Friday, April 29, 2016

The Condominium Blog Tour

After a month of planning and prodding, our blog tour for Daniel Falatko's Condominium executed beautifully. Super hard core thanks goes out to the awesome people who so wonderfully opened up their blogs and took the time to put it all together.

If you missed any of the stops last week, 
here they are, in order of appearance:

On Monday, we had back to back interviews: Steph Post kicked it all off with this wonderful interview with Daniel and Shelf Stalker's Audra interviewed Daniel and posted a thoughtful review of the novel. 

Daniel shares the Top 5 books that inspired Condominium over at Days Slip Away Like Drips From a Leaking Faucet while at Heavy Feather Review, he simultaneously talks up Condominium's kinda-sorta  Top 5 song list

Condominium takes hump day head on at JMWW, where Daniel contributes to their Origins series, sharing the spark that started the novel, while fellow CCLaP author and AWP buddy Leland Cheuk interviews him over at Clash Magazine

The wonderful folks at Alternating Current post this lovely review of Condominium on their blog The Spark on Thursday.

And Alysyn pulls it all to a close with her thoughts on the book over at Reinreads.  

We hope you enjoyed getting better acquainted with Daniel and his novel last week! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Conversation - Lavinia Ludlow Interviews Alex Kudera

In 2010, Alex Kudera released his debut novel, Fight For Your Long Day, a fast-paced and witty story about an adjunct professor trying to survive not merely the day from hell, but a day that tests his perseverance as an educator, a man, and a human being. We follow him minute-by-minute, as he struggles to tend to his health issues, scrape together money to eat, and encounters everything from murder to suicide to sexual temptation. 

Kudera recently launched a new novel, Auggie's Revenge, a story about another adjunct professor and the clusterfucks he gets into with a slew of egotistical borderline sociopaths. At times, there's more cynicism and revenge present than in a Tarantino film, but Kudera's writing contains an honest clarity all his own. I've been fortunate enough to sit down with him and delve into the behind-the-scenes/inner workings of his process, background, and thoughts on the academic track. 

L^2: In your own words, what is the major dramatic question summed up in a single sentence?
AK: A death-fearing adjunct philosopher struggles to break free from his academic chains as he falls into friendship with men on the margins who lead him to murder.

L^2: I’m all about edgy chapter titles that pack a punch. What was your process of titling your chapters things such as, “Where sperm earn their suicide and eggs play for keeps” and “MasterCard Marxists and 403b Feminists"?
AK: In fact, I sent the novel in without unique chapter titles, and the publisher found some of the most curious phrases within the chapters and used those. If I’m not mistaken, I either had numbers only or very bland chapter titles. Once Matt Peters of Beating Windward did this, I may have tweaked or added here and there, but I think it was almost entirely his smart move. I’m glad you liked the titles.

L^2: Auggie is unapologetically crass, objectifies women, commits white collar crime, is a homeless-hater, and when it comes to race, he claims he has a “right to racism because he’d suffered all his life.” And enter Jonny November who is a con artist. What was your intent to create characters that might evoke strong disdain from readers? Were they literary tools to deter from the narrator and make him seem more neutral and balanced?
AK: I’m trying to describe real people in a real America, not watered-down or politically correct versions. PC may have its place, it may be every teacher’s best bet in the classroom, but it’s still a form of censorship that masks the world as it is. I’m also interested in what extent, one can describe unlikeable characters but get readers to sympathize or empathize with them nevertheless. I’m also trying to write in humor, and it seems that some readers don’t “get” humor at all in reading, and then the rest of us have many different tastes and sensibilities. I also see plenty of racists and con artists in film and fiction, so although I think some of my characters’ eccentricities may be unique, I don’t see white-collar crime, homeless-hating, or rationalizing one’s negative traits (i.e. Auggie’s racism, for example) as so far from other entertainments. It’s interesting what you say, that Auggie and Jonny’s negatives could work to make Michael, the main narrative voice, seem more neutral or balanced. But Michael has his problems, too.

L^2: You've put so much work into this sophomore novel, what is the biggest takeaway you hope stays with readers?
AK: As I.B. Singer famously stated, the purpose of literature is to instruct and entertain, and I hope to do that in everything I write. For Auggie’s Revenge, I placed more emphasis on entertainment although I hope it is instructive to readers to see how various characters live, what they think, how they express their fears and frustrations, and whether or not they give away their six-inch hoagies to homeless people blocking their path to warmth and security.

