Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: The Poor Man's Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide

Read 8/22/14 - 8/24/14
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended for fans of short stories that read like novels and beg for you to hold them and hug them and tell them everything will be ok
Pages: 135
Publisher: Alternating Current Press
Released: July 2014


(Goodreads states that it took me two days to read this book. But you should know that I read the better part of its 135 pages in one sitting. Because once I got started, it was just so hard to put down.)

Damn. I should have started writing the review for this book the moment I finished reading it. I feel as though, flipping through it now, nothing I say at this point will be able to properly capture the spell I was under as I was reading it. That magical grip is gone now... a memory I wish I could call back... sigh.

This is Schuler Benson's debut - a collection of twelve stories that take place in what feels like an intimate southern town where everybody knows everyone else and strangers are never welcome. A place where your past will always haunt you. And a place you just can't seem to escape. It's a place that reeks of hopelessness and suffering. The kind that seeps into your pores and burrows deep inside you.

It's a place Schuler created with pen and paper and yet it lives and breathes on the pages... Location is just as much a character in these stories as his characters are.

The collection is broken out into three parts - The Heart, The Head, The Hands.

The characters in the stories that are filed away under The Heart hold their struggles close to their chest; theirs is a sick love. In Pet Wife, a clouded perception is pulled sharply into focus when an unhappy wife stumbles across an abandoned lawn mower in a field. In the title story, a funeral parlor employee watches a mother grieve strangely over the loss of her little child as he deals with his own strange reaction to the inevitable death of his step-father.

Those stories that are contained with The Head appear to deal with mental illness and broken minds. A beaten woman evolves into something inhuman under the hurtful hands of her husband in Ole Hazel. In Ace Damage, we see the effects of a cult following on a young woman and her adopted brother.

Within The Hands, the pains these people suffer appear to be at their own hand or the hands of others. Queen Anne Black Din outlines the fear and ultimate release of a woman and the group of children she rescues from a shelter during a severe tornado storm. Cleaner Miranda tells the story of a super efficient bulimic woman. And then there's the chair that is set to burning out in the middle of nowhere in Grace.

Through these stories, we are introduced to simple people who wake to find themselves in strange circumstances. And through his soothing, sentimental prose, the pain and prolonged suffering of Benson's characters awakens something inside of us. A tickle of fear, a pinprick of curiosity, an uncomfortable hitch in our chests.

This won't be the last you see of Schuler Benson.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Giveaway: The Last Good Halloween

Since July 2010, TNBBC has been bringing authors and readers together every month to get behind the book! This unique experience wouldn't be possible without the generous donations of the authors and publishers involved.




It's the first of the month and you know what that means.
It's time to bring you October's Author/Reader Discussion book!


We will be reading and discussing The Last Good Halloween
with author Giano Cromley



Giano and his publisher have made a total of 20 copies available for us in a variety of formats!

10 print copies (for US residents only)
and
10 digital copies (in your choice of PDF, mobi, or Epub)




Here's the goodreads description to whet your appetite:


Like most teenagers, Kirby Russo doesn't want much: a calm home life, a couple close friends, a sense of direction and purpose. And a chance to relax with a cocktail now and then. And maybe some privacy whenever fantasy and hormones get the better of him. But his world's upended when he comes home from computer camp to find his stepfather gone and his mom sleeping with their neighbor. In short order, he has to plan an epic road trip to save his family. Never mind the fact that he's at that age where you take yourself seriously, but no one else does. Never mind the fact that he doesn't have a car--it's really more like borrowing when it's a friend's parent's car and they won't know it's gone. And never mind the fact that he doesn't know as much about life as he thinks he does.





This giveaway will run through September 8th. 
Winners will be announced here and via email on September 9th.




Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads, stating why you'd like to receive a copy of the book, what format you prefer (choose one option from above), and where you reside. Remember, only US residents can win a paper copy!

ONLY COMMENT ONCE. MULTIPLE COMMENTS DO NOT GAIN YOU ADDITIONAL CHANCES TO WIN.

2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from October 20th through September 26st. Giano Cromley has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for him. 

 *If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion at TNBBC on Goodreads (the thread for the discussion will be emailed to you before the discussion begins). 

 3 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred). 



GOOD LUCK!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Indie Spotlight: Chris Dietzel

Chris Dietzel has a new book coming out.

And as is our habit here at TNBBC, we love to help our previous posters celebrate!

Be sure to check out The Hauntings of Playing God! But first, check out this guest essay, where Chris shares some poignant "lessons" he's learned along the way.







Lessons Learned


The first guest blog I ever wrote was a piece for this very website about how publishing novels is more difficult than fighting mixed martial arts (MMA) in a cage. Almost two years have passed since that blog post and I’ve learned a heck of a lot about the world of indie publishing.

