Friday, July 31, 2015

Lindsey Reviews: Movement No. 1: Trains

Movement No. 1: Trains by Hope Wabuke
Pages: 22 poems
Publisher: dancing girl press
Released: 2015




Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson 




Movement No. 1: Trains is a single prose poem broken up into a chapbook. Some poems function better when left in their long form (they gain momentum and power as one piece) but Hope Wabuke’s poem gains strength from the pauses in between.

The speaker spends the course of the book reflecting on moments in her life, and relationships, while riding the subway. The lines are clear and very sensual, without being overly sexual; “it is only when she thinks of him that her body becomes soft; she is so conscious them.” There are so many moments where it is clear the speaker realizes this blur between memory and present, between the sensual and the mundane. The level of alertness and self analysis was very engaging.

Along with the quiet sensuality there are so many fantastic, grounding, details. The sixth poem in the collection reflects the unusual way time passes in a subway, saying “knowing the movement of time by the flow and ebb of crowds.” This is really one of those great moments where, as a writer, you wish you had written that.  The poet could have written about time and love in some abstract way, but instead these ideas are conveyed with the grounded actions.

Another feature of these prose poems is the way that the speaker reveals herself. The relationship that is at the core of the poem is clearly a rocky one, but she doesn’t come straight out and say it. Again, the poet wisely chooses to focus on the reality at hand: “at the end, as the crowds surge forward, it is easy to concentrate on the one moment of getting out.”

Often times I find myself wanting something in a collection, or wishing for a small tweak, but this book is so nicely self-contained and based in a tangible world that I’m satisfied. This is a nice, complete, read that is totally worth your time.

Dog Eared Poem (since there aren’t page numbers or poem titles):


1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 17, 19, 22



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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Indie Ink Runs Deep: Kelly Fordon




Every now and then I manage to talk a small press author into showing us a little skin... tattooed skin, that is. 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. Whether it's the influence for their book, influenced by their book, or completely unrelated to the book, we get to hear the story behind their indie ink....


Today's ink story comes from Kelly Fordon. Prior to writing fiction and poetry, Kelly Fordon worked at the NPR member station in Detroit and for National Geographic magazine. Her fiction, poetry and book reviews have appeared in The Boston Review, The Florida Review, Flashquake, The Kenyon Review (KRO), The Montreal Review, Rattle, Red Wheelbarrow, The Windsor Review and various other journals.  She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, On The Street Where We Live, which won the 2011 Standing Rock Chapbook Contest and Tell Me When it Starts to Hurt, which was published by Kattywompus Press in May 2013.  Her short story collection, Garden for the Blind, was published by Wayne State University Press in April 2015. She works for Inside Out Literary Arts in Detroit as a writer-in-residence.




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



 I do not personally have a tattoo but a pivotal character in my novel-in-stories, Garden for the Blind, sports a tattoo of a blue butterfly on his upper arm. I imagine it looks something like this:



The book is about two privileged white kids from the Detroit suburbs who pin a drug deal on a black scholarship student and get him kicked out of their posh private high school. The stories follow the main characters’ trajectories (or lack thereof) for thirty years. In the penultimate story, an inner city kid named Jerome gets a butterfly tattoo on his upper arm in honor of his mother. Someone sees it (without giving too much away) and becomes convinced that Jerome has attacked him.  This is a book about how limited each person’s perspective can be. We see what we are capable of seeing given our own backgrounds, and because of that we miss a lot of vital information about other people.

Butterflies are a symbol of transformation and of soul. In the book, Spiritual Pilgrims: Carl Jung and Teresa of Avila by John Welch, the author said something that resonated with me and led me to include the butterfly tattoo in this story:

“The butterfly is an apt image for the delicate freeing up of a condition that had felt like entombment. It speaks of a speaks of a gradual lifting up of a heart that had been heavily weighed down.”

