Hello, fellow readers and writers! How is April treating you? I’m hoping you’ve read some stellar fiction lately.

Speaking of fiction, the editors at Rhythm & Bones kindly published my new story, “How to Suffocate a Shark.” It would mean the world to me if you checked it out. It’s a little bit of an experiment: one born of my fear of driving in congested traffic. Also, I really love the ocean and all its creatures, so I thought the two ideas meshed well together.

I’m thankful the editors at Rhythm & Bones included the story in their magazine. There are many magical creations in issue four and delving in is encouraged. If you do decide to read “How to Suffocate a Shark,” then I thank you!

As I moseyed through the pages of Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer, I came across Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay, “A Message about Messages,” and found this stellar quote:

“I believe storytelling is one of the most useful tools we have for achieving meaning: It serves to keep our communities together by asking and saying who we are, and it’s one of the best tools an individual has to find out who I am, what life may ask of me and how I can respond.”

Hi, friends! The good people at Rhythm & Bones published “Shadows Cannot be Seen in the Pitch-Black” recently. You can find the story here if you’re interested in reading it.

It’s been a tough year for the editors of Rhythm & Bones. As Tianna mentioned in the issue’s “Letter from the Editor,” “We weren’t quite sure we would make it to the end of the year, but here we are: strong as ever; stronger, even. Our passion and motivation have not flickered out, if anything they have grown.” I’m grateful not only for the publication of my flash fiction amid all of the challenges Tianna and her team faced, but I’m also grateful for the story’s early release. I admire Tianna and her team for their hard work, tenacity, and persistence. I hope you will join me in supporting the lovely literary magazine they’ve worked so hard to create.

Writing Update: Where I am Now

Happy New Year! I realized, in the midst of the mad rush of my life, that I’ve failed to provide a general update on my writing journey for a while now. As a thank you for continuing to follow my blog, I wanted to provide a general overview of the progress I’ve made this past year. I also wanted to briefly discuss the projects that are in the works right now.

Progress

The highlight of my year was the release of Space, Collisions. It’s really exciting that the print version is out too and is available for purchase at The BookwormIndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other fine retailers. Many of you know that I’ve already received reviews from Meredith Allison (my friend) and Renwick Berchild (a book reviewer) about the micro-chapbook. I also did an interview with Sarah Foil. If you’d like to receive a copy of Space, Collisions for review, I’d encourage you to check out the publicity page at Heavy Feather Review, the review queue at decomP, or reach out to PRISM International.

To all who have read and reviewed my micro-chapbook, whether on Goodreads or elsewhere, I thank you. I work to publish my writing because I want to connect with readers. I’m grateful for the encouraging reviews and personal notes I’ve received so far. I appreciate all of the readers who decided to give my work a chance.

My individual stories have also taken off in 2018. It’s been a blessing to work with so many different editors. Thanks to them, my flash fiction was published this year in Varnish Journal (sadly, now defunct), Laurel Magazine, The Bookends Review, Apparition Literary Magazine, The Fancy Arm Hole Series Number 1 (Likely Red Press), Crack the Spine, NewfoundFathom, Nice CageBarren Magazine, and Rythm & Bones. I have more flash fiction that will appear in Laurel Magazine and Rythm & Bones in 2019. Notably, the editors of Nice Cage were kind enough to reach out to me for work. This is something that’s never happened to me before, except for with vanity publishers (of which I almost always turn down). So, in short, it’s been a fantastic year for publishing short fiction. I hope that you will support all of these hard-working editors and check out all of the writing featured in these lovely literary magazines and journals.

And since we’re discussing editing, it’s probably a good time to mention that I’ve been working as a fiction editor at Green Briar Review. I was recently appointed to the position and it’s been wonderful so far reading the fiction that comes in. I’ll also be contributing to the blog in the future, so watch for reviews on fiction chapbooks. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. To all who have submitted or will submit: thank you for trusting us with your work.

Another exciting project that I volunteered for was the Forward anthology. I worked as a reader, which proved to be an awesome experience. The anthology will feature flash fiction by writers of color. I can’t wait until its March release! You can pre-order the book here. I hope you all will support this wonderful project, as well as the forces behind this movement for change.

In-Progress

The largest project I’m working on right now is a novel (or novella). You may have seen that I took a hiatus from Twitter—at times, unsuccessfully—to focus on the book. I have had trouble with my longer projects and buried many of my failed novels in the filing cabinet. Though I have many short stories in-progress, I’m going to shift focus this year away from shorter works and focus mostly on this long project. I hope this novella (or novel) will be my first true success with a book-length manuscript.

Goals for this Year

This year will be a challenging one. My husband, pets, and I are all moving to Louisiana in April. The first half of 2019 will be chaotic, but we’ll manage. We always do. But because I know it’s going to be a challenging year, I’m giving myself a bit of a break. I’ll only have three major goals next year:

  • Finish my novel (or novella) and thoroughly revise at least once
  • Complete my classics reading challenge for 2019
  • Find a way to plug into the literary community in Louisiana

I’m probably going to be conservative about reviews this year, sharing my thoughts mostly on Goodreads. I’ll also do away with the “Quick Reads” section of my blog to save time. Most of my energy will be devoted to the novella (or novel). But I’ll still share updates about my progress on my blog, so I hope you’ll continue to check in this year.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share in the comments. However you decide to challenge yourself, I wish you a year of peace and joyful reading!

Quick Reads (November 2018)

The list of everything short I read this past month isn’t very long this time. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, National Novel Writing Month took over my life. So I only had time to peek at a few things. So here they are. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


Hannah Gordon: My (Small Press) Writing Day: To Each Their Own
[I was asked by Rob Mclennan to be part of this series a well.]

