Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bronwyn Reviews: Guesthouse for Ganesha

Guesthouse for Ganesha by Judith Teitelman
Publisher: She Writes Press
Released: 2019

reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin


For people of faith, the idea of some kind of supernatural being keeping watch over you every day, I imagine to be both a comfort and a terror. Your needs, fears, and desires are under constant scrutiny. One day you will fail your god. But what if you are watched over without your knowledge? What if the god is of a faith and culture not your own? This is the intriguing starting point for Judith Teitelman’s Guesthouse for Ganesha.

When Esther Grünspan is abandoned by her fiancé on her wedding day in 1923, she flees her tight-knit Polish shtetl and travels to Köln, Germany, to make her heartbroken way in the world. Trained as a seamstress from childhood, she earns her living by her unrivaled skill with needle and thread. As she struggles to survive, to learn language and culture, she hardens her heart to love and friendship. She seems to want to be entirely unseen. Look at my work, her actions cry out, not at me.

A loveless marriage follows, then the Nazis. A network of good people move Esther from home to apartment to boarding house, from country to country. They provide false papers and sewing assignments, everything from simple hems to elaborate gowns. Sewing is both her refuge and livelihood.

Esther’s life expands and contracts across a backdrop of some of the greatest horrors of the 20th century; we see crimes against humanity play out in the life of one woman. Watching with us is the elephant-headed god Ganesha of the Hindu pantheon. She encounters him in park in Köln, but does not know him as a god. His role in her life as a remover of obstacles is invisible to her. She does not see him give a cookie to distract her fretful daughter so she can finish a gown for a wealthy socialite in time for a party. She does not see him turn a head at just the right moment or move a hand to sign a document that allows her to escape to safety.

Still, like so many gods and superheroes, Teitelman’s Ganesha is not omnipotent. He can soothe a querulous child and save a single life, but he cannot prevent the Holocaust.

In the aftermath of the war, the story of Guesthouse for Ganesha takes a startling turn to fantasy. So, too, did arts and literature abandon the limitations of realism in the post-war period. Esther walks away from a life that has both sustained and constrained her, opening herself to a Hindu god of letters and learning who has, she discovers, watched over her with love and compassion all along.

Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and facts, and is creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. Her newest short story appears in the 2019 Gold Man Review. More at bronwynmauldin.com.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Where Writers Write: Alex Myers

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Alex Myers.

Alex is a teacher, speaker, writer, and advocate for transgender rights. Since coming out as transgender in 1995, he has worked with schools across the country, helping them create gender inclusive policies, practices, and facilities. Alex's essays have appeared in the Guardian, Slate, Newsweek, Salon, and variety of other journals. He has published two novels, Revolutionary (Simon & Schuster, 2014) and Continental Divide (The University of New Orleans, 2019), as well as a third, The Story of Silence, forthcoming from HarperCollins (2020). Alex teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Where Alex Myers Writes

It isn't pretty. It isn't fancy. But it works for me. What is it? It's my father's old desk with an ikea tv stand on top of it, which makes it the perfect height for me to stand at to type or write by hand. It's a heap of paper and notes, all of it totally messy to an outsider and completely organized to me. 

I've got a window that looks out into a parking lot; the afternoon light is great. I've got two cats who vie to sit on the desk whenever the heat is on (the radiator is right there underneath) or whenever the trash is being picked up in the parking lot (somehow, they think they can take on a trash truck). 

Something you might not notice: the dark stain on the wood floor right in front of the desk. That's where I stand. Where my feet hit the ground. I mostly stand there barefoot, and maybe the mark is a testament to the corrosive properties of my foot sweat, but I like to think that it actually speaks to how much I stand there. Every day. At least for a little bit.

