Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Spaceman Blues - A Love Song

Read 1/24/12 - 1/29/12
3 Stars - Recommended to readers who like their sci-fi a little more literary
Pgs: 219
Publisher: Tor

A man who managed to turn New York City against him suddenly disappears. His lover decides to find out where he went. Tracking him down will prove to be the biggest challenge of his life... if he manages to survive it.

Spaceman Blues is not your typical "aliens come to take over the world" story. Don't get me wrong, once you hit the end of the book, there is some of that. There are no little green men with anal probes who beam screaming humans up into their ships - although there are 4 Horsemen donning raincoats who fly around NYC on hovercraft-type machines, demolishing people and buildings with their guns of green light.

Forget the aliens for a moment, though. This is really a book about Manuel, who has gone missing, and his boyfriend Wendell, who is willing to go through just about anything to uncover what's happened to his "baby". And yet, it goes even deeper than that, doesn't it? It seems to be saying something profound about our ability to persevere and endure under the most trying of situations; our refusal to give up in the face of failure and defeat; our need to stand up against the unknown...

Ooooor, it could just simply be trying to tell us that bloody cockfights, underground cities, religious cults, unidentifiable dead bodies found floating in the river, and alien assassins are fucking awesome and I'm just reading too much into it.

Brian Francis Slattery winds his tricky and twisty prose around your head, filling it with momentary explosions and bright burning lights to confuse and disorient you. Because, truthfully, sometimes Spaceman Blues really does confuse and disorient you. But no worries, because once the smoke dissipates and the fires die down, you'll quickly find the trail back to our Spaceman hero Wendell. Just sit tight, breathe through it, and all will be well in the world. Well, unless, you know, you've awoken the wraith of an alien race and continue to test their patience...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Audioreview: Couch

Listened 1/9/12 - 1/27/12
3.5 Stars - Strongly Recommended to readers who like a little bizarro mixed into their fiction
Audio download (approx 11hrs)
Publisher: Iambik Audio / Small Beer Press

This was a book that had been sitting on my goodreads to-buy shelf for over a year, so I was thrilled to see it on Iambik Audio's website. I immediately downloaded a review copy on my Droid, and started listening on my commute to and from work.

First thing worth noting: Couch's Iambik narrator, Gregg Margarite, has an impossibly deep, grumbly voice. So deep, in fact, that I had to drop the bass on my car speakers to -10 to be able to decipher just what this guy was saying! He also has a very awkward "fake" laugh, but that is neither here nor there. These are things you will get used to.

Second thing worth noting: Once you start this book, no matter how silly and strange it gets, there is just no stopping until you reach the end. And boy oh boy, do things sometimes take a turn for the strange...

Couch begins with three unemployed roommates who are forced out of their flooded apartment. Rather than freak out about it, they decide to pool their limited funds together and go on a vacation. Only their landlord throws a bit of a wrench into their plans - they have to take their couch with them. Unhappy but unphased by this odd request, they carry the couch out onto the street with the intention of dropping it off at the nearest Goodwill. However, the couch has another destination in mind. As Thom, Eric, and Tree start trudging it down the sidewalk, the couch begins to grow incredibly heavy. Confused, and not quite believing what they just felt, the three turn around and carry it the other way. Sure as shit, after a few steps, the couch becomes lighter.

Now at the mercy of their seemingly magic (or perhaps possessed?) couch, our three friends reluctantly let it lead them on the journey of a lifetime... across states, across rivers and oceans, into uncharted foreign jungles... all the while being chased by people who want the couch for themselves, and will go to great lengths to get it.

An immensely fun book, Couch never takes itself too seriously. Prophetic dreams, wacky legends, and a secret council of anonymous couch protectors... It will ask you to suspend your disbelief, " If you fall asleep on the couch, it turns you near-comatose?" and ask you to suspend it some more, "The couch can float on the ocean and can't be damaged?"... again and again. No matter how much weird shit it throws at you, no matter how often you find yourself saying "oh, come oooon!",  I guarantee you won't be able to stop until you find out just what the heck is up with that damn couch!

Couch is the first novel that I've consciously experienced in Third Person Limited, or Close Third Person. The author lives mostly on the shoulder of Thom  - our oversized, recently dumped, computer geek - so, even though we are exposed to Eric and Tree's point of views, we are extremely privy to Thom's thoughts and feelings (though there is one part in the book where the close narration does switch, briefly yet clumsily, from Thom to Eric). For as much as this narration style initially distracted me, it's actually - strangely - a good fit for the story.

As is Gregg. Deep voice aside, he has this odd accent that's part Californian slacker, part hippy-burnout. And while he wouldn't be my first choice for an audiobook narrator, his voice has this slightly bored, resigned quality to it that slowly grows on you and seems to become its own character within the book.

Couch is most definitely for readers who like their fiction a little loose. It toys with you, it plays with the rules, twisting them little by little, and before you know it you are knee deep in it and desperate to know how it's all going to end.

