Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Audio Series: Dr. Sodom and Mrs. Gomorrah



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, Ben Arzate is hanging with us here at the blog, reading an excerpt from his latest book Dr. Sodom and Mrs. GomorrahBen Arzate lives in Des Moines, IA. He is the author of the novels The Story of the Y (Cabal Books) and Elaine (Atlatl Press), the short story collection The Complete Idiot's Guide to Saying Goodbye (NihilismRevised), and the poetry collections the sky is black and blue like a battered child and dr. sodom and mrs. gomorrah (feel bad all the time). He is a regular contributor to Cultured Vultures. Find him online at http://dripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com/








Click on the soundcloud bar below to experience a excerpt from Dr. Sodom and Mrs. Gomorrah, as read by Ben. 







What it's about: 

Poems, plays, scripts, and sui generis texts from the amazing mind of Ben Arzate.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Page 69: Directory

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 Christopher Linforth's Directory to the test 








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

Directory is a short book and so page 69 comes very close to the end. In the run-up to this page, the book has been narrated by an anonymous, multiplicitous voice, ostenabilty the mind of alternating twins and triplets. However, at this point, the book departs from that theory and offers up the idea that the "we" has all along been a  conflicted,  psychically damaged "I." 


What is the book about?

Directory is a collection of flash, both experimental and interlinked. Again, on the surface, the book centers on we-narrators traversing the United States, trying to work out who they are and what they're about. Along the way there are several detours of place and form and voice. It's a cerebral, hopefully entertaining and arty book, as well as a celebration of form, voice, identity, and so on.


Does this page give readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself with the collection’s theme?

Yes. In some ways page 69 can be seen as the climax, as the breaking down of the we-facade, as the point where the "I" realizes it cannot carry on in the same vein. That's one reading, and I'm sure, readers will have others.





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
DIRECTORY




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





Christopher Linforth is the author of three story collections, The Distortions (Orison Books, 2021), winner of the 2020 Orison Books Fiction Prize, Directory (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2020), and When You Find Us We Will Be Gone (Lamar University Press, 2014).


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Audio Series: Collective Gravities




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, Chloe N. Clark is hanging with us here at the blog, reading an excerpt from her brand new story collection Collective GravitiesChloe is the author of Your Strange Fortune, Under My Tongue, The Science of Unvanishing Objects, and the forthcoming Escaping the Body from Interstellar Flight Press. She is Co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph and can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes.  









Click on the soundcloud bar below to experience "They Are Coming For You So You Better Run, You Better Run So You Can Hide", read by Chloe.







What it's about: 

In Collective Gravities, something magical is always just beneath the surface—the zombie apocalypse happens, but the world stays relatively the same; a woman begins to feel the earth moving beneath her feet. In this fantastical, genre-bending collection, Chloe N. Clark launches readers from Iowa, to outer space, and back again. Lyrical, funny, and full of transcendent beauty, Collective Gravities is a cause for celebration: an astronomically gifted writer, who, in twenty-six stories, shows us an entire world (and beyond) full of heartbreak, hope, redemption, and wonder.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Blog Tour: Road Seven




We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title Road Seven by participating in their blog tour. 

And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree.


For today's stop, Keith Rosson's having a little bit of fun with our Would You Rather series, a fun, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. He was forced to pick bizarre books sides for 20 questions: 






Keith Rosson's
Would You Rather




Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
Let’s go with feet. Revision’s gonna be a pain either way.


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
I mean, the assumption is that I still get to write regardless, yeah? Either one sounds good. I’m not picky.


Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
While I’m not picky, I’d also like to reap the countless benefits of literary fame now, while I’m still mostly upright and taking in solid food.


Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
You know, I’ve written three novels, and I’d still need to look up what a conjunction is to be able to answer this question.


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 like tattoos. That would look cool. I can’t concentrate with people talking in the background.


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?
Hmmmm. Let’s go with “overnight success,” this leaving me financially stable enough to write allllll the navel-gazers I want after that.


Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
Uh, that’s a tough one. By writing a plot twist that I hate, the question seems to imply that the twist is cheap, a kind of deus ex machina that comes out of nowhere and isn’t very satisfying. That doesn’t sound like much fun. Meanwhile, I’ve written a number of quantifiably shitty characters, and I frigging love it. Hateable characters are often a joy to write.


Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
May my skull by a charcuterie bowl and the expectorate of my enemies be a soothing lip balm forevermore! Would that work?


Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
Yeesh, I don’t want any of my novels to reenacted in real life. Be a disaster for all!


Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?
wll shit why cant w do both what th hll


Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
Teach it. And then invite me to your class to talk to your students, where I try not to swear for an hour, say “dude” a lot on accident, urge everyone to be persistent in the face of rejection, and quickly deposit my honorarium, taking my children out for ice cream afterwards.


Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
I…will…take…being hit on by Dylan Thomas for $500, Alex?


Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
Speaking. It’d make me sound mysterious and smart. My writing is wayyyy more overwrought than that, it’d be no fun to pare it down like that.


Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?
I guess the 50 Shades series. Either one would kind of be a bummer, though. Plus presumably starving to death sounds like a drag as well.


Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?
Rip away, my dears!


Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
I think my Twitter feed is already like that.


Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper?
Ah, shucks. I occasionally do write in a notebook when I feel particularly stuck, but it’s a rarity. I’d want to keep writing on a keyboard.


Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back? 
Probably on my back. I do know folks who use standing desks when they write, but I’m not one of them.


Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
I mean, haven’t we all had readings where no one showed up?


Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 
I mean, I feel like a lot of literary fiction – which I love unabashedly – could be considered “weak content but written well,” right? Nimble, beautiful writing but thin on plot? Transversely, if something is written poorly, can it still be considered an excellent story? Thanks for the interview opportunity!



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



Releasing on 7/14/20

Magical Realism | Fantasy | Literary


Road Seven follows disgraced cryptozoologist Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—who has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman's farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries. Road Seven will mark the third of Rosson’s novels to be published by Meerkat Press.



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






Thursday, July 2, 2020

Blog Tour: The Wounded Ones



We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title The Wounded Ones by participating in their blog tour. 

And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree. Click here to enter. 



For today's stop, G.D. Penman is taking it to the toilet. 



Oh yes! We absolutely have a series on bathroom reading! So long as it's taking place behind the closed  (or open, if that's the way you swing) bathroom door, we want to know what it is. It can be a book, the back of the shampoo bottle, the newspaper, or Twitter on your cell phone - whatever helps you pass the time...



Today, G.D. Penman takes it to the toilet. Penman is the author of the Strata Online and Witch of Empire series, the ghostwriter of more than 50 books, and a freelance game designer. A firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better with the addition of dragons, he is fulfilling his destiny as an overweight bearded white man by pursuing a career as a fantasy author. In “real life” he lives in Scotland with his partner, children, dog and cats. Just . . . so many cats.





I can’t work on the toilet. I can’t do whatever the kids are demanding, I can’t cook a meal, I can’t write. It is literally the only place in my entire house where I am not feeling lazy for not doing something else.

It is a place with a singular purpose, a purpose that I abuse for the excuse of getting a little bit of reading done. The kind of reading that you can pick up and put down multiple times a day – depending on coffee intake.

For me that means non-fiction rather than short stories. Short stories are a smoke-break pleasure, not a poop-break pleasure. You have to keep these things separated. I you’re smoking on the toilet then you need to change your diet.



So without further ado, what I read while I poo:


The Battle Royale Slam Book
Edited by Masumi Washington & Nick Mamatas
Like all of these books, this lives on my kindle, and dipping into it reminds me why I started writing the weird stuff that I write on a daily basis. Each of these essays addresses a different viewpoint on the cult classic film/manga/book, talking about elements of the story in ways that even the author might not have predicted.

