Monday, November 30, 2015

EBP's Year-End Push

If you're like me, you're often surprised when you turn to the final page in the calendar. It's not like I didn't know that December was coming after November, but it's still a shock to see that there are just a few weeks left in the year. Yet, there's just not enough time in December to accomplish all I set out to do in the dwindling year. I put together New Year's resolutions; I usually start preparing them in October, actually, and I've already embarked on some of my 2016 goals.

So, there's no time like the present to get moving on my goal of posting at least one blog entry per week. Yes, that's a 2016 goal, not one for 2015, which would have been truly pathetic given how few posts I've written this year. One thing I can confirm is we'll be setting Battery Brothers by Steven Carman to free for a few days in the middle of the month. If you haven't read it, that can be your gift to yourself!

One thing that has been adding to my gray hair is deciding whether the time has come to publish one of my novels in 2016 through Elephant's Bookshelf Press. While I've served as the editor for nearly all the EBP anthologies, as any author knows, that's not the same thing as writing a novel. I suspect the time is not quite ripe for one of my novels. I'm not sure I remember where I hid the key for the trunk it's in. But when I unlock that trunk, I'll definitely take a look.

Looking at 2016, however, EBP has a lot in store whether I finalize one of my novels or not. In the spring, we'll release the next Billy Bobble novel, which I'm very excited to share with everyone. I expect to create a new anthology that'll be released probably in the late summer/early fall. And we may have another novel that isn't mine that'll be ready before the year ends. I've also been toying with some other ideas that may result in short story and/or novella collections -- and maybe even some nonfiction -- for 2016 or early 2017.

All exciting stuff from my perspective. But I'd love to hear what you guys have in store for the final month of 2015 and into the new year. Please share!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've Gone and Done It

I said it would happen and now it has. I've created a newsletter for Elephant's Bookshelf Press. I don't think anyone has seen it yet, since I am just starting to create an email list. I'd love to have you sign up at the EBP website where it says "Get your elephant updates!" (Ok, it doesn't actually have an exclamation on the site, but I'm excited about it.)

In fact, I'm so excited that in the first full-fledged newsletter I'm going to offer one of the EBP anthologies to new subscribers for free! No, it won't be Spring Fevers, since that's already free. But one of those that ordinarily requires a reader to plunk down a few bucks. I'm not being cagey, I just haven't decided which book to offer.

As this EBP newsletter thing grows, I'll be sharing interviews with authors as well as information on new and upcoming books and good news from some of wonderful writers worthy of an elephant's trumpet. And there'll probably be other free things because free is my favorite four-letter F word.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Review: Making Maxine's Baby

There’s something preternaturally “New Yorkish” about the poems in Caroline Hagood’s collection Making Maxine’s Baby that I can’t help but think I’ve passed her main character on the sidewalk. At least once. And if I’d spoken with her, I’m sure I would have both liked her and wanted to help her, though I’m not sure I’d have been capable. Indeed, I might have had those feelings and still followed my own path.

The highly readable collection follows the mental meanderings of the nomadic Maxine. Though the character is clearly well read and intelligent, she chooses to live on the streets and in the subways of the city, sleeping on rat-pee-saturated mattresses. Within the collection, images of mermaids, horror movie intestines, and zombies are interspersed with real-life horrors of murders, sexual abuse, and gore.

While at times it is hard for me to believe that a creature like Maxine could exist – how could such an insightful, intelligent woman choose to live such a life of instability? – I suspect it says more about my ignorance of the thorough damage that abuse and neglect can deliver. At times, the collection reads like a fast-paced novel, and I needed to slow down, as there was so much going on that even now I feel insecure and inadequate to describe. Hagood’s deft writing takes classical and contemporary imagery and weaves a poem in danger of being a page-turner.

Beneath everything is lust
for the slurp and suck
of changing molecules,
extreme makeover shows,

the lure of the beyond. It’s why
Maxine hitchhiked America the summer
after freshman year, but now she lives
in a subway tunnel, simultaneously seen
and unseen, an undetectable horse leaving
mysterious tracks in the mud.

She used to be on the honor role
but now she does Dante in different voices,
had to go down, ask the dead for answers.

Throughout the collection, Hagood sprinkles common images, themes, and mythologies. Mermaids, internal organs, blood, bees, duality, horror movies, trauma, and, of course, children populate her world of ideas and metaphors.

Perhaps my dual comfort and awkwardness in Maxine’s presence is summed up in Hagood’s description of her as

the kind of person
who’s always ripped open.

She knows no other way.

Indeed, if I had passed Maxine on the streets of New York, I’d have felt guilty for both looking to see if I recognized her and for avoiding her; I’d pray the poor creature could find solace and safety and I’d hate myself for being incapable of offering any. And had she read my mind, perhaps she’d have spewed scorn upon me for thinking any of her troubles were about me, per se.

Screw you and your credentials.
I have an MFA in vapor and urban
reek, have been featured in anthologies
of knock-knock jokes and engine
sounds, have a degree in failing
spectacularly, won a Pushcart Prize
for blowing a man in one of the last
subway bathrooms. Oh the faces
he made, like a Halloween mask.

To me, Maxine is not an every woman. Whether the quest for motherhood is universal among women is not a topic of debate in this collection. Rather, Maxine explores herself, her world, her desires. It may indeed be hell this “Sorceress, scullery maid, poor excuse for a mer-thing” walks through, but her story draws me into a quest that may be my ruin.

I look forward to more from this talented writer.