Friday, October 30, 2015

Celebrating Scary Stories



Halloween is upon us. While the trick-or-treaters beat a path to your front door for their sugar fix, what better time to curl up on the couch wrapped in that fuzzy blanket and bury your nose in seasonally frightful reads. 

Contributors Melanie (Grab the Lapels), Drew (Raging Biblioholism), and Lindsey (Straight Forward Poetry) have recommendations galore:



Melanie's Scariest Reads
:


Santa’s Little Helper by H.D. Gordon

Four homes receive a mysterious white box with no return address. Inside is an elf and a book describing how the elf is “Santa’s Little Helper,” a companion to watch children for Santa come Christmastime. But Satan’s—sorry, Santa’s—Little Helper isn’t what he seems. This elf is out to murder, and readers learn that this elf is an evil demon that sometimes appears in different forms, and has in the past…A fun, scary book that I would recommend to fans of horror by authors like Stephen King because the pacing is a bit slower than modern consumers want (think about how most American horror movies don’t even reach 90 minutes), but it’s a scary-good time!



Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann

The water color images in this graphic novel have a sort of innocent look about them, which is emphasized and shattered when the characters do awful things! There is a Lord of the Flies feel to the story, though the characters aren't on an island; they are for some reason released from the body of a dead girl that's rotting in the woods. Keep in mind that this book is a work of conceptual fiction, so you won't get the full resolution you seek in traditional fiction.



The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

The camera cuts, demonstrated with an arrow and paragraph break, tells us where to "look," as if this were a movie. However, if you're a fan of slashers, you know that you often yell at the TV and wonder why people do things (like repeat names awkwardly, notice certain details, end up in certain places). The book format allows the narrator to comment on what we're probably thinking, bringing you into a more intimate experience with the slasher film genre.




Strangerson a Train by Patricia Highsmith

A creepy stalker tale that terrifies me. The “killer” just can’t be stopped, and the “hero” makes the wrong choice at every turn. Funny, though, the setting is realistic, and you can just see this accidental arrangement for a murder actually happening.






Interviewwith the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

I really can’t read these books separately. While Lestat is the villain in Louis’s story, he is the tragic, tormented figure of his own. The two lead vampires have more in common that the first book lets on. Though part of a trilogy, I think of these vampires as a duo and forget all the history stuff presented in Queen of the Damned.





Lenore: The Cute Little Dead Girl by Roman Dirge

Take the darkness and make it adorable, and that’s what you get in these graphic novels. Lenore’s stories are a great October read, as she kills and terrifies people. She has a vampire doll named Ragamuffin, because what little girl doesn’t have a doll. Based on the Edgar Allen Poe poem, Lenore is dangerously loveable.




Altmann’s Tongue by Brian Evenson

This author really beat Eli Roth to the punch in the gruesome category. Evenson’s deeply religious roots come through, and he makes the faithful some of the most terrifying folks out there. You can pick up any Evenson collection of stories and be scared senseless, but start with this first book, the one that got him removed from his teaching job at Brigham Young.





Drew's Scariest Reads:



I spend the whole rest of the year prepping for October reading, at this point - I love devoting the month to scary/spooky/seasonally appropriate reads in a way that I don't really do at any other time. As a result, I've got a couple go-to recommendations for books sure to keep you up at night (in every possible way):

* The Other by Thomas Tryon.  

This book has some of the best gasp-inducing moments I've ever read. It's classic horror in the vein of early Stephen King or Rosemary's Baby or Ray Bradbury - full of heart and humanity while also giving you the absolute creeps. I don't want to spoil a whit, so all I'll say is that it involves two 13-yr-old twin boys - one of whom might just be evil...




* The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. 

Although it's written largely like a movie treatment (with plenty of hastily sketched character and plot work) and relies on the reader to do some heavy lifting, Barker slows down for depictions of truly horrific violence that he delivers with an unnerving relish. The movie has had a larger cultural impact, but the book will give you nightmares too.





