Review of The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch is live at The Nervous Breakdown.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs. But so far this year I’ve read two, and both have blown me away. There was You Don’t Look Like Any I Know, the book about Heather Sellers, and her inability to remember faces and now there is The Chronology of Water (Hawthorne Books) by Lidia Yuknavitch. What do they have in common? They are about two brave women, fearless really, who are downright inspirational, fighting their way through abuse and difficult childhoods to emerge as powerful, generous, gifted authors with a lot to say. And two of the nicest people I’ve ever met or talked to, as well. Head on over to The Nervous Breakdown for the full review, but I’ll say this much: it’s one of the funniest, heart breaking, erotic, and honest books I’ve ever read. Watch out for that opening paragraph, you better be sitting down.

My time at FOCUS On the Arts at Highland Park High School.

Richard Thomas, Emma Van Akkeren

So a couple of weeks ago I went to Highland Park High School to be a part of their FOCUS On the Arts program. I was thrilled to speak to a full room of high school students about writing, publishing, and what the future holds for all of us. In other words, I faked it.

How did this happen? What is FOCUS?

Well, last year I was approached by one of the members of the parent liasons, Jane Roberti. She had read some of my work, and saw my influence over at The Cult as a writer and workshop moderator, and wanted me to come speak to the students. She said that they had a lot of fans of Chuck’s work, and my writing, publishing alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub, my novel Transubstantiate have just come out, all of these things appealed to her and the students. I was thrilled and honored, so of course I said yes.

When I made it to the event, I was greeted by Emma, a very nice, patient and sweet girl who showed me around, and took me to the artist’s lounge. But of course, I was too nervous to eat anything. But what a spread! WOW. We talked about her plans for college, HPHS, the FOCUS program, all kinds of things. Then we went up to the room. The halls were buzzing with teachers, students, parents and artists.

The class was very attentive, they asked a lot of really intelligent questions, seemed very interested in what I had to say, nobody fell asleep, and I even got a handful of laughs. Overall, a great crowd. I held up Shivers VI and Transubstantiate, talked about how I got my work out there, my influences, how the percentage/royalty system works, writing conferences, you name it. I think I lost about five pounds in sweat. The bell went off, they darted out of the room, but a couple kids came up and shook my hand, took some promotional materials and said thanks.

It was a rewarding day. I hope to go back. And who knows, maybe I’ll work with HPHS in the future to help expand their art programs. They need somebody to teach creative writing there, and this group of intelligent, inspired young adults was a great audience.

More about FOCUS: Presented every other year, FOCUS explores the many facets of art; not as distant, esoteric disciplines, but as the day-to-day creativity of truly gifted, diverse people. The goal of FOCUS is to educate and communicate the universal arts language to HPHS students, as well as surrounding communities including Highland Park, Highwood, Fort Sheridan and the entire (underserved) Chicago Metropolitan area. Participating students will experience many forms of art themselves, thus expanding and enriching their lives forever.

Review of Volt by Alan Heathcock is now live at The Nervous Breakdown

Volt (Graywolf Press) by Alan Heathcock is a linked collection of short stories. It reminded me of Knockemstiff for sure, for its rural setting, and also Sarah Court for its families overlapping, fighting and loving. The testimonial of Benjamin Percy got my attention, but the emotional truths, the revelations and understandings, the prose and the settings, kept me turning the pages, wanting more. Keep an eye on this guy, he’s the real deal. Head on over to The Nervous Breakdown for the full review.

Slut Lullabies by Gina Frangello review is now live at The Cult

My review of Slut Lullabies by Gina Frangello is now live at The Cult. A wonderful collection of short stories, these tales are funny, sexy, and dark, pulling you in and knocking you down. Head on over for the full review.

“Van tells me one of his students has written a story about a girl with a tracheotomy, whose English teacher breaks into her bedroom at night and makes love to the hole in her neck.”

Shroud Magazine gives Transubstantiate a great review.

Great review for the book over at Shroud Magazine (love these guys) but some harsh criticism for the typesetting and cover art.

Transubstantiate, when all the pieces fall into place, is an intricate and layered look at action and consequence, the struggle between mislaid control and frustrated effort of self-proclaimed gods of men and the people caught up in the maelstrom, told in a way that will make your head spin.”
–Anton Cancre

Stranger Will by Caleb J. Ross – Darkness on the wings of fate.

