Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eat Like An Author - Tod Davies

When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. And not too long ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, author and editorial director of Exterminating Angel PressTod Davies shares her love of giving in to great food:


I love to eat. I really do. I love to eat and drink, and I love to do both with friends and loved ones. And then I love to eat and drink when I’m by myself, too. You all know what I’m talking about. The day when you seriously get down to the work at hand. The day spent before I notice I put my yoga pants on inside out. The day spent without talking to anyone but my dog. The day I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want it.

I like to feed people, true. But I also like to feed myself. When I’m by myself, I feed myself with just as much care as I would feed a friend or a loved one. Because who else pays as much attention and helps me to do the tasks I set myself as myself?

When I’m on my own, I like to eat simply, since I work better that way, and—face it—I’m lazy, too. My solitary tastes run to…well, I’ll give an example of a work day’s meals this week, when in between hours of sitting and staring at the big trees before writing something down and going back to sitting… I fixed myself something to eat. For lunch, it was an omelet filled with odds and ends of cheese left in the fridge, soaking up the juices of a tomato salad left over from the night before. For dinner a griddled bit of ribsteak rubbed with garlic, nestled by a green salad made with shallots and toasted walnuts and blue cheese. Red wine with that, of course. It was the end of the work day, after all.

But I want to go backwards and tell you what I had for breakfast that day. I love fruit for breakfast. What I really love are Baked Pears. This is a dish I highly recommend to anyone who wants to care for themselves without thinking about it very much. When pears are inexpensive, which means in season and ripe—or even, blessed be, given away by a neighbor with a particularly fruitful tree—I grab as many as I think I’ll eat for a week’s worth of breakfasts. Then when I’ve got something else going in the stove, I shove in a pan of pears. First I carve a little scoop out of the bottom of each one, add a little honey, set it right side up, and fill the pan so that all the pears are touching. I add a little water and a scatter of cloves. I bake them at 400 degrees until they smell great and are a little wizened and shrunk, and syrup has appeared at the bottom of the pan…about an hour. I don’t fuss about this, they can go in longer at less temperature if I have something else I want to bake. Then I let them cool, cover, and stick in the fridge. For breakfast, I extract as many as I feel like eating, put in a little ovenproof dish, add a bit of apple juice or cream (I highly recommend the cream), and bake at about 350 degrees to heat the pears and cook down the liquid. In the cream’s case, to where it’s brown and clotted and sweet, since I like that the best. Fortunately these things are pretty indestructible, so I don’t need to worry unless I forget and absolutely burn them (and even then, I just scrape off the burned bits and have pear sauce instead). They taste great. I like a light breakfast, so they’re perfect for me. I love how they smell, I love how they taste, I love the feeling of warmth and autumn they give. Most of all, I love how little trouble they are, so that I can get on to the morning’s work without fuss, and that’s a very friendly start to the day.

Pears are my friend. The two missing from the bowl in the photo at the top of the post are the ones I had for breakfast today. (By the way, as a bonus, if you skip them for breakfast, heat them up and have them with ice cream for dessert later that night. So there.) And then I got on with listening to the trees give their input to storytelling, which is the most joyful part of the day.


Tod Davies, editorial director of indie Exterminating Angel Press, is also the author of Snotty Saves the Day and Lily the Silent, both from The History of Arcadia series, and the cooking memoirs Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You've Got and Jam Today Too: The Revolution Will Not Be Catered (June 2014). Unsurprisingly, her attitude toward publishing is the same as her attitude toward literature, cooking, and, come to think of it, life in general: it's all about working with the best of what you have to find new ways of looking and new ways of being. Find her and EAP at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Melanie Reviews: Vampire Loves

Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar
Color by Audre Jardel
Translated from French to English by Alexis Siegel
Pages: 187
Publisher: First Second
Released: 2006

Guest review by Melanie Page

Although the book doesn’t alert readers to the fact, Vampire Loves is actually four graphic novels about the vampire Ferdinand. The graphic novels separately are referred to as the Grand Vampire:

#1 Could Cupid Care Less?
#2 Mortal Maidens on My Mind
#3 Lonely Hearts Crossing
#4 Moonstruck Post-Mortem

The books have recurring characters, so you do need to read them in order.

