Monday, February 28, 2011

"The Ghost Trap" Group Read Giveaway

TNBBC is proud to partner with K.Stephens and Leapfrog Press to bring you
The Ghost Trap Group Read Giveaway!!

Here's the Goodreads description:
The haunting story of a young lobsterman, Jamie Eugley, who is struggling with the grinding responsibilities of a head-injured fiancée and mounting trap wars. Written with sensitivity and rich description, this is a piercingly accurate depiction of life in a small Maine lobstering community.
I see great group read potential with this novel and we are in luck because author K. Stephens has agreed to make herself available for an online month long author/reader discussion over at TNBBC Goodreads for the month of April. In order to make the group read and discussion possible.....

Leapfrog has generously made 10 copies available for giveaway!

5 International and 5 US copies

In order to snag a copy, you must:

1 - Post a comment here stating your interest in the novel, whether you are international or a US resident, and leave me a way to contact you. If your comment is missing any of this information, it will be considered ineligible.

2- Agree to participate in a group read book discussion that will run during the month of April over at TNBBC on Goodreads. K. Stephens has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for her.

By commenting, 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 at the first of the month).

It's first come, first serve so the first 5 international commenters, and the first 5 US commenters will secure a copy for themselves for the group read.

The contest ends when the last copy of each set of 5 has been claimed.

So don't hesitate!

However, if you are not a winner, no worries. You can purchase a copy of the novel or simply join in on the discussion to ask K. Stephens questions about the writing and publishing process... All are welcome!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Move Over Oscar...

Tonight, my Twitter feed is overflowing with everyone ooohing and aaahing over what's hot and what's not on the red carpet.


You know what I would like to see? A red carpet event for authors and publishers that is just as highly publicized as the Oscar's or the Grammy's. I would love to see America ooohing and aaahing over what Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood were wearing, and who they were reading...

Which authors would you geek out over? What authors or publishers do you think deserve an award? What would the categories be? Which titles would win?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

These Are The Days That Dreams Are Made Of!

So if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw my comment on the awesome Email week I've been having. It would appear I am quickly making the transition from a "requester" to an "accepter". And it is a truly humbling experience!

When new authors and publishers reach out to me, I love hearing how they became exposed to my blog and my mission to support independent authors and publishers. It baffles me how swiftly word of mouth moves within the publishing industry and it's an incredibly overwhelming feeling because - to me - that means I am doing something right!

When I first created the TNBBC group on Goodreads, I was not prepared for the path I was setting myself on. I was not aware of the opportunities that group would present to me: the relationships I would soon begin to develop, the platform I was unconsciously building, the potential I had to connect readers with authors, and the sense of responsibility I would soon begin to experience - I had a voice, and it could be powerful!

This is my thank you note to all of the authors who took a chance on me when I reached out to them for review copies of their novels. And to all of the publishers who answered my email queries and supported me by making their authors available for interviews and online group discussions. And I especially want to thank those authors and publishers who were kind enough to tell other publishers and authors about me and my mission to support and celebrate the Indies, because without you, I would not be in the position I currently find myself in!

This, too, is a thank you note to my followers, old and new, and those special authors, publishers, and bloggers I have the pleasure of calling "my friends"!

And how can I forget to thank the technology that makes all of this possible! Email, Twitter, Blogger, Goodreads, Facebook, Tumblr, and the multitude of other social media forums that I have yet to discover and abuse for my bookish delights.

This truly is the stuff that dreams are made of!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Top Ten "From Book to Movie" Adaptations

You guys know me. I very rarely participate in meme's. But this week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish caught my eye, coming so closely behind my "Sunset Limited" post, that I decided to indulge in a little Top Ten Tuesday myself!

So here they are in no particular order:

My Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

1: A Scanner Darkly - The book was a 4 star read for me. Philip K. Dick's writing was heavily influenced and impacted by his drug abuse. Some of his novels are way out there, but this one was an amazing read. I was very impressed with the movie adaptation, which contained live action animation. It definitely surpassed my expectations and may have even surpassed the book, in my opinion!

2: High Fidelity - I saw this movie YEARS before reading the book. And I loved the movie, so I was afraid the book wouldn't be able to hold up against John Cusak and Jack Black on the big screen. But I had nothing to fear. Nick Hornby is a creative, humorous writer and I was thrilled to see that the movie followed the book nearly word for word. Thumbs up on both here. I call a tie.

