Friday, December 18, 2009
"At the end of this story, I will lose a son. I will do it, initially, by dropping him into a dumpster behind a fast-food franchise on a busy street. I will do it at four in the morning, when the city is asleep. I will do it with Javier waiting in the car, lights off. I will wrap the baby in newspaper and plastic, place him in the cradle of a trash bag, the softest I can find. I will place him as best I can so that he'll be found, while still following Javier's directions to smother him in a bag among other bags—in case he checks my work. He won't be able to blame me for incompetence, I kid myself. At that point, the baby will be five hours old. "
read the rest
Also, look at this! I think I'll have to buy this book just based on the cover:
I love it!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Best of the Web 2009 is a must-read collection of short stories, flash fiction, poetry and a few essays, all originally published online.
Not all of the pieces were to my taste, but I enjoyed being exposed to things that I might not have read otherwise and I love the whole idea behind this book. I'll definitely be reading next year's collection when it comes out.
One of my favorite stories in the book is Mandible, by Donna D. Vitucci:
"His license named him Manfred, but my little sister and me, we called him “Mandible” from the time he started hanging around. He’d sleep over with Mama, this scary, big-headed, sharp-jawed cartoon guy, who we imagined was made of metal. The guy’s face was all jaw. He was too long of arm, with a slick, black pompadour. Who, in the 21st century, still worshipped Elvis? Manfred did, and other guys in Hebron, Kentucky. So me and Jennie nicknamed him “Mandible,” and we cracked up whenever we said to his ugly mug: Hey Man, yeah, we’re good. How ‘bout you? He had a shameless smile, and he flashed that grin at us—probably thought he was buddying up with his woman’s wisecracking son and daughter."
read the rest online at Front Porch Journal.
Dzanc Books, the publisher of this collection, is currently having a 50% off sale, so this is a good time to snag a copy of the book.
Other News: Last week I had another piece accepted. My short story, In Search of Biswas, will be in the February issue of Amarillo Bay.
Monday, November 30, 2009
"It was the third grave I’d cracked that night and the third twitcher I’d found inside. The little girl was curled up in a tight ball, thumb in her toothless mouth. Her shaven head was bloody where the wires had been ripped away, and her lips were covered with sores. I crouched over the broken lid, rope and hook in hand, and nearly pissed myself when her eyes snapped open. I couldn’t tell if their glitter was light from my lantern or a leftover galvanic charge still dancing through wires too deeply embedded to remove. "
It's by Dru Pagliassotti, published in the current issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. BCS is an online magazine that publishes literary adventure fantasy. Interesting read. Get the rest of the story here.
Friday, November 27, 2009
From their website:
"In honor of the festival of brutal late-capitalist commerce that the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, has become in America, Seven Stories Press wishes to offer—as our contribution to the alternative tradition of celebrating the day after Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day—free copies of some of our classic titles.
The books below will be available from noon to 4 PM EST on Friday, November 27, 2009. Ten copies of each title are available, except where limited. Each customer can take one copy of one book, which will ship with a free catalog and a chapbook containing the opening chapters from our Fall 2009 lead fiction title, The Old Garden by Hwang Sok-yong. (Due to restrictive postage costs, we can not ship books outside of the United States.)
No payment of any kind is required—no book price, no shipping, nothing. The books are absolutely free. All that’s required is that you create an account with sevenstories.com, allowing you to buy books from us in the future at a 25% discount, if and when you choose."
Monday, November 23, 2009
If you're looking for a way to reach out to the less fortunate this holiday season, here are a few ideas:
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Necessary Fiction is the web journal of So New Publishing, a small press based in Eugene, Oregon.
Necessary Fiction publishes a new story each Wednesday and is currently serializing the novel New Hope for Small Men, by Grant Bailie.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Yesterday, I received a phone call from Passages North to let me know that they wanted to take my short story Oh Tree.
Passages North is an annual literary journal that has been publishing for thirty years. They sponsor the Waasmode Short Fiction Prize, the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and the Thomas J. Hruska Memorial Nonfiction Prize.