Vampire Loves begins with Lani--part tree, part woman--showing up at Ferdinand’s castle and asking if he’ll take her back. The conversation quickly becomes aggressive, as Ferdinand points out that they would still be together if Lani hadn’t cheated on Ferdinand with his friend. In a twist of logic, Lani says it’s Ferdinand’s fault they broke up because he accidentally walked in on her and another man. Readers are instantly asked to dislike Lani, and she proves to be problems throughout the collection with her off-kilter philosophies. Ferdinand tries to forget Lani by staying in for the night. He talks to his cat: “We don’t give a darn, do we cat? We’re going to read a good book and stuff our face with cookies. Yeah, I know I’m pretty fed up with Proust too, but that’s all I’ve got. I lent out all my other books and never got them back.”

In an effort to find love, Ferdinand often goes around to bars and clubs, taking advice from werewolves and bartenders, but when he’s not paying attention, a woman enters his life. Meet Aspirine, who became a vampire at 17. Her human age shows (we don’t know how long she’s been a vampire) when she becomes jealous that Ferdinand and her sister, Ritaline, seem to have a lot in common, and Aspirine wants to be held, continuously asking Ferdinand if she can sleep with him to be in his arms, almost like a child. Though Ferdinand seeks love, he doesn’t love everyone he meets, and Aspirine strikes him as too needy for a vampire such as himself who just got out of a relationship.

All of the characters Ferdinand meets in the hopes of finding love are memorable. There’s Sigh, who is basically a scarf for her owner, but claims to be a spirit who spreads sadness. There’s the Japanese woman who meets Ferdinand late at night in a museum and then can’t find him again (like a Craigslist missed connection). Another human woman seems to like Ferdinand but quickly shuts him down for petty reasons. It’s always a feat for an author to create so many memorable characters, especially if readers only meet that character briefly.

Vampire Loves also has a cute sort of humor about it, such as when Aspirine explains to Ferdinand how to play with his cat using his feet. Another instance, Ferdinand and Sigh sculpt creatures using Monster Putty, which causes the creations to come to life. Sigh gets upset that Ferdinand’s spider is picking on her bird--that is, until her bird eats the spider and becomes a hybrid monster.

Another lovely feature of Vampires Loves is its references to modern and older pop culture. Ferdinand listens to records by groups like Les Freres Jacques, a real musical quartet that started in 1946. Aspirine, however, likes Marilyn Manson. When the two enter a trendy club, readers catch patrons talking about cool new comic books, like Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl and Johnny, the Homicidal Maniac--which is also a sneaky way for Joann Sfar to praise his fellow graphic novelists.

Vampire Loves has a simple tone about it, unusual characters, and a quaintness that I’ve come to associate with European comics.

Melanie Page has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is an adjunct instructor in Indiana. She is the creator of Grab the Lapels, a site that publishes book reviews and interviews of folks who identify as women at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Page 69: Mesilla

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Robert James Russel's Mesilla to the test.

OK, Robert, set up page 69 for us.

Page 69 finds protagonist Everett Root and his traveling companion Erin Sunderland as they're about to enter a mining camp called American Flag. Everett is worse for wear, really banged up bad, and they’re trying their best to appear normal so as not to draw attention, since they're both on the run with a huge chunk of silver in their possession.

What is Mesilla about?

Mesilla is the story of a desperate man, Everett Root, being chased through the New Mexico Territory by his one-tine friend who’s out for revenge. Ultimately, Everett is trying to get to the city of Mesilla where he can, in his words, “start over”—be redeemed for his sins and begin again—but he’s injured, being shot at, and trying to survive a painfully cruel landscape.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what Mesilla is about? Does it align itself the book’s overall theme?

