Monday, December 17, 2012

An Interview

My friend Bernie invited me to babble at him for a couple of hours about writing and self-publishing. He then edited our talk and transcribed it as an interview for his blog. I feel odd being the subject of an interview and post as I doubt I interview well, but it was very cool to get to talk with him since his move west, and it's a very kind thing he's doing promoting ye olde 'Book of Horrible Stories.'

Give the interview a look-see here!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Memory of a Salt Shaker"

My friend Bernie is a writer who does some good work in speculative fiction. "The Memory of a Salt Shaker" is a story of his that was nominated for the Million Writers Award last year and one that he recently made available as an e-book. (It's so weird to me that one short story still gets labeled an "e-book," but I guess until terminology catches up with e-publishing's possibilities, that's what we have.)  Anyway, if you think you might like reading about love, and magic in the real world, and all that fun stuff, consider giving "The Memory of a Salt Shaker" a read. You can find it for free through Smashwords by clicking on this link or for $0.99 through Amazon and the Kindle store by clicking this link.

/shameless promotion of friend off

Monday, November 5, 2012

Larks Fiction Magazine

Heya. Larks Fiction Magazine is a free weekly e-zine that publishes writing with a fantasy/sci-fi/speculative bent. This week's issue features one of my stories. Click on this link right here and scroll down a little if you'd like to read "A Story of Summer and Winter."

Many thanks to Daniel Pool and his team of literary fiends for letting me in on their fun!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I woke up, showered, and made the coffee. I swept my knife over the surface of the toast slowly, as if it were a scythe felling wheat in the field, and dwelled on the idea that today is Halloween.

"It just feels like it came out of nowhere," I told Wes. I licked the raspberry jam from the edge of the knife, just because it seemed appropriate to do.

"Well, we've been kind of busy, though," Wes said. "I mean, you've been doing cover letters and interviews and working on your projects, so it's not like you've been slacking."

"I guess," I said, "but it really doesn't feel like a holiday now. It feels kind of empty."

"It feels empty?" he asked. "Or you feel empty?

I looked at him.

And then I looked down.

I saw everything that had once been soft and vital inside of me slopped unceremoniously onto the floor, like pumpkin guts onto newspaper. My chest and my belly had been scraped clean, right up to the thin walls of my muscles.

"No wonder I feel so hollow," I croaked. The jar of raspberry jam was still on the table. I wanted to vomit.

Wes stood. "What's the legend behind jack o' lanterns? Why do people put candles inside pumpkins?"

I stood to meet him. "They put a light inside to ward off the evil spirits that roam the world on Halloween and keep the spirits from taking them," I said. I gripped the table's edge. "I have nothing inside me. I have no light!"

"Go," he said, nodding, as I ran for the door.

Because I woke late, I would only have to wait a few hours for children to appear in their costumes and begin their holiday missions. I used that time to taste the air and kick up fallen leaves, hoping that doing so would provide kindling for whatever flame might find its way inside me. By themselves, though, those activities weren't enough. I needed the holiday; I needed its spark. I wandered the neighborhoods and prayed that I would see enough decorations and trick-or-treaters before dark to cause something warm to start in the pit of me. I didn't want to meet the spirits as they came through town, sweeping their scythes over the streets as easily as if they were buttering toast. I didn't want to be found without my light.

* * *

*shrug* That's what I came up with at the last minute. Happy Halloween!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What's Going On (at least over the next week or so)

First of all, there's a Tamale Hut reading and open mic tomorrow night. 7 p.m. at 8300 W. Cermak Road in North Riverside. Be there and be... round, as audience members tend to fill their bellies with tamales while the writers read.

After that, Open Books is holding an event on Thursday, September 27. To celebrate the release of J.K. Rowling's new novel, The Casual Vacancy, they're throwing a party in honor of the huge influence of the Harry Potter books. There might still be space left, but this is definitely an RSVP kind of thing. I'll be reading a story! A band called Tonks and the Aurors will be playing! Geeky fun shall be had!

