Watkins Glen

This week’s other featured books, “True Teryn,” by S.G. Blaise, “Above the Bejeweled City,” by Jon Davis, “Slim Confessions,” by Sarah Minor and “Drama Queen,” by Frank Billingsley, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: Watkins Glen

PUBLISHED IN: June 2021

THE AUTHOR: Eleanor Lerman

THE EDITOR: Paul Berk

THE PUBLISHER: Mayapple Press http://mayapplepress.com/

SUMMARY: As members of the wild, wandering generation raised on rebellion find ourselves growing older, who do we now understand ourselves to be? Revolution may be in our souls but our lives are now affected by illness, financial concerns, careers that may not have panned out as expected, and a diminishing pathway leading through the years ahead.

Watkins Glen is the story of a sister (Susan) in her sixties who finds herself taking care of her estranged older brother (Mark) who has Alzheimer’s. They are the children of a father who worked in his brothers’ upholstery factory for most of the year but in the summers, escaped with his family to Watkins Glen, where he was the best outlaw drag racer in a town that primarily caters to high-end road racing sponsored by NASCAR and the like. After a life spent in New York City, Susan has moved back to Watkins Glen where she takes her brother to live—temporarily, she thinks. In the throes of his illness, Mark has developed a rare but well-known symptom of dementia called Acquired Artist Syndrome, whereby people who have never even thought about painting suddenly become obsessed with the art. Once Mark gets to Watkins Glen, he becomes possessed by the idea that there is a Loch-Ness like monster living in nearby Seneca Lake and he begins painting the creature. When a stormy season brings mudslides and floods to the region, Mark develops a new obsession—the fear that dredgers brought in to clear the lake after the deluge are a danger to the lake monster, and he wanders around the lake, looking for the lost and possibly injured creature that his sister knows does not exist. And yet, of course, she knows that in a way, he absolutely does.

In Eleanor Lerman's novel Watkins Glen, sister cares for brother with  Alzheimer's

Dealing with Mark isn’t Susan’s only problem: the ecological damage to the region brings rising water bills that may make it impossible for her to stay in her rented home. And when Mark, beset by the increasing confusion brought on by his illness, walks off with a little girl that he mistakes for his sister when she was a child, there is a real possibility that Susan won’t be able to save him from the consequences of this otherwise harmless outing into the past. What she decides to do mirrors the decisions that many people have to make as they get older: give up, give in, or use the strength of love, memory and imagination to find a way to carry on.

THE BACK STORY: This book is my fifth novel in the past ten years or so, and continues my exploration of the theme underlying all my work—including decades of award-winning collections of poetry—which is how to look beyond the human horizon to glimpse the forces of time and fate, and who knows what else, that steer our lives in one direction or another. I’ve written about sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, as well as cults, aliens, mysterious radio waves, ancient dogs and African tribes who know more about the stars than modern-day astronomers. While set in the very down-to-earth here and now, Watkins Glen also leads its characters far past the boundaries of the world they thought they understood. For good or ill—or perhaps both—they were wrong.

WHY THIS TITLE?: “Watkins Glen” is both the name of the town where the story is set but it’s also a metaphor for idea of “townies” and “visitors,” a phenomenon known, for instance, for residents of sea-side towns that are invaded by tourists each summer. Watkins Glen in New York State is the site of famous car races, include NASCAR-sponsored events and the Watkins Glen Grand Prix. During racing season, the town is packed with tourists; the main characters in the story actually live in a smaller, nearby (fictional) town called Glen Downey and thus are affected by the main business of Watkins Glen but actually live apart from it, just as they feel that their lives are lived apart from what they perceive as “normal” for most other men and women. This is particularly true of Mark, one of the main characters, who has Alzheimer’s and for his sister, Susan, who has to decide whether or not to become his caretaker. Given that context, she is well aware that her decision will affect the course of her life, as well.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think there are several audiences for Watkins Glen. To begin with, it seems to resonate with people who are caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients, though to be honest, I wasn’t thinking of that group of readers when I wrote the book. For me, the disease was symbolic of facing the struggle of aging and losing strength in both body and mind so that you have to make decisions about how to soldier on as best you can as time goes by. And, I was thinking of the members of my generation—old hippies who thought we were going to start a social and cultural revolution that would bring joy and justice and a safe, happy life to people all over the world. Well, boy were we wrong! So, Mark and Susan’s challenges are a way of my working out a scaled down version of feeling responsible for world peace: since that didn’t pan out, at least we can read along as this brother and sister come to both separate and shared decisions of how they will achieve some version of peace in their own troubled lives.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“This is an emotional read that shows a sibling relationship being recreated through a series of events that could not have been expected. Susan’s care for her brother is not something she anticipated, but she is there for him and works to keep him safe during his attempts to find and protect the sea monster. With this return to a place that they grew up in we see a sort of return to a time when they were a family. This is a powerful family focused read that those who life realistic fiction will enjoy.” –-The Nerdy Girl Express.