In my book, the schism between the city and the suburbs weighs everyone down. The butterfly is a symbol of hope and my hope as the author is that people who read this book will be able to sense some redemption at the end.

Here are some other sources:



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: The Dark Will End the Dark

Read 7/2/15 - 7/5/15
4 Stars - Highly Recommended, some creepy stuff in these here pages
Pages: 167
Publisher; Tortoise Books
Released March 2015


I get lots of friend requests on Goodreads. Lots. Mostly from weirdo friend-collectors with whom I have nothing in common, self published authors who are just looking to spam their newest releases in TNBBC, foreign dudes with creepy profiles, and underage users who attempt to bully me around by commenting on my status updates when I don't respond. So I'm not bragging when I say that. 


But every once in a while, I'll get a request from an author who is genuinely reaching out to say hey in appreciation for what TNBBC stands for. While I'd like to say that I'm so tuned in to the small press community that I know about every cool new title that's releasing every second of every day of every week, well, I mean, c'mon. So it's really cool when an author stands up and introduces themselves to me like Darrin did. 


Because I'm a curious person, I took a look at his books and was instantly drawn towards The Dark Will End the Dark. It promotes itself as 14 stunning and visceral stories, deftly mixing realism and fabulism, bleakness and hope, sparkling dialogue and unforgettable characters that will remain in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned. And bleak and stunning and lingering they were. 


This collection of thematically-linked but stylistically unique stories is incredibly sad and tragic and strange. Darrin's obsession with body parts and gender fluidity adds an additional layer of connectivity throughout. 


In the body stories, which are sprinkled all throughout the book - with titles like "Head", "Hand", "Face", "Neck", and "Sores" - Darrin plagues his characters with horrific, though seemingly painless, physical conditions. A man's head dies but his body remains functional; A young child's hand becomes infected and ultimately gives birth to a ghost; after staring at himself countless times in the bathroom mirror, a man's face rearranges itself one day....


These stories are particularly grotesque and unsettling because, while they are incredibly unlikely to happen to someone outside of Darrin's imaginary control, their nightmarish imagery haunts you long after. 


You should know that the collection kicks off with "Tugboat to Traverse City" , by far my favorite of the bunch. It's a tale in which a captainless tugboat, engulfed in fog, slowly begins to lose its passengers as they jump overboard... all except for one strangely apathetic group of friends who are content to just sit and wait and do nothing.  


There's also "The Hiccup King", a cutesy look at a man who's caught a case of the chronic hiccups, and what happens when he comes face to face with the Hiccup King. And "Barney Hester" was pretty cool. In this one, two BFF's go ga-ga over the girl next door until she unhinges her jaw and swallows one of them whole.  


Darrin's mind is a dark and dangerous one. His characters never see what's coming and they never seem to catch a break. And as a reader, I'm totally ok with that.  If you're a newbie to his work, you'll want to rectify that soon. 


Dude can tell a story. And he knows how to author right.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Page 69: On the Edges of Vision

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....





In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Helen McClory's On the Edges of Vision to the test. 





OK, Helen, set up page 69 for us.

It's the first page of a short prose poem called 'Shadows', a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche (or Beauty and the Beast) myth story, but run through with ideas of multiverses and both macro and microscopic landscapes. Basically a love poem to science and trying to connect and exist.





What is On the Edges of Vision about?

 On the Edges of Vision is a collection of flash fictions, short stories and prose poems like 'Shadows' which deal with the loneliness of literary monsters - and gods and demons and people who just think of themselves as monstrous. Like it says on the back of the book, the monster is human, and only wants to reach out and take you by the hand.





Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what On the Edges of Vision is about? Does it align itself the collections’s overall theme?

While it doesn't represent the general style of writing in the book - more traditionally short-storyish pieces predominate, and many with a pitch black sense of humour - I think it certainly aligns with the idea of connection, of finding or failing to find a self within the presence of others. 