The Shining by Stephen King. 

It's still the scariest book I've ever read. I have a vivid recollection of reading it while home alone on a stormy afternoon and - even as I write this, remembering - I get residual chills every time I think of it. King at his very best, showing both the evils that lurk in otherworldly places and the just-as-awful evils that lurk in the minds of ordinary people.




* The October Country by Ray Bradbury. 

Not so scary (at least, most of the time) as some other books, but it's hard to go wrong with Bradbury's most autumnal collection at this time of year. All of his greatest strengths are on display at one time or another and it's a great introduction for those who've only maybe read Fahrenheit 451.







Lindsey's Scariest Reads:



Resurrection Party by Michalle Gould

How do you handle death? How do you handle succumbing and returning? Being and not being? If the question of your own existence and the value of that doesn’t shake you to your core I don’t know what will.





Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder

Not literal ghosts- at least not always, these are ghosts of the self, of the mind, of loved ones, of decisions made and decisions not made. Sometimes the toughed, most terrifying battles, are the ones you have with yourself.





God Damsel by Reb Livingston

Full of laments and prophesies, populated with mythical creatures in an emotionally torn landscape, readers wonder who they should root for, who to save, and who to condemn. Overwhelmed in the battle of good and evil (What actually is good? What is evil?) with characters who themselves fight their own natures, all in new world that is taking shape with each page readers are free to experience fear, wonder, love, humor, and hope. The power of raw emotion should really shake you to your core.




Lori's Scariest Reads:


Suckers by Z. Rider

A worn out musician takes a shortcut back to the band's hotel after a show, and is attacked by a slimy, bat-like creature. Within days, he becomes consumed with the need to drink human blood. Terrified of what will happen if he doesn't get his fix--and terrified of what he'll do to get it--he turns to his best friend and bandmate, Ray Ford, for help. But what the two don't know as they try to keep Dan's situation quiet is that the parasite driving Dan's addiction has the potential to wipe out humankind. It's a near-apocalypse-like contagion unlike any other and there are wonderous moments of extreme grossness. Remember that scene in the original Poltergeist movie where the dad vomits up the worm-not-worm? Yeah. Like that. Total page turner.



Birdbox by Josh Mailerman

Josh Malerman's Bird Box is one intense, suspenseful page turner. It plays on all of our irrational fears - our fear of the dark, of the unknown, of death and dying, of what we can't see - while also playing on our vanities - the need to know what is going on, to watch, to see, to understand. Imagine this. Imagine what it must be like to be able to see, but to know that SEEING could cause you to go mad, go nuts, get all murdery and die.This is a book that causes you to question every bump in the night, every knock at the door, every unseen breeze that tickles your skin, Bird Box puts its readers on high alert. While it might not invade your dreams in the way horror movies sometimes do, this cross-genre apocalyptic psychological horror-thriller grabs hold and  renders you incapable of putting it down. Clear your schedule before you crack this one open. You'll be up all night. I promise you that.




The Troop by Nick Cutter

THE TROOP is a slow-burn horror novel that grows in the deepest, darkest parts of your gut. It sneaks up on you from behind, like the villain in a monster movie, tickling the hairs on the back of your neck with its rancid breath, sending horrible shivers down your spine. And the very moment you become aware of its presence is the moment you realize it's already too late... Think Lord of the Flies meets The Ruins and you'll begin to understand the nightmare that is THE TROOP. Cutter did a great job of stretching out the tension by interspersing the main story with court hearing transcripts and scientific experiment logs that gave us a peek into the history (and future) of what, exactly, our troop was dealing with. While not a book for the extremely sensitive or weak-stomached, I highly recommend this novel to anyone who craves a well written, gut wrenching horror story - one that will challenge them, one that will push them to their very limits, and stretch those limits further than they ever thought possible.



Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie walks a fine line between horror and the absolutely horrific in his latest novel when one day, without warning and for no immediately apparent reason, all of the children, all across the globe, die.They're calling it Herod's Syndrome - a parasite that resides inside every living person. What caused it to active and why it only affected the pre-pubescent is unknown, but three days later the children awaken in their graves and return home to their parents. Bloated with gas and in the early stages of decay, they reek of rot and moan about hunger. But they refuse the food their parents put in front of them. Because this is a different kind of hunger. They hunger for blood. Without it, the parasite stops functioning and they return to that state of rotting, stinking death. How far would you go to save your children? How much would you give to keep them alive? And at what costs? Suffer the Children takes vampirism to a new, chilling level as DiLouie masterfully tugs at your heartstrings while terrifying the shit out of you.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Dapper Press Exclusive Giveaway: Anomaly Flats

Hi everyone! 
Stop what you're doing and take a look at this!


TNBBC has partnered with the fine folks over at Dapper Press for an exclusive giveaway opportunity in conjunction with their newest initiative - The Review Lab. The concept is simple. Ask for a free digital copy of Clayton Smith's Anomaly Flats in exchange for an honest review. Leave a review on Amazon and you could win amazingly unique gifts as their way of saying thanks.


Take a look at the video below for the details:










About Anomaly Flats

Somewhere just off the interstate, in the heart of the American Midwest, there’s a quaint, quirky town where the stars in the sky circle a hypnotic void….where magnetic fields play havoc with time and perception…where metallic rain and plasma rivers and tentacles in the plumbing are simply part of the unsettling charm. Mallory Jenkins is about to experience the unique properties of this place for herself – she’ll have no choice, considering the collapsed bridge that rerouted her urgent and mysterious trip to Saskatchewan, forcing her straight into the heart of town, where her Impala has an inexplicable breakdown. She intends to stay overnight - just until the auto repair shop can make the fix in the morning and send her on her way. But Mallory will soon encounter Dr. Lewis Burnish, a scientist who’s studied the town for a dozen years and knows more about its strangeness than even the locals do. And when she accidentally-on-purpose creates his evil clone, she’ll set off a series of events that could unleash the ultimate evil upon the town and wreak havoc on the world at large. 
Life in a small town is like that sometimes. 

Welcome to Anomaly Flats. Have some waffles, meet the folks, and enjoy the scenery…and if you happen to be in Walmart, whatever you do, don’t go down aisle 8. 

Don’t EVER go down aisle 8. 





Sounds pretty badass, right? 


  • As Clayton explained above, the first 7 people to leave a review for the book on Amazon will win their choice of any one the following book tie-ins:


A Nite Owl "Sterilization through Caffeination" mug, a three foot long tentacle arm, or a set of any three 11x17 Anomaly Flats travel posters (there are 14 to choose from!).



  • The next 7 people to review the book on Amazon will win their choice of either the tentacle arm or a set of any three posters. 


  • And anyone else who reviews the books before December 15th will land themselves a set of any three posters. 




What do you say? Want in on this unique opportunity? 
Then enter the Review Lab right now!

See you on the other side of the flats... if you make it out alive, that is!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where Writers Write: Virginia Pye

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



Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they 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 Virginia Pye. 

Virginia Pye has published award-winning short stories in literary magazines, including The North American Review, The Tampa Review, and The Baltimore Review. Her short e-book Her Mother’s Garden was published by SheBooks in January, 2014. Her essays can be found in The New York Times Opinionator blog, The Rumpus, Brain, Child. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. Virginia currently divides her time between Richmond, VA and Cambridge, MA. Learn more at http://virginiapye.com/.







Where Virginia Pye Writes



Knowing Home

To write, I’ve always needed a window, preferably one that looks out onto trees or water, lawn or sky. In my home of seventeen years in Richmond, Virginia, we built a lovely study for me from a screened-in side porch. It had plenty of windows, but best of all was a back door that opened onto our yard and a little fishpond with a mini-waterfall. Because of the Richmond climate, I could keep that door open a good part of the year and the soft burbling of water helped elicit the creation of five novels.