“It’s not often one gets to luxuriate in such beautiful prose. Watkins Glen examines the confusions of aging and regret, but also the compelling bonds of family and shared history, however complex and uncertain, and ultimately one of the pure joys life has to offer.” —Chris Knopf

AUTHOR PROFILE: In 1967, when I was a fifteen, I went into a drugstore in the desolate beach town where I lived. Just to pass the time, I looked through a rack of paperback books in the front of the store and by chance, came upon The Spice-Box of Earth, a collection of poetry by Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s name was familiar to me because his song, Suzanne, was often played on the radio. So I bought the book and read it on the bus ride home. I still remember the experience of reading that book—it was like coming upon the secrets of the universe. Until that time, I thought poetry was something that was written by people like Robert Browning, whose work I was forced to read in school but which had about zero relevance for the angry, drug-addled kid I was. By the time I stepped off that bus, however, it was like everything that had ever happened to me had been put into context. My mother had recently died; I was lonely, miserable and full of rage, but I had finally found the path that would lead me out of the darkness I was in and off into the rest of my life. I was a terrible student in school because I was too crazy and unreachable to let anybody teach me anything, but I knew that I could write, and with The Spice-Box of Earth, I had found someone who could teach me to write in modern language that could also be both beautiful and lyrical. In particular, the poem “Travel” affected me. Its last lines are:

Now I know why many men have stopped and wept. Halfway between the loves they leave and seek, And wondered if travel leads them anywhere— Horizons keep the soft line of your cheek, The windy sky’s a locket for your hair.

Reading that final stanza, I began to understand that the last line of a poem is the most important part of the whole structure. You can’t just let a poem trail off: it has to have a definitive ending, and it should be a real kicker. And I also understood something even deeper about how to end a poem: that you can, at the last minute, go off in a completely unexpected direction that is actually the essence of all the lines that preceded it. In effect, in “Travel,” it is as if all the stanzas that precede the windy sky’s a locket for your hair could be removed and that one line could serve as the whole poem. It’s magnificent and brilliantly done.

In the years since, I’ve had many ups and downs as a writer. I even stopped for a long time, but when I started again, I found that what I’d learned about reading Cohen’s poetry could help me read novels the way I’d read Spice-Box: as how-to manuals that not only told me stories but also provided instructions for the most complex elements of a book, such as how to construct a plot, to the most elemental, including how to punctuate dialogue. For that, I turned to John Cheever, Ann Beattie, John Updike, and others. I thank them all, but most of all, I remember Leonard Cohen with endless love and gratitude. Everything I write honors his name, and that includes all of my award-winning collections of poetry, short stories and novels. In the years since I read “Spice-Box,” I have been a National Book Award finalist, a recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, winner of the Campbell Award for the 2016 best book of Science Fiction and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry and the New York Foundation for the Arts for fiction. My most recent novel, Watkins Glen (Mayapple Press) was published in June 2021.

SAMPLE: See Amazon page. http://www.amazon.com

WHERE TO BUY IT: http://www.mayapplepress.com

PRICE: See Amazon and/or Mayapple Press.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Anyone is welcome to write to me at elerman1@optonline.net or visit my web site, http://www.eleanorlerman.com

True Teryn

True Teryn: Sci Fi Adventure of Princess Lilla discovering the greatest secret in the Seven Galaxies (The Last Lumenian Book 2) by [S.G. Blaise]

THE BOOK: True Teryn

PUBLISHED IN: December, 2021

THE AUTHOR: S.G. Blaise

THE EDITOR: Julie Tibbott and William Drennan from NY Book Editors

THE PUBLISHER: Lilac Grove Entertainment LLC is the publisher. Their motto: Making the world a better place, one fantasy at a time.

S.G. Blaise

SUMMARY: Lilla must recruit the biggest and most dangerous army in the Seven Galaxies, but the Teryn emperor will not comply unless Lilla earns the blessing of the Teryn Guardian Goddess Laoise.

Dealing with gods is never easy. Guardian Goddess Laoise’s condition for bestowing her blessing is for Lilla to bring her the mysterious Heart Amulet. Now Lilla is trapped in a strange place with no way out, no idea where to go or how to find the amulet.

The only way for Lilla to complete her mission is to uncover the biggest secret of all Teryns. Will she survive discovering the secret of what it means to be a True Teryn?

THE BACK STORY: I wrote this book to continue the story of Princess Lilla. It explores how her new role as Sybil to the Archgoddess of Eternal Light and Order influences her journey as she continues to fight for love, friendship, and everyone in the Seven Galaxies. All the while, she needs to recruit the biggest and most dangerous army to aid her in the Era War. It took about two years to write this book but it paved the path for what is coming next for Lilla and her friends.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Choosing True Teryn as the title was a way of getting the reader to question what happens next, knowing she is the last Lumenian. Her journey is just beginning. But as she takes on the task of following her heart and fighting for others, will discovers the secret of what it means to be a True Teryn.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I wanted to create a book series with characters that demonstrated you do not have to be perfect to be a hero. This series explores female empowerment, acceptance of self, and resiliency to endure extraordinary circumstances. But this book in the series allows the reader to dive deeper into the universe of the Seven Galaxies and Lilla’s role in it. With a mix of fantasy, sci-fiction, action, and romance, every reader will find something to love in True Teryn.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I was born in a faraway land of castles, monarchies and fallen dictatorships, aka Hungary. Hollywood movies were largely forbidden under Soviet oppression during my childhood, but my dad smuggled them in anyway, risking his life so that his children could experience the magic and hope inherent in those stories.

I watched rebellions unfold in real time. Journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean for love. I ended up in sunny California, where she is living my dream — writing stories and annoying family members.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: At the heart of The Last Lumenian series, is the story of how young women struggle with today’s critical challenges, including: mental health, personal freedom, self-esteem and managing relationships amidst overwhelming expectations. I love hearing from my readers, how inspired they are by Princess Lilla, taking brave action in their own lives.