Caleb Ross writes lyrical prose that pulls you into the politics and morality of this story, Stranger Will (Otherworld Publications). For most of us, children are the future, they represent hope and dreams. But in this novel they represent the fated, the already lost. Conspiracies only seem paranoid and insane if they have no base in reality. One of the most compelling images that has stuck with me in this novel, for years now, is the carrier pigeon, message tied to its tiny clawed foot, shot from the sky. The note stuck up on a wall, strings stretching from one place to another, one person to another, tying together layers of deceit, love, and failure. This is a novel you won’t want to put down, and will compel you to check out more work by Caleb Ross. Keep a candle lit to keep away the stench, a light on to force away the dark forces, and a prayer in your heart that none of this comes anywhere near you. Or your children.

In addition to this novel, look for his collection, Charactered Pieces for the Kindle, well worth it. He’s doing an extensive book blog tour for Stranger Will, for all of this information, visit his site, and the tour schedule. He’ll be stopping by my site here in October. Beyond his talent, Caleb is one of the smartest, most giving, and supportive authors I know.

Here is the extensive schedule. Man this guy is GOOD:

Outsider Writers Collective     3/18
Big Other (stop #1)     3/21
Gregory Frye’s Blog     3/22
Thunderdome (stop #1)     3/23
The Velvet Podcast     3/24
HTML Giant     3/26
Thunderdome (stop #2)     3/29
Nik Korpon’s blog     3/30
ArtJerk blog     4/4
Jay Slayton-Joslin’s blog     4/5     4/6
>Kill Author blog     4/7
BULL Men’s Fiction blog     4/8
Matt Bell’s blog     4/13
BL Pawelek’s blog     4/15
Lit Drift     4/18
decomPMagazine blog     4/22
Cannoli Pie     4/23
Stephen Graham Jones’ blog     4/27
Slush Pile Hero (S.S Michaels’ blog)     4/30
Chuck     5/1
Publishing Genius blog     5/2
Anthony David Jacques’ blog     5/6
Used Furniture Review (stop #1)     5/8
The Nervous Breakdown     5/10
Gloom Cupboard     5/11
This Blog Will Change Your Life (Ben Tanzer’s blog)     5/16
Used Furniture Review (stop #2)     5/18
C# Redundant (Phil Jourdan’s blog)     5/20
Nathan Tyree’s blog     5/25
Alluringly Short (Erica Mena’s blog)     5/27
No More Hot Lunches for Eddie Socko     5/30
A Bitter Look, Georgina Kamsika’s Writing Journal     6/1
Words for Guns (Matt DeBenedictis’ blog)     6/3
Undie Press     6/8
Sean P. Ferguson’s blog     6/10
Who Hub     6/13
Craig Wallwork’s blog     6/17
Electric Literature, OUTLET blog     6/22
Medialysis (Gordon Highland’s blog)     6/27
Noo Journal     7/1
Pela Via’s blog     7/6
Monkeybicycle     7/8
See Billie Write     7/11
The Write Place (Simon West-Bluford’s blog)     7/15
Tarpaulin Sky     7/20
What to Wear During an Orange Alert     7/25
Ryan W. Bradley’s blog     7/29
Justin Holt’s blog     8/3
Obscuradome (Bob Pastorella’s blog)     8/5
Red Puffin Tobacco (Mlaz Corbier’s blog)     8/8
The Little Sleep (Paul Tremblay’s blog)     8/12
Shome Dasgupta’s Blog     8/17
Power is a State of Mind (Matthew Tuckey’s blog)     8/22
PANK     8/26
Troubadour 21     9/5
mudlucious     9/9
Metazen     9/12
Impose Magazine     9/14
Dark Sky Magazine     9/19
Folded Word     9/23
unRonic (Stephen Krauska’s blog)     9/28
American Typo     10/3
Trick with a Knife     10/7
What Does Not Kill Me (Richard Thomas’ blog)     10/12
Lawn Gnomes in Space (Bradley Sands’ blog)     10/17
Eject! (Jason Kane’s blog)     10/21
Kristin Fouquet’s blog     10/26
Nothing to Say (xTx’s blog)     10/31
Chris Deal’s blog     11/4
Bukowski’s Basement     11/9
Big Other (stop #2)     11/14

“Ten Steps” is now live at ChiZine (The Chiaroscuro)

"Ten Steps"

My story “Ten Steps” is now up at ChiZine (Chiaroscuro) as part of their major new relaunch. I wrote this at the Jack Ketchum intensive at The Cult. So many other great voices here, in the previous, and coming weeks, I can’t possibly list them all but let me shout out at least a few names that I’ve seen up already, or have novels published at ChiZine, or may be part of this launch in the upcoming weeks.

