Ordinary Splendor

This week’s other featured books, “The Reporter,” by B.M. Simpson and “Amer5ican Wasteland: Stories,” by Alexander Sholom Joseph, 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: Ordinary Splendor

PUBLISHED IN: April 2022

THE AUTHOR: Judith Waller Carroll

THE EDITOR: Lana Hechtman Ayers

THE PUBLISHER: MoonPath Press

SUMMARY: Ordinary Splendor is a collection of clear, lyrical poems that use ordinary experiences like walking in the woods, spreading mulch and making soup on a rainy day to reveal deeper stories that span a lifetime.

THE BACK STORY: I compiled the poems in this book during the lockdown of 2020, just a few months after a cross-country move to live closer to our son and his family. The collection is a combination of older poems written when we lived at the edge of the woods and new poems written during the pandemic that reflect the difficulty of isolation in an unfamiliar place. Fortunately, I could get outside and walk on a nearby nature trail, which is my answer to everything and also helps explain why there are often birds flying in and out of the pages.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title poem, “Ordinary Splendor,” was inspired by a Thomas Merton quote, “Let us come alive to the splendor that is all around us and see the beauty in ordinary things.” As I compiled the poems for the book, I realized that quote fit as a theme for the book.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: In contrast to the gloom that seems to permeate our culture these days, the poems in Ordinary Splendor turn our focus to hope and beauty without flinching from reality and demonstrate the power of the natural world to heal and of light to overcome darkness

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“In Ordinary Splendor, Judith Waller Carroll opens our eyes to the beauty in the ordinary scenes we see out our window and repeat in our homes every day. . . She balances the calmness and chaos of life with poems that describe the sections, “A Dream of Deep Water,” “An Inventory of Trees,” “My Heart is a Tangle of Colors,” ”When We Lived Among the Birds,” and “Ordinary Splendor.” . . .But it is Carroll’s poems about family that most touch our hearts: “My Mother’s Earrings,” “My Father’s Hard Luck Cases,” and “Zee” about “this sweet boy, son of our son,/ his eyes wide at this world/ he doesn’t yet have the words to describe” The book is full of ordinary and extraordinary moments we can all savor long after we close the book.” — –5 star Amazon review/

“Reading (Ordinary Splendor) is like viewing paintings in a gallery. The images are rich and detailed, the reader feels present in her settings. The individual poems are the observations of a seasoned poet, from perspectives that have been honed over a lifetime. The collection as a whole is a study in serenity.” — Stephen Parrish, author of The First 100 Words

“Judith Waller Carroll is a perceptive observer of both the human and nonhuman worlds. She is also a master of the brief lyric poem. Her precise images take hold and settle until the poem’s close, when they stab and sizzle.” — Andrea Hollander, Blue Mistaken for Sky

“Judith Waller Carroll’s gorgeous poetry . . . (reveals) the power the natural world has to transform and heal those who pay close attention to it.” — Iris Jamahl Dunkle, 2017-18 Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA

AUTHOR PROFILE: Judith Waller Carroll’s poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, published in numerous journals and anthologies, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has one other full-length collection, What You Saw and Still Remember, runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks, The Consolation of Roses, winner of the 2015 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Prize, and Walking in Early September (Finishing Line Press, 2012).

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I once heard Billy Collins say in an NPR interview that a good poem starts in Kansas and ends in Oz. I hope these poems about ordinary people doing ordinary things take the reader to someplace splendid.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Links to a few poems from the book:

https://lascauxreview.com/directions-childhood/ https://www.buddhistpoetryreview.org/archive/vol-three-issue-three/judith-waller-carroll\

http://www.onesentencepoems.com/osp/?p=5485

WHERE TO BUY IT: Ordinary Splendor is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound and other book outlets.

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: judithwcarroll@gmail.com

Author website: https://moonpathpress.com/JudithWallerCaroll.htm

The Reporter

THE BOOK: The Reporter

THE AUTHOR: BM Simpson

PUBLISHED IN2022

SUMMARY: Tilman Hunter is a struggling reporter when he meets Poppy McCininch, a Gulf War vet who for some reason feels the need to fix him. Then there is a possible drug ring that may or may not be related to the death of his father. Throw in weird small-town neighbors, a dysfunctional relationship with his mother and the quirks of living in small town Maine, and you have the makings of a story that just needs to be told.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title is about a reporter, so it more or less speaks for itself.

THE BACK STORY: I wanted to write a story that took place in the area where I grew up. This story takes the reader to rural Maine and introduces the readers to some local characters. My novels tend to be more about the people than the plot. This one is no different. A young reporter trying to outdo his father’s career. A war vet trying to embrace life as best as she can. And a love story that seems as unlikely as a warm day in February in Maine. Small town life is pretty similar throughout America.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This is a book about regular people trying to make their way through irregular lives. That likely describes about half the people in the world. Life can be hard, but life can be good. This is a “life can be good” book.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“I enjoy BM Simpson’s books. This is no exception. The author weaves a great story about letting go, making connections, finding purpose and life in Maine. Characters were enjoyable and developed well. The little bits of humor added throughout were welcome too.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: For the first 18 years of my life I lived in one house. Since then, I’ve been on the road. I’ve lived in several cities in six different states, six different countries and I’ve visited more. A long time ago, I started writing and have no plans to stop anytime soon. My Caribbean days appear to have come to an end (for the moment), but one never knows what the future will bring.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
The story is a light hearted take on journalism in America, the emotional war vets face in everyday life, the challenges of being undercover fighting drugs in America and how it all intertangles in our everyday life.