Have you listened to Iambik before? It's a great source for indie literature on audio and it comes at a great price too. Check it out...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Larry Closs Blog Tour: Wrap-Up

Have you enjoyed our week full of Larry-centric blog posts? Have you gained some new insight into the mind of this amazing author? Have you marked Beatitude as To Buy and To Read on your goodreads shelves, or better yet, gone out to purchase a copy for yourself? If you answered yes to each of those questions, our jobs here are done!

If you haven't been following the tour, and wish to see it in its entirety, this is your chance to catch up:

Day 1 hosted by yours truly - Larry defined what "Being Indie" means to him
Day 2 hosted by Emmet (..I Can Stay)- posted a review of Beatitude
Day 3 hosted by Mandy (MandytheBookworm's Blog) - guest post by Larry on how The Beats did and didn't inspire Beatitude
Day 4 hosted by Patrick (the Literate Man) - an interview w/ Larry on men and literature among The Beats and Today.
Day 5 hosted by Jenn (the Picky Girl) - an instagram photo tour of Beatitude by Larry
Day 6 hosted by Erica (BookedinChico) - an personal essay by Larry about New York City
Day 7 hosted by Tara (BookSexyReview) - an interview revolving around the book, the Beats, and the Ginsberg poems.

Throughout the tour, we are shown - post after post - that Beatitude is so much more than just a novel. It's a lifestyle, it's New York, it's a living breathing thing that you can connect with on multiple levels. 

I want to thank the awesome bloggers who participated in this week's tour. Without them, this tour would not have been possible. They are among the best out there, and I truly appreciate the time and effort they put in over the past month to prepare for this week! 

I also want to thank Larry - the author, the photographer, the New Yorker - who was willing to go along with us for the ride. He worked so hard behind the scenes to compose guest posts and respond to interviews, and sent us the amazing blog tour icon. 

And of course, thanks to everyone who followed us day after day during the tour, sharing the links and spreading the word!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Taft 2012

Read 1/15/12 - 1/23/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pgs: 249
Publisher: Quirk Books 

Think a fictional book featuring a political figure just isn't your bag? Think again! Jason Heller smacks the White House on its ass and makes it his little bitch in his recently released debut novel Taft 2012.

This sweet little satire starts with Taft's unexplained appearance on the muddy White House lawn in 2011, where he seems to have just awakened from a 100 year deep sleep. After multiple tests confirm that this is indeed our twenty-seventh president returned intact and unaged from god-only-knows-where, Taft is reluctantly ushered into the twenty-first century - wireless telephones, airplanes, social media, state of the economy, Twinkies, and electronic golfing. Once the public catches whiff of Taft's presence, he soon feels the familiar rush of celebrity.  Die hard supporters quickly create The Taft Party - nostalgic for the way things used to be, for the old, honest, American values - in the hopes of pushing "Big Bill"  into the presidential elections once again.

The book is made even sweeter by short chapters paired with creative news and media coverage in the form of TV transcripts, news articles, book excerpts, secret service entries, and even a fictional @taft2012 twitter stream. It helps that Jason wrote William Howard Taft as this immensely lovable, slightly bewildered man who simply cannot understand the sway he still holds over the public, 100 years later. I mean, how often do you read about a character you kinda wish you could have met in real life, right? Taft felt real and down to earth while still managing to exude this sense of worldliness about him. I would love to snag a cup of coffee with the guy and pick his brain on the pros and cons of America then and now.

A political premise with some sci-fi thrown in for fun... Taft 2012 is a cleverly enjoyable, never gimmicky, read for readers of the left wing, right wing, and no-wing persuasion alike. It's an equal opportunity novel and I recommend you pick it up and give it a whirl. If you manage to grab a copy soon, you might still catch the man behind Taft 2012 in the Author/Reader Discussion taking place right now over at TNBBC. If you're unsure, why not hop on over to the discussion now and see what our readers are saying about it?

Still not enough for you? How bout feasting your eyes on these book trailers?

Did I mention how extremely timely the novel is? With the new presidential hoopla going on in the "right here and now", how can you NOT want to read this book? And with all the #ows and #sopa news, why not consider the potential old school, back to basics mentality that only a 150 year old president could bring to the table?

For more info on the book, you can listen to Jason Heller speaking to the book on Twenty-Twelve and also on this NPR interview . And check out this Taft 2012 Campaign website to whet your appetite even more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Larry Closs Blog Tour Kick-Off

Welcome to the very first stop on the Larry Closs Blog Tour!

I am thrilled beyond words to introduce you to Larry and his stunning debut novel Beatitude. Here's a little secret...It was my fear of this incredibly poignant, beautifully complicated novel going unnoticed and unread that instigated this blog tour. As I cracked the cover and began reading, I realized I was holding a book that had the potential to slip between the cracks... to fade away before it had found its chance to shine. And I panicked.

Published through Rebel Satori - a very small, virtually unknown press - Larry found most of the marketing, publicity, and (believe it or not) galley printing, falling onto his shoulders. It was Larry's review pitch that alerted to me to the book initially. Had he not pitched me, Beatitude would very likely have slipped right by me as well! 

