What Are the Chances?

This week’s other featured books, “Putting Out,” by Samantha Mann and “Free Fire Zone,” by Dennis Maulsby, 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: What Are the Chances?

PUBLISHED IN: 2020

THE AUTHOR: Robert Scotellaro

THE EDITOR: Kevin Morgan Watson and Claire Foxx

THE PUBLISHER: Press 53

SUMMARY: What Are the Chances? is a collection of flash and micro fiction that shines a slanted light on the high wire act of human existence. These 68 tiny tales, as in life, combine those malleable moments annealed into an absorbing mix, both humorous and unsettling.

THE BACK STORY: I’m a writer of flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words) and this is my fifth book working in that very short evocative genre. Much of my focus, with humor and pathos, explores the varied, and often elaborate, “adjustments” and “creative repairs” people make under the weight of daily living. A scramble for the exits is one strategy, acceptance, another. But more often in abundance is that tricky territory between.

Robert Scotellaro: Writing Flash Fiction That's Short But Not Slight -  Writer's Digest

WHY THIS TITLE: With this collection I was intrigued with the notion of how mercurial life can be: good luck/bad luck—timing—as depicted in the title story, What Are the Chances?

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I hope they see that flash fiction can be short yet not slight. And, how small telling details, what is said, and not said (that dwell between the lines) can be vital in very short form fiction. How detail and allusion can form a compact between writer and reader, expanding the breath of a

piece exponentially to a deeper understanding of what is at stake. The borders of flash fiction can be flexible way beyond a small word count, and immensely resonant and satisfying.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Dip into What Are the Chances? for lightning-quick glimpses into the human soul: an eldercare worker with an uncanny ability to finish sentences, an alluring woman in a squid mask, a couple who make love in front of funhouse mirrors, skateboarders in an empty swimming pool, a mockingbird making a fuss with a throat full of stolen music, a hit man in retirement. Here are promises, anticipations, titillations, regrets. ” — Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture, The Literary Hub

“In What Are the Chances? Robert Scotellaro offers us spelunkers and pot-smoking nuns and birthday party clowns–and much, much more. In a heartbeat, we spiral into lives both ordinary yet on the edge of change and danger, and over the course of just a few pages, he lays bare damaged hearts and offers connections as tenuous as they are tender. His characters are flawed, yes, but they keep trying, reaching out for reconciliation and understanding, winning us over as they stumble toward a kind of imperfect grace. These stories might be small, but they pack a heavyweight’s punch. Scotellaro is truly a master of the flash fiction form.” — Curtis Smith, author of The Magpie’s Return

“Robert Scotellaro has given us a gift with this collection of taut, stunning prose. Each piece is a marvel. The characters, and the situations they find themselves in, are thrilling, unique and immensely entertaining. In seconds he can get your pulse throbbing, or put your anxiety at ease. Scotellaro displays a mastery of the short form.” — Len Kuntz, author of I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither Are You.

“Each time I have the pleasure of reading a collection by Robert Scotellaro, I marvel at his ability to create so many unique and diverse miniature worlds. In What Are the Chances? he holds up multiple fun house mirrors, which continually reflect the sometimes distorted but very real lives of his characters as they navigate small, charged spaces. Scotellaro artfully magnifies detailed moments, assigning them huge import, and does so in his own miraculous way.” — Tara Lynn Masih, Founding Series Editor of The Best Small Fictions and author of My Real Name Is Hanna

“In What are the Chances? Robert Scotellaro once again secures his place as a solid master of micro-fiction. Each story an adventure with the likes of rogue Uber drivers, breakdancing butchers, and skydiving grandmas. Each story told with the ever-present undertone of Scotellaro wisdom and charm. Each story perfectly complete while bursting out of its container to lock imaginations with the reader. And each story one you are not likely to forget any time soon.” –Francine Witte, author of The Way of the Wind and Dressed All Wrong for This.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Robert Scotellaro’s work has been included in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Gargoyle, Matter Press, New World Writing, Best Small Fictions 2016, 2017, 2021, Best Microfiction 2020, and elsewhere. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks, several books for children, and five flash and micro story collections. He was the winner of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award in Poetry and the Blue Light Book Award for his fiction. His most recent book, What Are the Chances? (Press 53) was a finalist for the Big Other Book Award for fiction. He has, along with James Thomas, co-edited New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, published by W.W. Norton & Co. Robert is one of the founding donors to The Ransom Flash Fiction Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. He lives with his wife in San Francisco. Visit him at http://www.robertscotellaro.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I am dedicated to exploring the multivarious possibilities of the very short form story, showing how expansive telling details can be. How implication and those suggestive blank spaces can be so impactful, can be expansive beyond any word count borders. How resonant a well-crafted flash piece can be for a reader, like the last note of a cello that lingers long after it is bowed.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://robertscotellaro.com/stories/

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-are-the-chances-robert-scotellaro/1137246887 https://www.amazon.com/What-Are-Chances-Robert-Scotellaro/dp/1950413268/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=what+are+the+Chances%3F&qid=1627962378&s=books&sr=1-2

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.press53.com/robert-scotellaro

PRICE: $14.95 CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Contact me through my website: http://www.robertscotellaro.com, or message me on FB.