 Beyond that, I have no idea what's going on the next few days. Par for the course.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Details Observed While on a Train

Graffiti seen under a bridge near Blue Island: "Let the sheep roam free"
On the window of one of the Beverly area train stations: "Help!" (with an unhappy face and two hands drawn next to it)
On the warming shelter at the Gresham stop: "Go Teachers"

Seems like there's some found poetry waiting to happen in there somewhere. (Can we call it "found poetry" if it hasn't been found yet?)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Paint It Bleak

Wes has been experimenting with digital painting lately. Below you'll find his painted take on the illustration he did for the story "An Interlude" in The Book of Horrible Stories.

Like it? Come tell him so when we do our reading at Open Books at 6 p.m. this Thursday. He's debating selling prints of the image, so don't be afraid to let him know if you'd be interested in one. Feedback keeps us from going adrift in this turbulent sea known as the Internet! Or something like that!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oh. Wow. So that's what I sound like?

As I've mentioned, The Book of Horrible Stories features illustrations done by my partner-in-crime, Wesley Wong. There is, however, one mini-story inside of it that I didn't ask him to illustrate, and that's the book's preface, "Five Stories, Ten Dollars." I had already gotten five drawings from him; I figured I'd bugged him enough.

But I thought it might be fun to get another artist friend in on the act and put together something like bonus material. So please find below a short clip of me reading the preface to The Book of Horrible Stories, "Five Stories, Ten Dollars," featuring some fabulous illustrations by my friend Dan Dougherty.

And if you like what you hear, consider purchasing The Book of Horrible Stories via those links on the right-hand side, or better yet, joining me at Open Books (213 W. Institute Place, Chicago, IL) on Thursday, September 6, at 6 p.m. for a reading. Information about that event can be found here. It should be decidedly less awkward than me sitting in front of my computer, talking loudly into a gaming headset, which is how I recorded my audio part for the video below.

Just to make sure I'm giving everyone proper credit, here's a citation for the music used in the clip: 
Club de Jazz presents… A Full Moon Party (The Emer Mulholland Group) / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A smattering of stuff I'm happy about.

We have not only a flyer...

...but also a store display!

Thanks to the fabulous Kevin and Lizzy for this. And if you'd like to check it out in person, head over to the Open Books bookstore at 213 W. Institute Place in Chicago. Open Books and I are going halfsies on any money made from sales there, because I love them so, so even if you don't like me, half of your money will support literacy-boosting projects.

And finally, just so I'm not babbling about books all the time... we also have berries.

This has nothing to do with anything. I'm simply amazed that the plant grew.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Events at Open Books

Open Books in Chicago has some nifty events coming up, including the release party for their latest ReadThenWrite anthology...
...and another shindig celebrating the debut of J.K Rowling's post-Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy.

And I'm also thrilled to announce that I'll be doing a reading at Open Books to promote The Book of Horrible Stories on Thursday, September 6, starting at 6 p.m. Woo! Book fun!

Monday, July 16, 2012

I call this one "Stress Makes My Jeans Too Tight."

Sometimes I think
That this world takes too much from me.
Then I step on the scale.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading Other People's Stories, Shamelessly Advertising My Own

I recently finished reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente. Very whimsical fairy tale, lots of fun for readers both young-ish (age 10-12?) and old, with one touch at the end that especially made me smile. What made me bury my hands in my head was that, at one point, the main character turns into a tree. I have a story in my book called "The Tree in the Field," and guess what happens in it? But... but I... ah, @#$! And she wrote it better, too!

Anyway, wouldn't you like a book? 'The Book of Horrible Stories' is available for $12 shipped in tangible form, $0.99 on Amazon Kindle, both via some links on the right-hand side here. /self-promotion off

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something stinks in here.

