The Year of Orwell

This past Christmas, my brother- and sister-in-law got me the biography of George Orwell by Gordon Bowker that I had been wanting. Nineteen Eighty-Four has been one of my all-time favorite books since high school. It was the first assigned reading in High School that I remember actually liking. I devoured it then, and I have returned to it multiple times since. I considered George Orwell, whose actual name was Eric Blair, a favorite writer, though I had not read many of his works. Along with Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm was required reading in high school. Sadly, nothing else from Orwell was assigned, and I did not get around to reading more of his books until a few years ago, when Emily got me a two-in-one volume that includes Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out in Paris and London, plus a little booklet from Penguin that collects a few of his most famous essays. These works greatly confirmed my love for his writing, and created a greater desire to learn more about the writer.
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NEW SHORT FICTION: Read “The Puddle Girl of St. George” in the Anthology of Appalachian Writers

“The Puddle Girl of St. George” is a unique kind of ghost story set in the beautiful, haunting St. George, West Virginia. I’m very proud that it was selected for publication in the annual Anthology of Appalachian Writers.

Even though this volume (Vol. XI), featuring guest editor Karen Spears Zacharias, was technically published back in June, I’ve been waiting to post about it until there was a working link for ordering the book. For some reason there was a listing for it on the Shepherd University Online Bookstore for a while now, but it has been listed as Out of Stock until this month. Well, better late than never—you can order it now!


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Two of my loves have intersected (NPR’s 100 Best Horror)

I don’t listen to the radio as much as I listen to podcasts, but most of my favorite podcasts are derived from public radio, so NPR is dear to me. And they are piling on some major bonus points. Having polled readers for their favorite horror novels and stories, judges who are well-known within the horror fiction community sifted through the results and whittled them down to an expertly curated list of one hundred! Find them here and figure out what you need to add to your reading list. I’m happy to say that one of the works I nominated made it to the list: “The Repairer of Reputations”, which is one of my favorite short stories and the first in Robert W. Chambers’ unforgettable classic collection, The King in Yellow.

Congrats to Scott McClanahan for WV Living's BOWV Best Author!

The results are finally in for Best Author in WV Living‘s Best of West Virginia 2017. First I want to say thank you to all my fans who voted for me. In the end, I didn’t win, but I think everyone will agree that the winner was totally deserving.
Congrats to Scott McClanahan! His book Crapalachia has been on my TBR list for a long time. (I haven’t gotten around to it yet as I have recently been focusing primarily on the works of WV writers Davis Grubb and Denise Giardina—I haven’t even read any Lee Maynard yet :/ … )
Scott’s new title, The Sarah Book, released this past July by Tryant Books, was picked as one of the Best Books of 2017 by LitReactor, as well as one of the Best Books of 2017 by NPR. To be honest, when I saw his name on the ballot, I didn’t honestly expect any other result. I mean, the guy was interviewed by Rolling Stone, for crying out loud! What an honor for West Virginia to have such a highly acclaimed author representing our state.
To learn more Scott and his books, head on over to his website (http://hollerpresents.com/scott.html) and follow him on Twitter (@HollerPresents).
For the rest of this year’s Best of West Virginia, go to https://www.wvliving.com/bowv17/ (shout out to the Davis/Thomas/Canaan area where I grew up, pulling in multiple awards!), and don’t forget to follow WV Living on Twitter and Instagram.

Literary festivities in America’s Coolest Small Town

Over the weekend I signed and sold my books at one of my favorite events, the Lewisburg Literary Festival. Lewisburg is up at the top of my favorite places in WV, and a big reason for that is their appreciation for books expressed in this fun annual event. (Re: the title of this post, Lewisburg was named America’s Coolest Small Town by Budget Travel in 2011). I took a few pics and thought those of you who weren’t there would want to see what you missed out on. Continue reading

Catch me in Lewisburg WV

My book signing at Empire Books & News in Huntington, WV was a blast. I lucked out as Huntington’s annual Hot Dog Festival was going on in Pullman Square during my signing, which I’m pretty sure resulted in even more visitors to the book store than normal. Before the event I ordered another box of books just in case I sold most of them at Empire, and it’s a good thing I did!
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This weekend I’ll be selling and signing my books in the vendor area at the Lewisburg Literary Festival on August 4 & 5 (this Friday and Saturday). Along with many other great WV authors and publishers selling their books, there will also be workshops and speakers in the area. I’ve been to the Lewisburg Literary Festival as an observer before and it is a blast, believe me (and it’s free to attend!). Not to mention just walking around Lewisburg alone is pretty fun; it’s one of my favorite towns in WV. Come see us, and don’t forget to reserve tickets to the scheduled events (free, but necessary to hold your spot as seating is limited).
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Guest speakers and workshop teachers for 2017 include Eliot Parker, Morgan Spurlock, Mesha Maren,  and the featured speaker is #1 New York Times best-selling author Azar Nafisi! Find out more about it and reserve your tickets on the website or Facebook.
Website: http://www.lewisburgliteraryfestival.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LewisburgLiteraryFestival/
 

Hemingway vs. Bradbury

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a goal of finishing both The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales over the course of the year by reading at least two stories from each per week. So far I’ve read ten from Hemingway and eleven from Bradbury, so I’m ahead of my goal.

