Saturday, June 29, 2013

Melanie Page Reviews: My Pet Serial Killer

Michael Seidlinger
312 Pages

Enigmatic Ink, January 2013

By guest reviewer Melanie Page

No matter how much or how little torture is shown in a movie, for the victim, it has to be never-ending. Real time freezes and torture time is the new reality. Places in Michael J. Seidlinger’s novel My Pet Serial Killer froze in time--but not for the victim--for the killer. The novel opens with college student Claire attending parties and going to clubs to find the perfect person. She emphasizes she’s an “observer,” lest we forget, which makes her seem extra creepy; she’s looking for the perfect boyfriend, right? Not true--Claire wants the perfect serial killer, one she can take home and call her own, her “pet.” Naturally, a pet needs a master, and Claire becomes just that to the man she finds, Victor.

Thanks to her major in forensics, Claire knows know to make her pet immortal in history, if only he’ll “satisfy” her, which doesn’t really have a definition other than making sure Victor tells her the flavor of each victim’s genitals. Claire supports the whole operation from her apartment, making sure her pet isn’t caught. The concept is unique, one that begs a reader to explore the book.

I applaud Seidlinger’s boldness to take on such a sensitive subject and get inside the head of a killer’s puppetmaster. There were some issues with pacing, though, making the book speed through areas that required more information and dragging in places that had been iterated and reiterated before. In twelve pages Claire finds her killer (if you don’t count the italicized sections that instruct reads to skip them if he/she wishes), but we learn so little about her. It’s unclear if she’s a graduate/undergraduate, who pays for her apartment, where are her friends/family. The simple logistic are fuzzy.

The italicized sections also made the story drag, being unclear about setting, character, and narrator (confusion between he/she/I/you). What do they each mean? Again, these sections ruminate on the observer/observed, master/pet, sex/violence. The last italicized section even functions as the audience; what did we think of the book (here it’s called a movie), and did any of it make sense? Did we hate or love it?

I think the best tool for Seidlinger’s novel would have been a firm editor who would cut unnecessary repetition. I wanted sections like this to move a whole lot faster:

            “But see how I’m not really telling you the whole story? I’m not going to because leaving a
bit of it to mystery keeps everyone guessing. It turns a person’s mind into a powerful weapon. Guess all you want but you’re not going to figure it all out. And then you’re thinking maybe it’s impossible to figure out. Eventually you might give up, but the mystery never gives up on anyone.”

Could 100 pages been removed and we still get the same book? I think we would have had a stronger, more polished book. Even on the sentence level, a good editor would have corrected spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. I don’t typically point these things out, but they were distracting (“I walk from room to room a finger where it feels good”).

A brave take on an unusual subject, I could already see My Pet Serial Killer being used as a basis for the next Hollywood horror.

Bio: Melanie Page is a MFA graduate, adjunct instructor, and recent founder of Grab the Lapels, a site that only reviews books written by women (

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looking for a few good reviewers...

Yeah, you read that right! 
TNBBC is officially on the hunt for a few good reviewers. 

I'm looking for voracious readers who adore the heck out of small press literature and are willing to contribute some creative and insightful reviews to this blog. Actually, the more creative, the better! Do you review in comic form? Do you compare and contrast? Do you write your reviews as letters to the author? Do you review in eBook or Audio form only? Do you specialize in a specific literary genre - noir fiction, translated fiction, Bizarro?

Here's what we're looking for and what you can expect when you review for us:

We want reviewers who:

  • Are extremely passionate about reading
  • Aren't shy about expressing their opinions
  • Will commit to contributing a couple of reviews a month
  • Give us first-day dibs on the premiere of the review
  • Review books that are published by small press only (backlist, new release, or pre-release)
  • Are not afraid to let their book-nerdy personalities show

In return we'll:

  • Spread your awesome review all over our Twitter and Facebook page
  • Send our traffic to whatever links you include in your bio
  • Add a permanent button on our sidebar to promote you
  • Increase your exposure to the small press publishers and authors you adore
  • Pay you in love, admiration, and - from time to time - opportunities to choose from a list of arc's or review copies on our backlist. 