Kevin Elliott is the kind soul in charge of the Open Books bookstore in Chicago. Here on his blog, he posts about physical books, e-books, and why indulging in only a sugary bit of nostalgia (but then leaving the bookstore without effin' buying anything) probably doesn't do much to help the case of bookstores:

Sniffing Glue

Here's the "article" that Kevin's responding to:

An E-Book Fan, Missing the Smell of Paper and Glue

The four of you here know me: I love physical books, especially the smell. But there are so many other great aspects of physical books to discuss that dashing off a trite essay about this one aspect of them to a major news outlet likely won't further any attempts to bridge the gap between physical books and e-books.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Poems to Make You Go, "Oh!" (for completely different reasons)

Yes,  I know these were published in 2009.  What can I say? I'm slow about updating the blog sometimes. 

Hailey Leithauser's poem


Mel Nichols's poem

Bonus points if you find the palindrome in the first one! It's a great image, too, especially for these summer days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

No words I post could possibly come together as elegantly as the ones he committed to paper did.

I promise, sir, that there will always be a place for books in my home.

Author Ray Bradbury dies, aged 91

(Edited to include a link to this sweet tribute written by Neil Gaiman)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shake it, don't break it.

Friends, thank you for your support of  The Book of Horrible Stories this past week! I'm very happy that people have responded so kindly to it so far.

However, I would like to address a concern that I've heard, which is that the binding on the handmade hardcovers might be too delicate to stand up to normal reading wear. With Wes's help, I made the video below to demonstrate that The Book of Horrible Stories in fact takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. And if a book that stands up to abuse is something that interests you, consider procuring a copy of your own via those links to the right!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Book of Horrible Stories

Here it is!

The Book of Horrible Stories is available in two formats, the first being the little handmade hardcover that you see above (and that you might have seen being made in the previous blog post). It costs $12 total (ten bucks for the book, two for shipping), and you can purchase it by clicking that PayPal link just to the right there.

Here's a shot of the interior (forgive me, I'm a lousy photographer):

From the "About This Book" section: "The cover is made of handmade lokta paper wrapped around chipboard [along with strips of recycled scrapbooking paper and handmade mulberry bark paper to cover the bindingthose I added later]. The interior pages are sheets of 100% recycled Mohawk Color Copy paper sewn together with linen thread. It's all held together with Elmer's Glue-All—good enough for first-grade crafts projects and good enough for me." And if that wasn't enough to sway you toward buying it, doesn't Wes's art look fantastic? I'm incredibly pleased that we were able to print it out in a way that preserved the detail he put into it. If you'd like to see more of the illustrations he did for this book, you can catch them on his blog.

Of course, I did mention that this book was available in two formats. Yup, I'm experimenting with e-publishing this time around! I'm not against e-books; I just don't think that reading one provides the same experience that reading a tangible book does. But e-books are a good solution for the space-conscious or the merry traveler, and assuming that you can afford the initial investment of a computer or reader (which is an issue I do have with them, but that's for another post), they're quite wallet-friendly. So with that in mind, for a mere $0.99, you can get The Book of Horrible Stories on your Kindle device, and again, you can do that by clicking a link you'll find to the right of this post. Or just by clicking here.

I suppose someone reading this post might wonder what exactly the book is about. Well, to put it succinctly, it's a short collection of dark fairy tales for modern times. Or, if you're looking for something more persuasive, here's what I wrote on a sign that I made to bring to readings:



If that doesn't say "buy my book," I don't know what does!

But to be serious about this, if you do buy this book in either format, thank you. I can write for myself all I want, but without some kind of audience, I know that the act of writing will start to feel hollow. Thank you for providing substance and reason for this thing I love to do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finally. It all comes together.

Whenever the lights in the room flicker, it's usually a sign that something interesting is about to happen.

Last week, well, it was a sign that I had turned on my printer/scanner/energy gobbler and begun printing pages.

Of course, the smaller Epson printer that I use for printing cover materials had to get in on the fun.

Not for long, though, because then it was time to return to the interior pages and start slicing.

And hammering.
(Yes, that's a chip clip being put to use.)

And sewing. 

With all of that taken care of, I could return to the cover. (And after this point, I stopped taking pictures so that I could work with the glue before it dried.)