In an ideal world, I could write anywhere, and sometimes I have to. But the truth is, this is my happy writing spot. Everything I need is close at hand; I'm used to the noises the space makes, the light across the desk, the warmth of the room. When I write in the afternoon, I can watch the sunset, and this view is how I mark the seasons; I catch the first yellow-green of spring fuzz on the maple tree; I watch the progress of the shadows across the roof as the sun roams the sky in summer. Then, it's on to New England's gorgeous display of red-orange fall. Arriving at where I am today. Writing. Looking at the window, a cat purring nearby, the branches bare and ready for winter and me, warm and waiting to write.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Meagan Lucas

Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....


Today's ink story comes from Meagan Lucas, who's novel Songbirds and Stray Dogs recently released with Main Street Rag Press. 

“Don’t it hurt, doing that?” they ask, and I don’t know if they mean the ink on my skin or the words on my page. Doesn’t really matter I suppose, the answer is the same, “yes.”

For me, writing and being tattooed have been parallel journeys. In my early adulthood, I dabbled in both. Small pieces - easy to hide, easy to forget and nothing I was particularly attached to. My first tattoo was a Celtic knot on my lower back, scratched in the minute I turned 18, and hidden under the waist band of my pants. My first written pieces: a blog I wrote mostly to process my feelings and combat the loneliness of moving to a new country for grad school. Both the tattoo and the blog, as innocuous as they sound, ended up being sore spots. The tattoo was poorly done requiring a lot of touchups - even now almost 20 years later I can find its raised edges with my fingertips. The blog, a vent that I thought was a secret, was found by my boyfriend at the time who was surprised and upset to find out he was not my only boyfriend – a discovery that was painful for both of us and ended that friendship. As a result, I stepped away from both tattooing and writing for a number of years.

In 2011 my daughter was born, and post-partum depression gripped me, although I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that I was unhappy, disappointed, and afraid. I found myself writing essays about motherhood. I published on some small blogs. It felt good to express myself, and to create connections, to feel like I was using my education and communicating with adults. In 2013 my son was born, and with a toddler and an infant, I was nearly drowned in depression and anxiety. I gained a lot of weight. I was sad and angry all the time. I know that I was not fun to be around. I saw a therapist. She helped me understand that taking care of myself was not selfish, but necessary. I lost some weight. I began to write more seriously. I discovered two things: 1) that between pregnancy and weight my body no longer felt like it belonged to me, and 2) the essays I was writing were getting more and more personal and I felt like they were becoming unfair to people I loved.   

In retrospect, it isn’t a surprise that I began to work on my leg tattoo project (flowers - symbolizing my rebirth and my love of plants), and my novel (Songbirds and Stray Dogs just recently published) around the same time. I’d discovered that with fiction I could write about the issues that I wanted to under the guise of telling tales – that the lies and stories pointed at bigger truths than my real life experience ever could. And, that I needed a way to take my body back and that a large leg piece would be a start, to reclaim my skin as my own. The needle did for my body what the pen did for my mind.

Yes, being beneath a needle for 50+ hours (and more to come), and probing the emotional corners of my soul for story ideas are painful. But it’s a healing sort of pain, like when a broken bone aches as it knits itself back together, or the cleansing pain of rubbing alcohol on a skinned knee. With each chapter and story, and each visit to my tattoo artist (Phil Theoret, Asheville, NC), I am stronger and better and more *me.*


Meagan Lucas is the author of the Southern Literary Fiction novel Songbirds and Stray Dogs. Her short work has appeared in: The Santa Fe Writer’s Project, The New Southern Fugitives, Still: The Journal, and The Blue Mountain Review among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she won the 2017 Scythe Prize for Fiction. Taylor Brown says Meagan is: “a brave new voice in Southern Fiction,” and Steph Post describes Songbirds and Stray Dogs as a “stunning, startling novel.” Meagan teaches English Composition at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and is the Fiction Editor at Barren Magazine. She lives with her husband and children in Hendersonville, NC. Read more, or connect with Meagan on Social Media, here: https://linktr.ee/meaganlucas

Monday, November 18, 2019

Bronwyn Reviews: Bright

translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul
Publisher: Two Lines Press
Released: 2019

reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

Bright opens with a slow-motion heartbreak. A father tells his five year-old son, Kampol, to wait here, I’ll be back in a bit, then drives away with his baby brother. You, the reader, know he isn’t coming back. His mother left a few days ago after a nasty fight. Kampol sees his father drive away, then paces back and forth for hours, watching the curve in the road for his return.