WHERE TO BUY ITAmazon

PRICE: Kindle: $7.99. Paperback: $14.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

email: bmsimpson@gmx.com

website: www.bmsimpson.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/author.bmsimpson/https://

facebook: www.facebook.com/Author.BMSimpson

American Wasteland: Stories

THE BOOK: American Wasteland: Stories

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Alexander Shalom Joseph

THE EDITOR: Gene Hayworth

THE PUBLISHER: Owl Canyon Press

SUMMARY: American Wasteland is a collection of stories about the contemporary day to day in America. It is said in the Talmud that a group of chosen Jews in each generation are meant to justify the existence of humanity to God, in this collection, Joseph attempts to do just this with his stories which speak to the everyday mundane and the vast richness in both meaning and meaninglessness that abound all around us. In one story a recent divorcee tries to find meaning on the Fourth of July but ends up stuck in traffic. In another a suburban man unhappy with his life becomes obsessed with washing his car at a twenty four hour car wash in his neighborhood. In another a young woman recollects her childhood with a single mother and how they used to paint their nails and eat breakfast together. In yet another a single person suffers through a dinner party at which they are the fifth wheel. The stories of Alexander Shalom Joseph, vivid in detail and ultra-real in feeling, portray a stagnant land full of longing. These stories are a portrait of a country full of millions of lost people trying to make sense of a world which can seem both so crushing and light at once and in all the light and loss and life, Joseph tried to justify all that he sees here in this American Wasteland.

THE BACK STORY: One of my favorite stories in Jewish Folklore and Literature is that of the Lamed Vavniks: thirty six Jews from each generation tasked with justifying the existence of humanity to God. Perhaps the best known modern surfacing of the idea of the Lamed Vavniks, specifically a family line which were included in this group of righteous or just men, came in the form of a novel titled The Last of the Just by Andre Schwartz-Bart, a winner of the Jerusalem Prize. After reading this work, I started to want to live like a Lamed Vavnik myself: I wanted to try to use my writing to justify the existence of the humanity I saw to a God I was trying to learn to believe in, in my own way. Instead of having a whole history of a people, from the shtetl to the concentration camps as my setting, as Schwartz-Bart did, I had a working class suburb in Boulder, Colorado and a full time job working as a chimney sweep. It was over the year and a half that I worked this grueling job, my hands and cheeks soot blackened and my fingers always bleeding from sharp wire or splintered wood, climbing rooves in two feet of snow or in 100 degree blue sky sweltering days, that I wrote the short stories herein. In my work truck on lunch break, for eight hours each weekend day at a local café where I could only afford to buy one cup of coffee per sitting, and at a cheap desk in the corner of my rented room: this is where I began to try to make meaning of the lives which surrounded me, to try to justify all the humanity I saw to whatever was above or if not that, to myself.

These stories take place in a contemporary America, a place I like to frame as at the “3 pm stage,” a time at which it is too late to start anything but too early to end it either. This in between place, this american wasteland, this often hopeless and grey place is the stage for the works herein. In these stories there are grocery stores, car washes, dive bars, dinner parties, long drives and traffic. In these stories we encounter the country as it sits today, smogged and slow and full of so many lives, so much love and loss and endless hours of work. These are not fantastical stories, they are as real as I could make them. These stories are the truth as I could find it and with them I hoped to find some sense and meaning in the modern madness, between my hours spent climbing dangerously high for $17 an hour. I hope you can find meaning in this mess too.

WHY THIS TITLE: I chose this title because there stories in this book describe a very specifically american mundanity and lifestyle that at times can feel like a wasteland: the day to day of late capitalism, a system which we can feel in every facet of our lives is unraveling and not working for the common person, but under which we still have to find meaning and some semblance of happiness.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I think somebody would want to read this book because these stories are deeply human and speak to very heartfelt and real aspects of everyday life which when caught up in the everyday may not seem meaningful but when reflected back via these stories showcase the sacred nature of the mundane and the day to day.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Alexander Shalom Joseph unflinchingly details the myriad micro-tragedies that make up our American Wasteland. Many of the stories in this debut collection are intense, at times hypnotic meditations on psychic loss rendered in highly attuned language. In the deeply familiar, yet disconcerting world the author narrates, our vanities and repetitive gestures alone remain to tell of our humanity.” — -Eric Darton, author of Free City.

“Alexander Shalom Joseph has read the love-letters traded between certainty and insecurity. These stories interrogate the differing pacts we make with the world we touch and the thoughts we come to trust.” — Christopher David Rosales, author of Word is a Bone, winner of the International Latino Book Award

“In American Wasteland, Joseph shines a kaleidoscopic light on the mundane until it fractures into the unexpected.” — Rachel Weaver, author of Point of Direction

AUTHOR PROFILE: My name is Alexander Shalom Joseph. It’s said in the Talmud that there are three ways to live a just life: study, prayer and acts of loving kindness –I think of my writing and work as a teacher as a mix of all three. My novella The last of the Light, is forthcoming from Orison Books. My debut book of poetry Our Mother, The Mountain was published by middle creek press in spring of 2022. My debut book of short stories, American Wasteland, was published by Owl Canyon Press in August of 2021. I have an MFA in Creative writing and an MA in English Education. I work as a carpenter and live in a cabin in Colorado.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Here is a zoom link for a reading I did for this book during which I read two stories from this collection. (https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/play/5jFy6eZWOI71497bcyKAWN85AkvxqhYNk65GdMxoi1wsO7aPQ2VZvPtprfqA77voX-JoLVMU8lXTLAwz.iFlGtsv42BIgPjpH?continueMode=true&_x_zm_rtaid=oVc1wvDPRvu6tdSLLJp4_g.1647914114139.8772172f38c5b5e38ebb0617c2bbfc6c&_x_zm_rhtaid=296)

Here is a story titled “house,” which is featured in this book and was first published by Lotus Eater Magazine in their 7th issue. To find this, scroll down to page for of the pdf of this issue. https://lotuseatermagazine.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/lotus_eater_issue_7.pdf

LOCAL OUTLETS: Trident Booksellers, Boulder Colorado.