Kathleen Bruce (Scott) Asks to See Her Parasitic Twin” by Kate Fox (The Cumberland River Review)

October and November Mini-Reviews

Hello, my dear blog readers! Hopefully you are cozy and warm while reading this. You may have noticed I didn’t post any book reviews for October. I’m combining October and November’s reviews because of National Novel Writing Month. Once NaNoWriMo started, it practically took over my life. Everything else had to wait. So here are all of the reviews in one post. Thanks for your patience!

Remember, the following reviews will cover what worked well in the books I read. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books or what you enjoyed about the books, then I’d encourage you to comment on this post. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


A Questionable ShapeLet’s start with the one that left me most aggrieved. When I picked up A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims, I couldn’t wait to read it. Here was another Two Dollar Radio (my favorite small press publisher) book and it had excellent reviews. Even better, it was about zombies in Louisiana, a state I rarely find represented in stories. Throw in the added bonus of an experimental form and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I quickly realized this book wasn’t something I was going to enjoy. The novel was not my cup of tea, and I could go on—in great detail—about why, but for now, let’s just focus on the positive.

Synopsis from the Two Dollar Radio website:

Mazoch discovers an unreturned movie envelope, smashed windows, and a pool of blood in his father’s house: the man has gone missing. So he creates a list of his father’s haunts and asks Vermaelen to help track him down.

However, hurricane season looms over Baton Rouge, threatening to wipe out any undead not already contained and eliminate all hope of ever finding Mazoch’s father.

Bennett Sims turns typical zombie fare on its head to deliver a wise and philosophical rumination on the nature of memory and loss.

What worked well:

  • If you’re going to use footnotes in a novel, you may as well go all out. Usually, footnotes work in academic texts and not novels because different pacing is needed; you study an academic text, taking time to ruminate on the words written on the page, while you expect to read at a steady pace through a novel. And, indeed, don’t expect A Questionable Shape to be well paced—the length and pervasiveness of the footnotes destroy any hope for that right away. But, if one insists on using footnotes in a novel, why not use them like you would in an academic textbook? After all, footnotes are often used to reference something else. Sims does that in his novel as well, making the footnotes a vehicle for Vermaelen’s endless references and internal diatribes.
  • Taking a step back from the gore and violence usually associated with zombies, to consider our humanity and what makes us human, is never a bad thing. Sims does this in his novel and, while I didn’t find it all to be successful, I did greatly appreciate his refreshing attempt.

Who should read A Questionable Shape:

  • Those who hate genre fiction, especially zombie novels
  • Fans of dead philosophers and run-of-the-mill masculine heroes
  • Readers who enjoy long-winded jeremiads
  • Those who appreciate a Nick Carraway-like narrator

DublinersA friend recommended I read Dubliners by James Joyce after I mentioned that I wanted to read Ulysses for my 2019 reading challenge, which consists of classics published before the 1950s. Taking her up on her advice, I picked up an annotated and illustrated copy of the book from the Bellevue Public Library. I think what left me the most satisfied was Joyce’s daring. His publication attempts fell through many times, but he didn’t give up. He insisted his stories, of which possess little of the modern short story structure preached about in MFA classes, be published and—in an age where self-publishing was a great deal more difficult—finally managed to make it happen. Needless to say, I find his persistence thrilling, even if I found the actual stories to be less so.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Detailed notes accompany fifteen short stories that evoke the character, atmosphere, and people of Dublin at the turn of the century

What worked well:

  • Joyce gives us a peek into Dublin: its people, its pleasures, and its pitfalls. After reading so many novels by English writers, it’s a relief to read something about Ireland, from where the majority of my ancestors emigrated.
  • Joyce’s characters are more complex than they first appear to be. It is the complexities of these characters that most intrigued me.

Who should read Dubliners:

  • Readers who appreciate stories that don’t adhere to contemporary short story structures
  • Those who may be interested in Dublin, especially during the early 20th century
  • Readers who enjoy narrators of different ages
  • Fans of free indirect discourse

Bones and AllWith my La Vista Public Library card, I checked out a book titled Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis, which happened to be shelved in the adult fiction section despite the novel’s young adult narrator. Likely the librarians understood that serial murders via cannibalism might be viewed as more of an adult topic. I was at first intrigued by Maren’s ghoulishness, especially since this was toted in some spheres as a feminist novel, and indeed the story started out strong. But it quickly fell apart, feminist undertones and all. In addition, the author’s note about veganism—equating the cannibalism of the novel to eating animals—really tainted the book for me. Still, Bones & All is memorable for a lot of reasons, and there is something to be said about Maren’s own personal journey to find herself and embrace who she is, even if the result is horrifying.

Synopsis from Macmillan’s website:

Maren Yearly is a young woman who wants the same things we all do. She wants to be someone people admire and respect. She wants to be loved. But her secret, shameful needs have forced her into exile. She hates herself for the bad thing she does, for what it’s done to her family and her sense of identity; for how it dictates her place in the world and how people see her–how they judge her. She didn’t choose to be this way.

Because Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. Ever since her mother found Penny Wilson’s eardrum in her mouth when Maren was just two years old, she knew life would never be normal for either of them. Love may come in many shapes and sizes, but for Maren, it always ends the same-with her hiding the evidence and her mother packing up the car.

But when her mother abandons her the day after her sixteenth birthday, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, and finds much more than she bargained for along the way.

Faced with a world of fellow eaters, potential enemies, and the prospect of love, Maren realizes she isn’t only looking for her father, she’s looking for herself.

Camille DeAngelis’ Bones & All is an astonishingly original coming-of-age tale that is at once a gorgeously written horror story as well as a mesmerizing meditation on female power and sexuality.

