Monday, May 18, 2020

Where Writers Write: Juditha Dowd


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 Juditha Dowd. 

In addition to Audubon's Sparrow: A Biograpy-in-PoemsJuditha Dowd is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Mango in Winter (Grayson Books, 2013), as well as short fiction, lyric essays, and three poetry chapbooks—The Weathermancer (Finishing Line, 2006), What Remains (Finishing Line, 2009), and Back Where We Belong (Casa de Cinco Hermanas, 2012). Her work appears in many journals and anthologies, including Poet Lore, Poetry Daily, The Florida Review, Spillway, Rock & Sling, Kestrel, and About Place. With the ensemble Cool Women she regularly performs poetry in the New York-Philadelphia metro area and occasionally on the west coast. Juditha currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania with her husband and two cats, not far from where Lucy Bakewell began her long-ago adventure with John James Audubon. Visit her website at www.judithadowd.org.  







Where Juditha Dowd Writers





In a 1978 interview one of my favorite writers, Tillie Olsen (then sixty-five years old), talked about her final book, Silences, a meditation on the essential relationship between circumstance and creativity. By circumstance Olsen meant money, class, responsibilities, and time, but also space—creativity needs a place to flourish without interruption. In my twenties and thirties I didn’t have one. Like many women of my generation, I married young—in my case to a writer who was also a painter. The New York City railroad flat where we lived from 1964 through the late 1970s with our two young girls was barely big enough for our everyday needs. And though we were cash-strapped, I accepted my husband’s decision to rent himself a studio in another building, where he spent much of his free time. Meanwhile, I’d occasionally close the apartment’s bathroom door and sit on the edge of the tub with a notebook—desperately trying to capture a poem that was already escaping. Or I’d write into the night at our kitchen table, too tired by then to find the muse. It still surprises me that I once considered this disparity normal.




Fast forward several decades to the present, and the late-Victorian brick house where my second husband and I live in Easton, Pennsylvania. Here I work in a sunny alcove adjacent to my bedroom. It has everything I need and more: a door, a writing table, music, and books. I’m deeply grateful for it. Though I’ve had the good fortune to spend productive time at writers retreats, this room means the world to me. New surroundings can spark a wave of creativity, as can being in community with other artists. But I’ve found for me it’s familiar space, reliably mine, where the most work gets done.




By design, this little room doesn’t contain a guest bed or have any additional function, unlike the writing spaces I’ve carved out previously. The only visitors here are our two Maine Coon cats, who often sleep in a basket beside my writing table.




It’s a luxury to have a big bookcase so close at hand. There I keep whatever books I might be currently using for research, as well as the books I want to read soon and books I return to frequently for inspiration, information, and pleasure.



At one end of my writing room is a window with a view of our quiet street—something to stare at when my eyes need a break. I can tell the weather at a glance. Occasionally people walk by—our neighbor with his dog or children returning from school. My thoughts are free to ramble. In winter I share this window with a Meyer lemon tree that has wonderfully fragrant blossoms.



My mother was a woman of Olsen’s generation, whose life spanned almost the same years. Apparently she drew in her youth, but I only saw one picture—an illustration in her high school yearbook—a dark pine tree. When she took up painting in middle age, I had already left home and my brothers were teenagers. Talented, she studied with a local teacher for some time and finished a dozen or so paintings. But despite our praise, my mother didn’t hang those paintings in our house, or if she did it was only for a short while. I’m a perfectionist she’d say, as though that explained everything. She eventually put away her paints but her art remained a tender subject, something she was uncomfortable discussing. After my father died and she seemed at loose ends, I suggested she might want to take up painting again, but she firmly said no. That refusal and what may have been hiding behind it still makes me sad, and I wonder if I could have done more to encourage her. These days I keep my favorite of her pictures in front of me when I write. It reminds me how fragile the creative impulse can be. It reminds me to believe in myself, to persevere.



Thursday, April 30, 2020

Audio Series: Dare to Matter



Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was iriginally 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.


In light of all the social distancing and recommended reduction to group events, we're happy to help support those who have recently published, or will soon be publishing, a book. It's hard enough to get your books out there, and now with the cancelation of book events and readings making it even harder, I want to do my part to help you spread the word!