SAMPLE:

CHAPTER 1

“I’m not afraid,” I mutter. My breath comes out in a puff of fog as I watch the tremendous black spaceship descend a hundred feet from me. It aims to land at the edge of the snow-covered Fye Island, where my friends and I wait.

The two setting suns paint the massive warship, the size of a small city, in a rosy light. I shiver as my gaze trails its jagged surface with cannons, missiles, and energy-shield piercing arrays. I’ve witnessed these world-erasing weapons in action.

“Good,” Callum says. He tucks a long, dark violet strand of hair behind my ear. “Don’t show fear and you’ll be fine.” His clear blue eyes glint with encouragement in his tanned face. The pale line of the scar that runs from his left eyebrow to his jaw crinkles as he gives me a smile. He looks younger than his twenty-five years, projecting a confident aura, dressed in his black, military-style uniform that emphasizes his muscular body.

I look away from Callum before he can detect worry in my dark violet eyes.

Muscles tremble in my belly. I press a hand over it, pretending to smooth my silver cape. I inhale the crisp winter air, which smells of the promise of snow.

I shouldn’t be this scared! I am nineteen years old and not a child anymore!

I close my eyes for a second. The black spaceship and the desolate ruins of the Crystal Palace that was once my home disappear from my view. I can’t imagine what Callum’s father thinks of my “backwater” world of Uhna that he planned to conquer, not ally with. But his plans had to change once I claimed his son.

The powerful spacecraft lowers three clawlike black metal prongs that tear into the frozen ground. Chunks of rocks break off from the island’s cliffside and plunge into the Fyoon Ocean below. Gusts of hot air, smelling of brine and metal grease, whip dirt into our faces.

Ten feet away on my right, a pair of wooden double doors remain. Still intact, they survived the devastation the Archgod of Chaos and Destruction, aka DLD, wreaked on Uhna. They stand proudly, refusing to give in to reality. The hot air from the Teryn ship blasts the doors, shaking them in their frame. The wood creaks, resisting the pressure for a moment. Then the doors come crashing down to the ground. If they couldn’t survive the arrival of the Teryn praelor, what chance do I have?

The back of the spaceship opens. A long metal ramp slams into the ground, reverberating under our feet. Black-clad Teryn warriors rush out, lining up like a living corridor in front of us.

Watching them, I realize I should have prepared better! I should have dressed more formally! Or I should have . . .

A hand touches my arm. I look down beside me at Glenna, my best friend and healer.

“You can do this,” Glenna whispers, her dark crimson eyes full of compassion. “You’ve faced worse and come out stronger.”

Nodding, I take a deep breath to release the tension.

A large but fit older man steps out of the ship. He wears a black uniform similar to Callum’s but with a lot more colorful buttons on its lapel. There is no denying the familial resemblance between them. With a grimace, the man takes in the sad state of Fye Island. Then his piercing blue gaze lands on me.

I smile in welcome, not showing fear. I hope.

The older man’s expression turns dark as he marches toward me. I can’t help but wonder if he is upset about my Bride’s Choice claim on Callum. We have never met, and he is already disappointed in me. Did he want someone else for his son?

I gulp down my rising anxiety.

The praelor wears an expression of confidence that borders on arrogance. He stops inches from me.

I refuse to step back and give in to intimidation.

Callum clears his throat and says, “Father, this is Ma’hana—”

I flinch at his use of my royal title. “Just Lilla,” I interrupt him. I’m a princess in name only. There is a change happening to the Uhnan monarchy, and it may not last much longer.

“Sybil Lilla,” Callum continues, “right hand of the Archgoddess of the Eternal Light and Order, general to Her armies in this Era War.”

I cringe. This title sounds even worse. I have nothing to show for it—no army, only my seven friends who decided to join me, my only allies.

“General, is it?” the older man says with a snort.

Callum ignores his father and turns to me. “Lilla, meet Caderyn a’ruun, the Teryn praelor.”

Caderyn crosses his thick muscular arms while glaring down at me. Even his short black beard, with a few gray hairs in it, looks furious.

What do you say to a warmongering emperor who has conquered many worlds and displaced thousands of refugees from their homes in the process? Refugees that sought asylum on Uhna. “It’s uh . . .” I pause. I can’t say it’s an honor to meet him when he arrived at my world

prepared to blast the corruption away with his armada, along with anyone who happened to be in his way.

I focus on his positive traits and say, “You have a nice beard! It looks well established. May I call you Caderyn?”

Caderyn scoffs. “No.”

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, GooglePlay, Roku, thelastlumenian.com

PRICE: $9.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Website: https://thelastlumenian.com/

Email teamsg@thelastlumenian.com

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20461057.S_G_Blaise

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sgblaiseofficial/

@sgblaiseofficial

Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/sgblaiseauthor

@SGBlaiseAuthor

Facebook https://m.facebook.com/thelastlumenian

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/z-m-balazs-12048030/

Above the Bejeweled City

THE BOOK: Above the Bejeweled City.

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Jon Davis.

THE EDITOR: Elizabeth Murphy.

THE PUBLISHER: Grid Books, Boston, MA. (See link below.)

SUMMARY: The official book description probably captures the essence of the book: “In his seventh poetry collection, Jon Davis exhibits the range and mastery that is the result of fifty years of study, teaching, and practice. Above the Bejeweled City opens and closes with homages to Federico Garcia Lorca’s dream-struck ballad “Romance Sonámbulo.” In between, he inhabits what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls the “inexplicable existence” that marks our passage here on Earth.

