Friday, June 29, 2012

Indie Book Buzz: Archipelago Books

It's a great day for some Indie Book Buzz here at TNBBC. This series has been on hiatus for a bit but Archipelago Books is helping to rekindle it! I can think of no better way for members of the indie publishing houses to share which of their upcoming 2012 releases they are most excited about! 

This week's pick comes from Eric Dean Wilson, 
Assistant Editor for Archipelago Books

PREHISTORIC TIMES by Eric Chevillard
Translated from the French by Alyson Waters

Publication date: July 10 

What it's about:
The narrator of Prehistoric Times, an archeologist by trade, embodies at once the cartoonishly absurd and gravely human qualities of a tour guide. Due to a severe knee injury while falling from a cliff on the job, the narrator is appointed as both guide and guardian of the Pales caves, which hold Neolithic cave paintings of debatable importance to the history of civilization. We soon discover, however, that he is one of a seemingly infinite line in the position who have since passed their life, uniform, and house to the next guide. In a covert display of what is means to be human or even vaguely humanoid, the narrator delays the point of his discussion in a dizzying array of tangents and diverging thoughts which lead to the inevitable question of history: what is man, and what is his legacy?

Why you should read it:
Eric Chevillard captures, in a way that French absurdists only can, a tone of grim comedy and peculiar mortality. Not only is Prehistoric Times a swift, ride-of-a-read, it packs a tough punch in its thoughts on the span of recorded human history. In our narcissistic age, and in an age particularly attuned to criticism and interpretation, it's easy for us to become stuck in the groove of a certain mode of looking at art, at writing, or at any form of communication. The humbling truth is that, when our civilization as we know it disappears, the meaning of the monuments left for the next culture will be entirely out of our hands. But--let me assure you--this book does not drag with the weight of its heavy questions on humankind. It skips and jumps, making it all the more curious.

Eric Dean Wilson is the Assistant Editor for Archipelago Books, a non-profit publisher of classic and contemporary world literature in translation in Brooklyn. He is the co-author (with dancer Tavia Grace Odinak) of Meat Game, a performance piece about Queen Victoria, femininity, and pork ribs. His own essays and poetry have appeared in Ninth LetterSeneca ReviewRiver Teeth, and Third Coast, among others. In his spare time, he is the producer of the forthcoming web comedy series "Meet Norma St. Cleod" -- a selection for the 2012 International Television Festival in L.A. -- due in September. He is also, at times, a performer, bartender, and lover of ancient Roman poetry.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where Writers Write: David Maine

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

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

This is David Maine. David is the author of Fallen; The Preservationist; The Book of Samson (three fantastic fictional accounts of biblical events); Monster, 1959 (a campy rompy nod towards the good ole 50's sci-fi/horror movies); The Gamble of the Godless (a straight to ebook fantasy novel); and the upcoming An Age of Madness, which will be released in September by Red Hen Press.

David and I met quite a few years back, and we always find fun and creative ways to work together - including this blog tour I developed and hosted for him back in August of 2011 where David throws in his two cents on the whole "indie" thing. 

Today, I get to show off David's writing space! Folks, this is where the Maine Madness happens....

Where David Maine Writes

My writing space these days is fairly modest. I used to have a whole room to use as a studio, and I hope to have that again one day soon. But life in Hawaii has been pretty cramped, and this 6 x 10 partition of my bedroom has been pretty much what I’ve had to work with for the past couple of years.

Ultimately, my needs are fairly simple: a comfortable chair to slouch in with a notebook; some sort of platform for my laptop; some shelves for a few inspiring books; a desk to accommodate the clutter. Bonus points are awarded for windows that look out on something green and an overall sense of solitude and calm. (Which is, by far, the most difficult of these elements to find.)

A couple things that accompany me into this space. Coffee sits on the table beside me from mid-morning to late afternoon. Music is there, especially in the afternoons, and generally of the space-out trance-inducing variety—Tinariwen, Mazzy Star, Speck Mountain, low-key reggae like the Nazarenes, African kora music and so forth. Nothing too raucous or attention-grabbing, and definitely no hip-hop. (Listening to other people’s words makes it difficult to concentrate on my own.) And I like to keep copies of my books nearby, mainly as a reminder that this whole write-something-that’s-worth-reading enterprise isn’t as crazy as it often feels.

I’ve been fortunate to live in many different places, in varying degrees of financial comfort. Whether the accompanying spaces have been large or small, private or shared, I think the important thing is for me to make peace with the surrounding environment so that I can then forget about it. After all, writing is about creating other worlds and living in them, so I try not to get too terribly caught up in the nuts and bolts of what surrounds me.

Check back next week to see where J.A. Tyler is inspired to write. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Indie Spotlight: Anne Marie Ruff

What happens when a journalist takes her personal experience with researching how our health is tied to the health of the environment and puts it into writing?

Anne Marie Ruff calls it "fact-based fiction".

In the below spotlight, Ruff explains how her debut novel Through These Veins, which has been referred to as "a character-oriented Constant Gardener set in the world of AIDS/HIV research featureing two strong women in pursuit of a long-awaited cure", came to be:

I call myself a recovering journalist these days, and I call my novel, Through These Veins, fact-based fiction.  Here is how the story opens: In the coffee-growing highlands of Ethiopia, an Italian scientist on a plant collecting expedition discovers a local medicine man dispensing an apparent cure for AIDS.

Fact or fiction?