But my husband and I have recently moved far north to Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have no illusions that my door can be kept open much of the year, but I still hope to rely on the view out my window to help my imagination thrive.

My new study is on the second floor and the windows are wide. I look across our narrow side street to my neighbor’s original clapboard farmhouse with its peeling, white front porch railing and several overgrown trees out front. It’s a charming view and quintessentially New England. In late summer, daylilies bloom and bow their heads over the sidewalk, and cicadas thrum at night, even in the city. It’s peaceful on this quiet cul de sac with few distractions, but I have to wonder if my creative mind will find a home here.

What is it about a place that helps us feel in tune with ourselves? We know when we feel at home. It’s hard to describe, but easy to recognize. Maybe some writers thrive on feeling out of place, or challenged by new surroundings, but for me, being settled into a place helps reduce distractions and opens the gates for creative thought.

While my new study isn’t as lovely as the one in Richmond, nor as connected to nature, it does have one different thing going for it: it’s in the town where I grew up. Only a few blocks away from our new home stands my former middle school. The pizza joint where I hung out as a young teenager still has the same name and apparently the slices are just as good. The streets I drive here are familiar, though I had forgotten the names of most. Only a mile away, the shops in Harvard Square have become glitzier and lacking in character, but that special hub still has the feeling of youthful excitement that I remember. The City of Cambridge has changed plenty in the past thirty-four years since I lived here, but I have the strange, inexplicable feeling that I belong.

The view out my study window frames treetops that before long will turn red and golden with autumn, then bare with winter. The sky will darken with snow. The sidewalks will grow slick with ice. For much of the year, the natural world will not be as inviting as it was in Richmond, but when I sit at my desk overlooking my neighbor’s old farmhouse across the way, I believe I’ll be able to conjure the imaginative space to write again. In my bones, I know I’m home.  Hopefully, my pen will know it, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bruce Bauman's Guide to Books and Booze


Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC 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, Bruce Bauman breaks down his novel Broken Sleep and lists out his characters' favorite drinks:





Broken Sleep is a family saga that covers more than 80 years. The narrative is propelled by the unconventional relationships between Salome Savant and her two sons, Moses Teumer and Alchemy Savant. There are multiple narrative points of view, all of which introduce many characters. The multiple plot lines and characters intersect and merge as the story progresses and reaches its denouement. The worlds are: art (Salome), academia (Moses), music (Alchemy), and politics (Alchemy and Moses).  I report to you now the favorite alcoholic refreshments eleven main characters, helped along with a bit of authorial commentary.          
 



Moses Teumer 
History professor with a very serious case of leukemia. Son of Malcolm and Salome. Half-brother of Alchemy.  Vodka suits him best, mixed with lots of tonic, or what he called the Black Russian Jewish-style: 2 parts vodka, 2 parts coffee liqueur and 2 parts Coke.   



Salome Savant
Artist famous or infamous for her Art is Dead performance in the 60s. She is the biological mother of Moses and Alchemy. After a violent breakdown during her Flowers, Feminism, Fornication opening, she is sent to the Collier Layne Mental Health Facility. She often “communes” with her ancestors through DNA travel, one of whom is named Margarita.  
                 
DNA Potion Number 9Drambui, drunk while naked and listening to "Angel of the Morning." (Preferably Nina Simone's version.) Often sneaks it while she is interned in Collier Layne Mental Health Facility.
                
The Master and The MargaritaTequila, fig jam and sherry. To be consumed alone and at night while waiting for an ancestor to commune with her.  



The Insatiables band (Alchemy Savant, Lux Deluxe, Absurda Nightingale and Ambitious Mindswallow): 
Began in the early 90s in Los Angeles. Before becoming worldwide stars, they hang out in the Pantera Rosa, perhaps the last seedy pre-gentrification bar in Santa Monica, CA. The bar is run by Falstaffa and Marty, who later become roadies for the band. 