Today, Shifra Malka joins us to write about her experience recording the audiobook and she shares the preface excerpt from her memoir Dare to Matter


Shifra is fascinated with the inner spaces humans inhabit. As the producer and host of a weekly radio program on social and educational issues that aired live in the Mid-Atlantic region, Shifra was known for eliciting hard, honest responses from her interviewees when posing the questions that others were too hesitant to ask. Underlying these conversations was one pressing question Shifra always wanted to answer: what makes our lives matter? Daring to step right into the heart of life’s complexities, her search for answers to this question is refreshingly approachable and impactful. Shifra resides in Maryland, where she occasionally puts her pen down so that she can roam around in pursuit of her next writing desk. She can be reached at Shifra@ShifraMalka.com 






Recording the Preface, Reading my Life

It took three hours to record the preface and the first two chapters of DARE TO MATTER.

"Ben," I told my editor/publicist after that first session, "There is something powerful about recording one's own story. I didn't expect that."

It was also intense, because the story itself was. I wondered more than a few times if I'd just resort to a pesky little habit of mine, to curtsy out of the remaining project, claiming that it didn't matter much anyway. And that it was too strenuous to sit there for hours at a time, drawing myself into the appropriate emotional space needed to tell the story. I did have an advantage, though. I wasn't merely doing a voice-over, as I had been professionally trained to do. I could hear the voices inside my head. Yes, they were the voices that traveled through my pen onto my hungry page. I knew how they sounded. Some were so hurt and cried deeply. Others laughed right out of my belly. 

And one other thing: This was a story about mattering. I knew that I would need to finish the effort because judging whether or not this work mattered was not an indulgence that I was willing to take.  Not now, not with this. It took me four years to get here. 


Not all Studios are Created Equal

This was not my first time in a recording studio. But it had been a long time since I last took a seat behind the mike – as the producer and host of a Sunday night live radio program that aired in the Mid-Atlantic States. I did that work at the radio broadcast station in Towson, MD, sitting comfortably on a high stool behind a semi-circular counter, with the sound engineer nearby in the same room. I kept my handwritten notes directly in front of me to prompt me as I moved along the program. Because radio is live, there is no editing or even pausing. The clock’s second hand is your master, and dead air space your demise.

Now I was in the Bel Air, MD custom-built studio of audio producer and sound engineer, Jamie Cerniglia. I read the audio book from my PDF manuscript on his iPad.  I could and would have to stop many times to re-record a line that did not cooperate with me. Often, I would catch it, while Jamie chased it other times. When all was spoken and done, he had 30,000 edits to do. The rough calculation is that six hours of editing is needed for every one hour of recording. Who says the spoken word is simple?


In both studios, the mike felt natural to me. Almost as natural as the pen in my hand …. both instruments for communicating our voice. And to be clear, our voice is who we are at our core.


Click the link below to hear Shifra read the preface to Dare to Matter: 




Thursday, April 23, 2020

Page 69: The Gringa


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 Andrew Altschul's The Gringa to the test. 







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

In this scene, Leonora Gelb, the central character of The Gringa, is seeking out a man she knows as Julian, whom she suspects of being a leader in a Peruvian leftist militant group called the Cuarta Filosofía. She's met him once before, after having expressed some interest in the group's activities, but was rebuffed and told not to come back. But a friend of hers has been disappeared by the government after a nonviolent protest in Lima's slums, and when his dead body turns up weeks later Leonora decides she can no longer sit on the sidelines while others fight for justice. Julian works in a cafe in Miraflores, a tony and touristy neighborhood where the wealthy barricade themselves against the desperation of the poor - in places like this, it's as if the "dirty war" of the 1980s and early 1990s, in which 70,000 people died, never happened.


What is your book about?