L^2: In your eyes, how has the independent lit scene change over the years since your debut novel with Atticus?
AK: I’ve never been central to the indie-lit scene, so I’m not even sure of how to describe it. It seems amorphous, and I’ve been told that I’m in it because I’m a novelist published by small presses. I notice there is amazing subjectivity and cronyism within every scene in America and this world, and this would include the small-press scene, both within and outside AWP and English departments. At the same time, even as we fail, as mortals will, it seems like most of us are attempting some kind of objectivity when we assess books, students, peers, and so on. It’s highly possible that American capitalism has most of us in such bad shape that we can’t afford any loftier objectivity when creating cool lists of indie presses or liking some statuses but not others on Facebook. In different ways, we’re all participating in it. Whether we’re in or outside academia, part of New York publishing, indie publishing, or self-publishing, it seems like we’re inured in all kinds of little corruptions and no one has the moral high ground, and so it becomes that much more bizarre when our social-media threads seem full of “I know who the evil person is, and I know who the good people are.” I hope Auggie’s Revenge sheds light on this version of America. Maybe one day we’ll have an America where more people with money, power, and connections recognize their economically damaging relationship to many other Americans, and then throw themselves out the window or better fund schools or fight for single-payer, but for now, we’re stuck in the shit-show version that’s always been and doing our best to survive. I don’t mean to imply that things are better or much different in other countries, or that I’m not participating in these very things I’m laughing about as I lament in Auggie’s Revenge.

L^2: As an adjunct-professor, how has your perspective changed since writing Fight for your Long DayAuggie's Revenge seems to contain more frustration and jadedness in the overall narrative.
AK: Yes, I was responding to all the pain and lament and anger I was seeing from adjuncts online, all the anguish they were expressing on social media. To be honest, although I shared offices with some adjuncts in really bad situations, I don’t think I was truly tuned in to how horrible the situation is until after I published the “original adjunct novel.” I hope there are laughs in Auggie’s Revenge—that was certainly part of the plan—but, yes, I intended to describe a world for adjuncts and many other exploited workers and indebted students as one where people are rightfully jaded and frustrated. At the same time, I can’t escape the white male as flunky or pretentious jackass, so I hope readers see a discourse of personal responsibility in my narratives, perhaps one that runs counter to other ideas explicit or implicit in the books.

L^2: The track to a tenured professor gig seems to be riddled with bureaucracies and hoops one must jump through like a well-trained dog. What change(s) would you like to see happen so it’s not so “paycheck-to-supermarket in a small studio apartment” living? What should occur higher up the chain of command to make it easier for good professors to make it in the academic world? 
AK: In higher education, as with the world in general, I’d like to see students treated fairly regardless of their economic origins, and workers treated fairly regardless of their status. Right now, 70% of college students take on debt to attend, and their debt totals are about $30,000 upon graduation from a bachelors. Quite obviously, that 30K does not include whatever they, their parents, or grandparents were able to pay before or during college, or what the same students may have to pay for graduate school.
All college professors should have health coverage and pay that allows them to live with dignity, and all young people should have fair access to education that expands their horizons (liberal arts and foreign languages should not be cut) and leads to employment (at today’s prices, the vast majority of students have to think in vocational terms when choosing a major). To me, it would seem normal for any society to treat its people well, but then we see what happens in this world and are convinced normal must be the opposite of healthy or fair.
At the same time, as individuals we have to avoid falling into bitter lament if we hope to have any sort of peace or contentment at all. In the classroom, it seems like teachers who ignore just how bad things may be for today’s students and turn lecture or discussion into a fun intellectual show that gets students smiling, even laughing, are the ones with the best chance of surviving in higher education.
For the tenure track, it seems like Americans from the most affluent backgrounds and extremely driven smart transnationals are the most likely to survive and become tenured professors. Fight for Your Long Day is the most significant novel to come out of my English department during my time here, but due to the branding of the university and to legitimize the writing track (tenure track), some of the tenured professors do their best to pretend it doesn’t exist. Others like the book.

L^2: What did you study in school, and is this the place you thought you would be at this point in your life? What would you change? What surprised you for the good?
AK: For financial reasons, I had to graduate in seven semesters, and my main course of study was Intellectual History or Political Philosophy although my major was in English.  I read widely in the liberal arts, so Michael Vittinger’s course of doctoral study relates to some of my own reading interests. In college, at times I worked extremely hard although too often, I focused more on reading books, and often procrastinated when it came to writing essays on those books. I wrote only two pieces of fiction in college, and neither was for a fiction-writing class although I did get positive feedback both times. My father lost his best job the summer before I began college, so I paid for more of my own college than my parents or government. I was on a lot of financial aid, and there were even moments when I was unsure I would be going or continuing, and this undoubtedly had an impact on my worldview, particularly since I was surrounded by kids from affluent backgrounds—more or less the kinds of kids you see at every college, where even those of us on financial aid come from more affluent backgrounds than most Americans.
But anyway, because my father was out of work and we were in a recession (from Bush I through early Clinton), I knew life would be hard and that America itself might be a sucker’s play, and at the same time in my early twenties I used this as an excuse to focus more on writing fiction and less on searching for remunerative work. So I didn’t expect the world to be fair or that I would wind up rich or anything like that. I sometimes have thoughts of regret, that I wished I had majored in Y or done X, but on the other hand, I have some books out, I’ve gotten some notice, I have a kid, I’m still alive, and so on. In the airport a young man I taught 10 to 12 years ago at Drexel in freshmen English knew my full name—“Are you Alex Kudera?”—and I’ve been in tutoring centers where students can’t remember the names of current instructors, so I took this as a positive sign. When things are going well for me, I usually expect something bad to happen to balance it all out. 

