Weather Report, August 7

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “BROWN BOTTLE,” BY SHELDON LEE COMPTON AND “A MILLION RAVENOUS CREATURES,” BY RODGER LeGRAND, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THIS MONTH’S FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY. OR, YOU CAN CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAMES ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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Chances are, most people who glorify war have never fought in one.  For to be a combat soldier is to be forced to accept a situation alien to most human experience.

Imagine waking up each morning to the realization that a large group of people want nothing more than to kill you — and that it is your job to seek them out, not avoid them. Imagine losing close friends not from an occasional illness or accident, but almost daily.  Imagine killing someone else and being praised for it.

Then imagine walking away from this terrifying parallel universe and resuming life as usual.

Allen Learst, whose book of short stories will be featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard this week, has experienced those things and that life. What I found interesting, though, is that the template he filled out for “Dancing at the Gold Monkey” makes no mention of his time as a combat infantryman in Vietnam.

Perhaps that’s because this book is really not about Vietnam, but about another war that followed for so many veterans.  In that conflict, the enemy is internal, and the defensive weapons are not always close at hand.

You had to be there to really understand. But reading “Dancing at the Gold Monkey” is a step in that direction.

Meanwhile, the main character in Stacy Barton’s “Lily Harp” is also facing a personal struggle — a pregnancy she never asked for. In answer to the template question “Why would someone want to read this?” Stacy writes:

“If you’ve every wondered about real Florida life; if you are a part of a family who struggles and embraces the good, bad and ugly of its generations; if you love to step into someone’s emotional world; if you want to watch a young woman emerge from a struggle, independent and connected; if you like authentic people and real feelings; and if you like a little quirky, a little tragic, your senses perked…try this one….plus there are stand alone short stories in the end!”

And finally, as a change of pace, there is Deborah Teller Scott’s “Breakdown,” a book that falls within the general “cozy mystery” category.

This is the second novel by Deborah that we’ve featured. And while the offerings from Allen Learst and Stacy Barton are roller coaster rides, this one is more like a Ferris wheel, the plot evolving in slow but steady revolutions that allow time for readers to get to know the characters and begin to care about them.

Enjoy!


UPCOMING ON “SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD,” AUGUST 7-13.

“DANCING AT THE GOLD MONKEY,” BY ALLEN LEARST.

Five veterans who suffer drastically from the invisible effects of PTSD also suffer from their lack of understanding about what happened to them. These men are victims of a society whose lack of concern for what they did for their country has deep and profound effects on their psyches.

“LILY HARP,” BY STACY BARTON

The year is 1976. The scene composed of clapboard marinas, bays, mangroves, stilt houses, sea grapes, and barrier islands reachable only by boat at the edge of the Florida Gulf. This has been Lily Harp’s world since before her mother’s suicide seven years ago. In Grandpa’s truck, rescued from art school, Lily’s journey begins. “I felt my belly swell my skirt and I thought about what was inside; the nurse at school said it had fingernails.” In the shadow of her mother, seventeen-year-old Lily’s choice unfolds. “I didn’t think I could give it away, but I didn’t know if I could keep it either.” This book reads like theater, with the poetic language of literature, and a cast of unforgettable characters. (video trailer at www.stacy barton.com). The short stories that follow, offer tragic and tender views of other confused minds and hearts. Many thanks to the journals in which they first appeared: Gargoyle, Best of Potomac Review, Real South, Relief Journal, Ruminate and others.

“BREAKDOWN,” BY DEBORAH TELLER SCOTT.

When he’s sent to consult on a case half a globe away from New Scotland Yard, Detective Inspector Michael Dachemont is eager to reconnect with Kate Winslow, the author of popular children’s books he’d met months before on a highly publicized investigation in the south of England. His original assignment in the Pacific Northwest turns out to be not nearly as challenging as the puzzles that await him when he travels to Oregon to spend what’s left of his busman’s holiday with Kate’s family.

In an environment as alien to Dachemont as any he’d ever experienced, there’s enough mystery to keep a squadron of detectives busy; but only one small-town country sheriff is on the job, and his objectivity is questionable. The trouble begins with a bit of graffiti, which turns out to be the deceptively innocent tip of a very deep and dark iceberg. Will Michael and Kate have time to see where their budding relationship leads? Or will the denouement come too late for them?

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brown Bottle

Brown Bottle: A Novel by [Compton, Sheldon Lee]

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, RODGER LeGRAND’S POETRY COLLECTION “MILLIONS OF RAVENOUS CREATURES,” CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THIS MONTH’S “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR JUST CLICK ON RODGER’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Brown Bottle

PUBLISHED IN: 2016

THE AUTHOR: Sheldon Lee Compton

THE EDITOR: Larry Smith

THE PUBLISHER: Bottom Dog Press

SUMMARY: Wade “Brown Bottle” Taylor is an alcoholic uncle trying to protect his nephew Nick from the hardness of their region, Eastern Kentucky, and the world in general. To end Nick’s involvement with drugs and drug dealers in the area, Brown must first save himself, overcoming a lifetime spent convinced he is unworthy. Brown Bottle’s journey is one of selflessness and love, redemption and sacrifice, if only for a time.