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69 
ON THE EDGES OF VISION


Shadows





C
an we be Cupid and Psyche? It’s so terribly dark here, in here, closed in by the nothing, beloved, I sink and switch. But here comes the odour of herbs growing on a stony hillside. There are galaxies that are nothing but hanging gardens of scent. I think, and there are your fingernails, digging in the dirt and ripping leaves. The mass of it all. If I can try to describe them. Shuddering past. If I zoom in on the almond nails and the delicate green needles.

Down further is the bridge of plant veins, the cellular heartland. Down further, the palace in the mountains. The doors part and the palace is gilded but just as dark, so what is the point of goldwork and marble escaliers you cannot see? I ask, awaiting a serious answer. By the light of a candle, that’s all you get. A candle held up against multiverses of sovereign black.

Can you drip wax red onto my bare wrist and that way, that way block me out? Patter. To be in love you must



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Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of New South Wales. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart. On the Edges of Vision can be found here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Celebrating Sci- Fi Month


It's Sci-Fi Month and we're crawling out of our skins to share our all time favorite Science Fiction Literature with you! From the futuristic Star Wars to old school science methods, from post apocalyptic to traveling through time... we've got it all covered.





Melanie's Favorites:


Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. 

This work takes places just before an apocalypse purposefully orchestrated with science. While life is improved by science (including crossing species to make new ones), it is also controlled by big corporations. One person feels that starting over with a better version of human and total destruction of compounds and corporations is humanity's best bet.



Octavia Butler

I don't have a particular book to recommend, but Butler is one of the most important science fiction writers that the U.S. has seen because she dared to imagine the genre differently: as a black woman. Science fiction hasn't always been friendly to people of color, and has only acknowledged those who aren't white by ignoring them or obviously attributing them as "aliens." However, Butler wanted to see black people at the forefront of a genre she so dearly loved and wrote many books of science fiction, including the Xenogenesis trilogy.


VAS: An Opera in Flatland by Steve Tomasula. 

In this work you won't find ray guns or any super science the likes of which we often find in comic books. Instead, Tomasula uses science to tell a story. A family of three (husband, wife, daughter) are content, but should they permanently decide three is enough? The book uses old science that is now outdated, eugenics, charts, data, and more combined with the story of this family and whether or not the husband should get a vasectomy. As you're reading more about the science (tied in with gender and politics), you realize that you're being told an entire story about the significance of permanent methods of birth control, which have been used for various means to an end throughout history. 




Lindsey's Favorites:



I’m not so much a Sci Fi fan as I am a huge Star Wars fan; I’ve read nearly 70 Star Wars books and counting. The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) by Timothy Zahn is truly a defining piece in the Star Wars Extended Universe (that Lucas Arts is now calling the Legends series). This series introduces not only a new key character to Han, Luke and Leia, but also a hauntingly unique villain. Every reader/Star Wars fan needs to get their hands on this series, whether in print our audio.



Or, The Martian Chronicles. Or basically everything by Ray Bradbury. I know he’s mainstream, not a hidden gem, but his science fiction is so well written, so clear, so inventive without being crazy. I particularly like Now and Forever, which is a set of two very different novellas. The second of the set, Leviathan ’99  is a retelling of Moby Dick, but in space. Enough said, right?




Kate's Favorites:


Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Connie is a Latina woman who has been institutionalised because she’s apparently insane, but Connie believes she has the ability to communicate with an alternative future.

The book was published in 1976 and says much about the preoccupations of the time. Some of it has dated but much has not. It bursts with ideas about science, the environment, gender and race. The questions it raises about mental health, about the medicalisation of distress, the line between treatment and control and who gets to decide what is “normal” seem more relevant than ever.


Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve only recently discovered Vonnegut, in fact, spurred on by the recent TNBBC feature on audiobooks, I decided to make this my first attempt to listen to a novel. I was feeling unwell at the time and, being a fast reader, decided to listen at 1.5x normal speed. This made for a breathless delivery which, along with Vonnegut’s hallucinogenic writing perfectly complemented my half-waking state.