Part absurdist, part satirist, part tender correspondent, Davis writes in the slipstream of writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Nicanor Parra, and Sylvia Plath. In an age that calls out for hopeful verse, Above the Bejeweled City offers, instead, a treatise on defeat and despair—and on how letting go is a way of holding on.”

jon_davis.jpg

THE BACK STORY: I wrote Above the Bejeweled City simultaneously with my two previous collections from Grid Books, Improbable Creatures and An Amiable Reception for the Acrobat. The three books form a loose triptych whose subjects and themes reverberate, though each book also stands alone. Written over the course of ten years, Above the Bejeweled City anticipates and then embodies the past several years of political and personal turmoil. But not without humor and hope. Not without the perspective of 68 years of study and living and introspection.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Early in the pandemic, I began waking at four in the morning, sometimes having had a nightmare or a dream, sometimes for no apparent reason. One night, I woke having had the elaborate dream that would form the basis of the poem that ends the book. The title arrived suddenly in that pre-dawn gray. The “jewels” of the title are the lights of emergency vehicles in the streets below the balcony where the poem’s events unfold. The title seemed perfect both for the poem and the book, as it speaks of the intensity with which we are all living and of the beauty that lurks within the terror we are often feeling. When I went looking for a cover photo, I found a painting by my late friend Dirk DeBruycker that resonated perfectly with the theme.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Although I might have made the collection seem topical or political with the above descriptions, my goal was never to approach any particular subject or embody any particular point of view. I was always trying to write one poem, then another and to fashion each one to the best of my ability, to revise, as William Butler Yeats once said, “toward a more passionate syntax.” In these poems, my goal is not to change the world, but to let the world reveal itself to and through me. “Poetry,” as my friend Chuck Calabreze says, “does not explain the world. It rescues the world from explanation.” I would hope the readers would find, first of all, pleasure in these poems–the pleasures of language, depth, and complexity. Some of the poems are direct, others more elusive. All were, for me, voyages of discovery.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“A cinder held between hearths—this masterful collection could only be written by a poet who gazed outward from a ‘balcony above the dying world,’ and saw that poetry remained even as the sirens of a pandemic drew ever closer. There is a sage presence here, so much about language, beauty, depth of emotion that tugs at what’s left of possibility and imagination.” – Sherwin Bitsui, author of Flood Song.

“Jon Davis has an uncanny ability to detect the deepest currents in our collective imagination and follow them wherever they may emerge, leaving in their wake astonishing poems that map his clear-eyed vision of the world. ‘All the hurts inside all the hooks,’ he writes. And in Above the Bejeweled City he transforms those hurts and hooks, griefs and loves, into a meditation on the full range of human experience. ‘What is this silence?’ he asks in ‘A Catechism.’ ‘The ache of the arc of the finch’s flight.’ That arc is everywhere in Above the Bejeweled City.” – Christopher Merrill, author of Flares.

In a review of anthologized poems from an earlier book, David Foster Wallace had this to say: “Jon Davis’s pieces in this anthology are so off-the-charts terrific that the reviewer has gone out and bought the one Jon Davis book mentioned in his bio-note and has advertised it in this magazine, at reviewer’s own expense—that’s how good this guy is.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: I was born into a family of construction workers, heavy equipment operators, and truck drivers. I came to poetry in my late teens out of a deep need to create meaning in my life. I had no real grasp of how one became a poet, so I began teaching myself by reading and imitating poet after poet–mostly contemporary poets, but also Wallace Stevens, Theodore Roethke, Dylan Thomas, and Sylvia Plath, among many others. I eventually found my way to study with Dick Allen at the University of Bridgeport–a night course at first, but then he insisted I enroll, so I did. I later studied with Richard Hugo at the University of Montana, where I earned my MFA. I went on to teach creative writing for 30 years, 28 of them at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where I helped develop both the BFA creative writing program and the low residency MFA, which I directed until my retirement in 2018. Along the way, I received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Literary Award, and the Lavan Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I like to think the book is a complex weave of tones and approaches and has something to offer the casual reader as well as the more scholarly reader of poetry, those interested in more traditional forms and those looking for poetry that pushes boundaries.

SAMPLE: Three poems from the book:

Letter to America by Jon Davis

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/154694/orality

https://poets.org/poem/gratitude

LOCAL OUTLETS:

Garcia Street Books: https://www.garciastreetbooks.com/

Collected Works: https://shop.collectedworksbookstore.com/book/9781946830135

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

Grid Books: https://www.grid-books.org/shop/above-the-bejeweled-city

Small Press Distribution: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781946830135/above-the-bejeweled-city.aspx

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/above-the-bejeweled-city/9781946830135

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/above-the-bejeweled-city-jon-davis/1140185052

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Above-Bejeweled-City-Jon-Davis/dp/1946830135/ref=sr_1_5?qid=1637424599&refinements=p_27%3AJon+Davis&s=books&sr=1-5

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Email: jdavissimo@me.com Website: http://www.jondavispoet.com

Slim Confessions

THE BOOK: Slim Confessions: The Universe as a Spider or Spit

PUBLISHED IN: Noemi Press, Fall 2021, winner of the Noemi Press Prize in Prose.