L^2: What advice do you have for aspiring writers, or those looking to get into the adjunct professor track? Lessons learned, bruises incurred, stabs you wish you could have avoided if you had the right mentor?
AK: For aspiring writers, you have to read and write as much as possible, and stick with it. We change and evolve and get better at everything we work hard at for a long time. I’ve noticed with many careers and hobbies, it’s possible to outlast others—so don’t give up and work your ass off. I’m not saying anything new here.

For adjunct instructors, try to be as flexible as possible while ignoring all the baloney and don’t expect any sort of idealized experience. It’s like a lot of other jobs that can pay the bills in America—the people in authority who should be most completely ashamed of themselves are often the same people who’d never be able to rise to that level of self-criticism. Every day, in all different kinds of situations, I see increased possibilities for a pessimistic worldview. And, of course, many to most of the students want to be smiled at and to hear that everything will be okay.

Lavinia Ludlow is a musician and writer dividing time between San Francisco and London. Her debut novel, alt.punk (2011), explored the ragged edge of art, society, and sanity, viciously skewering the politics of rebellion. Her sophomore novel, Single Stroke Seven (2016), explores the lives of independent artists coming of age in perilous economic conditions. Both titles can be purchased through Casperian Books. Her short works have been published in Pear Noir!, Curbside Splendor Semi-Annual Journal, and Nailed Magazine, and her indie lit reviews have appeared in Small Press Reviews, The Rumpus, The Collagist, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy Magazine, and American Book Review.

Alex Kudera's award-winning adjunct novel, Fight for Your Long Day (Atticus Books), was drafted in a walk-in closet during a summer in Seoul, South Korea. In 2016, look for his second print novel, Auggie's Revenge from Beating Windward Press as well as a Classroom Edition of Fight for Your Long Day from Hard Ball Press. The e-singles "Frade Killed Ellen" (Dutch Kills Press), "Turquoise Truck" (Mendicant Bookworks), and "The Betrayal of Times of Peace and Prosperity" (Gone Dog Press) are available most anywhere books are downloaded. A lifelong Philadelphian until fall 2007, Alex currently teaches literature and writing at Clemson University in South Carolina. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bronwyn Reviews: 1914

1914  by Jean Echenoz
Translated by Linda Coverdale 
Pages: 119
Publisher: The New Press
Released:  2014


Reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin

I first came to understand World War I as the tragedy it was rather than as a series of history book facts (Archduke Ferdinand, secret treaties, trench warfare) thanks to an old song, Butchers’ Tale (Western Front 1914), by the Zombies. Perhaps it was the simple harmonium or possibly the plaintive refrain of “I want to go home/Please let me go home” that got to me. It was around that time that I read Dalton Trumbo’s great anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun. I found myself slightly obsessed – what kind of collective insanity could lead to such a war? 

Over the years I’ve read number of excellent books on World War I, each one adding to my sense of horror. On the fiction side are the German classic All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and the more recent Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker. For nonfiction there was Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan about the behind the scenes machinations negotiating the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, and To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild’s exploration of conscientious objectors of the day – their motivations and how they were treated. 

So when I ran across the recent French novel 1914 by Jean Echenoz, published in English one hundred years after the start of the war, I of course picked it up. Its story is a simple one: France is attacked by Germany, and five young men go off to war to defend their nation. A girl is left behind. A tragedy ensues. Most of them die, and, as most people did in World War I, they do so needlessly. 

This book touches on many of the well-known horrors of this particular war through brief stories about these six individuals: the introduction of airplanes into war, the hell that was trench warfare, the treatment of deserters, and war profiteering. At one point, after describing the stink and the filth of the battlefield, and how sappers might hang their greatcoats on the arms of dead bodies in no-man’s-land as they worked, he brings the chapter to conclusion with this:  

“All this has been described a thousand times, so perhaps it’s not worthwhile to linger any longer over that sordid, stinking opera. And perhaps there’s not much point either in comparing the war to an opera, especially since no one cares a lot about opera, even if war is operatically grandiose, exaggerated, excessive, full of longueurs, makes a great deal of noise and is often, in the end, rather boring.” 

Echenoz draws out his story in deceptively simple sketches. The French sense of “plot” can be very different from the American, which I would argue is a reason to read more French literature. Story lines are less driving, less clearly moving in a single direction. This can be frustrating for Americans who are accustomed to story lines and character traits delivered by a two-by-four. Echenoz is considered one of the great French writers of his generation, and the writing in this book is delicate and graceful. He moves back and forth easily between wide-ranging reflections on war like the one above, to a minute, detailed realism. In a single paragraph, for example, Echenoz lays out a list of the regulation gear to be found in every soldier’s Ace of Diamonds model knapsack – all forty items. As it comes to the close this thin volume feels like a light read, even as it has hit on so many of the key elements that made the Great War the tragedy it was. It is, in the end, a bit like that song by the Zombies, haunting in its simplicity. 