Yes, I think so. A big portion of the book details Everett’s struggles to survive out in nature, him versus it—a theme I’m fascinated by: mankind’s desire to control nature and, quite frankly, remake the world how they want it—but he eventually does find some help, and he does find some respite in the tiny mining camp called American Flag. It does highlight the environment, the world of 1863 New Mexico, and it does, I think, align with this larger theme of control, but it also circles back to a central question posed throughout the novel: Can we start over? This is what Everett is trying to do on this page, and throughout the book; this is a key motivation for Everett and others that gets the plot moving along.



Robert James Russell is the author of the novel Mesilla (Dock Street Press) and the chapbook Don't Ask Me to Spell It Out (WhiskeyPaper Press). He is the co-founder and Managing Editor of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic and the founder of the online literary journal CHEAP POP. You can find him online at or @robhollywood.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Audio Series: Julian Jones

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Today, Julian Jones is reading an excerpt from his 
debut novel. Bohunk's Big To Do evokes elements of Southern Gothic fiction within a story that is firmly rooted in, and influenced by, a Midwestern setting.

Click on the soundcloud link below to hear Julian read an excerpt from Bohunk's Big To Do....

The word on Bohunk's Big To Do:

"Funny, interesting, somewhat raunchy and unconventional." Vital VOICE magazine, September 16, 2015.

Featured as one of three Summer Reads! David Atlanta Magazine, August 05, 2015.

Bo Mickey’s wanted to run away from home ever since his mom married his boyfriend, two months back. First time out of Arizona, though, and damned if they’re not both along for the ride. Worse yet, one too many sightseeing stops puts Bo in Kansas too late for a deathbed introduction to the dad he’s never met.

The other Mickeys – his dad’s second family – put Bo and his lot up in the R.V. in the driveway to wait out the funeral. That’s mighty close quarters to share, though, with the drug-damaged party girl who raised him and her new groom, a know-it-all castoff from Arizona foster care who can’t shake dirty thoughts of Bo and won’t keep his hands to himself.

The way, too, how the second Mrs. Mickey breaks glass and whatnot up against the walls inside her house; the mean streak that oldest daughter’s got: It’s near about impossible to pass the time in any sort of vacation-minded way.

When a little yellow notebook sends Mom into hysterics, Bo decides now’s as good a time as any to make his escape. But he doesn’t want to go it alone. Who will he take with him: the man he loves or the woman who loves him? While he makes up his mind, changes it, and decides again, the heartbreaking choices of his father’s past come together in hints and whispers all around him. But will Bo notice in time to make the right choice himself?
*lifted with love from goodreads

Friday, October 2, 2015

Book Review: The Glacier

Read 9/16/15 - 9/24/15
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who enjoy being mind-fucked the entire time (yes, in a good way)
Pages: 214 pages
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Released: September 2015

It opens on a forest. The forest lies just beyond the backyards of the homes in a new suburban development. Three surveyors are marking trees in the woods while a boy plays back there. And then the woods are gone, replaced by more vinyl sided homes.


A caterer fills water glasses and salt and pepper shakers in a giant, empty conference hall. She's lost all sense of time and doesn't understand her job though she goes through the motions.

A man has a cup of coffee and inserts the business end of a rifle into his mouth.

Another man hops into his modified ice cream truck and heads into town.

The boy is outside drawing chalk circles on the street.

Jonah, one of the surveyors, is on the side of a different road, doing his surveyor thing, when traffic comes to a standstill. A mushroom cloud appears in the distance and quickly begins to demolish everything around him. A brilliant white light threatens to eat him up until he tells the apocalypse to "wait", and it pauses.

Then reverses.

Everyone is suddenly back to what they were doing before, but now with a new, confusing sense of doom and dread.

Was it simply a vision? Or did Jonah actually stop the apocalypse? Are we now following an alternate reality? Or a pergatorial one?