The specifics of this particular situation are a fiction. But the story that unfurls from this fiction is studded with facts, real scientists, and events mirroring real life situations.  I gathered my sources and research for this novel at first unknowingly, while I worked as a journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand and then in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.  Later, once I had the idea for a novel, I sought out more research for the novel, under the guise of journalism. 

I didn’t set out to write fiction, which seems so contrary to the ‘just the facts ma’am’ axiom we associate with journalism.  My intention was to shine a light on unreported or underreported environmental stories. The medical reporting I did was not really my passion, as much as a byproduct of living in Bangkok; a hub for HIV/AIDS research and activism. After a year of telling gloom and doom stories about the destruction of forests, or coral reefs, or traditional agricultural varieties, I felt like even I was becoming desensitized to my deeply held belief that our collective health is inextricably linked to the health of our environment.

When, in the course of my reporting, I met a charismatic Italian scientist who approached plant collecting and conservation as if it were an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones. I had a shazaam moment. He ignited an idea for a new approach, a fictional story centered on a character like him. He could carry readers around the world, and inspire in others the passion he felt for the richness of life on the planet. He could articulate the imperative to conserve it for the health and well being of this and future generations.

I met this man, Stefano Padulosi, in Malaysia at a scientific conference focused on agricultural biodiversity and the promotion of traditional and medicinal crop plants. I interviewed Stefano about his work, and he told me adventure stories about traveling across a dozen African countries in search of…hold your breath here…unusual varieties of beans.

The beans seemed like a sideshow to me, but I knew I had to hear more about Stefano. During the conference he had told me that he was planning a trip to Turkmenistan a few months later to study – what was at the time – the world’s largest collection of pomegranate varieties. So a week after the conference, I asked him if I could join the expedition to the mountain orchards of Turkmenistan. He said yes. Three months later I was there, peppering my notes for magazine stories with little tidbits about Stefano’s character.

But I needed more drama to make a compelling narrative.

As I worked on outlining my fictional story, my reporting on drug development and HIV/AIDS revealed itself as not only relevant, but integral to my story about the value of biodiversity, and one of its prime values as a source of medicines.  

I spent the next several years continuing my research and finally writing and revising (and revising and revising) the novel.

I contacted Stefano three years ago, nine years after the trip to Turkmenistan, letting him know what I had been writing. I was apprehensive that he could have felt somehow manipulated. But just like my character, the real Stefano has a more expansive heart than that. I was delighted at his effusive response to my email that I had written a novel that included him. He replied “The idea of the novel sounds fantastic!” I got goose bumps when I read the word fantastic, since my fictional Stefano uses the word frequently in the story. So I figured I had remembered his character accurately. Though of course, the fictional Stefano Geotti makes a lot of questionable decisions that cannot in any way be attributed to the non-fictional Stefano Padulosi. Even after reading the full draft (he said he translated much of it into Italian, so his mother could also know the book) he was still enthusiastic about the story – though pained at what some of his fictional version had to endure.

I am grateful for that conference in Malaysia and the chance meeting with Stefano, for it allowed me to marry my different reporting interests and use everything I learned and more in a novel way.  So facts support my fiction, and hopefully, my fiction will serve the facts.

All profits from the sale of Through These Veins are distributed to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders and the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation in Ethiopia.

Anne Marie Ruff has reported on AIDS research, drug development, biodiversity conservation, and agriculture from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa. Her work has been broadcast by National Public Radio, Public Radio International, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and PBS TV. Her articles have appeared in Time, Christian Science Monitor, and Saveur among other publications.

Anne Marie and her publicist have agreed to giveaway one copy of 
Through These Veins 
to our readers.  

The giveaway is opened internationally!
(US/Canada winner will get - paperback)
(International winner will get- PDF)

If you are interested in winning a copy of this book:

1 - Leave a comment stating why you would like to win a copy.

2 - Agree to post a review on goodreads and Amazon after you have read the book.

3 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred). AND you must state which country you are in. 

The winner will be chosen on June 30th 
and notified here and through email. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Writers Write: Kathe Koja

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

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

Photo by Rick Lieder

This is Kathe Koja, writer and Detroit native.  She has written 15 books including THE CIPHER, SKIN, BUDDHA BOY, TALK, HEADLONG, UNDER THE POPPY - which I recently reviewed and loved! - and its sequel, THE MERCURY WALTZ (forthcoming in 2013). UNDER THE POPPY has been adapted for immersive performance. 

Kathe, as you will see below, has acquired many writing spaces that influence her and her stories. Come, take a peek...

Where Kathe Writes : The Appropriate Landscape 

Where do I write? Many places.

In Detroit, a city like no other city, alive to its own struggle, a landscape historic and beautifully fierce.

At my desk, an old-school schoolteacher's desk, seven drawers, two pull-out leaves, scratched golden varnish, nearly a lifetime's worth of work produced here - this desk and I have been together since I was eleven years old. When I'm here, with research books, research piles, and the all-important scraps of paper, my mind knows that I'm home, and ready to work. Music's playing, always, on an iPod, the playlist chosen to suit whatever's being written, to energize it and goose it into the world.

In a visualized past, a dark and passionate Victorian world of true love and foul deeds, upon which modernity is encroaching, as modernity will; a heartbreak brothel, an opulent townhouse, Under the Poppy which itself encroaches on modernity, finding itself remade by actors as the story is remade, rewritten, in lines of dialogue and notebook scratchings. 