I wonder if this book can be fully appreciated by people who did not grow up with a more detailed history and personal family stories of World War I. Echenoz uses the names of places and battles along with jargon of the era as shorthand that I suspect is better understood by French readers. Even the title of the original French edition is simply 14. The English edition of the book includes a very helpful set of translator’s notes that aren’t about translation per se but fill in some of the missing details many people outside of France are unlikely to know. These notes are so informative they are worth reading even if you already know your Verdun from your Somme. 

If you’re not familiar with World War I, 1914 can be an easy-to-read introduction to its insanity. But don’t stop there. Any of the other books I’ve mentioned here – plus many more I haven’t yet read – will take you deeper into this terrible time when humans lost their humanity. 

Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of the novel Love Songs of the Revolution. She won The Coffin Factory magazine’s 2012 very short story award, and her Mauldin’s work has appeared in the Akashic Books web series, Mondays Are Murder, and at Necessary Fiction, CellStories, The Battered Suitcase, Blithe House Quarterly, Clamor magazine and From ACT-UP to the WTO. She is a researcher with the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and she is creator of GuerrillaReads, the online video literary magazine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Drew Reviews: The Shapes We Make With Our Bodies

The Shapes We Make With Our Bodies by Meg Whiteford
4 Stars - Drew Strongly Recommends
Pages: 87
Publisher: Plays Inverse Press
Released: 2015

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: A woman called Honey grapples with, well, what being a woman means while three Maenads torment her around the edges (and even, perhaps, directly).

The Review: Have you ever given much thought to a sigh? Like, really thought about it - the movement of the body, the emotion expressed therein, and so on? I confess that I never gave much thought to a sigh (other than in the moment of shoulder-loosening release that sometimes comes with sighing) until reading The Shapes We Make With Our Bodies but now I find that I can't stop thinking about them. About that moment of held-breath that seems, possibly, to go on forever just before the release of the sigh, just before the exhale - and about how long that moment can or could last. Meg Whiteford is clearly thinking about it too.

She's also thinking about femininity in our modern society, specifically (at least as I read this play) in the context of relationships. Honey, our main character, seems to've been unlucky in love - although 'unlucky' is perhaps an unfair term... but she has lost love, she has "fallen prey to the diabolical look of a vindictive man", in one of the best and most immediately quotable lines from the play. She is expressing the breadth of her sexuality and being judged for it, from all directions. She is cast out, banished, perhaps because of it (because of all of it) - or at least she feels ostracized for it, as women in myth and story often have, due to love.

The play is, as with anything from the daring team at PlaysInverse, a non-traditional play. It'd be difficult to consider staging this, at least by any traditional concept of staging... but, then, I thought of no one so much as Chuck Mee during many sections of this play, particularly when the narrator - because the stage directions are not so much stage directions as they are interjections from a narrator (who may or may not be the playwright) - jumps in to comment on behavior or when a judge calls for order for 54 minutes or when a character is described as "a dragon dressed as a woman dressed as a THERAPIST". That imaginative wilderness that somebody like Chuck (or Mac Wellman, if I think back to the utter weirdness of Description Beggared, or The Allegory of Whiteness) lives in feels like it's right where Meg Whiteford is headed as a playwright - because the play isn't necessarily about the staging so much as it is about the words and the thoughts that they inspire.

In an early scene, Honey describes herself as infected by language - and I get the sense that Whiteford is, too. There are moments here where words become unstoppable, pouring out and creating a symphony of sound, then meaning. Sometimes this manifests in the text in traditional poetic structure (broken lines, stanzas, etc) but other times it is simply a block of text like a paragraph. It's easy enough to glaze over or let one's mind drift during these moments... but Whiteford has that very special talent of being able to keep a hook in the reader's brain so that even if they do drift, they're drifting on-point, as it were. It happened to me a few times, where I might glaze over a page but find that my own thoughts were running parallel to the thoughts spilling out on the page. This is a marvelous skill to have in a writer and it shows a remarkable potency in such an early-career poet/playwright/performer.

