Wednesday, February 7, 2018

"Drinking the Knock Water" by Emily Kemme

Drinking the Knock Water:
A New Age Pilgrimage
by Emily Kemme

Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage by Emily Kemme

Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage by Emily Kemme is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

“We all live with ghosts ... Some are those of people who’ve never been born.”
So begins Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage, the second novel by award-winning Greeley, Colorado author Emily Kemme.
Loosely based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the novel takes on life itself as a pilgrimage. One of life’s biggest struggles is fitting in with the rest of the human race, and an aspect of that is having children. It’s not meant for everyone and yet, true to Darwinian forces, it’s almost expected. Giving birth and then raising a child to maturity is one of the bravest tasks we take on. 
On what was supposed to be a day to celebrate, another cruel outburst from Holly Thomas’ sister-in-law begins a spiral of events that would leave Holly questioning every choice she’d ever made and every belief she held as truth.
Had she done the right thing by her unborn child? Had she given enough, or too much, freedom of choice to her son? Did she truly, deeply know her husband and clinic partner, Roger? And what right had she to counsel infertile couples after her own pregnancies?
With the Fertility Tour only weeks away, a group of unlikely and disparate pilgrims look to her for guidance. But Holly’s life has unraveled in ways she could not have imagined, including a restraining order against her. Will she be able to find her footing and make peace with her choices and herself? Will visiting the religious and sacred feminine sites in England help her regain control or only tear her further apart?
Named a Finalist in Chick Lit by the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, this is a breathtaking novel about family drama and social criticism, written in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen, Anne Tyler, and Jeffrey Eugenides. With searing honesty, Drinking the Knock Water takes readers on an emotional pilgrimage through the relationships that make us who we are.

In a town famous for its ghosts, it was easy to imagine there was one lurking behind every tree. And while Holly knew most visitors to Sleepy Hollow expected movie-inspired visions of the headless horseman, in truth the densely wooded surroundings allowed a more peaceful somnolence. In spite of its thirty-mile proximity to the most populated city in the country, what with New York’s electric hubbub of restless, cosmopolitan energy, there was never a feeling of urgency in the little hamlet, merely a sleepy torpor, a sensing that the world stopped in this hollow of quiet dead.
Whether the town cultivated any sensational image was another question altogether. Holly suspected it did not, at least not year round. Of course, there were the Halloween weekends, prompting arrival of thrill seekers by the thousands, but that was just theatrics. No real ghosts shared the stage.
If there was any spectral unrest, it existed only in the minds of the towns' inhabitants.
Even by the light of early evening in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where saturated gray skies released rain to drip from the trees, dotted here and there with planted shrubs and summer flowers in fresh bloom, there was a lovely serenity, enhanced further by the rain’s sudden cease. Here, there was nothing to fear.
Holly entered the cemetery through scrolled iron gates wedged between gray quarried stone, which made up the wall bordering the grounds. She jogged up Forest Avenue, turned left on Transit, making her way up Hill Side, and then down onto Cascade, where she left the well-marked gravel path. From there she strode through wet grass crowded with lichened grave stones, some weatherworn and leaning askew, others newly polished with crisp lettering, until she reached the pale little stone marking the grave. At the baby’s feet, a short drop off past the main road, the Pocantico River burbled as it shot over rocky masses. Holly’s one request of Roger and the cemetery’s caretaker was that the site be near water, the giver of life, bringer of tranquility. Knowing how nearly Holly brinked insanity in those days, Roger swiftly supported her wishes; they were lucky to find a small plot in a relatively unpopulated section.
Holly sat next to the grave, nestled the spray into the humped grass covering it, and leaned her cheek against the smooth stone. It was simple and austere, with only a slight scallop of embellishment at the top, befitting a little one who had never breathed air. She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply to catch her breath from the run, collecting her thoughts. Above her head, squirrels batted sticks together, hidden away in the leafy trees, a reminder of the unseen life they shared.
Marit always managed to rattle her, either poking fun at Holly’s whims, or sometimes with outright malice, which Holly knew all too well stemmed from their differences in religious outlook. The fact that Arella’s birthday fell on St. John’s Eve didn’t help. For someone as devotedly Catholic as her sister-in-law, celebrating a baby’s life who had never been born, was sacrilege. The saint’s day was meant to celebrate a birth, Marit insisted, and certainly had nothing to do with a baby born dead.
But it wasn’t a topic Holly was willing to think about today, not on Arella’s birthday. Instead, she catalogued her daughter’s gifts:  an enormous stuffed pony for her bed, and a cellphone. She chuckled at that one, recalling Roger’s perplexity.
“Why do you have to get the baby a phone?” he’d asked her the week before when she walked into the house, arms loaded with shopping bags. Holly had exclaimed that Arella wasn’t a baby anymore, she was turning eleven, and every preteen needed a cellphone.
Roger chewed his upper lip for a while, before asking, “Is this along the lines of ‘ET phone home?’”  He had laughed, and so had she. Gifts for Arella were an annual practice in their household, and long gone were the days where Roger made much of a fuss over it. Keeping Holly happy was his primary goal in life, even if that meant some particularly nutsy charges on their credit card every June. His wife’s frenzied activities subsided within a week or so after the birthday celebration, allowing her to settle back into reality, recharged and reaffirmed with the notion that she was doing the right thing by Arella.
She felt warm pressure on her right shoulder, and opening her eyes saw that Millie’s husband, Josiah, knelt at her side on one corduroyed knee, his gnarled hand grasping her shoulder lightly, holding her steadfast. Holly looked up into the old man’s deep blue eyes, shot through with red veins, but firm and gentle in their gaze, and nodded. He stood up slowly and she extended a hand for him to pull, which he did.
“Almost everybody’s there at the cottage,” he said. “Except Edward, but you knew that.” They were both aware that there was no need to explain further; of all the friends and relatives, Roger’s brother had never attended these parties, whether he was in town or off somewhere in the world. For some reason, Josiah enjoyed pointing out this fact to her, a reminder perhaps of which of the two older men in her life she could count on more.
Holly stood immobile, gazing into the tangle of trees rambling up the hillside away from the brook.
He looked at her closely. “We all live with ghosts.”
The motion of her head was barely noticeable. “Yes,” she agreed. “Some are those of people who’ve never been born.”
She looked down at the grave. “I have to leave now, Arella. Your party is starting.” She swept her index finger over the top of the stone, letting it linger on the upward swooping scallop, and then turned to walk with Josiah back up the hill.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Kemme elegantly examines the complicated aspects of life and relationships. Using Holly's experiences with a failed pregnancy, her in-laws, and Roger, Kemme focuses on how pain can shape and enlighten us. […] Artistically nuanced language and the sincere, soothing tone bring out the true beauty of this literary novel. This is an introspective, gentle novel that illuminates and rejuvenates in the same breath.” ~ The US Review of Books
“... the author often beautifully depicts Holly s self-doubt as she explores different aspects of overcoming trauma ... [in a] positive tale of moving forward through unexpected circumstances.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
Drinking the Knock Water is at heart an exploration of the role religion plays in the life of an individual. Faith in a god can both connect a soul to others and sow discord. In the end, it's up to the reader to decide if faith is essential or composed of empty rituals.” ~ Manhattan Book Review