So how does that sound?! If you'd like to be considered as a guest reviewer at TNBBC, check out the reviews we've written in the past, and if you think you've got what we desperately need, hit me up with a few sample reviews at 

Show us what you've got!! Knock our socks off!! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Audio Series: Mary Vensel White

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Today, Mary Vensel White reads from her novel The Qualities of WoodMary was born in Los Angeles and raised in Lancaster, California. She graduated from the University of Denver and lived for five years in Chicago, where she completed an MA in English at DePaul University. She lives in southern California with her husband, four children and two badly trained dogs in a chaotic but happy home. Her husband is an attorney and she is the mom with a book or laptop at the little league game, soccer field or dance studio. THE QUALITIES OF WOOD is her first novel but she has just completed a second entitled Fortress for One, and is currently working on a collection of interrelated stories. 

Click on the soundcloud link below to experience The Qualities of Wood, as read by author Mary Vensel White:

The word on The Qualities of Wood:

A haunting and beautifully written debut novel by an exciting and new author.

When Betty Gardiner dies, leaving behind an unkempt country home, her grandson and his young wife take a break from city life to prepare the house for sale. Nowell Gardiner leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel. By the time his wife Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. Even after the death is ruled an accident, Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behaviour of her neighbours, or her husband. As Vivian attempts to put the house in order, all around her things begin to fall apart.

‘The Qualities of Wood’ is a stunning novel from an exciting new writer. Perfect for readers of Anne Tyler and Anita Shreve.
*lifted from goodreads with love

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Indie Spotlight: Boss Fight Books

It's always most awesome to meet new small press publishers, but it's absolutely the BOMB to meet them before they are even born.

This is the story of the birth of a brand new small press called Boss Fight Books.

This print and ebook video-game-focused publishing company created a kickstarter to get themselves up and running, and within hours of the campaign going live, they found themselves fully funded at $5,000. (I was one of the early backers, this shit looks rad!) Not one to lose the momentum, founder Gabe Durham began throwing out stretch goals to keep the interest up. Stretch goal #1, set at $10,000, was exceeded by day two. And so it goes...

Currently, with 12 days left to accept funding, 735 backers, and nearly $25,000 sitting in the pot, Boss Fight Books is able to dream bigger and farther than they ever imagined. So what the heck is Boss Fight Books all about? Well, I thought I'd let Gabe tell you that:

Ok Gabe, let’s start with you. What should we know about you? How did you come about the idea for Boss Fight Books?

I'm a guy who likes his creative projects: writing, editing, music, and this year I've been getting into sketch/improv through the UCB scene in LA. If I've got some good projects going, I'm pretty happy.
A few months ago, I was in a position where my novel FUN CAMP was about to come out, I'd just finished a big nonfiction manuscript, and I was pretty hungry for the next thing. I was reading a book about Nintendo that I'd picked up at the library and I thought: "There ought to be a 33 1/3 for video games. Surely there is." And when my google search turned up nothing, it annoyed me. The market had failed me! And so the next thought was: It must be me.

And so a new small press was born! How’d you settle on the name Boss Fight Books? And how did you determine who your cohorts would be?

First I brainstormed a list of video game tropes, whatever I could think of, and then looked to see which ones were already the name of a popular gaming-related site, book, or movie. That narrowed it a lot. I love "Boss Fight Books" for the way the violence of "Fight" is tempered by the solitary act of reading. I must have a thing for that kind of contrast: I performed in a little comedy thing the other day and we needed a name for our group, just for the afternoon, and I suggested "Tummy Stomp." And so we were Tummy Stomp.
2. I met up with Ken in Silverlake a few months ago for smoothies, and told him about my idea for Boss Fight, and he was really excited about it. He emailed me later that day and said, "I was thinking about it and you've got to do it." And I said, "I'll do it if you write one." And then it was on.

The other authors were the result of an intensive R&D phase. I asked friends on Facebook to tell me about their favorite video game writers, and was avalanched with great writing. Turned out Anna, Darius, and Jon all came up in that discussion, though it took a lot of reading before I made my choice about who to invite. I'm really grateful they all said yes. They had little reason to take a chance on a dude from the internet.

Michael--the most seasoned writer of us all--I already knew a little, and our mutual friend Adam told me all about Michael's Galaga obsession. The kicker, Adam explained, was that Michael was ready to tackle a new project. So I made my pitch and Michael graciously accepted.

I’ve got to admit, I’m dying to see what Michael Kimball does with his Galaga obsession. He has such a unique eye; I expect it to be nothing less than magical. Honestly, I believe I am not the only one when I say this, but I am anticipating your entire lineup to be nothing less than magical.