In new venues all the time, this time a garden folly, a landscape of gorgeous green where a modern fable, aided by Elizabethans and scored with a tango, will make its debut as a commissioned piece later this year.

Where do I write? At the desk and keyboard. In a spiral notebook. Listening to actors speak. Watching the sun find its way into another day, or out of it. Everywhere my eyes see and my brain goes, grateful for every turn on the way.  

Be sure to check back next week when we discover where the magic happens for author David Maine!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Audioreview: No Lease on Life

Listened 5/29/12 - 6/15/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to lovers of the cynical and insomniacial
Audio Download (approx 5 hrs)
Publisher: Iambik Audio / Cursor, Red Lemonade

I have been Elizabeth. Not in NYC, but in the Pocono's. In a gated development, on a quarter acre of land, in a house on a street that is draped in trees. Most developments are gated to keep the riff-raff out. Mine, we joke, is gated to keep the riff-raff in.

The outer walls of my home are extremely thin. I lie in bed at night, the night before a work-day, tossing and turning and stuffing my head beneath my pillow as my neighbor cranks out his Latin music. They are having a party. It's a Saturday night. I have to be up at 3:30am tomorrow morning for work.

It's 10:30pm, now it's 11:00, now it's 11:30pm, and I can still hear the bass beating through the wall behind my headboard. Dum, Dum, DumDumDum, Dum, Dum, DumDumDum. I can't even close the window to lessen the noise because it's already shut. Not only can't I sleep because of the music, but I'm also sweating my ass off because the window is closed.

I start tossing and turning across the bed. I kick at the sheets piled across the bottom of the bed. I stare up at the ceiling and swear I can see it pulsing to the beat of my asshole neighbor's music. Doesn't he know that we have a noise curfew? Of course he knows, he's lived here longer than I have. He doesn't care. He just wants to party. He thinks everyone else wants to hear his party. I bet he's one of those creeps who sits in a parking lot cranking his music with the car windows down, so everyone can hear the bass beat of his latin music when they walk in and out of the store.

Why doesn't anyone else tell him to turn down the music? Maybe he's invited all of the other neighbor's to his party so they won't complain. They aren't trying to sleep like I am because they are all swigging down beers and dancing to the Dum, Dum, DumDumDum of his latin beats while I am sweating all over my bed sheets watching the clock count down to midnight. Watching the digital minutes creep closer and closer to 3:30am. Practically becoming the time at which my alarm will go off right before my eyes. I am watching every minute pass me by.

I am restless. I am exhausted. I am envisioning myself throwing a robe over my wife-beater and boy shorts. Walking out my bedroom. Down the stairs, through the living room. Out the front door. Across my side yard into theirs. Up their front steps. Balling my hand into a fist. Pounding that fist against their door. Holding the fist tightly as they open the door. Watching that fist shoot out across the threshold. Punching them in their loud-music-playing face. Watching the blood blossom from their lip. or nose. I was never a good shot. 

It takes everything to not scream. I can feel my heart racing. I am tossing and turning and burying my head beneath the pillow. I can feel the scream sitting in my throat. Patient. Waiting to be released. And just when I open my mouth to let it out, the music stops. I hold my breath. I take the pillow off my head. I turn my ear towards the thin wall behind my bed. It's quiet. I let my breath out. Should I trust it? Is it over?

I lay flat with my pillow behind my head. I look at the ceiling and my body begins to quiet. I breathe in again.

Dum, Dum, Dum, DumDum, Dum Dum Dum, DumDum... That asshole was just switching CD's. It's 12:30pm. I have to be awake in three hours. I lean over and reach for the phone. I call security. I tell them I cannot sleep. I tell them I might go crazy and kill the neighbors unless they send someone to tell them to turn the music down. I hang up the phone. I put the pillow over my head again.

And I toss and turn and sweat and swallow the scream that wants to come out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where Writers Write: Alan Heathcock

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

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

This is Alan Heathcock. He is the author VOLT, an award winning collection of interconnected short stories that take place in the fictitious town of Krafton. He was featured as part of our Author/Reader Discussion series on TNBBC back in October. He also appeared here on the blog at the end of year, offering up his top three reads of 2011. 

Alan never hesitates to answer the call for my willy-nilly author series, and this month was no different. I am so incredibly excited to share the following video with you.... and so grateful to Alan for the obvious time and effort that was put into it!!!

Where Alan Writes

My writing studio is a 1967 Roadrunner travel trailer that for most of its life was an Idaho State Police surveillance vehicle, and is now packed with books and trophies and random oddities–in style, it’s urban-redneck-gypsy-writer chic. Having a wife and three kids, it’s perfect in that I can actually leave the house to go to work, to be out of earshot, to be away from someone asking me to open something or find something or wipe something, but also be close enough to come in to have lunch with the family, and get wifi from the house. 

Inside, there’s old beautiful wood paneling, which smells like woods and feels like wood and feels cozy and connects me with the past. With my wife’s help, I took pages from my favorite books and decoupaged them over the kitchenette area, so every time I get a drink of water, or heat up some tea, Hemingway and Joyce and James Dickey and Joyce Carol Oates stare me right in the face, daring me to bring my A-game. I’ve hung framed letters I received from authors I admire, my prize being a type-written letter Joy Williams wrote me after she’d read my book. 