The neighbors, residents of a small Thai village, do what they can. Over the course of the novel, Kampol’s basic needs and more are met by an assortment of people with varying degrees of caring and, at times, resentment. He has food, shelter, clothes, toys, and friendship. The village shopkeeper, Hia Chong, makes sure he learns to read. Uncle Dang occasionally asks him to give him a massage by walking up and down on his back. This turns out to simply be an excuse to give Kampol a few baht to spend. Uncle Dum, Aunt Tongbai, Old Jai, Mon, and others take turns stretching their meals to feed him, giving him a corner in their homes to sleep.

The title of this book, Bright, is a translation of Kampol’s family name, Changsamran. The word can also mean “joy,” which might appear as a contradiction of the hardships of this boy’s life. However, as Pimwana has said, “when the readers finish the story, they’ll likely find that the name is not ironic at all, for sadness in a story can be mixed with happiness.”

Pimwana is well known in Thailand for her short story collections. While Bright is a novel, it reads more as a collection of interconnected stories. This book was originally published in 2003, earning for Pimwana Southeast Asia’s most prestigious literary prize, the S.E.A. Write Award. It has only now been published in English by Two Lines Press. In fact, they say this is the first novel by a female Thai writer ever to be published in English.

Pimwana shows, never tells, with her prose. We see Kampol laugh and we see him cry, but we are seldom inside his five year-old mind, or the mind of any other character. This puts the reader at some distance them. We learn the motives of one character from their actions and from what other characters say about them.  

This distance does not dull the heartache we feel for Kampol as he goes about his ordinary days, or when he goes off on adventures like seeing a likay troupe perform, taking a bus to the beach by himself, or sneaking into a wedding with friends to try to cadge a free meal. For example, one day, Kampol announces to his friend Oan that not having parents isn’t all bad, telling him,

“I have more freedom than other people, that’s why. I don’t have to keep asking my mama for money. I can buy all the snacks I want, I can play wherever I want; I don’t have to ask permission from anybody.”  

These stories give a view into the lives of the people who make up a Thai village, and a universal but very particular boy’s life.

Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and poetry and is creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. Her newest short story appears in the 2019 Gold Man Review. More at bronwynmauldin.com.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Audio Series: Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape

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, Joshua Chaplinsky will be reading an excerpt from his most recent collection Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape. Joshua 
is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He is the author of ‘Kanye West—Reanimator’ and the story collection 'Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape.' His short fiction has been published by Motherboard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Clash Books, Pantheon Magazine and Broken River Books. Follow him on Twitter at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com.  

Click on the soundcloud bar below to listen to Joshua read from his collection:

What it's about: 

The debut short story collection from Joshua Chaplinsky, author of Kanye West—Reanimator. Thirteen weird pieces of literary genre fiction. Singularities, ciphers, and reappearing limbs. Alien messiahs and murderous medieval hydrocephalics. A dark collection that twists dreams into nightmares in an attempt to find a whisper of truth.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Indie Spotlight: ML Kennedy

In today's spotlight, we're hanging out with ML Kennedy as he gnaws on the definition of "indie" and then lists out eight questions and answers about his latest book Things You Leave Behind...

I’m not sure if I really qualify as Indie. I mean, sure, my first publisher put my books together on his kitchen table with Gorilla glue. And yeah, on this last book I might have done all the writing, editing, formatting, and marketing by myself. And sure, I even booked the space, made the cookies, and set up the chairs for my launch party, but does that really make me Indie?

. . . I suppose I do run a writing group in Chicago called “Indie City Writers.” But aren’t we beyond labels?

8 Questions about Things You Leave Behind

What is it?
Things You Leave Behind is a novel about a young woman named Angela. She’s out of college and waiting for her life to really begin. She’s stuck in a rut and just wants to move forward. Unfortunately for her, she does and she wakes up ten years in the future.
Can Angela survive this crazy future world of 2014?