Boulder Bookstore, Boulder Colorado

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.owlcanyonpress.com/product-page/american-wasteland-stories-by-alexander-shalom-joseph

PRICE: $19.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

You can find more information on me and subscribe to my newsletter at http://www.alexandershalomjoseph.com

Weather Report, November 28

Sunset in rural Maine. (From Only in Your State)

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, NOV. 29-DEC. 5

THE REPORTER,” BY B.M. SIMPSON.

From the author: “I wanted to write a story that took place in the area where I grew up. This story takes the reader to rural Maine and introduces the readers to some local characters. My novels tend to be more about the people than the plot. This one is no different. A young reporter trying to outdo his father’s career. A war vet trying to embrace life as best as she can. And a love story that seems as unlikely as a warm day in February in Maine. Small town life is pretty similar throughout America.”

“ORDINARY SPLENDOR,” BY JUDITH WALLER CARROLL.

Writes one reviewer: “In Ordinary Splendor, Judith Waller Carroll opens our eyes to the beauty in the ordinary scenes we see out our window and repeat in our homes every day. . . She balances the calmness and chaos of life with poems that describe the sections, ‘A Dream of Deep Water, ‘An Inventory of Trees,’ ‘My Heart is a Tangle of Colors’,’ ‘When We Lived Among the Birds,’ and ‘Ordinary Splendor.’ . . .But it is Carroll’s poems about family that most touch our hearts: ‘My Mother’s Earrings,’ ‘My Father’s Hard Luck Cases,’ and ‘Zee’ about ‘this sweet boy, son of our son,/ his eyes wide at this world/ he doesn’t yet have the words to describe’ The book is full of ordinary and extraordinary moments we can all savor long after we close the book.”

“AMERICAN WASTELAND: STORIES,” BY ALEXANDER SHALOM JOSEPH.

American Wasteland is a collection of stories about the contemporary day to day in America. It is said in the Talmud that a group of chosen Jews in each generation are meant to justify the existence of humanity to God, in this collection, Joseph attempts to do just this with his stories which speak to the everyday mundane and the vast richness in both meaning and meaninglessness that abound all around us. In one story a recent divorcee tries to find meaning on the Fourth of July but ends up stuck in traffic. In another a suburban man unhappy with his life becomes obsessed with washing his car at a twenty four hour car wash in his neighborhood. In another a young woman recollects her childhood with a single mother and how they used to paint their nails and eat breakfast together. In yet another a single person suffers through a dinner party at which they are the fifth wheel. The stories of Alexander Shalom Joseph, vivid in detail and ultra-real in feeling, portray a stagnant land full of longing. These stories are a portrait of a country full of millions of lost people trying to make sense of a world which can seem both so crushing and light at once and in all the light and loss and life, Joseph tried to justify all that he sees here in this American Wasteland.

N>M> SIMOSON

line of type

Born Sleeping

This week’s other featured books, “A Family is a House,” by Dustin Pearson, “Orphans of Canland,” by Daniel Vitale and “A Brother’s Peace,” by Jan Linn, 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: Born Sleeping

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: H.C. Gildfind

THE EDITOR: Joe Squance

THE PUBLISHER: Miami University Press

SUMMARY:Of course, you think. Of course he lives. Because even if you could hide a pregnancy, or the death of a baby, you cannot hide—or kill—a ghost.”

By recounting one person’s real-time witnessing of a couple’s experience of stillbirth, BORN SLEEPING explores the ambivalence that lies at the heart of human relationships, the difficulty of comprehending others’ realities, the voyeurism of being on the outside of trauma and the disturbingly cool, detached eye of the writer

THE BACK STORY: This story is written in response to witnessing many women and couples suffering in silence after losing a baby in miscarriage or stillbirth. I noticed how shame and silence seem to be attached to these common and (often) entirely natural experiences, and I wanted to write a story that would help break the subject’s taboo. Such taboos are not only detrimental for individuals, but also hamper research and public education into stillbirth.

WHY THIS TITLE: “Born sleeping” is a euphemism for “stillborn” which is itself a euphemism for “born dead.” The idea of being “born sleeping” seemed to resonate with meanings and realities beyond itself, and the book explores these wider allusions.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Readers will gain insight into an experience that is often hidden by personal pain (and inexplicable shame) and by the nature of hospitals which have made death an alien (rather than natural) experience for humans. Furthermore, this story is told from the outside of the terrible experience of stillbirth and thus gives insight into the ambivalence and confusion people might feel when faced with others’ trauma – an ambivalence that is compounded when that pain is witnessed with the cool eye of the writer.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Born Sleeping reminds us… that one of the great gifts of literature is the creation of a complex interiority that encourages readerly self-reflection and reflection on a wider society. As well, the very tenor of the narrator’s mind—her constant questions, qualifications, self-castigations, her arduous struggle for new understandings—reminds us that literature as a category of writing typically complicates, rather than simplifies, the problematic business of living.” —  SUSAN MIDALIA

