he sees me. He’s wearing some kind of uniform—a blue shirt with a nametag and a pair of blue shorts. A little clipboard.

“Brad? Brad Benske?”

“Yes,” I say. It comes out tremulously; for a moment even I feel unsure. Is this who I am? And then, more confidently, “Yes.”

The man marks something off on his clipboard and flicks his thumb against one of his nostrils and says, “Brad, hey, what’s up. I’m with the water bureau.”

“The what?”

He says, “Water bureau. Your water?”

“Oh.”

“You’re late with your payment.”

“Am I?”

“Really late,” he says, and consults his clipboard. “Couple months late. As in, if you can’t pay it by the end of day today, we have to shut it off.”

“The water?”

He seems to see me for the first time then—the robe, the dishevelment, the haphazard leaning mess of the inside of the house that he can spy through the open doorway. I have a zit on my cheek that has over recent days gotten woefully infected and is now nearly the size of a ping-pong ball. Fifty-one years old and getting zits, if you can believe it. I need to drink more water, I think, and then have a moment of shock as I realize the water guy is right here in front of me. It’s like some kind of weak serendipity, some petulant magic.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” I say.

The nametag above his pocket says Cameron, and he looks like a Cameron. A beefy young man with big calves and a certain dumb purity, someone who did keg stands in college and can differentiate between different types of vape oil. A man who wears a hemp bracelet and sleeps on a futon, I decide, a man who sniff-tests his socks. Cameron peers into the dank chamber of my little house and his nose wrinkles. I step out onto the porch and shut the door behind me.

“Oh man, my grandma got shingles,” Cameron says, pointing a blunt finger at my face. “She was only sixty-two. It messed her up.”

“This is just a zit.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

The world beyond my yard writhes with life; a little boy wheels by on his bike, leaves on the trees tremble and sway, and I can hear the bass-heavy thump of music strobing through the window of a passing car. The air is rich with the smell of cut grass. And everything trills a memory. Emma has been gone for nine months now. Nine months! I spend a moment hoping Marcus’s penis becomes riddled with pustules in this life, and draft an internal note saying such.

Cameron clears his throat.

“My checkbook’s inside,” I say. “How much is it?”

He gives me a number. It seems a reasonable enough amount if I haven’t paid in months—Emma handled the bills, and it’s yet another instance where I have lagged, where I am lost without her—but he sounds unhappy about it.

“It’s okay,” I say. “You’re just doing your job.”

“I mean, I’m in a band,” Cameron says. “I do community theater. You know? There’s more to me than just this.” He sweeps a hand along his outfit, his clipboard.

“Of course there is,” I say. I walk inside and eventually find my checkbook beside an old sandwich on the floor that’s furred in ants. I write the check and step outside and kind of shake the ants off and hand it to Cameron, and his blue eyes as he watches this are rife with something like pity. “I hope you feel better soon,” he says quietly, and it’s clear he’s not talking about my goiter.

 

  • •  •

 

Melinda says, “So you’re still leaving him notes.” She lights a menthol and blows the smoke up to the ceiling.

“No,” I say.

She laughs outright and flips me off. “Oh my God, you’re such a liar. Such a bad liar, too.”

“I left one today,” I confess. May maggots tumble from thy dong, it read, and then it had a little doodle of that, a little picture.

Melinda winces. “Honey, why his penis, though? Why talk about his penis?” She adjusts her headband.

“I don’t always.”

“Well, when you tell me about it, the notes are always penis-related.”

“I’m trying to keep it funny. Light. Less worrisome than actual threats.”

“Maggots from his dong, though? That sounds like an actual threat to me.”

“It’s medical,” I say.

It had seemed a simple message, one suffused with appropriate dread and then buoyed a little by the silly drawing. I wonder for a moment if I have in fact turned some corner, gone some further distance than I intended. One I won’t be able to come back from. Maybe I have crossed some line.

“You know it’s illegal, right?” says Melinda. “It’s gotta be harassment or something. Menacing. You better hope you don’t get caught.”

“I won’t get caught. Marcus is too enmeshed in his bullshit.”

“If he installs one of those cameras above his door. You’re done.”

“Look,” I say, “can you just give me a reading? Please?”

Melinda, when she’s working, goes by Madame Ouellette. She has a palm reading and tarot practice out on the jagged stretch of 82nd Avenue, in a weird mobile home kind of thing that rests in an otherwise empty parking lot. She’s decked the place out in tapestries and unicorn sculptures and salt candles and incense; the atmosphere goes a fair way toward canceling out the brazen drug deals out front, the endless traffic, the shirtless guy screaming about aliens in his teeth at the Wendy’s across the street. Melinda and I slept together once in college, badly, and have ever since been continually thankful of the friendship that has sprung from it. Our shared history buoys us. Emma, at best, had tolerated Melinda during our marriage. Felt threatened by her. Which always surprised me, as she seemed otherwise so sure of everything. “Why can’t you just scratch your balls and yell about football with some guy from work? Drink beer and talk about cars?” she’d say, a rare instance where I saw the underpinnings of her insecurity. Melinda gives me readings for free now, and I ask her where Emma is, where they’ve sent her. If she’s happy, if she’s safe where she is. This, and bothering Marcus are as close to penance and relief as I get. Madam Ouellette offers me her visions and I imagine that they’re true. Half the time it seems like Melinda’s just trying to come up with the most outlandish shit she can, and I’m grateful for it. It almost assuredly beats the true narrative.