Why does it look like that?
Things You Leave Behind is an odd little book that is almost precisely the size of a VHS tape. It’s a gimmick, to be certain, but thematically it’s appropriate. The novel is about pop culture, memories, nostalgia, and a few other things that might spoil some surprises in store for future readers.

What genre is it?
The genre of this book is life. To quote professional lunatic Alan Moore, “Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you are lucky.”

My local bookstore just put it in sci-fi. I guess that works too.

So, does this book teach us the meaning of life?
Anyone who says that they have the meaning of life is some either an idiot, a liar, or is trying to sell you something.

 In my own way, I am all those things.

So, yes. Yes, it does.

Why does she wake up ten years in the future?
You have to read the book to find that out.

Who is the ideal reader for this book?
The ideal reader for this book was born between 1975 and 1985, grew up middle class, and has a passing knowledge of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” a general familiarity of the works of Dave Foley, a mild obsession with the songs of Townes Van Zandt, and vague fondness for the cartoon “Ducktales.”

So, It’s pretty much for everybody.

What makes you a writer?
Like all writers, I am a self-loathing narcissist.

Where can I buy your books?
If you are in Chicago, I keep a stock at a few local bookstores. 57th street books in Hyde Park is my home base. Everything is available on Amazon of course. You can also just message me on twitter (@wbxylo ) and I can send you a signed copy of the book for 20 bucks.


ML Kennedy has worked for The DVD Lounge, Popcorn Junkies, Beyond the Threshold, Moodspins, and Diehard GameFAN reviewing DVDs, movies, video games, wrestling shows, supernatural claims, and running an advice column. He is also one of leaders of the Indie City Writers group that meets weekly on the South side of Chicago. 

Despite his cheery disposition, ML Kennedy is not always perceived as a positive person. In fact, a film director once tried to get him fired after reading his completely fair review of her movie. Luckily she proved her own incompetence by reading the review off of an illegal copy website and complaining to the editor of yet a third website.

He lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago with his awesome wife and precocious daughter and used to maintains a blog dedicated to the culinary arts at letsmakesomefood.blogspot.com.

Monday, October 21, 2019

C.R. Richards' Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Books & Booze challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, C R Richards  is throwing all the booze at the her upcoming book Creed of the Guardian, which drops on October 18th.

Ready to get your booze on???


Swamp Thing Cider

Creed of the Guardian, Book Three in the Heart of the Warrior series, documents the exploits of Seth the Ice Lion and his faithful squire, Riley Logan as they head to their first duty station with Andara’s Legion. North Marsh Outpost is built upon the only dry spot in the middle of deadly bogs and forgotten ruins. It’s damp, it’s cold and it’s boring.

Seth and the rest of the unlucky Apprentice Rangers spend their time marching in knee deep mud. Cold rain drizzles constantly as they circle about inside the massive stone walls of the outpost. Their only solace is the promise of rum with their meal of boiled meat and vegetables. It’s a dull assignment with bland food.

If I had the chance for a quick visit to the outpost, I’d bring along a special treat to liven things up. It’s Halloween. Why not add a bit of spooky fun too?

Swamp Thing Cider

In a cauldron cursed by three witches, bring the potion to a medium boil for 5 minutes. Then simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Apple cider
Cinnamon Sticks (amount depends on the size of your cauldron)

Ladle the prepared cider into a cup. Leave plenty of room for Spiced Rum (Captain Morgan is a good choice)

Omit the rum for your little ghosts and ghouls.

NOTE: If you don’t own a cauldron or aren’t acquainted with friendly witches, then a sauce pan on the stovetop works just fine. Blending this for a party? Try making the cider in a crockpot. Let simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

Happy Halloween!


C.R. Richards’ literary career began when she interned as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper. She wore several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer and cranky editor. A co-author of horror and urban fantasy novels, her first solo fiction project - The Mutant Casebook Series - was published by Whiskey Creek Press in 2013. Phantom Harvest (Book One in the series) is the winner of the 2014 EPIC eBook Awards for Fantasy Fiction. Cynthia is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, EPIC and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. For more information about her books, visit her website: www.crrichards.com

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Where Writers Write: Sheila O’Connor

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!

Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Sheila O’Connor. 

Sheila is the author of six award-winning novels for adults and young people, including, most recently, Evidence of V: A Novel of Fragments, Facts, and Fictions, published in Fall 2019 by Rose Metal Prss. Her other books include Where No Gods Came, winner of the Minnesota Book Award and the Michigan Prize for Literary Fiction, and Sparrow Road, winner of the International Reading Award. She is a professor in the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she serves as fiction editor for Water~Stone Review. Visit her website here. 

Where Sheila O’Connor Writes

My longing for my own writer’s studio began decades ago during a residency at Norcroft in the small, silent space they’d given me to work.  It was a simple shed with a desk and a chair, and a large window offering a stunning view of Lake Superior.  It’s true I was awed by the majesty of Lake Superior, but what I loved most was the way I left one world—the residency lodge where all the writers resided—for my very private, silent book world safe from distractions.  Even now, decades later, I have a deep visceral memory of leaving behind one world for the book that was waiting in that shed. 

It wasn’t until I received the Bush Artist Fellowship in 2009, that I was able to make my longing for a private, creative space a reality for myself and other writers who needed a space to work.  The plan I had was simple: a shed in my backyard with a window that looked out on the woods that could be shared. 

It was in that small white building in my backyard that my vision for Evidence of V began to find its shape.  Inside my shed, I imagined the talented young V singing on the streets of 1930s Minneapolis; I saw the crowded nightclub where she worked, Mr. C’s room at the Belvedere Hotel.   While snow fell on the woods outside my window, it fell inside my story.  First on Minneapolis, and later on the Minnesota Home School for Girls at Sauk Centre where V was held, and finally it fell over her parole days in Duluth. I have no doubt the overwhelming press of winter in that book came from the constant frozen world outside the shed.

As grateful as I am to have the shed, I’m still indebted to the artist spaces that made a home for me while I was dreaming V to life.  A short stay at WriteOn! Door County.  A month at the Anderson Center at Tower View that allowed me time to transcribe all the fragments of V I’d originally dictated.  The Studium at the College of St. Benedict where I ate dinner with the nuns and spent long silent days trying to write the final missing pieces for the book. 

In my quest for creative privacy and silence, I’ve moved between writing spaces made possible by the generosity of others, including the small white shed that waits in my backyard. There, my dog sleeps while I dream, and the bulletin board my daughter made holds whatever words I need to guide my work, and my son’s gift—the stone that says There has to be a story-- reminds me to keep writing, to trust new words will arrive. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Page 69: Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape

Disclaimer: 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 Joshua Chaplinsky's Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape to the test.....

Set up page 69 for us. What are we about to read?

Haha, oh boy. This is a section from my story, "Supreme Mathematics: A Cipher", which originally appeared in the Wu-Tang tribute anthology, This Book Ain't Nuttin to Fuck With, edited by Christoph Paul and Grant Wamack. It combines the story of a young woman returning home to introduce her child to its father with the numerological belief system of the Nation of Islam. I guess it's what the kids would call "experimental." There's lots of math involved, but it still has a strong narrative element.

The story was inspired by an image from the Jason Banker/Amy Everson film, Felt. That’s all I had for a while, and I didn’t know what to do with it until I joined forces with the Wu. Their devotion to Kung Fu movies and the Five-Percent Nation informed the rest of the piece. Think of it as a hip-hop take on Kill Bill.

Each section of the story consists of an element of narrative, as well as the protagonist's musings on the mystical meaning of a number. Let's just say she doesn't always agree with the interpretations she's been given. What you are about to read is from Part 9, the number 9 representing birth.

What is your book about?

Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape is a collection of weird genre stories, many of which are a weird mix of genres. It's dark, but I've also been told there's heart underneath all the cynicism. It features singularities, ciphers, and reappearing limbs. Alien messiahs and murderous medieval hydrocephalics. So, something for everyone, really. It's a pretty good representation of where I am as a writer, and of the type of stories I like to tell. Did I mention it was dark? I've already advised my mother that she probably shouldn't read it. 

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

Um... yes and no. Out of context, this is probably one of the more esoteric bits in the book. I can see it being a bit of a difficult sell. But I assure you, readers, this is a book of actual stories! Yes, I have a penchant for playing with form, so in that regard this page is representative, but each and every story in this collection adheres to a traditional narrative arc.

Most of them, at least. 

I like to say my weirder stories are "accessibly experimental." Tonally, though, this is definitely representative of the collection as a whole. 


body from its paralysis with another series of blows. He scurries off into the darkness after his companion.

 Part 9: Birth

 To be Born is to be brought into existence. It takes nine months to produce a Child. No other number gives Birth to itself. 9+9=18(1+8=9). 9x9=81(8+1=9).

 But if nine gives Birth to itself, does that render Man and Woman superfluous? You can’t have a Child without Birth. Can you have Birth without a Child? Does that make the act of conception itself immaculate?

 And what of Rebirth? Surely the gestation periods must vary. Because Rebirth requires a change of heart, a heart which must then also be explored. And no two hearts are the same. Due to the uncertainty factor, these final four chambers are the most difficult to traverse, the hardest lessons for a student to absorb.

 Rebirth times Freedom. 9 hearts x 4 chambers = 36

 The girl resists the urge to rest by the fire. Instead she approaches the gravestone at the back of the property. She slings the mei tai around to her front, the child only just stirring. She holds it


Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He is the author of ‘Kanye West—Reanimator’ and the story collection 'Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape.' His short fiction has been published by Motherboard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Clash Books, Pantheon Magazine and Broken River Books. Follow him on Twitter at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Chris Bauer's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios....

Chris Bauer's 
Would You Rather

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
No conjunctions. Since you didn’t say what kind of book, we’ll go with a children’s picture book, and we’ll leave out all the conjunctions, even in the title. I have one in mind. The rethinking of a classic: DICK. JANE. ZOMBIES. FUN. 

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad Muzak?
Coffee shop, Muzak, piece of cake. Seriously, if you gave me a piece of cake to go with the coffee and the shitty Muzak, I could probably make it work. And an MP3 player and earbuds. And other snacks. And some insecticide, in case the coffee shop is near the cabin with the spiders.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?
You’re killing me here. This question may well be in English but I still can’t translate it well enough to answer it because it mentions three distinct places involving language: thinking, writing and reading. Best I can tell, we have a writer who is multilingual in one capacity and not multilingual in another, so which shortcoming would he be willing to live with?
So let’s do this: a pivot. Would you rather have pinkeye or blue balls? I’ll take pinkeye over blue balls any day.
(If I have to answer the question, it would be the former—able to think in a language you could understand, etc.—not the latter. I’d lose it if I couldn’t understand my own thoughts.)

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
The latter. I can always write a second book that isn’t as crappy (don’t we all think we’ll do better the second, third, fourth time around?), especially if the first one makes some good coin and affords me the time and outlet to do it.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
You’ve been reading my tweets, haven’t you? Who is this really? I promise to filter my tweets from this point forward. I suppose I’d go with the former. To me living with brain dumps and their impact are far better than paranoid schizophrenia.

Would you rather your books be bound and covered with human skin or made out of tissue paper?
The human skin thing.
BONUS TRIVIA! SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD, my first published novel, has as a central plot item a real-life 13th century manuscript called The Devil’s Bible that was written on what? ANSWER: Skin! It’s composed of 310 leaves of vellum claimed to be made from the skins of 160 donkeys, or perhaps calfskin.  SKIN IS IN!

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
The reading naked thing. I always seem to survive the naked thing in my dreams (late for a final exam, didn’t study, I’m commando, then omigod where did my pants go?), so I’ll go with that.