(And no, don't worry. I'm not spoiling anything for you. All of this takes place within the first thirty pages.)

Throughout the remainder of Wood's impressive novel-as-screenplay, we find ourselves asking these questions over and over again as we play the role of observer, watching as each of these small town neighbors continue to live their lives and perform their jobs and interact with each other, all the while haunted by the feeling that something is not quite right. That they, and we - as the reader - are on the cusp of something big, something terrible, some kind of ... event.

Brimming with quiet tension and thick with atmosphere, The Glacier dug its fingers deep into my cerebral cortex. It played me like a puppet - hooking me with its concise language, surreal situations, and unreliable characters. I followed along blindly, more uncertain of what was happening with every turning page yet loving every moment of it and regretting none.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Giveaway: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Since July 2010, TNBBC has been bringing authors and readers together every month to get behind the book! This unique experience wouldn't be possible without the generous donations of the authors and publishers involved.

It's the first of the month and you know what that means.
It's time to bring you November's Author/Reader discussion book!

We will be reading and discussing The Beautiful Bureaucrat 
with Helen Phillips

The publisher, Henry Holt, has graciously given us a total of 15 copies to givewaway!

10 print copies (US residents only)
5 net galley copies (open internationally)

What it's about: 

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as "The Database." After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings. The office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality. The drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.

As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond. Both chilling and poignant, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel of rare restraint and imagination. With it, Helen Phillips enters the company of Murakami, Bender, and Atwood as she twists the world we know and shows it back to us full of meaning and wonder-luminous and new.

This giveaway will run through October 9th. 
Winners will be announced here and via email on October 10th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads. You must let me know if you are in the US or if you live internationally, (If you are US, please state whether print or digital is your first choice).

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from November 16th through November 22nd . Helen has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for her. 

 3 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred).


 *If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion at TNBBC on Goodreads (the thread for the discussion will be emailed to you before the discussion begins). 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Indie Book Buzz: Rose Metal Press

It's a great day for some Indie Book Buzz here at TNBBC. It's back again and we're inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their upcoming 2015 releases they are most excited about!

This week's pick is brought to you by Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney, 
co-founders and editors of Rose Metal Press

Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres 
Edited by Marcela Sulak and Jacqueline Kolosov

Release Date: November 4, 2015
ISBN 978-1-941628-02-7
Available in print and as an e-book
Available for pre-order here and free shipping w/ coupon code HYBRIDFREESHIP

What It’s About: It’s about what we talk about when we talk about hybrid genres!  Unprecedented in both its scope and approach, Family Resemblance is the first anthology to explore the family tree of literary hybrids, providing craft essays and examples of eight hybrid genres, including lyric essay, epistolary, poetic memoir, prose poetry, performative, short-form nonfiction, flash fiction, and pictures made of words. Introductions and an afterword discuss the importance and current popularity of hybridity in literature and culture and offer methods for teaching hybrid works. Intended for both scholarly and general readers, this seminal collection sparkles with inventiveness and creative zeal—an essential guidebook to a developing field.

Why You Should Read It: Because as Nicole Walker, author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt, puts it: “If there is one way to contain all that hybrid texts can be, this book does it. With open arms, Family Resemblance brings together video, napkins, electrons the size of gnats, Hot Wheels, Yvor Winters, Laura Petrie, chess, homebirth, the color blue, a guy named Jason, a woman named Mary, Santa Claus, Malcolm X, card catalogues, perfect heavens, graphics, and maps. The plentitude of subjects embodies the plentitude of form. This book creates its own hybrid, binding discourses, making them snap with electricity.”