3: Sunset Limited - You can read all about my love of this movie and my dislike of McCarthy's play here.

4: Bringing Out the Dead - Another movie that I watched years before I read (or knew it was based on) the book. Nicholas Cage embraced the lead character and breathed such life into him. As with High Fidelity, the movie is a near perfect adaptation of the book. Tied again.

5: I Am Legend - This one probably breaks the rules of the meme. The movie adaptation is almost nothing like the book itself, but it is a great interpretation. It's an awesome stand-alone film. I was terribly worried about the casting though. I mean, Will Smith? But hello... it's WILL fucking SMITH! He rocked the movie sideways.

6: Princess Bride - Man, half of the books I am mentioning here I didn't even know were books at the time I saw the movies. The Princess Bride is another. I adore this movie, I've watched it countless times, and its held up so well over the years! The book was good, but couldn't touch the movie. Not with a ten foot pole.

7: The Green Mile - This book was released serially, and I religiously ran out and purchased each part because it was so well told and I needed to know what happened next. Stephen King shows his range as a writer with this one! When the movie released I couldn't wait to see it. Tom Hanks is such a great actor and he fit his role so well. The movie may actually have exceeded the books... may have... the jury is out on this one.

8: Beowulf - We had to read this epic poem in school (not sure what grade) but I remember not being able to understand or decipher much. It was recommended reading, we all know how that goes... But the live action animated film brought Beowulf down to my level. The action, the actors, the storyline.. it all works so incredibly well. And it's sad and heartbreaking too. Poor Grendle.

9: Shutter Island - Great book with a great twist. Great movie with an additional twist. Chalk another one up for a movie that follows the book nearly word for word and does it justice.

10: Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury is hailed by some as one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. I fell in love with Fahrenheit 451. I could appreciate The Martian Chronicles. But I did not find much to like when I read this book. It was clunky and plodding. The thrill and anxiety and creepiness of the movie just wasn't there.

Honorable mentions go to:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: The Divine Farce

Read 2/19/11
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book

About a month ago, I stumbled across Leapfrog Press. They are an indie publisher who pride themselves on their eclectic quality fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. And I think I am in love.

I chose to test the waters with The Divine Farce - a short but incredibly moving story about three naked strangers who find themselves confined in an incredibly small, pitch black concrete tube. With no room to sit, they stand on a floor of metal grate while the low ceiling oozes Pear Nectar, their only form of sustenance. Unsure whether they will be there for eternity, but convinced it is some sort of Hell, they surrender themselves to their wretched predicament. Until one day, the concrete wall that holds them in begins to crumble ...

The author, Michael Graziano, weaves a warped and demented tale that also doubles as an allegory for our insatiable need to understand the world in which we live. Constantly probing and questioning, never content with the answers we get or the situations we find ourselves in...

What would you do when everything you knew was about to change? Would you face the unknown or cower from it? Would you be willing to exchange what you know and loathe, what you've grown accustomed to, if given the opportunity to escape it, even if it meant the possibility of entering into something worse?

An amazing story that highlights the best, and worst, of each of us. One that illustrates just how hard it can be to see the brighter side of things when all you really want to do is scream and thrash and give up. But if you persevere, and push forward, and don't give up, that perhaps, you will come to find that there is a light at the end of the tunnel...after all?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: The Gospel of Anarchy

Read 2/15/11 - 2/19/11
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author

I was really excited to read this review copy from Harper Perennial. I remember enjoying Justin Taylor's short story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever - of reading his stories and experiencing these moments that were more like memories, of being pulled back into my younger-self, surprising me with their familiarity.

So I was not entirely unprepared for those same feelings and memories to be yanked back up towards the surface while reading The Gospel of Anarchy. Justin managed to create a world populated with characters that closely resembled people I had known once-upon-a-time, living a life that was eerily similar to the one they were living.

The novel follows David - a college dropout working a dead end job - as he escapes the choking confines of his humdrum life after running into a former high school friend in the back alleys of Gainesville, Florida.