- When writers start out, they have a vision that some massively popular national book critic will review their novel and propel it to bestseller status. I know because I had that same fantasy. But that book critic doesn’t give a damn about your indie book or mine or anyone else’s. The indie book revolution was propelled by people who were willing to feature and review indie books, and those same people are the driving force behind each indie authors success. It’s places like Thenextbestbookblog that are critical for indie authors, not some renowned critic.

- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a good book discussion come to a screeching halt after an indie author jumped in to talk about his or her own book. I know why they do it—the desperate need to let people know about the book they’ve worked so hard on can certainly be enticing—but what I’ve found is that a good book, with a good cover, is what’s really important. Readers like to read good books.  That’s obvious. But readers also like to tell their friends about the good books they’ve read. It might take a while, but if your book is too good to put down, someone will read it and tell their friends to do the same. It’s a lot less likely that a reader will give your book a chance, though, if all you ever do is talk about yourself and your novels.

- Write the stories you want to write. Whether it’s kid magicians or zombies, there will always be a hot genre in books. But rather than trying to get in on the trend, write to what you actually care about. Readers are smart people; they can tell if you care about your characters and your story. Even if you’re writing about elderly werewolves while everyone else is writing about teenage vampires, if you’re passionate about what you’re writing, readers will pick up on it. I’m so glad I stuck with telling the types of stories I would like to read myself. My books aren’t for everyone, but if I wrote a story to make everyone else happy, I’d be pretty miserable myself.

The past two years have been incredible. And while I’m sure I’ll have even more lessons learned in another two years, I wouldn’t change a single thing. And thank you to Thenextbestbookblog for giving me a chance to share my thoughts.

Happy reading, everyone.


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



Chris graduated from Western Maryland College (McDaniel College).  He currently lives outside Washington D.C.  His dream is to write the same kind of stories that have inspired him over the years. His short stories have appeared in Temenos, Foliate Oak, and Down in the Dirt. His first two books, THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE WORLD END and A DIFFERENT ALCHEMY, both became Amazon bestsellers. His third book, THE HAUNTINGS OF PLAYING GOD, comes out August 28th.

More information about the author and his books, go to: http://www.watchtheworldend.com, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7048334.Chris_Dietzel
http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Dietzel/e/B00CC1GU54/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 and https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntingsOfPlayingGod

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Janina Matthewson's Guide to Books & Booze


We here at TNBBC love participating in blog tours. We especially dig being the ones to kick them off! And so, we introduce you to Janina Mathewson and her novel OF THINGS GONE ASTRAY

Releasing in hardback and EB today, Of Things Gone Astray sees Mrs Featherby waking up to discover the entire front wall of her house is missing; Delia goes to the park to sit under her favourite oak tree, to find that it is no longer there; Robert goes to work one morning to find that his building and all traces of his colleagues have vanished whilst Marcus, a pianist, opens his piano to find all of the keys have disappeared.


And in the meantime, Jake, who lost his mother a year or so beforehand and continues to struggle with life after her departure, well, he doesn’t seem to have really lost anything at all but he does start discovering things - and so the lives of these characters cast in this world begin to interweave splendidly.  


To help get this blog tour going, Janina has decided to participate in our Books & Booze series. Let's take a look at her characters' go-to drinks, shall we? 



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


We all know it’s important to keep hydrated, and that remains important even when you’re fictional. And after what happens to them, the characters in Of Things Gone Astray could all use a stiff drink. Here’s a list of the go to drinks for my six central characters, and a couple of recommendations for you.
Of Things Gone Astray is a book for curling up with, and there’s no point in curling up if you’re not doing it with, at the very least a cup of tea. A trip to the kitchen, your favourite armchair, curl up. Curl up tight.


Mrs Featherby


Mrs Featherby looks like the kind of woman who’d have a nice sherry on Sundays or a single gin and tonic every once in a while. But, like much about her, Mrs Featherby’s favourite drink is a long and scrupulously kept secret. She drinks a whisky soda with a twist of lime, in very specific ratio. In her younger, wilder days, she was known to vault the bar and make it herself if the barman failed to make it perfectly. Now she only drinks them after dark, with the curtains closed, when all her neighbours are sleeping.


Robert

Robert likes cider. He likes sweet cider. He likes fruity cider made from raspberries and strawberries, and berries in general. As you can imagine, he’s been teased about this quite a lot so, when he was young and more sexually active, so he used to drink normal beer on dates. And since he hadn’t drunk enough normal beer to know which was nice, he suffered a lot.


Cassie


Cassie is young, so very young. She’s only been legally drinking for a couple of years so, although she’s graduated beyond the worst of the alcopops, she’s yet to find an actual decent drink. She drinks a lot of cava but she doesn’t really know what it is.