Whiteford is infected by language not just in the way that she writes (which is to say the structure and the sound of the words) but also in the content. There are references to everything from Shakespeare to The Wizard of Oz, scenes inspired by horror films and legal thrillers, commentary on the ladies who lunch as well as on the queer scene. She's a child of the 21st Century - which is different, although not dissimilar, from a millennial - in that she knows how to condense the sum of cultural experiences she's encountered and turn it into something brand new. This, too, is a skill that few writers have at any age or time. And if this is what she can do with something as universal (and yet totally intimate) as heartbreak and recovery... well, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Rating: 4 out of 5. Some moments drift a little far afield, coming off like a bit of an exercise or a writing stretch - I.iii, for example, is one of my favorite scenes but it also stands out to me as something tonally different from the rest of the play. But the way these moments wrap back around to each other creates a thought loop that sticks with the reader long after they've put the play down. It's not often we see something new that speaks to femininity, to love, to the universal and the specific - but damned if Meg Whiteford doesn't achieve something rather like that here.

Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Cynan Jones
Coffeehouse Press
March 2016

A dark tale of slavery, immigration, and murder set on the west coast of Wales, this is a startling portrait of three ordinary lives taken to extremes. In the aching cold where night bumps into day, Hold hears noises confirming he isn't alone. At the edge of his nets, a rudderless dingy thumps against the rocks, prey to the ebbing tide. What he finds there changes everything. Meanwhile, Grzegorz works hard, with no time for rest and little thanks. All he needs is an opportunity; when it comes, with no apparent strings attached, what can he do but take it? On the other hand, the Big Man knows only one kind of life—where all that is needed are a code of honor and a reputation—but it’s leaving him behind and he’s struggling to keep up. One random technical hitch later and the three men are set on a journey that none could have foreseen, none can halt, and that ends as abruptly as it began. All three men want the chance to make their lives better and are tied together in a fatal series of decisions and reactions.

*By Request / *Always been meaning to read him

Anthony Michael Morena
Rose Metal Press
May 2016

Late summer 1977: two identical robotic spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral. Their divergent paths through the solar system take them past gas giants, icy moons, asteroid belts, and eventually into the unknown of interstellar space. There, they will continue to travel on forever, the fastest moving objects ever created by humans. The Voyagers carry a message from Earth, a phonograph record plated with gold containing 27 songs, 118 images, and greetings in 55 languages meant to summarize all life on our planet for the extraterrestrials who might one day encounter the crafts. The Voyager Record: A Transmission is the record of that record: a history in fragments exploring how legendary astronomer Carl Sagan and his team attempted to press the entire human race into a single groove. Combining elements of poetry, flash fiction, and essay, Anthony Michael Morena creates a collage of music, observation, humor, and alienation. Giving the 38-year-old original playlist a B-side update, Morena’s The Voyager Record calls out to its namesake across the billions of miles of emptiness: Send more answers.

*From publisher / *Sounds interesting

John Preston
Other Press
April 2016

A succinct and witty literary venture that tells the strange story of a priceless treasure discovered in East Anglia on the eve of World War II. In the long, hot summer of 1939, Britain is preparing for war, but on a riverside farm in Suffolk there is excitement of another kind. Mrs. Pretty, the widowed owner of the farm, has had her hunch confirmed that the mounds on her land hold buried treasure. As the dig proceeds, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary find.  This fictional recreation of the famed Sutton Hoo dig follows three months of intense activity when locals fought outsiders, professionals thwarted amateurs, and love and rivalry flourished in equal measure. As the war looms ever closer, engraved gold peeks through the soil, and each character searches for answers in the buried treasure. Their threads of love, loss, and aspiration weave a common awareness of the past as something that can never truly be left behind. 

*From publisher / *might stretch my usual reading comfort zones

Jeff Burk
Eraserhead Press

Will you escape the giant monsters that are rampaging the fuck out of your city? Aliens are invading the Earth and their ray guns turn people into violent punk rockers. At the same time, the city is being overtaken by giant monsters tougher than Godzilla and Mothra combined. You can choose to be a lone scientist trapped in a secret government lab on a remote island swarming with monstrous killer insects, a badass punk rock chick with a green mohawk caught in a bar room brawl as the city goes up in flames around her, or a desk jockey forced to endure tedious office duties while his building is being attacked by a gargantuan centipede with claws the size of sports utility vehicles. Which character will you become? To become the scientist, turn to page 149. To become the punk chick, turn to page 11. To become the office drone, turn to page 77. But choose wisely! You might conquer a fleet of alien saucers with the help of a high-flying monster-slicing super cat or drown in a giant monster's pool of sperm as it butt-fucks your office building. What will happen next? That's up to you! When the story hits a fork in the road, you get to choose which path to take. The ending will always be different depending on your decisions. Not only that, you can read this book over and over again for a new experience every time! 

*By request / Sounds wicked awesome

Friday, April 15, 2016

Indie Spotlight: Tony Newton's Top 10 New Writers Survival Guide Tips!

I love authors who have a wicked sense of humor and a love of the satirical. Meet Tony Newton, author of the upcoming #ImZombie: A Zombie Mosaic Novel

In today's post, he's created a survival guide for writers. Go on, check it out......

Top 10 New Writers Survival Guide Tips!

This guide won't kill zombies but may help you to become a successful writer!

