Monday, March 29, 2010

Asleep Book Tour 2010

Good morning everyone! Welcome to Sally Weigel's Asleep Book Tour 2010! We are stop number 2 on a two week long blog tour where Sally will be promoting her new eBook "Too Young Too Fall Asleep", which was published by CCLaP. CCLaP's website has a list of all the blogs on the tour so you can follow her as she blog hops.

When I was asked to be a part of Sally's tour, I was absolutely thrilled. I had recently downloaded and reviewed her eBook. It's quite impressive knowing that she wrote it when she was still in high school.

Sally was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding her eBook, the writing process, and shared some personal stuff as well. Enjoy!

When did you first start writing?

SW: I started writing in middle school and never really stopped. Although, now that I think about it, I can trace back the hobby to second grade. I remember writing stories and sending them to my Grandpa. My Grandpa was managing editor of The Indianapolis Star, and published two novels after retired. He would type up my stories and bind them in a folder, as I paraded around telling everyone I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. This dream was quickly changed when I decided I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast in third grade.

What is the first book you remember reading?

SW: The first novel I really remember resonating with me was “The Mixed Up Files Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”. I was an avid reader as a child and always had my head in a book, mostly chapter books about gymnastics or preteen novels but I reread “The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” countless times. I went to the Met in New York City for the first time this winter and still, all I could think of was the main character of that book having a sleepover in the museum with her younger brother.

Who was your role model growing up? Who is your role model now?

SW: I am the youngest of four in my family so growing up, I looked up to my older brothers and sister. Especially my oldest brother. He was a big hippie and always king to me so I copied everything he did. He gave me John Lennon and Joni Mitchell CDs in seventh grade, and I played them on repeat all through middle school. As I grew up, I definitely came into my own. I started reading and writing more seriously. In the beginning of high school, I got really into the beatniks, reading Richard Brautigan and Jack Kerouac, fascinated by a time where literature was influential in youth culture. Recently, I can’t help but admire every project Dave Eggers puts forth. Our society is getting less and less literary, and still, Eggers has managed to create a literary empire of sorts. Even if McSweeney’s is known for being pretentious, I still think it puts out really solid writing.

Where did you get the idea for "Too Young to Fall Asleep"?

SW: The idea sprung from a short story I wrote when I was a sophomore in high school. The story was about a young man serving in WWI and coming back injured. The whole time, he reminisced on a conversation he had with an anti-war protestor before going into the war. I changed the time frame so the story would deal with the current Iraq War. Then, my editor suggested it would be interesting if the protagonist were a young, female like myself. I didn’t necessarily jump on this idea just because I thought a young, wealthy, white suburban protagonist would come off as a whiny girl who finds fault in her very safe, stable hometown. Although, I am hoping I brought more dimension and complexity to Catherine, the main character of the novella.

What was the writing and publishing process like? Are you currently writing anything?

SW: I have been writing short stories for the last year. I have many in progress and many finished that I am trying to publish. Publishing is such a disheartening process but my work with CCLaP has definitely encouraged me, even when I get countless rejection emails. Writing the novella was a lot more structured than anything I had done before. Rarely did I map out a piece of work, and having done that now, I can’t imagine just jumping into a piece of writing without a plan. Actually, the editing process took much longer than the writing process, which is how it should be I think. Even now, it takes me a year to finish a short story. I can write the first draft in a week, but won’t deem it complete until countless revisions and reorganizations of the story are done. I always liked Hemingway’s response to an interviewer when he was asked what stumped him with the revision process. He responded, “Getting the words right.” It’s true, it takes a long time to get the words right.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

SW: I’m reading contemporary, local authors. I just read Kyle Beachy’s “The Slide”. Next on my list is Don De Grazia’s “American Skin” and Michael A. Fitzgerald’s “Radiant Days”. This summer I plan on tackling strong, female authors such as Toni Morrison and Virgnia Woolf. I am a female writer who almost always reads male authors, and I want to change that.

Which 5 books would you save if your house were to catch fire?

SW: “Franny and Zooey” by Salinger, “Dharma Bums” by Kerouac, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera, “The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinback and a collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics.

Are you currently working, and if so, what do you? Besides become a famous author, what would your dream job be?

SW: Yes, I currently work as a nanny, and I am also on DePaul’s literary magazine Threshold. In terms of a job after college, I want to write, work in publishing or teach. In addition to my passion for writing, I am also passionate about environmental issues. I could see myself taking time off after college, working with a National Park or possibly going to the Peace Corps.

What authors/books/websites would you recommend to your audiance?

SW: I would recommend reading “Franny and Zooey” in light of J.D Salinger’s recent death and mostly because I think “Franny and Zooey” taught me everything I know about becoming a writer. Also, I had the chance to hear Stuart Dybek read this year and since then, I have become obsessed with his fiction. When I read his work, I am in awe at first, then severely jealous. I just wish I could write stories like him.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'

If you happened to visit my blog at all throughout the day today, I apologise for the mess. It went through a lot of trial and error before becoming what you see now - The new and improved TNBBC blog!

I owe it all to the greatest, most wonderfulest, super smartest IT guru in the entire world, Tina. She has the patience of a saint, and makes HTML and Hex codes and Javascript not seem so intimidating.

I am braving the world of tech-speak and tech-type slowly but surely, and while I can now confidently change color codes and manipulate image sizes, I realise I have only just begun the long and frustrating road towards mastering coding a webpage.

It's fun and interesting, and something I am determined to understand and conquer. And who knows, if I study and work hard, I may just be able to do just that!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

R.I.P. "A Grave Surprise"....

After a long day at work, I relaxed on the couch with my current read while the kids watched TV and the puppy lounged around. It wasn't long before my eyelids refused to obey my commands, and I fell asleep.

I awoke around 11:30pm, to find both of my boys out cold on either end of the sectional, and the puppy licking my face. I rubbed my exhausted eyes, sat up and stretched, and stifled a scream as I took in the horrible scene before me!

My unread copy of Charlaine Harris' mass market paperback "A Grave Surprise" had been massacred! The front cover was torn into three slobberly pieces. Every single page, eaten clean through on the top right side, shredded and sprinkled all over my living room rug.

My hands frantically searched around for my current read (please, please, please be in one piece, please be in one piece, THANK GOD it's in one piece!), as I came to terms with the fact that the book was beyond all hope of saving. I fell to my knees and collected it's disfigured body, silently questioning how this could have happened.

It had been piled up with the two other books of the series on the middle shelf of my TBR bookshelf. It must have somehow fallen down, onto the floor, and into the reach of my puppy while I was lost in my peaceful slumber. No other books around it seem to be disturbed, so I quickly dismissed foul play.

Poor poor book. How awful it is to die a puppy breath death, having never been read! To leave this world having never felt the touch of human fingers lovingly stroking your pages, to never know the feel of a bookmark nestled between them... What a sad, lonely way to go. I am sorry I was not there to save you. I am sorry I did not hear the pained Riiiiiipppppp of each page as my puppy took the corners into his mouth and tore them.

What I am most sorry for is the fact that you are the second book of the three book series that I own, and that I will now be forced to replace you. Please do not hate me for purchasing another copy. It will never mean the same to me as you once did. It's a weakness of mine, that I wish I could ignore, but I simply can't stand to have an incomplete series.

RIP "A Grave Surprise".

The Book Blog Hop

Are you on the lookout for some new lit-blogs? Jennifer at Crazy For Books is hosting a Blog Hop. Hop on over to her site to see the rules for signing up. I've visted a few of the blogs that are listed there already, which I may never have found on my own....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Smell the Floss

Read 3/20/10 - 3/23/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

Many thanks must go out to Matty Byloos. He is the author of the short story collection entitled "Don't Smell the Floss", and he so wonderfully sent me a copy to review.