Jake



Jake is a child. He drinks chocolate milk, if he can get it.



Delia


It’s be a long time since Delia’s been out for drinks with people. She used to drink a lot of red wine in winter and mint juleps in summer. She defaults back to them nowadays but either her tastes have changed or she remembers it wrong. What she’s looking for, although she hasn’t found it yet, is an old fashioned.



Marcus

Whisky. Neat.



To Drink While Reading

In hot weather, fill a glass with ice and berries. Pour in a dollop or two of good gin. Add elderflower presse. Cool off. Relax.


When it’s cold outside, put a healthy teaspoon of honey into a glass with equal parts whisky and ginger wine. Add a slice of lemon and enough hot water to fill the glass. Curl up with a rug.


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

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Janina Matthewson moved to London following the earthquake, an event which features as a pivotal part of her novel.

A trained actress, Janina has also written for the stage and screen. Her first play, Human and If was performed at The Tea House Theatre in London, directed by Sue Curnow. Her short film, The Other Side, was shown as part of the Rialto Channel’s 48 Hours project in New Zealand. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where Writers Write: Ed Falco

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 Ed Falco. 

Ed is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Family Corleone along with several other novels and story collections, including St. John of the Five Boroughs, Wolf Point, and Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha. He has received innumerable prizes and awards. Falco lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he teaches in Virginia Tech's MFA program. His website is http://www.edfalco.us/.






Where Ed Falco Writes



My desk is a hollow core wood door, found in an attic more than thirty years ago, in Syracuse, New York, where I was a grad student in the English Department.  It rests on two sets of desk drawers that probably date back to the 1930s.  They were part of a desk that belonged to my father. Standard desks are too small for my purposes, so I knocked the top off my father’s desk and dropped my door down on top of the drawers.  Just about everything I’ve published has been written on that door.  My computer is an iMac 27”, with enough room on the screen for three pages side by side.  Whatever I’m writing is in the middle of the screen.  On either side of the work-in-progress are pages of notes or images or web pages.  My keyboard is ergonomic, as is the joystick mouse.  Friends sometimes see the joystick and think I play games on the computer.  I don’t.  All my carpal tunnel problems have disappeared since I started using the joystick.  It takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth it.  Alongside the keyboard is my iPad.  I use it mostly for FaceTime calls and Words With Friends breaks from writing.  There is almost always an open book somewhere on my desk.  The magnifying lamp is for reading small print: my vision isn’t what it used to be.  A lifetime writing and reading will do that.  On the wall are pictures of recent book covers to remind me that I really can write, that I’ve done it before and I can do it again.  Amazing how often I need that reminder.  On the wall to the left of my desk chair is a picture of my daughter.  Directly above the computer screen there’s a router and an external hard drive which automatically backs up all my work.  A lot of my life is spent here, at this desk, in a tiny office, though from this base I have traveled far and wide through space and time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Schuler Benson's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. 



Schuler Benson's
Would You Rather



Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?
With my feet. I’ve gotten good at dealing with the blisters.

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?
A long string of moderate sellers, I think. I’d prefer the longevity over the “flash-in-the-pan” thing.

Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead?
Always been a “now-or-never” dude. Maybe conflicts with the last answer a bit, but I won’t be around after I’m dead. I’d rather know now if people find something in what I do.

Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?
I’ve always been a fan of conjunctions. I’d rather take ’em than leave ’em.

Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life?
I guess I’d take the tattoos. I’d rather hear the music I love than any novel being read.

Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it, or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success?
I’d prefer option A. I’m sure everybody with a pen says this, but I have no illusions about being able to have financial success writing fiction. In the unlikely even that does happen, I’m sure it’d be a long time from now when I’ve hopefully already written a bunch of shit no one’s read. I’d like to think that by then I’d be well versed in sticking to my broke guns.

Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?
As a reader, I usually value plot over character, so I’d save the plot. Besides ... it’s fun to kill characters you hate.

Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink?
I guess I’d go with “blood as ink,” since I can make more of it.

Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life?
I’ve been a character in enough stories. It’d be interesting to see a character escape. I would like to meet Marlon. Briefly.

Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization, or without using words that contained the letter E?
Can’t do without “e.”

Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book?
I’d go with banning. I’m not sure there’s anything worth teaching in what I do.

Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?
I don’t know that I’ve ever been bloviated at before. Definitely not by anybody dead and famous.

Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku?
I tweet terrible haiku as often as I can, so I’d go the route more practiced.

Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read?
I think I’d try the language I couldn’t read.

Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?
I’ve never had any exposure as a writer, but I’ve been a fan of things for as long as I can remember. If there’s one thing it’s taught me, it’s that every time, there’s someone to tear everyone apart somewhere. I’d take the ripping because I already expect it, and because being hated is still being significant. Ugh. I hate saying it, but it’s true.

Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move?
Definitely the voice in my head.

Would you rather give up your computer, or pens and paper?
I’d have to keep the computer. I’m a slave to it, and I only know how to do, like, five things with it. So embarrassing.

Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or lying down flat on your back?
Tippy-toes. I run a lot. I can take it.

Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading?
I’d rather read to no one, which is way more likely to happen.

Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 
I’d take the substance over the style. But that could change.






Schuler Benson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Kudzu ReviewHobartThe Idle Class Magazine, and elsewhere, and he has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. He completed his undergraduate studies at University of Arkansas and is currently enrolled in the MA program at Coastal Carolina University. The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide (Alternating Current, 2014) is his first book. You can find him on Twitter at @schulerbenson.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: The Collected Works of Noah Cicero, Vol.1

Read 8/14/14 - 8/20/14
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of minimalist fiction, unsanitary fucking, and Denny's (yup, the restaurant)
Pages: 218
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
Released: 2013


I'm a total Noah Cicero nube. To be honest, it's been awhile since I've been introduced to an author this late into their writing career, especially in the small press arena. So, when these situations present themselves, I'd like to think that if I'm going to read some dude's work for the first time, reading the older, less polished stuff would be the place to start. And since The Collected Works of Noah Cicero Vol. 1 contains Cicero's early (mostly out of print) novellas and short stories.. I thought 'boo-yah. Let's get it on'.

The collection kicks off solidly enough with a short story called 'I Clean In Silence'. It's all OCD and self-depreciation and neurotic, written from the perspective of a female, and I really dug it. As I read it, I was all "hell yeah, this is going to be great. A writer after my own heart!"

Next comes 'The Human War' - a political rant that's actually more about our main guy's internalization of how strange it is to think 'war is coming and here I am doing the things I normally do and doesn't that seem fucked up" than it is about whether war is right or wrong. It's stream-of-consciousness, no-thought-is-too-risque, lay-it-all-out-there minimalist literature. And I typically enjoy that kind of writing; that harsh, no-holds-barred, rawness. But oh my god, Noah... after about 10 pages I started getting itchy. After 20, my eyes rolled uncontrollably. I wanted to reach inside the pages and shake our main man out of it. Slap his face while shouting "Stop it! Stop it with all the shit already!" I was only two stories in and I'd already come to the realization that I prefer his short stories to his novellas. (Oh dear.)

And by this point, I hadn't even gotten to the unsanitary and fetishist sex stuff. My lord, this guy gets his dick into all kinds of strange and extremely disgusting situations. I'm no prude. But damn, how our dude's little dude didn't shrivel up and fall off after some of his sexcapades, I'll never know.

You know it's bad when my husband questions what I'm reading after he picks up the book, randomly flips to a page, and sees the following:

I eventually ejaculated.
I came on her ass.
It was so pretty.
My cum lying there on her two little round butt cheeks.

Oh trust me, that's nothing compared to some of the descriptions Cicero treats us to. That's PG-13 when you hold it up against some of the other stuff in here. Prudes and homophobes beware. Noah is open to testing all kinds of waters in this collection when it comes to sexual encounters.

Yeah, ok, OK, I get it. The dude's what, in his early twenties? He's broke as all hell, working dead end jobs in a dead end town, boozing the hell out of his days off, slutting it up in the titties-bars and taking prostitutes to the back alley pay-by-the-hour motels. He's a proud member of the Denny's late-night regulars club. A happy life to him consists of fucking, eating, drinking, and working just long enough to make money to cover the first three. Where's the fun if you aren't taking risks and opening doors that should probably most likely stay closed?

Is this what our Millennial young men have become? Is this the new coming-of-age boy scout badge?

It's white trash at its absolute finest. It's the dark side of love, a bruised and beaten lust, where happily ever after is a nose full of coke and a hooker on your johnson. It's an unhappy mother breaking the boredom by getting stoned out of her mind and beating her kid in the Walmart parking lot for shits, kicks, and giggles. It's babbling about a lot of shit you know nothing about just to pass words around with strangers at the bar.

While Cicero's style works for me in short, terse bites, I just don't have the patience for his longer pieces. His style - one sentence paragraphs, mostly made up of dialogue - lends itself more to flash and micro fiction than it does to a 200 and some odd set of collected works.

The longer the story, the more repetitive he gets. His writing becomes circular and he seems to chew on one thought for an unnecessarily long period of time. He worries at it, like one might worry at a hangnail. I feel this side effect is most obvious in the novellas or lengthier shorts that are made up of multiple vignettes, where the story lines and characters continuously overlap.