Sheldon Lee ComptonTHE BACK STORY: “When I was young, say around six or seven, my step-uncle Pete, the youngest brother of my alcoholic stepfather Doug, more or less stood in as my father for a few years. He played with me, gave me advice about fighting and how to throw a baseball, how to bait a hook, and various other important things. He also gave me and my mom support during the long hours we would sit up waiting for Doug to come home from another wild tear.

“Most importantly, he somehow made us laugh. He distracted us from the daily darkness in the best of ways. One day all those years later, I got to thinking about Pete and about how young he was then (probably still in his teens, to my calculations) and how much he took on by doing all that. I wanted to somehow honor that sacrifice and write him as a hero. But I wanted the character to be a bit more flawed. So naturally I tossed in a few of Doug’s traits for him to overcome and then gave him a messed up kid to look after and I had the framework of my book. I feel pretty good about what I was able to do in that sense.”

WHY THIS TITLE: I had originally written a short story titled “Purpose” that was included in my first published book, a short story collection. In this story was a character who would later become the protagonist of this later novel. I nicknamed him Brown Bottle, though his Christian name was Wade. I thought of Brown Bottle because, as an alcoholic he was often seen carrying either a bottle of beer (brown in color, of course) or a bottle of liquor (also brown). The nickname sounded like a perfect title to me, and when I think of a title that clicks that way for me, I rarely ever change my mind.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Brown Bottle is a true hero story. The journey of a broken and flawed individual who sacrifices the better parts of himself for an innocent youth who is in peril. Along the way he faces the highest levels of corruption, modern day sirens, powerful contemporary potions, and even humans in the form of the most grotesque and heartless monsters imaginable. It’s a tragic but uplifting version of the hero’s journey told against an Eastern Kentucky backdrop recognizable to any rural citizen the world over.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “Sheldon Lee Compton is one of the new young breed of Kentucky writers — talented, fearless, and strong — bringing us word from the hills. — Chris Offutt, author of Kentucky Straight

“Sheldon Lee Compton is a hillbilly Bukowski, one of the grittiest writers to come down the pike since Larry Brown, and Brown Bottle is his best work yet.” — Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time

Brown Bottle, by Sheldon Lee Compton, is a bottleneck blues of a novel, played at midnight, harsh, unsparing, and real as hell. Brown Bottle the man is also someone you won’t forget. His story has emotional and moral weight. You won’t read a better novel this year.” — Rusty Barnes, author of Ridgerunner

“With striking authenticity, Compton delivers a story that is at once tender and a punch straight to the gut. Brown Bottle is honest, heartbreaking and echoing with desperation rendered in precise, razor-sharp prose. Sheldon Lee Compton writes with a reckoning force.” — Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked.

 

“Sheldon Lee Compton’s Brown Bottle is a sharply written story of a man scorched by circumstances but who embodies Harry Crews’ dictum that survival is triumph enough. Compton articulates the real hardscrabble world of contemporary Kentucky Appalachia he so intimately understands, writing with stark and powerful but emotionally subtle voice. Readers of Chris Offutt and Breece Pancake will have an accomplished new author to add to their shelves.” — Charles Dodd White, author of A Shelter of Others and Sinners of Sanction County.

 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Sheldon Lee Compton is a short story writer, novelist, and poet from Eastern Kentucky. He is the author of three books – the short story collections The Same Terrible Storm (Foxhead Books, 2012) Where Alligators Sleep (Foxhead Books, 2014) and the novel Brown Bottle (Bottom Dog Press, 2016). His fiction and poetry has been published in more than 200 journals both online and in print including Unbroken Journal, Gravel, Nailed Magazine, Wigleaf, Five:2:One Magazine, Vending Machine Press, Bartleby Snopes, Atticus Review, New World Writing, Pank, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, Fair Folk, decomP, Gone Lawn, Spelk, WhiskeyPaper, Anti-Heroin Chic, gobbet, Fluland, Great Jones Street, and elsewhere.

 

In 2012, he was a finalist for both the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award and the Still Fiction Award. The Same Terrible Storm was nominated for the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Excellence in Appalachian Writing, while his short stories have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, as well as Best of the Net, storySouth’s Million Writers Award, and cited in Best Small Fictions 2015 and Best Small Fictions 2016, guest edited by Robert Olen Butler and Stuart Dybek, respectively. Other writing has appeared in the anthologies Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia (Bottom Dog Press, 2010) Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia (Ohio University Press, 2015) and Larry Fessenden’s Sudden Storm: A Wendigo Reader (Fiddleblack, 2016).

 

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I knew this book was going to be a hit and miss with various readers, but I do think the general idea of striving for a better life is something everyone can relate to in some way or another. Mostly I think readers who may not be familiar with Eastern Kentucky could make the false assumption that some of the details in the book are less than realistic. But to be clear, nearly every detail in the book is based on some true story from where I live, even Fay Mullins (the book’s main antagonist) and his backstory. In fact, Fay Mullins is based on a group of four people from my hometown who did exactly the same first murder-for-hire job detailed in Fay’s introductory chapter.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://www.spdbooks.org/Content/Site106/FilesSamples/9781933964898.pdf.