As many of you may be aware, I have recently found a new appreciation for the short story. It allows an author more 'play' space to let their imagination run farther and faster than a full length novel would. It grants them the opportunity to try out multiple POV's and story lines, showing the reader exactly what the author is capable of. Some collections of short stories are tied closely together - Ben Tanzer's eBook "Repetition Patterns" links his stories by placing them all in the same town, living on the same streets, shopping at the same stores. Others, like "Please:Fiction Inspired by the Smiths" share a similar theme, and are a mish-mosh of stories written by multiple authors.

Matty's collection demonstrates his flexibity as a writer. While his stories share no common location or obvious surface theme, there is definitely a darker, seedier, and sometimes humorous vein of humanity connecting them beneath the skin. Trading one POV for another, each stand alone story bears it's teeth and demands to be noticed.

In "One Day, Letter From Ghost Leg", Byloos explores the twisted world of Apotemnophilia - or the obsession of self demanded amputation - and the effect our narrators particular fixation has on his leg. "A Brief History of the Tupperware Party" introduces us as the freakishly hairy character of the story, in which our mind is capable of no thoughts other than how hideously hairy and beastly we are. The hero in "Stories Leading up to, and Some Including E. Leon Spaughy" learns to come to terms with a talking skunk that has been following him around town for months. And in "My Friend the Pornographer", we meet a young man on the set of his first camera shoot for a porn film, and watch him fall hopelessly in love with it's star.

As I experienced "Don't Smell the Floss", I found myself wondering, at times, how much of Matty's message I was really getting. I admit that some of the stories went a bit above my head, but I didn't let that bother me. I sat back and let the stories tell themselves. And I thoroughly enjoyed them. Matty has a way of making the strangest, most bizarre situation seem like something that could happen to you or someone you know.

Read this book. You know you want to. You can hear it calling you.

For more information on Write Bloody Books, the publishing company, click here. This is their first published work of fiction.

Keep an eye out out for an interview with Matty Byloos, coming soon.

I'm a Host on Sally Weigel's Blog Tour

Hooray! I will be participating in my very first virtual author blog tour next week!

Sally Weigel, author of the eBook "Too Young too Fall Asleep", will be visiting a total of 10 blogs over the next two weeks. I am her second stop - so swing by on Tuesday, March 30th to see what Sally has to say about her new e-release. In the meantime, check out CCLaP's website for additional blog tour information, and to download her book.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The End of Publishing?

This is a powerful video that is causing a lot of buzz within the book publishing industry. Be sure to watch it all the way through. I love it!

Free eBooks at eBookNewser

Click here to get a free ecopy of what eBookNewser is giving away!

Robots Will Be the Death of Us!

Read 3/16/10 - 3/19/10
3-4 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre/ Strongly recommend

Funny thing about robots. You never know when they are going to attempt to kill you and rule the world.

David Simpson created a world in which his characters can remain forever young, never suffer physical pain, download intelligence upgrades, and simply think something to make it happen - all with the help of mini robots called Nans, that lived inside of them.

Flying instead of walking, interplanetary travel, setting your body to awaken you and put you to sleep, never having to watch a loved one die... It was heaven on Earth.

Until James and his crew of terraformers return home after a day of working on Venus to discover everyone, every last upgraded human that is, dead. Sticking together and in search of the Purists - a group of humans who choose to live natural, normal lives - James and his team take on the greatest battle of their lives: Fighting the Artificial Intelligence (AI) to save the world and the galaxy.

I really enjoyed this novel. Being a fan of science fiction, both old and new, I found myself comparing this dystopian, futuristic tale to stories like "I, Robot", "Minority Report", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and "AI"... as it seems to be influenced by bits and pieces of each. Technology - the very thing we create - being the one thing that ends up threatening our very lives. An artificial intelligence that develops a sense of self, that wishes to exterminate it's creators, that sees us as an infestation, a nuisance.

Don't let the 3 stars fool you. I am simply recommending this novel to people who are already fans of Sci-Fi. With characters that can fly through space and use their mind's eye to create a force field around themselves, and mini-robots that live inside you, heal your wounds, and report any evil or extramarital thoughts and intentions.. I can see how this novel may not be to every one's taste.

For those of you who enjoy a good old fashioned man vs robot/mainframe story with great twists and turns, this book is absolutely for you!!

Many thanks to David Simpson for sending me this copy to review. He is currently working on a sequel to "Post-Human" and is also in the process of turning this novel into an e-comic!! Check out more information here.

Author Interview w/ Kelly Lydick

Kelly Lydick is the author of Mastering the Dream, an experimental novel that incorporates many different forms of writing to tell the story of Marie - a mentally disturbed young woman who slips down into the confusing world of depression and attempts to pull herself back out. (See my review here.)

Here is a little about Kelly (copied from her Goodreads Author description):
"Kelly Lydick received her B.A. in Writing and Literature from Burlington College (VT), and her M.A. in Writing and Consciousness from the New College of California (San Francisco). Her photography has appeared in Vista Magazine, Photographer’s Forum Annual, Photographer’s Forum College Annual, and the Queen City Review. Kelly pioneered the ‘Storyboard Wall’ photography project, a permanent display for the Arizona Lost Boys Center. Her writing has appeared in Twittering Machine, the Burlington College Poetry Journal, the New College Review and ditch. Kelly’s work has also been featured on NPR and KQED’s The Writers’ Block. She is the author of the chapbook We Once Were (Pure Carbon Publishing, AZ), and the experimental fiction novel, Mastering the Dream."

According to your bio on Goodreads, you have quite a resume working for you! Which accomplishments are you are most proud of?

The two things I enjoyed the most were the Storyboard Project and the publishing of Mastering the Dream.

Working with the Arizona Lost Boys Center on the Storyboard Wall was really amazing. That was such a great project! It was really a chance for the ‘Lost Boys,’ the Sudanese refugees living in Arizona, to once again become part of a community after having experienced the devastation of war in their country. Many of the boys had been separated from, or had lost members of their family. It helped the boys feel like they belonged again, it let them know that people care about their lives as individuals. It gave them a community when everything they had ever known had been stripped away. It was heartbreaking to hear some of these stories.

And it was also a chance to help people here in the United States to better understand what the experience of being a refugee can be like. As an educational piece, I really felt that it was important for the Lost Boys to share their stories with the community.

Mastering the Dream, because that was a long time coming. I think I was working on this book before I even realized that I was working on this book! To me, Mastering the Dream is in its own way a heavy read. There’s a lot going on with the material in the book and in the way the material is presented. So it feels really great to have all this material in one manuscript, in one story, that—in an experimental form—is really working. It feels great to see the work in a tangible form, and for it to be available for folks to check out.

I really love being able to present my work in person, and to be able to talk with folks about the book, or just about writing and art in general. I love answering questions about the book, and dialoguing with folks about their insights or interpretations that have come from reading it. Publishing Mastering the Dream in its final, printed form has provided me a number of opportunities to present to folks and discuss the topics in the book, and that has been really wonderful.

What was the strangest job you have ever held?

The strangest job I ever held was working at the mall. I think I was 18 or 19. I took a job as one of those consumer marketing people—the people with the clipboards—who ask if you want to take a survey, or try a new shampoo, or eat some crackers that are not yet available at the grocery store.

No one wanted to take the survey, or try the shampoo, or eat the crackers. One guy even yelled at me in expletives. I only worked there for one day.

Who was your role model growing up? Who is your role model now, and why?

My role models growing up were my Grandma and my Mom. My Grandma because she was a visual artist—an oil painter—and she played the piano. She was really creative and I loved anything that had to do with using your imagination. I would play in her spare room—her art room—with art supplies, every kind of glue, confetti or oil crayon, anything I could get my hands on. I could sit in there for hours. Or I would go into the living room where my grandparents had their piano. I began learning to play when I was 5 years old. I loved anything musical or artistic from a very young age.