What worked well:

  • When is the last time you’ve read anything about a ghoul? I mean zombies? Sure. Ghosts? You bet. Ghouls? I’ll wait. Even if you’ve read fifteen ghoul books lately, it’s always interesting to read a book from the perspective of a monster—not anti-heroes but villains. After all, Maren kills people by eating them. As revolting as cannibalism is—and it’s quite disgusting in the book—you have to admit that the common hero tales out there don’t always cut it. Sometimes you want to know what the villain thinks. Maren’s humanity, which wars with her ghoulish tendencies, creates excellent tension.
  • It makes my skin crawl a little to remember how well the descriptions worked in this novel. Even when the violence is implied, DeAngelis gives us just enough to continue to freak us out. And the devil is always in the details.

Who should read Bones & All:

  • Fans of books about damsels in distress and their handsome saviors
  • Those who enjoy books with speculative elements, especially horror and fantasy
  • Readers who enjoy books from the perspective of the villain
  • Those who can stomach violence and gore

Blue HorsesI wanted to read some more poetry, so I decided to take Blue Horses by Mary Oliver out of my to-be-read pile. Perusing Oliver’s biography, I figured out she was born in Ohio, like me. I ended up enjoying reading Blue Horses and was moved by several of the poems.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

In this stunning collection of new poems, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has defined her life’s work, describing with wonder both the everyday and the unaffected beauty of nature.

Herons, sparrows, owls, and kingfishers flit across the page in meditations on love, artistry, and impermanence. Whether considering a bird’s nest, the seeming patience of oak trees, or the artworks of Franz Marc, Oliver reminds us of the transformative power of attention and how much can be contained within the smallest moments.

At its heart, Blue Horses asks what it means to truly belong to this world, to live in it attuned to all its changes. Humorous, gentle, and always honest, Oliver is a visionary of the natural world.

What worked well:

  • I can’t honestly claim to be the best judge of poetry. However, I can tell you what I find enjoyable. I found Oliver’s poems to be plainspoken but witty and accessible. I especially enjoyed the good-natured jab at Whitman and Leaves of Grass.
  • The poems were also full of beautiful nature imagery. As someone who has a deep appreciation for natural landscapes, I love when a poet can capture the loveliness and mystery of said places with their chosen words. Oliver does this with a noticeable wisdom.

Who should read Blue Horses:

  • Readers who enjoy nature imagery
  • Fans of well-written, plainspoken poems
  • Those who appreciate witty mischief
  • Readers who want to read the work of a well-established poet

This House is HauntedAround Halloween, I wanted to read a ghost story. I finally cracked open This House is Haunted by John Boyne. It’s likely you may recognize Boyne’s more famous work, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I didn’t realize he’d written that book when I won This House is Haunted from a giveaway by Other Press. So I began the book without any expectations—aside from wanting a good ghost story. The book is written in “Dickensian prose” and even features Dickens as a character in the beginning. So it starts out bold. I was intrigued. In the end, though, the story was too formulaic and the characters were too flat for my tastes.

Synopsis from the Other Press website:

Written in Dickensian prose, This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.

What worked well:

  • I did enjoy Boyne’s prose. He seemed to capture the vernacular of the time period, which was probably a difficult and tedious task to pull off as a writer.
  • The supernatural happenings were interesting enough. Who doesn’t enjoy a deadly, vengeful ghost from time to time? Though I really wish I’d known more about the ghost herself, Eliza’s encounters with the specter kept me reading.

Who should read This House is Haunted:

  • Fans of “Dickensian prose”
  • Readers who enjoy ghost stories, especially ones set in the 19th century
  • Those who enjoy stories about motherhood
  • Readers who like stories about English class politics

Fifth SeasonAfter a month of reading stories I didn’t particularly love, I was nervous to start The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. After all, the book had received a lot of hype, which made me instantly skeptical. But when I began to read Jemisin’s work, my heart soared. Here was a writer that could challenge me, that could make me think, that could offer me new ways of looking at language. Her work reminded me so much of geniuses like Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler. Jemisin gave me an entertaining story, complex characters, and sentences that would make any seasoned writer green with envy. Add that to the way she examines identity and plays with point of view and there’s nothing left to say but I love this book.

Synopsis from Hachette’s website:

This is the way the world ends…for the last time.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

What worked well:

  • It’s much more of a challenge to find what didn’t work well in this book. As I mentioned before, the way Jemisin plays with point of view and then ties that into identity is genius. Downright genius. It thrilled me. But I can’t really say more than that without massive spoilers—so go read it and find out!
  • Not many writers can pull off an interesting plot and complex characters. Usually it’s either one or the other (or in some cases, neither). Jemisin does this flawlessly. She gives us people who naturally wield the earth as a weapon and as a result are feared and subjugated. The story avoids many of the major cliches usually found in speculative genres and improves upon the tropes it does tap into. I am still a little stunned by the awesomeness that is The Fifth Season.

Who should read The Fifth Season:
(Um, anyone who reads? Like, this story is awesome. C’mon. Okay fine.)

  • Readers who enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and horror
  • Veteran speculative readers looking for something challenging and exciting
  • Those who enjoy stories that grapple with ideas of identity and power
  • Fans of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison

3arabi songSo I’ve had some poetry collections sitting on my shelf for quite a while now and I decided to go ahead and read them. I started with 3arabi Song by Zeina Hashem Beck. While not my favorite poetry collection, I did enjoy Beck’s tribute to Arab singers.

Synopsis from the Rattle website:

3arabi Song is a song of sorrow and joy, death and dance. Yes there is unrest, war, and displacement in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Egypt. But there is also survival, music, and love. Iconic Arab singers like Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and Abdel Halim Hafez, inhabit these poems—they mourn and celebrate. So do children, parents, refugees, and lovers. These poems want to hum you stories that straddle the personal and the political, in an English riddled with Arabic words. The voices in them want to mourn for loved ones and broken homelands, but they also want to sing, as Asmahan does, ‘inta inta imta—you you when / will you know I love you.’