Another favorite piece is a picture of “The Preacher” from the Charles Laughton movie, The Night of the Hunter. The Preacher hangs over my head, glowering down over me, H-A-T-E tattooed across one hand, L-O-V-E across the other, him always watching, always making sure I’m writing what’s right and righteous. In short, the VOLT-mobile (what my kids call it) is a magical place, a space that transports me from my side-driveway and deep into the recesses of my imagination, into all its fear and whimsy, its questions and concerns.

Check back next week to see where the magic happens for Under the Poppy author Kathe Koja!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breaking Down BEA: Tales of a Triple Timer

My first BEA I was so green around the gills that I missed all the fun.

Last year, when I got home from BEA, I went overboard recapping the event. From my BEA Blues post - which I think is still incredibly relevant and deserves a peek if you haven't seen it yet - to individual posts on  networking and namedropping, and publisher events, (yawn)....

I promise not to put you through all of that again - it's ok, breathe deep, I know you're relieved! But what I will do is touch on some of the most memorable moments of this past week in one big honking post. Because, you know, no one experiences BEA the same way... no one! And I totally want to tell the tales of my triple time...

By the way, these are in no particular order. At best, I'm listing them in the order in which they took place, sort of:

* Driving into and out the city every day with Tara (booksexyreview). Why yes, we are glutton for punishment! By the end of the week, we were functioning on only a few hours of sleep, lots of caffeine from our early morning mocha lattes, and our sometimes cranky but always entertaining deconstruction of the day's events. It was lovely to have a passenger this year - the previous two years I had driven in with me, myself, and I - and as much as I love myself, I was so grateful for the company! She mommy'd me, I kept her out past her bedtime... we were each other's side kicks throughout all of BEA, and I wouldn't change it for the world! It's that comfortable silence and knowing at a glance when to leave each other the hell alone that made us realize we were totally rocking it this year!

Me, Ben, David, Jason

*Attending the CCLaP readings at the KGB Lit Bar the night before BEA officially began. This was my most-looked-forward-to event of BEA week. CCLaP is based out of Chicago and never, ever, sends their authors out this far east, so there was no way I was missing it. I reunited with Ben Tanzer (to my immediate left in the photo) and finally met the ever intriguing David David Katzman (in the cool ass shirt holding the beer) and Jason Pettus, founder of the small press (hiding in the back). It was a night of stupendous readings, many of which I will be uploading to youtube as soon as I find the time. Keep your eye out for those, I guarantee you will be googling the site and downloading the books as soon as you hear the authors reading from them! If you missed the event (which I pimped on twitter like a rabid person), for shame!

Jenn and me
* Meeting Jenn (Picky_Girl) and Susie (Insatiable Booksluts) in person. So one of the highlights of any BEA for me has always been meeting the bloggers I've come to know and love online. I've been following both Jenn and Susie now for the better part of the past year and was thrilled to hear they were both headed to BEA. Jenn met Tara and I at the fountain in Bryant Park an hour before the Uncon kicked off Monday morning. She was as sweet and southern as I imagined she would be, and we became fast BEA friends - from discussing our thoughts at the Uncon, to connecting on the BEA showroom floor, to breakfasting together at the Random House #powerreader event and stealing a lunch at Javits between signings.

me, Tara, and Susie
Susie was the IBBA winner for Adult Fiction, and even though she kicked my ass in the contest, I was beyond thrilled because that meant I could meet her and be all "indies rock" and "long live the indie". We snuck an early dinner before the CCLaP event on Sunday, and then also had some chill-out time at the Consortium Books #indieview cocktail party Monday evening. She was a bit shy to start but quickly warmed up to us over tuna melts and meatloaf sandwiches, dishing on our current reads, schooling each other on our favorite authors, and just being our bookishly wonderful selves.

* Reuniting with Bookish friends near and far. In this list, I include the lovely Marisa of Graywolf, Erica of Harper Perennial, Amy of Amy Reads, Alix of Romance Book Forum, Jessica of Swift Ink Editor, and Rachel of A Home Between Pages. Bookishly good times had with all, all parties and hang outs, and eats, and chats. BEA is the only time I get to see them all, and I always feel like I am scrambling to spend time with them but the time I do get is always amazing.

Sky Ice's Chocolate Lava Cake..yum
* Nana's and Sky Ice in Brooklyn. OK, funny story so bare with me. Tuesday night was the one night Tara and I weren't double or tripled booked with parties for the evening and we ran off to Brooklyn with Amy (Amyreads) and Alix (Romance Book Forum) to have ourselves a sit-down-and-enjoy-ourselves dinner. We decided on Nana's - which I believe is a Japanese restaurant. All I know is that nothing on the menu made any sense to me, and while I'm not afraid to try new things, I did need help from the ladies and the staff to order something semi-familiar. (I was also the only one at the table who had to request a fork, because, no, I have not yet mastered the skill of chopsticks. Stop laughing at me.) I ended up with Tangerine Steak Stir Fry -or something to that effect. It was delish: thin strips of steak in a sweet sauce with rice and red and green bell peppers. So there I was, munching away, chit chatting with the girls, when all of a sudden I felt a gigantic fire burning a hole in my mouth! I went from completely normal to wanting to claw my mouth off of my face in zero point two seconds. Apparently, what I mistook for a slightly burnt piece of red bell pepper turned out to be an entire chili pepper which I had happily chewed and swallowed before realizing what I had done. While Tara, Amy, and Alix continued to eat and chat, I was holding cold water on my tongue and trying not to scream my head off. Every breath I took fanned the flames of my mouth. It was hell. Eventually, eons and eons later, the fire in my mouth calmed into subtle campfire ashes that would periodically rekindle as I bravely placed more food in my mouth, extremely careful to avoid all other chili peppers lying incognito in my meal, but willing to take the chance because my dinner was really good and I was really hungry. (throughout all of this, I am pretty sure some panicked tweets about my imminent death-by-chili-pepper went out...)