 

LOCAL OUTLETS: Small Press Distributors

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

PRICE: $18.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: shelcompton@gmail.com; Twitter – @ShelCompton; Blogger – www.bentcountry.blogspot.com.

 

 

Millions of Ravenous Creatures

THE BOOK: Millions of Ravenous Creatures

PUBLISHED: 2016

THE AUTHOR: Rodger LeGrand

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing

SUMMARY: These poems explore loss, longing, and love. They look at the grittiness of daily living—including topics like homelessness, drug abuse, and foster care—illustrating with the rhythms of language how even in the midst of sorrow we can find a way to embrace hope.

THE BACK STORY: “I usually write early in the morning. However, throughout the day I might jot down a line or two while on the subway or during a walk to get coffee. It might be an utterance I overhear, something that stops me for a moment. It could be the topic that gets my attention or the word choice or the cadence that pulls me toward it. And sometimes I get that same pause from reading a line of poetry by Bill Knott, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dobyns, Alan Dugan, Weldon Kees, or countless other great poets. That’s how poems start for me—with the sound of language being used to make connections with others. It means that we aren’t all as alone is it sometimes might feel.

“The poems in this collection are informed by my experiences living in different locations, in different environments. Some of these poems originally appeared in literary magazines. Some of them appeared in limited edition chapbooks. Other poems are newer and can only be found in print in this collection.”

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title, Millions of Ravenous Creatures, comes from a line in one of the poems in the collection, “Caterpillar on a Hand Glider”. When considered in the context of the entire collection, the title is meant to be a nod to Ernest Becker’s work in The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? It would be great if more people read poems. They don’t have to read my poems. I’d be happy if people read more poems in general.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“This is a book unlike any other first book I have read in that it is whole, fully realized. The entire book is lighted by an almost excruciating tenderness towards the world and its inhabitants. It’s also tough, and funny, without a peep of sappiness. This is a poet who notices deeply, brilliantly, and with a heart as big as a boulder. Read this book!” — Thomas Lux, Child Made of Sand

“The language of Rodger LeGrand’s poetry moves from surprise to surprise, just as the poems themselves in his book Millions of Ravenous Creatures move from surprise to surprise. This is a good thing. Always there is a shuffling between clarity and mystery, precision and ambiguity, humor and darkness as he works through the conundrums of how we live and how we might live better—not in terms of money, though that would be nice, but metaphysically, or, more simply, basic kindness in a world where kindness is too often a rarity. This is a fine book and you should buy it.” — Stephen Dobyns, Winter’s Journey

“‘The more I let go, the more I realize/how tightly I’ve been holding on’ Rodger LeGrand says in one of the poems in his new book, Millions of Ravenous Creatures, and in a sense, the entire collection is a journey to discover how deep our affiliation with the world might be, and whether too tight a hold on it might lead to dissatisfactions. The poems’ subjects range from the grandly cosmological to the acutely domestic and diurnal, but they always keep in mind how we might go about finding our place in the scheme of things, both psychically and spiritually. Though the world might sometimes provoke us to anger or fear, or send us reeling

into helplessness and depression, or sunder us with its insouciance, still, these poems suggest, there is balm in our lives to soothe and revive, and that balm is what we call love, love in the presence of the other and the beloved, which makes us, finally, more than what we are.” — Greg Djanikian, Dear Gravity

AUTHOR PROFILE: I read more than I write, and I prefer it that way. I think that reading poetry is a method for writing better poems. When I’m not reading poetry I’m studying Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu. Grandmaster Moy Yat was a painter and calligrapher. His approach to Kung Fu instruction and study matches how I study poetry. Grandmaster Moy Yat’s teaching style was handed down to his top disciple, my Sifu, Pete Pajil. As a result, I study two arts, poetry and Ving Tsun, that inform each other as I explore the complexities of both.

SAMPLE POEMS:

January Snowfall in the Pacific Northwest

Top of this redwood

is a pale-green luna moth.

Branches spread like veins in leaves.

Its trunk: kimono-bark

that rescinds centuries,

roots fan through soil.

Our heads tilt back, we taste yuki

the way we taste haiku.

The whiteness catches on our tongues,

dissolves, and I think of all the things I want

to understand but can’t. And she smiles.

If we could speak the same language,

I would ask her to always

look at me this way.

Caterpillar on a Hand Glider

The caterpillar pulled itself

onto a broad flat leaf

and clung to it

as though if it held tight enough

it could become part of the leaf.

As the wind picked up

the leaf lifted, slowly

at first, with a

wobble.

But steadily it gained,

higher by the second,

and lifted through an opening

in the forest’s canopy.

Above the tree tops,

above the impending cocoon

and the risks of a million

ravenous creatures, it hovered

as though it had already transformed

into an explosion

of Monarch brilliance,

without losing itself, without becoming

unrecognizable with wings, with fewer legs,

after struggling free from a cramped,

dry, pill-shaped case,

it could, in that moment,

high above the trees,

as a caterpillar still

being a caterpillar,

it

could

fly.