What began as a little bit of fun and foolishness became a new way of life for David. His old friend Thomas and the residents of Fishgut - a broken down house that serves as half home, half hostel - live a life of lawlessness. They scrounge their food out of dumpsters and contribute money to the "house funds" by stealing products from one store to return them for full price at another or by donating their blood.

They are punks, they are anarchists, and they have created a following with their handmade booklet called the "Good Zine" and by preaching the word of "Parker" - one of the original founders of their punk anarchist movement who mysteriously went missing one night. They sneak into underground concerts, participate in threesomes and group orgies, and seem to have a never ending supply of alcohol and drugs.

Those memories I talked about earlier? Well, The Gospel of Anarchy reminded me of a group of friends I had back in 1994. At the time, I had an uncanny ability to become friends with just about anyone. At one point, I suddenly found myself hanging out in a Florida trailer park with a handful of teenage skinheads and hippies. The trailers were beat up and barely livable, some without electric. Most of the kids had dropped out of school, or were recently graduated with no real life ambition. They seemed to have no income to speak of, and I wasn't really ever sure who actually lived there and who was just hanging out or simply passing through. Lots of drugs were had (though, miraculously I managed to escape that period of my life 100% drug free), lots of things were stolen from god knows where, and lots of rules were broken and rewritten without rhyme or reason.

When we left the trailer park, we hung out in groups, kicking back in the grass under the hot summer sun, the hippies playing folk songs on their guitars with the grass between their toes believing they were talking to God while the skinheads hated everything that moved and swore to buck the system and live a carefree, workfree life taking advantage of "the man". We baked birthday cakes of chocolate and vanilla with sprinkle rainbows and rainbow colored swastikas and enough candles to burn the trailer down. They shaved and dreaded each others hair, preached to one another about spirituality and the evils of politics.

They were the coolest bunch of kids I had known, and they included me in their crazy, unlikely clan. After a few months, though, the scrounging and lounging wore on us - even though most of us had homes of our own and families that we returned to every night. Little by little, the fighting took over and we slowly broke off into splinter groups, which became sad little threesomes, and then singled ourselves apart until the trailer park and the rainbow cakes became our "remember when's".

Justin Taylor's novel brought all those moments back to me in a way that my old photo album never could. And for that, I want to say thank you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm Blurbed and You Can Pre-Order

The incredibly awesome Ben Tanzer blurbed a portion of my review for You Can Make Him Like You on the book's website. Here's the piece he used:

"This is what an "adult" coming of age story would look like, if there ever was such a thing. A big, long, sloppy, wet kiss goodbye to what they used to know, and a timid and frightening hello to unknown, and sometimes unbelievable, new territory."
He also blogged about the review in a continuing festival of flattery here.

If you dug my review of his novel, you should totally head over to the website to place your preorder!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sunset Limited

HBO's adaptation of McCarthy's The Sunset Limited was everything I had hoped it would be.

Back in January, when I watched the film trailer for the very first time, I posted this to the blog, praying to the movie gods out there that Jackson and Jones steal the show and run circles around the less-than-great play on which it was based.

And those prayers have been answered. Pairing up Tommy Lee Jones as the suicidal White, aka "Professor", and Samuel L. Jackson as the religious Black, aka "Reverend" was absolute movie magic. White's depressive, introverted demeanor played amazingly well against Black's positive, expressive personality.

The visual effects were subtle but constant, which were extremely necessary due to the fact that the viewer spends the entire hour and 50 minutes in one room with these two men bantering back and forth over God and religion, life and death:

  • The contrast of colors within the room were stunning - olive walls, dark red couch, mustard yellow fridge.
  • Black drinking from white mug and glass while White drinks from the darker mug and glass.
  • At times the men position themselves adversarially - across from one another at the table, while another time they are positioned as therapist and patient - White stretched out on the couch, Black behind him in the armchair.
Their fluid movements and repositioning kept the eyes moving while the ears remained intently focused on their conversation.

I remember wondering, while reading McCarthy's play, whether White was not in some sort of purgatory. The play and the film both begin at the same moment, with White already sitting across the kitchen table from Black, in Black's apartment, with almost no recollection of having gotten there, and with the faint sense that he is being held there against his will.