I’m not totally inexperienced with either of these writers, though I’ll admit to not having investigated their work as much as I should have. Before this year, I had read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, a handful of his short stories, and Ernest Hemingway On Writing, a book published posthumously collecting a bunch of quotes about writing he made over the course of his career. For Ray, it was Fahrenheit 451 (an inevitable favorite, as I’m a huge dystopian fan AND a huge book fan, so there you go) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (in which I was a little disappointed, I’m afraid).

The title of this post is “Hemingway vs. Bradbury.” Of course it really isn’t fair to pit the writers against one another, but of course going into a book you can’t help but have certain expectations. And one of those expectations I had was that Hemingway’s stories would be “better” literature than Bradbury’s, while Bradbury’s would be more fun to read. I was wrong (about the first assumption).

Hemingway is a master at inner conflict, human nature (emphasis on the man), and epiphany, of course, but none of his stories have floored me yet like Bradbury’s. “Lafayette, Farewell” and “The Rocket” nearly brought me to tears (okay okay, “The Rocket” really did bring me to tears…). Of course, to be great, a story has to do more than engage your emotions in some way, but it should do at least that, and while Hemingway’s whole shtick is melancholy and beautiful prose, Bradbury’s got ’em both in spades, as well as joy and the fantastical, whimsy and humanity. No disrespect to Papa, either, because he certainly deserves it. But I definitely went into Bradbury with my expectations inappropriately low. He’s amazing.

The Count of Monte Cristo is long

I’m getting close to the end of my current WIP’s first draft. I had hoped to have a 70,000 word manuscript to edit by the end of this month, but the story is starting to wind down already, and at this rate I’ll be happy to get to 60k (the final version of When the Watcher Shakes is somewhere around 60k words, in case you were wondering). That’s all right, since it’s still in the novel-range, but it’s still probably going to be on the short end, and I had hoped to bring something a little heftier to the table next summer for those of you that read through WTWS in one day.

I don’t want to give too much away this early, but a character in my new book (currently untitled) identifies a lot with her literary hero, Edmond Dantes. But it had been so long since I’d read The Count of Monte Cristo that I decided I needed to go back and reread Dumas’s famous and influential work again.




I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is wayyyyy long. The copy I own is just over 1,200 pages (I’m currently looking down the home stretch at page 1,040). And the print is not very large. I remember loving this book and tearing through it when I first read it, I think the summer of ’08 or ’09. And I guess you wouldn’t say that I’m slouching in pace this time, either. But there is just so much going on in this book. I think it suffered from being written as a serialized piece; it’s like every three chapters he pulls yet another plot point out of thin air to work into the story, like a J. J. Abrams TV series stretched longer than its run should have lasted. I often find myself thinking, Oh come on, why didn’t Dumas just name this guy the Count of Deus Ex Machina? Also, the Count doesn’t really become a very likeable or identifiable character. If I didn’t feel like I needed such a thorough refresher, I probably would have given up by now.

On the other hand, this book is, of course, a classic, and there’s a reason it has stood the test of generations. Every night before I go to sleep, I reluctantly but faithfully return to this improbable tale, and somehow I still usually find myself stretching my bed time for “just ten twenty more pages.” Convoluted as the plot gets, Dumas does seem to keep track of most of it and tie it together completely as he goes, if not always believably. And there is some imagery in this book that just can’t be beat. Edmond’s escape from the Château d’If is one of my favorite scenes in all of literature (Yeah, sorry, no spoiler alert–it’s been 172 years, you’ve had time–besides, at that point you’re only like 2% into the book).

But it turns out that I might just finish The Count at the same time as, or maybe even prior to, the finishing of my rough draft. It would be pretty cool to finish on the same day. My main takeaway from this experience? I wish I could write as fast as I read.

Crime Time Podcast

Another podcast recommendation! Listen, I got so excited about H.P. Podcraft because I had just discovered it, and then I later realized that somehow I haven’t told you guys about one of my favorite standbys, Crime Time Podcast.
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I first found out about Lee and Eddie’s podcast focused on crime and horror fiction when they interviewed Ian Rob Wright, a popular self-published horror author (who has quite a bit of free stuff over at his website). They’re two Australian girls that just, you know, talk about crime fiction and horror. They’re pretty funny, and like the guys over at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, often point me towards new stuff I hadn’t had on my radar, and also often discuss other books and authors I already know and love, so every couple weeks I end up bombarding their twitter with comments relating to the episode I’m listening to (sorry girls). They usually respond, too, so it’s like, I feel like we’re best friends that I’ve never even met. (Well, I don’t know if they would say I’m their best friend, maybe more like that annoying kid that follows you around everywhere and won’t shut up.) For a while I would get confused because for some reason I couldn’t tell the difference in their voices, but I’m just now finally starting to pick out the one from the other. They say they even have different accents, but all Australian sounds the same to these American ears. But they say cool Australian things, like “good on ya” and other things that you are only allowed to say if you’re Australian. I wonder if they like vegemite…
I want to take this moment to share with everyone that there is an Australian member of my own family:
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This is Canaan, my wife’s Australian cattle dog. So you see, I love Australians. Here’s another:
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Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Crime Time Podcast. Go check it out, if you love Australians or if you love crime or horror fiction, or both. As they would say, “get amongst it.”
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