What worked well:

  • Beck does a nice job balancing the political with the personal in this collection. Balance in general, I think, is a quality of her work that should be praised. There’s a balance between Arabic and English (the translation notes at the end help a great deal), between tragedy and triumph, between influences of the West and influences of the Middle East. The result is a robust collection, filled with interesting juxtapositions.
  • Another wonderful aspect of 3arabi Song is the examination of song and language. I found Beck’s explanation of Arabizi to be particularly interesting.

Who should read 3arabi Song:

  • Readers who enjoy poems in multiple languages
  • Those who appreciate Arabic songs and culture
  • Fans of poems using refrains
  • Those who may be interested in learning more about Arabizi

Turn Left Before MorningThe other poetry collection I’d acquired from Rattle was Turn Left Before Morning by April Salzano. This collection by a mother of a child with autism really struck a chord with me.

Synopsis from the Rattle website:

Turn Left Before Morning explores the daily struggles involved in parenting a child with autism. These poems map a mother’s quest for understanding of a world that requires a significant shift in perspective and a new definition of what it means to love a child. The key to navigating the rough terrain of autism is not something she discovers, but is instead something that has been subtly guiding her all along: autism is as wonderful as it is terrifying, as humorous as it is heartbreaking, in alternating and equal measure.

What worked well:

  • The brutal honesty offered in these poems makes this collection undeniably strong. Each felt like a strong punch to the gut.
  • There is a lot of beauty in this complex relationship between mother and son. The plainspoken poems reflect this with gripping and convicting language that has the power to move the reader.

Who should read Turn Left Before Morning:

  • Readers seeking poems about autism
  • Parents of children with autism
  • Fans of plainspoken poems
  • Those who can appreciate and grapple with complex situations and relationships

Language of Rain and WindThe final poetry collection I’d been meaning to read was The Language of Rain and Wind by John Krumberger. I picked this out of a “free books” giveaway pile at Creighton University, because I was intrigued by the title. I found the poems to be interesting enough to keep me reading.

In lieu of a synopsis, here are some quotes of praise about The Language of Rain and Wind from the Backwaters Press website:

‘In poems sometimes elegiac, sometimes celebratory, often both, John Krumberger acknowledges his self-appointed task: “as a Scorpio who feels / the ground beneath the ground, / I lay my ear down to hear / the rocky, carbon, root-ash loam / breeding with the old year’s bones.” Past and present commingle in beautiful and disturbing ways to create “rank, rain-watered, worm-riddled” layers, and The Language of Rain and Wind is replete with modest gestures that offer “brisk benediction before quicklime and dark.” Oddly affirmative, these poems born of passionate listening speak as naturally as the elements and touch us as rain and wind might, lightly, but with memorable effect.’
• Michael Waters – Author of Darling Vulgarity

‘These empathetic poems are rich with the realities of other lives. John Krumberger doesn’t miss much: there is a wide (and deep) range of concerns in these pages. Here is a writer who knows how to listen and to watch, who can make vividly surprising, daring imaginative connections without raising his voice; the complexities are all the more strongly felt for the overall naturalness of his manner and the skillful quietness of his voice. These are indelibly human poems; I loved reading them.’
• Michael Dennis Browne – Author of Things I Can’t Tell You

What worked well:

  • Beautiful images and sensory details bring the poems to life on the page.
  • The third section, which expresses intimate moments with patients, was rather striking. Many of the lines delivered there were haunting and powerful.

Who should read The Language of Rain and Wind:

  • Those interested in psychology
  • Fans of poems rich with sensory details and striking images
  • Readers who like poems focused on human relations
  • Fans of poems about nature

BONUS TITLES!

I read #43 through #45 in the Ghost City Press micro-chapbook series. You can find all of them here.

I talked to the wonderful booksellers at The Bookworm today, and they’ve agreed to sell Space, Collisions! For those of you who’d like to buy a physical copy of the micro-chapbook, I’d encourage you to pick it up at this lovely independent bookstore. You can buy the micro-chapbook online or find it on their local author shelf inside the brick-and-mortar store. The Bookworm has a wonderful track record of housing and promoting local authors. It would mean a great deal to me if you’d consider checking out this family-owned business, especially during your holiday season shopping.

Cover Art by Jennifer Potter

Recently, I had the pleasure to chat with Sarah Foil, a friend of mine from Salem College. She interviewed me about Space, Collisions. You can find our discussion on her blog today. And do check out the rest of her blog, if you pop over there. She’s a writer, editor, and media manager and her reviews and interviews are always interesting.

Hi, friends! Author Rob Mclennan asked me to participate in a project he created, which is called, “My (Small Press) Writing Day.” The project is modeled after something similar at The Guardian but specifically focuses on small press writers. You can find my response, as well as many others, at Rob’s blog. Thanks for checking it out, if you do!

Quick Reads (October 2018)

So many wonderful magazines and journals released new content this month and it was hard to keep up. I haven’t read through all the things I want to, but I’m sure I can sneak more in while procrastinating during National Novel Writing Month!

Anyway, here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


A Summoning in Section 292.1.J-P” By Anya Josephs (Green Briar Review)
[Note: This is where I volunteer as a fiction editor. Please consider sending us your own excellent creations!]

When Czechoslovakia Was Still a Country” By Tad Bartlett (Green Briar Review)
[See note directly above this.]

4P16.3” by Maya Alexandri (The Forge Literary Magazine)

Snap Bam Boom” by Robert Mangeot (The Forge Literary Magazine)

Zero Tolerance” by Jayne Martin (Barren Magazine)

Toy Box” by Asher (Barren Magazine)
[Note: “Buried in the Ground” by yours truly is in this issue of the magazine!]