I had originally thought that White went through with the suicide and this room he found himself in was his limbo land, his in-between place, the place where the Christian religion believes that you are sent to in order to work off your sins, or cleanse your soul, before being reunited with God. I remember thinking this because each time White asked to leave, Black would beg him to wait a little longer, finally telling White "you don't know what is out there".

I am still unsure if McCarthy means for us to read deeper into the words he wrote, and the words that Jackson and Jones speak, but I love how it is all left open for interpretation... because, after all, isn't that what religion is all about? Interpretation?

Look out Grumpy Old Men! There's a new odd couple in town! If I reviewed films (which I don't) this one would get 5 golden stars for a flawless, passionate take on a preachy, rather dry original play.

Review: You Can Make Him Like You

Read 2/13/11 - 2/15/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

The always awesome Ben Tanzer knocks it out of the park yet again with his upcoming April release You Can Make Him Like You. The novel, published by Artistically Declined Press, beautifully captures the chaos and confusion of marriage, friendship, family, and the decision to have a child.

A big Ben fan since the beginning (Repetition Patterns - an eBook short story collection released through CCLaP), he consistently impresses me with the quality and clarity of his writing. He gets better and better with each book. His characters gain more depth and become increasingly more plagued and relatable. He has this uncanny habit of populating his books with people I feel like I already know.

I cannot tell you how many times I nodded along with this story's protagonist, Keith, as he struggled with what I am now one hundred percent certain ALL men struggle with: the inability to see a young, beautiful woman as anything other than a sexual object who they believe desires them just as much as they desire her. I'm sitting there, reading the book, while inside I'm screaming "I knew it! I just friggen knew it! This confirms everything! It's like reading a book of truths about men! This is exactly what all men think about!"

The insecurities, the paranoia and anxieties, the crazy male fantasies - I steal weighted glances at my husband, this newly confirmed knowledge making me poke him in the shoulder as we walk past chicks in restaurants and shopping plazas, asking him, "What do you think about her, honey? Think you would stand a chance with her?", sniggering to myself because I know he was thinking it as I was speaking it...

You Can Make Him Like You is a readers "insider edition" to the dysfunctional and twisted lives of Keith, his wife Liz, and their mutual friends Sammy and Tara, and John and Monica - complete with Keith's internal dialogue, which, in my opinion, absolutely steals the show! It's like reality television on paper.

Set during the Obama/McCain election, Tanzer allows much more of his own personality to shine through as he sites lyrics from some kick ass contemporary rock bands and laces up his main characters shoes as he forces him to hit the pavement.

This is what an "adult" coming of age story would look like, if there ever was such a thing. A big, long, sloppy, wet kiss goodbye to what they used to know, and a timid and frightening hello to unknown, and sometimes unbelievable, new territory.

Wrapping my arms around Ben Tanzer and his publisher Artistically Declined Press in a big ol' hug for making this copy available to me.

If you have not read Ben Tanzer, may I suggest taking a peek at his short story Cool, Not Removed which you can view for free? Also be sure to check out our interview with Ben here. And his guest post here. Digging the dysfunction? I review more of it here.

Oh, and enjoy this music video by The Hold Steady, the title of which he uses to name a chapter in the book:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

Read 2/5/11 - 2/13/11

4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

Well, there is one positive to calling out sick and feeling like death warmed over - and that is the ability to clock in uninterrupted "couch time", which allowed me to breeze through the final 150 pages of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore today.

One of the more talked about novels back in May 2010 during the BEA's, I managed to somehow walk right by this hefty novel without adding it to my many bags of books. Huge thanks go out to it's publisher, Twelve, for making a review copy available.

Prepare to be schooled by an ape. Bruno Littlemore - "Bruno I was given, Littlemore I gave myself" - narrates the story of his life from a jail cell. Yes, that's right. The book is cleverly narrated by an ape. And not just any ape. Our ape, Bruno, is capable of human speech. A bi-pedal ape who loves, longs, and lies just like a human. And has apparently committed murder in a fit of rage like one too.

Taken from his home at the Lincoln Park Zoo at an early age, Bruno finds himself the subject of many scientific behavioral test at the Erman Biology Center of the University of Chicago. Demonstrating a severe preference for human contact, Bruno quickly falls in love with Lydia - one of the research center's female employees. Just as quickly, Lydia discovers Bruno's ability to think and rationalize like a human and begins spending all of her time, and much of the center's money, teaching and developing Bruno's ever-evolving mind.