She makes me a cup of tea as we chat some more. I drink the tea and tell Melinda the story about our wedding day and how Emma had spilled a cup of coffee down the front of her dress, the same dress her mother had worn to her wedding, and had had to wear a last minute back-up dress that showed way more cleavage then she intended. It is a well-worn story; Melinda has heard it a million times. Hell, she was at our wedding, watched the entire event take place. But it’s part of the process of the reading, Melinda says. And when I’m done with the tea, she has me upend the cup on a plastic slip mat and we talk for a moment about my hopes with this, what it is I want to get from this. I say something, some bland proclamation. I want to feel close to her, I think. I want to believe that what you’re saying is really her life. We’ve done this perhaps a dozen times since Emma left me to join the Hand of Light. This is one of the only things I do anymore.

Melinda really gets into character, adjusting her jeweled headband, her hands taking on these exaggerated movements as she tries to withdraw the “intentionality” from the leaves. Tea has started to bead out from beneath the rim of the cup. Eventually she lifts it and frowns at the chiaroscuro of dark leaves on the plastic mat.

She talks, fully Madam Ouellette now. Her voice is clipped, more precise, colder.

She tells me that Emma is in a carwash in Biloxi, Mississippi.

“She’s working in a carwash? In Mississippi?”

“No, no. She’s in a carwash. In a car. Someone’s yelling about atonement. Maybe it’s the radio. There’s a baby in the backseat, but it’s not hers. The sudsy cleaning things slap against the window. It’s a kind of transformation for her.”

“You’re so full of shit,” I say, grinning. I can’t help myself. I’m almost happy.

“She got a haircut. She’s wearing sunglasses in the carwash. It’s dark.”

“Oh, yeah? Did they shave her head? Is she wearing a potato sack, Melinda? Are there snacks?” Part of me relishes these fantasies she makes up. I simultaneously wish they were true and only feel safe when I’m mocking them. I’ve had a private investigator on the payroll since she’s been gone, but he’s come up with nothing. He talks to me like I’m an aggrieved husband, speaks respectfully, and part of me hates the guy for it.

Of the two people in the world who know what an utter fuckup I am, one has absconded with the Hand of Light, and the other one’s looking at me right now, waving her palm over a bunch of wet tea leaves, offering at least some minute solace.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Coyote Summer + Giveaway

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Coyote Summer
by Laura Koerber
Genre: Magical Realism, Coming of Age

 

Ben O’Rourke, his best friend Clint, and their classmate Claire were supposed to grow up to be wealthy, prominent people like their parents. They were private school kids, raised in the belief that they were obliged to turn expensive educations into prestigious positions in society. Actually, more than that. They were entitled to prestigious positions—at the top.
 
Clint had done that by winning his dad’s seat in Congress. Benny didn’t know anything about Claire, except she’d never married and she still lived in Camden. Right there in Clint’s district.
 
Ben was nervous. His voice had to reach across the Rocky Mountains, across the Great Plains, and all the way to Wisconsin. And it had to reach across nearly forty years and who-knows-what changes and pain as well. Did it mean anything that Claire never got married? Girls who went to Saint Anne’s were brought up to get married.
 
As the phone rang, Ben’s memory returned to the past…and the two girls who’d rerouted his life the summer before college. An assault on Claire right after their high school graduation had led Ben to struggle with right, wrong, and his place in society; while his first love, Puppy, taught him there was much more to life than a prep school upbringing…maybe even things that floated beyond the realm of human understanding.
 
 
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excerptThen I went in to confess.

I felt soothed the minute the walls closed around me. Warmed with the glow of the stained glass windows, the church interior was both lofty and cozy. The high ceiling made me feel small, but in a good way, like I was a small part of something huge. It was strange to be there without my family, but I didn’t feel alone. And I loved the silence. Padding quietly down the aisle toward the front, I chose a pew and settled in to wait.

There were two women ahead of me. Churches, at least Catholic ones, attract lonely women. My mom called them church mice. I hoped they wouldn’t take too long at confession. Then I felt bad for sneering at them as church mice and for thinking their confessions were not as important as mine. I heard a movement and a teen-aged girl left confession and headed up the aisle toward the back door with quick, quiet strides. The church ladies watched her leave, then glanced at each other. Then one gathered up her purse and disappeared into the confessional. Of course, everyone wonders what everyone else is confessing to. Was that girl pregnant? Her head had been down. Or was she abused and seeking help? Or, more likely, her mother sent her because they got into a spat, and the mother wanted to emphasize that God was on the side of adults.