1.  Just Write it!
This may sound crazy, but long before you attack, rewrite spell check, go on the hunt for bad grammar, and go through every paragraph of your new book, just write the words down! Don't even look at what you're writing, just get the words written down on paper. I sent a letter to my favourite author Ray Bradbury when I was in my teens, he sent me a letter back with one tip which he wrote in bold marker pen "Just write it",  that is the secret! So just get your words down first! and in the words of Ray Bradbury "Just write it". 

2. Write your first draft on paper!
This may sound alien to everyone in this tech driven world but it's very handy to write your first draft on paper. Okay, it may require a little more work to do this, but writing this way will connect you with the words on the paper, just like an I-pad you can carry a paper and pen everywhere very easily, for some reason this just works! Your writing won't vanish as you forgot to click save draft (unless your OCD partner tidies it away)!  Give it a try! I know so many authors who always do their first draft on paper!

3. Don't Give up?
Never, ever give up! keep going no matter what! Don't let other people's opinions put you off, keep at it, keep going! Just write that book! We are living such great times, the best time ever in history for writers especially new writers, the options available now are beyond amazing! Every new author dreams of having a bestseller on the shelf of their favourite book store, but in reality this won't happen for 99% of new writers, try and get your book published, try and get an agent to represent you but failing that get your book out there through sites like Smashwords or Amazons CreateSpace they offer to sell the eBook and a physical copy of the paperback on a print on demand basis with no expense to the author!

4. Get your own  website!
It is best to have your own website featuring all of your work you can have links to Amazon, and have blog content direct through the site. Another great idea is to offer signed editions of the book direct from you! choose a .com if you can or a .net, I know there are hundreds of domain name options out there but always go for the .com first or the very least a .net!

5. Get your work out here any way you can!
Send your work out to publishers, agents too, as many as possible even send it to ones that say we don't except unsolicited manuscripts! Send a sample along with your email around ten page sample along with the synopsis if they like the idea they will read the first ten pages at least they won't want to miss out on the next best thing!

6. Create a blog!
Creating your own blog is a great way to get regular readers to view new and updated content from a reader they like! If your book is about world war 2 give your readers some free content updated articles on the subject!

7. As soon as you finish one project start planning your next book!
Be ready to start your new book after your first book is out! Don't attempt to start writing both books at the same time this will confuse you, I know you will be buzzing with excitement and the creative juices will be flowing but put all of your efforts into one project at a time!

8. Think outside the box!
Whatever you do try to think outside the box, go for it! Try new things, try crazy ideas to promote your book! Get out there, if your book is a horror book go to every horror convention set up a stall and sell your book, connect and make friends with likeminded people! Get your new book seen by as many people as possible, leave it in coffee shops donate a few copies to a charity shop, A fellow author I know gave 50 copies of his new science fiction book to a free book stall at a sci-fi convention, the books were all gone with an hour, he placed a book mark  inside the book containing  links to his work and online website!

9. Video's!
Make video's, even a book trailer to promote your book! If your book is about fashion start vlogging about fashion tips on You Tube! if your book is about spirituality create some content with experiences and interviews with other people about their experiences. The more you get content out there the quicker your audience will grow.

10. Get Social!
Create all social media accounts and promote your work through these!  Don't just keep spamming away with your own content, give other useful links as well, mix this in with your own content and you will see great results! provide fresh daily content with links to your work mixed in! don't just retweet the same link hour after hour, day after day. Twitter seems to be the best in terms of promotion as you can specify certain hash tags to target your audience!

Hash tags will allow you easily to target and find new readers of your work!

You will see great benefits from adding hash tags from your tweets, I suggest using a maximum of 4 hashtags per tweet. Hash tags are also useful for researching new writing opportunities, competitions and writing jobs! Below is a list of some very useful hashtags to help you on your journey of becoming a successful writer!

Hashtags that will be great for promoting your new book!

#Freebookday #kindle #KindleFeebie #Nook #Freebookday  #BookGiveaway  #BookMarketing #WW #Amazon  #eBook #BookBuzzing  #eReaders #iPad  #Kindle  #KindleBargain  #Kobo  #KPD  #Nook #FollowFriday  #FreebieFriday  #FreeReads #Books  #BookWorm #GreatReads #MustRead  #Novel #Paperbacks  #Storytelling #AskAgent   #AskAuthor  #AskEditor  #BookMarket  #BookMarketing  #GetPublished  #Publishing   #SelfPublishing   #WriteTip  #AmWriting #IndieAuthor 
 #WordCount   #WriteChat  #WriteGoal  #WriteMotivation  #WritersLIfe  #WriterWednesday  #Writing #WritingPrompt  #WritersBlock


Tony Newton is the author of "The Zombie Rule Book: A Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide" and the upcoming title "#I'm Zombie: A Zombie MosaicNovel" the creator and producer of the upcoming zombie mosaic film "Virus of the Dead". He loves all things horror, obsessed by zombies and collects old school VHS tapes just for fun. "The Zombie Rule Book: A Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide" is out now and available from Cosmic Egg Books. #I'm Zombie: A Zombie Mosaic Novel is a zombie book featuring  mosaic accounts from the day the zombie apocalypse strikes the globe, the book see's the horror unfound through an online forum to found notes from doctors and survivors! "#I'm Zombie: A Zombie Mosaic Novel" will be released on May 27, 2016 available from Cosmic Egg Books.