Onion Angel

What can she do? Nothing to look for, nothing

that is hers, nothing to put in her pockets and call her own

except fists. She owns her fists.

Not that she would use them to hammer

a slipped board back in place,

wave them in the air to incite a riot.

Not that she would fight back, punch

with them, one shot to the throat

to get it out—years of disgust

seeping from the corners of her eyes. To get

her fists, delicate bulbs, through the skin,

bury them in the esophagus,

her drunk husband’s esophagus; change his

breathing for once. What can she do? Talk? Write letters?

Wrap her fist around a pencil and scratch across a page?

Words get nowhere, they mean nothing if no one listens,

they fix her in place and she turns to stone—

a statue with small onion-shaped fists…

onions for eyes, onions lumped in the throat.

If only she could punch her fists into the ground

and grow a new word, something he would understand.

One word, one single word that would catch his breath, catch him

in the act of not thinking or caring and she could catch

his collar in her fists and shake him out of the bottle

he’s sunken into—beautiful fists, beautiful

fists. Squeeze tighter, tighter.

From the Passenger’s Seat

After he’s right a few times and gets comfortable with being right,

he feels it’s his job to tell people how to live,

to make them happier. First he counsels them

on grocery lists and clothing. As his confidence builds

he tells them about an obnoxious laugh, the faults of their families.

This will make the world a better place. His way.

They’re just missing the point and need to be redirected.

So he shows them, gladly noting traffic violations

from the passenger’s seat,

happy to be the honest friend

and tell when the hips are getting wide.

And sometimes he is thanked for his honesty—

a streamer of toilet paper stuck to a shoe,

crust on the edge of a nostril. Honesty.

He has the responsibility of being their one honest friend,

a superhero fighting inadequacies around the neighborhood.

At this point it doesn’t really matter if he’s right or not.

It’s a matter of principle: someone has to do it.

If not him, who will show them the way?

They’re ships in a harbor. He is the sea.

He doesn’t want to swallow them in a wave,

but he will if he has to. They need to catch up,

catch on. And he becomes so confident

that his idea of helping slips his mind.

Now it’s about being right. He’s right.

His friends don’t act very friendly anymore.

They walk by without a wave or nod,

without acknowledging he exists. They don’t need him.

Watching them pass he shouts advice and insights, angrier

by the second, swelling. The more he swells,

the further they go, washing an ocean through his nose

and eyes and ears and down his throat.

He chokes on it, this flood of advice.

Flora

What flower would you be

if you were growing on the side of Mt. Ararat,

Grandmother (Medz Miyrig, the elder,

the matriarch)? Never a flower at all, she says.

And I can taste the list she sings:

Mint, cilantro, dill…. Plants with function.

Herbs. Edible, medicinal. In Armenia

the air smells like a history lesson

and sounds like feet dancing across a dirt floor.

These days the red cookbook sits unopened

on top of the fridge. No music playing.

No cumin drifting through the house.

When a genocide survivor dies,

the entire world loses a piece of itself.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Online at Amazon.

PRICE: $15.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.rodgerlegrand.com

Publisher

Big Table Publishing http://www.bigtablepublishing.com

bigtableco@aol.com

First Tuesday Replay, Aug. 1

THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.

“SIROCCO,” BY DANIELLE DAHL.

The Algerian War of Independence begins in 1954, forever changing the lives of the French colonials, including 10-year-old Nanna and her family. The conflict lasts for 8 years, but despite the constant threat of terrorist attacks, Nanna confronts the usual challenges of growing up—helping to raise her spirited siblings, struggling with math, and defying her harsh father by falling in love.

“Writing Sirocco was not an idea that suddenly popped out of nowhere, but a growing need to tell the stories of my growing up with my brothers and sisters, of our adventures and misadventures. A need to paint the breathtaking vistas of the land of my birth, share the uniqueness of its people, and recount the life of a French girl coming of age in a country torn by a war of independence.”

“STEELE SECRETS,” BY ANDI CUMBO-FLOYD

When Mary Steele mysteriously finds herself in an old cemetery down the road from her house in a tiny mountain town, she’s not concerned. She’s not even frightened when a ghost named Moses approaches her, or when she has a standoff with a bulldozer. But when her inquiries into the history of the cemetery and the people buried there begin to draw out the worst in the members of her community, Mary begins to be afraid. Will she be able to recover history while keeping the people she loves safe?

Steele Secrets is a story of American history and racism, slavery and family, and the way mystery can lead us to healing. While completely fictional,the book is drawn from real life events where cemeteries have been destroyed – or under threat – because people do not know who is buried in them or do not care. Whether the cemeteries are in urban neighborhoods or in rural countryside, many slave cemeteries in particular and African American cemeteries in specific are under threat.  These themes, historical and current events, and questions about whose responsibility it is to save these historic places are drawn together in the novel.

“FATHER FLASHES,” BY TRICIA BAUER

The winner of FC2’s inaugural Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, Father Flashes re-imagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship.