Plus, it has essays and excerpts from 43 diverse and cutting edge hybrid authors, including: Kazim Ali  Susanne Paola Antonetta  Andrea Baker  Jennifer Bartlett  Mira Bartók  Jenny Boully  Julie Carr  Katie Cortese  Nick Flynn  Sarah Gorham  Arielle Greenberg  Carol Guess  Terrance Hayes  Robin Hemley  Takashi Hiraide  Tung-Hui Hu  Mark Jarman  A. Van Jordan  Etgar Keret  Joy Ladin  Miriam Libicki  Bret Lott  Stan Mack Sabrina Orah Mark  Brenda Miller  Ander Monson  Maggie Nelson  Amy Newman  Gregory Orr  Julio Ortega  Jena Osman  Kathleen Ossip  Pamela Painter  Craig Santos Perez  Khadijah Queen  David Shields  Mary Szybist  Sarah Vap  Patricia Vigderman  Julie Marie Wade  Diane Wakoski  Joe Wenderoth  Rachel Zucker

Family Resemblance is full of thoughtful essays and fascinating cross-genre work—it will challenge your conceptions of genre and form, and inspire you to read (and write) more hybrid genre literature.

Abigail Beckel, co-founder and publisher of Rose Metal Press, has worked professionally in the publishing industry for more than 11 years. She is also a published poet.

Kathleen Rooneyco-founder and editor of Rose Metal Press, is the author, most recently, of the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010). Her second solo poetry collection, Robinson Alone, will be published in Fall 2012 by Gold Wake Press. 

So what do you think guys? Doesn't that book sound all sorts of awesome? Help TNBBC and Rose Metal Press spread the buzz about this book by sharing this post with others!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lindsey Reviews: Humanly

Humanly by Stevie Edwards
Pages: 113
Publisher: Small Doggie Press
Released: 2015

Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson (review contributor)

While I’m not a fan of the phrase trigger warning, I feel like I need to start with that when discussing Stevie Edwards new book Humanly, out from Small Doggie Press. Trigger for what you may ask? Basically everything, at least everything that can be held “deep behind the heavy velvet drapes of Klonopin,/Lamictal, Lexapro, Abilify, Propranolol—“ (83). This is an emotionally challenging collection of poems that face down suicide, rape, abuse, neglect, death, hospitalizations and more. Few punches are dodged and no details are spared. The speaker reads like the friend you have always wanted to ask the hard questions of, but never had the courage to do so; Edwards brings readers to the face of what so many try to hide from.

In terms of the writing itself the poems are worded precisely, with recurring turns of phrase, like “dread clothes,” wound throughout to create unity. The narrative of the collection, as it were, follows the speaker through the depths of depression, suicide attempts, hospitalization and recovery. The opening section struggles with the ideas of silence and connection, of wanting to look at (or rewrite) memories despite the emotional struggle to do so. Along the way, especially in the middle section, poets like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Dylan Thomas make appearances both by name and in style and content. There is a great deal of the Confessional voice here, and tonally it reminiscent of W.D. Snodgrass’ Heart’s Needle or Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. The concluding section is still melancholy, but on the path of recovery. There is beauty and necessity in the normal and the mundane, “to be good/to our working lungs, our working/legs, our working hearts” (113).

I am of two opinions on the length of the collection. A part of me wishes the collection were shorter, since it was emotionally draining to read, but I also respect that it needs to be this long to create the full range of feeling that Edwards appears to want. For someone who wants to know what suffering and regrowth feels like, this book is amazing, or for a reader who has recovered and can find a kindred spirit in the speaker it is a must read. If you are in a difficult emotional state now, tread lightly; this may either give you the light that you need to recover, or prove to be a challenging mountain to climb. No matter where you are at in your life though, there is no doubt that there is a great deal of beautiful, carefully rendered craft here, and for that this book should eventually end up on most people’s To Read list.