Essays published in Passages North have appeared in the anthology, Best American Essays, on numerous occasions.
It's a wonderful journal and I'm honored that my story was chosen for the next issue.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The Cotton Man
In the morning a man covered in cotton knocked at my door. I answered. He stood there outside, the cotton from the trees blowing in the wind and sticking to the sweat on his skin. The air was dry and hot.
I liked that one so much that I looked around for anything else by Timothy Raymond, and I found this:
Box of Fire
There was the man with the urn. William. He stood in front of my bedroom door holding the thing in his hands.
He said, “Nick?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m coming down.”
He said, “That’s fine. Just fine.”
“You’re William,” I said.
“Oh,” said William. “She mentioned me. That’s so fine.”
Monday, November 9, 2009
"Mr. Dunn squeezes right up against April’s backside, wrapping his thick arms all the way around her as they cast out together. His breath is a combination of coffee and unbrushed teeth. Finally he uncoils his grip, returning to the seat by her father in the back of the small outboard motorboat. "
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Green Haired Girl by Alan Stewart Carl
"The green-haired girl sang with a voice from a bad neighborhood. I couldn't help but drop my pool cue and watch her groaning up there on the little stage, black spandex stained to her smooth dark skin. I lit up a cigarette and fell away."
Monday, November 2, 2009
Read about the book here.
"In Awkward Press’s publications, we strive to showcase works by talented artists who choose to create outside the realm of traditional publishing. As the major publishing houses latch onto flavor-of-the-month trends in search of the next blockbuster, readers must turn to smaller houses to find writing that’s risky, original, and alive. And that’s what Awkward Press is all about—bringing a sense of adventure back to reading. Exploring the fringes of literature. And selling our releases for less than the cost of a movie ticket." more
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Are you a wicked child or a good child? An ambivalent writer, a self-promoter, a natural, or a neurotic? Betsy Lerner was an editor in New York's top publishing houses before she became an agent and she has dealt with all sorts of people. In The Forest For The Trees - An Editor's Advice To Writers, she challenges us to take a good look at ourselves as writers – at what motivates us, inspires us, frightens us and keeps us from being honest.
"If you are going to be honest and write about all the untidy emotions, the outsize desires, the hideous envy, and disturbing fantasies that make us human, how can you not offend your loved ones, your neighbors and community?".- p 66
She examines the emotional pitfalls of writing – the neuroses, addictions and mental illnesses that writers are famous for:
"Imagine the anxiety level of a job that requires you to start all over from square one each day. But that's the writer's situation. Every day you are starting from scratch, even when you're in the middle of a project." - p 99
" Judging one's own writing is like looking in a mirror. What you tell yourself about what you see in the reflection has far more to do with how you feel about yourself than with how you actually look." – p 99
"Writers love to worry. By their very nature, they are neurotic. And they tend to exhibit the gamut of phobic behaviors from nervous tics and insomnia to full-fledged paranoia and delusional episodes." – p 93
Don't know about you, but I've been an insomniac all my life and lately I've been having some delusions that I might actually finish my novel one day.
I love this advice on page 101:
"Whoever you are, whatever your bizarre behaviors, I say cultivate them; push the envelope. Becoming a writer never won anybody any popularity contests anyway. And most writers couldn't win one if they tried."
"I've come to look at neurotic behavior as a necessary component of a writer's arsenal, the necessary defenses to screen out the rest of the world so that the ballet inside his head can begin to take shape . . . The writer struggles to satisfy himself and also meet the minimum requirements most spouses and families expect. He loves his cage and hates his cage. "I am in chains," cried Kafka to his beloved. "Don't touch my chains."
In part 2, Ms. Lerner moves on to take a look at getting published. This section is full of good advice, anecdotes from the publishing world, and a strong dose of reality. She explains in great detail what actually happens after you land a contract – the jacket meeting(s), the presales conference, the sales conference, etc. Ms. Lerner looks at all the things that can go wrong and prepares you for them. And, of course, the worst thing that can go wrong is your book being largely ignored. Her advice is sound:
"I urge all my writers to get to work on their next project before publication. Working on a new book is the only cure for keeping the evil eye away. After publication, the writer opens himself up to reviewers and critics – or their glaring silence – and is extremely vulnerable."