Not a collection for the shy or bashful or impatient reader, but most definitely a collection for the more adventurous, experimental ones.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lavinia Reviews: Crystal Eaters

Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
Page Count: 183
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Released: July 2014


Guest Reviewed by Lavinia Ludlow


“As a child what you see is creation. As an adult what you see is destruction.”

Crystal Eaters is a dramatic chronicle of a family’s long-term battle with terminal illness, drugs, and poverty. Set in the distant future, global warming has turned Earth into an arid wasteland, the government is corrupt, peace officers are plagued with addiction, and much of society has placed false hope of immortality in chemicals mined from the earth. In this society, people count their lifelines in crystals, even ants and mold have counts, and many believe that each person begins with a hundred crystals, and old age, sickness, and injury reduce that count over time.

After a young girl named Remy sees her dog pass away—his life expectancy around 40 crystals—she embarks on a mission to immortalize the people she loves, particularly her dying mother, before any “experience the number zero.” In parallel, her incarcerated brother, Adam, believes that a rare “black crystal” can cure his mother’s illness. When the crystal is ingested or jammed into open wounds, one experiences an immediate high and sense of invincibility, and thus, Adam assumes the crystal could reverse his mother’s critical health condition.

These black crystals; however, are far from a fountain of youth or a healer of all ailments. Users experience a sudden rush, but undergo extreme withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, violent outbursts, and psychosis. Similar to meth and crack, the crystals rot away teeth and flesh, and users become hopelessly addicted.

Though dystopian and futuristic in nature, Crystal Eaters focuses on contemporary social issues, shedding light on the ill-effects of poverty--the poor are banished to the outskirts, lack access to affordable medicine, while those within the city remain comfortable and privileged, “City people run for fun and call it jogging”--the prison system isn’t a utopian center of rehabilitation as the government wants everyone to believe, and immortality and the fountain of youth has become such an obsession that people forget how to enjoy life and appreciate the little time that they have left with family and friends.
This chronicle is also a bleak reminder of how insignificant humankind is in the grand scheme of the universe, “The sun wants to swallow the earth not for reasons of expan­sion, but attraction to the black crystals. The universe will not miss the earth. There are billions of planets. The black crystals reach for the sun in a moving spider web, coming up from the earth’s center, ready to break through all dirt, rock, grass, and bone.”

An original dystopian social commentary on unconditional love, Crystal Eaters is available over at Two Dollar Radio.


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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where Writers Write: Todd Seabrook

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 Todd Seabrook. 

Todd grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and received his MFA from University of Colorado at Boulder, and is currently a PhD candidate at Florida State University. His work has appeared in Tin House, Mid-American Review, PANK, CutBank, Quiddity, New Ohio Review, and 30 Under 30 Anthology. Mud Luscious Press published his chapbook This Semi-Perfect Universe in 2011. His second chapbook, The Genius of J. Robert Oppenheimer, won the 2012 Firewheel Editions Chapbook Contest, and his third chapbook, The Passion of Joan of Arc, won the Atlanta 421 Chapbook Contest. His most recent chapbook, The Imagination of Lewis Carroll, won the 2013 Rose Metal Press Chapbook Contest.






Where Todd Seabrook Writes




Welcome to my quaint corner of shame and infinite loathing. While there are ostensibly worse places in the universe to write—an Albanian prison mine perhaps, or, say, the surface of Venus—there are few places in the world as saturated in such unholy levels of dread and malaise than here. I’ve worked at this desk for eight years, and for eight years it has steeped in my bitter anguish of having chosen to be a writer. The desk itself, I think, is made of reclaimed timber from 16th century breaking wheels, and the hardware is mostly re-smelted Prussian swords. When I sit down to work, “Dies Irae” echoes through the alcoves, and blood seeps from the wood screws. That is not to say it hasn’t been a fine desk. I appreciate the height especially, the looming, judging nature of it, reminding me at every moment that I write in the shadow of every human who has come before me, and that I will inevitably and unconditionally fail to tell their story. It’s really less of a desk and more of a smoldering nest of self-revulsion and blind rage—which, as it happens, is a pretty accurate description of my writing style.

But there are a few perks to having a corner desk:

- It narrows my peripheral vision, allowing more focus.
- I write on a pentagram, not a rectangle.
- It feels like I’m playing an organ.
- Can never tell if there is a firing squad behind me.