This book, though short in length, took quite a long time to write. Initially, I wrote the book as poems, but it wasn’t until I transposed these pieces into prose that I found trhe freedom to lengthen the lines and sometimes to depart from the poems’ intrinsic music.  This work cuts pretty close to the bone. The writing of my father’s disappearance was cathartic, but it was emotionally difficult to process and then to get down on paper. I could only work in brief stints, thus the brevity — and the density.”

“MY DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN,” BY NICK K. ADAMS

What does a father write to his wife and young children when he’s gone to war? Does he explain why he left them? How does he answer their constant questions about his return? Which of his experiences does he relate, and which does he pass over? Should he describe his feelings of separation and loneliness?

These questions are as relevant today as they were over 150 years ago, when David Brainard Griffin, a corporal in Company F of the 2nd Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, wrote to those he left behind on the family’s Minnesota prairie homestead while he fought to preserve the Union.

His letters cover the period from his enlistment at Minnesota’s Fort Snelling in September 1861, to his death in Georgia during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. One hundred of them were preserved and passed down in his family. They, along with one from his daughter as she asked the next generation to read her father’s words, have been carefully transcribed and annotated by a great-great-grandson, Nick K. Adams, allowing further generations to experience Griffin’s answers to these questions.

Filled with poignant images of his daily activities, his fears and exhilarations in military conflict, and his thoughts and emotions as the Civil War kept him apart from his family, these letters offer a fascinating insight into the personal experiences of a common soldier in the American Civil War.

“WE DARE NOT WHISPER,” BY JAN NETOLICKY

Luce Garrison narrates the unraveling of her stoic Midwestern family: a mother plagued by bipolar disorder, a father guilt-ridden by his inability to confront his wife’s descent into madness, and Luce’s own unassailable conviction that she can never be as loved as the brothers she has lost.

As a child, Luce often lingered over albums of glossy photographs, longing to be just like her lovely, enigmatic mother. But images frozen for an instant could not capture the lightless depression and manic bouts of frenzied activity which demonized Bets Garrison. Luce does not know the depths of her mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. Her only certainty? She is an inadequate substitute for the older brother who was stillborn just three months after her parents’ marriage.

After giving birth to Jonny, eleven years Luce’s junior, Bets develops an obsessive, disturbing devotion which trumps every other relationship in the Garrison home. Although Luce tries to minimize the gulf, she is excluded from the smothering attention her mother lavishes upon Jonny. Caught in a void, she can neither be loving sister nor cherished daughter. She can only be in the way.

“BIG IN JAPAN,”  BY JENNIFER GRIFFITH

Buck Cooper is a big, fat nobody at his statistician job in Dallas. The six-foot-six blond guy isn’t sure when he became socially invisible—probably about the time he passed the three hundred pound mark. But when his parents shanghai him to Tokyo for a business trip, he finds himself thrust into a whole new world—where his size still defines him but suddenly isn’t the liability it’s always been. Now, it could be his greatest asset—because this zero is about to become a sumo hero.

Go along with Buck as he gets sucked into Japanese culture as a foreigner, peek inside the secret world of sumo wrestling that can be more dangerous than expected, and cheer as he reaches inside himself for the strength he needs to overcome, literally, huge enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather Report, July 31

liquor: young alcoholic drunk man thinking of about alcohol addiction drinking indoors at bar of an irish pub leaning hands on whiskey glass in alcoholism concept

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “MALL FLOWER,” BY TINA BARRY, “ATTENTION PLEASE NOW,” BY MATTHEW PITT AND “AWAY AT WAR,” BY NICK K. ADAMS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR “AUTHORS  PAGE.


Somewhere in my closet hangs a T-shirt that reads: “Be Nice to Me, Or I’ll Put You in My Novel.”

It happens. Although truth may often be stranger than fiction, there are times when it becomes fiction.  The membrane separating the two is thin and porous.

Take, for example, the back story behind Sheldon Lee Compton’s novel “Brown Bottle,” which joins Rodger LeGrand’s “Millions of Ravenous Creatures” as Snowflakes in a Blizzard features this week.

Writes Sheldon: “When I was young, say around six or seven, my step-uncle Pete, the youngest brother of my alcoholic stepfather Doug, more or less stood in as my father for a few years. He played with me, gave me advice about fighting and how to throw a baseball, how to bait a hook, and various other important things. He also gave me and my mom support during the long hours we would sit up waiting for Doug to come home from another wild tear. Most importantly, he somehow made us laugh. He distracted us from the daily darkness in the best of ways.

“One day all those years later, I got to thinking about Pete and about how young he was then (probably still in his teens, to my calculations) and how much he took on by doing all that. I wanted to somehow honor that sacrifice and write him as a hero. But I wanted the character to be a bit more flawed. So naturally I tossed in a few of Doug’s traits for him to overcome and then gave him a messed up kid to look after and I had the framework of my book. I feel pretty good about what I was able to do in that sense.”

So Pete became Wade “Brown Bottle” Taylor, the book’s main character. And once again, truth and fiction have been melded together in a way that incorporates both.