Dog Eared Pages:

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 25, 27, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 55, 60, 62, 65, 67, 68, 75, 76, 79, 81, 82, 88, 92, 93, 94. 109, 113

Lindsey Lewis Smithson is the Editor of Straight Forward Poetry. Some of her poetry has appeared on The Nervous BreakdownThis Zine Will Change Your LifeThe Cossack Review, and Every Writer’s Resource: Everyday Poems.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Robert Kloss Recommends Moby-Dick

And so we continue our Writers Recommend - a newish series where we ask writers to, well, you know.. recommend things. Like the books that they've enjoyed. To you. Because who doesn't like being recommended new and interesting books, right?! Think of it as a PSA. Only it's more like an LSA -Literary Service Announcement.

Robert Kloss Recommends Moby-Dick

I will never forget the first and the second times I read Moby-Dick. The first reading came in the spring of 2003, the first season after I finished college and a few months before I entered graduate school, that period in my life where I dangled between worlds and histories— I was then working as a “dietary aide” at a retirement home, washing dishes, serving food, stocking shelves, etc., and waiting for the end of the summer when I would be married and on my way to Boston from Wisconsin, the only state I had ever known.

I was startled by Moby-Dick the way many new readers are startled. Melville’s book is unlike any other novel of “classic” literature; in fact, I would argue Moby-Dick is unlike any other novel, save maybe the assembled works of Melville. No other book combines such modernity and formal strangeness and exuberance of language with a story and characters and philosophical seriousness so ancient. I read it in a state of youthful ecstasy. And then the novel concluded and the fever subsided and I moved to other books and authors, since a writer’s earlier twenties are the best time to be a writer because you are old enough to have some sense of what you are interested in, but every style, every voice, every form and trick and technique is still more or less virgin, unexplored.

(I should mention that in the years to follow whenever the topic came up I babbled enthusiastically about Moby-Dick, and I often pulled my copy from the shelf and read and reread the opening pages in a breathless exultant state. And whenever we crossed paths with Melville’s ghost on trips throughout Massachusetts, I was lost again in the old awe. I gave copies away as gifts; I thought restlessly about the ocean; we went on a whale watch. Moby-Dick was always there, even when it was not.)

I next read Moby-Dick two years after I finished my MFA program. Here I found, again, all the greatness of my earlier reading, but a greatness enlarged and illuminated by my maturity and experience. And I began to understand that Moby-Dick is both a very modern book, because Melville perceived truths well beyond those of his time, and an ancient book, far older than its publication date. Melville was of his time and also beyond it and before it. His slightly older contemporary, Hawthorne, influenced him, yes, and Hawthorne’s stories helped free Melville from the constraints of experience and fact and allowed him to enter the realm of imagination. But Melville was insatiable in his ambition and curiosity, and he took into himself many of the greatest (and strangest) writers of literary history: Robert Burton, Sir Thomas Browne, Rabelais, Byron, Milton, Coleridge, and, most famously, Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Melville always was a writer outside of his time, and this was one of his many strengths.

I’ve since read Moby-Dick another six times. I read it every year, along with Melville’s final novel, The Confidence-Man (if Moby-Dick is my favorite novel then The Confidence-Man is my 1B), and Billy Budd. I’ve read every book he published, whether story collection, novel, or poems, at least once and often at least twice. I’ve read the books he took as influences, and many such as the King James Bible and the works of Browne and Rabelais and Byron and Burton have become admired favorites. Melville as a source and inspiration is inexhaustible.

I wanted here to explain, as best I could, what Melville means to me. To say Moby-Dick is my favorite novel or Melville is my favorite writer simply does not measure to the truth. Melville’s fame during his lifetime was brief. The period of his obscurity and shame was far longer, and after he died a note was found pasted to his desk that read, “Stay true to the dreams of thy youth.” In the years after my MFA experience concluded, at a time when much of my ambition and joy and enthusiasm for writing had gone dormant, when I read books without interest, when I wrote, but no longer enjoyed writing for the act of writing was cluttered by insecurities and dread, boredom and self-loathing, then Melville’s example—his rise to greatness and his life long pursuit of greatness, even after publishers and the public refused him—as much as his literature, gave me strength and inspiration and, to some measure, hope for my own literary fate. I couldn’t begin to conclude where I would be without his example.