Thanks, Lori! I think it's inevitable that once these books are out, people will have strong opinions about which books are their favorite. I bet too that a reader's best-loved book and best-loved game are not the same. For instance, my favorite 33 1/3 book of the ones I've read is on Pavement's Wowee Zowee by Bryan Charles. That's not such an important album to me, but the book is incredible and makes me care because Charles cares. So my hope is that readers will give, say, ZZT a try even if they never played it growing up.

With the release of Ready Player One last year, and BJ Best’s Our Princess is in Another Castle this year, video games seem to be influencing literature at an alarming rate. How do you and your partners hope to differentiate yourselves from the other retro-literature noise out there?

You're right--game-influenced lit is thriving. I'd love to check out both of those books you mentioned. People are making really strong literature out of the material of video games: The poems of Gregory Sherl and prose poems of Brian Oliu are great too.
I think what Boss Fight offers is focus: The notion that a single game is worthy of an entire book is a tenet, but it's also a dare to writers. Anybody could write 1,000 words on the history of Super Mario Bros 2, but to write an entire book requires the author (Jon Irwin) to dig deep, unsure of what he'll come up with. The length demands that it will be an exploration. And that's what my favorite nonfiction books are: explorations. (To name a few: In Cold Blood, About a Mountain, A Supposedly Fun Thing, Body Politic, U&I.) So that the subject is a game, and then the writing of the book is also a sort of game.

So will these books be a mix of fiction and non fiction? Just think, you could be ushering in a whole new genre of literature with Boss Fight Books. What would you name it, this new gamers genre lit?

The books will actually be entirely nonfiction. I love to write and read fiction (Dennis Cooper's God Jr. is a great book that largely takes place inside a video game, for instance), but I think nonfiction will better focus the series.

And I do hope we're helping usher in a new era of respectability for longform writing about games. I'd add that there is a lot of exciting writing already being done, just not in a forum quite like this.

As for what to call it... Game Culture Studies? Longform Game Journalism? Memoirio Bros? The Legend of Gaming: A Link to the Past? Game Theft Auto San Andreas? Hmm. I'll have to keep at it.

How did you decide on the order in which you’ll release your titles?

The ordering as it stands on the Kickstarter is the order in which the books were contracted, but it will almost definitely change. Earthbound will be our first title, but the others will be released according to the order in which they are completed. 


Don't let the fact they hit their funding in the first eight hours of their debut stop you... check out the kickstarter video for Boss Fight Books and throw some money at them. I'm in for the entire, digital first season lineup and cannot wait to see these badboys! 

Gabe Durham is the author of the novel FUN CAMP and the editor of Boss Fight Books. Other writings have recently appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Collagist, and The Weeklings. He lives in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Where Writers Write: Janice Deal

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

Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

This is Janice Deal. 

Her stories have appeared in literary magazines including The Sun, CutBank, the Ontario Review, The Carolina Quarterly, StoryQuarterly, and New Letters, and in the anthology, New Stories from the Midwest.  Her short-story collection, The Decline of Pigeons, was a finalist in the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and she is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship Award for prose.  She is currently working on a novel.

Where Janice Deal Writes

I was writing not long ago when my daughter came in to where I was parked on the couch with my laptop, and announced that our bathroom ceiling looked “weird.”  We’ve had a leak there once before and the paint is blotched, something I’ve meant to fix but haven’t gotten around to yet. I blithely told her not to worry, making vague reference to “that old stain,” then swung my attention back to my characters, Dixie and Val, currently raising hell up in northern Wisconsin.

“It’s not a stain, exactly,” she said carefully, edging a little closer.  “More like a . . . bubble?”  That caught my attention, so I left Dixie the hell-raiser to join Marion and check out the bathroom, where a giant bubble of water-filled paint had indeed bloomed on the ceiling.  Oh.  Plumber.  Of course.

Did you know that the best way to manage a water-filled paint bubble is to pop it?  Or that 11-year-olds are more observant than their myopic parents?  No matter.  Our bathroom is in good shape now, and when the time is right I will repaint the ceiling, but perhaps in a nutshell this reminds me why I write anywhere but at home.  I get distracted, if not by plumbing emergencies, then by our three cats, who demand to be recognized as more important than work:

So it is that most of my short-story collection, The Decline of Pigeons – and now my novel-in-progress - got written, not at home, but in one of two places: Starbucks or Barnes & Noble.  