And my Mom because she was always doing some kind of social work or non-profit work, or charity kind of work. She was always working to help people, and was always working to improve things, which I admire.

Now, I’m not sure if I have any one role model per se. There are a number of folks whose work or achievements I admire or appreciate, or whose life experiences are exceptional examples of what we are all capable of. Some of them are: Anne Frank, Beethoven, Arlene Blum, Shirley MacLaine, Sara Presler, Dennison Smith, Paul Miliotio, Leonard Crow Dog.

How did the idea for Mastering the Dream come about? Does it hold any personal significance for you or is it purely fictional?

Mastering the Dream, I think, is a difficult work to pin down. Officially it’s listed as ‘poetry’. I refer to the work as experimental fiction, but I use this term loosely because I see post-modern, or post-post-modern, or contemporary writing and art, as being in a really interesting place right now. We’re kind of ahead of the curve, so it will be interesting to see 20 years from now what this era of work will be ‘termed’.

Mastering the Dream really is an amalgamation of poetry, memoir (including dreams I have had), and fiction—but it’s as if the genre doesn’t yet exist, so what do we call it? I’ve defaulted to experimental fiction because the aim of the work—to experiment—to break boundaries, to create new forms, is difficult to describe—even if the form is very intentional. Specifically, this work exists within its own framework, and I wouldn’t expect any other book to look like it, or read like it.

When I entered the program at the New College of California, which is now California Institute of Integral Studies, I was working on a project—a fictional work of a more traditional structure. But part of my reason for choosing the Writing and Consciousness Program was that I really wanted to hone my work in experimental form. I’ve always been drawn to experimental form.

I was about halfway through the program and the fiction piece I was working on—which was to be a novel—wasn’t developing the way I would like it to, and I needed a fresh take on my own work. So one of my instructors said to try this exercise in working with characters: have your character write a letter to him or herself, and see where that goes. That way I could work on character development for what would be my novel and thesis.

That exercise opened up so many other new possibilities, that I just ran with it! I quickly realized that I had, unknowingly, already been compiling material in various forms for what would become Mastering the Dream—and that then became the thesis for my graduate degree, instead of the original project I had intended to submit.

I have a strong interest in science, I always have since I was a kid—especially astronomy and geology. Dreams are also a really important part of my life—I’ve been journaling about my dreams for years and years. I’m extremely interested in dreams and psychology, specifically Jungian and transpersonal psychology, and how these modalities can help bring new meanings to our experience of life.

I have also been working with a Rabbi, Michael Shapiro, for quite some time, attending his classes and going to meditation, and that piece had a lot to do with the framework for Mastering the Dream. His work is amazing—it really brings the complicated parts of Jewish mysticism into a practical, accessible form, which is great.

And so, when I started with these writing exercises, the letters, I began to see the connections forming, across disciplines of knowledge and in my personal experiences. I also began to notice how science and dreams and mysticism are really not that different, fundamentally. They are different facets of expression and speak a different language, or are expressed in different ways. Humans, we use a specific set of linguistic terms to describe these things, to put things in a box, to keep them apart. The mystical, that’s all part of the same entity.

So, part of what takes place in Mastering the Dream is a means through which to envision the connections that are inherently present—in science, in esoteric studies, in the life one lives, in psychology and dreams—connections that are sometimes overlooked.

And the larger theme or idea is really that there are two (or potentially more) realities functioning at any given time: the reality of the life we live, what we can see, feel touch; and the reality of the qualities present in our lives that we can’t see—the esoteric, the metaphysical. The ‘waking’ life and the ‘dreaming’ life. With Mastering the Dream I was really working to bring out the understanding that these realities are working simultaneously; the realm of duality as well as the realm that is beyond duality.

What was the writing and publishing process like for you? What reactions, if any, did people have to the style in which the story was written?

Both the writing and publishing processes for this work happened very quickly. As I mentioned, the work was my thesis for my graduate degree, but I didn’t actually begin putting material together until the last semester of my studies. Then after graduation I did some work revising and sent it out for publication. The manuscript was accepted shortly thereafter.

Before the work was published, I brought a small excerpt into workshop at the grad program, and I don’t think folks were really able to grasp the work. That being said, I think that Mastering the Dream is really meant to be read cover to cover—at least that was my intention. The form is very deliberate. Assembling the pieces of this story was a process in and of itself. I think that expecting folks to understand what I was trying to accomplish, by asking them to only read a small excerpt, was maybe not so realistic! I do know that people were intrigued with what I was presenting, so that felt positive.

At the same time, I think the fact that folks weren’t really grasping what I was trying to do with Mastering the Dream ended up being more fuel to my creativity. It was as if—if they didn’t “get it” or if they didn’t understand what I was doing with the work—then I must be on the right track. I know that seems really strange to say, but that was how I felt at the time. It was like “the muse” was speaking its own language! So I think it was more a matter of following my own intuition and trusting my own creative process, knowing that the project would come together cohesively by the time I was done.

I ended up finishing the manuscript in not quite nine months, and the publication process was about a year long, once it was accepted for print.

I am lucky to have a great publisher, Mary Burger, who is also a great writer. I think she has a keen eye, and I’m grateful for having the opportunity to work with her. And in working with her, on behalf of Second Story Books, I was able to benefit from her editorial skills in a way that didn’t feel invasive, or seem like she was trying to change the work in a substantial way. And that, as an artist, I really appreciate. Her seasoned experience with work like this, experimental work, poetic work, shows she was really concerned about preserving the work in its original form. I feel like that’s a pretty perfect scenario. I would not have wanted this manuscript heavily edited, and it wasn’t.

Now that the book is in print, it’s exciting that folks want to know more about the form of Mastering the Dream. I think it’s important to dialogue about art forms, new art forms, because everyone has an opportunity to learn something. I love to hear about the experimental work that other folks are publishing, and learn about others’ creative processes. I’m grateful that my work can now also be part of that conversation.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading The Next American Essay, which is a new read for me. I’ve also returned to two books I’ve read previously: Jorie Graham’s The Dream of the Unified Field, and Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days.

I also have a book on Jewish meditation that I browse through almost every night before I go to bed. Almost every night.

Which 5 books would you save if your house were to catch fire?

I love this question! If my house were on fire, I’d save:

1) This hardcover coffee table book I have on the Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This book is a compilation of his paintings and architecture over the years. Hundertwasser is one of my favorite artists. The Path From You Back to Me is my favorite painting.

2) Another a coffee table art book, on Antonio Possenti. He’s an Italian artist, a contemporary artist still living in Italy, and this book is also a compilation of paintings and drawings. I purchased this book when I was at the Uffizi in Florence, and I’ve never seen it here in the states. Possenti reminds me a bit of Van Gogh and that post-impressionistic sort of style, but in a lighter, happier way.

3) I have an old copy of Anias Nin’s House of Incest. It’s a copy from the 50’s and it’s illustrated with these interesting black and white photos by this artist Val Telberg. Telberg’s photos look like they were developed in some kind of overlay process, and appear like an overlapping montage of multiple images. It’s a very interesting work. I like the idea of illustrating written work with photographs, especially black and white photographs. This book I bought at an antique store years ago, and I’ve never seen another copy again.

4) I have an old hardcover book on Shirley Temple that my grandpa gave to me. I think the exact title is The Illustrated Shirley Temple, the cover has a blue background. This edition is from the 40’s or 50’s. When I was a really little girl, I liked Shirley Temple. This book has sentimental value to me.

5) A book called Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery. Another gem I picked up at a used bookstore. It’s an edition from the early 1970’s, so the cover is still reminiscent of that 1960’s psychedelic, rock n’ roll kind of design. It’s a hardcover with a black dust jacket and bright red and orange and white, and it has an interesting Phoenix on it. It’s an anthology of belief systems on reincarnation from cultures around the world.

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as an author and reader?