The Gringa was inspired by the real-life story of Lori Berenson, an American woman who, in 1995, was arrested in Lima by counterterrorism forces. She was renting a house in the suburbs in which a dozen members of the Movimiento Revolucionário Túpac Amaru (MRTA) were living and, according to the government, plotting an attack on the country's Congress; Berenson was convicted in a military court and sentenced to life in prison. The Gringa takes the broad outlines of that story and tries to understand who Leonora Gelb (the Berenson character) really is, what brought her to Peru, and whether she could possibly have been guilty of the things the Peruvian government accused her of. (Berenson has always maintained her total innocence.) It's narrated ten years after her arrest by another American expat - a failed novelist and "refugee from George W. Bush's America" named Andres. As his personal life unravels, he struggles to understand Leonora, to reconstruct her involvement with the militants, and to chronicle Peru’s tragic history. At every turn he’s confronted by violence and suffering, and by the consequences of his American privilege.


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?

I think it demonstrates one of the novel's overall themes, which is Leo's ambivalence about her role and her responsibilities. She's a true believer - she wants to do whatever she can to alleviate suffering and feels that she "can't live with herself" if she hasn't explored every possibility. She's a privileged American who recognizes what that privilege costs the rest of the world, and to her it seems that she has two choices: retreat into the bubble of comfort while others are dying, or go "all-in," though she's not yet sure what that means. Throughout the novel, she's constantly struggling against the mistrust of Peruvians, who simply can't accept that this woman would want to involve herself in their affairs and who regularly point out that she doesn't understand nearly as much as she thinks she does. And so "proving herself" to them is always a part of her complicated motivations, showing them that she's worthy of their trust and respect, that she's ready to take "the next step."



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69:
THE GRINGA


riverscape. She buys a cup of Jell-O from a vendor and savors the cold, sweet wriggling in her throat, watches the Lima gentry on their evening promenade – as if nothing has happened, no one’s grandmothers have been humiliated, no one’s children murdered. As if these things hadn’t been done in their name.


In a corner of her room, the copy of Moby-Dick lies splayed and gathering dust, a shiny new American Express card taped to the inside cover. To my own little Ahab, her father had written. May you never stop chasing your dreams.

Across the street, the bright café bustles with activity: bowtied waiters glide among sidewalk tables, silver-haired men take their wives’ coats. Over the clink of glasses, the sweet voice of Edith Piaf warbles into the night. A waiter opens a bottle of champagne, popping the cork with a flourish; the seated couple smiles up at him, their laughter thickened by the warm air. One more step, Leo tells herself. Take one step, then the next – or spend your life on this bench, enjoying the show.

When the waiter reappears she hurries to cross the street. “Got a light, amigo?” she calls out. She touches her lips with an imaginary cigarette. “¿Fuego?”

She almost laughs at his confusion. When Julian reaches into his apron, she says, “Oh, shit, I forgot my cigarettes! Thanks anyway” – then saunters past the cosmetics store, the frozen yogurt shop, and into the anonymous night to wait.

For ten minutes she wanders the back streets, admiring Spanish bungalows and prim townhomes, wrought-iron balconies, high walls trussed by bougainvillea. Her vision is sharp, her sense of smell heightened – since the fever passed she’s felt honed, whittled down; she moves through her surroundings watchful as a cat. At a corner, she stops before a long gray building surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. She studies the impassive façade, the arched windows and mounted security cameras that lend an air of vigilance, of dignity. When the footsteps come behind her, she doesn’t turn around.

“What did I tell you?” he says, his breath hot on her neck. “I said don’t go back there. Are you stupid? You don’t speak fucking English?”

“What is this place?” she says, nodding at the dark building. “What’s with all the cameras?”






 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~





Andrew Altschul is the author of three novels: The Gringa, Deus Ex Machina, and Lady Lazarus. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies including Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best New American Voices, and O. Henry Prize Stories. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford, he has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the Fundación Valparaíso, and the Ucross Foundation. He lives in Fort Collins, CO with his wife, the writer Vauhini Vara, and their son, and directs the Creative Writing program at Colorado State University.





Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Blog Tour: Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja





I've been a big fan of Kathe Koja since I first cracked open Under the Poppies in 2012. It was my first time ever reading her work and I fell madly in love! and now I'm thrilled to be hosting a leg of the blog tour for her latest... a story collection called Velocities. Kathe joins us today to discuss words... how we receive them, how she presents them, and how it's the commonality between whichever format you choose read....