Barnlights” by Amanda Crum (Barren Magazine)

A Girl Buys Lilies for Herself” by Priyanka Sacheti (Barren Magazine)

Sharp Parables” by Emily Osborne (Barren Magazine)

How to weave a blanket out of horsehair and spidersilk” by Sonja Swift (Barren Magazine)

The Horror of Party Beach” by Dale Bailey (Lightspeed)
[I listened to this story via the Lightspeed podcast.]

The Miracle Lambs of Minane” by Finbarr O’Reilly (Clarkesworld Magazine)
[I listened to this story via the Clarkesworld Magazine podcast.]

Midwestern Women: An Essential Reading List” by Meghan O’Gieblyn (Literary Hub)

The Routine” by Marie McKay (Rhythm & Bones)

Unravelling” by A.L. Bradshaw (freeze frame fiction)

Waiting for Nothing to Happen” by Caroline Langston (Image)

Dionysus Promised to Let You Have Another Glass” by Chloe N. Clark (Likely Red)

The Atomic Clock” by Michael Grant Smith (Spelk)

Crazy in Love” by Anita Goveas (Pixel Heart Literary Magazine)

Letter of Recommendation for a Basic Male MFA Applicant” by Emma Brewer (McSweeney’s Internet Tendency)

How to Build a Dream World” by Ruth Joffre (Electric Literature)

The Power of Cautionary Questions: Neil Gaiman on Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Why We Read, and How Speculative Storytelling Enlarges Our Humanity” by Maria Popova (Brain Pickings)

Into the Wash” by Mitchell Grabois (Blue River)

The Hill” by Laura Huey Chamberlain (jmww)

The Things I Miss the Most” by Nisi Shawl (Uncanny Magazine)
[I listened to this story via the Uncanny Magazine podcast. It is part of the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.]

Convalescence” by Alicia Cole (Uncanny Magazine)
[I listened to this poem via the Uncanny Magazine podcast. It is part of the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue.]

“Catalyst” and “Reaction” by M. Stone (Nice Cage)
[My short story, “All the Waves Resound,” is also in this issue of the journal!]

New Old” by Tara Isabel Zambrano (The Southampton Review)

Emily As We Turn Off the Sound of Monday Night Football” by Darren C. Demaree (The Stay Project)

The Horror of the Unknown: Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti” by David Peak (Electric Literature)

Hi, friends! “Buried in the Ground” is up at Barren Magazine today if you’d like to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

You begin with the vegetable garden because it’s the likeliest place to bury something. You slip the blank paper into your bag and get to work, not daring to put it down until your dad goes back into the house. The ground is still soft in the garden from spring’s tilling and makes the digging less painful. But when you dig up the carrots, you regret your decision. It isn’t until you’re under the soil that you realize the vegetables are still slivers of orange root, born too early. The leafy carrot tops trick you, making the roots appear more mature than they really are.

I hope you’ll check it out! If you do, thanks for reading.

I recently had a short story accepted for publication at Barren Magazine. “Buried in the Ground” is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever written and it hits very close to home for me. Like other writers such as Eleanor Kriseman and Melanie Finn, I sometimes write about child abuse and neglect to grapple with and discuss these very real issues. In addition, “Buried in the Ground” also deals with animal abuse.

Fiction can often foster empathy and that’s my goal here. While many of my other stories tend to suggest abuse is happening, this one deals with it directly. It’s my way of acknowledging that, tragically, not all child abuse or animal abuse cases have happy endings. To put the reader in the shoes of the child, I also used the second person. Even though this is a work of fiction, it is a difficult story and I recognize that it will not be one that everybody can read. I respect the decisions made by readers who choose to abstain. If you do choose to read it, then I thank you.

And don’t forget there are wonderful organizations out there, such as The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, that help with real cases of child abuse. Let’s all work together to create a more loving and safe world for everyone.

“Buried in the Ground” will appear in Issue No. 3 of Barren Magazine, which is scheduled to release October 20.

September Mini-Reviews

Autumn has appeared suddenly here in Nebraska and the cooler weather is a perfect excuse to sit inside and read. We’re also less than a month away from NaNoWriMo, which is a good reminder of just how hard it is to write a book, let alone a good book. I always try to keep this in mind when I review things: authors are working hard, usually for years, to get their books out there and in front of readers. It’s a tough business and a bad review can be rather detrimental.

At a Vase of Wildflowers, I always try to be honest about my feelings concerning the books I read, while still focusing on its positive aspects. That’s not every reviewer’s goal and I respect and understand that. But when you visit my blog, I hope that you will always consider giving the books I review a chance, no matter how I feel about them. It would be boring if we all loved the same things. And isn’t that what literature is really all about: freedom and the right to choose and think for oneself?

So with that in mind, the following reviews will cover what worked well in the books I read. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books or what you enjoyed about the books, then I’d encourage you to comment on this post. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


The Art of PerspectiveI decided to continue reading Graywolf Press’s “The Art of” series with Christopher Castellani’s The Art of Perspective. It was another smash hit for me, even if I didn’t agree with everything Castellani said. I’m happy to have read it. All the thanks to my local librarian for making me aware of this series about the craft of writing. I hope to be able to continue it. I’m seriously considering reading them all. Let’s hope they stock the rest at the Bellevue Public Library in the near future.

Synopsis from the Graywolf Press website:

A writer may have a story to tell, a sense of plot, and strong characters, but for all of these to come together some key questions must be answered. What form should the narrator take? An omniscient, invisible force, or one—or more—of the characters? But in what voice, and from what vantage point? How to decide? Avoiding prescriptive instructions or arbitrary rules, Christopher Castellani brilliantly examines the various ways writers have solved the crucial point-of-view problem. By unpacking the narrative strategies at play in the work of writers as different as E. M. Forster, Grace Paley, and Tayeb Salih, among many others, he illustrates how the author’s careful manipulation of distance between narrator and character drives the story. An insightful work by an award-winning novelist and the artistic director of GrubStreet, The Art of Perspective is a fascinating discussion on a subject of perpetual interest to any writer.