What was the end result of all of this? Well, heh, you might, just might, have some idea. I hope it won't put you in a bind, though, if I book tomorrow as the day I finish telling you about this. "Bind"... "book"... get it? Hahaha! Haha... eh. Credit/blame for that pun goes to Wes.

(Sincere thanks to Hamish at No Media Kings for the instructions for this process.  If I've botched the steps, it's not his fault.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Try the bean and the cheese tamales!

Late post, but this is where I've been going one Saturday a month for the past couple months and where I'll be tonight. If you're looking for something to do that keeps you away from the NATO crowds and want to hear some writers read their stuff, come on out!

The Reading Series at the Tamale Hut Cafe

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The best book title I saw during today's library visit:

(It's slightly more amusing, I think, if you head to a new page and see the title at the top.)

It's a question I've asked myself many a time. And one day, when I'm not already leaving the library with eight books in hand (or in arm, as the case was -- I cradle my stacks like children when I'm toting them to the car), I'll go back for Ms. Winterson's answer.

It's a disease, I believe, by the way: I have three books that I own at home that I've started reading and am in the middle of, four if you count Calvino's Italian Folktales, which I pick up and read a selection from at random. Yet I keep returning to the library for more. This can't be normal, can it?

It makes me happy, at least.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What a sad showing....

Just looked at the post count on this blog for the year so far. Two posts? Really, that's all I could manage? It's especially sad in light of the ninety-four posts I put together last year, though I guess that the "My Poetry Year" project had a lot to do with 2011's productivity. So if you're a new visitor here, first of all, hi! And if you're curious about what I've actually done with this blog, I invite you to check out the posts from "My Poetry Year," which are all here from start to finish.

And who knows? Maybe I'll actually start posting again soon.

Or maybe I'll just do what I and so many others like me usually end up doing with our blogs and let a few months pass between posts. Again. Oh, the possibilities!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"I like big books, and I cannot lie...."

Very happy to share that this reference set, for which I wrote a piece last year, will be coming out this spring. Here's a set you don't want falling on your toes, to say the least:

Salem Press's Critical Survey of Graphic Novels

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Everybody Begins the Year with a List....

...and here's the short list of what's been tickling my literary fancy the past few weeks:

Zbigniew Herbert, "The Fable About a Nail": A great piece of writing is relevant no matter when or where it was written or it is read. This poem could describe any number of kingdoms, fictional or real, and yet....

Tom Disch, "Abecedary": Did you know that the writer behind The Brave Little Toaster also wrote opera librettos, science fiction classics, and incredible poems like this one? I didn't know until this week! This piece is for the part of your adult brain that thinks fondly of Dr. Seuss's work and has been dying for another writer to take it out to the playground. (If that link doesn't work, you might be able to look up "Abecedary" by clicking on the Poetry Foundation's bio for Tom Disch here and then clicking on the "Poems, Articles, & More" tab.)

Steven Millhauser: The writing world at large has known about him for a while (he's got a Pulitzer). I found out about him the same way I found out about Philip Levine -- his latest book was on the "New Releases" shelf at the library. In this case, it was Millhauser's short story collection We Others that caught my eye. Magical realism that's ultimately very honest and human, as the best of it usually is. His style is gentle, and many of the stories I've read so far don't use dialogue, at least not in the conventional paragraphs-and-quotation-marks way. I've also checked out his novella Enchanted Night but have refused to let myself finish it.

Since we've brought up Philip Levine, I'll mention a fact about him that has made me happy: He and the British Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, are coming to Chicago to read! I doubt I'll be able to get in (first come, first serve basis, yikes), but it's worth a shot. And I can mention it here; there's only about ten of you at most reading this, so I'm not creating a lot of competition for a seat, and even if I were, hell, I'd be thrilled to see any of you there.

Also coming to read, in April, is Etgar Keret. I haven't gotten my hands on his stuff yet (play laugh track here), but the divine Miss M. recommended his stories to me, and that's enough to get my curiosity going.

And that's my list of literary stuff. I hope you have your own lists full of things you've been enjoying. All ten of you. :)