The Pantera Rosa Afterhours BombaPrepared differently each night by either Falstaffa or Marty, with an assortment of cheap scotches, gins, vodkas, mezcal, half-filed tonics, cokes, an occasional cigarette ash and whatever else is left over at the end of the night.



Alchemy Savant
The charismatic leader of the Insatiables and second son of Salome Savant.

Absinthe d'OrThe traditional absinthe, with a floating passion flower and spiced with flecks of gold. Always shared with another. And a revolver hidden nearby.  



Ambitious Mindswallow
Born and raised Ricky McFinn in Flushing, Queens. Having served time in a juvenile prison, he is living on the streets of the Lower East when he meets Alchemy and they form an immediate, if seemingly odd friendship. He becomes the bassist for the Insatiables but never loses his fist-first way of acting or his edgy contrariness.    

The Shock and AweAll done in very quick fashion: A Forty can of any beer (preferably PBR), followed immediately by very quick shots of Everclear, and two lines of coke. To be repeated until passing out.  



Absurda Nightingale
Born Amanda Akin in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, she meets Alchemy when they are students at Juilliard. She is the lead guitarist of the Insatiables. She likes her heroin far too much, but she also loves to drink.
                
Sunshine of Your LoveWhile on tour in Chile, she is introduced to the Pisco Sour. Pisco is a yellowish colored brandy from Peru or Chile, which legend has it was invented by Eliot Stubb, an English steward on a ship named Sunshine. The Pisco Sour is made with pisco, lime juice, a fruit syrup and an egg white. Absurda added Dragon Fruit syrup and took out the egg white. Often drinks it as a chaser after oral sex.         



Lux Deluxe
As a young guy growing up in LA as Lionel Bradshaw, he sat beside his grandfather, who drank really cheap wine while listening to Stick McGhee’s “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee.”  And Lux too, as a young guy, drinks lots of cheap wine.He becomes an aficionado of California wines. Working with Trader Joe’s, they distribute a line of great wine at cheap prices -- Lux Deluxe’s Spo-Dee- Odees. Among them are: The Chuck Berry, the Hansberry, and the bittersweet, Strange Fruit. 




Malcom Teumer
Born in Germany, he immigrates to the U.S. after WWII. He meets Salome Savant when she is a teenager and they have an affair. Salome gives birth to Moses. Malcolm then marries Hannah, who raises Moses and never knows Malcolm’s true identity.  

The Flaming Bastard (Shooter): Dekuyper Hot Damn 100 Proof Cinnamon Schnapps, Hot Pepper Schnapps and tiny pieces of seared ham.    
  


Hannah Teumer
Adoptive mother of Moses. Born and raised In Brooklyn, NY. 

Not much of a drinker, although she has a fondness for two very different wines. : Manischewitz red, which her parents served at Passover Seders, and Vinho Verde, the native wine of northern Portugal, which Malcolm introduces to her during their brief marriage. He discovered the wine while making his way from Germany to the U.S. after WWII. He wanted to grow it on Long Island in the late 50s but the venture failed. 



Jay Bernes
Moses’ wife. Art consultant. Raised in Miami, by a father who tried many a strange brew.

Jay’s mother favored her husband’s concoction of Havana Club Rum and Hurricane Whiskey with chipped ice, which became Jay’s drink of choice. When Moses tries it, he reacts with “Wow, it burns.” Thus they dub it the The Bernes Burns when served to friends. She begins drinking a bit more than occasionally when Moses becomes ill.    



Nathaniel Brockton: 
A 60s radical who is the longtime lover of Salome’s. His parents were Virginia gentry and alcoholics.  He doesn’t do drugs or drink alcohol.

His favorite drink is Virgin Mint Julep except for very special occasions and then he sips champagne.