After the Nana's fire-fiasco, we headed over to Sky Ice, on Alix's recommendation. It was the strangest ice cream shop I had ever visited because it wasn't exactly ice cream, and it wasn't exactly italian ice. It was like the two had a baby and this weird mushy icy thing was the result. Alix was taste testing a few of the flavors. One tasted like ass, another tasted like a shot of rose perfume to the mouth. I played it straight and chose the chocolate lava cake with caramel sea salt ice cream. It made up for the hellish dinner I had just eaten. I burned and died and went to heaven all in the span of two hours.

* Breakfast of Champions. The most memorable moment of the Random House #powereaders breakfast has got to be the discussion Andrew Shaffer and I had about his upcoming release 50 Shames of Earl Grey. Only Andrew can make topics like "the shocker" and "tea bagging" seem almost natural at the breakfast table. Of all the authors I know I'll see at BEA, Andrew is the one I look forward to bumping into the most. Precisely for reasons like this.

* Richard Nash Big-Pimpin' Maidenhead. Richard Nash is a sweetheart. Anyone who meets him and thinks otherwise is simply not to be trusted. He's a shmoosher and sweet talker all the way. A hugger and kisser of cheeks. And I love the way he pimps me to the publishers whenever we are around one. But this one time, Richard turned the tables at the Couch House Books booth while we were deep in conversation with Ethan - their publicist - and pushed Maidenhead on me. For those of you not in the know, Maidenhead is Couch House's "smuty" novel of the year. Sex sells ever since 50 Shades broke loose, and everyone who's got something like it is letting you know! While I'm steering clear of the "mommy porn" scene, I did get a kick out of Richard demonstrating the clever little cover images they had used on the galley... subtle but not so (you'll understand once you see the back cover image, trust me).. if you know what I mean. The moment was truly priceless.

* Goodreads for the win. Due to a packed schedule on both my part and the part of Patrick Brown - Goodreads Community Manager - I managed to get an invite to their private shindig Wednesday evening for a quick meet-n-greet. Patrick and I were trying desperately (alright, most desperately on my part) to meet one another face to face all throughout BEA and the stars were just not aligning. Ok, so the invitation is extended and Tara and I go, and I find myself chatting the hour away with Otis (Founder of Goodreads) and Patrick about recommendations and ideas I have for their site, while Otis subtly questioned me on things like monetizing and beautifying TNBBC. It was all kinda silly and blurry - I'd had a beer or two by then - but I left feeling wonderful and full of the goodreads love. Patrick was adorable and lovely, and Otis sees all the things and knows all the things, and I enjoyed picking their brains. And if I said anything untoward or pushy, I blame it all on the beer.

Me and Jonathan Evison
* Couch Lounging with Jonathan Evison. I know how this is going to sound, but I really do love being me sometimes. Especially on nights like Wednesday night, at the PubDate party, chilling on the couch with Tara and Amanda (deadwhiteguys), when I spot Jonathan Evison walking around on his own holding two beers. I shout above the crazy loud music and call him over for a sit-and-chat and he beautifully obliges. ( I fan girled on him the day before at an impromptu run in where he so kindly signed his book and let me talk him up on All About Lulu and West of Here). Kicking back on the couch, we were BS'ing about his novels, torturing himself with dense classic literature, and how much he misses home but at the same time adores the attention the new book is getting. A class act of a guy in a cool hat and suit vest, Jonathan wins my author-of-BEA award.

* Canoodling with Graywolf and J. Robert Lennon. How anyone ever gets any productive discussions going under the bass and drum beat of club music is beyond me. But it happens, and I have proof of it. Up on the stage of the PubDate party space, drenched in red and blue lights, Marisa of Graywolf, J. Robert Lennon (author of Castle and Familiar), and I spent some time locked in conversation. Lennon and I discovered we have sons around the same age, the same soft spot for old school music-listening-apparatus, and an interest in hearing him read his own work. Perhaps some cool new TNBBC series was born this night? You will have to sit tight and wait, my friends... these lips will never tell...

And so goes my top 10 favorite memories of BEA 2012. What will the fourth year hold? God only knows but if it's following in the same footsteps of these past three years, it can only be greatness. I am already counting down the days....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Where Writers Write: C.G. Bauer

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

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

This is C.G. Bauer. He is the author of Scars on the Face of God, a powerfully chilling novel of what the power of religion can do to a small, poor town. And what faith, or the lack thereof, can do to each of it's inhabitants.

He first appeared here on TNBBC in an author interview in 2011. He and I have since kept in touch about his writing and I knew this series wouldn't be complete without inviting the Philadelphian to share his writing space. Come see...

Where C.G. Bauer Writes

It's a fourth bedroom used as an office that my wife wishes was really still a bedroom, unless the proceeds of my writing were to miraculously present us with a beach house on the water, at which point she'd maybe think of making a shrine out of it. (Ha. That's rich. She'd still want her fourth bedroom back.) 

It includes: 
  • a leather sofa 
  • a long, second-hand, mahogany corporate desk 
  • a big screen iMac on said desk
  • a massive black printer/copier/fax machine that looks garish crowding one edge of the desk (fax line not set up; again, too lazy)
  • a sheathed middle eastern knife that I use as a paperweight, curved and ornate, with some Arabic language writing ("Die, heathen Yankee scum"?) on the blade, a gift from my well-travled son-in-law
  • an oriental rug I inherited from my father which he bought in China and on which the dogs have peed. 