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Minor

THE EDITOR: Sarah Gzemski 

THE PUBLISHER: Noemi Press

SUMMARY: In the lineage of Dodie Bellamy’s “Barf Manifesto,” Slim Confessions is a slow pour of parallel stories that chronicle a research trip gone awry. Slim Confessions is an image-text about digital intimacy and visceral material. A work of “autotheory,” the book lays in parallel the history of “slime” as a vehicle for horror and entertainment with personal encounters with quotidian slime in the human and animal worlds. At its center is a story of farm labor: A cold spring spent birthing sheep in northern Iceland interspersed with confessions about the author’s sexual past. In the lineage of Dodie Bellamy’s “Barf Manifesto,” this is a book reveling in repulsion and attraction, a personal investigation of physical touch as approximated by visual media.

THE BACK STORY: This project came out of a concentrated period of writing in isolation marked by experiences reading books, looking at the internet, and reaching my hands inside pregnant sheep. I may have written it as a means of quantifying the “Auto Sensory Meridian Response,” and also as a manifesto against the pressure to write about lived experience by following a linear narrative plan.

WHY THIS TITLE: Slim Confessions is a liquid text that uses images in place of paragraph breaks. The project subverts an old rule of fiction—that the text should “avoid becoming what it is about,” and delivers “slime” as a narrative tool, as a trope of screen-based horror, as a method of confession, and as a personal story of a month spent working on a farm during lambing season. The book experiments with a “slow pour” of story, anecdote, and confession: slime as a literary form, slime as always near-apocalyptic.

Ninth Letter - A Book You May Have Missed: Sarah Minor's BRIGHT ARCHIVE

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This book is for readers trying to make sense of lives lived between visceral, physical environments and ongoing digital information streams on-screen.

REVIEW COMMENTS: 

“Sarah Minor wants to show us what shifts and slithers, what sticks and thwacks (or thwocks). She wants us to think about “what we can read in slime about ourselves through its tropes and scaffolding.” From work on a sheep farm in Iceland helping lambs through the birthing season to a series of scholarly takes on horror films and pornography, from Blobs to “star jelly” to money shots, Minor takes us on an inquiry into the interactions of our environment and our skin, our pleasures and our fear. “I write toward what I’m afraid of” she explains “…or perhaps toward something just past that gore that I have wanted to see all along.” Slim Confessions: The Universe as a Spider or Spit is a masterly crafted provocation against our aversion to the frighteningly formless.” — Susan Briante.

“Sarah Minor digs elbow deep into primordial drives of hunger, fear, sex, getting our muck under her nails. SlímConfessions stretches—assimilating an account of birthing lambs in Iceland, analyses of “the Blob” horror genre cum cumshots, and a dive into adolescent thwocking—without tearing. This is smart, brisk writing, overflowing with potent, pungent sensuousness and vicious, viscous dirt.” — Douglas Kearney.

“Slime, the digester, suspender, timeeater, slow-sleeper” — you might prop yourself up on Laura Hyunihee Kim’s Entering the Blobosphere: A Musing on Blobs (if you loved that blobservation, and have wanted ever since to slit a blob and think what spills) and meanwhile you could sink your toes into Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot (that dripping, moist and leaking novel) as you read Sarah Minor’s Slim Confessions. You might also want to use as your lamp, if it is nighttime, Johanna Hedva’s Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain to remind yourself of a kind of writing that moves (an exuberant, felt report) on top of previous art experiences and collaborations. Now you are ready: This is a slide covered in slime. It slides from Gak to cum, porn to horror, from books to skin to screens eating the world it seems with the all-mouth that Minor— intensively and with a beaming personal touch— theorizes as slime.” — Caren Beilin

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Sarah Minor is a writer and interdisciplinary artist and author of Slim Confessions: The Universe as a Spider or Spit (Noemi 2021), Bright Archive (Rescue 2020), winner of the 2020 Big Other Nonfiction Book Award, and The Persistence of the Bonyleg: Annotated, a chapbook from Essay Press. Minor is the recipient of the Barthelme Prize for Short Prose, an Individual Research Grant to Iceland, and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. Her essays have been collected in several anthologies including Best American Experimental WritingAdvanced Creative Nonfiction, and A Harp in the Stars. She teaches as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the University of Iowas Nonfiction Writing Program. Find images of her work at www.sarahceniaminor.com.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Prairie Lights BooksMac’s Backs on CoventryBarnes & Noble

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Small Press DistributorsNoemi Press , Bookshop

PRICE: $18.00

CONTACT THE AUTHORSceniaminor@gmail.com 

The Drama Queen

Faggot: An Appalachian Tale Surviving Bullying: Billingsley, Frank E.:  9781941861073: Amazon.com: Books

THE BOOK: The Drama Queen

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

AUTHOR: Frank Billingsley https://www.frankebillingsley.com 

THE EDITOR: Andrew Lownie

THE PUBLISHER: Barnes and Nobel Press

SUMMARY:  A teenager tries to make sense of his everyday life. He has grown personally in this follow-up story and discovers his first crush, but his hopes and dreams are, in turn, crushed. He is gay, living in a town that does not understand and accept him. His emotional, physical, and sexual abuse continues through this journey in high school. But, he has an outlet, the Drama Club, where he begins to find himself. The book illustrates the emotional roller-coaster of the times, of the desired life, and humankind’s brutality. Then on one dark night, on a country road…everything changes.”Share in this story of religion, unrequited love, and the continual fight for the greater acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Drama Queen

THE BACK STORY: This sequel is a true story of homosexuality, religion, abuse, Stockholm Syndrome, and a boy’s desire to fit into a society that has marked him a weirdo.