Putting Out

Samantha Mann (Author of Putting Out)

THE BOOK: Putting Out: Essays on Otherness 

PUBLISHED IN
: 2019.

THE AUTHOR:  Samantha Mann

THE EDITOR
: Samantha Atzeni 

THE PUBLISHER
: Read Furiously Publishing (New Jersey).

SUMMARYPutting Out: Essays on Otherness is a debut collection of essays that showcase, in eloquent prose, the ebb and flow of discovering yourself. Samantha Mann moves deftly between the roles of participant and observer as she illustrates the difficulty of finding love with others and with herself. The essays in Putting Out are a culmination of this journey as readers are welcomed into its stories of adventurous musings and awkward missteps. Mann explores the stigma that accompanies mental health and the struggle of seeking therapy. She examines the changing landscape of friendships and the need to be creative. However, the thread that holds them together is the biggest story Mann needs to tell.

Putting Out’s honest portrayal is both humorous and heartbreaking as Samantha Mann grows from thoughtful teenager to an expressive, creative adult. These stories are the product of recognizing one’s trauma and being cognizant and grateful for the person we become. As an entire collection, Putting Out: Essays on Otherness contributes to the important conversation on the power of female sexuality and owning one’s true identity. Samantha Mann has proven that we can appreciate who we once were in order to celebrate the happy ending of who we are now.


THE BACK STORY
: These are a collection of essays written between the ages of 19-26. Many of these essays originated without any idea that they would ever be published. 

WHY THIS TITLE?: In this collection Samantha felt she was literally putting it all out there. The theme of otherness is prominent throughout and a lifelong feeling of the writer. At earlier times in Samantha’s life, the feeling of otherness was associated with isolation and loneliness. Over time, she has found strength and community in otherness. 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Though this book is written from a female and queer POV, this book will resonate with anyone who has felt the sense of being an outsider. 

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

Caitlin MacCrate: 5.0 out of 5 stars. “Read it in one day. Every essay weaves delicately to the next and the next and the next until you are unable to close the book until you read the last sentence. These essays touch upon many topics that many of us have dealt with; from coming of age, understanding our sexuality, trauma and experiences. The wittiness of the author will make you laugh and yet reflect upon your own life. It was wonderful to find.”

Al Ko, 5.0 out of 5 stars. ” It was excellent! A hilarious, vulnerable, honest, beautifully written piece of work from the author’s personal experiences. Her writing style is easy to get sucked into. I read the book in one sitting, and am very happy I did.

Nicole V.5.0 out of 5 stars.  “his book is fantastic! The author is smart, witty, insightful, and always highly entertaining. Her style is so relatable and funny. Highly recommend, I bought a few as gifts and everyone loves it. Five stars!”

Caitlin Cohen, 5.0 out of 5 stars. “INCREDIBLE collection of essays. Such an honest, thoughtful and brave collection of essays. Really let’s you in on the author’s experience as a young women dealing with her sexuality and personal struggles while learning about herself and how to be a functional adult. I really really loved it!”

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: Samantha writes primarily nonfiction essays exploring queer life, mental health, parenthood, and pop culture. She has published essays in Elle, Bustle, Romper, and Emry’s Journal. Her essay, Seriously, I’m Kidding, was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize in nonfiction. https://www.0samanthamann.com/

SAMPLEhttps://www.amazon.com/Putting-Out-Otherness-Samantha-Mann/dp/0996522786

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, Wallmart

PRICE: 14.99

CONTACT THE AUTHORsdmann0502@gmail.com, @samantha.mann05 (instagram), @sdmann0502 (twitter)

Free Fire Zone

Free Fire Zone by [Dennis Maulsby]

THE BOOK: Free Fire Zone

PUBLISHED IN: 2016

THE AUTHOR: Dennis Maulsby

THE EDITOR: Glenn Lyvers

THE PUBLISHER: Prolific Press

Dennis Maulsby

SUMMARY: Welcome to the Free Fire Zone. In Vietnam, it was enemy territory. Anyone found there could be killed on sight, no questions asked. Each of the seventeen stories in this book originate from this zone, any subject, any genre fair game.

Follow American soldier Rod Teigler in stories of war, romance, horror, the old West, crime, and other genres. His war experiences, helped along by government experimentation, leave him with a severe personality disorder. Fear or anger brings forth an alternative “perfect warrior” personality direct from the medulla, the ancient reptilian portion of the brain. Whatever acts the situation requires to survive, the creature will do more than a man could stomach.

THE BACK STORY: I originally wrote these multi-genre linked stories as exercises to help me understand the different ways stories can be written. On a whim, I sent the manuscript to a publisher and was pleased to have it purchased.

The creative act also allowed me the therapy needed to wrestle my war-derived demons to earth. Struggling against the memories of war is the fate of all soldiers returning from killing places. For those who have never made this journey, this book will take you there and return you in safety.

WHY THIS TITLE: Stories in the book come from many genres. A poem also introduces them to get you in the mood for that particular tale.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Read unabashed descriptions of war and its consequences. The protagonist links the stories; readers follow him beginning in his early twenties in Vietnam and proceeding through the chapters of his life to the final story in his seventies.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Review: “Sometimes we are compelled to fight evil. To do so, we must become evil at times. This novel is about the risk of becoming that which you confront.”