And therein lies the rub when publishing with an indie, right? If you guys know me at all, you know how obsessed I am with small presses and the amazing literature they continuously crank out. Awesome books with unique stories that appeal to specific sorts of readers. But these publishers also tend to have smaller wallets, which translates into limited funds, which translates into a limited reach. As of today, Larry has not yet toured to promote his novel, which released back in October. So I took the reigns, took action, and decided to launch a tour of sorts for Larry, to help spread the word about Beatitude and get his book into the hands of more readers. 

I am so happy you decided to pop in and check it out! And I am extremely grateful to Emmet, Mandy, Patrick, Jenn, Erica, and Tara for offering up their blogs as additional stops. I am also immensely grateful to Larry for his enthusiasm and willingness to work hard behind the scenes to help us prepare for what you are about to see.

We have a great tour planned for you. So kick back, relax, and let us woo you and wow you with all things Larry Closs! For starters, I'll be sharing Larry's thoughts on what being indie means to him and how his unfailing devotion to this novel finally paid off:

Let’s be honest: Every author dreams of writing a book that’s groundbreaking and edgy and yet so insightful that it’s immediately signed by a major agent, snapped up by a major publisher with a huge and highly publicized advance (after a fierce bidding war) and simultaneously translated into a dozen languages. Naturally, the book debuts at No. 1 on the bestseller lists, and the combined sale of the movie rights and your screenplay adaptation earns you six figures (seven, anyone?). Then you start envisioning which A-list actors will play your protagonists on the big screen and who you’ll thank in your Oscar acceptance speech. Best of all, you’ll finally have enough money to ditch the day job and do nothing but write. Well, write and travel.

And then there’s reality.

You devote every spare minute for years working on your first novel, as pure a labor of love as there ever was, for both you and the family and friends who kindly endure draft after draft after draft as you agonize over every little detail. Final manuscript in hand, you research literary agents and start at the top. “I write a little like the guy who wrote No. 3 on the New York Times Fiction Bestseller List,” you tell yourself. “Who’s his agent?” But his agent isn’t interested. So uninterested, in fact, that all you get in response to your carefully crafted query is an email form rejection, with “sincere apologies and regrets” for sending an email form rejection. As you work your way down a list of a hundred agents and your inbox overflows with sincerity for several months, maybe several years, you have three choices: 1) Allow the rejections to convince you that your book really isn’t any good and banish it to a dark corner of your hard drive; 2) Damn the rejections because you still believe in your book—and then self-publish; 3) Skip the agents, change course and go directly to the publishers—the independent publishers.

I wrestled with No. 1, considered No. 2 but ultimately chose No. 3, because I still sought the validation that self-publishing doesn’t always provide. After much research, I arrived at Rebel Satori Press. The name struck a chord—a Zen revolution!—and the catalog of titles seemed to share my sensibility as well as an interest in the Beat Generation writers—Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs—who figure prominently in Beatitude. I queried the publisher, Sven Davisson, who asked for an excerpt, then the full manuscript. Six months later, he sent me a contract.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but though I had written a book and landed a publisher, my work had just begun. What does it mean to be an indie author? Here’s what I’ve discovered:

1. Literary Agent: When I told an author friend that Rebel Satori had accepted Beatitude, she said that I should get an agent. And that getting an agent would be easy. She was right. After all the rejections I’d received, I was shocked to discover that several literary agents were suddenly interested in representing me. Why? Because the book had already been sold, mitigating most of the risk. Why would I need an agent at that point? To help with the contract. I knew nothing about contracts. My agent helped me negotiate and retain both foreign and adaptation rights, the two most likely sources of any significant revenue aside from royalties. The agency receives a commission on those sales, but the agency has a dedicated foreign rights department and contacts in film and television that I don’t. It’s much more likely to sell those rights than I would be on my own.

2. Advance: What advance? Some things are non-negotiable.

3. Editing: With an indie publisher, you’re more likely to have final say on the final version of the manuscript, for better or worse. I’m a journalist, with many years experience as both a writer and an editor. Thanks to friend and fellow editor, Mindy Kitei, whose insightful advice helped me streamline the manuscript (“Yes,” “No,” “Ugh!”), my book was in very good shape with regard to structure, pacing and style. But having read great books from indie publishers that were undermined by rampant typos and grammatical errors, I hired a friend who’s a professional copy editor to review Beatitude. Taken aback by how many minor but irksome issues she caught, I realized that hiring her was one of the best investments I’d made.

4. Legal: Beatitude features lyrics from popular songs, excerpts from works by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and appearances by real-life, living individuals, all of which required permissions, licenses, releases and, in some cases, fees. I made a list of everything potentially problematic and consulted with an intellectual property lawyer for advice on the paths of least resistance. Obtaining permission to reprint song lyrics proved to be the most difficult and most expensive. I discovered that you can use a song title but even a line from a song will cost you plenty. Fair Use does not apply. As a result, I edited out all but one lyric. Brief excerpts from Kerouac’s books and Ginsberg’s poems were less expensive, but I still needed to track down who owned the rights and get contracts for them. Getting signed appearance releases from people whose real names I wanted to use was also relatively easy, because I knew the individuals and, ultimately, because every character in Beatitude is presented in a positive light.