The Book Is the Words: VELOCITIES: STORIES
by Kathe Koja



My newest story collection, VELOCITIES, is just out from indie Meerkat Press, in print and ebook, with an audio version from indie Crossroad Press. So what do all those editions have in common, besides their bona fide indie cred?

The words.

Sounds simple, or even silly. But it’s a truth we might forget, since our technology can offer us so many ways to experience a book, or even define one. Some readers are adamant that a book needs to have paper pages to turn, and a cover to open and close (which VELOCITIES has, complete with glorious cover art via the talented Keith Rosson). Others’ parameters are more elastic, or they prefer the ease of an ebook, or the narration of audio (which VELOCITIES has, thanks to the amazing Joshua Saxon at Saxon Audio).

But what the book really is is the words. That’s where and how the conversation between reader and writer happens—because a story truly is that conversation, it’s not a broadcast, or a lecture, not me telling you something, but you and I making something together, as my words work within your mind’s eye, with your memories and fears and desires, your sense of humor and sense of joy, to create the one and only experience of that story.

Every reader will find the same table of contents in VELOCITIES, but no one will read the same stories. From the noisy nightlife arena of “Clubs” to the quiet Paris morgue of “The Marble Lily,” the yelping dogs in “Coyote Pass,” the bittersweet amaretti in “Toujours,” the babydoll that’s a not a doll at all in “Baby”—each of these details will come alive to every reader in a different way. Maybe you love the almond savor of those cookies; maybe barking is a lonesome sound to you, or a glad one; maybe you’ve been to Paris or live in Paris or have never seen Paris in your life. All of that will meet those words, however you might experience them—on a page, on a screen, in your ears—and that’s where each story will come fully, immersively, indelibly alive.
However you might choose to experience the words, VELOCITIES is here, and it’s ready. Let’s create some stories together.



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About Velocities

From the award-winning author of The Cipher and Buddha Boy, comes Velocities, Kathe Koja's second electrifying collection of short fiction. Thirteen stories, two never before published, all flying at the speed of strange. Dark, disturbing, heartfelt and utterly addictive.

You can grab your copy from: Meerkat Press | Amazon | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble


You can also enter to win a $50 Gift Card !! Good luck! 

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Kathe Koja is the author of VELOCITIES: STORIES. 
She lives in the Detroit area, and has always loved words. 
Find her on:



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Audio Series: Treasure of the Blue Whale



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.


In light of all the social distancing and recommended reduction to group events, we're happy to help support those who have recently published, or will soon be publishing, a book. It's hard enough to get your books out there, and now with the cancelation of book events and readings making it even harder, I want to do my part to help you spread the word!



Today, Steven Mayfield returns to the blog once more to read an excerpt from his latest novel Treasure of the Blue Whale

Steven is a past recipient of the Mari Sandoz Prize for Fiction and the author of over fifty scientific and literary publications. His stories began to appear in print and have been published by EventThe Black River Reviewcold-drillartisanThe Long Story, and the anthology From Eulogy to Joy. In 1998, he was guest editor for the literary journal, Cabin Fever, and his collection of short stories, Howling at the Moon, was a Best Books of 2010 selection by USA Book News and an Eric Hoffer Award Finalist. His novel, Treasure of the Blue Whale will be released by Regal House Publishing in April, 2020. Steven currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Pam, and three goldendoodles who can be annoyingly insistent around meal-time. He can order beer in four languages. His wife can say, “Pay no attention to this man” in five.



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If you're free on April 2nd, Annie Bloom's Books in Portland, OR will be livestreaming Steven's book launch on facebook. There will be a Q&A segment following the reading.


As in-person events are canceled, more venues are turning to virtual solutions. On the upside, this means they can invite readers from all across the country to attend. Steven would love to see you there, and appreciates your support.


Here's a direct link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/218648499516644/



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Click on the soundcloud bar below to listen to Steven  Mayfield read an excerpt from Treasure of the Blue Whale. 