Feel Free
Essays by Zadie Smith
While the slam book is full of really niche pop culture essays that are only of interest to me, Feel Free is chock full of essays on such a breadth of topics that I can guarantee whoever picks it up is going to find something of value. There isn’t a specific reason I read this book, I just enjoy it.

Impossible Owls
Essays by Brian Phillips
Travel writing almost always focusses inadvertently on the travel writer rather than the culture that they’re invading, so Phillips collection of essays – technically sports writing in a lot of places – is a refreshing change of pace. He blends elements of the cultures into the style that he is exploring, and he seeks out the fringe viewpoints that reflect a reality of that central culture. Amazing work.

The Good War
Studs Terkel
This is an old, probably out of print, book that I keep going back to. Enough of my projects revolve around conflict that a perspective on war is vital and no perspective on war matters more than the ones from the front lines. Terkel’s book is a narrative history woven together from interviews with the people who fought in the Second World War. A perspective that has been lost as that generation passed away. I should probably say something trite about learning from history so it doesn’t repeat, but honestly that ship has sailed.

Girls and Sex
Peggy Orenstein
What I thought was going to be a quick and fun Sex and the City style romp through modern attitudes about sex turned into a deep dive about the waves of feminism and how they’ve been weaponised against women by the corporate power structures pretty much instantly. Blending interviews with these bigger overarching themes really helps them to punch you in the gut and make you take notice.

Phone
I can’t handle Twitter on the toilet. You never know when you might scroll past something that sends you into a sphincter clenching rage, and that is not conducive to a functional visit to the smallest room in the house. What I can do is browse through my stockpile of tabs full of non-upsetting news stories and interviews. I’ve also tried reading recipes  and food writing while on the crapper, but it feels fundamentally wrong.




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





THE WOUNDED ONES by G.D. Penman
Book 2 in the WITCH OF EMPIRE series

Release date: 6/23/20
Urban Fantasy / LGBTQ / Detective


SUMMARY:
Demons and serial killers are Iona “Sully” Sullivan’s bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing amidst rumors of crop circles, hydra sightings and worse. Through a wild and lethal adventure that will see her clashing with the Empire around the world and beyond, the only constants in Sully’s life are an undead girlfriend, a giant demon crow that has taken a shine to her, regular assassination attempts by enemies on all sides, and the cold certainty that nothing and nobody is going to make it out of the war in one piece.



Monday, June 22, 2020

Audio Series: The Ancestor



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, Lee Matthew Goldberg is hanging on the blog today, reading an excerpt from his forthcoming Alaskan Gold Rush novel The Ancestor. Lee is the author of the novels SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR from St. Martin’s Press. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The first book in an international thriller series, THE DESIRE CARD, is out and PREY NO MORE is also forthcoming in 2020. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others.










Click on the soundcloud bar below to experience an excerpt from The Ancestor, as read by Lee Matthew Goldberg.




TNBBC · The Ancestor Chapter 1 Excerpt


What it's about:

A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he's certain they do not exist in modern times-but from his life in the late 1800s. After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow's life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he'd been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis's wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love. This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can't be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.

A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future. The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice….

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Blog Tour: The Attic Tragedy



We're happy to help Meerkat Press support the release of their latest title The Attic Tragedy by participating in their blog tour. 

And if you're at all into winning free stuff, they're running a giveaway where you can potentially win a $50 book shopping spree. Click here to enter. 