What worked well:

  • Even when I disagreed with Castellani on a particular idea, he was such an eloquent writer that anything he wrote nearly swayed me to his viewpoint. It’s always nice to know that the one instructing you about writing is a good writer. Castellani proves it in this book, penning elegantly wrought and veracious chapters, which are as much moving as they are instructive.
  • I had a professor in my graduate program that tried to argue that all points of view worked in the exact same way and that it didn’t matter which one was chosen for a story. I’ve never agreed with that idea and I think this book works to show why the point of view we choose for a story does matter. This is a very valuable tool for writers: the ability to understand the nuances of the different perspectives.

Who should read The Art of Perspective:

  • Writers, especially fiction writers
  • Professors and teachers who want to educate their students about perspective
  • Those who enjoy books about the craft of writing
  • Readers who like to study particular literary movements and their impact on literature

Building FictionAnother craft book I finished this past month was Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval. I read parts of this book in graduate school for a class. After I graduated, I decided I wanted to read the entire thing. I read the book from start to finish, including the chapters I’d already studied. It was worth revisiting, and I’ll probably reference it again at different points in my career, but it did take a while to get through it because of the textbook-like feel of the prose.

Synopsis from the University of Wisconsin Press website:

No one looks at structure like Jesse Lee Kercheval. She builds a work of fiction just as an architect would design a house—with an eye for details and how all parts of a story or novel interconnect. Even with the most dynamic language, images, and characters, no piece of fiction will work without a strong infrastructure. Kercheval shows how to build that structure using such tools as point of view, characterization, pacing, and flashbacks. Building Fiction will help you envision the landscape of your fiction and build great stories there.

What worked well:

  • This is an excellent guide for beginning fiction writers, with many things that are valuable for the intermediate writer. Honestly, even for the most experienced, it’s nice to reexamine these basic elements. Kercheval is thorough and gives ample examples, including ones from her own books. She even has a very valuable chapter on experimental writing—a topic often ignored by other craft books I’ve read.
  • What I appreciate about Kercheval’s writing is the candidness of it. She doesn’t pretend her advice is the only advice out there, nor does she suggest that it’s the only correct way of doing things. This is important because she encourages writers to find their own voices and to write what works for them.

Who should read Building Fiction:

  • Fiction writers
  • Professors and teachers who want to teach their students how to write fiction (especially novels and short stories)
  • Those who enjoy books about the craft of writing
  • Writers who enjoy extensive, time-consuming exercises

Milkyway HitchhikingI realized, with horror, that I hadn’t read any comics or graphic novels lately. I decided to obtain a library card from La Vista’s public library (I can as an employee of the college I work for) and check out what they had to offer. The first book I choose to read was a manga titled Milkyway Hitchhiking, Vol. 1 by Sirial. While its slice-of-life storytelling left much to be desired, there were still some lovely things happening in this volume.

Synopsis from the Yen Press website:

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. Milkyway–a peculiar cat with a pattern of the Milky Way splashed across her back–travels across time and space; sometimes to observe, other times to interact with an unfolding story. From Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day, comes the full-color tale of Milkyway hitchhiking across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

What worked well:

  • The art in this is gorgeous. What’s even cooler than that is that the art style changes somewhat with the different stories. I’m no expert, but it felt like only a truly skilled artist could pull off so many styles so flawlessly.
  • The fantasy and sci-fi aspects presented in this book are fascinating. They include everything from shape-shifting to robots. And everything is super cat focused, which I can’t help but love.

Who should read Milkyway Hitchhiking, Vol. 1:

  • Fans of manga with beautiful artwork
  • Readers who like quick stories connected by a single character
  • Those who enjoy fantasy and science-fiction
  • Readers who enjoy intermixed light and dark stories

The BunkerThe other comic book I picked up was The Bunker Vol. 1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer) and Joe Infurnari (artist). I love apocalyptic stories but I felt more confused by this one, due to both the storytelling and art style, than satisfied.

Synopsis from Oni Press website:

On their way to bury a time capsule, five friends – Grady, Heidi, Natasha, Daniel, and Billy – uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them… from their future selves. Told they will destroy the world in the very near future, the friends find, over the next few days, growing further and further apart. Though they’ve been warned against making the wrong choices, how do they know what the right ones are? Can the future really be changed, or will an even darker fate engulf the world? Collects the first four issues of the ongoing series.

What worked well:

  • There’s definitely a lot here to keep readers interested: letters from the future, time travel, and crops that kill, to name a few.
  • The art style compliments the horror aspects, especially that of the impending apocalypse.

Who should read The Bunker Vol. 1:

  • Fans of apocalyptic stories
  • Comic book readers who can appreciate the art style
  • Readers who like science-fiction
  • Those who are patient enough to figure out where the story will lead

BONUS TITLES!

I read #41 and #42 in the Ghost City Press micro-chapbook series. You can find all of them here.

Blood & WhiskeyAnd remember that book I was a beta reader for? Guess what, you can pre-order it now! It’s called Blood & Whiskey and it was written by my friend Meredith Allison.

Blood & Whiskey thrilled me. Meredith Allison uses famous criminals like Al Capone, Dean O’Banion, and Tom Dennison and expertly plays them against dynamic fictional characters of her own creation. It’s a daring and exciting book, filled with all of the adventure and peril of the Roaring Twenties.