Told through the childlike mind of a chimp who speaks more fluently and scholarly than most humans I know, we are exposed to the many raw, graphic moments of his life. This ape, who believes himself human, who begins to live his life as a human, also begins a love affair with a human. I had to repeatedly remind myself that what I was reading was taking place between a chimp and a human. Sometimes sweet and tender, other times creepy and beastly, Bruno spends much of the novel's 576 pages confessing his reciprocated love and obsession for Lydia. Fair warning - this book oozes taboo topics. Be prepared to read it with an open mind, or do not read it at all.

He also divulges his passion for painting, classical music, and theatre - all of which he spends some time dabbling in. An ape who wraps himself in human clothing, perfecting his brush strokes while listening to Bach, and rehearsing his lines for an upcoming presentation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, you ask? You really must read it to believe it!

Weighing in at such a heavy page count, the book reads much faster than you would expect it to. (Granted, I'm sure it's author, Benjamin Hale, could have cut some of Bruno's musings and self-indulgent, narcissistic ramblings without sacrificing any of the storyline.)

Bruno, who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, is a creature of human consciousness. That means he suffers a wide range of human emotion - such as curiosity, guilt, shame, love, lust, fear, and rage. Much of this novel finds Bruno reflecting on each one of these feelings, philosophizing about religion and evolution, questioning the differences between man and animal, and sometimes damning humankind for taking away something he can never get back - his naive animal consciousness. It also deals heavily with his ideas of acceptance and vanity, and his increasingly urgent need to fit in at all costs.

What he has learned, he cannot unlearn. As he passes from pre-linguistic thought to spoken language, Bruno struggles to maintain the balance between his primal urges and the more subtle, unspoken actions of man.

A very well written, thought-inspiring take on what it is to be human, what it was to be an ape, and what happens when one attempts to become the other.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mrs. Cranky Pants

Yeah. You heard me. I'm wearing my cranky pants this week. What'cha gotta say about it?

I'm having one of those weeks where everything seems to go to pot all at the same time. Shopping for a new refrigerator has left me frustrated that my kitchen is not bigger. All the cool models are much too wide. The color we need is not available in most of the models that DO fit. Grrr.....

Work is not agreeing with me this week either. My boss and my office-mate are on vacation and while my boss left me the keys to his kingdom, he also left me with no one to vent to - and everyone who knows me knows that I must vent or I will explode!!!!

Perhaps my change of mood has been evident in my lack of posts this week too? I'm going on nearly a week.. that is totally unlike me. But my head just is not in the game at the moment.

The good news? There is a book blogger brunch for the greater NYC area bloggers hosted by Nicole of Linus's Blanket, and I am very much looking forward to attending and meeting some cool new people! But I will only attend if I can shake off this grouchy bug that has latched onto me. Anyone know a good surgeon, just in case?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: Scorch Atlas

Read 2/2/11 - 2/5/11
3 Stars - Recommended for readers familiar with genre

Scorch Atlas is not your typical post apocalyptic book. Yes, it deals with catastrophic events that render the world nearly uninhabitable. And yes, it chronicles the morbid lives of the people who have survived and the things they must go through to continue living. It is in the way author Blake Butler tells these stories that makes it atypical of its genre.

This is a collection of a short stories of worlds where entire towns are soaked and squishy with flood waters, where people are covered in an ever-growing coat of mold, where children kidnap and abuse their parents because the static from the television set instructs them to, where a father is haunted by the swelling ghost of his drowned child, and where one man helplessly witnesses his entire family being swallowed up in a mudslide.

Shorter short stories appear, as a sort of commercial break to the main events, detailing a multitude of plaques that have been visited upon the damaged and dying orb - skies that rain ice, gravel, glass, fecal matter, blood and gristle, ink...

A dark and hopeless read, Butler puts his characters through endless hells and creates a world that is devoid of time, place, and God. They are suspended in a soggy, festering globe infested by insects and disease, surrounded by rancid water, and forced to ingest splinters, fabric, and their own hair and nails to avoid starvation.

I think it is the mark of a good writer when, while reading his tales of doom and destruction, I find myself peering out of the window the ensure all is still well within my own little world.

