Sunday, December 31, 2017
I have another poem published in Right Hand Pointing. It's called "The Pond" and it's the first poetry I've had at RHP since way back in 2010 when they published a poem of mine called "Phantom Limb" and also named that issue (issue 34) after the poem, a true honor. So follow the links and have a look.
Others with work in this issue include the incomparable Howie Good, along with Kathy Douglas, David Gale, Mark Seidl, John L. Stanizzi, Josh Wetjen, Joanne Jackson Yelenik, and Mark Young.
In January, Dog On a Chain Press will release Lantern Lit Vol. 4, a collaborative chapbook of poetry that includes work from William Graham, Mat Gould, and myself. Yesterday publisher and writer Beasley Barrenton sent a wrap design for the book that is just beautiful. It's the handywork of Ryan W. Bradley. Ryan is a good friend of mine and has designed two of my four book covers over the years so I was mighty pleased to find he had put his unique touch on this. Beasley said the chapbook will likely be published in mid-January.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
This new book had been released earlier this year under the title A True Story: A Novella but I pulled it from publication and entered it into a contest which I did not win. So, it's back in circulation again with the shiny new title and cover (a stock cover from Kindle Direct Publishing because that's how I roll and also because, again, I can live with it).
Some good folks had some good things to say about the novel when it was published before and I'll include some of what they said here to give you a feel for what the book's about.
Below is the description and blurbs from the Amazon page where you can buy it:
Compton's fourth book is a fabulist adventure love story about death and life after death that follows Adelard, who starts off dying and spends a long time in a strange gray world of undeath searching for his elusive and magically shapeshifting wife, Alice, before ultimately battling the mythological Native American beast the Wendigo. Along the way he spends time trapped as a hungry ghost, a bored immortal, and, at times, the Wendigo itself. Alice and the Wendigo is an imaginative exploration that also blurs the lines between myth and fact, what is imagined and what is true, and the artistic lie of fiction in getting to a deeper truth.
"Held in a cryptic in-between place fraught with many Alices, new bodies that struggle to know hunger and monsters that once were men, Compton's Alice and the Wendigo boldly unfurls itself. With every sentence a poem and its vibrant imagery, Compton completely captures." - xTx, author of Today I Am a Book
"Wild as a charging boar and tender as a raindrop, Sheldon Lee Compton's Alice and the Wendigo is a surreal sleepwalk through a world in which love is a storm and death is a question. It will wake you with a jolt." - Meredith Alling, author of Sing the Song
"Poetic, strange, mythic, and true, this work by Sheldon Lee Compton will take your breath away. It's life and death and love and loss. It's survival and transformation. The artistry is reminiscent of Matt Bell, but it's Compton's inimitable voice that shines through each and every page of this novella." - Kathy Fish, author of Rift and Together We Can Bury It
In addition to these wonderful blurbs from wonderful people, a few fellow writers wrote reviews of it at Amazon and Goodreads. Here are those reviews:
"I know it comes off as insincere for one indie writer to post five star reviews for other indie authors. I tend to read one to two books a week, and the truth is Mr. Compton's writing strikes a chord with me.
This work reads more like an epic prose poem than standard prose, blending narrative and lyric.
The story is one of horror and beauty. It is like it is narrated by a long-dead cadaver remembering what it was like to be alive, explaining what it is like to be dead, and confronting a dark and foreboding presence that threatens to kill that which is already dead.
If you are expecting a linear narrative, it may not be for you. But if you are ready to kick up your feet and spend a few hours on the astral plane, give it a go." - Amazon User in KY
Another review at Amazon from author and friend David S. Atkinson:
"This seems like such a thin thing at first glance, so few words, but you pick it up and bite down to chew and you're chewing and chewing and never seem to grind it down. There's just so much there to work through, so much that is enigmatic and puzzling, this desolate and harsh waste that is at the same time tender. I'd get so focused that I realized I was holding my breath unintentionally, that pulled in. Wonderful stuff. Reminds me in various ways of some of the things I liked best about books like Matt Bell's "In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods" or "We Make Mud" by Peter Markus." - David S. Atkinson
Over at Goodreads (where it's still listed under the old title and cover design) writer and friend Kenny Mooney had this to say:
"Part lyrical prose poem, part allegory, Compton's novella is a magical, weaving tale of guilt, remorse, and love. There's some really great language in this, and some story telling that is satisfying and fully realised. It's a raw examination of a man, dead and drifting through a surreal afterlife in pursuit of, and pursued by, his wife Alice, as well as the various demons of his own; demons that take various shapes and forms: monsters, omens, sinister symbolism, that in the best surrealist tradition, pose questions and then let you put the pieces together, rather than really spoon feeding you all the answers. I was fully engaged with this from the first few sentences, and read it in one gulp. Captivating, sincere, and beautiful in a literary and emotional sense. A fable. A magical fairy tale." - Kenny Mooney
So I'm lucky. Lucky to have a fourth book finished and out there in the world and lucky to have knowledgeable people saying good things about it.