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

Bruce Bauman is the author of the novel And the Word Was. Among his awards are a COLA (City of Los Angeles) Fellowship in Literature, a Durfee Foundation grant, and a UNESCO/Aschberg Fellowship. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, BOMB, Bookforum, and numerous anthologies and literary magazines. Bauman is an instructor in the CalArts MFA Writing Program and Critical Studies Department and has been Senior Editor of Black Clock literary magazine since its inception in 2003. Born and raised in New York City, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the painter Suzan Woodruff.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lindsey Reviews: Resurrection Party

Resurrection Party by Michalle Gould
Pages: 70
Publisher: Silver Birch Press
Released: 2014




Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson 




For an example on how to handle death and levity, stark and revelation, check out Resurrection Party by Michalle Gould. From the title on, which in and of itself is a unique contradiction, Gould juggles the unrelenting reality of death with relief, fear, even celebration. There is a great deal of religious illusion (and out and out discussion) but the real strength of the collection comes from the concrete and unexpected details.

The first poem sets the tone, stating, “that once you believe in death, you must surely die.” From that point on nearly every aspect of death is circled, like a buzzard, picking at each nuance, belief, and bone of truth.  The very idea that death is a mystery, that “this tells you not a thing about blue, nothing, nothing at all,” allows Gould to tackle the subject from the most unusual angles. In one poem “The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush but cannot touch what lies beneath,” while in others “the square stands alone: neither asking nor giving a mirror reflecting nothing.”

Each reader will take from this collection what they can handle, what their life, their religious persuasion, what their life experience, will allow them. In the right frame of mind this can be uplifting, a relief that death is just a question, not the end game.




Dog Eared Pages:
14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 34, 35, 38, 39,  40, 45,  47,  52, 56, 57,  66




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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Pitfall Blog Tour

After a month of planning and prodding, our blog tour for Cameron Bane's suspense-thriller Pitfall executed beautifully. Super hard core thanks goes out to the awesome people who so wonderfully opened up their blogs and took the time to put it all together.






If you missed any of the stops this week, 
here they are, in order of appearance:



Chicago Literati kicked it all off with this really wonderful review of Pitfall.

Take a peek at where Cameron Bane writes over at Boon's Bookcase.

Alternating Current broke the humpday slump with this amazing review of Pitfall.

Cameron shares his thoughts on gallows humor and what it's like to write a character who sees the funny in all things dark and dangerous with the fine folks at Killing Time.

And Dead End Follies wraps things up with his thoughts on the book and shows off Cameron's fine taste in music with a Pitfall Playlist.




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



And in case you missed it, Cameron's publisher WildBlue Press is running a review contest in which you could win yourself a Kindle Fire:



GIVEAWAY FROM WILDBLUE PRESS!

PITFALL: First in the Suspense Thriller Series By Cameron Bane, featuring former Army Ranger and cop, John Brenner:

WildBlue Press is offering a free 8GB, 7” Kindle Fire when you write the most helpful review on the Amazon sales page or the review with the most likes on the Goodreads page, whichever has the most votes before November 22nd.

After your review is posted, please email the date, site, and a link to it to: info [at] wildbluepress [dot] com.
Good luck to all who enter!!!



If you liked the look and feel of this blog tour, and are looking for someone to organize one for your book, we're always willing to lend a hand. Email me at mescorn @ ptd. net and let's talk!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review: Moon Up, Past Full

Read 10/08/15 - 10/15/15
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended for fans of short stories that climb up off the page and play themselves out right there next to you
Pages: 238
Publisher: Alternating Current Press
Released: October 2015




Eric Shonkwiler is quickly making his way up my list of all time favorite authors. Jose Saramago, Jules Verne, Cormac McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, and David Maine have been holding on to the Top Five spots on that list for a very long time, with Denis Johnson as an extremely close sixth. These guys (yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that they are all guys, thanks) won't be easily displaced. But if Eric keeps writing the way he has been, he's going to give those writers a run for their money.

Last January, if you remember, I had kicked off 2014 by reading Eric's Above All Men, and within the first few pages I was already referring to it as my favorite read of the year. I gushed about  his incredible control over language and setting. About the subtle tension and intensity of his words. About how he kept me on tenderhooks nearly the entire time.