“Free Fire Zone by Dennis Maulsby is a complex novel. It is a combination of thriller, literary fiction, and science fiction. The book speaks to the pain of war, the horror observed therein, and the inner battle the warrior fights to resist becoming what he has to be on the battlefield. Maulsby addresses the demons created by PTSD, but he brings his demon to life, imbuing it with personality and power beyond any description I’ve read before. One does what one must in war to survive and support his warrior brothers. There is heart-rending, heart-changing danger in doing that. Maulsby tackles the topic head-on, breathes life into it, even if it makes a reader uncomfortable.” — Mike Mullins, MWSA Reviewer.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Dennis Maulsby’s poems and short stories have appeared in The North American Review, Mainstreet Rag, The Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Briarcliff Review (Pushcart nomination), and on National Public Radio’s Themes & Variations. His Vietnam War poetry book, Remembering Willie, won silver medal book awards from two national veterans’ organizations. His books, Near Death/Near Life and Free Fire Zone, published by Prolific Press, received gold medal and silver medal awards, respectively, from The Military Writers Society of America. A book of short stories, Winterset (Eric Hoffer Award winner and Global Ebook gold medal winner), and a novel, House de Gracie (Reader Views Silver Medal Winner), were released by NeoLeaf Press in 2019 and 2020. Maulsby is an associate member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and past president (2012 – 2014) of the Iowa Poetry Association. For more information, go to http://www.dennismaulsby.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “In his ecstasy of power, he is mad for battle… Pure frenzy fills him” — Achilles in the Illiad.

Homer tells the earliest mention of the berserker in combat. Down through the ages, more stories of the phenomena emerge. In Vietnam, we called it “Riding the Dragon.” The berserker is a dangerous beast liable to attack friends as well as the enemy. With every emergence, the reptilian persona becomes stronger. At some point, it wants to dominate. Can the two personalities exist in harmony?

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0843S5X5C/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1?asin=B0843S5X5C&revisionId=e07a7539&format=1&depth=1

LOCAL OUTLETS: (Iowa locations) Beaverdale Books, Ames public library, Des Moines Public Library, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Burlington Public Library.

Note; The book is listed in the usual catalogs, and local book stores may order copies (ISBN: 978-1-63275-082-2).

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://prolificpress.com/bookstore/ https://www.amazon.com/Dennis-Maulsby/e/B07QLN57WK?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4&qid=1628189309&sr=8-4 http://www.dennismaulsby.com/books-poems/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/dennis%20maulsby For a signed book, request copies directly at rmaulsby@mchsi.com.

PRICE: Ebook $2.99, Print book $15.99 + handling and postage (used books available at Amazon at lower prices).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: rmaulsby@mchsi.com.

Weather Report, August 16

Lightnings during summer storm Thunder, lightnings and rain during summer storm. lightning bolt stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

(Photo from iStock).

Our currently featured books, “Blood Memory,” by Gail Newman, “She Never Told Me About the Ocean,” by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta, “I Mean You No Harm,” by Beth Castrodale and “You’re Pretty Gay,” by Drew Pisarra, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page. 

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This week, how about a little break from novels and poetry?

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 17-23.

“WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?” BY ROBERT SCOTELLARO.

What Are the Chances? is a collection of flash and micro fiction that shines a slanted light on the high wire act of human existence. These 68 tiny tales, as in life, combine those malleable moments annealed into an absorbing mix, both humorous and unsettling.

Writes Robert: “I’m a writer of flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words) and this is my fifth book working in that very short evocative genre. Much of my focus, with humor and pathos, explores the varied, and often elaborate, ‘adjustments’ and ‘creative repairs’ people make under the weight of daily living. A scramble for the exits is one strategy, acceptance, another. But more often in abundance is that tricky territory between.

With this collection I was intrigued with the notion of how mercurial life can be: good luck/bad luck—timing—as depicted in the title story, What Are the Chances?”

“PUTTING OUT,” BY SHANNON MANN.

Putting Out: Essays on Otherness is a debut collection of essays that showcase, in eloquent prose, the ebb and flow of discovering yourself. Samantha Mann moves deftly between the roles of participant and observer as she illustrates the difficulty of finding love with others and with herself. The essays in Putting Out are a culmination of this journey as readers are welcomed into its stories of adventurous musings and awkward missteps. Mann explores the stigma that accompanies mental health and the struggle of seeking therapy. She examines the changing landscape of friendships and the need to be creative. However, the thread that holds them together is the biggest story Mann needs to tell.

“FREE FIRE ZONE,” BY DENNIS MAULSBY.

Welcome to the Free Fire Zone. In Vietnam, it was enemy territory. Anyone found there could be killed on sight, no questions asked. Each of the seventeen stories in this book originate from this zone, any subject, any genre fair game.

Follow American soldier Rod Teigler in stories of war, romance, horror, the old West, crime, and other genres. His war experiences, helped along by government experimentation, leave him with a severe personality disorder. Fear or anger brings forth an alternative “perfect warrior” personality direct from the medulla, the ancient reptilian portion of the brain. Whatever acts the situation requires to survive, the creature will do more than a man could stomach.