What’s it about? A crazed satire on consumerism? A failed science-fiction writer about to tip a man into madness? Vonnegut’s attempt to “clear my head of all the junk in there”? All of that and more. I found it stunning.


The Bees by Laline Paull

I’m a keen gardener so I spend a lot of time watching and wondering about bees. This book is a dystopian novel about a young worker bee, Flora, who fails to conform to the “hive mind”. Paull has done a lot of research and people who know about these things have praised her accurate depiction of life in the hive.

It’s a great story, which asks many clever questions about the nature of society, about the benefits and the costs of belonging, about what makes an individual. It’s also about as close as you’ll get to knowing what it’s like to be a bee.



Drew's Favorites:

For as much as I really loved sci-fi as a kid (heavily into Stars both Wars and Trek - we can coexist, people, I swear it), I realize that I've let my sci-fi reading slip away in favor of excellent sci-fi films like Ex Machina or Primer or shows like Battlestar Galactica. That doesn't mean I don't read it anymore, but my standards are way more demanding, maybe actually more demanding than they are in any other genre. Here are a couple that I've read in the last few years that were up to snuff. 

Embassytown by China MiĆ©ville.

I'm absolutely over the moon for MiƩville's stuff and Embassytown, his last full-length for adults, is one of my favorites. The idea is that on a planet way out on the edge of the universe, humanity coexists with the Ariekei, whose unique physiognomy means that they have two heads that speak simultaneously to form words. They only understand humans who are paired together and trained to speak the same way. It's an intense concept but he really delivers, both on the high-minded stuff and on the broad action/adventure of the setting, too.


Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. A currently-running comic about a war between a planet and its moon, about a star-crossed couple (one from each place) who have a kid and go on the run. But it's also about so much more and it is truly deserving of its grandiose title. I felt, reading the first volume, like I did seeing Star Wars for the first time.





Dune by Frank Herbert. An oldie, but a goodie. The rest of the series goes pretty far off the rails (although the next two books were also decent) and this one takes a little while to get going... but the scope and invention of this book captivated me as a kid and I never forgot about it.  The houses, the sandworms, Muad'Dib, the Spice... I haven't read the book in maybe ten years but I remember it like I read it yesterday. 





Lori's Favorites:

So my definition of science fiction may be a little looser than yours. Does apocalyptic and post pandemic count? I mean, it is all depicting alternate futures and takes science into consideration, right? Whatever. I'm going with it....


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndhan

Nothing can beat old school science fiction. I mean, seriously, a man-made plant raised on farms for its oils, a comet of strange green lights, and waking up to a world so far removed from any that we have had to survive before? The pacing and tension made the story. I had to chuckle at the fact that everyone in the book was waiting on America to come save them. 



Above all Men by Eric Shonkwiler

This book blew me away. But you know that already. A soft science fiction novel that walks us through the brink of a dustbowl apocalypse. It's a bleak tale of the beginning of the end of the world. Of a family man who feels the weight of everyone's worries on his shoulders. Of this man who, regardless of consequence, is determined to make sure everyone is alright, even if it means hurting the ones he cares about most. It's a tale of survival as much as it is one of destruction. And Shonkwiler pulls it off effortlessly.



The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

In a near future, a series of back-to-back viruses and infections plague the country and wipe most humans out. People are still getting sick and dying and this novel's concerned with just one thing... keeping our species from going extinct. So Carola's focus turns towards genetics and cloning and playing god by manufacturing hope for humanity in a petri dish. It's an amazing post-pandy novel that plays with language and conception in an unforgettable way. 



The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

This novel polarized many of its readers. Newman created a brand new dialect in a post-pandy world populated by children who will die of posies before they reach adulthood. It's the perfect blend of Lord of the Flies and Clockwork Orange. It's heady and ballsy and manages to break every dystopian barrier there is with a sophisticated ease. Oh yeah, and we're discussing it with the author this coming week over at TNBBC on goodreads!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Page 69: The Screaming

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....