Hmmm…I think I have mixed feelings about eBooks and eReaders. As someone who is concerned with the environment, I really like the idea that these devices can save paper, save trees.

As an author, eReaders and eBooks have the potential to allow readers more access to your work, so that’s always a good thing.

I don’t have and eReader now. As a reader, there’s something about the tangibility of a book that I really like. I have, however, downloaded quite a few eBooks onto my laptop for my own use, and I really like that accessibility. Google books has a great electronic library. I also find eBooks really great for any kind of research.

I think at this point, some books I would like to read electronically, and some books I still really want a printed copy.

I will be interested to see how these electronics evolve over the next few years. I’ll definitely continue reading eBooks for the time being, but I’ll hold off on purchasing an eReader until the holographic editions are released.

What is your favorite quote or piece of advice?

For me I’ve noticed things like this tend to change with time. Right now it would be advice about focusing and living in the present moment. Not being too caught up in the past or the future.

What authors/books/websites would you recommend to our followers?

There are so many to note! Here are some of my favorites…

Specific books:
All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
The Architextures by Nathaniel Tarn
Paper City by Nathalie Stephens
The Word ‘Desire’ by Rikki Ducornet
My Favorite Apocalypse by Catie Rosemurgy
If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova
Red Ant House by Ann Cummins
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox
Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby
The Camino by Shirley MacLaine
Nadja by Andre Breton
The Balloonists by Eula Biss
As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
Scavenger by Dennison Smith
Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America by Scott Francis

The following authors: Christopher Moore, Ray Bradbury, Bob Kaufman, Kelly Link, Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Flynn, Jerome Rothenberg, Noam Chomsky, Sherman Alexie, Audrey Niffenegger, Neeli Cherkovski, Joy Harjo, Melissa Pritchard, Amy Reed, Neil Gaiman, Edie Meidav, Jonathan Carroll, Aimee Bender, Mordecai Richler, Daphne Gottlieb, Nazim Hikmet, Carole Maso, Carl Jung.

Writers as lyricists and musicians: Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Ed Vedder, Don McLean, Conor Oberst, Paul Simon, Jason Mraz, Ani DiFranco, Van Morrison. These I like to read without listening to the accompanying music; they can really be read as poetry.

Magazines and Journals:
Indiana Review, Columbia Poetry Review, and New American Writing are really good print literary journals. Also Make (out of Chicago), Adbusters, BOMB, The Sun, Parabola, National Geographic, Versal, Filling Station, Crazyhorse.

Websites and online journals:
ditch, the poetry that matters, Mad Hatters’ Review, Hot Metal Bridge, GlitterPony, Word Riot, Like Water Burning, Luna Park, The Splinter Generation, Sleeping Fish, Neon, Born Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, Jacket Magazine, NOO, Switched on Gutenberg, shady side review.

Thanks for the opportunity to read and review your experimental fiction novel. It was a very interesting and creative journey. And thanks for participating in this interview.

Thank you! I enjoyed answering your questions!

If you wish to learn more about Kelly or her work, check out her website

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Reviewers Beware!!!

When the internet bug bites, I sometimes find myself bouncing from blog to blog to see what everyone's buzzing about.

Today I stumbled across Michelle Kerns at the Book Examiner and her creative little dig at the cliches used by lazy book reviewers. You see them all the time, those great big empty words that tell you nothing about the book. Words like "Riveting" and "Compelling" and "Epic".

Take a peek at the Book Review Bingo game she created.

Click on her link up above to print out the cards and play along with your fellow book lovers. The object of the game is to see how many reviews you need to read before you can get BINGO first. If you find that BINGO's are no great challenge, shoot for "blackouts"!!

Michelle's warning to all book reviewers: "watch yourself... Get lazy and use those clich├ęs with caution. I will find you. I WILL."

Love is for the Birds

Read 3/13/10 - 3/16/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre/author

Thanks to the incredibly awesome people over at Harper Perennial for forwarding me The Bird Room for review.

It was a quickly paced, bizarre story about an unemployed self conscious young man named Will, who finally finds love with Alice, only to have his heart broken because he can't leave well enough alone.

Told from Will's point of view, we are plunged head first into his dark and twisted mind. We are cringing at the unchecked jealousy over his best friend - also named Will. We are watching as he pushes Alice away from him and straight into the other Will's arms. We are shaking our heads as he dives into the deep end of Internet porn, through which he discovers Helen - the "actress" with an invisible "sister".

While it was easy to read, it was somewhat confusing. We are thrown into the story at the halfway mark and flip-flop between the present and the past. There were times when I was reading a chapter and could not be quite sure if I was in the current moment or a past moment.

The painfully damaged characters make this novel enjoyable. You can find bits and pieces of yourself in just about all of them, if you are honest with yourself! Some of Will's neuroses made me laugh - There was a moment when Will and his girlfriend are having dinner with his best friend Will, and he drives himself crazy imagining them touching their feet together under the table. He follows his girlfriend after work because he is sure she is visiting her ex-boyfriend behind his back....

Not something I would recommend to everyone. At times dark, funny in parts, and heavily layered in lust and sex and pornography.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shutter Island - The Book vs. The Film

Read 3/10/10 - 3/13/10
5 stars - Highly Recommended

I never pass up the chance to read a good ole fashioned thriller. And with two of my Goodreads groups voting in Shutter Island as their March group reads, and with the film releasing into the theaters, the timing was just too perfect!

From page one, this novel of a US Marshall arriving on Shutter Island (a prison designed to hold and treat the most mentally unstable patients) to investigate the disappearance of a female inmate is a true page-turner.

Believed to be home to unspeakable illegal experiments on the minds of the patients there, Shutter Island can only be reached by ferry, and is surrounded by electric fences and sheer rock cliffs that would destroy any attempt to escape.

Teddy Daniels has been researching this island. He is certain it is holding the man who killed his wife and he is determined to find him and uncover the evil goings-ons, while searching the island with his partner Chuck for the missing Rachel Solando.

Collecting evidence and interviewing the staff and patients turns out to be more difficult and weary than he had planned. The more questions he asks, the more Teddy believes that things are not as they appear, and that the Doctors of Shutter Island are trying to make him insane.

It's a story that is filled with cryptic clues, and crazy twists and turns. One that makes you question everything you see and hear, and will have you rereading previous pages to rethink what you thought.

Of course, having finished the book, I had to go and see the film. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Teddy Daniels, and I was pleasantly suprised at how well he portrayed Teddy Daniels.

The film followed the novel very closely, which is always a wonderful thing for a book lover like myself, since I cannot help but compare the two. Of course, no film covers every inch of the book. For me, the most important thing is that it not leave too much on the cutting room floor.

Here is where Shutter Island - the film - failed me. (If you have not yet read the book or viewed the movie, advert your eyes, I may spoil some things):

* In the book, we know Teddy's full name is Edward Daniels. We are also privvy to his wife's maiden name. In the film, this information is never fully disclosed. If you read the book, you understand why that is important.
* In the book, Rachel Solando's cryptic note "The Law of 4" had some additional codes to it. These codes are also very important to the storyline. However, in the film, we only see "The Law of 4; Who is 67". We never discover the meaning behind "the 4", as we do in the book.
* Since the film does not show the additional information on Rachel's note, it also does not contain the rock piles that are part of Rachel's code in the book. A shame, really.
* Finally, they added an additional line to the end of the film that adds one last twist. For me, changing the ending of a book to please an audiance is just cowardly. I am sitting on the fence here because this change did not ruin the film... just puts a different spin on things.

The things I loved about the film (again, look away lest you be spoiled):

* The knowing glances - when patients are being asked about Dr Sheehan, or Andrew Leiddis, and when Teddy talks about how insane criminals should not be treated kindly to Dr Cowley.
* The landscape and the buildings were practically characters themselves in the film. Seeing them on screen added an additional layer to the story.
* Not to mention that the cast was phenominal. Watching Teddy question his own sanity... Seeing the compassion and concern in Dr Cowley's eyes...