Blood Memory

This week’s other featured books, “She Never Told Me About the Ocean,” by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta, “I Mean You No Harm,” by Beth Castrodale and “You’re Pretty Gay,” by Drew Pisarra, 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: Blood Memory.

PUBLISHED IN: 2020

THE AUTHOR: Gail Newman.

THE EDITOR: Eileen Tabios.

THE PUBLISHER: Marsh Hawk Press.

SUMMARY: Blood Memory is about my family and parents, Polish Holocaust survivors. The poems are in three sections. The first takes place in Poland during WW II. The second part tells the story of their marriage and life in the U.S. The final section is a series of elegies The themes of the poems encompass memory, immigration, assimilation, and the legacy and impact of genocide on the second generation. Blood Memory is a eulogy to the dead and a tribute to the survivors, a story of courage and hope.

THE BACK STORY: These poems, in bits and pieces of memory, have been in me all of my life, but I didn’t start writing them until sometime after my father passed away, when I started writing about him. I worked on poems during the span of 4 years, during which time I also went to Poland to research my family and see for myself the places they spoke about.

Gail Newman

When I completed the manuscript, I entered a number of contests sponsored by small press poetry book publishers. Then I began to wait. I expected to wait a long time. I thought I would continue to submit the following year. One morning I received an email from Marsh Hawk Press asking for a hard copy of my manuscript. Because I was among the finalists, my book would be read by the judge, Marge Piercy. This alone was an honor. I was surprised and thrilled to receive an email a few weeks later saying that I was the winner and that Marge Piercy had chosen my book.

And it is a coincidence, not only that the book was published during the 75th anniversary year of the end of WW II, but also that this is a time in history when antisemitism and racial hatred are on the rise.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Blood Memory refers to the memories that are carried from one generation to another, in the body, the mind, and the heart. Blood refers to the war that my parents survived as well as what is passed on from one generation to the next— ancestry, cultural heritage, memory. So much of what we remember may be hazy, unclear. What really happened? What is altered by time? Sometimes I’m not sure if what I remember is true or something told to me. So much is forgotten. Everyone has a story, and each story is important.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This is a family story, of hardship and love. It is ultimately a story of hope and resilience. During hard times, I remember my parents and what they endured. The past tells us who we are and gives us strength.

Marge Piercy wrote of Blood Memory, “Those who deny what happened multiply. To make fresh powerful poems rooted in Shoah is amazing. She does it by specifics. There are no faceless men in dirty ragged striped uniforms. The people are individualized.”

People can withstand the most horrific experiences and build meaningful and even joyful lives. We remember the Holocaust to honor the living and the dead. And we remember so that we will be vigilant and compassionate, so that we don’t stand idle when others, of any religion, culture or race, experience bigotry, hatred, or genocide.

We remember the Holocaust in the hope that it will never happen again in any nation, to any people. We want to remember the past, those who died, our heritage and our people. We want to remember so we can live with compassion. We remember so we will not stand as silent witness to others’ suffering.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Writing about the Holocaust can be difficult now, not that it was ever easy. It has become myth or something people use as a metaphor for something they object to: those who know, who went through it, are dying off. Those who deny what happened multiply. To make fresh powerful poems rooted in Shoah is amazing. She does it by specifics. There are no faceless men in dirty ragged striped uniforms. The people are individualized.” — Marge Piercy

“This is a book about collective memory, about the importance of story. …Newman…doesn’t flinch from brutality, yet she has achieved something extraordinary. Blood Memory is a testament to humanity. Despite the darkness, the light of the living shines through.” — Ellen Bass, Poet and Chancellor of Academy of American Poets.

“These poems salute high-risk comradery, war production sabotage, and extraordinary life-saving resilience in ghettos, camps, and post-liberation years… All of us—Jewish and Gentile alike—are in the poets’ debt as her art propels us forward. Would that our future never again gives cause for such a moving and unforgettable commemoration.” — Arthur. B. Shostak, Author of Stealth Altruism, Forbidden Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust

“(Newman) reminds the reader that history is bound to the present just as the present is bound to the future…Newman phenomenally grounds her emotions in a way that connects both to those she’s writing for, and those who she isn’t. We all know pain and trauma, but she forces us to think of it in a way that is outside of ourselves… A mesmerizing read, you won’t want to put this book of poetry down, finding yourself immersed in it and finishing it as quickly as you picked it up. — Amrit Abbasi, The Bellingham Review,

AUTHOR PROFILE: I was born after WW II in a displaced person’s camp in Lansberg, Germany. My parents are Polish Holocaust survivors, and I was raised in a community of Jewish immigrants in Los Angeles where my mother, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, still lives.

I’ve worked as an educator at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum, and as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools.

I co-founded and editor of Room, a Women’s Literary Journal, and edited Inside Out, a book of poetry lessons for teachers and two collections of children’s poems, C is for California and Dear Earth.

I divide my time between and Sebastopol, where I’m currently enjoying my garden of hollyhocks, Queen Anne’s lace, Shasta daisies and the gorgeous animals — fox, snakes, deer, and red-tailed hawks-that come to visit.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: People can withstand the most horrific experiences and build meaningful and even joyful lives. We remember the Holocaust to honor the living and the dead. And we remember so that we will be vigilant and compassionate, so that we don’t stand idle when others, of any religion, culture or race, experience bigotry, hatred, or genocide.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Blood Memory: Newman, Gail: 9780996991193: Amazon.com: Books

Blood Memory – Gail Newman : Small Press Distribution.