WHY THIS TITLE: The drama club assisted in building my character. 

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It is a true account of childhood bullying. 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Frank Billingsley, an Ohioan. I consider myself a child of the world, spending time between the United States and Europe. I have dedicated my career to the betterment of young adults through my social work and education. I have over 25 years of professional experience in social work, teaching, administration, and as a university professor. I hold a Doctorate in Leadership and Administration, a Masters in Management, a Masters in Human Ecology, and a Bachelors in Psychology; and, currently working toward a third master’s in Psychology. Over the years, I have written academic pieces, but in 2015 I wrote the first book about my childhood. A childhood of daily abuse from peers and the community. The book “Faggot” was well-received by both readers and reviewers. Although the events were decades ago, I believe that there is a message that is still relevant to the modern-day reader for the LGTB community and, more so, young adults struggle with find their place in the world

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/drama-queen-frank-billingsley/1139123990?ean=9781668510698&fbclid=IwAR0TItTDcCqJ_pZeITHaZyDjx9Ka25pcMqAPB4vbCRuVHajf29HfxzzI1S0 

PRICE: 18.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: frankebillingsley@gmail.com

Weather Report, November 29

grand-prix-downtown-watkins-glen
(Photo from Explore Watkins Glen).

Our currently featured books, “The Town Crazy,” by Suzzy Roche, “Pacific,” by Trevor J. Houser, “Herman and the Princess Gull,” by Lew Maurer and “The Girl Who Talked to Paintings,” by Shannon K. Winston can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, DEC. 1-6

“WATKINS GLEN,” BY ELEANOR LERMAN.

Writes Eleanor: “Watkins Glen” is both the name of the town where the story is set but it’s also a metaphor for idea of “townies” and “visitors,” a phenomenon known, for instance, for residents of sea-side towns that are invaded by tourists each summer. Watkins Glen in New York State is the site of famous car races, include NASCAR-sponsored events and the Watkins Glen Grand Prix. During racing season, the town is packed with tourists; the main characters in the story actually live in a smaller, nearby (fictional) town called Glen Downey and thus are affected by the main business of Watkins Glen but actually live apart from it, just as they feel that their lives are lived apart from what they perceive as “normal” for most other men and women. This is particularly true of Mark, one of the main characters, who has Alzheimer’s and for his sister, Susan, who has to decide whether or not to become his caretaker. Given that context, she is well aware that her decision will affect the course of her life, as well.

“TRUE TERYN,” BY S.G. BLAISE.

Lilla must recruit the biggest and most dangerous army in the Seven Galaxies, but the Teryn emperor will not comply unless Lilla earns the blessing of the Teryn Guardian Goddess Laoise.

Dealing with gods is never easy. Guardian Goddess Laoise’s condition for bestowing her blessing is for Lilla to bring her the mysterious Heart Amulet. Now Lilla is trapped in a strange place with no way out, no idea where to go or how to find the amulet.

The only way for Lilla to complete her mission is to uncover the biggest secret of all Teryns. Will she survive discovering the secret of what it means to be a True Teryn?

“ABOVE THE BEJEWELED CITY,” BY JON DAVIS.

The official book description probably captures the essence of the book: “In his seventh poetry collection, Jon Davis exhibits the range and mastery that is the result of fifty years of study, teaching, and practice. Above the Bejeweled City opens and closes with homages to Federico Garcia Lorca’s dream-struck ballad “Romance Sonámbulo.” In between, he inhabits what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls the “inexplicable existence” that marks our passage here on Earth.

Part absurdist, part satirist, part tender correspondent, Davis writes in the slipstream of writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Nicanor Parra, and Sylvia Plath. In an age that calls out for hopeful verse, Above the Bejeweled City offers, instead, a treatise on defeat and despair—and on how letting go is a way of holding on.”

“SLIM CONFESSIONS,” BY SARAH MINOR

In the lineage of Dodie Bellamy’s “Barf Manifesto,” Slim Confessions is a slow pour of parallel stories that chronicle a research trip gone awry. Slim Confessions is an image-text about digital intimacy and visceral material. A work of “autotheory,” the book lays in parallel the history of “slime” as a vehicle for horror and entertainment with personal encounters with quotidian slime in the human and animal worlds. At its center is a story of farm labor: A cold spring spent birthing sheep in northern Iceland interspersed with confessions about the author’s sexual past. In the lineage of Dodie Bellamy’s “Barf Manifesto,” this is a book reveling in repulsion and attraction, a personal investigation of physical touch as approximated by visual media

“DRAMA QUEEN,” BY FRANK BILLINGSLEY.

A teenager tries to make sense of his everyday life. He has grown personally in this follow-up story and discovers his first crush, but his hopes and dreams are, in turn, crushed. He is gay, living in a town that does not understand and accept him. His emotional, physical, and sexual abuse continues through this journey in high school. But, he has an outlet, the Drama Club, where he begins to find himself. The book illustrates the emotional roller-coaster of the times, of the desired life, and humankind’s brutality. Then on one dark night, on a country road…everything changes.

The Town Crazy

This week’s other featured books, “Pacific,” by Trevor J. Houser, “The Girl Who Talked to Paintings,” by Shannon K. Winston and “Herman and the Princess Gull,” by Lew Maurer, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: The Town Crazy.