And for those of you who may have worried about whether or not he'd fall victim to a sophomore slump, Eric's second release, a collection of short stories titled Moon Up, Past Full, is just as sparse and beautifully written. Where his debut novel dealt with the onset of a national apocalypse, these stories feature individual apocalypses of the mind.

Now, a few of the stories were already familiar to me. I first read Frequencies Between - where a woman suffers from audible hallucinations, not of voice, but of sounds, which grow in intensity as she reaches her destination, like a beacon of bad things to come - on Go Read Your Lunch. Chindi - a story about a local reservation cop and his troublemaking brother - won the 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Prose. And Rene - which is set in the way-backwoods of the midwest, featuring a woman whose nose won't stop bleeding and the trip she and her daughter take to pay a visit to the witch doctor - initially appeared in Fiddleblack as a serialized novelette.

Go on ahead and check those stories out. Just follow those links. I'll wait here while you do. Take your time.

.................

.................


See what I mean about apocalypses of the mind? The stories are tender and patient but powerful. They are sneaky and wiley. The characters hurt and ache, but it's below the surface. And they ignore the warning signs until it's too late. They struggle and yet in Eric's hands, they seem so safe.

My favorite stories are the darkest ones. Yeah, yeah. No surprises there, right?!

I adored For the Man After Me for its dark nature. There is death but it is not immediate. There is internal struggle but it is born out of the fear of getting caught, not out of the war between what is right and what is wrong.

GO21, by far my favorite, is a zombie story sans the zombies. The tension is on fleek. It is everything you think you'd do and become under threat of an apocalypse when you aren't entirely sure what the apocalypse is. It's about being one of the last men standing, no matter what horrible things you have to do to get there.

And No Toil, No Tranquility pangs the heart muscle a bit, unless you have no heart and if that's the case, you really shouldn't be reading this collection. It's about the choices we make and what any one of us would become if we were haunted by the same shitty ghosts.

Eric continues to astound and amaze me with the way he lifts the Midwest up and off the page. His characters climb right out of his stories and plop down next to you on the couch. They are speaking directly to you. They shrug and hold their palms up. They demand your forgiveness. They play on your humanity. They got a shit deal and they played it the best way they could. They are all running from something. And they are all running towards something else. And in the end, we are left wondering whether the past they are leaving behind would have been better than the future they are barrelling headfirst into.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where Jan English Leary Writes

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


Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they 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 Jan English Leary. 

She grew up in the Midwest and Central New York State. During her junior year at Smith College, she studied in Paris, an experience which fostered the love of travel that runs through her fiction. She received an M.A. in French Literature at Brown University. While teaching French and raising her children, she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. For the remainder of her career she taught fiction writing at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago and at Northwestern University. Her short fiction has appeared in Pleiades, The Literary Review, The Minnesota Review, Carve Magazine, and Long Story, Short Literary Journal and other publications. She has received three Illinois Arts Council Awards.  She lives in Chicago with her husband, John, an artist and former teacher. Her website is http://janenglishleary.com/.










Where Jan English Leary Writes




When my husband and I moved back into Chicago from the suburbs several years ago, we set up a room as my office with lots of light and plenty of bookshelves and the old wingchair-and-a-half that has been in my family since I was a girl. There is artwork by our son and photos of me acting in plays as well as family photos showing our children at various ages. I imagined spending my days there, emerging only for cups of tea and occasional interactions with my husband. I love the room and love that it’s the place where my most prized books and memorabilia are housed. However for the most part, it’s not where I write. It’s distracting. I find myself gazing at photos, flipping through short-story anthologies, rifling through piles to find a mislaid paper, reading letters my parents wrote to each other the year before they married. It’s a haven, a sanctuary. Too much comfort, too little work.