PRICE: $15.00.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Blood Memory: Newman, Gail: 9780996991193: Amazon.com: books.

Blood Memory – Gail Newman : Small Press Distribution.

PRICE: $15.00.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR for signed copies: http://www.gailnewmanpoet.com

I Mean You No Harm

I Mean You No Harm: A Novel by [Beth Castrodale]

THE BOOK: I Mean You No Harm.

PUBLISHED IN: 2021.

THE EDITOR: Megan Edwards of Imbrifex Books (my publisher). She is a great editor: so perceptive and insightful.

THE PUBLISHER: Imbrifex Books

Beth Castrodale

SUMMARY: I Mean You No Harm tells the story of Layla Shawn, who has spent most of her thirty-two years estranged from her career-criminal father, Vic Doloro, and haunted by the mysterious death of her mother, years before.

Then Vic dies, leaving Layla — an unemployed artist — a tempting inheritance of ill-gotten money. Urging her to take the money is Vic’s other daughter, Bette, with whom Layla shares a troubled past. On a cross-country road trip, the two women mend fences, but Layla finds herself caught in the middle of an unsettled and lethal score between her father and a man who knows more than he should about her mother’s death. As Layla zeroes in on the truth and wrestles with her own demons, she finds herself face to face with a killer.

For Layla, the road trip is not just a physical journey but also an interior one: a journey of self-discovery. For one thing, she discovers new family bonds as she grows closer to Bette and Bette’s son. Layla also discovers new strengths and a new sense of purpose as she follows new leads about who might be responsible for her mother’s death.  

THE BACK STORY: Several years ago, I read an essay in the Guardian by a woman who discovered, as a child, that her father was a member of the mob. It turned her world upside down, and she had to reconcile his roles as a criminal and a parent. I decided to write from the point of view of just such a daughter: the main character of my novel, Layla. Layla is troubled by her father’s history, even though she wasn’t raised by him, unlike her half-sister, Bette.

The novel took about two years to write, and the revision process took another year.

WHY THIS TITLE?: If someone were to say to you, “I mean you no harm,” you’d probably think quite the opposite: A threat seems to underlie these ostensibly reassuring words. Along these lines, a significant danger that Layla faces comes from a seemingly well-meaning source. I like the way the title suggests this kind of threat.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I’m hoping that the novel will appeal both to fans of suspense novels and to those who would be interested in Layla’s interior journey: how she discovers new strengths over the course of the novel and builds a new family in the wake of a lot of difficulty and loss.

REVIEW COMMENTS:I Mean You No Harm is many things: murder mystery, adventure tale, page-turning thriller. But at its heart, the story is a tender exploration of family, betrayal, and self-discovery. Ms. Castrodale seamlessly unites all these elements for a fast-paced, unforgettable read.”–Amanda Skenandore, author of The Undertaker’s Assistant and Between Earth and Sky

“Beth Castrodale slowly builds suspense while drawing compelling characters in I Mean You No Harm. The mystery at the novel’s center is intriguing, but what keeps you reading is compassion for the main character and her tragic, intricate past. This exploration of family and murder delves deeply into the very heart of loss.”
–Heather Skyler, author of Vegas Girls and The Perfect Age

“A gripping, heartfelt thriller about identity, family ties, and a legacy of crime. Thought-provoking and propulsive, with a set of complex, intriguing characters, I Mean You No Harm kept me reading long past my bedtime.”
–Daniela Petrova, author of Her Daughter’s Mother

AUTHOR PROFILE: Back when I was a kid, I started making up stories to entertain myself. And I just kept going—with some significant interruptions when I was trying to advance myself professionally, save some money, and pay the bills. These days, I’m fortunate to be able to devote a good share of my time to fiction writing, and as I draft or revise my work, the vintage Underwood typewriter where I wrote some of my earliest stories keeps me company; it’s just to the right of my computer.

Whether I’m writing from the perspective of a scandal-fleeing corset maker (as in my novel Marion Hatley), a rocker-turned-gravedigger who’s haunted by a former bandmate’s death (as in my novel In This Ground), or an artist who embarks on a dangerous and truth-revealing road trip (as in I Mean You No Harm), I hope to bring readers on compelling journeys, both in terms of the plots of my books and the characters’ interior lives. 

For more biographical details, see the bio on my website.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: If there’s one insight I’d like readers to take away from I Mean You No Harm, it’s that you never know what you’ll discover about yourself when you’re pushed to your limits. Toward the end of the novel, Layla is pushed into a life-or-death situation that forces her to make some decisions that would have surprised, and perhaps repulsed, her previous self. And she’s left with having to come to terms with this new understanding of herself, and what she’s capable of doing.

SAMPLE: The first chapter appears on the publisher’s website at this location.

LOCAL OUTLETS: In the Boston area (my home), the book will be in stock at Belmont Books, Brookline Booksmith, and the Harvard Bookstore. If customers find that the book isn’t available at their local bookstore, they can request it.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, Google Play (the audiobook), and Libro.fm (the audiobook).