PUBLISHED IN: Spring 2020

THE AUTHOR: Suzzy Roche

THE EDITOR: Deborah Robertson

THE PUBLISHER: Gibson House Press

SUMMARY: The Town Crazy, set in the sleepy town of Hanzloo, Pennsylvania, a suburban Catholic community in 1961, is a novel of passion, absurdity, innocence, and sorrow. A contemporary, often humorous take on a bygone era. 

THE BACK STORY: A look back to a town and a childhood not unlike where the author spent time as a child, in the same era. 

WHY THIS TITLE: It fits the story perfectly.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s engaging, excellent storytelling, that sums up a small town in the early ’60’s. The Town Crazy also delves into the terror and cruelty of childhood, the dangerous loneliness of failing marriages, sexual repression and desire, and the intersection of art and religion, all culminating in a tragedy for which everyone in the town bears some responsibility. 

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The Town Crazy casts a strong spell, and I don’t think I’ve shaken it off yet, nor do I want to. Suzzy Roche understands so much about other people’s lives; her fiction, just like her singing and songwriting, is thrilling, beautiful, and shattering. I will be thinking about this town, these people, this captivating novel, for a long time.” Meg Wolitzer author of The Female Persuasion and The Wife. 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Suzzy Roche is a singer/songwriter/performer/author and founding member of the singing group The Roches. She has recorded more than fifteen albums, written music for TV and film, and toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to The Town Crazy, Roche is the author of the novel Wayward Saints and the children’s book Want to Be in a Band? She continues to tour for her music and books and lives on the east coast. 

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I hope you love my book! 

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). Attached.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Bookshop.org, you can order it from your local independent bookstore if it’s not in stock — and where all good books are sold. 

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: See above.

PRICE: $16.99 in the U.S. and $22.95 in Canada

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: via her publicist, mbisbee.beek@gmail.com

Pacific

THE BOOK: Pacific.

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Trevor J. Houser.

THE EDITOR: Kay Gray.

SUMMARY: On a remote Puget Sound Island, police chief Bell navigates his job and marriage in the wake of his son’s near-death brain surgery. When his wife no longer wants to tempt the fates of experimental medicine, he takes matters into his own hands. With the help of his spaced-out fisherman friend, Bell kidnaps his boy and sets sail for Guatemala in search of the mysterious Dr. Haas. On the way, they’ll brave the seventh biggest storm, befriend two behemoth fly-fishing Nords, and try to outrun the ex-Navy captain hired by his wife to find them.

With mesmerizing descriptions of the Pacific Northwest, Central America, and the miles in between, Houser captures the heartbreak and hope of a desperate parent, while still maintaining a sense of dark humor and playful language that turns the mundane into something mythic. For fans of Denis Johnson, Richard Brautigan and Jenny Offill, Pacific reminds us that while life can sometimes be crushing there’s also magic, beauty and hope in the world, if we’re just willing to go and look for it.

Picture

THE BACK STORY: My son was diagnosed at 6 months with a rare brain disease. Through those early years of navigating this new world of specialists and treatments, I was surprised by my inability to write about what was undoubtedly the most difficult, transformative period of my life. After years of uncertainty surrounding his prognosis, there was suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel, and I began writing a short story that ultimately turned into this book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Pacific means a lot of things in this book. It is one of the settings obviously and even helps propel the plot. Of course, metaphorically, like Chief Bell’s son, the Pacific is beautiful in so many ways, but underneath that beauty lurks all kinds of danger and potential tragedy.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? There isn’t much in the way of literary fiction that tackles fatherhood and the rare disease of a child in what I hope is a unique and unexpected way. I hope this book appeals to all the readers out there who like language and a good yarn.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Very heartfelt and amazing story, loved it.” -– Gus Van Sant

“If you are a father, or know one, Trevor Houser’s Pacific, is a wild, quixotic ride that will challenge your understanding of what it is to be a parent.” — -Larry Colton, author of Southern League and Counting Coup

“Poetic. Suspenseful. And at times darkly comic. Get ready for an adventure in heartbreak.” — Michael Mazza, author of That Crazy Perfect Someday.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m an advertising copywriter living with my family in Seattle. Before that I worked as a bookseller in Mill Valley, a private eye in San Francisco and a miserable wine salesman in New York. Although this is my first novel I’ve published dozens of short stories and have been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Pacific is somewhat based on the experiences I’ve been through with our son, but a lot of it is the made up fantasy of a parent who wishes they could do something more just than talk to a million doctors and not sleep at night. And even though the way in which Chief Bell shows his love for his son might be considered unconventional, it demonstrates how fathers are just as capable as mothers in the depths of their feelings and devotion.

SAMPLE: https://www.amazon.com/Pacific-Trevor-J-Houser/dp/1950730840.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Third Place Books.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, https://www.unsolicitedpress.com/store/p325/pacific.houser.html, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: $15.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: trevorhouser11@gmail.com

The Girl Who Talked to Paintings

Interview with Shannon K. Winston, Author of Threads Give Way – The Bees  Knees Blog

THE BOOK: The Girl Who Talked to Paintings.

PUBLISHED IN: 2021.

THE AUTHOR: Shannon K. Winston

THE EDITOR: Ami Kaye

THE PUBLISHER: Glass Lyre Press

SUMMARY: The Girl Who Talked to Paintings is an ekphrastic collection that conceives of ekphrasis as a type of translation: as a movement between images and words, as well as between lived and imagined experiences. These poems dramatize visual art personas who come alive and become confidants for speakers who are too timid to express themselves otherwise. Artwork becomes an entry point and a catalyst for self-exploration and self-discovery. At its core, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings explores many intertwined themes, including gender and sexuality, family, loss, and language.