Against one wall are two bookcases filled with requisite writing reference manuals, novels I have yet to read, and unbound manuscript pages of critiques from my peer writing groups, also yet to be read. 

  • a baseball-themed clock
  • a men's softball team photo circa 1990 that includes me, the greatest slow-pitch softball pitcher to have ever played the game, with my team and I all looking studly in our softball uniforms (shirts AND pants) paid for by our local sponsor, Huntington Gas Station and Service Center
  • a photo-realism picture of the Penn State football team being led down W. College Avenue in University Park, PA, by the late Joe Paterno
  • a Norman Rockwell print titled "Choosin' Up" showing 1930s kid baseball players
  • a local artist's original pen and ink print called "A Grand, Final Gesture of Defiance" that shows a field mouse giving the finger to a bird of prey about to devour him
  • and the most cherished wallhanging I have, a framed newspaper article written by my daughter regaling her small town readership about the crazy stories I used to tell her when she was a kid (stories that left her damaged, she says), which she presented to me on Father's Day some years back.
Now that I'm finished describing it I realize my writing space is very inspiring, these "thousand words" worth much more, to me at least, than a picture.


Check back next week to see where the magic happens for Alan Heathcock!!

Merge Blog Tour Event - A. M. Harte on "Being Indie"

Today, TNBBC is helping 1889 Labs celebrate the release of Merge, which is a collection of thirteen short stories, set in a world reeling from the discovery of transhumans, that charts the loves, the betrayals, and the struggle for survival in a world where humans and transhumans are uneasy neighbours.

It's a three week long blog tour that offers giveaways, short story excerpts, and other blog toury type things. TNBBC's role in this event is to kick back and allow A.M. Harte - Editor in Chief of 1889 Labs and author of Hungry For You - to dish on what being indie means to her. I encourage you to sit back as well, and discover 1889 Labs, indie collective publishing, and Merge for yourself!


I have a confession to make.

Although I am the editor-in-chief of an indie press, I've never stopped to think about what it actually means. The broad differences between traditional and indie publishing are obvious, but what does being indie mean to me? What does my press, 1889 Labs, actually want?

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

My progression into the indie sphere was a gradual one. I started off as an avid reader of online fiction, and quickly progressed into posting online fiction of my own.

Then two things happened: ebooks surged in popularity, and I joined twitter.

Many of the writers I followed on twitter, who posted fiction online, were also talking about ebooks. Through their online work, they already had a fanbase—why wait around for some trad pubber to take notice, when they could self-publish and start selling now? As my circle of acquaintances widened, I discovered more authors releasing their own work, authors whose work I admired (Graham Storrs, Kait Nolan, and Susan Bischoff come to mind.)

Indie to me, at that point, meant going solo. Screw the big publishers, take control of your destiny. Believe in yourself and your stories.

Then I met MCM.

MCM is the founder of 1889 Labs. Back in 2006, he released a little ebook called The Pig and the Box, about a pig and a magic box (and the evils of DRM). Two million downloads later, he released it in print, under the 1889 Labs imprint, and from there the company started to grow.

1889 Labs was founded because MCM believed in himself and his stories. Because he wanted to take control of his destiny, and have the freedom to try all sorts of crazy experiments. It was, for the first few years, a solo operation, much like the indie authors I already knew.

But then MCM invited me to join 1889 Labs. And I, being far more sociable and well-connected, began to bring other people aboard. First Terra Whiteman, author of the popular webfiction series The Antithesis, then Greg X Graves, Melissa Jones, Letitia Coyne....

From a solo operation, 1889 Labs became a collective.

So what does being indie mean, for a collective like ours?

To us, indie is a way of thinking, rather than the number of people involved. Being an indie press means helping authors stay independent, giving authors choice, involving them in every step of the way. Rather than publishers, we see ourselves as enablers, helping those authors who, for whatever reason, don't want to take the solo route.

And, of course, being an indie press means having the freedom to try all sorts of future crazy experiments, too, the latest example being our paranormal thriller series MERGE.

MERGE started off as a tiny idea in MCM's head. He got talking to 1889 authors Kit Iwasaki and Yvonne Reid, and then started chatting to me, and all of a sudden we were co-writing a thirteen-story series which would be published in quick succession across 4 weeks. I made the mistake of mentioning blog tours, and now we weren't only writing a 13-story series; we were running a blog tour alongside publication, and giving away prizes like a brand new iPad.

(And if you're interested in following along with MERGE, please check out for full details on all the blog tour stops and how to win.)

Do you want to know our dirty secret? Only two months passed between MERGE's initial conception to its launch on May 28th. Even now, halfway into the series and blog tour, I cannot believe how quickly 1889 Labs turned the tiniest seed of an idea into reality—and when I think of it, it reminds me why it's so great to be indie.

But being part of 1889 Labs is more, to me, than being indie. It also means being part of a happy, if slightly dysfunctional, family. Except now MCM has help in bringing to life his insane ideas.

...God help me, what have I unleashed?


A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. Lately, her time is largely consumed by MERGE, a co-authored paranormal thriller series that charts the loves, the betrayals, and the struggle for survival in a world where humans and transhumans are uneasy neighbours. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Indie Spotlight: The Lit Pub

Back in January, I stumbled across The Lit Pub by some happy Twitter accident back and it has remained a small obsession of mine ever since. They are both a publisher of books and promoter and pusher of other publisher's books. How can you not fall in love with that?!