Guest Post by the Author
Why I Am Not a Foodie
I took a test the other day because I had symptoms indicating I am a foodie. Everyone told me it was obvious I needed to be evaluated. Friends would dance around the topic, but eventually I’d pry a confession out of them. Sheepishly, they’d scuff the toes of their shoes on the floor and say, “Uh, hate to tell you this, but you’re in denial. I think you’ve caught it. You need to be officially diagnosed.” Most times, they refused to look me in the eye.
Maybe friends were on to something. I write about food, I research food history and preparation methods, create recipes, and obsess about what I will order off the menu at the next restaurant I plan to visit. Cookbooks are relaxing bedtime reading. I can’t enjoy vacation unless I’ve made advance reservations for every night of our stay, and my favorite day of the week is Tuesday, the day I go grocery shopping. Given the choice of an evening watching football or going out for a leisurely dinner and good conversation, food wins every time. At first glance, all signs pointed to the bare truth.
I was having a discussion about this with a friend, centered on which type of regional barbecue sauce we each thought contributed better flavor to smoked pork ribs. In the middle of his declaration that, hands down, a vinegar-based sauce was essential to maximizing intensity of flavor as well as tenderizing the meat, I informed him he was a foodie.
His vehement denial was so forceful I might just have easily accused him of being a puppy tormenter. After calming down, he said he was just enthusiastic about barbecue.
I think the problem begins that any club with a title ending in “ie” isn’t one in which we would like to claim membership. “Foodie” is close to “goodie,” or more accurately, “goodie-goodie.” Change the ending to “er” and it’s not so traumatizing: quilter, runner, photographer, music lover. Somehow, the connotation isn’t the same. People don’t want to be labeled a “foodie,” a word implying hedonism, believing it an obsession with finding the trendiest food fad regardless of cost, sustainability or how obtaining foodstuffs effects our environment. The unadulterated foodie is part of a gentrified clique, a self-centered hobbyist whose focus is more about telling others about the experience than enjoying it for its own sake. But I think there are other reasons for enjoying what we eat.
So, I took the test. I evaluated the genetic makeup of a banana, determined by my correct definition of prix fixe that my college French isn’t as rusty as I had thought, demonstrated a good grasp of world geography by indicating that prosciutto is Italian and Jamón ibérico is Spanish, picked the right answer as to what a plump goose liver is called, and based on my limited math skills, accurately guessed the number of teaspoons in a tablespoon. Although I’ve never watched any cooking show other than a handful of ancient black and white ones featuring Julia Child, I guessed correctly about the premise of the Food Network show, Chopped. I also knew the difference between Ketchup and Sriracha, that Tabasco sauce was produced in Louisiana and that it’s not healthy to clean your plate.
And then I pressed “calculate score” and held my breath. Was I, or was I not a dreaded foodie? It came back at 76 percent, slightly higher than average. I was so relieved.
I returned to what I had been doing before taking the worrisome test. I diced onions in a brunoise, trying to size them as near to one-eighth inch as I could because I knew a smaller cooking surface would allow the onion to dissolve better and thicken my soup. I knew if the onions were diced small enough, I might not have to add cornstarch or flour at the end. And I didn’t want the onion pieces so large we’d be chewing the soup instead of slurping it.
In between recipe steps I reviewed several techniques for poaching eggs, a technique I want to master. I stirred the soup with one hand, and with the other scrolled through my Instagram feed, admiring pretty pictures of meals enjoyed by others, wondering about the angle of the shots and their meal preparation. A photo of beautifully fried buttermilk chicken rolled by and I laughed, knowing I can name every exit on Interstate 80 east to Omaha where there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.
Learning how to be a more proficient cook doesn’t have to top your to-do list, but curiosity is part of human nature. The Hungarian physicist Nicolas Kurti, host of the 1969 British TV show, The Physicist in the Kitchen, lamented the fact that, “it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés.” Maybe Venus’s temperature isn’t all that important when you’re boiling water for pasta, but the art of slow cooking and knowing what goes on your plate in terms of fat and salt is a proven health benefit.
It’s true, there are people who are snobbish about what and where they eat and there are food writers whose meaning for existence is defined by how cuttingly they can take down a restaurant in a review. Those people sound like you’d need to pop a few antacids after dining with them.
And then there are those sorts, and I’m one, who will order a dish off a menu because they’ve never tasted it before or it’s an interesting preparation. We are the experimenters, adventuring with our palates simply because it’s there. The more you experiment and learn, the more familiar it becomes, taking off that razor-edged sharpness. It’s like going to a rock concert and the band plays your favorite song. You know it. There is awareness and identification of each note. It brings back memories of when you first heard that song.
I write about food to teach others how to prepare it and to show how cooking is fun. I enjoy feeding people because, for me, food is love. If I obsess about what I’ll next order at a restaurant, it’s because I’m relishing the next life experience. Reading about cooking is taking learning to the next step and enjoying grocery shopping is putting my education to work. Food and the art of its creation is my hobby.
The truth about food is everyone needs it. Some of us just like to know what is on our plate a bit more than others.