Born Sleeping is a strikingly blunt and intense account of a character’s emotional resistance and awakening as she confronts a family tragedy. The narrative develops like an extraordinary CT scan of the feeling mind and especially the feeling body, to reveal deepening layers of emotion and personal empathy. It is contemporary writing at its most unflinching.” —  PHILIP SALOM

“Gildfind’s novella is visceral, exhilarating and unsettling. Emotions are laid bare in all their ugly thrashing glory: live mercurial animals that for all their maudlin volatility manage to steer clear of heartbreak cliché and navel-gazing mind-anguish, instead manifesting materially and explicitly in the body and the environment. Fear is an ‘iris spontaneously propelled inwards’, memories grow ‘like bones and hair and nails’, and ‘the nursery air is swollen with expectant waiting ‘like the body of the mother.” –– GRACE YEE, re: Born Sleeping

“Remarkable for its compression and the startling detail with which it registers its world, Born Sleeping is about loss, but also about connection and love, and what it means to tell stories – overtly and unconsciously. Gildfind’s writing is rhythmic and lyrical, and always tight. This book is an impressive achievement.” — FIONA WRIGHT

“Knowing and not knowing is indicative of the many binaries at play here, apart from the overt life vs death. There is so much left unsaid about stillbirth. Grief silences the family and others don’t know what to say. Life goes on? This is the most unfair. The shock and despair are handled by Gildfind with sensitivity and poise, while still leaving room for liberating, relieving humour. This is exceptional writing.”—  BOB MOOREGood Reading Magazine, re: Born Sleeping

“Gildfind takes her stories to dark places, but it never feels graphic or exploitative. Wrapped up in all the darkness is always a strong connection back to human emotion, and the writing feels intensely aware of the troubling subject matter it is tackling.”— ELAINE MEADAniko Press, re: Born Sleeping

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Whilst I don’t have samples from this novella, my short stories, essays and book reviews can be found here: https://www.hcgildfind.com/writing

AUTHOR PROFILE: H.C. GILDFIND is an author of fiction, essays and book reviews.  THE WORRY FRONT  (2018) includes the award-winning novella QUARRY, and BORN SLEEPING (2021) won the Miami University Press international novella competition.

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781881163695/born-sleeping.aspx/

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

https://bookshop.org/p/books/born-sleeping-h-c-gildfind/15572407?ean=9781881163695

PRICE: $20 – $25

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: hcgildfind.com

A Family is a House

THE TITLE: A Family is a House.

THE AUTHOR: Dustin Pearson.

THE EDITOR: Andrew Sullivan.

THE PUBLISHER: C&R Press.

About C&R Press: “We love books. Literature matters because words let us explore and share the best of what we think, and who we can be. Good fiction, nonfiction, and poetry grow our knowledge and imagination, take us into new lives, and illuminate truths we never knew.”

“For thousands of years, books were how content was shared. Today, C&R Press is pushing into new media, while keeping the best of what always made books great.

“So we’re looking for talented authors, and poets, both new, and established, whose work we help refine, support, publish and promote. And, through their works, continue to grow the reading public’s love of reading, writing, crafting, and dreaming.

“Since 2006 we’ve helped writers and readers prove literature is an essential part of life and culture, and thirteen years later, we’re still doing it.

“Long live books!”

SUMMARY: My friend, the poet Brandon Rushton, wrote this description of A Family Is a House:

“Pearson’s debut introduced us to a master transmogrifier. In this surreal follow-up collection he investigates the architectural implications of inheritance—how the human body houses the violence of its forebears. A Family Is a House is a blueprint, a guide to the logical structures and spaces we build in our minds: sometimes to keep our secrets in, sometimes to keep the horrors out. Pearson offers us an answer to the toughest question: what happens when our secrets are our horrors? We build, compartmentalize, and quarantine. We refract, reflect, demolish, and burn. This is a book about the oldest partition—that thin wall between the dark and the light. This is a book about bravery, about severing oneself from a lineage of abuse. When the hands that feed us also beat us, we must beat them back with the gifts we’ve been given. Through Pearson, we relearn that language can be weaponized into a kind of magic that saves us.”

THE BACK STORY: I wrote A Family Is a House to show how abstract and disorienting violence can become when it grows out of something as foundational as the experience of family. How does one grow into an awareness of violence when it’s normalized so early on? What shape does that awareness take and how does one express that awareness within a family unit? I think we can underestimate how difficult it can become to formulate an understanding in the absence of an explanation. Maybe this underestimation can be attributed to a lack of imagination. The characters in A Family Is a House have powerful imaginations, but I imagine it’s hard to evaluate the totality of what that means for them. They somewhat recognize how things make them feel but often struggle to connect how they feel to judgments of right and wrong or good or bad, so imagination plays a part in offering them an alternative. As they get older, this distortion of experience grows more pronounced. This isn’t the experience of the reader, however.

I wrote A Family Is a House during the second and third year of my MFA program. I made slight edits to the manuscript after workshopping the book in a workshop during my doctoral program. I guess that puts the total time of composition at about 3 years.

WHY THIS TITLE?: There are so many parallels between the idea or construct of family and a house. Every character or object that compiles the construct has a role to play and when there’s dysfunction, there’s an implication for the entire unit.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think family will always be an obsession of human beings. It’s an endlessly complex and emotionally loaded experience, but I think what sets my book apart is the display of imagination. There’s strangeness in the image and mediation, but there are also lyric truths that resonate wildly, so I picture that combination of familiarity and strangeness being a worthwhile and unique reading experience.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“In Dustin Pearson’s new book a sibling is said to have a tail so long it can be wrapped twice around the house, and a mother’s mouth is likened to a stove that her children stoke with wood. One might want to say these images are surreal, but the Pearson speaker speaks strange things so believably that there is no way to take them as anything other than the literal truth. Here, figuration is no excuse and no escape. I think of the fearlessness of Sharon Olds, and I think of the biological horror of David Cronenberg, and I think it’s all Dustin Pearson, laconic but lush, straight-faced in the panic.” – Josh Bell, author of Alamo Theory

“Dear reader, you will see the ways that nothing works in the house this family builds, this house of absence and abuse, where the brothers hold themselves together as they “take / their spreading bruises and scabs outside / and try to make nothing from them.” In Pearson’s poems, the boys—knowing nothing else—don’t especially recognize their pain, speak lightly of their fears, and endure with devastating calm the “blind slither to nowhere” that is their father’s gentlest path. Pearson’s boys suffer and survive in real and surreal ways: despite everything, they “follow [their] dad everywhere,” and then they find that their father “follow[s] them into mirrors.” The poems reckon with both masculinity and the imagination, the way the latter might intensify our fears, might also lift us through and beyond them.” – Sally Ball, author of Wreck Me

“In Dustin Pearson’s A Family Is a House we are gifted with a new surreal pantheon dissecting the mythology that arises from family. A brother’s tail that grows uncontrolled across a neighborhood. A mother who becomes a furnace, burning everything in her path. A father who leaves drippings of flesh for his children. In this stunning collection the violence and terror are palpable – we’ve known it in our homes, we know it in our nation. This book is an incredible, visceral experience from one of the most striking and necessary voices in poetry today.” – Glenn Shaheen, author of Carnivalia

AUTHOR PROFILE: Dustin Pearson is the author of A Season in Hell with Rimbaud (BOA Editions, 2022), Millennial Roost (C&R Press, 2018), and A Family Is a House (C&R Press, 2019). In 2019, The Root named Dustin one of nine Black poets working in “academic, cultural and government institutions committed to elevating and preserving the poetry artform.” In 2020, a film adaptation of his poem “The Flame in Mother’s Mouth” won Best Collaboration at the Cadence Video Poetry Festival. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and The Anderson Center at Tower View, Pearson has served as the editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review and a director of the Clemson Literary Festival. His writing has been recognized and featured by Shonda Rhimes and further distinguished by the Katherine C. Turner and John Mackay Shaw Academy of American Poets Awards and a 2021 Pushcart Prize. His work also appears in The Nation, Poetry Northwest, Blackbird, The Boiler, Bennington Review, TriQuarterly, The Literary Review, The Cortland Review, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Toledo where he teaches creative writing.

Alternatively, my social media handles are all @dustinkpearson. I’m the most fun on Instagram.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: One of my favorite writers is David Ignatow. In an interview, he was asked: In your poems where you show your anger do you feel a danger in having your vulnerability misunderstood? He responded: I couldn’t care less. This is what I have to feel, this is what I have to write. This is the life, this is the life. I’m living it.

Ignatow’s response is a basic metric for how I keep myself producing worthwhile writing.

SAMPLE:

https://www.shondaland.com/watch/a27133126/visual-poetry-project-the-flame-in-mothers-mouth/ LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.crpress.org/shop/a-family-is-a-house/

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Small Press Distribution, Barnes & Noble

PRICE: $16

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://dustinkpearson.com

Orphans of Canland

THE BOOK: Orphans of Canland

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHOR:  Daniel Vitale

THE PUBLISHER
: Strij Publishing

SUMMARY: The political and ecological horrors of a post-apocalyptic California form the backdrop for an engaging story of family, independence, and defying our own limitations. Tristan, the neurodivergent and eternally optimistic young protagonist, must confront the shocking truths about his own family’s involvement in a striking global crisis in Daniel Vitale’s debut novel Orphans of Canland (Strïj Publishing, November 15, 2022).

At the end of the twenty-first century, in the wake of complete environmental collapse, society has been reconfigured by the eco-totalitarian organization WORLD. Twelve-year-old Tristan lives in the environmental-restoration community Canland with his mother and older brother, while his high-ranking father’s two-year-long departure on a classified WORLD research assignment has strained their family’s sense of duty to one another. Tristan’s rare and life-defining medical condition makes him unable to feel physical pain, leaving him in constant danger.

Amidst heatwaves, food shortages, and a refugee crisis, Tristan relies on the people closest to him to understand the boundaries of this new, dystopian reality. But as Tristan begins to think for himself, he discovers the worst secrets his family keeps – truths that would suggest his own entanglement with the horrors enacted by Canland and WORLD. If he chooses to face this reality, then he’ll have to decide whether to save himself, his family, or the orphans of Canland.

Author Daniel Vitale’s compelling work of speculative fiction poses practical and philosophical questions which we may soon have to answer in the face of the climate crisis, through the heartbreakingly earnest voice of a neurodivergent child, a narrator fit for the near-future. Daniel “wants readers to understand that the issues the characters face in the book are issues we are already facing today,” and Orphans of Canland will be a hauntingly resonant read for anyone concerned with what it means to belong on Earth.  

THE BACK STORY
: –Orphans of Canland happened very slowly, and then all at once. Writing is funny like that. I’d written a few novels before this one, all of which failed in the editing stages, but I look at them as practice novels. Then the two main characters—the eternally optimistic (and borderline unfeeling) Tristan, and his frustrated, overworked, and overprotective mother, Helena—came to me in a flash.