Meanwhile, Rodger LeGrand’s poetry career has blossomed under a rather unusual mentor. He explains:

“I read more than I write, and I prefer it that way. I think that reading poetry is a method for writing better poems. When I’m not reading poetry I’m studying Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu. Grandmaster Moy Yat was a painter and calligrapher. His approach to Kung Fu instruction and study matches how I study poetry. Grandmaster Moy Yat’s teaching style was handed down to his top disciple, my Sifu, Pete Pajil. As a result, I study two arts, poetry and Ving Tsun, that inform each other as I explore the complexities of both.”

This week also includes the monthly “First Tuesday Replay.”

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 1-7.

“BROWN BOTTLE,” BY SHELDON LEE COMPTON.

Wade “Brown Bottle” Taylor is an alcoholic uncle trying to protect his nephew Nick from the hardness of their region, Eastern Kentucky, and the world in general. To end Nick’s involvement with drugs and drug dealers in the area, Brown must first save himself, overcoming a lifetime spent convinced he is unworthy. Brown Bottle’s journey is one of selflessness and love, redemption and sacrifice, if only for a time.

“MILLIONS OF RAVENOUS CREATURES, BY RODGER LeGRAND.

These poems explore loss, longing, and love. They look at the grittiness of daily living—including topics like homelessness, drug abuse, and foster care—illustrating with the rhythms of language how even in the midst of sorrow we can find a way to embrace hope.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

Revisiting Jennifer Griffith’s “Big in Japan,” Tricia Bauer’s “Father Flashes,” Danielle Dahl’s “Sirocco,” Nick K. Adams’ “To My Dear Wife and Children,” Jan Netolicky’s “We Dare Not Whisper” and Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s “Steele Secrets.”

 

 

 

 

Mall Flower

Mall Flower by [Barry, Tina]THIS WEEK’S OTHER TWO FEATURED BOOKS, “ATTENTION PLEASE NOW,” BY MATTHEW PITT AND “AWAY AT WAR,” BY NICK K. ADAMS, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Mall Flower.

PUBLISHED IN: September 2015.

THE AUTHOR: Tina Barry.

THE EDITOR: Robin Stratton.

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing Company outside Boston.

SUMMARY: Mall Flower is a collection of poems, short and flash fiction and hybrids of the two. Some of the themes I explore are alienation, loss of a parent, divorce, sexual awakening and its decline. I tried to provide the reader with a balance of light and dark, often in the same piece. There are playful pieces, such as “Mall Flower,” about a teenager’s sexual awakening while strolling the mall, and darker yet still humorous works, like the flash “Going South,” that focuses on my family’s last trip to Florida before my parents’ divorce.

Tina BarryTHE BACK STORY: I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction since 2001, then switched to flash fiction and poetry around 2010 when I started working on my M.F.A. in creative writing at Long Island University, Brooklyn. After I graduated, I took a look at what I had amassed and realized that I had a loose story arc that I could build a book around. After that, I weeded out a lot of writing that didn’t support the themes.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I grew up in suburban New Jersey, hence the title Mall Flower. I liked the contrast of the awkward, retiring “wallflower,” with a “mall flower,” that suggests a kind of artificial blooming, and in my poem, a teenager who isn’t the least bit shy. Mall Flower, though, is about much more than malls.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  Both male and female readers have told me that they laughed as much—sometimes more—than they cried.

The book appeals to both poets and readers of poetry, as well as people who find poetry too esoteric. The pieces are accessible to everyone.

REVIEW COMMENTS:  With a sort of precision and attention most poets would reserve for the mapping of a butterfly wing, Barry dedicates both her short fictions and poems to something equally perplexing and full of beautiful angles and confusing symbols – she points the magnifying glass so that it reflects the sun against the sheen of plastic, the semi-precious, the hair-sprayed, fast-food fed realities that usher many of us into and out of days, years, and even decades of longing for genuine connections. — Jen Knox, After the Gazebo, The Glass City

Tina Barry’s aptly-titled Mall Flower shimmers with delicate and gritty insights. Barry is a writer of great warmth, intelligence and wit; the poems and stories in her delightful debut collection will move and surprise you. —  Jessica Hagedorn, playwright and author of the novels Toxicology, Dream Jungle, The Gangster of Love and Dogeaters.

Mall Flower by Tina Barry is a collection of minimalist stories and poems about ordinary characters undergoing extraordinarily loss. A child, hungry for attention before her parents’ divorce, rakes the hair on her father’s legs with a doll’s comb; a family in need of saving, prays to a god in a pink negligee; outside a sweetly wallpapered bedroom, a neighbor’s dead deer is trussed to a child’s swing set. Brassy, unbeautiful, but very cool characters. No matter how hard they try, they falter with their “crowns tilted at unflattering angles.” They are us. And how fortunate we are to have Barry’s amusing voice bringing us these beautiful quirky stories. — Barbara Henning, A Day Like Today, A Swift Passage, My Animal Eyeball, and Cities and Memory.