I like the coffee in both locales, I like the warm vibe, and the white noise that comes with working in a public place is so non-specific to me (plumbing emergency?  not my problem!) that I can easily tune it out.  I tend to meet writer friends for “work dates” at these places; the Barnes & Noble near me has wonderful long wooden tables and outlets for laptops, and there’s a Starbucks not far away where they know me and get my latte going before I even say a word.  It’s fun – even comforting - to have company and to work in “companionable silence” with someone else, and then when we’re done we might treat ourselves to lunch and catching up.  In a profession often characterized by solitude, I appreciate this way to connect with my friends. 

Sometimes at the end of the work day, if I’m at Barnes and Noble I’ll relax for a beat with a book.  

And then I look forward to speeding home – wonderful home with its cheerful disarray, the towers of books and aging plumbing, the scuffed wooden floors and my child and my husband and those three crazy cats: so essential to my happiness, which, come to think of it, is that thing most conducive to my writing, after all.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Tanya Chernov

I'd been tossing around the idea of blogging a tattoo series for nearly a year. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. 

After hoarding the photos and essays I've been collecting from these guys since July of 2012, and with the promise of spring peeking its deliciously sunny head out through all of this winter gloom, I decided there was no better time than now to finally unveil THE INDIE INK RUNS DEEP mini-series!

Today's ink comes from Tanya Chernov. Tanya earned her BA in English from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington and holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. A proud member of the Richard Hugo House and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, her work has been published all over the literary map, ranging from experimental forms to formal verse, from literary narratives to imaginative farces. A Real Emotional Girl: A Memoir of Love and Loss (Skyhorse Publishing) was recently named one of Kirkus Review's 15 Excellent Memoirs. Poetry and translations editor for the Los Angeles Review, Tanya lives and writes in Seattle with her dog, Mona, though roots of her heart remain firmly planted in Wisconsin. Go Packers. Find Tanya and her debut memoir, A Real Emotional Girl, at www.tanyachernov.

My first tattoo was a blocky, unplanned, ugly mistake: Hebrew text that matched my now-ex fiancĂ©'s and which read "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine, that shepherds among the lilies" from the Song of Solomon. Yeah--oy vey is right.

Since I can remember writing, which—as is the case for most of us—goes pretty far back, I've been fussy about the implements used in my work. The type of paper and pen are most crucial, the tactile sensation of the keys on the keyboard having heavy influence on the tone and timbre of what I create. I began cultivating an obsession with antique typewriters after college, reveling in the way the high-mounted keys almost made it seem as if another person was writing my words altogether.

In the days before my former betrothed got mean, in the early days before he turned on me every night after he'd turned to the liquor, we were actually quite sweet together. More in love than you'd guess. One day while I was working at home with the dogs lying lazily in the sun at my feet, Chris came bounding through my office door and whisked me outside to the running car. Down the street, he'd found the most incredible garage sale, he'd said, and he wanted to take me there before all the good stuff was gone. An older couple was selling a million little trinkets and wares from their life together, and Chris and I wanted to buy every bit of it so we could force our own world to construct itself just so. But instead, we settled on what we could get for the cash in our pockets, which included an Underwood typewriter and its heavy black carrying case. Together they weighed nearly as much as a Volkswagen, and Chris lugged them into the back of the car for me.

Though I never found any ribbons to fit inside and didn't have the patience to nurse it back to functioning order, that typewriter became a sort of mascot, an inanimate pet. I would stroke its keys late into the night when the words wouldn't flow, imagining my black metal machine spitting out letters and poems and dreams high through the air in an endless stream, my fingers simply taking dictation.

Because he knew I loved it, Chris kept the typewriter from me when I left him. Held it hostage like the child I thank the heavens we never had. He kept other things that stung me, too--the Dyson vacuum, the vintage leather couch from my office, the plant I'd moved with me from house to house since high school. But the typewriter was mine, through and though. Chris had no use for it; he doesn't even read.

A few months after I found the courage to leave that deeply necrotic relationship, I found a brilliant tattoo artist who specialized in cover-ups and happened to be from my home state of Wisconsin. She did a remarkable job creating something I absolutely loved to replace what had become a terrible reminder of my near-disastrous marriage. When it was time for my second tat, I knew exactly who I wanted to do the art, and exactly what I wanted: an old-fashioned typewriter.