I was in Vancouver when I first wrote the passages that became this book. I was driving through the Pacific Northwest, and I’d gone hiking in Oregon and Washington, in some of the most beautiful land on the planet. I became aware that, living in Los Angeles, my life was severely lacking the restorative effects of nature. I wondered what it would be like to put these two characters in a place where they were trying to make nature thrive, but where the damage was already done.

The book took three years to write, from the first ideas to the final edits. The research never stopped, and the whole process took about ten drafts, many of which were spent investigating the rules and philosophies of this imagined world. I kept asking myself: how would the collective trauma and despair of an environmental collapse affect something so simple as a mother teaching her child what’s right and wrong?

WHY THIS TITLE?: First thing you should know is, I’m bad at titles. I didn’t come up with Orphans of Canland until at least halfway through the writing process when, in Part Two of the book, Tristan starts spending more and more time with, well, the orphans of Canland. It’s a book about (among other things) displaced people, a diaspora, wanderers, and searchers—people without anywhere to go. And it’s Tristan’s journey to find who he is. I won’t spoil anything, but at one point he wonders what’s going to happen to the love he has to give. It seemed like a question that the orphans in the story would ask: to whom am I meant to give my love? These characters were the human heart of the book.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Hopefully lots of reasons, and hopefully because it’s good! But I’d say, if you’re at all concerned about climate change and its effects on people and society—which we may not often think about, concerned as we (rightfully) are about polar bears and the rainforest—then the book will challenge you to think more about that. It’s also about the ways in which ostensibly benevolent powers can wield technology to influence the way people think, behave, and even evolve.

But it’s not just cli-fi, or sci-fi. It’s a book about love, family, siblinghood, friendship, and defying our limitations. It’s timely, with its environmentalist messages and warnings, but it’s timeless, too, with the way the book explores what makes life worth living. Tristan is an engaging and lovable protagonist, but he doesn’t see the world for what it is. The people who seem to be helping Canland are sometimes also beholden to more sinister influences. I’m really happy I found Tristan—or that he found me—so that I could learn about this complicated world through him.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“A complicated, rich, and challenging work . . . An impressive debut that goes beneath surface issues of climate-apocalypse fiction.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A richly imagined and deeply felt novel that steers unafraid into the Big Questions.” — Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying

Orphans of Canland is an elegant, poetic, sprawling dreamscape. Vitale has artfully constructed a whole other world, and the inner worlds of the characters are equally vast. Touching, frightening, painfully human.” —-Elvia Wilk, author of Oval

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: DANIEL VITALE is a Jewish-American writer and a graduate of Amherst College. Originally from New York, he now lives in Los Angeles, where he spent his first year working in TV before writing fiction; he has also written screenplays, poetry, and songs. Former goalie of his college hockey team, Daniel now owns a hockey goalie coaching business and works with players of all ages and skill levels. His experience coaching children with autism has been particularly influential in the writing of his first novel Orphans of Canland, as has his interest in the relationship between climate change and the development of the American west. He is currently working on his second novel.
  
AUTHOR COMMENTS:
“You can’t tackle everything there is to say about climate change in one novel, and if you could, then it’s unlikely anyone would want to read that novel. I think it’s a tendency of young authors to want their work to matter, and I’m no exception here. But I was going to have to finish it at some point, whether the book said anything important or not. I arrived at the end just by giving Tristan a bit of control over what was going to happen. I think it’s important for me to listen to my characters—they have their own voices. And, by telling a story about a kid trying to figure himself out, maybe a reader will identify with him. And maybe they’ll find they have a great deal of compassion. And maybe they’ll even connect a bit more with our natural world. None of that is up to me—so I’m excited to find out what readers love about the book. In that respect, the book is no longer mine. Good luck, Orphans of Canland! And thank you, Darrell, for welcoming the book to Snowflakes in a Blizzard!”

LOCAL OUTLETS: Vroman’s Bookstore https://www.vromansbookstore.com/search/site/Orphans%20of%20Canland

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IThttps://www.amazon.com/Orphans-Canland-Daniel-Vitale/dp/B0B993MYH8

PRICE: $14.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Connect with Vitale at danielvitale.com.

A Brother’s Peace

THE BOOK: A Brother’s Peace.

PUBLISHED IN: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Jan G. Linn.

THE EDITOR: James Clois Smith, Jr.

THE PUBLISHER: Sunstone Press

SUMMARY: The story of the Strange family of Castle Cove, North Carolina is about every family that has struggled to cope with one of its own caught in the jaws of addiction. No two members of the family confront the circumstances trying to tear them apart in the same way. Yet each plays an essential role in ensuring that the ineffable bond of love that connects them to one another remains intact. You will laugh and cry as you read about a likeable Sonny Strange heading down the rabbit hole of alcoholism while his clergy brother, Sydney, tries to save him from himself. The conflict between them is as subtle as it is real, hiding in plain sight until Sydney realizes the turmoil he feels is as much inside himself as it is between him and Sonny. In the midst of events leading the Strange family story to a tragic, albeit healing end, the reader encounters life in Castle Cove that serves as a reminder of the days when racial segregation dehumanized black Americans throughout the South while whites took it for granted. Sydney has a chance encounter with a childhood friend that awakens him to a stunning awareness of his own unconscious white privilege that makes him question why his African American colleague and closest friend would want to stay with their relationship.

