Our featured writer today is Laura Koerber. Let’s give her a warm welcome!
If you would like your talent featured in the Artists in Our Midst series or Authors in Our Midst series, send me an email message. Don’t be shy! I have no more Artists posts in the queue, so please get in touch if you would like to be featured.
Three Novels: Old Coyote and Other Spirits
by Laura Koerber
Thank you to WaterGirl and the Balloon community for this opportunity to blow my horn about my books. I do think BJ readers will like my novellas; in fact, I think this community is my target audience. I’ve had trouble selling my books through most ad outlets because my novels don’t resonate broadly. I get reactions from WTF? to outright hostility. On the other hand, I get love from the right readers.
So what do I write about? I write magical realism stories set in an apocalyptic near-future that’s getting nearer every day. The three books I’m presenting here all have a main character who is a nature spirit. My nature spirits are a mash up of European fairies, Greek genius loci, and Coyote and Hare from Native American spirituality—plus some shapeshifting. All three books present the nature spirit against the background of climate disaster.
I write what I know, and what I know is life as a spectator while everything outside my personal experience is going completely to hell. I learned about climate change way back in the seventies, so the catastrophes crashing down on the world aren’t a surprise to me. I’ve been expecting this all of my life. Nature is the closest thing I have to a religion, so I’m watching my deepest values be crushed beneath the weight of human failings.
I’m watching nature be murdered, but I think I’m also watching a transition to a future where most people in most places will be trapped into stunted lives, crushed by circumstances they can’t reasonably be expected to surmount. We are living in an apocalyptic sci fi novel come true.
If I let full awareness impact me, I’d be crying all the time. So what to do?
My stories are about emotional and spiritual survival. Escapist literature for doom freaks. The three books listed below are cautiously optimistic about the possibility that individuals might be able to salvage their higher Maslow needs out of the wreckage we are making of this planet.
Wild Hare is a call to fight back. Coyote’s Road Trip is about finding connectedness and community. Encounter with Old Coyote is a mostly humorous discussion of the innate spirituality of the universe.
Maybe brief descriptions and reader reviews for the three books would be helpful?
I’ll start with Coyote’s Road Trip Goodreads
Opening line: “Two customers, one staffer, and one guy at the hookup. I didn’t like those odds, so I strolled outside and around to the back for a long piss in the weeds.”
Synopsis: Coyote, the shapeshifting spirit of a valley in Nevada, is forced by climate change to hit the road and find a new home.
Reader review: “You are now reading one of the best fantasy/magic realism stories I’ve encountered in a while. Consider the “Two customers, one staffer, and one guy at the hookup” opening line. Characterization, setting, voice, and tone in ten words. Genius. Add in the “I didn’t like those odds, so I strolled outside and around to the back for a long piss in the weeds” second line and character, voice, setting, tone, and narrator are locked. Double genius.
And sorry, I can’t stop there. Koerber does brilliantly something few other modern writers can do at all – character-based exposition and narration. The amount of world-building in the first chapter is astounding and so refreshingly done other writers should use this as a textbook for good writing.”
Reader review: “Looking at the long, desolate valley depicted on the cover, and reading the description of the main character as a “guardian spirit of a desert valley in Nevada”, I expected this book to be insubstantial, mystical, and wistful. I was very surprised to find out that it was very human, full of well-constructed, concrete scenes, and absolutely easy to relate to. The book is great. A very fast read. Yes, it is wistful, and in several places, it is very sad, but it’s varied and it’s always interesting.”
Next up, Encounters with Old Coyote Goodreads
Opening line: “After Andrea died, she found herself in the condition of being a ghost. This was a surprise to her because, as an atheist, she’d assumed that death was the end.”
Synopsis: Andrea travels to Basin and Range National Monument to commit suicide under the stars—but she doesn’t completely die. To her surprise, she finds herself still in existence as a ghost. To her further surprise, she’s not alone; the desert is home to Coyote, Miss Vulture, and other spirits. Andrea is startled by the spirits, so she asks, “Is there a god that answers prayers?”
Coyote responds, “I don’t think so. Personally, I’d sooner bet on a poker hand than a prayer.” What follows is a collection of stories shared by Andrea, Coyote, and the other spirits as they chat around the campfire—stories about spiders in the bathroom, how Andrea lost her bra at a truck stop in Yukon Territory, stealing a dog, adventures in vomit, and more of what Coyote calls “the sublime and the ridiculous.” In the end, Andrea’s question is answered.
I only have one review so far: “What a delightful surprise on an otherwise horrible day. Amazon sent me a message that Laura Koerber had a new book and was I interested? You bet! I love her quirky writing style that manages to sneak in some serious social commentary along the way. She’s done it again. This is Coyote the Trickster 2.0. He uses a cell phone to check Wikipedia and discusses particle colliders. What I didn’t expect was the truly beautiful ending. This was the book I needed today and I’m grateful for it.”
And finally, Wild Hare Goodreads
Listed in Kirkus Review as one of the one hundred best indy novels of 2019.
Opening line: “The world is ending, but my personal life is okay, I guess.”
Synopsis: Bobby Fallon, half-human and half nature spirit of the Wild Hare Clan, tries to raise the money to get his friend Arne out of jail through any means necessary. He lives by the code, “Feed, fuck, and fight.”
From Kirkus Review: “The story manages to weave together a complex tapestry of themes, from climate change to poverty to what qualifies as morality in a world that’s facing catastrophe. The prose is clear and concise throughout, giving readers a sense of each scene and character through the protagonist’s eyes.
A wrenching, complex novel that any fantasy fan would do well to pick up.”
Review from a reader: “Every once in a while a book comes along that is just a pleasure to read. Wild Hare ranks among these. The story line caught me from the very beginning, gradually unveiling truths about the protagonist, like a dance of the seven veils, that rendered him more appealing with each turning of the page. But this characterization doesn’t form the limits of what made this book so appealing. Within it teems an abundance of sardonic, ironic and humorous one-liners that left this reader laughing out loud.”
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share my books. I’ve been a lurker on BJ since back when John was a Republican and have found this community to be a source of comfort and support many times. Last fall, I stopped lurking and asked for help finding homes for some kittens—and BJ came through! The kittens are all in homes! Now I hope some folks will enjoy a book or two, so thank you all again. Meanwhile, as the Wild Hare says: Feed, fuck and fight. And as Coyote says, “I gave up on humans a long time ago. Tell me a story. I like the funny ones best.”