If you want to get a copy you can do so without much trouble. I wanted to make it free but KDP required I at least put a $2.99 price tag on it. But it is free to those with Kindle Unlimited. On a related note, it's only available in Kindle. This is because I tried to create a paperback option along with the Kindle at KDP but failed. Three times, I failed. It's okay, I can live with it.
But anyway, yeah, you can pick this one up for not much, but only on Kindle. Okay, here's a link to where you can get it if you want:
BUY ALICE AND THE WENDIGO AT AMAZON
Thanks in advance, everybody.
Friday, December 29, 2017
Here's the situation: Proust writes beautifully but he writes too much. And it's super class heavy. Like middle class and upper class and generally topics I don't care one twit about. Occasionally he writes about art and writing itself and so on, but it's in between. In between parties and who knows who and how much this person needs to be invited to this person's house.
And it's a paragraph that consists of 7,219 words when 25 words would have said the same thing.
I can't take another second of it. Not one more sentence. I read half of the second volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time and the entirety of the first volume and now I'm effing done. I just cannot read this stuff, the classics. The boredom is overwhelming. It's a thickness that suffocates. It's a dagger pulled from the muscle slooooowly.
What I'm beginning to sense is that there is too much good writing of bad stories. I had been sensing this for a good long time but only got confirmation after Etgar Keret said basically the same exact thing. He said:
"In America, where writers are preoccupied with the craft of writing, I always try to introduce this concept of the badly written good story. Turning the hierarchy around and putting passion on top and not craft, because when you just focus on craft, you can write something that is very sterile. It looks beautiful, but soulless. So I warn them that, often in writing programs, articulation and clarity are more important than what you actually say. Sometimes you have, like, New Yorker stories—there’s a couple, they’re on a cruise, he’s becoming senile, he doesn’t want to acknowledge it, when the woman mentions it to him, he becomes really angry, but in the end he admits it and they sit on the deck, she closes her eyes. And you say, “It’s so well-written, but who gives a fuck?” For certain, the guy who wrote it doesn’t give a fuck. It’s not something that has to do with his life; it’s just something well-written and illuminating, and writing is not about that. The best stories you usually hear are stories that people feel some type of urgency about. Nobody else in the world would look at writing as craftsmanship—it’s totally this Protestant hardworking ethic. You go into this kind of infinite space of imagination and you fence yourself in with all kinds of laws. Why do we have to keep playing this strange game?"
Dude makes scary sense.
So I'm ditching reading the boring stories and I'm going to go with good stories, even if the writing is bad.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Alright it's time for end-of-the-year reading reflection.
I don't much dig long preambles before giving top books lists so here's the ten best books I read this past year in no particular order.
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
I'm going to read anything Adam Johnson writes ever. He's some kind of literary savant and I didn't even know that was a thing. Read his work (especially this book) and you'll see why. One of three short story collections on the list.
Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
If I'll read anything Adam Johnson writes ever, then I will actively try to get inside Ottessa Moshfegh's mind and try to read words she intends to write before she ever writes them always. This is her short story collection but I also read her novel Eileen this year. This collection is so so much better but got a lot less attention. I mean it got a lot of attention, but a lot less than Eileen, which won some little award called the MAN BOOKER PRIZE.
Nothing but the Dead and Dying by Ryan W. Bradley
This was a re-read but it's going on the list because I didn't have a list last year. Ryan opened his chest and pulled parts of his heart muscle out and placed them on paper in this collection of stories. Each one is as hard and honest as the Alaska he writes about it in them.
Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins
The only poetry collection on the list. Michael Robbins is a genius, and the only poet I've ever been both able and compelled to quote. Most often quoted line: "I feel ya Ophelia, I said to my nuts."
Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Comic book? Graphic short story collection? It's something but all of that's labels and doesn't matter because of that. This was a beautifully bleak and strange and exotic reading experience. I didn't put these in order but if I had this one would have been really in the running for top of the list.
Gisela by Marcus Speh
Marcus Speh was huge in the indie lit community for a long time and then he kind of went dark zero for a bit. And it was completely worth it. Among many other projects of which I'm sure we'll soon be able to enjoy, Marcus wrote during this time this addictive mosaic novel of historical fiction. It's rich and complex but wonderfully accessible. Based on the historical figure Gisela of Bavaria (ca. 985-1065 A.D.)
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Bolano is one of my favorite writers and I'd read a few other books of his but I knew this opus was lingering in the shadows. This year I took advantage of a one free book giveaway when I signed up for Audible and got 2666. It felt a little like cheating but, unlike when I read The Savage Detectives, I feel like I got this full experience listening to this being read. It's got a lot of murder and death and dead women but there's so much that Bolano is doing with that and then he's also a full-blown literary genius. Read it. Stop putting it off. Listen if you got to. There's no shame in it.
Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck: Rejection Letters from the Eyeshot Outbox by Lee Klein
One of two books by Lee I read this year. His other, a novel based on the Jersey Devil, was good, but this one is great. It's a collection of some of his intensive rejection letters from his time editing Eyeshot, one of the earliest online journals. I'm not sure there's anybody with more craft knowledge than Lee. His rejection letters read like writing workshop lectures from Iowa Writer's Workshop (which Lee is a graduate of, no surprise there). One of the best books on writing you'll ever read.
Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
This one maybe shouldn't be on the list because it's only 57 pages long which puts it officially in the realm of short story but I'm putting it on the list because it feels like a novel. It should definitely be placed in the realm of novella because of this. But enough defending. This story is why Tolstoy, for my money, is to be remembered for all time as a genius (this word keeps popping up but it should in this kind of list). Now I've not read his great books and I'm going to remedy that this year but this story, wow, this story makes me want to be a better writer or just quit.
Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story on a Postcard by Michael Kimball
Michael Kimball has cropped up on my best of lists many times. The first time was back in 2014 when I was blown away by his book Galaga. This book was one I'd heard about and heard about (along with Big Ray) and had really needed to get my hands on. I finally did and it was great. It ran the risk of being gimmicky but in Michael's hands there's never a worry of slipping into that kind of thing. It is his tribute to fellow writers and weirdos and it is beautiful.
This year I'll be doing less writing and more reading. My total for books read this past year (as of today, Dec. 17) is 90. I've read 90 books and that's great. But I always sort of torture myself by wondering if I'm reading the right books. You know what I mean, the idea that there are core books that everyone should read at some point. My issue becomes that I really prefer contemporary literature, books written by my peers, etc. But how much am I expanding myself by reading mostly new work? This is a question that sticks around in my mind a good bit.
So all that is to say that I've decided what can it hurt to devote one full year of reading to the classics. It's just one year and it'll be interesting to see how much ground I can cover in 365 days.
I'm going to start with Within a Budding Grove...
Wait a minute...I just realized that it'll probably take me all year to read this one book. I won't be covering much ground probably, now that I think of it. But I'm still doing it.
So yep, Within a Budding Grove. And here are some others already on my shelf that I hope to get to this coming year (but probably won't be able to because I read slower than anybody I've ever met).
* Dante's Divine Comedy
* Crime and Punishment
* The Metamorphosis (yep I haven't read it I just realized this week)
* Don Quioxte
I doubt I'll get to even one of these others because DQ will probably take the entire year. But that's my list for now.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
I nearly forgot I had nominations to make before signing off from The Airgonaut entirely. My last act as editor gets to be about the most rewarding thing an editor of an online indie journal can do - sling some love.
So the nominations are in and are as follows (with links to stories chosen):
BEST SMALL FICTIONS NOMINEES
Nina Sudhakar - Memento Arbori
Andrew Davie - Excerpt From the Diary of Ingmar Bergman
Donora A. Rihn - The Astronaut
Howie Good - Violent Dreams Can Be a Warning Sign
Geordie Flantz - Serengeti
PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEES
Julia Patt - The Girl in the Deer
Michael Díaz Feito - Pentecost
Lynn Mundell - The Story of Three Metals
Santino Prinzi - These Are the Rules of Our Canopy Shyness and Life
Matthew Lyons - Metastasis
Robert Boucheron - Honalee
A hearty good luck to all nominees. I would sincerely love for each of these stories to be chosen and included in the 2018 installment of both of these series.
And a word about the selection process: It was well beyond difficult to narrow favorites down to only six choices for the Pushcart and a mere five choices for BSF. I can truly say that each story I published at The Airgonaut this past year was, in my heart, as good as any published this past year at any journal.
Monday, December 4, 2017
The House in the Northwest Corner" in Issue 52 of Vestal Review.
It's the longest running journal of flash fiction and has been the home of numerous great writers including Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Sam Lipsyte, Stuart Dybek, Robert Olen Butler, Pamela Painter, and many more.
Mark Budman has edited the journal for an outstanding 17 years.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
It's been awhile since I've shared some cool stuff from the lit world. As usual, I'm going to get out of the way and go ahead and start the list.
* Vol. 1 Brooklyn has a pretty good preview of books coming out this month.
* Kevin Sampsell has a fine short story called "Out of Nowhere" at Tin House.
* I only recently jumped in and read Bob Schofield's first two books. Really cool and dreamy material. With that in mind, you should know you can preorder his new book The Burning Person. It has a release date set for December 15 from 2FAST2HOUSE.
* For a few months now I've meant to get on here and drop some love for Robert York, writer and curator of The Dreadful Point. His work is hard to categorize or pin down, which, of course, makes it brilliant. Head over and spend some time reading.
* I interviewed writer Fin Sorrel over at Enclave not to long ago. Now I'm reading his new story collection Caramel Floods. You should, too.
So link it up and check these out as soon as you can. And take a minute or two to find a way to let the writers know what you think. Most of us ain't making money doing this so hearing from readers goes a long way.
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