5. Galleys: Media outlets that devote coverage to books usually want a galley—an uncorrected advance copy of the book, often without the final cover—six to eight months prior to the publication date. This is especially true of monthly magazines, where editors plan issues three months ahead of time and will only review a book on or near the pub date. After that, it’s old news. Many indie publishers do not print galleys because major monthlies and mainstream websites are less likely to publish reviews of indie titles, so there’s no return on investment. Rebel Satori doesn’t print galleys. So I did, believing that I needed reviews that coincided with the pub date to ensure the book’s success and hoping I could impress where others couldn’t. I researched printers and paid to produce 60 copies of Beatitude wrapped in a plain white cover with Helvetica text. I sent nearly all of them to editors and writers at magazines, book-related websites, bloggers and NPR. How many reviews coinciding with the pub date did Beatitude receive as a result? One. One very significant review. But, still. One. Looking back, I’m not sure I would do it again.

6. Book Cover: While negotiating the book contract, I retained the right—and responsibility—to oversee the cover design. I’m not a designer, but I co-owned a communication design studio for seven years. I studied thousands of book covers and decided on the aesthetic I wanted—simple, bold, graphic. A friend put me in touch with artist Anthony Freda, renowned for his gallery exhibits as well as his award-winning illustrations for Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, Playboy and many others. Anthony and I hit it off immediately. He read Beatitude, asked what I had in mind and produced a cover that exceeded every expectation. Simple, bold, graphic. Fantastic. I was doubly fortunate to have another amazing artist, John Barrow, design the equally important back cover and spine, playing off Anthony’s illustration for the front and adding a whole other dimension, the ying to the yang. All the times I’d ever imagined what the cover of Beatitude might look like, I never imagined the incredible result. But, being an indie author, I was able to choose whom I wanted to work with and have input, two things that wouldn’t necessarily have happened at a mainstream publisher.

7. Marketing: Author website, book trailer, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I really should be tweeting.

8. Publicity: Unless you hire a publicist—even if you hire a publicist—you will spend every free minute for months, networking, emailing and calling to promote your book and convince editors and writers that it is more worthy of attention than the 50 other books that were published the same day. You have to steel yourself to the silence—the response rate is about the same as finding a publisher. The good news is that there are thousands of book-related websites and blogs and if you focus your efforts on those that focus on the type of book you’ve written, you can get coverage—a mention, an article, a post, an interview, a review. In all likelihood, however, you will spend as many hours getting that coverage as you spent writing the book.

9. Reviews: You want reviews. You need reviews. To get reviews—hopefully, great ones—you need to stand out from the crowd while treading the thin line between being persistent and being a pest. Confronted by a daily onslaught of new titles, editors have to make quick decisions about what they will and won’t review, many times based on industry buzz, news of a huge advance, a ubiquitous marketing campaign or a bio that includes the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (which seems to guarantee a book deal and instant gravitas). How to tactfully stand out as an indie author? Prior to the pub date, I sent a galley, then, in consecutive weeks, followed up with an email, a link to the trailer and a large jpg of the book cover. After the pub date, I sent actual books and hoped for the best. Sometimes I scored, sometimes I didn’t. But the times I did more than made up for the times I didn’t.

10. Spontaneous Cool: In “Like Other Guys,” one of two previously unpublished poems by Allen Ginsberg that appears in Beatitude, the Beat poet writes that he should devote his energy to poetry and stop messing around with music because he’s a “rock star, automatically.” So are you! Despite all the challenges indie authors face, one undeniable plus is that being indie automatically confers a counter-cultural cool that Knopf cannot.

Rock on.

Follow Larry Closs: WebsiteFacebookTwitterYouTube

**Be sure to join us tomorrow over at ...I Can Stay, where the amazing Emmet hosts Day Two of the tour**

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: badbadbad

Read 1/2/12 - 1/14/12
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar w/ genre
Pgs: 237
Publisher: New Pulp Press

"Roleplay is a dangerous game when you don't know who you are."

Truer words have never been spoken when used to describe the sticky situation JAG finds himself in. Recently abandoned by his wife and infant son, Jesus "JAG" Garcia finds employment as webmaster for First Church of the Church Before Church's online blog by day, while by night he plays the role of God for a bunch of fetishist he locates via an online sex site called Fallenangels.

Yes, you heard me right. Fetishist. Women who want a "daddy" figure to come and spank them, or reenact a rape scene, or go to town with a box full of toys. And as JAG loses himself to this dark and dirty underworld, creating different identities to match what each of these girls need, he begins to slowly lose himself and things start falling apart at the seams.

Interestingly, the book is written as a sort of "tell-all" from JAG to his estranged little brother. JAG details the events that led him to this sad and dangerous lifestyle, while also preparing us for what we know is going to be a story that does not end well for our kinky minded main man.

If you can stomach the coarse, sometimes raunchily described, sex scenes, you might agree that Jesus Angel Garcia's pulpy, fetish filled transmedia novel is a great example of what print publishing can be - because it's a book with online extras. Jesus has created multiple documentaries that draw from some of the themes within the book: Fear, Self Destruction, Sexual Morality, among others. Delving into an anonymous population of streetwalkers, authors and writers, husbands and wives, Jesus catches in-depth honest reactions to these words, these specific human conditions and tendencies, on film. What do you fear most? Is it death? Is it losing everything you love? Is it something tangible, something living and breathing, or something abstract? What is the most self destructive thing you have ever done? Was it something you controlled or something you had no control over? These documentaries confirm just how fucked up and unique each life is.... I enjoyed the way these mini-films complimented badbadbad's storyline, pulling you out of the chaotic web JAG weaved for himself and proving that real people go through these same or similar things too.