I needed to focus my mind and get my confession organized. I started talking in my head: “Father, I have sinned. My sin is one of omission. I know of a bad thing that happened, and I didn’t tell anyone. My sin is also that it took me a long time to realize for sure that it was a bad thing. I was confused about that. My sin is that I don’t want the crime to be reported to the police because I don’t want to get involved in it. I feel bad that it happened, but I don’t want to have anything to do with it now. I just want to offload my guilt and get on with my life.” I stopped, stunned at myself. That last was part was my real reason for confession—I was there to offload the whole incident and get absolved, so I could forget about it. But the rape wasn’t mine to forget and leave behind.

A door clicked and heels tapped. Church lady #1 was leaving. She gave her friend a quick smile. I thought: They’re meeting for coffee or something afterwards. This is their social life. What was it for me? A get-out-of-responsibility pass? I didn’t wait for my chance to confess. Instead, I jumped to my feet with the word “rape” rocketing around in my head until it drove me out of the church like a whipped horse. I stumbled outside into the heat of the summer day where a blue sky was smiling and people were driving around doing ordinary innocent things, and I was the guy who didn’t deserve to be in church because I just wanted to forget about a rape.

Laura started off life as an artist. Even in early elementary school she could draw with near-photo realism. She liked to tell herself stories while driving, or doing boring tasks such as housework, but never thought of herself as a writer.

That is, until she got involved in the rescue of an abused dog. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled The Dog Thief, made the Kirkus Review list of one hundred best indy publications and set her on a course of writing.

With one exception, her subsequent novels are in the genre of fantasy, though four have themes relating to current events, and three are also dystopias. Wild Hare, the story of a half/man-half/nature spirit and his feud with the local civic powers also made the Kirkus Review “best of” list.

The exception, I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found, is the nonfiction account of the largest dog rescue in the US to succeed without help of local authorities.

Laura is a retired teacher and lives on an island in Puget Sound with her husband; her one-eyed cat; and her elderly, disabled and chronically grumpy shih tzu. She is volunteers at a rescue for unadoptable cats.

 
 

 

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Book Blitz: Loving Modigliani + Giveaway

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Loving Modigliani
The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne
by Linda Lappin

Paranormal Ghost and Love Story

Historical Paranormal Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Literary Fiction

Published: December 2020

Publisher: Serving House Books

A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne–wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right — haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne’s work from obscurity. A ghost story, a love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

Loving Modigliani is a genre-bending novel, blending elements of fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery, and suspense.

Praise for Loving Modigliani:

“LOVING MODIGLIANI is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning pages late into the night” –Gigi Pandian, author of The Alchemist’s Illusion

“Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning the pages long into the night.” – Best-selling mystery novelist Gigi Pandian

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Other Books by Linda Lappin:

 

 

Signatures in Stone

 

2014 Overall Winner DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD for excellence in Mystery Writing, also Winner in the Historical Mystery section of the Du Maurier Awards, from Romance Writers of America.

Seeking inspiration in the timeless Italian landscape, four unlikely misfits find their destinies entangled in the meanders of the mysterious sculpture garden of Bomarzo, peopled with freaks and monsters. Daphne, a writer with a hashish habit, Clive, American gigolo and aspiring artist, Nigel, an English aristocrat down at the heels, and Finestone, a fly by night art historian come together in a decrepit villa looked after by two Italian servants who are not what they seem. To find their heart’s desire, all the characters must descend into the depths of hell, but not everyone will make it out alive. In the hideous sculptures of Bomarzo, Daphne must face up the hidden sides of herself while solving the mystery of murder for which she is unjustly accused. She will discover that her own journey to hell has already been written sculpted by an unknown genius centuries ago in these signatures in stone.

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The Soul of Place

 

In this engaging creative writing workbook, Linda Lappin, novelist, poet, and travel writer, presents a series of insightful exercises to help writers of all genres — (literary travel writing, memoir, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) discover imagery and inspiration in the places they love.

Lappin departs from the classical concept of the Genius Loci, the indwelling spirit residing in every landscape, house, city, or forest, to argue that by entering into contact with the unique energy and identity of a place, writers can access an inexhaustible source of creative power. The Soul of Place provides instruction on how to evoke that power.

The writing exercises are drawn from many fields such as architecture, painting, cuisine, literature and literary criticism, geography and deep maps, Jungian psychology, fairy tales, mythology,metaphysics,theater and performance art, all of which offer surprising perspectives on our writing and may help us uncover raw materials for fiction, essays, and poetry hidden in our environment.

An essential resource book for the writer’s library, this book is ideal for creative writing courses, with stimulating exercises adaptable to all genres. For writers or travelers about to set out on a trip abroad, The Soul of Place is the perfect road trip companion, attuning our senses to a deeper awareness of place.

“Insightful exercises help creative writers of all levels attune themselves to the power of place.” Amy Alippo, National Geographic Traveler

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About The Author


Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.

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