The carefully honed aesthetic of my writing space combines all the accoutrements of a hobo-clown’s bindle with the feel of a Papa New Guinea penal colony. The Post-It notes lolling off the carrel like jaundiced tongues consist of either unattributed quotes—I’m going to get a tattoo of a sticker—or reminders of bets I’ve made with people that they have assuredly forgotten. The rest of the notes are lists of movies, books, authors, small animals, angel hierarchies, 17th century astronomical devices, and here and there a one-line story idea that is so abominable I can never lay eyes on it again. I keep no writing journals, no notebooks, no idea boards. These things have always felt tedious to me, a chore rather than a useful mechanism. If I want to remember something, I do. If I want to see it in list form, I write on a Post-It note and slap it to my desk.

Those harlequin balls are indeed used for juggling. I can juggle, by the way.

There is also a small piece of cardboard cut from the top of a cereal box taped to the right tower of my desk. It reads, quite bluntly: YOU ARE NOT A WINNER. If I had a sigil, those words would be on it: Victor non es! My desk has no pictures of family or friends or animals. It has no typewriter. It has no fountain pens. It has no journals or moleskin notebooks. It has no quotes of famous authors. It has no quotes from anyone, actually. It has nothing that isn’t my own, and it has no time for the habits of others. I don’t write with coffee. I don’t write in the morning. I don’t write around others. I don’t write everyday. I don’t write with music. I don’t write with alcohol. I don’t write because it’s a lifestyle.


I write at night, alone, hidden from everything else, because that is the only way to see it all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thomas Whaley's Would You Rather

Bored with the same old fashioned author interviews you see all around the blogosphere? Well, TNBBC's newest series is a fun, new, literary spin on the ole Would You Rather game. Get to know the authors we love to read in ways no other interviewer has. I've asked them to pick sides against the same 20 odd bookish scenarios. 






Thomas Whaley's
Would You Rather




Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue? 

Definitely with my feet!  I swear my toes have their own little brains.  I’d surely be able to manipulate pencils, pens, erasers, Post-Its, and an extra large journal with these oven mitts.


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers? 

I’d prefer a long string of moderate sellers.  Not only would it keep my name fresh in this competitive industry but I’d update my author pic for each book so my fans could experience the quick demise of living hair on my head.  It’s all about transformation.


Would you rather be a well known author now or be considered a literary genius after you’re dead? 

I would rather be a well known author now.  It would grant me countless opportunities and experiences to share with my sons Andrew and Luke.  Besides, when they tell their teachers and friends that I am an author, I already feel like one.


Would you rather write a book without using conjunctions or have every sentence of your book begin with one?

I would want to try and write a book with every sentence beginning with one.  With there being three distinct types, the challenge and possibilities would be endless.


Would you rather have every word of your favorite novel tattooed on your skin or always playing as an audio in the background for the rest of your life? 

Tattooed on my skin!  I love tattoos and envy those who have epic ones with meaning.  I have three that I despise because I was way too young and spontaneous.  Having the words from Leaving Montana made into arm sleeves would be amazing!


Would you rather write a book you truly believe in and have no one read it or write a crappy book that comprises everything you believe in and have it become an overnight success? 

I would rather write a book I truly believe in – which is precisely what I did with Leaving Montana.  Of course I hope that people will read it and love it, but knowing that I wrote it and it changed my life for the better is good enough for me.


Would you rather write a plot twist you hated or write a character you hated?

Definitely a character I hated!  Sometimes writing with hatred and frustration about someone brings forth extremely interesting text.  This is why I used to keep journals when I was younger.  It can be very cathartic.


Would you rather use your skin as paper or your blood as ink? 

Even though many think blood is thicker than water – it still washes away…so definitely my skin as paper.  Besides, with the unnecessary amount of time I have spent and still spend in the sun, it is cured enough to withstand the elements, so I would feel confident that my words would never be lost.


Would you rather become a character in your novel or have your characters escape the page and reenact the novel in real life? 

Fortunately and unfortunately both choices hold personal weight with Leaving Montana – but if I had to choose, I would rather become a character in my novel other than Ben.  If the characters escaped and reenacted the story again it would be catastrophic.


Would you rather write without using punctuation and capitalization or without using words that contained the letter E?  

I hate punctuation and capitalization.  It confuses and stresses out the elementary school children I teach and, at times, I still find myself questioning my own usage. Good riddens!  Besides, the letter E is just too extraordinary to evade.


Would you rather have schools teach your book or ban your book? 

BAN IT!  The idea of people sneaking around and reading it with the possibility of getting caught and expelled is exciting to me.  Forbidden or taboo things naturally peak curiosity – even for those who have been “saved”.


Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas? 

I would be tickled pink to be hit on by Dylan Thomas when he was angry!  Why not?  Being hit on is a compliment.  It takes courage to hit on someone. It would be even better if he were irate and hitting on me in public while reciting his poetry.  Now there’s a mental image!


Would you rather be reduced to speaking only in haiku or be capable of only writing in haiku? 