Three blocks from our house, in the Edgewater neighborhood on the North side of Chicago, there is a wonderful place called the Writers’ Workspace. Friends of mine are members, and they’d urged me to consider joining, but I didn’t think I could justify the cost. I had the space at home. I’d be distracted by others. What if I spent the money and didn’t use it? But because I was working on my novel at the time and needed a serious push to the end, I bought a ten-session pass. In contrast to my visually stimulating and distracting home space, the WWS has an austere feel that encourages quiet concentration. There’s a living room, a room with carrels, a room for one person (I call it the isolation booth), a conference room, and a kitchen. The room where I work has soft lighting and each carrel has its own light that focuses attention right on the screen. After the ten sessions, I joined for the year. It’s a quiet place for serious work. There are people with whom I’ve only exchanged nods despite working next to them for weeks at a time. My favorite time to go is very early in the morning. We have key cards for the door, and I love being the first person there, turning on the light, putting on a pot of tea, settling into my favorite corner carrel. In classrooms, movie theaters, and school buses, I’ve always tended to choose a spot and not vary from it. I put in my ear buds and I listen to Yo Yo Ma playing the Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites or Rachel Podger playing the Bach Partitas, particularly the Chaconne. That’s the only music I can listen to while writing. Time tends to melt away, and when I emerge after a few hours, my eyes blinking in the sun, I feel I’ve been away on a trip and am ready to go home again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lavinia Reviews: Frade Killed Ellen

Frade Killed Ellen by Alex Kudera
Stars: 4 - Strongly Recommended by Lavinia
Pages: 41
Released July 2015
Publisher: Dutch Kills Press



Reviewed by Lavinia Ludlow




With a title like Frade Killed Ellen, it’s easy to assume some cheap Law and Order-like rip off, but on the contrary, Alex Kudera’s recent release is more of a psychological thriller. A suspenseful depiction of a publishing industry predator and the young-ish, na├»ve, and ambitious prey he lures, this tale uncovers the heartbreaking fall of a fragile and impressionable female writer and the literary frat boy/man who contributes to her demise.

Similar to the darkly comical film “Adult World” wherein the young female writer squanders money meant for insurance on submission fees and poetry journals, Ellen blows what little cash she has on writing conferences and contest fees, and spends the time she has in between writing, vying for attention from an older and successful writer (see also: married with kids).

Any struggling writer, musician, or artist could find this story hauntingly easy to identify with. Ellen gets caught up in the consequences of one bad decision of the next, and her obvious misguided ambitions are in need of a life coach (or self-esteem in a pill) to wrangle them down from the clouds. At times, I wished there was someone much more influential in her life to guide (save) her than a distant and, at times, vapid narrator, who acts somewhat like a neutral yet highly neurotic Nick Carraway. He would sit with Ellen, attempt to talk her off the ledge, and futilely try to guide her away from the jaws of a womanizing senior writer.

…I’d tell her about the nicer life she could have, the things she could own, that sort of thing. She said she just couldn’t be phony. She couldn’t do sales. So what could she do? She could be a writer, she said. It was writer, yes, or housewife, or famous writer’s wife, and not much else. In other words, nothing that generated income. She was gentle and delicate. Too sensitive for sales as well as Frade’s hands.


High in conflict from start to end, the premonition of Ellen’s demise makes the narrative that much more tragic, and Kudera consistently ties the conflict back to the major dramatic issue at hand. This story is a reminder of how difficult it is to survive against the odds, against one’s self, whether a writer, musician, artist, what have you. For anyone who’s aspirations were ever victim to use and abuse, this short story will pull (or even sever) your heart strings.



Lavinia Ludlow is a musician, writer, and occasional contortionist. Her debut novel alt.punk can be purchased through major online retailers as well as Casperian Books’ website. Her sophomore novel Single Stroke Seven was signed to Casperian Books and will release in the distant future. In her free time, she is a reviewer at Small Press ReviewsThe Nervous BreakdownAmerican Book Review, and now The Next Best Book Blog