Overall, this is a really marvelous book and I recommend it to anyone who has not yet been through the publishing process. Even those who have would probably benefit from it. It doesn't contain any how-to writing advice, but it does offer advice about finding an agent and working with your (eventual) editor. And it does get you to take a good hard look at yourself.
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Nomads will be published in the Writer's Digest Competition Collection, an anthology featuring the first-place winners in each category. Other categories included poetry, screenplays, stage plays, memoirs and articles.
1st place won me one hundred dollar's worth of WD books and 4th place got me another fifty dollar's worth. Not sure yet if I'll be able to pick which books I want, or if I'll end up with duplicates. If I do get duplicates, or books I've already read, I'll probably give them away here on this blog, so check back for updates on that if interested.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
That's an excerpt from a beautiful article by novelist Alexander Chee. Read the rest of it here.
Friday, October 23, 2009
This is a stunning collection of earthy, uproarious stories that force you to smile even as they break your heart. Ms. Crucet doesn't hold back at all in her intimate depictions of the lives of Cuban immigrants in Miami.
I first encountered one of the stories in this book in an online literary journal and was captivated by the writer's honesty. Here's a link to the story, Low Tide. If you're not sure whether or not to buy this book, go and read Low Tide first. It will give you an appetite for more.
As always, I'd be happy to mail my copy to anyone who is on a tight budget because of the recession. Just send me an email or comment on this post if you want it.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Enter a random drawing to win one of three amazing books at GoodReads.com:
"Set in Kuwait during the ominous years between the two Gulf Wars, Small Kingdoms traces the intersecting lives of five people—rich and poor, native and foreigner, Muslim, Christian, and non-believer—when they discover that a teenaged Indian housemaid is being brutally abused by her employer."
Small Kingdoms is published by The Permanent Press. I'm reading one of their books now (won a bound galley in a pre-release giveaway) and am loving it.
A Disobedient Girl:
"Ru Freeman's debut novel chronicles the trials and travails of two Sri Lankan women and their pursuit of freedom. Orphaned then absorbed as a servant into a well-to-do Sri Lankan family at the age of five, Latha Kumari grows up in tandem with the family's spoiled young daughter, Thara. However, Latha's mysterious origins and ambiguous caste ensure her a future of unpaid servitude in the Vithanages's household. Resentful, she involves herself with the man meant for Thara. This choice ultimately causes her loss and suffering."
"A young prostitute seeking temporary refuge from the brothel, Rachel awakens in a beautiful garden in Arles to discover she is being sketched by a red-haired man in a yellow straw hat. This is no ordinary artist but the eccentric painter Vincent van Gogh—and their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable relationship. He arrives at their first assignation at No. 1, Rue du Bout d'Arles, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a request to paint her—and before long, a deep, intense attachment grows between Rachel and the gifted, tormented soul".
Friday, October 9, 2009
Here's a pretty good round-up of reactions to the announcement.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Maybe you don't.
Maybe you're asking yourself that very question right now as my words jar your curiosity.
But don't answer. Not now. Wait.
So opens David LaBounty's dark novel, Affluenza, and right away you get a sense of what you're in for. The person speaking to you is Charles Dash and, while he may be a certifiable sociopath, he is also frighteningly reminiscent of the average consumer zombie. He buys, buy, buys, everything he wants, maxing out all his high-limit credit cards and using the equity in his supersized house as an ATM. He can't drive a car that's more than three years old. He has to outdo the neighbors. His kids stare blankly at an endlessly blaring TV as he finds prostitutes to stand in for his indifferent wife. She shops too, and he pays for it.
At some point, the inevitable happens and the credit runs out. The ARM mortgage adjusts. The minimum payments on the credit cards increase. Charles Dash can no longer manage to hold together the illusion of a prosperous life. And that's when the violence begins.
