Showing posts with label literary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literary. Show all posts

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Daddy 3.0: A Comedy of Errors" by Rob Armstrong

ON SALE for $0.99
Daddy 3.0:
A Comedy of Errors
by Rob Armstrong

Daddy 3.0: A Comedy of Errors by Rob Armstrong

Rob Armstrong stops by today to share an excerpt from Daddy 3.0: A Comedy of Errors, which is ON SALE for only $0.99 (save $2.00) to 31 March. Don’t miss out!

What a mess. This was not supposed to happen.
This isn’t where Nick Owen thought he would be by this point in life. He used to be a busy web programmer. Now he spends most of his energy trying to stop his three-year-old twins from playing in a dirty sand pit. Nick thinks of himself as Daddy 3.0, a stay-at-home-dad - but he just wasn’t programmed for this.
He must navigate a new world of jungle gyms and playdates while supporting his surgeon wife. He tries his best to be there for the twins, but he can’t stop making a mess of things. He’s just about nearing the end of his rope when the Swing Incident happens. The Swing Incident, spoken of in hushed tones around Nick’s New York City apartment building, has caused the resident queen bee, nicknamed “Supermom,” to declare him an enemy for life. No matter what Nick does to get back into Supermom’s good graces, he fails spectacularly.
Now Nick’s going to have to learn to fight fire with fire and become the best superparent on the block. This hilarious new book by Rob Armstrong chronicles one man’s journey into the world of modern fatherhood - one botched haircut, playground fight, and dirty diaper at a time.
Stay-at-home-dads have a new hero, of sorts.
2017 Independent Author Network Winner - Best Comedy/Satire Novel

Book Video

My attitude about most everything was lousy. This negativity placed me on the wrong side of Supermom. Supermom was everything I was not. She was a walking checklist of desirable qualities: tall, skinny, tan, blond, blue eyed, and attractive. She wore stylish clothes, hailed from a well-heeled family from Connecticut, was married to a rising-star orthopedic surgeon, had graduated from Harvard with a degree in English, was an avid skier and tennis player, was a great cook, and was fluent in French. Her five year plan, after her son and daughter, ages four and three, reached school age, was to start and run a charitable foundation directed toward issues of poverty among women in sub-Saharan Africa. Supermom was the rare person who required no more than four hours of sleep a night, and she was able to utilize the extra hours each day for things such as keeping up correspondence with a seemingly endless list of people who often visited her. She was also the type of stay-at-home parent who would actually do rainy-day activities with her kids, such as painting, clay sculpting, and messy glue projects with feathers and glitter. Before the park incident, I had been on cordial terms with her, placing her in the category of being otherworldly—like a two-dimensional superhero character, ready to take on the world and never requiring a potty break.
Supermom was slow in meeting us that day, but she did unfortunately come. It was late afternoon, and the twins were fighting over a broken sand scoop. I said several times, “Claire. Maude. Can you play nicely and share?” Unfortunately, three-year-olds have short memories. My patience ran thin. Around me were packed kids, moms, and nannies, all of us trapped in a hot asphalt park, not yet ready to return to our cramped Upper East Side apartments. At any point in time, at least one kid could be heard crying or screaming. I had nowhere else to take the girls that didn’t cost money. In Manhattan, circling the block cost five bucks. I had an hour to kill until Liz finished up at the hospital and we could go to our Friday dinner at Mandarin Deli. She had been working a boatload of hours since starting her surgical fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery on July 1. It was one of those days—a crab-apple day. The problem was that now most every day was a crab-apple day.
The novelty of being a stay-at-home dad had worn off. I was still looking for work but had few job leads. That day, I had received another rejection call from another second interview. While I was feeling sorry for myself, a grimy boy, maybe four, peed in the sandpit. I looked around for his keeper, but no one seemed to be with the kid. The kid pissed for about five seconds before other people started to notice. The sandpit cleared. “Whose kid is this?” I shouted. “He can’t do that here.”