A Brother’s Peace is a portrayal of the demands of truth and the resilience of hope that allows its readers to experience the power of storytelling at its best.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote this book because my goal throughout my writing life has been directed toward writing a novel. Nineteen non-fiction published books later, I finally achieved that goal. My wife and I being sheltered down during the pandemic offered time for me to pull out a manuscript draft I had written 25 years ago and A Brother’s Peace is the result.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title is sort of a “a double entendre” for the reader to figure out.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I think what I said in the Preface summarizes why I think people will enjoy reading this story: “I loved writing every word you will read in these pages and take great satisfaction in being able to share this family saga with you. Despite the twists and turns, ups and downs weaving through every chapter, from beginning to end I had one simple goal, to tell a story that holds your attention and when you are finished makes you feel like the time it took to read it was worth every minute. I can only hope that will be true for you.”

The book also includes a Reader’s Guide that is perfect for books clubs. The questions help facilitate discussion without controlling it.

REVIEW COMMENTS: A couple of early reviews: (1) “One of those books you have to keep reading. It’s so easy to see bits of yourself, and others, in the characters. I don’t usually read a book a second time, but this one I will.” (2) “Great story about three brothers and their experiences during their lives. Lots to discuss for book clubs, study groups and churches. Book touches on family life, alcoholism, race relations, and many other relevant issues within a riveting story narrative. I couldn’t put it down.”

AUTHOR PROFILE “All my previous books have been part of my professional and academic life. I hope they have contributed to my fields of academic study and professional career as a teacher and minister, but this book marks a turn in a new direction, from non-fiction researched based writing to the world of imagination that is the stuff of fiction. I have always considered myself a writer who did other things. Writing this novel is a confirmation of that sense of vocation. Using my imagination to create fictional characters that come alive in the story as if they are real people is truly the most satisfying writing I have ever done. I still write articles that address contemporary political and religious issues from a progressive perspective through my blog, ‘Thinking Against the Grain’ (linnposts.com). In regard to books, though, novels will be my only focus going forward.”

SAMPLE: Please see my Amazon page about the book at: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=jan+linn+a+brothers+peace&crid=ZYKTNGPW8UQO&sprefix=a+brother%27s+peace%2Caps%2C141&ref=nb_sb_ss_pltr-ranker-acceptance_2_17

WHERE TO BUY IT: A Brother’s Peace is available at all local bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online outlets.

PRICE: $24.9

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: janlinn45@gmail.com

Weather Report, November 14

Our currently featured book, “Percivious: Escape,” by A.J. and J.J. Cook, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the Monthly Replay, or by clicking the authors’ names on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, NOV. 15-21.

“BORN SLEEPING,” BY H.C. GILDFIND.

This story is written in response to witnessing many women and couples suffering in silence after losing a baby in miscarriage or stillbirth. I noticed how shame and silence seem to be attached to these common and (often) entirely natural experiences, and I wanted to write a story that would help break the subject’s taboo. Such taboos are not only detrimental for individuals, but also hamper research and public education into stillbirth.

Readers will gain insight into an experience that is often hidden by personal pain (and inexplicable shame) and by the nature of hospitals which have made death an alien (rather than natural) experience for humans. Furthermore, this story is told from the outside of the terrible experience of stillbirth and thus gives insight into the ambivalence and confusion people might feel when faced with others’ trauma – an ambivalence that is compounded when that pain is witnessed with the cool eye of the writer.

“ORPHANS OF CANLAND,” BY DANIEL VITALE.

At the end of the twenty-first century, in the wake of complete environmental collapse, society has been reconfigured by the eco-totalitarian organization WORLD. Twelve-year-old Tristan lives in the environmental-restoration community Canland with his mother and older brother, while his high-ranking father’s two-year-long departure on a classified WORLD research assignment has strained their family’s sense of duty to one another. Tristan’s rare and life-defining medical condition makes him unable to feel physical pain, leaving him in constant danger.

Amidst heatwaves, food shortages, and a refugee crisis, Tristan relies on the people closest to him to understand the boundaries of this new, dystopian reality. But as Tristan begins to think for himself, he discovers the worst secrets his family keeps – truths that would suggest his own entanglement with the horrors enacted by Canland and WORLD. If he chooses to face this reality, then he’ll have to decide whether to save himself, his family, or the orphans of Canland.

“A BROTHER’S PEACE,” BY JAN LINN.

The story of the Strange family of Castle Cove, North Carolina is about every family that has struggled to cope with one of its own caught in the jaws of addiction. No two members of the family confront the circumstances trying to tear them apart in the same way. Yet each plays an essential role in ensuring that the ineffable bond of love that connects them to one another remains intact. You will laugh and cry as you read about a likeable Sonny Strange heading down the rabbit hole of alcoholism while his clergy brother, Sydney, tries to save him from himself. The conflict between them is as subtle as it is real, hiding in plain sight until Sydney realizes the turmoil he feels is as much inside himself as it is between him and Sonny. In the midst of events leading the Strange family story to a tragic, albeit healing end, the reader encounters life in Castle Cove that serves as a reminder of the days when racial segregation dehumanized black Americans throughout the South while whites took it for granted. Sydney has a chance encounter with a childhood friend that awakens him to a stunning awareness of his own unconscious white privilege that makes him question why his African American colleague and closest friend would want to stay with their relationship. A Brother’s Peace is a portrayal of the demands of truth and the resilience of hope that allows its readers to experience the power of storytelling at its best. THE BACK STORY: I wrote this book because my goal throughout my writing life has been directed toward writing a novel. Nineteen non-fiction published books later, I finally achieved that goal. My wife and I being sheltered down during the pandemic offered time for me to pull out a manuscript draft I had written 25 years ago and A Brother’s Peace is the result.