Just in case they happened to be flying under your radar, I asked Molly Gaudry, The Lit Pub's Founder and Creative Director, to give us a little history on how the publishing company and website found its way into the world:

Lit Pub Past & Present

The Lit Pub launched about a year ago, on June 1, 2011.

I envisioned it to be a new kind of publicity company; I wanted TLP to be a game changer in the social media arena. The website would be a place for ongoing conversations about great books; the “publicists” would each select a single book to feature—to discuss, analyze, promote—for an entire month; and the next month we’d go for it all over again, with new books. We were going to be like an online book-of-the-month club, and we were going to promote our features all over Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and anywhere else we might be heard.

But we quickly learned: after a week or two of writing multiple posts about a single book, new material is hard to force; we can all love a book and write about it, but the truth is we can probably say everything we need to say in a single post. Not to mention, when it comes to publicity, authors want the tried and true; they don’t want experiment, they want tradition.

So I went back to the drawing board. How to salvage the existing site and turn it into Lit Pub 2.0?

I re-launched the site in September 2011 with a much larger group of solicited contributors, and we began recommending a book a day. (This is now what we do continue to do on our blog, but anyone can submit a recommendation at any time. Our philosophy is: the more the merrier, so what are you waiting for? Submit!)

Still, this just didn’t feel right; it wasn’t quite enough. I didn’t want to be just another reviews site. And I didn’t want the constant pressure of always needing to manage and schedule a new recommendation every single day. (It takes about four hours with our site to post a single book recommendation, so add to that the time to solicit, review submissions, and manage the schedule, and this was turning into a full-time Monday-Saturday job—just to post a recommendation a day.)

Additionally, I don’t really know why, but, at that same time, I thought it would be a good idea to stock and sell all the books we were recommending. I trusted the contributors and believed that if they thought the book was worth buying and reading then other people would, too. And, actually, other people did! But it was an utter nightmare to be purchasing, warehousing, and coordinating order-fulfillment for all of those books, many of which I had never personally read. More importantly, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing; it wasn’t what I was passionate about. So I returned all the books to their publishers and/or their distributors and/or took the loss, and began to think about Lit Pub 3.0. Mind you, this was only about four months in.

Conveniently, I was simultaneously worrying just then over my tiny little chapbook press, Cow Heavy Books. I thought the website needed updating, and I wanted to rebrand, to redesign the book covers, and rerelease all the sold-out titles. I was in the final stages of that redesign when it hit me. Why would I want to manage two brands? Why would I want to have two different companies? Why would I want two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, two sets of business cards, etc. And why couldn’t Lit Pub just take over and publish all the books? So I took another loss on all that wasted design for Cow Heavy, but emerged with a Lit Pub I was interested in again.

In February 2012, we went to AWP and released (and re-released) seven titles: Caitlin Horrocks’s 23 Months, Scott Garson’s American Gymnopedies, Miles Harvey’s The Drought, J. A. Tyler’s In Love With a Ghost, Ben Segal’s and Erinrose Mager’s The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature, Aimee Bender’s The Third Elevator, and Kathy Fish’s Together We Can Bury It.

For that printing, I had decided on a certain book dimension, but we are currently redesigning all of the titles because I was unhappy with how they came out. I am considering all of those AWP copies limited editions. We’ll re-release all of those titles with their new, permanent dimensions and covers this fall, when we’ll also release (or re-release) Matt Bell’s How the Broken Lead the Blind and Andrea Kneeland’s the Birds & the Beasts, as well as a few other surprises.

Between now and then, we’re coming up on our first birthday, and to celebrate we’re hosting our first annual open reading period. We’re interested in full-length prose manuscripts—we want novels, novellas, memoirs, lyric essays, story collections, prose poems, flash collections. If it’s prose, we want to read it during the month of June. At least one winner will be selected for publication, and the book will release at AWP 2013 in Boston. If you have a manuscript you’d like us to consider during the month of June 2012, please submit here.


Nominated for the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, Molly Gaudry is the author of the verse novel, We Take Me Apart, which was the second finalist for the 2011 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. She has a prose poetry collection due out this fall from YesYes Books, titled Frequencies, which includes companion collections by Bob Hicok and Phillip B. Williams, and she is currently completing a hybrid fairy tale retelling / memoir titled Beauty: An Adoption. In her past two years serving as a Personal Statements Specialist, she has successfully advised 20 applicants competing for national awards, including recipients of 9 Fulbrights, 8 Critical Language Scholarships, 1 Boren Award, 1 Truman Award, and a National Science Foundation Woman of the Year grant.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sneak Peek at Scratch (an unpublished manuscript)

Last week I had the rare opportunity to read an unpublished manuscript by Steve Himmer, author of The Bee-Loud Glade. I was pining over some much anticipated supernatural novels - like Glen Duncan's Talulla Rising and Ben Percy's Red Moon - on Twitter and Steve mentioned that he had just the thing to hold me over. 

His manuscript is called Scratch and though it is loosely based on Algonquian & Wampanoag lore from the region where the story is set, it's wholly original and incredibly unsettling.