Tina Barry is a master of the image that packs it all in: social commentary, pathos, humor, you name it. In her stunning debut, she revels in the glorious absurdity of growing up and getting old. No matter how outrageous Barry’s poems are, no one would ever doubt their truth. There’s an exactness to her images and a candor to her voice that–even as it’s whispering–screams authenticity. You should enjoy reading Mall Flower everywhere poetry is allowed: the public pool, the bedroom, even the food court. — Joanna Fuhrman, author of six books including The Year of Yellow Butterflies, The Emotive Function and Pageant.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I lived in Brooklyn for three decades before moving to a small village in upstate New York in 2015. I thought my husband and I would be exotic, but it seems like so many of the people we meet are just like us— “cityits,” city idiots—negotiating this new, and mostly wonderful life.

My poems and short fiction appear in numerous journals and anthologies, such as The Best Small Fictions 2016, The American Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, and the forthcoming Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, Lost Horse Press. I’m a writing tutor at a local college and a teaching artist at the wonderful The Poetry Barn. My writing has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and several times for the Best of the Net award.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: When I wrote Mall Flower, I hoped that its stories would resonate with anyone, regardless of their gender or backgrounds. I’ve been told they do.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Mall Flower

I’ve blown out my shag haircut

and it’s big.

BIG-big. Cool

With the mirrored halter-top

and jeans chopped into shorts.

SHORT-shorts.

I’m psyched for the mall

And its food court, where I strut

the aisles on swizzle

stick legs

past Jahn’s green whipped cream,

past Beefsteak Charlies,

past the crepes at Magic Pan,

past the Nut Shoppe’s chocolate turtles

To buy cigarettes at Mr. Pipe

where Scott wears an afro

and a Star of David,

ties a red bandana

to the loop of white overalls,

and asks me to meet him

behind Cinnabon

where I wait, back pressed

against cinderblocks,

face tilted to the sun,

knowing, as I suck

the smoke in deep,

that I’m a fox.

A total fucking fox.

Going South

We left suburban New Jersey

Our last trip to Miami before Dad switched families. My younger sister and I filled in every Mad Libs blank with “tits” and “ass” so Mom would yell and make noise in the car.

At a lunch counter in Pennsylvania, the waitress asked a man with a Popeye tattoo if he wanted a plate of spinach. It was the only time Dad laughed.

At a motel in Delaware

My sister held my head underwater in the swimming pool. I heard shadowy sounds, then the glug of a motor working unnoticed.

At night we peeled back the synthetic quilts on our beds. From my parents’ bed: Mom’s restless feet. I watched my sister not sleep.

The woman in the motel’s office read palms. Mom had a short love line.

In Georgia

A giant peach teetered like a swooning moon atop a water tower. We bought gifts in a roadside shop: A bikini patterned with peaches. Straws filled with peach-flavored sugar. We sprinkled the coral grains over our stuffed animals’ fur. They looked glamorous twinkling in the moonlight.

Dad slowed down to watch cotton pickers bowed in the heat. They stared back.

Beside the pool

At the pool in the hotel in Miami, we sipped Shirley Temples, took turns curled beside Dad on a blue-striped chaise lounge. I smacked my sister’s face. She had taken too long raking the hair on Dad’s legs with a doll’s comb.

Dad wouldn’t take us to Sea World, so Mom bought dolphin-shaped pool floats and took pictures.

Returning to Jersey

My sister threw a deck of cards out the car window. We watched them spiral tightly together down the highway, then blink out like dead stars as the wind drew them apart.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Mall-Flower-Tina-Barry/dp/0996540512/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498587779&sr=8-1&keywords=mall+flower), Big Table Publishing Company and me. Please don’t purchase it from halfcom, or any other site where the book is being sold illegally. Neither I nor my publisher makes a penny on those sales. PRICE: $14

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Tbarrywrites@gmail.com, TinaBarryWriter.com, @tbarry188, https://www.facebook.com/tina.barry.5, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6432565.Tina_Barry

Attention Please Now

Attention Please Now: Stories by [Pitt, Matthew]

Matthew PittTHE BOOK: Attention Please Now

PUBLISHED IN: 2010

THE AUTHOR:  Matthew Pitt

THE EDITOR: Sharon Dilworth was my editor, and also selected the manuscript for the Autumn House Fiction Prize (for which I’m forever indebted to her).

THE PUBLISHER
: Autumn House Press. Based out of Pittsburgh, the press publishes poetry and creative nonfiction in addition to fiction works. Some authors on their list include Ada Limón, Steven Schwartz, Sarah Gekensmeyer, Samuel Ligon, Martha Rhodes, and Chelsea Rathburn.

SUMMARY: The characters in this story collection strive to blend into the background only to wind up emerging from or being prodded past the scrims of convention. Some do it bravely; others with reckless abandon. In “The Mean,” a cancer-stricken, high school math teacher’s plan to live out his days in quiet moderation shatters, after he befriends a gang of stoner dropouts. In “Au Lieu des Fleurs,” Parisian prankster-anarchist Mouna Aguigui visits a grieving office worker in his bowl of soup, nudging him and others to commit madcap acts of agitation. In “Kokomo,” a young boy living in a rural Indiana community becomes attuned to a piercing hum a noise that may presage apocalyptic events. And in the title story, a public-address announcer entertains crowds by airing the local baseball team’s dirty laundry for the entire stadium to hear. Throughout the people inside these eleven stories are jolted awake, alert, and alive by patchwork alliances, bracing humor, and episodes of surreal grace. Matthew Pitt is a writer who understands and explores the strange balance between the serious and the comic, the quirky and the familiar. Irresistibly complex, always imaginative, these stories showcase an immensely talented writer grappling with the ironies and difficulties of life in the new century.