Read the book. See the film. I would defintely recommend reading the book before seeing the film, though.

Other films that do justice to the books they are based on:
High Fidelity ; The Princess Bride ; Angel and Demons ; The DaVinci Code ; Blindness ; Where the Wild Things Are ; About a Boy ; Bringing Out the Dead

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Kind of Reader are You?

I found this fun little quiz over at A Few More Pages - and thought this was ABSOLUTELY the kind of reader I am!! Check out the quiz here, and let me know what kind of reader you are.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

My Newest Additions

It's time to introduce you to my newest additions. These review copies have been appearing on my doorstep, all shipped by very generous authors, and have been added to the top of my to-be-read pile.

They are listed here in the order they arrived, which is also the order they will be read:(Descriptions taken from back covers and goodreads)

Post-Human by David Simpson
It's a vision of what our world will look like in the future, in which microscopic robots reset your celluar clock, keep you young, and allow you to download intelligence, strength, and eyesight. Everything we dreamed was supposed to come true. Until a group of 5 terraformers return to Earth from outerspace and find every human being gruesomely murdered. Welcome to the post human era.

Don't Smell the Floss by Matty Byloos
It's a collection of short stories that are broken up into two sections: Love Stories for a Contemporary Audience and Post-Traumatic Dreamscapes. With titles like "A Brief History of the Tupperware Party" and "My Friend the Pornographer", I can't help but think I will enjoy this!

Banned for Life by D.R. Haney
He and his novel were recommended to me by Greg Olear. The book centers in on New York and LA. Punk Rock music. And the culture wars of the 80's and 90's. It's been reviewed as a "rock'n'roll novel that truly rocks". A man is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of someone he barely knew... The first sentence is an attention getter- "It all began with a fuck".

The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen
Exploring the flaws of being human and the imprtance of controlling one's own destiny, this book reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. An emotional and unforgettable tale that will challenge your expectations of the modern love story.

I think it goes without saying that I am very thankful for the opportunity to read and review these novels. And for the generosity of the authors who so willingly sent them to me!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dead People Don't Send Postcards

Read 3/6/10 - 3/9/10
4 Stars - Strongly recommend

Thanks to HarperPerennial for sending me this review copy of "Postcards From a Dead Girl" by Kirk Farber.

I was not really sure what to think when I first saw the cover of this novel - with it's lone man standing in an apartment window watching postcards rain down from the sky. But after reading the first few paragraphs, I knew I had a great little book in my hands.

I'm a sucker for a fucked up lead guy. And oh boy is Sid fucked up. Here's his deal: He currently works as a telemarketer for a travel agency. He's a hypochondriac who is so obsessed with mud baths that he trys to recreate one in his own backyard. His dead mother talks to him through a 1967 bottle of wine. And he is receiving one year old postcards of exotic locations from his deceased girlfriend in the mail. He is unravelling fast, and while his sister attempts to hold him together at the seams, even she can't save Sid from completely falling apart.

Witty. Humorous. Strange. Tragic. Farber's book is all of these things and more, and sometimes all at the same time. It's one of those storys where you wish you crawl inside the text, inside where the characters are living, and shake some sense into them. Help them to get the closure they need in order to quit making such a mess of thier lives and begin the long journey of moving on.

Speaking of closure... The postcards were the one thing I never got any closure on. Read the book to find out what I mean. And maybe we can discuss your take on them. After all, the entire story circles around those darn little peices of paper!

"To Be Read" Tuesday

"To Be Read" Tuesdays is really just my way of sneaking a peek at your night-stand, coffee-table, book-shelf... where ever it is that you stack your piles of newly purchased unread books! And of course, returning the favor by allowing you a peek at mine...

I went shopping at Borders today, for the first time in a very long time, armed with a list of books I desperately wanted and the giftcard my brother and his fiancee gave me for my birthday.

Borders used to be like a little corner of heaven for me. Browsing the shelves used to make me giddy. Thumbing the book spines used to make my heart sing. But as I've grown and matured as a reader, the more I wander the shelves there, the more depressed I become. The books I want now are not normally stocked on their shelves.

The good news is that I did manage to find 4 new shiny novels to bring home during this trip. Take a peek:

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
I have heard so much about this novel that I just could not pass by it any longer. Not to mention the fact that Atwood released it's follow up "The Year of the Flood" this year. Being a fan of apocalyptic fiction, I am excited to finally own it. Now to figure out when to read it!!

Crooked Little Vein - Warren Ellis
I first saw this book on a Goodreads members book shelf, and thought the storyline was something I would enjoy reading. It's gotten very mixed reviews, which is always a hook for me. I can't wait to see which side of the fence I will be on.

If On A Winter's Night A Traveler - Italo Calvino
This one was added to my pile because many of my Goodreads Friends have read it, and THEY give it mixed reviews, which is an EVEN BIGGER HOOK for me!! I have not read any books written in second-person before, so this should make for an interesting read if for no other reason.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
One of those timeless classics that should be on everyone bookshelf. The setting, the story... I have always meant to pick it up and read it, but couldnt justify spending the money on it when I had so many other books to buy. And it's one of those novels that is never at a booksale.

Post what's new on YOUR to be read pile and link me back to it by leaving a comment here.

Creating a Book Cover

As I was browsing articles on Galleycat.Com, I found this video - How to create a book cover - which condenses a 6 hour long process of creating a book cover into a mere 2 minutes for your viewing pleasure. Of course, not all book covers are created from scratch in photoshop like this one. But it gives you a peek into the creative process, and again, leaves me yearning something awful for a job in publishing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Does Font Matter?

Well, according to this video - Type Matters"> - found on, it most certainly does!

I don't think I have ever really paid attention to the font choice of the books I read. While I have never turned a book away based solely on font, I am aware that some type fonts are generally easier on the eye than others.

Watching the video (linked above) gave me a better understanding of the publishing process. The Typographers make each text sound alive, don't they? Some are snobby and stuck up, some are playful and fun, they can even be sexy and alluring.

I was surprised that I recognized many of the fonts they discussed. This, of course, will lead to a new book obsession for me - how the font fits the novel it was chosen for.

Do you have a favorite font to read? to write in? Post a comment and let me know.

By the way, this makes me yearn something awful for a job in publishing...

Author Interview w/ Patrick Wensink

Patrick Wensink is the author of the bizarre un-put-down-able collection of short stories "Sex Dungeon For Sale!", which is published by Erasurehead Press. He discovered we had a mutual online author buddy, I discovered he had an interesting book that I wanted to get my hands on, and luckily, for me, he was in a giving mood!!

According to his Goodreads profile.."he has done a lot of things he is not proud of. But he's also done some pretty interesting stuff. Over the years he has bottled and sold his own line of Wentastic BBQ Sauce, got married in a doughnut shop and even found the time to author a few greeting cards."

He had a fun time answering the following questions. I had a fun time reading them, and I hope that you do too!!

Who was your role model growing up and why? Who is your role model now?

Uhhhmmmmm, this is when I’m supposed to say Gandhi, right? Or, wait, no, Abe Lincoln. Yes, Abraham Lincoln. But I’m a writer and writers always say Shakespeare, don’t they? Crap! How about that time Lincoln and Shakespeare arm-wrestled? I think Gandhi was the ref.

At what age did you first start writing?

I’m not one of those guys who wrote a book in grade school. In fact, anyone who claims to have written a work of fiction that young is probably a liar. And if they are a liar, well, they’re probably a good writer. Damn. I did a lot of journalism in college and worked as a rock critic for many years. That was good training, since entertainment writing lets you be more creative than hard news. Somewhere along the line I started writing fiction and that gradually swallowed my urge to write newspaper stuff until all I did was fiction. According to my records, this was some time in the last decade.