Martin's the new guy in a small, secluded, superstitious town and he's heading up the new housing project out in the middle of the woods. As the trees are cut back to make space for the new development and after a frightening run-in with a bear, Martin learns about the legend of Scratch - an unknown entity that is accused of luring townspeople into the woods, never to be seen again. When a local drunk disappears, the rumors and whispers of Scratch rise up again. And what of the pile of bones that is uncovered while excavating the site? And the little boy who was last seen chasing a fox into the forest behind his home, was that Scratch's handy work as well? 

The story leads you along, and you follow it willingly, much like that little boy followed the fox. And even though you are intent on catching up to it, you can feel the weight of the woods all around you, like a hundred eyes staring out from the darkness, hidden in the undergrowth and the clinging to the branches above... just out of sight. Steve starts to turn the tables in favor of our furry four legged friends...

I think Steve described it best when we were discussing the manuscript earlier today, "..Scratch dismisses the taken-for-granted familiar elements of literary fiction (the tragic childhood, etc.) and ultimately doesn't make human lives more important than any others. What's really compelling to me is the idea of a place built from layers: of stories, ecology, history, left behind objects, lives and deaths, folklore, etc., and how one layer is constantly erasing and overwriting another through invasive species, construction, industrial and agricultural migrations."

The manuscript currently sits in the hands of a publisher for consideration. And though it is certain to undergo many changes - some slight while others might be rather large - before it finally gets picked up, I want to share a little bit of the story so you can see why I was so taken with it. I want to give you something to restlessly anticipate. Maybe your interest in seeing more of the story could help it find its way into print faster? (no pressure.. right?)

World, I give you a sneak peek into Steve Himmer's unpublished manuscript Scratch!
(Shared with Steve's permission, of course!)


SCRATCH (excerpt)

Then pain jerks him awake and he’s stretched on his back in the burnt-out foundation. He’s been dragged feet-first from his fireplace bed by a bear, a real bear, and now it rises to its full height and crashes down hard with its paws on his chest.

Martin lets out a sound that would be a yell if he could gather enough air to make one. His attempt to draw breath expands his chest just enough to increase the pressure and weight of the paws.

The bear leans across his body so its hot belly swings against his thighs. The pressure on his ribs is immense, and pushes the last gasps from his lungs. His hands spring to his defense without being asked, wrapping themselves as far as they can around the bear’s legs just above each of the paws, wrenches too small for the job. He pushes and pulls, struggling to move the thick legs, but they will not be budged. The pressure on his chest doesn’t increase but it doesn’t lighten up, either, and Martin wheezes and rasps, his struggle for breath made all the worse by his panic.

He feels the bear’s gaze on his face along with its hot breath, but he fights the urge to look. Some old memory, from a book he read as a child or some rerun he saw on TV, insists that the worst thing to do in a situation like this is to look a bear in the eyes. As if a situation like this happens often enough for there to be a wealth of advice.

He feels five sharp points of pain, and when he lowers his eyes without moving his head he sees that the claws of one paw have punctured the jacket, the T-shirt, his skin. The details of the holes are strangely acute, each frayed thread on his jacket individual and distinct and each curved claw glazed with its own unique pattern of cracks and chips. The other paw still presses his ribs.

Martin studies the claws for a long time, a moment so slow he starts to think he has already died and his spirit has drifted away from his body, that he’s watching all this from somewhere beyond himself. His head swims and he becomes dizzy despite lying flat on the ground. The treetops bordering his field of vision sway like the waves of a rough, green sea he is sinking under.

Then the bear grunts, and without increasing the weight on Martin’s chest it leans closer, filling his eyes with its body. Black fur streaked with copper surrounds him, and the bear smells of old meat and wet dog. Its cold black nose sniffs a circle around his head. He tries to lie still but can’t stop his body from shaking. The bear snorts beside his face and the air is so hot he feels it deep in his ear.

This is it, Martin thinks. This is the way I die.

No sooner does the thought cross his mind than the bear moves, draws its paws away from his body in a swift, sweeping motion that tears five bloody tracks through two layers of cloth and the skin underneath.

Now he does scream, loudly and at a high pitch. He sustains the harsh note until the bear rears up then slams a forefoot to the dirt beside each of his ears, shaking the scream from his throat. The back of his head bounces against the ground with the force of the impact.
The bear turns murky eyes onto Martin’s blue ones, and that hot breath makes him gag. He tries to stop his body from shaking, afraid it makes him look appetizing the way a lively fly lures a fish. He tries to look away from that wild gaze, the orange and yellow and brown of a fire, but the flame holds his eyes.

Then at last the bear’s body relaxes and the creature steps forward. It slides across Martin’s body so its hot, heavy fat slaps his face as it passes. The chaff and dust of dirty fur fill his nose, and he fights back a strong urge to sneeze. When the whole broad, black body has passed over his face, the bright light of morning rushes into his eyes and the sneeze bursts out before he can stop it.

The bear rises onto hind legs and climbs over the wall of the house. There’s a thud from outside the foundation, then Martin listens as his attacker lumbers away. He hears the thumps of the animal’s first few steps before the forest falls quiet again and there is only the pounding of his own pulse.

Then birdsong sneaks back in, leaves rustle, trunks creak and boughs crack, and the world carries on as if none of that happened. As if it was no more than a dream or a story.

(end of excerpt)

If you liked what you read here, leave a comment to show your support of Steve and his manuscript.  And while we wait patiently to see if it gets signed to a publisher, why not follow Steve, visit his website, and pick up a copy of exceptional novel The Bee-Loud Glade, and ebook short The Second Most Dangerous Job in America?