This is not a book for everyone. Those familiar with post apocalyptic novels will have a greater appreciation for Butler's gorgeously packaged short story collection. While his prose is breathtaking, at times it requires some personal interpretation and mental decoding. The further into the book you read, the less clear and defined the stories seem to become, almost unraveling to a near-incoherent stream of consciousness at the very end. This does not take away from the pleasure (if you can rightly call it that) and experience of reading, but merely adds an additional layer to it all. There is a reason his book has evoked such strong and destructive behavior from past readers. This is one of the more beautiful videos:

In addition to his personal website, Butler blogs at HTMLGiant, and will be releasing There is No Year April 2011. I want to thank Blake and his publisher Featherproof for making this review copy available for me!

Because I Just Can't Let it Lie

When something bothers me, I sometimes find it necessary to purge it out of my system multiple times.

The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog was kind enough to publish my article on the school's decision to remove cursive from their curriculum yesterday. The comments are interestingly split down the middle - as they were when I originally vented my disgust with the school districts here.

Am I feeling better about things yet? Not entirely. But I'm getting it out there. And that helps!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review; Mercury Falls

Read 1/23/11 - 2/1/11
4 Stars -Strongly Recommended

Leave it to a bunch of renegade fallen angels to muck up the Apocalypse!

Robert Kroese, master of his self titled website and developer of software, has put pen to paper to deliver a dark and humorous story about the end of the world as everyone knows it.

You don't have to be a religious scholar to figure out that God and the Devil don't get along. And apparently, you don't have to be a high ranking member of the Church to preach to your congregation about the coming Apocalypse, as our wearied heroine Christine is quickly finding out.

Journalist for a Christian news magazine, Christine has been covering End Times cults and their false prophecies for years. So by the time she meets up with a self proclaimed cherub by the name of Mercury, she has seen and heard everything. Skeptical and weary, she interviews Mercury on his Doomsday theory and soon finds herself smack in the middle of a war unlike any the world has known before.

After millennia of trickery and subliminal positioning, it would appear that the armies of Heaven and Hell are ready to engage in the battle to end all battles - The time for Armageddon has finally arrived! It will take the combined skills of Christine, Mercury, and various other fallen angels, to throw every allegorical wrench they can into the works in order to bring the end of the world to... well... an end.

A sucker for apocalyptic story lines, I find myself forever fascinated with the twisted and warped assumption that all is not well in the land of the Holy and Heavenly. I love dark films like Legion and satires like Dogma that feature fallen angels bucking the ancient hierarchies of Heaven. Novels like American Gods and The Good Omen, both written by Neil Gaiman, introduce God and angel-like beings with human-like personalities, perhaps due to their entirely obsessive and intrusive interaction with mankind. My own confused religious beliefs aside, films and novels like these never fail to scratch my agnostic itch.

Rob's novel cleverly contains bits and pieces of all of the above - AK47 wielding, badass angels; innocently clueless cherubs; tricky, two faced seraphs; interplanar portals; and yes, even a dickweed Antichrist whose only concern appears to be where the nearest Charlie's Grill is located.

A well paced, delightful read, Mercury Falls is populated with characters you are sure to love and hate, and love to hate, and hate that you love. Whether you are the type that roots for the good guys or the bad guys, I guarantee you will enjoy this debut novel. And beware - Rob has just completed the sequel - Mercury Rises - which he expects to drop into readers' laps sometime this summer!!

Tell Me A Story - Joshua Mohr

Welcome to TNBBC's brand new blog feature!

Tell Me a Story is a monthly series that will feature previously unpublished short stories from debut and Indie authors. The request was simple: Stories can be any format, any genre, and any length. And many amazing writers signed up for the challenge.

Our debut short story was written by Joshua Mohr. Joshua is the author of the incredibly twisted Termite Parade - a "next best book" 5 star read - and Some Things That Meant the World to Me. He will be releasing his third book "Damascus" with Two Dollar Radio this October. An adorable insomniac who find his inspiration between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., Joshua has been wonderfully supportive of TNBBC these past few months, and I am truly honored to present to you his original, previously unpublished story:


I ask myself questions. I do this thing where I go to payphones and leave messages on my answering machine. I call my apartment and ask obscure questions, questions that I know the answers to because I’ve taken the time to find things out. I call myself and say, “What’s a hexahydrate? What are teals? What’s a taurocholic acid?” and then when I go home, returning from another ruined day, there will be a pinprick of joy as I open the door and leave the lights off and press play on the answering machine and hear the sad timbre of my voice, testing me, and I’ll stand there in the dark and say, “It’s a chemical compound with six molecules of water. They’re small, short-necked dabblers from the genus Anas. It’s a deliquescent acid found in the bile of certain carnivores.”