What it's about: 

In this whimsical, often funny, Depression-era tale, young Connor O’Halloran decides to share a treasure he’s discovered on an isolated stretch of Northern California beach. Almost overnight, his sleepy seaside village is comically transformed into a bastion of consumerism, home to a commode with a jeweled seat cover, a pair of genuinely fake rare documents, a mail-order bride, and an organ-grinder’s monkey named Mr. Sprinkles. But when it turns out that the treasure is not real, Connor must conspire with Miss Lizzie Fryberg and a handful of town leaders he’s dubbed The Ambergrisians to save their friends and neighbors from financial ruin. Along the way, he discovers other treasures in the sometimes languid, sometimes exciting days of that long-ago season. He is rich and then he isn’t. He learns to sail a boat and about sex. He meets a real actor. He sneaks into villainous Cyrus Dinkle’s house and steals his letter opener. He almost goes to jail. He loves Fiona Littleleaf. He finds a father. And best of all, he and little brother, Alex, reclaim their mother from the darkness of mental illness.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Audio Series: Artificial Wilderness



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.


In light of all the social distancing and recommended reduction to group events, we're happy to help support those who have recently published, or will soon be publishing, a book. It's hard enough to get your books out there, and now with the cancelation of book events and readings making it even harder, I want to do my part to help you spread the word!



Today, Mandy-Suzanne Wong seized the opportunity and is reading an excerpt from her latest, a non fiction chapbook Artificial Wilderness, which published with Selcouth Station in March 2020. It was a winner of Selcouth Station’s Environmental Chapbook Competition. 

Her internationally acclaimed debut novel, Drafts of a Suicide Note (Regal House), was a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award, American Book Fest’s Best Book Award, the Eyelands Book Award, and the Permafrost Book Prize as well as a Conium Review Book Prize semifinalist, a Santa Fe Writers’ Project Literary Award shortlistee, a Leapfrog Fiction Contest honorable mention, and a PEN Open Book Award nominee. She is also the author of the essay collection Animals Across Discipline, Time & Space (McMaster); the fiction chapbook Awabi (Digging), winner of the Digging Press Chapbook Series Award; and the essay collection Listen, we all bleed (New Rivers, 2021), a finalist for the Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize. Her work appears in Entropy, Waccamaw, The Spectacle, The Island Review, Quail Bell, The Deck Hand, Black Warrior Review, Permafrost, her monthly column at Manqué, and several other venues.








Click on the soundcloud bar below to listen to Mandy-Suzanne Wong read an excerpt from Artificial Wilderness:







What it's about: 


Artificial Wilderness is a book about the act of listening. Do you listen? Do you really? Have you ever let the sounds around you - the nonhuman sounds; the unwanted sounds - interrupt your private telenova? Referencing the work of sound artists dave phillips, Cathy Lane, Chris DeLaurenti and more, Mandy-Suzanne Wong implores us to listen. With illustrations from multidisciplinary artist and eco-feminist activist Kathryn Eddy, Artificial Wilderness is the perfect interruption to daily life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Indie Spotlight: Steven Mayfield

Welcome to our Indie Spotlight series. In which TNBBC gives small press authors the floor to shed some light on their writing process, publishing experiences, or whatever else they'd like to share with you, the readers!


Today, we have a returning guest, Steven Mayfield, who will be celebrating the release of Treaure of the Blue Whale on April 1st.  Here's the jacket copy: 



In this whimsical, often funny, Depression-era tale, young Connor O’Halloran decides to share a treasure he’s discovered on an isolated stretch of Northern California beach. Almost overnight, his sleepy seaside village is comically transformed into a bastion of consumerism, home to a commode with a jeweled seat cover, a pair of genuinely fake rare documents, a mail-order bride, and an organ-grinder’s monkey named Mr. Sprinkles. But when it turns out that the treasure is not real, Connor must conspire with Miss Lizzie Fryberg and a handful of town leaders he’s dubbed The Ambergrisians to save their friends and neighbors from financial ruin. Along the way, he discovers other treasures in the sometimes languid, sometimes exciting days of that long-ago season. He is rich and then he isn’t. He learns to sail a boat and about sex. He meets a real actor. He sneaks into villainous Cyrus Dinkle’s house and steals his letter opener. He almost goes to jail. He loves Fiona Littleleaf. He finds a father. And best of all, he and little brother, Alex, reclaim their mother from the darkness of mental illness.


