Backwater, from Regal House/Fitzroy Books, May 2022.
Backwater is a psychological thriller, a story about memory, responsibility and how we shape the stories of our lives. Maggie, a solitary teenager in the rural South, struggles to shape her own identity and make a life in the ruins of her family through sailing and "fictionalizing. When she becomes a prime suspect in her beautiful cousin's prom night murder, we learn that Maggie has secrets not even a sympathetic detective can unravel.
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Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future.
Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger's tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from disgraced deputy Marco DeLucca and Zadie Person, a local journalist investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.
In a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to "strip a man to the bones," the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.
"Ambitious and compelling, this novel-in-verse touches upon race and the lives of carnies filtered through the consciousness of a bi-racial woman who, like Huck Finn, is innately intelligent and an American original." - Michael Waters
"She splits open the world like a piece of fruit to get at the seeds of meaning...Her hungry appetite reflects the author's ambitious goals..." - Marly Youmans in NCLR
Set in a mid-century carnival, this collection has a cover image painted by the author during studies at Coney Island Museum. The curator of that museum, Lisa Schaefer, said of the book, "Steeped in sideshow tradition, and addressing issues of race, gender, self-concept, and creative expression, your book is beautifully written."
Available at bookstores, online, and at Coney Island Museum!
Like a daring archeologist, the poems of Hotel Worthy dig [deeply] into the intimate layers of years, excavating the fossils of memory, love, loss, and family history. These poems compel us to have the courage to emerge from our past shipwrecks and embark anew. This collection is a roadmap for beginning again.
"Neena, a young girl in America fallen apart into little states, and devastated by a series of vicious little wars, is raised on a farm by her aunt. As the scattered survivors try to cope with the destruction of civilization, Neena encounters her neighbors, vicious and unscrupulous scavengers, men scarred chemically and psychologically by wars. Neena also learns decency and friendship, and struggles to create and preserve happiness and love in a world of danger, hardship and beauty. In the process, Neena brings the blessing of peace and contentment to the people around her."
Tracey Gaines has moved to rural Saul County, North Carolina, to escape the wreckage of a divorce and becomes a teacher at an alternative school. She devotes herself to renovating an old farmhouse but finds she can't as easily build connections in this new place. When the community splits, she finds an ally in Dave Fordham, a native son who struck out for new opportunities, only to face his own trauma and a forced return home. Elizabeth Stuckey-French says, "Val Nieman has written what is destined to become a classic novel of Southern life."
Fred Chappell, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina