Friday, December 15, 2017

Tis the Season for Mr. Neutron

Joe Ponepinto's debut novel Mr. Neutron will be published by 7.13 Books in March. 
But don't let the fact that it's not out yet stop you from getting in to the holiday spirit!

The book goes great with Drunk Jack Frosties

·       1 c. vodka
·       1 c. Champagne
·       1/2 c. Blue Curacao (replace with Tequila for a Drunk Monterey Jack Frosty)
·       1/2 c. lemonade
·       3 c. ice
·       Lemon wedge
·       white sanding sugar

1.     In a blender, combine vodka, champagne, blue curacao, lemonade and ice. Blend until combined.
2.     Run a lemon wedge around the rim of each glass then dip in sanding sugar.
3.     Pour frosties into rimmed glasses and serve immediately.


In the smallish American city of Grand River, things are not so grand. The river is hopelessly polluted. City officials are in the pockets of oligarchs. And its best hope for meaningful change is a platitude-spouting eight-foot giant named Reason Wilder running for mayor.

Gray Davenport, a veteran political operative, isn’t faring much better than his hometown. His wife is about to leave him. He’s working for a mayoral candidate who has no chance to win and who can’t even pay for Gray’s services. When Gray notices that Reason may not be human, Gray embarks on a quest to uncover the truth about Reason’s mysterious origins, and the truth promises to change Grand River and Gray forever.

A satirical mashup of Frankenstein and Veep, Mr. Neutron is a hilarious genre-bender that speaks to the unpredictable nature of American politics today.

Joe Ponepinto is the founding publisher and fiction editor of Tahoma Literary Review, a nationally-recognized literary journal that has had selections reproduced in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Best Small Fictions, and other notable anthologies. His novel, Mr. Neutron, will be published by 7.13 Books in spring 2018. He is the winner of the Tiferet: Literature, Art & the Creative Spirit 2016 fiction contest, and has had stories published in dozens of other literary journals in the U.S. and abroad. A New Yorker by birth, he has lived in a dozen locations around the country, and now resides in Washington State with his wife, Dona, and Henry the coffee-drinking dog.


If you're interested in reviewing Mr. Neutron, please email me at 
We'd love to send you a digital arc!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tis the Season for Gunmetal Blue

Gunmetal Blue releases tomorrow with Tortiose Books. It showcases Joseph G. Peterson at his inimitable best. It's delightfully absurd and horrifyingly plausible, a sad and funny look at what happens when our airy fantasies become gritty reality, and when that reality in turn falls apart into madness and nightmares.Consider picking it up this holiday season!


The guys in Gunmetal Blue are looking for some type of transcendence to lift them above the existential difficulties they find in just being alive on the planet. To that end, they like to shoot guns at the gun range; they like to go to the horse track; they fish and probably more than the should, they drink and grieve.

Pair Your Reading of Gunmetal Blue 
with a MARTINI

1. A martini is a crystalline snowcapped mountain that you can ski with your eyes closed.

2. The winter air is scented with the smell of pine and your hair is blown back and your eyes are squinting against all the hurt you've ever known.

3. You proceed zigging and zagging down the slope to the sea-washed margins of the glass where the salt-brined olives await and dolphins swim in a sad pink light.

4. God, you feel like a giant!

5. God!

Joseph G. Peterson is the author of six novels and a short story collection. As a kid he ran through the fields with his brothers chasing rabbits; he fished ponds and rivers for carp; he played kick the can with the neighborhood kids. And then he matriculated to the University of Chicago where he received his BA in General Studies. He tended bar when you could smoke cigars in bars; he labored for the bricklayers who threw bricks at him for quoting poetry on the scaffolds. He still reads Wordsworth and Yeats. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

His work has appeared in Banango Street, Akashic Books, Disembodied Text, Anthology of Chicago, Exquisite Corpse, New Millennium Writings, and other journals.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tis the Season for Leech Girl Lives

"I used to live in the future. Giant leeches ate my arms and then replaced them. Under the circumstances, this was actually a good thing. Anyway now I'm here and I'm looking for someone else from the future."

Should be sung to the tune of "Frosty the Snowman":

Margo Chicago
Has leeches instead of arms.
She was stuck in muck
But the leeches helped
As she crawled away from harm.

Margo Chicago
Makes sure art is safe.
With her cyborg friend
The Bublinaplex defends
Until her banishment day.

She thought it was quite tragic
When her cyborg friend was crushed.
But she doesn’t give a single fuck
If her leech arms inspire disgust.

For Margo Chicago
Must fight giant tardigrades.
And lobopods and mutant things
And break cyborg blockades.

Clunkety clunk clunk
Clunkety clunk
Is how the cyborg factory goes.
Clunkety clunk clunk
Clunkety clunk

Till the factory explodes!

Rick Claypool is the author of Leech Girl Lives. His short fiction appears in TL;DR Magazine, The Mustache Factor, The Allegheny Review, and in the forthcoming Not My President: The Anthology of Dissent. For more, visit

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tis the Season for Bacon's Log

Bacon'sLog is Clam Simmons' third book. Informed by back-up quarterbacks of the 90s, inspired by dollar items on the Burger King menu, Bacon's Log is the spiritual and mythic landscape of the post-industrial midwest. 

From the Prologue of Bacon's Log:

Let me be frank—not many of you will make it to the end. It is nothing personal—the chief obstacle is simple—the main character, Bacon, is as basic and regular as any typical human person you might meet. However once Bacon's particles are forced to collide with unforeseen and unmentionable circumstances you will unearth a tale of a regular human being thrust into an epic odyssey.

When asked what holiday drink might best be paired with Bacon's Log...
Clam intially contemplated boxed wine with candy canes. Then thought better of it and firmly declared that vodka, cranberry and red vines is the must see holiday jam-this side of wassail! 

Clam Simmons is currently in-process with a very prestigious children's soup tournament. You can connect at as well as some of the top internet web sites.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bronwyn Reviews: The Protester Has Been Released

Publisher: C&R Press
Released: 2016

Reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

The Protester Has Been Released is a smart, hilarious collection of ten stories and a novella by Janet Sarbanes. I’m going to tackle this review in two parts, as the content dictates.

A central theme in Sarbanes’ stories is miscommunication. An American couple with a young child think the housekeeper and chauffer in their Mexico City house are being intentionally unhelpful, when in fact they’re trying to save their lives. An earnest arts collective negotiates a museum residency via email with a half-interested curator. Koko the guerrilla, it seems, has been misunderstood all along by her teacher and the rest of us.

Sometimes the miscommunication is willful. In Meet Koko, for example, we discover she knows far more language than she’s letting on:

“I called my new kitty All Ball because I enjoyed the rhyme. Also, there was an absurdist quality to my Manx cat, with its missing tail and squeaky little voice that put me in mind of the Dadaist sound poet Hugo Ball. But according to Penny in this video, I named it All Ball because I thought it looked like a ball.”

Sarbanes’ sense of humor is dry and razor-sharp. She teaches in the Creative Writing program at CalArts, so her sideways swipes at academia (The Tragedy of Ayapaneco) and at the formal arts world (Sunshine Collective) particularly pack a punch.

Reviewers have made much of the animals that narrate Sarbanes’ stories: Laika the first mammal to orbit the Earth, Koko the signing gorilla, and Rosie the sheep who provided the DNA for the first mammal to be cloned. They’re all real animals who contributed to the development of human knowledge, but never had the opportunity to tell their own stories. Sarbanes gives them voice in these stories, if not agency.

Her narrators, both animal and human, are witty, biting, and bittersweet. An undercurrent of hope runs through the stories, often focused on art. Dolly the cloned sheep brings the flock together with her poetry in Rosie the Ruminant. In Ars Longa, when literally everyone gets cancer, a family is brought together through an arts institute they create in the hospital. Their dead mother offers encouragement:

“As you get older, your powers will diminish, but your wisdom will increase. There’s a sweet spot where your powers and wisdom are just about equal, but usually you can only identify it in retrospect, and have squandered it on getting your teenagers into college. Be on the lookout for your sweet spot. Do something big with it.”

Even Laika, despite her inevitable tragedy, hears the music of the spheres.

The novella that closes this volume, The First Daughter Finds her Way, is a more challenging read. That’s partly because of The Times We Live In. It has become almost impossible to read fictional bad presidents; reality has surpassed the unimaginable. Whatever a writer might imagine is simultaneously too nefarious and not nefarious enough, while also being too ridiculous and not ridiculous enough. Sarbanes’ president is a well-dressed buffoon who’s easily manipulated by stronger personalities around him. He reads like George W. Bush, a president from our more innocent past.

Her fictional first daughter, like the protagonists of the shorts in this collection, is too smart and insightful for the people who surround her. The tone of her narrative verges on young adult fiction, but then she breaks into oulipan list-making and takes the story in unexpected directions. One of Sarbanes’ most deft rhetorical moves comes from the fact that Afghanistan, the first country the US attacked after 9/11, is also the first country in an English-language alphabetical list of all countries in the world. She carries this concept ad absurdum, to great effect, reminding us that the Bush years were not as innocent as we might wish to remember.  

The Protester Has Been Released will make you laugh and it will make you think. It is fiction for our times.

Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution. She won The Coffin Factory magazine’s 2012 very short story award, and her Mauldin’s work has appeared in the Akashic Books web series, Mondays Are Murder, and at Necessary Fiction, CellStories, The Battered Suitcase, Blithe House Quarterly, Clamor magazine and From ACT-UP to the WTO. She is a researcher with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and she is creator of GuerrillaReads, the online video literary magazine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Audio Series: Books, Bits & Bobs

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

Daniel Abrahams will be reading 
chapter one from a novella entitled: The Noise from his new collection Books, Bits & Bobs. Daniel is a sports, entertainment and fashion journalist who has worked on numerous regional, national and international newspaper and magazine titles over the past 20 years. He has ghostwritten one published title in 2013: Through AdversityThe Fight for Rugby League in the RAF, which is available through Scratching Shed publications. He self-published his first fiction title, a dark thriller called The Wooden Heart, last October. 

Click on the soundcloud bars below to listen to Daniel read from his collection: 

What it's about:

RANGING from dark thriller ‘linear’ shorts, to one paragraph thought provoking pieces to an apocalyptic novella of unseen proportions, Daniel Abrahams has drawn together a collection of his fiction writings stretching back to 2011 for his first collection of short stories and second fiction release: Books, Bits & Bobs.

Books, Bits & Bobs swings from dreamlike states of romance and comedy, to tragedy, to betrayal and beauty; traversing the everyday to the everlasting. Featuring characters who are reviled, revered, rampant and rabid, living on the edge of discovery or the brink of destruction, there is plenty to get your teeth into and your mind wondering.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where Writers Write: Maryl Jo Fox

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

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

Photo by Avril Lipsky

This is Maryl Jo Fox

She grew up in Idaho and studied music at the University of Idaho before transferring to UC Berkeley for a BA in English, and later, an MA in English at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Her short fiction has appeared in Passages North, Bat City Review, and other journals. Her writing also appeared in the L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. She is a former president of the L.A. Drama Critics Circle. She has taught high school English in Rochester, New York, literature and composition at Pasadena City College, Glendale College, and others, and currently leads a novels discussion group at Vromans bookstore in Pasadena. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart, short-listed for the 2002/2003 Fish Publishing Short Story Contest, and was a finalist for the 2001 James Kirkwood Prize through the UCLA Writers’ Program. Maryl discovered her writing focus in a UCLA Extension Writers’ Program class titled, “Master Sequence in Magic, Surrealism, and the Absurd.” Visit her online at and

Where Maryl Jo Fox Writes

I like the idea of writing about my study, where I spend so many painful and fruitful hours.

1.   I look at this picture of my study – it’s a total mess but I’m so calm.  How is this possible?  Bits of paper –song lyrics, book lists, the homesick dream, the headless dream, the quote from Stephen Dobyns poem, “The Birth of Angels” and more -- are taped so thickly on one and a half walls that it looks like a blizzard has struck inside the house. I’m so detail-oriented that my process gets out of hand.

Despite its disarray, the room is quiet and comforting to me.  It was my son’s room, but he lives on his own now.  So it’s my room where no one comes to mess up my mess. Despite my best intentions, I always let a new mess hatch after the old mess gets cleaned up. All the paper bits taped on the walls are part of a creative hatchery for my work.

On the adjoining wall is a Jasper Johns print that always clears my mind. I'm not always crazy about Jasper Johns --.but I bought this reproduction for my office at school, and now it's here in my study at home.  The clean crisp lines, the strong colors clear my head.  I want to write like this -- clear, assertive, focused, Organized and spontaneous.  The humor is that my writing process is very laborious.  I usually sweat out each sentence as if my life depended on it.  And often my sentences are full of moodiness and half-steps.  But then I love the actual scraps of wood nailed together on the canvas to remind us of the industrial feel of the modern world.  I can almost smell the sawdust. I don’t know why this painting always gives me a lift, but it does.

But I wanted to look at human beings when I was working in my study.  So I taped some facsimiles across the bottom of the Jasper Johns.  And now the passion of the human scene bursts into this room-size collage.  An old New Yorker cover features three older gentlemen, having finished their dinner and drinks, looking wonderfully comfortable with each other. They’re playing chamber music in warm yellow light in someone’s New York apartment furnished with antique furniture.  This cover says everything needed about friendship and the sharing of food and music.  Next to them is a Doonesbury episode in the Sunday comics.  The Vietnam war is raging, Melissa has had an unwanted sexual encounter and is waiting to see Cora, her counselor.  The male counselor says she got dinged, “same as if you caught a bullet.”  Melissa silently absorbs this as Cora arrives and asks what’s going on.  Melissa says, “Dinged.  I can work with dinged.”  The counselor says, “We just dropped by the reframing shop.”

From an old Calvin and Hobbes  encounter, Calvin is freaking out.  A minor debate with his dad made him see” both sides of the issue!  Then  poor Calvin began to see both sides of EVERYTHING!”  “The multiple views provide too much information!”  He “tries to eliminate all but one perspective!  It works!”  The world looks familiar again. “You’re still wrong, Dad,” he says.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Christopher Marlowe in Interview with Kathe Koja

Earlier this year, Kathe Koja released Christopher Wild. Her literary love affair with Christopher Marlowe continues below, in this fictional interview....

Interviewing Mr. Marlowe

Interview by Kathe Koja

Let’s meet him in a noisy pub, at a narrow scarred table near the door, with friends or disputants rowdy on either side: because he likes a drink, and enjoys a verbal brawl, he knows exactly how to argue, when to use logic, when to use force. He’s young, he’s dressed to impress, his name is Christopher but everyone calls him Kit: Kit Marlowe, who’s famous all over London as a wit and a poet and a playmaker, whose words are declaimed by actors and quoted by citizens and even scrawled on walls to incite civil insurrections. He’s admired and emulated (hello, Will Shakespeare), he’s envied and maybe hated, and now he sits there waiting for us to stand the next round.

It can be chancy, to let a writer’s oeuvre do all the talking, but if we’re going to have answers to our interview questions, that’s the way it has to be. So let’s start with the hardest question first:

Q: Is it true that, beyond being a superstar playwright, you’re also a spy for Queen Elizabeth’s secret service?

Christopher Marlowe: Might first made kings.

Q: Is that a yes?

CM: Matters of import, aimed at by many, but understood by none.

Q: Classified, OK, we’ll read between the lines . . . And you’ve written some agelessly beautiful, indelible lines—“Is this the face that launched a thousand ships? Infinite riches in a little room. Make me immortal with a kiss” starting with your first play, Tamburlaine. Tamburlaine was a game-changer for the whole of London theatre, wasn’t it.

CM: From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits, and such conceits as clownage keeps in pay, we’ll lead you to the stately tent of war—[pause as pint arrives] And then applaud his fortune as you please.

Q: Hard to say which is more gorgeous and bloody, your blank verse or the action onstage! Tamburlaine is a hardass –

CM: The scourge of God and terror of the world –

Q: And you brought him to life. What was it like, to be just out of school, and score such a sudden, stunning success? Tamburlaine had an immediate sequel –  

CM: The general welcomes Tamburlaine received hath made the poet pen his second part –

Q: – and your other plays have been just as commercially successful, even though your subject matter is extreme. In Doctor Faustus, a man sells his soul to the devil—though you’re not a religious person yourself, are you?

CM: Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please, resolve me of all ambiguities? . . . These vain trifles of men’s souls! I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance. If I were to write a new religion—!

Q: Blasphemy’s kind of illegal here, isn’t it . . . You have a master’s degree from a very prestigious university. What’s your take on higher ed?

CM: To this day is every scholar poor – 

Q: You were a scholarship student yourself.

CM: – gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor! I’ll have them fill the public schools with silk, wherewith the students shall be bravely clad. Fantastic liveries, a short Italian hooded cloak . . . Speak well of scholars.

Q: Let’s talk about your translations of Ovid and Lucan, both of them controversial poets like yourself. In fact, Ovid’s erotic verses were suppressed –

CM: I mean not to defend the ‘scapes of any –

Q: They were pretty hot –

CM: – or justify my vices, being many. [Laughs]

Q: And your own “Hero and Leander” was pretty hot, too! Two gorgeous young people, separated by a dangerous river, risking their virtue and their lives to be together –

CM: Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?

Q: All your plays’ central characters—Tamburlaine, Faustus, Barabas the Jew of Malta, King Edward—are men at odds with their societies. Would you say you had an outsider’s view of the world?

CM: That like I best that flies beyond my reach. And peril is the chiefest way to happiness . . . The hour ends the day, the author ends his work –

And just like that the glass is empty and our interview’s done, he’s off from the table, he’s leaving the pub—is he headed for his lodgings in grimy Shoreditch? Or his wealthy patron’s estate in Kent? Someone says something about a meeting in Deptford . . . We’ll hope to meet him again, if not in this pub then always in his words.



Christopher Marlowe, poet and playwright, brought blank verse to passionate heights, and blazed the trail that Shakespeare followed, with his enormously successful plays for the London stage: Tamburlaine, Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta, Edward II, The Massacre at Paris. But his clandestine career as a spy put his life in peril; he was stabbed to death in what the government rushed to call a drunken argument in an eating-house in Deptford. He was 29.

Kathe Koja’s novel CHRISTOPHER WILD takes immortal badass Kit Marlowe from his past into our future. She is currently adapting Marlowe’s EDWARD II into an experiential performance event, GLITTER KING, set in a Detroit punk bar, for early 2018.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hank Early's Would You Rather

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

Hank Early's
Would You Rather

Would you rather start every sentence in your book with ‘And’ or end every sentence with ‘but’?

Goodness. I guess I'd go wth but. Might be a little more challenging and therefore more interesting? I guess?

Would you rather write in an isolated cabin that was infested with spiders or in a noisy coffee shop with bad musak?

Noisy coffee shop. No contest. I actually like background noise when I write. And I despise spiders.

Would you rather think in a language you could understand but write in one you couldn’t read, or think in a language you couldn’t understand but write in one you could read?

The second one. Wait, no, that would suck. Gotta go with the first one. Because if you can't think, you can't do anything, right?

Would you rather write the best book of your career and never publish it or publish a bunch of books that leave you feeling unsatisfied?

Well, I think authors do the second all the time, so I'll take that one. I can't imagine anything more torturous than writing a perfect book and having no one read it.

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

I'd rather have the voice in my head. We could all do with less twitter and more voices in our heads.

Would you rather your books be bound and covered with human skin or made out of tissue paper?

Tissue paper. I don't even want to think about the other ones. Shiver. (yes, I do write scary stories, but that doesn't mean I can handle grossness).

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

I already suffer from social anxiety, so I'm fine with the second option.

Would you rather your book incite the world’s largest riot or be used as tinder in everyone’s fireplace?

This is a tough one. I'd say riot as long as the riot sparked a positive change in the world. If not, tinder, baby.

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

What are pens and paper?

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

So, I hate needles, but I think the audio would be worse. I'll take the tattoo.

Would you rather meet your favorite author and have them turn out to be a total jerkwad or hate a book written by an author you are really close to?

Both have happened. Sort of. But I'd rather the first happen.

Would you rather your book have an awesome title with a really ugly cover or an awesome cover with a really bad title?

I think covers sell books. So, I'd take the second.

Would you rather write beautiful prose with no point or write the perfect story badly?

This is every author's dilemma, no? As much as I love the beautiful prose, I've got to have the story. Story is the point, after all. At least for me.

Would you rather write only embarrassingly truthful essays or write nothing at all?

I'm good with embarrassment. I'm not good with not writing.

Would you rather your book become an instant best seller that burns out quickly and is forgotten forever or be met with mediocre criticism but continue to sell well after you’re gone?

Hey, I'll take the bestseller. I can always make the next one a critical darling!


Hank Early spent much of his youth in the mountains of North Georgia, but he never held a snake or got struck by lightning.  Heaven's Crooked Finger (Nov. 7, 2017; Crooked Lane Books) is his first novel. He holds a Masters in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has been a middle school teacher in central Alabama for nearly 20 years. Hank Early is the pen name for horror author John Mantooth, whose novel The Year of the Storm was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.  The author enjoys a good beer, strong coffee and wild storms. He’s married and has two kids who are constantly giving him ideas for his next novel.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Where Writers Write: Caitlin Hamilton Summie

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

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

This is Caitlin Hamilton Summie.

She earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season ReviewHypertext Magazine, South85 Journal, The Belmont Story Review and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published in August by Fomite and has earned excellent reviews, including a starred Foreword. Most recently her poetry was published in The Literary Nest. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003. Find her online at

Where Caitlin Hamilton Summie Writes

I write in a room that is meant to be the living room of our house. My computer sits on a melamine board laid over two white filing cases. I’ve had the melamine board since at least 1992. The filing cases are recent replacements of my much-moved and dented ones and were supplied by my parents when they downsized.

I write surrounded by books, photos, mail supplies, and (many) work files.

In the corner: a blue overstuffed chair that has perfectly placed armrests for my height.

Ahead: a window with a view of a glorious maple tree.

To my left: a smaller window that gives me a peek of a teeny dogwood tree on the corner of our lot.

And everywhere, hanging on the walls all around me, the vibrant, bright colors of my children’s artwork from age 2 on…

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Indie Spotlight: Rick Claypool

In today's Indie Spotlight, we welcome Rick Claypool, author of the recently released Leech Girl Lives. In the essay below, Rick explains what influenced him most as he put pen to paper and wrote his novel. 

Things That Inspired Me While Writing Leech Girl Lives

I’ve always been into weird stuff. Weird music, weird movies, weird stories. As a kid, the Muppet I most identified with was Gonzo: the weirdo. As a grownup, I find myself writing weird fiction.

During the time I was writing Leech Girl Lives (Spaceboy Books 2017), I rekindled more than a few oddball childhood obsessions, discovered new things to geek out about, got pissed off about social problems. And I felt unusually productive while gathering all this strangeness around me, as the strange things I was appreciating were now the raw materials for my own creation.

For me, the writing process really is all about getting excited about the latest bizarre idea that pops into my head and running with it. It’s also about letting myself become unapologetically excited and passionate (or angry) about the things that spark my interest.

And so, dear reader, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you some of the things that were knocking around my head and exerting an influence in one way or another on Leech Girl Lives as I was writing it. (Because even if you haven’t heard of me or my book -- and let’s be honest, odds are, you haven’t -- I hope you’ll find the idea of mashing up this stuff into pulp fiction page turner more than a little interesting.)

Adventure Time - Pure imagination fuel. Equal parts silly and sharp -- and occasionally quite sad -- this cartoon helped me learn to be ok with embracing my weirdest ideas.

Final Fantasy IV - My ur-text for speculative adventure. Released as Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo in the U.S., I spent an inordinate amount of time as a kid playing and re-playing this epic, and it's admittedly complex and convoluted plot is permanently imprinted in my brain, and it’s probably why I feel so drawn to stories populated with monsters.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed - The smartest and most sensitive work of political science fiction I’ve encountered. The structure of my book, with its shifting chronologies, was largely inspired by the structure of this book.

Global inequality - When I’m asked what Leech Girl Lives is about, the first thing I want to say is “supply chains,” which I realize is probably not a very useful answer. My original idea was to write a book where, instead of geographic space separating exploited workers who produce goods from the comparatively well-off people consuming them, these groups are separated by time. The inevitable result: class tensions that span time, with the people of the future exploiting the people of the past.

Tardigrades - As an 11-year old, I was obsessed with bugs. In this context, tardigrades incredibly fascinating and frustrating to me. I pored over every photo, illustration, article, and book I could find for information about these strangely cute, practically indestructible microbes. This was before the internet, so this interest meant checking out stacks and stacks of biology texts, where each 500-page volume devoted maybe three paragraphs to tardigrades. Supposedly they’re everywhere, but invisible to the naked eye. So in the book, I made them the size of kaijus.

Sam Pink’s Person - Nihilism and absurdity and depression and poverty in minimalist prose, but funny. Reading Sam Pink’s novels helped me embrace my own minimalist tendencies. (Because, contrary to what I tried to convince myself for a time in college, being a writer doesn’t mean composing lyrical, meandering sentences like Proust).

Synthwave on Bandcamp - While I was writing the book, listened nonstop to retrofuture electronic music by the likes of Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, and Gost, which I stumbled upon among the many synthwave artists on Bandcamp. These artists became the soundtrack to my worldbuilding and writing.

Doctor Who - Full disclosure: I haven’t followed the show for a couple of seasons, but I was at the peak of my interest during the David Tennant and Matt Smith years, when I also was writing my book. Wacky, imaginative, and heartfelt, the best episodes expose unfair economic models, which no doubt had an influence on Leech Girl Lives.  

Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey - If Douglas Adams wrote a surrealist dystopia and arbitrarily arranged its society around color. So clever it almost hurts and the most interesting contemporary work of dystopian fiction I’ve encountered, and I try to read a lot of this stuff.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission - For my day job, I spend a lot of time thinking about how the 2010 Citizens United ruling lets corporations and the rich spend as much as they want to distort our elections. The political debate between those who want election spending to be completely unregulated and those who want restrictions did much to inform the conflict in the book between makes of unsafe art and the inspectors who work to stop the unsafe art from harming viewers.

Four-hour commutes - For a few years, I had to travel to Washington, D.C., once a month for work. From Pittsburgh, that’s a four-hour drive without traffic. I would use this time on the road to think through narrative challenges and come up with ways to complicate the story. Occasionally I would write myself notes while driving 70 miles per hour on the Turnpike, a practice I don’t recommend.

Foxconn suicides - Foxconn is a manufacturing company that oversees Chinese factories where Apple’s iPhones are assembled. The company’s initial response to 14 people throwing themselves off of the factory roof, killing themselves, was to put up nets and add a “no suicide allowed” clause to workers’ contracts. Later scenes in the book were inspired this very real horror story.

Dougal Dixon’s Man After Man - When I was a kid, my interest in dinosaurs led to a general interest in evolutionary biology, and Dougal Dixon’s books are to blame. In this one, scientists genetically engineer humans to fill the ecological niches of animals we drove to extinction, only to be later repurposed as slaves and food. His art is incredible.

Being attacked by bird mites - Several years ago, I had to evacuate the cheap apartment where I was living because it became infested with bird mites. Pigeons, the foulest creatures on Earth, where roosting in the eaves. The mites are super tiny and they swarm at night to drink blood. I feel itchy just thinking about this traumatic turn of events. And my landlord was a real asshole about it.


Rick Claypool is the author of Leech Girl Lives, a weird dystopian story of resistance. His short fiction appears in TL;DR Magazine, The Mustache Factor, The Allegheny Review, and in the forthcoming Not My President: The Anthology of Dissent. For more, visit