Ignoring me, he finished his business. Suddenly, a grandmotherly woman pushed through the crowd that had formed and screamed at the kid in a language with many hard consonants. She tugged at his arm and dragged him away. Eventually, kids began to settle back into the sandpit, keeping clear of the area of drainage until it dried. I suggested to my girls that they move on to the jungle gym. I got no argument.
My friend Good Heart had finally gotten to the park with her daughter, Sammie. “Some kid just peed in the sand pit. Do you believe it?”
“Our pediatrician told us to avoid the sand boxes in the parks. Rats play in them at night,” Good Heart said. “Do you let your twins play in the sand?”
“Not now, I’m not.” Good Heart had a gap-tooth smile, which she hoped to rectify as soon as her husband completed his medical fellowship and they could afford cosmetic dental work.
I lost sight of Claire and Maude, as they blended into the swarm of kids on the jungle gym, despite having distinctive curly blond hair. No matter what I was doing in the park, I instinctively looked for the kids every thirty seconds. The thought of not knowing where the kids were scared me. Good Heart understood my need to chase after the kids. I was learning that it was rare to have a full conversation with another adult.
Maude and Claire were hidden beneath the jungle gym, arguing with a slightly older kid over a bike with training wheels. Maude was straddling it, demonstrating her imagined ownership of it. She pulled against the boy’s grip on the handle bar. Her loyal sister yelled, “Our bike.”
I said, “This bike doesn’t belong to you. You have to ask him for a turn if you want to ride it.”
Maude kept pulling on the bike. She was not going to yield. The little boy started to stutter-cry.
“Can they have a turn for a little bit, please?” I asked.
“It mine,” he wailed. Fearing a confrontation with my spunky little Maude, I bent down to speak to the boy, thinking he might be more reasonable than my own child. “My kids are younger than you and don’t understand what it means to share. Can you be a big boy and show them how sharing is done?”
As soon as I said it, I knew I had screwed up. I had failed to heed the prime directive of parenting: do not impose your parenting style on another person’s kid.
“That’s my son’s bike,” a woman yelled. “And don’t you lecture my boy.”
“I don’t want ‘sorry.’ Just get your kids away.”
“You don’t have to be nasty. Everybody knows that when you bring a toy to the park, you kinda of have to be willing to share it.”
Second mistake. Do not impose your parenting style on other parents.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Hilarious Daddy 3.0 ... story about a computer geek turned stay at home dad ... the best part someone asks towards the end, my husband is the oldest version 1.0, where can I upgrade him cheap … wish the author would have given a link for the upgrade” ~ Mathangi Sri, India
“It did not take me long to read this book simply because, once started, I didn't want to stop reading. The only thing slowing me down were the tears in my eyes from laughing so much. The situational comedy was absolutely hilarious. I kept thinking, ‘I'd love to see this movie.’ The quality of the writing added to the reading pleasure. If this is the first book, I look forward to his second, third and more.” ~ Chuck Hossack, PA
“An appealing comedy delivers many laugh-out-loud moments for the reader who has dealt with a fractious toddler or attempted to cope as an outsider in any type of clique.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“This book is great I could not put it down.” ~ Liza Bergmann
“You have to love a dad who is just doing his best to keep home and kids under control AND keep his wife happy.” ~ Lisa Borowski
“This was incredibly enjoyable and made me feel a bond with the author. This is a simple, quick read, that is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.” ~ Amazon Customer
“You will laugh out loud, as you can absolutely picture the scenes. Anyone who has kids, whether a dad or mom, will relate with these experiences and thoroughly enjoy the ride.” ~ Eric Budin
“This novel, rich with detail and wit, brings the characters to life. I feel like I know Nick Owen and his chaotic children. Armstrong brilliantly chronicles the evolution of a man and his relationships. A must read!” ~ Amazon Customer