 

Quick Reads (September 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


Rabbit Hat” by Marcus Slease (Nice Cage)

Watch Them Glitter” by Tommy Dean (Ellipsis Zine)

Comfort, Dogs” by Matthew Fiander (Barren Magazine)

Fantastic Fabrics” by A.E. Weisgerber (Barren Magazine)

Chinese Bleeding on a Friday” by Peter Ngila (Barren Magazine)

Sweet Violets” by A.E. Weisgerber (New Flash Fiction Review)

The Funny Thing” by Michelle Ross (Nashville Review)

All of #22, Volume XII, Issue 1 of the Whitefish Review

Salt and Calcium” by Sarah Roth (Columbia Journal)

One Lifetime With a Stranger” by Matthew Caldwell (The Esthetic Apostle)
[Note: Matthew attended Creighton University’s MFA program around the same time I did.]

Unmentionables” by Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice (Paper Darts)

Back Talk” by Danielle Lazarin (Copper Nickel)

Nebraska” by Brian Hoey (New Orleans Review)

A Girl Walks on the Moon” by Ruth Joffre (Vestal Review)

Muriel” Elizabeth O’Brien (Newfound)

The Difference Between Reading and Reading Well” by Collin Huber (Fathom Magazine)

A Son” by Rachel Rodman (Apparition Literary Magazine)

Inversions” by Meghan Xanthos (The Bookends Review)

Mullenville, Population 82” by Sandra K. Barnidge (Allegory Ridge)

Wings and Sand” by Sean Patrick Whiteley (Obra/Artifact)

Counting Elephants” by F.E. Clark (Rhythm & Bones)

The Farewell” by Gem Caley (The Ginger Collect)

Out and Out” by Latifa Ayad (The Masters Review)

August Mini-Reviews

Sorry for the delay, blog readers. August turned out to be a busy month. I continued as a beta reader for a novel and I also read for an exciting new anthology coming out (more details soon). Along with some more personal things going on in my life, I only managed to read three books and four micro-chapbooks. I’m hoping I’ll get more reading done before September ends (*cue Green Day song—just kidding).

Back to it then. The following reviews will cover what worked well in the books. If you wish to discuss what didn’t work in the books or what you enjoyed about the books, then I’d encourage you to comment on this post.

Without further ado, here are the mini-reviews for this month. (Mild spoilers may follow.)


TroublersTroublers by Rob Walsh is another book I borrowed from my librarian friend and another Caketrain title. I wish I could say that I liked this one much better than Nevers. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. But, like with Nevers, there were things in the collection that sparked my interest and made me appreciate reading the book despite my grievances.

In lieu of a synopsis, here are some quotes of praise about Troublers from Caketrain’s website:

‘Walsh’s stories are so odd and wonderful that they seem to have been treasured from some heretofore nonexistent Eastern European country that should now, finally, be properly celebrated.’ —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

‘In Troublers, Rob Walsh entertains marvelous, profound little dances which never fail to twirl you somewhere you’ve never been. In his world, ‘heartless betrayal is both the engine of modern television and a kind of stainless upholstery to which no ethical principal can stick.’ But inside Troublers’ beautifully rendered exterior lies a heart so pure. ‘Let’s poke the thing!?’ as Walsh directs.’ —Terese Svoboda, author of Bohemian Girl

What worked well:

  • There’s a lot of absurdism that’s enjoyable. Many stories will also hint at the political without bashing you over the head with it, which is refreshing.
  • The oddness of the stories also works well. And make no mistake, these stories are often exceedingly odd. If nothing else, I enjoyed the whacky ideas the writer could come up with.

Who should read Troublers:

  • Fans of absurdist fiction
  • Readers who enjoy odd stories and ideas
  • Readers of short stories
  • Those who enjoy other Caketrain titles like Nevers

Little Fires EverywhereI was excited to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng after I so greatly enjoyed her previous novel, Everything I Never Told You. To say I liked Little Fires Everywhere less than her previous book doesn’t do Ng’s newest novel justice. This book is gorgeous and full of important things to discuss. Ng never disappoints.

Synopsis from the Penguin Random House website:

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

What worked well:

  • Ng wields summary as if it were scene, which is a truly difficult thing to do, and this keeps the novel extremely interesting.
  • The way she describes the thoughts and actions of her characters: it is so precise it makes me want to study her novel like I would a textbook. She even takes things that seem a little on the nose—like Trip and Moody’s names—and expertly complicates them.

Who should read Little Fires Everywhere:

  • Fans of Ng’s writing, especially her novel, Everything I Never Told You
  • Readers who enjoy novels about the complexity of human relationships
  • Those who enjoy books about artists and art
  • Readers who enjoy stories about motherhood

the art of descriptionThanks to my awesome librarian friend, new writing craft books have been stocked on the shelves of Bellevue Public Library. With those new books came Mark Doty‘s The Art of Description, a book published by Graywolf Press. I didn’t know what to expect going into this book but I came out of it with a deep sense of admiration for Doty and his beautiful writing.

Synopsis from the Graywolf Press website:

‘It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see,’ Mark Doty begins. ‘But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes. . . . ‘ How the writer moves perception to image and finally to written word is at the heart of any literary work. In this vivid meditation on this essential aspect of the writer’s craft, Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. In clear chapter-essays and a vibrant abecedarian sequence, The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America’s most revered writers and teachers.

What worked well:

  • Mark Doty is a wise and patient teacher. The example poems were fantastic and the advice thought-provoking and challenging.
  • Even though this book addressed poets, I felt a deep conviction as a prose writer to pay better attention to language.

Who should read The Art of Description:

  • Poets (and prose writers too)
  • Readers who appreciate studying the nuance of language
  • Writers who are seeking how to better describe their characters, settings, and more
  • Teachers and professors who are seeking a great book to use as a teaching tool in their creative writing classes

BONUS TITLES!

I read micro-chapbooks #37 through #40 in the Ghost City Press Summer Micro-Chapbook Series. You can find all of the available ones here.

Quick Reads (August 2018)

Here is the list of everything short I read this past month. Please remember: this list is not necessarily meant to act as a review, a show of favor, or a “best of” list. Feel free to share your own findings in the comments!