PRICE: The book is currently available in hardcover for $24, as an ebook for $9.99, and as an audiobook for $26. A paperback version will be available at a later date.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: The best way to reach me is by email: bcastrodale@gmail.com.

She Never Told Me About the Ocean

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

THE BOOK: She Never Told Me About the Ocean

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

THE EDITOR: Julia Sippel

THE PUBLISHER: Paul Dry Books

SUMMARY:  Told by four women whose stories nest together, She Never Told Me about the Ocean is an epic about a rite of passage that all humans undergo and none remember: birth. Eighteen-year-old Sage has been mothering her mother for as long as she can remember, and as she arrives on the shores of adulthood, she learns a secret: before she was born, she had an older brother who drowned. In her search to discover who he was and why nobody told her, Sage moves to tiny Dragon Island where her mother grew up. There, she embarks on a quest to learn the superstitions of the island, especially its myths involving her mother. Gathering stories from Ilya, a legendary midwife who hires Sage as her apprentice; Marella, Sage’s grieving mother who was named for the ocean yet has always been afraid of it; and Charon, the Underworld ferrywoman who delivers souls to the land of the dead, Sage learns to stop rescuing her mother and simply let go. But when her skill as Ilya’s apprentice enables her to rescue her mother one final time, in a way that means life or death, Sage must shed her inherited fears and become her own woman.

She Never Told Me About the Ocean by [Elisabeth Sharp McKetta]

THE BACK STORY: When I was eight and a half months pregnant with my first-born daughter, I asked my midwife what happened if the umbilical sac did not break. Then the baby would be in the caul, she said. The she told me an old myth about how sailors used to believe that a baby born in the caul would be good luck in water and safe from drowning.  This thrilled me—both as someone who loves a good myth, and also because all my life I have heard a story about how my mother’s youngest brother drowned on her watch when she was 12 — then was brought back to life by their doctor-father. My mother (not at all like Marella except for this shared experience!) carried this terror to her own four children: the only real rule at my house was that we could not swim alone. We were forbidden to drown.  This story and its resonance with my life set my imagination reeling – so in the weeks before my daughter was born, I began writing fragments of a story about a girl who was born in the caul – good luck in water – to a mother whose son had just walked into the ocean and drowned. The idea obsessed and petrified me. What happens if good luck in water comes too late? This book and this world became She Never Told Me About the Ocean.

WHY THIS TITLE: I went through so many titles! Fear of the Deep, Ferrywomen, and more. But I loved this one most because the core of this story is a mother-daughter relationship, fraught with secrets involving the ocean. 

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s a mythology of mothers and daughters – like any myth, I wrote it hoping that it would reflect back something true for anyone who has ever been either.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“I’ve always admired the writing of Elisabeth Sharp McKetta, and her beautiful, ambitious first novel demonstrates why. She Never Told Me about the Ocean is a heroine’s journey through forgiveness, birth and rebirth, all the while treading the line between honoring the dead and feeling paralyzed by them. She has offered us a complicated portrait of mothers and daughters, cupped inside one another like nesting dolls.”―Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

She Never Told Me About the Ocean is a tidal and intimate book, brimming over with wonders and terrors and the watery echoes that bind generations of women. What a pleasure this book is from start to finish. McKetta maps the dark portals through which her women continuously reinvent themselves, newborn at every age.”―Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Orange World and Other Stories

AUTHOR PROFILE:  https://elisabethsharpmcketta.com/

https://www.instagram.com/elisabethsharpmcketta/

AUTHOR COMMENTS: This book was so consuming to write. I wrote it when I was a new mother, so it lived in my head, while the baby lived in my arms. The two grew up together.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). https://www.amazon.com/She-Never-Told-about-Ocean/dp/1589881532?asin=B08X4R4HSY&revisionId=a8477d24&format=1&depth=1

You can also hear me read aloud a different chapter on my website, here: https://elisabethsharpmcketta.com/writing/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Most local bookstores should have it or can easily order it, and that’s the best place to go first. I’m from Austin and Boise and Boston, so I’d go (respectively) to Book People, Rediscovered Books, and Harvard Bookstore.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.

PRICE: $16.95 / $9.99 ebook.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: via my website is best. elisabethsharpmcketta.com

Have a beautiful summer,
Elisabeth–

elisabethsharpmcketta.com

You’re Pretty Gay

A Night of Sonnets: Drew Pisarra's “Infinity Standing Up” |  ThoughtGallery.orgThoughtGallery.org

YOUR BOOK: You’re Pretty Gay

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Drew Pisarra

THE EDITOR: Dave Kavanagh

THE PUBLISHER: Chaffinch Press

SUMMARY: In this collection of surreal short stories, author Drew Pisarra explores contemporary gay identity as it manifests everywhere from New Orleans to the North Pole. As per Darcy Buck’s introduction, his world is one in which “things do not delay in turning strange; in which weird things keep happening to us; in which fracture and fragment and almost inexplicable trains of associations are the rule; in which classic narrative forms are upended and turned inside out; in which the laws of morality are interrogated and the laws of logic warped and the laws of nature blithely ignored; in which people strive and struggle to connect authentically, in spite of the cultural forms and clumsy bodies that keep us from one another; and in which queer forever means both those people and things which are ineffably, irreconcilably odd — and also those manifestations of eros, amor, and agape that gleefully defy, refuse, subvert, and annihilate the expectations of the heteronormative, cisnormative, any-normative world.”