This is the toughest question! I choose only writing in haiku. I am naturally a story teller, both socially and with my students, so speaking just in haiku would make that virtually impossible. 


Would you rather be stuck on an island with only the 50 Shades Series or a series in a language you couldn’t read? 

I am not sure if I am proud to admit this, but hey, life is too short to not go with your gut.  I would choose the 50 Shades Series.  At least I would have something titillating to read when my own ability to fantasize began to dissipate – that is, unless I had a volleyball to draw a face on.


Would you rather critics rip your book apart publicly or never talk about it at all?  

I would rather them rip it apart publicly.  Negativity tends to stir curiosity.


Would you rather have everything you think automatically appear on your Twitter feed or have a voice in your head narrate your every move? 

TWITTER! If everything I thought automatically appeared on Twitter – people would either be fascinated with me or think I was related to Cybil. 


Would you rather give up your computer or pens and paper? 

Pens and paper – no doubt!  I find both to be constant pains in the ass.  There is never enough when you need them or I find myself with an overabundance figuring out where to put them.


Would you rather write an entire novel standing on your tippy-toes or laying down flat on your back?  

Lying flat on my back.  I enjoy multi-tasking.


Would you rather read naked in front of a packed room or have no one show up to your reading? 

There is no question – naked in front of a packed room.  My life is an open book, so why not toss in my dignity.


Would you rather read a book that is written poorly but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content but is written well? 

 I would rather read one with weak content that is well written because I would be able to focus on the characterization and story line, making it more interesting with my own inserts.  A poorly written one would make me manic and want to drink.



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Thomas Whaley was born in 1972 and has lived on Long Island his entire life.  He has been an elementary school teacher since 1999 and has had a passion for writing since childhood.  He earned his B.A. in Communications from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia and his M.A. in Elementary Education from Dowling College on Long Island.   

Thomas has always enjoyed reading books, but particularly those that make him casually self-reflect or hysterically laugh at the idiosyncrasies of daily life. This is what inspired him to finally sit down and write Leaving Montana.

Thomas currently lives in Shoreham, New York with his husband Carl, their two sons Andrew and Luke, and their loyal dogs Jake and Sam. Leaving Montana is his first novel.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Martian

Listened 7/29/14 - 8/10/14
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended, you gotta listen to it, you just gotta
Approx. 11 hours
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Released: 2013


You know I have no shame. None whatsoever. And that's ok. Because my shamelessness landed me the audio-review copy of Andy Weir's The Martian and it was awesome. And yeah, I know what you're thinking. Lori.. you think, you're always so far behind with the bigger books. What gives? We already knew this was a hot one, we've read it already. It's old news.

Hey, I never claimed to read the books from the "Big 5" and their imprint arms first. Heck, I kind of go out of my way to not read them. You'll find me curling up on the couch with a small press book in my hands, or its digital equivalent,  instead of one that's been read and reviewed by over 4600 other people (that's how many people have reviewed The Martian on Goodreads right now). I'm not knocking the bigger boys, by any means. It's just that my heart belongs to the underdogs of literature. And there's very little that will sway me away from them....

Unless. If I find out that a "Big 5-er" has an interesting looking book released in audio (see The Three, The Troop, and Authority as recent examples), well, that's a different story. I've got a pretty long work commute, and I don't know about you, but I get tired of listening to music after awhile. Audiobooks offer me a great opportunity to escape. They help distract me from the fact that I'm heading into work again (sigh) for another 14 hour shift (double sigh) and make that long drive disappear almost completely.

You should know, though, that I was totally going to let The Martian pass me by. I really had no interest in it at all until one of the TNBBC goodreads members nominated it for our August sci-fi group read. When it won, I figured, what the heck... lemme see if it's been released in audio. And that's when I discovered something really cool.

Did you know Andy Weir initially self-published The Martian? Yup. He did. He was giving it away for free on his website and selling it online for only a buck. Podium Publishing got their hands on it, recorded the audio, and then helped Andy get a publishing contract for the print copy. IN. YOUR. FACE. all you self-pub haters! I told you there's some golden nuggets in them there hills.

The Martian has been referred to "Castaway" on Mars, and I can't come up with a better comparison so we'll stick with that. Stranded on the red planet after a worse-than-anticipated dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the mission and leave him stranded (don't blame them, they thought he was dead), Mark has to face the facts - he is stuck on Mars, with only a few months of supplies and no way to communicate with Earth. He's fucked.

But the good humored astronaut doesn't let that get him down. He's a botanist and a mechanical engineer and he's got some tricks up his sleeve to at least EXTEND his life, even if it is for just a few more months.
Through daily audio-logs, Mark records his thoughts and survival progress for whoever ends up recovering them after he's long dead-and-gone. Heck, I'd do the same thing. If for no other reason than to feel like you're still connected to someone, somehow, somewhere, right?!