I have more antique typewriters in my house now than I know what to do with, several of which are worth a good deal of money, in fine condition, and with fabulous aesthetic appeal. But none of them can replace my first—that true gem with all its greasy charm, its hulking presence a comfort I can't accurately describe.

The tattoo on my bicep gives me some small solace in its absence and provides exactly the sort of touchstone quality I so hoped it would possess. Every time I look at the tattoo, or touch it, or simply remember that it's there, I am reminded of my devotion to this writer's life, to my love of the written word. Like a ballet dancer returning to the barre and knowing exactly where she is, having this tattoo reminds me that every time I return to the page, I have come home.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Audio Series: Heather Fowler

Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen." is an incredibly special one for us. Hatched in a NYC club during BEA week, this feature requires more work of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.

Today, Heather Fowler reads from her new collection This Time, While We're AwakeHeather is also the author of the story collections Suspended Heart (Aqueous Books, Dec. 2010), People with Holes (Pink Narcissus Press, July 2012), and Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness (Queen's Ferry Press, forthcoming May 2014). Fowler’s People with Holes was named a 2012 finalist for Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction. She received her M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University. Her stories and poems have been published online and in print in the U.S., England, Australia, and India, and appeared in such venues as PANK, Night Train, storyglossia, Surreal South, JMWW, Prick of the Spindle, Short Story America, The Nervous Breakdown, and others, as well as having been nominated for the storySouth Million Writers Award, Sundress Publications Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. She is Poetry Editor at Corium Magazine and a Fiction Editor for the international refereed journal, Journal of Post-Colonial Cultures & Societies (USA). 

Click the soundcloud file below to experience This Time, While We're Awake as read by author Heather Fowler:

The word on This Time, While We're Awake:

Fowler's new collection, This Time, While We're Awake, welcomes you to the worlds of egregious dystopias—environments where tornadoes come one after another as neighbors spar, drugged breeders make babies in the near-future for the sterile rich, and humans are sacrificed by contract to aliens who protect them. In this collection, Fowler examines what it means to be fair and humane in the surreal landscapes where the ruling factions are neither of these things. Come and get your Practice Baby, if you'd like to try parenting. Take an injection to experience love without a partner. This collection showcases not only Fowler's trademark heart and humor, but also a darker dimension of commentary similar to Bradbury or The Twilight Zone. Selected stories in this volume have been published internationally and online.
*lifted from the publisher's website with love

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Fiction

Happy Father's Day to all you daddy's out there. 

In honor of Father's Day, I thought I'd share some of the father-focused books I've read in recent years. Each one of these novels deals with fatherhood in one way, shape, or form. Good dad's, confused dad's, or absent dad's... no matter what kind of dad, we celebrate you in literary fashion!

Lincoln Bradley

When you're 4 years old and your dad owns his own publishing company, you can pretty much bet that the cute and crazy things you say will eventually be recorded and released for the entire world to pine over. 

An adorable collection of silly and stunningly insightful sayings from 4 year old Lincoln - and yes, he has quite a lot to say about his daddy.

Bennet Sims

In this zombie novel that is not a zombie novel, friends Matt and Mike wander the streets in search of Matt's father, who they believe has been turned into one of the undead and who may, at any moment, come shuffling back to one of his many old haunts. 

The love and concern that Matt has for his father, the fear he harbors of leaving him out in the world, undead and wandering alone, is the rock around which this novel revolves. 

Kevin Haworth

This collection of non-fiction essays focuses on what it's like to be Jewish, to be a father, and to be a Jewish father in the 21st century.

Kevin shares the memories of his son's circumcision, and during elementary school, his obsession with wearing dresses. And the story of his daughter's near drowning in the pool, among others.

Matt Salesses

The story of a reluctant father told in flash fictions bits, I'm Not Saying picks apart one man's reaction to the news that he is the father of a 5 year old boy, upon the death of the boy's mother. 

It's lovely and heartbreaking and tender and wicked all at the same time. 

Joshua Mohr

Fight Song is about a father who is failing at life - sucky programmers job where is under appreciated, a near loveless marriage, and kids who'd rather text and play video games than hang out with him. 

Rather than suffering through a depressing story about a man who is this close to losing it all, we instead find ourselves on a journey of self-discovery, of finding friends in the unlikeliest of places, of learning the value of accepting help even when you weren't asking for it.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Jonathan Evison

Another father-in-crisis story that you worry will tug horribly at your heart strings but instead finds you strapping your ass to the car seat for fear of falling off!