About the Author
Rob Armstrong
Rob Armstrong mines comedy from his own life as a stay-at-home dad.
After graduating from the Wharton School of Business, he worked in communication finance, before taking an “early retirement” to look after his two daughters.
Armstrong lives with his wife and daughters in the Greater Philadelphia area. He has served as treasurer of the local PTA and as an elected member of the school board.


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.


Monday, January 29, 2018

"Smoke City" by Keith Rosson

Smoke City
by Keith Rosson

Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Smoke City by Keith Rosson is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been ... but how will he find her?
When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.
In Smoke City, Keith Rosson continues to blur genre and literary fiction in a way that is in turns surprising, heartfelt, brutal, relentlessly inventive, and entirely his own.

The years bled together. Each waking morning—or afternoon, truth be told, or evening—couched in a familiar bloom of panic. After that, after Vale realized where he was, who he was, came the rest: sickness, fear, assessment of damage, all of it stitched together with the fine red thread of guilt.
Art & Artists had once called him a “relentless avatar of our contemporary, post-nuclear unease.”
He woke to the alarm, studded in fresh bruises. New scabs on his knees and his teeth loose in his mouth. His lack of memory familiar in itself. Sunlight fell in the room in fierce, distinct bands.
He stood shivering in the shower, the water lancing against him while lava, hot and malicious, compressed itself behind his optic nerves. This pulsing thunder in the skull, and moments from the Ace High the night before came to him slowly, like something spied through a fun house mirror. He bent over to pick up a sliver of soap and with his trembling hand batted a rust-dotted razor lying on the rim of the bathtub. The razor slid down the tub, luge-like, and Vale reached down for it, trying not to gag as dark spots burst like stars in his periphery. He stumbled and stepped on the razor. The crack of plastic, and thin threads of blood began to snake toward the drain. It was painless.
“Oh, come on,” he croaked. “Shit’s sake.” He’d smoked nearly two packs of Camels the night before and sounded now like something pulled howling from a crypt. He tried to stand on his other foot to examine the cut and couldn’t manage it. He put his foot back down and stepped on the broken razor again, and now the floor of the tub was awash in an idiot’s Rorschach of red on white. He retched once and shut the water off, resigned to death—or at least collapse—at any second. The towel hanging from the back of the door reeked of mold, and he gagged against it and dropped it to the floor. He left bloody, shambling one-sided footprints to his bedroom.
Apart from the painting hanging above his bed (the sole Mike Vale original still in his possession), the fist-sized hole next to the light switch was the room’s only decoration. There was a dresser pitted with cigarette burns and topped with a constellation of empty beer bottles. An unmade bed ringed with dirty sheets. The alarm clock on the floor. Plastic blinds rattled against the open window.
He dressed slowly and stepped to the kitchen. Flies dive-bombed bottles mounded in the sink, on the counters. The light on the answering machine was blinking. He pressed the Play button, already knowing who it would be—who else called him?—and there was Candice’s voice.
“The only man in the country still using an answering machine,” she said. “Okay. This is me saying hi. Give me a ring when you discover, you know, fire and the wheel.” Her voice then became steeped in a cautious, thoughtful cadence, a measured quality he remembered more clearly from their marriage. “Richard and I should be heading up through there on tour for another Janey book soon. It’d be good to touch base, get dinner. Call me.”
It was September, the last gasp of summer. The apartment was explosive with trapped heat. A swath of sunlight fell across the countertop. Just looking at that glare hurt his eyes, his entire body, made him feel as if rancid dishwater was shooting straight into his guts. A nameless sadness, the sadness, the exact opposite of the Moment and so much more insistent, tore through him like a torrent. Like a rip of lightning, there and gone, and Vale sobbed. Just once. One ragged, graceless gasp. Pathetic. He stood sweating over the answering machine, ashamed of himself.
He was out the door five minutes later, blood wetting his sock, cold coffee and aspirin hammering a bitter waltz somewhere below his heart.
Time had once called him “a shaman of America’s apocalyptic incantations, one who catalogs our fears and thrusts them back at us in a ferocious Day-Glo palette.”
On his way to the bus stop Mike Vale, the shaman, the avatar—looking down in his shirt pocket for a cigarette—ran directly into a telephone pole, hard enough to give himself a nosebleed.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Rosson is a talent to be watched.” ~ Jason Heller, NPR
“A brilliantly haunting tale of forgiveness and redemption even in the face of abject failure ... Depravity and grace meet in a powerful, profound, and lavish banquet for the soul.” ~ Foreword Reviews (starred review)
“Rosson's talent is staggering, his craft is meticulous, and his story is one of the quirkiest, but most heartfelt I have ever read.” ~ Dianah Hughley, Bookseller, Powell's
“A surreal road novel about misfits on a journey to Southern California ... An offbeat, strangely satisfying adventure through a land of (literal) ghosts.” ~ Kirkus Reviews
“[A] story about hope, about love and about the essential decency of people ... hugely satisfying ... the literary quality of Keith Rosson’s writing is truly remarkable and, at times, quite breathtakingly beautiful.” ~ Linda Hepworth, Nudge-Book Magazine

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
Mike Vale is a brilliant artist who has fallen from grace into drunken obscurity. When his ex-wife dies suddenly, he feels compelled to travel to Los Angeles for her funeral. He picks up hitchhiker Marvin Deitz, who has been reincarnated and forced to die again and again as penance for executing Joan of Arc. Marvin is due to die again soon and is headed to Los Angeles in a last-ditch effort at redemption. Along the way, they pick up another hitchhiker - the ironically named Casper - a ghost hunter on his way to Los Angeles to make a reality show about “smokes”, the ghostly figures whose appearance in LA is becoming a regular occurrence. When these three lost souls come together, their lives will be changed forever.
The story is told from the points-of-view of Mike in the third person and Marvin in the first person, including entries from the journal he has been keeping over the centuries. Their accounts are interspersed with excerpts from newspaper articles, religious pamphlets, CDC pamphlets, and even a radio interview. The characters are perfectly flawed, and you will come to love each of them. And the way their stories converge is nothing short of amazing. The author sure has a way with words; his descriptions of Mike’s filthy apartment are so real that I am practically gagging right alongside Mike himself. His drunken bouts are also all too real, as are his hangovers.
Full of heartbreak and despair, this tale of friendship, love, and forgiveness is highly original and ultimately uplifting. Brilliant.
Warnings: coarse language, alcohol abuse, drug use.

About the Author
Keith Rosson
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. He is an advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape.

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