THE BACK STORY: When I started writing The Girl Who Talked to Paintings, I was invested in thinking about speakers who have trouble expressing themselves for a variety of reasons, including childhood trauma, timidity, sexuality, etc. I thought: What if, instead of confiding in imaginary friends, the speakers confided in paintings and other artwork? This question undergirds this book.

WHY THIS TITLE: These poems dramatize visual art personas who come alive and become confidants for speakers who are too timid to express themselves otherwise. Speakers talk to paintings and vice versa, hence the title.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I hope that this book appeals to poetry and art lovers alike. Many of the poems take on LGBTQ, gender, and sexuality themes. There are also many poems that explore language and word play.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The first poem from Shannon K. Winston’s The Girl Who Talked to Paintings associates Joan Miró’s Triptych Bleu with the beginning of a relationship. Trekking back and forth between her house and her lover’s, the speaker explains, “The sidewalk appeared/like black ovals//beneath my feet /where the snow/ had melted. These//tiny openings.” These ekphrastic poems brilliantly open and open into the speaker’s story. What struck me, over and over again, is how far beyond the artwork, how far beyond the story Winston’s words ventured in this deeply moving collection.” — Blas Falconer

“There is a sublime quietude in these poems, which in many cases function as slender apertures through which we witness a queendom of secrets, masked feelings, silences of majestic depth, and an emerging self—what hides “beneath, behind, beyond.” Paintings serve as parables, interrogators, companions, sisters, mirrors, and metaphors, as in the book’s title poem, a sonnet sequence for the real girl beneath the idealized girl in a John Singer Sargent painting: “Katharine, Catherine, or was it Kate? / I, too, was a first draft, a sketch, half-baked.” I love the bold honesty of this girl whose breadth and acuity of seeing transforms her story of a cloistered abandonment into a map to selfhood—and poetry.” — Diane Seuss

“If only I could step through / the canvas,” writes Shannon K. Winston in this dazzling collection, and in these poems, she does exactly that; she inhabits the works of art that her poems examine, not to describe those works back to us, but to show us something strange and unknowable about ourselves. The Girl Who Talked to Paintings is a gorgeous book with a brilliant ekphrastic heart—tender, luminous, and unforgettable.”– Matthew Olzmann

AUTHOR PROFILE: Shannon K. Winston’s poems have appeared in RHINO, Crab Creek Review, The Citron Review, the Los Angeles Review, Zone 3, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and several times for the Best of the Net. Her poetry collection, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings, was recently published by Glass Lyre Press. She currently lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Find her here: shannonkwinston.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My aim, in writing this collection, was for people to become immersed in both poetry and art.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Select poems from the collection are featured on my author website: shannonkwinston.com

LOCAL OUTLETS: Labyrinth Books

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: http://www.glasslyrepress.com, amazon.com, bookshop.org, or from your favorite local bookstore.

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: shannonkatherinewinston@gmail.com

Herman and the Princess Gull

THE BOOK: Herman and the Princess Gull

PUBLISHED IN: 11/02/21

THE AUTHOR: Captain Lew Maurer

THE ILLUSTRATOR: Candace Camling

THE PUBLISHER: Compass Rose Press

SUMMARY:  Beautifully illustrated, the story begins with Herman, a hermit crab who longs to explore the ocean and beach but is too afraid. When a weak Heermann’s Gull named Antares appears, Herman risks his life to help her eat and regain her strength. They soon become friends and Antares saves him from hungry snapper fish and gives him protection to explore. When Antares is strong again, she returns to her family across the sea, but not before helping Herman find a protective shell that gives him the freedom to continue his island adventures.

Heerman and the Princess Gull introduces themes of friendship, survival, and compassion. Intended for children from three to eight, the educational backstory pages include a glossary of the cast of characters. Marine photography further depicts the illustrations and explains the scientific concepts in ways that readers of all ages will understand. 

THE BACK STORY: Herman and the Princess Gull was inspired by a true event on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica, twenty years ago. While I was out surfing, my girlfriend Debbie discovered a hermit crab hiding under some seaweed. The poor crab had no shell for protection, so the hunt was on, and we eventually found an empty shell that was just the right size. It was heartwarming to see him crawl into the shell and we put him on the sand to join his friends.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Except for the relationship between Herman and Antares, the cast of characters’ behavior is quite factual. Herman is a lonely hermit crab who has no shell to protect him from predators, and he has one large claw. Antares is a Heerman’s Gull that is indeed more beautiful than the Herring Gulls and a better flier. Herring Gulls are the bully’s of the waterfront, fighting and screeching all the time over food. The snappers are night stalkers, exactly as depicted when Herman falls in the late afternoon. 

I considered making the illustrations with a whimsical touch, but after a lifetime love affair with the sea and all its creatures, I wanted to share the real beauty of my world with my young readers. In truth, it is impossible to improve on Mother Nature.

WHERE TO BUY IT:

https://www.amazon.com/Herman-Princess-Gull-Lew-Maurer/dp/173351502X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=herman+and+the+princess+gull&qid=1634748150&sr=8-1

PRICE: $24.99 Hardcover

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Learn more at Lew’s wesbite: https://compassrosepressusa.com/herman/