What was the writing and publishing process like for Sex Dungeon For Sale!?

I actually pitched Eraserhead Press a novel I wrote, but they said they wanted something shorter from first-time authors. Luckily, I had a desk drawer full of funny, weird short stories that had been published a little, but mostly not. My editor read them and, I think, got back to me within a few days and said Eraserhead wanted to publish it. Then we hired a group of market researchers and scientists to help come up with a title that showcased my grace, class and dignity. They suggested we call it “Sex Dungeon for Sale!” and the rest is history.

Describe Sex Dungeon for Sale! in 5 words.

More Fun Than A Mustache

Which of the short stories do your readers seem to enjoy reading the most? Which did you enjoy writing the most?

The cool thing about “Sex Dungeon for Sale!” is that everyone gravitates toward separate stories. It’s like a Rorschach Test of your sense of humor. Millionaires and important politicians gravitate toward “My Son Thinks He’s French,” probably because it’s funny. While Astronauts, avant-garde sculptresses and submarine captains lean more toward “The Many Lives of James Brown’s Capes,” probably because it’s also funny. However, ballerinas, private detectives and the Sasquatch seem to enjoy “Pandemic Jones,” which isn’t really funny at all, but a longer noir-type story about a pharmaceutical company conspiracy. Oddly, some people really enjoy the Foreword I wrote, which is basically making fun of pretentious forewords in books by telling some rambling, esoteric story about Nazi spies and Bruce Willis.

Personally, I felt like I really found my voice when I wrote “My Son Thinks He’s French”. It was funny, but had a strong emotional core, which is what I shoot for. It was one of the first stories I had published in a lit magazine (Hobart) and I am still proud of that little guy.

What are you reading right now? What books are currently sitting in your TBR pile?

Eerily enough, I was halfway through “Ray” by Barry Hannah when he died this past week. I’m also reading Will Self’s “Junk Mail” which is a collection of his newspaper articles.

My TBR shelf is large, as I’m a compulsive book buyer. Especially at yard sales and thrift stores. One new book I’m very excited about is James Greer’s “The Failure.” James is a cool guy and has said some very nice things about my work in the past. I cheated and read the first chapter and am very eager to continue.

Which 5 books would you save if your house were on fire?

1. “How to Save the Really Important Stuff from a Burning Home”; 2.“Firefighting for armatures”; 3. “Arson and Insurance Money Made Easy.”; 4. “Fodor’s Guide to Caribbean Islands for the Recently Wealthy”; 5.“The Collected Stories of Flannery O’Connor” .

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as an author and a reader?

I don’t own an e-reader and “Sex Dungeon for Sale!” isn’t available as an e-book yet. But I have no problem with the format. Anything that encourages people to buy books and keep reading seems like a good thing to me. It does make me feel bad for bookstores, though. I used to live in Portland, OR and Powell’s Books is home to many happy memories for me.

What books/authors/websites would you recommend to our audiance?

I always recommend “U.S.!” by Chris Bachelder. That’s one of those brilliant books that shocks me when nobody’s heard of it. It’s about a group of liberals who bring Upton Sinclair back from the dead, only to see him assassinated over and over and over again. It’s hilarious and poignant.

How did you become the proud creator of Wentastic BBQ sauce? Where did your obsession with all things BBQ originate from?

What’s that AC/DC song, “It’s a Long Way to the Top if Want to Make Barbecue Sauce?” About five years ago I began brewing up my own barbecue sauce and canning it to give to friends as a gift. (Part of the joke was that the label featured a picture of me, cross-eyed drunk)I got lots of positive responses and very few cases of food poisoning, so I began selling it at a street fair in Portland. I actually wrote an article about my experience called “Anarchist Clowns Stole My Money,” it’s up on my website ( I have since moved across the country and dedicated way more time to writing, so, sadly, the Wentastic BBQ Sauce Company has closed its doors.

Thanks for the questions. I had a lot of fun answering them. Hopefully I didn't ramble too much.

Not at all, Patrick! Thanks so much for allowing me this opportunity to let everyone take a peek inside the head of a bizarro fiction writer!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Author Interview w/ Kevin Sampsell

Hello, World! Meet Kevin Sampsell. He is the founder and publisher for Future Tense Books, as well as writer of the recently released memoir "A Common Pornography", (which you should run out and read the moment you are done checking out his interview). He has also published two collections of short stories entitled "Creamy Bullets"and "Beautiful Blemish", and runs a blog. How he found the time to be interviewed by little ole me is still a mystery to me, but I thank him endlessly for doing so!

Without further ado....

When did you first start writing? Can you remember what your first story was about?

Well, my first stabs at creative writing were song lyrics when I was in elementary and middle school. Then I heard Henry Rollins doing weird spoken word stuff when I was in high school and I thought that was funny so I started writing stuff like that. I don't think I started writing stories or personal essays until I was about 24 or 25. I think my first story was about a guy who hangs out at the library and draws pictures of toasters while vandalizing phone books. I guess that must have been back in the days when they had phonebooks at libraries. I remember my brief time living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, thumbing through phonebooks from other cities at the library. But that story was NOT autobiographical!

Tell me how your publishing comany - Future Tense Books - came to be. What does a day in the life of a publisher look life?

I started Future Tense in 1990, basically to publish my own crappy little chapbooks of poetry. A couple of years later, I started publishing other people and getting more serious about it. Well, at least as serious as one can be while stapling books in my kitchen. A day in the life? Reading as much as I can and bossing my intern around. And of course, stapling.

Of all your published books, which was the hardest for you to write? Which are you most proud of?

Definitely A Common Pornography for both. It was the only book I've written that has brought me to tears. So my secret hope is that readers also shed tears when they read it. I mean it's only fair, right? As far as fiction goes, I'd say that Creamy Bullets is a good example of what I do there and it's my longest book too.

The book I'm most proud of being a part of as a publisher was Please Don't Kill the Freshman by Zoe Trope. The author was still in high school when I published that chapbook and then she got a big book deal before she even graduated. That was a pretty crazy thing to be a part of. That book turned out to be a hugely influential young adult
when HarperCollins republished it in 2003.

"A Common Pornography" covers some embarrassing, sensitive moments from your life. What were you thinking as you were writing it (both originally, and this time around)? Were you worried how your family and the public would respond to it? Is there any one particular memory that your readers feel most drawn to?

I think you just get to a certain age (late 30s and 40s for me) where you don't care anymore. Hahaha. If I had to write about really embarrassing stuff from the past few years it might be harder, especially if other friends or family were involved. But either way, if you're going to tell stories from your life, you have to dig into those deep uncomfortable moments. And you can't worry about what certain specific people think. You'd get stuck or you'd hold back all the time if you worried about your dear old aunt or sweet little nephew. You can't please everyone all at once.

The parts that readers are responding to is really interesting for me. Everyone has a different thing they latch onto. Some people respond to the family stuff, some relate to the nostalgic childhood stuff, and of course some people just want to talk about the porn stuff. But no matter what part they want to talk about, I think it's the honesty at the root of it all that people appreciate.

Are you currently writing a new book? What is the next book we can
expect to see from your publishing company - Future Tense Books?

I'm going to try a novel next, I hope. And I do think I'll do another memoir thing but probably not for another ten or twenty years. In the meantime, I hope to publish some more short stories and essays here and there.

As far as Future Tense goes, I'm about to release a cool little book of poetry collaborations by Zachary Schomburg and Emily Kendal Frey. And then later this year, there's a flash fiction chapbook by Prathna Lor and a weird, funny novella by Jamie Iredell.

Who was your role model growing up, and why? Who do you admire today?