In this installment of Page 69, 
we put David Ellis's The Screaming to the test.







OK, David, set up page 69 for us. 

This page is about a guy called Dai Williams. He’s got a knack of getting inside peoples’ heads and he’s trying to work out what made a girl called Tania do something really horrific.He’s got a rather laconic sense of humour, too.
  



What is The Screaming about:  

It’s a transatlantic eco thriller, set in the US and the UK, that opens with mysterious homicides, apparently committed by innocent teenagers, moves on to the spookily weird and wonderful, and ends with with some paranormal twists. There’s a cast of thousands, including walk-on parts for corgis and maroon helicopters.





Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what The Screaming is about? Does it align itself the book’s theme? 

The page throws the reader in the deep end, but introduces the reader to a pivotal character in the book. He’s a Welshman who hates leeks and just about everything that’s Welsh. But he has a rather cool talent.







~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
PAGE 69 
THE SCREAMING

The paramedic shrugged and continued with his futile attempts to drip some fluids into her shocked and rapidly expiring body.

This time, Dai allowed the hocus focus to cast around more generally in her brain for clues as to what had happened that morning. With a near dead brain, it was like retrieving data from a hard drive that already had its contents deleted. There were ways of doing it, but it was a matter of knowing where to look. The problem with organic memory was that the harder he looked, the faster the images and thoughts seemed to disappear. It was as if the neurons were playing hide and seek with the hocus focus. Perhaps they’d name the phenomenon the ‘Dai Williams Uncertainty Principle’ at some distant point in the future. But he was jumping ahead of himself. He had a job to do.

The thing about human brains is that memories take many forms. It could be a snippet of music, a bit of conversation, a lingering smell, or the thoughts that drift through the brain like wispy cirrus clouds. The brain was better at visual storage, and some neuroscientists believed the last image perceived by the dying brain reverberated around like a clap in a cathedral. Dai preferred the notion of a fart in a cathedral, with the smell lingering long after the sound had died away. By pinging the remnant, he might be able to get a momentary reconstruction of the original memory. He’d tried this out on a pigeon that had crashed head first into the window of his apartment, but the thick plate glass had done too good a job of smashing the one gram brain to smithereens.

So, in for a dime, in for a dollar, Dai tried his best to establish a link with the one hundred billion neurons inside Tania’s head that were at various stages of self-destruction. First stop was the right visual cortex, which looked relatively intact. He pinged gently. Shit. That was creepy. He certainly hadn’t expected to see his own face in all its weirdness, incriminatingly recorded by her brain. But it made sense, as she’d uttered her last words just after she stared at him. Dai switched to the right auditory cortex. He pinged as gently as he could. “I can see the


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


The author lives in an ostensibly carbon zero house in Kent, UK, with his partner and two cats amidst fields of maize and poly-tunnels of strawberries. At the bottom of his garden, in a nearby field, there’s a 3G network mast cunningly disguised as a tree. When he isn’t occupied enjoying the simplicity of rural life, his mind is drawn to strange imaginings about what lurks beneath the surface of the world around him. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

This Week on the Internet


In this, our newest series here on TNBBC, I'm just sniffing around the internet, linking you to some of the weirdest shit I find out there! Help keep this series alive by tweeting me links to the strangest (bookish, too) things you stumble across each week!