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



For today's stop, J. Ashley-Smith would like to introduce you to one of his favorite books: 





J. Ashley-Smith recommends 
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima

As a student, way back in nineties Sheffield, I had an obsession with thrift store book finds. I was studying film and creative writing and had a voracious, directionless reading habit, fuelled almost entirely by random discoveries on the shelves of this or that charity shop between my house and the campus. I judged every book by its cover, bought anything that aligned with my aesthetic of the time – mostly mass market paperbacks of the sixties and seventies. This was how I discovered Japanese author Yukio Mishima and his incomparable classic, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea.
The first copy I bought was the 1976 Penguin edition, a tie-in with the movie released that year (a shamelessly westernised adaptation, which I have still never seen and am not endorsing here). That version has a squint-eyed and beardy Kris Kristofferson, hair tousled and wafted in unseen ocean breezes, gazing into the distance. I thought the cover was kind of cool and was sold on the blurb:

After five years of celibate widowhood, Fusako consummates her two day relationship with Ryuji, a naval officer self-convinced of his glorious destiny… and they are spied on by Fusako’s son, Noboru, a self-possessed thirteen-year-old, ‘No.3’ in a sinister élite of precocious schoolboys.

While the back cover text alludes to the wonders inside the book’s 150 pages, it does nothing to convey the intensity, the beauty and stark horror of this perfect novella. There is something about this length of book, the short novel, that is like a swift gut punch. The opening pages – which depict with cold detachment, the killing and dissection of a neighbourhood cat by a group of prepubescent boys, led by the otherwise unnamed ‘Chief’ – set the tone for what proves to be an incredibly bleak, incredibly beautiful tale of glory and betrayal.

The story is simple: the collision of three dynamics embodied by the sharply drawn central characters. The romanticised longing of the sailor, Ryuji, for some inarticulate glory awaiting him at sea (a longing artfully penned by Mishima to be both transcendent, absurd, and painfully, pathetically human). The loneliness of Fusako, kept always at arm’s length for the sake of her son – the son she believes, mistakenly, to be in need of a father. And Noboru himself, highly intelligent and intense, his learned ’objectivity’ a rationalisation for the prevailing culture of sociopathy among his gang of school friends.

Noboru’s interest in ships leads Fusako to take him to visit a commercial steamer. There they meet Ryuji, the ship’s second mate, and both mother and son are charmed by the sailor, though for entirely different reasons. Fusako and Ryuji become immediately involved in a brief romance, while Noboru is inspired by what he sees in Ryuji as a kind of perfection, the quintessence of those ideals espoused by his highly intellectual and rigidly moral gang. Through a peephole in the back of his chest of drawers, Noboru watches his mother and the sailor make love. As long as the sailor leaves and abandons Fusako, Noboru rationalises, then that perfection he first saw will remain intact.
But Noboru’s detached infatuation with the sailor quickly pales, as one after another incident reveals Ryuji’s flawed humanity, his less-than-perfection. When the sailor and Fusako become engaged, Noboru’s sense of betrayal reaches its peak.

The second half of the book is an agonising descent towards tragedy. When Ryuji returns from the sea, he remains on shore and his ship leaves without him. His attempts to ingratiate himself with the boy, to wear the ill-fitting uniform of loving father, are entirely at odds with Noboru’s own desires – and the philosophy of his gang, who have a particular resentment of fathers and father figures. Fusako’s attempts to domesticate Ryuji, installing him as a manager in her fashionable boutique, only serve to emasculate him further in the eyes of Noboru. As the wedding draws near, the boy calls an emergency meeting of his gang. Something drastic needs to be done. Something glorious.

It’s so hard to write here all that I love about this novella. The story – its perfect, utterly horrific ending, at once surprising and inevitable – cannot be encapsulated in any form other than itself. If I write too much, I fear I’ll do more harm to it than good. And there is so much to say about Mishima himself, that author as troubled, complex and problematic as his own characters – the repressed homosexuality, the right-wing nationalism, the failed coup, the ritual suicide…

Nothing I have read, before or since, has had so powerful an impact on me, both as a reader or as a writer. This slender, immaculate book is infused with darkness, with a potent aliveness that is intensely human. A work of literary horror of the highest order, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea captures with art and precision the beauty and brutality, the monstrousness and transcendence of the everyday, constructing from its architecture of minor betrayals a tragedy of Shakespearean grandeur.