All of The Conium Review: Vol. 5

Why Christians Should Read More Fiction” by Paul Anderson (RELEVANT Magazine)

“The Fool’s Stone” by Aubry Kae Andersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

An elf in the witch-garden” by Kate Garr (Rhythm & Bones)

Thaumatrope” by Christopher Iacono (Rhythm & Bones)

forgiving mistakes i’ve made” by Linda M. Crate (Rhythm & Bones)

Today” by Maddie M. White (Rhythm & Bones)

A Dungeon Open House” by Ben Niespodziany (Train)

And the Hole Never Heals” by Ryan Habermeyer (Bat City Review)

Dragon Princess” by Michael Chin (Cherry Tree)
[Note: I read the excerpt available online.]

Big Bad Wolf” by Terrance Wedin (New South)

Unicorn” by Philip Dean Walker (Big Lucks)

This and That” by Ricky Garni (Big Lucks)

Rhode Island Red” by Michael Kimball (Big Lucks)

The Wardrobe” by Aysegul Savas (The Adroit Journal)

Apology” by Anne Rasmussen (Jellyfish Review)

Uncle Soot” by Joshua Jones (Midwestern Gothic)
[The round 1 winner for the journal’s annual summer flash fiction series]

Perseids” by Madeline Anthes (Midwestern Gothic)
[The round 1 runner-up for the journal’s annual summer flash fiction series]

Day in the Manner of Magritte” by Austin Sanchez-Moran (Maudlin House)

Bees” by ​​Melissa N. Warren (Gordon Square Review)

Me and You and Zvonimir” by Casey Whitworth (Green Briar Review)

Arsonist With Unlit Match” by Matt Fiander (Barren Magazine)

The House Mourns Alone at Midnight” by Maryse Meijer (Outlook Springs)

Koi Pond” by Cathy Ulrich (Outlook Springs)

SPACE, COLLISIONS Available for Print Pre-Order!

The print version of Space, Collisions is now available for pre-order! If you like brief stories, then this is the collection for you. The micro-chapbook will be 6″ x 9″ with saddle stitch binding. 

Advanced praise:

“Three perfectly paced and elegantly written stories that leave the reader breathless and pensive at once.” —Meredith Allison, author of Blood & Whiskey

“L. N. Holmes has a talented pen and a great imagination. . . .” —Renwick Berchild, Nothing In Particular Book Review

Synopsis:

Space, Collisions is a micro-chapbook containing three brief stories. In “When Continents Collide,” a man waits on the shores of the Outer Banks for the collision of the North American and African continents. “Trace” focuses on the intimate secrets shared between one pining woman and her self-destructing lover. In “Spacefall,” two scientists take a break from work to drive to the countryside and bask in their friendship. Each installment in this short collection offers motifs of physical distance and intimate connection. Overall, the stories emphasize the common longing to overcome the space that divides.

Print options:

The micro-chapbook will be on sale September 19, 2018 with pre-orders available now. *Personalized messages are an option. A single copy of the micro-chapbook is **$3.99.

Individuals, booksellers, general retailers, and other interested parties may submit orders to LeeAnn Adams (leeann [dot] n [dot] holmes [at] gmail [dot] com). Please include in your email the quantity of micro-chapbooks desired, any preferred ***printing and shipping methods, shipping address, PayPal address, and any personalization requests. Invoices will be processed through PayPal. Wholesale discounts are available through IngramSpark Distributors (ISBN: 9780692165065).

Ebook options:

Digital micro-chapbooks are still available through Ghost City Press.

Continue reading

stories, microchapbook, small press, fiction, flash fiction, Space, Collisions, L. N. Holmes, short story, print version

Here is a sneak peek of the print cover for Space, Collisions. This a screenshot, so it’s a bit grainy.

It’s been nearly a month since Ghost City Press released the digital version of Space, Collisions. Thanks to Jennifer Potter, the print cover is shaping up nicely as well. Stay tuned for the release date! And a big thanks to my amazing cover artist.

I received some really great news last night. Rhythm & Bones Lit agreed to publish two of my flash fiction stories! You will be able to read “Shadows Cannot be Seen in the Pitch-Black” in issue three of the magazine and “How to Suffocate a Shark” in issue four. Many, many thanks to Tianna, Renee, and Charlie for the kind acceptance letter. I can’t wait!

My good friend Meredith Allison reviewed Space, Collisions and interviewed me about the collection. Her thoughts and questions are totally spot on. She’s one of my writing heroines and I can’t wait for her upcoming historical fiction novel, Blood & Whiskey, to be released.

You can read the review and interview here. I hope you’ll check it out!

Little Writer With Big Kick: L. N. Holmes’s Otherworldly Collisions

Renwick Berchild posted a lovely review of Space, Collisions over at the Nothing in Particular book blog. I’m so grateful for her honest thoughts and for the way she associated Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time with my micro-chapbook. I am overjoyed! I hope you will check it out, dear readers.

Nothing In Particular

Like many with and before me, one of my first compelling reads as a youth was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. In the beginning chapters, there is a most enthralling moment – illustrated by an ant and a piece of string – where Mrs. Who, Mrs Which, and Mrs Whatsit explain how a clever loophole in time and space allows them to travel the universe.

A Wrinkle in Time_ant Illustration of ‘the wrinkle’ – Source: A Wrinkle in Time

We know it as “the tesseract”, or, “the fifth dimension”. In reality i.e. geometry, a tesseract is the four-dimensional analogue of the cube, consisting of 8 cells, 24 faces, 32 edges, and 16 vertices. It is, in short, a cubic prism. But at this explanation, the tesseract looses its mystique and magic. In the book we understand the tesseract only as this: The way to bridge the gap between worlds.

In reading L…

View original post 626 more words