1. THIS #TRUMPYOUCAT HASHTAG BECAUSE THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN NEEDS MORE FURRRR








2. THIS SEA BUNNY BECAUSE MOTHER NATURE HAS A FUCKING FABULOUS SENSE OF HUMOR








3. THIS CHAMELEON POPPING BUBBLES BECAUSE TOTES ADORBS










4. THIS AMY SCHUMER STAR WARS PHOTO SHOOT BECAUSE R2D2 AND C3PO ARE SEXY AS SHIT




What did  I miss out there, you guys? What weird and bookish shit flew under my radar this week? Stick it in the comments below!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Audio Series: Darrin Doyle




Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, 
Darrin Doyle reads an excerpt from his collection The Dark Will End the Dark. Darrin is also the author of the novels The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo (St. Martin’s Press) and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story (LSU Press).  His short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines, most recently BULL, Redivider, Pure Coincidence, Blackbird, and Newfound Journal.  He lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and teaches at Central Michigan University.  








Click on the soundcloud link below to experience the short story Foot as read by Darrin:










The word on The Dark Will End the Dark:

Stunning and visceral in its emotional impact, The Dark Will End The Dark collects 14 stories by veteran author Darrin Doyle. Deftly mixing realism and fabulism, bleakness and hope, sparkling dialogue and unforgettable characters, these literary Midwestern Gothic tales remain in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned.
*lifted with love from goodreads

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Where Writers Write: Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

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


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





This is Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

Samantha is the author of The Art of Devotion, an Examiner and Bookreporter Best Book of 2010, and The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, she holds a Master of Arts with Honors in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. A former Random House and BBC literary editor, she divides her time between New York and Edinburgh, where she is currently reading for a PhD in Creative Writing at The University of Edinburgh. www.samanthabrucebenjamin.com






Where Samantha Bruce-Benjamin Writes



I write at my antique writing desk, which I bought at an estate sale in Westhampton, NY, during the drafting stage of my latest novel, The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club. It’s French and elegant and lovingly worn, the perfect spot for my computer and the greyhound book ends that hold my writing notebooks, which remind me of one of my favorite characters from my first novel, The Art of Devotion.  There’s something about the delicate brass ribbons adorning the legs that simply delights me, as well as my curiosity about who other than I once sat at my desk, over the years. All authors are the sum of their parts, owing everything to our literary forebears, so I often to like to think that maybe a previous owner attempted a novel at the desk I now own, or else wrote letters that are lovingly kept in a box in someone else’s house, artifacts of a bygone era and life.



Although my handwriting is now illegible, I still envy those writers who spent their days writing in long hand, and so I keep my best pen – a gift from a reader upon the publication of The Art of Devotion – close at hand, to scrawl thoughts in my notebooks, all of which have a sentimental value, as they are often books I bought on holiday, or else gifts from friends and relatives.

I keep relatively little on my desk, as it is rather cramped. Yet, each item is a touchstone to my personal history and, in their small ways, inform everything I attempt in my novels: from the history of my desk, to the memory of a friend who inspired a beloved character in The Art of Devotion, to the gratitude I feel when I look at my notebooks and pen to know that I am supported in my chosen career. Every time that I sit down to write there, I feel lucky to be a writer in my small corner of the house. And, one day, I would like to think that somebody will feel the same happiness when my desk passes on to a new owner and, perhaps, another story is told.


But by far the nicest thing about where I write is my little dog, Geordie Beau, sitting at my feet.  When he is not barking, he is the perfect cheerleader for every page of prose I attempt.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kate Reviews: The Scourge

The Scourge by Roberto Calas
4 stars - Highly Recommended by Kate
Pages: 279
Publisher: 47 North



Guest review by Kate Vane



I was interested in this book because it is set in the Medieval period and it took me a while to register that it had zombies in it. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction but I’ve never read a zombie novel before (shameful, I know).

The book is set during a plague in fourteenth century England, some fifty years after the Black Death. Three knights, the narrator, Sir Edward, and his friends Sir Tristan and Sir Morgan are travelling towards St Edmund’s Bury, where Sir Edward hopes his wife is still living. As they travel, the encounter “plaguers” – ie zombies – and have to fight them before they continue the journey.