And here's Steven, sharing some insight and lessons learned on landing an agent....




On Landing an Agent 





One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The lovely Gene Tierney plays a widow who rents a seaside cottage only to discover that it is haunted by its former owner, a crusty sea captain played by Rex Harrison. Predictably, Mrs. Muir and the captain put off one another at first, then fall in love. Toward the end of the movie, Mrs. Muir writes a book about their romance that she then peddles in person to a London publisher. Let me pause here for a moment. Yes…You heard me right. She went to the publisher in person without an appointment and he didn’t have a security guard escort her out of the building. In person—she went in person! Directly into the publisher's office! No appointment!

So…here’s what I think. In Mrs. Muir’s time, publishers didn’t work with agents. They simply sat around drinking tea until someone who looked as good as Gene Tierney showed up with a manuscript that they promptly published. I imagine there are skeptics among you, but watch the movie yourself if you don’t believe me. It’s very different now. It’s tough for an indie writer to land a literary agent because THEY ARE VERY, VERY BUSY. I’d repeat that for emphasis, but it’s already in caps. For those who don’t want an agent, there’s a tip: Either repeat things unnecessarily or use a lot of caps. Your choice.

Anyway, because agents are so terribly, terribly busy, they cannot reply to all emails. If they are interested in you, they’ll reply. It’s very much like seventh grade when I would  write a nice note to a girl I was interested in, including a poll at the end for her convenience:

DO YOU LIKE ME?
YES ___ NO ___ (CHECK ONE)

          I got a giggle if she liked me. If not, she made fun of my buck teeth and got her boyfriend to break my glasses.

Literary agents are the Holy Grail for indie writers. But here’s the thing: even the best agents can’t sell everything they represent. This is why they have to be so selective. Besides, they are VERY, VERY BUSY, remember? I simply can’t emphasize that enough. They need to first be queried with a short letter that reduces your work to as few words as possible; the less words the better. They’re like contestants on Name That Tune. For those younger than 900 years old, Name That Tune was a popular TV game show on which a contestant attempted to guess the title of a song in the least number of notes. Many of them were quite good, naming songs after hearing only three or four notes. Literary agents are like that. They can pick a best-seller after reading merely three or four words of a query email, indeed, to an experienced agent a postmark, alone, is often revealing enough to earn a rejection. This is why there are articles, webinars, conference sessions, even books that try to unravel the mystery of the perfect query. It can be overwhelming, so here’s some advice.

In your query, begin with a plot hook followed by a zippy description of a character or event. Next, write something about yourself that is humble and yet confident; factual, but not boastful. If you have published and received an award, do not mention it unless it was a really important award. Same for reviews. Unless they’re from important reviewers, nobody but your mother cares. It’s best not to be funny and never, ever waste the agent’s time. That’s a big one. Don’t waste their time, okay? Seriously. They are very, very busy. I think I’ve made that clear. Last of all, make sure to let the agent know why he or she was picked from among all the agents on the planet. Literary agents are people, too. They like to be courted.

It might seem that I don’t like literary agents, and that may have been true until I got one and realized how valuable they are. I certainly understand why mine is so busy. She’s dealing with me. That’s a tall order. Ask my wife. Still, I miss the old query days. I know that there’s an agent out who can reject my work after reading not four words, not three, but merely two or less. That person is my Moby Dick and a big part of me wants to go on querying the seven seas in search of her.



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Steven Mayfield was born and raised in Nebraska, a place where people would prefer that you think well of them, should you think of them at all. He is a past recipient of the Mari Sandoz Prize for Fiction and the author of over fifty scientific and literary publications. After a hiatus away from creative writing that lasted almost twenty years—during which he published forty-two scientific articles, abstracts, chapters, and reviews—Steven resumed writing fiction in 1993. In 1994, his stories began to appear in print and have been published by EventThe Black River Reviewcold-drillartisanThe Long Story, and the anthology From Eulogy to Joy. In 1998, he was guest editor for the literary journal, Cabin Fever, and his collection of short stories, Howling at the Moon, was a Best Books of 2010 selection by USA Book News and an Eric Hoffer Award Finalist. His novel, Treasure of the Blue Whale will be released by Regal House Publishing in April, 2020.
Steven currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Pam, and three goldendoodles who can be annoyingly insistent around meal-time. He can order beer in four languages. His wife can say, “Pay no attention to this man” in five.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Audio Series: Ten Past Noon






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.