I didn't relate to much in this book on a personal level because I abandoned the "Affluenza" type of lifestyle a long time ago. What makes this book worth reading is the story – it's well done and compelling and draws you along from page to page. Charles Dash is a fully realized character and even pitiable at times. You can't help wanting to know what will happen to him. What makes the book valuable is the way it documents this era of disconnected spending, in a memorable way. If we manage to survive global climate change, as a species and as a culture, this is a book that I think (hope!) would be enlightening to future generations. It would tell them a lot about people of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Yes, Charles Dash engages in acts of extreme violence and, for that reason, is not completely typical of the average American. But his violence is the violence of our day.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Just finished reading this one the other day. Good stuff. Jackie Corley is a very talented writer with a powerful voice. She has a real knack for capturing the angst and confusion that accompanies early adulthood. Reading this book took me right back to my early twenties - I could almost taste the cheap vodka again. She has a way of dragging you headfirst into her scenes and making you rub up against her characters, even when you really don't want to. Some of them are downright repulsive but, then, I like it that way sometimes.
Now I'm reading Affluenza by David LaBounty. I won a free copy through PANK and David was super speedy about putting it in the mail for me. He signed it too. I'm not very far in yet, but already enjoying it.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This book, by Mark Spencer, is one of the best books I've read all year. Mark Spencer is a realist, who gives us characters weighed down by their pasts, by their personal failings, by their bad choices, by their surroundings. These are people who spy on their boyfriends, respond to chain letters, cheat, drink too much, neglect their children, and otherwise live up to the "trailer-trash" stereotype in every possible way. Spencer cracks open their bleak little lives - gives us such a deep, intimate look at them that we can't help feeling their pain and, after a while, starting to root for them.
The novel largely revolves around Dill and Jo Rene, siblings and survivors of a childhood marked by TV dinners and a father who disappeared repeatedly to indulge his fetish for crippled women. Adults now, Dill and Jo Rene are still stuck in grim Adams County – a place of sordid poverty and bleak prospects. Dill owns the Weary Motel, a place frequented most commonly for its hourly rate. Jo Rene cleans the rooms. Her young daughter, Kari, has been missing for five months, kidnapped by her father, and this Jo Rene can never forget for more than an hour. Spencer brings this suffering woman to life so vividly that you can almost hear her crying in the next room. Like her brother Dill, she is a tangled confusion of good qualities and bad; perhaps the word that sums her up best is human.
The surprising thing about this book is that there is humor in it. Dark humor, but humor nonetheless. This, for me, provided a needed counterpoint to the often poignant scenes that sometimes made me think about having a cry. Spencer pulls it off flawlessly and it actually gives the book a richness that I think might be missing otherwise. The characters and plot lines are quirky enough to keep things from descending into unremitting gloom.
The ending is satisfying and, though I won't give it away, I will say that Spencer avoids cleaning things up too tidily. It's a realistic ending and, as such, in keeping with the rest of the book.
This is a good book, a memorable book, a book that is by turns funny and bitterly sad, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
If you hurry over to the PANK blog, you still have a chance to win a copy of the novel Affluenza, by David LaBounty. Read Roxane Gay's excellent review and then be the first to post a comment.
Nothing makes me as smiley as a free book . . . . .
Monday, September 14, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Overall, this is a good collection and worth a read, especially if you like dark protagonists.
If anyone would like to read this book, but is held back by the pinch of the economy, let me know and I'll put my copy in the mail for you in a couple of weeks (after my husband finishes reading it). If you own a book on my To-Read list and would like to trade, that would be good too - shoot me an email or comment here. To see my To-Read list, scroll down and look in the sidebar.
Obviously, I can only oblige the first person who responds, but I'll be doing similar book giveaways in the future, so check back soon if you miss this one.