Growing up, I'm not sure. I didn't have a really strong role model in my actual life. I was a big basketball fan though and I loved Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks. That whole 1983 championship team. That's probably kind of sad, I know. When I got a little older, I found other people who inspired me though. Calvin Johnson, the singer of Beat Happening and record label guy behind K Records was a big influence. He was how I learned about DIY. Of course, there are writers and publishers who I look up to as well--Dave Eggers and McSweeney's were really big deals to me when I first discovered them about ten years ago. Other writers who multi-task: Michelle Tea, Davy Rothbart, Jonathan Ames, Dan Clowes, Steve Almond, Chelsea Martin, Miriam Toews, and my fiance, Frayn Masters (who writes, does sketch comedy, directs, and produces a storytelling show in Portland).

If your house were on fire, and you could only rescue 5 books from your bookshelves, which 5 would you save and why?

My signed copy of Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz (my favorite book ever), Facing the Music by Larry Brown, Cruddy by Lynda Barry, Home Land by Sam Lipsyte, and my signed copy of Barry Hannah's Ray (He wrote: To Kevin, Sabres Up!).

What were the last 3 books you've read? What books are sitting in
your To Be Read pile?

I read Jamie Iredell's spectacular book, Prose. Poems. A Novel. And also: The Ticking Is the Bomb by Nick Flynn and Justin Taylor's great story collection, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever. The books I'm reading now, or soon are: Willy Vlautin's Lean On Pete (he's someone I will read anything by, forever. He's that good.), The Mercy Papers by Robin Romm, and the controversial Reality Hunger by David Shields.

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as an author and a reader?

I don't really think ebooks are going to take over, at least not for regular books. Maybe for some magazines and newspapers. I read some stuff online and on devices but I prefer to hold books.

What authors/books/websites would you recommend to our readers
out there?

Authors: Lipsyte, Toews, and Lutz. But also specific books like I Remember by Joe Brainard, Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth, Stop- Time by Frank Conroy, and all the great funny writers like Terry Southern, Mark Leyner, and Harry Crews. Also, Wells Tower, Diane Williams, William Gay, Lewis Nordan.

Websites: The Rumpus, HTMLGIANT,, Elimae, Hobart, Bookslut, Identity Theory. And of course,

A huge thank you again to Kevin for agreeing to be interviewed, and for allowing us to get to know him better, as a writer and publisher!! Be sure to check out his blog, and his books.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mastering the Dream

Read 3/3/10
4 Stars - Strongly recommended

Thanks to author Kelly Lydick for sending me a copy of this experimental work of fiction for review.

Mastering the Dream takes us on the emotional journey of a young woman named Marie. Written in a multitude of forms, spanning her past and her present in journal entries and letters written to her future self from her past self, we witness her swift mental decline and her slow and painful climb back up into sanity.

Marie, like many of us, questions the existence of God. Though unlike many of us, she appears to agonize over it. She ponders the past, present, and future of everything around her in excess, which I believe eventually takes its toll on her mental and physical health.

There is a point in the novel where Marie fears that she will fade out of existence, that by forgetting the placement of freckles she may forget herself. There is a panicky anxiety to her... her inability to sleep at night, her attention to breathing... Which funnily enough I can relate to.

When I was in my teens, I started to experience heart palpatations, which scared me half to death. I would notice them more at night, when I was laying down trying to sleep.. so, many nights found me pacing the bedroom floor, wringing my hands, and drinking water just to keep my body moving, because if I was moving, then my heart was beating...and I was terrified to fall asleep for fear of not waking back up.

In my opinion, the risks Kelly Lydick takes by telling her story in multiple formats paid off. At times, her methods added a frantic, paronoid pace. The further into the novel I got, the more I felt sure that Kelly was writing from personal experience herself. It felt a little too real to be written purely fiction. But again, that is only my opinion.

Bazell's Mob-tastic Masterpiece?

Read 2/27/10 - 3/3/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre

Have you ever read a book that was all hyped up, recommended by everyone who read it to everyone who hasn't, and wondered if you had read the same thing everyone else had read???

Have you ever read the back cover of a book and thought "Hey! This sounds like something right up my alley!" and then proceeded to read it and realised that it really wasn't what you thought it was about, and wondered what book the person who wrote the blurb had read???

I'm kinda torn here. Which is a strange for me. I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me - See, this was part of a pack of books that Regal Literary mailed me for review. I worship the ground Michael Strong walks on, and look forward to reading more of the books they are associated with.... They do a great job of sending me books that match my tastes. And there really was nothing wrong with the book at all. I thought it was well written, fast-paced, and it held my interest the entire time I was reading it.

Were there moments of "oh yeah right, there is no way anybody would/could do that"? Sure. Like when our guy Peter Brown slices his leg open in a walk in freezer, breaks it's fibula and removes the bone with his own two hands, and uses it as a weapon. - But those moments were few and far between.

Were there moments of "in your dreams, buddy"? Uh huh, yup. Like when our same hero walks into an elevator, makes small talk with a hot chick, and suddenly she is pulling the STOP button to do it "aerosmith" style. - Not enough to take away from the big picture though.

Mostly it was just a cool little story about a guy who was once involved in some messy shit with the mob, put his time in for a crime he sort of didn't commit, entered the witness protection program, and tryed to move on with his life. There was no real race to beat death, not in the sense that the back cover blurb made it seem like. And there was no case of dual identities or split personalities, as the back cover blurb also made it seem like. Just a straight up story of a repentant dude having some bad shit finally catch up to him.

I just didn't see what all the fuss was about. I'm not screaming from the rafters about it. I wasn't left with the feeling that I had just read the next best book. I liken this to one other reading experience Ive had.. and that was with Joshua Ferris's "And Then We Came To The End": A good book that was hyped to hell and just didn't live up to all of it... for me.

I allowed the hype to build this book up. It's not the author's fault. The fault lies completely with me. No one made me set those expectations. I did it to myself.

I almost wish I could turn back the clock and read it without ever having heard a word about it from anyone else. Perhaps I would have been one of the ones raving about it? Where's that damn time machine when you need one, huh?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Author Interview W/ Ben Tanzer

Author Ben Tanzer certainly knows how to fill a schedule. Between releasing two printed books - "Lucky Man" and "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine" - and a short story eBook collection entitled "Repetition Patterns", he also finds the time to compulsively blog at "This Blog Will Change Your Life" and "This Zine Will Change Your Life". Phew! I am tired just writing all that. To top that off, he is a great sport for finding the time to answer a handful of questions for us. Thanks Ben!

How long have you been writing? When did you first realise that this was something you wanted to do for a living?

I have been writing for about 11 years. I first had the idea that I might need to be a writer when I was a senior in high school and forced to take a creative writing class. I thought about it a lot in college, and even took another creative writing class which I did not enjoy, the older students were really harsh and I never had any good ideas for stories anyway, and then I obsessed over my desire to write for much of my twenties, endlessly writing down lists of stories I might someday tell.

As I hit thirty though, I thought now, I must start now, nothing is happening for me, nothing I want, and then there was a call from someone I know who was thinking about leaving her husband, and I got very upset and started obsessing what it meant, for them and for their kids, and for me and my wife. I was really spinning and I felt like the only thing that was going to make me feel better was writing.

So sitting in bed next to my wife I wrote this story about a guy leaving his family. It was one of the stories that had been sitting on one of my endless lists of stories I would one day write. Once I finished that one, I couldn't stop and here we are.

What was the strangest job you've ever held, and why did you leave it?

I suppose the strangest job I've ever held was working in a law firm right after I graduated from college. Okay, it wasn't strange, just not fun. And I left because everyone I worked with was so unhappy, which just sucked and made everything I was building there seem very unpromising. Ultimately, I may have found a law job I liked, and may have even started writing as well, but hating that job was helpful, because it led me to make some changes, and try other things, like social work, and moving from San Francisco to New York, and then on to Chicago, all of which I want to believe has played a role in making me who I am as the person and the writer I am now. Of course, I may be wrong about all of this, but if I am it doesn't change the fact that it was a job that really sucked.

How would you describe your online blog and 'zine?