Robert Kloss is the author of the novels The Alligators of Abraham and The Revelator. He lives in Colorado.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Indie Spotlight: Theodore Carter

Hello dear readers! Are you enjoying the first few days of fall?

We've got a cool spotlight post for you today. I want you to meet Theodore Carter.

He's stopped by the blog to write a little bit about his evolution from author to artist. It's amazing to read about how it all came becoming a published author pushed him into a world of street art, which brought along recognition in a way he had never imagined....

Why Visual Art Keeps Invading My Fiction

            I rebelled by being conventional, by NOT going to art school. The product of three generations of visual artists, I studied Political Science, then moved from California to Washington, D.C. for internships. I wore ties. I went to press briefings.

            Of course, this lead to a quarter-life crisis to which my mom said, The problem is youre an artist, and youre going to have to figure out what to do about that.

            This statement rang true in the way that a lot of things your parents tell you when youre a teenager begin to ring true in your mid-twenties. I earned a graduate degree in Creative Writing and began writing fiction seriously. I published stories. I breathed easier.

            In 2004, a group of thieves stole Edvard Munchs painting The Scream from an Oslo museum. I couldnt stop reading about the heist and wondering who would steal a painting that could never be sold. It stuck in my craw, and when something sticks in my craw, I fictionalize it. I turned it into a novel. The main character is an obsessive aspiring artist who learns from the works of great masters and creates an art studio in his attic. During the years of writing the novel, I remembered things I thought Id forgotten like the obscure tools my mom kept in her studio and how my grandparents argued about their overworked canvases. I recalled attending gallery openings and going to museums though I could have sworn I was not paying attention. Of course, I also did my own art history research which blended together with what Id learned informally. 

            In the midst of writing the novel, I published a book of stories (The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob and Other Matters of Importance, Queens Ferry Press, 2012). I faced the happy problem of having to switch from author to marketer.

            I didnt have an advertising budget. After quite a bit a research, I realized street artists are masterful at creating a brand without paying for advertising space. I made my own sea blobs out of plaster and paper mache (though sea blobs are in fact real) and put them out around Washington, D.C. A lot of the print and online news outlets that werent interested in writing about my debut collection of stories now became interested in my sea blob invasion. Id become a street artist.

            The project proved effective and exhilarating. I read more and began experimenting with D.C. street artist Mark Jenkinss technique of tape sculptures. Then, using my wife as model/mold, I made a life-size tape sculpture holding a copy of my book, placed it around the city, and filmed the results.

            After about a year, I felt everyone who wanted to buy my book already had it. I ended the marketing campaign but could not stop seeing places around the city that could be enhanced by street art.

            I turned a traffic box into a robot, then, a year later, turned that same traffic box into The Empire State Building adorned with King Kong and biplanes. Both times I made the local news, not as an author, but as an artist and a father/disruptor.

            Ill take the father/disruptor title, but cringe at the title of artist. I do not have the expertise and skill of a visual artist the way my family has defined it for me through their training and hard work.

            However, my reverence for and fascination with visual art continues to grow. The novel, Stealing The Scream’” will  hopefully go to print in 2016. Im currently working on a new collection and several of the stories are about art in both concrete and abstract ways. Ive also begun interviewing visual artists for my blog ( and am discovering parallels between their creative processes and my own writing process.

            Art is a pervasive part of my history and identity and its going to keep popping up in my work like ceramic sea blobs invading the sidewalks of Washington, D.C.  


Theodore Carter is the author of The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob and Other Matters of Importance (Queens Ferry Press, 2012). Hes appeared in several magazines and anthologies including The North American Review, Pank, A capella Zoo, The Potomac Review, Necessary Fiction, and Gargoyle. His street art projects, which began as book promotion stunts, have garnered attention from several local news outlets including NBC4 Washington, Fox5 DC, and the Washington City Paper. If you ask, Carter will send you a sea blob in the mail