About the Author
Emily Kemme
As the award-winning author for her novels, Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage and In Search of Sushi Tora, and on her lifestyle blog, “Feeding the Famished”, Emily Kemme tends to look at the world in all its rawness. She writes about human nature, and on her blog shares recipes and food for thought along with insights about daily life. She is a recipe creator but winces when labeled a foodie. She is the Food and Lifestyle Contributor for the Greeley Tribune’s Dining column and also writes features for the newspaper and its magazine, #Greality.
"I write about what I ate for lunch only if it's meaningful," Emily says. "Mostly, I'm just hungry."
Emily also writes because her degrees in American and English History, followed by a law degree from the University of Colorado, left her searching for her voice. She also suffered from chronic insomnia.
"Writing helps clarify my mind, erasing clutter, and makes room for more impressions. My thoughts can seem random and disconnected, but once they flow onto paper, a coherency and purpose emerges, directing patterns into story. I sleep much better, too."
As an author who lives in Greeley, Colorado, she celebrates people’s differences, noting that the biggest problem with being different is when it’s deemed a problem. Emily often identifies with the underdog, focusing on humanizing the outsider, showing there is not only one right way to be or to live. Through her writing, she hopes her audience will be open to new ideas, the acceptance of others, and will recognize the universalities of human experience in a non-judgmental way as they meet her characters and follow their stories.
Her first novel, In Search of Sushi Tora, was awarded as Finalist for First Novel in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and her second novel, Drinking the Knock Water, was awarded as a Finalist in Chick Lit in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received two CIPA EVVY awards. Emily is currently working on a children’s book series, Moro and The Cone of Shame, a collaborative project with her daughter-in-law, Mia. She is also writing her third novel, The Man With the Wonky Spleen, a story about human idiosyncrasies.
Professional Memberships: PEN America

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage by Emily Kemme.