First, I won a contest here at ChiZine back in 2009, the “Enter the World of Filaria” contest with my story “Maker of Flight”. It was quite an honor. My story was selected by the author of Filaria, Brent Hayward, and the Stoker winning man that runs ChiZine, Brett Alexander Savory.

I’ve been a long time fan of Paul Tremblay who has In the Mean Time at ChiZine, as well as Craig Davidson, who has Sarah Court there as well (I reviewed both of these at The Nervous Breakdown, too). These guys are two of my favorite authors there. I’d expect them to have a story up here as a part of this. Also, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had stories by Stewart O’Nan, Tom Piccirilli, and Neil Gaiman.

So head over and check out my story, but also stay awhile, peep the other stories, and pick up a book or two. Exceptional artwork by Erik Mohr as well. I’ve never read a bad book from ChiZine. Donate some $$$ if you have it, every dollar helps. These are some of the good guys, putting out excellent work, supporting unknown authors like myself, and really on the cutting edge of literary dark fiction.

Stephen Graham Jones and Dzanc Books announce three book rEprint deal.

Dzanc Books has great taste, it seems. Not only did they sign Stephen Graham Jones to a two book deal for the distant future, with Flushboy in 2013 and Not For Nothing in 2014, but NOW they’ve announced a three book deal for their rEprint program, putting All the Beautiful Sinners (one of my all-time favorite SGJ novels) and The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti into the eworld, BUT ALSO the never before seen Seven Spanish Angels.

If you aren’t a fan of SGJ and don’t know what he’s about, well, then wake up son, where you been? I reviewed two of his books over at The Nervous Breakdown (find The Ones That Got Away HERE and It Came From Del Rio HERE) and have been a long time fan of his work.

Hop on board folks. I may have just bought a Kindle.

Out of Touch by Brandon Tietz – Pick up this novel now!

Man, I swear I posted up about Brandon‘s book when it came out. Bad label mate. SO, I’m posting up about it now.

I’ve read a lot of Brandon’s short stories, and have been very impressed with his work. Like a lot of Palahniuk fans, I  avoided this book for awhile. Maybe I worried it would be a watered down Palahniuk or Ellis, something I would cringe at. It isn’t. I should have trusted my instincts about Brandon’s work and read this much sooner.

“Everyone is two people.”

Lacking the overt violence of American Psycho, but keeping all of the dysfunction, duality and superficiality, Out of Touch could indeed be the bastard love child of Ellis and Palahniuk. What at first seems like only surface, the shallow name brand dropping, the easy fix of coke and sex and booze and club hopping, evolves into a much more complicated character study, the evolution (or devolution) of Aidin.

Brandon does a great job of keeping the tone light, and humorous, while as the same time revealing the worst characteristics of humanity. We may hate Aidin, or we want to be him, but in time we sympathize, we empathize, and by the end of the book, are emotionally and mentally spent.

“…maybe you started something you shouldn’t have…”

This was a wonderful debut novel, really fun to read, captivating, an echo of Glamorama, and early Palahniuk, back when he didn’t suck so much. I look forward to his next book, and having read a good deal of it, I can honestly say that it will probably be even better than Out of Touch.

Brandon Tietz is an emerging author. He is somebody that you should keep your eye on. He hasn’t disappointed me yet.

My interview with Christopher Dwyer is LIVE at Outsider Writers Collective

I don’t want to repeat a lot of what I say in the interview, so head on over to OWC to check it out. Christopher is an author of dark fiction, one of my neo-noir brothers, and he writes surreal, layered, intense fiction. Head on over to OWC to read the interview, and pick up When October Falls (Brown Paper Publishing) as well. It’s out now and it’s a wild ride.