In light of all the social distancing and recommended reduction to group events, I put out a tweet yesterday letting the small press literary world know that my blog is at their beck and call. We're happy to help support those who have recently published, or will soon be publishing, a book. It's hard enough to get your books out there, and now with the cancelation of book events and readings making it even harder, I want to do my part to help you spread the word!



Today, Tucker Lieberman took me up on the offer and will be reading from his recently released hypno-saga Ten Past Noon


Haunted by his acquaintance with the late author of Eunuchry, Tucker wrote the ghost story “Exit Interview” for DefCon One’s “imaginary friends” fiction anthology, I Didn’t Break the Lamp. His recent books include Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains and Bad Fire: A Memoir of Disruption. At Brown University, he received the Casey Shearer Memorial Award for Creative Nonfiction and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He earned a postgraduate degree in journalism from Boston University. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, he lives with the science fiction writer Arturo Serrano in Bogotá, Colombia. He is turning forty.









Click on the soundcloud bar below to listen to Tucker Lieberman read from Ten Past Noon.....







What it's about: 

In the Roaring Twenties, Edward Cumming might have become a railroad businessman, but he was more interested in literature. During the Depression, he tried to write a book about historical castrations. At thirty-nine, he died by suicide.

What went wrong for him? A lack of focus? A problem of fate? The number forty? Or was his book haunted?

In this train ride of an American biography, Tucker Lieberman tells the story of the would-be scholar of eunuchs. It is an essay about war, racism, gender, time, mortality, free will, money, argument, information architecture, and why a writer might not finish a book.



Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sara Rauch's 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. 




It's release day, and Sara Rauch is throwing all the booze at her brand new collection What Shines from It


Ready to get your booze on???




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Introducing the What Shines from It




2 parts bourbon
1 part yellow Chartreuse
1/2 tsp Angostura bitters
1/2 tsp grapefruit bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Give it a good rattle. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a grapefruit peel if you’re feeling fancy.

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When I started thinking about what drink I might pair with the haunted artists that populate What Shines from It: Stories, my first thought was, Bourbon, straight up. That’s my drink, and I rarely stray from it. Why mess with perfection?

But the more I thought about it, the more I remembered that What Shines from It is its own entity—I created it, and there is much of me in it, but it also exists outside of me, pulsing there on its own. My characters have their own preferences; they make their own messes and their own drinks.

My characters are drinkers. Not F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald drinkers or Denis Johnson drinkers or even Dorothy Parker drinkers. But drinkers all the same. There’s something stabilizing about a glass of Cabernet/vodka/gin/beer in a scene. You can see it sweating in the heat; you can see how the character approaches the world by how they sip, or guzzle. Even their choice of drink gives insight into who they are or who they want to be.

My characters are also heartbroken—sometimes because of a relationship ending, but more as a way of being in the world. They are cracked, and as Leonard Cohen says in “Anthem”: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

So I set out to create a drink that glows the way my characters’ pain does, a drink like heartbreak: spirit-forward and unruly and intense and maybe a little bit seductive.

This cocktail will wallop you. It is beautiful, and throws light around in the most startling ways. But it is also intense: Chartreuse, for all its neon glory, is no mere mixer; it is 80 proof, blended and distilled from 130 different plants by French monks. It’s got an uncanny depth and swirls through the bourbon, which lends a nice, earthy backbone.

Take this one slow. Add an ice cube if you need to.

And remember, heartbreak—like beauty, like light—demands to be savored. 



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Sara Rauch is the author of What Shines from It: Stories
Her writing has appeared in Paper Darts, Split Lip, Hobart, So to Speak, and more. 
She lives with her family in Massachusetts.