“A FAMILY IS A HOUSE,” BY DUSTIN PEARSON

“Pearson’s debut introduced us to a master transmogrifier. In this surreal follow-up collection he investigates the architectural implications of inheritance—how the human body houses the violence of its forebears. A Family Is a House is a blueprint, a guide to the logical structures and spaces we build in our minds: sometimes to keep our secrets in, sometimes to keep the horrors out. Pearson offers us an answer to the toughest question: what happens when our secrets are our horrors? We build, compartmentalize, and quarantine. We refract, reflect, demolish, and burn. This is a book about the oldest partition—that thin wall between the dark and the light. This is a book about bravery, about severing oneself from a lineage of abuse. When the hands that feed us also beat us, we must beat them back with the gifts we’ve been given. Through Pearson, we relearn that language can be weaponized into a kind of magic that saves us.”

Percivious: Escape

The November “Monthly Replay” can be found by scrolling down below this post.

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THE BOOK: Percivious: Escape

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHORS:  J.J. Cook and A.J. Cook

THE PUBLISHER
: AJ JJ Publishing

SUMMARY: Every day, society seems to step closer and closer to becoming a world straight out of a dystopian novel. Throughout the series, the Percivious trilogy has pushed against this path by showing the world a more utopian route that can be followed to take better care of the planet and all those who live on it. Through its rigorously-researched, scientifically-plausible plotlines to the trilogy’s selfless core, husband-and-wife author duo JJ Cook & AJ Cook, M.D., have worked to create an affecting chronicle that brings compassion to turbulent times.

The final installment of the Percivious trilogy, Percivious Escape [Girl Friday Productions, November 8, 2022] brings a satisfying and dramatic resolution to this gripping series. In book one, Percivious Insomnia, readers were introduced to an otherworldly mystery that could completely unravel civilization — an insomnia pandemic with no discernible cause, or cure. As this inexplicable pandemic continues to tighten its grip on society, readers take a journey through space and time in book two, Percivious Origins, to discover another species that once called Earth home. The XYZ live in abundance and value shared knowledge and emotional connection above all else after being forced to leave Earth millions of years ago. But after failing to find a new planet to inhabit and their ship taking severe damage, they are forced to return to their ancestral home, setting into motion events for which there will be an unfathomable price to pay.

THE BACK STORY
: JJ: About ten years ago it struck me. I said to A.J. Cook, “Wouldn’t it be an interesting premise for a book, if someone (or something) was able to exploit your sleep hours. The one thing that still remains ours/uninterrupted (for the most part)”. I didn’t know it at the time, but a trilogy was hanging in the balance as I waited for his reply. As it turned out he loved the idea and the premise for Percivious was conceived. It was interesting because we had been working on Percivious Insomnia on and off over a seven-year period. So, to be launching its release just as a real pandemic took hold was errie, it was unbelievable. I remember working on the book trailer and saying to AJ Cook, “Do you think we should use the term pandemic, it seems so dramatic, perhaps epidemic is better?”. In the end we decided upon pandemic with absolutely no clue as to what was to unfold and how it would impact our daily lives. On one hand it made the novel very relevant, and it absolutely did influence the description of the insomnia pandemic in the trilogy, especially throughout the writing of Percivious Escape. However, the mystery or the cause behind our insomnia pandemic results in a much different outcome than what we experienced with Covid, therefore what we ended up with was a true to life fictional pandemic but with more devastating consequences.

WHY THIS TITLE?: We coined the term Percivious and its meaning is as follows:

Percivious (per-siv-e-us)

Noun

The ultimate in altruism. Self-sacrifice in order to benefit others with no regard to reward or reciprocity.

The XYZ of the Percivious Trilogy were the dominant life form on earth 280 million years before the origin of homo sapiens. They are an advanced species that eliminated the need for violence and warfare on an evolutionary level. We drew inspiration from some surprising real-life sources to create their origin story. They are decedents of cetaceans, rather than primates, and we spent countless hours researching whales to develop how the species may have advanced on land. Percivious is the code by which the XYZ of our trilogy live in accordance with.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Our trilogy technically falls into sci-fi however, it has been described as genre defying and includes elements of sci-fi, mystery, thriller, action, horror, and romance throughout. We don’t live in one genre and we both feel strongly that our story should not be contained to one either. We set out to write a novel that would appeal to many readers, all ages and both genders, hypothesizing that if we wrote it in one voice, together, it would be a richer story that would reach a broader audience. And recently we received one of the greatest compliments from a die-hard romance fan who told us, “I would never have dreamt I would be a sci-fi fan until read your novel!”. The other thing that sets our apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy apart is that it is uplifting and utopian, rather than dystopian. It is our hope that readers will discover how characters in the story choose to come together and take care of each other and apply this to their own lives.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“The Cooks’ impressive SF medical thriller … overflows with intriguing ideas.” — Publishers Weekly.

“Invested readers will be kept up at night waiting for more. An intelligent SF tale with a high-stakes big pharma backdrop and skillful character development.” – Kirkus

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: J J Cook’s background in marketing across a spectrum of industries—technology, finance, and the arts—brings insight and depth to characters spanning an array of disciplines, ages, countries, and cultures.

A J Cook, MD’s current role as a pediatric urologist and director of fellowship education at the Alberta Children’s Hospital has allowed him the opportunity to author and contribute to numerous published studies and hone his writing skills, while his experience as a surgeon—as well as the relationships he’s developed with his young patients and their guardians—has contributed credibility and realism to the narrative. 

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Percivious-Escape-J-Cook/dp/1777377471

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/p/books/percivious-escape/18890834?ean=9781777377472

PRICE: $25.95

CONTACT THE AUTHORConnect with the authors on FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTok and Goodreads.