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


THE ATTIC TRAGEDY by J. Ashley-Smith
Release date - 6/9/20 
Dark Fantasy / LGBT / Novelette





SUMMARY:
Sylvie never called them ghosts, but that’s what they were—not that George ever saw them herself. The new girl, Sylvie, is like a creature from another time, with her old-fashioned leather satchel, her white cotton gloves and her head in the clouds. George watches her drift around the edge of the school playing fields, guided by inaudible voices.

When George stands up for Sylvie, beating back Tommy Payne and his gang of thugs, it brings her close to the ethereal stranger; though not as close as George would have liked. In the attic of Sylvie’s father’s antique shop, George’s scars will sing and her longing will drive them both toward a tragedy as veiled and inevitable as Sylvie’s whispering ghosts.




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




J. Ashley Smith is a British–Australian writer of dark fiction and other materials. His short stories have twice won national competitions and been shortlisted six times for Aurealis Awards, winning both Best Horror (Old Growth, 2017) and Best Fantasy (The Further Shore, 2018). J. lives with his wife and two sons in the suburbs of North Canberra, gathering moth dust, tormented by the desolation of telegraph wires.

You can connect with J. at spooktapes.net, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  The Attic Tragedy is available now from Meerkat Press.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Where Writers Write: Clifford Garstang


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 Clifford Garstang. 


Clifford is the author of the new short fiction collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, as well as two previous collections, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, and a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley. He’s also known for his annual literary magazine rankings, which can be found on his website: cliffordgarstang.com










Where Clifford Garstang Writes





My home office is where it has been since I moved into this house in 2001—a second-floor loft with built-in bookcases, closets for storage, and a bathroom. There’s even a window overlooking my yard. In theory, it’s ideal, even if I do have to make the occasional trip down to the kitchen for snacks or a coffee refill. Over the years, though, it grew impossibly cluttered. There is no more bookshelf space anywhere in the house, so new acquisitions formed stacks in my office, teetering piles of regret mixed with possibility. I also had boxes and boxes of literary journals that needed to go somewhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to send them to recycling. And I had a hard time throwing away documents or drafts of stories or anything else I’d produced here, so file drawer space was also hard to come by.
The office had become such a mess that I began writing in coffee shops. I’d grab my laptop and head off to one of the many such spaces in my community and find that I got a decent amount of work done and also managed to interact with people, too. Factoring in travel and socializing, it might not have been the most efficient use of my time, but I managed.

When the coffee shops closed in response to the pandemic a couple of months ago, I was forced to stay home to work. The first thing I had to do if I had a prayer of getting anything done was clean the office, or at least make it livable. I threw away a lot of paper. I removed the clutter from my desk. I organized the stacks of books so they didn’t look quite so intimidating. And for the first time in a long time I haven’t been tempted to leave, even if I had somewhere to go.

I’m now loving this space. I’ve written a lot here, over the years—my MFA thesis (an unpublished novel), three story collections, two novels (one published, one forthcoming), and a draft of another book I hope to finish this year. Not to mention the three anthologies I edited, the magazine I started and worked on for years, and countless book reviews, essays, and blog posts I’ve written.

In a previous life—I practiced international law for two decades, bouncing between Asia and the United States—I had offices that were necessary, but not particularly inspiring (although I do kind of miss my view of the Singapore harbor). Now, if I can keep the clutter at bay, I think I’ll be able to keep writing for years to come.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Page 69: Walking with the Ineffable

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 Stephani Nur Colby's Walking with the Ineffable to the test!






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

P. 69 details a painful childhood incident mainly in the arena of nature and culture, where I became sadly made aware of some of the violence we people were heedlessly wreaking on our ecology.





What is the book about?

Walking with the Ineffable is a memoir with a core relating to spiritual experiences, both as an adult and as a child, and also to relationship with our natural world. It’s about the changing weather of belief -- what, when, and why we believe at various passages in our lives, and the startling possibilities which can open up for us if we venture “into the unknown region” of both traditional and unconventional mystical paths that carry us toward deeper aspects of ourselves and of the Divine.