They are related and yet not. The blog was created because I thought I needed a platform for hustling my books and I wanted to create a vibe like the monorail episode of The Simpsons. In that episode which is based on the Music Man this guy convinces the citizens Springfield that they need a monorail because it will not just make their lives better it will make the whole world a beautiful place. Of course they don't need one and it won't make their lives better. Building on this I decided to create a blog that would be like a faux corporate blog where my books were products that changed people's lives, sometimes for the better.

I also thought though that I should use the blog to brand myself, thinking that some people might be drawn to how I see the world and what I like to riff on and this might make them more drawn to the things I am working on. So, I endlessly hype myself, but I also hype all the things I like and celebrate which in my fantasy world becomes intertwined into this brand. As I created this platform, I also thought though why just hype what I like, this has to be fun as possible for me as well, so why not use it to pursue other interests that further build the brand, but also support those I want to support.

The zine then grows out of this desire. It represents things I feel compulsive about, writers, street art, music; it supports or exposes the work we highlight to a wider audience and it extends my brand, and my completely fake goal of presenting that which I like most, including myself, as a lifestyle choice a la, Martha Stewart, Oprah or Tony Hawk.

How do you manage to balance your time between publishing books, writing for and running TBWCYL and This Zine Will Change Your Life, and having a personal life?

Some of this magic of course, my herd of unicorns and team of gnomes rock, but really, it's a variety of things that more or less work. Part of it is keeping the fat in my schedule to a minimum, which means I rarely treat any time as down time, no Seinfeld marathons, no naps, and much less drinking than in the past. I am also constantly slotting or scheduling things, looking for potentially open times in my calendar and then deciding what might be done then. With the zine, it helps that I am just part of a team and that everyone plays a role, with my role now mainly being air traffic control. I have to skip things of course. Or put them off.

I make sure I write at least 30 minutes more or less every day, but rarely get to write more than that, which means the various writing projects I'm working on take longer than maybe I would like. I also don't sleep a lot, but by choice, though from what Dr. Oz says, this isn't the best strategy among the many I factor into what I am trying to do or not do.

Of all your published books, which was the hardest for you to write? Which are you most proud of?

I would say they were all hard in the same way. Meaning, once I have an idea getting started is not so hard, there are little glitches along the way, but when I'm ready to write, I write. What's hard is after taking a break and coming back to something, and then trying to decide if it's really what I intended it to be. Does it flow like it did in my head? What needs to be cut? Do the various threads get pulled together?

Also, and maybe more important, does it look, read, taste, whatever, like what I hope something I write will look, read and taste like. Is it stripped down, driven by dialogue and anger and struggle, but funny and slamming, something that tries to mash Bruce Springsteen, David Cronenberg and the Ramone's together, but without their talent? Given this, I imagine the book I am currently shopping around is the hardest, because I'm in the middle of it, and it might not quite be ready, though if it isn't how can I get it there?

In terms of being proud, I'm proud of all of them, but that's wishy-washy, so let's say Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine, because I was proud to write a book, any book, and I did with Lucky Man, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to do so again, at least something I liked, but I did, and it's out there, and this is good, for me anyway.

What was the thought process that went into the short story collection Repetition Patterns?

I had a bunch of story ideas all piled-up, that seemed like they could be related, but didn't yet have any direction or form. Meanwhile, I was reading these various short story collections I really liked, When The Messenger is Hot, Drown, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake, The Bridegroom, and I was really taken with how they all seemed to be of a certain time and place, and as I thought about these collections and my stories, I wondered if I could so something like that, write some stories that might all take place in a place like my hometown around the time I grew-up, and as I thought about this, the stories started> coming together and then I sat down and wrote the first drafts over 2-3 months.

Some of the stories in Repetition Patterns contain teenage promiscuity> and abnormal parental behaviors... Do you ever worry about how a reader,> friend, or family member may react to you writing?

One thing I have to say, and especially with Repetition Patters, is that as a whole, these stories are fiction and the elements in these stories that reflect any one person or event are slight because they are merged into other people and events and memories. Also, these are stories influenced by events that took place at some other time and some other place and while they stuck with me it's not clear they stuck with anyone else. Plus, I would rarely write about something that was especially hurtful or embarrassing to someone that I am in regular contact with.

That said, on occasion people have just popped-up again out of nowhere who might recognize something less than flattering about themselves from whatever time and place we crossed paths for whatever length of time that was and when that has happened I have felt self-conscious and bad about it.

Now if you're question is also in part about how friends or family members will look at me or think about me after reading these things, that I don't worry about, again I'm not embarrassed about the little that might tie to me directly, it's who I am, or was, and I think as writers we need to give that up.

Repetition Patterns was published by CCLaP as an eBook. What is your> take> on eBooks and eReaders, both as an author and a reader?

Good question. I am of two minds on this. As a writer, and a very obscure writer at that, I think eBooks and e-anything is great because I want my stuff to get out there and this accomplishes that and if it sucks in some more people, generates some more fans and possibly makes some more money, awesome.

As a reader though, this kills me, I loved books before I could even read, the look of the spine, the feel of the pages, carrying a book around in my pocket or a bag for weeks on end, seeing them lying on the table next to my bed, and across my bookshelf, or better a bookstore, and so when thinking about that stuff, and I do, I hate that the whole feeling of loving books as a sentient experience may slowly get lost.

If your house were on fire, and you could only rescue 5 books from your> bookshelves, which 5 would you save and why?

Five is tough. And wrong to even ask. Still here are 5 I could see favoring if forced or on fire: The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson; The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury; Cruddy by Lynda Barry and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver.

Now with your indulgence, I do have a second 5 I would grab if I had some help from say my sons or a really well-trained dog: Meditations from a Moveable Chair, Andre Dubus; Radiant Days, Michael Fitzgerald; Carrie, Stephen King; American Skin, Don DeGrazia and Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware.

Finally, and sorry, really, as a shout-out to myself at fifteen and in recognition of J.D. Salinger's recent passing: The Catcher in The Rye.

What authors/books/websites would you recommend to our readers out there?

You know, I'm a terrible name dropper, though saying that I will still miss some people or places I think people should check out. But having said that, and even having referenced some of the books and authors above that I really love, this still leaves many authors and/or bloggers I hope your readers will take a look at: Tim Hall, Mary Miller, Scott McClanahan, Mel Bosworth, Collin Kelley, Claudia Smith, Jim Ruland, Barry Graham, Matt Bell, Jason Fisk, Jason Jordan, Ken Wohlrob, Shannon Burke, Benjamin Carr, Kendra Grant Malone, Lindsay Hunter, Corey Mesler, S. Craig Renfroe, P.H. Madore, Spencer Dew, John Domini, Amy Guth, Kyle Beachy, Nick Ostdick, Jamie Iredell, Kristin Fouquet, Pete Anderson, Caleb Ross, Matt DeBenedictis, Steve Lafler, Michael Kimball, Keidra Chaney, Peter Schwartz, J.A. Tyler, Mary Hamilton, Gina Frangello, David Masciotra, Elizabeth Crane, Brandon Will, B.L. Pawelek and William Walsh to name a few.

I would add some zines, zine-like joints or presses: Dogzplot, Annalemma, Knee-Jerk, Hobart, THE2NDHAND, CellStories, decomP, Prick of the Spindle, PANK, Full of Crow, Artistically Declined, Featherproof, Dispatch Litareview, ML Press, Future Tense, Microcosm, Monkeybicycle, Thieves Jargon, Necessary Fiction, Opium, Another Chicago Magazine and Caketrain.

And then I would also throw-in a handful of arts and culture type blogs that just rock: CCLaP, Orange Alert, The Scowl, Baby Got Books, The Page 69 Test, Largehearted Boy, HTML Giant, Big Other and Deckfight.


Oh yes, Ben, Totally Cool!!