The narrator’s voice and the setting felt authentic (apart from the zombie bit, obviously). I never doubted that I was in Medieval England. The zombie metaphor really works in this period – a society in meltdown, as people question church and state and serfdom is in decline.

The different views of religion are highlighted by Edward’s two companions. Sir Morgan is devout. He places his faith not only in God but in organised religion, while Tristan is cynical and world-weary. There is some nice interplay and even some humour between the three main characters but overall the focus is more on action than psychology. There are not too many women in the story and those that appear are not that interesting – apart from one who is, of course, a baddie.

I did feel that the episodic structure (it was originally published as a serial) made it feel a little repetitive at times. Knights travel. Knights run into zombies. Knights fight zombies. Knights move on.

However, each encounter shows a different aspect of Medieval society – from peasants to lords to monks – and each fight has a different aspect to it. The author is very good at building a situation and making you wonder – how will they get out of that? He also appears to have an impressive knowledge of Medieval weaponry.

For those who want to know more about the period, there are historical notes at the end which explain the context, and the deviations the author has taken in the interests of his story.


If you like historical fiction that focuses more on battles and bloodshed than political machinations or personal dramas, this is the book for you. And if you like zombies it’s got them too.


Kate Vane writes crime and literary fiction. Her latest novel is Not the End. She lives on the Devon coast in the UK.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Page 69: A Fair & Balanced Fuckfest: Where the News Cums Hard

The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....





In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Mandy De Sandra's A Fair & Balanced Fuckfest to the test





Ok, Mandy set up Page 69 for us?

It is at the end of chapter 14. Sadly there is not much sex, but this is a pivotal point in the plot. One of the protagonists, Greg Gutfeld, learns that the deviant sex drug has infected the Fox News water supply because Fox News is having special guests Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck at the studio. Greg Gutfeld wants to make sure they don’t get infected with the deviant sex drug and turn into sex maniacs like other Fox News anchors. It is also the literal and figurative climax of the foursome between Ted Cruz, Gene Simmons, Geraldo, and Taylor Swift.




What is A Fair & Balanced Fuckfest: Where The News Cums Hard about?

Liberal Terrorists working with teamsters have drugged Fox News Studios Water! A drug designed by Left Wing scientists makes all who ingest it act out in extreme sexual deviant behavior. It is not only spread by ingesting the water, but also spreads through bodily fluids. Now all the anchors of America’s most trusted news network are becoming deviants acting out on their most wild and repressed fantasies. The few who have not been drugged including Greg Gutfeld, Bob Beckel, and John Stossel try to stop the drug from spreading before the O'Reilly Factor becomes A Fair & Balanced Fuck Fest.




Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the novella is about? Does it align itself with the novella’s theme?

Yes and no. There is not much gonzo-style sex in the scene and it involves two non-political celebrities. Yet, it shows there is a plot to go along with the gonzo sex scenes, which I think always helps make for better porn, I mean Erotica. Overall, I think there are 400 political sex metaphors in the novella and I am sad there are not any on page 69.

The theme is when you repress your sexuality and use politics as entertainment you are just fucking yourself. Also, I don’t like their politics but I would love to have sex with a lot of the Fox News anchors. I have a huge crush on Greg Gutfeld; he is my little sexy man.


PS I love Taylor Swift. I didn’t want her in the book but my muse did. I answer to her or she whips me.



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PAGE 69
A FAIR & BALANCED FUCKFEST



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Mandy De Sandra is Erotica writer inspired by Bizarro Fiction and the sexy boys of South Park. She published her two novelettes: “The Maskerade Ball of DC: Where Masker Men, Become A Real Cinderella…to Men & Women of Power” and “Kirk Cameron & The Crocoduck of Chaos Magick”.  She works for the Dept. of Labor in the day and writes naughty stories at night. She enjoys gardening, The Greg Gutfeld Show, and baking for her man and their swinging friends. “A Fair & Balanced Fuckfest: Where The News Cums Hard” will be her first novella.