Does this page give readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself with the collection’s theme?

It aligns with part of the theme which has to do with growing awareness of the natural world but does not touch on the search for relationship with God and its consequences, a more pervasive aspect of the book. The shocks of personal growth that came through contact with powerful spiritual paths and phenomena comprise much of the memoir and are thus not well-represented by the incident described on p. 69.


Commentary on p.69:

To me at the time this seemed just further evidence of the heartbreak and uncertainty of life. But rescue was close at hand. Uncle “D,” a close family friend, visited, took a look at the bough, and said, “Don’t worry; we can fix this.” Having me hold the branch in its normal position, he wound layer after layer of heavy, sticky black tape around the bark. It held up when I let go. “Now just don’t bump it! And watch!”    he said.

Over months and a couple of years I watched the dogwood bark expand until it ultimately covered all the tape, and no sign of injury remained. To me, it was like a miracle and gave me new hope in life’s possibilities. 

Furthermore, Uncle D himself was a broken branch   --      a     blameless intellectual, he had been framed by an unscrupulous boss who purloined a union’s funds.  My innocent Uncle D went to prison as a result and left it a shattered man.  Yet he retained his knowledge and love of beauty, raising two generations of my family in love and appreciation of all the arts. The broken bough yet brought forth beauty and joy, and the teaching that one should never despair too soon.

This is a good sampling in the sense that much of my book deals with unexpected resiliency in hard or challenging situations and the ubiquity of hope and grace.       

                                                                                                   



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69
WALKING WITH THE INEFFABLE




 which I peered, as if through an elegantly carved screen, at the swatches of blue sky peering back at me through their screen of lordly oak leaves high overhead.

One day, when I went out to play, I saw a small airplane flying low above the neighborhood, a strange dark spray raining down from it. It gave me a bad feeling somehow. I went in to tell my mother. She came out, looked up, and hustled me into the house. She forbade me to go out again that day, looking troubled, but explained nothing. The next morning, when I went out to play, I noticed odd little brown lumps scattered all over the ground and even way up the hill beneath the tall trees. When I went to examine one lump, I was shocked to see that it was a dead sparrow. And, as I wandered from lump to lump, I discovered that they were all dead sparrows, scores of them. I felt as if I were walking in a waking nightmare in an ornithological Armageddon. In shock, I stumbled over to my comforting Wishing Rock. Bright on its gray surface, the pink-blossomed dogwood branch framing them, lay three pure yellow dead goldfinches. Staggering as if with a spear in my heart, I scrambled back into the house and told my mother. She told me that all this slaughter was due to the DDT that the plane had sprayed to kill insects. Apparently, this poison had also killed almost everything else. She kept me in the house again that day. Later on my father went out with his heavy work gloves to fill a big bag with small dead birds.

Aghast that grown-ups could perpetrate such a rain of death, it was quite awhile before I could bring myself to return to my dear Wishing Rock and comforting dogwood tree; the mind-photo of three rigid, cold little goldfinch bodies arrayed funereally on the sparkling mica always leapt up, causing a catch in my throat and the need to turn away. A short time after I finally did resume my companionship with the rock and tree, a particularly violent thunderstorm struck. To my distress, the next day I found the main bough of the dogwood, as thick as a man’s wrist, broken off, with only some thin threads of bark still maintaining their connection with the mother tree.                                                                                         
                                                                                       




 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~







Stephani Nur Colby is a writer and editor who lives in Gloucester, MA, “the last stop before Portugal.” Walking with the Ineffable: A Spiritual Memoir (with Cats) traces her journeys through spiritual seeking in Greek Orthodox Christianity, Sufism, herbalism and energy-healing, Nature (especially with owls, hawks, and falcons), the de-anaesthetizing company of lively cats, and pilgrimages and adventures in Greece, the Holy Land, England, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Mexico, all spurred by a persistent search for the Really Real.  Walking with the Ineffable is to be issued by Green Writers Press in August 2020.