Between these questions, though, I have to entertain myself. I’ve been watching eighteen, nineteen hours of TV a day, which it turns out is a good thing because it’s where I see it: where I see baseball players celebrating, pouring champagne over one another’s heads, guzzling the stuff, spanking the asses of every teammate within an arm’s length. I’m no baseball fan, didn’t even know the World Series was happening right now. I mean, how am I supposed to worship millionaires with low IQs who adjust their cocks and spit brown piles of tobacco in the grass that look like smashed tarantulas?

But right now I’m in awe of their ecstasy. Their huge smiles. The way they speak in tongues. The whirling way they move through the locker room, hugging and frolicking and howling, “We won. World champs, baby!” There is no other emotion in that room besides joy: the aching problems that exist in these men’s lives are temporarily asphyxiated—the drug addictions and infidelities and steroids and depression and the nights they beat their wives while wearing championship rings—the celebration silences these realities.

I need a celebration more than these arrogant millionaires. They never worry about finding the money to make child support payments. They don’t know what it’s like to miss your wife and daughter so much that you call them every night, but your wife doesn’t want to take your calls and tells you not to call and says stop calling. She says she needs to go on, and if you loved her, you’d help. You’d help by letting go. You’d help by getting help for your problem. You say, “Can I talk to her?” and she says, “No,” and you say, “Why?” and she says, “You know why!”

So I hop in the car and drive to Safeway, and while I’m in transit, I tune in the post-game radio coverage from the World Series. A man is being presented with an award. He’s the Most Valuable Player. He says, “These guys are my family. What can you do without your family?” and his grace makes me cry, his grace makes me angry, and I park the car, it’s about ten at night, the store still has customers, mostly bachelors, buying razors and toilet paper and pasta, no vegetables in any of their sad baskets, and I walk toward the wine aisle, and there’s an employee stocking merlot, and I say, “I’m going to need a case of champagne.”

We talk about prices, quality. He keeps staring at my eyes, and I wipe them, but he keeps staring, and I look away, but every time I look back he’s still staring so I say, “What?” and he asks, “Are you crying?” and I say, “Whales cry. Do you have a problem with whales?”
He says he needs to get the case of champagne from the storeroom.

I stand there, and even though I’m not on a payphone, I pretend to call myself. I whisper, “What’s a hegari?” and let another bachelor walk by while he ogles the varieties of domestic beer. Then I say, “It’s a Sudanese grain sorghum.” The employee is back with my champagne and I thank him and walk away, need to check-out, and there’s a young girl behind the counter. She looks at me and frowns. I swipe my credit card and wonder when I’ll reach my limit. But I’m okay tonight.

Drive home and carry the case of champagne in my house and I’ve stopped crying, and I turn off all the lights, but leave the TV on, the baseball players are done with their soiree, probably showering, shaving, gelling their hair, sporting platinum jewelry and suits made from Italian silk, before they begin new celebrations with their wives and daughters. The television station replays the highlights from the game, and every time the Most Valuable Player is on the screen I remember his words: “What can you do without your family?”

Now I’m sitting naked on the couch. Now I shake the first bottle of bubbly, jostle it with all my might and fear and regret, and I launch its cork across the room, watch French foam ooze from of the tip. I empty the first bottle on my head, saying, “World champs, baby! We won! We won!” and I empty the next and scream, “What can you do without your family?” and empty another and whisper, “What can you do without your family?” and I won’t stop until I’ve drained every last one of them. (c) Joshua Mohr


I want to thank Joshua for participating in TNBBC's Tell Me a Story. If you like what you've read, please support Joshua by checking out his website and books. Help spread the word by sharing this post through your blog, tumblr page, twitter and facebook accounts. Every link counts! And be sure to check back with us next month for the next installment....