Turns out our pal Mark is quite the little MacGyver. Give him some martian soil, human feces, flammable gas, and a few fresh potatoes, and this dude can cultivate quite the little garden. Seriously. And he doesn't stop there. He's the coolest nerd to ever leave Earth and he's determined to get back there, at all costs. He was trained well before being dispatched into space. He's patient and extremely savvy. And typical of a book whose entire premise is set on building tension and dragging out the inevitable, every time Mark overcomes one obstacle, it seems Mars is prepared and ready to hit him with another.

But that good ole Mark, he just won't be stopped. Cool-headed and capable of thinking his way through just about any situation, Mark Watney's got my vote as the man I'd most like by my side when the world comes to a halting and apocalyptic end! I don't care that I can't understand half the science mumbo-jumbo that comes out of his mouth, the man knows his shit, and I'd trust him with my life a hundred times over.

Podium Publishing did a great job matching the narrator (RC Ray) with the Weir's writing. He nailed the balance between witty sarcasm and hopeful hopelessness... And don't listen to those reviewers who poo-poo the upbeat and charming personality of our fearless astronaut. The cheeky and refreshing humor was exactly what the book needed to keep it moving along and keep its readers engaged. I'm not sure any of us would have been able to handle a cranky, blubbering account of man's attempt to survive the unsurvivable.

And you've heard that a movie is in the works, right? I hear Matt Damon has signed on to play Mark... and I can't wait to see the book come to life on the big screen!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Adam Ingle's Guide to Books & Booze


Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 



Today, Adam Ingle shares the perfect "get your drunk on" drinks for his novel Necessary Evil and The Greater Good:











Necessary Evil and The Greater Good is essentially a story of Good and Evil in which those two ideas are not black and white, but a very mellow shade of gray...maybe even a baby shit brown. The novel follows the adventures of an Angel, Leviticus, and a Demon, Mestoph, as they try to con God and Satan into kicking them out of the afterlife so they can enjoy whatever time they have left until The End. The novel is fast paced, doesn't fuck around, and might even knock you on your ass (hopefully laughing, but I'll take what I can get). As such, I think if I were to throw it in my Calvin and Hobbes transmogrifier it would come out as a Long Island Ice Tea. This is the drink you have when you want to get drunk, but want to pretend you're not just having a bunch of shots one after the other. The basic recipe is as follows:

Mix equal parts of:
Tequila
Vodka
White Rum
Gin
Triple Sec
Mix together into a glass with ice, add some lemon juice and a splash of soda (though in the South you're just as likely to find it with actual sweet tea) and stir. Get drunk.



Now if you want to break the story down a little more, each character could easily have their own drink.
Leviticus is an Angel who works a monotonous desk job. He's a little rough around the edges for Heaven, and has a moral compass of questionable accuracy, but he's not a bad guy per se. He's not built for the rough stuff, so he wouldn't want to taste the alcohol and he's not aiming to get hammered so he'd likely be enjoying a Bahama Mama, and it would most definitely have a little paper umbrella in it.

A basic Bahama Mama goes thusly:
1/4 oz. coffee liqueur
1/2 oz. dark rum
1/2 oz. coconut liqueur
1/4 oz. 151 proof rum
Juice of 1/2 lemon
 4 oz. pineapple juice



Mestoph, being a Demon, isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. He's done some dirty things in dirty places, but he's also not pure evil. He's not squeamish; he just doesn't see the point of unnecessary violence. Although he does have a fondness for single malt scotch and a nice hoppy beer sometimes he just wants to relax and enjoy a nice sunset. When he does, he pours a little bit of Fireball (he likes the demon on the bottle, but any cinnamon whiskey will do) into his hot chocolate, tops it with some vodka whipped cream, and sips away the days cares.




Several of the other characters could have their own drinks as well. God reminds me a bit of The Dude from The Big Lebowski, so I could easily see him throwing back a few White Russians. Satan is a bit more refined and enjoys a nice, dry red wine; especially the earthy, fruity flavors of a Pinot Noir. St. Peter, the rough and gritty head of security for Heaven, doesn't imbibe often as it dulls the senses but once a millennium or so he's been known to enjoy a single cup of coffee, decaffeinated of course. There are several other characters, but those can be yours to discover and fit the drink to the personality. I on the other hand am going have myself a nice, cold mix of Harp and Bass Ale that I was told is called a Golden (it mixes instead of layering like a Black and Tan or Black Apple).

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Adam's a basement-dwelling, graveyard-shift nerd by night and an aspiring peddler of exorcised creative demons by day. He and his chinchilla live in a tin can on the side of the interstate somewhere in South Carolina.