Would you rather your book incites the world’s largest riot or be used as tinder in everyone’s fireplace?
How can anyone not pick riotous chaos versus being burned and lost forever? RIOTOUS CHAOS! LIGHT MY TORCH! RIOTOUS CHAOS!

Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Give up pens and paper, but this answer really hurts. I love having learned how to write in cursive, and having learned to print properly, but it has to be this way. It’s where we’re headed. Conserves trees, too. Add to this, I’ve gotten looks from my critique peers because I write my feedback in cursive on hard copies of their work. They would be mucho happy if I handed in critiques at our in-person meetings that were all typed. Writing in cursive is dying art.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?
I’m not a tattoo guy, so I gotta go with the audio. Speaking of which, did I tell you that my political thriller JANE’S BABY came out in audio in August? No? Well yes, it did, and thanks for asking.

Would you rather meet your favorite author and have them turn out to be a total jerkwad or hate a book written by an author you are really close to?
The hate the book thing. An author can’t hit a home run every time. I just saw the movie Can You Ever Forgive Me? The story is about bestselling author Lee Israel falling on hard times so badly that she starts faking letters by famous authors and playwrights and selling them to pay her rent. It’s from her memoir, and in it she makes Tom Clancy out to be just such a jerkwad. Clancy wasn’t my favorite author, but he was still significantly revered. After this movie, maybe not.

Would you rather your book have an awesome title with a really ugly cover or an awesome cover with a really bad title?
Awesome cover art, bad title. We see this every day in many a genre.

Would you rather write beautiful prose with no point or write the perfect story badly? 
Write the perfect story badly. One example: THE DA VINCI CODE. Not perfect, but still a good story, yet arguably not a literary masterpiece. I do confess that I liked it. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Would you rather write only embarrassingly truthful essays or write nothing at all?
No contest here: write the damn essays. I already embarrass myself in so many other ways. Hopefully the essays would be entertaining on some level.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
This is like asking what part of hell would you like to spend eternity in. I’m not a haiku guy. I’d have to pick the writing one, as sad as that would be for me. I’m not capable of speaking only seventeen syllables at a time.

Would you rather your book become an instant best seller that burns out quickly and is forgotten forever or be met with mediocre criticism but continue to sell well after you’re gone?
Give me mediocre criticism, which I assume also means mediocre success! And to be still selling after I’m gone? Good for my family, so that works for me. Where can I sign up for this mediocrity of which you speak?

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
I’d rather be a character in my novel, or anyone’s novel, rather than let some of the characters that I create loose in real life. The good guys, okay-fine, no issue, but the bad guys, no, no, no. The stories do have some wonderful moments but they can be disturbing, violent, and at times gruesome, so let’s keep these people on the page only, or on the screen. (The screen. Yes! Having them make it to the screen would work.)

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Teach it. A plausible scenario for that happening? None that I can think of. The language and violent situations that the novel portrays would more likely get it banned.


Chris Bauer is author of BINGE KILLER (October 2019), HIDING AMONG THE DEAD (a Blessid Trauma thriller), JANE'S BABY, and the horror/thriller SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD, 2010 EPIC Awards runner-up for best in eBook horror. Look for a new novel in the Blessid Trauma series in 2020. He's also editor of and contributing author to three CRAPPY SHORTS short story collections (SKID MARKS, NUMBER TWO, DEUCES WILD). As a Philly native he's had lengthy stops in Michigan and Connecticut, and he thinks Pittsburgh is a great city even though some of his fictional characters do not. He now lives in Doylestown, PA with his wife and supermutts Rory and Maeby Funke Bauer. He likes the pie more than the turkey. His short fiction has appeared in THUGLIT, SHROUD MAGAZINE, and 100 HORRORS, and he's been podcasted by WELL TOLD TALES. He's a member of International Thriller Writers. Find him at chris@chrisbauerauthor.com, chrisbauerauthor.com, facebook.com/cgbauer, twitter.com/cgbauer, pinterest.com/cntbauer1, instagram.com/cntbauer1. His tagline: "The thing I write will be the thing I write."