TRFoC is an incredible demonstration of human resilience. A father who blames himself for the death of his children hits rock bottom and decides to claw himself back out by taking on a job that puts him in charge of the care and counseling of a crippled teenage boy. The two hit the road on a journey of sorts - one that helps and heals them both. 

Michael Kimball

A son's tender, honest look back at the life and death of his abusive father and the impact it has had on his life - Another knock out from Michael Kimball. 

Big Ray is a microscopic look at how the things we do and say scar a person's soul, leaving permanent reminders of us, for better or worse, long after we are gone. But it's not entirely morose. Michael's thrown in some dark humor and "yo daddy's so fat" jokes to lighten the mood a bit, and because, well, it's human nature to find the funny in the face of death.

Ben Tanzer

As I read My Father's House, I saw it as Ben's way of publicly expressing what it is like to lose a parent to the front row horror show that is Cancer. It felt like a cleaning of the slate and of properly saying goodbye. And I felt it was a true reflection of the chaotic feelings that rush through you from moment to moment, day to day, when preparing yourself for the ultimate and unavoidable loss of someone you can't imagine living without.

Greg Olear

Greg Olear has found the magic combination with this "day in the life of a stay-at-home-dad" dramedy. It's a book that quickly worms its way to your heart while fingering your funny bone.

Fathermucker is a mosaic of fatherhood. It's clearly filled to the brim with pieces of Greg's own experiences and it tenderly balances the good with the bad, the funny with the serious, the parental frustrations with the silliness of childhood.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Indie Spotlight: Corey Mesler

Ever sit around and wonder if you should become a writer? I can honestly say that I've never had much interest in writing - I'm a much better reader than I am a writer; I thank god for you writerly folk every single day - but I imagine there are tons of people out there who attempt to pick up the pen (or stab at the keyboard) to make their literary mark on the world.

For those of you who wish to start, but don't know how... or for those of you who are afraid to ask for advice for fear of being told "stop while you're ahead", author Corey Mesler has something he'd like to share with you.

I'm happy to present the following guest post - some cheeky words of wisdom from one who writes to one who wants to write...

How to be a Writer

Even with my small-pond modicum of success I am often asked for advice about writing. “I know nothing,” is usually my initial response. But sometimes people want the advice, no matter how dubious the source. So, I pin here a few thoughts about the writing life. 

First off, congratulations on your bravery for choosing one of the loneliest, most solitary of the arts. (Or perhaps you believe it has chosen you. Perhaps you will be one of the chuckleheads [and I use the word in a non-pejorative sense since I consider myself Prince of the Chuckleheads] who add the words “Poet” or “Author” to their name. Like this: Author Corey Mesler. Or Corey Mesler, Poet.) Either way, writing is not a collaborative art. (Unless you’re James Patterson, and then, foo on you for making novels a workshop product.) Though you must stand on the shoulders of the giants before you, you will write in your own garret. It will be done in silence, inside a bell jar, so to speak. Even if you have smart, writerly friends with whom you may share a piece while you’re working on it, even if you have great advice from other writers, the actual work will be done by yourself, alone. All alone. And, out in the workaday world, you may find few people who understand just what it is that you do while in your laboratory. Still, you must soldier on.

My first, best piece of advice is not very original: Read. Read everything and everybody. Read the greats. Read your peers. Let one book lead you to another book, link to link, like a pre-computer, foolscap webpage maze. Or, more currently put, like how one webpage links to another which links to another, and you follow because it’s easy, because you trust the good people who made webpages.  Read the writers who make you happy, who challenge you, who seem to talk specifically to your heart.

And my second piece of advice is equally unoriginal: write. Just keep writing. The crafting of a melodious sentence is difficult work, achieved after hours and days and weeks and years of practice. But, when it happens, there are few joys that compare. You can only learn to write by writing, by doing it, by placing word after word, until you partly understand how this amazing alchemy called language works. I say partly understand because, no matter how long you stay at it, you will never fully comprehend why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Why is it that one day you feel like John Updike, like everything is flowing from you as naturally as Avon flowing by Stratford, and on another day, a day you began the same way you began the wonderful day of writing, the words seem stuck in you like some kind of constipated paste? Why is that? No one knows. In the end, writing, like most art, is a great mystery, done by magicians. Really, done by magicians.