Winter of Different Directions can be purchased from Amazon.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
When I lived in Memphis, Tennessee, I would take holiday dinners to a small group of homeless men who lived under an overpass in an industrial area. I was quite scared to be there so I never stayed long, but what I saw made a lasting impression on me. Henry, the homeless man in The Shock Is What Kills You, appeared in my mind as a result of those experiences.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Kicking things off, I have this gem: Alabama, by Murray Dunlap. It starts:
Heather was born in Alabama. So was I. This is something I like to say. In Alabama, shrimp and oysters taste a little like champagne and the crab trap haul is fifteen pounds, pulled up hand over hand, the rope stained brown and slick with algae. Blue crabs snap three-inch claws in the air. I know how to reach around from behind and scoop them up without getting pinched. I know how to pick the white meat from the shell and throw out the dirty gills. They call them Dead Man’s Fingers. Heather and I know these things. We were born here. I’m going to ask Heather to marry me, and I’ve got a ring in my pocket to prove it.
Who wouldn't keep reading??!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
My favorite piece in the first issue is Maintenance Window by Chris Bachelder. This is a slightly speculative story that takes a look at our dependence on the internet. It's well-done and strangely haunting.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
At the end of each story, you are left wishing for perhaps a little more; a reluctance to leave the characters; a desire to spend more time with them. That, I think, is one of the hallmarks of a great short story: characters who continue to walk around in your head long after the story has ended.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I also liked About Husbands and The Dog by Heather Fowler. She uses an interesting technique of repetition that works very well.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Jennine Capo Crucet is a marvelous writer and I'm looking forward to her award-winning collection of short stories, How To Leave Hialeah, due out in September 09.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
We Could Be Dreams For Each Other, by Jeff Kass, is a beautifully written and fascinating story, exploring an unusual relationship in a non-judgemental way. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The book did not make a strong impression on me. I found the characters fairly one-dimensional and the ending unrealistic. There were a handful of good scenes scattered throughout the pages and one thing I did admire was Kidd's portrayal of the romantic love developing between Lily and her black friend, Zach. A relationship between the two of them would have been unthinkable at that time in history. I would have liked to see it taken even further in the novel.
Next on my list: Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I'm looking forward to this one with so much anticipation that I can hardly keep from drooling.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Anyway, I was a bit disappointed with the Theroux piece. The best story in the whole issue, in my opinion, is The Laugh by Tea Obreht. It's worth buying this copy of The Atlantic just for that one story. It's set in Africa and is about a man whose good friend's wife has been killed in an unspeakable way. The word brilliant hovers at my fingertips, though I always hesitate to use it. The story horrified me and lingered with me for days. Very original, very complex, very haunting.
Fish Story, by Rick Bass, is also memorable and I enjoyed the almost painfully truthful essay Eyes on the Prize, by Alice Sebold. It talks about the drawbacks and merits of literary awards. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories 2009, which I haven't read yet but am looking forward to. I have such a huge pile of books to read. It would be daunting if it didn't actually give me a quick thrill of delight each time I think of all the pleasures awaiting me in those thousands of pages.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Scavengers by Maureen Aitken
Second Chance by Judd Hampton. Judd's prose is mesmerizing.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Check out Writer's Bloc here. They publish some neat stuff.
In the current issue (#2), I especially like Highlands, NJ by Scott Shanley.
The Insurgent, by Sarah Coyle, is quite riveting.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Guess none of that was enough to stop me.
People are either embarrassed or intrigued when you tell them you're a writer. The embarrassed ones feel sorry for you and your affliction. The intrigued ones secretly hope that you're going to write about them. Many people ask to read your work, but just as many aren't remotely interested. They like sci-fi. Or romance. Your depictions of real life depress them. So it goes.
It doesn't matter. Being a writer is a good excuse for lots of things. It explains my reclusive habits, my nosiness about the details of stranger's lives, my penchant for staring dreamily at the wall. People expect it, really. I'm a writer. I say that now. Will I "make it" as a writer? Who knows. It's true that it's very difficult to get published. But I'm not going to let that weigh on my mind. I'm just going to write all the stories I need to write and if they're good enough, somebody will find them. And if not, I guess I'll be a writer anyway.