It also comes with it's own soundtrack. While I am not personally a fan of the type of music that he uses, it does appear to hold some influence over the book's style and cadence.

All in allbadbadbad is a true multimedia experience that helps hesitant digital readers like myself bridge that e-gap comfortably. To be honest, I wish more print books came with online extras to enhance the reading experience.

Check out books like Empty the Sun by A Barnacle Book (musical cd accompaniment), The Recipe Book (musical cd accompaniment, free app) by Black Balloon, and The French Revolution (free app) by Soft Skull to see more examples of multimedia print books.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Larry Closs Blog Tour is Gearing Up

TNBBC is at it again. Oh yeah, that's right, we've gone and organized ourselves another amazing little blog tour! We're ushering in the new year with a big loud bash across the blog-o-sphere to celebrate debut author Larry Closs and his incredibly passionate and poignant novel Beatitude.

Beatitude is one of those books that everyone should be reading, and I'm on a mission to make that happen. As are these fine bloggers, who have joined forces with TNBBC to spread the love in a variety of clever and unique ways over the course of the upcoming week.

Allow me to introduce you to the wonderful bloggers who have taken the time to contribute to our tour:
(Mark your calendars. You really don't want to miss this!)

Sunday January 22 
The Larry Closs Blog Tour kickoff starts here with an On “Being Indie” guest post by Larry Closs

Monday January 23 
Emmet of ….I Can Stay
Review: Beatitude

Tuesday January 24 
Two Roads Diverged: How the Beats did and didn’t inspire Beatitude
By Larry Closs

Wednesday January 25
Patrick of The Literate Man
Interview: Larry Closs looks at the Beat Generation Boy’s Club and the sometimes obscure line between friendship and love.

Thursday January 26 
Jenn of The Pickygirl
On the Town: An Instagram album of scenes from Beatitude
By Larry Closs

Friday January 27 
Erica of BookedinChico
Only in New York: The bright lights and big city of Beatitude
By Larry Closs

Saturday January 28
Tara 0f BookSexyReview
Interview: Larry Closs explores the Beats’ dark side, the most natural painkiller and whether a writer or a reader makes a novel gay.

Sunday January 29 
We end up back here for the Blog Tour Round Up, with links to each of the participants blog tour posts.

I hope you will join us back here this Sunday for the kick-off and take part in the celebration of Larry Closs and his debut novel Beatitude. In the meantime, to tide you over, click on the links to follow Larry and learn more about him and his novel: Larry's WebsiteFacebook page, Twitter page, and YouTube page. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

YesYes Books on "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a monthly feature that will be hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them.

Meet KMA Sullivan, owner and publisher of YesYes Books

I accidently stumbled across her amazing publishing company a few months ago and it' s been true love ever since. (And I'm not just saying that because one of the YesYes poets, Nate Slawson, premiered a previously unpublished poem here a few weeks ago.)

KMA Sullivan's poetry has been published (or is forthcoming) in Potomac Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Gargoyle, > kill author, diode, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residencies at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in creative non-fiction and from Vermont Studio Center in poetry and is the co-founder and editor of Vinyl Poetry. Today, she defines indie in her terms, while giving you a taste of YesYes Books has to offer....

YesYes Books 

The essence of Indie publishing is independence. And so we are free to publish always and only the work that keep our minds and hearts alive. For YesYes Books that means poetry and prose about sex and love, connection and despair, longing and living.

I want to smell the sound of you eating
My thighs, spread
                                                Like warm apple butter

                                    -from Heavy Petting by Gregory Sherl

We look for words that challenge and sooth; that make us cry and laugh and sweat and search for our partners so we can get busy. Life is a fucking shitstorm. At YesYes Books, we want to read words that are not afraid to live right in the middle of the tornado. And so that’s what we publish.

My pills are blackberry kissing. 
My pills are tiny fish exploding 
in the morning. 
It's 1989 again every where 
I look. My name is Bank Teller's 
Red Button & I am happy 
for lightning bugs & De La Soul 
so happy my boundless affection 
is not lost it's all right my boundless 
affection is only bleeding. 
I wish your knuckles. 
I wish your alligator teeth
your barbed wire love a universe 
where stars explode into congregations 
of birds. 
I wish your fists & exploding birds 
& bruises on my lungs. 
I wish your goodbye hand 
was a derringer muzzled 
into my gut.

                        -from Panic Attack, USA by Nate Slawson

But with freedom comes responsibility.  Since Indie presses are small in size in terms of manpower and capital, we need to make up for that in quality and innovation and commitment so that we earn the trust our authors place in us. As a result, we seek the highest physical quality for the books YesYes produces. We use McNaughton & Gunn for printing. We obsess over paper choices. We seek cover art that can live as art by itself as it also engages in conversation with the poetry that lives inside. We want people to want to touch and hold our books and feel pleasure even before they crack the spine.