THE BACK STORY: In the 1990s, I toured my largely autobiographical monologues up and down the West Coast and only later realized that they might work even better on the page than on the stage. Once I had that epiphany, I switched to writing primarily for readers and not for ticketholders. That said, my internal impulses remain unchanged: to expose our flawed inner workings and to push back against conformist pressures (in as entertaining fashion as possible).

WHY THIS TITLE: I like how the title feels simultaneously playful and accusatory. It’s at once a direct confrontation and a sly wink to the reader and an invitation or an act of defiance to the person observing the reader as well.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: You like your fiction snack-sized and aren’t afraid of the color pink or the naked human body.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“He states ancient truisms so cleverly and pithily it frequently made me gasp.” – Melissa Todd, Confluence

“…gives readers a mosaic of wit, surrealism, sex, queerness, memory, mortality and self-discovery.” – Kathi Wolfe, The Washington Blade

“Think of Drew Pisarra as a stand-up comic delivering free-association monologues in a highwire stage act, balancing reality and fantasy.” – Charles Rammelkamp, The London Grip

“Pisarra writes with elegant, even beautiful, prose, positing this world as a place of transition, temptation and theatre.“ – Eoghan Lyng, We Are Cult

AUTHOR PROFILE: A literary grantee of the Café Royal Cultural Foundation and Curious Elixirs: Curious Creators, Drew Pisarra is also the author of Infinity Standing Up, a ribald collection of homoerotic sonnets (“brazen and lusty and often amusing” per The Washington Post) and Publick Spanking, a collection of short fiction (“cruising on the edge of polite literature” according to Willamette Week). He once had a ventriloquist act entitled Singularly Grotesque but has since retired from the world of dummies.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: This book was 20 years in the making and pulls together every short story I’ve written in the last two decades. As such, You’re Pretty Gay is an inadvertent cultural barometer on what it can sometimes feel like to be queer in the late 20th and early 21st century.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: “A Total Knockout”: https://www.liarsleaguenyc.com/a-total-knockout-by-drew-pisarra

LOCAL OUTLETS: Powell’s Book Store: https://www.powells.com/book/youre-pretty-gay-9781838104184

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/you-re-pretty-gay/9781838104184

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: @mistermysterio on Twitter

Weather Report, August 9

Books — Stock Photo, Image
(From Deposit photos)

Just for your information, this week’s highlighted books on Snowflakes in a Blizzard (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com) will push the total since 2015 over 900.

So who are all these authors?

Some have been college professors who morph into authors during their summer break.

Others are people around retirement age who finally have the time to finish and publish a book that has been percolating in their heads for decades.

Occasionally, we see writers who are trying out new forms of expression — successful poets crafting their first novel, veteran novelists coming out with a memoir.

Snowflakes also has some attraction for overseas authors who have found that breaking into the U.S. market can be difficult from afar, even in this Internet age.

One trend that has become very evident is the flood of books coming out with a GLBTQ angle. I’m no expert, but it would seem that this has reflected society’s growing acceptance of that perspective. Authors who once kept their orientation to themselves now feel free to write about it in a variety of ways.

Finally, all the grim news about the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming and the chaos of current American politics has lent a definite dystopian tone to science fiction.

All are welcome, and I thank everyone who has allowed their book to be featured and those who have followed this blog.

Let’s go for 1,000.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 19-16.

“BLOOD MEMORY,” BY GAIL NEWMAN.

Writes Gail:

These poems, in bits and pieces of memory, have been in me all of my life, but I didn’t start writing them until sometime after my father passed away, when I started writing about him. I worked on poems during the span of 4 years, during which time I also went to Poland to research my family and see for myself the places they spoke about.

When I completed the manuscript, I entered a number of contests sponsored by small press poetry book publishers. Then I began to wait. I expected to wait a long time. I thought I would continue to submit the following year. One morning I received an email from Marsh Hawk Press asking for a hard copy of my manuscript. Because I was among the finalists, my book would be read by the judge, Marge Piercy. This alone was an honor. I was surprised and thrilled to receive an email a few weeks later saying that I was the winner and that Marge Piercy had chosen my book.

And it is a coincidence, not only that the book was published during the 75th anniversary year of the end of WW II, but also that this is a time in history when antisemitism and racial hatred are on the rise.

“SHE NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT THE OCEAN,” BY ELISABETH SHARP McKETTA.

Told by four women whose stories nest together, She Never Told Me about the Ocean is an epic about a rite of passage that all humans undergo and none remember: birth. Eighteen-year-old Sage has been mothering her mother for as long as she can remember, and as she arrives on the shores of adulthood, she learns a secret: before she was born, she had an older brother who drowned. In her search to discover who he was and why nobody told her, Sage moves to tiny Dragon Island where her mother grew up. There, she embarks on a quest to learn the superstitions of the island, especially its myths involving her mother. Gathering stories from Ilya, a legendary midwife who hires Sage as her apprentice; Marella, Sage’s grieving mother who was named for the ocean yet has always been afraid of it; and Charon, the Underworld ferrywoman who delivers souls to the land of the dead, Sage learns to stop rescuing her mother and simply let go. But when her skill as Ilya’s apprentice enables her to rescue her mother one final time, in a way that means life or death, Sage must shed her inherited fears and become her own woman.