Twitter @TonyNewton1

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Drew Reviews: The Seamstress and the Wind

The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira
4 Stars - Strongly recommended by Drew
Pages: 144
Publisher: New Directions
Released: 2011

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: When César Aira was a boy, a seamstress lived in his town and had a son about his age. When she believes that the son has disappeared, she jumps in a cab and tears off into the Argentinian countryside with a hilarious and fantastical set of pursuers that include her husband, an angry bride-to-be, the wind, and maybe even the author himself...

The Review: After falling under Aira's spell with An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, I rushed out and picked up nearly all of the rest of the works currently available in English (thanks, New Directions). It was like a compulsion - like something out of an Aira story, perhaps - in that I simply could not rest until I had the total sum of his [English] output on my bedside table. I did this, getting all of them except The Musical Brain (his collection of short stories) at no inconsiderable immediate cost... and found myself faced with a whole new problem: which one should I read next? I knew next-to-nothing about Aira's work, having not even read the back covers of most of these books, and so I was going in blind. After reading the first page of several, I opted for The Seamstress and the Wind

I cannot speak to the larger sense of Aira's oeuvre, but I immediately began to believe that ...Landscape Painter might well be an outlier. This novel was immediately so much stranger and more loosey-goosey, opening with some direct address from the author himself - almost diaristic, in fact. Aira tells the reader that he's had a title - "The Seamstress and the Wind" - in mind for a while but hasn't figured out the story to go with it beyond those two characters. He tells himself to be open and to go with whatever comes to mind - and so he starts recounting stories of being a young child, of a moment when he disappeared briefly (and perhaps magically) for a few hours. That moment of childish confusion, believing that it was his friend who disappeared, is what incites the novel's "plot", if we want to call it that. 

The thing is, the friend definitely didn't disappear - and so there is a level of what I think I have to call absurdity to the proceedings from very early on. Or perhaps not absurdity but fantasticality in the most basic of ways: we never know what will happen next, except that it will be unconstrained by any bounds of reality. Even late in the novel, Aira occasionally drops a comment about how the whole adventure was silly because the boy hadn't really disappeared and, before long, everyone in the book sort of forgets that that's why they were tearing off across the pampas anyway. And meanwhile, Aira is interrupting the narrative with more of these diaristic interjections: he's writing in a café in Paris and he's struggling to focus (and later, in a scene that felt Ionescoian, to leave the café). 

All of this unabashed and unconstrained frivolity should've been infuriating. I could see how this book, taken at the wrong moment or even given to the wrong reader, could leave a bad taste in the mouth. But this "flight forward" style of Aira's, this sense of just continuing to invent even if it flies in the face of everything that came before or even if a plot is left totally unresolved -  it's actually rather joyous. For writers, there is a lesson to be taken here: allow yourself to just invent without constraints. Let the story develop however it will and see what happens from there. Aira is doing that, drawing the reader's attention to it quite deliberately, and it is through the strength of his imagination that it makes for oddly compelling reading.

There are also surprisingly deep thoughts to be found it what might, at first, seem like nothing more than a yarn spun on a whim. For one thing, Aira's narrative interjections - that begin to recede slowly but surely before slamming back onto the page - mirror the process of writing and of our distracted attention spans as both creators and consumers: we're in it, in it, in it, and then WHAM-O, something breaks our attention. But even little exchanges like this one have a marvelous potency:
"Things happen, Delia.""But they've never happened to me before.""That's true."

On the one hand, it is the classic adventure story line of having a boring, uneventful life until adventure strikes. But on the other hand, perhaps because it comes late in the novel and perhaps because it is a conversation between the two characters of the title, there is something grand about this sentiment. Even if the reader has heard it before, it lands quite effectively here - especially because so much has happened. A car accident, a strange road chase, a poker game and a hotel and a birth out of David Lynch's nightmares... so much has happened and so much will continue to happen, things that seem so beyond comparison precisely because the novel starts with such unassuming awkward mundanity: an author, struggling to come up with a reason for the story he has set out to write. It shouldn't work, but it does - and it does so well.

Rating: 4 out of 5. The circuitous opening, a little repetitive and meandering as Aira tries to land on the story he wants to give to this title he's come up with, can be a touch frustrating - but once the journey is underway and the reader has sussed out exactly what the author is up to, it latches on with a delightful trill of energy. I laughed out loud, both at humor and absurdity, and I was impressed by the way that Aira writes only to his own satisfaction as the end draws near. Even though the novella felt slight throughout, it still was a joy and a delight. Now to go pick the next one...

Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.

Monday, April 11, 2016

M.M. Wolthoff's Guide to Books & Booze

Time to grab a book and get tipsy!

Back by popular demand, Books & Booze, originally a mini-series of sorts here on TNBBC challenges participating authors to make up their own drinks, name and all, or create a drink list for their characters and/or readers using drinks that already exist. 

Today, M.M. Wolthoff is set to give you alcohol poisoning! There's a lot of drinking going on in his novel The West Texas Pilgrimage. Check it out: 


WARNING: This book is not for the faint of Liver.  Perhaps I should have included this disclaimer in the epigraph of The West Texas Pilgrimage.  I recently received a less-than-positive book review in which the reviewer commented that she didn't like the characters because all they seem to do is drink and objectify women.  While I respect her level of disgust with my character's behavior, I question what planet she lived on when she was in her early twenties. Wherever it was, I can assure you it was nowhere near the one I inhabited.

It is true that there is a lot of drinking in The West Texas Pilgrimage.  Part of it is the way that the main character, Hunter, attempts to deal with the constant self doubt and repetitive negative thoughts brought on by his chronic depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.  While maybe not the best thing for us health wise, nor particularly effective, I think most of us can relate to the occasional self medicating for stress, disappointment, insecurity, or other common ailments.

There is no question that we Texans like our booze. There is a streak in many Texans that stems from the wild origins of the state.  Beer drinking is more or less, mas or menos if you live south of San Antonio, a recognized state past time. If you've ever floated down the Guadalupe or attended a live music show at Floore's Country Store, God bless the staff that have to pick up all of the beer cans and bottles littering the dance floor, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Speaking of music, have you checked out the soundtrack, found on Spotify through the website, to The West Texas Pilgrimage? This collection of mostly Texan songwriter's music is featured in order throughout the book and, by the way, a fantastic playlist to have a few drinks to.  I encourage you to     turn on the soundtrack, pour your preferred drink from the list below, and dive into the book; I think you'll find it to be a wild ride.


The West Texas Pilgrimage drink list 
(in order of consumption):

Cuba Libre: Bacardi white rum, Coca Cola, and lime.

A favorite of south Texans and always a good coastal drink, Hunter likes to drink "Cubas" during the day in a deer blind.

Coors Beer: no explanation needed.

Rumor has it that the name "Silver Bullet" originated in a bar on the south side of San Antonio. Taste the Rockies and make sure those mountains are blue! The original variety, commonly referred to as the "Yellow Belly", is a favorite out west.

Scotch Whiskey: single malt fifteen year old Glenlivet.

What would a good Texas drinking story be without whiskey? Cinco White prefers the single malt variety served on the rocks or with no more than a splash of water.

Bloody Mary: Vodka, Clamato Juice, Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, lime, and pepper.

Substitute V8 for the Clamato and you have all of your essential vitamins for breakfast, and a hangover cure. 

Lone Star Beer:

Originally brewed in San Antonio in 1884, this is the National Beer of Texas.

Modelo Especial Cerveza:

First bottled in 1925 and brewed in Mexico City, it is this author's opinion that it beats the pants off of Corona. 

Val Verde Winery:

Based in Del Rio, this vineyard's claim to fame is that it is the oldest continuously running winery in Texas. Prohibition be damned, they stayed open! They offer several types of wine, but their port is what is truly special.

Ma Crosby's Margaritas:

This Acuna Mexico border town icon was immortalized in George Strait's "Blame it on Mexico". 

The Starlight Theatre Margaritas:

They have no less than eight recipes for margaritas at the Starlight in Terlingua.  Whether you order the Scorpion or the Prickly Pear'ita, you will not be disappointed.

2004 Silver Oak Cabernet:

This Napa Valley produced cab is on the menu at the 12 Gage Restaurant at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas.  You can pair a bottle with the stuffed quail, a ribeye, or an unbelievable chicken fried steak with roasted jalapeno cream gravy for a five star dining experience in the middle of nowhere West Texas.  

Top Shelf Tequila Shots: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia or Don Julio 1942

The characters end up in the White Buffalo Bar in the Gage Hotel and order a round of top shelf tequila shots. While not specific in the book, the two mentioned above happen to be my favorite.


Matthew Martin Wolthoff lives in McAllen, Texas with his wife, Lucy Ann, and three children Hunter Ann, McCoy Martin, and Kerr Dunkin. He grew up in a military family, living all over the world until finding home in south Texas where he went to high school in San Antonio.   He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and has a masters in business administration from the University of Texas-San Antonio.  His parents instilled a passion for reading and writing in him early in life that grows stronger every day. An avid outdoorsman, he finds his inspiration, and peace of mind, in the shallow waters of the Lower Laguna Madre and the wilderness of the south Texas brush country. His first west Texas pilgrimage was in 2010. It was a life changing event.