 With freedom also comes the ability to take risks and think in new ways.  At YesYes Books we have a strong commitment to innovation. This shows up in who we publish.  Our first three print books are the first full collections for each author. We are also pushing forward a number of poets in our Poetry Shots and Frequency series who do not have full books out yet such as Phillip B. Williams, Ocean Vuong, and Dana Guthrie Martin. We are pairing them with well-known voices including Bob Hicok, Dorothea Lasky, and Ben Mirov.

We Mark Time with Ceremonies

They roam. They build moats. 
They build fierce men named Marcus 
and quote them until we grow tired of listening 
to quotes by men named Marcus. 
They build women whose cunts we bedazzle. 
We gather at the cunts but avoid 
the anuses. But the anuses are free, 
they tell us. 
We aren’t listening. 
We are living like cats now, 
maximizing our time in the sun. 
We are poets. We are all poets. 
Poets is all we are or ever were.

                        -forthcoming POETRY SHOT by Dana Guthrie Martin

Innovation also shows up at YesYes Books through our attention to the electronic landscape. YesYes has been hugely blessed by the crazy work ethic and brilliant brain power of Thomas Patrick Levy. Not only is he a poet to swoon for (check out his chapbook Please Don’t Leave Me Scarlett Johansson and his forthcoming I Don’t Mind if You’re Feeling Alone), he is a dynamite web developer and designer. We are about to roll out the first of three electronic-based poetry initiatives and we can’t wait to share!

To finish, how about one more spot of life in poetry.

from 30 30

I expect a bat to replace the bumblebee trapped between the window’s outside side and its smudged inside. This bat would not need to transform, would be content with its bat-self, it’s wide expanse of wing dependent on its knotted sternum, it’s small smashed face perfect in this weathered light.

 -forthcoming POETRY SHOT by Metta Sáma

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

AudioReview: Millennium People

Listened 12/22/11 - 1/9/12
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
8 CD's (approx 9 hours)
Audiobook Publisher: AudioGo

The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina are rebelling. Tired of being squeezed, they are influenced by neighbor Richard Gould to make a stand - by refusing to pay their mortgage and heating bills, smoke bombing random pedestrian businesses, and setting fire to their homes as the police come to evict them.

Meanwhile, David Markham - this story's emotionally detached narrator - learns that his ex-wife was killed by a bomb that exploded in the Heathrow Airport Baggage carousel. Desperate to uncover the people behind this seemingly meaningless act, he pretends to join Gould's movement in the hopes of sniffing out the truth. It isn't long before David finds himself slowly being pulled under by Gould's charismatic speeches and unarguable charm, and becomes a part of much more than he initially bargained for.

At the heart of JG Ballard's novel is a theme that eerily mirrors the recent #OWS picketing that took place in New York City (and other strategically placed pockets throughout the country) - a group of middle class people who have grown tired of being abused and bled dry by the government. Wanting to be noticed, wishing to be taken seriously, both groups - our posh residents of Ballard's Chelsea Marina and our peaceful protestors of OWS - find creative and increasingly aggressive ways to communicate their unhappiness with the way things are being run and the decisions that are being made.

OK, I am about to share a little secret with you. You have to promise not to let this little confession come between us, alright? I am about to tell you something that may forever change your opinion of me, but I need you to try really hard not to let it... ok?! You promise?

I admit to being your typical GenXer. I love to talk a good game when it comes to the way this country is flushing itself down the shitter, like so much vomit and diarrhea. But I prefer to keep my nose out of the political scene and I will never do anything about the things I don't like because (1) I find politics and political thinking to be a bit boring, and (2) it all just seems like too much friggen work. I mean c'mon, they refer to my generation as "slackers" and for good reason. Most of us just don't want to be bothered. Or, perhaps more correctly, we don't know how to be bothered. We don't know things to be any other way, honestly. As we were coming of age, this country was already heading full speed towards the brick wall. Things have been falling down around our ears for as long as we can remember, and we're kind of OK with that. Or, at least, that's what we tell ourselves.

Thank god for the Gen Nexters - that digitally equipped, emotionally upset generation born into social unrest. These guys have some bite to go with their bark. They are scared for their future and are not afraid to rip it from the hands of those in power. My pathetically copacetic generation could learn a thing or two from these guys.

So, here-in lies my issue with Millennium People. The middle class residents of Chelsea Marina definitely belong to my generation, so I find it a bit difficult to believe that these characters have agreed to not only take economic matters into their own hands and attempt to affect change, but that they do so willingly, together, in the way that they do. I suppose it is possible that the GenXer's of the UK (in which this novel is set) demonstrate behaviors that are the complete opposite of their US counterparts... Then again, once I look back at how the book ended, I kind of see that JD Ballard agrees with me on this one. So perhaps my issue is null and void?

Beyond that, I felt the story moved at a rather slow pace. Now, I should admit here that I am reviewing this novel based on the audio version of the book, so the pacing of the story could actually have been impacted by the audiobook's narrator, David Rintoul - who, if I'm being honest, sounded quite bored and emotionally unattached from the whole thing. Perhaps if I had read it in print, I could have better controlled the pace of the novel, increased the speed at which things unraveled? Rintoul has this soft, sighing sort of voice that - even when reading a scene in which things are happening quickly - fails to fully convey the panic.