THE BACK STORY: Why did you decide to write it? How did you research it? How long did it take to write? Whatever you think might be of interest.

WHY THIS TITLE?: In a literal sense, the title invokes baseball games at Busch Stadium during my childhood, where the St. Louis Cardinals public-address announcer, John Ulett, would announce new hitters with the phrase: “Your attention please, now batting for…” (etc.). But what really drew me to the phrase is the blend of urgency and politeness/propriety, which I think of as a mirror for many of the main characters in these stories.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? One thing I endeavor for in my fiction is to quiver and blur the hard edges of realism, and I would be delighted if a reader, after putting down the book, noted and enjoyed that element of quirky play.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The central characters of these remarkable stories are oddly ordinary and inordinately odd: that is to say, they are each uniquely qualified to speak for life outside of fiction. Pitt allows them to build the worlds they inhabit from their very particular understandings of what life is, thus endowing their narratives with unpredictable outcomes, and startlingly unexpected revelations along the way. Attention Please Now is a collection possessed of a genuine fictional beauty.” — Chuck Wachtel.

“For sheer intelligence and range the stories in Attention Please Now cause us to sit up and take notice. Matthew Pitt is a writer who deserves our attention, gaining it through the power of style and imagination, keeping it through strength of mind and heart.” —Janet Peery.

A remarkable debut by a brilliant young writer.” –Brian Morton.

“The world in these taut, finely wrought stories is and is not the world we know. Pitt pushes his characters to the edge of the possible with a fabulist’s eye for the strange, potent detail and the realist’s sure grasp of human emotion. A piquant, funny, original debut.” — Rachel Pastan.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I started writing stories in the second grade—my first effort, a mix of swashbuckling sci-fi, featuring heroic, talking snacks, entitled “Tales of the Pretzel Force” (still, amazingly, unpublished).

I grew up in the great Gateway to the West, St. Louis. After college in Massachusetts, I bounced around the country Los Angeles, Austin, Washington D.C., New York, and Mississippi, getting to know the inside of U-Haul vans very well. For nearly five years I’ve been rooted in Fort Worth, where I teach creative writing to some deeply devoted students at TCU.

My stories have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including The Southern Review, Oxford American, Epoch, Conjunctions, Cincinnati Review, Southern Humanities Review, Colorado Review, and Best New American Voices.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: An Excerpt of “Golden Retrievers,” from Attention Please Now:
Golden Retrievers

“Even before August, summer was smothering the dogs of L.A. June’s heat wave shocked Orange County. The forecasters laughed it off. It’ll peter out, they predicted; but it didn’t. A tractor-trailer filled with Pacific fish jackknifed in July, leaving Hollywood and Vine smelling of mackerel and eel and smelt roe, a foggy, murderous scent the street cleaners couldn’t erase. A scent the dogs could neither locate nor escape from. They ran down Gower beside their owners, actors trying to shed water weight in the heat. They ran across bridges which rose above rivers; when the dogs saw the barren riverbeds they howled. Their tongues swelled as they begged licks of Evian from their masters’ palms.

Then came August 5th—and the meltdown of Susie Light’s Hollywood career. On the evening of the 4th, Susie shut out the lights at Peticular Bliss, her kennel for the dogs of stars. She’d just finished preparing sixty meals: fifteen low-cal, eleven no-fat, nine vegetarian, and twenty-five more assorted rations, all done up with capers, coated with twists of lemon, and spooned into colorful, Fiesta-style ceramic bowls. The next morning Susie knew something was wrong by the smell outside the bedding area. Food. Food? But the dogs always ate what was given them. She unlocked the door. A pulse of heat lurched at her. Her hair fizzed, her lungs felt thin: The air inside was grim and splintered with stillness.

Susie walked the aisles, pawing fur, checking for heartbeats, holding her breath in hope of hearing theirs. A minute later, a recorded, eerily perky, female voice filled the otherwise silent room. It came from Ab’s suite. Ab Doberman, a Pinscher belonging to an aerobics instructor who taped two shows for ESPN2: Lose the Fat! and Living With Fat. The instructor insisted that Ab wake up in the morning to her programs. Susie approached Ab: His rangy body lay stiff on the carpet and his face was a queer void, though his nose was still slightly moist, like a stick of butter left out to soften. She bent down and petted his fur. You liked Desert Palm Bottled Water mixed with a protein supplement that made it look like split pea soup, and you liked to hear your owner feeling the burn. Could you be dead too, baby?”

LOCAL OUTLETS:
Indiebound
Autumn House
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
PRICE: $17.95CONTACT THE AUTHOR: at his website, www.matthew-pitt.com

Matthew Pitt — Author of Attention Please Now