So, just go read, and write. And luck to you all, brave astronauts! And, remember, when you get to be my age and you’ve published a few scrawny, nursling, introspective, wobbly, sincere or insincere volumes, some youth will come up to you and ask for your advice. They will ask how to become a writer and you can say to them: I know nothing. 

COREY MESLER has published in numerous journals and anthologies. He has published six novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon (2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores (2010), Following Richard Brautigan (2010), and Gardner Remembers (2011), Frank Comma and the Time-Slip (2012), 2 full length poetry collections, Some Identity Problems (2008) and Before the Great Troubling (2011), and 3 books of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009), Notes toward the Story and Other Stories (2011) and I’ll Give You Something to Cry About (2011). He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose.

He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Greil Marcus, among others. With his wife, he runs Burke’s Book Store in Memphis TN, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. He can be found at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

CCLaP: Mountainfit

Holy cow, CCLaP is at it again! 
We've gone and released another non fiction collection out into the world. 

This week, we celebrate the re-birth of Meera Lee Sethi's non fiction, memoir-ish collection  Mountainfit. Meera self published this book through a successful kickstarter campaign as a personal project, with no real intentions of seeing it make a splash in the literary world. One fateful day, however, after reading a few of CCLaP's critical book reviews, Meera submitted the book for our publisher Jason's consideration. Jason, rather than accepting the book for review, read it, fell in love with it, and asked Meera to sign it with CCLaP!

Mountainfit is an ecological field notebook, a keenly observed natural history of the life that sings from the birches, wheels under the clouds, and scuttles over the peat bogs of the Swedish highlands. And it is a letter, in 21 jewel-like parts, from a well-read and funny friend. 

In 2011, a tiny bird observatory in far western Sweden found itself hosting its first American volunteer, and Meera Lee Sethi found herself exactly where she wanted to be: watching great snipe court each other under the midnight sun and disturbing lemmings on her way to find a gyrfalcon nest. Meera’s vigorous, graceful prose communicates a wry understanding of how utterly ordinary it is to long for more out of life—and how extraordinary it can feel to trust that longing. Meera's intent was to create a book small enough to fit in your pocket and read on the train to work in the morning. It is that. But it's also large enough to contain a mountain or two.


We are actively seeking reviews for Mountainfit, so raise your hand if you're interested! 
We've got Mobi, EPub, and PDF copies for the picking. 

We are also selling Mountainfit in a hand-made, hardback hypermodern edition - which you can order here if you like that sort of thing! Who wouldn't a copy of that beauty?!

You can also add it to your goodreads shelves here

Meera is also available for interviews, guest posts, and audio excerpts! Comment here, or send me an email at if you'd like to get your Mountainfit on....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Kelly Davio

I'd been tossing around the idea of blogging a tattoo series for nearly a year. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. 

After hoarding the photos and essays I've been collecting from these guys since July of 2012, and with the promise of spring peeking its deliciously sunny head out through all of this winter gloom, I decided there was no better time than now to finally unveil THE INDIE INK RUNS DEEP mini-series!

Today's ink comes from Kelly Davio, Managing Editor of The Los Angeles Review, Associate Editor of Fifth Wednesday Journal, and a reviewer for Women’s Review of Books. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, and others. Her debut collection of poetry, Burn This House, was published by Red Hen Press in 2013. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, and she teaches English as a second language in the Seattle area.

Life involves a good quantity of bad news. Those of us who choose to become writers sign up for even more bad news than we might get otherwise. We even self-address stamped envelopes so that we can receive bad news in our mailboxes. It can be tempting to see writing and publishing as consisting, on the whole, of piles of rejection.

When I had Derek Nobel of Lucky Devil Tattoo ink this piece on my shoulder in 2008, it was because I needed to believe that good news would eventually outweigh the bad, and that devoting myself to the written word would bring me more joy than disappointment. This envelope is my good news, which I choose to believe is always coming. It serves as my visible, physical reminder not to allow discouraging circumstances color my perspective on the long arc of the writing life.

In a quick succession of events in the year after I got this tattoo, I would become an editor for The Los Angeles Review, receive a publishing contract for Burn This House, and sign with my fantastic agent, Gordon Warnock. Was my ink a lucky talisman that made it all happen? Probably not. The work I’d been putting in for years was simply starting to bear fruit. But the good news I carry on my back stood as a daily reminder that, if I work hard and work well, good news will eventually come to me.