If I were to compare this book to a pot of water on the stove, it would most resemble that point where the water is poised to boil.. where you can see the little bubbles beginning to cluster at the bottom of the pot, but damned if they never actually break off and rise to the top in a roiling, chaotic foam.

I understand that this novel invokes strong "love it / hate it" feelings in its readers. When I finished the book, I scanned through the review on Goodreads.com and saw people who refer to it as a British "Fight Club" for grown-ups , liken it to Karl Marx's Revolutionary Theory, and then others who disliked it enough to put it down unfinished. It stirs up different triggers in different people. I don't feel bad that I didn't enjoy Millennium People because I understand that my reaction to it is based on my own personal feelings and experiences. I'm not criticizing the writing. I'm simply working through my own subjective baggage.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Indie Book Buzz: Coffee House Press

It's the return of the Indie Book Buzz here at TNBBC. Over the next few weeks, we will be inviting members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their upcoming 2012 releases they are most excited about!

This week's picks come from Tricia O'Reilly, 
Publicist at Coffee House Press.

The Impossibly by Laird Hunt
(February 2012)

This is a dark, literary spy novel written in Laird Hunt’s unmistakable style. When first released in 2001, no one else was really writing this kind of modern, literary noir novel, where the dark, atmospheric, shadowy tone and unexpected plot twists of a traditional spy novel also infiltrated the style, structure, and language of the text in such innovative ways. For Laird, words and meaning are not necessary a straight and narrow path, and no where is his dexterity with language as strange and beautiful than in this, his debut novel. For the first time in paperback, and with a new introduction by Percival Everett, The Impossibly is Paul Auster meets Kafka meets Terry Gilliam’s Brasil and the result is a tense, funny spy novel that you will not soon forget. 

Errançities by Quincy Troupe
(February 2012)

Quincy Troupe is truly a legendary poet. The author who helped bring the story behind of The Pursuit of Happyness to life and whose account of his friendship with Miles Davis in Miles and Me is also heading to the big screen has been writing soulful, bluesy poetry for decades and his latest is his most polished and powerful collection to date. One of my favorites is the long poem dedicated to Michael Jackson called “Michael Jackson & the Arc of Love,” which somehow manages to distill Jackson’s whole career, his cultural significance, unavoidable controversy, symbolism, -- his own conflicted, fragile soul — into one beautiful, and sad, poem. Always a lover of invention, Troupe took the title from the French word errance, which means ‘to wander,’ but the word errançities itself is something he made up as an “expression [he] felt more at home with.” And wander he does, through the sights and sounds of the New York City subway, through images of life and nature that inspire him—or vex him. The poem “What’s the Real Deal Here,” another of my favorites, is a great example of the latter, starting out as this kind of rant against media sensationalism and “empty-headed showbiz prevaricators” and ends with just one of the most beautiful images I’ve come across. Quincy is nothing if not surprising and this is great poetry—a fun and fascinating journey with a brilliant storyteller. 


Tricia O'Reilly is the publicist for Coffee House Press. She can be found maintaining the Press's Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you've seen Coffee House at conferences, festivals, or book fairs, there's a good chance you've seen her!

So what do you think guys? See anything that catches your eye? Which of these books are you most excited to see release? Help TNBBC and Coffee House Press spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Indie Spotlight: Andrez Bergen

If you're anything like me, you enjoying hearing the story behind the story, the birth of the book. 

When Andrez Bergen, author of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, pitched me his novel, I was struck by the odd title. Hook. Which lead me to check out the description and existing reviews on goodreads. Line. Which then found me accepting the review copy he was offering. Sinker. Who the heck can pass up a story about a post apocalyptic sci fi/noir full of guns, kidnapping, and conspiracy?!?!

The icing on the cake? His willingness to take me behind the book, and tell us the story of how it all came to be. Today, I am sharing that story with you in the form of a guest post....


I doubt it’s anything really to brag about, but Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat has taken half my life to complete.

Mind you, not Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (the paperback that was published in 2011) per se, but the story to be told behind the rather wayward moniker and those new-fangled tobacco-stained covers designed by artist Scott Campbell.

This particular yarn is one that’s bubbled away since it surfaced in a short story I wrote in the late 1980s. That short story (now unfortunately mislaid in the midst of my dozens of house moves—mostly in Melbourne, but also in London and Tokyo) was about six hand-written A4 pages in length, and was basically the dream-sequence from the existing novel; in that original tale, however, it was anything but dream-like.

I can't remember the title of the short story (possibly ‘Il Desinenza’, which roughly translates as The Termination in Italian) though the current protagonist Floyd was still Floyd then; the weather was just as bad, he still fended off rain with a newspaper, and the joint influences of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, and my ‘60s/’70s comic book heritage hung pretty obviously onto my coattails.

Back then, as the story wraps itself up, it’s a Controller—a Seeker’s nemesis already—who does the dirty work and affects termination. “Next time, shoot straight,” I recall penning as Floyd’s cynical quip while he cleans up the mess.