“I MEAN YOU NO HARM,” BY BETH CASTRODALE.

I Mean You No Harm tells the story of Layla Shawn, who has spent most of her thirty-two years estranged from her career-criminal father, Vic Doloro, and haunted by the mysterious death of her mother, years before.

Then Vic dies, leaving Layla–an unemployed artist–a tempting inheritance of ill-gotten money. Urging her to take the money is Vic’s other daughter, Bette, with whom Layla shares a troubled past. On a cross-country road trip, the two women mend fences, but Layla finds herself caught in the middle of an unsettled and lethal score between her father and a man who knows more than he should about her mother’s death. As Layla zeroes in on the truth and wrestles with her own demons, she finds herself face to face with a killer.

“YOU’RE PRETTY GAY,” BY DREW PISARRA.

In this collection of surreal short stories, author Drew Pisarra explores contemporary gay identity as it manifests everywhere from New Orleans to the North Pole. As per Darcy Buck’s introduction, his world is one in which “things do not delay in turning strange; in which weird things keep happening to us; in which fracture and fragment and almost inexplicable trains of associations are the rule; in which classic narrative forms are upended and turned inside out; in which the laws of morality are interrogated and the laws of logic warped and the laws of nature blithely ignored; in which people strive and struggle to connect authentically, in spite of the cultural forms and clumsy bodies that keep us from one another; and in which queer forever means both those people and things which are ineffably, irreconcilably odd — and also those manifestations of eros, amor, and agape that gleefully defy, refuse, subvert, and annihilate the expectations of the heteronormative, cisnormative, any-normative world.”

How to Walk on Water

This week’s other featured books, “Learning Dangerously,” by C. Fong Hsiung and “To Zenzi,” by Robert L. Shuster, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the “First Tuesday Replay.” Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: How to Walk on Water and Other Stories.

PUBLISHED IN: 2020

THE AUTHOR: Rachel Swearingen.

THE EDITOR: David Bowen.

THE PUBLISHER: New American Press, a small press in Milwaukee, WI that publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books, as well as the New from the Midwest series. Each year they choose and publish one story and one poetry collection for the New American Press prizes.

SUMMARY: How to Walk on Water and Other Stories presents stories that bristle with menace and charm with intimate revelations. An investment banker falls for a self-made artist who turns the rooms of her apartment into eerie art installations. An au pair imagines her mundane life as film noir, endangering the infant in her care. A down-on-his-luck son moves in with his elderly mother and tries to piece together the brutal attack she survived when he was a baby. Through nimble prose and considerable powers of observation, Swearingen takes us from Chicago, Minneapolis, and Northern Michigan, to Seattle, Venice, and elsewhere. She explores not only what it means to survive in a world marked by violence and uncertainty, but also how to celebrate what is most alive.

THE BACK STORY: The book took nearly a decade to write, although I was also working on other stories and books. My original vision was to put together a loosely connected, collection of stories inspired by visual art and a sense of being haunted, but over time other themes emerged. In the end, I cut several stories and rearranged and retitled the book. The resulting project is more condensed and moodier, and yet still has some of my original desire for stories that are playful and lean toward the surreal. Crime fiction, film noir, art installations, entomology, and ghosts figure prominently.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title comes from the title of the stories, in which a character remembers being a child and trying to walk on water. When I thought about the other stories, I realized all the characters were trying to do this too, move forward through uncertainty, stay aloft despite all of their miscalculations and mistakes.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Readers who enjoy spare short stories that play with genre and are by turns dark and quirky should appreciate this book.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The stories in Swearingen’s disconcerting and promising debut explore themes of violence, chance and the consolations of imagination.” — New York Times Book Review

“The nine stories in Swearingen’s auspicious debut showcase a gift for well-placed, revealing details…. Each of the intriguing entries builds suspense before a gratifying or lingering payoff. This crafty collection is worth a look.”— Publishers Weekly

Masterful [….] Always in Swearingen’s intriguing stories, this unsettling drift toward the unknown, the unknowable. — Anthony Bukowski, The Star Tribune

AUTHOR PROFILE: Rachel Swearingen’s stories and essays have appeared in Electric Lit, VICE, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, Off Assignment, Agni, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, she has lived in Seattle, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, and Kalamazoo, MI, and elsewhere. In 2019, she was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex. A recipient of the New American Press Fiction Prize, the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the Mississippi Review Prize in Fiction, she lives in Chicago and teaches in Cornell College’s low-residency MFA program.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: With this collection, I sought to play with the line between the real and the imagined, and to think more about how art, and the things we humans create, bleed into and alter our experiences of our everyday lives. SAMPLE: You can read a full story at Electric Literature: https://electricliterature.com/advice-for-the-haunted-by-rachel-swearingen/

LOCAL OUTLETS: The Book Cellar in Chicago / Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: $14.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.rachelswearingen.com/contact Twitter: rachelswearinge