Somewhere en route along the past twenty-odd years it’s become Floyd whose aim and life is amiss, and we added about 200 pages into the mix.

I say ‘we’ because my erstwhile collaborator over the past three years of the novel’s gestation has been my editor Kristopher Young—the author of Click—who’s invested so much of his own ideas that the story has definitely shaped up as collusion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, which I have a propensity to do; you may also have discovered that I tend to waffle a lot and use semicolons unwisely.

After the short story was written I shelved it for several years. The ideas continued fermenting somewhere in my coin-locker brain, until 1992 when I resurrected the romp while I was living in Richmond, in Melbourne (Australia), and extended it to a 162-page manuscript. I still have that version in a drawer next to my desk here in Tokyo—it’s all dog-eared and there’re different typefaces within the same tome as I started out on my mum’s electric typewriter, which of course ran out of ink, then graduated to my partner’s dad’s boxy, black-and-white screened Apple Macintosh with a dot matrix printer.

I remember scratching my head at the time, trying to nut out a half-decent title, and came up with We Are Not Afraid, We Serve. It always was a half-hearted moniker that lacked pizzazz. I was 27 at the time and I do cringe now when I look back at much of this.

But I was working a mind-numbing corporate job at an ad hoc government/private body called TAC Insurance, and it was there that I crossed paths with ‘Activities’ (real but semi-illegal video surveillance we organized of car accident victims doing aerobics and the like), plus the Guide to Deviant Apprehension & Containment was roughly modeled on the corporate TAC tome I had to learn by rote.

The book then sat on a dusty back-burner (in various drawers and boxes) for another decade. In 2001 I moved to Japan, and somehow got inspired to begin another version of the novel the following year, after copping a screening of Wong Kaw-wai’s In the Mood for Love.

Things had quite obviously changed since the short story and even the ’92 version. The Cold War was well and truly kaput and VHS had given up the ghost for DVD. I was living in a hugely influential foreign city (Tokyo) and had been working as a journalist over the past eight years, focusing on my two loves: movies (preferably innovative cinema) and experimental electronic music.

I’d also really found a personal footing in the noir-detective cinema of the 1940s and adored the way in which the hero, the femme fatale, the dialogue, the lighting, and a dark, fickle edge shaped proceedings. While I discovered the cinematic takes on The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man when I was a kid, I’d begun to immerse myself in the original novels by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and these influences started seeping through the woodwork as much as the rancid rain.

After the 2002 version, I put the book on hold again until 2007. I was now the father of a daughter (born in 2005) and I think that experience has influenced proceedings—beyond the novel itself being dedicated to her.

I was also writing (on a colour-screen Apple laptop) for magazines with names like Geek Monthly and Anime Insider, the Internet was all-encompassing, and ‘geek’ culture—with all that this entails—had become inadvertently cool.

Other things, like virtual reality (such a big part of the ’92 manuscript) had fallen off the radar, and technology I created and thought somewhat cool in 1992—such as the MittMate hand-held PC—had become redundant concepts thanks to, you guessed it, current gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. To counter this I twigged that it may instead be an idea to reverse-engineer much of the technology and make it faulty and unreliable.

Towards end of 2007 I bit the bullet and started to farm out what I had—then Another Sky Press took on the project, and I had a publisher.

Truth was, however, that I’d only actually finished the first chapter this time around; over the next months I finished the revision, then set foot with Kristopher Young into the bumpy new terrain known as editing… which was only finished in February this year. Since both of us were busy with other projects, bill-paying work and our own family lives, I like to think that the editing process was an undertaking worthy of Ben-Hur.

Small things as much as major issues have popped in between the lines along the way.

For starters inserting Japanese kanji symbols into the novel became part of the 2007-2011 journey. In 1992 there was none, not even mention of Floyd's tattoo fuyu (winter)—probably because I didn't get that ink myself until 1994—but it was there in the 2002 manuscript. And only that. The rest came later.

Likely the kanji really settled itself in my brain when I watched over a dozen Akira Kurosawa movies within a one-week period at the beginning of 2010 (for an article to celebrate the centenary since his birth); in his films there’s often kanji dominating the screen all by itself and it’s powerful stuff even if you can’t understand what it says.

Floyd’s love interest Laurel scored her own sizable tattoo late in the book (sorry, bad pun). I’d always dug full-back tattoos in cinema—such as Robert de Niro’s in Cape Fear, Russell Crowe’s in Romper Stomper, and Kanako Higuchi’s ink in the final Shintaro Katsu Zatoichi flick—which is why Laurel ended up endowed with her own cheeky version.

Which is what the novel does try to hang onto throughout proceedings: a sense of cheekiness amidst the drama, quirky red herrings that reference my love of geek culture and cinema but do add something to the story, and a sense of historical revisionism that’s shaped the past 23 years of my life. God knows if any of it works, but for me the novel now is ten times better in 2011—because of these things—than it was as a short story in 1988.

Not that any of this means anything unless people outside my head space agree, and now I’m finding out if they do… so where in blazes has that darn tootin’ lucky rabbit’s foot got to?

Andrez Bergen
December 2011